Tag Archives: Vegetables

Greek Salad Skewers

Most kebabs come in the form of meat, chicken, or shrimp skewered on bamboo sticks; sometimes a few grilled vegetables are thrown into the mix to break up the monotony of color. But how often do you see a skewer devoted completely to vegetables? And raw vegetables, at that? Salad on a stick is a fun, colorful way to eat your vegetables–and it’s perfect for the upcoming barbecue season!

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Ingredients

6 small romaine bunchesSalad Skewers Ingredients-3 bell peppers, red and yellow, cut into 1 inch squares
1 cucumber, cut into rounds
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup kalamata olives
Whole wheat ciabatta, toasted, torn into 1 inch squares
1/4 cup Pesto
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice
Bamboo/wooden skewers

Method 

1. Thread vegetables, olives and bread onto skewers
2. Mix pesto with olive oil and lemon juice; drizzle over skewers
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper

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Why Should You Eat This?

The USDA recommends that you eat 2 1/2 to 4 cups of veggies per day, depending on your age, gender, and activity level (calculate your needs here). But many Americans fall short on this recommendation. Whether you’re not meeting these recommendations because you’re getting tired of the same old spinach salad or you tend to fill up on packaged foods, salad skewers are a fun and novel way of eating vegetables. They’re a perfect side to your summer picnic or barbecue, but they’re also a great on-the-go snack–just grab a skewer and head out the door.

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Stop Relying on Carbs: New Ideas for Low-Carb Snacks and Meals

When it comes to dieting, weight maintenance, and general nutrition, carbs are not the devil–despite what the Atkins and Paleo diets would have us believe. Carbs supply our bodies with the energy to perform everyday Carb-Centric Mealstasks and to work out; they supply glucose to fuel our brain; they even stimulate the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Luckily, carbs are widely available today–but they’re almost too available. Processed carbs seem to dominate the tablescape no matter what meal you’re serving: French toast (bread), grilled cheese (more bread), pizza (dough), sandwiches (more bread), spaghetti and meatballs (pasta). They’re also the backbone of most snacks: think hummus and pita bread, bruschetta, a bowl of cereal, granola bars, cheese and crackers. The main problem with this reliance on carbs is that processed carbs, compared to vegetables, are higher in calories and offer fewer nutrients. And in most cases, the carb-of-choice is simply a bland vehicle to showcase the true flavor-makers of the meal: a toasted baguette delivers the delicious combination of tomato, basil, and olive oil; pita bread scoops savory hummus right into your mouth.

So how can you use this information to maximize your nutrient intake? Keep eating enough carbs (keeping them as unprocessed and whole as possible) to sustain your everyday activities and workouts (that amount is different for everyone; athletes will need more) but replace bread, pasta, tortillas, pita, crackers, and cereal for fruits and vegetables every now and then. You’ll end up cutting out a few hundred calories per day and adding in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and valuable antioxidants! Try these substitutions:

Instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (432 calories, 59g carbs, 12g protein, 3g fiber, 18 g fat), try…

Apple Sandwiches with Granola and Peanut Butter
Apple peanut butter sandwiches (300 calories, 36g carbs, 8g protein, 6g fiber, 16g fat)

Instead of a turkey wrap (540 calories, 76g carbs, 24g protein, 16g fat, 6g fiber), try…Lettuce Turkey Sandwich Wrap

Lettuce turkey wraps (295 calories, 17g carbs, 32g protein, 11g fat, 6g fiber)

Instead of a spaghetti (221 calories, 43g carbs, 8g protein, 1.3g fat, 2.5g fiber), try…

Baked Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash (42 calories, 10g carbs, 1g protein, <0.5g fat, 2g fiber)

Instead of one egg roll (222 calories, 24g carbs, 7g protein, 11g fat), try…

Summer and Vegetable Rolls
Vegetable Chard Wraps with Spicy Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce (87 calories, 7.1g carbs, 2.4g protein, 6.1g fat) or Summer Rolls (64 calories, 12g carbs, 1 g protein, 2g fat, 2g fiber)

Instead of pizza (237 calories, 26g carbs, 11g protein, 10g fat, 1.6g fiber per slice), try…

Portobello Pizza

Portobello pizza (150 calories, 15g carbs, 10g protein, 7g fat, 3g fiber)

Instead of cheese and crackers (185 calories, 9g carbs, 8g protein, 14g fat, 0g fiber per 4 crackers), try…

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Rolls
Ricotta-stuffed zucchini rolls (103 calories, 7g carbs, 4g protein, 9g fat, 2g fiber per two rolls)

Note: You don’t have to replace all of your dry carbs (bread, pasta, cereal) with fruits and vegetables; depending on your activity level, those are essential for fueling workouts and maintaining steady energy levels and mood. But being aware of your carb intake–and reducing the amount of processed carbs you consume–can help cut out empty calories  from your diet and add in valuable nutrients.

Boost Your Vegetable Intake in Four Easy Steps

Macaroni and cheese, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs, steak and potatoes, Thanksgiving dinner: these are the answers you’ll likely hear when you ask almost any American what her favorite meal is. What do they all have in common? They’re all based off of huge portions of starchy carbs and protein — and don’t include a vegetable in sight. Even vegetarians’ and vegans’ favorite dishes — lasagna, enchiladas, grilled cheese — are sorely lacking in produce. And despite the urging of nutritionists and dietitians everywhere to eat more vegetables, only 23% of American meals include a serving of vegetables in their dinner.

But according to a recent study published in Public Health Nutrition, adding vegetables to your meals won’t just add valuable nutrients like fiber, vitamins and antioxidants — it actually makes those meals taste better. In the study, subjects rated dishes that included a vegetable as significantly higher on dimensions like “tasty” and “complete.” In addition, when a vegetable was included in a meal, subjects rated the meal preparer as more thoughtful, attentive, and capable. Overall, participants believed that vegetables  “made the meal.”

Even though the study didn’t focus on the nutritional benefits of vegetables, this research indicates that adding vegetables to a main course makes diners perceive both the cook and the meal as more enjoyable. So how can you add vegetables to your favorite meals?

Sneak them in:
If you (or your children) don’t enjoy vegetables enough to get the recommended three to five servings per day, try sneaking them into your favorite foods. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who ate comfort food meals enhanced with pureed vegetables doubled their vegetable intake, perceived the meals as more satiating, and cut their calorie intake by up to 360 calories.

  • Add grated squash, carrots, eggplant or zucchini to pasta sauces and casseroles
  • Add pureed cauliflower or butternut squash to macaroni and cheese; their mild flavors are lost in the cheesy sauce, but they add fiber and vitamins to a nutritionally empty meal
  • Add mild-tasting vegetables — like carrot, squash, cucumber, and zucchini — to fruit-based smoothies and drinks
  • Add pureed pumpkin to muffins, pancakes and quickbreads in place of half of the oil called for (muffins and quickbreads still count as dessert — but at least you’re getting some nutrition out of them!)
  • Add chopped mushroom to burgers; their meaty texture and flavor will displace some of the meat, cutting out calories and saturated fats

Put them on top:
Bump up your favorite meals by adding vegetables on top (or under or inside). No matter what you’re having — pizza, pasta, burgers, soup — there’s a way to add vegetables to the main dish (as opposed to eating them as a separate side).

  • Add chopped veggies to your morning omelet
  • Add any vegetables you can to your pizza. Either go for a traditional veggie pizza, or try these interesting combinations: olives, sundried tomatoes, and spinach; fennel, roasted tomatoes, and artichoke hearts; or butternut squash, mushroom, caramelized onions, and arugula
  • Serve your soup over a bowl of greens; the steaming broth will wilt the greens, making them just another fiber- and vitamin-rich component of the soup
  • Dress up a burger with more than just romaine, tomato slices, and red onion: try avocado and mango salsa; pineapple and beets (popular in Australia); or roasted red bell peppers and basil


Add tasty sides:
Serve these as sides in addition to the main meal, or serve them as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres for a gathering.

Make them the main course:
Instead of relying on proteins or starches as the basis of your meal (even if they’re vegetarian, like tofu or beans), make vegetables the main event in your meal. The USDA recommends that adults get between 10% to 35% of their calories from protein, which equals out to 46 grams for women and 56 grams of men (although other factors come into play, like if you’re an athlete or if you’re pregnant). A three ounce piece of chicken contains 21 grams of protein (almost half of the daily recommended amount for a female) compared with more than 50 grams for a restaurant-sized piece of meat, so you’ll still get plenty of protein when you plan your meal around veggies.

  • Veggie stir-fry: let snap peas, snow peas, bell pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, bok choy, and carrots take center stage; add protein with a small amount of tofu, chicken or shrimp
  • Hearty salads: add bulk to your typical spinach or romaine salad with roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, beans, lentils, asparagus, beets, edamame, and fruit
  • Vegetable curry: instead of building your vegetarian curry around chickpeas, lentils, tofu or potatoes, use bulky vegetables — zucchini, squash, broccoli, and mushrooms — as the base
  • Minestrone soup, vegetable chili, butternut squash soup
  • Shakshouka: cook eggs in a mix of tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, and spinach

 

Meatless Monday: Forbidden Rice Salad

Grain-based salads are a great option for on-the-go meals: they combine all the essentials of a meal into a neat, pretty and transportable package. Plus, the longer the salad sits in the refrigerator, the more the ingredients marinate, giving the dish more flavor. Make this salad for Meatless Monday, and then save the leftovers for small snacks and side dishes throughout the week. Forbidden rice — the backdrop for this colorful salad — offers a stickier, nuttier texture than white rice, plus extra fiber, protein and nutrients.

Ingredients

1 cup forbidden rice
1 ½ cups water 1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup edamame, shelled
1 mango, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 T olive oil
2 T lime juice
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Bring rice and water to a boil; cover, lower heat, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add more water as needed.

Combine vegetables, mango, cilantro, and mint in a bowl. Add rice; mix.

Add olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Chill for 30 minutes and serve.

Why Should You Eat This?

Forbidden rice, an heirloom variety once reserved for emperors and nobles, owes its black or dark purple hue to anthocyanins — the same antioxidant found in blackberries and blueberries. In fact, a spoonful of forbidden rice contains more anthocyanins than a spoonful of blueberries, making it a powerful fighter against cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline. Forbidden rice is also rich in iron and vitamin E, and because the bran is left intact, it boasts a considerable amount of fiber.

Even though this is a grain-based salad, vegetables are still the main component. In fact, there’s about a 5:1 ratio of vegetables to grains! And because 75% of Americans fall short on the recommended intake of five daily servings of produce, planning your meals around vegetables — as opposed to a carb or protein — is an easy way to boost your intake. Adding vegetables and fruits to your meals (and not just a salad with dinner) not only adds vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; it may also help you drop pounds. According to a study published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women who added two servings of produce a day lost three pounds without adjusting anything else in their diet or exercise routines. Grain-based salads are an easy way to add those two servings with the added benefit of satiating fiber- and protein-rich grains.

Eating Tips from Top Olympic Athletes

Olympic athletes depend on superior nutrition to fuel their grueling workouts, races, and competitions. They also have access to some of the top sports nutritionists and dietitians in the world, so you can bet that, for the most part, they know what they’re talking about when it comes to nutrition. The Olympics may be over, but these tips from gold medal winners and Olympic athletes last forever — read on for their healthy advice and how to implement it into your own eating routine.

“The more colorful the food, the better.” – Triple gold medalist Misty May-Treanor

Dietitians have long advised their clients, and the world, to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Generally, the most vibrantly hued fruits and vegetables offer the most nutrients — blackberries, for example, are so dark because they contain a huge amount of anthocyanins. Fast food, on the other hand, is often white and bland (French fries, chicken fingers, and burgers all fall into the brown/beige/white color spectrum for a reason – they’re void of nutrition!). And because the different pigments that are responsible for bright colors offer different health benefits, it’s important to eat a variety of colors. Red, purple and blue produce is high in anthocyanins, which boost cardiovascular health and cognitive function. Orange and yellow produce, like butternut squash and mangoes, are colored by carotenoids, pigments that boost eye and skin health, fight cancer, and even contribute a healthy glow to your skin! And green produce contains chlorophyll as well as lutein and zeaxanthin to boost immunity and reduce the risk of cancer.

Still, don’t automatically skip white fruits and vegetables. Lighter colored produce boasts unique nutrients too, like quercetin, beta-glucan, and lignans. Click here to read about the nutritional benefits of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bananas and jicama.

“Getting the right food in my body 30 minutes after working out helps so much more with the next workout and has really changed my training.” – Gold-medal swimmer Eric Shanteau

In an interview with People Magazine, Jennifer Aniston is quoted as saying “If you don’t want to build muscle, wait about an hour after you work out to eat.” But in this case, swimmer Eric Shanteau is right: eating within 30 minutes after a workout is absolutely essential to restoring glycogen stores and rebuilding muscle fibers. In fact, research shows that the body’s ability to top off muscle energy stores decreases by 50% if you wait more than two hours to eat — meaning that you won’t be seeing the toning and muscle building results of your workout routine. Plus, eating after a workout increases your body’s insulin sensitivity (an important factor in weight loss) and will fend off hunger attacks later. Aim for a snack that contains both protein and carbohydrates, like a peanut butter and apple sandwich, eggs and whole wheat toast, or fruit and yogurt.

“I don’t think that the occasional bowl of ice cream for dessert is necessarily too bad.” – Bronze-medal diver Nick McCrory

It might be surprising to hear a nutrition blog recommend ice cream — after all, it’s high in sugar, calories, and fat! But an important part of a healthy diet is balance, and balance includes eating those foods that might not be so healthy for you — in moderation. Indulging in your favorite treats, be it cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, or mac and cheese, is okay every now and then, and it might even help you fight off cravings (denying yourself a bite of brownie day after day might end up in a brownie binge at the end of the week!). Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Dara Torres, who obviously manages to stay fit and toned, agrees: “It’s okay to have bites of food that probably aren’t the best for you because that way you won’t deprive yourself and then want more of that food.”

Even nutritionists and Registered Dietitians have splurges: flourless chocolate cake for Patricia Bannan, MS, RD, author of Eat Right When the Time is Tight and french fries for Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD, a private practice nutritionist. But they’re smart about their splurges: they go for quality over quantity, don’t feel guilty, and balance them with plenty of fresh produce, lean protein, and whole grains.

“My mom raised me to believe that you have to treat your body like an expensive car–you have to put in the most expensive fuel.” – Gold medal gymnast Nastia Liukin

Whole, unprocessed foods — the equivalent of premium fuel — and processed, manufactured foods — the equivalent of low quality diesel — are the difference between feeling energized and lethargic, glowing skin and ruddy skin, and an awesome workout and a weak run. Foods in their natural state, like vegetables, fruits, and grains, are pre-packaged with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients to maximize nutrient intake and absorption. Foods that have been processed, like white bread, chips, and frozen entrees, are stripped of these nutrients, are pumped with preservatives, additives, trans fats and chemicals — and offer little more than calories. Picking whole foods over processed foods is also essential to long-term health: studies show that diets high in healthy, whole foods can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Processed foods can increase the risks of developing these diseases.

But Liukin isn’t entirely correct: high quality fuel doesn’t have to be expensive. Researchers from the USDA compared prices of seemingly healthy and less healthy foods, looking at price of edible weight, price per average portion, and price per calorie. In previous studies, “price per calorie was measured,” so the results suggested that healthy foods were far more expensive than less healthy foods. But when “price of edible weight” or “price per average portion” are examined, healthy foods beat out foods typically high in saturated fat, added sugar, or sodium. The Environmental Working Group has gathered a list of foods that are highest in nutrients and lowest in cost.  Topping the list is salmon, black beans, chickpeas, walnuts, low-fat or non-fat milk, broccoli, and pears.

“Before you start taking supplements, do the best job you can to get all your nutrients from your food. If I need to supplement some things I try to remember that it’s exactly that–it’s a supplement–it’s not a meal or a meal replacement.” – Gold medal decathlete Bryan Clay

There are more than 100,000 enzymes, 16 vitamins, more than 80 minerals, 20 amino acids, and around 100,000 phytonutrients that naturally occur in real, whole foods. Different foods offer a unique balance of these nutrients that work synergistically to enhance their performance and maximize health benefits. But researchers noticed these benefits, and attributed them to one prominent compound–and so the popularity of supplements began. According to newer research, our bodies can tell the difference between whole and fragmented foods. According to Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., the incidence of macular degeneration is significantly lower in people who eat foods rich in beta-carotene, like carrots and sweet potatoes. But the same benefits are not seen people who take beta-carotene supplements. The health benefits of foods are not attributable to one superstar nutrient: they’re due to the complex interaction of many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Shrimp Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are spring rolls’ much healthier cousin. Spring rolls are fried in oil; summer rolls are fresh. And while spring rolls are filled with a mixed vegetable and cabbage, summer rolls contain bright, fresh vegetables, herbs, and lean protein — in this case, shrimp. So on hot, end-of-the-summer days, summer rolls are the perfect choice: they’re packed with fragrant, in-season vegetables, offer lean protein, and best of all: don’t involve cooking!

Ingredients:

Rice Paper (found in Asian section of grocery store)
Shrimp, precooked, split in half lengthwise
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 head butter lettuce, washed and separated
1 cup mung bean sprouts
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ cup basil, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
¼ cup peanuts

Peanut-Hoisin Dipping Sauce (same as from Chicken Lettuce Cups)
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup hoisin
1 minced shallot
1 T soy sauce
2 T lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil

Method:

To make the sauce, heat sesame oil over a small skillet. Add minced shallot; saute for 1-2 minutes. Add peanut butter, hoisin, and soy sauce; stir. Bring to a boil; let cool and add lime juice.

To assemble the spring rolls, prepare a clean working space: arrange carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, cilantro, basil, and mint in small bowls. Keep shrimp over ice to keep it cool.

Fill a lipped plate or large bowl with water; add rice paper sheet and let soften for about 30 seconds.

Remove from water and lay flat on work surface. Place four shrimp halves (color-side down) on bottom third of rice paper. Lay cucumber and carrot sticks on either side of shrimp; layer lettuce, cilantro, basil, mint, mung bean sprouts, and peanut on top.

Fold bottom of rice paper over filling, fold in the ends, and roll into a tight wrap.Continue with the rest of the ingredients, placing finished rolls in refrigerator as you work.

Serve with peanut-hoisin dipping sauce.

Why Should You Eat This?

Similar to the Chicken Lettuce Cups, these are another low-carb version of a wrap. Each rice paper sheet has just 20 calories, and their taste is virtually non-existent, which allows the bright flavors to take center stage (using a tortilla, for example, would add around 200 calories — plus it would completely transform the flavor!). Essentially, summer rolls are handheld salads — a good option for lunch, dinner, or an on-the-go snack.

Shrimp are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, making the crustacean a good alternative for those who don’t like fish. Foods high in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) have been found to protect against cognitive decline. A study published in the Archives of Neurology found that those with the highest blood levels of DHA were at a 47% decreased risk of developing dementia than those with the lowest levels; according to the Zutphen Elderly Study, this correlation is linear. Omega-3s have also been found to boost mood, reduce depression, and boost heart health.

Coconut Date Zucchini Balls

Most desserts have very little to offer nutritionally, save for the strawberry garnish on the giant slice of chocolate cake or pistachio pieces on your cheesecake. But when a food can satisfy a sweet tooth and offer nutrients, it’s the ultimate win-win: you get dessert and you get to top off your diet with even more nutrients!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
½ cup shredded zucchini
½ cup chopped dried cherries
½ cup flaked dried coconut, plus extra for rolling
1 cup almonds
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1 T hemp seeds
1 T chia seeds

Note: Amount of ingredients may vary; you may need to add more dates or cherries if the mixture is too crumbly or doesn’t hold together.

Method:

1. Put the almonds in a food processor; process until chopped into small bits.
2. Add dates, vanilla extract, cinnamon, hemp seeds, and chia seeds; process until well blended.
3. Remove from food processor; in a bowl, add chopped cherries, zucchini, and flaked coconut. Mix with a spoon (or your hands) until ingredients are incorporated.
4. Roll mixture into golf-ball sized balls. Roll balls in coconut to cover.
5. Place on a baking sheet; freeze for a few hours.

Why Should You Eat This?

Most desserts either leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed (and on a mission to eat only vegetables and raw fish the next day) or still hungry and craving more dessert. That’s because typical desserts — cookies, ice cream, cake, pie — are filled with sugar, mostly unhealthy fats, and lots of refined carbs. Consuming large amounts of refined carbs and sugar causes blood glucose levels to spike, followed by a quick spike in insulin. When the insulin clears out the glucose (from the excess sugars), you’re left in a state of low-blood sugar, which results in hunger and more cravings for high-sugar foods.

While dates are high in sugar, they’re paired with almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds — as well as the fiber in zucchini — to reduce their glycemic index. Healthy fats and fiber reduce the glycemic load of a meal, thereby decreasing their spiking effect on your blood sugar — and post-dessert cravings. In a study published in the journal Metabolism, researchers found that the blood sugars of participants who consumed almonds with white bread (a high GI-food) rose almost less than half of those who ate only white bread.

(While we’re on the topic, you can apply this piece of information to snacking and eating in general: pair high carbohydrate or high-sugar foods (crackers, rice cakes, apples) with high-fat or high-fiber foods (like almonds, peanut butter, or hummus) to keep blood sugar levels — as well as energy and mood — stable!)

This dessert is far from an empty-calorie dessert. Hemp seeds are high in protein, and both hemp seeds and chia seeds are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Dried cherries and coconut are healthy picks for an athlete: cherries contain anthocyanins that reduce post-exercise inflammation and soreness, and coconuts boast medium chain triglycerides that have been shown to boost endurance and athletic performance. Because of this dessert’s relative low calorie count and high protein, fiber, and healthy fats, this recipe is also suitable for a between-meal or pre-exercise snack.