Fiber is a nutrient I talk about at least once a day at my job due to its many benefits. Fiber is an interesting nutrient since it cannot be broken down by the body, and instead passes through the digestive system helping to keep us full and our blood sugars at normal levels¹.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble dissolves in water and helps with lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This means that it helps with preventing/treating type two diabetes and heart disease. Good sources of it are oatmeal, beans, apples, nuts, and berries. No wonder they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Insoluble fiber is the one that seems to be in the limelight more since it helps move food through the digestive system and prevent constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains such as whole wheat and brown rice, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Strategies for filling up on fiber:
1.) Swap refined white breads, pastas, and rice with whole grain versions
2.) Choose whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices
3.) Try fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of chips or candy
4.) Swap some of the meat in chili or taco recipes with beans or lentils
5.) If you’re a cereal eater at breakfast time, choose whole grain cereals or oatmeal to start the day
Don’t end up like Sheldon! Remember to increase the amount of water you drink with any fiber increase since fiber absorbs water and works best with it.
The Chicago area just had its first snowfall on Friday, so the cold weather is officially here. During the winter months, it is nice to have a warm dinner to look forward to so we like to have chili in my house. Chili is one of the first meals my mom taught me how to cook, so I still cook it the way she taught me. We make it mild in my house, but spices can be added for extra heat.
This recipe is simple and allows for a quick and easy clean up since everything goes in the same pot, so it’s a perfect dinner to make on a busy work night. Additionally, you can make a big batch for leftovers to make subsequent work nights even easier!
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 can red beans (16 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (16 oz)
Optional ingredients include: 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp crushed red pepper to add spice, and shredded cheddar cheese for topping
In a large skillet, cook red meat or ground turkey until browned. Drain grease.
Add beans, tomatoes, and optional spices to chili mixture. Stir with a different spoon than used with the raw meat for food safety purposes 🙂
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes
Serve warm and enjoy with optional shredded cheese and crackers
After one last harvest in the vegetable garden, my mom and I decided to make stuffed peppers with our peppers from the garden. Stuffed peppers make a great fall meal since they have all of the fixings for a balanced meal and are a warm dish to enjoy as the days get cooler.
Wash peppers and prepare by cutting a thin slice from the top of each bell pepper. Remove the seeds and membranes from the inside. Rinse peppers if necessary to remove seeds that are still inside. If the pepper is not standing up straight on its own, cut a thin slice from the bottom of the pepper so it can stand up straight.
In a 4-quart Dutch oven, add enough water to cover peppers. Heat the pan to boiling and add peppers in order to start to soften them. Cook the peppers for two minutes and then drain.
While doing the above two steps, boil water for rice and cook until rice is prepared. Rice triples when cooked, so cook 1/3 cup of rice to make 1 cup cooked.
In a skillet, cook the beef and onion together over medium heat until beef is brown. Drain the grease and add rice, garlic, oregano, diced tomatoes, and 1 cup tomato sauce. Stir ingredients together and cook until hot.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
After mixture is hot, stuff the peppers with the mixture and stand them upright in an ungreased 8-inch square glass baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce of the peppers.
Cover the peppers tightly with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. After the ten minutes is up, remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender.
After the peppers are tender, remove them from the oven and add parmesan cheese over the top of the peppers and let it melt. Serve peppers and enjoy.
“Can I eat eggs?” is a common question I hear as a dietitian. Eggs have been a controversial food in the nutrition world, but they are starting to make their way back into the limelight for good reason.
Last week, I was lucky enough to go to the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo put on by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics where I was able to learn a lot about the health benefits of many different types of foods including berries, rice, tomatoes, walnuts, avocados, and eggs. The Egg Nutrition Center table helped me to become an “eggspert”. Eggs are nutrient-dense and packed with protein to make it a good choice to start your day¹. They contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for the eyes, heart, bones, blood, and brain. Additionally, the protein assists with muscle growth/maintenance and helps to keep you full to prevent overeating. Last, but definitely not least, the nutrition world has found out that dietary cholesterol from eggs, does not negatively impact blood cholesterol and may even increase good cholesterol to help prevent heart attacks²! Below is a nice infographic¹ to explain the benefits of eggs.
Another benefit of eggs is that they cook quickly for a nutritious meal on busy days. After a busy day of work and fitting in a workout, waiting for a nutritious meal to cook can be a challenge. Fortunately with Egg and Avocado Veggie Breakfast Wraps, I was able to make a nutritious “breakfast for dinner” in about ten minutes!
Egg and Avocado Veggie Breakfast Wraps
Ingredients (Makes two wraps)
8 spinach leaves, chopped
¼ bell pepper
6 grape tomatoes, quartered
Optional: grated cheddar cheese
2-6 inch tortillas
Clean vegetables with cold water and dry. On a cutting board, chop spinach leaves, bell pepper, onion, and grape tomatoes to desired portions.
Pour 2 tbsp cooking oil in or lightly coat small frying pan with cooking spray. In the small frying pan, sauté vegetables on medium heat until onions slightly translucent.
While vegetables are cooking, crack eggs in a bowl and scramble with a fork.
After vegetables are cooked, pour eggs into pan over vegetables and use spatula to allow all parts of the egg to cook. Use spatula to split eggs mixed with vegetables into small pieces.
In a separate pan on the stove, warm tortillas on both sides for 30 seconds at medium high heat.
After tortillas have been warmed, add eggs and vegetables onto tortillas. Sprinkle cheddar cheese onto wraps if desired for additional flavor. Cut avocado in half and into pieces while still in avocado shell. Spoon out cut pieces onto top of breakfast wraps.
Wrap up the finished product like a taco and enjoy!
¹Egg Nutrition Center. Eggs contain nutrients that are important for health. eggnutritioncenter.org.
²DiMarco DM, et al. Intake of up to 3 eggs/day increases HDL cholesterol and plasma choline while plasma trimethylamine-N-oxide is unchanged in a healthy population. Lipids. 2017; 52: 255-263.
A new family tradition my mom and I have during the holidays now is cooking together. On Easter, I tried a new recipe that was a hit among my family: roasted garlic brussel sprouts. My family and I liked how the brussel sprouts had a mix of sweet and savory flavors, and how since brussel sprouts are a healthy vegetable, we didn’t feel bad about having seconds!
Brussel sprouts are a member of the nutrient packed cruciferous vegetable family. They’re a great source of fiber, iron, vitamin c, folate, potassium, and phytochemicals that can reduce the risk of developing cancer. No wonder Moms everywhere are trying to get their kids to eat them!
Roasted Garlic Brussel Sprouts
Ingredients (Serves 6):
2 lbs brussel sprouts
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cloves of garlic minced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim stems off brussel sprouts and remove yellow leaves.
Cut brussel sprouts in half and place in large plastic ziplock bag.
Mince garlic cloves and add to plastic bag along with olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
Shake bag until all ingredients are well mixed.
Pour brussel sprouts into pan and place in the oven. Cook for 30-45 minutes stirring brussel sprouts every 7-10 minutes to promote even cooking. Brussel sprouts will be darker brown and soft when they are finished cooking.
It’s been a bit gloomy in the Chicago area lately, so today I decided to have a colorful smoothie to brighten up my day.
This is my favorite smoothie to make and I typically like to have it for breakfast or after I workout. It is a great source of protein and antioxidants (vitamins A and C) to help with starting the day out right and/or with recovery after a hard workout. Protein supplies the foundation for building muscles and to help keep you full throughout the day, while antioxidants help to ward off sickness and combat free radicals produced by exercise. Additional benefits of this smoothie are that it provides two servings of fruits to help with beginning to meet the “5 A Day” fruits and vegetable goal, and that the yogurt and milk in it provide calcium and vitamin D to help with building healthy bones.
Banana Berry Blast Smoothie
1 small banana
1 cup frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries all work great together or alone in this smoothie)
5 oz or one small container of Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
Add fruit, yogurt, and milk to a blender
Blend until all ingredients are well mixed. The smoothie will be pink in color.
St Patrick’s Day is typically celebrated with having corned beef and cabbage, and having many foods that are artificially dyed green. This St Patrick’s Day, I recommend trying something that is naturally green: a Spinach Strawberry Smoothie!
Back when I was helping out with the nutrition demos at a running camp, the dietitian I was working with had us make and share this recipe with all of the runners at the camp since it is a great source of iron. Iron deficiency anemia is common in distance runners, and is a problem that I have faced in the past, so I definitely recommend having this smoothie to keep you healthy, especially if you struggle with anemia.
Something I have always enjoyed about nutrition is that many of the nutrients work together to help with the absorption and utilization of other nutrients. One example of this is vitamin C and iron. Since this smoothie also has strawberries and orange juice in it, it is a great source of vitamin C which helps with absorbing the iron in it. I began calling it Popeye’s Spinach Strawberry Smoothie while I was an intern working with the track team at Benedictine since it helps to prevent and treat iron deficiencies so it keeps everyone who has it running strong.
During my internship, I also made a cooking demo video on how to make this smoothie, so this will be a slightly more interactive blog post since I will be sharing it to show how to make the smoothie.
Popeye’s Spinach Strawberry Smoothie
2 cups spinach
1 cup orange juice
6-8 frozen strawberries
Start by blending two cups of spinach and one cup of orange juice in a blender until well mixed.
Add one cup of frozen strawberries and blend until all ingredients are at the consistency desired.
Pour into a glass and enjoy a nutrient packed smoothie!
I’ve been on a quest to try more kinds of fish at my work whenever they’re on sale. The last two weeks, our big sale was on West Coast Dover Sole. After hearing so many customers rave about it, I decided to give it a try.
In regards to nutrition, sole is a lean protein and is a good source of b-vitamins. Additionally, the fillets are small and thin which can be good for portion sizing. Sole is very mild and takes on whatever flavors choose for seasoning.
Over the summer, I liked cooking putting pesto sauce made with basil from our garden on fish so I had the idea to make the sole with lemon and basil on it. Unfortunately, it was a little bland for me since I’m used to eating fish that is more flavorful like salmon, but I think this recipe could be good for picky eaters or those that want something mild. I think I would have liked it a little better if I went the extra mile and made pesto sauce to put on it, but I didn’t have the ingredients to do that.
Lemon Basil Sole
Ingredients (per serving):
4 oz dover sole
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil for pan
Preheat oven to 375. Sole is a delicate fish, so baking is a good idea so it does not fall apart.
While oven is heating, pour olive oil in a pan and spread it around to prevent sole from sticking.
Place sole in pan and squeeze lemon over sole to season. Also add salt, pepper, and basil at this time.
Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Sole will flake and be at an internal temperature of 145 degrees or higher when it is done. I always like to use a meat thermometer to make sure my fish is done! Serve with veggies and a starch and you have a healthy meal.
Something I love about my job in the seafood and meat department is that we have a book where I can look up the nutrition information on any type of seafood we sell, and learn about the nutrition benefits of each type so I can help the customers make healthier choices. One type of fish that has surprised me with its nutrient contents is our local wild caught whitefish! Salmon is usually touted as the king of healthy omega 3 fats, but a serving of whitefish has more omega 3s in it than leaner sockeye salmon. Like other types of fish, whitefish is a great source of magnesium, B-vitamins, and protein, but an additional benefit of whitefish for me is that it is from the midwest so I feel like I am getting even fresher fish since it does not need to travel as far.
I like recommending whitefish since its mild and takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with, so it’s a great choice for new fish eaters or kids. A new way I have liked cooking it is with a citrus marinade we sell near our department. If you are pressed for time, using a seasoning mix or marinade that is already made is perfect for helping you be able to cook a healthy meal at home…in my case, it was perfect for while I was working more hours, trying to get back into running shape for a 10k in April, and studying for my exam to become a registered dietitian. I will include directions for making a citrus marinade that I like to use when I’m not pressed for time.
Recipe: Citrus Marinated Whitefish
Whitefish: 4-6 oz servings per person (keep the skin on to help hold the fish together!)
3 tbsp grapeseed oil for cooking
1/4 cup citrus marinade per portion: Whole Foods Citrus Mojo Marinade (Disclaimer: I am not trying to sell this marinade through putting it on my blog. Just recommending it since it’s delicious!) or homemade citrus marinade
Homemade Citrus Marinade Ingredients:
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
If making homemade marinade, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.
Place fish on a plate or a pan and use 3/4 of the marinade to marinate fish for 30 minutes.
After fish has marinated, pour grapeseed oil into a skillet on the stove and spread around to prevent fish from sticking. Turn stove to medium heat and begin cooking whitefish meat side down for three minutes.
And make sure to use a bigger pan than I did 😉
Carefully flip whitefish to skin side and put stove to low heat. Pour remaining marinade onto whitefish and cover. Cook for nine more minutes or until fish has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees or higher.
Put whitefish on a plate and enjoy with sides. I like pairing it with vegetables like brussel sprouts, kale, or broccoli and a starch like sweet potatoes or rice.
Since I am recent grad working more hours at my job in a seafood department, I have started trying out more recipes at home to give recommendations to customers and my future patients. A couple weeks ago, I decided to buy a frozen pack of cod portions and bring it home for my family to try.
A common piece of nutrition advice is to try to have two servings of seafood a week since most varieties are relatively lean proteins that are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and omega 3’s. For those you that are a little weary trying about seafood, cod is a great fish to start out with since it has a mild flavor with a light flaky texture. Cod is a great source of b-vitamins, protein, iodine, brain-boosting choline, and a moderate source of omega 3’s, so it is a great addition to the dinner table.
Cod is known for being fried as part of fish and chips, or on a fish fillet sandwich, so I decided to bake breaded cod by adapting a recipe from Whole Foods Market’s website (Baked Breaded Cod). Baking instead of frying helps to keep the recipe low in fats that may lead to heart disease, and allows the breadcrumbs on top of the cod to become crispy and combine well with the cod.
Lightly Breaded Lemon Cod
Ingredients (For 3-4 portions):
Olive oil to coat baking dish
1-4 to 6 oz portion of cod for each person you are serving
1/4 cup whole grain bread crumbs (I used gluten free so I could eat it)
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp melted butter (optional)
If using frozen cod, take out of freezer the day before and allow to thaw in the refrigerator.
When ready to make, preheat over to 425 degrees. Spread olive oil in baking dish.
In a separate bowl, grate one piece of bread until you have 1/4 cup’s worth. I suggest using the end piece of a bread loaf to get finer breadcrumbs.
Evenly space cod portions in pan and season with salt and ground pepper. Add lemon juice by squeezing half a lemon over the cod portions.
Sprinkle portions with breadcrumbs and optional melted butter.
Bake cod until breadcrumbs are crispy and cod flakes or approximately 12-15 minutes. Use a food thermometer to ensure cod has reached an internal temperature greater than 145 degrees.