Tag Archives: diet

What to Do With Leftover Pumpkin Guts?

It’s almost Halloween and chances are, you’re getting ready to carve a Jack O’lantern. If you’re planning on some pumpkin carving fun with your family, don’t just throw out those pumpkin insides. There are lots of easy recipes you can make that put those pumpkin parts to good use.

Plus, pumpkins are one of the most nutritious fruits around—they’re packed with antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C. And don’t forget about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, and fatty acids and make a great fall snack.

Roast pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds is really easy and can be fun for kids too. You can eat them alone as a snack or mix them with other nuts and dried fruit for a healthy, seasonal trail mix. Just put them on a nonstick pan (in one layer), and sprinkle a little salt or other seasonings for taste,  and then roast them in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.

Make pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup makes a great seasonal meal as the weather gets colder. Use those leftover pumpkin insides to make this creamy pumpkin soup recipe.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9191/pumpkin-soup/

Bake a loaf of pumpkin bread or muffins

Separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, and use the flesh to make a puree for pumpkin bread or muffins. Follow this recipe to make delicious pumpkin bread or divide into a muffin pan to make pumpkin muffins.

https://eatingrichly.com/how-to-cook-a-whole-pumpkin-and-recipe-for-pumpkin-gut-bread/

Make pumpkin juice

As you are cleaning out your pumpkin to carve, place the stringy bits and seeds into a large bowl, and soak in hot water to help soften. Mash up these pieces, and then strain so you are left with a bright orange juice. Use the pumpkin juice in smoothies or sauces.

 

15 Hydrating Foods to Eat During Summer

During these hot, sticky dog days of summer, it’s important to stay hydrated. Overheating and dehydration can occur quickly, especially when exercising or participating in other outdoor activities in high temperatures.

 

While drinking enough water is the best way to stay hydrated, getting in the required eight glasses per day can sometimes seem daunting—and that amount increases when exercising or spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat. The good news is that you don’t have to only drink water to meet your daily hydration needs. You can also get a lot of your daily water intake from foods that have a high water content, mainly fruits and vegetables.

A lot of these foods can be worked into other meals, such as adding a piece of iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato to a burger or adding a couple of slices of cucumber to your water. And what tastes better in summer than sinking your teeth into a piece of juicy watermelon or ripe strawberries? In addition to their high water content, many of these foods also offer important vitamins and minerals and can help replace any electrolytes lost during exercise.

Don’t forgo drinking water entirely, but by working some of these hydrating foods into your daily diet, you will be less likely to get dehydrated when the temperatures are soaring.

Top 15 Most Hydrating Foods

  1. Cucumber
  2. Iceberg lettuce
  3. Celery
  4. Radishes
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Green peppers
  7. Watermelon
  8. Cantaloupe
  9. Strawberries
  10. Oranges
  11. Peaches
  12. Zucchini
  13. Cauliflower
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Broths and soups

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Grilling Recipes for Summer

If you’ve only been grilling burgers and hot dogs this summer, it’s time to take your grilling to the next level. Shake things up with these grilling recipes that are not only healthy but also easy to make. Fire up that grill and surprise your family with new tastes and flavors for the rest of the summer!

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. hot sauce, such as Frank’s
  • 1 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. snipped chives
  • 8 stalks celery, very thinly sliced in half moons on an angle
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • Four 5-oz. center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, about 1” thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for oiling the grill

Directions

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan on medium high.
  2. Mix together the hot sauce, brown sugar, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Transfer 1 tbsp. of the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the mayonnaise; set aside the rest of the sauce. Add the chives, celery, and onions to the bowl with the mayonnaise and toss well.
  3. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Brush the grill grate lightly with oil. Lay the salmon on the grill, skin-side up, and cook until distinct grill marks appear and the salmon releases easily from the grate, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and brush the fish with some of the reserved sauce. Continue to cook the fish, brushing the pieces periodically with the sauce, until the salmon fillets are glazed and just cooked through, 13 to 15 minutes more.
  4. Transfer the fillets to individual plates and serve with the celery slaw, made with the same sauce, made creamy with light mayo, and brightened with onions and chives.

Find the original recipe here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/sweet-and-spicy-grilled-salmon-recipe-2112185

Chile-Rubbed Chicken with Salsa

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
  • 4 tsp. fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and diced
  • 1/4 c. finely diced red onion

Directions

  1. Butterfly the chicken: Slice each breast almost in half horizontally (do not cut all the way through); open like a book so the chicken lies flat.
  2. Combine the olive oil, garlic, ancho chile powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, chipotle chile powder, 1 tsp. lime juice and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  3. Preheat a grill to medium. Meanwhile, make the salsa: Toss the tomatoes, tomatillos, red onion and the remaining 3 teaspoons lime juice in a bowl; season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Brush the grill grates with olive oil. Grill the chicken, turning once, until marked and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Top with the salsa and serve with the lime wedges.

See the original recipe here: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/chile-rubbed-grilled-chicken-with-salsa-recipe-2042792

Mini Pineapple Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pineapple, peeled and cored
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 8 (1-oz.) slices Canadian bacon
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced red onion
  • 2/3 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c. lower sodium pizza sauce
  • 2 tbsp. thinly sliced black olives
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to HIGH with oven rack 6 inches from heat.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high. Slice pineapple into 8 (1/2-inch) rounds. Using 1 ½ tbsp. of the oil, brush oil on both sides of pineapple rounds. Working in batches, place pineapple rounds on grill pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side, until char marks appear. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Place Canadian bacon slices on grill pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side until heated through. Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining 1 ½ tsp. oil in a separate nonstick skillet over medium. Add onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until softened.
  5. Top each pineapple round with 1 tsp. cheese. Place 1 slice Canadian bacon on top of cheese. Top each with 1 tablespoon pizza sauce and 1 tablespoon cheese. Top evenly with onion and black olives. Broil on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and melted. Sprinkle basil and crushed red pepper flakes evenly over top.See original recipe here: https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/mini-pineapple-pizzas.  

How Dirty Are the “Dirty Dozen”?

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has many health benefits: it can protect against many chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, and protect against certain cancers. But approximately three-quarters of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables daily, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

With all of these wonderful health benefits, why are so many consumers avoiding eating  produce? Fear of pesticides is one reason.

Most consumers have heard of the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of fruits and vegetables that supposedly contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. The list was started by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2004, and the organization releases an updated “Dirty Dozen” list annually, urging consumers to purchase only the organic versions of those particular fruits and vegetables. But consumers who don’t have access to or can’t afford to buy organic produce report that they avoid buying produce at all.

Just how dirty are the “Dirty Dozen,” really? To put the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list in proper context, it’s important to understand that they don’t use the same strict methods for measuring risk that food scientists typically do. They tend to rely on alarmist and sensationalized reports that media outlets love. For example, EWG also annually releases the “Clean 15,” a list of conventional produce that doesn’t have detectable levels of pesticide residues, yet this list does not get the same media attention that the “Dirty Dozen” does. Additionally, a recent Forbes article points out that the EWG has strong ties to “big organic marketers.”

According to agdaily.com, recent USDA and FDA reports show that both organic and conventional food is safe. “According to the sampling data, 99 percent of residues on fruits and vegetables, when present at all, are well below safety levels set by the EPA. And an April 2018 article published on agdaily.com, stated that FDA sampling shows that 50 percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all.

If buying organic is not in your budget, or it’s not easy to find in your area, you can rest easy knowing that conventional produce is perfectly fine. If you still have concerns, simply wash your produce under running water. According to the FDA, you can reduce and often eliminate residues, if they are present at all, on fresh fruits and vegetables simply by washing.

The bottom line is this: don’t believe everything you read about pesticides on produce. The benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh any minimal risk a minute amount of pesticide residue that might be on those strawberries or apples may pose.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Burgers: Best Foods to Grill This Summer

Cookouts are a summer tradition, and let’s face it, nothing tastes better than a burger or hot dog made on the grill. Grilling is not just fun and easy, it’s also a healthful way to cook. There’s no better time than summer to experiment with new foods cooked on the backyard grill.

Think beyond hamburgers and hot dogs and fire up the grill to try these easy recipes. Then experiment with other foods on your own to create new summer recipes.

Vegetables

Take your favorite summer veggies from the garden or the farmers’ market and season with salt and pepper, coat them with olive oil, and grill.  Think squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and more.

Shrimp

Add some shrimp to the grilled vegetables and make shrimp skewers. Kids love food on a stick and will be more likely to eat their veggies!

Corn on the Cob

Corn is a great side dish for any summer meal. Grilling corn gives it a delicious, crisp texture.

Salmon

Place salmon skin-side up directly on the grill and cook for 8 minutes then flip. Season with a marinade of your choice or serve plain.

Lamb chops
Lambchops about an inch thick cook in three to four minutes on direct heat, so be sure to watch them closely.

Sweet potatoes

Cut a sweet potato in half and place each half in the center of a rectangle of aluminum foil. Turn pouches every 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender and cooked all the way through, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Pineapple and peaches

Grill slices of pineapple or peaches (or grill an entire pineapple, sliced down the middle). Serve fruit plain, or add some brown sugar and vanilla ice cream for a refreshingly sweet dessert.

 

Shopping at Your Local Farmers’ Market: a Summer Guide

Summer is prime time for shopping at your local farmers’ market. There is a wide selection of colorful and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables for sale right now. Knowing which produce is best to buy right now and how to select the ripest and freshest of the bunch will make the most of your farmers’ market experience and your pocketbook.

Peaches

Select peaches that are on the firmer side, unless you plan to eat them that day. Store them in the refrigerator in a drawer, but only with other fruits.

Melon

It’s not summer without watermelon, but don’t forget about juicy cantaloupe and honeydew melon, too. For cantaloupe, opt for a golden color rather than green, while for honeydew, pick a light yellow color, and for watermelon, look for a yellow spot, a sign of ripeness. Store ripe melons in the fridge and only cut before serving.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are some of the healthiest fruits, and early to mid-summer is the best time to buy them. For strawberries and raspberries, look for ones that are dry and firm and a deep red  color. For blackberries, shininess is the key to their ripeness. When purchasing blueberries, choose smooth-skinned, dark blue or purple berries. Store berries in the fruit drawer in the refrigerator, or for longer lasting berries, freeze them.

Tomatoes

Check tomatoes for any bruising or soft spots on the skin. Choose a vibrant-colored tomato and one that is firm to the touch. It’s best not to refrigerate tomatoes or you risk having them lose their flavor.

Summer squash

There are several varieties of summer squash, but they have a shorter lifespan than winter squash. Check for bruising before buying and always choose firm squash, as it quickly softens. Place it in a plastic bag that is sealed tightly and store in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator.

Corn

Look for bright green, tightly wrapped corn and almost-moist husks. Check the husks to make sure there are no brown wormholes, and then feel individual kernels through the husks to make sure none are missing. Corn is best when eaten on the same day it’s bought, but it can also be stored in the fridge with the husks still on.

 

 

Making Fitness a Regular Part of Your Day

You’ve heard the exercise recommendations before—at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. But with our increasingly busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to  find that small chunk of time to dedicate to working out every day. The most important thing is just to move more. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean 30 minutes of jogging or lifting weights in a gym or an aerobics class. Exercise can be any activity you enjoy that gets you moving, that gets your heart rate up, and makes you feel good.

Working fitness into your daily routine is easier than you think. Try not to think of exercise in the traditional sense. Things like working in the garden, walking your dog, hiking with your kids, or even just mowing the grass are activities that get you moving and count toward your daily activity. The key is to change your mindset about exercise: once you do, you’ll be surprised how you will begin to look for more opportunities to move.

Here are five simple ideas to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

  1. Take your dog for a walk, or go to a dog park to play frisbee, or throw a ball.
  2. Play with your kids. Get outside and play tag, throw a ball, go on a nature walk, jump rope, run through the sprinkler, and just have fun.
  3. Work in the yard. Gardening, mowing the lawn, and raking leaves are hard work!
  4. Always take the stairs. And always park your car far away from your destination.
  5. Clean your home regularly. Vacuuming, mopping, sweeping, and other chores can be a great workout, especially if you have a larger home.

The most important point is to find something active that you enjoy doing—if you’re having fun, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

 

Are Protein Shakes Right for You?

Shake it Up!

The advertisements and infomercials make it look so obvious; the thing you’ve been missing in your diet is protein, and all you need are these shakes to make everything in life a breeze. Tough day at work? Grab a shake. Going to the gym? Grab a shake. Feeling tired? Grab a shake (of course).

Do you need protein shakes?

The reality, naturally, is a little more nuanced. The claims of shake-makers are predicated on the idea that people do not get enough protein in their diets: an idea that most nutritionists reject. Mayo Clinic researchers note that despite the diet industry’s emphasis on protein, most Americans get at least double the protein they need.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, most adults should be getting 5½ ounce-equivalents of protein foods per day. The myplate.gov website contains a full table of ounce-equivalents for protein foods, but a basic list includes “1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds.” As we discuss frequently, USConnect full-service vending and Bistro To Go® micro markets offer many healthy choices for getting protein during the day, including eggs, yogurt, and grains.

That being noted, there are times when people do need a little extra protein, and for those times, protein shakes can be a healthy, convenient choice. Mayo Clinic notes that evidence supports the use of whey protein (the protein most commonly used in protein shakes) for the following uses:

  • To promote increased muscle mass as part of an exercise regime (results are mixed)
  • To help speed muscle recovery after a workout
  • To improve nutrition in malnourished individuals
  • To speed recovery time of wounds and burns
  • To combat infant skin allergies from milk- or soy-based formula

If you do decide that protein shakes are for you, here are some expert tips to consider:

  • Whey protein is milk-based, so if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, it is not a good choice.
  • However, whey protein is one of the faster-acting proteins. Experts recommend looking for raw or cold-processed to get the most nutrients.
  • Casein protein is slower-acting, so it is better for muscle recovery.
  • Read the ingredient list; avoid artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, and excessive amounts of sugar.
  • Caveat emptor: a study from the Clean Label Project found that many top-selling protein powders contain high levels of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and arsenic, as well as BPA.

Diversity in the Workplace: Honoring Ramadan

This week marks the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest Muslim month. During the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, observant Muslims all over the world commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Muhammed by both feasting as fasting. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion; what do HR departments and employees need to know about this important holiday?

Diversity in the Workplace - Ramadan

Even during the rest of the year, observant Muslims eat only foods that are halal. Like kosher foods, halal (lawful) rules of Islam prohibit pork, as well as “carnivorous animals, birds of prey, animals without external ears (some birds and reptiles), blood, alcohol, and foods contaminated with any of these.” According to Today’s Dietician, processed food containing ingredients like gelatin, emulsifiers, and enzymes may be unlawful for some Muslim consumers, so providing nutrition information is especially important.

The timing changes every year. Ramadan goes by a lunar calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that is most widely used in secular society. The holiday starts the day after the new moon of the ninth month, and ends with the new moon of the tenth month. In 2018, Ramadan starts on May 15. In 2019, it will start on May 5. To be culturally sensitive to this changing holiday, it’s a good idea to keep track of when it will fall each year.

Observant Muslims fast during the day during the whole month of Ramadan. Before dawn, Muslims eat a meal called suhoor, and they break their fast after dusk with a meal called iftar. Be aware, if any colleagues or employees are observing Ramadan, that it would be insensitive to offer them lunch or snacks during the day.

Iftar is often a social meal. While specific food customs differ around the globe, iftar often involves a gathering in the home or a location central to the community. Want to try some Ramadan treats? The Kitchn suggests the following tasty treats from around the world:

  • Dahi vadey: Lentil dumplings that are soaked in a spicy yogurt sauce (India)
  • Haleem: A slow-cooked stew of meat, bulgur wheat, and lentils (Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Central Asia)
  • Chicken 65: Spicy, bite-sized pieces of chicken that are marinated and deep-fried (India)
  • Ramazan Kebabi: A dish made with lamb, onions, yogurt, and pita bread (Turkey)
  • Ful medammes: Fava beans cooked with garlic and spread on bread (North Africa)
  • Paomo: A bread and mutton soup (China)
  • Chapatis: Unleavened flatbread that is rolled up with vegetables and meats (India and Pakistan)
  • Fattoush: A salad made of vegetables and pita bread (Lebanon and Arab countries)
  • Konafah: A pastry made with phyllo dough and cheese (Middle East)
  • Kolak: A fruit dessert made with palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandanus leaf. Fruits, such as jackfruit or banana, or mung beans are added (Indonesia).

In our increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to be respectful of all traditions, and USConnect is glad to help.

Are Taking Vitamins or Supplements Enough to Live Healthy?

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

Feeling blue? Try some St. John’s Wort. Getting a cold? Pop some echinacea. Even cancer has proponents of natural supplements.

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

Although exact numbers range from $11.7 billion to $36.7 billion, the size of the U.S. dietary supplement market is massive… and growing daily. Marketing dietary supplements is nothing new; the first snake-oil salesmen had plenty of customers among workers on the transcontinental railroad. But with internet ads and marketing on social media, the industry has exploded.

Supplements have their champions—those who think supplements can do anything from curing cancer to cleansing your colon—and their detractors—those who think supplements are useless at best and harmful at worst. As usual, the truth is somewhere in-between.

An important fact to understand about supplements is that although marketers often sell them as substitutes for medication, they are not subject to nearly the same scrutiny and testing as prescription or over-the-counter medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not need to approve dietary supplements or even the claims that marketers make for their efficacy. The FDA does not test dietary supplements, so when you read a supplement’s claim and its ingredients, you’re relying on the manufacturer’s “honor system.” However, the New York Attorney General conducted a study on four major retailers of dietary supplements and found that 79 percent of them did not even contain the herb or supplement advertised or that it contained contaminants.

With the caveat emptor warning, experts say that some dietary supplements can be helpful, as long as people recognize that they are supplements to a healthy diet and lifestyle, not a replacement. The Mayo Clinic suggests that certain groups of people—those over 50, those who don’t eat a balanced diet, and those who have special dietary needs—can benefit from supplements. It’s important to keep up-to-date on the research around supplements, like studies that show that some supplements may actually be harmful. One Mayo Clinic doctor notes, “Any product that’s strong enough to provide a potential benefit to the body can also be strong enough to cause harm.”

If you’re considering supplements, start by talking to your doctor about which she/he recommends and how they might interact with other medications. You can also do your own research by contacting the manufacturer and doing your research on the following websites: