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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)