Answer Mom Blog  BACK TO FAQs

Liz Ward

New England's favorite mom, the Hood Answer Mom™ is back, and she has a new blog on Visit the Hood Answer Mom Blog for the latest news about health and nutrition, and for easy-to-use tips and suggestions for healthy eating for you and your family. Got a question or comment for the Hood Answer Mom? Click here.

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

5 Ways to Beat Summer Weekend Weight Gain

 Permanent link

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Ah, summer weekends. Time to kick back, enjoy time with family and friends, and, most likely, overeat. 

After a tough week of sticking to your healthy routine, you might image that you’ve earned a few cocktails, snack chips, and desserts.  Occasional splurges won’t affect your weight, but giving yourself a complete pass on your healthy, week day eating plan probably will. A study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that adults consume an extra 115 calories on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which can amount to additional pounds by the time September rolls around. 

Welcome the weekend with better summer eating strategies for calorie control. Use these tips, and you won’t be kicking yourself come Monday morning.

Problem: You lose track of what you eat. 

Fix it: Weigh yourself on Friday morning and again on Monday morning to help you monitor weekend weight change.  Knowing that the scale awaits you at the end of the weekend may curb a free-for-all weekend eating attitude. 

Problem: You’re in a weekend eating rut. 

Fix it: Break out of your usual routine with dishes rich protein and carbohydrate to keep you fuller for longer and help you stay away from high-calorie snacks like chips and dip.  

Check out our latest recipes that are perfect for summer. They feature the newest flavors of Hood Cottage Cheese and can serve as delicious snacks or part of a balanced meal. 

Smoked Salmon with Cucumber Salad

Savory Stuffed Tomatoes

Mushroom and Red Pepper Flatbread

Spinach Egg and Cheese Cups

Cucumber Bites

Problem: You sit on the beach or by the pool.

Fix it: Going from sitting at your desk all week to lounging by the water is tempting but it’s no good for your waistline.  Schedule at least one full workout on Saturday or Sunday, and move as much as possible during the day, too. When you’re at the beach, lake or pool get up every hour and walk or swim for at least 10 minutes. 

Problem: Dining out.

Fix it: According to a study at the University of Toronto, the average dinner meal at popular chain restaurants serves up more than 1,100 calories, about half of what most adults need.  Chance are you’ll eat what you’re served unless you ask for a doggy bag upfront to pack away at least half your meal. Skip anything on the menu described as creamy, crunchy, crispy, batter-dipped, or sautéed, as those terms that tell you it's loaded with calories.  Always share dessert; the first few bites are the best anyway. 

Problem: Alcoholic beverages. 

Fix it: Refreshing cocktails may be a rite of summer and also too much of a good thing that adds up to hundreds of extra calories. Plus, alcohol decreases your resolve to eat better.  Limit alcoholic beverages to one each weekend day and drink a calorie-free non-alcoholic beverage, such as sparkling water or club soda, along with them. 





Fourth of July Backyard Barbecues

 Permanent link

Nothing is quite as patriotic as the 4th of July in Boston. Home of the Boston Pops, the USS Constitution, and the Boston Tea Party, Independence Day is our day to shine as a city.

One of my favorite things to do on Independence Day is to invite some friends and family over and have a nice, old-fashioned barbecue. As a chef, I find it hard to just put on a few patties and hot dogs on the grill, so I try to elevate my cookouts to include premium ingredients like different cuts of meat and grilled seafood. I love to surprise my guests by serving items they wouldn’t normally expect, such as a delicious creamy soup with fresh seasonal corn – perfect this time of year – and I even steam vegetables on the grill by wrapping seasonal vegetables in foil with some herbs and olive oil. 

My favorite cut of meat to grill is a skirt steak because it’s simple, lean, and packed with flavor. I make a quick marinade with olive oil, garlic, thyme, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and rosemary, which I combine in a plastic bag, allowing the meat to marinate for at least two hours so that the flavor soaks through. I generally cook it at a medium rare temperature and slice it width-wise. It pairs perfectly with my delicious summer Cream of Corn Chowder. 

The Cream of Corn Chowder is a perfect way to celebrate corn season and give it the delicate twist of the traditional corn on the cob. It elevates any barbecue. And using a high-quality cream like Hood® Cream, you’ll find that the flavors shine through and complement the rest of the grilled foods you serve. 

Chris Coombs’ Hood Cream® of Corn Soup
Farm Fresh Sweet Corn Soup

¼ pound butter
1 yellow onion, diced
2 quarts corn kernels, cobs reserved
1 quart corn stock
1 quart light Hood® Cream
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste

Directions: For corn stock, place corn cobs in large sauce pot. Cover just barely with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off and let steep for 45 minutes. Remove corn cobs and reserve liquid. 

Melt butter in medium sauce pot over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook slowly until translucent. Add the corn kernels and cook until tender, 5-10 minutes. Add corn stock and Hood® Cream. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer gently over medium heat for 15 minutes. 

Carefully transfer mixture in batches to the blender and puree until smooth. Be careful as the hot mixture will expand in the blender! For an even silkier texture, pass through a fine mesh sieve. Add the sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Summer Smoothies

 Permanent link

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Love smoothies? Here are three smoothies to keep you sipping smart all day long! 

Start the Day Off Right Smoothie 

This smoothie is the perfect way to power up before a long day of summertime fun! It features protein and fiber to keep you fuller for longer and makes it possible to sip one of the three suggested daily servings of whole grains.  

Strawberry Orange Sunrise Smoothie
Makes 1 serving

1/2 cup Hood® Orange 100% Orange Juice 
1/2 cup Hood® Low Fat Cottage cheese
1 medium banana
1 cup frozen strawberries 
¼ cup uncooked quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon sugar, or sweetener of your choice

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor for 1 minute or until smooth. Serve immediately.

Healthy Snack Time Pick-Me-Up Smoothie

Your energy levels are flagging but you don’t want a plain cup of Joe.  Perk up with this coffee concoction and get a serving of fruit and a healthy portion of protein in the bargain. 

Coffee Banana Protein Sipper
Makes 1 serving

¼ cup cold coffee, regular or decaffeinated
½ teaspoon instant espresso coffee granules (optional)
½ cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Hood® Milk
1 medium banana
3 ice cubes*
1 teaspoon sugar, or sweetener of your choice

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor for 1 minute or until smooth. Serve immediately.

*Make it Mocha: Fill an ice cube tray with Hood® Chocolate Milk. Freeze overnight and use chocolate milk ice cubes instead of plain in your smoothie.

Dessert Smoothie

Include summer fruit into your eating plan with this delicious Blueberry Blast Smoothie. It’s packed with powerful plant compounds to protect your cells, and fiber and protein to keep you full, and keep your hand out of the cookie jar after dinner! 

Get Grilling for Good Health!

 Permanent link

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

For many people, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the grilling season, while others cook outside all year long.  No matter how often you fire up the grill, going beyond the usual hamburgers and hot dogs adds appeal to your meals. Varying what you eat, and how you grill it, supports good health, too.

“Veg” Out

Experts recommend piling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.  It’s easier to include the vegetables you need with delicious side dishes like these grilled romaine hearts with creamy buttermilk dressing. 

Grilled Romaine Lettuce
Makes 4 servings

¼ cup Hood® Fat Free Buttermilk 
6 tablespoons Hood® Sour Cream
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper to taste
2 large heads romaine lettuce, with outer leaves removed
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Whisk to combine well. Chop off the top 2 inches of each head of lettuce, leaving the root end intact. Brush the lettuce on all sides with the olive oil. Grill on medium-high, direct heat until charred but crisp on all sides, turning every minute or two until done, for about 10 minutes. 

Reduce Red and Processed Meats

What you grill is as important as how you grill it. Cooking animal foods (but not plant foods) with high heat forms compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA), which may damage the DNA in your cells, and contribute to cancer.  

When the fat from meat hits hot coals, it creates smoke that contains another carcinogen called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends a maximum of 18 ounces of red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb, a week. Red meat and processed meats, including hot dogs, sausages, and kielbasa, are linked to a higher risk for colon cancer.  

These simple steps curb consumption of HCA and PAH: 

• Choose seafood and white meat, such as chicken, more often than red and processed meats.

• Marinate meat, chicken, and fish. Marinating reduces HCAs, but not just any marinade will do; store-bought barbeque sauces (with added sugars) may increase HCA formation.  Our Marinated Grilled Chicken is perfect for easy weeknight dinners or weekend barbeques. 

• Limit cooking time. Cook meat, chicken, and seafood in the microwave for a minute or so before grilling. When grilling, use a meat thermometer to determine doneness. Trim animal foods of charred areas. 

End on a Sweet Note

Grilled fruit is a delicious and nutritious way to end a meal.  Grilled pineapple is an easy and elegant treat that’s sure to impress. Serve with a scoop of Hood® Honey Vanilla Greek Frozen Yogurt for bone-building protein and calcium. 

Grilled Pineapple
Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ripe fresh pineapple, trimmed and cut into ½-inch round slices

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, oil, lime juice, and cinnamon. Mix well. Heat the grill. Lightly coat a clean grill rack with cooking spray.  Brush the pineapple on one side with the brown sugar mixture. Grill pineapple, turning once and basting the remaining side with the brown sugar marinade. Cook until fork-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes total.


Chocolate Milk: Off the School Lunch Menu in Connecticut?

 Permanent link

By Elizabeth M Ward, MS, RD

In an effort to help combat childhood obesity, school districts across the country have been removing chocolate milk from lunch menus.  It appears the state of Connecticut is poised to join the fray.

Misdirected Persecution of a Nutritious Food

A bill under consideration by the state legislature bans milk with added sodium, which would effectively eliminate chocolate milk.  Like nearly all foods, plain milk contains naturally occurring sodium. Chocolate milk has a small amount of added sodium (from the cocoa), and it will be off the menu if the Connecticut measure passes.  

To most health professionals, including Jill Castle, MS, RD, Connecticut resident, mother of four, and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School the vilification of chocolate milk is baffling, and potentially harmful.

“It’s a case of misdirected prosecution,” Castle says. “There is no evidence that chocolate milk in and of itself contributes to obesity or poor health in children.”

Castle says milk of any kind is good for kids, and helps them fill in dietary gaps that play a key role in their growth and development.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, kids fail to get enough calcium, vitamin D, and potassium on a regular basis. For about 60 additional calories per eight ounce serving, chocolate milk supplies the same levels of calcium, vitamins A and D, potassium, and protein.

Kids Favor Chocolate Milk

There’s little question that the Connecticut legislation that would ban chocolate milk is intended to protect children. However, it may have unintended consequences.

A recent Cornell University study found that when you remove chocolate milk as a choice at lunch, milk sales dropped by 8% and kids threw away 29% of the white milk they had purchased.  Seven percent of students stopped buying school lunch altogether.

Milk drinking among children has dropped markedly during the last 30 years, which may explain in part why children are missing out on the nutrients they need. Castle says removing incentives to drink milk, such as offering chocolate milk, are misdirected.

Our energy as concerned adults, health professionals, and educators is better spent helping kids eat a more balanced diet with less soda, energy drinks, and sports beverages, which, taken together, account for 46% of the added sugar kids and adults consume. 

Chocolate milk may have become an icon for what’s wrong with how children eat, but it doesn’t deserve a bad rap. The health benefits of chocolate milk far outweigh any potential harm.