Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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It’s Zoodle Time!

zuc boatsLet’s serve up some Zoodles for dinner tonight!

“I don’t buy vegetables because they go bad too quickly!” It’s an all too familiar phrase I hear in my office. Often, people purchase vegetables with healthy intentions, consume them once and then forget them in the fridge to sadly go to waste. Before you throw in the towel with buying vegetables, there are a couple ways to better handle this situation.

1) Plan Ahead. Individuals who jot down a week’s worth of menus before grocery shopping are more likely to purchase the right amount of food for the week. If you simply walk through the produce section aimlessly, you may be more likely to take more food than what you actually need before your next shopping trip.

2) Think Outside the Box. One of my favorite ways to use vegetables is to come up with unconventional ways to prepare and serve them. Start simple. Spinach should not be reserved only for a salad. It can be added to any sandwich, folded into an omelet or blended in a smoothie. Each week, feature a new vegetable an try to come up with at least 3 ways to prepare and serve it.

Remember the nursery rhyme, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” That is how my cousin, Marianne, felt except instead of children; she was dealing with a surplus of zucchini from her garden. Her family quickly became tired of having sautéed or grilled zucchini with meals, so she surprised them one night by making zucchini lasagna. Replacing noodles with long zucchini slices creates a low-carb, gluten-free twist on this classic dish. For detailed recipe directions and nutrition facts, please visit: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/02/zucchini-lasagna.html.

Zucchini is an excellent source of potassium and is also a source of antioxidants that play an important role in eye health. It is also considered a “high-volume” food meaning a large serving of zucchini contains a low amount of calories.

For the Kids: You can thinly slice zucchini with a julienne peeler to create “zoodles” and substitute for spaghetti noodles. Try making Zucchini boats for a healthy, gluten-free treat:julienne peeler

  • Slice zucchini in half (long-ways) and top with mozzarella cheese, fresh veggies and basil.
  • Place “boats” on a baking sheet and cook and bake for 30 minutes at 350oF.
  • Remove boats from oven and top with parmesan cheese.

Cauliflower used to be a vegetable I could only consume if it was dipped in light Ranch dressing. Now I love eating cauliflower mashed, roasted, steamed, grilled and as a pizza crust! In fact, I hardly ever eat cauliflower raw. Anymore, which is how most people typically consume it. Unique for its white pigment, cauliflower often gets overlooked in the produce section. We have always been told that the best diets are rich in color. White colored items also get a bad reputation because they are commonly associated with white bread, white pasta, white rice, donuts etc. As a part of the cruciferous family, cauliflower has actually made a name for itself as a potential cancer-fighting food.

For the Kids: Creating “fauxtatos” is a simple trick for increasing the amount of non-starchy vegetables your kids will consume.

  • Chop one head of cauliflower into florets.
  • Fill sauce pan with ½ inch of water. Place florets in pan and cover.
  • Steam cauliflower for about 10 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Drain any excess liquid and run steamed florets through a food processor until it reaches a “mashed potato consistency”.
  • Season with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, butter or lemon juice and serve. This can be served by itself or even blended in with potatoes.

Vegetables are one of the least-consumed food groups, which is sad because vegetables are such an important source of nutrients in our diet. Being creative with the way you prepare vegetables can breathe new life into our old, traditional meals.


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Grilling, Baking, Marinating — OH MY! Part 1

pork chop peachesWhile I just earned 50 brownie points from my sister for making a Wizard of Oz reference, for many people, food preparation, especially grilling, can be as scary as flying monkeys.(That’s another 50 points!)

Grilling is most commonly associated with the meats: chicken, burgers, steak and hotdogs. But did you know, this cooking method is also a wonderful opportunity to prepare fruit and vegetable sides too! And, summer is one of the most bountiful seasons for produce, making it easy to purchase fresh, colorful additions to your meals.

For vegetables, all you need is three simple ingredients: olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Zucchini, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and asparagus make excellent choices for first-time vegetable grillers. Simply brush a little olive oil on the vegetables, add your seasonings and in less than 10 minutes, your vegetables should be done! Adding fruits and vegetables to your grill plate has benefits of color, nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fiber) and they help make up a well-balanced meal.

Too often, I see grilled items being served with potato salad, beans and mac n cheese. While potatoes are a vegetable and beans are a good source of fiber, all three of these items are starches. A well-balanced meal should only contain no more than one starch item and most of the time, that role is filled by the bun (preferably whole wheat) used for meat.

When you grill fruit, you often intensify its flavor. Peaches, pineapple slices and apples are some of my favorite fruits to throw on the grill. They make fantastic additions to meals or add a new twist to healthy desserts. Season apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg, grill and serve with 1 ½ cup scoop of frozen Greek yogurt for an instant hit with the family. Kabobs can be created using fruits or vegetables. Try marinating vegetable kabobs in Italian dressing or drizzle a little bit of chocolate sauce over cooked fruit kabobs.

Serving food on a stick is another secret weapon for getting kids of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.

This Lemon-Mint Pork Chop and Grilled Peach recipe is an Olympic Gold Medalist at our household.

  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 peaches, halved, pitted and cut into 1 inch wedges

1. Combine all ingredients except for peaches in a large Ziploc bag. Shake ingredients and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight, preferred).

2. Grill pork chops on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning only once.

3. Place onions and peaches on grill and cook for 4 minutes, turning frequently until crisp and tender.

4. Divide among 4 plates and serve with a couple leaves of mint and parsley for garnish.

 


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The Unknown World of Vegetables and Kids

picky-little-eaterKIDS and VEGETABLES—two words that are usually not found in the same sentence and many times not in the same meal.

Many children in today’s society have grown accustomed to pre-packaged, processed food items. In fact, researchers in 2005 discovered that 2/3 of three year olds were able to identify the McDonald’s golden arches. Favorite foods such as mac n cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza are packed high in fat, salt and added sugars. Fruit is typically consumed in the form of juice or fruit snacks and vegetables are commonly offered from a can or box mix such as green beans, corn or potatoes.

Yes, I agree that some fruits and vegetables are better than none, but what’s concerning is the lack of fresh ingredients in kids’ diets and the overall poor quality of nutritional intake.

Researchers have been investigating children’s eating behaviors and identifying strategies to get them to eat healthier. A recently published study in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012 http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(11)01498-2/fulltext found that vegetable consumption (specifically broccoli) increased in pre-school aged children when a dip was offered with the vegetable. These findings support many other studies of its kind. What we are discovering is that young kids are more likely to consume raw vegetables when they have something to dip them in! One possible reason why this method is working is that a dip may help offset bitter flavors that some vegetables have. But let’s face it—dip adds fun!

Light Ranch dressing may be the easiest dip/dressing to use, but there are many other nutritious, homemade concoctions that can be created:

  • Make your own dressing by using light sour cream or Greek yogurt mixed with Ranch seasoning. In fact, you could use any spice/herb blend to create new flavors.
  • Peanut butter provides a good source of protein when added to celery or carrot sticks.
  • Hummus which is made from chickpeas provides fiber, a scarce nutrient in most kids diets. Hummus doesn’t have to be bland! You can infuse garlic, roasted red pepper and other flavors to give this dip an interesting twist.
  • Dips for fruits can be made too. Try vanilla yogurt or add a small amount of honey or cinnamon to Greek yogurt to make a great dip for strawberries, bananas, apples, grapes or pears.
  • Be cautious with unhealthy dip varieties. Dips like caramel, marshmallow crème and chocolate sauce contain excessive amounts of added sugars and unwanted calories.

If the dip method still doesn’t make your young one want to consume more fruits or vegetables, it may be a good idea to experiment with blending and pureeing these foods. Steamed cauliflower can be easily pureed and mixed in with carrotmashed potatoes or mac n cheese. Shredded carrots or zucchini can be added to spaghetti sauces or casserole dishes. To make it less noticeable and less chunky, puree the vegetables with the sauce before serving. Two great resources that provide recipes for these nutritious puree blends are: The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine http://www.amazon.com/Sneaky-Chef-Strategies-Healthy-Favorite/dp/0762430753 and Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld http://www.amazon.com/Deceptively-Delicious-Simple-Secrets-Eating/dp/006176793X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1370628568&sr=1-1&keywords=deceptively+delicious

The goal for fruit and vegetable consumption is five servings per day. For additional tips and ideas for increasing your child’s fruit and vegetable consumption, please visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet11KidFriendlyVeggiesAndFruits.pdf


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School’s Out for Summer!

Well, maybe our kids have replaced the lyrics of Alice Cooper with the likes of One Direction and Taylor Swift, but the story remains the same. No more pencils, no more books, and a lot more freedom to eat, play and watch TV as children please.

appleIt’s important as parents to provide a wide variety of healthy, nutritious foods at home. By improving access to healthy food options and limiting unhealthy selections, you can feel more confident knowing that your children are consuming well-balanced meals and snacks at home. As a 12-year-old, my days usually started with a big bowl of sugary, sweetened cereal, followed by mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs and an unhealthy dose of soap operas. While I was also very active with swimming, riding bikes and jumping on trampolines, my diet certainly had room for improvement. It’s never too early or too late to teach your kids about nutrition and well-balanced meals. The simplest way to illustrate a healthy meal is using the plate method. The plate method encourages you to fill half your plates with fruits and vegetables, one fourth with lean protein and one fourth with grains (preferably whole grains).myplate

Here is a list of examples to help your kids put together healthy, well-balanced meals.

Grains:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat or corn tortilla
  • Popcorn

Proteins:

  • Chicken
  • Fish,
  • Turkey
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans

Dairy:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese/string cheese
  • Smoothies

Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Pears

Vegetables:

  • Green salad
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh green beans
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Red, yellow, green bell peppers
  • Cucumbers

Sweetened cereals like Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms are not the best start for the day because they lack many important nutrients and contain excessive amounts of added sugars. Here’s a tip for weaning kids away from these sugar-packed cereal varieties: encourage kids to mix a healthier cereal such as Cheerios, Bran Flakes, Shredded Mini Wheats or other high-fiber variety into their favorite cereal. This will help reduce the portion size of the sugary cereal and help improve the nutrient intake of fiber. Apple chunks, blueberries, banana slices, chopped nuts or dried fruit can be easily added to oatmeal to make breakfast more well-rounded. Whole grain tortillas spread with peanut butter and banana slices or eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa and beans make two great protein-packed breakfasts.celery

Lunch meals tend to be heavy on the starches. A turkey sandwich, chips, granola bar and dessert were the typical items packed in my lunch when going to summer camp.

The results of this lunch meal: Starch=5, Protein=1, and Fruits, Vegetables and Dairy=0.

To make this lunchbox healthier, we can swap the chips with low-fat yogurt, trade the granola bar for carrot and celery sticks with one tablespoon of low-fat ranch, and include a clementine for the dessert. Mac ‘n cheese is okay to eat still, but it should be featured as a side item rather than the entrée. Pre-cutting vegetables and fruits and measuring individual containers of peanut butter, hummus, yogurt or low-fat ranch for dips can make healthy selections much more accessible.

Another valuable lesson to learn early on in life is that snacks do not equal desserts. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun. Try to create snacks that include at least two food groups. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and whole grain cereal
  • Celery logs topped with peanut butter and raisins
  • Small oranges with low-fat string cheese
  • Slice apples to make a mini peanut butter, granola sandwiches
  • Top a whole grain cracker with low-fat cream cheese and grape halves
  • Mix yogurt with fresh fruit chunks

grapesSometimes, rules need to be enforced on how much screen time is allowed each day. It is recommended that kids spend no more than two hours per day watching TV, playing video games, on the computer, etc. If you find  your kids do spend excessive amounts of time in front of the TV, try setting limits like “TV may only be watched from 1:00-2:30.” Physical activity should always be encouraged in a positive light and never used as a form of punishment. Encourage safe, outdoor activities; it’s summer time after all!


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Choose Your Snack Wisely

Snacktime isn’t just for kids. Snacking can be a part of a healthy diet for adults, too! Just like mealtimes, good, nutritious snacks take thought, preparation and planning. Poor planning can result in unhealthy, convenient snack choices, such as candy, chips, pastries, crackers and soda.

One snacking mentality that I try to help people break is that “snacks” = “desserts.” Unfortunately, for a lot of people, this snacking-dessert association developed during childhood.  This is why it is so important to teach your kids at an early age to make healthy snack choices.

A healthy snack for most people typically ranges from 100-300 calories, depending on time between meals and how physically active you are. Some people believe that skipping snacks helps you save calories during the day, but healthy snacks may actually help you from overeating at your next meal. Snacks are also a great opportunity to consume nutrients that we need every day.

The perfect snack is hard to come by but here are some options I enjoy!

The perfect snack is hard to come by but here are some options I enjoy!

Try these healthy snack options from EatWell

Try these healthy snack options from EatWell

Remember, the best time to have a snack is when you are physically hungry for one! There are many influences that can make having a snack “sound like a good idea” but the real reason to snack is to satisfy an internal cue of hunger. Good snackers are able to distinguish the difference between physical and emotional hunger cues.

Emotional cues can be triggered by stress, boredom, even your co-workers. Planning ahead by cutting vegetables, buying fresh fruit or throwing some nuts in a Ziploc can help you satisfy those physical hunger cues in a more nutritious way.

Be careful not to overeat when snacking. This often occurs when we are distracted while snacking (on the computer, watching TV, talking/socializing). Distractions can lead to “mindless eating” habits that occur when we lose touch with our internal cues of hunger/satiety because our focus is on something else. A simple way to help prevent overeating is to pre-portion your snack instead of eating directly from the box, bag, container, etc. That way you know exactly how big your serving size is (instead of guessing how many handfuls of pretzels you’ve taken).

Tired of snacking on the same boring apple every day? Here are two handouts that can help spice up your snack options.

Snacking Tips for Adults

Kid Friendly Fruits and Veggies

Eat right, live well, and remember: When hunger attacks, make sure you grab a healthy snack!

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