One of my favorite times of year in the Pacific Northwest is upon us. That's right...It's Blackberry Season! These non-native invasive species of berries can be found in ditches, along bike trails, lining river beds and creeping over the fence of my backyard like the ones in this picture.
I know they are considered a nuisance and are a PNW problem, but I love them nonetheless. I always let a few tendrils grow over the backyard fence to let me know when it is time to go harvest these delicious gems. They are typically only around for a few weeks and the berries ripen at various rates, so it is best to visit your local berry patch multiple times over the harvest season.
Nutritionally, blackberries are antioxidant powerhouses, including Vitamin C and specific polyphenols with health benefits. They contain a lot of fiber to boot. Get them while they last!
Blackberries are delicious straight from the vine or can be cooked, such as in the crisp recipe below. They also freeze well and are a lovely treat in the Winter months. To freeze, simply wash and dry the blackberries well, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once individually frozen, transfer to a large container or plastic freezer bag for enjoyment throughout the year. Try a handful in your morning oatmeal or Greek yogurt. Enjoy!
PNW Blackberry Crisp
· Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of square 8 x 8 inch pan.
· Pour in blackberries and sprinkle with chia seeds, zest and lemon juice.
· Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over the blackberries.
· Bake for about 30 minutes or until the topping is golden.
What do beets taste like?
Some people think beets taste like dirt. Others find them sweet and delicious. My motto about vegetables that people say they do not like is, “It’s not the vegetable, it’s the preparation.” So, if you do not like the taste of beets, try cooking them a different way.
How do you prepare beets?
When the leaves are eaten raw, enjoy them as you would any other green vegetable, chopped into salads or used as a wrap instead of bread/tortilla. You can cook the greens as you would any other greens – steamed or stir-fried.
The stems can be separated from the leaves and beets, finely chopped and added to raw or cooked dishes for added color and nutrients.
You can find more details about cooking beets at this link: https://eatrealamerica.com/2016/05/june-superfood-month/
How nutritious are beets?
Beets are low in calories and a good source of fiber. They are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They are an excellent source of folate and manganese.
The root of a beet is a rich source of a compound that lowers a substance that can be found in the blood which is highly toxic to blood vessels. This substance (Homocysteine) can cause the development of heart disease, among other diseases. The root also helps improve blood pressure, alertness, liver detoxification, and stamina.
You can find a compelling discussion on some specific nutritional benefits of beets here: https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/beets.html and here: https://www.health.com/nutrition/beets-health-benefits
When are beets in season?
You should be able to find beets at the farmer’s market now until around October, particularly if you want to enjoy the fresh leaves. You can usually find them year-round in the produce aisle of your grocery store. As previously stated, the beet roots themselves keep fresh in the refrigerator for a few weeks after purchasing them.
Try the recipe below for a fresh take on beets.
~ Nancy Miller, MS, RDN
Roasted Beets with Mint
To Roast the Beets:
To Prepare the Beet Dish:
Although we're nearing the end of July, the bounty of summer produce is still in full swing! Check out the ratatouille recipe below to utilize those juicy garden tomatoes, plentiful zucchini, and fresh herbs. Mix up your staple grains with fluffy whole grain couscous and try making your own nutritious salad dressing!
Ratatouille is a French dish featuring vividly colored vegetables layered over a richly flavored tomato sauce baked in a casserole dish or cast iron skillet. It can also be made as a stew. This dish is best made in the summertime when all of the ingredients are in season and their flavor and nutrient profiles are at their peak. Farmers markets will often carry heirloom varieties of vegetables in different colors, adding more visual appeal to the dish. For those with little ones, try including them in the vegetable layering steps. This is a great way to increase their curiosity of the rainbow colors of fresh ingredients and entice them to try a delicious vegetable packed dish they helped create!
Makes 12 side servings
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes
For the sauce
Nutrition Facts per Serving (1/12th of recipe): 78 calories, 15g carbs, 4.5g fiber, 2g fat, 3.3g protein, 276mg sodium, 655mg potassium
Tangy Honey Mustard Dressing
Store bought salad dressings are convenient, but they often have a lot of added sodium and sugars to make them taste good. Making dressings yourself can help to reduce sodium intake if salads are a part of your daily routine. The best part about making your own is that it's very easy and you can customize your dressing to your desired taste and texture! Simple ingredients like olive oil, vinegar, and herbs can turn into a vibrant dressing with a little know-how. This honey mustard recipe features the use of probiotic filled yogurt as a way to add creaminess to the dressing without adding the extra calories from mayonnaise. It also uses fresh lemon juice for extra tanginess and stone ground/dijon mustard for a nice kick.
Makes 12 servings
Recipe adapted from Cookie + Kate
Nutrition Facts per Serving (2 Tablespoons): 68 calories, 6g carbs, 0g fiber, 5g fat, 1g protein, 107mg sodium, 40mg potassium
Perfect Whole Wheat Couscous
Couscous is often thought of as a grain, but it is actually a pasta. It is a wonderful starch to have on hand, especially if time is running short. All you need is boiling water and 10 minutes. That’s all it takes to put this wonderfully fluffy pasta on the table. It goes great with rich stews and saucy main dishes because it soaks up flavor so well. Be sure to get whole wheat couscous to increase the fiber content of your meal.
Nutrition Facts per Serving (1/2 cup): 88 calories, 18g carbs, 1g fiber, 0g fat, 3g protein, 72mg sodium, 6mg potassium
~Genesis, MS Nutrition, Dietetic Intern
With the 4th of July, come and gone, we’re now well into the Summer grilling season. It’s the time of year when the smell of briquettes waft from picnics, parks, and backyard barbecues. Kebobs, burgers, briskets, and veggies are hot off the grill - it’s the taste of Summer.
So, in the spirit of the season, here are some healthy grilling tips to keep you safe this Summer.
Examine Your Grilling Gear
First of all, before you start cooking, examine your barbecue and grilling utensils. Are you using barbecue safe utensils? Does anything need to be replaced?
Rather than using your everyday kitchen utensils, it’s a good idea to have some specialized grilling utensils, like a spatula and tongs. Grilling utensils usually have extra length, to give your hands distance from the flame, and they’re typically made of heat resistant stainless steel. Other materials like silicone, wood, or plastic are more likely to melt or breakdown when used on a barbecue.
You’ll also want to have a cleaning utensil that’s in good condition. You’ll use this to scrub and clean your grill after each use, so they also tend to accumulate a lot of wear. If you use a wire brush, make sure to regularly examine the condition and pay careful attention for loose bristles. These bristles can become dislodged, and pose serious health risks if ingested with your food. Alternatives include a ball of aluminum foil, a wood grill scrapper, and a grill cleaning brick, or remove the grates when cool and clean them with good-old-fashioned elbow grease in soap and water.
Lastly, check out your grill. If you’re using gas, examine your barbecue for cracked or leaking hoses, which can pose a fire hazard. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the manufacturer.
Avoiding Food Contamination
Food poisoning is one of the primary grilling concerns. Every Summer, food poisoning peaks as the warmer temperatures allow unseen bacteria to flourish.
Preventing cross contamination begins when you’re shopping. It’s best to buy meat items last, so you minimize their time in the “danger zone” and exposure to other foods. Also, make sure to separate raw meats in your cart, and grocery bags.
When it comes time to prep your food for the grill, carefully separate raw meat from other foods. If your prepping multiple items, use separate utensils, and never use the same cutting board for preparing meat, vegetables, or fruit. Always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling meat. To ensure your hands are thoroughly washed, sing the happy birthday song twice in your head.
After you’ve transported your food to put it on the grill, immediately set that dish aside for cleaning. If it’s touched raw meat, it should not be used again. Any utensils should also be cleaned if they’re used to flip or handle the meat as it cooks.
What Temperature Should I Cook Meat To?
It’s important to cook meat to the correct temperature. To do so, use a properly calibrated food thermometer. You can learn how to calibrate a common food thermometer here.
Once your thermometer is calibrated and you think your meat is done, insert the probe end of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Avoid having the probe run along any section of bone, because it can cause an inaccurate reading. Then wait until the meat thermometer begins rising in temperature. Make sure the thermometer reads at the correct temperature as follows:
Keeping Carcinogens Low
Another risk with grilling is the consumption of carcinogens, which are substances that can contribute to the development of cancer. When you grill food on your barbecue, there are primarily two substances that could be carcinogenic.
The first substance is created when fat drips from the meat and then ignites on the flame below. When this happens, hydrocarbons are carried in the smoke which can then transfer to any foods that are being grilled. Any burning food can produce these hydrocarbons, but fatty meat tends to be the worst offender due to the high flammability of the fat.
When meat begins to char, it can also be problematic. When meat is cooked at a high temperature on the grill, or in a pan, the amino acids and creatine within the meat can react together to create heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which is the potentially carcinogenic char that you see.
One way to limit your risk is by choosing the right meat. Lean cuts of meat will drip less fat, causing less smoke and carcinogens to form. Thinner cuts of meat, or seafood will also limit your risk, because they tend to cook faster, limiting their exposure to smoke. Red meat and processed meat should also be limited, since the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued warnings regarding both.
Another option to reduce carcinogens is to marinate meat for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. Research shows that by doing so, you can reduce the formation of HCAs. Not only does it reduce the risk for carcinogens, it will enhance the flavor!
Lastly, remember your fruits, and vegetables. In particular, foods high in Vitamin C, are also an antioxidant and can help reduce the effects of HCAs. Peppers and pineapple are both high in Vitamin C and are delicious on the grill. On skewers, you can alternate these with your choice of meat, and other veggies for delicious grilling option. Orange and citrus fruits can also be added to marinades as an additionally tasty and healthing grilling option.
By following these healthy grilling tips, it’s possible to have a delicious barbecue, as well as a healthy one. For more healthy grilling tips, check out the following articles:
The Rules of Separation at the Grill10 Ways to Lower the Cancer Risk of Grilling
Charcoal or Gas? Depends on What You’re Grilling
~ Jon, Dietetic Intern
Summer is upon us, and the days are long in the Puget Sound area. That means it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a day hike. Whether you want to explore the beaches, valleys, or forests, the Puget Sound has plenty of beauty to offer.
But before you hit the trailhead, it’s important to plan ahead. Here are some tips to ensure your day hike is a safe, happy success.
Plan Out Your Hike
Dress Appropriately for the Weather
As the weather warms up, it’s often tempting to dawn a t-shirt, and shorts and jet off to the trailhead. But you should always bring some layers of clothes, no matter how warm it is at your home. The temperature can drop by several degrees as you increase altitude, and the conditions can quickly change. If you’re dressed for sun, and the rain moves in, you need to be prepared. Here are few important layers to remember:
Bring Enough Food and Water
It’s important to be well hydrated when you’re hiking, especially if you are hiking in warm weather. To make sure you’re well hydrated before hiking, drink about 4 cups of water. Then, plan to drink about 2 cups of water every hour that you’re hiking. If it’s hot, you’ll want to drink closer to 4 cups per hour. For most hikes under 10 miles, a standard 32 fluid ounce water bottle will be enough.
Start Out Slowly
As the season thaws, your motivation may soar as the mountains call. But, remember to start slowly. If you haven’t been out for a hike recently, or ever, start with a few easy to moderate day hikes to allow your body to adjust. After the first few hikes, you might be surprised by how tired or sore your legs are. But your body will adjust as you hike more, allowing you to take on more challenging hikes as you become more comfortable on the trail.
If you’re new to hiking, try setting a goal of hiking for 20-30 minutes. Then as you become more comfortable you can try progressively adding 10-15 minutes.
Also, remember to hike at your own pace. On the trail, you might encounter people going faster or slower than you. Don’t worry about them. If you push yourself too hard you might hurt yourself or experience less enjoyment. Hike your own hike, at your own pace, and remember to admire the scenery.
Leave No Trace
The outdoor community has a principle called “leave no trace”, which is focused on preserving natural areas and maintaining their beauty for every person who walks on the trail after you. If someone walks on the trail 5 minutes after you, or 5 years after you, they shouldn’t be able to recognize a trace that you’ve been there.
This doesn’t mean you need to hide your footprints. Instead, just be conscious of how your actions impact the area you are hiking. If you have garbage from snacks with you, pack it out. Stay on designated trails and stay out of preserved areas.
Many of the public spaces we have for hiking are sensitive habitats. They also get a lot of guests. So, by practicing the leave no trace principle, you can help preserve these habitats for future guests to enjoy just like you.
Recommended Hiking Areas for Beginners
The Puget Sound has a variety of hiking trails and parks, that range from easy to extreme difficulty. If you are new to hiking, or just looking for some beautiful nearby areas to hike, here are some excellent options.Go Outside Map.
~ Jon, Dietetic Intern & Hiking Enthusiast
BS in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology; MS Candidate for Fall 2019
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist
What does bok choy taste like?
How do you prepare bok choy?
How nutritious is bok choy?
Bok choy is a nutrient-packed vegetable that has a glycemic load of only 1 (how much carbohydrate is in the food) and only 20 calories in one cup (sliced and cooked). It is low in sodium and is a moderate source of dietary fiber. It is a good source of iron, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium, and manganese. It is an excellent source of vitamins C, K and A (3). Bok choy is also rich in antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds, which are known to play a role in cancer prevention, among other benefits (1).
When eaten raw or lightly-cooked, it is higher in vitamin C and vitamin K than when eaten cooked.
The recipe below is a simple vegetable dish that is colorful and fresh for the summer.
Colorful Bok Choy Vegetable Mix
Inspired by a vegetable mix found in the produce section at Whole Foods
~ Nancy Miller, MS, RDN
2. https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/enjoy-bok-choy (you can find many recipe options here, too!)
Every day our eyes undergo the stress of environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and blue light which can significantly damage our vision over time. In the United States, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The rate of developing these impairments nearly triples in adults after age 65. As the aging population continues to grow, it is crucial to identify effective strategies that can protect and maintain eyesight. Research shows that a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, regular physical activity, and smoking cessation can reduce the development of chronic eye disorders. There are six key nutrients that work together to protect the eye from chronic oxidative damage: Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Catechins. Focus on these nutrients in your diet to help keep your vision sharp.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research suggests that adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of developing AMD. Additionally, supplementation of Omega-3’s may help relieve symptoms of dry eye. Consuming one serving of fatty fish per week can be protective against AMD, but omega-3’s can also be found in plant sources including flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and certain brands of fortified foods.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Catechins are antioxidants found in green and black tea, red wine, and dark chocolate. Daily intake of these antioxidants can reduce the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.
Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of cataracts, glaucoma, and AMD, while diet patterns high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and red meat have been shown to increase the risk of these conditions. Lutein, zeaxanthin, catechins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and omega-3’s have a synergistic effect, meaning eating these nutrients together will have a more a powerful impact than eating one nutrient alone. To get the most of these nutrients, pair them together in a meal. The recipe below pairs salmon (rich in Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids), with parsley (good source of lutein and zeaxanthin), and lemon juice (good source of Vitamin C) to provide a flavorful and antioxidant- rich meal. Enjoy!
~ Mikeisha, Dietetic Intern
Honey Mustard Citrus Salmon
Serves 6-8: Adapted from GimmeSomeOven.com Prep Time: 7 minutes Cook Time: 18 minutes
Nutrition per 6 oz serving: 248 calories, 32 grams protein, 7 g fat, 2.5 g Omega 3’s
In a previous blog post, I shared a list of top pantry picks from Costco, so please feel free to check that out if you haven’t already. Now that we have your pantry covered, let’s discuss some top picks for your fridge.
In order to pick the best products, I focused on food quality and considered the following:
As mentioned in the previous post, the products you choose for yourself and your family will depend on many things, including health goals, food preferences, need for convenience, allergies, intolerances and more. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
Meat, Fish, Eggs & Tofu
Sauces, Dips & Condiments
Hopefully this list made stocking your fridge with quality products from Costco a little easier. Stay tuned for a final post regarding my top Costco picks for your freezer…
~Colleen Drosdeck, RDN, CD
Back to the Basics
Did you know that the average adult consists of about 50-60% water? Water is an essential nutrient for all living things (that includes us!) and has many functions in the body. It acts as a lubricant for your joints and eyes and is the main component of saliva. Water also helps get rid of waste and helps regulate body temperature.
Hydration is the process of replacing water in the body. There are many ways to accomplish this, but here are just a few ideas:
When your body doesn’t have enough water to function optimally, it becomes dehydrated.
Your body loses water all the time. When you go to the bathroom, from sweat, and also evaporation from your skin. If you don’t consume enough fluids, you will become dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration include:
Can dehydration be measured? One way that you can keep an eye on your hydration levels is by measuring the amount of water lost during exercise. Weighing yourself before and after exercise can be a useful tool in estimating your hydration status.
Water is necessary for the transportation of oxygen and nutrients that your body needs for daily activities. This entire system can be thrown off when you lose water. When you are dehydrated, your body also has a lower overall blood volume, making your heart work that much harder to pump blood to your organs.
*Tip: Throughout the day when you use the bathroom, look at the color of your urine. This can give you a good idea of your hydration status. Lemonade color = optimal hydration! View a handy hydration chart here.
Water can be found in many sources. Water and other liquid drinks make up the majority at 80% of water consumed. Not all drinks are hydrating, however. Alcohol is one beverage that can actually dehydrate you. It’s a good rule of thumb to drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink consumed. Food makes up the other 20% of water consumed, which includes fruit, vegetables, and yogurt. Soups are also hydrating, which contain sodium to aid in electrolyte replacement. If you are watching your sodium intake, make sure to read the labels on prepared soups, which can be quite high in sodium.
Electrolytes and Fluid Balance
Electrolytes can be found in sports drinks, but can also be found naturally in food. Foods high in sodium include salted nuts or trail mix, pretzels, crackers, and table salt. Processed foods tend to contain very high levels of sodium. Try sticking to whole foods to find a good balance between electrolyte and fluid intake. Foods high in potassium include bananas, potatoes, dark leafy greens, and citrus fruits. Foods high in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, peanut butter, spinach, and beans.
There is no one-size fits all recommendation for daily fluid intake. Your fluid needs vary depending on your body composition, activity level, and the amount of water lost through sweating and breathing. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) generally recommends men aged 19 and older consume 3.7 liters per day (about 15 cups) and women aged 19 older consume 2.7 liters per day (about 11 cups) from all fluid sources (water, other liquids, and foods).
~Daniel, Dietetic Intern
Do you like eggplant? Have you ever eaten eggplant? I know that many vegetables we think we do not like we’ve either never eaten or they have been poorly prepared. I encourage you to give eggplant another try, using one of the recipes below.
Eggplant, also known as aubergine, melongene, guinea squash or “garden eggs,” are from the same family as peppers, tomatoes and potatoes, known as the nightshade family. Like tomatoes, eggplants are actually a fruit because they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds.
Eggplants grow in hot weather, so should be available in the Pacific Northwest starting in July. I wanted to introduce you to them this month, so you can begin anticipating their arrival and look for them to appear in the farmer’s markets.
You are likely familiar with the deep purple “globe” eggplants at the grocery store. At the Asian markets and at farmer’s markets, you can find all kinds of shapes, colors, and sizes. They can be round, very thin and long, plump at one end, etc. And their colors range from white to stripy purple or from deep purple to green.
The shinier eggplants are, the fresher they are. The fresher and younger they are, the sweeter they are. Be sure to choose ones that are heavy, which means they haven’t started to dry out inside.
What does an eggplant taste like?
How do you prepare eggplant?
Eggplant is bitter when eaten raw. It should be cooked to fully enjoy the mild flavor. It can be substituted for meat in vegetarian dishes because of its texture and flavor.
Eggplant can be baked, roasted, grilled, or mixed in a soup/stew.
If you are going to peel the eggplant, it’s easier to cut them first into rounds and then peel the rounds. The eggplant can then be cubed, sliced or left in rounds.
How nutritious is eggplant?
Eggplant is low in calories (about 30 calories to one cup cooked) and is also a good source of various vitamins and fiber (2). Studies show that it may contribute to brain and cardiovascular health, among other benefits. If you want to read more about the “super food” capabilities of eggplant, check out the following two articles:
Leave a comment below and let me know how you enjoy this versatile vegetable!
My family’s favorite eggplant dish, to use up all of those summer tomatoes, is this tomato eggplant chutney recipe. It freezes very well, so we can enjoy it during the cold winter months.
The recipe below is a simple, one-pot dish that serves a crowd. You can include eggplant or mushrooms for a hearty meal. Enjoy!
Eggplant and White Bean Stew
8-10 servings (about 10 cups)
The amounts in this dish are very flexible, as is what you add to the pot. Just add a few ingredients at a time and taste. Adjust amounts and seasonings, as needed. Serve with rice or bread.
Very loosely adapted from Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type
~ Nancy Miller, MS, RDN
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!