Monthly Archives: June, 2014

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Raspberries

Raspberries pack a lot of nutrition into a small package. They’re higher in fiber than almost any other fruit (one cup contains 8 grams, or 32% of the Recommended Daily Allowance), and are an excellent source of Vitamin C and manganese and a good source of Vitamin K. The one downside of raspberries is that they grow mold quickly and only last for a day or two once you take them home from the store. With recipes like this one, however, you shouldn’t have trouble making good use of your raspberries soon after you buy them.

Quinoa Pilaf with Raspberries

1 ½ cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
¾ cup quinoa
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
½ cup dried currants (or raisins)
1, 6-ounce package (or 1 ⅓ cups) raspberries

1. In a medium saucepan, combine broth, quinoa and pepper. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
3. Fold parsley, walnuts, currants and raspberries gently into hot quinoa.
4. Let stand covered 5 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

 Recipe adapted from Driscoll’s



Follow these Four Easy Steps for a Safe Cookout

Cookout season is here, and while one of your main goals for this time of year should be having fun, you should also make sure that any cookouts you host or attend are safe. Unfortunately, due to the fact that they take place outside, often in hot temperatures, cookouts are prime events for contracting foodborne illnesses. However, preventing the spread of foodborne illness at your next cookout should be easy, thanks to these four simple steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. Clean – wash hands and surfaces often
  • Scrub grills with hot, soapy water before use
  • Wash hands before, during, and after food prep
  • Keep hand sanitizer or moist towelettes on hand in case water is not readily available
  1. Separate – don’t cross-contaminate
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and grilling utensils for raw meat
  • Clean all utensils immediately after using them on raw meat
  • Never use the same brush to baste raw and cooked meat
  • Boil any leftover marinade before using it on cooked meat
  1. Cook – ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature
  • Use a meat thermometer
    –  Checking the color of meat or juices is not effective
  • Ensure proper internal temperatures
    –  Steak: 145°F (let rest 3 minutes before carving/consuming)
    –  Fish: 145°F
    –  Hamburgers: 160°F
    –  Chicken: 165°F
  1. Chill – refrigerate food promptly
  • Thaw frozen foods in the fridge or microwave, not on the countertop or grill
  • Marinate meat in the fridge
  • Put all dishes in the fridge after 2 hours
    –  When temps are >90°F, don’t leave anything out more for than one hour
  • Trash leftover grilled foods after 3-4 days
  • Reheat all grilled foods to an internal temp of 165°F

Don’t let foodborne illness spoil your next cookout. Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to load up your plate with fruits and veggies!

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Salmon

Salmon, like other oily fish such as tuna and sardines, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve circulation and brain health, lower cholesterol, and reduce stress levels. Since your body is unable to produce omega-3s on its own, you need to get these essential fatty acids from food sources, and salmon is a great one. Since salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, it also tends to be a little bit higher in calories than other types of fish. This shouldn’t be a concern, as I consider the calories and fat in salmon the “good” kind. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein and Vitamins B6 and B12, which help your body convert food into energy. Including salmon in your lunch or dinner will leave you feeling full and energetic – and help keep you healthy –long after the meal is over.

Horseradish Salmon

1 English (seedless) cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cups panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoon prepared horseradish, drained
4 skinless, boneless salmon fillets (5-6 ounces each)
6 ounces baby spinach

1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Line large cookie sheet with foil.
2. In large bowl, toss cucumber, vinegar, 1 tablespoon dill, 1 tablespoon oil, and ⅛teaspoon each salt and pepper.
3. In small bowl, combine panko, horseradish, and remaining dill and oil.
4. Sprinkle salmon with ⅛ teaspoon each salt and pepper; place on cookie sheet, smooth side up.  Press panko mixture evenly on top of fillets.
5. Bake salmon 8 minutes or until golden brown on top and opaque throughout.
6. Toss spinach with cucumber mixture in bowl; serve with salmon. 

Recipe from Good Housekeeping

Managing Stress With Food – The Healthy Way

When we’re under stress, our brain tells us that we “need” three things: sugar, salt, and fat. It goes without saying that it’s probably not a good idea to give into stress-related cravings by pigging out on packaged foods that are high in one or more of these (and therefore, probably high in calories). Emotional eating is a big component of stress-related weight gain, but eating foods high in sugar, salt, or fat seems inevitable during stressful times – most of us can think of no better way to feel better and silence our cravings than by turning to less-than-healthy comfort foods.

While emotional eating can’t always be controlled as well as we’d like it to be, there are ways to lessen its impact on our waistlines and improve stress levels at the same time. Certain foods have been shown to actually help reduce stress, and shut off stress-related cravings. These foods work in one (or more) of four different ways to help reduce stress. Additionally, they all contain other health benefits, and are probably already in your house or part of your regular diet.

1. Foods that boost serotonin levels, to help relax you: Serotonin, a feel-food hormone that helps improve your mood while relaxing you at the same time, is produced from the amino acid tryptophan. Some of these stress-relieving foods contain tryptophan, and others help increase your body’s absorption of it.

  • Low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt)
  • Old-fashioned oatmeal
  • Whole grain bread, pasta, cereal
  • Spinach, other green, leafy veggies

2. Foods that trigger the production of melatonin, which help you sleep: Not getting your recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can leave you stressed, and prone to emotional eating. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, reach for foods that help your body produce melatonin, a natural sleep aid.

  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds

3. Foods that reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels: Cortisol and adrenaline are known as “stress hormones,” meaning they are produced by the body in high quantities during times of overwhelming stress. They’re partially responsible for such negative stress-related consequences as a slow metabolism and high blood pressure. Certain foods that contain antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds actually help decrease the levels of these hormones in your bloodstream.

  • Oranges
  • Spinach, other green, leafy veggies
  • Salmon, other fatty fish
  • Black tea

4. Foods that keep blood sugar levels stable: A rapid rise or fall in blood sugar levels is almost guaranteed to make you more cranky, tired, and hungry throughout the day. Instead of reaching for the refined carbs you may be craving, try foods that are slower to digest and will keep your blood sugar stable in between meals.

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain bread, pasta, cereal
  • Nuts

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes always remind me of summer, and they’re really the perfect food for this time of year. They’re light, refreshing, and contain over 90% water, so they’ll help keep you hydrated on hot summer days. Although their light coloring doesn’t easily give it away, cantaloupes are actually packed with nutrition. They’re excellent sources of Vitamins A and C and good sources of potassium and fiber, and they’re lower in sugar than many other fruits. In order to find the juiciest, tastiest cantaloupe at the store, follow your nose – cantaloupes are at their peak when they give off a sweet-smelling odor.

Cantaloupe Cooler

1 ripe cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch cubes\
2 ½ cups 100% orange juice
Crushed ice

1. In blender or food processor, puree cantaloupes and ½ cup orange juice until smooth.
2. Pour puree into a pitcher and add remaining orange juice.
3. Pour into glasses filled with crushed ice. Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from Fruits and Veggies – More Matters  

Cantaloupe Salad

2 cups diced cantaloupe
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 handful mint leaves, chopped, plus sprigs, for garnish
8 ounces diced prosciutto (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon granulated sugar

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large serving bowl and garnish with mint sprigs.

 Recipe from Food Network

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D has a very important job – it helps keep our bones strong by enhancing absorption of the minerals calcium and phosphorus. While it’s essential that we consume enough Vitamin D through food and supplements (the Institute of Medicine currently recommends 600 International Units (IU) a day for everyone under age 70, and 800 IU for adults over 70) to reduce our risk of bone pain and fractures, the sad truth is that most adults fall far short of these recommendations.

The bad news, if you want to call it that, is that a few of the reasons for low Vitamin D intake are beyond your control. First off, Vitamin D is not found naturally in very many foods. Even if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, there’s a good chance that it does not include high levels of naturally-occurring Vitamin D, since most people don’t consume the main food sources of the vitamin – yeast, fatty fish, and mushrooms – in large quantities or on a daily basis. Second, due strictly to the fact that you live in New England, you’re exposed to less-than-optimal levels of the best source of Vitamin D there is – the sun. Living in a northern latitude means less sun exposure throughout the year, especially in the winter. In addition, the sun’s rays are not as strong as they are in states down South, closer to the Equator. Since your body produces Vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight, the fact that you live in a place without a lot of high-quality sun, comparatively speaking, means that you’re at a disadvantage when it comes to naturally producing the vitamin. Studies have shown that for this reason, many New Englanders suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, especially during the winter months.

The news here isn’t all bad, however. There are ways you can beat the odds and increase your intake and absorption of Vitamin D. The first place to start is with your diet: Include as many naturally-occurring food sources of Vitamin D as you can, and supplement those with foods that have been fortified with the vitamin, like low-fat milk and orange juice. Next, aim to get as much sun exposure as is safe and possible (this shouldn’t be too hard with the nice weather we’ve been having lately). Experts recommend between 5-30 minutes of sun exposure to your face and arms at least twice a week for optimal Vitamin D production. Although I wouldn’t normally recommend you skip the sunscreen when playing outside, sunscreen actually blocks production of Vitamin D, so you want to try and avoid wearing it for a least a few minutes of sun-exposure time. Finally, if you’ve tried the above strategies and you believe your Vitamin D levels are still low, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D supplements can be effective in preventing deficiency, but can be harmful if taken in very high doses, so make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any supplementation regimen.

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Chocolate!

This post has been a long time coming – while chocolate has been included in several Healthy Ingredient of the Week recipes, it has never been the star of the show. Chocolate can certainly be a part of a healthy, balanced diet, as the cocoa beans from which it is made are high in flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that can help protect our bodies against free radical damage. Flavanols, the specific type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate, have also been shown in research studies to improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation.

Not all chocolate is created equal, however; the more that chocolate has been processed, the fewer flavanols it contains. So, unsweetened cocoa powder is “healthier” than a chocolate bar. Although chocolate bars still contain flavanols, they can be full of less healthier ingredients like sugar. When choosing chocolate, aim for the high-quality dark kind (the greater the percentage of cocoa, or cacao, it contains, the better), as it’s likely to have gone through less processing than a cheap bar of milk chocolate. The recipes below call for chocolate in one of its least-processed forms, cocoa powder, which is a great pantry staple to have on hand for any time you’d like to add some antioxidant (and chocolate) power to sweet – or savory – dishes.

Chocolate Mole Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle pepper with 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can (or more to taste), chopped
1 cup raisins
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons smooth, natural peanut butter
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Place a pot over medium heat and coat with the oil. Add the onion and garlic, stirring to soften for 5 minutes.
2. Add the chipotle with adobo, raisins, and tomatoes, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Add the peanut butter, stock, chili powder, and cinnamon. Puree the mixture until smooth. Season with pepper, to taste.
4. Return the mixture to the pot over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Serve over your shredded chicken and tortillas or your favorite enchilada recipe.

Recipe adapted from Food Network 

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup 1% milk or non-dairy milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups shredded zucchini, patted dry
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9” x 5” loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil, agave, and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients.
4. Fold in chocolate chips and zucchini.
5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.
6. Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing and cooling on rack. Makes 10 slices.

Recipe adapted from Whole Foods Market Magazine, North Atlantic Region, Spring 2013.