National Nutrition Month – “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”

To me, the month of March always meant my birthday and usually spring break.

Nowadays, although my birthday is still the shining star (don’t worry, you haven’t missed it yet), March offers up some other notable characteristics. If you haven’t already heard, it’s National Nutrition Month, and guess what else? National Registered Dietitian day is on the 12th – yep, tomorrow. I’ll be accepting flowers, chocolate and checks payable to… ok I kid I kid – it’s not all that special considering the fact that no one really knows about it. But I like to mention it because now, with the internet, everyone likes to think they’re masters of nutrition – but this day is to remind us and others that we have the training and qualifications to actually call ourselves experts. So hey boss where’s my bonus huh? Oh you mean.. oh.. okay.

Aaaanyway. Back to National Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics creates a theme for each year – this year it’s “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”. For the most part, taste trumps everything when it comes to food selection. And as someone who is not shy when it comes to ordering french fries or triple-chocolate-something-plus-more-chocolate-dessert-thing, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that, I promise! – kale chips taste just like Ruffles! Don’t ever become friends with someone that tries to tell you that.

For your average individual who wasn’t raised on finishing their veggies before leaving the table and having fresh fruit for snacks (thanks mom!), I think eating healthier is somewhat of an “acquired taste”, if you will. If I had a choice between salmon&broccoli or mac&cheese, I would choose the fish and greens – but for a couple different reasons. First being that I know the nutritional benefits of that meal when compared to the other. And second, I know how to enhance the flavors and make it tasty and satisfying. It’s one thing to know, but it’s a whole ‘nother ball game when the know how comes into play.

From my personal experience in the kitchen playing around with making my healthy meals taste better, I’ve now got a few tricks up my sleeve. When I teach patients (or anyone really) how to add flavor without adding excess salt, fat or calories – these are some of my most mentioned tips:

 

Herbs, spices and garlic

Hellooo, this one is so very obvious. Aside from the fact that many of these things offer additional health benefits, there is nothing better than fresh basil in your pasta, or minced garlic in your sauteed veggies. There are tens, if not hundreds of different varieties to play around with.

herbs

Tip: When using fresh vs. dried herbs the ratio is 3 to 1.. so if a recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of fresh rosemary, using 1 teaspoon of dried will produce the same flavor.. but fresh is always best.

 

Cinnamon

Most of the time, cinnamon comes into play with sweet dishes rather than savory – like oatmeal. However, sometimes a dash of cinnamon into a savory dish can add an earthy depth and round it out with a bit of warmth. Regardless of if you need a little dash or a hefty dose (ahem, cinnaholic over here) – you can’t go wrong with cinnamon.

ground-cinnamon

Tip: Cinnamon covers up any of that extra “green” taste you get when adding kale or spinach to smoothies – try a dash in your next mix.

 

Hot sauce and black pepper

One thing is for sure, my pepper grinder gets the most use out of anything in my spice cupboard. I like it hot hot hot. There’s nothing better than fresh black pepper to finish off a dish. Same thing with my bottle of Sriracha – but something to remember is not to be too heavy handed on the hot sauce, because depending on the brand – and how much you use – it could add a bit of unwanted sodium to your meal.

Hot Sauce Lawsuit

Tip: It has been long believed that spicy foods may have a positive influence on our metabolism. Studies are mostly inconclusive but hey, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a little spice.

 

A splash of this, a drizzle of that

A good follow-up to the hot sauce tip – don’t be afraid of condiments BUT – and that’s a big but – be conscious of how much you are using. A drizzle of honey in your yogurt, a swipe of dressing in your wrap, a bit of BBQ on your chicken – those are all fine and good and most definitely delicious but condiments do add the previously mentioned salt, fat and calories – so use them wisely and in moderation.

variety-of-condiments

Tip: Avocado and hummus are two of my favorite swaps for your typical sandwich spreads. In my opinion, if the condiments are going to add some fat and calories, you may as well get a little nutritional punch – and these provide you with a bit of those healthy unsaturated fats.

 

Roasting

My favorite way to prepare anything is by cranking the heat and throwing it in the oven til I see browned edges. It’s super simple and hands-off for the most part, giving you time to fuss around with other components of your meal. The biggest flavor profile, in my opinion, comes from roasted veggies – especially your root veggies like beets, brussel sprouts, squash, potatoes, onions – but roasting proteins is also a great way to develop flavor. Pork tenderloin @ 425 for 20-30 minutes and you wouldn’t even know what hit ya.

roasted

Tip: This Good Houskeeping chart is a good reference if you’re new to roasting veggies – it lets you know time and temp, how to prepare it both trimming and with seasoning. Genius I tell you, genius.

 

Personally, I love eating healthy. Yes, I truly love eating mass amounts of veggies in one sitting. But that’s why I’m a dietitian – I know that not everyone else is going to enjoy green things as much as me. I also enjoy eating things that aren’t so “healthy”, and I get it, that damn cheeseburger really does taste delicious. So my hope is that some of my tips help you to transform that chicken breast and asparagus into something delicious too.

 

Your turn! What tips do you have for adding flavor to foods?

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Roasted Fig Oatmeal

Since my most recent loss of routine, I’ve adapted quite a lackadaisical approach to cooking as well. By that, I don’t mean that I eat boxed macaroni and cheese everyday. No, quite the opposite actually. I’m having more fun in the kitchen.

For a while now I have had the same routine of going to Publix every weekend with my grocery list and most of my meals planned out for the week. Lots of things were on an automatic cycle as I rotated through my go-to recipes. It was just easier for me since I was so busy, and not to mention on a strict budget which I was adamant about sticking to. The budget is still intact, however I’m a little more lenient.

But now that I’m not so busy, I stopped worrying so much about planning when it came to meals. Now I’m trying to really just go with what sounds good. My favorite thing to do now is to stock up on the essentials, like eggs, basic veggies and fruit, chicken, ground turkey, oatmeal, rice, etc. and then while at the store, I stick a few fun items in my cart if they are on special. I say “fun items” because half of the time I don’t have any idea of how I’ll use them. And if you’re anywhere near as cool as I am (sarcasm, if you didn’t catch it), then you find joy in figuring it out along the way.

This past week, my favorite impulse buy was two cartons of fresh figs.

Figs – if you can get over the awkward tentacle-esque interior, they are one of the most decadent fruits you will ever eat. It’s just a bonus that they’re so high in fiber. California figs are in season from late June to September, meaning right now they are trying to get rid of all the early season crop. And wouldn’t you know it, Publix had them on sale this week.

 

Roasted fig oatmeal

figgiesWhat you’ll need to have

  • 3-4 small figs, halved
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, dry
  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk (or almond)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • Hefty dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

What you’ll need to do

  1. Wash figs and remove stems. Discard any that are too squishy.
  2. Cut figs in half and place cut-side-up in a glass baking dish and drizzle with honey (I just did a quick sweep across each row of figs)
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes
  4. For oatmeal: in a small pan, combine oatmeal, soy milk, chia seeds, cinnamon and salt
  5. Bring to boil over medium heat and reduce to simmer until cooked
  6. Serve in bowl, topped with brown sugar and roasted figs

figoatsFigs will keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for 3-4 days. I actually roasted a big batch of figs the night before and topped the oatmeal with cold figs, which cooled down the hot oats nicely. And they are delish eaten straight from the container too!

 

Nutrition   |   Calories: 400   |   Fat: 7g   |   Protein: 14g   |   Fiber: 10g

 

 

What’s been your most favorite impulse purchase lately?

Thursday Thoughts: National Peanut Butter Day

Happy National Peanut Butter Day!!

peanutbuttah

Now unless you have a peanut allergy (you poor soul) or just plain don’t like peanut butter, then this day is a great excuse to stick your finger in the peanut butter jar a few times throughout the day.

But I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that just doesn’t like peanut butter. How can you not?

pbforever

Anyway, since it is my ‘nut-butter-of-choice’ by a long shot, I thought today would be a GREAT opportunity to preach the wonders of that creamy (or crunchy if you prefer) goodness, and dispel the myths of it being a ‘bad food’.

Here’s why I think you should eat peanut butter (if you are not allergic of course…):

1) It is filling – With 8g protein, 16g fat and 2g fiber, this combination does amazing things for satiety levels long after you’ve eaten. Snacking on an apple or crackers? Pair with peanut butter for a longer-lasting feeling of satisfaction.

2) Loaded with ‘good’ fats – Both poly- and mono- make an appearance here but monounsaturated fat is the star of the show. No doubt you’ve heard that olive oil is heart healthy, well that’s because of the monounsaturated fats. In moderation, these are good for your cholesterol levels.

3) Nutrient-dense – Along with having a trifecta of proteins, fats and carbs, peanut butter boasts levels of vitamins and minerals too. Manganese for your bones, vitamin E for cell protection (antioxidant) and tryptophan for your mood. Maybe that’s why it’s such a comfort food?

4) Versatile – Hot or cold, sweet or savory, peanut butter can fit into any meal or snack.

pbspoon

Peanut butter can be a part of a healthy diet! When buying, it is best to check the ingredient list to make sure there are no added salts or sugars. ‘Natural’ on the label generally means no additives, but always check the back to be sure.

pbdoggie

What’s your favorite way to eat peanut butter?