Category Archives: Wellness Simplified

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

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.

Smart Chicken, More than just a Name

 

One of my goals as your grocery store dietitian is to help you, the customer, cut through the marketing and see what’s really behind the products on your grocery store shelf. That’s why I set out to investigate Smart Chicken and find out if the company really lived up to its name. What I found was a company, Tecumseh Farms, founded on the idea that the best tasting chicken would come from humanely treated birds and a concern for the welfare of its employees and the environment. The company is now a responsible farm system that produces some of the highest quality chicken on the market.

Better than local

Local works when the community has the resources to support the business. Utah lacks the abundance of water and feed required to grow chickens on a large scale. Tecumseh Farms are located in the Midwest, home to the Ogallala aquifer, the biggest natural underwater aquifer in the nation, as well as the largest producers of corn and soy, the primary feed of chickens. Since it requires 2-3 pounds of feed per pound of usable meat, reducing the miles traveled by the feed actually does more for the environment than reducing how far the final chicken travels. By situating themselves in the ideal area to raise chickens, they can produce them in a more environmentally friendly way than any large local operation could.

Sustainable farms

2-3 pounds of feed per pound of meat not only means it’s better to grow the chickens near the feed, it also means for every pound of organic chicken, you’re supporting the growth of 2-3 pounds of organic crops. Some Tecumseh Farms chickens are not organic but even those are raised with a higher degree of sustainability than industry standards. Tecumseh farms achieved a “Great” rating from Howgood, a third-party organization that rates food companies based on their sustainability and business practices.

Humane animal treatment

Tecumseh Farms is certified humane through the Humane Farm Animal Care program, a third party certification organization recognized by Consumer Reports Greener Choices. Being certified humane, Tecumseh Farms is subject to periodic audits to ensure minimum space requirements and facility requirements are met. These requirements are designed to minimize the boredom and stress of the animals while ensuring their comfort. Standards also ensure that animals are killed in a way that minimizes pain and discomfort.

Higher quality meat

According to the USDA, simply being organic doesn’t mean the chicken is any more nutritious or better tasting than conventionally raised chicken. It’s not through its organic practices, but rather those that go above and beyond organic that led to Smart Chicken being identified through an independent university study as tenderer than a competing brand. The secret, according to Tecumseh Farms, is its more humane mode of slaughtering the chickens which avoids bruising and bone breakage as well as a meticulous quality assurance program.

Other thoughts

While not all of the chicken produced is organic, all chicken produced by Tecumseh Farms is raised without antibiotics. Antibiotic use in animal production has been identified by the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and a variety of other organizations as a serious public health concern due to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria through its abuse. All chickens are also 100% vegetarian fed. They meat is also air chilled rather than chilled in a highly-chlorinated ice bath with other chickens as is the industry standard. This reduces the spread of bacteria and also improves the taste of the meat.

While the price of organic and sustainably raised chicken is higher than conventional chicken, the value in terms of taste, sustainability, and animal welfare, truly make Smart Chicken a great buy. If you are on a budget, start small. Substitute one meals every week or two for Smart Chicken and gradually increase frequency as you are able. Buying whole chickens may also be a more economical option than purchasing chicken breast or other trimmed meat. Stop in to your local Associated Food Store and get yours today!

introduce kids to proper meat handling techniques

Stop, Hammer Time

While there’s hopefully a part of every adult that treasures the nostalgic throw-back to MC Hammer, this activity is about introducing kids to proper meat handling techniques, not parachute pants. And did I mention it also gives kids the chance to help pound chicken breasts to their hearts content with a meat mallet?

The activity can be appropriate for children of all ages. However, you should gauge how much of the activity will be demonstrated by you and how much you’ll allow them to be involved in. Improper handling of raw meat or poor hand washing can result in very serious food borne illness. By introducing kids to the potential risks of food borne illness now, however, you may help save them from getting sick later.

Learning objective – kids will assist in the preparation of chicken cordon bleu and learn about proper meat handling techniques.

You will need, for each chicken cordon bleu:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 slice ham
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Toothpicks
  • Plastic wrap
  • Meat tenderizer mallet
  • Vinegar or bleach

Activity:

Throughout, emphasize the 4 keys to preventing food borne illness:

  1. Clean
  2. Separate
  3. Cook
  4. Chill

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Have kids CLEAN their hands. Address the need to wash before preparing any food and after handling any raw meat or eggs.
  3. Place a cutting board on the counter. Emphasize this is a SEPARATE cutting board just for raw meats.
  4. Remove chicken from the fridge. Show how it has been kept SEPARATE from other food items.
  5. Place chicken on cutting board and cover with plastic wrap to prevent chicken juices from splattering on other kitchen surfaces.
  6. Pound chicken breast with flat end of meat tenderizer until it is ¼ inch thick.
    • Note: this is a service that your local grocery store butcher can provide for you if you prefer.
  7. Remove and discard plastic wrap and place ham and Swiss cheese on chicken.
  8. Roll chicken, ham, and cheese and secure with toothpick.
  9. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and place on baking pan.
  10. CLEAN your hands and remind kids that always after touching raw meats you should wash your hands.
  11. Bake chicken for 30-35 minutes. Tell kids that properly COOKING meats will kill all bacteria and make them safe to eat.
  12. While chicken is baking, CLEAN cutting board and meat mallet by wiping them down with pure vinegar or soaking them in a combination of 1 tbsp bleach in 1 gallon water and then washing with soap and water. Alternatively, you can put them in a dish washer that reaches 170 degrees.
  13. Emphasize that the last step to CHILL any leftovers is still important. Cooked meats and other perishable foods shouldn’t be left out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.
  14. Enjoy a delicious chicken cordon bleu that your children can be proud they helped make!

Not only is this activity fun and educational, it’s also functional since you’ll be getting your dinner made at the same time. For additional activities, videos, and resources, visit the website www.fightbac.org.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Black Rice

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Black Rice Makes 6 servings Active time: 10 minutes Total time: 3 hours

Delicious and requiring only ten minutes of active cooking, there truly is no reason why you can’t enjoy a homemade dinner on even your busiest day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups “Hinode” black rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper washed deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 8 ounce package sliced crimini mushrooms (mini bellas)
  • 6 bone in chicken thighs with skin removed
  • 2, 14.5 ounce cans of Western Family fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • 2, 14.5 ounce cans of Western Family reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary with leaves picked off
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour black rice into bottom of slow cooker
  2. Remove skin and place chicken thighs on top of rice
  3. Wash and cut bell pepper, peel and dice onion, pick fresh rosemary leaves from stem and, along with sliced mushrooms, place on top of chicken
  4. Pour tomatoes and chicken broth into slow cooker
  5. Place lid and set on high
  6. Cook for 2 hour and 45 minutes
  7. Let stand 5 minutes
  8. Stir and serve

Cucumber Kiwi Salad with Applegate Organic Roasted Chicken

Cucumber Kiwi Salad with Applegate Organic Roasted Chicken Makes 1 entrée salad or two side salads Active time: 8 minutes Total time: 8 minutes

Offering a subtle sweetness that is complemented by mild savory deli meat, sunflower seeds, and mozzarella, this salad is a fresh treat any time of the year.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups spring mix
  • 1/4 cucumber peeled halved and sliced
  • 1 kiwi peeled, halved and sliced
  • 3 slices Applegate Organic roasted chicken
  • 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella, diced or bought as mozzarella pearls
  • 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 ounce Bolthouse Raspberry Merlot dressing

Directions:

  1. Measure out spring mix and place in a bowl
  2. Cut the other ingredients and place on top of spring mix
  3. Sprinkle sunflower seeds

Add dressing

Ask a Butcher

steak1

Jimmy has worked in the grocery industry his entire life. Starting at 16, Jimmy worked as bagger and then cashier at his neighborhood grocery store. At 18 he started working as a butcher and has never looked back. Now, with nearly 30 years of experience as a meat manager, Jimmy is a valuable asset to our team and customers. You can find him cutting tender and juicy meats at our Park City Fresh Market.

  1. What is your favorite thing about being a meat manager? My favorite thing about being a meat manager is being a part of that perfect meal. Whether it’s cutting a dinner roast for a family gathering or providing recommendations on doing the perfect BBQ, I like the satisfaction of knowing that I’m contributing to the success of the party. I also enjoy the unique demographic of Park City. Because it is a prime vacation area, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.
  2. I know this will be like choosing between your children, but what’s your favorite meat entre to cook at home? When I’m looking to treat myself to that perfect meat entre, I usually choose a rib eye steak or prime rib. For everyday meat choices, however, I usually eat more fish and chicken. For value, nothing beats a skirt or flank steak. Typically a less expensive cut, they still have a bold flavor if cooked right. The key is to cook them slow and slice them thin or shred them during cooking to allow more juices to coat the meat.
  3. What’s the most common question you get from customers? Besides, “Can you get me a…” the most common question I get is, “How do I cook this?” Our butchers are trained to provide cooking recommendations to help the customer cook it just the way they like it. From rare to well done, we have the expert advice on how to get the job done. We also often have recipes and other meal ideas if I customer doesn’t know what to do with a meat. We can even recommend pans, seasonings, and vegetable pairings so don’t be afraid to ask your butcher.
  4. What custom services can a butcher provide a customer to help make meat preparation easier? In addition to the basics of cutting a custom sized roast or custom thickness steak, we can prepare the meat just about any way the customer can imagine. Thin sliced, cut into strips, diced into cubes, tenderized, pounded flat, ground, custom seasoning or marinades… If your recipe calls for a special type of meat preparation, we can probably do it behind the counter. We’re also happy to find any meat at any quantity you may need. I’ve had requests for anything from 40 pounds of chicken feet to goat to Chilean sea bass. Choice and prime grade meats are also a common request from customers and something we’re happy to order if we don’t have it in stock. I can usually get most metas within a day or two and seafood is often even available that same day. Exotic meat dishes like crown roasts, turdunkin, and French rack lamb are also something we can do. You can even purchase bones and carcasses for animals.
  5. What’s the difference between what someone might find behind the meat counter and prepackaged in the refrigerated display cases near it? The meat counter, what we refer to as the butcher block, is focused on prepared meats. These are the marinades, kabobs, chicken cordon blue, etc. Most of the refrigerated display items are more whole meat items. Chicken breast, whole chicken, steak, roasts, things like that. The idea is for the common meat purchases customers can just grab them off the refrigerated display and go. For more custom cuts and preparations, that’s what the butcher block is for. Selection of butcher block items varies by store so don’t be afraid to ask if your butcher can make something if you don’t see it there.
  6. How soon should I use the meat after I’ve bought it? All of the meat is stamped with a sell by date. The meat is guaranteed to stay good through that date. My recommendation is to always cook OR FREEZE the meat before the sell by date to reduce your risk of foodborne illness. Put a reminder in your phone and if you don’t use the meat by then, no problem, just pop it in your freezer and defrost it when you’re ready to prepare it.

Thanks to Jimmy for taking the time to provide us with tips on how to make the most of our local grocery store butchers. The next time you’re looking for the perfect meat entre, take advantage of your friendly and knowledgeable butcher to ensure the meal is a success.

Being a responsible Omnivore

Fruits

I don’t advocate for or against vegetarianism. There are valid arguments on both sides that ultimately come down to your values. I do advocate for health and there are certain dietary habits related to meat that can affect your health. The way your habits affect your health can be through direct or indirect means.

Direct Effects

Plants – including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans – are the foundation of a healthy diet. When meats are included, opt for fish and poultry sources and consume other meats in moderation. Limit your consumption of processed meats like deli meats, hot dogs, and sausages. People that follow these few basic principles, in general, experience better health throughout their lifetime. Does this mean you need to eliminate all red meats and processed meats? Absolutely not. Just because more car accidents happen when it’s raining, doesn’t mean you should stop driving every time it starts to sprinkle. There are safe ways to drive in the rain. Use common sense, slow down, and ensure you do routine vehicle maintenance. Do the same with red and processed meats. Use common sense; slow down; and eat an overall healthy diet, exercise, and get routine medical checkups.

Indirect Effects

A healthier environment means improved health for everyone living in it. Buying organic and sustainably raised meats is a way to promote environmental health and, indirectly, your health and the health of future generations. As your local grocery store, we support sustainably raised meats and actively work to help provide a wide array of sustainable options at a great value. Recently, we’ve highlighted two suppliers that are doing it the right way, Smart Chicken and Applegate Farms. Keep following the blog and subscribe to the monthly email for more education and tips on other great products you can find in our stores.

As you shop, remember, what you buy is what the industry will produce and supply. For your health and the health of the planet, be informed about your choices and seek to be a responsible omnivore.

 

Healthy Spins on Traditional Thanksgiving Dishes

While there are Thanksgiving traditions, what you serve at your house is completely up to you. Nowhere in the Thanksgiving bylaws does it say that the yams must be covered with brown sugar and marshmallows. And, last I checked, the Thanksgiving police weren’t arresting households that skipped the rolls entirely. This Thanksgiving, consider altering or eliminating some of your less healthy Thanksgiving food traditions. Here are a few suggested healthy spins on traditional dishes to get you started.

  • Turkey – it finally happened, I’m recommending deep frying as a healthy option – that’s because little if any oil actually enters the meat. Baked can be just as healthy provided you don’t slather your bird in butter. No matter how you cook it, avoid eating the skin for a lower-calorie option.
  • Gravy – use spices and vegetables to flavor your gravy rather than relying heavily on salt. Avoid adding too much salt to your turkey too since the drippings will be used to make the gravy. Skim the fat off your drippings and avoid adding butter for a lower-calorie option.
  • Stuffing – made from white bread and covered in butter, traditional stuffing has few redeeming qualities – besides its taste of course. Simply swap the white bread for 100% whole wheat and use less butter for a simple solution. You can also stuff your turkey with wild rice, bulgar, or any other nutritious whole grain.
  • Mashed Potatoes – Thanksgiving is already heavy on the carbs. Consider trying a mashed cauliflower instead of or combined with your mashed potatoes. Potatoes are still a healthy choice, just keep the skin on and try using Greek yogurt in place of butter.
  • Yams – rich in vitamin A, yams are wonderfully healthy and are naturally sweet. Look for a baked yams recipe that only adds a small amount of maple syrup or brown sugar rather than smother them in marshmallows. Pecans or other nuts can also be a healthy addition to your yams.
  • Salad – have one! This is the healthiest part of your Thanksgiving dinner. Kale and endive are often at their peak of flavor around Thanksgiving and can be turned into delicious savory or fruited Thanksgiving salads. Be sure to choose a lower calorie dressing to serve with it.
  • Pie – I’m not going to tell you to skip dessert completely. I’m the first to admit my Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a small slice of pecan pie. Portion your dessert into small servings, however, and consider reducing the variety to avoid the small-piece-of-each mentality which can lead to a big-plate-of-everything dessert.

Hoping your Thanksgiving is filled with great company and great, healthy foods! Ron