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Chia: not just your average seed

chiaseed

When it comes to recent food trends, it is almost impossible to ignore the increased use and popularity of Salvia hispanica L.

Salvia hispani… what?

Salvia hispanica L. is popularly known as chia seeds. This mint-related plant is leaving its mark on the food industry and is ever so prevalent on the Internet. If you do a quick Google search you will find plenty of recipes using chia seeds, and you are likely see people raving about this gluten-free seed on Pinterest and other social media networks, too.

Chia seeds, which date back to the ancient Aztecs, have shot to the top of the “superfood” lists, creating a craze with consumers. Perhaps it is their versatility that is so appealing. You can use chia seeds to make beverages, desserts, crackers, breading and more.

The seed can be consumed whole or ground, and may be easily added to foods such as yogurts, smoothies, oatmeal and other cereals. A unique property of the seed is its ability to turn gelatinous or gummy when soaked, allowing it to be used as a thickening agent in recipes.

This feature comes in handy when using chia seeds as a substitute for eggs in baking. To use chia seeds instead of eggs, soak one tablespoon of ground chia seeds in three tablespoons of water for five to 10 minutes. This is usually the equivalent of one egg. In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, it was found that 25 percent of eggs or oil in a recipe could be replaced with the chia gel without affecting the functional or sensory properties of the result. By using chia seeds instead of oil or eggs, it decreases the caloric and fat content of the final product. Continue Reading »

Nutritional benefits of Navy beans

navybeans

Navy beans, you know them, those small off-white colored beans that look… well, pretty plain. Did you know they pack a nutritional punch?

Navy beans, like most beans, are high in fiber and low in fat – perfect for folks who want to eat healthier or who are watching their waistlines. These beans are high in potassium, which plays a role in blood pressure regulation. They are also high in protein, which is great news for anyone wanting to increase their intake of plant-based foods. They are a good source of iron, too.

Interesting fact: Navy beans got their name because they were a staple food in the US Navy during the 19th century. They are also referred to as the white pea bean, but Navy bean is its more popular name.

It is the bean most commonly used to make baked beans. They have a mild taste and this allows them to pair well with other foods. They can be used to make spreads or dips and take on the flavor of spices used in those recipes. Continue Reading »

Super (healthy) Bowl Party!

superbowlsnacks

Well, the Packers are not going to the Super Bowl this year. However, many folks will be watching the game anyway – which means Super Bowl parties! This is a time when friends and family get together to cheer on their favorite team. Along with all the cheering, there is a lot of eating! Super Bowl weekend is a good time to enjoy tasty and healthy snacks as you watch your favorite team move the ball down the field.

Go Mediterranean
Data suggests that the Mediterranean way of eating, which includes fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans, other legumes, fruits and vegetables can be very beneficial. For your party, arrange a platter with a variety of olives (green, Kalamata, stuffed), along with hummus and toasted whole wheat pita chips. Or try babaganoush (an eggplant based dip) with chopped vegetables such as carrots, celery and cauliflower florets. Instead of wings try offering shrimp with a dip made from Greek yogurt. This dip could also be used for chopped vegetables. Using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream cuts down on the calories and fat. Speaking of fats…

Think healthy fats
Consider putting out an assortment of nuts, served alongside dried fruit like apricots, dried pineapple, raisins and cherries. Throw in some dark chocolate dipped nuts, too.

Serve guacamole along corn chips or toasted pita chips. Try making a Mexican layer dip, which incorporates layers of black beans (or refried beans), shredded low fat cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes with green chilis, Greek plain yogurt, chopped avocado (or guacamole). Serve with whole grain tortilla chips. Speaking of avocados…

Consider mixing avocado with shredded cooked chicken and sautéed onions for a variation on the classic chicken salad. The avocado adds healthy fat to this traditional salad and allows you to cut down on the amount of mayonnaise used. Serve with whole wheat pita bread for some delicious mini sandwiches. Continue Reading »

Grocery store tours at Festival Foods

grocerystore

We all have different feelings about grocery shopping. Do you find delight in going up and down the aisles, mesmerized at the variety of foods that are available for purchase? Or do you dread it, and feel like going to the grocery store is torture? Are you an avid coupon clipper who looks at grocery shopping as the ultimate challenge?

Whatever your feelings about grocery shopping are, it’s a necessity. As we become busier with our work, our community involvement, school and our families, our time spent at the store is more valuable than ever. Grocery stores have changed to cater to busy lifestyles and have become bigger to fit a wider variety of items. How can you maximize your grocery shopping time while still making healthy food choices?

Research shows that as food variety increases so does the amount of food we eat. That is, the fewer food choices or variety we have, the less we eat. Keeping this in mind can serve as a strategy to cut down on our intake, but can be hard to do when there are so many different foods to buy! The key to healthy grocery store shopping is to not get overwhelmed by the multitude of choices.

One good strategy is to shop with a prepared list to help curb impulse buys. To avoid getting distracted from your whole-food options, keep your shopping to the perimeter of the grocery store, where the fresh produce is placed. If you need to venture into the aisles, you might have questions. How do you know what is the healthiest version of a particular food? Which is the best choice for cereal? Which nut butter is best? What about condiments and salad dressings? Is a low fat salad dressing the best choice? Is organic better? Continue Reading »

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 »

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