Three Reasons & Ways to PEAR More Often This School Year

By Ashley Koff RD*

An apple for the teacher? Why not a pear?! I love pears, so I get especially excited during this time of year. Pear season is kicking off (look for Bartletts, Red Bartletts and Starkrimsons!), and before I share some of my favorite ways to enjoy pears, I thought I would tell you a little about the nutritional benefits of this healthy, in-season fruit.

  1. Pears pack fiber – If you are trying to improve your fiber intake,** then pears are your better choice. A medium pear provides about 6 grams, which is a great way to help you meet your daily fiber goals. Plus, fiber helps you feel full and satisfied longer, so when it comes to smart snacking, fiber is a must.
  2. Pears have excellent skin – with pears it’s best to eat the skin for the better nutrition win! Rich in a variety of plant compounds like flavonoids, as well as providing fiber, I recommend enjoying your pear skin and all!
  3. Pears offer variety – different flavors, colors and textures for different dishes means there are so many ways to bring pears into your better nutrition plan more often.

So, with all that good news here are some of my favorite ways to snack on pears – perfect to help power parents and kids through the new school year:

Slice ‘em up and use them as “toast” or “crackers” for a better nutrition upgrade more often.

  • I love topping mine with nut butter, delicious spices (like turmeric) and cacao nibs for extra crunch (see my photo).
  • Take slices, add nut butter or cheese or dairy-free nut cheese and make mini sandwiches to take with you as an easy midday better nutrition pit stop and a great after school or pre-workout snack.

Pear Egg Boats

  • Halve a pear, scoop out a little space in the center, add an egg and bake/broil.
  • Top with cayenne pepper and/or a pinch of sea salt. Share on Instagram or just eat it on up J

Dice ‘n Swap

  • Move over croutons, pear cubes just took your salad from a 50 to 100% delicious and packed with better nutrition.
  • You can roll your pear cubes in oil and some spices and bake them for a different taste.

Pear Dippers

  • Slice firm pears lengthwise to make dippers
  • Dip in yogurt, hummus, and even chocolate (oh and you can freeze these too for an awesome bite later on!).

*Ashley Koff RD is a raving fan of pears (I love writing about myself in the third person 😉 but I am also told its proper for legal disclosures). She is a paid sponsor for this post by USA Pears

** Adults need >25g fiber minimum daily and many of you are not hitting that number often enough. How do you know if you are meeting your better fiber needs? Try the Better Fiber Evaluation to assess your current fiber nutrition intake and needs.

February is Heart Health Month

Pears have more fiber than most other fruits. A graphic showing how pears rank higher than bananas and oranges in fiberThere’s good reason as to why we have an entire month dedicated to heart health: heart disease is the number 1 cause of death for men and woman in the United States (National Center for Health Statistics, 2016). According to the CDC, this has been the case for upwards of 80 years now, with current numbers pointing to about 610,000 deaths in the United States every year. Translation: heart disease is to blame for 1 out of every 4 deaths in America! While statistics like this are shocking and scary, there is at least one thing you can start doing today to immediately lower your risk: improve your diet.

The truth is, a healthy heart is directly correlated with a healthy diet. Studies show that fiber is excellent at preventing and reducing elevated cholesterol levels, which is a strong predictor of heart disease (Chai, 2012) (Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 2008). High levels of cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, which is plaque buildup on the artery walls that can constrict blood flow and lead to heart attacks. Fiber, the zero-calorie indigestible part of carbohydrates, helps lower cholesterol by attaching itself to dietary cholesterol and ushering it out of the body, so it never gets absorbed into the blood (where it would otherwise stick and build up on the artery walls – yikes!).

So, how can you fiber-up your diet? Pears are a delicious place to start! A medium pear puts you 6 grams closer to meeting your daily fiber needs—which for women is 25 grams, men 38. Pears also have Vitamin C, with a medium-sized pear containing approximately 7 mg or 10 percent of the daily value. Because pears don’t need to be refrigerated, they’re also a very portable snack, especially if you work a desk job or are on the go. Pack one with you today to show your heart some pear love.

Snack Right to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Office candy dishes, gifts of baked goods, parties, dinners, and extra-packed to-do lists all shuffle in with the holiday season. And increased stress levels can also follow suit. While we can’t do your holiday shopping for you, we can offer up a helpful tool for keeping your energy level stable, your mood happier, and your weight steadier during the holiday season… snacks. But not just any old snacks will do, follow these four tips to ensure your snacks are energy-boosting powerhouses.

Use the Rule of 2: The combination of protein, high fiber/less processed carbohydrates, and fat is one that keeps blood sugar and energy levels stable for hours. At mealtime, make sure you have this triple threat (+ veggies!) on your plate. At snack time, aim for at least 2 of the 3…what we call the “rule of 2.” Examples: Sliced pear (carbs) with almond butter (fat); string cheese (protein) with hummus (fat); small latte (protein from milk) with walnuts (fat).
Recipe idea: Pear Slices With Goat Cheese, Pistachios, And Pink Peppercorns

Sip with Snacks: The winter air is dry. When you combine that with a hectic schedule with too few sips of water, dehydration often comes knocking. To ensure water intake throughout the day, hydrate along with snacks. A cup of herbal tea or sparkling water with lemon not only helps to hydrate but also makes your snack feel more satisfying by naturally slowing you down while you eat (because you’re also sipping). Including fruits and/or veggies in snacks also helps to hydrate, since these foods naturally contain lots of water.
Recipe idea: Pear And Pineapple Green Smoothie

Pear and Pineapple Green Smoothie smSQ

Practice Mindfulness: A busier-than-usual schedule mixed with more-abundant-than-usual treats lying around can lead to all-day noshing without really realizing or enjoying it. Mindfulness — having an internal conversation with yourself before eating to ask yourself if you’re actually hungry, what you’re really hungry for, etc. — is a vital component to ensuring that you don’t eat more than you need and also make choices that make you feel good. Before eating, ask yourself “Will this make me feel good now? In two hours? Tomorrow?” If you can answer yes to all three, and you’re genuinely hungry, then have enough to satisfy that hunger. If your answer is no, take a walk, sip some tea, catch up with a co-worker, or any other non-food related 5-minute activity.
Recipe idea: Grilled Chicken, Pear, and Avocado Toasts

Plan Ahead: Preparation is key during the holidays. Have a holiday party coming up? Think about your schedule, consider what time the party starts, what you want to eat there, and whether you need a snack beforehand. If you’re shopping on the weekend, plan where you’ll have lunch, how you’ll stay hydrated, and whether you need a snack or two in your bag (answer: you usually do.) The bottomline is that if you don’t plan out food choices ahead of time, you leave it up to chance and that doesn’t always bode well during the busy, sweet-filled holidays. But a little planning goes a long way to making you feel better all season long!
Recipe idea: Pear PB And J Bouquet

PBJ Bouquet 1

Time to don your thinking cap!

 

barlett_almond_butter-2183Children and school buses have started roaming the neighborhood; I can’t believe we’re already back to school. No matter the age of the student, those of us in nutrition and education know that what fuels brain power is food! This means healthful meals, but maybe more importantly, healthful snacks throughout the day. All of us, but especially children and adolescents who are growing – yes, this includes college students – need to eat regularly to maintain proper blood sugar levels, aka energy, and essential nutrients that power the brain and body. Think about it this way: The body (and especially the brain) is generally like the engine of a car. The engine parts are proteins, fat is the oil that allows the parts to function together, and carbohydrates are the fuel that drives the engine. Just like the parts of an engine rely on each other, protein, fat, and carbohydrate work together for optimal performance.

Eating whole foods, those that are minimally processed and naturally contain essential nutrients, every 2-3 hours is likely the best strategy to meet nutrient needs. This means snacks and packing extra food into a backpack are musts, rather than relying on schools to provide snacks. Remember that nutrients in the body work synergistically, so combine items that contain a variety of nutrients: Consider fresh fruit plus nuts, seeds, single-serve items such as cheese or pretzels, or low sugar granola bars. Happy snacking equals happy studying!

Walnut Pesto Toast with Sliced Pears and Gorgonzola Cheese

daves-killer-bread-walnut-pesto3

This recipe, courtesy of Dave’s Killer Bread and Lauren Kelly Nutrition, will expand your toast horizons. Perfect for breakfast or an after-school snack, this simple pear toast is anything but boring.

Ingredients
Pesto
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons walnuts
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Sandwich
½ USA Pear, sliced
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Sliced walnuts for topping
4 slices of Dave’s Killer Bread

Instructions
Add ingredients to make the pesto to high speed blender or food processor in the order displayed. Blend until smooth. Toast bread until light brown. Spread pesto on toasts. Add sliced pears and top with cheese and walnuts. Serve immediately.

yield: 4 servings

Snacking Made Simple

badam_cashew_nuts_hiresI teach in a culinary school where some of our classes are six hours long, back-to-back. Some of our students (and faculty) are in hot, steamy kitchens for thirteen hours every day! Unfortunately, this scenario happens too often: A student who hasn’t eaten enough suddenly becomes lightheaded. We’ve all felt this way, often as a mid-afternoon crash, but there is a simple solution that prevents fatigue, improves concentration, and decreases money spent on that 3:00 PM coffee run. Eat a simple snack!

Vending machine fixes, such as candy bars, chips, pastries, or soft drinks, are usually high in refined sugars that may give you a quick boost but eventually cause a crash that decreases performance. For snacks with real staying power, you may need to plan ahead – but I promise this will only take five minutes! Choose carbohydrates plus fiber, fat and/or protein. Good choices include fresh fruit plus nuts or nut butter, trail mix, low sugar granola bars (aim for <8g sugar), or hummus and veggie sticks. These snacks are excellent, portable choices, and are often sold in single-serve packs at the grocery store. Having spent many years working with children, I find that a designated snack drawer or shelf in the pantry or fridge may be the easiest solution for busy lives – and snacks that are appropriate for you are appropriate for kids, too! Can’t avoid the vending machine? Bring fruit with you and look for nuts, seeds, baked chips or pretzels. Your body and brain will thank you!

Diabetes? Eat More Pears!

bite

This weekend I attended the American Diabetes Association’s Chicago Expo, a free educational event for those with diabetes. At the pear booth, I noticed the question we were asked most was “How are pears good for diabetes?” Just like any carbohydrate-rich food, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, etc., the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is broken down in the gut and absorbed into the blood stream, causing blood sugar to rise. This is good and necessary! Every single cell in the body needs carbohydrate because it is the primary source of energy for the body. Think about how much you move every day. Your large muscle groups use a lot of energy from carbohydrate and fat. But, energy from carbohydrates is especially important for the brain and central nervous system. In fact, the brain alone requires at least 120 grams of carbohydrates daily. [1, 2] It is best to obtain carbohydrates from whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and low-fat dairy, because of the other nutrients found in these foods—vitamins, minerals, protein, fatty acids, and fiber.

Pears are a good choice because they naturally contain 6 grams of fiber, 24% of your daily needs. Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar by slowing absorption of carbohydrate into the blood stream. This limits sugar spikes and makes energy available to body tissues over a longer period of time. [3] Indeed, fiber is good for everyone because of this very factor; you will feel fuller for longer and won’t experience sugar crashes. So when you’re craving something sweet, do something good for your body and bite into a pear!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22436/
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI//DRI_Energy/265-338.pdf
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983