Friday, April 29, 2011

Foodie Friday: Raspberry Creamsicles

Photo credit:  Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

We are heading into May and the start of raspberry season.  Yum!  Plus, where I'm at, we're also already heading into higher temps, which also calls for foods that help you stay cool.  What better food to enjoy the season with than a creamsicle, right?  I make a variety of popsicle treats for my kids, and they always enjoy them.  I think it has a lot to do with the anticipation since we have to wait a while to enjoy them after making them.  This recipe is super simple and will definitely keep you cool.  If you can't tell from the photo of my daughter, my kids kind of like these...a lot!  I also like them because they're nutritious and they're not filled with all the stuff that you'd find in some commercial versions.  And who can forget the FUN factor?  Enjoy!

Raspberry Creamsicles      
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)*
1/2 cup low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt (I prefer to use low-fat.)
2 Tbsp skim or 1% milk
1 Tbsp honey

1.  Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.  
2.  Pour creamsicle mixture into popsicle molds.  Freeze until they are firm.  (I usually let it freeze overnight or prepare earlier in the day to enjoy by day's end.)  Once ready to enjoy, run the popsicle mold under a little warm running water to loosen from the mold.
*You can use other fruits, such as mango or strawberries, too.

Serves: 4
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  43   Carbohydrate:  8.8 g   Protein:  1.8   Fat:  0.3 g   Cholesterol:  1 mg   Fiber:  3 g   Sugar:  8 g        

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Naturally Detoxifying Foods

Photo credit:  A Askew (Flickr)

If you haven't been on one yourself, then you've probably had a family member or friend on one.  Otherwise, maybe you've at least seen ads for products, programs, or books for them.  They're detox diets.  They're hot. They're happening.  They're one of those things that I think will never die.  While I understand that the body is regularly exposed to a laundry list of toxins from the environment, food, and typical metabolic processes and it's important to protect the body against them, I'm not one to promote detox diets or cleanses.  They're not for everyone anyway.  However,  I find nothing wrong with including detoxifying foods in your regular diet to take advantage of their health-promoting benefits.  If you want a daily detox, include at least some of these detoxifying foods in your diet everyday.

Citrus fruits:  Grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and other citrus fruits are nutritious powerhouses!  Most of us know that they're chock full of vitamin C, which is known to fend off free radicals that can damage healthy body tissues and contribute to chronic diseases.  However, they are also packed with other vital nutrients and over 170 phytochemicals!  One of those phytochemicals includes limonin, which has been shown to participate in detoxification systems in the body.  Researchers are also investigating the role of such compounds in protecting the body against certain types of cancer.  Apparently, our bodies can access limonin as soon as we sip OJ or take a bite of a citrus fruit.  Amazingly, limonin also appears to stay in the bloodstream of some people for up to 24 hours during which time it can continue its possible cancer-fighting efforts.

Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, and more.  I'd almost consider these the jackpot of detoxifying foods since most are loaded with several detoxifying substances.  Not only are these high in vitamin C, but they are also rich in homocysteine-lowering folate.  Homocysteine is a naturally-occurring amino acid produced in the body and elevated levels have been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease.  Cruciferous veggies are also loaded with glucosinolates.  When broken down, glucosinolates produce other biologically active compounds that may play various roles in detoxification in the body.  In fact, because this is such a promising cancer-fighting compound, researchers are investigating glucosinolates more closely.

Dark leafy green vegetables:  Dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach, kale, turnip greens, and Romaine lettuce, offer another mother lode of detoxifying compounds.  Dark leafy green vegetables are another super source of folate and glucosinolates.  They also offer an excellent source of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin.  These two carotenoid pigments accumulate in the retina of the eye and absorb blue light. This protects our eyes from damage over time, preventing eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.

Green tea:  Green tea is brimming with polyphenols.  One of its polyphenols, EGCG, has shown excellent promise as a potent antioxidant that may also reduce the risk for certain types of cancer.  Recommendations usually suggest consuming 3 cups daily.  No worries if you're trying to limit your caffeine intake as decaffeination of this tea only reduces the polyphenol content slightly.

Berries:  Several berries, including blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are commonly referred to as super foods due to their high-ranking antioxidant capacity.  These super fruits serve up a good helping of vitamin C and colon-cleansing fiber.  They also contain generous amounts of flavanoids, especially anthocyanidins and quercetin, that act as powerful antioxidants scavenging the body for those abusive free radicals.  As if this isn't enough, berries are also high in ellagic acid, another known antioxidant.

Which of these your favorites?  Which would you like to add to your diet?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Foodie Friday: Roasted Beets with Sauteed Beet Greens

Photo credit:  Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

As you may know, I sort of like farmer's markets, and last week, I finally purchased and prepared my first batch of beets and beet greens.  I'd had beets before, but it was always the pickled kind on salads.  Not a fan!  However, every week at the farmer's markets, the gorgeous beets were always calling my name.  I finally took the plunge and decided to try preparing them myself.  The risk paid off because my entire family and I enjoyed them, and we will definitely continue enjoying them.  

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Beets contain betalains, pigments that give them their deep, red color and have known antioxidant activity.  Beets are also rich in folate and manganese and a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium.  The beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, K, C, and magnesium, and a good source of some B vitamins, potassium, iron, and calcium.  What's also great is that beets are a hearty root vegetable that are in season year-round, and simple preparations work really well with them.  If you're like me and you're new to beets, then I think you will definitely be pleasantly surprised with this recipe.  Enjoy!

Roasted Beets with Sauteed Beet Greens
Adapted from:

1 bunch of beets with greens
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Red wine or balsamic vinegar (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  
  2. Thoroughly wash the beets and greens.  Remove the stems and greens from the beets.  Remove and discard any woody stems from the beet greens.  Cut the greens into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. 
  3. Place the beets in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.  Cover and roast for 45-60 minutes or until the flesh can be pierced easily with a fork.  Remove from the oven.
  4. A few minutes before the beets are done roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and onion and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the beet greens and cook until the greens are tender, about 5-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Serve beets sliced with vinegar (optional) and sauteed beet greens.
Serves:  4
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  149   Carbohydrate:  13 g   Protein:  3 g   Fat:  11 g (7.5 g monounsaturated)  Cholesterol: 0 mg   Fiber:  4.5 g   Sugar:  7.5 g (natural)   Sodium:  244 mg
Excellent source of:  folate, vitamin A, and C
Good source of:  riboflavin, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and potassium  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Guest Blog: Vitamin D - What you need to know

This blog post was written by Marina Vigil, a California State University, Long Beach Dietetic Intern.  She is one of my former students with whom I had the pleasure of working with during her self-select rotation.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, Marina!

Photo credit:  pittaya (Flickr)

Vitamin D: What Do You Need To Know?
Vitamin D has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Why? Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that has long been known to be an important part of the body’s bone growth and maintenance by helping to maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorus. But now research suggests that Vitamin D may be involved in the treatment and/or prevention of many diseases including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and some cancers. Even though some of this research is inconclusive, it is still important to get adequate Vitamin D.

Where can I get my Vitamin D?

Unlike most other nutrients, your body can make all the Vitamin D that you need with the help of sunlight.  This is why Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin. On a clear, sunny day, most people only need to expose their hands, face and arms (without sunscreen) for 5 to 30 minutes a few times a week. However, due to the risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend getting your Vitamin D from light, either naturally from the sun or artificially from indoor tanning. If you do get your Vitamin D from light, be aware of the risk of sun damage.  Wear sunscreen outdoors and limit use of tanning beds to decrease your risk of sun damage.

The best way to get your Vitamin D is through a healthy diet. Not many foods are naturally rich sources of Vitamin D, but the good news is that it is still easy to get the recommended amounts of Vitamin D! Because it is so important, many foods, such as dairy products, juices, and cereals, are fortified with Vitamin D. Tofu and other soy products are also often fortified. In addition, eggs and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are natural sources of Vitamin D.   Try to include a variety of these foods to maintain an adequate amount of Vitamin D.

Who is at risk of deficiency?
Unfortunately, research shows that many people are not getting enough of this vital nutrient, even in areas with plenty of sun. With our busy lifestyles nowadays many people spend the sunniest part of the day inside and are missing out on Vitamin D production. The elderly are also at higher risk for deficiency because the body makes less Vitamin D with age. So, how do you know if you are deficient? The answer is you don’t unless you get tested. You should talk to your doctor about getting tested.  It’s important to know that your levels will be lower in the winter.

Can I have too much Vitamin D?
Now, some people say that you can never have too much of a good thing, but that is not always true. Although vitamin D is great for your health, too much vitamin D can have toxic effects. High levels of vitamin D can cause high levels of calcium known as hypercalcemia. But the good news is that you cannot get vitamin D toxicity from the sun. If you are in the sun too long, your body will stop making Vitamin D and will break it down instead to prevent toxic levels. Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by taking supplements.  For this reason, I would not recommend taking supplements unless you know you are deficient. Then, you and your doctor or dietitian can determine whether a supplement is right for you.

For more info on the Institute of Medicine's dietary reference intakes for vitamin D, click here.

Do you know your Vitamin D level? What Vitamin D rich foods do you enjoy? 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Foodie Friday: Turkey Apple Sausage Breakfast Sandwich

Today's Food Friday recipe is a treat from California State University-Long Beach dietetic intern, Marina Vigil, who worked with me during her self-select rotation.  Thank you for sharing the recipe with us, Marina!

Photo credit: Marina Vigil. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Last month I participated in a health fair and I was delighted to find that one of the booths was giving away free cookbooks, including one on soul food. I had never had the pleasure of trying Soul food, but I always look forward to trying something new. When most people think of soul food, they often think of fatty, fried foods, but these recipes highlight how to have healthy food that is still soulful. Many of the recipes looked appetizing and colorful. Everyone in my family found recipes that they wanted to try. I decided to start my venture into soul food with the Turkey Apple Sausage Breakfast sandwich. It includes some of my favorite ingredients, tomatoes and mushrooms! I also added some baby spinach to the recipe to give it a little extra color. Adding vegetables to a morning breakfast sandwich is a great way to start the day!  I loved the flavor that the herbs and the apple gave the turkey patty. I substituted some fresh herbs from my garden in this recipe. You can substitute fresh herbs for dry, too. Just remember that you typically need three times as much fresh herbs because dried herbs have a stronger flavor. Overall, it was a delicious start to my morning! I look forward to trying more recipes from this cookbook.

To try this and other Soulful recipes, visit this link.

Turkey Apple Sausage Breakfast Sandwich  
Makes 6 servings. 1 patty per serving.
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes

Turkey Apple Sausage
1 pound ground turkey
1 red delicious apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped and divided into 2 portions
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried sage
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon ground coriander
nonstick cooking spray
Breakfast Sandwich
2½ cups chopped mushrooms
1½ cups chopped onions
6 whole wheat English muffins
6 slices tomato
1 ½ cups baby spinach
1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, apple, one garlic clove, thyme, red pepper flakes, sage, ground black pepper, and coriander; mix well.
2. Form the turkey mixture into 8 patties (set aside 2 patties for the Dirty Rice and Blackeye Peas recipe on page 32).
3. Spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
4. Cook patties until they are cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Set aside.
5. Spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray and sauté the remaining garlic for 3 minutes
6. Add mushrooms and onions. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender and onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
7. Cut each English muffin in half. Place a Turkey Apple Sausage patty, 1⁄3 cup of mushroom-onion mixture, 4-5 leaves of baby spinach and a slice of tomato on 6 English muffin halves.
8. Cover each sandwich with the other English muffin half and enjoy!

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 256, Carbohydrate 35 g, Dietary Fiber 6 g, Protein 19 g, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 38 mg, Sodium 459 mg

What new foods have you tried recently?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Six Reasons to Love Farmer's Markets

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

I have a confession.  I'm a glutton for farmer's markets!  I'm really grateful that there are so many farmer's markets within a short distance of where I live so that I can get my fix on a regular basis.  My experience with farmer's markets goes all the way back to my childhood when my mom would take me to our small town farmer's market on weekends.  In grad school, my friends and I would head to a couple of local farmer's markets on the weekends.  As a traveler, I also love to check out the farmer's markets to get the best of the local fare.  While there are many reasons to love visiting farmer's markets, I thought I'd boil it down to my top five.

Enjoy fresh, seasonal produce that is harvested at the peak of freshness and taste.  There's really something great about food that hasn't traveled thousands of miles, been stored for long periods, or been treated to enhance the ripening process.  Not only is the produce fresher, but I can also honestly say that produce from the farmer's market is tastier and seems richer than that from the grocery store.

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Enhance your connection to your food.  I really enjoy the fact that I get to meet the actual farmers or the employees of the farm from which I'm purchasing my food.  When I get to talk to them face-to-face, I find out so much more about my food:  how it's grown, where it's grown, and who's growing it.  Two weekends ago I purchased strawberries from a farm that is about 5 miles from my home.  I've learned that while the farm is not "certified organic", their crops are still organically produced.  To top it off, the workers are just nice people!  Somehow those strawberries were just that much more enjoyable to me.

Learn insider tips on how to choose and prepare produce.  Farmers and vendors are experts on the food that they sell, so they can give you tips on how to select the best vegetable or fruit.  They also are very excited to share preparation tips with you,too.  I find it very hard to get that kind of service in many grocery stores.

Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Save money.  Not only do you get nutritious, delicious, and fresh produce, but you can also save money while you're at it.  Not everything is offered at a rock bottom price at the farmer's market, but you sure can get some great deals.  This weekend I purchased a 5 lb bag of oranges for $2.50 and a huge bag of lemons for $1!

Support the local community.  By supporting your local farmer's markets, you are supporting local farmers, which helps keep them in your community and maintains local food systems.

It is an experience.  I don't know about you, but when I shop at the grocery store, my goal is to get in, get my food, and get out most of the time.  However, when I go to a farmer's market, I actually like to take my time there.  I want to talk to the vendors, sample the food, and check out all of the offerings.  I enjoy sharing this experience with my family.  I love that the farmers and I can all teach my children about food.   I love that my daughter met the cattle rancher that raised the grass-fed beef that we've had for dinner and that she asks about him when we go to that farmer's market.  

Are you interested in finding a farmer's market near you?
If you're in California, you can search for certified farmer's markets in your area here.
If you're in another state, you can search for farmer's markets in your area here and here.

Do you visit farmer's markets?  What do you enjoy about it?     

Friday, April 8, 2011

Foodie Friday: Sunburst Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Last Fall, I gave a nutrition talk with a couple of colleagues to a mom's group.  We wanted to prepare a quick and easy dish that incorporated some of the nutritious foods that we were encouraging them to eat.  Enter the Sunburst Salad with Green Goddess Dressing.  Not only did the moms enjoy this dish, but I've also since made it for parties and the bowl is always left empty by party's end.  I've been sold on this salad in so many ways from the creamy avocado to the tangy oranges to the crunchy almonds and the delicious dressing.  I usually prepare this as a side or starter salad, but it also works great as an entree salad with grilled salmon as the original recipe suggests.  Try it, and let me know how you like it.  Enjoy!

Sunburst Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Adapted from:  Prevention 
Ingredients for the Dressing:
1/2 cup light mayonnaise or vegenaise
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for the Salad:
4 cups baby spinach 
1 can (10 oz) mandarin oranges, drained
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup slivered almonds

1.  Directions for the Dressing:  Combine the mayo, cilantro, and lime juice in a blender or small food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
2.  Directions for the Salad:  Combine the spinach, oranges, avocado slices, tomato halves, and almonds in a large bowl.  Gently toss together.  Divide into equal parts in four salad bowls.  Drizzle with dressing.  Serve.  

Serves:  4
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  236   Carbohydrate:  15 g   Protein:  4 g   Fat:  18 g   Cholesterol: 5 mg   Fiber:  5 g   Sugar:  7 g   Sodium:  330  mg
Excellent source of:  folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, and magnesium
Good source of:  thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc

Monday, April 4, 2011

Trendy Bytes: Chia Seeds

Photo credit:  little blue hen (Flickr)

A staple food in the diets of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, chia seeds are making a strong resurgence due to their favorable nutritional profile.  Just one tablespoon provides nearly 4 grams of fiber and 63 milligrams of calcium along with a variety of other valuable vitamins and minerals.  They're also an excellent botanical source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as manganese, an important component of an antioxidant enzyme in the body.  Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to enhance digestion and optimize the health benefits.  While many health claims, such as promoting weight loss or enhancement of athletic performance, have been made about chia seeds, don't expect any miracles yet. Most of the research on these little seeds is still preliminary and has mostly been conducted in animals.

The tiny black seeds have a nutty flavor and can be sprinkled whole or ground into yogurt, smoothies, cereal, and salads.  One cool thing about chia seeds is that they form a gel when soaked in water making them a fun addition to beverages, like the chia fresca.  Because of their stability, they have also been added to baked goods and commercially-prepared foods, like energy bars.  In fact, they can even be used to replace eggs and oil in recipes for baked goods!

You may be wondering if chia seeds can also be used to sprout your very own chia pet, right?  Well apparently...Yes, you can!

Chia seeds into chia pets! Photo Credit: Richie Diesterheft (Flickr)

Have you tried chia seeds?  If so, how do you enjoy using them? 
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