Tag Archives: Healthy

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

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.

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.

 

The Amazing Kiwi

The scientific name for kiwi is very appropriate, actinidia deliciosa. Now I have no idea where actinidia comes from but completely agree with the deliciosa part. Once you get past the tough and creepily hairy outside, the bright green fruit of the kiwi is a delicious treat! Whether eating it straight out of the skin or enjoying its unique color in a fruit salad, the kiwi never disappoints. In nutrient content, the kiwi continues to perform. With more fiber and nearly double the potassium and vitamin C of an orange, there’s no denying the nutritiousness of the kiwi.

Now let’s talk about that hairy skin and other odd quirks. At first the kiwi fuzz might be a turnoff for some. Peeling off the skin with a paring knife or slicing the kiwi and scooping out the flesh are common solutions. A lazy option (and I do love to be a lazy cook) is to simply rub the skin vigorously to remove the fuzz and then eat the fruit whole. The skin is surprisingly thin and unobtrusive.

Another common complaint about the kiwi is how quickly they spoil after being cut. Unfortunately there is no lazy solution here. Kiwis contain enzymes which are activated when it’s cut. Once activated, the enzymes quickly begin breaking it down as well as any other fruit they come in contact with. Cut your kiwi as soon before eating it as possible and don’t plan on saving any leftovers. This doesn’t apply to cooked dishes because the enzymes are deactivated with heat.

In honor of this nutritious and delicious fruit, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite ways to enjoy kiwi (in no particular order):

  • Fresh, right out of (or including) the skin
  • Dried into kiwi chips
  • Cut in a fruit or green salad
  • Cut over cereal or pancakes
  • Chopped in plain yogurt or parfait
  • Baked into bread
  • Pureed in a smoothie
  • Juiced or pureed in a mixed drink
  • In jams and jellies
  • Mixed in sauces or marinades
  • Sliced over ice cream or shortcake
  • Topping for fruit pizza

No matter how you enjoy your nutritious kiwis, enjoy them while they last. California kiwi are available through winter and into spring. Get yours before they’re gone.

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!

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