Monthly Archives: July, 2015

The WellMASS Blog is Taking a Break

The WellMASS blog will be on hiatus until November.  Please feel free to check out our archive of Healthy Ingredients of the Week and other wellness-related posts!

Keep Your Produce Fresh with These Storage Guidelines

Summer is a great time to indulge in all of the delicious, nutritious produce the season has to offer.  However, it can be hard to convince yourself to choose fresh fruits or veggies over other options if all of the produce you have on hand is tasteless and soggy.  While produce does lose some of its nutritional value as it starts to ripen, it’s still possible to preserve nutrients – and taste – for days or weeks after you bring fruits and vegetables home from the grocery store, farmers’ market, or pick-your-own stand by following these simple guidelines:

Store These Fruits and Veggies in the Fridge
All cut fruits and veggies
Apples that you won’t consume within 7 days
Apricots
Berries
Cherries
Grapes
Asparagus
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Green beans
Leafy green vegetables (lettuce, spinach)
Mushrooms
Peas
Radishes
Summer squash
Sweet corn

Store These Fruits and Veggies on the Counter
Apples that you will consume within 7 day
Bananas
Citrus fruits
Mangos
Melons
Papayas
Pineapple
Pomegranates
Cucumbers
Peppers
Tomatoes

Store These Fruits and Veggies in a Cool, Dry Place
Eggplant
Garlic
Onions
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash

Ripen These Fruits and Veggies on the Counter, Then Refrigerate
Avocados
Kiwi
Nectarines
Peaches
Plums
Pears

In order to prolong shelf life, store fruits and vegetables separately, as many fruits emit a gas called ethylene that speeds up the ripening process, making any vegetables in the surrounding area spoil quicker.  Locally-sourced produce will also keep longer in your refrigerator or on your countertop, as it will likely have been picked closer to the date you purchased it, giving it less time to ripen in transit.

No matter which fruits or vegetables you choose to enjoy this summer, make sure to store them correctly to get the most out of their taste and nutritional value!

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Honeydew Melon

Honeydew melons, close relatives of cantaloupes and staples of fruit cups and platters, often get overshadowed by their other melon counterparts.  This is partially due to the fact that they’re served year-round, but only in-season during the summer months, when their flavor and sweetness are at their peak.  A fresh, ripe, in-season honeydew can rival even the sweetest, juiciest cantaloupe, and although the bright green honeydews may not be as popular as their orange-hued counterparts, they’re just as nutritious.  Honeydew is an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of potassium and several B vitamins.  Like other melons, it can be served in both sweet and savory dishes, or enjoyed on its own.

 

Chilled Minted Cucumber Honeydew Soup

 

Ingredients
1 English cucumber
2 cups honeydew pieces (from about ¼ medium melon)
8 ounces plain non-fat yogurt
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut cucumber into 1-inch pieces.
  2. In a bowl, combine cucumber and honeydew pieces, yogurt, mint leaves, and lime juice.
  3. In a blender, purée mixture in batches for 30 seconds, pouring mixture as puréed through a sieve into a bowl, and season soup with pepper, to taste. Chill soup, covered, at least 2 hours and up to 6.

Recipe from Gourmet magazine, July 1997 

So Long, Trans Fats

On June 16, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered food manufacturers to phase out artificial trans fats from their products by June 2018 by finalizing a ruling that removes trans fats from the list of food additives that are “generally regarded as safe.”  Trans fats, listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oils,” are vegetable oils that undergo a chemical alteration process to make them semi-solid at room temperature.  Food manufacturers like them because they’re a cheap way to prolong the shelf life of packaged foods; your body, on the other hand, isn’t so fond of trans fats, as they raise cholesterol levels more than any other type of fat you consume.  Due to mounting evidence about the negative health consequences associated with their consumption (unlike other types of fat, the government recommends you consume absolutely no trans fat – that’s 0.0 grams/day), manufacturers have slowly been phasing out trans fats from their products over the past few years.  Whereas partially hydrogenated oils were once found in large quantities in margarine, baked goods, and other packaged treats, they have now been replaced with other types of oils or appear in significantly lower amounts However, this doesn’t always mean that the reformulated product is healthier, as high-in-saturated-fat palm oil is often used as a substitute for partially hydrogenated oils, and trans fat, even when present in very small amounts, can still be detrimental to one’s health.

While the slow decline of trans fats was a small step in the right direction, the FDA’s ruling will all but ensure that the foods we eat will be completely free of these heart-unhealthy fats in a few short years.  Manufacturers have the right to ask for an exception to the ruling if they can prove that there is “reasonable certainty of no harm” from the trans fats used in their products, but it’s highly unlikely that many, if any, manufacturers will have their requests approved.  Until manufacturers are required to produce completely trans fat-free products, you will need to be proactive in phasing out trans fats on your own by reading ingredients lists carefully to make sure they don’t contain the words “partially hydrogenated oil.”  But three years from now, you won’t need to be a food detective when it comes to rooting out trans fats, as they – and the increased risk of high cholesterol and heart disease that comes with their consumption – will be ancient history.

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Dandelion Greens

While you may be cursing all the dandelions springing up in your yard, know that there is more to this common weed than meets the eye.  The leaves of dandelions, called dandelion greens and sold in many grocery stores (from where you’ll probably want to purchase them, as it’s not recommended to eat the leaves of the weeds that grow in your yard), are a great alternative to other leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale.  Dandelion greens are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and K and a good source of calcium and iron.  Although they can be bitter, blanching them or sautéing them alongside other strong flavors takes a lot of the edge off and makes for an interesting alternative to your run-of-the-mill greens.

Dandelion Greens with Double Garlic

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced garlic (5 or 6 cloves), plus
1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more to taste
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound dandelion greens with stems, well-washed and roughly chopped
½ cup low-sodium vegetable stock
Lemon wedges for serving

 

Instructions

  1. Put the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan with a lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sliced garlic, pepper flakes, and black pepper and cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the greens and stock. Cover and cook until the greens are wilted and just tender but still a little firm, about 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until the liquid has all but evaporated and the greens are quite tender, at least 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add red or black pepper as needed; add the minced garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with lemon wedges. 

Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman 

Have a Healthy Fourth of July with these Easy Cookout Swaps

Chances are, you’ll be hosting or attending a cookout this Fourth of July weekend.  While I’m all for enjoying your favorite summertime treats in moderation, I also think you can’t go wrong with making a few easy swaps to instantly make classic cookout fare a little bit healthier.  When planning your cookout (or scoping out the food table and planning what you’re going to put on your plate), try to employ at least one of the following strategies to boost the nutritional value of your meal:

  • Opt for grilled chicken, seafood, or Portobello mushroom caps instead of burgers and dogs. If you choose chicken or a mushroom cap, you’ll save at least 4g of saturated fat and between 35-150 calories (obviously, you’ll save the most by choosing the low-calorie Portobello).  You’re also likely to feel more satisfied by choosing one of these two options over a hamburger or hotdog.
  • Use whole grain buns for added fiber. The extra fiber in whole grain buns vs. white buns will make your meal seem more filling.
  • Avoid creamy condiments and salads. Anything containing mayonnaise or creamy sauces or dressings (whether they’re used on a burger or a potato, pasta, or green salad) is going to be high in empty calories.  Instead…
  • Choose lower-calorie condiments that give you the most bang for your buck. You can’t go wrong with including fresh vegetables on top of burgers or sandwiches, or almost anything else on your plate.  Mustard and ketchup (in low-sodium varieties if possible), salsa, and strong-flavored cheeses are also great ways to add a lot of flavor to your food without breaking the calorie bank.
  • Follow the MyPlate rule and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains. Fruits and veggies are great foods to have at a cookout, especially on a hot day, due to their high water content.  They’ll help keep you hydrated and fill you up thanks to their high fiber content.
  • Forgo unnecessary empty calories from beverages. The calories in soda, juice, lemonade, and alcohol can add up fast.  Smarter choices to help you stay hydrated include water, naturally-flavored seltzer, and unsweetened iced tea.  If you do choose to indulge in a higher-calorie beverage of the alcoholic or non-alcoholic variety, aim to alternate each one of these drinks with a glass of water.

As you can see, it’s certainly possible to enjoy all your favorite cookout foods while stealthily upping their nutritional value.  It’s easier than you think to make small changes toward improving your health, so why not give one or two of these swaps a try this holiday weekend?