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Monday, August 5, 2019

Beyond the water bottle: the hydrating power of produce

orange tomatoes


We hear a lot about staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  But did you know that about 1/5 of our daily water intake comes from solid food? Fruits and veggies are the main contributors of this food hydration and that is just another reason to bring on the produce.

close-up photo of vegetable salad
  •         Cucumbers are 96.7% water and top the charts when it comes to staying hydrated without drinking.  
  •        Iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes and tomatoes all have close to 95% water. So that summer salad doesn’t just add great vitamins, it helps keep your hydration up.  
  •        Green peppers, cauliflower, watermelon, spinach, strawberries, broccoli, baby carrots and grapefruit all contain more than 90% water. So pretty much any fruit or veggie you choose adds to your water intake.  

sliced vegetable and fruits on board

Here are 4 tips to help incorporate that hydrating produce throughout your day:


1.    Half your plate.  Make half of your plate plants – even if you have no plate.  Making the habit that every time you eat, a plant goes in your mouth not only keeps your fiber, vitamins and minerals high, but keep your hydration up.  

2.    Start at breakfast.  Starting early in the day makes it easier to maintain the fruit and veggie momentum. Whether you’re putting avocado on your toast (avocados are 70% water), mixing in more veggies or salsa in your eggs, or simply grabbing a banana (75% water) to go with that granola bar, start adding more produce in at breakfast to help keep your plant intake on track. 

3.    Keep veggies handy and visible.  Best intentions sometimes go south in the produce drawer, or bottom of the fridge when it comes to eating more fruits and veggies.  If you plan in 15 minutes of produce prep when you get home from the store, you can get that pineapple washed, cut and divided into containers to grab for a delicious snack any time.  Even simply putting together some handy bags, or reusable containers of a few veggies that you can grab for your lunch or have handy to toss together that night’s stir fry or side salad mean that the hydration power of that produce improves your health instead of liquifying in the bottom of the fridge a week later.  

4.    Shop farmer’s markets, shop local and in season.  That along is more motivating to enjoy hydrating produce than simply buying a hard tomato that tastes like cardboard.  

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So, for those of you that struggle with drinking water, consider upping your hydration and your nutrition with more produce on your plate.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Keep Cool With Less Sugar This Summer



Keep good water habits in place.  Whether it is downing a certain number of water bottles during the day or keeping a pitcher in the fridge with some water and citrus slices, do what it takes to keep your hydration habits in place with lots of water. That way there is less room for other sweetened beverages.  

Be picky & cheap. All sorts of beverages from slushies to frozen lemonades to sodas may sound very tempting, but the reality is that there is plenty of mediocrity out there – especially in the drinkable sugar category.  It can also be a real drain on your wallet as well.  So be very particular in the what and when of summer drink purchases and let your frugal side shine through a bit.  Saving money can also save you from added sugar.  



Stick it. If popsicles, creamsicles or other frozen treats are constantly calling your name during the heat of summer, take a few minutes and freeze your own.  You can freeze your favorite smoothie recipe in individual popsicles, or you can stab your own fruit with a stick and freeze it.  Have a few leftovers from a fruit plate? Skewer them up and toss them in the freezer.  Then you can eat them as a popsicle or put it in a glass of ice or sparkling water as healthy ice cubes.  My favorite is choco-piña – a frozen spear of pineapple that is dipped in a thin layer of chocolate* and frozen. Bananas work really well frozen and dipped. Best summer dessert ever.
* I add a little bit of coconut oil to the melted chocolate for a better frozen texture.

Stock your freezer with sale produce.  Nothing quite says relaxing-spa-day quite like frozen grapes but consider stocking up on other seasonal produce and tossing it in the freezer.  Blueberries make great, bite-sized frozen treats and have a great frozen texture.  The key is to tailor your smoothies, frozen fruits, and flavored water to the tastes of you and your family.  Then they’ll be a lot more likely to be on board to head home for a choco-piña instead of hitting the drive-thru on a hot summer day.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cook, Cover, Chill or Chuck: Food Safety Outdoors

As the temperature increases, so does our tendency to eat outdoors.  Not surprisingly, the prevalence of food borne illness also increases this time of year.  The good news is that healthy picnicking is completely within your control, and some of the most healthful foods are also the safest.  So here are a few tips to safely and happily eat outdoors.  

Cook with care.  When it comes to grilling, or barbequing, make sure you keep raw and cooked foods separate.  Separate areas, trays, tools and even coolers are the safest way to prevent cross contamination.  Then make sure you cook food sufficiently.  Take a thermometer with you.  If you don’t want to try and remember different numbers for different foods, stick with this one to be safe: 165.  If you don’t have a thermometer – make sure juices from meat run clear.  

Cover food outdoors. We sometimes overlook this food safety tip, but there are a lot more pathogens outdoors – blowing dirt and dust around a campsite, bugs or other pests that land on or get into the food. So, keep the food covered when possible to reduce the amount of bacteria and pathogens that can be introduced to your food and then ingested.  

Chill.  Make sure that cold foods stay cold – keep a cooler, with ice to transport cold or raw foods and then to chill it afterwards.  You will want to keep food out for no longer than 2 hours, so set a time on your phone if you need to, but get that food put away and chilling, so that it doesn’t stay in the danger zone of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than a total of 4 hours.  You can keep hot food hot by using a separate “cooler” and wrapping hot bricks or stones in a kitchen towel.  

Chuck it.  When in doubt, throw it out.  It is always better to throw out suspicious food than to be throwing it up later.  So, if you can’t get your chicken kebabs cooked all the way through, or you can’t cool that potato salad down quickly, chuck it. Better yet, plan a menu with items that don’t run a high risk of food borne illness and then you don’t have to worry about getting ill or wasting it.  

Fruits, veggies and oil-and-vinegar based dressings are safer foods to eat outdoors and don’t run the risk that protein-rich, meats, dairy and creamy dressings do.  Plus, we don’t get enough fruits and veggies in our daily diets, so this is a great opportunity to play it safe and healthier as well.  



Gazpacho-on-the-go
Serves 4
Mix together:
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp. sugar (optional)
1 tsp. dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce
4 cups vegetable juice
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped cucumber
¼ cup chopped red or sweet onion
½ cup chopped bell pepper
1 ripe avocado peeled and diced
¼ chopped cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chill or serve at room-temperature.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Road Trip: Skip the Garbage-Gut

country map on brown wooden surfaceSpring marks the beginning of road-trip season and whether you are day tripping nearby, or crossing state lines, staying healthy makes a world of difference in how much you will enjoy your trip.  Eating out and hitting drive-thrus can get really old, real fast leaving you with a feeling of “garbage gut” after being in a car all day. Here are some tips to ensure a healthy trip:

1.   Eat out no more than once per day.  Generally, dinner is a good chance to stop somewhere for a meal in a restaurant but eating breakfast and lunch “from scratch” saves money, time and can provide better nutrition.  Consider grabbing toast and some fruit at your hotel before you hit the road, then plan to picnic for lunch - which by the way makes for much more scenic and memorable meals.
2.   Plan for your “car meals”.  The key things to include will be produce, whole grains (3 grams of fiber per serving or more) and protein. The first two are a bit easier to store, but good protein sources that don’t require refrigeration gets a bit trickier.  You may not always have the ability to maintain a chilled cooler, so consider bringing along some shelf stable protein.  
3.   Snack smart.  Instead of packing the car with bags of chips, consider nuts, jerky, or even popped wheat berries.  Dry cereal and dried fruit make great road trip snacks that don’t leave you feeling “blah” after hours sitting in the car.  Involve the whole family in planning their favorite snacks and let them customize their own cereal, fruit or seed snack bags increases the likelihood they’ll be more content, car snackers.  
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4.   Stay well hydrated.  Pack plenty of water and remind yourself to drink even if you’re not staying thirsty.  We tend to mistake thirst for hunger – and even more so when we are bored and cooped up in the car.  So, drink before you snack and keep the snacks proportioned in small, reasonable amounts to avoid mindless munching and garbage-gut.  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Going Green

When it comes to nutrition, there are 2 categories of “going green”.
1.   Literally, eating green veggies from the leafy variety to broccoli and brussel sprouts: when it comes to nutrient density, leafy greens set a pretty high standard with loads of vitamins A, C and K, potassium and fiber in only 5 to 40 calorie servings. Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, collards and cabbages, broccoli and brussel sprouts contain all sorts of phytochemicals that help reduce the risk of certain cancers and other diseases.

2.   Going green when it comes to eating is very relevant in the environmental sense. Try these simple tips: 
·      Cook more. Preparing and eating food at home reduces wasted energy and resources. 
·      Add in a vegetarian day or meal into your routine. More plants in our diets means a healthier body and planet.
·      A large proportion of food waste occurs in the home- moldy, liquid produce, stale, expired food. The answer? Meal planning and shopping your fridge, freezer and pantry before grocery shopping. 
·      Reducing food waste eating out - order responsibly - ask for 1/2 or partial portions, share entrees. 
·      With convenience foods, skip the extra bits - straws, lids, and plastic cutlery that you don’t need - don’t take it. 
·      Go reusable when possible - from water bottles to snack and lunch containers. 
·      Start now to plan a garden in a pot, on a window sill, a garden box or planting bed. 

Green is the color of health – and what is healthy for our bodies can also be healthy for our environment.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Skip the Sweets: Non-sweet Valentines for you Sweetheart

With more than 1.7 billion spent on candy for Valentine’s day, and an average $140 spent per person on Valentine’s day, there might be more creative ways to show your sweetheart you care than by fueling their sweet tooth. February, as we know, is heart health month and so I’ve found some fun food-related gift ideas that will show them you love them and that you want them to stay healthy for years to come.  
 shallow focus photography of steak on wooden tray

Consider taking a cooking class together, or even just cooking a romantic dinner either together or to surprise your sweetheart.  I’ve brought some traditional Valentine’s day entrée’s today that are simple, delicious and provide a bit of “wow” factor.  Tuscan Steaks and Mediterranean Grilled Shrimp make great stand alone entrees, or pair up nicely as a romantic surf-n-turf menu.  I like using corn oil because it is full of cholesterol-blocking plant sterols. And in recipes that involve outdoor or indoor pan frying or grilling, the high smoke point makes it an idea choice for recipes such as these.  So, consider either cooking for or alongside your sweetheart for Valentine’s day (and save yourself the stress of braving the crowds).



Another gift idea for the food lover in your life is an edible flower fruit or veggie arrangement. Produce is naturally beautiful and so it is fairly simple to put one of these arrangements together.  Youtube is rife with instructional videos on how to do this.  It is as simple as using a flower-shaped cookie cutter to cut flower shapes from slices of melon and putting them on skewers, or using a paring knife to turn a carrot into a tulip with a few zig-zag cuts.  And making it yourself doesn't just save you money, but earns you bonus points for effort with your sweetheart.
top view photo of green leafed plants in pots
Another option would be a gift that keeps on giving flavor as it grows.  Fresh herbs aren’t just delicious and encourage more creativity in the kitchen, but they have lots of protective health benefits.  Not only do they contain antioxidant vitamins such as A and C, but they contain polyphenols that can help protect against heart disease, Alzheimers, and cancer.  They also have antimicrobial qualities to help protect against harmful bacteria. So consider a counter-top herb garden for your honey.

Thinking a bit more creatively outside the candy box will not just show your sweetheart how much you care about them, but create healthful habits and memories that will last much longer than any simple sugar will.  

Monday, January 28, 2019

Superb Super Bowl Spread Hacks

Here’s a glimpse at what Americans consume on Super Bowl Sunday: 
1.3 billion chicken wings
30 million slices of pizza
325 gallons of beer
Over 9,000 tons of chips
 pepperoni pizza
Noshing is a very big deal for most people on the day of and weekend leading up to the Super Bowl. Not only can that add up to a big calorie load, but a big work load for those hosting. So here are a few tips and things to try to simplify and improve the nutrition of your Super Bowl spread.  
 Japanese Green Beans
I’m always preaching produce, but this time of year can make feeding fresh produce to the crowd at your home a bit pricey.  Think about incorporating some canned produce into your appetizers, sides or other buffet items.  There is a lot of nutrition to be found in canned foods and the convenience and affordability make these tasty options a great way to up the nutrition at your super bowl buffet.  For example, try Kitchen Sink Nachos.

Next, crunchy snackable foods are a must for any game-day spread so consider offering a fun, tasty chip alternative and things can get more complicated when family and friends have all sorts of dietary needs and preferences. Snacks made from chickpeas are a healthful alternative to traditional munchies.
 sandwich with lettuce and cheese served on chopping board
Don’t forget the main dish. For easy prep time that allows everyone to customize to their own preferences, sandwiches and sliders are a great go-to, and a deli tray can cut down your work load significantly.  So let’s revisit any prejudices on processed meats.  Prepare yourself for the permission to enjoy them again! “Processed” simply means “prepared.”  Like all meats prepared at home, processed meats are prepared at a plant – simply on a larger scale and truly all meats must be prepared before being eaten. Prepared, low-sodium deli meats like this beef provide a provide a convenient source of protein, vitamins and minerals. They also have highly bioavailable iron and zinc.
 clear drinking glass filled with water
It’s all about visual balance and moderation.  Keep lots of water handy and visual.  Make sure that those fruit and veggie dishes are visible and handy as that is most of the battle when it comes to food choice. Just a few convenient tweaks can help lighten your load and prevent post-game food coma.  #sponsored