Category Archives: Nutrition

Healthy-ing Up Your Pancakes

Pancakes are often thought of as a hearty breakfast option. Perhaps this is due, in part, to rich tales of burley, plaid-shirted, flapjack-eating Paul Bunyan and his axemen. I hate to ruin your illusion, but this gargantuan lumberjack was not dining on your typical fluffy, white pancakes to fuel his heroic exploits. Traditional pancakes, made primarily from water and whole grains, were first consumed more than 30,000 years ago and have been a nutritious staple of many cultures since, including the lumberjacks of the north east that inspired the tall tales. It’s only in the past 100 years that we’ve transitioned to sugary batters made with refined flours and covered in syrups, sauces, jams, and jellies. While the modern dessert-like pancake is not likely to provide the solid nutrition you need to start your day, you can healthy it up. Here are a few tips to bring the hearty back to your pancakes:

  • Look for 100%-whole-grain mixes – You don’t have to be Julia Child to make a great hearty pancake. Bob’s Red Mill, Hodgson Mill, Wheat Montana Farms and Bakery, and Kodiak Cakes all make great pancake mixes from 100% whole grains.
  • Watch for added sugar – Buy pancake mixes with less than 4 g sugar per serving and look for recipes with no more than 1 tbsp sugar per cup flour (1/4 cup sugar per 4 cups flour). You can reduce the sugar or completely eliminate it from your recipes yourself as well.
  • Think portions and food pairings– Eating a small sugary pancake with a more nutritious entre can still be a healthy meal. A favorite brunch of mine is a frittata made with egg and sautéed vegetables and a four inch pancake with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.
  • Flavor with fresh fruit and spices – Skip the syrup and use fresh bananas, berries, peaches, unsweetened applesauce, or other fruit to top your pancakes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla are among the many spices that can add flavor to your pancakes without the sugar.
  • Add nuts – Nuts are a great source of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and a variety of other nutrients. Chopped nuts can be added to any pancake recipe or mix without modifying it and nut butters make delicious spreads.
  • Incorporate veggies – Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, and carrots all make great sweet pancakes. Zucchini, onion, and leafy greens are best as savory pancakes. Pumpkin or sweet potato pancake mixes are also common but look for one with at least 25% of your daily intake of vitamin A to ensure it has a substantial amount of these vegetables.

Wishing you a heartier start to your day,
Ron

Lettuce Agree to Eat More Lettuce

Nearly 2/3rds of all lettuce we eat is iceberg. Unfortunately, iceberg has far fewer nutrients than any other lettuce type. For example, romaine has 2x the fiber, 17x the vitamin A, 8x the vitamin C, 4x the vitamin K, and 5x the folate of iceberg lettuce! With numerous lettuces available in your produce department that are more flavorful and nourishing than iceberg, I think it’s time we start changing our lettuce habits.

Lettuce and salad greens are often used interchangeably because they are eaten in a similar way. While lettuce is a type of salad green, there are many greens, including arugula, cabbage, dandelion, kale, and spinach, that are not lettuce. In general, lettuce is generally tenderer, with a milder flavor than most other salad greens. While all salad greens are great additions to your diet, the following is a description of common lettuces you’ll find in your grocery store and how to start using them.

  • Butter/Boston – Butterhead lettuces are one of the more tender varieties available and come in small heads. They lack the stiff center rib of many other lettuces which gives them a smooth texture…smooth as, well, butter.
    HOW TO USE: Butter lettuce is often used in lettuce wraps because the leaves are pliable and easy to roll. It also makes a great addition to salads or other dishes when you don’t want the texture of the lettuce to detract.
    CAUTION: butterhead have a mildly sweet flavor that can work well to compliment your dish or can detract when a bitterer flavor is needed.
  • Red & Green Leaf Lettuce – The nutrition and flavor of red and green lettuce are very similar. The mature leaves have a crunchy stem with soft, delicate leaves. The leaves are wavy and can contribute a unique texture to a dish.
    HOW TO USE: Chopped, leaf lettuce has a unique texture that makes it a great choice for salads and wraps. It also has a mild flavor that works for both sweet and savory dishes. While it works on sandwiches, the difference in texture between the stem and leaf can be a turnoff for some.
    CAUTION: Some claim that red lettuce is more prone to spoilage but the aesthetic appeal of the color may be worth the slightly reduced lifespan.
  • Romaine – Romaine has a crunchy texture throughout the leaf. It will last the longest of any lettuce (besides iceberg) in your fridge so don’t be afraid to buy this lettuce in bulk.

HOW TO USE: Romaine is commonly used in Caesar salads but works well anytime a crunchy texture is desired. Due to its hardy nature, romaine is one of the few lettuces that can be cooked with good results. Try roasting entire heads or stir-frying the torn leaves.
CAUTION: When all excess water is removed, chopped romaine can last for a week or longer in the fridge without going brown or losing its crunch. Tearing, rather than cutting, causes less damage to the leaves and can prolong its life even more!

  • Spring mix – Incorporating a balance of mild and bold flavors as well as a variety of colors and textures, spring mix is one of the most popular mixes. Spring mix contains lettuces and greens, both of which are immature, making them tenderer than their mature varieties but just as nutritious.
    HOW TO USE: Found in ready to wash containers, these are an easy base for salads, great to throw on sandwiches, or can be chopped and mixed with pastas or grains. The greens impart a bold and often peppery flavor when used in a dish.
    CAUTION: Due to their tender nature, the lettuces and greens in spring mix won’t hold up in your fridge or under high heat cooking as well as other prewashed mixes, lettuces, and greens.

Whether using butterhead for its smooth texture, red or green leaf for their wavy but delicate leaves, romaine for its crunch, or spring mix for its ease and bold flavor, substituting these for iceberg will provide a more nourishing and satisfying meal.

Healthy Game-Time Grub

Nachos and soda and wings! Oh my! NACHOS and SODA and WINGS! OH MY!…

Tailgating and game-day snacking can leave me feeling like Dorothy, making my way through a forest of ferocious (but tempting) beasts. Cheering on your favorite football (or other sports) team doesn’t have to turn into a calorie-laden binge fest, however! Follow these suggestions so you, Toto, and the rest of your gang make it safely to the emerald end zone.

OR

Avoid Game Time Gains with These 7 Game Time Snacks

Whether tailgating, attending a party, or watching the game from home, chances are you’re going to be snacking. Finding healthy game time grub can be a no brainer at your local grocery store. This season, follow these snack suggestions and leave the gains to your team’s offense, not your waistline.

  • Vegetables and dip – pick up fresh-cut vegetables or prepare them yourself. Add hummus or one of Bolthouse’s fabulous yogurt dressings for a healthy dip.
  • Fruit and dip – apples and pears are in season and delicious! Skip the caramel and try a lightly sweetened Greek yogurt or creamy nut butter instead. Use an apple slicer/corer to speed prep.
  • Nuts – pistachios are the perfect game time treat. The shell keeps the nut clean from dirty fingers in the community bowl and also helps your guests pace their snacking.
  • Chili – chili can be a perfect accompaniment to a crisp fall day. Try Amy’s or Stag or, especially if you’re watching your salt intake, make your own. A crockpot not only easily cooks the chili, but will also keep the chili warm for up to an hour after it’s been unplugged.
  • Popcorn – plain popcorn is low calorie and high in fiber (just watch your toppings). Try Boom Chicka Pop’s or Smartfood’s pre-popped sea salt popcorn (available in the chip aisle). Or make your own – use a pump sprayer to add oil and flavor with salt and/or parmesan cheese.
  • Chips & Salsa – Beanitos offers a tortilla chip made from beans that’s high in fiber and protein. Try it with a fresh salsa from our produce department or Full Circle Organic Salsa.
  • 100% Fruit AND Vegetable Juice – water is the best drink while watching your game but when you need something sweet, a 100% fruit and vegetable juice blends like Bolthouse or Naked may be a good options.

Ron

The Easiest Way to Eat Healthy

It’s on the counter. You’re not in the kitchen but you know it’s there. The image of a sheet pan and the delicious treat inside has been burned into your mind. All that is between you and those chocolaty morsels is a short walk and a thin layer of plastic wrap. You start to imagine how satisfying it would be to bite into a sweet, gooey brownie…again. It’s a battle of willpower between you and a second helping and you’re losing.

Too often we blame our poor choices on a lack of willpower. A better solution may be to simply get rid of the temptation. This won’t be possible in all circumstances and may take some creativity if not everyone in the house is as gung ho as you. But with a little creativity and planning, you can get the brownies out of the kitchen! Here are a few solutions to get you started:

  • Make and buy less: Food should be enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to indulge, just do so in appropriate servings and on special occasions. Making half (even quarter) recipes or buying smaller packaged in the grocery store can help.
  • Food waste is bad but sometimes the lesser evil: Given the choice between wasting food and force-feeding junk food to friends, family, or myself, I say throw it away.
  • Lay down the law: Make rules about what will and won’t be available in the house. Make sure everyone follows them. They’ll be healthier for it.
  • Out of sight: Sometimes simply leaving the food hidden in a cupboard, rather than a constant reminder on the counter, is enough to curb the snacking.
  • Take it up a notch: Cupboard not enough? Consider an inconvenient storage location, such as a high shelf that requires the stepstool from the garage to reach.
  • Break out the big guns: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Swap out the cookie jar for a lock box or put a pad lock on the snack drawer. Forbid anyone from telling you the combination or granting you access.

Once you’ve removed the temptation, the next step is to replace it with a healthy alternative. Sometimes we go for the brownie simply because there’re no fresh berries to curb our sweet craving instead. By minimizing unhealthy snacks and increasing nutritious options, eating healthy can be as easy as pie…a healthy pie.

Full Circle Brown Rice Bowl

Ready to eat in 90 seconds, Full Circle Brown Rice bowls make it easy to increase your intake of whole grains. A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer as well as heart disease. Whether using it as a quick snack, making a lunch at work, or incorporating it into a meal at home, Full Circle Brown Rice bowls are a good solution to help support your health. With no added salt or seasonings, the rice is surprisingly versatile, just don’t try and eat it plain unless you’re prepared for a bland experience. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use ready to eat brown rice:

Meal:

  • Eggs Over Rice – Warm rice and top with chopped green onions, soy sauce to taste, and a soft fried egg.
  • Curry and Rice – Kitchens of India have a Red Kidney Bean Curry and Mashed Vegetable Curry. Both are shelf stable and perfect to serve on top of rice. Note these are not low sodium.
  • Power Pack Soup – Whole grains can be added to a variety of soups to turn a side into a complete meal. My favorite to add rice to is Progresso Light Beef Pot Roast. Sodium in the soup is a little high.
  • Taco Salad – Over a bed of greens, add hot rice, Bush’s Grillin’ Beans Black Bean Fiesta, fresh tomato, and avocado. Again, not a low sodium option.
  • Topped with a Flavorful Entre – A great choice to serve over the top of your rice is our Pork Chops with Mushrooms, Onion, and Pear.

Snacks or sides:

  • Rice and Avocado – Add Cholula or your favorite seasoning to rice and top with sliced avocado.
  • Garlic Rice – Add a small amount of Chef Shamy’s Gourmet Garlic Butter to the rice.
  • Black Bean & Corn Salad – Mix into Rico’s Black Bean & Corn Salad to boost the fiber of an already very healthy side.
  • Side Salad – Rice can be a rather unobtrusive addition to just about any salad. Simply sprinkle a small amount on top.

With its ease, versatility, and nutritional quality, Full Circle Brown Rice bowls are one of Ron’s Food Picks. Full Circle Quinoa bowls are an equally good choice. Though not organic, Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Ready Rice and Minute Whole Grain Brown Microwavable rice cups are also good options. If you have the time, the most affordable option is to make your own brown or wild rice in large batches and portion into small, microwaveable containers. No matter how you do it, try some or all of the suggested meals and snacks to increase your intake of whole grains today.

A Perfectly Healthy Pot Roast

Pot roasts can be surprisingly healthy, affordable, and easy. In fact, you should probably add it to your meal-planning calendar right now and then come back to finish reading. Done? Ok, let’s continue. To achieve that succulent, fall-apart-in-your-mouth texture, pot roasts rely on moisture and long cooking times rather than naturally tender cuts or fat content. This means a leaner and less expensive cut provides the same (often better) degree of tenderness as another cut. And ease? Simply braise the beef, mix the ingredients together, and leave in your crock pot or oven for several hours.

Tip: for the busy working adult, take 15 minutes to prepare your pot roast the night before, leave in the fridge overnight, then, as you walk out the door, put on low to cook while you work. When you get home, you’ll be greeted by the delightful aroma of a perfect pot roast.

Here are some ways to make your pot roast especially healthy:

  • Portion – You can either cook up a smaller roast, save it for a time when you’re cooking for a large group, or just plan on having lots of leftovers. No matter how you do it, try to keep your portions between 3 and 4 oz. per person. If you forget, the suggested serving of 4 oz. is on the package.
  • Sides – USDA My Plate should be a guide, even when eating a steak and potatoes dinner. This means half your plate can be pot roast and potatoes, the other half (no not dessert) is fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Adding a whole piece of fruit and prewashed greens with cherry tomatoes and a light vinaigrette? Now you’re following My Plate and it required almost no effort.
  • Lean – The sirloin tip and tri tip beef roasts are both lean cuts, as are the sirloin and New York pork roasts. Opt for these over other cuts where possible. If you do use a fattier cut, consider roasting your potatoes and other root vegetables with a little olive oil and cook your roast separately. That will limit the fat that is infused into your vegetables.
  • Use herbs – Some roast recipes can be high in salt. Look for a recipe that uses savory herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay, sage, and/or mustard. A generous amount of onion and garlic are also musts for a flavorful roast that doesn’t rely on salt for its flavor. You can also experiment with using beer to help make your roast moist and flavorful (the alcohol cooks off so it’s safe for kids).
  • Toss the juices – While you might be tempted to turn the leftover juice into gravy or simply drizzle a little on each plate, doing so just adds more salt and fat. Avoid the temptation and toss it. A well flavored roast shouldn’t need to be bathed in gravy or drippings.

Next time you anticipate a busy evening or when you’re just looking for some good old fashioned comfort food, put on a pot roast and enjoy a healthy, affordable, and easy meal.

Ron

Easy and Delicious Spaghetti

With a sauce made from whole vegetables, your sense will delight in the fresh and bold flavors of this spaghetti. And with only 15 minutes of preparation, it’s an easy meal to squeeze into a busy evening.

Easy Spaghetti
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces whole grain spaghetti noodles
  • 3 each medium zucchini (spiralized)
  • 6 each roma tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil OR 2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup white onion
  • 1/4 cup carrot
  • 1/4 cup celery
  • 1 cup liquid (water, chicken stock, veg stock, turkey stock, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Using a sauté pan on medium heat, add oil and garlic and cook 2 minutes or until garlic is golden brown
  3. Add lean ground turkey and cook until completely browned
  4. While noodles and turkey are cooking, in a high powered blender add tomatoes, basil, onions, carrots, celery, and liquid; blend on high until completely pureed
  5. Spiralize or julienne slice zucchini
  6. Once turkey is completely browned, turn the burner down to medium low and add the tomato sauce
  7. Salt and pepper to taste then simmer on medium low for 10 minutes; you may need to add a little additional liquid until desired consistency is reached
  8. Once noodles are cooked to al dente, strain and portion into 4, 2 oz servings, evenly portion out zucchini on top of noodles, then add sauce and enjoy a healthy fresh plate of spaghetti

A Gourmet New Year’s Celebration

In the US, we typically celebrate New Year’s with an abundance of gourmet food and drink to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. I’m not about to get between you and your coming prosperity so let’s gourmet it up! Bet you never thought a dietitian would be telling you to do that, right? Few know gourmet as well as the French. Ironically, France also has one of the lowest cardiovascular disease and obesity rates of any industrialized nation. There it is, the catch. This really is a healthy food blog! You might as well keep reading, though, because what follows are great ideas, taken from the French, on how to make your gourmet New Year’s both delicious and healthy.

  • Eat real food – You won’t find many highly processed, ready-to-eat foods in most French shopping carts. Gourmet is fresh. Shop primarily around the perimeter of the store where you’ll find fresh produce, breads, dairy, and meats. Your fresh New Year’s dinner can be as simple as pot roast, potatoes, and a greens salad or as fancy as stuffed mushrooms, butternut squash soup, chicken florentine, and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries.
  • Spend more time eating – On average, we spend about two thirds (2/3) as long as the French at each meal. Take smaller bites and enjoy more conversation while you eat this New Year’s. You’ll be surprised that you don’t need as much food when you take the time to savor it. Dividing your meal into courses can also help slow your pace and prevent the food from getting cold.
  • Reduce portion sizes – Traditional French meals feature more types of food but smaller portions of those foods than most American meals. Make an assortment of dishes for your New Year’s dinner and serve a small portion of each on salad plates. You’ll experience more sensory pleasure from the variety of flavors and consume fewer calories overall from the smaller portion sizes.
  • Cut snacking and soda – The French primarily stick to three balanced meals each day and avoid snacking. Sugar-laden soda can be an even greater calorie burden than snack foods. This New Year’s, eat your gourmet dinner and then call it a night. Leave a pitcher of lemon infused water for guests to drink instead of soda. If you do snack, snack on real food. Vegetables and hummus, nuts, or fresh fruit make great snacks.
  • Stick to your resolutions – Balance is something the French do very well. There’s nothing wrong with an exquisite and indulgent meal provided you are more prudent the next. Celebrate the passing of a year with good food and start the beginning of the next with resolve to eat healthier.

This New Year’s Eve, and in the year to come, make your food about quality, not quantity. Seek for fresh foods and eating environments that promote maximum enjoyment and moderate intake. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The Food of Kings

Revered for its tender shoots and delicious flavor but highly perishable, asparagus has been a status symbol in many cultures. To obtain the freshest asparagus, Roman emperors reserved a special fleet of ships to transport asparagus. In Italy during the Renaissance, asparagus was a delicacy only the wealthy could afford. King Louis the 14th of France had special greenhouses constructed so he could enjoy asparagus year round. Luckily, you don’t need to rule a nation to enjoy asparagus. Drop by your local grocery store and enjoy this tasty vegetable today.

Need a reason besides its wonderful flavor? Asparagus is also a wonderfully nutritious addition to your meal:

  • One cup of asparagus has all of the vitamin K you need for an entire day.
  • Asparagus is also a good source of vitamins A, C, & E; B vitamins; choline; and minerals.
  • In addition to providing fiber, asparagus may also support digestive health through a special type of fiber called inulin which helps healthy probiotics grow in your digestive system.

Asparagus is an easy vegetable to cook. It can be sautéed, boiled, steamed, mixed into a casserole, or even microwaved in a little water for about seven minutes. You will need to break the fibrous base off of most stalks, especially those that are thicker. Simply grasp the asparagus by its base and mid stalk; then bend it until the base breaks away. Asparagus is more perishable than most produce. After purchasing, try to enjoy your asparagus within two days for the best flavor and texture.

Asparagus season is just getting started. As one of the earliest vegetables to come in season, it’s a great buy in your local produce department. The season lasts until May so enjoy them while you can. Add some royal decadence to your next meal with a delicious and wholesome side of asparagus.

Healthy(er) Holiday Neighbor Gifts

During the holidays, friends’ and family’s homes are overrun by gifts of cookies, caramels, and pies. Make your gift memorable with these wholesome or deliciously indulgent food kits that are sure to please serious foodies and casual cooks alike. Visit your local grocery store where you’ll find everything you need for the perfect gift.
Recipes
Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn
Shopping list:
• Brown paper lunch sacks
• Ribbon or raffia
• Minicups with lids x2 (available with the plastic ware)
• Popcorn
• Olive oil
• Fresh rosemary (finely chopped plus whole sprigs for garnish)
• Block parmesan (substitute Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast for a vegan recipe)
• Salt
• Black pepper
• Lemon extract

Preparation:
1. Place heaping ¼ c popcorn kernels in paper sack
2. Fold paper sack over twice; punch two holes near center and tie bag closed through holes with ribbon or raffia
3. Attach recipe card and rosemary sprig.
4. In a saucepan, combine 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp rosemary (multiply by number of gifts being prepared); gently heat over medium heat 4-5 minutes until rosemary becomes fragrant
5. Allow oil to cool and portion into mini cups
6. Add ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and ½ tsp lemon extract to each mini cup
7. Finely grate parmesan and place 1 tbsp in a separate minicup
8. Place lids on minicups

Recipe card:
1. Leave bag tied and place upright in microwave
2. Heat on high for 3 minutes or until popping slows to 1-2 seconds between pops
3. Remove from microwave and place popcorn in bowl
4. Shake oil and herb mixture thoroughly and drizzle over popcorn
5. Stir to mix and top with parmesan cheese Mason Jar Bean Soup
Shopping list:
• 1 quart mason jars
• ½” or 1” ribbon
• Ziploc bag, snack size
• Dried kidney beans
• Dried great northern beans
• Dried black beans
• Dried pinto beans
• Split peas
• Onion powder
• Beef or vegetable bouillon granules
• Dried parsley
• Dried basil
• Lemon pepper
• Chili powder
• Garlic powder
• Dried oregano
• 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Preparation:
1. Layer ¾ cup of each of the beans and peas in mason jar so they form colorful layers and screw on lid and band
2. In a Ziploc bag, combine 2 tbsp dried onion, 2 tbsp beef bouillon granules, 2 tbsp dried parsley, 2 tsp dried basil, 2 tsp lemon pepper, 1 ½ tsp chili powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp dried oregano.
3. Seal bag and punch a hole in top corner above seal
4. Wrap ribbon around neck of mason jar and attach recipe card and spice bag
5. Include can of crushed tomatoes with each mason jar of ingredients

Recipe card:
1. At least 12 hours before preparing soup, remove spice bag and pour beans into pot full of water; ensure water is at least 2 inches above beans
2. Add 1 ½ tbsp salt to water, stir to mix, and allow beans to soak for at least 10 hours
3. Pour beans into colander and rinse with water
4. Place beans in a large pot and add 8 cups water, canned tomatoes, and seasoning mix
5. Cover and bring to boil
6. Lower heat and simmer 1 ½ hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally
7. Add additional salt to taste if needed Mason Jar Hot Coco (indulge responsibly)
Shopping list:
• 1 quart mason jars
• ½” or 1” ribbon
• Mug
• Wrapping Paper or Cloth
• Whole milk
• Half and half
• vanilla extract
• cinnamon stick
• 5 oz gourmet dark chocolate chips (60-70%)

Preparation:
1. Add 2 ½ cups milk, 1 cup half and half, and 2 tsp vanilla extract to mason jar.
2. Sandwich wrapping paper or cloth between lid and band and screw on to jar
3. Wrap ribbon around neck of mason jar and attach recipe card
4. Slip cinnamon stick through ribbon
5. Place chocolate chips in mug and cover with wrapping paper or cloth and secure with ribbon

Recipe card:
1. Heat milk mixture and cinnamon stick on medium heat to a low simmer stirring frequently
2. Remove from heat and allow to sit 15 minutes
3. Place dark chocolate in microwave safe bowl and melt in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds
4. Remove cinnamon stick from milk and whisk together milk and chocolate
5. Bring to a low simmer, stirring frequently
6. Pour into mug and enjoy!