The New World of Yogurt

by in Food News & Trends, October 18, 2016

You’ve probably noticed that the dairy section at your local grocery store is brimming with more choices than ever before, especially when it comes to the yogurt aisle. There have never been so many ways to enjoy this cultured dairy product, including drinks that allow you to sip them when you’re on the go and savory formulas showcasing in-season produce. Here’s a tour of the new and delicious world of yogurt.

Savory
Similar to dips, there’s a new craze surrounding cups of savory yogurts that can be eaten as a snack. Instead of fruit and sweeteners, these yogurts are adorned with an array of veggies, herbs and spices. Blue Hill Yogurt (pictured above) in New York has pioneered this savory sensation, offering flavors like Tomato, Beet, Butternut Squash and Parsnip.

Drinkables
More and more brands are offering bottles of less spoonable yogurt for on-the-go enjoyment. New York state-based Ronnybrook makes a drinkable yogurt without the use of stabilizers or emulsifiers and offers a variety of flavors, including Blackberry, Mango and Low-Fat Honey Vanilla.

Icelandic
Skyr is an incredibly thick and creamy cultured dairy product made in traditional Icelandic fashion. Like the more familiar Greek yogurt, Skyr is strained, yielding a lower water content, but it tastes less tangy than its counterpart from Greece. One of the most-popular brands on the scene is Siggi’s, which is high in protein and is made with less added sugar than many other sweetened yogurts. Read more

Q&A with Chef Virginia Willis, Author of Lighten Up, Y’all

by in Cookbooks, October 16, 2016

Think Southern food can’t be lightened up? Think again! I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Virginia Willis about her James Beard Award-winning cookbook Lighten Up, Y’all. She was kind enough to share her tips for lightening up traditional Southern foods like biscuits, as well as her recipe for Vegetable Corn Bread.

Can traditional Southern foods be lightened up and still taste good?
Virginia Willis: Yes and yes! First, and foremost, I want to say that all traditional Southern foods aren’t unhealthy. We’re a vegetable-based cuisine and have a 12-month growing season. And, yes, I admit we’re most famous for fried chicken, cornbread and overcooked vegetables. My answer to that is: When you have fried chicken, have really good fried chicken, hold out for the good stuff  — and take a walk afterwards. There are tons of great vegetable recipes, and whole-grain cornbread isn’t unhealthy. I suggest backing off on the fat and amping up the nutrition.

What are three of your top tips for lightening up Southern fare?
VW: 1) I have a squirt bottle of canola oil at the side of my cooktop. I know that three squirts are 1 teaspoon, and that helps me be accountable. Bacon fat, butter or canola oil, all oil is around 120 calories a tablespoon. I try to use heart-healthy oil for general cooking and only use more-indulgent oils when their flavor really makes a difference.
2) It doesn’t matter if it’s Southern food or Italian food or Mexican food — the real key is portion control.
3) Eat your vegetables! Make vegetables the main place on the plate, and the starch and protein the secondary piece. Read more

Being Mindful Helps Chocolate Boost Your Mood

by in Food News & Trends, October 15, 2016

There’s no denying that chocolate is a feel-good food — which is why so many of us reach for it at the first sign of stress or unhappiness. The problem is that by the time we’ve mindlessly munched down an entire candy bar or several handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses, we don’t necessarily feel any better. In fact, we’re more likely to feel overly full, plus a bit guilt-stricken for gorging on sweets.

But what if you could not only feel satisfied, but also actually boost your mood by eating just one small square of chocolate? According to a study recently published in the journal Appetite, it is possible. Researchers at Gettysburg College recruited 258 students and assigned them to one of four groups. In one group the participants each ate 75 calories’ worth of chocolate while being mindful; participants in another group each ate five crackers in the same manner; and participants in the other two groups each ate either the chocolate or the crackers without being mindful. The two groups assigned to be mindful were instructed to hold the food and think about the farmers who produced the ingredients necessary to make it. After that, they were told to focus on the sensations of the food in their mouths as they ate. Start to finish — eating either the chocolate or the crackers mindfully — took about four minutes. The non-mindful groups were instructed to eat half their food, then wait four minutes to eat the other half, in order to keep the time frames of consumption similar. Read more

Nutrition News: Naked Juice Is Sued, Junk Food Is Jettisoned and Big Soda Displays Strange Behavior

by in Food News & Trends, October 14, 2016

Duped by Juice
When you reach for a Naked Juice, you probably think you’re doing something good for yourself. After all, its label promises “goodness inside.” But, in a class-action lawsuit filed last week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has accused Naked Juice parent company PepsiCo of misleading consumers by suggesting that the fruit and veggie juices are primarily filled with ultra-healthy “acai berry, blueberries, kale, and mango,” when in reality the product lines’ chief ingredients are orange juice or “cheap, nutrient-poor apple juice.” CSPI contends the juices’ “no sugar added” claim is misleading as well, suggesting that the juices’ sugar content is low, when actually it’s quite high — nearly as much per bottle as a 12-ounce can of Pepsi. It also accuses PepsiCo of flouting Food and Drug Administration regulations by failing to not make clear that the drinks are “not a low-calorie food.” Consumers, CSPI litigation director Maia Kats said, are “not getting what they paid for.” PepsiCo has called the allegations in the suit “baseless.” Read more

Lightened-Up Family Pizza Night

by in Healthy Recipes, Kid-Friendly, October 12, 2016

Who says pizza can’t be a healthy meal? Although a store-bought slice of cheese clocks in at about 400 calories, you can make a healthy pizza-centric meal that is loaded with vegetables, dairy and whole grains. These easy tips can help you make to-die-for pizza — that your whole family will love — each week.

Choose a Night
Theme nights are fun, make planning meals easier and get kids excited to eat. Sample theme nights include Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday and Pizza Friday. If you schedule pizza night for Friday, it’s a way to help reduce food waste, as most anything, like leftovers or extra vegetables, can be a healthy pizza topper. Scheduling also gives you time to stock your fridge with pizza essentials such as dough and cheese, or whatever else you choose to be on your pizza. Once you choose the night, then you have a few more decisions on how you’re going to build the pizza. Have your kids chime in on how they would like to make it more of a family affair.

Dough
This is the perfect opportunity to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendations to make half your daily grains whole. You can make your own 100 percent whole-wheat pizza dough, purchase whole-grain pizza dough from your market or ask your local pizza maker for an order of whole-wheat dough. You can also whip up dough made from legumes, like chickpeas, or that’s gluten-free. Other out-of-the box dough options include whole-wheat naan bread, whole-wheat English muffins or whole-grain tortillas. Read more

Market Watch: Kabocha Squash

by in In Season, October 11, 2016

This lesser-known variety of winter squash is having its heyday at local farmers markets right now. Don’t be intimidated by its dark and rough exterior; inside is a gourd full of goodness.

Kabocha Facts
A Japanese variety of squash, kabocha resembles a squatty, dark green pumpkin. Its outer skin is rough and bumpy, but inside hides a vibrant pale-orange flesh that tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and a pumpkin. Kabocha also delivers in the nutrition department, offering plentiful amounts of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and fiber.

What to Do with Kabocha Squash
Much like pumpkin and butternut squash, kabocha can go in a wide variety of culinary directions. As with many winter squashes, the biggest challenge is dealing with the tough outer skin. Peeling it won’t be easy, so it’s better to cut it open, remove the seeds, and peel away the skin after boiling or roasting — you can also make it in a slow cooker.

Once mashed or pureed, the squash yields an incredibly light, silky and flavorful flesh that permeates your senses with the smell and taste of fall. Use it as a main ingredient for soups and sauces. You can enhance its flavor with earthy accoutrements like sage, cardamom and cinnamon or take things in a completely different direction with citrus and coconut milk. Kabocha’s natural sweetness and creamy texture also work nicely in muffins, breads, pie, panna cotta and ice cream. Read more

Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash Bowls with Shrimp

by in Healthy Recipes, October 9, 2016

There’s no denying it: Fall is officially here. Even though temperatures are still warm where I live, there is a definite change of season in the grocery store. I almost stopped in my tracks last week as I headed into the produce section and found giant displays of apples, pumpkins and squash of every color.

Not that I’m complaining. While I will always have a soft spot for colorful berries and heirloom tomatoes, there’s something extremely comforting about fall produce. These spaghetti squash bowls are the perfect way to welcome fall. Spaghetti-like squash strands, roasted broccoli, coconut shrimp and an addictive peanut sauce make for a lighter version of Thai takeout.

Once the vegetables are in the oven, this meal comes together rather quickly. To maximize prep time, I recommend making the peanut sauce beforehand, then marinating the shrimp while the broccoli is cooking. Just before the vegetables are set to be done, saute the shrimp, assemble and serve. You can serve these bowls as described, or use the hollowed-out spaghetti squash as a literal bowl. (Simply fill the cooked squash boat with roasted broccoli and shrimp, then drizzle on peanut sauce.) Either way, you’ll be rewarded with an unexpected and delicious way to enjoy spaghetti squash. Read more

Pumpkin Spice Waffles

by in Healthy Recipes, October 8, 2016

These waffles are brimming with pumpkin flavor, making them perfect for upcoming fall weekends. It’s also a great recipe to have on hand when you find yourself with extra pumpkin puree.

To keep these waffles on the nourishing side, I subbed in a half-cup of whole-wheat flour and cut down on the typical amounts of oil and sugar, which makes them slightly sweet, but still packed with pumpkin flavor. Since pumpkin puree can often weigh down baked goods, I also call for separating the eggs: beating the whites until stiff peaks form, then folding them into the prepared batter. This extra step creates light, crispy waffles, so while it may be tempting to skip it, don’t.

For a weekday timesaver, make a double or triple batch of these waffles, then freeze the extras for quick reheating during the week. Trust me, nothing says good morning on a crisp fall day like these pumpkin spice waffles. Chopped pecans and a drizzle of pure maple syrup are the perfect topping, but truth be told, I’ve been known to devour them plain, straight from the waffle iron. Read more

Nutrition News: Autumn Weight Gain, Salt Reduction, Kids and Online Ads

by in Food News & Trends, October 7, 2016


Adver-games exposed
Once upon a time, parents’ fears about advertising’s sneaky effects on their kids were more or less confined to TV ads. Nowadays food and drink companies are able to reach kids online in ways parents aren’t even aware of — and research indicates that exposure to these marketing efforts does influence kids’ consumption habits. Writing in the Washington Post, nutrition expert Casey Seidenberg ticks off a few of those methods. They include using “adver-games” featuring the products, directing kids to their products to retrieve “codes” and incentivizing them to invite their friends to play; using GPS tracking and notifications to push coupons and discounts to them on their phones based on their locations; using social media to track and reach them and encourage them to influence others in their peer network; and collecting and analyzing kids’ personal data via mobile apps to better target them and build loyalty. Creepy. Read more

6 Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin in Healthy Fall Meals

by in Healthy Recipes, October 6, 2016

If you’re daunted by the idea of cooking with fresh pumpkin, we can’t blame you. Splitting, gutting and skinning a whole gourd with nothing more than a carving knife and a large spoon to scoop out the seeds is a time-consuming process — and completely unnecessary when you have pure pumpkin puree on hand. Luckily, one-half cup of unsweetened canned pumpkin contains roughly 50 calories per serving, which means it’s a great way to add creaminess to your favorite foods for very little additional fat or sugar. Better yet, it’s a quick and convenient method for imbuing each bite of pie, quick bread or pasta sauce with comforting fall flavor. Here are five easy ways to work rich pumpkin puree into your favorite dishes, from classic pumpkin pie to cheesy pumpkin biscuits.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
This creamy cheesecake is packed with pumpkin pie flavor but with a fraction of the fat as the original; it’s made with reduced-fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt.

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