Produce of the Day: Parsnips

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Image Source: edenbrothers.com

Image Source: edenbrothers.com

From late fall to early spring, parsnips are at their peak.  You can snatch them up in many grocery stores and farmers markets.  These root vegetables are related to carrots, celery root, parsley, and fennel.  They look a lot like a white carrot, and they have a sweeter flavor than carrots.

In the middle ages, parsnips were thought to be aphrodisiacs and to cure sore feet and toothaches.  I’m not making any guarantees that parsnips are going to make you any better in bed, but they are good for your heart, gums/teeth, and muscles.

Here’s how:

Folate

Folate is a water soluble B Vitamin that is naturally found in fruits, vegetables (especially dark green leafy ones), liver, and beans.  Grain-based products, like breads and cereals, are required to be fortified with 25% of recommended daily folate.

Folate is important in energy metabolism and DNA synthesis.  Deficiencies in folate can lead to birth defects, so this nutrient is especially important for women of child-bearing age.

Antioxidants

Parsnips are rich in falcarinol, which is a type of phytonutrient with antioxidant properties .  Falcarinol is linked to decreased incidence of cancer cell formation and decreased inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is associated with many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.

Potassium

Potassium is an electrolyte that helps balance water and minerals in the body, maintain normal blood pressure, contract and build muscle, transmit nerve signals, and regulate the body’s pH.  Most American’s do not get enough potassium in their diets, so it’s important to try to include potassium-rich foods, like parsnips, often.  A diet high in potassium is associated with reduce risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Parsnips are also rich in soluble fiber and vitamin C.

How parsnips can help make half plate produce:

Roast Them

I love roasted parsnips – the high heat from the oven caramelizes the sugar in the parsnips to bring out their naturally sweet, nutty flavor.  Plus, roasting is quick and easy and it requires no fancy kitchen skills, so anyone can do it.

You can roast parsnips by themselves or add other root veggies, like carrots, turnips, and rutabaga.  I like to slice mine into matchsticks, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in a 425 °oven until they’re just starting to brown (20 -25 minutes).  After I take them out of the oven I drizzle them with pomegranate molasses (about 1 Tablespoon) – the sweet/tart taste brings the parsnips to a new level.  Serve the roasted vegetables as a side with your favorite protein.  Leftovers make great additions to any salad!

Add them to soup

You can use parsnips pretty much anywhere you’d use carrots.  Making chicken noodle soup?  Try dicing parsnips up instead of/ in addition to carrots.

Parsnips puree nicely, so they’re wonderful in creamy soups as well.  This recipe from Martha Stewart uses just a touch of cream and tops the soup with crunchy toasted almonds.  A small bowl would be an elegant first course, or serve as the entrée with whole wheat bread, green salad, and fresh fruit – that’s way more than half a plate (or bowl) of produce!

Image Source: marthastewart.com

Image Source: marthastewart.com

Mash them Like Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of the ultimate comfort foods – they’re decadently rich, creamy, and buttery.  One of the reasons mashed potatoes need so much butter and cream is that they don’t have much flavor on their own.  Parsnips, however, have loads of flavor and make a great mashed side dish that doesn’t require so much fat.  This recipe modifies a Julia Child method for making delicious mashed .  If uses only a touch of butter (definitely less than what Julia used!) and the cooking liquid from the veggies to add loads of flavor.

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add parsnips into your diet? Did I miss any of your favorite tricks? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Produce of the Day: Avocados

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Avocados

Once upon a time, avocados graced the tables of only the wealthiest people – they were a delicacy that no one short of royalty could afford.  And if you were lucky enough to be sitting at one of these historical tables you might have heard the fruit (yes, I said fruit) called an “alligator pear” – in reference to its scaly green skin – instead of an avocado.  Can you imagine?!  Luckily today avocados are accessible and affordable, so everyone can reap the benefits of these luscious fruits.

Image Source: BigStockPhoto.com

Image Source: BigStockPhoto.com

Anyone that knows me knows I love my avocados.  They have a wonderful balance of nutrients that helps you stay healthy, feel full, and get strong.  So just what is it about avocados that makes them one of my favorite foods?

Heart Healthy Fats

Yes, fats are high in calories. And yes, I recommend that my clients be mindful of how much fat they eat.  But it’s important to remember that we do need fats in our diets every day, particularly the healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats found in avocado.

These “good” fats have been shown to benefit our health in any number of ways, from combatting inflammation to helping our skin glow.  Oleic acid is one fat of note in avocados – research shows that eating foods rich in oleic acid can actually increase absorption of other fat-soluble nutrients, such as beta-carotene and lycopene (found in tomatoes).  Try adding half an avocado to your next salad and you’ll increase nutrient absorption and feel fuller longer thanks to the fats, protein, and fiber in the avocado.

Avocado heart

Image Source: huffingtonpost.com

Fiber

I know we’ve already talked about fiber this month, but it’s worth revisiting since it’s so beneficial to our health.  Avocados have a whopping 10 grams of fiber per medium fruit.  About ¾ of that fiber is insoluble – insoluble fibers act like little scrub brushes that help keep our intestines clean and move food through the GI tract .  The other ¼ is soluble fiber, which helps lower blood cholesterol, keeps our hearts healthy, and prolongs the feeling of fullness after a meal.

Potassium and Protein

Did you know that avocados have more potassium than bananas?  Potassium is an electrolyte important to building muscle and proteins, maintaining appropriate body pH (no need for alkalized water and foods), muscle contraction, and keeping our body fluids balanced.

Most fruits and vegetables are virtually protein-free, but avocados boast 3 – 4 grams/serving.  The protein content plus the high levels of potassium make avocado a great food to incorporate in post-workout recovery nutrition. I really like this delicious green smoothie made with avocado, spinach, and banana – after a workout I substitute ½ cup Greek yogurt for the almond milk to get even more protein.

Now that we know more about what makes avocados so healthy, let’s talk about ways they can help you make half your plate produce.  Guacamole, which I adore,  is the first thing that pops into many peoples’ minds when they think about avocados, but there are so many options beyond the creamy dip.  Here are a few of my favorite ideas to easily add more avocado into your day:

Sub Avocado for Mayo

Healthy egg/tuna salad is simple go-to lunch when you need something quick, easy, and satisfying.  Instead of mayo, I like to add avocado.  It helps bind all the ingredients together and, unlike mayo, isn’t laden with saturated fat and sodium.  This healthy tuna salad with hummus and avocado is a regular staple in my house.  Serve it in a whole wheat pita with lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers with a piece of fruit on the side and you’ve got at least half your meal from produce.

Mashed avocado also makes a great sandwich spread.  I like to add a squeeze of lime juice and black pepper to give it a little zip.

Avocado and Eggs are a Perfect Match

Traditional breakfast foods are notoriously short on vegetables.  Eggs are a great morning meal, but they’re even better with creamy avocado.  I like to scramble my eggs, and add some diced peppers, onions and a little cheese.  Then I top it all off with splash of hot sauce and a sliced avocado.  The avocado almost melts once it’s placed over the hot eggs – the combination is heavenly.

Avocados are also amazing in fritattas, like this Avocado Frittata made with swiss cheese and ham (omit if you prefer to keep it vegetarian).  It’s a breakfast that feels about as decadent as it gets, but is actually good for you.

Image Source: avocadosfrommexico.com

Image Source: avocadosfrommexico.com

Add Avocado to a Pasta Dish

Carbs are one of the “evils” of modern dieting, but we all need them to provide our bodies and brains with ample energy to get through the day.  So instead of shunning pasta, I recommend that my clients “dress it up” with as many vegetables as possible.   This Creamy Avocado and Veggie Pasta is a prime example – it’s full of mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and asparagus.  Instead of an overly rich cream-based sauce, the pasta is tossed with a satisfying, healthy sauce made with pureed chickpea and avocado.

Image Source: avocadosfrommexico.com

Image Source: avocadosfrommexico.com

A few more fun tips for avocados:

  • They make great hair and face masks – all those healthy fats are great for our appearance!
  • Avocados are picked unripe and then ripen off the tree – if yours’ aren’t ripe enough, store them next to an apple or banana to help them ripen faster
  • The inner portion of the avocado just under the skin is rich in vitamins and minerals – avoid losing these valuable nutrients by removing the flesh as close to the peel as possible
  • Mashed avocado is a perfect first food for baby – the texture is smooth and creamy, the fats are vital to healthy growth, and introducing non-sweet foods first is linked to a more diverse diet as the child ages.

Want More Avocado Information?

If you’re looking for even more ways to add avocado to your game plan, check out the Avocados from Mexico website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add avocado to your diet? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Produce of the Day: Citrus

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Citrus

Nothing brightens up a dreary March day like a pop of vibrant citrus – its bright color and fresh flavor help remedy most cases of late-winter funk.  One bite of a juicy tangerine immediately gets me dreaming of sunshine and citrus groves, which is just what I need when there is still snow on the ground!

Image Source: White on Rice

Image Source: whiteonricecouple.com

One of the things that I love about citrus is that there are so many varieties – each one has its own unique flavor and appearance.  What they do have in common is their nutritional profile; citrus is a healthy choice no matter which variety you pick.

Here are some health benefits associated with all citrus fruits:

Vitamin C

Image Source: http://www.thejournal.ie

Image Source: thejournal.ie

We all know that oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, but what does that really mean?  Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, so it helps protect our cells from damaging free radicals.  Free radicals can alter our cells’ structure and even their DNA, which could lead to inflammation or cancer.  Protecting our cells with antioxidants like Vitamin C is key in keeping them healthy.

Vitamin C also contributes to a healthy immune system and strong bones and muscles.  Additionally, Vitamin C can improve iron absorption, so it’s vital for anyone with an iron deficiency.  One serving of citrus provides at least 100% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C.

Heart Health

A diet rich in citrus fruits has been shown to offer protection against cardiovascular disease.  Citrus contains:

  • Folate, a B Vitamin found lower risk of heart disease.
  • Potassium, which lowers blood pressure and helps prevent stroke.
  • Flavonoids and carotenes, phytonutrients shown to improve cardiovascular health
  • Fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol

Citrus has also been linked to the prevention of arthritis, improved blood glucose control, reduced risk of kidney stones, and many other positive health benefits.

Source: www.eatingwell.com

Source: eatingwell.com

With so many citrus fruits available, you’ll never get bored!  Here’s low down on a few options and a few tips to use them to make half your plate produce:

Oranges

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the world.  They’re great fresh out of hand, added to salads, or as part of a fresh salsa. You can also:

  • Snack on them after a workout  to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes (anyone remember orange slices after soccer practice?)
  • Try orange segments instead of juice with breakfast; when you juice you lose all the heart-healthy fiber and some nutrients.
  • Serve these Snow Peas with Orange and Jicama as a side dish with your favorite protein.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit’s Latin name is Citrus paradisi, a fitting name given that its taste, aroma, and gem-like fruit conjure pictures of paradise.  Red and pink grapefruits are rich in lycopene, a phytonutrient that is shown to protect against the formation of tumors.

Grapefruit “brulee” makes a fabulous dessert or breakfast.  To make, just slice in half and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Let the sugar caramelize under the broiler for a seemingly decadent treat.

Tangerine

I love how portable tangerines are; they come in their own natural wrapper!  I like to keep some handy in my purse in case my one-year old or I get hungry while we’re on-the-go.  They have a looser peel than most other citrus, so they’re ideal in a pinch.

Tangerines are also great in recipes. I like this Warm Chicken Salad with Tangerine, Tarragon, and Arugula for lunch or a light supper.

Image Source: www.sunkist.com

Image Source: Sunkist.com

Lemons

These bright yellow fruits add loads of tangy flavor with very few calories.  I recommend that my clients try seasoning with lemons instead of salt to reduce their sodium intakes.

Add their zest to steamed veggies, use their juice in salad dressing, or even just throw them in your water to give it some zing.  Meyer lemons are an interesting variety of lemon with beautiful floral undertones that are wonderful in desserts.

Limes

You know the term, “limey”?  It actually comes from British sailors in the 1800s who added lime juice to their rum while they were at sea to prevent scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency).

I like to add lime juice to marinades, guacamole, and dressings. It also adds zippy flavor to roasted veggies – just roast them in the oven and add fresh lime juice and zest.  Makes a great side dish or salad addition.

Kumquats

These little guys are known as the, “little gold gems” of the citrus family.  What make them so interesting is that, unlike most citrus, their rinds are sweet while the flesh is very tart.  Slice them up (skin and all) and toss them in a salad or try them in this Citrus Habenero Salsa with fish or chicken.

Image Source: http://blog.needsupply.com

Image Source: blog.needsupply.com

Learn More about Citrus

If you want more citrus info, Sunkist is a great resource. Check out their website and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add citrus into your diet? Did I miss any of your favorite varieties? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Flavorful Ways to Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right — Any Time of Day!

We’re still celebrating National Nutrition Month and I’ve had a great time spreading the word that we can all “enjoy the taste of eating right.” 

NNM

You know, to “enjoy the taste of eating right” we want to focus on FLAVOR. Our food should look good, taste good and be good for us — it doesn’t have to compromise one for another. I was on WBAL TV 11 in Baltimore this past weekend sharing foods that are full of flavor AND nutrition. You can watch the full clip here, or read on below to see some of the highlights:

Get Your “Gut” Healthy With Active Cultures
Great-Grains-Digestive-BlendWe have billions of “good bacteria” in our gut that help digest food, make vitamins, and keep our immune system healthy. You want to help support digestive health with whole grains, fiber, and active cultures, which you can actually get in your breakfast cereal. New Great Grains Digestive Blend cereals gives you all three. Per serving you get:

  • Over 40g of whole grains
  • An excellent source of fiber – 7g
  • Active cultures to support digestive health

Plus it comes in two delicious varieties: Berry Medley and Vanilla Graham. They’re flavorful on their own, but you can also add fruits and nuts to your morning cereal or try a yogurt parfait with either one of these delicious flavors. You can find Great Grains Digestive Blend at most local grocery stores.

Choose Quality Dairy Foods

Cottage cheese is an easy way to add flavor to your meals, but all cottage cheese is not the same. Quality and ingredients matter.

DaisyDaisy Brand Cottage Cheese is introducing new, modern packaging that highlights what makes “The Daisy Difference” – better ingredients. Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese has no more than four high-quality ingredients, compared with other leading brands, which could have 10 or more.

Cottage cheese is delicious and versatile, with many FLAVOR possibilities for meals and snacks. It can be incorporated into recipes like this Apple Walnut Breakfast, or try it mixed with your favorite toppings, such as berries, nuts or granola.

Look for Daisy regular cottage cheese, with the dark blue lids, and Daisy low fat cottage cheese, with the light blue lids, at your local grocery store.

Snack Smarter

Who doesn’t love a crunchy snack? Sometimes chips and guac or chips and salsa hit the spot. Well, I’m adding a new fave to the snack scene. Full-of-flavor veggie chips. Yes, veggie chips. VC Siracha Packaging These new sriracha veggie chips by The Real Deal All Natural Snacks are so yummy. They have a wonderful balance of spicy and crunchy. The Veggie Chips also come in aged white cheddar and original.

  • They’re made with real green peas, corn and rice – a serving and a half of vegetables in 1 ounce
  • They have only 110 calories for 100 veggie chips
  • They’re all natural, gluten free, kosher and non-GMO – and have 80% less fat than potato chips.

Give them a whirl. You can find them at your local Whole Foods and Wegman’s

Make Healthy Dinners Flavorful

It’s easier to get the family to eat healthy when the food tastes delicious. McCormick herbs and spices help make healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains more flavorful without adding salt, sugar, or fat.

Tuscan Pasta.ashxThis Tuscan pasta is a great way to get more veggies on your family’s plate. You can use any veggies you have on hand, like tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini. Then add whole grain pasta, and tomato sauce you make yourself with McCormick “perfect pinch” Italian seasoning, black pepper and garlic powder.

Here’s a side tip: If you love flavor but know you need to cut back on salt. Replace your salt shaker with garlic powder. Use it anywhere you would use salt.

For a quick, no-cook fresh fruit and veggie dish, make your own vinaigrette to control salt levels and customize flavor. This field greens with strawberries, oranges and chai vinaigrette will be an easy family favorite. The chai gives a flavor boost with McCormick cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. The “acid” for the dressing is orange juice and I used extra virgin olive oil for the oil base. You can’t mess up this recipe! Get help from the grocery store with the premixed salad greens or try a combo of any two like kale ribbons and romaine. Add any two fruits you like and you’ve got a fresh, nutritious weeknight meal in no time.

You can find more delicious recipes like these at www.mccormick.com and look for McCormick spices at your local grocery store.

How Do You Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right?

Leave a comment below to share your favorite tips for flavorful, healthy meals and snacks.

Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right with Flavorful Foods

It’s National Nutrition Month and all month long we’re sharing fun and delicious ways to “enjoy the taste of eating right.” To me, it’s all about making practical food choices, and about blending taste and nutrition. When we’re trying to eat right, we want to focus on FLAVOR, because who wants to eat something that doesn’t taste good, right?

I was on Let’s Talk Live this week sharing some of my favorite tips for snacks and breakfasts that are full of flavor and packed with nutrition. Hopefully it can help make eating right a little easier (and a little tastier!) for you and your family. You can watch the full video below, or read on for some highlights:

Build a Better Breakfast

You can have a quick and flavorful breakfast — even on a work day! In just minutes you can make a nutritious breakfast sandwich Southwestern_Bagel_updateusing Thomas’s Bagel Thins. I love them because they’re just the right size (only 110 calories) and have 4-5g of fiber to help keep you fuller, longer. They’re also the only branded bagel endorsed by Weight Watchers®, with a PointsPlus® value of 3 per bagel. Here are a few ways I love to enjoy them:

  • A “southwestern”  sandwich on an Everything bagel thin with egg, avocado, red pepper, and cilantro – full of flavor plus lean protein and good fats.
  • A 100% whole wheat bagel thin “Mediterranean style with garlic hummus, baby spinach, and tomato.
  • Cinnamon Raisin and Plain bagel thins are good any time of day, paired with a little low fat cream cheese and fresh fruit.

You can find them in your local supermarket, and keep an eye out for their new packaging!

Smartly Satisfy a “Crunchy Craving”

Surveys suggest that more than 97% of people feel a “snack attack” come on in the afternoon. But don’t run to the vending machine. Instead, choose a better-for-you snack that’s packed with flavor, like these new sriracha veggie chips by The Real Deal All Natural Snacks.

VC Siracha PackagingThey have a wonderful balance of spicy and crunchy. What else makes them so great?

  • They are made with real green peas, corn and rice – and there’s 1.5 servings of vegetables in each ounce
  • They only have 110 calories for 100 veggie chips!
  • They are all natural, gluten free, kosher and non-GMO – and have 80% less fat than potato chips

The Veggie Chips also come in aged white cheddar and original. Or try their tortilla chips in blue corn and white corn. Look for them at Whole Foods and Wegman’s.

Nuts and Fruit: A Perfect Pair

pistachios

Fruits and nuts are some of my favorite nutritious and easy-to-eat snacks. Pairing them together packs even more nutrition and

flavor in one amazing snack. Wonderful Pistachios and Halos go together perfectly for a super snack that offers fresh, sweet taste and savory crunch. It’s a delicious way to balance taste and nutrition because the Halos are packed with vitamin C and contain only 50 calories. And to complement that, Wonderful Pistachios provide protein, fiber, and antioxidants.

What else is so WONDERFUL about them you ask?

  • A one-ounce serving of pistachios is about 49 nuts — more nuts per serving than any other snack. And, a recent Harvard University study suggests a daily handful of pistachios may have a role in health and longevity.footer-product@2x
  • Wonderful Halos are sweet, seedless, easy to eat and peel, making them a healthy grab-and-go snack for kids and adults.

You can also kick the flavor up a notch with mint and chocolate. This Greek yogurt snack is made with pistachios and mandarin orange segments, mint, shaved dark chocolate and a little honey. You could even serve this for dessert — yum!

How do you “enjoy the taste of eating right”?

Leave a comment below with one of your favorite tips for flavorful and healthy snacks and breakfasts.

March 30-Day Challenge: Fill Half Your Plate With Fruits & Veggies!

NNM

It’s National Nutrition Month and in going with this year’s theme of “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” I’m using this month’s challenge to encourage people to “eat right” by filling 1/2 your plate with fruits and veggies. With the MyPlate icon, it’s easier than ever to picture what an “ideal” plate would look like (see below).

USDA_MyPlate_green

Here’s how I did it with my breakfast the other day.

balancedplate

This month you can look for delicious (and easy!) produce-focused recipes and tips to help you fill up your plate AND make it taste amazing. My goal is to feature a different produce on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram — something every single day throughout the month. Each message will have the #NNM (national nutrition month) tag.

Join me in Pinning/Tweeting/Posting

Enjoy the Taste, Ditch the Guilt

My goal with this month’s challenge is to make it easier to incorporate delicious veggies and fruits into your every day routine. I think you can absolutely “enjoy the taste” of those fruits and veggies with FLAVOR — herbs, citrus, oils, and yes a bit o’ salt. (Just don’t get crazy.)

My other idea for “enjoying the taste of eating right” is to put food you are craving on the other half of the plate. Think about it – how does it help you enjoy eating if you are policing your food choices? You can eat, enjoy the taste, and ditch the side of guilt.

Joining the FREE challenge is easy:

  • No sign ups required. You just jump in and participate as you can. (Remember–progress, not perfection!)
  • All you have to do is “follow” me on Facebook , Twitter or Pinterest. I’ll be posting motivations, tips, and responding to your questions EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  • If you have a blog, write about your experience and share those links.
  • I’m using the primary hashtag #NNM and secondary #30DayChallenge

What’s your favorite fruit and veggie-friendly recipe?

Leave a comment below and share you favorite veggie dishes with other readers. I’d love to see it and share it.

Produce of the Day: Mushrooms

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Mushrooms

Do you want to live forever?  Are you looking for a powerful aphrodisiac?  Or are you hoping to develop superhuman strength?  If you lived in any number of ancient civilizations – Egypt, Rome, China – you might have turned to mushrooms in the hopes of meeting these goals.

Unfortunately, it seems that there is no secret elixir to immortality, BUT adding mushrooms to your diet can help improve your health and just might make your life a little longer.  And with all the wonderful varieties of mushrooms available at most grocery stores, it’s fun and easy to eat more mushrooms.

In the past, mushrooms were deemed healthy because of what they don’t contain: lots of calories or fat.  But today we know that mushrooms are also rich in many nutrients that help us stay healthy and strong.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps build strong bones, supports our immune systems, and may help prevent cancer.  It’s estimated that 1 billion people in the world are deficient in Vitamin D, and it’s one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the US.

Mushrooms are one of the only produce sources of Vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Mushrooms are one of the only plant-based sources of Vitamin B12 (along with quinoa), so these little guys are especially great for anyone who doesn’t eat meat or other animal products.   They add an unbeatable rich “umami” (savory) flavor and richness to food – another perk of that rich umami flavor is that it means mushrooms need very little salt for a whole lot of flavor.

Antioxidants

As with so many fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are rich in antioxidants.  Mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, which research suggests is linked to fighting cancer and inflammation.  Additionally, mushrooms contain Ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect the body’s cells.

As a dietitian, it’s no secret that I love the wonderful nutrient profile of mushrooms, but another thing I love is their versatility.  Throwing some mushrooms into any meal is a great way to get half that plate full of produce.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Blendability

The trend is to blend!  Blend finely chopped mushrooms into any of your favorite ground meat dishes, like meatballs or meatloaf (I like to do about 50% meat 50% mushrooms).  You’ll increase the amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals in your meal while decreasing fat and calories.  The finely chopped mushrooms blend so well with the ground meat that you’ll barely notice the difference. Plus, substituting mushrooms for meat is a smart choice for your wallet, too!

Try these mushroom meatballs – I serve them with fresh marinara, pasta, and a big green salad on the side.  It’s comfort food gone veggie.

The Mushroom Channel has a great resource, The Blendability Calculator, that will show you the nutritional difference and money saved when you blend mushrooms with your meat.

Swapability

Use mushrooms to replace meat in any recipe.  I love grilled portabella caps – just drizzle them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw them on the grill.  I also like to use mushrooms in eggs, pasta, and tacos.  These flavorful Chipotle Mushroom Tacos make a great quick weeknight meal.

Let Mushrooms Be the Star

Often mushrooms are added as an afterthought (picture a few paltry slices on  a pizza) which is a shame, because they can be real showstoppers.  I like to keep it simple and sautee a bunch of shrooms with olive oil and then add fresh parsley/thyme and a little lemon juice.  Mushrooms also roast beautifully in a hot pan or oven.   Serve them alongside a piece of chicken and green veggies and you have a balanced meal with half a plate of produce.

Hungry for More Mushrooms?

If you want more tips about how to incorporate more mushrooms into your meals check out The Mushroom Channel website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave creative ways to add mushrooms into your diet? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Produce of the Day: Blueberries – So Much More Than Just Muffins

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Blueberries

Did you know that blueberries are one of the few fruits actually native to North America?  Most of the other fruits grown in the US were imported from overseas at some point, but blueberries have been here since before the pilgrims landed.

In earlier times people had to wait until late summer to enjoy blueberries, but today we can eat them whenever we want.  Fresh blueberries are now available year-round, as are frozen and dried ones.  And it’s a good thing because people are eating more and more of these little berries each year.  In fact, blueberries are one of the most popular berries in the US (second only to strawberries).

Blueberries were one of the first foods to earn the title, “superfruit”, and for good reason.  These little guys pack a mighty punch – they’re brimming with nutrients and they taste great too. So what is it that makes blueberries so good for you?

Antioxidants

Blueberries are phytonutrient powerhouses (it’s no wonder the Blueberry Council calls them “Little Blue Dynamos”)!  These small fruits are jam-packed with antioxidants called Anthocyanins that help protect our cells from damaging free radicals and inflammation.  Many chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, are linked to oxidative stress which caused by free radicals and inflammation – blueberries can help us fight both!  

Fiber

Just 1 cup of blueberries has almost 4 grams of filling fiber.  In addition to helping us feel full longer, fiber helps lower blood cholesterol and keeps the digestive system regular.  Fiber has also been linked to cancer prevention.

Vitamin C

Blueberries provide 25% of the daily requirement for Vitamin C in 1 cup.  Vitamin C aids in collagen production, which supports all of our body tissue and contributes elasticity to our skin to help prevent wrinkles. Vitamin C is also crucial to keeping our teeth and gums healthy and strengthening our immune systems.

Manganese

Manganese is an important mineral for bone development and energy metabolism.  One serving of blueberries will give you 25% of your daily requirement.  

Blueberries are incredibly versatile, which makes them a great option to help make half your plate produce.  I like to get creative with them.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

Add Blueberries to Breakfast

Blueberries and breakfast are a perfect pairing – and it goes way beyond the traditional muffin.  Add a cup of blueberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal to get that bowl half full of produce!  You can also toss them in a smoothie with Greek yogurt, a touch of honey, and a handful of spinach for a quick and easy breakfast.  Smoothies are also great pre- or post-workout fuel because they have the right balance of carbs and protein to help you stay strong.

Combine Sweet and Savory

I love the combination of sweet and savory, and adding some fruit to an entrée is a nutritious way to get that perfect mix of flavors.  This salmon salad offers all the benefits of blueberries plus healthy fats and protein from salmon – serving the protein with fruit over a bed of greens is an easy way to fill half your plate with produce.    

Toss Them in a Grain Salad

Quinoa, couscous, brown rice – you name it, they all make wonderful salads.  The one thing that I find is that recipes for this type of salad often need a little help from the produce department.  To up the produce content of any grain salad, add a few cups of blueberries.  I really like this couscous blueberry salad with butternut squash. One serving of this will have you well on your way to meeting your daily fruit and veggie requirements.

Get Your Fill Of Blueberries

Want more helpful facts and info about blueberries? Check out the US Blueberry Council Website and follow them on Twitter @Blueberry411, Facebook, and Pinterest

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add blueberries into your diet? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Heart Smart Your Menu with Tasty Comfort Foods

Think “heart healthy eating” is bland and boring? Think again.  February is “Heart Health” awareness month. With heart disease being the leading cause of death for both men and women, eating well is one of the best ways you can protect your heart.  I know most people aren’t going to eat salads all the time, which is why I want to share my “heart smart” take on  some of my comfort favorites, chili and pizza. Using healthy swaps like veggies and spices in place of salt, choosing whole grains and cooking with heart healthy corn oil, people can still enjoy these delicious and easy favorites without compromising on flavor.

This past week I tried something new on my appearance on WBAL NBC TV 11 Let’s Talk Live – I actually cooked the food on set! Check out the full video below or keep reading to learn about my “heart smart” recipes.

Heart Smart Chili 

A well-stocked pantry – your “Cantry” – helps you make hearty, flavorful, nutritious meals you can feel good about, anytime. I used canned chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes in this dish to help make my meal prep easy, affordable and nutritious. Check out the recipe I made on air.

Some people associate canned foods as being lower quality than fresh, but that’s a myth. There are lots of nutritious foods available in cans. Many fruits and vegetables are actually picked at their peak freshness and sealed in the can within hours locking in freshness, flavor and nutrition naturally. Some canned foods have actually been shown to have more nutrients than their fresh or frozen counter parts (check out the video to learn a few examples). You can feel good about using canned foods in your recipes. Visit Cans Get You Cooking on Facebook and Pinterest for more meal ideas.

I cut back on the meat, but did not eliminate it entirely (although you could make this vegan if you wanted). I used ground turkey breast, but only a half pound for 8 people, compared to 1-2 pounds in other recipes, and my “secret weapon”, mushrooms, which are a superfood!  Using a 50/50 blend of finely chopped mushrooms and ground turkey breast, this simple technique called blendability adds a savory and hearty taste thanks to mushroom’s “umami” flavor. Adding mushrooms also adds vegetable servings to the dish, which helps increase the nutritional value of the dish. Learn more about blendability at MushroomInfo.com.

Wheat Foods for Whole Grains

A heart healthy meal is not complete without a serving of whole grains. Eating at least 3 servings of whole grains, such as whole grain foods, like wheat foods, can reduce your risk of heart disease by 25%! I love serving whole grain wheat rolls with my chili because they’re packed with nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, slow-burning carbs, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help to reduce chronic levels of inflammation that lead to disease, lower “bad” cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Get more recipes for wheat foods at the Wheat Foods Council website.

Chicken a la Pizza

chicken a la pizzaWhile traditional pizza is delicious, it is also one of the top sources of sodium in American’s diets (the top 3 are breads, pizza, and cold cuts according to the National Cancer Institute).

This delicious Mediterranean take on pizza was created by celebrity chef, Ingrid Hoffman and provides many of your favorite pizza flavors served on top of marinated and grilled chicken breasts. The marinade for the chicken contains Mazola corn oil – a heart smart choice. Many people don’t know that corn oil has more cholesterol blocking plant sterols than ANY other cooking oil. And a recent study showed that it lowers cholesterol MORE than Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Serve your Chicken a la Pizza with a fresh salad and enjoy!

What are some of your heart healthy favorites? Leave a comment below to share your favorite “heart smart” comfort food recipes.

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time to work with the Mushroom Council, Cans Get You Cooking, Wheat Foods Council, and Mazola for the TV segment, but I was not compensated for writing this blog post. 

Meatless Monday Recipe: Roasted Carrot & Turmeric Soup

Happy Meatless Monday!

I can’t believe how quickly December (and this year!) have flown by! I wanted to end this incredible year by sharing with you one of my favorite insanely nutritious and delicious vegan soup recipes: Roasted Carrot & Turmeric Soup. I love cozying up in the winter with a huge bowl of nourishing soup or stew and basking in it’s warmth, especially as the day’s continue to shorten. This vibrant soup is loaded with warming and healing spices that will make even the darkest nights glow and excite everyone at your table. Who wouldn’t love a golden orange soup with a good piece of toasted crusty bread!

I hope you all have a healthful, happy, and wonderful New Years Eve!

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