Citrus + Avocado: The Perfect Winter Salad Companions

Citrus, Avocado, & Radicchio salad

Few things are more satisfying than biting into a sweet, juicy fruit on a hot summer day, so many are surprised to learn that citrus is actually seasonal to winter. And given the general sparseness of produce this time of year, anything remotely fresh is certainly a welcome ingredient! Additionally, while creamy Mexican avocados are available steadily year-round, the California avocado crop actually arrives in February. Together, these ingredients can create some show-stopping winter salads.

I recently enjoyed my own spin on this dish–a citrus, avocado, and radicchio salad, drizzled lightly with olive oil and champagne vinegar, and finished with a sprinkle of salt and pepper (pictured above, inspired by Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express). It was the perfect accompaniment to homemade black bean soup (also from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express).

After perusing the web, I came across several other variations of winter salads that incorporate both citrus and avocados. Check out the recipe round-up below!

Kale-Avocado-Tangerine-and-Sesame-Salad-4-e1417403296778

Kale, Avocado, Tangerine, and Sesame Salad from Joy the Baker

Grapefruit, Salmon, Avocado Salad

Grapefruit, Salmon, and Avocado Salad from Martha Stewart Living (from the new ‘Clean Slate’ cookbook)

Pomegranate-Citrus-Quinoa-Salad-Diethood

Pomegranate and Citrus Quinoa Salad from Diethood

Kale-Salad-with-Citrus-Avocado-and-Feta-8

Kale Salad with Citrus, Avocado, and Feta from Two Peas and Their Pod

For more winter salad inspiration, check out my Fall & Winter Salads Pinterest Page. What’s your favorite winter salad combo?

– Kelly

10 Healthy Breakfasts in Under 10 Minutes

People often ask me for healthy breakfast ideas. Even though I eat the same thing nearly every day (see Kelly’s daily oatmeal), the good news is that there are plenty of nutritious options for the morning meal.

1.     Classic oatmeal

Daily Oatmeal

Nine times out of ten, I start my day with old fashioned oatmeal topped with raisins and almonds (see this post for details). Porridge is an ideal breakfast because it’s filling, quick to prepare, and helps keep your cholesterol levels in check and your microbiome happy. (And whether you go for steel-cut or instant, all oats are whole grains.) Plus, oatmeal can be customized to fit just about any flavor profile. If you’re ready to branch out the classic combo pictured above, try adding bananas, blueberries, honey, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, cocoa powder, or chia seeds. The sky is the limit! See one of my favorite blogs, The Oatmeal Artist, for more ideas.

2.     Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal

Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal

One of the easiest breakfasts just got easier. Instead of preparing your oatmeal morning of, you just throw the ingredients in a jar and let the oats soften overnight. See my Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal blog post for a step-by-step tutorial. Once you get the ratio down, feel free to experiment. Some of my favorite overnight oatmeal recipes are Skinny Pumpkin Overnight Oats,  Tiramisu Overnight Oatmeal, Applesauce Overnight Oatmeal, and Overnight Grapefruit Coconut Oatmeal.

3.     Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Shake

Healthy Chocolate Milkshakes -  No sugar

Because some mornings call for chocolate. Right? Right. Just blend 1 frozen banana with 1 Tbsp PB, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. With protein, healthy carbs, and healthy fats, this shake has all major nutrients needed to start your day off right. For more details, and to see an equally healthy Dark Chocolate Mocha Milkshake recipe, check out this post.

4.     Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

While the obnoxious whir of a blender is not what I want to hear first thing every morning, green smoothies are a great choice for many reasons. They’re portable, nutritious, quick, and easily customizable. Note that I said smoothies, NOT juices. My favorite green smoothie recipe is a fresh banana, 1 cup frozen strawberries, a large handful of fresh spinach leaves, and 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt. (I don’t use ice because of the frozen berries). I also highly recommend this “Stripped Green Smoothie,” which I make when I have the ingredients on hand.

5.     Whole Wheat Bagel Half with Avocado & Tomatoes, plus Fruit

Half Whole Wheat Bagel with Avocado and Tomatoes, Pear on the Side

Toast half of a whole wheat bagel, then spread with avocado, and top with tomato slices and cracked black pepper. Serve with a pear (or any fruit) on the side. The healthy way to enjoy a bagel is to pick a whole wheat bagel, only eat half, and top it with something nutritious. Yes, avocado has fat, but not the artery-clogging saturated fat that cream cheese is made of. And by only having half of the bagel, the portion size is much more appropriate.

6.     Leftover Veggies & an Egg with Toast

Leftover Veggies + Egg + Toast

Got leftover roasted vegetables? Nuke ’em in the microwave, then top with 1 egg, any way (or scramble them with the egg). Serve with a slice of 100% whole grain toast.

7.     Granola with fruit and yogurt

Healthy Granola

Granola parfaits can be a total calorie bomb, but not if you do it right. The key to keeping this healthy is to use an unsweetened yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farms Organic Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt) and using a lightly sweetened granola (the wheat-free classic granola from Whole Foods Market is totally #dietitianapproved!). Bananas and figs go great with yogurt and granola, but any fruit will do!

8.     English Muffin with Peanut Butter and Bananas

Whole Wheat English Muffin with PB and Bananas

English Muffins are perfectly portioned, which is why I prefer them to regular bread slices or bagels. Just make sure to get a whole grain variety. And when shopping for peanut butter (or almond butter), make sure that the only ingredients are nuts and salt, with no added sugars or oils.

9.     Fruit with Ricotta

Baked Fruit with Ricotta

Top chopped fruit with a generous dollop of part-skim ricotta and cinnamon. This tastes best with leftover baked fruit (I used a mixture of apples, pears, peaches, and pineapples), but fresh fruit will work as well. I have also microwaved a soft pear and achieved similar results. Don’t have ricotta? Cottage cheese is another great substitution. This dish (which was inspired by a Giada recipe) also makes a delicious dessert!

10. Make-ahead Breakfast Bake

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Want a sure-fire way to guarantee a nutritious breakfast? Make it the night before! This Baked Blueberry Oatmeal is my very favorite breakfast bake (and bedtime snack!), but healthy muffins or quick breads are also great make-ahead meals to tackle on weeknights, rather than weekday mornings.

What is your go-to healthy breakfast?

– Kelly

Evidence that Nutrition Assistance Programs Can Help Improve the Food Environment

What good are food stamps doing to nourish the hungry if participants spend it all on junk food?

This is a common critique of nutrition assistance programs, and for a good reason. That being said, many hunger advocates counter that today’s hungry often live in communities where fresh, healthy foods aren’t available, and that tightening the nutrition criteria for these assistance programs will leave participants with nowhere to turn. After all, a little bit of junk food is better than no food at all. However, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior demonstrates that when nutrition assistance programs update their offerings to reflect the latest in nutrition research, the foodscape improves to benefit everyone.

FRUIT SELECTION

Background from the study:

“Based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the US Department of Agriculture changed the WIC Program’s supplemental food packages, addressing nutritional concerns of the panel by offering low-fat milks and whole grains, and including cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables. Before the change, WIC offered juice, milk, cereals, eggs, beans, and other foods. However, the milk was whole milk, cereals were not whole grain products, there was no option to include whole grain bread or rice, and there were no fruits and vegetables. This set of changes, the first in a generation, went into effect in most states, including Louisiana, in October, 2009.”

So what happened after these changes were introduced?

For this study, researchers visited small stores in New Orleans right when the change was introduced, and then again a year later. In 2009, only 3.7% of stores participating in the WIC program carried whole wheat bread or brown rice, but a year later, 70.4% offered whole wheat bread and 92.6% offered brown rice!

These drastic improvements aren’t just a sign of the times, but can largely be attributed to the changes in the WIC program. That’s because at non-WIC participating small stores in New Orleans in 2010, whole wheat bread was only offered at a meager 1.5% of stores, and brown rice was only offered in 12.1% of stores. Additionally, the study found that the number of varieties of fresh fruit significantly increased (from 3 to 4) at WIC stores, but not at the non-WIC stores, and average shelf space of all vegetables increased in WIC stores by about 1.2 meters.

VEGETABLE SHELF SPACE

These improvements in healthy food selection benefit all shoppers, not just those in the WIC program. Could similar improvements be made to other nutrition assistance programs? Weigh in!

Note: Despite these hopeful findings, food choices in depressed communities are in dire shape. For more on this topic, see my blog post on the link between hunger and obesity. Also, to learn more about the WIC program, see here.

– Kelly

Yes, Keep Eating Fruit

Yes, Keep Eating Fruit (@kellytoupsrd)

Fruit is bad because it has so much sugar, right?

Aren’t bananas fattening?

Shouldn’t you cut back on fruit if you’re trying to lose weight?

I get questions like this all the time. No seriously, I do. While it’s upsetting to think of how the media and food faddists have led well-meaning dieters astray, it’s actually pretty liberating when friends and clients realize just how easy good nutrition is. More fruits and veggies, less junk food. It’s that simple!

Think about it logically. America doesn’t have an obesity problem from eating too much fruit. It’s our ever-increasing portion sizes, penchant for sugary beverages and endless snacking that did us in.

Yes, fruit has sugar. But it also has loads of vitamins, minerals, water, and most importantly, fiber. The fiber in the fruit will slow its release into your bloodstream, so that you don’t get the spike and crash associated with other sugary foods (such as soda or candy).

However, do not confuse fruit with fruit juice. Juice lacks the fiber and some of the micronutrients of the whole fruit. While a cup of fresh fruit is a healthy, low-calorie snack, do not be fooled into thinking that juice is a low calorie or no calorie beverage. Many juices pack just as much sugar and calories per cup as soda. And without the fiber (and additional water in whole fruits) to trigger fullness cues in your stomach, it is much easier to overindulge in fruit juice than fruit. Additionally, the amount of juice you drink has a direct relationship with diabetes risk, but the amount of fruit you eat actually decreases the risk of diabetes.

Next time you find yourself unsure of what to eat, remember the sweet truth and fill up with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.

– Kelly

Homemade Date Paste: A Healthy, Natural Fruit Sweetener

DSC01590

As a dietitian, I try to keep my consumption of added sugars as low as possible. And I’m not just talking about table sugar here. I’m talking about brown sugar, agave, maple syrup, and yes, even honey. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars a day for adult women, and no more than 9 teaspoons for adult men. If you are looking to keep added sugars to a minimum, dates and mashed bananas become your best friend.

DSC01589

First, a little primer on dates. Dates are kind of like giant raisins, but much more sticky and much more sweet. They are about 20 calories each. I usually buy pitted medjool dates in the bulk section at whole foods (surprise, surprise). However, on a particularly desperate grocery outing,  I was able to find dates at the little international market next to my apartment building. Score!

Some of my favorite recipes call for chopped dates as a sweetener, but because the dates are chopped, I find that the sweetness doesn’t distribute evenly throughout the final product. This leaves me with unsweetened food with chunks of date… not quite what I was looking for. Plus, who wants to meticulously chop up a sticky fruit every morning? Not me! Which brings me to date paste.

DSC01588

Date paste is a simple idea really. Just soak dates overnight, blend the softened dates (I used a knock off Magic Bullet) with a bit of the soaking water, and voila… you have a sweetener that distributes much more evenly throughout. (For a more descriptive recipe, see here).

I usually substitute 1 tablespoon of date paste for every teaspoon of table sugar that I would have used. I mostly only use date paste in my morning oatmeal, but it also works great to sweeten muffins and other treats. 1 tablespoon of date paste has approximately 25 calories, 6g sugar, and 0.5g fiber. Compare that to the 16 calories, 4g of sugar, and 0g fiber in only 1 teaspoon of table sugar. Not bad!

Have you made date paste? What are your favorite healthy sweeteners?

– Kelly

16 Healthy Halloween Snacks From Around The Web

Happy October, everyone!

Just because Halloween is one of the most diet-busting holidays on the calendar, doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for nutrition. So I scoured the web for the best healthy Halloween snacks, including fruit and veggie platters, as well as heartier fare. The snacks pictured below keep the Halloween spirit alive, without sacrificing nutrition. Enjoy!

witchbrooms

1) Witch brooms made from pretzels & string cheese, Image via Concinada con Catman

hallofruit

2) Banana ghosts and clementine pumpkins. I love this! Image via Pinterest, original source unknown

allrecipesappleteeth

3) Apple teeth with slivered almonds, via Allrecipes.com

vegskel

4) Veggie skeleton, image via feeding four little monkeys

spookyyogurt

5) Ghost inspired fruit & yogurt, image via Lisa Storms

smoothie

6) Jack-O-Lantern Smoothie, image via See Vanessa Craft. Note- for a healthy orange smoothie recipe, I recommend this carrot-apple-banana smoothie or this peach pie oatmeal smoothie.

carrothummus1

7) Hummus with carrot fingers. Image via Pinterest, original source unknown.

hummuscarrot2

8) Hummus with carrot & parsley pumpkins. Image via Parents.com

spider deviled eggs

9) Deviled eggs with olive spiders, image via Sunset

pumpkinegg

10) Pumpkin deviled eggs, image via Foodista

mummydip

11) Mummy dip with green veggies, image via hostess with the mostess

plumspider

12) Plum + grape spider, image via Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons

pumpkindip

13) Adorable veggie platter presentation! Image via Pinterest, original source unknown

cck

14) Fruity Jack-O-Lanterns, image via Chocolate Covered Katie

easy

15) Easy Jack-O-Lantern Oranges, image via Under Construction blog

fruitcup

16) Fruit cup Jack-O-Lanterns, image via Pimp My Dinner

For more Halloween food inspiration (yes- there’s more!), see my Pinterest board. Wondering what dips to serve with fruit and veggie platters? See my picks for healthy dips here.

Happy Halloween!

– Kelly

Ask the Dietitian: Are snacks healthy?

Snacks can be some of our greatest allies, but they can also be the source of our undoing. My rule for snacking is as follows:

Snacking is healthy, so long as you don’t eat “snack foods”.

We all know that chips, candy, and sodas are unhealthy choices, but my principle also applies to “healthy” diet snack products. While a 100 calorie pack of cookies may only do 100 calories worth of damage, there is absolutely nothing nourishing or healthy inside of that package.

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During my early foray into “healthy eating” (and before my nutrition education took off) you would find my dorm room well stocked with 100 calorie packs of peppermint patty bars. (Side note- an actual Peppermint Patty only has 70 calories. Thus is the twisted logic of the food industry). I used to jokingly refer to these snacks as “700 calorie packs”, because you had to use every bit of willpower not to devour the entire tasty box. But I digress…

Snack foods on the market today are pure junk. Desserts in disguise. Salty, fatty treats carefully engineered to keep you coming back for more. A few foods warrant careful consideration, such as Greek yogurt and granola, but one must remember that even these “health foods” are littered with excess sugar. So what are you to snack on if not “snack foods”? Nature’s original snack foods- fruits and vegetables!

Healthy snacks

For more healthy snack ideas, see this post

I know, I know. It gets tiring hearing the same old song and dance about nature’s bounty. But come on… you can’t be that sick of them. As a nation, we hardly even eat any! Fresh, in season fruits are so delicious, that they hardly need any accompaniment. However, vegetables can be a tougher sell. Pair them with homemade hummus or 100% nut butter to boost the nutrition content, and add that fatty mouthfeel that we all crave. Or, if you’re a weirdo like me, oven roast some veggies and call that a snack. There is hardly a salty craving that a warm, crispy, oven roasted Brussels sprout can’t cure. At least in my opinion.

Occasionally (0kay, pretty frequently), I will relent, and a few Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna Bars or organic Greek yogurt cups will make their way into my grocery cart. But I make a solid effort to enjoy my Luna Bars how anything called “Chocolate Peppermint Stick” should be enjoyed: with an ice cold glass of milk (fat free and organic, nonetheless) and on a dessert plate. Not to mention, a Luna Bar is hardly a Hostess Cupcake. But the principle remains.

The main problem I have with snacking is that it never ends. As Marion Nestle so accurately explains, “it is now socially acceptable to eat more food, more often, in more places…These are recent changes… just since the 1980’s—exactly in parallel with rising rates of obesity” (Nestle, 2006, p. 13). Snacking can indeed be healthy, so long as you pick something that nourishes you, rather than the processed garbage sold everywhere. But let’s bring back an old adage… don’t spoil your dinner! 🙂

– Kelly

Cute Summer Fruit and Veggie Platters from around the Web

Today I’ve rounded up some of the best sea-inspired fruit and veggie platters, snacks, and lunches from around the web. Late summer is one of the best times of the year for local produce, so don’t let the season slip away without concocting one of these ocean-inspired spreads. And if you are looking for healthy dips to serve alongside your produce, check out this round-up of healthy dips.

zucc boat

Image via Mom Foodie

fish carrot

Image via Meet the Dubiens

apple crab

Image via Make-Handmade

Shark

Image via National Watermelon Promotion Board

octopus

Image via Spoonful

whale

Image via Fancy

For more cute summer foods, see my cute summer food Pinterest board!

– Kelly

5 Healthy Late Night Snack Ideas

1. Banana chocolate “ice cream”

banana ice cream

1 Frozen banana + 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. This simple snack requires a bit of muscle (frozen banana chunks don’t blend easily without liquid) but it really is quite simple. Just give it a strong stir between blends, and you’ll be enjoying a rich, chocolatey treat in a matter of minutes. And with no added sugars, it doesn’t get much healthier than this. Just fruit sprinkled with antioxidants.

2. Strawberries + Graham Crackers

Healthy Late night snacks

As soon as strawberry season rolls around, this becomes one of my favorite treats. I just slice up a cup of strawberries (about half of the carton) and then top with 1 crushed graham cracker. Think of it as a simplified version of strawberry pie with graham cracker crust.

3. Popcorn Brussels Sprouts

Healthy Late Night Snacks: Popcorn Brussels Sprouts

Former President and COO of McDonald’s wants to make brussels sprouts the new french fry at his new healthy venture, Lyfe Kitchen. I don’t blame him! When oven roasted until crispy, brussels sprouts have the satisfying salty bite of popcorn. I tossed 1 cup of frozen brussels sprouts in 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and a generous amount of lemon pepper, then roasted at 425 F for 30 minutes (until crispy on the outside).  Other tasty seasonings to try would be Nature’s Seasoning or Nutritional Yeast.

4.  Popcorn

Smart Pop
Did you know that popcorn is actually a whole grain? It’s the movie theater butter that gives this fiber filled treat a bad rap. A bag of low fat popcorn is perfect for sharing with friends while watching late night chick flicks or ESPN. Smart Pop also comes in 100 calorie packs (both butter and kettle corn flavored). Prefer to do things yourself and avoid unknown additives? Here is a recipe (and video tutorial!) for how to make your own microwave popcorn using corn kernels and a brown paper bag.

5. Dessert oatmeal

Healthy Dessert Oatmeal

I use this 5 minute recipe to make chocolate oatmeal, and then I sprinkle some sliced almonds on top for added crunch. Oatmeal is an incredibly healthy choice, no matter what time of day, and sweetening oatmeal with a banana makes it more nutrient dense than sugar sweetened oatmeal.

– Kelly