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Healthy holiday eating and drinking tips

Happy (healthy) holidays! Here's a roundup of great tips, recipes, and videos to help you make decisions about what to eat or what to make & bring to holiday gatherings:

Busy Morning Breakfasts

Breakfast = Break the fast. As long as you aren’t participating in ‘FourthMeal’ (I’m hoping you don’t even know what this is), breakfast should be the first opportunity of the day for a healthy meal. Breakfast can be quick, easy, and good for you. You’ve heard before it’s the most important meal of the day (studies have shown improved cognitive function and maintenance of a healthy body weight), so here are some ideas to help you get off to a great start!

If you don’t have time in the morning…

Quinoa Cereal

 Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup berries (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or strawberry)
  • 1 tablespoon hempseeds

Directions:
Place water, quinoa and spices in saucepan and stir gently. Turn heat to high until just bubbling, then cover and reduce to simmer for approximately 15 minutes. After cooking time is complete and water has been absorbed, remove lid and fluff lightly with a fork. Add honey, berries and hempseeds and stir gently to combine. May be enjoyed warm or cold. Serve over yogurt if desired.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes total
Yield: 4, 1 ¼ cup servings.

Original recipe by Tarynne L. Mingione, 2012.

Get Your Plate in Shape!

Did you know that MyPyramid is out and MyPlate is in? I love this new graphic that was adopted by the USDA last June. Dietitians have been advocating this way of eating for a long time and consumers tend to find it easier to understand. I mean, we typically eat off of plates not pyramids, right?

The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is on board with MyPlate as well. This March, in honor of National Nutrition Month, the Academy’s theme is “Get Your Plate in Shape”.

Here are a few tips for shaping up your plate:

  • First of all, the size of your plate does matter and this is one instance where bigger is not necessarily better. Think “plate” not “platter” and aim for a 9” diameter.
  • Make half of your plate colorful fruits and/or vegetables. Plan to vary your fruits and vegetables so that you get a rainbow of color over your week or month, which then provides you with a range of different phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals).
  • Sometimes it is not practical to have all 5 food groups in one meal and it certainly is not recommended to overconsume just to get in all 5 groups. Instead, aim for at least 3 food groups per meal while maintaining appropriate portion control ...

St. Patrick's Day - Can green foods reduce your cancer risk?

Dr. Dan Labriola, naturopathic doctor for the Swedish Cancer Institute, shares his insights about certain green foods that have the ability to combat cancer.

Focus on the Positive

This February for Heart Health Month, let's focus on the positive.

Too often when discussing eating for heart health we focus on the things we should be decreasing (sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar) rather than focusing on the many positive things we could be adding to our diets.

So what can you add to your food intake for heart health?

We know from national surveys that the majority of Americans are not consuming recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, diary, seafood, and heart healthy oils. This translates to a lack of important nutrients, such as Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and fiber.

Think of one healthful item from each category above that you could add into your diet over the month of February. Here is a list of one of my favorite foods from each category to give you some ideas.

Healthy Highlights of Chocolate

Flip the calendar to February and just like Pavlov’s dogs, you may immediately salivate for dark chocolate, bright red roses and heart shaped everything. You may think that Valentine’s day is a romantic holiday fueled by Victoria’s Secret, florists and chocolatiers, but there is a reason for everyone to celebrate this Heart Healthy Month. For the 40 plus percent of people flying solo this season (the ones that rolled eyes at the heart encircling the 14th on the office calendar), there are reasons why you too should read on and learn of the health highlights of this ‘guilty pleasure’.

First - learning the language of chocolate and discovering the nutrients hidden in this gift from earth can empower you to look beyond the diet taboo and instead intentionally enjoy the benefits chocolate has to offer (perhaps innocently on more than one occasion per year).

Within the fruit pods of the Theobroma cacao tree lie cacao beans, the preliminary form of chocolate harboring the health benefits which transform the reputation of this guilty pleasure into an innocent delight. Cacao refers to the tropical tree (see image below) and bean, and is not to be confused with the term cocoa.

There are approximately 20-60 cacao beans per pod, which are removed from their pods, undergo fermentation and then are dried, roasted, and crushed. The resulting nibs are separated from their shells. You can purchase cacao nibs at natural foods stores (Whole Foods, PCC, Madison Market). These nibs are then ground to extract cocoa butter while producing a brown paste known as chocolate liquor during the extraction process.

When further extraction is performed, the cocoa mass that results can be ground to produce unsweetened cocoa powder. Unsweetened chocolate, the most commonly recognized form of chocolate by consumers, is made by mixing heated chocolate liquor with cocoa butter and sometimes lecithin. Bittersweet, semisweet, or simply sweet chocolate has sugar, vanilla and lecithin added.

Now that you are more fluent in the language of chocolate, you can advance to learn of the nutrients and other components in chocolate contributing to its health benefits.

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