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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 entrĂ©e’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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Get to Know the New Nutrition Facts Label

Grocery Market
You may or may not have noticed a change creeping onto your supermarket shelves.  During the past 2 years different looking nutrition labels have been showing up in your grocery store.  It has been 20 years since the nutrition labels on food products has been redesigned, so this is a very welcome change.  Most food producers have until January 1, 2020 to completely switch over to the new label, and smaller food producers have until January 1, 2021 to make the change.  

What is new and why do we care?  The changes better reflect current science and research regarding the American diet as well as current diet habits.  For example, you’ll not see Vitamin C and Vitamin A listed, but instead you’ll see Potassium and Vitamin D.  This is because research indicates that these nutrients are more commonly lacking in the American diet.  

Things that will jump out at you will be serving size and calories.  These are now in larger bolder fonts to make them easier to identify at a glance.  Serving sizes will reflect in many cases portions typically consumed.  For example, 20 oz. beverages will now be listed as one serving per container instead of two.   

One of my favorite changes is the addition of added sugars along with a percent daily value.  On the old label, total sugars didn’t tell the whole story.  For example, a cereal such as raisin bran may strike you as a very sugary cereal if you saw only the 10 grams of total sugars.  But with the new label, you’ll see that there are only 5 grams of added sugars.  The rest of the sugars are naturally occurring in the raisins.  The same goes for dairy foods that contain the naturally occurring sugar - lactase.  

One quick tip for using %DV: 5 is low, 20 is high. Keeping that in mind, you can easily make a comparison or judgement call on a food by comparing the %DV of nutrients that are of particular interest.  It makes choosing a lower sugar, higher fiber cereal easier, it makes choosing a lower sodium soup or canned product a bit simpler. 

So while you're waiting in line at the checkout, take a minute to get acquainted with the new Nutrition Facts Label and put this simple but efffective tool to work for you.