Tag Archives: 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.

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.

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 Salad Dressing Ideas

With its rainbow of fresh produce, a salad can be a delicious and striking part of your meal…not to mention loaded with nutrients! Now, if dousing your salad with a calorie-laden dressing is the only way to get your picky eaters to enjoy it, I’ll call that a win. A better option (double win?) would be to use a lighter, healthier dressing. Here are five healthy and delicious salad dressings you can make in less than five minutes:

  1. Arugula Salad with Grape Tomatoes and Shaved Red Onions – There’s beauty in simplicity with this quick and easy salad. The peppery arugula is complimented perfectly in taste and appearance by a few simple savory ingredients.
  2. Balsamic Vinaigrette – Offering a distinctive, Mediterranean flavor, this dressing pairs wonderfully with baby spinach, pomegranate seeds, and pine nuts.
  3. Greek Yogurt Caesar Salad – The Greek yogurt provides the creamy texture you’ve come to expect in a Caesar salad with less fat and more protein. I guarantee you won’t miss your old Caesar one bit!
  4. Oriental Dressing – This savory dressing offers just a hint of sweet and pairs wonderfully with mild salads. Try yours with spring mix, julienned carrots, bean sprouts, and cucumber!
  5. Raspberry Vinaigrette – The raspberry vinegar lends a deep, complex flavor with fruit undertones to this salad dressing. Pairs well with spring mix, sliced radishes, and sliced green apples.

Enjoy making these healthy salad dressings and get that double win at your next meal!

Ron