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Find out the latest health and organic news from our resident dietitian, Rebecca, along with recipes, tips and more!

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The content posted here is for general informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Health information changes frequently as research evolves. You should not rely on any information here as a substitute for consultation with medical professionals.

Signs Of Spring

As the tulips start to sprout from the ground they cause us to take note of the delightful transition into Spring. It’s refreshing to see all the sights and sounds of Spring budding around us. It’s also refreshing to see a new lineup of fresh fruits and vegetables at your local grocery store. The extra sunshine and warm weather brings in a whole host of new foods to pick from to liven up your meal plan.

My favorite spring veggies are sugar snap peas. They add a nice crisp crunch to a salad and they are sweet and delicious eaten by themselves. Asparagus is also another family favorite, it goes great scrambled with eggs in the morning. Other seasonal foods include arugula, rhubarb, strawberries, radishes and all varieties of sweet peas. Next time you’re at the store take advantage of the quality and freshness of Springs seasonal produce.

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Versatile Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a flavorful reduction made from grapes. It’s often used as a tangy addition to salad dressing, but it can also be valuable in many other ways during the cooking process. Here are a few unique ways balsamic vinegar can be that secret ingredient to liven up your next recipe.

 

  1. Reduce the vinegar to a syrup. Reduced balsamic goes great over fruit salad or a bowl of vanilla ice cream! Reducing balsamic only takes a few minutes. Simply add about a cup of balsamic vinegar to a sauce pan, bring to a boil then simmer on low for 2-4 minutes until the consistency of the liquid is thicker and syrupy. Adding a little sugar and cinnamon can provide one more layer of flavor when using the syrup on fruits or desserts. One cup of balsamic makes about 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar syrup.
  2. Marinate meats and vegetables. Balsamic vinegar and garlic are a great marinade to tenderize and add flavor to steak, veal, tofu or chicken. My favorite vegetable to marinade in balsamic vinegar are portobello mushrooms, onions and tomatoes.
  3. Finish a soup, salad or entree. An aged balsamic can be an excellent finishing ingredient. When the cooking process is complete, just before you serve your favorite soup or main entree drizzle a little aged balsamic on the top. It can help bring favors together and add a colorful zip to any recipe.
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Benefits of Green Tea

Have you ever stopped to take a closer look at the health benefits of green tea? This tea has been around for centuries and it has been used medicinally to help counteract many adverse health issues. Green tea is well known for its antioxidant content. Antioxidants help reduce the risk of disease by helping to flush out the free radicals in your system. Free radicals can come from our daily exposure to things like car exhaust, UV rays and industrial fumes. Our bodies need antioxidants, from our diet, to help fight off oxidative stress.

By drinking 1 to 2 cups of green tea, without sugar, per day you can start reaping its health benefits. As you think green for the week of St. Patrick’s Day try starting a new routine of enjoying green tea. This may not be your traditional St. Paddy’s day drink but it has a lot to offer.

 

Benefits of Tea
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All Natural

A debate is currently being waged on what it means to be considered a “natural” food. We see this claim posted proudly on the front of many packaged foods. So what are the requirements for a food company to say that they have an “all natural” product? According to the main agencies that regulate food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the natural claim can be posted on anything that is deemed ‘minimally processed’. This vague phrase leaves the door wide open for interpretation, allowing a multitude of packaged products to claim they are “natural”.

When Consumer Report conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans they found that most people attributed the word ‘natural’ to mean no artificial ingredients, artificial colors or genetically modified foods (GMO’s). However, that is not necessarily true especially in regards to meat products. One fool proof way to ensure you are limiting GMO’s, artificial flavoring, colors and processing is to consume organic products. Certified Organic foods contain 95%-99% organically grown ingredients. When you see the 100% Organic label you can be confident the food is organically grown or contains all organic ingredients. Take a minute next time you’re at the store to watch for some of these labels.

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Cooking With Dried Beans

When you think of adding beans to a recipe your mind often defaults to the various canned varieties of beans that are readily available at most grocery stores. In fact, you might even walk right by the bagged dried beans on your way to pick up a can of beans for your next chili recipe. The best part about dried beans is that they are the most nutritious and inexpensive food you will find sitting on the shelves at your store.

If you’ve never tried cooking with dried beans it’s worth experimenting with when making your next batch of soup. All dried beans require is time. They are easy to use and pack a little more nutritional punch than their canned counterpart. Dried bean have significantly less sodium than canned beans. They also have slightly more folate, iron and potassium. Canned and dried beans are similar in calories per serving and protein content. The main benefit to canned beans is their undeniable convenience.

Cooking with dried beans at home is no more trouble than filling a pot with water and letting it simmer joyfully on your stovetop all afternoon. Cooking a pot of beans on an afternoon when you are home anyway can be a relaxing and resourceful way to meal prep. Just be sure to give your beans plenty of time to reach their desired tenderness. Soaking beans in advance is also a great way to trim down the cooking time. One pound of dried beans yields about 5 cups of cooked beans. Making plenty of beans for soups, salads, burritos and much more. Extra beans not used after soaking can be stored in the freezer, that way you will have delicious and nutritious beans whenever you need them.

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Kid Friendly Cooking

When you think of foods that kids love your mind often jumps to items like pizza, macaroni and cheese and french fries. Kids may want to enjoy these foods on a daily basis but the same old recipe can get boring for adults and eventually the whole family. Reinventing recipes and putting new spins on your traditional line up can increase your nutritional profile and help expand your families love of meal time.

The most important thing you can do to help encourage healthy eating for kids is to have an ample supply of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. Always have a fruit bowl in the middle of your counter so kids see this as a go-to option. Try not to label foods as “good” or “bad” this might make children feel like they have restrictions on food, making them want what’s off limits. If your child’s favorite foods are pizza, mac & cheese and french fries try making these items at home in a healthy way. Adding vegetables to pizza with more tomato sauce and less cheese can take pizza to the next level. Mac & cheese can be made with small chunks of cauliflower or broccoli to increase its nutritional content. Real roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes are very nutritious if made with olive oil, seasoning and roasted in the oven. Our Clearly Organic blog has recipes for harvest mac & cheese, which is veggie based, and we have an easy sweet potato fry recipe that the whole family will love. If you are looking for a way to spice up your kids menu check out these recipes!

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Smart Snacking

Snacking is a daily ritual for many Americans. Therefore, it can be a habit that provides energy and motivation or it can be a trouble spot in your day. Smart snacking is very important especially if you follow a meal plan of 4-6 smaller meals each day. Making snacks nutrient rich with vegetables, fruit, protein and whole grains can boost your metabolism and provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind next time hunger strikes.

  1. Always incorporate a fruit or a vegetable at snack time. This will provide your body with more nutrients. Instead of crackers and cheese try apple slices with cheese or cucumbers & cheese.
  2. Try to limit eating snacks that only incorporate one food group. Providing your body with the right ratio of nutrients, and calories, will keep you energized and help with weight management. Snacks that include protein tend to be more filling and satisfying. Try 1/4 cup of cottage cheese with half an avocado, or pear slices with 1/4 cup ricotta cheese. Both of these options have a hearty supply of protein and fiber while being 200 calories or less.
  3. Think outside the box. If you find yourself eating the same foods week after week, even if they are healthy foods, try to mix up your options. Snacking on veggies doesn’t always have to be baby carrots and celery. These are wonderful vegetables but try to mix up your snack veggies with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, edamame, red cabbage, zucchini and fresh green beans. By diversifying your foods and food groups you are more likely to eat the appropriate portion, and it keeps you from binging on fats and sugars.
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Popcorn

If you’ve walked down the chip aisle recently you might have noticed a surge in a particular snack item? Packaged popcorn has a growing presence at the grocery store and in shopping carts. Recently, popcorn has gained more popularity and some good press. It has a wide variety of health benefits. The outer layers of popcorn are a good source of protein, iron and phosphorus. Popcorn is naturally plant derived so it contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that can help rid our bodies of impurities. The main reason I’m an advocate for popcorn consumption is that it can be an excellent alternative to calorie laden chips that don’t offer our bodies any nutritional value.

Making popcorn at home can be a fun and easy project for the whole family. All you need is 2 Tablespoons Clearly Organic Olive Oil, 1/4 cup popcorn kernels and a little sea salt. Using a 2 quart sauce pan with a lid or a Dutch oven, add oil and kernels and toss so oil is coating all the kernels. Heat the covered pot on medium heat and wait for the magic to happen. It takes several minutes for the first kernel to pop but once it does slightly crack the lid to release steam then gently shake pot occasionally while cooking to allow for even heat distribution. Once popping slows down and diminishes remove lid and turn off your stove top. Add your desired amount of sea salt and enjoy a healthy snack!

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Detox

Feeling a little sluggish after the holidays? Then perhaps it’s time to clean up and detoxify your diet. Detoxification of a meal plan is really about taking a break from certain foods and cleaning the body from the inside out. By removing or eliminating toxins in your diet you can start fueling your body with healthy nutrients that can protect you from disease and restore your natural ability to maintain optimal health and wellbeing.

Our bodies were not meant to absorb the large quantities of additives, chemicals and toxins that we are exposed to on a consistent basis. Therefore, by taking a set period of time to consume only fresh natural foods we can remind ourselves, and our digestive system, how good it feels to obtain all our vital nutrients through whole foods. During a detox or cleansing program try to base your food choices on real foods such as: fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins especially fish and most importantly drink plenty of water.

Before starting any new meal plan or exercise routine it’s wise to consult your doctor or medical professional. Many people find that detoxing their diet can be easy and delicious. There’re many different guidelines and programs to follow when you are looking for the right plan for yourself so be sure to work with a medical professional to find the plan to works best for you.

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Resolution Time

Millions of Americans make a health related New Years resolution each year. Whether it’s eating better, kicking the smoking habit or getting to the gym more often, each of these goals are a worthy cause. Which is exactly why they are the most common New Years resolutions. No matter what your goals are for 2016 here are three simple tips to accomplish them in the new year.

  1. Track your progress. You can do this with a journal or on a piece of paper. The most important part is to regularly keep tabs of your progress, to have an honest conversation with yourself about where you’re at and where you want to be.
  2. Ask for help. If you want to workout more and eat better perhaps a personal trainer or health coach could guide you in making a plan that works best for your lifestyle. If you’re trying to kick a bad habit an accountability partner can keep you motivated and they can be a great support system.
  3. Celebrate every success. By celebrating your short run successes you allow yourself to have more fun accomplishing your goals. It will also help build your confidence and commitment to achieving your year long goal.
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