Tag: healthy food

Are you a Cereal Pro?

Cereal still remains one of the most popular breakfast (or snack) options across all age groups. In fact it is estimated that 50% of Americans eat cereal for breakfast daily.

After milk and carbonated beverages, breakfast cereal is the third most popular item sold in grocery stores. With hundreds of options to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming to select the right variety for your health goals.
Here are some helpful pointers to assist you the next time you hit the cereal aisle:
  1. Read the food label! The food label provides you with all the pertinent nutrient and ingredient information needed to determine whether a product is in fact healthy.
  2. Choose whole grain options. To know if a product is made with whole grains check the package for a) the words “100% whole grain” or b) the ingredient list to see if the first one listed is: whole wheat flour, stone wheat, durum wheat, or wheat flour. If you see “enriched white flour” the product is a refined (less healthy) grain.
  3. Go for the fiber. Select a cereal that provides 3 grams or more of fiber per serving.
  4. Be careful of the sugar. The cereal industry in the U.S. uses over 882 million pounds of sugar per year in its production! Aside from weight gain, added sugar contributes to many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. To check for grams of added sugar, look under “total sugar” on the food label. For example, the label will read 30 grams of total sugar, 20 grams of added sugar. That means 20/30 grams of sugar were added by the food company. Don’t be fooled by the bright packaging or your favorite cereal mascots. The sugar is everywhere!
Healthier cereal options provide important key nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins. However, like any food, it is very important to watch portion sizes. Typically, 1 serving of dry cereal = 1 cup.
Now you are ready to take on the cereal aisle like a pro! Which cereal do you like to eat?

Food Spotlight: Artichokes

Not only do artichokes make such beautiful centerpieces with their unique texture and flower-shape, but they also provide several health benefits.
History: Artichokes are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. They originate from the Mediterranean and Northern African regions and have been harvested since the 5th century BC. It takes 6 months for the buds to be ready to eat, however they can be harvested as many as 30 times a season, with their peak season being in both the Spring and Fall.
Nutrition Profile: Artichokes are high in fiber and are loaded with vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium. In fact, a medium artichoke contains almost 7 grams of fiber, which is a whopping 23-28% of the reference daily intake (RDI). They are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, which is particularly important with both corona virus and flu season upon us. Additionally, artichokes have been shown to: reduce both unhealthy (LDL) and total cholesterol, increase good (HDL) cholesterol, lower blood pressure for those with pre-existing elevated levels, and improve digestive issues such as bloating flatulence, and constipation.
How to Eat: Artichokes can be eaten both warm or cold. The heart, which is fully edible, is a culinary delicacy and is known for its smooth and nutlike flavor. The smaller heads, or buds, are usually the most tender and are typically served as a warm vegetable with a sauce or as a cold salad or appetizer. They can be steamed whole, cooked in a microwave, baked, roasted, grilled, or sautéed.
Additional Tips: Artichokes are typically served with butter, cream, or mayo-based sauces. Because these options are high in saturated fat, be mindful of portion sizes. For healthier options, prepare a sauce with: nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dijon mustard, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt or tahini with lemon, garlic, and salt.

Food Spotlight: Pears

With over 10 varieties to choose from in the U.S. and 3,000 varieties worldwide, pears are a perfect seasonal fruit for this time of year. Their crisp, soft texture and sweet taste make them versatile in many dishes.
History: The common pear is probably of European origin and has been cultivated since ancient times. The pear was introduced into the New World by Europeans as soon as the colonies were established.
Nutrition Profile: Pears are roughly 100 calories each and provide fiber, Vitamins C, K, potassium, copper and tons of antioxidants. One medium-sized pear provides 22% of your daily fiber needs. Pears contain a soluble fiber called pectin, which is a prebiotic that nourishes gut bacteria and improves gut health. Because they have a high water content, they also help keep stools soft while flush toxins from the digestive system. Pears, particularly the skin, contain a variety of polyphenols, which help fight against oxidative or cellular stress inside the body. Vitamins C, K, copper, and copper help reduce inflammation and protect against certain diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, assists with muscle contraction, and promotes kidney function.
Additional Tips: Since several health benefits are found in the skin, so be sure to include the skin in your eating and preparation methods.
Healthy Recipe Ideas: They can be eaten on their own, cut up onto a salad, made into a sauce, jam, or spread, baked into a dessert, mixed in with alcoholic drinks, topped onto a crostini, or roasted with vegetables. Popular cooking methods include roasting and poaching. They pair well with chicken, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, cheeses like Gouda and brie, and ingredients like lemon and chocolate.

Food Spotlight: Cranberries

Cranberries are often known for being made into sauces and juices, but in reality fresh cranberries are extremely tart and are nowhere close to the sugary levels you may be familiar with.  
 
History: Cranberries are one of the few fruits native to the swamps of northeastern North America. Native Americans used them as a staple beginning in the 1550s. By the 1620, the Pilgrims learned from the Native Americans how to use cranberries in their cooking. They are now one of the many symbols of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.  
 
Nutrition Profile: Cranberries are low in calories and are packed with fiber, Vitamin C, and tons of antioxidants. With both corona virus and flu season upon us, cranberries are great to incorporate into your diet to help support your immune system. If you are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs), 100% cranberry juice can help reduce your risk and serve as a natural way to reduce severity of symptoms. Additionally, cranberries have been shown to prevent stomach cancer and ulcers, reduce unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol, increase good (HDL) cholesterol, and promote heart health.   
 
Additional Tips: When drinking juice, only drink 100% Cranberry Juice and do not have >8 fl oz. All other cranberry juice products are simply cocktails, blends, or only contain 10% juice. The rest is plain old sugar! Cranberry products contain high amounts of oxalates, so for those prone to kidney stones, be mindful of portion sizes.
 
Healthy Recipe Ideas: Add sliced raw cranberries to a spinach salad. mix them with vanilla yogurt, use them to top sirloin steak, salmon, or chicken, and use them as a dessert topping for angel food cake with cool whip.

Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Coins

Cool off with a sweet treat that won’t break the calorie bank. Introducing: Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Coins.

Fruit is a much healthier alternative to ice cream, popsicles, and other high calorie, high sugar frozen desserts. Fruit provides natural sugar, helping to satisfy your sweet tooth, while also supplying many essential vitamins and minerals. Make it frozen fruit, and now you really have something to cool off with.
 
Bananas provide potassium and fiber while dark chocolate is an antioxidant and contains flavanols, which help reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow to the heart, prevent blood clots, and promote overall heart health. You can easily swap out the banana for strawberries or pineapple or prepare this recipe using a combination of all three fruits. This recipe is super easy to make and is one the entire family will enjoy both making and eating.
 
Moderation is key with sweet treats, even healthier alternatives. Be sure to enjoy these delicious frozen desserts in a small but satisfying amount. 1 serving size = 4 pieces.
 
Ingredients:
  • 2 ripe but firm bananas (peeled)
  • 2 cups of dark chocolate chips
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
Directions:
1. Slice the banana into 1 inch thick coins. Line a tray with non-stick parchment or wax paper and lay the slices evenly onto the tray. Place the tray in the freezer for about 1 hour until the bananas are frozen solid.
2. Place the dark chocolate chips and vegetable oil in either a small microwave safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Microwave for 30 second increments, stirring each time. Repeat this process until the chocolate is melted down and smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool (do not place in the refrigerator).
3. Take the bananas out of the freezer. Set each banana slice onto a fork and, using a spoon, drizzle the cooled dark chocolate onto each side. Ensure the chocolate is coated evenly on all sides. Let any excess chocolate drip off before setting the slice down on parchment or waxed paper. Immediately put the slices back in the freezer and freeze for an additional 30 minutes until the chocolate sets.
4. Enjoy some now or store in an airtight container. Slices can last up to a week.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 people
Ingredients:
1 Mason jar
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
2 cans of low-sodium garbanzo beans
15 cherry tomatoes (equivalent to 1 cup halved)
1 cup of peeled and chopped cucumber (skin can be left on if desired)
1/2 cup chopped or sliced red onion
1/2 package of mint leaves (chiffonade; equivalent to about 1/3 cup)
1 cup of cubed feta cheese (use low moisture, part skim if available)

Preparation:

  1. In a mason jar, combine ¾ cup olive oil with ¼ cup lemon juice. Add 2 garlic cloves, ¼ tsp pepper, and 1 tsp salt. Shake everything together and store it in the refrigerator until use.
  2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans under running water in a colander. Ensure there is no excess water and then place them in a bowl.
  3. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl.
  4. Peel and chop the cucumber and slice the red onion. Add both to the bowl.
  5. Chiffonade the mint leaves by stacking them on top of one another, rolling them up, then making small cuts with a knife. Add it to the bowl.
  6. Cut the feta cheese into large chunks and add it to the bowl.
  7. Add 1/3 cup of dressing and mix all of the ingredients together until evenly distributed.

Nutritional Benefits

  • This recipe contains ingredients from three different food groups (protein, vegetables, and dairy), making it a well-balanced meal
  • Each 1/2 cup serving provides 6 grams of plant-based protein, which is equivalent to the protein found in 1 oz. of meat. Plant-based protein is free of cholesterol and saturated (unhealthy) fat, making it a healthier alternative to animal protein sources
  • This recipe does not require any heating or cooking methods, making it suitable for all skills levels
  • Garbanzo beans are high in fiber (provide 6 grams/half cup), especially soluble fiber which can help: reduce blood sugar, lower cholesterol, increase satiety, and regulate your digestive system. They are also a good source of iron, folate, phosphorus and calcium
  • Cucumbers are low in calories and contain Vitamins K, A, and some antioxidants
  • Mint contains Vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight infection as well as promotes eye health. Mint is effective for relieving digestive problems such as upset stomach, indigestion, and nausea
  • Cherry tomatoes contain several antioxidants including: Vitamin C, lycopene and beta-carotene, which all protect against free radicals, reduce the risk of prostate, lung and stomach cancers, and promote eye health
  • Red onion is a great way to add flavor to a dish without adding calories, fat, or sodium. They are a good source of Vitamins C, B-6, and manganese, and small amounts of other nutrients and antioxidants

Tips

  • If you cannot find low sodium beans, you can always purchase the regular version. When you rinse and drain the can under cold water, you remove any excess sodium
  • Garbanzo beans can be swapped out for canned or cooked lentils
  • If you are vegan, omit the feta cheese
  • It is important to eat a variety of colored vegetables in order to get a variety of nutrients. You can easily swap out any of the vegetables used for others, just make sure that you have multiple colors represented. I recommend bell peppers in place of tomatoes 
  • Red onions contain a gas that causes eye irritation and tears when cutting. To reduce this, you can chill the onion for 30 minutes and then cup off its top, peel the outer layers and leave the root intact. If you don’t have time to wait 30 minutes, you can set up a desk fan across from your workstation
  • You can add whole-wheat pita, whole grain crackers, or a corn tortilla to the meal for extra fiber, whole grains, and representation of a 4th food group
  • You can add any herbs or spices to the dressing (i.e. thyme, rosemary, oregano) for added flavor

These recipes were developed and are owned by Melody Sayers, MS, RDN, NASM-CPT. They cannot be published or adapted without permission from the owner. Reposting or sharing must include an acknowledgement of the original recipe owner @elevateyourplate. Please contact elevateyourplatenutrition@gmail.com to be granted permission access for republishing or adaptation.