The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Bacon … The Next Health Craze?

Could bacon be the next hot health craze?

I doubt it.

But there are those who tout its benefits as a good-for-you indulgence.

Dr. John Salerno, for one, believes bacon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Of course, he’s also a protégé of Dr. Robert Atkins (gasp), creator of the once-hot “eat all the bacon you want but don’t dare touch a slice o’ bread” Atkins Diet.

“Many think of bacon as one of the guiltiest pleasures possible, but it has also been shown to alleviate the effects of diabetes, heart disease and strokes,” says Salerno, author of “The Silver Cloud Diet.”

“Nitrate-free bacon is an excellent source of high-protein, low-carbohydrate energy that helps to reset the metabolism,” he continues, “and it’s filled with amino acids delivered without the risk of dangerous levels of mercury, which can be found in many fish.”

Need more reasons to praise the pig?

  • Bacon has a 4-to-1 ratio of protein to fat.
  • It contains choline, which boosts memory and healthy brain function.
  • It’s composed of monounsaturated fats, the kind that contains lots of healthy fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
  • And it’s a potent source of oleic acid and saturated fats, which help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), lower triglycerides and raise HDL, commonly referred to as the “good” type of cholesterol.

I do love the stuff and will continue to chomp down on more than my fair share. But let’s not kid ourselves about its debatable health benefits.

Wheatgrass, it’s not.

But man cannot live on wheatgrass alone, which is why the occasional slab of bacon is such a joy. Everything in moderation.

So when you’re ready to moderate, here are a few fine bacon-blessed treats you might want to try …

  • Wrap a slice of bacon around your favorite items when grilling. Chicken or a nice filet, of course, but also around asparagus, scallops, even some grilled fruits.
  • Bling up a traditional BLT with creole mayo, sliced avocado or spicy pickles.
  • For an incredible appetizer, wrap bacon around a feta stuffed fig or a chunk of apricot rolled in brown sugar. Bake until the bacon is cooked through.
  • Three words: bacon cinnamon rolls. Unroll cinnamon buns from a refrigerated canned dough and roll them back up with a cooked slice of crisp bacon inside. Bake per package directions.
  • Two more words: bacon candy! Spread sliced bacon across a slotted baking pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup, then bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Best bacon ever.


x   x   x


Bacon also played a supporting role in a great appetizer idea a neighbor recently shared. Actually, she didn’t just give me a recipe but also brought over all the ingredients I needed to make it.

What a gal!

Her Cheesy Stuffed Peppers featured an assortment of red, orange and yellow peppers filled with a mixture of cream cheese, sautéed onions, garlic and bacon, then baked until warm and gooey inside.

The results were so good, I’m sharing Naomi’s recipe this week. But like me, she didn’t really measure anything so just adjust all amounts to taste.


Cheesy Stuffed Peppers

assorted small red, orange and yellow peppers
medium onion, chopped
cream cheese, softened
cooked bacon
garlic, salt and pepper (to taste)

  1. Cut off (and save) the tops of all peppers and scoop out seeds.
  2. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but a scant amount of bacon grease and sauté onions in the same pan. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from skillet and let cool.
  3. Mix onions and crumbled bacon into softened cream cheese, then use this filling to stuff each pepper. Replace tops and place upright in a baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes a 350 degrees or until peppers are a little tender.



Go, Jennifer, Go! Garner the New Face of LYFE

LYFE Kitchen – makers of great-tasting, good-for-you food and a retail line of ready-to-eat meals – has announced that homegirl Jennifer Garner – globally acclaimed actress, philanthropist, lifestyle role model and bone fide hottie – is joining the brand as an ambassador.

Garner will serve as a charitable and strategic advisor for the company, along with being a member of LYFE Kitchen’s ambassador panel. The company hopes Garner’s high visibility will help them spread awareness to active moms and families, while furthering the brand’s commitment to practice social and environmental responsibility.

“Ms. Garner is a perfect fit for the LYFE Kitchen team, as someone with a busy, active lifestyle, and who cares about good, nutritious food,” said LYFE Kitchen Founder and Retail CEO, Stephen Sidwell.

Together, they are inviting folks to join them on a nationwide movement to “TASTE LYFE,” a pledge to live a healthy, active lifestyle, which includes good, nutritious food. LYFE is an acronym for “Love Your Food Everyday,” but the company’s goals go beyond providing great-tasting food. The brand embodies a lifestyle represented by three core pillars – “Eat Good. Feel Good. Do Good” – and encourages others to do the same.

“We admire Jennifer’s cause-related initiatives with her charity work, and we look forward to using her expertise as LYFE Kitchen grows the ‘Do Good’ pillar,” Sidwell said, in making the announcement this week.

Check out this video to hear Jennifer talk about the new initiative. Go, Jen, go!



Live Online Chat: Eating Right in the New Year

Happy New Year, fellow foodies!

And now that 2012 is here, it’s time to get serious (and resolve yet again) to eat better food — not only to look and feel great, but to be healthier too.

Join me and local dietitian Amy Gannon for a live online chat this Monday, Jan. 2, on how to eat right in the new year. We’ll offer tips to help make the transition to a heathier diet easier, plus take your questions too.

We’ll kick things off at 3 p.m. Monday. Just click here to join the chat!

When it Comes to Nutrition, Every Little Step Counts

As the weather starts to turn colder, my thoughts (and cravings) definitely veer off the old healthy-eating path, trying to pull me to the Land of Comfort Food.

But as much as I love me some good chicken ‘n’ dumplins’ and velvety (not Velveeta) mac ‘n’ cheese, I don’t like care for the doughy deposits they leave around my mid-section.

So is there a way to indulge without all of the caloric consequences?

Sure there is. Just think of small changes you can make to some of your favorite comfort foods. Substitutions like …

  • Pizza: Instead of having 3-4 pieces of pizza, enjoy a slice (maybe 2) and a side salad instead. Or go veggie, substituting healthier toppings for grease-laden meats and multiple cheeses. Better still, make it on a whole wheat crust.
  • Spaghetti: Enjoy a reasonable portion (not the plate tipping mound you crave) but top it with plenty of tomato-based sauce. I also occasionally slip veggies in the sauce for extra nutrition. The response is usually favorable, if they even notice the veggies at all. Bonus!
  • Hamburgers: Lessen the nutritional ramifications of America’s favorite sandwich by using a higher-quality lean beef, or substituting lean chicken, turkey or even a veggie patty. Stack with veggies, too, and go easy on the bacon and cheese. Instead of fries, add a veggie side.
  • Macaroni & Cheese: Mix in vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, peas or carrots and try a lighter cheese sauce (made with milk, not cream) and don’t drown the noodles in so much of it. Also try to serve mac ‘n’ cheese as a side dish, not the main dish, to keep portion size under control.

I know I’ve said it before, but little things make a difference.

I used to make fun of someone for drinking diet soda as they inhaled a sugary dessert.

“Hey, it’s better than having dessert with a regular soda.”

True that.

Water instead of soda, skim instead of whole, baked instead of fried, whole grain instead of bleached white flour …

Every little thing helps.

Healthier School Lunches Worth Fighting For

I’m sure you’ve heard about the big hullabaloo of late over the nutritional value of school lunches.

In one corner you have school officials and health advocates pushing for healthier meals; in the other, you have kids who won’t eat them and cooks frustrated over the new restrictions now placed on them.

Although I’m strongly entrenched in the “we need WAY healthier school lunches” camp, I do feel for both sides. Children need to eat and it’s criminal to watch so much uneaten food being thrown away. (I’ve dined in the cafeteria before and, I’m here to tell you, a LOT gets tossed each day.)

But instead of going back to hot dogs and “chicken-flavored” nuggets, I’d hope both sides could come together to reach a compromise.

There’s no question childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country, and our schools should be striving to help solve – not add to – the problem.

Get a load of these stats from a recent survey of 1,800 third through fifth graders in Texas:

  • 46% ate fast food two or more times per week.
  • Most did not understand that low-fat milk is a healthier choice than whole milk.
  • Many did not understand that baked potato chips were a healthier choice than french fries.
  • The majority incorrectly thought diet soda contained some sugar and sports drinks contained no sugar.
  • The majority of children knew that consuming excess calories can lead to weight gain, but fewer knew that excess calories can also lead to heart disease.

 But on a positive note:

  • 87% expressed an interest in helping choose healthy foods for their school cafeteria.
  • 88% reported that they would eat healthy breakfast items such as yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, granola and whole wheat toast if they were offered.
  • When presented with a sample menu, children were equally likely to choose healthier options in place of less healthier options. For example, a turkey sandwich over chicken nuggets and a fruit cup or steamed veggies over fries or tater tots.

 That’s progress, so we definitely need to keep pushing for more positive changes.

Great News Regarding Healthier Kids Menus

Here’s some great news on the healthy eating front …

First Lady Michelle Obama has joined Darden Restaurants and Partnership for a Healthier America in announcing a “breakthrough” health and wellness commitment in the restaurant industry. Darden — whose brands include Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze — is the world’s largest full service restaurant company and owns and operates 1,900 restaurants in 49 states, serving over 400 million meals per year.

Here’s what they have agreed to and, as a parent of three boys who dine out often, I’m telling you this is huge:

  • A fruit or vegetable will be the default side for every kids’ menu item. (Not fries or mac ‘n’ cheese.)
  • 1% milk will be the default beverage, provided automatically if no alternate beverage is requested.  Milk will be prominently promoted on the menu and made available with free refills. 
  • Food illustrations on the menu will promote the healthy choices for meals and drinks.
  • Healthier menu options will be more prominently displayed when possible.
  • Carbonated beverages will not be displayed on children’s menus. (HALLELUJAH!)
  • Improve the nutritional content of one or more children’s menu items to provide equal or less than 600 calories, 30% of total calories from fat, 10% of total calories from saturated fat and 600 mg of sodium.

Some changes have gone into effect immediately, with all being fully implemented by July 2012.

In announcing the news, Obama said: “I’m here today because this is a breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry. Darden is doing what no restaurant company has done before. They’re not just making their kids menus healthier so that parents have more choices and more control, they’re committing to make changes across the full menu at every single one of their restaurants.

“I’m confident that if companies like Darden continue to be creative and innovative and keep our kids’ best interests at heart then we will solve the challenge of childhood obesity and give all our kids the healthy futures they deserve.”

We’re all used to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (a k a “the evil CDC”) warning us about all of the tasty foods we should NOT be eating …

No fast food. No soda. No Mexican food. NO MOVIE POPCORN!

But get a load of this. The national food police just released a list of “Four Key Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors” that may surprise you.

First on the list of things to do? Moderate alcohol consumption.

That’s right. According to the CDC, the four lifestyle behaviors that could help you live longer are:

  1. Having never smoked.
  2. Eating a healthy diet
  3. Getting regular physical activity.
  4. Moderate alcohol consumption.

Each was “significantly associated with a reduced risk of mortality” and “exert a powerful and beneficial effect on mortality.”

The first three are no surprise – and even the fourth has been mentioned before in health studies. But for the CDC to actually come out in SUPPORT of imbibing a few times a day is pretty remarkable.

Makes them a little less evil, don’t you think?


The CDC study, “Low Risk Lifestyle Behaviors and All-Cause Mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study,” was published recently online in the American Journal of Public Health.  Researchers analyzed data from 16,958 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study from 1988 to 2006. They found that each lifestyle behavior was significant in reducing mortality, and found that the greatest benefit was when moderate alcohol consumption was included with the other three lifestyle behaviors.

The researchers stated, “using a sample of the U.S. population, we showed that four low-risk behaviors exerted a powerful protective effect on mortality and several cause-specific categories of mortality.”  They cited a number of studies reporting potential health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption including reduced all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  The researchers also cited “the well-documented harm caused by excessive alcohol use.”

The study authors pointed to the recommendations of the Federal 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which defines moderate drinking as consuming up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.  The Guidelines define a standard drink as 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol) distilled spirits, 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol).  Each of these standard drinks contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol. 

For the record, the Distilled Spirits Council does not recommend that people drink alcohol for potential health benefits and have always encouraged those adults who choose to drink to do so responsibly and in moderation.  Even drinking in moderation may pose health risks to some people and some individuals should not drink at all.

I’ve got to give a big shout-out to Charleston’s April Hamilton, who has been named a “hero” in celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to establish healthier eating habits in schools and communities across America.

In addition to pitching in when Oliver filmed the inaugural season of his new show in Huntington last year, Hamilton also introduced the “Launch a Lunch” campaign to improve the food served in school cafeterias here in Charleston. According to, she also organized a fund-raising campaign that generated enough money to hire a consultant to conduct a countywide assessment of changes needed to improve school menues.

Outside of this cause, Hamilton is known for the cooking classes and deomonstrations she conducts around town, often for children. My own boys have attended one at the downtown library and can’t wait for their next lesson from “Chef April.”

They’ll get their chance with a variety of programs coming up this summer. Stay tuned here and in the Charleston Daily Mail for more details!

Healthy Eating … From a Vending Machine?!

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department, I recently received one of those baffling press releases that left me scratching my head.

Entitled “Tips for Eating Healthfully From a Vending Machine,” the release warned against falling into the junk food trap when inevitably faced with a vending machine as your only option for a much-needed snack. This California-based company is hoping to change all of that with a new line of machines offering things like fresh fruit and vegetables, soy milk and yogurt.

But I’m guessing those won’t make it here anytime soon, so take a look at how they suggest you make better decisions at existing vending machines in the meantime …

  1. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables first.
  2. To save calories on beverages, opt for flavored water, unsweetened iced tea, milk or soymilk.
  3. Try to limit your snack option to 100 calories, and pay attention to the number of servings.
  4. Opt for nutrient-dense foods that satisfy your hunger longer, such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, natural granola bars and smoothies.
  5. Determine whether you are hungry or just thirsty. People often fill up on calories, when really they are simply dehydrated.

Really, that’s your ground-breaking advice?

Here’s mine: Don’t eat crap out of vending machines.

I’m all for healthy eating, but let’s not kid ourselves. Sneaking one decent ingredient into a recipe otherwise filled with crap is NOT doing anyone any favors.

Exhibit A …

I get a press release this week proclaiming: “Sneak a little healthy treat into Easter with (bleep) Brand Apples.”

OK, I’ll bite. Then I read the recipe for this exciting new Easter salad that boasts two healthy apples as an ingredient. Along with:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • Nearly a full cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1 large package of mini marshmallows
  • 1 can of drained pineapple chunks

You’re kidding me, right? There is NOTHING healthy about that combination, not to mention it doesn’t even sound good.