Healthy Recipe Monday

Potatoes are one of America’s favorite vegetables. They are a good source of potassium and you can get a little extra fiber by eating the skins. Remember to practice good portion control when consuming potatoes by sticking to ½ cup serving sizes. For a balanced meal, be sure to add a green vegetable such as asparagus, green beans, spinach or broccoli along with potatoes.

Garlic Potatoes with Fresh Herbs

GarlicPotatoeswithFreshHerbs

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boiling or baking potatoes, with or without skins
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (white preferred)

1. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut the boiling potatoes in half or the baking potatoes in quarters. Add the potatoes and garlic to the boiling water and return to a boil. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft all the way through when tested with a knife. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl and the garlic to a small plate, reserving the potato water.

2. Mash the garlic cloves. Add to the potatoes, combining lightly with a potato masher or large fork until coarse-textured. (Do not sure a food processor.) Stir in the remaining ingredients, adding a little hot potato water if needed for the desired consistency. The texture should remain coarse.

Cook’s Tip – For a taste change, substitute other fresh herbs for the rosemary and/or oregano. Parsley and sage are just two possibilities. This recipe doubles well.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 106.Total Fat: 2 g. Saturated Fat: 0.5 g. Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g. Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g. Trans Fat: 0 g. Cholesterol: 0 mg. Sodium: 80 mg. Carbohydrate: 21 g. Fiber: 3 g. Sugars: 1 g. Protein: 2 g.

-American Heart Association, Recipes for the Heart

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.

Going Green

It’s safe to say that we most often associate the color green with the month of March. The grass begins to grow, trees start sprouting leaves, shamrock decorations appear everywhere and even the Chicago River is dyed green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Green is also the color of some of the most nutritious vegetables—all of which should be staples in our households.

Broccoli: Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, calcium, folate, beta carotene, antioxidants… this list of nutrients supplied by broccoli appears to be endless! Broccoli may not always be at the top of kids’ most favorite vegetable list. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2011) found that kids were more likely to rate broccoli as “yummy” if they had something to dip it in. Try serving broccoli florets with homemade hummus or make your own low-fat ranch dressing by combining plain Greek yogurt with Ranch seasoning mix. Creating fun animations with your vegetables (and fruits) is another great way to get kids excited about eating these nutritious treats!

Going green can be fun for kids of all ages.

Going green can be fun for kids of all ages.

Here is a delicious recipe that I made the other night (husband approved!): Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. I used less salt and oil than the recipe called for, and it turned out to be a delicious and nutritious addition to our dinner . For a less expensive option, I substituted sliced almonds for pine nuts.

Spinach: No salad should go without this nutrient-packed leafy green. Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, which is essential for bone development and blood clotting. It also houses vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid and manganese. Spinach contains flavonoids which are antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be added to dishes in several ways:

  • Added to an egg omelet or scrambled eggs (an excellent way to get vegetables at breakfast)
  • Mixed in with your salad greens
  • Blended into pasta and rice dishes
  • Great healthy additions to soups and casseroles
  • Used as a stuffing mix to put inside lean proteins (think spinach-stuffed chicken breasts!)
  • Blended into smoothies

Kale: I’ll admit—this vegetable used to scare me. But once I actually tried kale, I couldn’t believe I had gone so long without it! This is one of the superstars of the vegetable world, despite most people not even knowing what it is. Kale tops the charts with its antioxidant capabilities. In fact, it has been given the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score out of all the vegetables = 1770 (spinach comes in a distant second with a score of 1260). Kale and collard greens contain some of the highest concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, and are associated with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The most common way to prepare kale includes steaming and sautéing in olive oil and garlic. For the kids, you can dehydrate kale in the oven making “kale chips”. Most people enjoy kale after it has been cooked, but you can also add it to fresh salads.

Here’s a recipe packed with antioxidants and nutrients for the entire family to enjoy: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Kale and Wild Mushrooms.

March, the month where spring fills the air and the color green wraps around us. Let’s celebrate the month of March, National Nutrition Month, by exploring and expanding our consumption of green vegetables.

**Individuals who are taking blood thinners should not consume dark green vegetables in large amounts due to the high content of vitamin K in the vegetables.

Do You Have Neuroprotection?

Alas, no, it’s not acquired by dialing a 1-800 number.

Research suggests that healthy eating and active lifestyles can provide this positive benefit. My grandmother always told me to do crossword puzzles because it’s good for my brain. While I’m sad to admit that I still have never been able to fully complete one on my own, the good news is research indicates that there are other ways to keep my brain in shape.

Having a nutritionally dense diet and engaging in daily physical activity is great for brain health and can help prevent neurodegeneration (loss of cognitive functioning). To some extent, a loss of cognitive functioning occurs naturally with age; however, scientists are concluding that some forms of neurodegeneration can be prevented. Neuroprotection is the term used to describe the strategies that defend the central nervous system against degenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

One review in The Lancet Neurology, 2011, estimates that almost one half of all worldwide cases of Alzheimer’s disease could be prevented. Being overweight, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are all risk factors for cognitive degenerative disorders. What’s alarming is that these are all modifiable risk factors, meaning you can prevent them or improve outcomes from dietary and lifestyle changes.

Physical activity has long been associated with physical and emotional wellness, but research is now showing how exercise benefits our mental health. Exercise increases fuel utilization by the brain (oxygen and glucose) and promotes neuron growth and survival.  Just like our muscles, your brain needs its exercise, too!

Try adding these foods to your meals for neuroprotection:

Walnuts. Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning, or what you wore yesterday? A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that walnut consumption, as part of a Mediterranean diet, was associated with better memory scores and cognitive function. Their findings suggest that walnuts, in combination with other antioxidants found in the Mediterranean food choices, may help prevent or slow down cognitive decline.

Extra virgin olive oil (or, as Rachael Ray has coined it, “EVOO”) has also been associated with improved cognitive function. Use extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat vegetables and proteins, then grill or bake in the oven to infuse the flavors. Try making your own salad dressings using olive oil as your base.

The Impact of Blueberries.

The Impact of Blueberries.

Berries. Not only are berries a potent antioxidant source, but studies have shown that consuming berries as part of a healthy diet are linked to slower mental decline in areas of memory and focus. Blueberries, which have been nicknamed “brainberries”, can help protect the body and the brain from oxidative stress. Add berries to cereals or yogurts, or enjoy them by themselves as a healthy antioxidant-packed snack.

Spinach. This dark green vegetable contains a well-researched antioxidant, lutein. Formally, researched for its role in eye health, newer research supports the role of lutein with brain health. Harvard Medical School researchers found that women in their study who ate the most dark leafy green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline as compared to women who had the least vegetable consumption.

Ground flaxseed is another plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids consistently found in Mediterranean diets that offers brain-boosting benefits. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on oatmeal, yogurt or applesauce, or mix in with sauces and stews.

In laboratory studies, many individual minerals, vitamins and compounds demonstrate these positive neuroprotective effects. Yet, evidence suggests that it is the synergy of all the antioxidants, phytochemicals and compounds of a total diet that work together to offer the strongest benefit. This emphasizes the importance of consuming an overall nutritionally-dense diet vs. trying to super-supplement with a specific food or nutrient.

For a healthy body and peace of mind, eat healthfully, exercise and, as Grandma recommends, do your crossword puzzles.

 

Barnes, D.E. & Yaffe, K. (2011). The projected effect of risk factor reduction on Alzheimer’s disease prevalence. The Lancet Neurology, 10(9),819-828.

Valls-Pedret, C. et al. (2012). Polyphenol-Rich Foods in the Mediterranean Diet are Associated with  Better Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects at High Cardiovascular Risk. Journal of Alzheimer’s   Disease, 29, 773-782. http://iospress.metapress.com/content/w012188621153h61/fulltext.pdf