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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Pump Up the Produce Power in Winter Meals

GettyImages-485131020-1We’ve all been here before: When it seems the long, gray winter will never end and you make one more pot of hearty vegetable soup or another casserole; or when the lackluster tomatoes and almost pinkish-white strawberries just aren’t cutting it. It’s time to get creative!

As a Hoosier native myself, I long for the tastes of summer more often than not, especially this time of year. What are some ways to get more variety into your diet in late winter? Look no further: we’ve got some ideas to tide you over until you can get your hands on some summertime Indiana-grown treasures!

Breakfast

It’s smoothie time! Smoothies are fantastic because they are nutritional powerhouses, can disguise fruits and vegetables that you might be on the fence about, and never require a recipe. To keep it simple, use frozen-fruit mixtures and rinse out your blender as soon as you are done to avoid having to scrub off dried-on fruit fibers later.

A basic guide on where to start: Combine 1 cup of frozen fruit with about ¾ cup liquid (I personally love vanilla-flavored soy milk). Optional add-ins could include a handful of kale or spinach (what better way to hide those greens than a sweet smoothie?), a spoonful or two or chia seed or ground flaxseed, a little peanut butter or almond butter, rolled oats, or even a banana to add a little extra creaminess. Top with a drizzle of honey or a little granola.

Lunch

A light and citrusy dressing is a refreshing way to beat the winter blues! A favorite dressing in my house is this orange tahini dressing. It tastes delicious on any leafy green, so if you aren’t a fan of kale, just top your spinach or romaine lettuce with it instead. Whisk together the following ingredients in a bowl:

2–3 tablespoons orange juice (fresh-squeezed preferred)

2½ tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons orange zest

Salt and pepper to taste

Massage dressing into kale and top with chopped apple, grapefruit (peeled and sliced), and pepitas or nuts of your choice (walnuts are my go-to).

Dinner

I’m not sure about you, but if something requires a recipe, there’s a big chance I might never get around to making a dish—we all have our reasons, right? Roasted cauliflower and chickpea tacos are one entrée that requires no real recipe to follow. Trust me, it would be really hard to mess this one up, even if you consider yourself a novice in the kitchen!

  1. Toss chickpeas (from a can!) and chopped cauliflower on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and a variety of spices like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
  2. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees until chickpeas are crisp and cauliflower is tender (about 30 minutes).
  3. Take a corn tortilla and place cauliflower and chickpeas on top. Top with chopped cabbage, jalapeño (if you like spice!), avocado/guacamole, and cilantro. Drizzle with lime juice. Sour cream and cheese are optional.

This recipe will deliver that healthy and refreshing dinner entrée you’ve been longing for since Thanksgiving!

Eat in Season and Use Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Use these in-season veggies to avoid breaking the bank—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, parsnips, kale, potatoes, sweet potato, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Use in-season citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, clementines, and tangerines.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables are an absolute must! They are more nutrient-dense than their produce section counterparts because they are picked and frozen when they are at peak ripeness.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating lunch breakfast winter fruits and vegetables seasonal eating produce

10 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy While Celebrating the Holidays

GettyImages-1056454610’Tis the season for swapping Christmas cookies, candy bowls, Hanukah dinners, holiday parties, and New Year’s Eve libations. We’ll take this month to refocus on a 10 simple ways to keep your body properly nourished and healthy this holiday season while keeping in mind that it is okay and certainly encouraged to partake in the 2019 holiday season festivities. New Year’s Resolutions are a great time to start new habits, but why not get a head start?

  1. Embrace seasonal foods. Your favorite strawberries may now be upwards of $5 for a small container, but December is a great time to try out pomegranate and pears. Root veggies, squash, and kale are also easy on the budget and packed with nutrients. (See some recipes here.)
  2. Fit in a body-weight workout. If you can’t make it to the gym, create a circuit at home, or take along some simple workout equipment for travel when visiting friends and family. Head out for an unofficial 5K run, run up and down your stairs, take the dog for a snowy walk, or take commercial breaks to a new level by doing squats and push-ups for the entire break. Alternatively, make a plan to carve out just 15–30 minutes per day to get in a walk around the neighborhood—no matter what the weather might bring!
  3. Start your day off right with breakfast. Front-load your nutrition at the beginning of the day—often the easiest meal to focus on and one that can stay consistently healthy. Oatmeal, yogurt with fruit and nuts, egg (or tofu) scramble, and smoothies are great “go-to” meals.
  4. Try the Plate Method. While you fill your plate with holiday favorites like green bean casserole or mashed potatoes (made with a generous portion of heavy cream and butter), make sure that half of your plate always has some type of vegetable on it. Try roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, or green beans for easy sides.
  5. Observe bedtime. Try and stick to a normal sleep routine to give yourself energy to tackle your holiday parties, keep your focus on your health goals, and avoid snacking at 3 a.m.
  6. Have a game plan. What was your biggest obstacle the year before in sticking to your goals? Holiday parties? Make sure to take your own healthier sides. Are there Christmas cookies on the counter and you’re grabbing one every time you walk by? Make a small batch this year and plan to keep them out of sight. Also try portioning out ahead of time. Wrap up each cookie and label it with the day of the week you plan to eat it.
  7. Give healthy stocking stuffers. Give the gift of healthy eating—stuff kids’ stockings with items like clementines or Cuties, nuts, and popcorn instead of Reese’s Cups, M&M’s, or fun-size chocolate bars.
  8. Focus on the moments. Put down your phone at mealtimes and any “down time” you might have. Put together a puzzle, go for a relaxing walk, read a book, and make conversation at mealtimes.
  9. Stay hydrated. 8-12 cups of water/day is recommended. Carry a water bottle around with you—it’s easy to forget to hydrate during the cold months, but it’s crucial to helping control those cravings and to keep your body running in tip-top shape.
  10. Pick a habit. Pick one specific habit to choose and one to lose! Focus on a specific goal. Instead of the more general “lose 10 pounds,” focus on action steps to get there like “Work out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 30 minutes at the gym” or “Plan to make at least HALF of lunch and dinner at every meal a type of vegetable.” Instead of cutting out sweets completely, make a plan that says, “ice cream happens on Friday nights only.” Or focus on physical activity habits, screen time habits, etc.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter fitness healthy eating holidays circuit workout Thanksgiving traveling christmas seasonal eating

Which Is Healthiest: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Produce?

GettyImages-626119746Since you were young you probably have been told to eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are the nutritional powerhouses of your diet. They offer essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that not only keep your body healthy, but also protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions. During the winter months, fresh fruits and vegetables are more limited and generally more expensive. As a result, many of us turn to canned or frozen options. So are canned and frozen options just as healthy as the fresh produce we consume?

Frozen Versus Fresh

Gene Lester, Ph.D., a plant physiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Center states, “Frozen vegetables may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets.” Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally picked at their peak ripeness—a time when they are most nutrient-packed. After they are picked, they are blanched in hot water or steamed to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. Then they are frozen, locking nutrients in place.

Conversely, fresh fruits and vegetables are shipped across the country to reach our fresh-produce aisles. These produce items are typically picked before they are ripe. As a result, they have less time to develop the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Although signs of ripening may still occur, these foods never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine, plant, or tree.

In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables may spend as much as seven to fourteen days in transit. From the time they are picked to the time they are in your refrigerator, they are exposed to light, heat, and air, which degrade some nutrients. If you have the option to purchase fresh produce from locally grown farmers’ markets, this is your best choice. At local farmers’ markets, fruits and vegetables are grown, picked, and sold when their quality is best (and they are usually cheaper). Check out these fall options. Although they are limited during the winter months, seek out markets that remain available with produce grown in greenhouses.

Canned Versus Frozen

What about canned fruits and vegetables? Similar to frozen produce, canned fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and canned soon after. So the produce is nutrient packed. With vegetables, however, excess sodium is generally added to each serving. If you choose to eat canned vegetables, be sure to buy cans marked “No Salt Added” or drain and rinse the vegetables in water prior to serving. Canned fruits are also saturated in excess sugar and syrups. Again, if you choose to eat canned fruits, be sure to buy cans marked “No Sugar Added” or drain and rinse the fruit prior to serving.

The Bottom Line

When fruits and vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe from your local farmers’ market. In the off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables may be your best choice because they are the most nutrient-concentrated. However, if you are in a bind, produce in any form is better than none at all.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating winter fruits and vegetables seasonal eating

Fall Superfoods: Recipes for Delicious, Healthy Eating

GettyImages-531781862The air is crisp, football season is in full swing, and the plentiful bounty of summer’s gardens is all gone. Instead of reverting back to the frozen fruit and veggie staples that are typical of fall and winter, experiment with some of the tasty foods that give fall the name the harvest season!

Favorite Fruits and Vegetables for Seasonal Eating

Here are some of my favorite fall foods and the nutrients they provide.

  • Apples: Easy and portable for a lunch bag or a snack. They are also high in fiber and can help decrease cholesterol. (Read more about apple nutrition.)
  • Acorn squash: Packed with Vitamin A and C to keep your immune system healthy during flu season.
  • Brussels sprouts: These little balls of cabbage are known to be cancer fighters.
  • Grapefruit: Citrus comes into season in late fall, so grab these pink treats that are high in fiber and immune-boosting properties.
  • Parsnips: Not as starchy as a potato and loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Pears: Another fruit that comes in season in the fall and is full of Vitamin C and fiber.
  • Pumpkin: The most popular of the fall produce is great for more than decorating! One cup of canned pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber, which is one-third of your daily needs.
  • Spaghetti squash: This fun alternative to pasta is high in beta carotene, potassium, and antioxidants.
  • Turnips: Surprisingly high in Vitamin C; if you eat the greens, you add a ton of Vitamins A, C, B6, and calcium and magnesium.

Fall Recipes

Try these recipes as a way to incorporate some of these fall powerhouse foods into your meals.

Turnip, Apple, and Acorn Squash Soup

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped
3 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
3 small or 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped acorn squash, turnips, apples, and salt and pepper to pot and continue to cook on medium for 5–10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until ingredients are softened, about 45 minutes.
  3. Once ingredients are softened, add water or low-sodium vegetable broth and continue to cook for another 5–10 minutes on medium heat until soup is warm.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add through blender or food processor, or use immersion blender.
  5. Garnish with fresh or dried cilantro and serve. Serves 4.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 pear, halved lengthwise and cored
¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped coarsely
Juice of ½ large lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the prepared Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and pour on the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the pear halves, cut sides-down, on the baking sheet, making sure there is enough oil to coat their cut surfaces.
  2. Roast the Brussels sprouts and pear for about 20 minutes. Then turn the Brussels sprouts so that both sides become caramelized. Check the pear—it might not be caramelized at this point.
  3. After another 10 minutes, turn the Brussels sprouts again. Flip the pear. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F.
  4. Add the pistachios—you just want to heat them up and toast them slightly. 
  5. After 5 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Squeeze lemon juice directly over all the ingredients. Use your spatula to chop up the pear halves. Toss everything thoroughly. Serves 2.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: nutrition healthy eating recipes holidays fall fruits and vegetables seasonal eating