L is for Leeks.
I can’t lie to you… Until a couple months again, I had no idea what a leek was. I knew that you could sometimes find leeks in soups or stir fries, but I did not know how… or why… to incorporate them into my diet.
Turns out, a leek is in the allium vegetable family with scallions, garlic and onions. They actually look quite similar to scallions in that they have a white bulb and long, green leaves.
As for health benefits, leeks are a good source of bone-building manganese as well as heart-healthy vitamin C, folate and vitamin B6. It is important to incorporate allium vegetables into your daily diet to benefit from their nutritional value.
When preparing leeks (and other alliums) for your soup, stir fry or pasta dish, let them sit for at least 5 minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities–something I just learned.
By Emily McLaughlin
…This is the letter I have waited for…
K is for KALE!
I am absolutely obsessed with kale. I was introduced to the leafy green last summer and it has been a staple in my diet ever since. Kale is a vegetable that I alternate with spinach in my weekly food consumption. Kale and spinach have similar nutritional content that you can compare in the two charts below (compliments of WholeFoods.org):
Kale is a standout in a few other areas of overall wellness. Firstly, it is full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. The veggie is also full of micronutrients which our bodies can not produce themselves. These micronutrients are essential for orchestrating a whole range of physiological functions (these nutrients include copper, iron, cobalt, zinc, etc). Lastly, kale has a significant amount of cancer-preventive nutrients called glucosinolates.
The best benefit…?! KALE IS EXTREMELY INEXPENSIVE. If you head on down to your local grocer or farmer’s market, you can get kale for ~$0.99/pound! This is cheap, people, real cheap. Once you make your big buy, look for some great recipes that incorporate the leafy green. My favorite things to do with kale include: Adding it to a soup, steaming it to top with a light dressing, crisping it up and making some kale chips or incorporating it into a pasta dish.
Find some great recipes on FoodGawker or SkinnyTaste!
By Emily McLaughlin
J is for Jicama.
What is jicama, you ask?
Yesterday I had a few friends over and I began to tell them how I was stuck on the letter ‘J.’ Anything that we thought of seemed to be related to junk food. J… Jello? Juice? Jellybeans? Jalapenos? Jerky? Jam? No… Jicama.
Jicama is an underground, starchy root grown in the warmer regions of the globe (Central American, South Asia, Caribbean). You can find it in the grocery store on its own, or in a number of vegetable medleys. My friend, Alex, recently found some jicama in her Trader Joe’s vegetable stir-fry medley. It was paired with some peppers, onions and a number of other veggies.
What’s so great about jicama? When you cook jicama, especially in a stir fry, it maintains its crunchiness. It’s refreshing, crispy when eaten raw or cooked. As for nutritional value, jicama is low in calories and its nutrition profile is comprised of dietary fiber and anti-oxidants, as well as small proportions of vitamins and minerals.
Don’t know where to start with jicama? Here is a great Whole Foods recipe and a recipe from Muy Bueno Cookbook!
By Emily McLaughlin
Well, it’s been a while since I have looked at this segment–mostly because I got stuck on foods for the letters I and J, then I got a little busy, but I think I have it now…
I is for Iceberg Lettuce:
I love eating iceberg lettuce whether is an addition to a sandwich or in a bowl of greens. Iceberg lettuce is deliciously crunchy, packs a few good vitamins (Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A) and is hydrating. Hydrating? Yes. This lettuce is about 96% water, which will help you feel full and satisfied.
On afternoons where you are not extremely hungry, wrap your tuna or chicken salad in a leaf of iceberg lettuce instead of bread–bringing the wonderful worlds of salad and sandwiches together. Using lettuce wraps instead of bread/rolls will also ensure that you don’t indulge in bad carbs during lunch break. Happy eating!
H is for Hummus. My obsession with hummus is right up there with my granola obsession. Hummus is essentially cooked, mashed chickpeas. These chickpeas are blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and a number of seasonings that might help you get to your desired taste. My favorite hummus hails from Trader Joes–Smooth and Creamy, Spicy Hummus–but… really… any will do. If you are anything like me, and you go through a container of hummus within a few days, definitely try making your own. Making your own hummus will also allow you to control what goes in it, therefore helping you keep the fat and sodium content low.There are a number of easy to follow recipes online–foodgawker is, of course, my go-to.
How do you eat this delicious treat? Serve it as a side with raw vegetables, use it as a spread on a sandwich, put a dollop atop your salad as a dressing, or dip your pretzels or crackers right in the container–the possibilities are nearly endless.
H is also for Halibut. Halibut is a nutrient-dense fish and a great source of protein. Its nutrients and minerals include selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. There are also high levels of B vitamins and essential omega-3 fatty acids. All of these amazing nutrients improve cardiovascular health, control blood pressure, help prevent stroke and lower triglycerides (triglycerides are a mechanism for storing unused calories, which correlates with the consumption of starchy and fatty foods). Check out these easy, delicious recipes and incorporate halibut into your diet.
Share your favorite recipes in the comment section!
By Emily McLaughlin
If you know me, you know that I’m in love with granola. I am always on the search for different varieties that are high in fiber, low in sugar, but still pack that great taste and perfect crunch.
My love affair started as a child when I would have a granola bar as an afternoon snack or treat after dinner. This obsession evolved when I came to college and was introduced to the wonderful world of the dining commons; I would have yogurt topped with fruit and granola cereal… every day. Now that I have moved out of the dorms and nixed my meal plan, I am on my own in terms of finding the perfect granola. I have stumbled upon a few different, tasty brand, but I would have to say that my favorite thing to do is scoop my own or bake my own.
In the organic section in Stop & Shop, you can find a number of great brands of granola or , even better, you can scoop your own from their choices. There are a great variety including granola-nut mixes, granola with dried fruit, or just plain ol’ granola. Scooping your own can save you some money and some calories–so try it out next time you go shopping.
There are also a million ways to make your own granola. Check out this yummy recipe for fall, and find other healthy recipes on foodgawker.
Granola is an extremely versatile source of carbohydrates. You can eat it as cereal, pair it with yogurt or cottage cheese, make granola bars or add it to your trail mix.
Remember to watch your portion size as well as the fat and sugar content in your granola. Some brands sneak in extra sugars, which may lead you to eat more than you intended. Also, aim for buying granola that is made from whole grains; this way, you will be full after eating a small portion.
By Emily McLaughlin
F is for Flaxseeds.
The first time I heard about flaxseeds was from my mother. She was eating this weird, plain granola cereal that was gross. Doesn’t that make you want some?! ;)
But really, flaxseeds are where it’s at! I was reintroduced to them this summer when I heard about their benefits and how easy they are to incorporate into different grainy meals. I must say… I am a BIG fan now.
They have an earthy, nutty flavor and can be added to your granola, oatmeal, cereal or nutrition bars. Two tablespoons of the seeds have over 100% of your daily value of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote bone health, reduce the formation of blood clots and reduce your risk for certain cancers. Flaxseeds are also high in manganese, which keep bones healthy and strong, and high in dietary fiber, which will keep you full and satisfied.
You can buy flaxseeds just about anywhere (health-food stores might be your best bet though). They come whole, crushed or in oil form. There are also millions of food products out there with flax in them–my recent favorite has been the Archer Farms granola from Target (just watch your sugars!).
E is for Egg Whites. All of the fat and cholesterol from eggs is contained in the yolk. If you are looking for a filling yet light meal, opt for egg whites instead large whole eggs. To keep you fueled for hours mix in veggies and add a side of whole grain toast. If you don’t think egg whites alone will be enough for you, mix one whole egg with two egg whites. Cutting fat out of your diet is important, but fat isn’t the big culprit here… cholesterol is. If you are healthy, it’s recommended that you limit your dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams a day. One large egg has roughly 210 milligrams, so if you are eating eggs, limit your cholesterol intake from other sources. Of course, you can buy egg substitute free of cholesterol if this is one of your concerns.
One (large) whole egg
One (large) whole egg white only
E is for Edamame. I love edamame.
What is it? Essentially, edamame is boiled green soy beans. You can buy them in the frozen vegetable section, shelled or still in their pods. The benefits of this food product are phenomenal. Firstly, they are filling; A half-cup serving of edamame has 9 grams of fiber and 13 grams of carbohydrates. Secondly, one serving of this snack contains 11 grams of protein with all of your essential amino acids.
Another benefit of edamame is it’s good fat content (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated), and its phytochemical makeup; phytochemicals help prevent disease and certain cancers. Lastly, what is best of all? One serving, a half-cup, is only 120 calories and contains no cholesterol.
My favorite way to buy edamame is frozen and shelled. This way they are already out of the pods, and all your have to do is let them thaw or bring them to a quick boil. I buy my soy products at Trader Joes, because they always have what I am looking for at a cheap price.
Check out what I had for dinner last night. I adapted a recipe from self.com, substituting white beans for edamame and spinach linguine for Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta. Then I simple added some kale, which I needed to finish before it spoiled. Check out the original recipe here: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/recipes/2011/10/linguine-with-italian-tuna-and-white-beans
By Emily McLaughlin
You guys let me slack off, but now I’m getting back on track with… the letter D!
D is for Dark Chocolate.
Dark chocolate has 65% (+) more cocoa than milk chocolate, which increases its health benefits. Cocoa is a plant that contributes to the chocolates flavonoid and antioxidant content. Flavonoids help relax your blood pressure and balance certain hormones in your body. The antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by highly reactive and unstable ‘free radical’ molecules. What is so bad about these unstable molecules? They contribute to damage that leads to heart disease.
The greater the cocoa (cacao) content, the greater the health benefits. Find brands with percentages in the 80s and 90s, but remember to eat wisely. For example, if you are eating the calories in chocolate, subtract them from somewhere else in your day.
I’m all about indulgences, but indulgences in moderation. If you have a sweet tooth, break off a little piece of the bar when the craving hits. You can also crumble up some dark chocolate in your granola, your oatmeal or on top of your frozen yogurt as a treat.
Enjoy chocolate! It’s good for you.
By Emily McLaughlin
C is for Coffee. I cannot get through my day without my morning or afternoon brew–I guess you could say that I’m addicted. I’m sure that most of that is psychological, but why sacrifice my good mood in order to nix my addiction? Plus, the health benefits of coffee definitely outweigh its negatives. For example, those who drink coffee regularly are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. These individuals also have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes. In terms of fitness and weight-loss, coffee (tea, also) is a diuretic, which will increase the excretion of water from your body. This will help you lower water retention and get rid of unwanted belly fat. When you are drinking coffee, make sure you are making up for this excretion of water by hydrating… with water.
C is also for Cottage Cheese. Okay, I’m not going to lie here, I have forced myself to eat cottage cheese because I been informed of its benefits. For me, cottage cheese mixes up my yogurt and greek yogurt routine–but I still have trouble eating the stuff plain. If you are like me, here are some tips for downing the good-stuff:
- Use it as a mayo substitute. I love me a good tuna sandwich. Mix your plain, low-fat cottage cheese in with your tuna and then add your seasonings like you usually would. To put it in perspective 2 tablespoons of light mayo contains 90 calories, while 1/2 cup (!) of cottage cheese contains only 80 calories. Cottage cheese can be used as a substitute in places where you might use greek yogurt, so… switch up your substitutes!
- Sweeten it. If you really don’t like cottage cheese, or don’t want to eat it plain, mix it with fruit and have some granola on the side. What I also find yummy is a toasted english muffin with a little bit of jam and cottage cheese on the top.
Here are more cottage cheese benefits that you should know.