January 2016 Food of the Month

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Acorn squash are a great source of potassium, vitamins A and C, and fiber!  These nutrients can help keep your eyes and skin healthy.  They can also help to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure.  

Acorn squash were named because of their acorn-like shape.  They are in season all winter in this part of the country.  Use in soups, pastas, pies, ravioli, or stuff with brown rice and veggies.  And don’t toss the seeds.  Roast them in the oven with some herbs for a nutritious snack!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

 

December Food of the Month

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Mushrooms are rich in various vitamins and minerals we don’t hear about too often.  In addition to being high in fiber, omega 6 fatty acids, and potassium, mushrooms also contain a notable amount of riboflavin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, copper, niacin, and selenium.

These nutrients are important for metabolism and energy, healthy skin, maintenance of hemoglobin and blood vessels, and preventing oxidation.  Depending on which type of mushrooms you choose, the nutrient content will vary.  But feel free to experiment with any mushrooms from the store!  They’re all great options!

Mushrooms are a rather versatile food.  They serve as great toppings/sauces for pasta, bases for vegetarian dishes such as veggie burgers, and hearty additions to soups, salads, breakfast eggs and omelets.  Of course they’re also a great option to munch on plain!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

November Food of the Month

Fennel is a deliciously unique plant.  Both its bulb and its seeds are often used in cooking, yet have completely different tastes.  While the bulb is actually a member of the carrot family, its flavor and aroma resemble that of licorice!  The seeds, on the other hand, are often used in Italian cooking, such as sausages.

Just as both have different tastes, both have different nutritional contents.  The bulb is a good source of fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C, while the seeds are a good source of omega 6 fatty acids and manganese.  Therefore, to say fennel is a super food is an understatement!

Never tried fennel?  Now is the time to change that.  Fennel is at its seasonal peak in this part of the country in November.  Therefore, it should be abundant, fresh, and affordable!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

October Food of the Month

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Pumpkin is a seasonal favorite for many, and not only as a decoration!  Pumpkin drinks, pumpkin desserts, pumpkin soups… the list goes on, but it is certainly a staple in the fall.  The nutrients contained are reason enough to consider it a staple, let alone the flavor.  Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.  In fact, 1 cup of cooked pumpkin contains nearly two and a half times the amount of vitamin A the average person needs in one day!  Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that benefits our skin and vision.  This fall, serve up pumpkin frequently to get those extra servings of vegetables in.  That’s right, enjoy the pumpkin spice phenomenon!  Just be careful with portion sizes on the sweets.  Most anything in moderation.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Keep Your Brain Active

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This week is Active Aging Week, a week dedicated to encouraging older Americans to remain active.  However, activity is not limited to physical activity.  As we get older, it is important to stay mentally active as well.  Studies show that practicing brain-boosting activities can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia.  Here are some ideas of activities to do this week and keep your mind active!  Learn a new language or musical instrument, do puzzles, brain teasers, or strategy games, and practice memorization: maybe the 50 state capitals or the US presidents.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Service, Inc.

Cut Back, Don't Cut Out

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Trying to eat healthy doesn't mean you have to give up the foods that you love.  In fact, many people who try to completely cut out one of their favorite "bad" foods (such as bacon, oreos, Pepsi, etc.) end up overindulging during a stressful situation, which then leads to feeling guilty or discouraged.  Don't kid yourself.  Life will give you stress.  It's better to allow yourself a cookie or a soda every now and then to satisfy that craving than to completely deprive yourself and then later overindulge.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Say Yes to Carbs

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Kick those no carb diets to the curb!  Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient in our diet which supply energy.  However, some sources of carbs are much more healthful than others.  September is whole grains month.  Whole grains include sources of carbs such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and barley that contain the WHOLE grain: the germ, bran, and endosperm.  Refined grains such as white bread, rice, or pasta only contain the endosperm and are therefore lacking in a variety of nutrients.  In other words, when it comes to carbs, whole grains give you more bang for your buck!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

September Food of the Month

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Almonds: of all the nuts, we hear about almonds probably the most.  This is because of their heart healthy properties.  However, they are additionally a great source of protein, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and copper.

These nutrients are important for a variety of functions, including: muscle development, skin health, development, metabolism, and immune function.  For example, magnesium is the second most abundant element in the human body, and makes up a large portion of bone composition.

Although almonds can be a healthy component of our diet, it is important not to overdo it.  One serving is approximately 23 almonds.  This is a small handful or about the size of a shot glass, which may not seem like a lot if you’re eating them plain out of the container.  The best way to control your portion is to mix them with other things such as trail mix or salads.  That way your small handful can be stretched into something more satisfying!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Make Your Own Pasta Sauce

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Making your own pasta sauce as opposed to buying canned sauce in the store can save you from ingesting some unnecessary sodium and preservatives.  I tried this recipe over the weekend.  Give it a shot, or make some traditional marinara sauce with some of this summer's deliciously juicy tomatoes!

1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed of tough ends and halved crosswise
3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
8 ounces of dried pasta

Bring 2 pots of water to a rolling boil, one large for the pasta and one medium sized for the asparagus.  While the water is heating, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside. You will use 3/4 cup of the pine nuts for the pesto paste and 1/4 cup to mix in whole.  Salt the asparagus water and drop the spears into the pan. Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender. Drain under cool water to stop the cooking. Cut the tips off, and set aside, several of the asparagus (diagonal cut about an inch from the end) to use for garnish.  Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup of the pine nuts to a food processor or blender. Purée and, with the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.  Cook the pasta until just tender. Check the directions on the pasta package.  Drain and toss immediately with 1 cup of the asparagus pesto.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, a dusting of Parmesan, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Source:
Simply Recipes
http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/asparagus_pesto_with_pasta/

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Pack a Cooler

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Headed to the beach one last time before summer is over?  Pack a cooler of healthy snacks you enjoy with you to avoid the temptation of overindulging in boardwalk food.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Breastfeeding is Best

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August is National Breastfeeding Month.  If you're an expecting mother, breastfeeding is, from a health standpoint, the best option for you and your baby.  It provides all the essential nutrients your baby needs, with a specific design for him or her.  In addition, it can help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight! (And it's the best option for your wallet as well).

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

 

August Food of the Month

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Zucchini is a nutritious option in season during the late summer and early fall months of the year.  It is a good source of heart healthy fats and vitamin C as well as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and manganese, which are essential for metabolism, growth, and development.  Don’t forget: like most all fruits and vegetables, zucchini are also high in fiber.  Fiber is helpful for digestive health, weight loss, and lowering cholesterol among other functions!  Zucchini is one of the most versatile types of squash.  It can be included in numerous foods from muffins to shish kabobs to pastas to smoothies.  Explore a variety of recipes and don’t be afraid to think outside the box in the kitchen!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Keep Your Scoops Light

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Ice cream can be a refreshing treat during the summertime if consumed in moderation.  In addition, “light” ice cream vs. the regular ice cream of the same brand contains by law half the fat or one-third of the calories.  Therefore, making the switch to lighter scoops could mean lighter body weight over time!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Be Good to Your Eyes

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Wear protective eyewear when outdoors.  Some sunglasses can block up to 99% of ultraviolet A and B rays in addition to aiding in the prevention of cataracts and wrinkles around the eyes.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

July Food of the Month

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Who doesn’t love a fresh, juicy peach in the summer?  There are few foods more refreshing on a hot day in July.  Whether you just bite in to a whole peach or add it to a smoothie, this fruit will satisfy your taste buds and provide you with valuable nutrients.  Peaches, like many fruits, are high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.  Vitamin C, in addition to warding off the common cold, can also relieve stress!  Peaches are freshest during the mid-late summer months in the Philadelphia area.  However, frozen peaches bought any time during the year will taste just as ripe because they are frozen just after harvested.  That means the frozen peaches you buy in the dead of winter are just as refreshing and nutrient-packed as the ones you buy now in July!

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Ward Off the Headaches and Migraines

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Headaches and migraines can be a result of a multitude of triggers such as stress.  However, some foods can actually serve as a trigger as well.  Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an additive used to enhance the flavor of foods that often leads to headaches.  It is used primarily in Chinese food, so go easy on the Chinese if you are prone to developing migraines. 

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold

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As we enter into prime BBQ and grilling season, it's important to pay attention to food temperatures.  At picnics this time of year, it’s easy to let foods sit at “room temperature” for too long.  However, if foods are kept between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for over an hour, they are at higher risk to develop bacteria, leading to foodborne illness.  Avoid this temperature range for the best health.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Avoid The Beer Belly

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With Father’s Day approaching, here’s a health tip for all you men: AVOID THE BEER BELLY.  The measurement of your waist around the level of your belly button should be less than half your height in inches.  (For example, if you are six feet tall (72”), your waist should be less than 36”).  Keeping your waist at a healthy proportion to your height can help to prevent heart attacks and diabetes in addition to maintaining healthy testosterone levels.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

Stay Hydrated

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We all know water can be boring from time to time.  Here’s a list of 10 foods with the highest amount of water (greater than 90% of their composition is water!).  Munch on these during a hot day for refreshment:

  1. Watermelon
  2. Cucumber
  3. Lettuce
  4. Celery
  5. Pineapple
  6. Blueberries
  7. Tomato
  8. Cantaloupe
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Pear

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.

June Food of the Month

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Cherries are a nutrient-packed, flavorful fruit, high in fiber, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.  Together, these nutrients can benefit blood pressure control, digestive health, and heart health among other things.  A lot of people take omega 3 (fish oil) and/or omega 6 supplements for these health benefits.  However, these fatty acids are readily found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices in addition to seafood.  So save a few dollars and get these nutrients through foods such as cherries as opposed to buying extra supplements.  Cherries aren’t only delicious added to desserts.  They serve as a great addition to numerous meals such as salads, cereal, and chicken salad.

Colleen Forrest, RDN, LDN
Spectrum Health Services, Inc.