Every so often there seems to be a new “super food” that is all the rage. For a while it was kale (one of my personal favorites) and recently it’s been quinoa. With all this “super food” talk, I decided to create my own super food list. My criteria? The foods had to be packed with nutrition, versatile in recipes and, most of all, taste good! In no order, here are my “super foods:”
This category covers a group of veggies that include some of my personal favorites including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. Most of these veggies are good sources of fiber, Vitamin C, while being low in calories and fat-free. They are also very easily worked into recipes (think adding them to a stir fry or using them in a casserole). Broccoli and cauliflower are also great for snacking raw with a low-fat dip.
Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines and the Ugli fruit are included in this group. Citrus fruit is another good source of dietary fiber and is high in Vitamin C. These fruits can be enjoyed as a snack, thrown in a fruit salad, in a green salad or added to a recipe for a sweet and savory flavor. Squeeze the fruit to make fresh juice and use lemon and lime juice in your recipes in place of salt for flavor.
Green, Leafy Vegetables
This category includes spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, watercress, arugula and lettuces among others. These veggies are a nutrition powerhouse. They are packed with fiber, a good source of Vitamins A and C and they provide calcium–something that not many other fruit and veggies do. Like most other fruit and veggies, they are low in calories, low in sodium and fat-free. Enjoy these greens shredded in a salad, sautéed with some olive oil and garlic or added to your favorite soup or casserole.
Come the summer months, fresh berries are plentiful in my house. These include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. All berries are good sources of fiber and Vitamin C. They are a great addition to your morning cereal or oatmeal and perfect for snacking. Try adding them to a salad for a different twist.
While beans are not a fruit or veggie, they are an important part of my diet. They provide meatless, low-fat meals packed with protein that are both economical and delicious. Garbanzo beans (chick peas), kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans and navy beans are a few of the more popular bean varieties. Beans are fat-free, high in dietary fiber and a good source of folate. Some varieties are also a good source of potassium. I substitute beans for meat all the time. Use them in tacos or enchiladas. Try them in place of ground beef in your chili. Try even cutting down on the meat you do use by adding beans to the recipe. Add beans to a salad or soup (think Minestrone!) …the possibilities are endless.
If you want more nutrition information about any of the fruit or veggies listed in my “super foods” groups, visit the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters Nutrition Database. There you’ll also find storage and handling info on a wide variety of fruit and veggies, along with helpful video clips that contain prep tips and recipes.
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This week, we all have a little luck of the Irish, whether we’re actually of Irish heritage or not. Since St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, many of us will be donning our green and preparing traditional Irish fare to celebrate the popular holiday. Unfortunately, a number of the typical dishes associated with the holiday can use a nutrition makeover. If you’re watching your diet, I do have good news–there are some very “Irish” meals that are quite healthy and ones you should feel really good about eating, not only on St. Paddy’s Day, but all year round.
Cabbage is an Irish food staple (corned beef and cabbage, cabbage rolls, etc.) and this veggie is a wonderful addition to your diet. It’s fat free, cholesterol free, low in sodium, low in calories and packed with Vitamin C (something many folks don’t know!). Oh yes, and it’s green (if you’re going with that whole St. Paddy’s Day green theme). So, the key here is preparation–how you prepare this healthy veggie so it’s delicious without adding unnecessary calories and fat.
Let’s start with Easy Caramelized Cabbage and Onions. A simple side dish that uses onion, olive oil and cabbage. The key is tossing the cabbage and onions often while they cook to make sure they brown (and not burn). Season with a little salt and pepper.
Photo courtesy of Sweet C’s Designs
Colcannon is a traditional Irish side dish. Think Irish “comfort food.” It also includes another Irish food staple–the potato, which is very nutritious. This recipe calls for adding a bunch of spring onions to the mix, which will add some extra flavor.
Photo courtesy of Donal Skehan
Cabbage is a versatile veggie–you can add it to soups and stews or shred it into a salad. Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has their Top 10 Ways to enjoy cabbage (check out their recipe for Cabbage Roll Casserole!).
Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and I’ll be back next week with some talk about “super foods.”
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If you buy your lunch each day, you know while it’s convenient, it can also become costly. On average, buying lunch between $5-$7 per day and that’s if you are ordering something to take back to your desk. Dine at a restaurant and you’re likely to spend somewhere in the range of $15-$18, with tip easily. Aside from the financial burden buying lunch each day can bring, many times deli-bought sandwiches and salads can have hidden fats and calories you won’t have if you were making the same dish at home. I’m not saying that every now and then you shouldn’t treat yourself to a lunch out, but why not save some money and eat healthier on a daily basis by bringing your own lunch most days? I can certainly think of better things to do with all that extra $$ (like a new shoes!).
I know most of you are probably envisioning a boring sandwich and bag of pretzels or apple as your go-to lunch. However, with a little planning your lunch can be something you’ll really look forward to each day and one that will rival anything your local sandwich/salad shop can produce.
Do you like Mexican? Then try this Healthy Burrito. Just start with a whole wheat tortilla and choose your fillings. This one uses vegetarian options like kidney beans, cabbage slaw, Greek yogurt, tomatillo salsa and shredded cheddar. Get creative–maybe you like black beans and rice or maybe you like to spice it up with a few jalapenos.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Buffardi for Food Network
Bento boxes have become popular ways to pack lunches. This Spring Pasta Salad is ideal for the upcoming season with its array of fresh veggies and flavorful feta cheese. Arrange the salad on a bed of butter lettuce and pack some fruit like the seasonal strawberries shown and you’ve got a satisfying, healthy lunch.
Photo courtesy of Redbook
Ramen noodles …how many times have we been short on time and forced to microwave a container of the sodium-filled cup of those noodles? And, let’s be honest–at one point in our lives, most of us enjoyed them to some degree even though they have little to no nutrition value. Here’s some good news–you can actually create your own quick noodle soup that is healthy, without all that sodium. I’m talking versions that contain REAL ingredients! How do flavors like Chicken and Dill Instant Noodles or Coconut Curry with Shrimp Instant Noodles sound? All it takes is a little advance prep and you’ll have an instant soup your co-workers will be craving.
Photo courtesy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for Serious Eats
Rethink your usual Chicken Salad recipe with this version from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters. It uses non-fat Greek yogurt as a base and adds in apples, celery and raisins for crunch and sweetness. Try serving this on a bed of butter lettuce.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas for brown bag lunches this week. I find it’s always easier for me to control my portion size and eat healthier when I’ve brought my own lunch from home instead of ordering out when I’m already hungry. I’ll be back next week with some green menu ideas for your St. Patrick’s day celebration.
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