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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Healthy Fall Produce

Now that the leaves are turning and summer crops are gone, purchase some healthy fall produce.   Some farmers’ markets are still open and if not, head to your local supermarket.  Here are some healthy choices for fall produce: (Adapted from:  9 Fall Produce Picks to Add to Your Plate)
  1. Pumpkins – not just for carving but for eating.   Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A, full of fiber, basically fat free, offers lots of potassium.  Make some pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins.  Pumpkin pie does have some added sugar but also offers a lot of healthy nutrients.
  2. Sweet Potatoes – so many people avoid potatoes because they think they are fattening.  It is the add-ons like sour cream, that add the calories.  Sweet potatoes are low in fat but loaded with nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.   When eating out, choose the baked sweet potato over the baked white potato for a nutrition boost.  Enjoy some mashed sweet potatoes, or cut some up, top with cinnamon and bake in the oven with chicken or ham.
  3. Kale – this leafy green is a nutrition powerhouse.  Many restaurants now offer Kale in their salads.  Panera bread has it in many of their salads including the Cobb salad, Romaine and Kale Caesar Salad and in the Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken.  Like sweet potatoes and pumpkin, kale provides vitamin A, potassium, fiber and also vitamin K, a good amount of vitamin C and the mineral, manganese.  Kale is very low in calories, 1 cup chopped has only 36 calories.   Besides using kale raw in salads, try it in soup.  My daughter like to stir fry it with olive oil and some garlic.      
  4.  Pears – a fall crop and oh so good this time of year.  A good thing about pears is that they don’t need to ripen on the tree, they can ripen on your kitchen counter at room temperature.  How do you know when a pear is ripe enough to enjoy?  Look at the stem, “if the fruit near the stem gives to a little pressure, it is ripe.  Enjoy fresh, cut up in salads, in a smoothies or with some cheese and crackers. 
  5. Cranberries – loaded with nutrients and healthy antioxidants but unfortunately often loaded with added sugar.  My husband makes cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries and cuts way back on the sugar but not the great taste.  Add dried cranberries to trail mix, salads, top your cooked oatmeal with some dried cranberries.  Ocean Spray now offers dried cranberries with 50% less sugar.  Look for this on the package label. 

Try this healthy Fruit, Cheese, and Walnut Salad this week, adapted from
o   1 apple, sliced with skin on
o   1 pear, sliced with skin on
o   2 T. blue cheese crumbles
o   1 T.  walnuts
o   1 T. dried cherries or dried cranberries
Combine in a bowl and enjoy.  Calories per serving:  300 calories, 5 grams of protein, 58 grams carbs, 9 grams fat, and a good 8 grams of fiber.

Reduced Sugar Cranberries

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mix some Trail Mix for A Hike

What fun to go hiking in the fall.   We just got back from hiking in the Shenandoah National Park.  Cooler weather, wonderful views, trees starting to turn colors and a great and fun way to exercise.   If you are hiking or going on a picnic this fall, bring some homemade trail mix.  If you make it yourself, or “make” it from bins in your local grocery store you can pick the options and the quality of the mix.  Sports Nutritionists and other recommend trail mix as a healthy way to refuel.  The fruit in trail mix offers many health benefits such as being good for your heart.  A 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found those who ate one-half cup of fruit a day lowered their risk of heart disease.  And for those who forgo nuts because nuts are high in fat, a lot of research shows a handful of nuts a day can help you maintain, not gain weight.  Other studies show that eating nuts can help you lose weight.  And the fat in nuts is a heart healthy fat.  So what are some healthy trail mix ideas?

Trail Mix -  a healthy blend of carbs (good carbs), protein and fat.  Marni Symbal R.D. says, “Trail mix has a balanced combination of fat, protein, and carbs for lasting energy.”  She recommends blending your trail mix using the following guidelines (1.)
  • 50 % unsalted nuts – choose a variety of nuts including peanuts, almonds, walnut and cashews.  Or choose hazelnuts or shelled pistachios.
  • 30% dried fruit – many Olympians rely on dried fruit to fuel up and refuel so why shouldn’t you?  Dried fruit has fructose, a natural sugar found in fruits.  Choose raisins, apricots, cranberries (look for low-sugar varieties), pears, cherries, dried banana chips
  • 15% seeds – seeds are often overlooked but a very healthy addition to trail mix, loaded with healthy antioxidants and many have anti-inflammatory compounds.  Choose pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • 5%  You choose – add some dark chocolate chips, whole grain cereal like Wheat Chex or Cheerios.    

Roasted Trail Mix:  Or, if your are more ambitious, make your own trail mix with a recipe that calls for some baking.  Food and Wine (2) has a healthy recipe that you can make ahead and keep for up to 4 days. 

  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4  cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw walnut halves
  • Sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (low sugar)
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup banana chips
 Mix the nuts with a pinch of salt.  Toast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes and turn halfway through cooking time.  Mix nuts and dried fruits.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days.  

Plan a hike, plan a picnic and pack some trail mix.  
Sources:  1.  Mix it Up, BHG, August 2016.  2.  Fruit and nut trail mix  3.  Fruit Consumption and Heart Disease  Image source:  Dried Fruits and Nuts

Dried Fruit and Nuts

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Healthier Choices When Eating Out (continued)

Eating out, what fun!   Last week we talked about how you can enjoy eating out with family and friends but making healthier choices when you do eat out.  As discussed, Consumer Reports has two excellent articles on how one can eat out and make choices that provide less total fat, fewer calories and less sodium.  You can read more about healthier menu options at Dining Out:  Where America Eats and How to Eat Healthier at Restaurant Chains.   This week we will look at menu options that are over the top in calories and fat and healthier choices at two popular restaurants.   A relative was recently eating out at Olive Garden with some friends.  Her friend ordered, The Tour of Italy, a dinner classic recipe.  This relative calls the Tour of Italy, “heart attack on a plate”.  Why?  Maybe because it has 1520 calories just for this entre and 860 of those are calories from fat.  So even before one orders and eats the bread sticks, the salad and a dessert, they are over on calories and eating a main dish that is 57% fat calories.  So what are some menu items to think twice about and some healthier options? 
Olive Garden has many dishes quite high in calories but they also offer a Lighter Fare menu with choices much lower in calories and fat.   Panera Bread is a favorite restaurant as they have many healthier options to choose from.  Great sandwiches, healthy salads and broth bowls.  But they also have some high caloric options.  I like the You Pick 2, a half sandwich and salad option.  They even have a You Pick 2 guide online to help you choose a pair of half sandwich and half salad that is 600 calories or less at: You Pick Two.      Skip the mayo on the sandwich and skip a lot of fat calories.

High Caloric Items at Olive Garden (also check out The 25 Most Caloric Items at Olive Garden

Menu Item
Total Calories
Fat Grams
Fat calories/% fat
Tour of Italy
Northern Tour of Italy
Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

Lighter Fare at Olive Garden
Shrimp Scampi
Herb-Grilled Salmon
Garlic Rosemary Chicken
Chicken Piccata

High Caloric Items at Panera Bread (also check out The Most Caloric Panera Bread Items)
Menu Item
Total Calories
Fat Grams
Fat calories/% fat
Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich
Chicken, Ham and Swiss Flatbread

Low-Fat Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup with Pesto
Cinnamon Roll
Pecan Roll

Lighter Fare at Panera Bread
Turkey breast on whole grain half sandwich
Smoked Ham and Swiss on Whole Grain, half sandwich
Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread, 1 Flatbread
Ancient Grain & Argula Salad with Chicken Half salad

Before you visit restaurants, check out the nutrition information online at Olive Garden   and   Panera Bread.     You can use the You Pick Two online to check out the total calories of the half sandwich, half salad options.  Look at the total calories of the menu item and how much fat it has in it.  If you choose a higher calorie appetizer, share it with others.  If you are choosing a higher calorie menu item, split it with someone who is eating a lower calorie menu option. 

 You Pick Two

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Healthier Choices When Eating Out

Who doesn’t like to go out to eat?  Fun, good food and so many places to choose from.  But, eating out can lead to lots of calories, sodium and too much fat in our diets.  How can one enjoy eating out without loading on the calories and fat?  Are there healthier menu options to choose from?  In their November 2016 issue, Consumer Reports has a great articles on Dining Out:  Where America Eats and How to Eat Healthier at Restaurant Chains.  They note how much money we spend on eating out, a lot.  On fast food, Americans spend $262 billion a year and on sit down table service restaurants, $206 billion.  The article focused on rating the restaurants but also contained great advice on healthier menu options at America’s most popular table-service restaurants. 

What should consumers do BEFORE they go out to eat?  Most restaurants have their menus published online and most provide detailed nutrition information.  Take a little time, choose what you like from the menu and then check out calories, amount of fat, and sodium in these choices.  Focus on ways to cut back on the calories and the fat.  It is very hard to reduce the sodium when eating out but at least by comparing some menu options you can at least reduce the amount of sodium in the meal. 
     The nutrition experts at Consumer Reports studied menus for 5 top restaurants and came up with some healthier options to choose. Their goal was to choose menu options with about a third of the day’s calories, fat and sodium.   
     Some suggestions they make:   
      1.        Choose “light” – many restaurants offer light options with less calories and fat.
a.       Cheesecake factory has a SkinnyLicious menu up to 40 options.
b.       Applebee’s – choose their Lighter Fare dishes
c.       Cracker Barrel – choose from their Wholesome Fixin’s menu options
d.       Olive Garden – choose Lighter Italian Fare meals
e.       IHOP – choose Simple & Fit
      2.  Don’t be Fooled
a.       Salads – may not be the “lighter” choice.  Loading a salad with creamy dressing can result in a salad having more calories than a hamburger.
The article’s example:  Applebee’s Oriental Grilled Chicken salad sounds low calorie but has 1,290 calories.  You are better off choosing the Classic Burger for 780 calories. 
b.       Eggplant Parmigiana at Olive Garden – you would think this would be a healthier dish than the Chicken Parmigiana but chose either as they have the same calories, a whopping 1,060 calories. 
c.       Omelets – forgo the Bacon Temptation Omelet at IHOP which has 1,080 calories.   The Garden Omelet sounds like a better option but it is also high providing 840 calories.          
      3.  Watch the sodium
a.       So many restaurant meals are super HIGH in sodium.  The recommended intake is 2300 mg a day.  Given how high restaurant meals are in sodium it is not surprising the average intake of sodium is 3,400 mg a day.  Sauces and dressings can have a lot of sodium.  When ordering a salad, request the dressing on the side.  Review the menus online to see which menu options have less sodium. 

Next week we’ll look at healthier menu items to order at popular table-service restaurants. 

Classic Burger