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
Navigating your way through a grocery store can seem like a bit of a challenge, especially a wholesale store like Costco. With so many options, knowing what food items to choose can be overwhelming. Therefore, I decided to take a trip to Costco and sort through a variety of products to help you pick the healthiest ones.
Of course, 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. Listed below are some of my top pantry picks from Costco that will hopefully resonate with you and save you some shopping time. So, let’s get to it!
Sweeteners/Items for Baking
Protein Bars, Shakes & Powders
Collards have a reputation for needing to be cooked for hours and end up smelling up the house. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They can be enjoyed raw, steamed or lightly cooked. Or, long-cooked, such as with ham hocks.
Collards are one of the oldest vegetables found in the same cruciferous vegetable family as some of the other vegetables I’ve written about in this blog: Turnip, rutabaga, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. As well as broccoli and cabbage, among others. Collards are sometimes called “tree cabbage” and “non-heading cabbage.” (1)
While collards are hearty enough to grow during the winter, they usually are available year-round. They are a versatile option for recipes, as you can find below.
What do collards taste like?
Collard leaves can range from a lighter shade of green to a deep shade. The leaves are flat with a thick rib through the center. Many folk will cut out the ribs and throw them away, but the ribs have good flavor and nutrition. See below for preparation tips.
Some say their flavor is bitter, others say they are more alkaline. Some say you must cook them for ages. Others know you do not need to. Now is the time to find some fresh, tender leaves! Avoid the brittle leaves.
As with Brussels sprouts, when cooked too long, the sulfur in collards can smell up the kitchen. That smell is a compound that fights cancer. See the section called “How nutritious are collards?” for more details.
How do you prepare collards?
To enjoy them cooked or raw, it’s common practice to cut the ribs out from the leaves first. This is because the ribs and the leaves are different textures and thicknesses. Depending on the dish, finely chop the ribs to use within the dish or save for another dish. One of my favorite ways to use the ribs is to sauté them with chopped peppers and onions. I call it “confetti greens.”
Once the ribs are removed, collard leaves are often rolled up and chopped very finely, before sautéing or slow cooking. Leaves can also be used as an alternative to a tortilla wrap. Some steam them before using to aid in rolling; others use the fresh leaves raw. I recommend using the steaming method if the leaves are a bit older.
Note: Some folks find cruciferous vegetables a little bitter. If you raise the pH of the dish by adding some vinegar or citrus juice (lemon or lime), this can help tone down the bitterness.
How nutritious are collards?
Collards are low in calories and are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They are also a good source of fiber (2). Studies show that cruciferous vegetables play a key role in the following: cancer-fighting, detoxification, anti-inflammatory, and heart health, among other benefits. Click here to read more about their “super food” capabilities.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you enjoy this delicious vegetable!
Adapted from The Cancer Lifeline Cookbook
Note: Freezes well; add other colors, such as chopped red peppers, for variety of texture, color and flavor.
Adapted from: Cancer Lifeline Cookbook. By Kimberly Mathai, MS, RD with Ginny Smith. Sasquatch Books; 2nd edition (May 11, 2004), page 154.
Click here for more recipe ideas!
~ Nancy Miller, MS, RDN
When I was thinking about which vegetable to highlight, as we are leaving the winter season, I thought of the sorely-misunderstood and poorly cooked Brussels sprouts. They are one of my family’s absolute favorite foods – I’m on the third batch in as many weeks - but most folks treat them badly and I wouldn’t like them cooked that way, either!
Brussels sprouts are in the same cruciferous vegetable family as some of the other vegetables I’ve written about: turnip, rutabaga, & kohlrabi. As well as other, more commonly-eaten vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. While a Brussels sprout bud has the many layers like cabbage does, Brussels sprouts buds grow on a stalk and cabbage is a large head that has its own root.
You will usually find Brussels sprouts year-round in the grocery store, but they are most abundant in the winter months - think of those large, fresh stalks you can find during the holidays. Those stalks are cheaper, due to less labor to harvest, and they stay fresher longer. Brussels sprouts, in their present form, were cultivated in Belgium, which is where their name originated from. Brussels is the capital of Belgium, so remember the capital “B” and the “s” in the name when you talk about these delicious vegetables!
What do Brussels sprouts taste like?
How do you cook Brussels sprouts?
Most folks boil them, sliced in half or whole. Because the buds are round (or half-rounds), some sections are over-cooked and other parts are raw. Consider trying a different cooking method next time you prepare Brussels sprouts!
If you do boil or steam your Brussels sprouts, it is vital that you cook them until just bright green. They will continue to cook from residual heat. It’s also important that you slice them the same size so they will cook at the same rate.
You can also roast them to bring out their sweet, nutty flavor. Coat them with oil, salt, and pepper first. Click here for more detailed preparation options.
How nutritious are Brussels sprouts?
Brussels sprouts are low in calories and are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. They are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin A, folate, manganese and vitamin B6 (1). Studies show that cruciferous vegetables play a key role in cancer-fighting (eaten raw; 2), among other health claims. Click here to read more about their “super food” capabilities.
Below is my family’s favorite recipe. For many years, we ate the Brussels sprouts thinly sliced, by hand or by food processor. Recently, I accidentally chose the wrong slicing disc for the food processor and ended up shredding them like cheese! We are totally in love with this new texture and how quickly they cook. Note: Amounts don’t need to be exact, so use these amounts as a loose guideline. I hope you will give Brussels sprouts another chance.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Cranberries
*Trader Joe’s has an affordable bacon option of “ends and pieces.” Use as much or as little or none of this as you’d like.
This is an original recipe. Click here for a similar recipe, with different cooking methods and slightly different ingredients.
Click here for another delicious-looking recipe. I’m anxious to try it! Leave a comment below if you try it to let me know what you think!
~Nancy Miller, MS, RDN
Umami is the 5th taste. Unlike the other four tastes, it has a certain je ne sais quoi. The taste of umami is hard to describe, but some might call it “savory”. The term “umami” was coined by the Japanese Scientist, Kikunae Ikeda, in 1908. He examined the same seaweed broth his wife made for him in his lab and isolated the chemical compounds that made the broth taste so good. That chemical compound was monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG.
MSG is the purest form of umami, just like how sugar is the purest form of sweet. MSG is also a flavor enhancer like salt and sugar. It can make bland foods outrageously flavorful. In fact, there are specific taste receptors on the tongue specifically for glutamate, whether it be naturally occuring in food or isolated like in MSG. Humans are biologically geared to like the taste of glutamate because it means that there is edible protein in the food we are eating.
Aside from seaweed, MSG or umami is found naturally occurring in a wide variety of other foods. Here are some, just to name a few: Cheese, aged ham, ripe tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, onions, soy sauce, fermented foods, shellfish, meat, egg yolks, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes.
It is a common and untrue myth that MSG is unsafe due to claims of it causing headaches and tingling. It is actually one of the most studied food additives due to the controversy that surrounds it. Research has found that it is safe for all lifecycle stages and has been approved by the FDA as a safe food additive. In fact, Americans and Europeans consume about 0.3-1.0g of MSG per day.
MSG can be part of a heart healthy diet since it contains about ⅔ less sodium than table salt. MSG should not replace salt entirely, but rather, be used as a partial-replacement to maximize flavor and reduce overall sodium. Too much MSG may actually overstimulate the taste buds, just like how adding too much salt in a recipe is unpalatable. It is recommended to use a 1:2 ratio of MSG to salt. That might look like ¼ tsp MSG plus ½ tsp salt to flavor a small pot of soup that called for 3/4-1 tsp salt.
Asian cuisines are famous for their use of MSG/umami and MSG-containing condiments. Soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and sesame oil are only a few of the many examples available on the market today. Below are some recipes that make use of MSG or MSG-containing condiments to bring out the vivid flavors of fresh ingredients.
~Genesis, MS Nutrition, Dietetic Intern
Tinola (Filipino Ginger Chicken Soup with Green Papaya
Serves 8 Serving size: 10 oz (about 1 ½ cups)
Nutrition Facts per Serving: 167 calories, 7g carbs, 1g fiber, 3g fat, 27g protein, 295 mg sodium, 477 mg potassium
Recipe adapted from the website “KawalingPinoy”. 3/21/2013.
Fresh Spring Rolls
Ingredients for the Spring Rolls:
2 ounces rice vermicelli
Ingredients for the Sauce:
Serves 10 Servings size: 1 spring roll and ~1.5 Tbsp of sauce
Nutrition Facts per Serving: 155 calories, 21 carbs, 1.7g fiber, 6g fat, 4.5g protein, 130 mg sodium, 493 mg potassium
Recipe adapted from the website “Not Enough Cinnamon”. 3/17/2013.
Cucumber and Seaweed Salad
Serves 4 Servings size: ~2oz (¼ cup)
Nutrition Facts per Serving: 28 calories, 3g carbs, 0.75g fiber, 1g fat, 1.5g protein, 110 mg sodium, 104 mg potassium
As you peak through your squinted eyes in an attempt to press snooze, you discover you’ve got 15 minutes to shower, dress, and defrost your car. Somehow you are suppose to fit breakfast into that routine… but how? Then, a wave of relief rolls over you as you recall the over night oats sitting in your fridge. Today, breakfast is not worth stressing.
What are overnight oats? They are exactly as they sound- oatmeal created overnight. Simply pour dry whole rolled oats into a jar, add a liquid, protein, perhaps fruit or something crunchy, shake it, and let it sit in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. The liquid will penetrate the oat bran and soak through the grain creating a lightly sweet and soft texture. No need for the stove top!
Overnight oats are not only easy, but also filling, affordable, and versatile. If cold oats are not your jam, just pop them in the microwave for a minute! This balanced breakfast will make your morning routine a breeze.
Let’s break it down by ingredient.
Your milk of choice should completely cover the oats. I repeat, make sure they are submerged! Dry oats will absorb almost all the liquid. There should also be enough liquid to coat all ingredients once mixed. If not, just add a splash more. Less milk makes for a thicker consistency. This may make it too tough though if you plan to eat them hot. If that happens, just add a bit more milk and take note for next time. If allergies aren’t a concern, choose organic soy or cow milk as they contain complete protein compared to alternatives. For a lower calorie option use water or try unsweetened chai tea for some extra spice!
This is an important part of the meal to create a balanced breakfast! Researched shows that starting the day off with protein improves satiety and blood sugar. Nut butters mix well with oatmeal, add tons of flavor and are easy to find. If protein powder is your choice, I recommend cutting back on the oats by 25% and increasing the liquid. The powder, if not dissolved well, may make your oats gritty and even too sweet. Another protein option is yogurt. Using plain is best to decrease added sugar content, however if that is too tart for your taste buds try a flavored Greek style or strained yogurt. Flavored yogurt can serve as a two-for-one, meaning you won't need to add fruit or honey.
If you want a crunch, add a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds). They can be mixed in or placed on top. Seeds increase both fiber and healthy fats leaving you full longer. Chia seeds can be placed in raw since they will absorb the milk and swell up. Flax seeds work well when ground - since the whole seeds pass right through you.
I almost never make ONO without a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, a splash of extract, and a dash of salt. Any additional spice will elevate your oatmeal game though. From allspice, cocoa powder, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla extract, or cardamom - endless flavor combinations are possible! If you choose all unsweetened items, add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a sweet touch.
Check out the handout for a quick “How -To” Infographic as well as the recipes below for ideas.
Created by Taelin Lanier, RD
The other week, I was chatting with someone who has been reading these blog posts. When I asked this person, “What vegetable do you next want to read about?” the request was fennel. I think fennel is one of the most overlooked vegetables in the produce aisle. And I think you are missing out by avoiding it.
Fennel is in the parsley/carrot family, so you will see many recipes, including the one below, pairing carrots and fennel. Other vegetables in this family include parsnips, and spices such as anise, celery seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, dill, cumin and parsley.
It is most abundant in the winter months, but you will generally find it year-round in the grocery store. The price may vary more than its availability.
It’s texture is similar to celery – think of that fresh, crisp crunch. When cut into, fennel is in segments, like a whole celery “bunch” is. It’s easiest to cut it when you halve it first from top to bottom, so you have a flat edge to lay down on the cutting board. Some folks will use the entire vegetable; others will only use the white part, with maybe a sprinkling of chopped fronds for decoration.
How do you eat fennel?
Fennel can be prepared in some of the similar ways as carrots and celery and provide “texture” to a dish, like carrots and celery do. Raw, you can add thinly sliced fennel to salads and slaws. The licorice flavor is milder if you roast, braise, sauté or grill it. You can use fennel in soups or stews; as part of a stir-fry; roasted alone or with other mixed vegetables; or chopped and sautéed with some potatoes for a morning breakfast hash with eggs.
How healthy is fennel?
One cup of raw, sliced fennel has only 27 calories and it is a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber and potassium. Fennel contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals that can provide a number of health benefits, such as bone health, blood pressure, heart health, digestive regularity, and more.
I hope you enjoy the colorful recipe below, as well as try out some of the recipes in the links provided. Comment below with some of your favorite dishes.
~ Nancy Miller, MS, RDN
Options: If you don’t eat all of this within a day or two, cook it at 350°F in the oven for 30 minutes You will then have a whole different version of this dish to enjoy for another few meals.
Adapted from: https://steamykitchen.com/20939-french-carrot-fennel-salad-recipe.html
Check out these links for additional fennel recipes:
Having been in India for over a week now, I can assuredly say that I have developed a habit for afternoon chai. There is something respectable about this common daily ritual that is enjoyed by all demographics....a sophistication in simplicity.
From a practical sense, it helps to bridge the hunger gap between lunch and the late dinners that are typical here. Cookies or sweet crackers may be an accompaniment. It is also a social time to share a cup and a chat.
Fresh spice aromas and the warm, slightly caffeinated pick-me-up are especially comforting on days like today, which we spent tromping around in the heavy snowfall in Shimla.
Chai literally translates as "tea", so saying "chai tea" (like we do in the States) is redundant. The recipes for chai vary by region, by household and by cook. Here is Lalu's version that he kindly prepares for us every afternoon:
Since chai is boiled, it is a safe way to hydrate for Americans with sensitive GI tracts. We have enjoyed chai in rural villages, at the Golden Temple, at road-side dhabas and in the coziness of our Shimla home. It has been an enjoyable experience every single cup. Namaste.
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!