Cauliflower Pear Soup

soupCauliflower and pear are blended together to form a rich and creamy soup with just a hint of sweetness. A garnish of pear and sage leaves adds a festive touch.

 Ingredients:               
2 Red D’anjou pears
1 head of cauliflower, about 4 cups roughly chopped
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10-12 fresh sage leaves

Directions: 
Peel, core and chop one pear, then cut the other pear in half and peel, core and chop one half. Remove the core from the reserved pear half, and finely dice it, and set it aside for a garnish. Place the chopped pear and cauliflower in a soup pot and add the water and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until the cauliflower and pears are very soft, about 10 -15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet and add the olive oil. When hot, add the sage leaves and cook until crisp. Set aside to use as a garnish.

Add the milk, cheese and ½ teaspoon salt to the soup. Puree in a blender in batches or using a stick blender, until very smooth. Taste and add additional salt as needed. Note: amount of salt will depend on the broth you use.

Divide soup into bowls and garnish each with fried sage leaves, a drizzle of the oil and some diced pear.

prep time:10 minutes
cooking time: 20 minutes
yield: Serves 4

Ditch the Guilt

52549295 - pensive happy woman remembering looking at side sitting in a bar or home terrace

It’s Sunday morning and you splurged too much on food or drink last night. You’re tired, unmotivated, and guilt creeps in from not making the best choices. Sound familiar? The truth is we all splurge sometimes, myself included, and we need a plan – especially with the holidays approaching – to ditch the guilt and get out of the splurge cycle!

As a dietitian, I feel like I work with guilt almost as much as I work with improving eating habits. Unfortunately, too many of us associate eating habits or what the mirror displays with self-worth and confidence. We are more than what we eat! Here are some steps I review with my clients (and sometimes myself!), give it a try! First, reflect on the occasions when you splurged. Would you take back the entire day or night, the time spent with friends, or the experiences you had? Probably not, so stop obsessing and forgive yourself. Second, stop telling yourself you should eat a certain way and that you’re a failure when you don’t. Instead, focus on eating healthfully and exercising to feel better. Third, start with the next bite. Most people count diet by days, when diet is everything we put in our bodies over time. Weeks are a much better measure of health, so let’s find balance over the next few days. Fourth and finally, increase your fruits and vegetables. Not only do fruits and veggies provide nutrients, fiber, and water, but they are the foundation for leading a healthful life. In the end, it’s never too early or too late to feel better, so start right now!

New Initiative to Increase Fruit Consumption in Children

betta_7475In a push to increase fruit consumption in children, the United Kingdom’s largest grocery chain, Tesco, has implemented a program offering free fruit to children while their parents shop. Just like the United States Department of Agriculture, the UK government recommends everyone, including children, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, like the US, children in the UK fall short of this recommendation with only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11-18 consuming 5 fruits and vegetables each day; only 2% of American kids eat the recommended daily five servings of fruits and veggies. The Tesco initiative is being launched in over 800 stores and is already receiving praise from experts and charities. But, will it work?

Well, that’s hard to say. Last year, a study from the University of Vermont found that school children required by federal mandate to take either a fruit or vegetable with lunch actually consumed less of each. Digital imaging was used to capture student lunch trays before and after consumption, and more produce was actually thrown away. Does this mean we should stop encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption? Of course not. But what it does mean is that multiple approaches may be better at achieving increased consumption. The study authors suggest slicing fruit, serving fruit/vegetables with dip, or mixing the produce in with other portions of the meal. Likewise, encouraging fruit and veggie consumption from an earlier age and increasing access and positivity in the environment, such as farm-to-school programs, may help normalize eating healthfully.

Only time will tell how the UK initiative will fare. I believe we all agree, however, that the first step is always to offer healthful choices!

Read more about the study here: http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmpr/?Page=news&&storyID=21298

Fuel Up

fuelupExercise is very important to me and to general wellbeing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness, the average adult should engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 or more times per week – or at least 150 minutes each week. We often hear about which nutrients to consume for recovery after a workout, and I often see people pounding protein shakes at the gym, but we don’t talk as often about what to eat before a workout.

In college, I boxed and tried martial arts; now, I run, yoga and CrossFit. This month, to mix up my routine, I joined a kickboxing training program. We meet at 6:00AM to work on techniques, box, and do a variety of functional activities for strengthening – and after one hour I am bushed! I have a very hard time eating early in the morning, but according to data from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, limited intake of carbohydrate impairs training intensity and duration. I see these effects sometimes: I don’t eat after dinner and if I don’t eat before a morning workout I feel sluggish. Since exercise requires energy and carbohydrate has roles in multiple energy pathways, providing substrate for muscular work from quick carbohydrate foods is a good choice. Every body is unique, and different activities, intensities, and durations require different amounts of energy and nutrients. I know that I perform better in an intense one-hour class or run if I eat between 100-200 calories beforehand. This morning I grabbed a medium pear, approximately 100 calories, on my way out the door and I felt great during class. Fruit is an easy choice for me since it is portable and I can grab it on the go, but some mornings I have a little protein, nuts or yogurt, with it. It took trial and error to figure out what works best for me, but you can figure it out, too. If you don’t generally eat before exercise, why not give it a shot and see if you get more from your workout? If you’re starting on a training program, consult with a sports dietitian for personalized eating plans.

 

Grill Master

grilled pearsTo me, summer means sunshine, farmers’ markets and grilling. I personally love the flavors of grilled foods and regularly grill veggies as a side or base for meals. One of the greatest challenges I have faced in my years of counseling and teaching is that people have been trained to think they don’t like fruit and/or vegetables, and they don’t venture outside the norm for ingredients or culinary techniques. The remedy is simply to get a little creative in the kitchen – or backyard – and be okay with failing once in a while. I base most of my meals on produce, and in the summer that means adding a treat of grilled fruit at the end!

Grilling is probably one of the simplest culinary techniques for fruit and veggies. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to stay close to the grill to keep an eye on your food; err on the side of slightly lower heat so it doesn’t burn, then turn up the heat at the end for beautiful grill marks. Grilling infuses fruit with smoky and savory flavors and causes caramelization of sugars, leading to more color and flavor changes. It’s a whole new way to experience fruit! In my food science lab, we talk about how sugars in fruit, when exposed to high temperatures, start to melt: The sugars are inverted and water is released, resulting in sugar molecules rearranging and binding together to form chains. Organic acids and other flavor compounds also accrue, resulting in different flavors than the original sugars. Basically, the compounds are altered so we sense a unique flavor on our taste receptors.* Science is fun!

My favorite treat is to slice pears in half, set them on the top rack to soften, then pop it onto the heat for a bit at the end. I serve them drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce, then sprinkle with walnuts or a dollop of whipped cream. Delicious and a pretty presentation! Want more ideas? Check out a few of my favorite grilled pear recipes, including grilled pears stuffed with mascarpone and bacon, at USA Pears.
*McWiliams, Margaret. (2012). Foods Experimental Perspectives. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

It’s What is on the Inside that Counts

more bruised pearsWe’ve all done it – picked up a slightly speckled piece of fruit and put it back in search of a more cosmetically appealing piece. Just like meat and eggs, produce is graded, and most grocery retailers purchase and profit from higher grade produce. According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, U.S. Number 1 fruit must be “carefully hand-picked, clean, well formed” and free from injury, including bruising. Produce items that don’t make the gradearenow being called “ugly fruit and vegetables” – those that are imperfect and less/not profitable – and often end up being discarded. According to the USDA, food waste is the greatest contributor to landfills, 31% of edible food is wasted, and food waste accounts for an estimated annual loss of $161.6 billion.

Interestingly, recent studies suggest that blemished fruit, the stuff not pretty enough for consumption, may have increased antioxidant content and actually be better for us. Antioxidants, such as polyphenols found in pears and other fruit,1-3 molecules that prevent damage to human cells and may play a protective role against disease and illness,4 act as part of a plant’s immune system fending off pests, fungi, and disease.5-8 When a plant is injured, polyphenol amounts increase in the affected area to protect and heal the injured tissue as seen in studies on apples, strawberries, green beans, raspberries and walnuts: If we eat these affected areas, we may consume more antioxidants than just consuming healthier portions of the plant.6-8 Some organizations are already onboard with collecting and distributing ugly produce, including California-based Imperfect Produce who recently partnered with Whole Foods to increase sales of ugly produce. And this trend isn’t going anywhere – this is the first time the USDA has issued food waste reduction goals.

For fruit, just like humans, perhaps the perfect body doesn’t exist – what matters is what is on the inside. Not sure what to do with that bruised pear? Slice it, bake it, or throw it in a smoothie for a delicious meal or snack!

1 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/727.full
2 http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691510005697
4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18778075
5 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20043255
6 http://publik.tuwien.ac.at/files/PubDat_194363.pdf
7 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1744-7348.2010.00402.x/abstract
8 http://ojs.aas.bf.uni-lj.si/index.php/AAS/article/view/197/126

Tackle the Fridge!

098

This weekend I tackled the fridge, and I don’t mean Super Bowl XX champions Chicago Bears’ William “Refrigerator” Perry. I’d like to say that I clean my fridge at least once per month, but like most Americans I only get to this important task about twice per year. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to increased food spoilage, food waste and risk for foodborne illness. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 9000 deaths and 6.5 to 33 million illnesses each year are directly linked to foodborne illness – often from not keeping foods at the appropriate temperture. [1] It seems to me we need to talk about refrigerator health!

First things first: Your refrigerator should remain under 40°F. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40° and 140°F, called the Food Danger Zone, and some can double in number every 20 minutes in this zone. These foods may look and smell perfectly fine but can cause illness, so it’s best to cool foods quickly and purchase a refrigerator thermometer. [1] Second, foods that will not be cooked, such as fruits and vegetables, should live above riskier foods, such as raw meats. These hazardous foods should reside in sealed containers on bottom shelves. Likewise, crisper drawers are appropriate places for fruits and vegetables – they preserve freshness by maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity. Third, items should not be packed so tightly in the fridge that cold air cannot circulate around foods to maintain freshness. Finally, the FSIS recommends wiping up spills immediately, particularly from raw meats, and going through the fridge weekly to discard potentially hazardous or old food. [2]

Now that spring and summer fresh fruits and veggies are abundant, make sure your refrigerator is a happy, healthy home for them – and you. Salud!

 
1. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/fighting-bac-by-chilling-out/ct_index
2. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/refrigeration-and-food-safety/ct_index

Don’t Be a Yo-Yo!

RBP9037046 Woman with PearThat dreaded time of year is here again – swimsuit season. I have helped countless people lose weight, including myself, and despite many new and radical diets, the science still points to one principle: To lose weight, expend more calories than you eat. Sounds simple, right? Nope. What this doesn’t take into account are cravings, lack of motivation, hormones, metabolism, boredom, emotions, workplace and social saboteurs… Should I continue? Unfortunately, many experience the yo-yo effect, losing weight, gaining it back and having to start over again. For lasting weight loss, small changes must be made and maintained over time for true behavior change – and to end the weight loss/regain cycle.

Research from the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, points to a variety of factors. The average weight loss for those on the registry is 66 pounds (range 30 to 300 pounds), maintained for an average 5.5 years (range 1 to 66 years). Most participants report maintaining a low calorie, low fat diet and four common trends, 1) eating breakfast, 2) getting on the scale at least once weekly, 3) watching fewer than 10 hours of television each week, and 4) exercising – participants exercised one hour/day on average. [1] Noted early in the research, once weight loss was maintained for 2-5 years the chance for longer-term maintenance improved dramatically. Not surprisingly, those who did regain weight reported significant decline in physical activity, increased consumption of calories from fat, and decreased restraint in food choice. [2, 3]

So, how can you put these principles into practice? Get moving, fill up on healthful foods that are generally lower calorie – particularly fruits and vegetables – and make small, sustainable changes!

1. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.full.pdf+html
3. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(13)00528-X/abstract

Love Your Heart!

HERO red pear with heart check logoThis Valentine’s Day, love your heart! Have you heard of phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants? Phenols and flavonoids are families of phytonutrients, nonessential nutrients found in plant foods that provide color, flavor, and health benefits, particularly as antioxidants. In the body, antioxidants inhibit molecules that cause damage to body cells. Because of these antioxidants and other nutrients, increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk for many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Does this mean pears are good for your heart?

Well, a systematic review of pears and health published in the November/December 2015 issue of Nutrition Today supports what I’ve been saying all along. To be specific, pears contain many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C (an antioxidant!), potassium, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants – in particular, pears provide between 27 and 41mg of phenolic compounds per 100 grams (1 small pear). Many antioxidants are found in pears, and those with high phenolic and flavonoid contents – such as the anthocyanin in the skin of red pears – had significantly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Does this mean that pears may fight heart disease? It’s possible. One study by Mink et al included in the review found that dietary intake of foods rich in flavonoids, particularly pears and apples, was associated with a reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

Did you know that the Anjou and Red Anjou pear was recently certified as a Heart-Healthy Food by the American Heart Association? So this Valentine’s Day when you and your loved ones are surrounded by love and candy hearts, do something good for your actual heart and eat a pear!

Six Simple Habits for the New Year

Woman Texting In Kitchen

A new year brings many things, a fresh start, a year of possibilities, and broken resolutions… We often set lofty goals and envision working out every day looking cute in our gym outfits, not the sweaty messes we really are. Visions are easy, reality is usually harder. Picking a healthy habit to work toward, rather than a resolution, might be simpler and more realistic. Give it a shot!

1. Make a plan. Whether you want to exercise more or lose fifty pounds, have a plan in place. Make it simple, such as walking 20 minutes twice a week or prepping meals on Sundays. Simple is easier to stick to and gives your schedule more flexibility.

2. Add a fruit or veggie. It’s not news that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 13% of Americans eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 9% eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables. Keep it simple: pick up a pear or some baby carrots to munch between meals.

3. Move more. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested inactivity may impact health more than obesity! But you don’t have to run a marathon, or run at all, to be active. If you don’t currently exercise, work steps into your day or walk 30 minutes each week. If you’re already active, add one more workout each week. Small steps lead to big changes.

4. Don’t like exercise? Grab a buddy! Working out with someone may increase motivation; it may even improve intensity or performance. I have a gym buddy: We motivate each other to exercise and have much more fun doing it. For someone who used to be obese and hated exercise, I actually look forward to our work outs now!

5. Dust off your knives and cook a little. You don’t have to win Chopped to get a little creative in the kitchen. Plus, cooking with friends or family may improve dietary quality and enjoyment of meals. And if you’re preparing food at home you’re less likely to grab take out, right?

6. Finally, get back up again. Everyone has fallen short of goals or fallen off the wagon – sometimes many times. Life isn’t suddenly better when you reach the top, so stop beating yourself up. Get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back on that wagon. Happy New Year!