Tag Archives: healthy eating

Halloween Candy: Eat This, Not That!

If you’re like most parents, you can’t resist raiding your child’s trick-or-treat bag on Halloween night. Or maybe you’re not a parent but can’t fight the urge to eat those Fun-size candy bars you are giving out on Halloween.

Either way, all that Halloween candy can be really tempting. You can indulge and not completely derail your healthy eating habits by choosing your treats wisely and keeping portions to a minimum. In other words, don’t eat a whole bag of Fun-size Twix bars in one sitting! Leave most of the candy to the little ghosts and goblins after you satisfy your sweet tooth with one of these small treats.

Eat this: Fun-size Kit Kat bar
Not that: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

While both candy bars are high in sugar and calories, that snack-size Kit Kat has 3 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar compared to a Reese’s peanut butter cup that clocks in at 10.5 grams of fat and 6.5 grams of sugar. And who can eat just one?

Eat this: Dark Chocolate
Not that: Milk Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and has less sugar than regular milk chocolate candy bars. Keep portions small though and stick with fun-size options.

Eat this: Sweet Tarts
Not that: Skittles

If hard candy is your weakness, you’re better off choosing Sweet Tarts rather than Skittles candies. Sweet Tarts have 2.4 grams of sugar per min-bag while Skittles have a whopping 14.5 grams of sugar per mini-bag.

Eat this: Smarties
Not that: Fun-size chocolate bar

Smarties have only 5 grams of sugar and no fat, while most fun-size chocolate bars contain 7 grams of sugar or more, and 3 grams or more of fat per bar.

Eat this: Jelly Belly jelly beans
Not that: M&Ms

Jelly Bellies have only 35 calories per serving and no fat, but M&Ms (all varieties) are loaded with both fat and sugar.

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.

 

Pumpkin Spice Season: Choosing the Best Options

It’s officially fall, or as it’s come to be known in recent years, pumpkin spice season!

pumpkin-spice

Pumpkin spice has taken over everything from food products to drinks to candles to cleaning supplies. When it comes to food and drinks, there are healthy pumpkin spice choices and some that are just laden with sugar or artificial ingredients, nothing more than seasonal gimmicks to get you to buy junk food.

You can enjoy your favorite seasonal spice and still maintain a healthy diet if you chose the right pumpkin spice foods. And if you cannot resist that Pumpkin Spice Latte, as long as it isn’t an everyday indulgence, you can still enjoy it in moderation and not completely derail your diet.

Learn which popular pumpkin spice products are good choices and which ones to limit to special treats or not at all.

Limit these pumpkin spice options, or avoid them altogether:

  1. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte – At 380 calories for a 16 oz. with 14 grams of fat and a whopping 49 grams of sugar (even more for larger sizes), this popular coffee drink should remain an occasional treat and not an everyday habit this season.
  2. Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Donut – This dessert packs 19 grams of fat and 19 grams of sugar per donut, and who can eat just one?
  3. Nestle Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice Liquid Coffee Creamer – Think you can save money and calories by making your own version of a pumpkin spice latte? Think again. While this creamer claims to be free of trans fats, it contains partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of trans fats.
  4. Clif Bar Spiced Pumpkin Pie Energy Bars – There are good protein bars and bad protein bars, and this one falls into the latter category. With only 9 grams of protein, it contains 23 grams of sugar, and will only give you a temporary energy boost before leaving you tired and sluggish.
  5. Chobani Flip Pumpkin Harvest Crisp – While this yogurt does contain probiotics and protein, it also comes in at 200 calories and 17 grams of sugar. This one qualifies more as a dessert than a healthy snack.

Say yes to these pumpkin spice products:

  1. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios – Like their original cereal, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are low in calories and high in whole grains. A serving does contain 8 grams of sugar but is a better breakfast choice than a pumpkin spiced baked treat.
  2. Chobani Pumpkin Spice Blended Yogurt – Curb pumpkin spice sugary cravings with this Greek yogurt that’s packed with protein and live active cultures but still low in calories.
  3. Kashi TLC Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bars – With whole pumpkin seeds and flax seeds, this treat can satisfy crunchy cravings while providing healthy nutrients. And one serving is two bars!
  4. Pumpkin Spice Quaker Instant Oatmeal – A fall favorite for mornings that’s convenient and easy to make, this oatmeal is low in calories, fat, and sodium.
  5. Yasso Pumpkin Cheesecake Bar – This frozen yogurt bar tastes like the real thing and with only 120 calories and 5 grams of protein, it makes a great substitute for sugary pumpkin spice desserts.

 

 

A Week of Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Summer is over; the kids are back in school, and parents are back to the arduous task of packing lunches every day. Make your mornings easier, and keep kids satisfied with these simple lunch ideas for a week’s worth of healthy meals.

Each lunch packs protein, healthy carbs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, but you can mix and match ingredients based on your kids’ taste preferences.

Monday

Deli turkey and ham wrap

  • Use whole wheat or spinach wraps filled with deli turkey and ham and add garden veggie cream cheese.
  • Baby carrots and snap peas with light Ranch dressing
  • Popcorn

Tuesday

DIY chicken tacos

  • Use leftover grilled chicken from a past dinner, or slice pre-made Rotisserie chicken into small pieces
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salsa
  • Small container of shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 small whole wheat tortillas

Wednesday

Hummus, and pita bread wedges

  • Grape tomatoes
  • Apple slices
  • Pretzel sticks

Thursday

Pizza Rollups

  • Easy, three-ingredient pizza rolls freeze well, and kids will love them served hot or cold. For recipe, visit https://www.whatlisacooks.com/blog/pizza-rolls.
  • Fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
  • Celery with light Ranch dressing
  • 2 fig cookies

Friday

Yogurt Parfait

Pack in small Bento box (one-serving box) containers for your child to create their own parfait.

One cup plain or low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt

  •  ½ cup low-fat granola
  •  ½ cup Cheerios
  •  ¼ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup sliced strawberries

Sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes

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.

 

HR Focus: Office Gardening

As this blog discusses frequently, access to fresh and healthy foods can boost workplace morale and productivity. USConnect’s fresh vending and Bistro To Go!™ micro markets provide team members with many fresh and healthy options. But what if you could provide even fresher options, like tomatoes that people can eat right off the vine or salads made from fresh-picked lettuces?

Workplace gardening is a growing trend, especially among businesses that prioritize employee wellness. Gardens can feature an array of plants—like colorful flowers, whispering grasses, and sweet-smelling lavender—that soothe the senses of all who visit it. Of course, many workplace gardens focus primarily on team members’ taste buds, growing such produce as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, and herbs. Employees can enjoy fresh-off-the-vine produce and revel in the simple sweetness of just-picked flavors.

Apart from the benefit of the fresh-grown produce, the act of working together on a gardening project provides the kind of teamwork and camaraderie for a fraction of the cost of expensive off-site, team-building retreats. Gardening provides natural shared tasks and rewards, especially after a few weeks when team members can start seeing tangible results of their hard work.

Further, the very act of working outside can have significant benefits for health and productivity.  According to Harvard Health Publishing at Harvard Medical School, spending time outside has five distinct positive effects:

  • Increased vitamin D levels
  • Increased activity levels
  • Elevated sense of happiness and well-being
  • Improved concentration
  • Faster healing

A workplace garden can be as simple as a raised bed next to the parking lot or as grand as an acre of off-site farmland. In urban areas, “green roofs” provide the extra benefit of helping to offset global climate change. Employee interest and satisfaction in workplace gardens tends to be very high. Why not start one today?

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.