Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seeking Seeds

When mixing up my trail mix the other day, I realized I was missing something: seeds! I’m always nutz for nuts but never really think about adding seeds. As I have neglected these nutrient dense little buggers for too long, I have decided to work on adding in these delectable and nutritious choices. Even dietitians can do better and I’m going to start with seeking seeds…

Why have you done a good thing?

Serving as a fuel source for a plant, seeds are nutritional powerhouses. Each tiny seed packs a powerful nutrient punch including protein, iron, zinc, omega-3s, vitamin E, magnesium, phytosterols, antioxidants, and fiber. With all these great nutrients, seeds are powerful fighters against heart disease, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and cancer. Plus seeds can often be a great alternative for those who are allergic to nuts.

Here is a peak at seeds that are great to add into your diet:

Chia Seeds

Packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, magnesium, protein, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, and niacin, chia seeds are superfoods! Chia seeds are great for smoothies as they form a thick gel in water. Try mixing chia seeds into a smoothie for a “chia fresca:” mix 1 tbsp of chia seeds with water with lemon or lime. Another great way to eat chia seeds is in your morning oatmeal.

Pumpkin Seeds

Rich in anti-inflammatory properties, pumpkin seeds are linked with reduction in arthritis symptoms. Pumpkin seeds have also been shown to improve prostate health and lower cholesterol. Try adding 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds to your next salad.

Flax Seeds

A dense source of antioxidants, flax seeds help ward off diseases including cancers. A mega-dose of omega-3s helps to protect you against heart disease. Rich in fiber called lignans, flax seeds also help to control blood sugar, which is especially important if you have diabetes and for regularity. Make sure to purchase ground flax seed, not whole seeds, to absorb all of the necessary nutrients! Add flax seed to your oatmeal, whenever you use breadcrumbs, or mixed into grain dishes.

Sunflower Seeds

A great source of vitamin E, sunflower seeds have antioxidant properties, helping to protect you against cancer. Rich in magnesium, sunflower seeds also help to reduce your blood pressure, calm your nerves, and build healthy bones. Try sunflower seeds mixed with raisins and nuts for a snack or baked into your next low-fat muffin.

Sesame Seeds

A rich source of copper, sesame seeds can help reduce inflammation, particularly in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. A great source of calcium, sesame seeds are great for those who cannot tolerate dairy and need high calcium dairy-alternatives. Try sprinkling sesame seeds on your stir-fry dishes or try Tahini paste (ground sesame seeds) by making your own homemade hummus with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and garlic.

Storage Tip

To preserve the nutrients in your seeds, store seeds in a dark container in the refrigerator.

What about seed oils and butters?

Sunflower seed butter and tahini paste are great additions to your diet as swapportunities for peanut butter and almond butter. Flax seed oil and sunflower seed oil are great additions to your diet as well for their vitamins and minerals. Although not good for cooking, these oils make a nice addition to non-cooked dishes, such as homemade salad dressings. Try to include these oils in addition to ground flax seed and whole sunflower seeds, as processed oils do not have fiber which is important in cancer prevention and regularity.

So challenge yourself and mix things up! I know I will…

Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy for Herbert

Snacking on healthy foods can get old and sometimes you just want something good and crunchy. Enter Happy Herbert’s pretzels! They have all the nutritional benefits of whole grains, formed into delicious little pretzels. They come in a variety of flavors, such as Oat Bran, Plenti-Grain, Honey Wheat, Spelt, and Kamut (ps- they are the only pretzel out there made with kamut!).

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Mainly, because they just taste so good! But also because they are only 110 calories for 16-18 pretzels, with 2-3g fiber, and 2g protein; making them a great BANG for your BITE. The combination of nutrients and taste leaves you feeling full and satisfied. Plus, most selections come in low-sodium, which is always great for your heart and blood pressure. And if there weren’t enough reasons to love this brand, here is one more: they donate 10% of all profits to children’s charities. Oh, and it’s organic! So be assured that any way you slice it, with these pretzels you’re always doing a good thing.

I usually eat them as a snack in between meals, or as the carbohydrate portion of my lunch or dinner (which I like to keep to 100 calories of whole grains). You can easily count out 16-18 pretzels before putting them on your plate or in a baggie to go; that way you’ll stick to just 1 serving. Here is me holding 1 serving, it's so much I could barely keep them in my hand!

For me, a salad with grilled chicken and a side of Happy Herbert’s pretzels is a winning lunch combo!

Find them at most gourmet or specialty markets. Or, simply order them online via the Happy Herbert’s Website.

Twist it up: try using these healthy pretzels as coating for homemade chicken fingers (like in this recipe from Food Network’s Hungry Girl show). Or, grind them up and use as breadcrumbs to top dishes like your homemade lasagna or mac and cheese.

So get munchin’ with this healthy crunchin’!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Monday, March 5, 2012

Morning, Noon or Night

When I come home from a long day of work or a weekend away, I don’t feel like cooking nor do I have any food in my house. Breakfast for dinner time! There is no meal that is faster, easier or sometimes more comforting then a nice breakfast meal, morning, noon or night.

Why have you done a good thing?

Breakfast-for-dinner is a wonderfully nutritious, fast, and easy meal. Loaded with healthy whole grains and fruits, as well as good sources of calcium and protein from eggs and nuts, breakfast-for-dinner can be a very healthy way to spice up the dinner routine. Breakfast-for-dinner takes very little preparation, usually requires no trips to the grocery store, or planning ahead as you have most of those items in the pantry or fridge as staples. It’s a great way to mix things up at dinnertime, especially for the family. Always a hit with kids, breakfast dishes are a great way to get them involved in the kitchen.

Here are some great breakfast meals for morning, noon or night meals:

-English Muffin Omelet Sandwiches. Make a homemade breakfast sandwich. Cook an omelet or egg scramble anyway you like with veggies and/or low-fat cheese on a whole wheat English muffin or Thomas’s Bagel Thin. Serve it up with a side salad or fruit salad.

-Almond Butter French Toast Sticks. Spread 1 tbsp almond butter on whole-wheat toast and dip in 1 egg scrambled with ½ cup fat free milk. Fry in the pan with Pam spray until golden brown on each side. Have up to 2 slices. For the kiddies, slice them up into thin slices for easy dipping.

**Don’t like almond butter? Try this dish with any nut or seed butter.

-Pumpkin Waffles with Greek yogurt dip. Do you have a waffle iron you never use? Prepare the batter using your favorite waffle mix (trans fat free!) and add a couple of tbsp of pumpkin puree into the waffle batter. Cook the waffles in your waffle maker until golden brown. Mix plain Greek yogurt with 1 tbsp of honey to slightly sweeten. Sprinkle waffle with cinnamon and slice. Dip waffle slices into the yogurt dip.

*No pumpkin puree? Try applesauce or mashed banana.

**Want something more savory? Try mixing in low-fat sharp cheddar cheese and diced veggies into your waffle.

-Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes with Nut Topping. Using your favorite trans fat free pancake mix, add ½ cup oatmeal into the mixture. Before cooking the pancakes, take a ¼ cup of nuts per person and mix with 1 tbsp of honey. Toast nuts in the toaster until fragrant (about 5-10 minutes). Cook each pancake individually per package directions and add a few blueberries per pancake. Top with nut topping (it’s super sweet; no need for syrup!)

-Peanut Butter Banana Waffle Sandwiches. Super easy meal: Take 2 frozen waffles (recommend Van’s Light Waffles, Kashi 7 Grain). Spread 1-2 tbsp of natural peanut butter and add sliced banana. For the kiddies, try using mini waffles such as Van’s Minis or Earth’s Best Organic Mini Waffles. If you are feeling extra hungry, serve this up with a side of scrambled eggs or egg whites.

-Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Baked French Toast:

1 loaf of whole-wheat cinnamon bread (Try Pepperidge Farm Swirl 100% Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin bread)

4 eggs

3 cups of skim or 1% milk (also try soy, rice, or almond milk)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp of honey

1 apple, diced

½ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take half the loaf of bread, cutting off the edges and cut into cubes. Place bread cubes in a greased 9 by 13” casserole dish. Cut the edges of the other half off of the bread but preserve in slices. Top the cubes with slice bread from the rest of the loaf. Beat the eggs with the milk and add vanilla, honey, apple, raisins. Pour the egg mixture over the bread making sure all the bread is well-coated with the egg mixture. Bake in the oven, covered, for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 20 more minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve up in scoops. Serve warm.

So try thinking of breakfast as an option for dinner, mixing in good morning favorites for a great evening.

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN