A Chattanooga-area dietitian weighs in on the keto food regimen, plus recipes that will help you get and keep wholesome


The New Year brings many promises, both kept and broken, and resolutions to improve our health are high on the list. So you have the first few weeks off and running, but by the end of the month many of us go back to our old habits, consuming too many calories, putting off exercise, and eating fried, greasy foods that clog our arteries, raise our blood pressure, gain weight and do other scary things to harm our health.

Interestingly, Tennessee and other southern states consistently rank in the top ten unhealthy states.

“The finger strongly points towards obesity as the culprit,” says Danielle Townsend, a registered nutritionist with Primary Healthcare in North Georgia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity is linked to the leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, as well as poorer mental health and quality of life.

Townsend admits struggling with her weight, but she is not alone. Data from the CDC from 2017-2018 shows that 42.4% of adults in the United States are classified as obese.

“I can tell you that obesity is due in large part to our lifestyle choices,” she says.

Poor diet, large portions, an imbalance in nutrients, and a lack of regular physical activity are all factors that lead to poor health.

Science has proven that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can offer numerous health benefits, such as:

However, with all of the diets that promote weight loss, making radical changes to your diet can at times seem overwhelming.

“In general, when a diet cuts out a food group and you eat 1,000 calories or less a day, or promises to help you lose a certain amount of weight in ‘just a few weeks’, it is not a realistic, long-term, or sustainable one Way of life, “says Townsend.

The most popular weight loss diet remains the keto diet, one that was first developed for children who cannot tolerate anti-epileptic drugs but has become a popular diet for people trying to lose weight and get healthy. It does have one drawback, however. People have had some success in weight loss – they only consumed 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates a day – but this can be accompanied by increases in serum cholesterol and triglycerides, an increased risk of heart disease, and decreased muscle mass.

Instead of the keto diet, Townsend recommends a low-carb to moderate-carb diet with a target daily carb intake of 30-45 grams of total carbohydrates per meal. Most people, she says, cannot continue extreme, low-carbohydrate intake for the rest of their lives.

“That can lead to false hopes, frustration, retroactive weight gain and binge eating,” she says, offering two alternatives: the Mediterranean or the DASH diet, two diets that do not avoid certain foods but focus on the whole grain , fresh produce and lean meat and fish, along with meatless meals that contain beans and nuts, both foods high in protein.

Also, drink plenty of water – at least 64 ounces a day for most people – and spend 250 minutes on the track or do some type of physical activity every week.

“Getting well the right way takes a lot longer, but the chances of it staying” [weight] off are usually bigger too, “says Townsend.” What’s it called? Good things come to those who wait. There are many things we don’t like to do, but we do them because they are good for us. Eating vegetables, drinking more water, and taking more steps has to be on that list of things. “

Chicken and Lentil Soup

This is a recipe that Danielle Townsend made recently that has proven to be not only healthy but also high in protein and delicious.

1 pound of dried lentils

3 skinless and boneless chicken legs, all fat trimmed

8 cups of water

1 tablespoon chicken bouillon (preferably better than the bouillon brand)

1 small onion

2 spring onions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

3 cloves of garlic

1 medium-ripe tomato

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon of ground annato or Spanish paprika

Salt to taste

In a large saucepan, mix the lentils, chicken, water and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover over medium heat until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and mince, return to the saucepan.

In the meantime, chop the onions, spring onions, coriander, garlic and tomatoes in a food processor or by hand. Add to the lentils with garlic powder, cumin, oregano and annato and cook covered for about 25 minutes until the lentils are soft, add more water if necessary, if too thick. Adjust the salt as needed. Makes about 8 servings.

Swiss chard mushroom fettuccine

This Mayo Clinic recipe is high in protein, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates, plus Swiss chard is a good source of iron and vitamins A and C.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 cup chopped shallots or green onions

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

8 to 10 small mushrooms, sliced

1 pound Swiss chard, trimmed from the stem, washed thoroughly, and cut into 1-inch pieces

6 ounces of uncooked whole grain fettuccine

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Fry the vegetables for about five minutes until they are soft. Add the chard, reduce the heat and cover for about three minutes. Use tongs to turn the chard so that the uncooked leaves are on the bottom and the withered leaves on top. Cover and cook until completely collapsed, about another three minutes.

Fill a large saucepan 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until al dente. Drain well, collecting 1/4 cup of pasta water. Return the drained pasta to the saucepan. Add the chard mixture and the reserved pasta water. Toss to mix evenly. Spread the pasta on preheated plates. Top each serving with broken black pepper and 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Black bean and chipotle ketchup burger

These burgers can be cooked and frozen in advance.

1 1/4 cups dried black beans, picked and rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained

3 cups of water

1 bay leaf

2 plum tomatoes (Roma), peeled and pitted, then diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 tablespoon of wine vinegar

1 chipotle chilli in Adobo sauce, chopped

1 3/4 teaspoons of ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil

1/2 red pepper (paprika), pitted and chopped

1/2 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1 green (spring) onion, thinly sliced

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup fresh whole grain breadcrumbs

6 whole grain hamburger buns

6 slices of tomato

6 slices of red onion

3 lettuce leaves, halved

In a large saucepan over high heat, mix the beans, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer for 60 to 70 minutes until the beans are soft. Drain the bay leaf and discard.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the chipotle ketchup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the tomatoes, half of the yellow onion, half of the garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, chipotle chilli, 3/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer without the lid, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is a thick sauce, about five minutes. Set aside to cool.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the remaining yellow onion and sauté for about four minutes until soft and translucent. Add the bell peppers and remaining garlic and sauté for about three minutes, until they start to soften. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt, pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool. Set the pan aside.

In a food processor, mix the drained beans, onion mixture, brown rice, pecans, spring onions, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin. Pulse several times until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Fold in the beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Shape the mixture into 6 meatballs, each about one centimeter thick.

In the same pan that was used for the onion mixture, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook them, turning them once, until they are nicely browned and warmed through on both sides, a total of seven to nine minutes.

Serve each burger on a bun with 1 tomato slice, 1 onion slice, 1/2 lettuce leaf and a dollop of ketchup.

– Prescription courtesy of Mayo Clinic