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California Avocados: All Day for 7 Days

10 Jun

California Avocados: All Day for 7 Days

June is California Avocado Month!

As a nutrition spokesperson for California Avocado Commission for the past 5 years, it’s safe to say I am a pretty big avocado fan.

This is the best time of year for California Avocados, which are in season from spring through fall. California grows about 90% of the nation’s avocado crop and they do it with the help of approximately 5,000 small family farms located throughout the state.

Our avocados are top notch because the growers put so much care into how the trees are nurtured, planted and harvested. California avocados are picked at the peak of freshness, so you know you’re getting quality fruit when you see that California label!

When it comes to nutrition, avocados are one of the few things I feel comfortable labeling a superfood…because:

  • California avocados are a nutrient-dense: one-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz) has 50 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds
  • California avocados contribute good fats to your diet – this is key since the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 focus on fats is now about what types and not how much you get

This season I created a 7-day meal plan using some of the amazing recipes from the California Avocado Commission. If you think avocados are just for guacamole, you have to check out some of these innovative meal and snack ideas.

It’s pretty safe to say you probably need more avocado in your life – and this 7 day meal plan has it all…if I do say so myself!

For more information about avocados, nutrition and the Dietary Guidelines, check out The Scoop blog post by friend and fellow dietitian Andrea available here.

To see my 7-day plant based meal plan featuring LOADS of California Avocados, see below or click here.

CAC 7 Day Meal Plan FINAL APPROVED 5-12-16

Disclaimer: I am a paid nutrition spokesperson for the California Avocado Commission; however, the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.

Juiceology: Not Doing Much for the Fiber Gap

1 Dec

Juiceology: Not Doing Much for the Fiber Gap

As any fiber fan knows, eating your fruit is far superior to drinking it.

The problem with juices are that they extract and discard the most important parts of the fruit: the pulp and peel – which is exactly where the fiber is found.

In an article posted today at Food Navigator, the CEO and founder of Juiceology Gelipe d’Avila explains his angle in trying to fill the “white space” in the juice category…fiber:

“The challenge is that many consumers know they should get more [fiber], but they see fiber as a boring thing, so we have to market the benefits without lecturing people about it. We have to make it fun.”

Fiber…boring?! I beg to differ!

If you want fun and fiber together, why don’t you just eat fruit?

A 15.2 oz bottle of Juiceology has 200 calories and provides 32% daily value for fiber (8g). The only problem is, that’s not naturally occurring fiber. According to d’Avila, the fiber comes from oats and barley and chicory root.

But guess what, oats and barley and chicory root are not naturally found in fruit. And there is no evidence to suggest that these fake functional fibers – when added to low-fiber foods like juice – convey the same health benefits as foods that naturally have fiber in them.

According to Food Navigator, you have to shell out between $2.99-$3.49 for a 200 calorie bottle of juice. Why not just eat 2 pieces of real fruit for a fraction of the cost? You would save about 100 calories and get those 8 grams of fiber from a naturally occurring source.

And don’t look to the Juiceology website for any real nutrition nuts either. It’s packed with broken links, misleading copy and typos, like “The Original Fiber Boost” and “Non GMO daily Welness”

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.16.59 PM

Bottom line: if you want the benefits of fruit, save yourself some cash and eat real fruit!

 

HelloFresh: High Fiber Meals Dropped at Your Door

10 Nov

HelloFresh: High Fiber Meals Dropped at Your Door

Are we living in the Golden Age of Food?

It seems that in almost every corner of this country people increasingly have access to high quality, healthy foods. Sometimes it comes at a price. And sometimes it comes to your door.

With all of the home-delivered, semi-prepared meal options out there, it can be challenging to sort through the noise. And while many home-delivery meal services do deliver on taste, price and nutrition are sometimes relegated to the back seat.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to discover HelloFresh – a company that delivers delicious and healthy recipes with all the pre-measured ingredients to your door each week.

 

How it Works

HelloFresh provided me with 3 sample meals for this blog post. They have a Classic Food Box (for omnivores) and a Veggie Box (for herbivores). The classic meals start at $10.75 per person, per meal (including shipping) while vegetarian meals start at $9.08 per person, per meal (also including shipping).

The box arrives on your doorstep (appropriately refrigerated I might add…food safety first!); and each meal is perfectly packed with individual, pre-portioned ingredients and beautiful, descriptive recipe cards.

And when it comes to the chef’s selections, this is not your run-of-the-mill mac-and-cheese type of vegetarian menu! The week I received meals included:

The ingredients were packed individually to maintain freshness and each recipe card has a step-by-step preparation process laid out with gorgeous acompanying food photography.

I love that all of the HelloFresh recipes include the nutritional analysis – and each of the meals I sampled had between 9-26 grams of fiber per serving.

 

Why Cook at Home More?

Cooking at home(vs. eating out) is your best bet for health – and your wallet. A service like HelloFresh can infuse life back into your home cooking routine. Having food come to you (vs. you going to it) forces you to try new ingredients. I had been meaning to try both sunchokes and kale chips – and voilà…they showed up on my doorstep to work their way into my weeknight meal!

Another impressive component of HelloFresh’s operation is their nationwide delivery options. So many innovative home food delivery companies are limited to New York, San Francisco and not much else; but not HelloFresh (unless you live in Hawaii or Alaska…they’re not there yet).

All of the HelloFresh recipes are available online, so you can continue to make your favorite meals at home. They also have an incredible blog filled with great information on how to cook, tips about cooking tools and recipes and stories from their team.

If you’re looking for a healthy (and high fiber) home-delivered meal service, I would highly recommend HelloFresh! Check out my favorite HelloFresh recipe – Afghan Red Lentil Soup with Cumin, Mint, and Lemon below.

 

redlentil

 

Afghan Red Lentil Soup with Cumin, Mint, and Lemon

Recipe from HelloFresh, Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 6 oz carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 oz fresh mint
  • 1 can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1 Tablespoon oil

Instructions

  • Prep the veggies: halve, peel and dice the onion. Peel the carrots and then finely dice. Finely chop the celery. Mince or grate the garlic. Zest the lemon, then halve. Cut one half into 4 wedges. Thinly slice the fresh mint, reserving a few leaves for garnish.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot and cook, tossing, for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the cumin and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the tomatoes and the dried mint to the pot. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes until almost smooth. Add the lentils, and 2 cups water to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the sliced mint and the juice of half the lemon and stir to combine. If you have a blender, you can blend the soup for a creamier consistency.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with lemon zest (to taste), reserved lemon wedges, and fresh mint leaves. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information 

Amount per serving; recipe makes 2 servings

  • 530 calories
  • 8 g total fat
  • 134 mg sodium
  • 93 g carbohydrate
  • 26 g dietary fiber
  • 29 g protein

Disclosure: I was provided with sample meals from HelloFresh for this post; thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

How to Drown Your Pomegranate Problems

15 Sep

How to Drown Your Pomegranate Problems

Fall is about to befall us, meaning that pomegranates are coming into peak season.

Pomegranates (Punica granatam) are a fruit-bearing shrub native to the area from Iran to the Himalayas. According to California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc., the fruit was first introduced in California by Spanish settlers in 1769. In the northern hemisphere we find pomegranates in peak season from September-January.

Like most fruit fans, I’m taken by how pretty pomegranates are. Their rich red arils (the brightly colored cover of a seed) augment any fall salad and make a colorful confection…but that same hearty hue will also stain the crap out of your clothes!

For a long time I was content to buy pomegranates already removed from the fruit’s inedible pulp. The convenience was a plus, but as a cost-conscious consumer, pre-prepared fruit is rarely worth the cost.

So I was pretty pumped when I heard about the best pomegranate preparation trick ever: the secret underwater pomegranate plucking.

All you have to do to get at that juicy goodness without the ensuing mess is:

  • Quarter or halve your pomegranate fruit
  • Fill a bowl with water
  • Submerge the quarter or half of fruit
  • Dig the arils out of the pulp under the water using your fingers

Voilà! You’ve got your own pack of pomegranate seeds at a fraction of the cost. The pulp and the mess stays submerged and you emerge with this fabulous fruit.

For not much work, pomegranates pack a nutritional punch. A one-half cup of arils pomegranate serving provides 72 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber and is a good source of vitamin C (14% daily value).

Like all fruit – you’re better served to eat your pomegranates than drink them. Don’t waste your time on pomegranate juice. Most commercial pomegranate “juice” contains more apple juice than actual pomegranates, not to mention that you forfeit the fiber when you extract its juice.

For a super fast supper feast, try out this pomegranate kale salad recipe:

Pomegranate Kale Salad

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chopped baby kale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils (about 2 pomegranates)
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In salad serving bowl, massage chopped baby kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 30 seconds.
  2. Add pomegranate arils, diced cucumber and goat cheese crumbles to kale.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk remaining olive oil with pomegranate vinegar, dijon mustard and citrus juice.
  4. Add dressing to salad, season with salt and pepper and serve

Nutrition Information

  • Calories 275
  • Protein 10 g
  • Carbohydrate 39 g
  • Fat 12 g
  • Saturated Fat 2.5 g
  • Fiber 11 g

 

 

Frankenfiber: Coming Your Way

15 Apr

Frankenfiber: Coming Your Way

The hot topic is getting hotter. Genetically engineered foods have been in the US food supply since 1996, but public interest seems to finally be reaching fever pitch.

Although some surveys suggest that more than 90 percent of American support labeling of GE ingredients, public interest still belies what is already happening – or has happened – in our food supply.

Despite 70 bills introduced in more than 30 states to require GE labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods, only 3 states have enacted legislation to do so (Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont).

While a vocal core of activists remain skeptical about the safety of GE foods for both our bodies and the environment, many run-of-the-mill Americans may be surprised to learn just how prolific these foods already are. According to the USDA, today, in the US:

  • 89% of corn is genetically engineered
  • 94% of soybean is genetically engineered
  • 91% of cotton is genetically engineered

If you don’t eat corn, soybean, or cotton, does it matter? It does matter, because you are most certainly eating those foods!

The pro-GE labeling group Just Label It maintains that 9 GE crops can be found in more than 80% of processed food in the US: corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, yellow squash, zucchini, Hawaiian papaya, and cotton.

GMO

I’m still not sold on how much GE zucchini, yellow squash or papaya is really showing up in processed food – but I was surprised to hear the FDA give the GE green light to 2 pretty popular foods last month: Arctic Apples and Innate Potatoes.

Arctic Apples” are the trade name given to the company Okanagan’s Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties of apples. These arctic apples are genetically engineered to resist browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to oxygen (also called oxidation).

Innate Potatoes” are the trade name given to the company Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank, and Atlantic potatoes that are genetically engineered to lessen black spot bruising by lowering levels of those enzymes in the potatoes.

The Innate Potatoes also produce less acrylamide, a cancer-causing agent that forms when foods are cooked at very high temperatures, as in frying (which is the primary way that Americans eat potatoes: as French fries and potato chips!)

While advances in biotechnology can certainly be exciting, in the case of brown and bruised-looking apples and potatoes, I’m doing perfectly fine with the old-fashioned home remedy: vitamin C or water.

Rubbing a little citrus juice on your cut apples (and pears) prevents browning, and with a lot less fanfare than genetically engineering the fruit. The vitamin C in citrus exhibits its antioxidant properties and stops oxidation, or browning.

For potatoes, covering cut potatoes in water does the trick by blocking exposure to oxygen and preventing oxidation.

If you are unswayed by the safety claims about GE foods, the only way to ensure you are eating completely GE-free is to go organic. 100% organic – all the time.

Or you could move to Europe – where if a food contains a GE ingredient, it must be labeled as such.