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What’s sweet about sweet potatoes?

sweetpotatoes

Sweet potato: the tan skinned, orange-fleshed vegetable that is a vitamin powerhouse. It is nature’s treasure of beta-carotene, and consuming sweet potatoes more than meets our vitamin A needs. In addition to the aforementioned orange, some sweet potatoes are purple-fleshed. This variety is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants.

Aside from vitamin A, sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C. They also contain fiber, which helps our digestive system.

Sweet potatoes are a sweet-tasting, starchy root vegetable. It is North Carolina’s state vegetable but originates from South America. Fun fact: the majority of sweet potatoes we consume come from China, where sweet potatoes are used for livestock feed. Continue Reading »

Healthy eating out options in the Fox Valley made a little easier with SmartPlate

smartplate

Americans are eating out more than ever. It used to be a struggle to eat healthy when eating away from home, but in the last few years restaurants and other eateries have been making some changes to remedy that. Kids’ menu items now include fresh vegetables such as baby carrots and steamed broccoli as side dishes, and fruit cups for dessert. Lighter fare and gluten free options can now be found on the menu in some restaurants. These changes are a breath of fresh air and whole-heartedly welcome. Many health professionals hope that more changes will arise as more consumers demand healthy food when eating out.

One way to choose healthier options is to look at the nutrition information. Big chain restaurants, by law, now have to provide nutrition information upon request by the consumer. Smaller or local eateries are encouraged to do so as well.

In the Fox Valley, a community-wide initiative highlighting menu items that get a “thumbs up” from local health professionals was developed to help patrons identify healthier foods when eating out. The initiative is called SmartPlate and it involves the collaboration of many local partners including Affinity Health System, local health departments, re:TH!NK, Community Action for Health Living and others.

These community partners have been working with local restaurants, caterers and Fox Valley Technical College to offer and identify items at restaurants that include healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. These SmartPlate items use fresh herbs, spices and natural flavors to create delicious food without using too much salt, fat and sugar.

The SmartPlate icon clearly identifies menu items that you can eat everyday. Look for it at local restaurants like Lara’s Tortilla Flats, Mahoney’s, and Manila in Oshkosh; Fin ‘N Feather in Winneconne; Landreman’s Family Restaurant in Kaukauna, Copper Rock and Bagelicious in Appleton; Angie’s Main Café and Luigi’s Pizza in Shawano; and Granary Supper Club in Sherwood.

Thinking of catering a meal for a work party or celebration? Catering options are also included in the SmartPlate program. LaSure’s in Oshkosh and Bridgewood Resort in Neenah are two new partners that are offering SmartPlate items as part of their catering options. So if your workplace ever needs to order lunch or there is a group hosting an event, just ask for the SmartPlate menu and feel good that your co-workers, and guests, are eating foods that are SmartPlate approved.

For more information about SmartPlate visit: www.smartplatewi.com or watch this short informational video. http://www.thenorthwestern.com/videos/life/2014/12/01/19734335/

Preventing Type II Diabetes with Healthy Holiday and Everyday Eating Habits

healthyhabits

According to the Center for Disease Control, 29.1 million people are living with Type II Diabetes and 8.1 million of those are undiagnosed. There are many factors that put a person at risk, some you can control and others you cannot. These factors include:

• Physical inactivity
• Tobacco use
• Poor diet
• Overweight
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Impaired fasting glucose (commonly known as pre-diabestes)
• Age
• Race
• Gender
• Family history
• History of gestational diabetes

You can also see if you are at risk for diabetes by taking the diabetes mellitus risk test here: http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test. How can you reduce your risk? Start by aiming for at least 30 minutes per day of activity, quitting smoking, and focusing on eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar. Continue Reading »

Brown Rice Stuffing for Thanksgiving

brownrice

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, albeit an adopted holiday for me since Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Latin America, where I grew up. This holiday brings together family, friends and of course good food. My family grills turkey on a charcoal grill, serves mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a broccoli cheese dish, green beans, salad, cranberry sauce, homemade rolls and an assortment of pies (cherry, pumpkin, sweet potato, apple and sometimes pecan pie too). One of the dishes that has recently been added to our menu is stuffing; in part due to the addition of my niece’s husband to the family, who claims this is his favorite part of the meal. So in honor of our expanding family and palates, here is a recipe for a brown rice stuffing.

Ingredients
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium tart red apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups cooked brown rice (cooked in chicken or vegetable broth)

Preparation
Cook almonds in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add apple, onion, celery, poultry seasoning, thyme and pepper; continue to cook until vegetables are tender crisp. Stir in cooked rice; cook until thoroughly heated.

Use as stuffing for poultry or pork roast, or bake tightly covered in a separate baking dish at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes. Continue Reading »

Pumpkins: the fall fruit mascot

pumpkins

Every fall we see pumpkins brightening up our yards and our front porches; a sure sign that Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner. Pumpkins, a type of squash, are usually orange but come in all different shapes and sizes. While most people consider pumpkins vegetables, pumpkins are actually considered a fruit.

There are two types of squash: winter squash and summer squash. Summer squash are harvested and eaten when the skin is thin and tender. They tend to have a shorter storage span due to the thin skin and must be eaten promptly. Zucchini and yellow summer squash are just a couple of several varieties of squash you can enjoy during the summer months.

Pumpkins are included within the winter squash category along with butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash. Winter squash are known for their hard, thick skin, which is what makes carving pumpkins so challenging. The thick skin also contributes to a long shelf life, allowing these winter squash to be kept for months when stored in a dark and cool place such as a basement or in a garage. Continue Reading »

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