Cream Cheese: Is It Healthy?

by in Is It Healthy?, July 19, 2013

cream cheese

Does this soft, spreadable cheese have any place in a healthy eating plan? It may depend on which kind you choose.

Yes?
Cream cheese comes in numerous forms: brick, regular, whipped, light, fat-free and Neufchatel. You can also find regular, light and fat-free in flavors like scallion, vegetable, cinnamon-raisin, salmon and strawberry.

Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese have 100 calories, 9 grams of fat and 6 grams of saturated fat. So if you want to lighten things up, whipped or light varieties are the ways to go.

Whipped cream cheese incorporates air (from whipping) so it seems as if you’re eating more. Two tablespoons have 80 calories, 8 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat.

Light cream cheese has even fewer calories, with 2 tablespoons clocking in at 70 calories, 5 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat. (Fat-free has about half the calories of whipped or light.)

Neufchatel has one-third less fat than regular cream cheese with 80 calories, 6 grams of fat and 4 grams saturated in 2 tablespoons.

Beyond its traditional uses (with lox, in cheesecake), cream cheese can enhance the flavor of many healthy recipes. Use the whipped or low-fat variety to make cream cheese frosting, mashed potatoes, artichoke dip, alfredo sauce or even a cheese and fruit pizza. As always, the key is to keep portions under control.

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22 Healthy Zucchini Recipes

by in Healthy Recipes, In Season, July 18, 2013

zucchini salad

It’s prime season for summer squash, and like most folks, I get all jazzed up when the zucchini harvest arrives. Here are 22 healthy ways to devour this summer goodie.

Soups, Salads, Snacks … and a Cocktail!
Zucchini is the chameleon of the produce world, adapting to any surrounding flavor and texture. It’s tremendously delish raw or cooked, shredded or sliced, roasted or pureed.

Mains
Who says a zucchini can’t be a meal?! These recipes prove this veggie is up to the challenge.

Sides
There’s nothing wrong with going the more traditional route. These simple side dishes turn up the flavor.

Breads and Muffins
Don’t count out the baked goods. Zucchini adds a subtle sweetness and helps keeps breads and muffins moist.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

15 Fun Uses for Frozen Fruit

by in Uncategorized, July 18, 2013

frozen berries
Few freezers are without some type of frozen fruit. That’s a good thing because frozen fruit is incredibly nutritious (as long as it’s not packed with sugar or syrup) and endlessly versatile in both sweet and savory dishes. (And with the farmers’ market season in high gear, freezing at home can also be a good way to handle any ripe fruit you won’t quite get to in time.) Check out these fun and unique uses.

1. Barbecue Sauce: Simmer frozen fruit with a little ketchup, Dijon mustard, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, reduced-sodium soy sauce, ground cumin and chili powder. Add chicken broth if desired and reduce the mixture until it reaches a barbecue sauce consistency

2. Sorbet and Sherbet: Puree frozen fruit in a blender or food processor with enough orange juice (for sorbet) or fat-free milk (for sherbet) to make a smooth puree. Freeze until firm. Puree (again) in a food processor just before serving.

3. Punch (Regular or Spiked): Add frozen fruit to your favorite lemonade or limeade. For a cocktail version, add vodka. To make sangria, add frozen fruit to red wine; add a little seltzer if desired.

4. Smoothies: Combine frozen fruit in a blender with yogurt, milk or orange juice, and blend until smooth. (No need for ice, this makes a nice, concentrated smoothie.)

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Diet 101: Flat Belly Diet

by in Diets & Weight Loss, July 17, 2013

avocados
Seems like everyone has been asking me about ways to lose belly fat lately. Is the Flat Belly Diet the way? And which foods does the diet recommend? Find out.

Overview
From the editors of Prevention magazine, the Flat Belly Diet claims that followers can lose up to 15 pounds in 32 days. Researched in part by a registered dietitian (always a good thing), the plan focuses on taking in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) from foods like oils, nuts and seeds, olives, avocado and dark chocolate. The author promises that dieters will want to follow this type of eating for the long haul.

The Plan
This 32-day plan includes a “Four Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart” followed by a 4-week program. The jump start banishes caffeine and most sources of sodium from the diet to help promote a loss of water weight. The four-day meal plan is made up of low-fat foods, a minimal amount of starchy carbs and lots of lean protein and fruits and vegetables. Dieters must also guzzle “Sassy Water,” a concoction of water flavored with ginger, lemon, cucumber and mint created by contributing dietitian Cynthia Sass.

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Taste Test: Bottled Lemon Iced Tea

by in Taste Test, July 17, 2013

lemon iced tea
Looking for a refreshing beverage to beat the summer heat? See the results of this taste test before popping open a bottle of sweetened iced tea.

The Criteria
This taste test focused on sweetened teas with lemon (no other flavors for this challenge). Close attention was paid to ingredient quality, calories and sugar, and each tea was rated using a 5-point scale (5 being the highest). Although the teas came in various sized containers, all teas were scaled to 16-fluid ounces, the most popular size.

One thing that varied widely was sugar content, something worth keeping an eye on. The tea with the highest amount contained 48 grams, while the top-rated bottle had fewer than 10 grams. (To help put things in perspective, a 16-ounce soda/cola contains 52 grams of sugar.)

Here’s how the teas stacked up!

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Win This Rice Cooker!

by in Giveaway, July 17, 2013

Rice Cooker

Let’s be honest: During the heat of summer, turning on the oven just isn’t going to happen. Get a nutritious meal on the table with time to spare (and keep your house from turning into a sauna) thanks to a KRUPS Rice Cooker. With four settings—rice, slow cooker, oatmeal and steaming—you can set it up in the morning, then come home to a ready-made meal. Easily make a side of rice, a batch of Sandra Lee’s Slow Cooker Short Ribs or even take Food Network Magazine‘s Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches to your next backyard barbecue. Plus, your meal is automatically kept warm at the end of the cooking cycle, and all parts are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.

You can buy your own KRUPS Rice Cooker or enter in the comments for a chance to win one. Just let us know, in the comments, your favorite food to pair with rice. The contest starts at 10:00 a.m. EST today, and ends on Friday, July 19 at 5 p.m. EST.

We’re giving away one KRUPS Rice Cooker to one randomly-selected commenter. You must include your email address in the “Email” field when submitting your comment so we can communicate with you if you’re a winner.

You may only comment once to be considered and you don’t have to purchase anything to win; a purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Odds depend on total number of entries. Void where prohibited. Only open to legal residents of 50 U.S. states, D.C. or Puerto Rico, and you must be at least 18 to win. For the first day of the giveaway, all entries (answers) must be entered between 10:00 a.m. EST on July 17 and 5 p.m. EST on July 19, 2013. Subject to full official rules. By leaving a comment on the blog, you acknowledge your acceptance to the Official Rules. ARV of each prize: $80. Sponsor: Scripps Networks, LLC, d/b/a Food Network, 9721 Sherrill Blvd, Knoxville, TN 37932.

So tell us, what’s your favorite food to pair with rice?

Cooking with Key Limes (Try These Chicken Kebabs)

by in Uncategorized, July 16, 2013

chicken kebabs
Growing up, I spent several summers visiting my grandparents in the Florida Keys. These days, when I see key limes at the market, I’m catapulted back to age 10–to my grandmother’s sublime key lime pie, her tart limeade and that tangy-sweet steak marinade she made with fresh key limes from her tree. When it was time to head home, we’d squeeze a bunch of limes so I could bring juice home (clearly this was before carry-on liquids were capped at 3 ounces).

These days, you can find key limes in grocery stores nationwide. Thin-skinned key limes are much smaller than regular limes (usually the size of a ping-pong ball or golf ball) and they contain very few seeds. Green key limes are actually immature fruit and are fairly tangy, but as they ripen and turn yellow, the acidity drops and they get sweeter. There’s no shortage of uses for key limes–use them anywhere a recipe needs a tangy splash of citrus flavor, such as in marinades for meat, poultry and fish; dressings and vinaigrette; salsas, pies, quick breads, muffins, and more.

Here, I use them to give delicious flavor to chicken kebabs.

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Aronia: The New Superfood?

by in Food News, July 16, 2013

aronia berries
A buzz is brewing over this tiny berry. Have you heard about Aronia yet?

What is Aronia?
Unlike the majority of popular super fruits (think acai and pomegranate), this berry is native to North America. States like Iowa and Ohio have been growing quite a bit of it in recent years. Aronia melanocarpa (its proper botanical name) is also grown around the globe in countries like Denmark and Russia. Sometimes referred to as “chokeberry,” these deep black-ish purple berries look similar to blueberries but have a much more sharp and sour flavor.

Aronia Products
Aronia juice seems to be the most popular form out there; it’s often blended with sweeter flavors like apple and grape juices. Juice isn’t the only way to get some of this berry. Capsules, teas, syrups and even food colorings are some of the newer products beginning to hit the market. But why the hype?

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Why You Should Love Those Weird Lettuces

by in Uncategorized, July 15, 2013

mizuna
These days, there are more than 100 varieties of lettuce available, giving us an endless assortment of colors, textures and shapes to adorn our plates — and countless ways to work more healthy greens into our diets. (Read more here about creative uses for leafy greens.)

In addition to traditional lettuces, unique, heirloom varieties are often offered at farmers’ markets, and they’re definitely worth a try. Don’t be shy: When perusing lettuce, ask questions such as, “Is this lettuce more like a buttery Bibb or sharp arugula?” The grower will love bragging about the taste and textural qualities of the leaves!

And for those times when you don’t have the opportunity to ask, use this cheat sheet!

Butter Oak: Varieties include Flashy and Blushed; the oak-shaped, super soft leaves are achieved by crossing butterhead-type lettuce with oak leaf lettuce.

Buttercrunch: Bibb-type lettuce with thick, juicy leaves and subtle buttery flavor.

Cimarron: Large, tender, red romaine with orange-yellow center; flavor resembles blend of red lettuce and romaine.

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One Small Change: Healthy Swaps for Three Common Cravings

by in Healthy Tips, July 15, 2013

water
What makes junk food so appealing? Emotional eating aside, it often comes down to two things: taste (sweet, salty) and texture (creamy, fizzy, crunchy). In my humble opinion, if we can mimic those qualities in healthier options, then upgrading eating habits becomes an easier task. So let’s tackle three commonly craved foods: soda, chips, and mayonnaise.

The Craving:

Soda  A “refreshing” couple hundred of calories will spike your blood sugar and provide no nutrients. So what keeps us drawn to soda? It’s usually the fizz factor and the sweet taste. Consider which aspects of soda attract you to it, and then find the right substitute.

The Healthy Swaps:

Seltzer or Sparkling Water If you like the fizz, carbonated beverages can serve as a great substitute. Naturally flavored versions are available if you want a taste of orange, berry, lemon-lime and more.

Flavored Water  If you prefer getting some taste with your fluids but don’t want the fizz, you can easily add some flavor to your water. You can use lemon or lime (fresh or from the squeeze bottle), or a splash of your favorite juice for a little sweetness. You can even use a splash of juice with seltzer too.

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