Monday, October 31, 2011

The Jewel of Autumn- Pomegranates!

Patients always complain to me that as soon as autumn hits, all the delicious fruit is gone. Well it may be true that some of the best like peaches or berries are out of season for a year, some of my favorites are only unique to the fall. Pomegranates, often called the “jewels of autumn” are super-fruits that shouldn’t be missed out on…

Why have you done a good thing?

Pomegranates are true super-fruits. Rich in a type of antioxidant called polyphenols, pomegranates have been shown to reduce your risk for heart disease by preventing atherosclerosis or the hardening of your arteries. Polyphenols also help to reduce inflammation, reducing the risk for chronic diseases and alleviating arthritis. Pomegranates have even been associated with reduction of dental plaque, helping to reduce gum disease and cavities. Pomegranates are also a great source of vitamin C, another well-known antioxidant, and potassium which helps to keep your blood pressure healthy and low. Pomegranate seeds or “arils” are a great source of fiber and healthy unsaturated fats as well. Pomegranate juice however is strained from the seeds, making pomegranate juice not nearly as healthy as the seeds themselves.

How to pick a pomegranate

A pomegranate should feel heavy and the skin should be firm and taut. Don’t worry about skin blemishes as they do not affect the quality of the seeds inside.

How to eat a pomegranate

The first time I tried to seed a pomegranate, I stained my hands (and a new dress). Here are the steps to prevent you from doing this!

1) Cut off the tip of the pomegranate (the crown)

2) Cut the pomegranate into 4 segments

3) Submerge the segments into a bowl of water. Gently, remove the arils or seeds with your fingers while the pomegranate is under the water. Repeat with each segment

4) Strain the water in a colander and enjoy the arils! Discard the other parts of the fruit.

Don’t like to seed a pomegranate? Try buying pre-seeded pomegranates from Whole Foods and other grocery stores. It’s OK to let them do the work…

Recipe ideas:

-Top pomegranate arils onto salads, fruit salads, Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, oatmeal, whole grain pancakes or waffles

-Blend into a fresh fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt for breakfast

-Bake into your whole grain muffin or quick bread recipes

-Sprinkle on top of roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes and parsnips

-Mix into grain dishes like whole grain cous-cous, brown rice, or quinoa with walnuts and parsley

-Make a great antioxidant rich dessert by using dark chocolate to coat clusters of pomegranate arils

-Glaze lean proteins like lean red meat or chicken with pomegranate glaze:

½ cup 100% fresh unsweetened pomegranate juice

1 cup port wine

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Combine juice and wine in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to half its volume and is thick like syrup, about 45 minutes. Serve over lean proteins!

-Top fish or chicken with pomegranate salsa:

3 tomatoes, diced

1 cup pomegranate arils

½ cup chopped parsley

1 jalapeno, seeded, finely diced

1 scallion, diced

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve with baked chips, toasted whole wheat pita or over fish

Want a decorative idea for Fall dinner parties or Thanksgiving? Use the beautiful pomegranate in its whole form.

Enjoy this beautiful autumnal fruit!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It’s Time For a Round-up: Trick or Healthy Treat?

Last Halloween we brought you a round-up of the healthy Halloween candy selections. This year we thought we would move on to the party scene for kids/adults alike and round up an assortment of healthier snacks to serve at your Halloween bash. Because Halloween night can be healthy-ier and festive!!

Why have you done a good thing?

Whenever you go to a Halloween party, what do you see served? Candy of course but also decorated cookies, cupcakes, and other dessert treats dressed up in Halloween costumes. As cute as those are, the calories add up quickly, leaving you hungry and searching for more. Why? High carbohydrate intakes cause a large release of insulin, leading you to be hungrier faster. More balanced snacks that have protein and healthy sources of carbohydrate with fiber will leave you full and satisfied. This balance is the key to portion control at a party and allows you to stop at just a couple pieces of candy.

Other trick? Either bring healthy snacks with you to a party or serve up a healthier Halloween spread, with some candy on the side of course…

Healthy-ier Halloween Round-up:

Witchy Pretzel Rods

Banana Ghosts

Creepy Vegetables

Or try arranging your veggies in a more fun way!

Pizza Mummies

Witches Fingers

Devilish eggs

Snake Bites

Guacamoldy Creature Chips

Apple Bites

Pumpkin Popcorn Balls **substitute out margarine for light butter to avoid trans fat

Looking for something fun to drink? Witches Brew…

Mix 1 gallon of apple cider with a few drops of food coloring, sliced apples, and gummy worms…

And for adults, add a touch of rum…

So round out your great costume with a super creative snack that everyone will be talking about! For a refresher on the Halloween round-up from last year to help purchase your candy, click here…

Happy Halloween everyone!

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Friday, October 7, 2011

Judgment Day...

Looking to jump-start your diet? If you’re Jewish- this weekend you can kill two birds with one stone (and don’t worry- you have until Friday at sundown to repent for using this upcoming holiday as a diet jumpstart) Beginning this Friday night, it is Yom Kippur, or as us Jews like to call it, Judgment Day. For this reason, we fast all day as a kind of bargaining chip with G-d, to say: “hey look, a whole day of suffering, that must have been enough to delete out all my sins over the past year, leaving me on my merry way until next year” So… I know that last year we gave you a few tips on how to have a healthy fast- don’t worry, we wont blab about that again. This year we will rant about how to turn a (torturous-to-some AKA Amy) Jewish holiday into the start of a new you. Which makes sense- since it is the Jewish New Year!

Why Will You Be Doing A Good Thing?

Perhaps you are worrying about how on earth you will go a whole day without eating? Or if you are like me, you are not giving the food a second blink, but frantically obsessing over how to go a whole day without coffee? (PS- I start at T-3 days with Green tea, then nothing at T-1. D-Day is still rough, but the headache shouldn’t get you, after following this plan.)

  • Fasting for a day will shrink your stomach (yay) but…be sure not to blow it on break fast. When the time comes Saturday night, remember that after fasting for a day, your stomach now needs much less food to be full. In order to keep that going, be smart about the amount you eat. Go for ½ bagel or a whole bagel scooped out with cream cheese and lox (not the salty kind!), plus some salads and veggies.

  • Fasting for a day will decrease your sugar cravings. After not eating sugar for 24 hours, your body naturally lowers its desire for the sweet treat. Keep it going! For break fast- focus on protein and healthy fat, while limiting the sugar (or carbohydrates) Just an FYI- a bagel has around 75-90 grams of carbohydrates. An average person should be consuming around 240g per day- so this one item can be over 1/3 of your daily budget for carbohydrates (which includes breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruit, dairy, sugary drinks, juice, desserts, etc.)

  • Yes, you will loose a little water weight. Sometime it just takes a little time of “feeling skinny” to motivate you to stick to a healthy diet regimen. If you are one of these people, then this holiday is for you. Although you will not loose any legitimate weight that will stay off, fasting for a day will leave your body a bit dehydrated, and since water carries weight, you will loose a pound or two. So again, don’t blow it by going overboard on breakfast and use the feeling as motivation for the dietary changes that you have wanting to make

So I know that for most people this Holiday is not a favorite (especially for a certain special Yom Kippur birthday girl!) but I hope this list of potential benefits motivates you to embrace this year’s fast as a good thing! Oh, and good luck on Judgment Day, hoping for the best myself…

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN