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

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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.

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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.