Satisfy your sweet tooth while reducing added sugars

No Need to Give Up Sweets, Just Get Them Naturally

Improve the quality of your diet and satisfy your sweet tooth by replacing foods high in added sugars with those that contain naturally occurring sugars

I admit it, I have a sweet tooth. I’ve had it all of my life.  I never thought much about it when I was a child because everyone I knew had one too. Or a full set! My crowd simply liked sweet tasting foods more than salty, savory, sour or bitter ones. It surprised us when someone said they didn’t like sweets. But that didn’t mean we ate cake, cookies and candy all day long. Far from it. It simply meant we enjoyed naturally sweet fruits and vegetables as part of every meal and snack. And I still do today.

Imagine if no one had ever told you that Tootsie Rolls were candy and dates were not. You could easily get them confused. Same for the choice between a Popsicle or some frozen seedless grapes as a treat. And if you’ve ever had sweet potatoes mashed with some orange zest and butter you know they taste like you’re having dessert for dinner.

The point is, our eyes know the difference between a piece of chocolate fudge and a ripe banana, but our bodies cannot tell the difference between the sugars they contain since they are virtually the same. That is where the similarities end. The sugar in the fudge is delivered with saturated fats that can lead to heart disease while the naturally occurring sugars in the banana come packaged with fiber, vitamins and minerals that help prevent heart disease. Eating a banana every day, or any other serving of fruit, in place of something sweet made with added sugars is how I’ve maintained a balanced diet all my life without giving up the sweet taste I love.

So if you’re worried that you or your children eat too many added sugars, consider changing the delivery system to get your sweet fix.  The major sources of added sugars in American diets today are grain-based desserts, dairy desserts and soft drinks. If you’re relying on them to satisfy your sweet tooth you’re being cheated out of the nutrients your body needs in two ways. First, because those sugary foods and drinks supply very few vitamins and minerals along with all the sugar they contain, and second, they displace the foods we could be eating that provide plenty of essential nutrients.

This is where fruits and vegetables come into the picture. Instead of going on some bizarre “sugar detox” diet where you eliminate everything that tastes sweet in an attempt to “control your craving” for sweets, you can just use naturally sweet foods in their place and avoid all the drama. This approach is easier than you think when you realize all forms of fruits and vegetables are an option – frozen, canned, dried and 100% juices – not just the fresh varieties that have reached their peak of sweetness. And no matter what the form, including conventionally grown or organic, they all deliver important nutrients and fiber along with their natural sweetness.

Try some of these ways to satisfy your sweet tooth using fruits and vegetables at your meals and snacks . You may be surprised at how sweet life can be without all the added sugars!

  • Freeze a can of pears in natural juices and then scoop contents into the food processor and whirl for sweet sorbet
  • Mix golden raisins into homemade trail mix instead of candies
  • Add crispy freeze-dried fruits to unsweetened breakfast cereals for their intensely sweet taste
  • Make a tropical pilaf by adding crushed pineapple and toasted coconut to your favorite cooked whole grain
  • Reduce full-strength juices, like grape and apple, to replace sugary meat glazes and sauces
  • Stir chopped apple, vanilla and some apple pie seasoning into hot oatmeal
  • Roast parsnips and carrot strips together until caramelized for some sweet vegetable fries
  • Warm applesauce in the microwave oven before eating to heighten the sweet taste
  • Make watermelon pops with the juice and diced pieces from a cut watermelon
  • Add sliced strawberries to a peanut butter sandwich in place of strawberry jam

BONUS TIP: Keep a container of dried fruit like apricots, figs and prunes in the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. They’re easy to eat, have no peels or pits to remove, they don’t bruise or spoil and are available all year round.

Related blogs:

10 Fun Ways to Eat Enough Fruit This Summer

Cutting Back on Too Much Added Sugar: Your Heart Will Say Thank You!

 

Changes in the seasons bring more colorful produce to the market

Fall in Love with Fall Fruits and Vegetables

This post originally appeared as a guest blog in Aspartame.org 

Even if the weather doesn’t vary much where you live, you can use the seasonal changes on the calendar to reboot your diet for better health. All it takes is expanding the colors on your plate to feature whatever is being harvested. I mark the arrival of autumn in the produce section of my grocery store by the orange-hued butternut squash, navel oranges and Fuyu persimmons that suddenly appear alongside all those huge bins of pumpkins. It’s a sure sign that summer is over!

According to the American Heart Association, eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all of the essential nutrients you need to lower your risk for preventable diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. To reach the goals outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consume 1-2 cups of fruits per day and 1-3 cups of vegetables per day, based on your age and energy requirements. Reaching those goals is easier if you remember you can include all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.

Thanks to rapid transportation, you can find fresh seasonal produce no matter where you live. In the fall, that includes the parsnips grown in Oregon and the Key limes from Florida. Even the internationally tagged Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and Asian pears are all grown in the U.S. and are being brought to market now, so be sure to look for them in your store. For complete lists of what’s in season throughout the entire year, check Fruits and Vegetables More Matters What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season?

Let the Holidays Lead the Way to More Produce in Your Diet

Incorporating more fall produce in your diet is easy if you think about the most popular dishes on your Thanksgiving menu. Do sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and apple pie come to mind? There’s no reason to reserve them just for special occasions, and no reason to prepare them with all of the added sugars typically called for in indulgent holiday recipes. Many of your family favorites can be made using a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, to replace some of the sugar. You can find tried-and-true recipes on the websites for your favorite brand of low-calorie sweetener or experiment on your own.  The results should look and taste the same as the originals but will be lower in added sugars and calories, which is good for the whole family.

How to Make the Tastes of the Season Last

 Of course, pumpkin isn’t just for pie. I like to stock up on canned pumpkin puree this time of year so I can make these moist and delicious Raisin-Pumpkin Muffins in the winter months ahead. When you eat them for breakfast you can feel good about including your first serving of vegetables for the day in your first meal of the day! Other great uses for canned pumpkin are in smoothies, soups and chili. I also load my freezer with bags of fresh cranberries every fall so I can add them to quick breads when they are no longer in season and to this Cranberry Salad. It adds color and crunch to the plate thanks to the celery and walnuts. And if you haven’t tried pomegranate arils, the seed pod inside a whole pomegranate, this is the time to buy them. They also freeze well and can add some sparkle and extra vitamin C to any salad you serve.

When you go apple picking or buy a bushel of apples at a farmer’s market, making a big batch of this Baked Cinnamon Applesauce is a great way to enjoy them well into spring. Just freeze the applesauce in one-quart zip-top freezer bags and then thaw it to serve whenever you want it. Another great way to use up those apples and add more vegetables to your meals (cabbage, carrots and bell peppers) is with this Tangy Apple Slaw. In my house, a grilled cheese sandwich is the preferred side dish to  on a chilly autumn afternoon.

The leaves on the trees aren’t the only thing that change color in the fall. The fruits and vegetables on your plate should be changing color, too. Here’s to another flavorful season!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Celebrate Men’s Health with a these tips for a healthy prostate

What Every Man Wants: A Healthy Prostate

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.

HELP THE MEN IN YOUR LIFE WITH THESE TIPS FOR A HEALTHY PROSTATE

Knowing how to maintain a healthy prostate is as important for women as it is for the men they love.  Men with an enlarged prostate gland take longer to urinate, so when out together, women have to wait twice as long at public restrooms. Once to get into the Women’s Room and again waiting for her man to come out of the Men’s Room.

 Focusing on the Prostate for Men’s Health Month

Enlarged prostate is medically known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). Growth of the prostate gland is accelerated in men during adolescence and again around age 50. As the prostate gets larger it compresses the uretha (tube that carries urine from the bladder). As a result, the stream of urine gets slower and slower, and the waiting begins.

The good news is, BPH is not a sign of prostate cancer and does not increase a man’s chances of developing it. The test used to detect prostate cancer is the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level. While an enlarged prostate can raise the PSA a few points, that reading is not the best, or sole, indicator of prostate cancer. Other tests musts be done to confirm a diagnosis.

Diet for a Healthy Prostate

If you are following a diet to reduce your risk for heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S. for men and women alike, you are helping to lower the risk of BPH, too. Ads promising quick results to shrink the prostate are preying on the “impatience” of those dealing with the problem. Don’t be fooled. There are no foods or herbs that can instantly make trips to the urinal shorter.

What to Do:

Maintain a healthy body weight. A large waist measurement, or “beer belly,” is associated with higher risk of BPH.

Get regular physical activity. Even if weight is normal, exercise improves the circulation and muscle mass, both important in keeping the prostate healthy.

Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Vitamin C from vegetable sources, such as bell pepper, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, has been found to be especially beneficial.

Reduce fat intake. Choose lower fat milk and dairy products, light spreads, and lean cuts of meat and poultry for a lower fat diet.

Limit alcoholic beverages to 2 drinks a day. Studies have shown moderate drinking may inhibit risks of BPH while excess is questionable.

What to Doubt:

Saw Palmetto may or may not help due to variation in ingredients, purity and dosages. If you decide to take it be sure to tell your physician since it can affect other medications.

Zinc supplements or eating more foods high in zinc, like oysters and pumpkin seeds have not been proven effective.

Lycopene supplements or extra servings of foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes and watermelon cannot shrink an enlarged prostate.

Vitamin D supplements unless being taken to meet daily requirements for general good health.

Beta-sitosterol supplements did not shrink the prostate or increase urinary flow in 4 studies of its effectiveness

The role of diet in reducing the risk of enlarged prostate is just one more piece of evidence that the diet that good for the heart is good for the whole body.

More evidence that healthy diet and exercise increase longevity in women

How to Predict Longevity in Women

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.

MORE EVIDENCE THAT HEALTHY DIET AND EXERCISE INCREASE LONGEVITY IN WOMEN

A new study on longevity in women adds further evidence to what seems to be a no-brainer by now: Eating fruits and vegetables and staying active extends your lifespan. Doing either one is helpful, but this research demonstrated that those who do both last the longest.

What made this investigation stand out for me is that it was just about women. Older women in fact.  Even though women in the U.S. now outlive men by at least 5 years, few studies are done exclusively on them. But all 713 subjects in this study were women between the ages of 70 and 79.

Women and Aging

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University and published in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It was designed to evaluate the combined benefit of a healthy diet and exercise on life expectancy since other research had shown each to have a positive impact independently of the other.

Level of activity was evaluated using a questionnaire that asked each participant the amount of time they spent doing structured exercise, household and yard chores, and leisure time activities.  That information was used to calculate the number of calories being expended by each subject.

26% were rated as ‘most active’ at the outset

21% were rated as ‘moderately active’

53% were rated as ‘inactive’ or ‘sedentary’

The quality of their diets was measured by testing the carotenoid levels in their blood. Carotenoids are compounds found in plants that serve as very good indicators of fruit and vegetable consumption.

All of the participants were then tracked for 5 years.

 Impact of Diet & Exercise After 5 Years

12% (out of the total 713) died during the 5 year follow-up

71% lower death rate among those in the ‘most active’ group compared to those in ‘sedentary’ group

46% lower death rate in women with highest carotenoid levels compared to lowest

Taken together, the women who were the most physically active and who had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were eight times more likely to survive the five year follow-up period than the women with the lowest levels.

Those are good odds to take.

Lead researcher Dr. Emily J. Nickett from the University of Michigan School of Social Work concluded that after smoking cessation, “maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity.”

What are you doing to control your destiny?

 

Tips for parents and grandparents to get kids to eat more vegetables

11 Ways to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables

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

PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS CAN USE THESE TIPS TO GET KIDS TO EAT MORE VEGETABLES

 Parents and grandparents alike want to know how to get kids to eat more vegetables. It was the number one question my clients asked me when I was a pediatric dietitian over 20 years ago. Since then, the quest to find ways to get more vegetables into children has grown steadily.

I knew we had reached the tipping point after reading the results of a survey done by a major frozen vegetable company a few years ago.  They found parents thought their children had a greater chance of becoming president of the United States than eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day! I can’t find a link to the study, but the results stuck with me.

Are Vegetables and Obesity Linked?

I remember wondering at the time if this was a global problem? Have children around the world suddenly started turning up their noses at turnips? And if so, is there a link between the aversion to vegetables among children today and the growing rates of obesity?

My professional instincts told me it wasn’t that simple. Modern lifestyles have changed dramatically since the dawn of the “Information/Digital Age” in the late 70’s. The impact of all that technology and information has been universal, and rapid.

One could argue that the only reason parents worry about how many servings of vegetables their kids eat today is because they now know how many they should be eating. Technology has added to their  frustration by making an abundant assortment of vegetables available all year round.  All that’s left is getting kids to eat them.

The USDA’s new ChooseMyPlate eating plan did its part by recommending that we fill half our plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.  Here are some other proven strategies to help your little ones eat like bunnies.

Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Imitation. Make sure the child sees you and others in the family eating the same vegetables.

Smile! Ever see someone frowning while licking an ice cream cone?  Children need to see the same expression of enjoyment when you are eating or serving them vegetables.

Repeat exposure. Don’t stop offering them, even if they have been rejected by the child in the past, and don’t stop eating them yourself.

Different textures. Vary the textures (and odors) by serving them raw, cooked, and frozen, such as frozen peas and carrots.

Visual stimulation. Feature different colors and shapes to spark curiosity, such as lima beans, button mushrooms, and baby beets.

Pair with favorites. Vegetables can be put on a pizza, in a dip, or under melted cheese that the child already likes.

Offer any time. Dinner is typically the meal with the most food to eat, so vegetables have to compete with other preferred foods. Make vegetables available at other times of day, especially when kids are hungriest.

Reward the willing. Research suggests a tangible reward or verbal praise can be effective in getting a child to try, and learn to like, a food they are not otherwise motivated to eat.

Change the Name. Some vegetables may have unpleasant associations to a child, such as “squash” and “succotash.”

Let them help. Take them to the grocery store or farm market to select vegetables they’d like to try; let them use age-appropriate gadgets to peel, shred and chop.

Don’t deceive. If you incorporate vegetables in another dish, tell them you made “carrot-tomato sauce” or “carrot-raisin muffins.” They need to appreciate that the vegetables are there, not be wary of them.

 Which list is longer, the one of vegetables you do like or the ones you don’t?

Find plenty of tips and recipes on vegetables from artichoke to zucchini at Fruits & Veggies More Matters

Vegetables in jars and cans from your pantry shelf add nutritional value to salad when fresh produce is not available

9 Nutritious Salad Toppers (From Your Pantry Shelf)

Vegetables in jars and cans add nutritional value to salad when fresh produce is not available

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.

If you love making salad from the wide assortment of fresh garden vegetables available in the summer months, your wait is almost over. But while you wait, there are many ways to add variety to your plated greens. Just turn to the jars and cans of pickled and marinated vegetables on your pantry shelf. They can offer an endless array of tastes, textures, nutrients and eye-appeal to your meals until that first rosey radish is plucked from the ground.

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9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Artichoke Hearts

Sold marinated or packed in water, both easily drained to lower the sodium content

Calories: 25 in 3 water-packed hearts or 25 per heart packed in oil and drained

Key Vitamins: C, folate

Key Minerals: magnesium, copper, potassium

Other Nutrients: cyanin and silymarin which aid liver function

Reese Specialty Foods

beets

9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Beets

Sold whole, quartered or sliced with a no added salt option.

Calories: 35 per half cup sliced, 22 whole per 2 inch diameter

Key Vitamins: folate, C

Key Mineral: manganese, potassium, magnesium

Other Nutrients: betacyanin, which may protect against colon cancer

Food in Jars

corn

9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Baby Corn

Sold whole and in pieces, packed in water

Calories: 6 per ear, 65 per ½ cup pieces

Key Vitamins: folate, B6, C

Key Mineral: potassium, magnesium, iron

Other Nutrients: fiber, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are good for eye health

Roland Food Company Baby Corn

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9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Asparagus

Sold whole and in pieces, in white or green

Calories: 3 per spear, 20 per half cup pieces drained

Key Vitamins: A, C, K, folate

Key Mineral: copper, manganese, selenium

Other Nutrients: carotenes and cryto-xanthins, which have anti-oxidant properties

Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board

 olives

9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Better Salad: Olives

Sold in different sizes ripe, cured, stuffed, spiced, and sliced; in single or mixed varieties; pitted or not

Calories: 5 each for medium size, 75 per ½ cup sliced or chopped

Key Vitamins: E, A

Key Mineral: calcium, iron, zinc

Other Nutrients: oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, needed to form cell membranes

Lindsay Olives

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 9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Mushrooms

Sold whole and in pieces; pickled, marinated or in water

Calories: 3 per whole mushroom, 22 per ½ cup pieces

Key Vitamins: D and B-complex vitamins riboflavin, niacin, pantothentic acid

Key Mineral: copper, selenium, potassium

Key Phytonutrients: ergothioneine, an antioxidant which protects the cells

The Mushroom Council

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9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Peppers

Sold grilled and roasted; whole, sliced, strips and diced; red, green, yellow and orange

Calories: 40 calories per whole bell pepper,

Key Vitamins: A, C, folate

Key Mineral: potassium, iron, magnesium

Other Nutrients: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene, which can be converted into vitamin A

B&G Peppers

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9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Red or yellow; marinated or in water; whole, halved or sliced; plain or seasoned

Calories: 6 per whole piece in oil and drained; 115 per half cup sliced in oil and drained

Key Vitamins: A, C, B-complex riboflavin, niacin, B6

Key Mineral: potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium

Other Nutrients: lycopene, associated with lower risks of cancer and heart disease

Tomato Products Wellness Council

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9 Nutritious Ways to Make a Healthy Salad: Onions

Sold in water, vinegar or “cocktail” style brine

Calories: 5 each small whole (size of grape), 35 per ½ cup

Key Vitamins: C, B6, folate

Key Minerals: potassium, phosphorus, calcium

Other Nutrients: quercetin, helps eliminate free radicals

The National Onion Association

White vegetables have same health benefits as more colorful ones and many culinary advantages

White Vegetables Offer Health and Culinary Benefits

WHITE VEGETABLES HAVE SAME HEALTH BENEFITS AS MORE COLORFUL ONES AND MANY CULINARY ADVANTAGES

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.

There’s so much talk about the health benefits of eating colorful fruits and vegetables, I think the white ones get over looked. That’s too bad because they are a source of important nutrients, just like the more colorful ones, and winter is the perfect time to incorporate the many white vegetables into your meals while they are in season.

The most popular white vegetables eaten year round are potatoes, onions, and cauliflower. But the cold weather months are when parsnips, turnips, and kohlrabi should be added to your shopping list. You’ve probably seen them in the produce aisle and walked right past them in pursuit of some dark green kale or bright orange squash, but don’t be deceived by their pale hue. They are nutrition powerhouses, too.

Another way to get more white vegetables into your diet is by adding more of the aromatic varieties to your recipes. Think garlic, shallots, leek, and ginger to provide a big boost of flavor to any dish. If your salads need more crunch during the long winter months when garden is bare, turn to white jicama and Jerusalem artichokes, also known as Sunchokes. Both can be eaten raw or cooked and stored in the refrigerator for 1-3 weeks.

And don’t forget mushrooms, my personal favorite! They are one of the most versatile white vegetables you can have in your kitchen. Mushrooms provide a meaty texture, the savory taste known as umami, and an important source of Vitamin D, which no other vegetable has. They are also low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium.

For recipes and information on storage and selections visit:

Fruits & Veggies More Matters

U.S. Potato Board

Mushroom Council

don't beleive all the myths people dig up about potatoes

Five More Myths about Potatoes

This blog was originally written as a guest blog for the Alliance for Potato Education & Research. You can see the post here.

With the start of fall comes the start of the potato harvest, the busiest time of year for potato growers. Since I busted several potato nutrition myths earlier this year, this seemed like a good time to return and address some other misperceptions so you can get beyond the myths and enjoy nutritious and delicious potatoes more often this harvest season and all year round.

MYTH #1. MOST PEOPLE EAT TOO MANY POTATOES.

Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of potatoes in all forms is well within current food intake recommendations. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 – 8 cups of starchy vegetables per week (based upon calorie needs) and potatoes fall into this vegetable subgroup, yet Americans only eat about 50% of the vegetables they should. One way to close this gap is to eat more potatoes since research suggests that consumers of white potatoes, on average, eat more vegetables than those who don’t eat potatoes.

MYTH #2. MOST COOKING METHODS DESTROY THE NUTRIENTS IN POTATOES.

While boiling potatoes does cause a small loss of water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin B6, the white potato retains most, if not all, of its potassium and dietary fiber regardless of cooking method, such as baking, boiling, or frying. You might be surprised to learn that frying, because it decreases water, actually increases the concentration of key nutrients including potassium. In fact, a recent study found that on a gram weight basis the white potato in all of its cooked forms provides more potassium and as much dietary fiber as other commonly consumed fruit and vegetables.

MYTH #3. ADDING TOPPINGS TO BAKED POTATOES MAKES THEM TOO HIGH IN FAT AND CALORIES.

The only thing coming between you and a great tasting baked potato is your imagination! Traditional toppings like butter, sour cream and bacon bits can be high in fat and calories, but there are plenty of others that are not. Here’s a list of tasty and nutritious toppings to help you discover many new ways to top a baked potato. Use just one or try a combination to create the perfect flavor profile for you.

Dijon Mustard Sautéed Mushrooms Crumbled Feta Cheese

Low-fat Greek Yogurt Caramelized Onions Grated Smoked Gouda

Chunky Salsa Sliced Scallions Melted Pepper Jack Cheese

Marinara Sauce Diced Black Olives Shaved Parmesan Cheese

Guacamole Black Beans Shredded Manchego Cheese

MYTH #4. IF I GIVE MY CHILDREN POTATOES AT DINNER, THEY’LL FILL UP ON THEM AND WON’T EAT THEIR VEGETABLES.

One thing most parents quickly find out when planning family-friendly meals is that children love potatoes! That’s good news for kids and parents alike because potatoes are vegetables and provide the same key nutrients, or more, than other family favorites. For example, a medium baked potato provides more vitamin C than 5 cherry tomatoes, more potassium than a banana or a cup of chopped broccoli, and more folate than a large carrot, plus it’s a good source of fiber and vitamin B6. And research shows children who consumed potatoes that were baked, boiled, mashed or roasted actually ate more other vegetables, too.

MYTH #5. FRESH POTATOES SPOIL TOO QUICKLY, AND THEN THEY MUST BE THROWN AWAY.

Potatoes actually last much longer than most fresh vegetables. According to the Idaho Potato Commission, by storing them in a cool, dark place, between 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they can last several weeks. If held at room temperature potatoes will keep for about one week. An easy way to prevent spoilage is to not buy more potatoes than you can properly store and use in that amount of time.

If you see a greenish color on your potatoes it may be chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment that is tasteless and harmless if eaten. Greening of potatoes may also indicate the presence of excess solanine, another natural compound produced in potatoes by exposure to light. Since solanine makes the potato taste bitter, and it’s not possible to tell by looking whether it’s chlorophyll or solanine making the potato green, it’s best to peel the potato to remove the green parts before cooking.

Sprouting on a potato is a sign the potato is trying to grow and should be cut away before cooking or eating. Proper storage will help reduce sprouting.

Disclosure Statement: Robyn Flipse was compensated by the Alliance for Potato Research & Education for her services as a guest blogger, but all opinions expressed here are her own.

Summer gardens and menus are filled with nightshade foods

10 Nightshade Foods Now in Season

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.

Nightshade foods all contain alkaloid compounds that are naturally produced by the plants to protect them against insects. Some people may be sensitive to these compounds and experience problems with nerve, muscle and joint function or digestion. Cooking lowers the alkaloid content of these foods by 40-50%, but that may not be enough to allow highly sensitive people to enjoy them. Anyone who suspects they may be sensitive to nightshade foods can safely eliminate them for 2-3 weeks to see if it improves their condition.

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1. Tomato – Eaten raw on sandwiches and in salads; squeezed for juices; widely used to make sauces, soups, curries, casseroles; found in condiments such as catsup, salsa, relish.

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2. Eggplant – Classic dishes include eggplant parmesan and rollatini (Italian cheese-filled), ratatouille (French vegetable stew), baba ghanoush (Arabic spread), baingan bartha (Indian curry), moussaka (Greek minced meat pie). It is prepared deep fried, stir fried, grilled, roasted, baked and as a pizza topping.

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3. Potato – Green or sprouted areas reflect high alkaloid content, though it is caused by chlorophyll, not alkaloids. Eaten fried, baked, mashed, boiled, roasted, stuffed; added to soups, stews, casseroles, eggs, salads; dehydrated and reformulated as patties, nuggets, coatings, thickener.

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4. Peppers – Includes sweet and hot bell peppers and chili peppers; the spices paprika and cayenne; Tabasco Sauce; and all foods prepared or seasoned with them.

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5. Pepino – Resembles a melon so sometimes called pepino melon, but closer in size to an apple. Common in markets selling foods from Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru, but also cultivated in California, Hawaii New Zealand, and Western Australia.

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6. Pimento – Also called the cherry pepper or “pimiento” in Spanish. Eaten fresh, pickled or jarred and as a stuffing in green olives and in pimento-cheese and pimento loaf.

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7. Tomatillo – Also called ground cherry, Mexican tomato and green tomato (not to be confused with under ripe green tomatoes). Is the key ingredient in green sauces used in Latin American cuisine.

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8. Gooseberry – Used in fruited desserts such as pies, crisps, cobblers and crumbles; preserved as jam; extracts flavor beverages and syrups. cuisine.

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9. Goji Berry – Also called wolfberry, used in many Asian dishes; often dried then reconstituted in rice congee and almond jelly; made into an herbal tea, wine and beer. cuisine.

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10. Tamarillo – Used in chutneys and curries, added to stews, found in some fruit compotes and desserts. Native plant in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and the cuisine from those regions. cuisine

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