Recipe: Fruit Salad With Cannoli Cream

Our goal at Houston Methodist is to make sure our patients get healthy and stay healthy. But we understand that we have to also be healthy if we’re going to help our patients. This is the reason that Houston Methodist has established a strong culture that promotes employee health.

Getting healthy and staying healthy sometimes requires us to establish good habits, such as getting exercise on a regular basis, and eating a healthy diet. Many people believe this entails long hours at the gym and sacrificing your favorite foods.

While that’s certainly one way to do it, it can be time consuming and difficult. Believe me, I know. However there are many simple habits you can develop to help you accomplish the same thing and they only require us to choose healthier alternatives. You’d be surprised how effective these simple tips can be:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Don’t take the closest parking space at the mall – park farther away and walk.
  • Drink water or tea, instead of soda or sugary beverages.
  • Pack a homemade lunch instead of stopping at the fast food drive through.

Our president and CEO, Dr. Marc Boom, lives a healthy lifestyle and encourages all my fellow employees to do the same. He recently shared this fruit salad with cannoli cream recipe with me – and now I’m sharing with you.

It’s not as healthy as eating an apple, but it’s better than a slice of pie. And again, sometimes getting healthy is about finding a healthier alternative – and this one is loaded with delicious fruits. You’ll be amazed how wonderful and delicious cold fruit can be in the summer, making this dessert perfect for the Fourth of July.

Fruit Salad With Cannoli Cream
Yields 6
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Total Time
45 min
Total Time
45 min
179 calories
24 g
22 g
9 g
4 g
4 g
189 g
19 g
15 g
0 g
4 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 179
Calories from Fat 76
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 22mg
Sodium 19mg
Total Carbohydrates 24g
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 15g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  2. 1/3 cup whipping cream; (plus 2 tablespoons)
  3. 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  4. 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  5. 12 ounces fresh strawberries; hulled, quartered (about 2 1/2 cups)
  6. 1/2 pint fresh raspberries; (about 1 1/4 cups)
  7. 1/2 pint blueberries
  8. 1/2 pint blackberries
  9. 1 tablespoon sugar
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  11. 2 kiwi; peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  12. 3 tablespoons sliced almonds; toasted
  1. Stir the ricotta and 2 tablespoons of cream in a medium bowl to blend.
  2. Beat the remaining 1/3 cup of cream, powdered sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl until semi-firm peaks form.
  3. Fold the ricotta into the whipped cream.
  4. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to stiffen and yield a creamier filling. (This can be prepared 4 hours ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate.)
  5. Toss the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and/or blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl to combine.
  6. Let the fruit stand until juices form, tossing occasionally a few times for about 15 minutes. Add the kiwi.
  7. Spoon the fruit mixture into 4 dessert bowls.
  8. Dollop the ricotta cream atop the fruit.
  9. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve.
Healthy Knowledge
 Special thanks to BigOven user Debbie Painko for her photo of this recipe.

Weight loss: a challenging journey

Lies. All lies. Whatever the number says on the scale can’t be right. At least, that’s what I tell myself. But my clothes are telling a different story. Getting dressed in the morning has been more like forcing toothpaste back into the tube. I suck it all in and pray that I will be able to zip up my pants.

I was doing so well after I had my gastric bypass. I was eating right and I was trying to move more despite arthritis and chronic pain. All of my progress got derailed last year with an unexpected health crisis. After that, everything fell apart. As I recovered, I didn’t just fall off the wagon; I jumped head first into emotional eating and back to my sugar addiction. Before I knew what happened, I picked up 30-plus of the 100 pounds I lost.

Weight loss isn’t easy. I know that is an understatement, but it’s true. Unlike a drug addiction, with food, you can’t live without the thing you are addicted to. It doesn’t help that all of the foods that are bad for you taste so good. Part of the problem is behavioral. I fell back into old habits when I was presented with a difficult challenge in my life.

In 2009, I had the roux-en-y gastric bypass at Houston Methodist Hospital. I truly believe it saved my life. At the time, I was 36 and plagued with a bunch health issues, including prediabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, osteoarthritis and polycystic ovary syndrome.

I went through the classes at the Weight Management Center. The instructors reminded me that bariatric surgery is a tool and that it requires lifestyle changes and ongoing support.

Sheshe lost 100 pounds as a result of her gastric bypass surgery, diet and lifestyle habits.

I made many changes, but I chose to disregard key components, such as support. Each month, I get an email from the Weight Management Center about their meetings, but I only attended a few. I didn’t believe I needed the support because I didn’t believe that I had a problem. But then last year happened, and after I recovered from my month-long hospital stay, all will power vanished. I should have attended meetings and made an appointment with a dietitian to help get me back on track. I didn’t.

30-something pounds later and a bunch of clothes that no longer fit, I have to ask, “How well is going at it alone working for me?” I know the answer: It’s not.

“What am I going to do about it?” I’ve made an appointment with a dietitian to create a meal plan and deal with my emotional eating. The hard part will be giving up sugar all over again. I’ll also attend meetings and look into joining a support group.

I have a lot of hard work ahead. The improvements in my health and quality of life have been significant, which is motivation enough for me to acknowledge that the scale hasn’t been lying.

Unlike a drug addiction, with food, you can’t live without the thing you are addicted to. Click To Tweet

The Weight Management Center offers treatment, services and support for the various stages of the weight loss journey. The center’s specialized programs include a medical weight management program; Step LITE, a moderate weight loss program; medical nutrition consultation; diabetes education program and weight loss surgery.

The center has locations in the Texas Medical Center, Sugar Land, Willowbrook/Northwest Houston and West Houston/Katy. To take the next step in achieving your weight loss goals, register for a free orientation session or visit

Could the health benefits of alcohol be achieved with vinegar?

In most cultures, alcohol consumption has been part of socializing for thousands of years. And while the U.S. doesn’t top the list of alcohol-consuming countries — that honor belongs to the average Luxembourgish, who drinks about 15 liters of alcohol every year — the average American consumes about four alcoholic beverages per week (8.6 liters of alcohol per year).

Much has been written about the health benefits of alcohol, which have been attributed to increasing the blood concentration of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. But that may not be the whole story. More recent evidence suggests the increased life expectancy associated with consuming alcohol doesn’t have anything to do with its HDL-raising effects.

So what’s going on? There is great interest in the metabolic fate of alcohol, after it has entered our stomachs and been absorbed into our blood and cells. We know a lot already.

The human body absorbs alcohol quickly giving rise to a slight change in consciousness people call a “buzz.”

Quickly consuming two alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach, alcohol blood concentration peaks within thirty minutes but is removed from the blood within four hours.

Consuming alcohol with fat-containing foods slows alcohol’s absorption and extends the time it takes to get to peak blood concentration, thereby reducing the buzz — but making it last longer.

Alcohol is degraded in the liver, where two enzymes convert alcohol to acetate, the main component of white vinegar. Many of the physiological effects of alcohol can be duplicated by consuming acetate — except for the drunkenness part. Additional research may show that consuming acetate, an ingredient in many foods, including salad dressing, may be away to increase life expectancy without intoxication.

Some people are alcohol-intolerant because they lack adequate amounts of one of the enzymes that degrade alcohol to acetate. As a consequence, an intermediate product of alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde accumulates in the blood and gives rise to an alcohol flush, a reddening of the skin.

Many of the positive health benefits tied to alcohol may come from acetate, the main component in white vinegar Click To Tweet

A big question for scientists is: How does alcohol protect against heart attacks? One guess, with some experimental support, is that alcohol through its product acetate alters metabolism in fat cells. Future research will reveal whether this hypothesis is valid and whether acetate is a healthful substitute for alcohol.

Weight loss: there’s an app for that

“I will start tomorrow” was a common phrase for me. I uttered it every day, usually as I was eating a Pop Tart or a bowl of pretzels or handful after handful of Wheat Thins.

Weight loss was just one of those things that I would get to … eventually. But as the years went by, I watched my weight continue to rise. I always vowed that I never wanted to weigh “240,” so whenever I would get within a few pounds, I would exercise or lay off the sweets for a day or two, lose a couple of pounds and breathe a sigh of relief.

On February 20, 2014, I stepped on the scale and it said “239.8,” not the dreaded “240,” but about as close as you can get. I knew it was time for a change. I was tired all the time, I had low self-esteem and I knew that 240 would eventually become 250 and it would just keep going up if I didn’t do something now.

A couple of weeks earlier, my daughter began using a food app called MyFitnessPal as a way for her to stay in shape for her upcoming soccer season. That was the spark I needed.

The app is not magic, but it does help you lose weight by simply counting calories. After you put in your current weight and then your desired weight, it gives the number of calories you can eat each day to lose the weight you want.

I put in that I wanted to lose 55 pounds, so it gave me 1,340 calories. It sounds like very little, but if you can make it through the first few days, you gain momentum and it becomes a new way of life.

3d supermarket smartphone
From automating calorie counting to assigning letter grades to foods, apps can help you lose weight and make healthy food choices.

While calorie counting is a great way to lose weight, Houston Methodist dietitian Kari Kooi says it’s important to make sure your calories count and that you are just not counting calories.

In other words, you want to be eating nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, etc., and staying away from processed foods that usually have empty calories. She says a good rule of thumb is to eat foods with five or less ingredients in them.

Kooi adds there are a couple of other apps besides My Fitness Pal. One is called Fooducate. This app assigns a letter grade, A through F, to the foods you eat. It also tells you why certain foods receive the grade they receive.

Another app is called ShopWell. It helps you pick groceries based on your health goals.

In the beginning of this quest, I did not exercise at all, but I have recently started to incorporate that into the plan.

While counting calories is helpful, don't forget to eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods, too Click To Tweet

I downloaded a workout app called Endomondo. It tracks how far and for how long you run or walk, and measures how many calories you burn. The great thing is that it connects to MyFitnessPal, so every time I exercise it automatically adds the extra calories I have burned to the daily calories I can eat.

Since February 21, 2014, I have lost 34 pounds. While I haven’t turned into Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, I feel much better about myself and my health.

Through this journey I have found that whether you have an app or go someplace that helps you, losing weight is all in your mind. I know I sound like Tony Robbins, but it’s true. If you decide to do it, you can do it. Food apps are just great tools that will help get you there.

Summertime snacks fit for kids

In just a few days, my teenage son will come spend the next month with me, and there are three things I’m certain of: He’ll stay up long after he’s supposed to; he’ll sleep way longer than he should; and he’ll eat me out of house and home.

While I don’t have the energy to control the first and I have to work and can’t always control the second, I do know I have some power over what he eats when he’s at my house. As anyone with a teenage boy in the house will attest – they can eat … a lot. Just because he’s going to eat doesn’t mean he can’t eat healthy.

While we can't control everything our kids do, we can help them make healthier decisions when it comes to food Click To Tweet

I reached out to Kristen Kizer, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietitian with Houston Methodist Wellness Services for some healthy food suggestions for my son. She provided me some great (and simple!) summertime snacks that should keep any teenager properly fueled for most activities.

Guacamole and baby carrots:

“All this simple guacamole requires is jar of salsa and some avocados. You mix them together and you have an instant dip for veggies,” Kristen said. She recommends baby carrots because they’re already washed and ready to eat. “The vitamin C in the salsa will keep the guacamole from turning brown and the healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado will keep your hungry teens satisfied,” she said.

Whole wheat rotini and veggies and pasta sauce:

“Pasta is versatile and can easily be made in large quantities. Take a bag of frozen mixed veggies together with a jar of pasta sauce and heat up in a sauce pot while you cook the pasta,” Kristen said. To make it easy for your teenager to heat up, Kristen suggests putting everything in the refrigerator in a covered glass container once it’s been cooked. “All your kids have to do is grab the complete meal and heat it up in the microwave, and with all the sauce and vegetables, they won’t even know they’re getting a healthy dose of fiber, magnesium, manganese and selenium,” she said.

Greek yogurt with fruit:

“I prefer to add frozen fruit to Greek yogurt over fresh because it makes it a cool, refreshing treat, and as the fruit melts, the juice spreads throughout the yogurt, making it sweeter,” Kristin said. She suggests buying 32-ounce containers of yogurt and adding your teenager’s favorite fruit. “The extra protein from the Greek yogurt will keep your hungry teen full and he or she will also be getting fiber from the fruit, as well as vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and calcium.”


When you don’t have time to leave something prepared, cereal is always an easy alternative. “Keeping a box of lower sugar cereal on hand can be helpful when teens are around. I suggest something with no more than 6 grams of sugar, like Kashi’s Heart-to-Heart or Honey Sunshine,” Kristen said. “Original Cheerios  can also be jazzed up with some vanilla extract and cinnamon, or PB2, a natural, dried peanut butter powder that can make plain Cheerios taste a lot more like their peanut butter variety without all the added sugar.”

Thanks to Kristen’s help I think I’m ready for the onslaught my kitchen will face these coming weeks, and perhaps more important, my son will have healthy alternatives to enjoy instead of typical junk food and snacks.

For healthy cooking ideas, check out our Snack Smart Pinterest board.

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Snack Smart on Pinterest.

What’s the prescription for a healthy breakfast?

Are you smart about your breakfast? The most important meal of the day is definitely a must here at Houston Methodist. Why, you ask? Because a healthy breakfast provides the fuel our bodies need to help us power through the day.

Having a healthy breakfast can help improve your attitude throughout the day, prevent obesity, help brain function and kick start your metabolism. And, breakfast eaters often perform better than those who skip breakfast. So, what are the smart people eating? Well, we asked them.

I like a high-protein breakfast; usually eggs or egg whites, depending on my last cholesterol, strawberries and blackberries and coffee. – Dr. Osama Gaber

My wife makes me a breakfast each morning that is yogurt, soy milk, oats and blueberries. It is refrigerated and I take it in to work, run and then eat breakfast at my desk. – Dr. Michael Reardon

I eat Oatmeal (#1 choice), an egg white omelet (#2 choice) or Greek yogurt (occasionally). I have been having the same breakfast for years. – Dr. Aparajitha K. Verma

I generally eat either an omelet or curry for breakfast, never cereal, and once a week I eat oatmeal. – Dr. Gavin Britz

Weetabix and soy milk every day. Plus coffee. – Dr. Jenny Chang

I’ve eaten the same thing for breakfast for decades: Kellogg’s ‘Original Bran’ cereal topped with fresh blueberries. – Dr. Stanley Appel

If your breakfast needs help, find some inspiration on our Breakfast of Champions Pinterest board!

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Breakfast of Champions on Pinterest.

Label fables: 4 tips when looking at nutrition labels

Food marketing is powerfully persuasive and it often slips below the radar of our critical thinking.  Usually all it takes to lure a shopper into buying a product is to have a tempting buzzword on the front of a package.  We buy it because it’s low fat! And natural! And packed with fiber! You get the picture.

Understand the effects of the “health halo”

These claims can cast a blinding spell that has been dubbed the “health halo.” This term refers to foods pretending to be more than what they really are and can cause us to let our guard down.  For example, you might say to yourself, “Go ahead, have some more cookies, they’re low-fat!” That low-fat label is a hidden persuader giving you mental permission to eat more.  Lots of processed junk foods are hiding behind a health halo, so here are just a few things you need to know to defend yourself.

Realize the difference between fake and real fiber

Fiber is one of the hottest nutrition buzzwords.  Food companies have been ramping up fiber content on nutrition labels to impressive-sounding numbers by using fake fibers.  Ingredients to look out for include:

  • American_Fiber_Intake_Gap
    While fake fibers can help you reach your daily fiber goal, they may cause bloating. Stick to fiber from whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

    Inulin: made from chicory root.

  • Maltodextrin: made from rice, corn or potato starch. (Note to celiacs: sometimes it’s made from barley or wheat.)
  • Polydextrose: made from glucose (sugar) mixed with sorbitol (a sugar alcohol).
  • Oat fiber: made by extracting fiber from oats.

These fake fibers aren’t harmful, but they can cause bloating.  Also, they don’t have the same health benefits as naturally occurring, intact fiber that’s found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

While fiber can be healthy, be on the lookout for fake fibers like inulin, which can cause bloating Click To Tweet

Know that gluten-free doesn’t equal “healthy”

Gluten-free foods are all the rage in the grocery store right now and lots of people are experimenting with a gluten-free diet for curiosity’s sake.  Only a small percentage of people have a medical reason to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For the vast majority of people, going gluten-free will not offer any health benefits.  In fact, gluten-free foods are often twice as expensive as their gluten-containing counterparts and higher in calories and sugar.  French fries are gluten-free, so just because a food is gluten-free doesn’t make it more nutritious.

Don’t be fooled by claims like “all-natural”

Don’t get excited over the claim “natural.” This claim is designed to make you feel like the product is farm fresh, but it’s meaningless because it’s unregulated and hasn’t been defined.  Read the ingredients list.  If you can’t pronounce it or there are more than five ingredients, it probably isn’t natural. The bottom line: don’t judge a book by its cover or a product by its package.