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.)

Meatless Monday Recipe: Broccoli Basil Mac and Cheese

Another Happy Meatless Monday!

Today I wanted to share an incredibly gorgeous and modern take on a family friendly comfort food classic: Broccoli Basil Mac and Cheese. This cozy, yet waistline friendly, casserole is the perfect winter meal for the adults and children in your home, loaded with creamy and melty cheese as well as nutrient packed fresh squash, basil, broccoli and tomatoes. Feel free to get creative with the vegetables and cheeses so suite your family’s preferences. Because there are a number of steps involved, this dish is best made during the weekend and served throughout your busy week (and there should be more than enough for amazing leftovers!). 

Photo from: 101cookbooks.com

Photo from: 101cookbooks.com

Continue reading

Meatless Monday Recipe: Poblano and Portobello Fajitas

Another happy Meatless Monday!

Today I wanted to share a fresh, savory and interactive meal the entire family will love: Poblano Pepper and Portobello Mushroom Fajitas. These simple and vibrant fajitas will be on the table in minutes and provide your family with a nutritious, customizable, and fun evening together without spending too much time in the kitchen prepping or cleaning afterwards. These fajitas can be made spicy (by including the jalapeño and poblano peppers) or mild by leaving them out. Try incorporating sautéed corn and different colored bell peppers as well as experimenting with the various varieties of mushrooms at your market. I love to top mine with fresh guacamole and salsa!

To hear me talk about the health benefits of mushrooms and exciting ways to incorporate them into your everyday meals on Let’s Talk Live, click: HERE

Photo From: minimalistbaker.com

Photo From: minimalistbaker.com

Poblano and Portobello Fajitas
From: minimalistbaker.com
Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 poblano pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 4 bell peppers, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeño, seeds removed and thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into thin rounds
  • 4 large or 8 baby Portobello mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon each: Sea salt, cumin & garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. A1 steak sauce (for mushrooms, optional)
  • 12 small flour or corn tortillas
  • Optional: fresh red onion, hot sauce, cilantro, salsa

Directions:

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add a dash of olive or coconut oil then the onion and peppers. Season generously with salt, cumin and garlic powder.
  • Cook until softened and slightly caramelized, stirring often. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
  •  Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, then add the mushrooms. Season with a bit of salt and once softened and brown add a dash of A1. Remove from heat, set aside and cover.
  • Prepare guacamole by adding avocados to a bowl then adding the lime juice and a generous pinch of salt. Fresh cilantro and onion is optional.
  • Warm tortillas in the microwave or oven and you’re ready to go. Serve tortillas with peppers and onions, mushrooms, guacamole and any other toppings you desire such as salsa, hot sauce, and cheese or sour cream (for non-vegan).

Nutritional Information per serving:

Calories: 345
Fat: 12.4 g
Saturated Fat: 2.2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 566 mg
Carbohydrate: 51.7 g
Fiber: 9.6 g
Sugar: 11.5 g
Protein: 9 g
Calcium: 105.3 mg

Meatless Monday Recipe: Crockpot Lentil and Vegetable Soup

There is nothing more exciting on a busy weeknight than coming home to a house filled with warm and welcoming smells and a ready cooked meal. This Meatless Monday I present you with one of my favorite, simple, and flavorful crockpot recipes: lentil and vegetable soup. This hearty protein and fiber packed recipe only requires about 10 minutes of active cooking time and will simmer to perfection without tying you to the kitchen. Feel free to add any vegetables you have laying around, don’t feel constrained by the listed ingredients.

This recipe should make more than enough soup for 6 hungry eaters. Leftovers are even better the second day (Meatless Tuesday) and also freeze and defrost easily. Enjoy!

Meatless Monday Recipe: Lentil and Vegetable Crockpot Soup

Photo From: veganfling.blogspot.com

Crockpot Lentil and Vegetable Soup

From: veganfling.blogspot.com 
Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 C dry green lentils
  • 4 C water
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 bunch spinach, stems removed
  • optional: top with toasted pepitas

Directions:

  • Add lentils, water and broth, chopped vegetables, tomatoes, and seasonings to crockpot.
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  • About 10 minutes before serving, stir in the spinach.

Nutritional Information per serving:

Calories: 280
Fat: 1 g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 646 mg
Carbohydrate: 50 g
Fiber: 22.1 g
Sugar: 7.2 g
Protein: 18.2 g
Calcium: 77.8 mg

Fruit Skewers with Peanut Butter Dip Recipe & Enter to Win a $100 Walmart Gift Card

I love quick and easy recipes that get the entire family involved.  These yummy fruit skewers with peanut butter yogurt dip are both easy to make and a fun way to get the kids involved in what they’re eating.

Try serving these skewers as a quick after-school snack or as dessert after dinner. Hey, with football season starting, you can even pass these around at your next tailgating party.  It’s delicious and nutritious, leaving both parents and kids with a smile on their face!

walmart-wbal

Ingredients:

8 large strawberries, washed and stems removed

8 large green or red grapes, pulled off the stems

8 large pineapple chunks

1 (6 oz.) container nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter

4 long wooden skewers

Directions:

Lace a strawberry, grape and pineapple chunk onto each of the skewers. Repeat the process on each skewer until all four are done.  Set aside.  In small bowl, stir the peanut butter into the yogurt until well combined.  Dip fruit skewers into the yogurt mixture.  Serves two (two fruit skewers and half of the dip per person).

Recipe provided courtesy of Walmart: www.Walmart.com

I love this recipe because you can’t mess it up. Just use any of Walmart’s in-season fruits you find. They have incredible prices and their associates are trained at selecting the best quality produce. Don’t forget to check to for sales to save a little more money.

What Would You Make With $100 in Fresh Produce?

What would you make with fresh produce from Walmart? I am currently having a $100 Walmart gift card giveaway to find out.  To enter, leave a comment in the blog with your ideas and twitter handle. THEN tweet me at @ScritchfieldRD with the hashtag #WMTfresh and tell me what fresh foods you would buy/make if you won the gift card.

Disclosure: Walmart is providing the gift card but the thoughts and ideas in this post are entirely my own. I did not receive compensation for running this giveaway or writing this blog.

Looking forward to hearing your great ideas! I’ll draw the winner September 30th at 8 p.m. ET. Enter today.

UPDATE A winner for the $100 Walmart gift card has been chosen.  The winner is Nicole G.  Enjoy your vegetable and beef stew, Nicole! Thanks to everyone that entered the giveaway.  Stay tuned for more great prizes in the future.

Finally Made it in O Magazine, Yep Oprah!

I was honored to be interviewed by the wonderful writer and author Leslie Goldman (@LeslieGoldman) for her article in this month’s O magazine - yep, that’s Oprah! In this article, old food myths were busted and new food rules were clarified. I weighed in on the issue of how much produce one should eat daily. Turns out, it’s easier than you think!

Here are some of my recommendations:
  • Make it easy on yourself and just include produce as half of every meal. Don’t get tangled up in serving sizes!
  • Include a side salad with lunch or roasted vegetables with dinner
  • Make a vegetable and fruit smoothie
  • Let veggies take center stage in dips by replacing creams with hearty beans and adding in spinach or other dip favorites
  • Add vegetables into eggs to include them in breakfast and cut up fruit on the side

Check out the full article here.

Stumped for ideas? Check out a recipe for an old breakfast favorite of mine - the healthy vegetable frittata!

Do Packaged Foods Need a Fiber Boost?

Dietitians have been trying to get people to eat more fiber for a long time. It is recommended that we get 25-30 grams per day. Dietary fiber is found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.

Fiber helps with lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, and promote digestive regularity. Also, when you eat fiber, you are more full and satisfied. You tend to eat fewer calories and maintain a healthy weight. Despite these benefits, many people don’t eat enough of these foods. In fact, 70 percent of Americans do not meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake. There’s a good chance they may not be getting enough fiber either. This is why one of the reasons companies are adding fiber to food products.

The fiber that is popping up in our toaster pastries, yogurt, white bread, juice, and granola bars is called inulin. Inulin is a versatile isolated fiber naturally found in plants (asparagus, jicama, onion, leeks, and garlic, to name a few). It is very versatile. Food processors can morph it into anything from a fat substitute to a prebiotic fiber.

Inulin has not been proven to lower cholesterol or even help digestion. But, according to package labeling regulations, isolated fibers (inulin, oat fiber, maltodextrin) are allowed to be included as “dietary fiber” on food packages.

Here’s the bottom line: give priority to fiber from natural sources. Make sure you get a blend of soluble and insoluble fiber.

  • Eat more fruits and veggies (especially the skin when appropriate)! A single pear has five grams of fiber.
  • Look for “whole grain” or “whole wheat” on the label of bread and other baked products.
  • Oatmeal is filling, fiber-packed, and delicious!
  • Popcorn is a great naturally fiber-packed snack (seven grams in four cups).
  • Choose wheat pasta, brown rice, and other whole grains like quinoa and cous cous.
  • Fill up on beans and legumes, leeks, garlic, onions, and jicama.

A product with a little inulin added here and there won’t hurt you, but you should know that adding in too much fiber too quickly can cause GI upset and gas. Assess your pantry and your plate. If there are lots of boxes with lots of ingredients serving as your main fiber source, reconsider what else you may be missing that is in the foods that naturally contain fiber and inulin.

Healthy Menu Creation: An interview with Mollie Katzen

Recently, I scored an interview with cookbook author, Mollie Katzen. She shared her thoughts on recipe trends and healthy eating. Find out what she thinks you should eat!


1.    What trends or patterns do you see towards healthier menu options or healthier recipes?

M.K.: I am happy to see that main portions of meat or fish are becoming smaller, and vegetable dishes are taking up more space on the plate. Also, I’ve been seeing a very encouraging trend toward more than one vegetable dish on the same plate – with complementary colors and flavors.  Should menu options state that they’re healthy or smart choices? I don’t think so. I think this is a turn-off to customers, even those who intend to eat well.  There is still an association with “healthy” and underseasoned, uninteresting, prescriptive.  I think we should all just let the customers fall in love with the healthy food on its own merits.

2.    What are some techniques you follow when creating “Smart” menu options?

M.K.: I make sure to keep the flavors potent (upping the seasoning, if necessary) and I use vegetables (and sometimes fruit) to fill out the volume (as in the tuna salad recipe). I make things taste richer through the addition of good oils (olive oil, avocado, walnuts).

3.    Walnuts offer a range of nutritional benefits, and are known for their 2.5g of omega-3s per serving, but it’s their versatility which makes them a unique ingredient to cook with.  Will you share some of your favorite ways to use walnuts?

M.K.: I use them most frequently as a topping for various dishes – both savory and sweet.  I always toast them at a low temperature (about 250°F for 10 minutes or so) ahead of time to maximize their great flavor.  I like to combine ground walnuts with whole grains for pilafs, with low fat cheeses for dips, with roasted puréed vegetables for toppings, and with bread crumbs for superb crusts.  These are just a few approaches – there are many!

4.    Many experts simply tell consumers what NOT to eat, but what is really needed now is what are we replacing that with?  What are your thoughts on this? As we move those things (sugars, saturated fats) off the plate, what do we replace them with and what do we move on the plate?

M.K.: Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and nuts, most particularly walnuts.  There are very few people who eat the requisite number of fruit and vegetable servings daily, so there is a lot of room to add these into people’s diets. And there is a volume pay-off involved, as most vegetables and many kinds of fruit can be “unlimiteds” or “freebies” on people’s healthy eating plans, so in many cases, you can “go for it” without counting servings or measuring serving size. (Of course this depends on how it’s prepared, but if the vegetable dish is as simple as we like to keep them in our smart recipes.)

Navigating Your Farmers Market

One of my favorite parts of summer is shopping at the Farmers Market. Farmers Markets are a great place to find fresh, local and sustainable produce. Not only are you shopping in a very environmentally friendly manner, but this also a great chance to get to know the people that grow your food. And the taste of fresh fruit and vegetables in your meals can not be equaled by anything in the supermarket! Here are some tips to make the most out of your farmers market trip!

  • Find a Market Close to You! Local Harvest will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other things!
  • Bring a Reusable Bag-So you can load up on veggies without wasting paper or plastic
  • Chat it up! Get to know that farmer! Ask what’s especially good today. If you have any questions about the best way to prepare an exotic new vegetables, ask for some suggestions or recipes. Find out about their growing methods-They may not be certified organic, but sustainable farming methods may be used.
  • Walk it Out Look around the entire market before buying-maybe you’ll find something that look riper or is at a better price. But allegience to a specific stall can also have its perks.
  • Bring Cash and Small Bills-most small stands are not equipped with credit card machines, so stop by the ATM on your way!
  • Try something New! Every had a romanesco cauliflower? What about that local varietal of kale? Test it out!

I encourage you to scope out the local farms and markets in your area, and spend your summer trying out new, fresh, local vegetables! bon appetite!

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