Monday, March 19, 2012

Shop Costco or Sam's Club? Things to Consider

Looking to save money by shopping at Costco or Sam's Club? Five things to keep in mind.

1.It’s important to take the annual fee into consideration when comparing overall prices.
2. Are you leaving Costco or Sam's Club with a lot more “unhealthy” items in your shopping cart that may offset your savings?
3. Are you buying your eggs at Costco? According to Cornucopia’s organic egg scorecard, Costco’s private label brand, Kirkland, got slammed and found “Ethically Deficient “ in comparison to other organic egg brands. To read the complete report, go to
4. Did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service has established U.S. grade standards as measures of quality for many canned and frozen vegetables. These grade standards are used extensively by processors, buyers, and others in wholesale trading to establish the value of a product described by the grades. You may want to check out the grade of the items you are purchasing at Costco or Sam's Club.
5. Are you buying canned items? I’m concerned about BPA in the lining of cans and as far as I know, Eden Brands is one of the rare  brands currently out there with a BPA-free can. I don’t believe Costco or Sam's Club sell Eden Brand items but if they do, it may be a bargain.

Healthy Dining Chicago promotes information and resources to help consumers make conscious choices that are kind to Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants.·

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

When to Toss a Plastic Cutting Board

I wondered so I sought out input from three experts and this is what they had to say:
“Once your cutting board becomes excessively worn or develops hard-to-clean grooves, replace them. These grooves can harbor harmful bacteria that even careful washing will not eliminate. So when you see those grooves, it’s probably time to purchase a new cutting board.” Diane Van, manager of the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
“Once cutting boards start to look grungy, it’s probably time to replace them. Of course, “grungy” is relative, so go with your instinct.” Marion Nestle, food safety expert
“Discard boards once they sustain cracks and cuts that can form a hiding place for raw food and bacteria, making them harder to clean completely.” Mariette Mifflin, houseware/appliance expert
Looks like I'll be replacing my cutting board soon. I've heard lots of good things about the OXO brand cutting boards so will be on the lookout for an OXO.
In 2003, Laura Bruzas founded Healthy Dining Chicago to offer practical information and valuable resources to help time-pressed consumers make informed choices that are kind to Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. Follow on Twitter @HealthyDiningIL to get a free tip a day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do You Have a Small Kitchen?

Consider this - bigger is not always better.  Maybe a little kitchen organizing would help.

I helped a friend organize her storage container cabinet this morning. It is now able to hold 50% more than it did before, is no longer a site for sore eyes and houses more containers that perfectly fit her storage needs.

Check out the before and after pictures as well as the following simple how-to guide.

1. Take everything out of the cabinet.
2. Group like items with like items, i.e. 3-cup round containers with 3-cup round containers.
3. Donate all of your spare parts (tops with missing bottoms and vice versa) as well as containers that you have not used in the last year or so.
4. Purchase extra containers if you need them. My friend purchased six 2-cup containers because the 3-cup ones that she had were always too large to suit her everyday needs.
5. If you are keeping additional storage items in other cabinets because of a lack of space, transfer them now to the newly organized. After all, you've got the space!

Total project cost: less than $6 for six new 2-cup containers.

What's your biggest kitchen challenge?

Laura Bruzas is the founder of Healthy Dining Chicago, an all-volunteer community effort launched in 2003 to offer practical information and valuable resources to help time-pressed, health-minded consumers make informed choices that are kind to Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Interview with Dan McGowan of Big Bowl

After reading the great feature story “Restaurants Take Fresh Look Near Their Own Backyards” in today’s Chicago Tribune, I dipped into Healthy Dining Chicago’s archives to pull up my interview with Dan McGowan, current president of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, from April 2009. Read on to check it out.

Make Dining Out Special…One Bowl at a Time
Have you been to Big Bowl lately? If not, you may want to especially if you love Mother Earth. For a while now, Big Bowl has been on a journey committed to introducing sustainable practices to just about every level of their operation. They’re serving direct trade coffee, artisanal noodles and locally grown produce (when possible). They’ve switched to eco-friendly cleaning supplies and post-recycled paper products, saving more than 800 trees each year. Their menu is printed by a local business and even their cocktail napkins are unbleached and printed with nontoxic ink. Bottled water is banned. If you drive a hybrid car, you can valet for free and if you bike, you'll find installed bike racks. Big Bowl even entered into a legally binding contract to reduce and offset their carbon output by 100 percent by finding ways to pollute less and funding environmental initiatives such as wind and solar power, sustainable farming and reforestation.
When I heard what they’ve been up to, I sat down with their president Dan McGowen, a 23-year Lettuce Entertain You (LEY) veteran.
Dan, what's behind the eco-friendly changes at Big Bowl?
We just feel it is the right thing to do. We want to try to make any positive impact we can on how and what people eat as well as limit our environmental footprint on our neighborhoods and the community in general.
What's the biggest frustration or roadblock you've faced on this road to sustainability?
Really none, our staff and guests have been very excited and supportive of the direction we are going.
How many locations does Big Bowl currently have?
There are currently four Chicagoland locations including two in the city, one in Lincolnshire and one in Schaumburg.
Update: Big Bowl now has eight restaurants and 12 express locations.
What advice would you give someone who wants to open their own eco-friendly dining establishment?
I think the most important thing is to take that first step. Don’t get too overwhelmed with everything you can or should do but rather start to make small improvements that over time really add up.
What's your favorite local non-LEY eatery and why?
Chipotle. It has a great focus on natural and local ingredients as well as sustainability.
Did you ever consider a different career than the restaurant business?
I graduated with a Psychology degree and frankly I use it everyday in this business.
Do you have a favorite quote?
If you want to build a strong culture, hold every manager accountable for the culture he or she builds.
I hear you're doing something special for folks that eat at Big Bowl on Earth Day. Care to share the details?
We are giving away free reusable tote bags with every carryout order. The size is great so you can reuse them to go grocery shopping, carry books to school, papers to work. Also, if you bring it back to pick up your future carryout orders, we will deduct 50 cents from your bill for the life of the bag.
Anything you can't live without?
Laura: Me, too!
Trivia question: What’s Big Bowl’s most popular dish?
Answer: Pad Thai.
Big Bowl is one of more than 40 city and suburban eateries listed in Healthy Dining Chicago’s Go Guide. For more information on the Go Guide, visit
Laura Bruzas is the founder of Healthy Dining Chicago, an all-volunteer community effort launched in 2003 to offer practical information and valuable resources to help time-pressed, health-minded consumers make informed choices that are kind to Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. Laura may be reached at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Baked Potato with Bacon Butter Not!

A Baked Potato with Bacon Butter Not!

I love baked potatoes with bacon and butter but know that they are a dietary disaster, especially now that I am watching my weight, sodium intake and cholesterol more than ever. So, I tweak recipes. Today I tweaked a recipe that I found in Country Living magazine that called for bacon and butter and came up with the following simply yummy, healthier version that’s earth-friendly and kind to animals, too! Check out the nutrition information following the recipe to see the difference!

1 medium Russet potato (baked)
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Organic Buttery Whipped Spread
1 1/3 Tablespoon Organic Bac’Uns Vegetarian Bits
1 teaspoon chives
¼ teaspoon dry mustard

Rinse and scrub potato. Pierce with a fork or sharp knife four times on each side at approximately 1-inch intervals to allow steam to escape during the baking. Place the potato directly on the oven rack in a 350 degree F preheated oven. Bake for an hour. Slice baked potato open; scoop out the pulp and mash it in a small bowl. Combine mashed pulp with remaining four ingredients and pile mixture back into potato.
Who says good-for-you food can’t be delicious?
Country Living recipe: Calories 557; Fat 29g ; Cholesterol 65mg; Carbohydrate 24g; Sodium 319mg; Protein 12g; Fiber 7g
Laura’s version: Calories 226; Fat 10g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 28g; Sodium 240mg; Protein 7g; Fiber 4g
Laura Bruzas is the founder of Healthy Dining Chicago, an all-volunteer community education and outreach effort promoting food choices that foster personal wellness, conservation and animal compassion.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Perfect Recipe for Super Bowl Weekend and Beyond!

Do you have 10 minutes? Then you can prepare this super delicious chili that tastes great, is kind to your body, the planet and the animals. It is one of my out-of-the-kitchen-fast recipes that will leave you time to catch the entire game and party with friends and family!

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
Serves 6

Non-stick cooking spray (I like Spectrum's High Heat Canola Spray Oil)
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium poblano peppers, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can (15 oz) Eden Foods red kidney beans, rinsed*
1 can (15 oz) Eden Foods black beans, rinsed*
1 can (15 oz) Eden Foods Great Northern beans, rinsed*
1 cup Whole Foods 365 frozen sweet corn kernels
1 jar (16 oz) Frontera's Corn and Poblano Salsa
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3⁄4 cup water
2 Tbsp Green & Black organic unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp salt-free chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Organic sour cream (choice of non-fat, low-fat, non-dairy, etc.)

Spray slow-cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add all ingredients, except cilantro, to slow-cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until flavors are married. Stir in cilantro. Serve in bowl or mug. Top with sour cream.

Per Serving (without Sour Cream): Calories 285, Total Fat 2g, Cholesterol 0, Sodium 528mg, Total Carbohydrates 50g, Dietary Fiber 15g, Protein 14g

Note: My recipe is based on one found in Woman's Day called Marvelous Meatless Chili. Using the brands I recommend, I was able to reduce the sodium level by over 400 mg per serving!

* I only use Eden Organic Beans because they are packed in steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous c- enamel lining that does not contain bisphenol-A (BPA), the chemical that leaches from plastics and cans according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Studies have linked BPA exposure to obesity, heart disease and cancer. These BPA-free cans cost Eden $300,000 more a year to produce. To my knowledge, Eden is the only U.S. company that uses this custom made BPA-free can.

Want more healthy fast-n-easy recipes like this one? Sign up for Healthy Dining Chicago's e-newsletter!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Formal Attire Not Required to Make a Difference

I received the following letter from Michael F. Jacobson, the Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and wanted to share it with you in the hope that you, too, will help save lives by taking action in the fight against the high levels of sodium in our food supply. In under a minute, you can help make a difference.  And the best part, you can do it from the comfort of your own home - in your pajamas!


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling for public comments to help determine if it will take the necessary steps to reduce sodium levels in our food supply. Please send a message today to tell the FDA to make sodium reduction a top national public health priority! The deadline to submit your comments to the FDA is this Friday, January 27, 2012.

Today’s average daily sodium consumption for all adults is an astounding 4,000 milligrams (mg). According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, almost half of all Americans should consume no more than 1,500 mg per day. It is not hard to see why health experts agree that Americans are consuming far too much sodium. High levels of sodium consumption contribute to hypertension and an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Reducing per capita intake of sodium in half would save 150,000 lives per year and billions in health care costs.

Take action via the following link from the Center for Science in the Public Interest!

Send your message to the FDA today!

Thank you and good evening!

What's for Breakfast?

Two Couldn’t-Get-Any-Easier Oatmeal Recipes

#1 (makes two 1-cup servings)

Combine the following ingredients in a 1-quart crock-pot®. Turn heat to low.
Put the lid on and go to sleep. In the morning, you’ll have two ready to eat
servings to help you start your day on a healthy note!

2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Steel Cut Oats
Handful of dried fruit (dried cherries, raisins, cranberries, etc.)
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt

#2 (makes a single serving)

Put ⅜ cup steel-cut oats, a handful of dried fruit, and a pinch of both cinnamon and 
sea salt into a wide-mouth Thermos®. Fill with1 cup boiling water and cover tightly. Grab it as you're running out the door. It will be ready to eat by the time you arrive at work or school!

Optional: Right before eating, add some chopped nuts and freshly ground flax
seeds to boost the nutrition of this already healthy breakfast option. Oh...adding 
a wee bit of maple syrup makes it extra special!

Total cost per serving: well under $2

Comments welcome!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Every Blog's Gotta Start Somewhere

Though I live an ordinary life, each and every day is a new adventure for me.

Today's adventure includes the launch of this blog which I dedicate to my dear sister, Diane, who passed away in November of 2010, at the tender age of 59, from a heart attack.

Was it preventable or postponable?  I believe so.

Where do I point the finger?  At the Standard American Diet for one. For few escape the deleterious effects this dietary style has on Americans.

For many decades now, I have walked an alternate dietary road - one less travelled - one fraught with many challenges.

Along the way, I have met many colorful characters, discovered more than I sometimes wished I had, learned lots of tips and insider tricks and did so while remaining firmly situated in the simple living zone.

So, for those of you who may be interested in glancing into the life of a time-strapped single woman dedicated to healthy living, healthy eating and many things in between, please read on.

Until next time, I welcome your comments!
Simply Laura