Planting the Seed to Help Your Health Succeed

We are a few weeks into the new year- has your food choices resulted in something to cheer or jeer? So often we bite off more than we can chew in the quest for a new and healthier you, but drastic, restrictive or overwhelming resolutions don’t come to fruition in our mind or in the kitchen. So, let me offer a recipe for plate success without so much mental stress or duress.

Positivity

What will be your add-ins rather than take-aways? Instead of saying I won’t eat ….., how about reframing the what you will defy to what you are willing to try. I would love to include something with color as part of every meal and snack. That gives you flexibility, versatility and ability to put the produce in the glass, bowl, or plate.

  • Berries on cereal
  • A fruit/veggie smoothie
  • Veggies in scrambled eggs
  • Sliced tomato and cheese on a bagel
  • Pumpkin added to oats, muffin, or pancakes

Practicality

Does your eating plan complement your culinary ability? When it comes to meal prep, are you looking to spend a lot of time, or more a fan of simplicity. If less is more when it comes to ingredients and preparation time, the beauty of produce is that it is ready to eat. What about affordability? Produce is available in all forms so if your budget is tight, it’s smart to put more canned and frozen choices in your cart. Also think about the waste: if you throw more than you use, that is money down the drain.

Pizazz

Is your food inviting ,exciting and delighting? If food does not look, smell or taste great, it is not going to be on your plate. Add the excitement with a different preparation method. Try stir-fry, broiling , roasting or sautéing vegetables. Add orange slices to a salad or orange zest to a sauce or smoothie. Create your own flavor station with flavored vinegars, oils, herbs and spices to enhance and complement your produce selections.

Priority

Focus on what you can do, not should do. Can you envision yourself incorporating more produce into your eating plan on a regular basis? This is why familiarity and ease are important. Establishing new patterns requires practice and patience, not perfection. Start slow and with what you know. If you are trying to add or use more produce, do an inventory of what you already have to find the #wealthonyourshelf

  • Cans of tomato sauce
  • Cans of beans
  • Canned vegetables
  • Cans of vegetable or bean soup
  • Canned fruit
  • Jars of tomato sauce
  • Salsa
  • Frozen fruit and veggies
  • Dried fruit

It is so easy to up your produce with what you have on hand:

  • Add frozen veggies to spaghetti sauce
  • Add canned beans to a stir fry
  • Sprinkle dried fruit in a rice pilaf or hot cereal
  • Add some salsa to guacamole
  • Add canned pineapple or peaches to roasted vegetables
  • Blend frozen squash or canned pumpkin into pancakes, waffles or muffins

BOTTOM LINE
How about a resolution to focus on what you can do for your best you? #haveaplant

Cherries from Chile: A Reason to Cheer as we Welcome the NEW YEAR

As we enter 2021, why not work on creating a #healthyselfie with food choices, attitude, fitness and better sleep? One of the easiest and best ways to do this is by adding more produce to your glass, bowl or plate. Fruits and vegetables bring color, taste and health benefits to meals and snacks. One of my favorites are cherries…and although we think of cherries in the summer, you can enjoy Cherries from Chile now to brighten up the winter drear with some flavorful cheer!

Cherries are a good source of Vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients such as anthocyanins to aid in decreasing inflammation. They are rich in antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Cherries are also packed with melatonin which can help enhance sleep quality. Plus, their naturally sweet taste is a perfect complement to savory foods and a great way to create craveable cuisine. In fact, by including cherries in recipes, you can minimize the need for added sugars

Here are four recipes using Cherries from Chile that would be delicious for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack.

Cherry-Marzipan French toast

This would be great for a weekday breakfast, weekend brunch or even a dessert.

INGREDIENTS
3 slices bread- cut ½-inch think
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ cup evaporated skim milk
2 Tablespoons marzipan (almond paste)
½ cup Cherries from Chile, pitted and sliced in half
2 Tablespoons slivered almonds

DIRECTIONS
Beat together the eggs and milk and add the bread, turning it to soak up the liquid. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet, and brown the bread on either side until golden color. Remove from the pan and spread 2 teaspoons of marzipan on each slice of toast. Top with halved cherries and slivered almonds.

Serves 3

Spinach and Cherries with Halloumi

Plant based eating takes center stage with this easy and delicious main dish.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups spinach
½ leek, sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 slices Halloumi, cut ¼ inch thick
½ cup cherries from Chile, pitted and halved

DIRECTIONS
Sauté leeks in olive oil until soft, add spinach and sauté until spinach is softened. Remove from the heat. In a separate nonstick pan, grill the Halloumi slices on each side until golden brown.
To serve, place the spinach, leek mixture on a plate, top with the cherries, lay the Halloumi around the plate, and season with salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Serves 2

Roasted Chicken with Brussel Sprouts, Cherries and Walnuts

This dish is delish as a main course, and you could add rice, pasta or potato. It is also great cold as a salad with some crunchy breadsticks.

INGREDIENTS
4 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
½ pound Brussel sprouts, shaved
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup pitted, halved Cherries from Chile
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Italian seasoning
Salt
Pepper
Dark cherry vinegar

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken, Brussel sprouts and walnuts in an 8 x 8 baking dish. Top each chicken breast with cherries. Drizzle on the olive oil, and season with salt pepper and Italian seasoning. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is done. When ready to serve, place chicken breast on a plate and surround with Brussel sprouts and walnuts. Drizzle each chicken breast with dark cherry vinegar.

4 servings

Lemon Sorbet filled Orange cups with Cherries and Kirshwasser

This dish is light and bright and marries the tang and the sweet into a delicious treat.

INGREDIENTS
2 oranges- Cara Cara, Navel, Blood
½-3/4 cup lemon sorbet
1 cup Cherries from Chile, pitted and halved
2 Tablespoons Kirsch

DIRECTIONS
Cut the oranges in half and section them. Remove the sections and place in a small bowl with the juice. Scoop out the orange half to create a smooth shell. Do this for each half. Fill each orange half with 2 -3 Tablespoons of lemon sorbet and freeze until set. In a separate bowl, mix together the orange sections, cherries and the Kirsch and refrigerate for about an hour. When ready to serve, spoon the cherry-orange mixture over the orange halves and serve.

Serves 4

The Gift of Healthy Selfie from the Goodness on your Shelfie!

One of the most loved components of the holiday season is giving and gifting. We research the perfect gifts, prepare delicious meals and revel in the joy of holiday gatherings. But what we may not do enough is practice self-care. This year we need to be safe, limit our exposures and most likely downsize gatherings to minimize the spread of the virus. So as we start to make our list and check it twice, let’s make sure to put ourselves on the list to receive something nice.

PRODUCE: The Perfect Present

Who doesn’t like opening a present? Taking off the bow, tearing the paper to get to the goodies inside. Think of produce as the present to yourself and your health.

  • A pomegranate, opens up to reveal the sweet/tart and crunchy arils inside
  • A steaming white or sweet potato, cut open and enjoyed as is, or topped with our favorite flavors
  • Fun to eat edamame- maybe sauteed in the pod with ginger, garlic and hot pepper, to add some heat for a tasty treat
  • Artichoke leaves are fun to dip and eat
  • Fragrant clementines, grapefruit and oranges release a delicious aroma and tingle the taste buds and the zest adds wonderful flavor to food

Why not give yourself the gift of delicious nutrition with a produce subscription. A monthly shipment of produce from the farm to your door for the gift that keeps on giving. That goodie basket that you assemble for family and friends? How about one for you too? This way you have a gift a day to enjoy your way! Here are few of my favorite things:

    • Canned Fire roasted tomatoes
    • Jarred artichoke hearts
    • Crispy dill pickles
    • Fiery jarred kimchi
    • Bags of Dried beans/spice blends for soups/stews
    • Succulent dried fruit with a dark chocolate/sea salt dipping sauce
    • Sweet/tart Grapefruit
    • Juicy apples and pears
  • Creamy avocados with a spicy salsa

The presentation enhances the appreciation and helps us to prioritize the need to take care of ourselves, not just everyone else in our lives. Most presents are short lived, but the gift of health is invaluable. Put the pretty in the produce with a:

  • Special glass
  • Beautiful bowl
  • Brightly colored casserole dish
  • For the gift that keeps on giving and promotes healthy living! #haveaplant
  • No matter what you celebrate, produce is the gift that keeps on giving and promotes healthy living. Happy Holidays! #haveaplant

Why I am a Fan of Produce as Part of My Thanksgiving Plan

This Thanksgiving is going to look different for all of us. We may be simplifying our meal, opting to stay home rather than roam, downsizing menu choices to accommodate a table for a few or being more finance protective by making foods that are cost effective. Lets’ talk about ways to enable taste, budget, health and enjoyment by moving fruits and vegetables to the center of your table

The Thanksgiving meal is all about sense-surround. Beautiful colors, sensational smells, tantalizing taste and auditory stimulation from satisfied guests happily toasting, chewing and having lively conversations.

FLAVOR

Fruits and vegetables can be the stars of the plate and the palate. Here are a few of my favorite tastes on the Thanksgiving plate:

  • Tangy cranberries mixed with grated orange, orange juice and walnuts
  • Roasted Brussel sprouts with red onion, chopped prunes and Harissa
  • Baked sweet potatoes with pineapple juice and pecans
  • Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, parsley, and Greek yogurt
  • Pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust.

Yummy for the tummy!

FAMILIARITY

What do we all crave about the holidays? The food of course! It may be the memory of Dad carving the turkey, mom dishing out the cranberry sauce, a favorite aunt cutting the pumpkin pie. Familiarity and festivity go hand in hand. So how do we add the produce to boost the nutrition but retain the tradition?

  • Grated carrots, finely chopped onions or peppers and even dried fruit can be added to stuffing
  • Chopped apples or pears can complement cranberry sauce or a cranberry relish
  • Roasted vegetables provide the color and texture contrast to the turkey
  • Pumpkin ( vegetable) may be your choice of pie, but apple, berry, cherry or peach pie can contribute to produce as part of dessert.

FOCUS

As we all try to control what we can with our eating plan, produce can play a powerful role in keeping us healthy and supporting our immune system. Some of your Thanksgiving favorites provide nutrients that can help support a healthy immune system:

  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits/juices, peppers,broccoli, Brussel sprouts, potatoes
  • Fiber: pumpkin seeds, potatoes, apples, pears
  • Prebiotics: asparagus, onion, garlic
  • Beta carotene: pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, broccoli
  • Folic Acid: green leafy vegetables, asparagus

FORM

The beauty of produce lies in the versatility and your culinary creativity. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried are all great options for your Thanksgiving meal.

  • Some may prefer cranberry sauce while others nay like to use fresh cranberries
  • Roasted vegetables can be made from fresh or frozen vegetables
  • Scooping the flesh out of a pumpkin is time consuming, but opening a can works as part of your dessert plan
  • Canned yams, fresh sweet potatoes, frozen or fresh mashed potatoes can bring the delicious to the table.
  • Fruit purees can sweeten up a veggie dish
  • Dried fruit and frozen vegetables add nutritional value to the stuffing

FUNCTION

Eating enough produce is a great way to treat yourself and take care of your health. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, micronutrients ( vitamins and minerals) and phytonutrients ( plant chemicals) that can

  • Lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers
  • Help to manage blood glucose
  • Contribute to a healthy digestive system
  • Support bone health
  • Provide satiety to help fill us up, not out to better control hunger and manage weight

FINANCES

The Thanksgiving meal does not have to be extravagant. The good news about produce is that you can stick to your salary cap without sacrificing taste or festivity. Canned cranberry sauce means not waste. Leftover pumpkin can be frozen in ice cube trays. Celery, carrots and onions from the stuffing can be made into a soup with the turkey carcass, mashed potatoes can be served for breakfast the next day with eggs, and sweet potatoes can be a side, or a dessert. Eating within your means with foods that are available, accessible and affordable should always be part of your plan.

BOTTOM LINE

Whether your Thanksgiving meal is in person or celebrating via zoom, let’s nourish to flourish by adding the produce to our plate to make us look and feel great. #Haveaplant

Mediterranean Potato Crust Pizza

INGREDIENTS

FOR CRUST
1-20 ounce bag shredded potatoes, in refrigerator section of grocery store
¾ cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 egg, large
2 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Cracked ground pepper to taste

TOPPINCS
½ can fire roasted tomatoes with chiles, drained
1 cup torn baby spinach leaves, stems removed
8 olives, thinly sliced
1 cup Shredded Asiago cheese
Olive oil to brush the crust

INSTRUCTIONS

CRUST

Strain the yogurt in a cheesecloth lined strainer over a large bowl for about 2 hours. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a strainer with paper towels , pour in the potatoes to  absorb excess moisture,-potatoes should be dry. In a large bowl beat the egg, add the potatoes, the strained yogurt, 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Turn onto a parchment lined pizza pan and press down with a fork to evenly distribute the potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and add toppings.

TO TOP THE PIZZZA

Use a pastry brush to brush the potato surface with olive oil. Spoon tomatoes evenly over the crust, sprinkle on the spinach leaves and olive. Top with the Cheese. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.

#HAVEAPLANTWITHDAIRY

Giving Thanks to Those Who Raise and Grow the Foods We Love and Know

The next time you sit down to your lasagna , salad with greens, fruits and cheese, or smoothie with yogurt and fruit – thank the dairy farmers and produce growers. They feed the need, take heed with the care of their animals and are stewards of the soil and seed. And they are all about the “conservation- conversation” embracing technology to maximize milk and crop production while minimizing environmental destruction.

Thank farmers for their hard work, consistent care and compassion to protect their fields and herds and their willingness to collaborate and create craveable foods that put the wealth on our refrigerator and pantry shelf.

I have had the opportunity to tour many fields and dairy farms and am highlighting a visit to the Pacific Coast Producers where tomatoes go from field to can in a very short time span to preserve nutrients, quality and flavor. On a visit with prune growers, I learned how and why the plums go from fresh to dry.

Dairy farmers not only tend to their herds but the land. From recycling, repurposing and anaerobic digesters, dairy farms are increasing efficiency and self-sufficiency. Environmentally sustainable producers of nutritious and delicious foods that we love.

I am sharing these two dishes inspired from farm tours. Reach across the aisles with a caprese salad featuring the creamy goodness of fresh mozzarella, savory canned tomatoes, spicy arugula, juicy watermelon and crunchy garbanzo beans tossed with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Using canned and dried produce makes this a dish to enjoy year round. When melon is not in season, swap in canned peaches or pears, or even fresh apples, oranges or grapefruit wedges.

NOODLE PUDDING

Food is comfort. This tasty combo of noodles, dairy and prunes makes me remember my grandmother, Nana Polly. Sweet, creamy, crunchy deliciousness. Like a fleece blanket for the tummy- cozy on up and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
½ pound fine egg noodles
2 TBSP melted butter
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, reduced fat
1 cup small curd cottage cheese 2% fat
3 eggs,
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup prune puree*
½ cup 2% milk
½ cup diced prunes

PRUNE PUREE
2/3 cup pitted prunes
3 TBSP hot water
Puree in blender or food processor until smooth

TOPPING
½ cup chopped slivered almonds
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Mix together in a small bowl and set aside.

DIRECTIONS
Boil 3 cups of fine noodles in 2 quarts boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until done. Drain and set aside. In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, prune puree, melted butter, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth. Stir in the prune pieces. Stir the noodles into the egg mixture and pour into a buttered 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle on the almond topping. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

#Haveaplantwithdairy

Cheering for Cherries

Cherries are a beautiful sight and a sweet bite. They are fabulous right out of the bag, but also unleash culinary creativity and versatility to recipes. Here are a few spins on old favorites to add the flavor to savor. Cherries and dairy to pair and share – #haveaplantwith dairy and a cherry and veggie dish that is just delish.

CHERRY RICOTTA S’MORES

INGREDIENTS
9 squares of chocolate graham crackers
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoons grated orange rind
18 cherry halves

INSTRUCTIONS
In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, honey and orange rind and blend until smooth. Spoon approximately 1 TBSP of the ricotta mixture on each graham cracker square and top with 2 cherry halves.

YIELD: 9 S’mores

CHERRY CAPRESE SALAD

INGREDIENTS
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup sliced yellow cherry tomatoes
16 cherry halves
1/3 cup mini fresh mozzarella balls- bocconcini
1/8 cup Basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cherry balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS
Put spinach in a bowl and layer on the tomatoes, cherries, bocconcini and basil, and toss with the oil and vinegar

YIELD: 6 servings

ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS AND CHERRIES

INGREDIENTS
1 pound thinly sliced Brussel sprouts
1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
22 cherry halves
18 walnut halves
Salt to taste
Coarsely ground pepper to taste
22 cherry halves

INSTRUCTIONS
Place Brussel sprouts, onions, cherry halves, and walnuts in a 9 x 13 baking pan. Drizzle on the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

YIELD: 6 servings

Soothie smoothie

As a sports dietitian, I work with athletes and active individuals. Most do not get enough produce, and this smoothie delivers with 2 servings of fruit and 1 of vegetables as well as protein to help support your supporting structure. The tang of the tart cherry juice gets balanced out by the sweet of the beets and the prunes and the ground flaxseed add fiber and omega-3 to help you #scorewthyourpour

INGREDIENTS
1 scoop whey protein isolate, vanilla
8 ounces tart cherry juice
1/3 cup raw beets, peeled, chopped- dietary nitrates
4 prunes, chopped
1 Tablespoons ground flaxseed

INSTRUCTIONS
Mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

YIELD
1 serving

Calories: 385
Carbs (grams) 62.8
Fiber (grams): 6.7
Sugars (grams) 41.8
Fat (grams) 4.5
Protein (grams): 34.4
Calcium (milligrams) 141
Potassium (milligrams) 962

INGREDIENTS IN THE SHAKE

Whey protein isolate
Muscle protein synthesis
High in leucine
Anti-inflammatory
Helps to support a healthy immune system

Tart cherry juice
Anti-inflammatory
Melatonin to help improve sleep

Beets
Anti-inflammatory
Source of dietary nitrates for cardiovascular health
Improve oxygen delivery to exercising muscles
Blood pressure lowering benefit

Prunes
Bone health
Microbiome
Gut health

Flaxseed
Omega 3
Lignans
Decreased blood pressure
Decrease prostate cancer risk
Support healthy microbiome

Life is a Bowl of Cherries

For me, the summer is not complete without cherries in the fridge for my family to eat. As a registered dietitian and a Produce for Better Health Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Acton, I am a huge fan of finding ways for everyone to increase their produce consumption in any way that they can. #haveaplant. Cherries may be small, but they are mighty,  bringing the delight to each bite. But aside from taste, cherries confer several nutritional benefits to the body. They are a source of fiber, which most of us don’t get enough of, they are a source of carbohydrate, Vitamin C and phytonutrients ( plant nutrients) specifically anthocyanins which give cherries their special hue but are also so good for you. The phytonutrients in cherries s play a role in decreasing the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer

And cherry consumption can also help to decrease uric acid resulting in alleviating gout flare ups.

FITNESS

I am a sports dietitian who consults with  high schoo, collegiate, professional and Olympic athletes as well as performance artists. I always recommend a food forward approach to help my athletes eat well, stay well and play well and am a big believer in produce in the glass, bowl or plate with #producetoperform  We all know that being physically active is essential to staying healthy, but let’s face it-To train in pain sends fitness down the drain. Foods that play a role in preventing some of the oxidative damage that can result from exercise. This means you may have less post exercise soreness and muscle damage to help your body better repair from the activity you just did and better prepare for your next activity. Feeling less sore is of  benefit to anyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes.

The phytonutrients or in this case (fight-o nutrients) in cherries are a great defense against exercised induced muscle soreness and loss of strength after strenuous exercise. The anthocyanins and quercetin play a role in decreasing the levels of the enzymes that can contribute to inflammation in a similar manner to some of the OTC pain medications!

SLEEP

Getting our ZZZs is critically important to health, cognitive function, energy levels, and recovery and repair. Cherries are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is produced  by the pineal gland in the brain. Studies with cherries have shown an improvement in sleep quality and quantity with regular consumption.

So let’s root for this fruit. 1-2 handfuls a day may close the produce gap, reduce the risk of disease, decrease inflammation so you can train, improve sleep so you can recover, restore and renew for a healthy you!

Leslie Bonci , MPH,RDN,CSSD,LDN is the sports dietitian for the 2020 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and also a Produce for Better Health Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador in Action.

Out The Door: Produce On The Plate Helps You Summer Eating Score!

As the temperature rises so does our desire to beat the heat with what we eat. Capitalizing on foods that showcase versatility, allows us to channel our culinary creativity and provide affordability as we celebrate our farmers and growers. This is a great reason to put produce in the bowl or on the plate. I love foods that multitask-across all meal occasions, as well as with different colors, textures and flavors. This is why I am singing the praises of potatoes and calling myself a #spudbud- always discovering new ways to add fruits and vegetables every day. #haveaplant.

Potatoes can be served as an appetizer, entrée or side
Potatoes are versatile- fresh, frozen, canned or dried- russets, reds, purple, yellows, white as well as fingerlings and petite
Potatoes can be enjoyed on their own or added to other dishes
Potatoes can be served hot or cold
Potatoes can be prepared one and enjoyed twice
Potatoes are available, accessible and affordable
Potatoes are great for produce pairing

So how might you use potatoes in your summer eats?

• Potato salad with shredded carrots, chopped cucumbers, celery and red peppers
• Roasted red potatoes added to a leafy green salad
• A potato “bowl” using a baked potato as the base and piling on greens, beans, salsa, guacamole and Greek yogurt
• Leftover fried potatoes can be the base of a frittata enjoyed for breakfast, cut thinly as an appetizer or as a meal with a side salad
• Potato, onion, mushroom and tomato kebabs
• Potato s-mores with thinly sliced potatoes,- grilled, topped with pesto, sliced tomato and Fresh mozzarella or go zesty with kalamata olive spread, grilled zucchini and blue cheese
• Think beyond the meat on the grill, for a taste thrill how about Chipotle BBQ mini potatoes
• Thinly sliced and air-fried, potatoes are a great snack or side and adding salsa or a bean dip gives you a 2 for 2 of produce that it so good for you.
• Mini chilled roasted potatoes with a Greek yogurt/rosemary dip

Bring the nutrition to the plate with a food that tastes great!
Potatoes provide carbohydrate, fiber protein, Vitamin C, and potassium to deliver the health on the shelf. Plus potatoes fit the bill in bringing the eye thrill and gut fill to keep you fueled during the day and keep your hunger at bay.

To make the most of the summer, fruits and veggies deliver on the nutritious and delicious to help you eat well, play well and stay well. #haveaplant