Taste is the number-one reason why one food is purchased over another. So what can you do when the taste of favorite foods starts to lose its luster? As part of the 2014 National Nutrition Month® theme, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to explore new foods and flavors, keeping taste and nutrition on your plate at every meal.
Also, coinciding with Black History Month is African Heritage & Health Week, February 1 – 7, which commemorates the foods, flavors and healthy cooking techniques that were core to the wellbeing of our African ancestors from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and the American South.
Scientific studies show that many chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, now prevalent in our communities, appear in populations as traditional diets are left behind. Studies have also shown that as younger Africans shift from traditional to nontraditional lifestyles weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels – signs of metabolic syndrome – rise.
So, if Africans who eat traditional foods from Africa are healthier than those who adopt a typical Western diet, it stands to reason that a healthy African-American diet should go back to its roots.
To help you do just that, Oldways – a Boston based nonprofit, developed the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, a cultural model for healthful eating based on the traditional diets of Africa. In fact as part of African Heritage Health Week, Oldways challenges everyone, everywhere to enjoy at least one delicious dish at home or at a restaurant inspired by the cuisine of African-American ancestors.
Before you head out to eat, check out the “African Heritage Dine Around” section of the Oldways website. It was designed to help you discover destinations, including pop-up shops and fine dining restaurants, across the nation, from Alabama to Wisconsin, where you can enjoy foods and flavors inspired by the cuisine of your African-American ancestors.
If a meal at home shared with family and friends is more appealing, Oldways suggests its own recipe for Jollof Rice as an option. This is a traditional African rice dish that is delicious and healthy, plus budget friendly. Plenty of other recipes are offered on Oldways’ website and the African Heritage & Health Pinterest recipe-sharing webpage.
Thanksgiving is probably a distant memory and hopefully by now you’ve recovered from your dietary indiscretions…or should I say pigging out. But Christmas is right around the corner, filled with more rich hors d’oeuvres and temptation. Managing weight is difficult under the best of circumstances and can be especially challenging during the holiday season. There are just so many more opportunities for you to over indulge. The following 10 tips are designed to help you get through the holiday season sensibly – without deprivation or guilt.
Enjoy traditional holiday foods: Depriving yourself of special foods or feeling guilty when you enjoy them isn’t part of a healthy eating strategy. Forget the “all or nothing” mindset and enjoy small portions of your favorite holiday foods.
Slow down: Concentrate on eating slowly by putting the fork down between bites and savoring the taste and companionship during the meal. It takes at least 20 minutes for the stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. End result – eating slowly will help you stop eating before you feel bloated and stuffed.
Be selective: Choose to explore new taste and flavors, rather than waste calories on everyday foods, like mashed potatoes or broccoli.
Plan ahead: If you are invited to a party, call ahead for the menu. Offer to bring a dish you can enjoy without guilt. (See recipe below for Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt) Schedule your exercise before you schedule other holiday activities. Be flexible and remember, if you don’t plan exercise time it won’t happen.
Step away from the appetizers: Upon arrival at the holiday party, place appetizers on a plate instead of picking on foods here and there. You’ll be less likely to overindulge! Then move away from the appetizers to avoid mindless eating.
Drink to your health: Instead of a second glass of eggnog for over 300 calories, try sparkling water, seltzer or diet soda. Coffee and unsweetened tea are calorie free. Champagne, wine and alcoholic drinks are high in calories.
Scan the buffet: Before you make your food choices scan the entire buffet. Choose small portions of food you really, really want. Use a small plate and leave plenty of space around your portions. Often just a taste will satisfy cravings.
Socialization is calorie free: Remember to enjoy other aspects of the holidays, such as socialization with family and friends, the spirit of the season, exchanging gifts, and holiday decorations.
Look your best: When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you’re less likely to seek comfort in food.
Burn it up: Balance the food aspect of the party with games or other fun activities. Plug in the Wii for a game of tennis or take a walk after the meal. Invite family and friends to participate. Physical activity will burn those extra calories from the holiday meal.
Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt
Instead of pumpkin or sweet potato pie, lighten up your dessert table with this delightful, nutrient rich dessert. Pumpkin chocolate yogurt is a healthful way to enjoy dark chocolate. It isn’t made with excessive amounts of sugar and other ingredients that often diminish the health benefits associated with high-quality dark chocolate.
2 cups nonfat Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (canned is perfect)
4 T dark honey
2 to 3 pinches ground cinnamon
2 pinches ground ginger
1/4 to 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
One 4-oz cacao dark chocolate bar that contains a high percentage of cacao solids, grated
1. Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate in a large bowl and mix well to incorporate.
2. Portion the mixture into individual serving dishes. Divide the chocolate evenly between the servings and stir to incorporate.
Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 278; Protein: 13 g; Carbohydrate: 38 g; Fiber: 3 g; Total fat: 12 g; Sat fat 6 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 45 mg
— Recipe courtesy of Chef Richard A. Amster
With kids back in school, afternoon activities, business travel, and the start of football season, September is one busy month! With a jammed packed schedule it can be challenging to “get it all in” and stay focused on your health. However, with the use of the right apps, you can keep track of your progress and simplify your path to healthier living! In this month’s newsletter, I have shared a few of my favorite nutrition, fitness, recipe, and speciality apps that make living a healthy life easier. I have suggested these apps on a variety of factors, and encourage you to explore what is right for you and your goals.
Click here to read my September Newsletter – Food and Nutrition Apps!
Are you listening to old-wives’ tales or Uncle Pookie’s take on the best way to manage diabetes? Here are some common myths about diabetes – along with the facts. The more you know for sure, the better able you will be to successfully manage the disease.
Myth: If you eat too many sweets, you’ll get diabetes.
Fact: Diabetes isn’t caused by eating too much sugar; it’s caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. However, eating foods high in sugar, fat, and calories can cause you to become overweight, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Myth: Type 1 diabetes is more serious than type 2 diabetes.
Fact: All types of diabetes are serious. Type 1 and type 2 involve elevated blood glucose levels which can lead to serious complications such as nerve damage, foot ulcers, amputation, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and blindness.
Myth: If you don’t take diabetes medicine, your diabetes must not be serious.
Fact: Not everyone who has diabetes takes medicine for it. If your body produces some insulin, losing weight, adopting healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity can help insulin work more effectively. However, even if you don’t take medicine now, you need to keep a close eye on your condition. Diabetes does change through time, and diabetes medicine may be needed later.
Myth: If you get diabetes, insulin will cure it.
Fact: Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes. It helps to control diabetes by keeping the blood glucose from rising. At this point, there is no cure, only medicines and lifestyle changes that can help you manage it better.
Myth: If you have diabetes you can expect to lose your sight and limbs eventually.
Fact: Having diabetes doesn’t mean you’re doomed to sightlessness or amputations. Keeping your diabetes under control can prevent the most serious complications.
Myth: Dessert is off limits if you have diabetes.
Fact: While eating too many sugary foods is not a good idea, you can have an occasional dessert. It should be counted as part of your total carbohydrate intake for the day. Meaning, if you plan to have a piece of wedding cake, limit the bread, potatos, and other carbs you eat that day.
Myth: If you love bread, potatoes, and pasta, you’re out of luck. Carbs and starches are off-limits if you have diabetes.
Fact: Carbohydrates and starches are part of a healthy diet—even for people with diabetes. You have to control your portions, but you can enjoy a nice pasta salad or a few potatoes if you like.
Myth: You can cure diabetes with the right diet.
Fact: A healthy diet and exercise can reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, but once you have it, you have it. Diabetes is a lifelong disease that has no cure. However, with proper management (that includes that healthy diet again) it can be well controlled.
Click here to read more about reversing diabetes.
Week 5 – What’s in the box series.
Just as Stymie of the little rascals proclaimed his love of this summertime fruit (I know I am dating myself), I guess you could say loving watermelon is universal.
No other fruit says summertime more than watermelon. So if you want to quench your thirst and re-boost your body with anti-oxidants lycopene, vitamin A and vitamin C, watermelon has everything you need.
Related to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, watermelon is in the Cucurbitaceae family. Naturally low in calories, one cup provides just 46 calories.
Last week there was a small, cantaloupe size, seedless, red watermelon in the box and this week a full size yellow watermelon! It was incredibly crunchy, subtly sweeter, and had a more honey like taste than the other varieties I have had. As we have been eating this delicious melon all summer by the forkfuls, I wanted to find something a little more interesting to do with this hard to find special melon.
The first time I had gazpacho was in my early twenties on a trip with a friend to Williamsburg, Va. I can remember the heat being unbearably oppressive when we sat down for lunch. Always adventurous, even then, I wanted to try this “cold cucumber soup”. It was unbelievably cool and refreshing.
Originating in Spain, gazpacho is traditionally a tomato, vegetable soup served cold. So when I saw a recipe for watermelon gazpacho with cucumber and tomato, I knew this was something I had to try. I combined two recipes, one taken from Bon Appétit magazine and one from Eating Well and made it my own – which is something I often do. I added more basil, substituted honey for sugar, added more tomato, left out the olive oil and finally, substituted basil syrup for vinegar:
2 cups basil leaves
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 ½ cups water
Place all of the ingredients above in a saucepan, boil, remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes. Let cool and then strain.
7 cups seedless watermelon 1” pieces (I used the yellow melon from the box)
1 cucumber peeled, seeded, cut in 1” pieces (from the box)
½ red pepper diced
¼ cup basil (from the box)
¼ cup parsley
1 cup peeled, seeded diced tomatoes (from the box)
½ tsp salt
½ cup fresh lime juice
Ground fresh pepper
Make two shallow cuts through the skin at the bottom of the tomatoes. Put in a pot of boiling water until skin lifts. Run cold water over the pot until cool. Peel and seed the tomatoes and dice.
Combine rest of ingredients as well as the syrup in a blender or food processor (you may have to blend in batches), until smooth. Divide gazpacho among 6 bowls, garnish with pepper and torn basil leaves.
Per serving without olive oil: 111 calories, 1.3g fat, 206mg sodium, 26.6g carbohydrates, 10.6g fiber, 10.3g sugar, 4.6g protein
This gazpacho was unexpectedly delectable, both sweet and savory, and refreshing. I may add a jalapeño next time, I think it could have used a little kick, but we absolutely loved it and I think you will too!
I was so excited to get more arugula; I thought that would be finished for the summer!! My favorite way to eat arugula is to shave Parmesan reggiano cheese on top, cut up more of those sun golds , squeeze fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh ground pepper. Delish!! Oh, and all those tomatoes, more about them next week.
Until next week, eat and savor the rest of your summertime veggies…
Week four – What are these Walla Walla onions in the box?
I was curious as I had never heard of them before, have you? Going to sweetonions.org I found the story of the Walla Walla Sweet onion. A French soldier found one of these onion seeds on an island in Italy and brought it back to the Walla Walla Valley in Washington State to cultivate over a century ago.
They are a sweet onion variety with a low sulfur and high water content, making them mild and great in many dishes. I did take a bite raw as they suggest and although they say it is so sweet you can eat it like an apple, I probably would not do it again – I found them tough. However, they are indeed, the sweetest onion I have ever tasted!
Onions belong to the lily family along with garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. They are rich in the powerful compound diallyl sulfide, which gives them their strong smell and helps prevent cancer by blocking the effects of carcinogens in the body. They also contain numerous flavonoids, such as quercetin – which are antioxidant compounds that help prevent blood clots and protect against heart disease and cancer. This vegetable also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial action. In addition, onions are very rich in chromium, a trace mineral that helps cells respond to insulin, and are a good source of vitamin C and other trace elements. But proceed with caution when cooking these onions. High heat will destroy a large percentage of all those beneficial compounds. So, we cut them in half and grilled them very quickly, just a minute or two, with a brush of oil and pepper.
CUKES, CUKES AND MORE CUKES!
I have to thank my friend Joanne, as well as the abundant cucumbers in the box, for the cucumber cocktails that I have been enjoying all summer. She turned me on to this incredibly clean, crisp, pure and refreshing tasting vodka, with the essence of freshly sliced cucumbers. With the crushed up crunchy cucumber, a little seltzer, and a squeeze of fresh lime, I actually feel healthy drinking this!
Remember, if your diabetes is not in good control you should avoid drinking alcohol. If you do choose to drink, make sure it’s not on an empty stomach. Additionally, alcohol can cause hypoglycemia – particularly if you use insulin, so you’ll need to check your blood glucose more frequently.
This wonderful low calorie vegetable indeed has more nutrients to offer than just water and electrolytes. It contains unique anti-oxidants in good ratios such as B-carotene and a-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin A, zea-xanthin and lutein. They also have a mild diuretic property due to their high water and potassium content, which helps in checking weight gain and blood pressure. I was surprised to learn they have a high amount of vitamin K which has been found to have a potential role in bone strength and in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease!
So here’s the just 100 calorie, nutritious, pure, and clean healthy girl cocktail:
Crop Certified Organic Cucumber Vodka 1.5 oz. (infused flavors avoid the sugar content of artificially flavored liquor
1 oz. cucumber (a few slices, low calories high water content for hydration, alkalinity neutralizes acids in body
4 oz. club soda (plain or lemon lime flavored)
Squeeze of fresh lime
Muddle mint and cucumber in bottom of a shaker glass, add vodka, soda and lime juice. Add ice, shake, strain and garnish with a cucumber slices, mint and add more ice! 100 calories, 0 fat, 25mg sodium, 2g total carbohydrates, 1g sugar.
So if you feel like indulging, this is the way to go!! You could also add a little beet juice, green tea or agave if you like, but that would change the nutritionals.
So what did I do with the rest of the box this week? I roasted the cabbage in the toaster oven with a spritz of olive oil and pepper (I loved it this way), added the potatoes to a pasta dish, made tomato salad and ate the sweet tender baby watermelon alone.
I only allowed a piece or two for my husband. Ha!
Next week I am thinking of a watermelon gazpacho and I will have to think of something to do with all these tomatoes!!
So, until next week eat and enjoy your veggies…
Week three – What’s In the Box? Authentic Tuscan Ribolitta!
My friend Debbie and I are not your typical students. We are both women that went back to school mid-life and have adult children. So when she asked me to study abroad in Florence two summers ago, I knew it was now or never. We lived with an Italian family, cooked with grandma and walked to class every day for a month. We traveled on the weekends and tried to eat everywhere we could. We both became obsessed with Tuscan Ribollita.
There is a specific black cabbage that is used for this peasant soup and I searched high and low for it for Christmas one year and was told it appears only once a year and in very limited supplies. So you can understand my excitement this summer when I found Toscano Kale in the box not once, not twice, but three times!!
The prized Tuscan specialty referred to as “cavolo nero” or black cabbage in English is a cross between cabbage and kale, and is abundantly available in Tuscany where it is used in soups and stews. Researchers believe it may have been grown as a food crop as early as 2000 B.C. Low in calories and a member of the Crucifer or mustard family, Toscano kale offers vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and potassium. This particular variety has more than twice the levels of carotene and lutein, two phytonutrients which act as antioxidants, compared to other varieties.
Ribolitta (serves 6)
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 carrots, diced
17 oz black cabbage, shredded (I used the bunch from the box)
2 celery stalks chopped
1 bouillon cube (I use a 32oz. box of organic low sodium chicken broth)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. tomato paste (I used 2 Tablespoons)
250 gr (8oz) cooked white beans, ½ pureed and ½ left whole
Salt and pepper (I don’t add salt but add a little Romano at the end)
17 oz of Tuscan stale bread (I used whole wheat) cubed
Heat oil; add onion and leek and sauté until golden. Add remaining vegetables and pepper and stir well. Cover and cook until reduced by half of the original volume. Add tomato paste, bouillon cube (or chicken broth) and water, if you use the bouillon cube, (the more water you add the less dense the soup will be), and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cool for at least an hour. Add the stale bread; mix well and bring to a boil again. Serve warm with a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil and Romano cheese.
Calories per serving: 198 calories, 28g carbohydrates, 7g total fat, 1.25g saturated fat, 335mg sodium, 3g fiber, 6g protein
Hope your family likes it as much as mine does. For Debbie and I, it reminds us of a special time, in a special place, and of the once in a lifetime experience that we shared.
So how did we enjoy the rest of what was in the box? We grilled the Walla Walla onions (more about those next week) and fennel, made cucumber vodka cocktails (100 calories!) with my cucumbers also dipped them in hummus and ate them in my salad. The sun gold tomatoes went in my whole wheat, avocado, arugula pesto pasta salad – so delish. That baby watermelon was sooo sweet (also more about this great summertime fruit next week)!
Until next time, enjoy your vegetables!
Week 2 – WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
GREEN CABBAGE, REALLY?
While green cabbage is the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage, I guess you could say it is not that common in our house and is only eaten once a year on St. Patrick’s Day. I was stumped all week trying to figure out what to do with this vegetable.
Other than corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, the only other type I have ever had was red cabbage with the traditional pot roast dinner. This happens to be my family’s most requested meal and favorite, except for my daughter Katelyn who refuses to eat the pot roast! I am not that crazy for it either, although we do love the sweet red cabbage.
As I researched cabbage, I found not only is it a very economical vegetable that is easy to find, but gives a huge nutritional bang for your buck. It possesses phytochemicals including sulforaphane, which studies suggest protects the body against cancer-causing free radicals, and indoles, which help metabolize estrogens. It is also an excellent source of vitamins K and C and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and Omega 3 fatty acids. Cabbage is in the Cruciferae family along with kale, broccoli, collards and Brussels sprouts. The best part is it only has 31 calories for a cooked cup! Maybe I should eat more of this vegetable!
Instead of the traditional cole slaw made with green cabbage, I wanted to find something a bit more interesting to make. I asked the aides that do an amazing job at taking care of my parents, what they do with their cabbage; Margaret roasts it in the oven and Bernice steams it. While looking for a recipe, I saw so many for cole slaw, stuffed cabbage, a cabbage tart, yuck, and a stir fry. I wanted to come up with something that would pair nicely with the chicken parmesan I was making, topped with the grilled eggplant and zucchini from the box. I came across a baked white bean with cabbage soup/stew that calls for a rind from a Parmesan cheese instead of a ham bone. And I changed a few other things:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (I used a Walla Walla onion from the box)
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 green frying pepper (from the box)
1 head of green cabbage cored and chopped (from the box)
4 garlic cloves, minced (from the box last week)
1 pound (1 bag) cannellini beans
8 cups water
1 Parmesan rind
Parsley and thyme sprigs and a bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth and tied
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley, fresh thyme
In a heated ovenproof casserole, I sautéed the onion, carrot and pepper about 5 minutes, stirred in the cabbage and garlic. Then, I cooked for another 5 minutes.
I added the beans, water, rind, cheesecloth and pepper. I don’t add salt (my husband’s has high blood pressure); I let everyone salt their own food to taste. I baked the casserole in a 325 degree oven for 2-3 hours until the beans were tender. I removed the rind and cheesecloth, adjusted the seasoning and added parsley and fresh thyme. This was supposed to be 6 servings but it makes so much more than that. I’d say about 12 servings.
Nutritional information per serving – based on 12 servings: 165 calories; 2.5 grams fat; .5 gram saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 28 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 22 mg sodium; 9.5 grams protein.
It turned out creamy, it was hearty, had intense flavor, and went well with the rest of the meal. Our favorite part was dipping the whole wheat, thick, crusty, artisan round bread, that I got from the new farmers market in my town, in the broth (my dad calls them manhole covers)! I look forward to trying other methods of preparing cabbage as well.
What did I do with the rest of my goodies? Well the cucumbers, soooo crunchy, went in my salads all week, the zucchini and red potatoes in our Sunday eggs as well as for dinner one night. The zucchini is so fresh that the outside skin is smooth to the touch and unblemished. I needed additional eggplant so I went out to my own garden to look and was surprised to find both baby purple and white eggplant, as well as many zucchini squash flowers. I was thrilled to find enough orange cherry tomatoes and string beans for Sunday night dinner.
Til next week….