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If you’re like me and a fan of fresh avocados, then don’t walk, but run to your supermarket!  Right now is the best time of year to get your hands on perfect, ripe avocados that are super cheap and the most flavorful.  Yes, spring is avocado season and if you only use these delicious fruits for the traditional guacamole, you don’t know what you’re missing.

 

Let’s start by singing the health praises of the avocado.  These fruits are packed with heart healthy (monounsaturated) fats, which can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.  They are also a great source of magnesium, phosphorus, iron and potassium.  In fact, avocados contain more potassium per gram than bananas!  So there are plenty of reasons to add them to your diet wherever possible.  I love guacamole, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy avocados.

 

 

Some ways are really simple, like slicing avocados onto your sandwich like you would a tomato or putting chunks of avocado into your salad.  Avocados can also be used in place of things like mayonnaise.  Just mash part of an avocado, season it with a little pepper and salt if you like, and spread it on your bread or use in a recipe.  The creamy texture works like mayonnaise would, but you don’t have the saturated fat as you would mayonnaise, plus it’s all natural!

 

One idea that’s quite popular is “avocado pasta.”  I’ve seen many different versions, but they all involve mashing avocado to create a creamy base to the pasta.  I like this idea of adding extra veggies to the mix like the image below.  This includes cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.  Season with some fresh ground pepper, a little fresh squeezed lime and a bit of salt if you choose.  This is a lovely spring or summer meal.

 

avocado pasta

 

 Stuffed avocados are also a big hit.  You can bake eggs in them or grill them topped with cheese.  I couldn’t resist this version of Caprese Stuffed Avocados.  Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil garlic oil are combined for the filling and then served over a bed of greens.  Easy to prepare, but elegant enough for company.

 

stuffed avocado

 

We usually think of avocados as something savory, but their mellow flavor can also be used in a sweet recipe just as easily.  A perfect example is this Chocolate Avocado Smoothie.  You’ll be able to get your chocolate fix without feeling guilty.  This recipe uses avocado, banana, Greek yogurt and milk.

 

avocado smoothie

 

I hope you’ll join me in enjoying just a few of the ways to enjoy avocados while they’re in season.  I’ll be making these recipes, along with a few others.  And yes, I’ll also be fixing a few bowls of my all time favorite–guacamole!

 

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We all know fruit and veggies are filled with good things–fiber, vitamins and minerals.  However, when you suffer from a digestive disease, healthy foods can end up being your enemy since they tend to be harder to digest.  Unfortunately, a lot of sufferers will avoid these foods and miss out on valuable nutrition, which makes them feel bad.  If you are one of those people, I’ve got some good news–you can still eat healthy if you have a digestive disease!

 

Let’s start with why healthy foods like fruit and veggies tend to bother sensitive stomachs.  People who have digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, or irritable bowel syndrome have times where their diseases go into a “flare.”  This is when the disease is more active and when their digestive system is extra sensitive.  I have ulcerative colitis and my doctor explained it like when you have an open sore.  You wouldn’t want to put something against that open sore that would be rough and further irritate it, would you?  Think of high fiber foods like some produce as being rough and hard to digest.  When a person with one of these diseases is in a flare, eating something like that will cause extreme discomfort and only further exacerbate the problem.

 

Yet, avoiding all fruit and veggies means avoiding vitamins and minerals that your body needs, especially when it’s trying to heal.  I know myself that when I eat healthy foods I feel much better than when I simply eat low residue, processed foods with little nutrition.  The trick is knowing which fruit and veggies are tummy friendly and also knowing that HOW you prepare them makes a big difference.  For example, as much as I love a crisp apple, I can only handle one every so often–they are high in fiber, especially with the skin.  If I’m not careful I will get bloated and my stomach will start acting up, even when I’m not in a flare.  Now, applesauce is a different story.  I can eat that every day and never have a problem.  Plus, I’m still getting all the goodness apples have to offer my body.

 

applesauce

 

Some vegetables are ideal for digestive disease sufferers.  If you go onto certain online forums that discuss nutrition, you’ll find a universal favorite is butternut squash.  This is because it is a great source of potassium and Vitamins A and C.  Plus, you can roast it or whip it like you would potatoes.

 

 

butternut

 

 Another popular fruit for sensitive stomachs is melon.  Particularly cantaloupe, which is a good source of folate and high in Vitamins A and C.  Melons are easy to digest and can always be found year-round in your local supermarket.

 

cantaloupe

 

Again, preparation of different produce is important.  I find that cooking my veggies until they are soft works wonders.  A few other tips are to remove the skin from fruit and vegetables before eating, avoid seeds and limit yourself to eating too many high fiber varieties.  These are a few tips, but it’s important to remember that everyone is different.  What may work for me, might not be the best approach for you.  It takes time to find the right mix for each individual.  The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation have a “Living with Crohn’s and Colitis” page, which contains a few tips like keeping a food diary.  There are also links to support groups, where many people have great tips and recipes!  The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to give up fruit and veggies or a healthy lifestyle because you have one of these diseases.  It will take a little bit of change, but you’ll feel a lot better eating a healthy diet like I do.

 

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As the days get longer and warmer, I move away from heavier meals.  You know the kind I’m talking about–I call them “comfort food” and they’re great for fall and winter when those cold evenings call for something that will help warm my family and chase away the chill.  This time of year I’m spending less time in the kitchen and more time outdoors.  Plus, I’m looking for meals that won’t weigh me down as I’m more active than during the cold weather months.  I find the easiest way to do this is by adding more fruit and vegetables to my meals, in particular in season varieties.

 

I’m a big fan of pasta and I don’t care what the latest fad says.  I’ll never give it up.  In order to curb the calorie count, I simply add more veggies to the mix.  This way, I still get my pasta, but reduce the amount and I fill up on the lower calorie veggies mixed in.  I found this ideal spring recipe for Lemony Spring Risotto, which includes peas, asparagus, shallots and lemon juice.

 

lemony spring risotto

 

Entree salads are always a perfect warm weather option.  They’re easy to prepare and they won’t weigh you down as long as you use lean protein and healthy ingredients like fruit and veggies.  Stay away from ruining a beautiful salad by topping it with a high fat salad dressing.  Use options like flavored vinegars with a little olive oil and citrus juices instead.  I like this recipe for Grilled Chicken Salad.  It uses either spring mesclun greens or spinach as its base.  Both are in season right now so either would be a great choice.  With the warm weather finally here, it is time to break out the grill so grilling the chicken adds a great flavor to this salad.  The dressing uses a variety of herbs, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  It also calls for grapes, crumbled goat cheese (or a similar cheese like feta), and pine nuts.

 

grilled chicken salad

 

Finally, I know that typically we all think of soup as a cold weather meal, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.  You just want to keep the version on the lighter side and use ingredients that are in season.  Here is a recipe for Spring Minestrone Soup with Pesto that uses in season ingredients like leeks and savoy cabbage.  If you’re having this for a dinner meal, I would add a side salad and some crusty bread.

 

spring minestrone soup

 

These are just a few ideas to try.  Do you have any spring entrees that are light and easy, which help to keep you out of the kitchen?  If so, please share them with us via the comments section below.

 

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If you’re thinking about the tropics, look no further than your grocer’s produce section.  That’s right–fresh mangoes are in season right now and few fruits conjure up the feeling of sitting on an island beach quite like the flavor of a juicy mango.

 

It might surprise you to learn that mangoes are the most consumed fruit in the world and no wonder–they are incredibly sweet and juicy, not to mention their health benefits.  Mangoes are low fat, cholesterol free, sodium free, high in Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin C.  Because of their natural sweetness, they are excellent to enjoy alone as a healthy snack.  If you’re new to using or serving fresh mango, don’t let that deter you.  Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, has some simple tips on how to slice and serve a fresh mango so you don’t waste any of the flavorful fruit.  You can always serve freshly sliced mango on top of your favorite low-fat frozen yogurt, sorbet or ice cream, but don’t stop there!  Mangoes can be used in some other interesting ways.

 

Much in the same way pineapple is used, mangoes make a great salsa.  Now that we’re into grilling season, a sweet/savory mango salsa is the perfect topping for grilled chicken or fish.  This version of Fresh Mango Salsa uses bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, onion and cilantro in the recipe to offset the mango’s sweetness.  Use it as a meat topping or as an appetizer with tortilla chips.

 

mango salsa

 

Another popular way to use fresh mangoes is in a smoothie.  This simple recipe for Creamy Mango Smoothies only has a few ingredients and is really simple to make.

 

mango smoothie

 

Visit your supermarket and look for in-season mangoes now through May while they are at their most flavorful.  You’ll feel like you’ve taken a trip to paradise!

 

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