Tag Archives: healthy eating

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Labor Day may have passed (I know, it feels like it was a long time ago!), but it’s still warm and summery here in New York. Luckily that also means that summer produce is still around. A few weeks ago I realized I hadn’t really had much corn all summer, so I went on a little corn kick and made grilled corn on the cob, corn and tomato salad, and this delicious corn and black bean salsa, which I served with fish tacos. I had a lot of leftovers, so I ended up eating the salsa as a side dish for the rest of the week!

Corn & Black Bean Salsacorn black bean salsa
Serves a lot

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 15-ounce can no salt added black beans, drained
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2-2 beefsteak tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro, if desired

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the corn for about 3 minutes. Remove the corn and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using a paring knife, cut the corn off the cob into a large bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to mix.

Did you have your fill of corn this summer? What are your favorite ways to enjoy it?

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Chilled Cucumber Soup

It’s that time of year again – lots of cucumbers available fresh from the farm. A couple of summers ago I shared a recipe for a new twist on traditional cucumber salad. With the plethora of CSA cucumbers that have piled up I decided to try another new recipe showcasing this nutritioulicious vegetable.

My cucumber soup recipe was inspired by the one from Eating Well, with just a few modifications. It was really easy to make, and quick too!

Chilled Cucumber Soup
Serves 4; Serving Size: ~1 cupcucumber soup recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 4 cups peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced cucumbers, plus 1/4 cup chopped cucumber for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Diced tomatoes for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallots, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Add the 4 cups of cucumber slices, broth, salt, pepper, and chili powder and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until the cucumbers are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Transfer the soup to a blender. Add avocado and parsley and blend on low speed until smooth. Add the second tablespoon of lemon juice to taste and blend. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Pour soup into a serving bowl and stir in the yogurt. Refrigerate until chilled.
  3. Serve the soup garnished with diced cucumber and tomato and the chopped parsley. Enjoy!

cucumber recipes
Nutrition Note: Cucumbers are in the same family of fruit and vegetables as squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Nutritionally, cucumbers are a good source of phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. They are also a good source of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene. Because they are water-rich, cucumbers are excellent low-calorie vegetables.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers? 

Watermelon Salsa

As you may know, I love watermelon! To me, there is nothing better on a hot summer day than ruby red, juicy watermelon that’s also brimming with nutrients. Although summer isn’t here just yet (in fact it feels more like fall in rainy NY this week), I couldn’t pass up the chance to make my watermelon salsa for the fish tacos I shared yesterday. The salsa is super easy to make, full of flavor, and low in calories. It’s great served with whole grain tortilla chips, fish, or simply by itself (that’s how good it is!).

Watermelon Salsa
Serves: 6; Serving Size: 1/2 cup   

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups finely diced seedless watermelon
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (if you want to add some spice, use some of the seeds)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the watermelon, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, onion, and lime juice. Season with salt and stir everything together.
  2. Serve immediately or chill for at least an hour.

watermelon salsa
Nutrition Information (per serving): 29 calories, 7 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g protein, 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 98 mg sodium

What kind of salsa do you like? 

Best Diet? The One You Can Stick With

This week’s health news has been buzzing with the Consumer Reports diet rankings. The results were quite surprising to many of us in the nutrition field – the top five diets are:

  1. Jenny Craig
  2. Slim Fast
  3. Weight Watchers
  4. The Zone
  5. Ornish Diet
  6. Atkins

Interestingly, Jenny Craig came out on top based on a Journal of the American Medical Association study from last October that showed 92 percent of Jenny Craig clients stayed on the program for 2 years. What Consumer Reports didn’t seem to take into account, is that the participants in the study didn’t pay a penny for the program – the researchers paid for all the expenses, which are quite hefty. The program, which includes an annual fee and the cost of all the food, can cost a couple thousand dollars per year. I highly doubt that 92 percent of the participants would have stayed on the diet for as long as they did if they were paying for it themselves.

The fact that Slim Fast, which involves drinking a shake for breakfast and lunch and having a 500 calorie dinner, came in second is also mind-boggling to me. In fact, of all the programs listed I would have thought Weight Watchers would have come out on top.

consumer reports diet rankingsThe truth is, I don’t advocate for any of these diets. I encourage people to eat balanced meals filled with vegetables, fruit, lean protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. And the food they eat should be nutritious and delicious. An occasional treat is also ok as long as it’s in moderation. This is the foundation of a healthy diet; restriction, packaged foods (especially for all meals everyday), shakes, and meal replacement bars are not.

One component of some of these diets that I do recommend is support. Whether it’s visiting a registered dietitian once a week, calling a friend for encouragement, or going to a support group, if you’re looking to lose or maintain your weight, having the support of others will help you reach your goal.

What do you think about the Consumer Reports diet rankings? Do you believe in diets? 

Baked Falafel

In celebration of National Mediterranean Diet Month, here is the first of two Mediterranean-inspired recipes from Nutritioulicious intern Jo Bartell.

I have always loved falafel. Lucky for me there is no shortage of delicious, crispy falafel at the various Middle Eastern restaurants and falafel stands scattered throughout New York City. For those of you who are not familiar with this delicious food, Falafel is a ball or patty made of ground chickpeas. Falafel can be eaten alone as a snack, but it is often served in a pita pocket topped with vegetables and different sauces such as hummus or a yogurt sauce called tzatziki. The main ingredient of falafel is chickpeas, which makes the falafel high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. This combination of nutrients creates a healthy, satisfying meal component.

The problem with falafel from a nutritional standpoint is that it is usually deep-fried in oil. This cooking method turns a healthy dish into a less healthy version filled with saturated fat and cholesterol. Luckily, I found a great recipe for baked falafel I want to share. It is easy to make and definitely nutritioulicious!

Baked Falafel Balls (adapted from www.food.com)
Serves: 8; Serving Size: 4 falafel balls

Ingredients: baked falafel recipe
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup bulgar wheat
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed for brushing
  • 1 red onion, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons whole-wheat breadcrumbs*
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • ¼ cup minced parsley

*Note: You can substitute Panko Breadcrumbs for the whole-wheat breadcrumbs.

Directions: 
  1. Bring water to a boil and remove from the heat. Mix in the bulgur. Cover and allow the wheat to sit until all the water is absorbed — about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is just transparent.
  3. Add chickpeas, red chili flakes, salt, cumin, and coriander to the pan and sauté for 1 minute more. Combine the chickpea mixture and bulgur in a food processor.
  4. Add the lemon juice, breadcrumbs, cilantro, and parsley and process until just mixed and the mixture has a grainy texture. Set mixture aside for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Form falafel mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Brush the balls with olive oil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden, turning the pan once during baking.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 110 calories, 3.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 17 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein, 173 mg sodium

Do you like falafel? Have you ever made it at home?

National Mediterranean Diet Month

It’s May, and that means that it’s finally starting to feel like summer and it’s National Mediterranean Diet Month! What a great time of year to sing the praises of a lifestyle that has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve brainpower.

The Traditional Mediterranean Diet consists mainly of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, beans, nuts, herbs and spices, small amounts of dairy, and red wine (sounds a lot like what I recommend!). In 1993, Oldways, a Boston-based non-profit that develops consumer-friendly health-promotion tools including the Whole-Grain Stamp, introduced the Med Diet Pyramid. The pyramid was based on the dietary traditions of Greece and southern Italy when the rates of chronic disease were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy was among the highest. The pyramid was updated in 2008 and is very much in line with the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

mediterranean diet

As you can see, physical activity and enjoying meals with others are the foundation of the pyramid, which shows just how important they are to a healthy lifestyle. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and herbs and spices take up the most space of the pyramid, indicating that the majority of your diet should include those foods (have you heard my tip about making half your plate fruits and vegetables?!). Next in line: fish and seafood, a group of foods that are also emphasized in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt should be eaten in moderate portions, and meats and sweets are occasional treats. Check out the Oldways website to get a detailed list of foods consumed on the Mediterannean Diet and learn more about National Mediterranean Diet Month.

Over the next couple of days, Nutritioulicious intern Jo will be sharing some Mediterranean dishes she recently cooked up!

What are some of your favorite foods that fit the Mediterranean Diet?

Disclaimer: I was not paid to promote Oldways or the Mediterranean Diet. All opinions are my own. 

Photo Credit: Oldways

The Slow Food Movement

By Megan Kian

In our fast paced society we tend to forget to take time for ourselves and slow down to enjoy what is around us. Especially when it comes to food, many people want the fastest, most convenient meal available (whether or not it is the healthiest).

A semi-recent movement (it first began in 1986) called the Slow Food Movement was born to counteract the loss of tradition and the progression towards fast food. The Slow Food movement began in Italy and has now become a global movement with over 100,000 members worldwide.

slow food movement

Slow Food gives people a chance to celebrate traditional food and food practices and promotes people’s interest in the food they eat. Being part of the Slow Food Movement also makes people aware of the effect the food they eat has on themselves and the rest of the world. Slow Food’s vision is to make sure that everyone has access to healthy food that is sustainable and maintains tradition. Slow Food is a great way to celebrate nutritious and delicious food around the world!

Learn more about the Slow Food Movement and how you can get involved.