Is It Over Yet? Spring Diet Overhaul: 2015

Winter is finally coming to a close. As I write this post St. Patrick’s day is slipping away, meaning one thing, Spring. Even as a dietitian, I can honestly tell you I am sick and tired of eating heavy food. If I consume one more meal with a meat and potato base, I might just turn vegan and say to hell with it.

Much like we turnover our closets come warmer weather, we should also do the same to our diets. Out with the sweaters, in the kale! No more elastic waist sweatpants, football jerseys or perpetual yoga pant wearing. Same can be said for what we consume. It is time to ‘retire’ all the dense, warm foods and bring in the dietary version of jorts. For those of you unaware of the jort fanomon, they are jean shorts. Jean + shorts = jorts. Consider yourself youthanized. See what I did there?

So here I am. To provide you with ideas for ways to get out of eating canned food and back into the produce section!

Spring Diet Overhaul: 2015

From Google Images

From Google Images

1. Fruit

Stop eating apples and oranges. I feel as though my fruit consumption this winter was a math problem your third grade teacher asked you to solve. ‘If you have 4 apples and Brad eats two of them, but then Andrea gives you 3 oranges, how many pieces of fruit do you now have?’ For the love Chiquita Banana, please give me more options! Spring will now provide you with seasonal fruits such as apricots, honeydew, mango, pineapple and strawberries. Dig in!

2. Vegetables

Potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts and parsnips has been the bounty of the winter doldrums. I feel I have reinvented ways to make sweet potatoes 20 times over the past few months. Roasted, mashed, grated, steamed – you name it. My winter vegetable series looked something like Red Robin’s hamburger menu. Sure, you can add different toppings and condiments, but it all starts to taste the same after a while. Good news! Spring vegetables include asparagus, broccoli, snow peas and spinach. These next few months are basically the equivalent of a movie I hope to produce one day, ‘Spring’s Green Latern’. You are welcome Ryan Reynolds for the quasi plug.

From Google Images

From Google Images

Check out local vendors and grocery stores for seasonal proteins in your area. And do not forget to reincorporate whole grains. I know you’ve been living on nothing but sticky white rice, Cocoa Puffs and sourdough bread for the past few months. So get to gettin’! The bounty is here and you needs some vitamins. I mean seriously, your skin could use some help. Believe me, I know. I am pretty sure I look translucent these days and skin flakes the size of quarters are falling off my face.

I’m Bringing Pumpkin Back. Yeah!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought we’d talk a little bit about pumpkin. And seriously, in the season of dry skin, what else is there to discuss as the temperature drops around us. I’m serious, these days my skin looks like I have a serious problem. No lie, I literally Googled ‘itchy arms’ today and went through a slide show titled, ‘The Ten Most Common Skin Rashes’ on WebMD. The good news: I am 95% sure I do not have ring worm. Fingers crossed. PS – when did googled become a verb?

Let’s get back to pumpkin. Boasting ~50 calories per cup (cubed), this little wonder should be a fall/winter staple in your kitchen. While it’s low in calories and fat, it also contains an ample, almost excessive, amount of vitamin A – a key nutrient in maintaining healthy skin, teeth, bone, retina and soft tissue. It is found in vegetables and fruits in the form of pro-vitamin A, beta carotene. If you did not know, beta carotene is an antioxidant crucial in protecting cells from damage.

For more benefits of the beautiful of pumpkin, click here.

In the meantime, here is one mean pumpkin recipe sure to provide you with warm comfort food during the week or please your Thanksgiving Day (Vegetarian) crowd.

Kale, Pumpkin and Chickpea Skillet

Serves 4-6 (entree)

1 bunch of kale, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh pumpkin
1 can chickpeas, partially drained
1 small jalapeño, minced*
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Olive oil
Juice from 1/2 Lemon

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, add chickpeas and simmer for ~10 minutes until liquid is mostly absorbed. Add minced jalapano and continue to sautee until liquid is gone and pepper is slightly cooked.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LRN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LRN

Meanwhile, in a duct oven, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add pumpkin and continue sauté for ~15 minutes until pumpkin is fork tender.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Stir in kale and garlic cook for another 3 minutes until kale has wilted and garlic is fragrant, but not browned.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Remove from heat. Fold in chickpeas, walnut, parmesan and lemon juice.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Plate and serve!

Recipe Notes:

Jalapeño – I kept 1/2 the seeds from the pepper, feel free to adjust seed amount. The more seeds, the hotter this dish.

Dearest Martha: Why You Need a Dietitian (*Me) On Your Staff

For the longest time, Martha Stewart has been an idol of mine. Her successful entrepreneurial spirit and love for simple yet delicious cooking is all I’m looking for in a career role model. Naturally, I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, her monthly publication. Its arrival month after month puts me in a state of utopia simply thinking about the domestic wisdom this goddess chooses to bestow on her readers. So it pains me to write that she and her staff made a slight misstep in the October issue which featured a spot on coconut oil, highlighting its ‘benefits’ and uses. The article includes recipes for a smoothie, soup, scallops, and chocolate bark.

The article opens with the following paragraph:

It’s soaring in popularity – and well on its way to becoming a kitchen stable. After all, it’s as rich as butter (without the cholesterol) and as versatile as vegetable oil. Grocery stores now stock the good stuff…and it’s a wonderful vegan substitute for butter in baked goods.

Shoot girl – this the not the promotion coconut oil deserves, despite how popular it may be. To me, it is the equivalent for promoting bacon for its health benefits.

Image from Google

Image from Google

Coconut oil, be it ‘refined’ or ‘virgin’, contains more saturated fat than butter. One tablespoon of this solid fat contains 117 calories, nearly 12 grams of saturated fat and less than one gram of monounsaturated fat. You want to limit your saturated fat consumption because it raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. The mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the ‘healthy fats’. Found in plant-based foods, these fats help to lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol).

The American Heart association recommends limiting your saturated fat consumption to 5-6% of your daily calories.

Bottom line: if you MUST have your coconut oil, reach for the virgin coconut oil. It’s high in lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid found in the saturated fat family, which has been shown to raise both your good and bad cholesterol levels. If I were you, I’d stick the olive, canola or avocado oils.

Resources:
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442477202
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Monounsaturated-Fats_UCM_301460_Article.jsp

I’ve Got Two Pickles Today! Hey Hey!

If the title’s Little Rascals reference was lost on you, then I feel very, very sorry for you dear reader. It is perhaps one of the greatest movies ever made for child viewing. No joke, quoting it at the dinner table with my parents got me in trouble as a kid. I believe the straw that broke the camel’s back was when my annoyed father demanded I desist from quoting The Little Rascals and I replied with a solid, ‘Oooootay!’. I was 6 years old and it remains the highlight of one of my favorite childhood pastimes, pestering. True story.

While attending a beautiful BBQ a few short weeks ago, the wonderful hostesses provided sustenance of the gods. Killer appetizers, homemade burgers and bakery pizza for late night eats – they had it all. Not to mention, fresh produce from their garden. One of the highlights of my evening was their homemade pickles. I died. So here we are, with the adapted recipe that would bring a pickle or cumber lover to their knees. Enjoy.

Recipe from my lovely friends, Keith and Alyssa, adapted from Bobby Flay via Food and Wine.

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

Image by Kimberly Sabada MS, RD, LDN

THR Dill Pickles

Makes 1 Quart

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups apple cider white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon dill seeds
2 cups hot water
2 pounds kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Fresh Dill

Directions:
In a large, heatproof bowl, combine the sugar, salt, vinegar, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and dill seeds with the hot water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the mixture cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the dill and garlic. Place cucumbers in a large, sealed glass container. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and seal. Refrigerate the pickles overnight, stirring once or twice. Serve cold.

Note: The dill pickles can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Final Summer Snack Attack

Well, it’s official. With Labor Day weekend on the horizon, our last days of sweet, sweet summer are numbered. I mean you might as well be spending your weekends digging out those moth-eaten sweaters because once August is over, you know its time to hunker down in your home and watch the days get shorter. Not depressed yet? You should be. All that is standing between you and a pair of long underwear is a mere 2-3 months. So this is a call to all you ‘could-be-more-tan’ people – get out there and soak up the final days of summer.

There’s a very real possibility this coming weekend could be my final trip to the beach for the season. In that spirit, I give you my summer beach snacks! Pick up a bag of ice, clean out that cooler, and load it up with some delicious, refreshing and nutritious snacks. You will be all set for hours of leisure time without ever feeling pangs of guilt or hunger. These nom noms are perfect for the beach, pool, lake, river, swamp or local watering hole.

THR’s Healthy Summer Snack Attack

  • Aged White Cheddar Pirates Booty
  • Hummus with Sea Salt Pita Chips, Carrot Sticks and Cucumber Slices
  • Watermelon Slices (leave the rind on for easier eating)
  • Pineapple (take some toothpicks for clean hands)
  • Snyder’s of Hanover Mini Pretzels
  • Mini Babybel Cheese Wheels, Light or Original (wrapped in wax, safe unrefrigerated for 2-4 hours)
  • Raw, Unsalted Nuts
Image from google.com

Image from google.com

August’s Nutrition Hot Topic: Vitamin D-ficient

You would think in today’s world, a dietitian would never be subject to a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Well, I hate to break it to you but in 2014, it happened. This very principle was proven wrong during my last physical a few short weeks ago. The appointment was filled with highlights: a breast exam, peeing into a Dixie cup and my doctor curb siding me on an irritable bowel syndrome diet. Perhaps the greatest (and by that I mean worst) was when she read my vitamin D levels to me. As I redressed on the other side of a curtain, she informed me my lab work came back great, except for one thing. I beat her to the punch with, ‘Let me guess, I’m vitamin D deficient’. Her response, ‘good guess’. I ain’t no dummy. Damn my New England exposed skin.

You see, even the best of us with grand diets, can fall short when it comes to certain vitamins. I’ll tell you something, a vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common. Image from Google.com

Image from Google.com

Not getting enough sunshine? Below are a few foods high in vitamin D

Wild salmon
Mackerel
Mushrooms (exposed to sunlight, such as shiitake)
Cod liver oil
Canned tuna
Egg yolks
Cheese (such as ricotta)
Beef liver
*Fortified sources include milk, yogurt, orange juice and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

If you’re looking to supplement 1,000-2,000 International Units should do it. Check with your doctor before supplementing.

Looking for sunlight exposure as a solution? The time spent out in the sun really depends on where you are in relation to the equator. Generally speaking, you need un-SPF-protected skin exposed for 10-15 minutes per day; face and arms should do it. Be sure to check your body or face lotion though, they often come with built in SPF – great for sun protection, not so great for vitamin D production.