Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mix It Up

Get out of rut: Try new fruits and vegetables

I was inspired the other day by a friend’s story of how she had grown up hating eggplant and was disappointed to have a friend serve it at a meal they shared. Not wanting to appear rude she felt she must choke down at least a little of it, when to her surprise it was delicious! Who would have thought that what had been a slimy ordeal from childhood was actually yummy when prepared with garlic and cooked on the grill?

I had a surprising experience just this evening as I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints just a week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (bought at Costco I just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.

Thinking that you too may be in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit I thought I’d challenge your variety for our bonus challenge this week.

In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.

Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”

So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.

The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”

Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet

• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.

• Broccoli rabe: This vegetable, popular in Italy, is also called rapini and has slender stalks with broccoli-like flower buds. It can be bitter, so blanch it, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve it as a side dish. It is also good in salads or soups.

• Dried figs: If you like Fig Newtons, try a dried fig instead: moist, chewy and flavorful, a perfect snack. There are many varieties. The Southern California Mission fig is one of the most popular.

• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.

• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip.

YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.

Here’s a recipe that might be fun to try and please feel free to share any recipes on the blog that you have found for our more unusual fruits and veggies!

Baba Ghanouj 
Makes 2 cups or 8 (1/4-cup) servings

Hands on: 30 minutes 
Total time: 90 minutes

2 pounds eggplant
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Grill the eggplant over a hot fire or under the broiler until the skin darkens and wrinkles on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. The eggplant should be uniformly soft when pressed with tongs. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 5 minutes.

Set a small colander over a bowl or in the sink. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit the eggplants lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the hot pulp from the skins and place the pulp in the colander. You should have about 2 cups of packed pulp. Discard the skins. Let the pulp drain for 3 minutes.

Transfer pulp to a food processor bowl and add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until the mixture has a coarse, choppy texture, about 8 one-second pulses. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until lightly chilled, about 45 to 60 minutes.

To serve, use a spoon to make a trough in the center of the dip and spoon in a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.

— From “Perfect Vegetables From the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated” (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)

Per serving: 50 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.

Nutritional bonus points: Don’t let the 72 percent of calories from fat scare you. This is a low-fat, low-calorie dip, and the small amount of fat comes from heart-healthy fats in the olive oil and tahini.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You Don't Want To End Up Like The Tin-Man!

Stretch It Out

Hopefully you enjoyed your week of salads and are committed to continue to eat greens on a regular basis!

Our challenge for this week is to stretch for at least 10 minutes per day. You can include this as part of your daily exercise minutes or do it in addition to your minutes but begin to include daily stretching in your physical routine. For every day that you stretch at least 10 minutes you can claim 5 bonus points. And yes you can stretch on Sunday too- for a total of 35 possible bonus points.

If you have been inactive for any length of time, chances are you have lost a percentage of the range of motion associated with your joints. This range of motion is commonly referred to as flexibility.

How We Lose Flexibility

As we age, flexibility diminishes within the joints through lack of stretching and physical activity. .


Stretching is a physical activity that elongates connective tissues, muscles and other tissues. The benefits associated with stretching include:

Reducing muscle tension and relaxing the body

Improved coordination and freer movement of body and limbs

Increased range of motion in the associated joints

Prepare the body for physical activity

Preventing injuries from tight muscles during physical activity

Creating a mind body connection

Promoting circulation

Reduce the risk of back problems

Reduce muscle soreness after exercise

Ten tips on how to stretch

1. Do everything slowly.

2. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds prior to exercise (warm-up) and for at least 30 seconds post exercise (cool-down).

3. Breathe normally and relax while holding the stretch to the point of pain.

4. NEVER, EVER do any bouncy stretching, always hold and relax.

5. Focus on the muscle you are trying to stretch and then try to lengthen it.

6. If a particular muscle group is tight, then stretch it in stages. Stretch as far as you can, then relax it and stretch again. This is most important during cool-down.

7. Move slowly out of the stretch.

8. Remember to stretch both sides of the body.

9. Increasing the range of movement around a joint will help the blood flow to the muscles surrounding the joint and increase circulation that will carry away any lactic acids that may build up in the muscle.

10. Do more stretching in addition to just warming-up and cooling-down. As we get older our muscles shorten naturally, and it is vital for everyone that stretching becomes part of your normal everyday life. Gyms that offer stretch-classes or Yoga, where the aim is to permanently and progressively increase your flexibility are well worth considering if time and money allows.

Happy stretching ladies!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Salad A Day

Are Salads Healthy?

While salads can be nutritional powerhouses they can also be nutritional failures as in a pile of iceberg lettuce weighed down with cheese, croutons, nuts etc. and drowned with gooey fatty dressing.

Such a "salad" would not be a good source of nutrients; in a half-pound of iceberg lettuce, you won't find any vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B12, folate, biotin, D, E, K, nor any chromium, copper magnesium, manganese, selenium, or zinc.

However, there is absolutely no nutrient that cannot be obtained from a fresh, delicious salad. In fact, a salad containing a wide variety of vegetables- including root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, stalks, stems, and flowers-- will often be closer to a "complete meal" than any other dishes.

The use of seeds, nuts, and beans in salads is extremely helpful in contributing protein, fiber, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids to the meal. Small amounts of "garnish" type ingredients - like a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds or a sprinkling of walnuts - are a very worthwhile addition in terms of nutrients. Trace minerals and small amounts of high-quality omega-3 fats are nutrients that most U.S. adults don't get nearly enough, and it doesn't take many pumpkin seeds or walnuts to bring at least some of these vital nutrients into the day's meal plan.

Practical tips

Think of a salad as a canvas upon which you can mix the different 'colors' of foods. Depending upon your mood, the season and what's in your refrigerator, mix a variety of your favorite vegetables into your salad bowl. Starting with a nutrient-rich lettuce like romaine or spinach and adding a mesclun or spring mix variety of lettuces will create a great foundation for any salad. From there you can add in a selection of leafy greens, stalks, root vegetables or other vegetables.

The sky's the limit (actually your imagination and palate are the limit) as to what combination of vegetables you can use. From there, you can add fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes…. The list of what you can add to a salad to not only make it delicious but nutritious goes on and on. Mix up a lot of different foods that feature a spectrum of nutrients and your salad bowl may one day replace your multivitamin.

But I'm in a hurry!

I recently hostessed a bridal shower for a friend and as always prepared way too much food. Fortunately I had carefully prepared and packed my "back up salad" prior to the party. The extra salad was unneeded and went unserved and so I had washed torn greens, a variety of other washed and cut vegetables, and a yummy home made dressing on hand for several days. I was surprised not only how long it stayed fresh (pre-cut veggies actually lose very little of their nutrients when pre-cut) but how happy I was to throw a salad together every evening with this little bit of prep work done ahead of time.

Salad Dressings

While there are some commercial salad dressings that are low-fat and or low-cal most of them show a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. My favorite salad dressing is 1 Tablespoon of fresh olive oil (we need healthy oils in our daily diet) whisked with 2 Tablespoons of a favorite balsamic vinegar. My daughter in law often just uses a freshly squeezed lemon or lime to dress her salad. You might want to do a google search for some equally simple and yummy dressings.

Our challenge for this next week is:

Eat a green salad (no iceberg lettuce) every day. Make sure that it has at least 5 nutritious ingredients as well as a nutritious dressing.

* and yes you can count this toward your daily vegetable requirement

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Let's Get Started!

Welcome, Welcome to our Winter Wellness competition. Wowsers! I know we are going to have a great time.

Heres' what you need to do by early Wednesday morning to get started.
1. Take your measurements. For the competition we will only be tracking waist and hip measurement but go ahead and take them all so you can appreciate all of your progress!
2. Weigh in. It works best to weigh in on the same day (for this competition Wednesday) at the same time, wearing the same thing. Personally I even blow my nose thinking that will help!
3. Log onto If you have not already done so go ahead and join. This is a free website that will be key in your journey to healthy living. You need to fill out the information under the following tabs: Goals, Check-in, Profile and Find members.
4. We are a big group but for our challenge this week I would like you to friend at least 6 other people in our competition from You can find their e-mails in the header of e-mails I send the group. You request them as friends under find members
5. On our group website (Sandee's Winter Wellness) read EVERYTHING under the Rules Tab. I would like you to do this even if you have competed before. Contact me with any questions
6. Lastly each week we will have a challenge that you need to complete to earn the 35 bonus points for the week (5 points per day). To earn them this week you need to do all of the above plus you need to think of a different way each day (be creative) to encourage and remind your partner of their new commitment to health living.

Have a great week! Sandee