Ugly fruits and vegetables are still nutritious

Reducing Food Waste from Farm and Fork

This post was written as a guest blog for DiscoverMonsanto.com. You can read the original post here.

The first club I joined as a child was the “Clean Plate Club.” My parents, who had made their “Clean Plate Pledge” after World War II in an effort to conserve food at home to help feed our starving European allies, introduced my sisters and me to the club. As a child, I never understood how the uneaten food on my plate could feed someone in another part of the world, but the message stuck with me. I now know that cleaning my plate was not the answer. Buying crooked carrots was.*

As a registered dietitian nutritionist who has spent my career promoting the importance of fruits and vegetables in a nutritious diet, I was shocked to learn that more than half of all fruits and vegetables grown are never eaten. The perishable nature of fresh produce can explain some of this waste, but the rejection of the “funny-looking” ones has become a major contributor to the problem. As a result, I’ve become committed to educating people about the challenges of food waste and what we can do to find solutions.

Food loss
Food loss is an umbrella term used to describe all of the postharvest food that never gets consumed. Some of this loss is unavoidable due to spoilage or processing losses that occur before the food reaches the marketplace. Food waste is a component of food loss. It represents edible food discarded by growers, retailers and consumers that is avoidable. This includes everything from leaving crops in the field due to their odd appearance to letting carefully selected food rot in our refrigerators after we buy it.

If you shop at a farmer’s market or have your own vegetable garden or fruit tree, you know that all apples are not the same diameter and all zucchini are not the same length. Have you ever wondered why you don’t see that much variety in supermarket produce aisles? It’s a chicken or the egg conundrum.

Food waste
Since the beginning of food commerce, every transaction between a produce vendor and his or her customers has been a closely scrutinized exchange. Shoppers have always felt the need to hold, squeeze and smell the peaches to find the best of the bunch. Sellers have vouched for the sweetness of their fruit by offering a slice to taste and a hint for making the perfect pie. This exchange has allowed buyers to gain trust in their produce vendors (if the results were favorable) and the seller to secure a repeat customer.

I know how valuable this relationship is whenever I buy food in an international market. Shoppers with little knowledge of the best quality standards for selecting fruits and vegetables and no attentive vendor to help them with their selection resort to choosing the best-looking items in the bin. When retailers are left with “unaesthetic” pieces they cannot sell, they stop accepting them in their orders. Farmers left with these “misfits” must find a processor willing to pay enough for them to cover the cost of harvesting and transporting them, or simply plow them under.

The produce industry now uses specifications for many crops based on size, color and weight – not what is edible. These specifications not only appeal to the visual cues consumers are using to make a purchase, they also make it easier to pack melons, peppers or tomatoes into boxes that can be evenly stacked on pallets and loaded onto trains, trucks or planes for transport. And once those boxes are in warehouses, their uniform counts and weights expedite the processing of store orders and the successful execution of this week’s schematic display in the produce aisle

As a result, shoppers have become accustomed to seeing only perfect produce, while perfectly edible, but “disfigured,” fruits and vegetables go to waste. After learning more about the food waste issue, I became committed to finding a solution. It came during a visit to the Monsanto research farm in Woodland, California.

While participating in an in-field breeder chat with cucumber breeder Neschit Shetty, Ph.D., I learned that selective breeding was used to grow cucumbers so they would be just the right size to fit into pickle jars. That was an “ah-ha” moment for me! If plant scientists can do that, I realized they can help farmers grow fruits and vegetables that meet the appearance standards consumers now expect in addition to ensuring they’ll taste great, contribute to a balanced diet and be easy to use in our time-stressed lives. These seed breeders can also breed crops to satisfy the environmental concerns of farmers and logistical requirements of retailers so fewer of them are left in the fields.

For me, that is a win-win solution to one piece of the food waste problem. Another is to use smaller dishes so I can keep my credentials in the Clean Plate Club without eating more than I need!

*The popular baby carrots found on every crudité tray are nothing more than “misshapen” carrots that were cut into bite-sized pieces. This was the brainchild of an innovative carrot farmer who wasn’t able to sell his crooked and oversized carrots so decided to have them cut into a smaller size and shape instead of plowing them under. It turned out to be a very profitable idea since consumers are willing to pay more than double for these whittled carrots than the bigger ones they must cut themselves.

Robyn Flipse, Registered Dietitian and Cultural Anthropologist

Meet Health Goes Strong Writer Robyn Flipse

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

REGISTERED DIETITIAN. CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGIST. FRIEND TO ALL FOODS.

Some say timing is everything, and for me I would have to say that is true when it comes to my chosen profession.  I became a registered dietitian in the 1970s during the food revolution triggered by two books: Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring and Adelle Davis’s Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. (Anyone who has a personal Woodstock story read them both.) Little did I know that what we eat would remain headline news throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st !

My good timing lead to a career bringing diet and health information to a public whose appetite is never satisfied. I have provided hundreds of television, radio and print interviews; presented at international symposia; appeared in national media tours; and created Internet videos to meet the demand for more food and nutrition news.

Even after writing three books and a website column (that became my first blog once the word “blog” was invented), I still had more to say. Then along came the offer to become a blogger for Health Goes Strong in September 2011. I write as The Everyday Dietitian and hope to keep posting until everyone has had their fill!

What I Know Now That I Didn’t Know at 20

Without a doubt, I know that time is more valuable than money. Time is the universal equalizer, and the more of it you have the richer your life will be. In fact, everything I know about eating and exercise comes down to having enough time to put into practice. That is why all of my career decisions have been based on how to spend fewer hours working so I’ll have more time for living well.

Another under-appreciated nugget I learned later in life is that the shoes you wear will determine how fit you’ll be. There are literally millions of steps that go untaken when wearing fashionable, but impractical shoes. Once I figured that out, I never let my footwear keep me from climbing the stairs, parking on the perimeter, or dancing at a wedding. Modern technology is destined to make us all fat and sedentary, but you can fight back with a comfortable pair of shoes.

What I know About Eating That Most People Don’t

Nutrition information does not make people eat better. It just allows them to know more about what’s in their food and how it can affect their health.  Making the right food choices each and every day takes motivation (plus time, skill, and money). Finding your source of motivation to eat well is the key to overcoming all of the cultural distractions that have been blamed for making us fat and unhealthy. Government regulations can’t make unmotivated people eat right, just as seductive advertising can’t keep the motivated from doing so.

Some things I’ve written that you really should read.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat This Holiday Season 

Childhood Obesity: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know 

Reduce added sugar without giving up sweet taste

The Sugar Free Diet Myth

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Have you noticed the movement advancing across the country to promote sugar free or sugarless diets? You can hear about it in the campaigns calling for “added sugars” to be included on food labels and in the proposals suggesting taxes on sugary drinks.

One problem with this effort is that there is no way to remove all of the sugars from what you eat.

Sugars are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, grains and milk products, so our food choices would be severely limited if we tried to eliminate everything containing them. Sugar is also added to foods for its many functional purposes, such as the ability to improve color, texture, moisture, and yeast fermentation. It’s not just used to make things taste sweet.

How to Reduce Sugar Intake

While it may be an unobtainable goal to go completely sugarless, there are a few simple steps you can take aimed at reducing sugar in your diet.

  1. Learn the Lingo: Other Names for Sugar

Check the ingredient lists on the packaged foods you buy for all possible sources of sugar, even if it’s something that doesn’t taste sweet, like salad dressing. There are many other names for sugar, so if you spot several of them, look for the product with the fewest. You can also find more tips on hidden sources of sugar here

  1. Check the Claims: No Added Sugar vs. Sugar Free

What you see is not always what you get when it comes to the claims found on food packages. For example, “no added sugar” does not mean “sugar free” according to the Food and Drug Administration. I have explained the difference and other important details about sugar labeling in my blog, Sugar Free Food Labels – What Do They Mean?

  1. Sweeten Without Calories: Use Sugar Substitutes

One of the best ways for reducing sugar in your diet is to change the way you sweeten your foods and beverages. Replacing sugar with a sugar substitute like SPLENDA® No-Calorie Sweetener gives you the chance to enjoy a sweet taste with much less sugar in your meal plan. Now that’s a campaign worth joining!

You can find delicious recipes with SPLENDA® No-Calorie Sweetener hereand learn ways to reduce added sugar at 365SweetSwaps.com.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

Potatoes provide nutritional and culinary benefits worth celebrating all year round

It’s Time to Celebrate Potatoes

POTATOES PROVIDE NUTRITIONAL AND CULINARY BENEFITS WORTH CELEBRATING ALL YEAR ROUND

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Potato chips are part of most celebrations in the U.S., but today is the day they are celebrated. Yes, March 14th is National Potato Chip Day!

Since the average American consumes about 17 pounds of potato chips a year, there is no need to say anything that might encourage eating more of this fried and salted snack. Instead, I want to talk about their primary ingredient, the potato.

And with St. Patrick’s Day in the same week, there is no better time to promote the nutritional and culinary benefits of potatoes.

What’s So Good About Potatoes?

On its own, a medium potato (5.3 ounces raw) is one of the best low calorie foods you can buy. For only 110 calories you get 45% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C and more potassium than a banana (620 mg vs 450 mg). That same potato provides an often overlooked 3 g of protein along with 2 g of fiber, half of which is in the skin.

Though colorful fruits and vegetables get more attention, the white ones, like potatoes, are also a good source of phytonutrients with antioxidant potential. The total antioxidant capacity of russet potatoes ranked fifth out of 42 vegetables tested, ahead of broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes.

One of the best things about potatoes is what they don’t contain: No saturated fat, no trans fat, no fat at all. And they have no cholesterol and no sodium, either.

Depending on how you prepare them, a potato can become “stuffed” with even more nutrients. I like to add salsa and cheese or leftover chili to a baked potato for a quick and satisfying lunch. Or I’ll stuff one with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Why Are Potatoes Such a Culinary Staple?

One of the best ways for a food to become a staple in any cuisine is to be available, affordable and versatile. Potatoes are all three.

Potatoes are consumed in some form by people on every continent. In the U.S., frozen is the most popular form, followed by fresh, chips, dehydrated and canned. They can be cooked by baking, boiling, deep frying, grilled, microwaving, pan frying, roasting, and steaming, plus in casseroles and slow cookers. Every cook appreciates that kind of versatility when faced with limited fuel or cooking facilities.

The most common varieties are categorized as russets, reds, whites, yellows (or Yukon’s) and purples. The shapes and sizes cover everything from the finger-shaped fingerlings, to round ones ranging in size from golf-balls to baseballs, to the classic oblong russet. That’s enough variety to serve them every day and never see the same ones twice in a month!

To tell the truth, the only potato I can’t recommend is the couch potato!

Go to PotatoGoodness.com for recipes and videos.

 

how can you tell what products are really natural?

What Does “Natural” Mean?

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

What one word do you think sells the most food in the U.S. when used on a food label? Here’s a hint: It’s not organic, healthy or protein. If you guessed “natural” you are correct! The food industry sold nearly $41 billion worth of food last year labeled with the word natural. Only claims about fat content were higher, but more terms were included in that category.

What exactly does “natural” mean when we see it on a food label? The dictionary says it means “existing in nature” or “not man-made,” but I see it printed across brightly colored boxes, bags and cans of food in the middle of the store containing products that you’ll never see “growing spontaneously, without being planted or tended by human hands,” which is another definition of natural!

As it turns out, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not come up with an official definition for what “natural” means other than objecting to its use on foods with “added colors, artificial flavors and synthetic substances.” That is why you can find it on so many foods that are highly processed and full of salt, sugar and fat – they all make the grade as “natural” ingredients.

Are Food Additives Natural?

Another term whose meaning is a bit ambiguous is “food additive.” Most people have a negative impression of the term when they hear it or believe a food is not “natural” if it contains food additives, but that simply isn’t true.

The FDA considers any substance that becomes a part of a food during processing or the making of the food to be a food additive. These substances can be derived from animal, vegetable, or manmade sources. For example, the vitamin D added to milk and vinegar used to pickle cucumbers are food additives. So are any ingredients used to prevent spoilage, maintain the desired consistency, or improve the appearance of a food. If you want to see them all, there are over 3000 food additives listed in the database directory Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS) on FDA.gov.

Are Low-Calorie Sweeteners Food Additives?

The FDA uses the terms “high-intensity sweeteners” and “nonnutritive sweeteners” for what I call low-calorie sweeteners and others commonly refer to as sugar substitutes. No matter what you call them, the FDA either categorizes them as food additives or generally recognized as safe (GRAS) ingredients.

Of the eight low-calorie sweeteners currently on the market in the U.S., only stevia and monk fruit extract are GRAS, while acesulfame potassium, advantame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose are food additives.

Either way, all of these ingredients must satisfy FDA’s rigorous safety standards to become part of our diets. You can find a helpful infographic illustrating how the two approval processes work here.

If you’d like to know more about how ingredients like sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA®Sweeteners) are approved, be sure to check my other posts on the subject: How are Low-Calorie Sweetener Ingredients Approved? and Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (Sucralose) Safe? Authorities We Can Trust.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

For more information, visit:

Basic guidelines for how to eat healthy have not changed

Still Not Sure How to Eat Healthy?

BASIC GUIDELINES FOR HOW TO EAT HEALTHY HAVE NOT CHANGED

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

Consumer surveys done over the last ten years have found more and more people feel there is too much controversy over how to eat healthy, so they have stopped trying. Are you one of them? I can understand your frustration because I read all of the food and nutrition news that is released every day to stay abreast of the issues, and I find it overwhelming. Yet no matter what I read, it rarely affects what I eat. That’s because the basic requirements for a healthy and balanced diet have not changed significantly in over 30 years.

It was 1980 when the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. My diet has pretty much conformed to them ever since. The recipes I use have changed, but not the food. The 7 Guidelines at that time were:

  1. Eat a variety of foods
  2. Maintain ideal weight
  3. Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  4. Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber
  5. Avoid too much sugar
  6. Avoid too much sodium
  7. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

Every five years since then the Dietary Guidelines have been updated, but they have not dramatically revised what Americans should eat, just how much. Unfortunately, those revisions have fueled endless debates over the details which have kept most Americans from getting started on the basics.

If you’re confused about how to eat healthy, maybe it’s time to get back to basics.

Basic Requirement of a Healthy Diet

The most important guideline in the bunch is the first one: Eat a variety of foods. It seems so simple, yet few people actually do it. Variety in the diet means you eat foods from each of the food groups every day:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Protein Foods
  • Dairy
  • Oils

Variety also means you make different choices within each food group from day to day and week to week throughout the year. That is always possible when you realize you can choose fresh produce some days and frozen or canned on others. Or you can include eggs, fish, beans, nuts, beef, chicken or pork in your meal for a good source of protein. Eating a variety of grains means you add barley to a pot of soup instead of rice sometimes, take the tabbouleh from the salad bar instead of pasta salad, or use a whole wheat bun on your burger instead of a white one.

How to Handle the Headlines

No matter what crazy claim is being made in the headlines, you have little to worry about if you are eating a wide variety of all the basic foods you need in the right amounts. That alone will provide you with a built-in safety valve against over consumption of any food that could be harmful if eaten in excess. It also delivers a huge dose of natural protection from whatever risks might lurk in the environment.

So before you lose any sleep over whether organically grown fruits and vegetables are better than conventionally grown, be sure you’re eating the recommended 5-11 servings each day.

Also check out these other posts on the topic:

  • Getting Motivated to Eat Right
  • Do You Worry About Pesticides in Produce?
  • 9 Good For You Foods That Get a Bad Rap
A look past the headlines reveals the truth about the safety of low calorie sweeteners

Is it the Science or the Sweeteners?

CONCERNS ABOUT LOW CALORIE SWEETENERS OFTEN STEM FROM A MISREPRESENTATION OF THE SCIENCE

Those colorful little packets of low calorie sweeteners have been on tabletops since the 1950’s when the pink ones first appeared. The blues ones followed in 1981, with yellow, green and orange filling in the rainbow over the next 30 years. The sweetening agents in those packets have also been used in thousands of foods and beverages providing us with a range of sugar free and reduced or no calorie products.

For those of us who have been regular users of low calorie sweeteners in one form or another, their availability has added up to countless calories that we haven’t consumed since they’ve been available. I find it comforting to know I’ve saved 140 calories for every can diet soda I’ve drunk, 30 calories for each packet of sweetener I’ve used and 120 calories for every 8 ounce container of light yogurt I’ve eaten. And I could go on.

So if, like me, you’re also a regular user of low calorie sweeteners, you’re probably wondering why everyone hasn’t embraced their calorie-saving benefits. After following all of the negative press they have received, I think I can explain.

Science Isn’t Emotional

Whenever you see a headline or hear a news broadcast about low calorie sweeteners they always tilt towards the sensational. It seems no one can talk about them rationally, objectively, unemotionally.

But questions that can be answered by sound scientific research are not emotional. The answers are reached by following precise, methodological procedures and the results are published so all the world can see them.

Everyone may not like the results, but you can’t argue with facts. Yet when it comes to reports on low cal sweeteners, they’re always tainted with opinion, conjecture and suspicion.

There is No Conspiracy

Speaking of suspicion, some of the controversy surrounding the safety of low cal sweeteners stems from the belief by a radical minority that you can’t trust the FDA, a government agency, for ruling on the safety of what’s in our food. These naysayers actually believe the chemists, microbiologists, toxicologists, food technologists, pathologists, molecular biologists, pharmacologists, nutritionists, epidemiologists, mathematicians, sanitarians, physicians and veterinarians who serve as food safety experts at the FDA are all corrupt.

I don’t believe in that conspiracy, but for those who do, I have three questions:

  1. If you don’t trust the FDA’s ruling on low cal sweeteners, what about the thousands of other products they have jurisdiction over, including food additives, infant formula, cosmetics, non-prescription drugs, medical devices, and veterinary products?
  2. How do you explain the fact that the regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries have reviewed the research on low calorie sweeteners and have also found them to be safe for use by their populations?
  3. Do you also doubt the integrity of independent health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Diabetes Association, since they, too, have endorsed the safety of low calorie sweeteners?

shutterstock_102057922

New Research Doesn’t Cancel Out Old

Even if you accept the wisdom of the experts, what do you do when a new study comes along that “suggests” a particular low calorie sweetener “may” be “linked” to some problem? Whatever you do, don’t toss out all your diet drinks and sugar-free desserts. Those studies do not prove the sweetener caused the problem in question. The researchers have simply made a “connection” between point A and point B, and they’d have to do a whole lot more research in order to connect those dots.

If and until that research is done using the kinds of studies that can prove cause and effect, preferably in human beings, the existing body of evidence stands firm. It helps to keep in mind that much of the scientific process is based on trial and error, and half of that process results is errors. That’s why we don’t abandon the proven and tested body of evidence we already have based on a single study.

 

How Much Evidence Is Enough?

But for those who still aren’t convinced we know enough about low calorie sweeteners, I offer these final facts:

  • over 200 studies have been done that support the safety and effectiveness of low cal sweeteners
  • low calorie sweeteners have been used around the world for over 40 years
  • more than 200,000,000 people (that’s 200 million) safely use and enjoy low calorie sweeteners!

As a registered dietitian who has been advising consumers about healthy eating habits for over 35 years I feel confident that low calorie sweeteners are not a problem. And when they are used in place of sugar as part of a balanced diet complemented by regular physical activity they can help prevent weight gain – and that is a really big problem.

Two women toasting a man while dining at an outside table

Great Summer Foods for Grown Ups

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013.

TRY THESE HEALTHY RECIPES AND SUMMER FOOD CHOICES WHILE THE KIDS ARE AT CAMP

When children are home and school is in session, meal schedules and menus revolve around them and their taste preferences. Once they’re off to camp for the summer it’s time for adult tastes to rule the kitchen (and grill). Foods with adult flavors can be found in every aisle of the store. Here are 7 of my favorites that will definitely be on my summer food shopping list and part of my healthy summer recipes.

Chobani

 

Chobani Greek Yogurt Bites Fig with Orange Zest

This is the most exceptional flavor combo in the dairy case! I just love it and am so happy the “bite” size containers are just 100 calories each. I can have one as a midmorning snack then enjoy another for a satisfying, thick and creamy dessert at night. The Chobani Blood Orange Non-fat Greek Yogurt takes second place for best grown up food flavor of the year.

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Wegman’s Organic Wild Mushroom & Herb Chicken Sausage

There are other brands of chicken sausage out there, but Wegman’s Organic Wild Mushroom & Herb does it best for me. If you don’t have a Wegman’s in your neighborhood, you can try the Al Fresco or Dietz & Watson chicken sausage, but it’s hard to find a comparable product to the Wegman’s regular or organic line. Just grill with vegetables or cut them up to top a summer salad.

campbells

Campbell’s Golden Lentil with Madras Curry GO Soup

I fell in love with the Campbell’s line of Go soups in pouches over the winter and am not about to give them up as the temperatures rise. Each variety is authentically seasoned and the pouches maintain the texture of the vegetables, chicken and lentils like no other prepared soup I’ve ever tasted. Just turn down the A/C and give them a try.

triscuitbrownricepepseasalt

 

Brown Rice Sea Salt & Black Pepper Triscuits

There are so many crackers on the shelves it’s hard to imagine there could be anything new worth trying. But there is. Nabisco’s new line of Triscuits made with brown rice are lighter and crisper and come in five flavors that weren’t developed with toddlers in mind.

morningstar farms

 

Morningstar Farms Mediterranean Chickpea Burger

I’ve become a big fan of bean and veggie burgers because they deliver such big taste in so few calories and with a lot less fat than straight-up meat patties. The flavor profiles go from the Southwest to Asia and the Mediterranean, so just add the complementary condiments for a burger that won’t bore you. And if you’re as wild about mushrooms as I am, don’t overlook the Morningstar Farms Mushroom Lover’s Burger.

download

 

 

Glaceau Orange Mango fruitwater naturally flavored sparkling water beverage

I’m not a fan of plain water so run the risk of not drinking enough in the summer months when hydration requirements are highest. Now I don’t have to worry because I love these great-tasting, naturally fruit flavored, zero calorie sparkling water beverages from Glaceau. They’re available in 5 flavors that refresh without drowning your palate in artificial flavors like so many kids’ drinks do.

dole

 

Dole Banana Dippers covered in dark chocolate

I’ve found the perfect frozen novelty that tastes like ice cream but isn’t. They’re banana slices dipped in dark chocolate. Each sleeve has 4 slices with only 25 calories each, but it feels like so much more as the dark chocolate slowly melts in your mouth and combines with the soft, sweet banana. The kids won’t know what they’re missing!

 

 

Tray of vegetables kebabs ready to put on the barbecue grill

Is a Plant Based Diet a Good Diet Plan?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013.

FOLLOWING A PLANT BASED DIET IS A GOOD PLAN WITHOUT GOING VEGETARIAN

It’s the first day of summer, let the harvest begin! This is my favorite time of year because it makes eating a plant based diet so easy. With so many more seasonal fruits and vegetables to choose from during the summer months, having meatless meals is the default menu option in my house.

You don’t have to become a full-fledged vegetarian to have the benefits of aplantiful” diet, just head in that direction by making more of your meals plant centered.

I not only get to reap the bounty from my own vegetable garden this time of year, I also enjoy the variety that shows up in my local farmer’s market. See my tips for shopping at farm stands to take advantage of this wonderful source of locally grown crops.

Why is a Plant Based Diet a Good Diet Plan?

Edible plants, which include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, provide us with the ideal combination of high nutrient-density and low caloric-density. That means you get more nutrients per calorie you eat, a great strategy for staying properly nourished without gaining weight. Plus, the high water and fiber content of plants helps us feel full, without filling us out.

Then there are all the phytonutrients (plant compounds that have health benefits but are not essential nutrients) you can only get from plants foods. Things like beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, quercetin and resveratrol can’t be found in beef, poultry or fish but are valued for their cancer-fighting, immunity-building, anti-aging, free-radical-fighting properties.

No matter what the Paleo Diet crowd may say, you are better off living exclusively on plants than on animals in this day and age.

How to Enjoy More Meatless Meals

As I said before, the goal isn’t to eliminate meat, but to eat less meat at meals. It’s not as hard as you may think. You can start by approaching every meal with a focus on what fruit, vegetable, grain, nut and/or seed you will feature in that meal, and treat the animal portion as a side-dish. This can be as simple as cutting the meat serving size in half while doubling up on the plants you normally serve.

Imagine a sandwich on whole wheat bread spread with hummus, stacked with layers of grilled vegetables and topped with sliced avocado. You don’t need, and won’t miss, the deli meat and cheese one bit. But if you want some, a single slice will do.

How about a baked potato (yes, it’s a vegetable) stuffed with black beans (another vegetable) and salsa (a 3rd vegetable), topped with shredded cheese?

For some great outdoor dinner ideas try assorted vegetable pieces threaded onto kebab skewers with just a few cubes of chicken or salmon basted with a flavorful marinade and grilled to serve over a bulghur pilaf. Or you can grill eggplant and tomato slices and stack them up with a bit of parmesan cheese and fresh basil in between for a satisfying summer appetizer.

You can find entrée ideas in vegetarian cookbooks that are easily embellished with a few ounces of meat or cheese, if needed, or just add a few shrimp or some diced turkey to your salad.

Summer is here. It’s time to start moving toward a plant based diet while the pickings are good!

Help yourself to some of these other posts on eating more vegetables, too.

  • 9 Nutritious Salad Toppers From Your Pantry Shelf
  • Make a Healthy Homemade Salsa – It’s Easy!
  • Quick Healthy Meals Begin With Pasta
  • Need Dinner Ideas? Soup Makes Quick Easy Meals
  • Winter Vegetables Make Meatless Meals More Satisfying
  • Focus on Healthy Eating Habits, Not Superfoods

A Simple Guide: Making Sense of Soy Foods:

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

USE THIS GUIDE TO UNDERSTAND ALL OF THE SOY FOODS AND PRODUCTS AVAILABLE TODAY TO GET MORE SOY IN YOUR DIET

If you didn’t grow up eating soy foods, then you’re probably a bit overwhelmed by the many soy products now available in stores and on restaurant menus. Getting more soy in the diet has health benefits, especially when soy products replace animal products, so it’s worth learning how soybeans can be converted into milk, butter, cheese and meat substitutes, plus so much more. Use this Simple Guide to add more soy to your diet and check the Soyfoods Association of North America for more information.

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Soybeans – Available as tan or black dry beans sold in bags, bulk, canned or frozen. Provides protein similar to meat sources plus bio-active compounds associated with relieving menopausal symptoms and lowering the risk of certain cancers.

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Edamame – Immature green soybeans in the pod and frequently served boiled or steamed. They are sold in and out of the pod fresh and frozen and shelled as canned green soybeans. The flavor is more mild than mature soybeans with a higher sugar content.

 

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Roasted Soy Nuts – Available oil roasted or dry roasted and plain, salted or flavored. Enjoyed as a convenient snack and used to make soy nut butter. Same nutritional value as whole soybeans depending on how they are processed and seasoned.

 

Non-Peanut Butters

Soy Nut Butter – Made by grinding whole roasted soybeans, the result resembles peanut butter in taste, texture and nutritional value. It’s a popular alternative for those with peanut allergies.

 

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Tofu – Also known as soybean curd, tofu has a soft cheese-like consistency and many uses as a substitute for meat or cheese. Made by soaking and grinding soybeans in water, then mixing the slurry with a coagulant and heating it to make curds, which are then pressed to form blocks. The firmness of the tofu depends on how much water is removed. Contains high quality protein and iron and depending on the coagulant used, may be a good source of calcium.

 

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Miso – This paste is made by fermenting soybeans (plus rice or barley) with salt and a fungus to flavor soups, marinades, dressings and more. The color ranges from golden to dark brown. It’s high in phytonutrients and beneficial bacteria and enzymes.

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Tempeh – A “cake” made from cooked soybeans with a texture that ranges from firm to chewy to tender and a flavor that can be mushroomy or yeasty. It can be prepared by any dry or moist heat cooking method after slicing or cubing into the desired size and shape. It’s an excellent source of fiber and protein, plus a good source of folic acid, potassium and iron.

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Soy Milk – This product is often used by people seeking a lactose-free alternative to cow’s milk. It’s made by soaking and cooking whole ground soybeans then filtering the liquid or by hydrating full-fat soy flour or soy protein solids. Sweeteners and flavors may be added to the base along with nutrient fortification to replicate cow’s milk.

 

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Soy Flour – It’s made from ground soybeans and available in high and low fat content suited for different uses. Soy flour is the base used to make some soy milks and textured vegetable protein products. It’s a good source of high quality protein and isoflavones.

 

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Textured Vegetable Protein or Textured Soy Protein – Also referred to as TVP or TSP, it’s made from soy flour, soy concentrate or soy protein isolate. It can be formulated to have the shape, flavor and texture of meat products and is used to make most of the meat-free patties, burgers and crumbles on the market today. TSP is 50% protein and very low in sodium when unflavored, with no cholesterol.

http://www.soyfoods.org/soy-products/soyfoods-in-the-supermarket