Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

February often brings boxes of mystery chocolates and other treats that break the monotony of winter. Sweet treats are fun, and no one avoids them completely (despite those still-fresh New Year’s resolutions). So how can sweets fit into a healthy diet and not wreck it?

1. To start, choose sweets that are less junky than others. There are many ways to substitute your sweet tooth, but one way is to avoid hydrogenated oils. So what’s so bad about them? They are made through a chemical process where hydrogen is blasted on vegetable oils to make them more shelf-stable, but they are completely artificial and not found in nature. So flip over your treats and other foods before you buy and look for “hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredient list; if you see it, put that product back and look for another option.

Luckily, different brands and food manufacturers make similar foods without hydrogenated oils, so there are better options for most things. Examples of choices without hydrogenated oils are Reese’s peanut butter cups, most truffles, and plain (unfilled chocolates). These are just a few that I’ve tried out, but it’s a good idea to check the label of any product if you are unsure. Your local Brookshire Brothers store has plenty of high quality options to choose from to find an option that works for you. 

2. The second way to make treats better is to choose chocolate over other types of candy. What you hear about chocolate is true — it does have antioxidants that bring some health benefits, but remember that chocolate also has sugar, so keep a cap on the total amount you eat each day.

3. And, finally, keep tabs on your sweets intake by setting limits for yourself. Decide in advance how much you will eat rather than indulging mindlessly. For instance, decide to eat no more than three or four pieces of chocolate a day and leave the wrappers there as a visual reminder of how many you’ve had. We all know it’s easy to lose track of that whole bag of chocolate. Setting limits also encourages you to savor every bite, so you can eat less and enjoy what you eat more.

Remember, life is like a box of chocolates — you never really know what you’re going to get. So don’t waste your life on the kind of chocolates that will make it shorter. Indulge your sweet tooth this month, but keep hydrogenated oils out, choose chocolate over other sweets, keep tabs on how much you eat to keep those New Year’s resolutions going strong, and finally, savor every last bite.

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Real Fresh, Real Delicious: Best Banana Bread Ever

When I shop Brookshire Brothers' produce, one of the things I always pick up is bananas - the ultimate healthy on-the-go snack with just enough carbohydrate to give you a boost. But I always seem to end up with an extra overripe banana here and there. Am I the only one who has a ridiculous number of overripe bananas squirreled away in my freezer? Other than using those bananas in smoothies, a fantastic way to use an abundance of overripe bananas is in banana bread. And lucky for you, I have the one and only banana bread recipe you'll ever need. It is oh-so-delicious because it ups the banana count, which helps increase the natural sugars and decrease any added sugar needed in the recipe. The extra bananas are a fantastic source of potassium and B vitamins, and I love to add nuts to make the bread even more nutritious and satisfying. Half of the all-purpose flour can be substituted with whole wheat flour for added fiber, minerals and B vitamins. Best of all it's easy to convert the recipe into muffins by reducing the baking time. Use very ripe and heavily speckled bananas for this recipe or it won't be sweet enough. Pick up all the Real Fresh, Real Delicious ingredients for this awesome banana bread recipe at your local Brookshire Brothers store today, and never throw away an overripe banana again! 

Best Banana Bread-Ever

 

Ingredients 
- 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (half of the flour may be substituted with whole wheat flour) 
- 1 teaspoon baking soda 
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt 
- 5 large very ripe bananas (about 2 pounds), fresh or frozen, peeled
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly 
- 2 large eggs 
- 2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and
coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1 additional large banana for topping (fresh, not frozen)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar or coconut sugar                                                                                        Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen                                                                                                                          "Ultimate Banana Bread."

 

Directions
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or prepare muffin tins with 18 muffin liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. 
2a. IF USING FROZEN BANANAS: Place frozen bananas in a fine-mesh strainer over the top of a medium saucepan and allow bananas to thaw, stirring occasionally to release liquid. You should have 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.  
2b. IF USING FRESH BANANAS: Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium saucepan and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. You should have 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.  
3. Cook drained banana liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar/coconut sugar, and vanilla. 
4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts or pecans, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan or muffin tins with liners. Slice remaining fresh banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Alternately, if making muffins, place one banana slice in the center of each muffin. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar or coconut sugar evenly over the top of the entire loaf or over muffins.  
5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf or muffins comes out clean and free of doughy flour (banana pieces may cling to toothpick), 55 to 75 minutes for a loaf and 35 to 50 minutes for muffins. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf or muffins from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Ditch the Salad Bar

Eat better. That’s what we all plan to do at the start of every year after coming off the holiday binge on all things delicious. If we could just eat better, then we might fit into that pair of jeans we’ve been keeping around just in case. And with all that extra energy we might even get around to finishing those Pinterest projects — all 3,674 of them.

Problem is, what exactly is healthier? Sure, cut back on the fast food, eat less sugar and fried food, but what do you eat instead? Most people head for the holy grail of healthiness: the salad bar. And while the salad bar may appear to be the mecca of healthy eating, I encourage you to look closer and think again.

What is the salad bar’s biggest offense? Lurking among all that beautiful vegetable goodness is that last little thing you drizzle on the salad: the dressing. The problem with dressing? No, it’s not the calories; it’s the soybean oil, which is the majority of practically every commercial salad dressing on the face of the earth. Soy — that’s healthy, right? Well, not exactly. Over 85 percent of the soy grown in the United States is a genetically modified organism (GMO) and new studies have shown that soybean oil likely contributes to other problems like diabetes and heart disease when compared to other dietary oils.

Another thing that can make your salad a little healthier is to go organic.  Whenever possible, buy organic produce when it is available and your budget allows. The next best thing is to peel items like apples and peaches. And if nothing else, wash your produce thoroughly with vinegar and running water to remove as much residue as possible.
 

So, is there any saving grace for salad? If salad’s not healthy, then what is? Salad can be a very healthy choice, if you do it right. Bring your salad savviness home and spruce up the ingredient list with some olive oil and good quality produce.

The last key to solving the salad dilemma is in making your own dressing at home. While soybean oil is a dietary villain, extra virgin olive oil is a dietary hero that is so good for you, it’s ridiculous. Make dressing at home with just two main ingredients: olive oil and something tangy like vinegar or citrus juice. Try this local recipe at home, and you’ll be well on your way to completing at least one of those long overdue Pinterest projects. Maybe.

Simple Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon vinegar of any type or citrus juice
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (adjust according to taste)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to a Mason jar or well-sealed container. Shake until emulsified. Serve. 

Find other tips to keep your New Year healthy from Angela Larson here.

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Naturally Sweet

As seen in Charm East Texas

Holiday baking brings so much joy.  There is nothing quite like that first taste of cinnamon- and nutmeg-scented pumpkin pie each year. Every family seems to have a tradition that revolves around some sort of holiday baked good, even if it’s just “Mama bakes ’em and we eat ’em”.

Cookies, gingerbread houses and Christmas candy all have a common denominator — sugar. We all know we need to eat less sugar, but the holidays are the hardest time to achieve that goal. Even though it is important to eat less added sugar, there are some natural sweetener options available for baking that have what I like to call “intrinsic benefit.” If you’re going to eat sweets anyway, at least choose a sweetener that has some sort of benefit built in, like antioxidants, minerals or a lower glycemic index. Don’t get me wrong, these sweeteners are still sugar, so they will increase your blood sugar and have plenty of calories, but used judiciously, naturally sweetened baked goods can be a lovely addition to your holiday baking spread. Here’s some options to add to your pantry.

Cane sugar

Most of the refined sugar sold at the grocery store is beet sugar. Sugar beets are a GMO crop, so people who would like to avoid eating GMOs should choose cane sugar, which is never GMO. Organic cane sugar will be free of pesticides and other contaminants. Cane sugar has a slight molasses flavor and smell but can be used one-for-one in recipes that call for regular sugar. Cane sugar is nutritionally almost exactly the same as regular refined sugar. Turbinado (also known as Sugar in the Raw) is similar to regular cane sugar, but it is more coarse in texture and has a little more molasses added back to it for flavor. Because it is coarse, it can’t be used as a direct substitute for sugar.

Sucanat

Sucanat is a special type of unrefined cane sugar made by beating cane juice with paddles to form gold-brown granules. It resembles brown sugar in appearance, but it is not the same thing since brown sugar is simply regular refined sugar with molasses added to it. Sucanat has a deep molasses flavor because it retains all of the molasses naturally found in cane juice, which enriches the sugar with vitamin B6 and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium. It can be used one-for-one (preferably measured by weight instead of volume) in recipes that call for sugar, but it first needs to be ground in a spice grinder for about one minute until it is fine and powdery so as not to alter the texture of baked goods. Products baked with Sucanat will be a slightly darker color.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is a flavorful sugar option that is available now at most grocery stores. It is made from the sap of coconut palm flowers, which is boiled down to make granules. It has a subtle nutty aroma which works well in most baked goods. Similar to Sucanat, it can be used one-for-one in place of regular sugar in recipes, but because it has irregularly sized granules, it should be ground in a spice grinder for about a minute prior to measuring. There isn’t a lot of information on the nutritional content of coconut sugar, but it likely retains some of the nutrients available in the coconut plant, like vitamin C and several minerals. It is believed to have a lower glycemic index than refined sugar, but it still has the same amount of carbohydrates and calories as refined sugar.

Honey

I’ve opined about the heavenly origins of honey and its many health benefits in a previous issue. Honey is rich with enzymes, vitamins, minerals and even live bacteria that are all beneficial. Honey can be used in baking if the recipe calls for it specifically, or it can be substituted for corn syrup. However, honey doesn’t work well for candy making because it is chemically different from corn syrup.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is the neatest thing ever. Tap a hole in a maple tree, let the sap drip out, boil it down, and you’ve got maple syrup. It takes around 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Don’t confuse maple syrup with pancake syrup, which is just sugar syrup with artificial flavoring. Aunt Jemima ain’t got nothin’ on the real thing. Maple syrup is great in baked goods because of its distinctive flavor. Use maple syrup in place of corn syrup in your pecan pie this season. The pie will have a slightly looser texture, but the flavor will be off the charts. Look for recipes like maple cake and other delicious ideas for baking with maple syrup. Maple syrup is rich in riboflavin, minerals and antioxidants. Grade B syrup (which is not inferior quality, just stronger tasting) has even more healthy minerals than Grade A, so I prefer to use Grade B when I can find it.

Date sugar

Date sugar is an interesting product made by grinding dried dates into a powder. Its properties are completely different from regular sugar since it is actually dried fruit, not pure sugar, so it won’t work as a substitute in normal baking applications. It should be used in recipes specifically designed for date sugar like date-nut bread. Date sugar is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Another option often employed in holiday baking, especially for those dealing with diabetes, are artificial sweeteners and reduced-sugar products. Artificial sweeteners are a complicated topic, but my usual advice is that they are probably safe if eaten occasionally and in small amounts. That being said, I don’t recommend Splenda (sucralose) because there is some preliminary research indicating that it may have a harmful effect on gut bacteria and insulin response. Sugar alcohols and stevia are probably the safest low-calorie sweeteners available. (Sugar alcohols can cause gas and bloating if used in excess.) The myriad other options in colorful little packages on your restaurant table are probably safe, but I generally recommend practicing the precautionary principle when determining whether a relatively new and artificial substance in the food supply can cause harm. If in doubt, err on the safe side and stick with the most natural products available.

Get adventurous and try your hand at baking with some of the delicious and flavorful natural sweeteners available for some special holiday treats this year. And remember, enjoy the holidays and don’t feel obligated to undertake a major New Year’s resolution after it’s all over. Choose to eat mindfully throughout the holidays. Take the time to savor each bite slowly, listen to your hunger and satiety signals (no, really, the leftovers will be there later), and remember that the only reason the food is extra special is the people with whom you are sharing it. May you savor each bite and each moment this holiday season.

Try out some of these great products and brands at your local store. Speak to your Store Director and Shop Brookshire Brothers Brands here.

Merry Christmas! 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, and Brussels Sprouts

I love Thanksgiving. It’s truly a holiday focused on love of family, friends, and country. I’ve recently been reading about the hardships the original Pilgrims faced, of which they certainly had their fair share. Yet, they were also exceedingly thankful for the simplest things like health, shelter, vitality, and good food.

We don’t face the same hardships, so at times it can be easy to take even these simplest things for granted. What a tremendous blessing that we don’t have to hunt and plant our food. Instead we have a plethora of delicious and healthy things to choose from in your local Brookshire Brothers Produce Department. After all Thanksgiving is not just about the food, it’s about the people that you get to spend it with.

A Thanksgiving feast is meant to bring families together to celebrate what is really important – love and gratitude for one another. So today, I’d like to share my love of all things brussels sprouts (don’t roll your eyes). They are delicious, and I promise they don’t taste like they smell! When you roast them at a high temperature, the smell dissipates and what is left is a wonderful caramelized bite of happiness.

Brussels sprouts are one of the most delicious and savory vegetables around, and they deserve a place on your Thanksgiving table. As an added bonus, brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables, meaning they are antioxidant rich, cancer-fighting ninja veggies. They’re high in vitamin C, B, and K, as well as a good source of folate and fiber.

Give this recipe a try and may your Thanksgiving be filled with deliciousness, love, laughter, family, and a grateful heart for the abundance of blessings God has so graciously bestowed upon us. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

  

Ingredients
- 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 tsp water
- Salt and pepper
- 3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped fine

 

 

Instructions
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, water, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper on baking sheet. Spread out Brussels sprouts in a single layer with cut side facing down. Cover baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove foil and continue cook an additional 10 minutes until sprouts are tender and browned. Toss with chopped bacon and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve. 

Note:  An optional ingredient is chopped toasted pecans. 

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

     

 

Treats, Treats, Treats!

Halloween is a fun-filled family time for costumes, parties, friendly visits to neighbors, and of course, candy. Lots and lots of candy. Though the candy can bring temporary joy, it does inevitably also bring tummy aches and energy crashes that are less than pleasant for everyone involved. How can you manage the Halloween candy stash to allow for some fun while minimizing the unhealthy side effects? Here are my top 9 Halloween tips for staying happy, healthy, and sane. 

1.  Treat Halloween candy as a learning tool. Setting boundaries can be helpful for teaching kids how to manage eating treats. Decide what your family rules will be and lay them out in advance so the kids know what to expect. 

2.  Eat some real food before you head out for an evening of trick-or-treating. Having a full tummy can help prevent a full-out candy binge. This goes for chaperones too!

3.  When you return from trick-or-treating, give your kids a little time to enjoy their stash. As long as they had a good supper, let them have a little fun with their bounty before collecting it and keeping tabs on it.

4.  Collect Halloween candy and set aside the unhealthiest treats. This helps prune down the total amount of candy. For me this would include all candies with the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredient list and candy with artificial food coloring. I don’t recommend kids eat anything with hydrogenated oils, and I recommend keeping food coloring to a minimum. (One “trick” is to add these treats to the candy bowl at work instead of tossing them out) 

6.  Avoid the temptation to use candy as a reward, punishment, or a babysitter. Instead include a specific amount of it as part of structured meal and snack times. Let your child choose a certain amount (maybe two pieces) and include that with a scheduled meal or snack. 

7.  On days when candy is allowed, don’t allow other foods high in added sugars on the same day such as juice, sugary cereals, soda, or cupcakes and other desserts (from the latest Halloween party). 

8.  Remember to always brush kids’ teeth twice daily, especially on days when they are eating added sugars. 

9.  And finally, keep a supply of healthy snacks like fruit that can be offered as a ready-to-eat substitute when the requests for candy start. 

Implement these easy suggestions to build a little structure into your trick-or-treat routine. Have fun and stay safe. Happy Halloween! 

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

     

 

From Yuck to Yum

As seen in Charm East Texas

"I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!” 

“No, we are having steak and baked potatoes for dinner.” 

“But I want a peanut butter and jelly saaaaandwich!”

Did your blood pressure just go up a little bit? I apologize. Sounds familiar, though, doesn’t it? Everyone has been around finicky eaters. Whether it’s your kids, your friends’ kids, your grandkids, your in-laws and even you, everybody knows somebody who is picky. Children are the usual culprits. Many picky children grow into picky adults, and picky adults tend to bring up picky children, and so the cycle continues. 

In America, it seems to be the norm to run your dinner menu by guests in advance because many people are finicky eaters. Not every place is like this, however. My husband and I lived in a rural area in France for a year, and we had many, shall we say, interesting dinner party experiences. What did they all have in common? Dinner takes a long time — a long, long time. Another common denominator was that no one ever asked us if we liked what they were serving in advance. It was just expected that we ate everything and that everything was delicious. Same goes for the children we would dine with — they ate pretty much everything. Mushrooms? Check. Scallops? Sure. Pâté? Yum! Nothing seemed to be off limits. I always marveled at this, but had only a few clues from observing their food culture as to how it was possible that everyone seemed to enjoy such a wide variety of foods, until recently when the light bulb finally went off. I read a book by Karen Le Billon titled “French Kids Eat Everything” that shed some light on why the French seem to love food so much. Maybe by incorporating one or two of her observations into your own family’s food culture, you can get your kids to eat escargot. Or on second thought, maybe just settle for green beans. 

Parents are in charge of food education. 

It shouldn’t be up to Popeye the Sailor Man to convince your children that all kinds of food are yummy. It is up to you. And the best way to do that is by modeling good eating behavior by eating a wide variety of foods prepared lots of different ways. The best place to start is at the dinner table. You can’t educate your kids about good food if you only sit down and eat together once a month. 

Limit emotional eating. 

This guideline is so tough to follow. It means that ideally, food shouldn’t be used as a reward for good behavior, as a punishment, or as a baby sitter. Food is for enjoyment and nourishment within the context of meals, but when it is used as a means of manipulating your behavior, “treat” foods may become even more desirable and “healthy” foods might seem like a punishment. Eating this way can also teach you to ignore your hunger and fullness signals. 

Parents plan the menu and kids eat what adults eat. 

No short-order cooking for the picky eaters. It’s helpful to lay out what will be served in advance so meal time isn’t always a surprise and complaining might be able to happen prior to the meal rather than at the dinner table. It’s also helpful to serve at least two different foods at each meal so that your children have some control over what they want to eat, but it’s important not to prepare a separate meal if they don’t like what’s being served. When introducing a new food, always make sure there’s at least one familiar food served as well. If kids decide not to eat much at that meal, they can wait to eat at the next scheduled meal. 

Eat family meals together without distractions. 

In the world of cell phones and social media, it’s important to unplug for a few minutes each day and just enjoy each other’s company. Talk about your day. Talk about the yummy food. Talk about those awesome food articles by the dietitian in Charm. Just talk. This does, however, require that you actually eat together, so do your best to make that happen.

Eat your veggies — variety is key. 

Instead of eating the same veggies week after week, try something new, or even try a familiar veggie in a new way. Roasting is my favorite way to make veggies delicious. A sheet pan, some olive oil, salt, pepper and a high oven temperature can make almost any veggie delicious in a matter of 20-30 minutes.

You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it. 

Repeat those words after me. Say them at every meal. One taste is all that’s required. Studies show that it may take up to 15 tastes of a new food before it is accepted and liked, so encourage them (gently) to taste things even if they don’t dig in. If a food is refused, simply say, “Too bad, it’s so yummy!” but don’t make an issue of it. Keep serving that food regularly, and eventually it will be accepted. Encourage everyone at the table to say “No, thank you,” instead of the words, “I don’t like.” 

Schedule snacks.

Amazingly, children eat their best when they are actually hungry. Who would have thought? Grazing and snacking will spoil anyone’s appetite, so make meals and any appropriate snacks predictable and scheduled as much as possible. My favorite schedule is one afternoon snack at least two hours before dinner time to get everyone through until supper is ready. 

Slow down. 

Eat slowly. Savor. Listen to relaxing music. Don’t rush through cooking and eating but stop to actually think about what you’re doing and experiencing.

Eat mostly “real” food. 

There is a place in the world for hot dogs, chicken strips, cookies and candy, but the majority of food should be simple foods that nature provides. Even so, all food should be savored and enjoyed, no matter what it is. 

Relax. Eating is joyful. 

This principle is my favorite of all. If you could describe good eating in a nutshell, that’s it. So stop stressing about calories, vitamins, fiber and achieving nutritional perfection, and just enjoy. Relax. Savor. Eat. 

Applying a few of these ideas is worth a try for a few weeks if you want to nudge a finicky eater in the right direction, even if it’s your husband. I, for one, would never try to coax my husband into eating things he doesn’t enjoy. Believe me? I didn’t think so. Bon appetit. 

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

     

 

Turnip the Volume: Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe
TURNIP the volume on dinner with summer vegetable beef soup, featuring the oft forgotten and lowly turnip.  Turnips are a delicious low-carb alternative to potatoes with less than half the calories and carbs.  They are rich in minerals, B vitamins, and vitamin C, but most importantly in flavor.  Prepare them just like you would a potato by peeling and throwing in the soup pot until they are tender. 
 
 

Turnip the Volume:  Vegetable Beef Soup

 

Ingredients
7-bone steaks or blade steaks- about 2 lbs (2-3 steaks)
2 Tbs Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 oz tomato paste (1 small can or jar)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef stock, reduced sodium or homemade
4 cups chicken stock, reduced sodium or homemade
2 stalks celery, small dice
4 medium turnips, peeled and diced
1 ½ cups petite baby carrots
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)
10 oz frozen corn (1 small bag)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
2 dried bay leaves
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

 
Instructions
1.  Season steaks with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pat steak surface dry with paper towels. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add steak and cook until well browned on all sides, 5-6 minutes per side. Remove steak and set aside.  
2.  Add onion and tomato paste to the pot and sauté for 3 minutes until just softened. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Return steak to the pot. Add beef stock and simmer steak gently for 1 1/2 hours or until tender.  
3.  Remove steak from the pot and set aside. Add chicken stock, celery, turnips, baby carrots, diced tomatoes with juices, fresh tomatoes, frozen corn, fresh thyme, and bay leaves. Allow to simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. When steak is cool enough to handle, shred beef, discarding any bones, and return shredded beef to soup pot. Add additional broth or water as needed to thin soup to desired consistency.  
4.  Remove bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh parsley off heat. Serve.  
 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

     

 

Ode to Olive Oil

There aren’t many things that those in the nutrition world can agree upon, but olive oil is one of those special things that most everyone agrees is healthy. Extra virgin olive oil has a health halo that it has earned through historical use over the last few thousand years as well as the support of modern scientific studies. It is best known for its key role in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is golden, thick, shiny, and oh-so tasty. I go through gallons of the stuff, and I want to share my love of this magical substance with you. 

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil has many merits in terms of its health benefits. One of its best known qualities is that it’s full of powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants help fight inflammation, which is indicted in contributing to most every chronic disease and condition including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and arthritis. Some research has even indicated that one of the antioxidants in olive oil is as powerful as taking an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen*. Olive oil is also famed for reducing lipid peroxidation which is a fancy term for damage to fat and cholesterol molecules in the body. Lipid peroxidation is likely a major cause of heart disease, so it’s important to eat the right things, like olive oil, to stop it in its tracks. Olive oil is also a good source of vitamin E and vitamin K. Vitamin E is a wonderful antioxidant in and of itself, and vitamin K is important for helping blood to clot properly. Olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon, similar to other fats, but these calories come with a myriad of health benefits.

Eating Olive Oil

Aside from its health benefits, olive oil is fabulously versatile and a great choice for cooking or fresh eating. Olive oil is chemically stable when heated and has a relatively high smoke point. It is low in polyunsaturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats. Comparatively, vegetable oils and canola oil are high in polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats have several chemical bonds which make them prone to damage during processing and heating. The problem with damaged oils is that they also do damage inside the body through the same process I mentioned above – lipid peroxidation. On the flip side, because olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat it is highly heat stable. The only down side to using olive oil for cooking is that some of the antioxidant content of the oil is lost when it is heated, so make it a priority to also get some fresh extra virgin olive oil in your life. 

My favorite cooked applications for olive oil are roasted and sautéed dishes. Toss almost any veggie in enough olive oil to coat, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and put it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes at 425⁰F until spotty brown. Voila! You have delicious roasted veggies in no time. Try it with fresh green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and more. I like to toss several together for a mixed veggie side dish. I dare you not to like it. Another easy way to cook with olive oil is to use a splash when sautéing most anything.

Olive oil also tastes wonderful fresh and is even healthier because it retains all its antioxidants. Use extra virgin olive oil to make a wonderful homemade vinaigrette by mixing 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a dash of Dijon mustard and a little mayonnaise to keep it from separating. Whisk or shake in well-sealed container, and you’ve got quick and easy salad dressing. Try different types of vinegar and add spices for a variety of flavor options. Drizzle olive oil on fresh chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese for a summer treat. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some chopped basil if you really want to give your taste buds a treat. For a quick pasta dressing, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over freshly cooked ravioli (or any type of pasta) with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper. 

Shopping for Olive Oil

Shopping for olive oil can seem a little tricky with all the options available at the supermarket. Add to that the loose regulations in the United States for standards defining extra virgin olive oil, and it can seem like a mysterious process to anyone. The good news is it’s easy to buy high quality olive oil (which will also be the healthiest choice) when you know what to look for. Choose cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil to get the highest quality possible. Olive oil has a grading system that is regulated by the International Olive Oil Council (IOC), but the IOC standards are not well enforced in the United States. Extra virgin oil is required to be fresh, pure, and without contaminates or any traces of rancidity. “Pure” olive oil and “light” olive oil will be of lower quality and may have contaminates present that detract from the healthfulness of the oil. Cold-pressed oil has been extracted from olives through applying pressure alone and without the use of high heat and chemicals, both of which are damaging to the quality of the oil. The “first cold press” is no different from other cold-pressed olive oils, so don’t worry about finding that designation on the label. 

Try to choose olive oil that is sold in dark colored bottles rather than clear glass or plastic. Exposure to light dramatically decreases the quality and shelf life of the oil. Olive oil that has a “harvest date” listed on the bottle is helpful for knowing you are purchasing the freshest oil possible.  Olive oil is best consumed within 18 months of harvest, so if the expiration date listed on oil is 2 or 3 years away, then you can’t be sure you are purchasing fresh oil. Olive oil that is grown and produced in California has more strict quality standards than other American produced oils and will likely be fresher because it doesn’t have to travel far to be sold. Look for the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal to be sure you are purchasing an oil with the highest quality standards. 

Unfiltered oil will have even higher antioxidant content and stronger flavor than regular cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil because of small particles of olives that remain in the oil. Unfiltered oil may have a cloudy appearance and will have a shorter shelf life than filtered oils. Bragg Organic Unrefined Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil is my favorite unfiltered oil.   

To sum up, look for cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil sold in dark colored bottles. Oils from California with the COOC seal will always be a safe choice. Look for bottles with a harvest date listed, and oils should be consumed within 18 months of harvest date. 

Storing Olive Oil

Store olive oil in a dark, cool place like your pantry to keep it fresh.  Don't keep it on your kitchen counter or next to your stove since light and heat will decrease the oil's shelf life.  

My love of olive oil runs deep and wide, as I hope you’ve surmised by now. I had originally planned to share a poem with you that I had written in olive oil’s honor. Yeah, I’m that crazy. But I decided it was too embarrassing to share my poem. I’m not that crazy. So you’ll have to settle for a recipe instead. At least the recipe title rhymes a little.      

Easy Caprese Salad

Ingredients
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
Place tomato slices on a plate and sprinkle with salt.  Top tomato slices with mozzarella slices and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar over tomatoes and mozzarella.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve. 

Oh, what the heck. If you’ve read this far, you’re a true fan and you won’t judge my poetry. Right? 

“Ode to Olive Oil”

Olive oil, oh olive oil,

I love thee.

You make my heart so healthy,

And my hair shiny. 

I add you to my veggies.

Salad you adorn.

You make things oh so tasty.

Without you I’m forlorn. 

Extra virgin olive oil,

You are truly great.

In my cupboard you will be,

Until I’m ninety-eight. 

*http://www.nature.com/articles/437045a.epdf?referrer_access_token=2qm3Cg...

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

     

 

Summer Fruit: A Delicious Problem

Every year it happens. I’m blissfully enjoying the spring bounty of strawberries, when the delicious summer grapes and blackberries show up. I immediately load my grocery cart up with more fruit than I can fit in my fridge. Next the watermelon, peaches, and blueberries appear, and my already crowded refrigerator space takes another hit. The weather continues to get warmer, and my fridge continues to get fuller, until finally, the cherries arrive. Oh, the glorious, shiny, dark red cherries – they beckon me with their perfectly juicy balance of sweet and tart. At this point my refrigerator is about to explode with the amazing summer bounty of fruit, and the next problem occurs. Now, when I open the fridge doors, how do I choose what to feast on? My solution is to eat all of it, all the time, all at once, and all day long. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but massive fruit salads of every variety occur regularly in my kitchen. A perfect companion to all this fruit is a big container of plain full-fat Greek yogurt (my favorite brand is Fage) and a drizzle of honey to make a delicious protein-rich breakfast or an easy evening dessert option. Summer fruit is a wonderful, hydrating, and refreshing snack option too, so I’d venture to guess that if you keep your fridge full of fruit, you might be less tempted to dig into those less healthy options lurking in the pantry. If you get carried away and buy too much, most summer fruits freeze well for later use. 

If I don’t already have you dreaming of a summer fruit salad, let’s highlight the nutritional merits of a few of the most delicious summer fruit options:

  • Strawberries: These juicy red delights are packed with vitamin C – around a cup of berries has enough vitamin C for the whole day.
  • Grapes: Green and red varieties are a great source of B vitamins, and are full of a special type of antioxidant called polyphenols, which is fancy speak for cancer fighting super hero.
  • Blackberries: One of the lesser known qualities of blackberries is that they are a good source of folate.  Folate is good for more than just pregnancy.  Folate helps prevent heart disease and is good for the brain too.
  • Blueberries: These little round globes of blue yumminess are well known for having one of the highest levels of antioxidants in the fruit world.  They also have a healthy dose of fiber and are low in calories.
  • Watermelon: Water is the key word, as watermelon is wonderfully hydrating for the summer heat since it’s full of… water!  (Duh.)  It’s also a super source of the antioxidant lycopene (great for prostate cancer prevention) and other carotenoids.
  • Peaches: Peaches have got it all.  They have a little bit of everything, nutritionally speaking - B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals, fiber.  Plus they make a killer peach cobbler.
  • Cherries: Blood pressure lowering, sleep aid, arthritis benefit, cancer prevention, pie filling – cherries can do it all.  

The end of the summer fruit season is such sweet sorrow, so eat them all day long, all summer long, lest you regret it when the fresh summer fruits are gone.  

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community.  She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition.  Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors.  Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

     

 

Pages