Find out the latest health and organic news from our resident dietitian, Rebecca, along with recipes, tips and more!
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A sure sign of Fall is the colorful array of winter squash that become available at your local grocery store. These thick skinned vegetables are not only pretty to look at, they are also very nutritious. They deliver a host of different Vitamins including A, C, E and B6. Squash is also an excellent source of carotenoids along with important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
Squash is actually a broad term used to describe a number of different vegetables, including pumpkins, zucchini and courgettes. Each individual species has a lot of overlapping characteristics, and they each include dozens of varieties like: acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash, just to name a few. In North America we simplify most varieties as summer or winter squash. These classifications are primarily based on when the squash ripens and can be consumed. Most winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the Fall. Winter squash has such a thick exterior it can be stored for several months and eaten during the winter season, hence the name. Now is the time to incorporate a colorful winter squash into your next recipe.
Recently we’ve highlighted two recipes, blueberry muffins and oatmeal, that have involved chia seeds. When you saw this unique ingredient on the list you might have thought to yourself-What is that? And where do I get chia seeds? These whole grain seeds have been around for thousands of years. Legend has it that chia seeds were a staple in the diet of ancient Mayans and Aztecs. In fact, the word chia is derived from the Mayan language and means “strength”.
I feel that once you try these nutrient dense seeds you will know why the ancients called them strength. These tiny seeds deliver generous amounts of fiber, protein and Omega-3’s in just a one ounce portion (1oz of chia seeds = about 2 Tablespoons). Most chia seeds are also grown organically, so they contain no GMO’s and they are naturally gluten free. You can find chia seeds at most major grocery stores. However, you might have to ask a store employee where they have them located. Most health food stores sell chia seeds from the bulk bins, so you can purchase any desired quantity.
The most common uses for chia seeds are in smoothies, baked goods or sprinkled on a salad. I prefer soaking the seeds in advance before adding them to my recipe or smoothie. Some believe soaking the seeds makes the nutrients more accessible by our digestive system. The recipes we’ve posted on our Clearly Organic blog have the soaking process in the directions. If you’ve never tried chia seeds check out our recipes and let us know what you think!
Whether you’re packing a lunch for your child to take to school or you’re packing food for yourself at the office it’s easy to fall into the routine of bringing the same thing. Here are a few creative lunch ideas that the whole family will love.
Want to make drinking water a little more exciting? I know I do. Water is an essential part of life that we need every single day. It is a pure and healthy form of hydration, but plain water can be a little boring sometimes. So why not try infusing your next glass of water with fruit or fresh herbs.
The most common and easiest way to add a twist to your water is by adding citrus. Lemons, limes and oranges add flavor and vitamin C. Cucumber and mint are also a delightful and refreshing combination. By drinking water with natural sweetness, like fruit, you can reduce the urge to drink soda and other sugary beverages.
For optimal performance our bodies requires a minimum of 8 cups of water per day. But we all stand to benefit from more H2O if we live in a warm climate or if we’re physically active. Infusing water can be done by the glass for a single serve portion or it can be made in a pitcher. When friends and family are coming over I like to fill my large clear glass pitcher with various types of infused water each time we are having a celebration. From strawberry tangerine to rosemary grapefruit, and lemon cucumber – have fun trying different varieties of naturally flavored water.
Tangerine and blackberry infused water
One of my favorite things about summer is the wide variety of delicious berries that are available June through August. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries are a mainstay in my grocery cart while they’re at the peak of freshness. The beauty of these super foods is that they offer us a host of different vitamins and minerals while also tasting like a decadent dessert.
Almost all fruits and vegetables contain disease fighting antioxidants. However, nutrient rich berries are some of the best sources of these vital components that improve our health. Blueberries, in particular, have concentrated amounts of anthocyanins that can help reduce inflammation and help slow age-related memory loss.
Even when the season for berries has passed, it’s important that we keep incorporating these fruits in our meal plan because of their nutritional profile. Purchasing frozen berries makes enjoying these fruits possible all year long. When picking up frozen fruit in the winter or for smoothies in the summer look for pure and simple fruit. Avoid the frozen fruits packed in syrup or with added sugar. These products can contain added sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. Berries are delicious in their natural state, whether fresh or frozen. Watch for a strawberry coleslaw recipe next week!
A customer recently asked for help getting her picky 14 year old son to eat healthy foods. A picky toddler is the typical food refuser. Parents often live with the hope that their beloved child will simply grow out of the food fuss phase, and thankfully most do. However, if you live with a longstanding picky eater here are a few tips to help save you and your child from additional frustration.
1. Parents, without involving your child, make a list of the healthy foods your child enjoys eating. There has to be at least a few fruits, proteins, nuts, cheese or other natural items that your child likes. This will help remind you of the foods to have readily available to help set your child up for success.
2. Involve your child in the cooking process. Especially if your child is always wanting to eat something different than what you are making for yourself and the rest of your family. Let your child modify the foods you prepare, but make them modify the food themselves. As your child reaches the teen years it is an educational opportunity for them to see how food is prepared.
3. Set parameters on snacking. Eating a large snack after school or late in the afternoon will likely interfere with their appetite at dinner. Hunger is a big motivator for kids to try new foods. Set a good example in your personal snacking choices and encourage moderate snacks when needed. Be sure to have a refrigerator and pantry stocked with lots of healthy options.
4. Choose your words wisely. Encourage and support your child’s well thought out nutrition decisions. Unlike toddlers teens can be reasoned with (most of the time), try not to make food rules and regulations. Strive to have open ended discussions that challenge your child to think about why they like eating certain foods.
As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer many people are looking for ways to freshen up their diet. This is the time of year that we can easily switch from the winter comfort foods to the wide variety of springtime fruits and vegetables. In-season produce is not only more cost effective it also packs the biggest nutritional punch. Eating seasonal is important and it can carry many health benefits.
Eating “seasonally” means consuming foods that are being grown and then harvested during the same time of year when consumers are purchasing and cooking them. In the past this happened naturally, but with the advent of global transportation we have access to most produce year round. Therefore, the movement of eating local in-season food requires consumers to be more conscience when choosing produce.
Here are a few examples of what to look for, during the Spring time, in the produce section or your farmers market: sugar snap peas, strawberries, asparagus, radishes, rhubarb and morel mushrooms just to name a few. Many of these foods can be teamed together in a salad or side dish to provide the best tasting, highest quality food available.
I first heard the phrase “clean eating” about a year ago at my local CrossFit gym. I immediately liked the term. It was a concise way of saying that someone wanted to consume whole, unprocessed, straight from nature foods. This is by no means a new concept, but I love that this phrase “clean eating” is circulating around the health conscious community. It’s helping to energize and give focus to the next generation of educated consumers.
Clean eaters strive to daily incorporate vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy proteins and fats. They also strive to limit refined grains, trans fats, added sugars and colorings/dyes added to packaged food. Consuming clean foods is not a diet trend, it’s more of a philosophy of meal planning. It doesn’t revolve around consuming more or less of a specific food group. Clean eating simply challenges consumers to pick more farm fresh foods, and when purchasing packaged items reading the ingredient list.
When adapting a clean eating lifestyle strive to incorporate plant based foods at every meal and snack. When shopping for foods located in the main aisles of your store simply look at the ingredient list to ensure that it’s relatively short and free of unidentifiable additives. Purchasing foods with the certified organic label is a great way to ensure you’re staying clear of artificial coloring and flavors. Clean eating can be a rewarding way to simplify your meal preparation and enjoy more of what nature has to offer.
A new dilemma has arisen for consumers at most local grocery stores. Is it better to choose organic or traditionally grown food products? In years past, organic foods were only found at health food stores or farmers markets. Now you can find them lining the shelves next to many family staples. From canned goods to diary products, organic food is now readily available. Which brings the average consumers to question – should I buy organic?
By picking organic products, one can reduce exposure to chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMO). Organic regulations ban or restrict food additives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavor enhancers. Some consumers choose organic simply for taste and environmental reasons. Organic farming practices aim to reduce pollution, conserve water and improve soil quality.
Many factors can influence ones decision to choose organic but the most common concern is cost. Organic foods often cost slightly more than their traditional counterparts. This is largely due to more expensive farming practices. Whether you go 100% organic or mix conventional foods with some organic, it’s good to keep these two food principals in mind:
1. Buy local in-season fruit and vegetables whenever possible
2. Read food labels to ensure your products are moderate in calories, carbohydrates, sugar and sodium