The sun and warmth of summer may be starting to wane, but the abundant harvest season is just ramping up! Many delicious fruits and vegetables are ripening as you read and are just waiting to be enjoyed. So get out to the last few Farmer’s Market days and take home some seasonal produce that is both nutritious and delicious!
Why “In Season”?
You may be wondering why you should even care about what produce is in season. I mean, all produce is available at the grocery store year-round, right? In season produce is at its natural peak ripeness, which has many great benefits! When a fruit or vegetable reaches ripeness, the nutrients are also at peak levels and efficacy. Local farmers near you are harvesting this produce right now, which means perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables are reaching you within a matter of days. Without long transport times, nutrients remain at their peak. Even better, you have an amazing chance to support local farmers, keep profits in your community, and benefit everyone. In season produce is also more affordable! Produce that may be otherwise out of your price range other times of the year is now cheaper because it is widely abundant. Lastly, eating seasonal produce means that your body is enjoying different nutrients throughout the year too. This ensures achieving the full spectrum of nutrients over a year. It’s similar to the phrase “eat the rainbow,” referring to different colors of fruits and vegetables containing different nutrients, but in a longer timeframe.
What’s In Season in August?
● Vegetables: corn, cucumber, eggplant, green bean, okra, pepper, squash, tomatillo, tomato, zucchini
● Fruits: blackberry, plum, fig, melon, nectarine, watermelon, peach
What’s In Season in September?
● Vegetables: chard, cauliflower, white cabbage, Savoy cabbage, cucumber, chicory, onion, bean, mushroom, lettuce, eggplant, nettle, potato, tomato, pepper, rhubarb, radish, rocket, shallot, courgette, pumpkin
● Fruits: watermelon, carnelian, fig, prickly pear, apple, melon, blueberry, blackberry, loquat, pear, plum, peach, nectarine
What’s In Season in October?
● Vegetables: beet, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, chicory, leek, okra, parsnip, pepper, pumpkin, shallot, sweet potato, turnip, watercress, winter squash,
● Fruits: apple, blackberry, grape, cranberry, date, fig, grape, pear, quince, starfruit, persimmon, pomegranate, plum, pineapple, winter cherry, banana
Here is a favorite recipe of mine that we made during a recent community cooking class at Verdant Community Center highlighting August seasonal produce:
Start by preheating the oven to 400F. To make the spice rub, mix all spices in a small bowl until well combined. Coat the pork tenderloin with the spice rub on both sides. Sear the pork in a hot pan until brown on both sides. Transfer the pork to a baking dish; deglaze the pan with white wine vinegar and pour over the pork. Bake the pork for 20-25 minutes, or until 145F in the center. While the pork is cooking, slice the peaches and set them aside. Mince the shallot and set aside. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper and stir until well mixed; set aside. Remove pork from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then slice into 4 servings. Fill 4 bowls with arugula, and top with peaches, shallots, goat cheese, pork, and dressing. Enjoy!
Nutrition per Serving: 375 calories; 20g Fat; 26g Protein; 14g Carbohydrates; 2g Fiber; 283mg Sodium
The end of a long winter welcomes a beautiful spring, and with it, the blooming of colorful plants, flowers, and pollen. While we love the idea of a lovely day in the park, lying in the grass and reading a novel, this can end in itchy eyes, sneezing, and misery. If you are someone who struggles with seasonal allergies, you may be able to help ease some of your symptoms with a few dietary changes. Let’s talk specifically about foods rich in histamine, and how they could be aggravating your allergies!
What is Histamine
Histamine is a chemical with many roles in the body, including regulating the body’s response to foreign substances or injury. Histamine is released by white blood cells when the body is presented with a foreign substance that is perceived as harmful and provokes an inflammatory response (blood vessels dilate, local tissues swell...where are the tissues?!). Unfortunately, usually unharmful substances such as dust, pollen & dander can be perceived as harmful substances by the body, causing an allergic response. Histamines are the major culprit for our allergy symptoms, but they are not our enemy! Histamine performs an abundance of beneficial acts in the body. Histamine is involved in the production and secretion of gastric acid; aids with stomach contraction; and plays a critical role in our immune system.
Too much Histamine
Just like all things nutrition, it’s a balancing act! You need enough histamine in the body to perform its necessary tasks, but too much and the balance is thrown off. Luckily, we have enzymes intended to break down histamine in the body, called diamine oxidase (DAO) enzymes. DAO enzymes help prevent a build-up of histamine in the body that causes inflammation. During allergy season, some people experience a higher level of histamine production as a response to their allergies (everyone is different!). During these times, additional histamine in your diet may be giving your DAO enzymes too much extra work, resulting in more allergy symptoms. Lowering the amount of histamine in your diet could provide some relief of mild-moderate allergy symptoms for the spring season.
Foods High in Histamine
Some foods are naturally higher in histamine, including “older” foods, as histamine levels increase with age (Think fermented, aged, or leftover foods).
Foods higher in Histamine :
Foods that are not naturally high in histamine, but can “trigger” histamine release in the body:
Quercetin & Antihistamine Properties
Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavonoid-rich in antioxidant properties, and may also help with seasonal allergies! Functions of Quercetin include inhibiting histamine production and controlling inflammation. Quercetin can be found in various foods, like apples, onions, kale, and blueberries. It is found in green and black teas as well as ginger!
Do you have a histamine intolerance?
Histamine intolerance occurs in roughly ~1% of the population and is when the body is naturally lower in DAO enzymes that break down histamine. It can appear as allergies when eating certain foods higher in histamine. A low histamine diet long-term could result in nutrient deficiencies, so it is important to speak with a healthcare professional and/or nutrition professional about a more individualized approach to lifestyle modification and potentially diamine oxidase supplementation. More research is needed on DAO enzymes and possible treatments for histamine intolerance!
Signs of histamine intolerance:
Here are a few delicious & low-histamine smoothie recipes!
5 Low Histamine Smoothies
Wishing everyone a beautiful Spring with fewer sniffles & more picnics, bike rides, and other outdoor activities!
Are you trying your best to eat healthy, but may not know exactly where to start? Have you recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure and cholesterol, but want to get off the medications? The Mediterranean Diet may be for you!
This is a plant-based diet that has been proven to create a healthy lifestyle, and decrease heart attack or stroke by 30%. This diet values culture, plant-based foods, and encourages physical activity. A great combo for success when wanting to change your diet!
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet has been recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and World Health Organization to promote heart-healthy eating since the 1960’s. This is a way of eating based on the cuisine of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It focuses on intake of whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, and fatty fish over red meats and cheeses.As a result, it has been recognized as a method to decrease blood pressure and promote heart-health.
Building Blocks of the Mediterranean Diet:
The Mediterranean Diet food pyramid follows an “All Foods Fit” approach. This means that all foods are okay to consume, but in various frequencies. As you examine the Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid, the foods that should be eaten more often are at the bottom. As you move up the pyramid, the categories become smaller and are to be eaten less frequently. Here are the key takeaways for the following this diet:
What are ‘Healthy Fats’?
One of the main components of this diet are healthy fats. You might be wondering how fat can fit into a heart-healthy diet. The main types of fat to limit include saturated fats found in steak and full-fat milk, and trans fats commonly found in potato chips or fried food. When eating too much of these, they can increase risk of heart disease and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet focuses on providing monounsaturated fats , such as avocado and nuts, to help lower these LDL cholesterol levels, and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. A higher intake of red meat can cause clogged arteries and increased lipid levels, while increased intake of seafood and fish can decrease this risk. The increased intake of fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds can help decrease overall cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the body.
Meal planning Tips & Tricks:
Here are a few delicious recipes to try:
Long-term Changes, Lifelong Benefits
Hopefully, I provided some convincing that the Mediterranean diet may be for you. In fact, this could be a change at home for your whole family to enjoy. Needless to say, it is important to remember that you are still able to enjoy your favorite foods. You can still have that slice of cake, glass of red wine, or steak on occasion. Importantly, the occasion makes it a treat and will not negatively affect your health goals.
Whether you have been considering this diet based on a doctor or friend’s recommendation, there are many reasons to adapt to this lifestyle. You will enjoy what the earth naturally provides to us, while decreasing that waistline or eliminating those blood pressure medications. There is no one size fits all approach, but there is a lifestyle opportunity to eat healthier and enjoy it.
Do as the Romans do!
Ashley Napoleon, SPU Dietetic Intern
Canned fish are shelf-stable, budget friendly and tasty options for increasing your omega-3 intake. Today we are focusing on salmon, tuna, and sardines. Sardines have the highest amount of omega-3s and the lowest mercury content of any fish. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children all require an increased attention to the mercury content in their fish.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are linked to improving heart health. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 8 ounces of seafood (less for young children) per week based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Don’t forget the importance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and nuts in a heart healthy balanced diet.
Find more information here-
Grate the potatoes using the large holes of a box grater. Try one can of smoked sardines to give the hash a traditional smoky taste. If you haven’t found the right sardine recipe, this could be it.
Salmon Lettuce Tacos: Serves 3-4
This recipe is delicious and refreshing. You can either serve on lettuce leaves or on homemade tortilla rafts, which are crunchy and satisfying.
1. In the bottom of a medium bowl, combine lime juice, oregano, chili powder, cumin and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to dissolve salt. Stir in olive oil. Add salmon, beans, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Toss to blend. Taste and add more lime, salt, or other seasonings. Cover and chill for one hour or longer for flavors to blend.
2. To serve, spoon salmon salad onto lettuce leaves or tortilla rafts. Top with avocado, cilantro, and radishes.
Tortilla Rafts: Brush or spray 3-4 corn tortillas on both sides with olive oil. Top with a pinch of coarse salt, if desired. Cut into quarters. Place on a baking sheet in a preheated 375°F oven for 8-10 minutes or until crisp.
Pasta with Tuna, Lemon and Capers: Serves 4
This recipe spins a new take on tuna casserole and is the perfect family dinner. We used a chickpea-based pasta, but you can use your favorite type or even combine the different shapes for fun.
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt if desired and cook pasta as the package directs.
2. While pasta cooks, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, chili flakes and about ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a skillet. Warm over low heat for a minute or two, until fragrant. Stir in tuna, capers, and white part of green onion. Break up tuna into small, bite-sized pieces. Remove from heat.
3. When pasta is cooked to al dente (tender but still firm to the tooth) drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. (Do not rinse pasta).
4. Place pasta in a warm bowl (or add to skillet with tuna). Toss with tuna mixture, parsley, green part of green onion and lemon juice. Add a few spoonsful of cooking water if needed to loosen the sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with more olive oil if you like.
5. Serve warm, sprinkled with pine nuts.
These recipes make eating heart healthy easy. Omega-3s await!
- Kiersti Brown,
Instant Pots and Slow Cookers are great devices to have if you want to prioritize mealtimes and healthy, fresh ingredients. There are so many different recipes that can be made. You can even make breakfast in them, who would’ve thought?
The slow cooker was invented in the 1940s to cook cholent, a stew traditionally eaten on the Sabbath by Eastern European Jews. Now, regardless of your background, you might find yourself reaching for your slow cooker when you need a simple way to cook nutritious meals and save time. As more and more women joined the workforce, the popularity of the slow cooker rose as a woman could be cooking without even being home.
Okay, but what about the instant pot? If the slow cooker is your marathon runner, then the instant pot is your 100-meter sprinter.
Does this Google Search Look Familiar to you?
Now we have all been there. It is much too easy to store your slow cooker or instant pot in a faraway cabinet and forget to use it.
If so, we’re here to help. We are going to show you some new ideas for meals-- yes, even one for breakfast.
Let’s get Creative!
Do not be afraid to switch up recipes to fit your tastes or what you already have in the pantry. For example, using vegetarian options rather than meat can be done through swapping with tofu, lentils, or beans. Or if you don’t like the taste of coconut, swap coconut milk with dairy milk.
Recipes We Love
1. Press the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot and set the timer to 10 minutes. Add the coconut oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric. Stir continuously with a rubber spatula to toast the spices until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir to coat in the spices and sauté for 2 minutes. If the pot gets too dry, add a tablespoon or so of chicken broth to prevent the onions from burning.
3. Add the tomato paste and stir; cook until the tomato paste deepens in color, 1-2 minutes.
4. Add ½ cup broth to the pot. Stir.
5. Add the diced chicken thigh and salt, continue to mix. Make sure the chicken is coated with spices by stirring.
6. Press the “Cancel” button to turn off the “Sauté” setting. Secure the lid, ensure the pressure valve is set to “Sealing” then program to High Pressure for 5 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes for the pot to come to pressure. Perform a quick release once the timer goes off, being careful of the hot steam as it escapes.
7. Combine cornstarch with one tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Pour this mixture and the coconut milk into the pot, then stir.
8. Add lime juice, cilantro, and salt if desired. Serve over rice, or with vegetables.
Makes 6 servings
Nutrition per Serving (about ¾ cup): 360 calories, 22g fat, 32g protein, 10g carbs, 3g fiber, 310mg sodium
Recipe by Danielle Esposti adapted for lower sodium and lower saturated fat.
Slow Cooker Oatmeal- https://www.cooksmarts.com/articles/slow-cooker-steel-cut-oatmeal-recipe/
Let's talk safety for a moment.
Always make sure your device is on a flat surface, not sitting on top of its cord, and far away from the edge of a counter. Some models of the Instant Pot have newer features that allow the pressure release to happen automatically. If your model doesn’t have this feature, we recommend pressing down on the valve to the side with a wooden spoon so that your hand isn’t near the hot steam. No matter the model, give it ample space to release all that air pressure. Instant Pots and Slow Cookers are fantastic devices for all mealtimes. It’s time to dust yours off and get to cooking.
You have probably noticed the long line of vibrant oranges and giant pomelos in the produce aisle, so it’s no surprise that January is a great time for citrus. With many of these fruits in their peak season, they are relatively cheap at the nearest market. In addition to being a bargain, there are many other benefits as well!
Packed With Nutrients
Citrus fruits are excellent sources of several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system. Vitamin C helps to encourage your body to produce white blood cells that help fight infection. It’s essential to keep your body in top immune shape, especially in the winter!
Citrus is Great in Many Ways!
Some Citrus Recipes:
-Pomelo Chicken Dish
Other Health Benefits
Reduced risk for kidney stones - people are at higher risk of developing kidney stones with low citrate levels in their urine, and citrus fruits increase citrate levels, thus lowering your risk.
Reduced risk of certain cancers - citrus is high in flavonoids, which may help prevent certain types of cancer like stomach, pancreatic, and breast cancers.
Rich in Fiber - that is if you’re eating the whole fruit! When it comes to citrus, the fruit itself over fruit juice is a good reminder. Fruit juice tends to be higher in sugar, and while the fruit itself naturally contains sugar, fiber is good at slowing down the body’s absorption of sugar and preventing spikes in blood sugar.
While Citrus fruits are typically a great addition to the diet, some medications have been known to be affected by certain citrus fruits. Let’s talk about some drug-nutrient interactions, specifically with grapefruit!
The Grapefruit Effect:
Grapefruit contains particular naturally occurring chemical compounds that are known to interact with specific medications. The juice in grapefruits blocks the action of a type of enzyme in the body needed to metabolize certain drugs. Depending on how the medication is metabolized in the body, grapefruit juice can decrease some drugs’ effectiveness. In other cases, it can also prevent the medicine from being metabolized, which means the drug would enter and stay in the bloodstream longer, increasing the risk for drug toxicity and side effects.
Common drugs to have interactions with grapefruit juice (not a complete list!):
-certain statins for lowering cholesterol, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), Lovastatin (Mevacor), and Simvastatin (Zocor).
-Some blood pressure medications, including Nifedipine (Procardia), Losartan (Cozaar), and Eplerenone (Inspra)
-Medications to treat abnormal heart rhythms such as Amiodarone and Dronedarone (Multaq)
-Some mood medications such as Buspirone (Buspar) and Diazepam (Valium)
-Some antihistamines such as Fexofenadine (Allegra)
Everybody’s metabolism is different! It’s essential to read the medication guide on prescriptions or the drug facts label on your over the counter medicine. When in doubt, ask your healthcare provider if you should be avoiding certain citrus fruits, or how much is safe for you to have! Drugs.com also has a Drug Interactions Checker that can be used to look at drug interactions with food/beverages and other drugs.
For more info on grapefruit’s effect on medications:
Grapefruit Juice and Some Drugs Don't Mix
Whether standing on their own or added to liven up the main course, these delicious fruits never disappoint.
Wishing you a safe & healthy day!
With a worldwide pandemic changing our day to day lives and a return to normalcy feeling far away, it has never been more important to have a strong immune system. It seems that a million new ads are promoting a superfood supplement or miracle vitamin that will boost your immune system. While sometimes supplements are recommended (remember to speak with your doctor or dietitian before beginning any supplement regimen), the best source of nutrients and immune support is found naturally in the foods you eat daily! With so much uncertainty during this time, here are a few things you can do to support your immune system.
#1 Eat the Produce Rainbow
And no, I do not mean skittles. Fruits & vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant-derived compounds) that have many health benefits, including healthy aging and immune support. Phytonutrients may also act as antiviral agents. Each color of a fruit or vegetable indicates different phytonutrients found in the plant. For example, the dark blue color seen in blackberries and eggplant is from the phytonutrient group anthocyanins. Each phytonutrient has unique health benefits, so put together a multi-colored plate!
#2 Increase your micronutrients!
While many nutrients play a role in building a health immune system, these are a few key nutrients that support your immune health; Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 & Zinc.
Vitamin C is needed for the body to form cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron and supports a healthy immune system. When the body is fighting a foreign pathogen, Vitamin C effectively protects the body’s cells from getting damaged in the process. Though daily intake of Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration of colds, there is no evidence of added benefits once cold-like symptoms have occurred.
Food sources of Vitamin C:
-Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, kiwi)
Vitamin D is known for helping your body absorb calcium and also enables you to ward off disease. Vitamin D3 is the form of Vitamin D that your body makes when exposed to sunlight. Getting adequate Vitamin D is important in the winter months when it is hard to get adequate sun exposure. When selecting a Vitamin D supplement, note that vitamin D3 increases serum blood levels more effectively than vitamin D2 supplements. Remember to speak with your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplement. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so including some fat, like olive oil or nuts, within the same meal can aid in absorption.
Food Sources of Vitamin D:
-Fatty fish like salmon
This mineral is critical for the normal development & function of cells. Without enough of this nutrient, the body’s immune cell function is impaired when creating oxidants that fight invading pathogens. Zinc helps maintain the integrity of your immune system!
Food sources of Zinc:
-Shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster)
#3 Get Adequate Sleep
When I say adequate, I’m talking about quality! A good night’s sleep improves overall health in many ways, like reducing blood pressure and the production of stress hormones. Poor quality sleep can increase stress, inflammation, and your risk of getting sick, so prioritize your much-needed zzz’s! The Mayo Clinic recommends 7-9 hours per night, and the rule of “too much is never good”, applies to sleep as well! Aiming for quality, uninterrupted sleep is key here.
Drink up! The adult body is roughly 60% water. Staying hydrated is needed for flushing out toxins, waste management, energy maintenance, and the list goes on! Water is especially necessary for transporting nutrients to our organ systems. Hydration is vital for ensuring all our systems work, especially the immune system. If you feel thirsty, you're most likely already dehydrated, so it’s important to be drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. One way to do this is by keeping a reusable water bottle on you at all times and finding a water flavor enhancer you enjoy.
It is important to remember that daily nutrient intake is necessary, and too much of anything usually will cause more problems than it solves. Optimal nutrition is an important stepping stone to achieving optimal health and a strong immune system.
Happy National Oatmeal Month! With all the excitement around oatmeal, why not spread the love to other grains as well, specifically the whole ones!
Why Whole Grain??
This is a one-worded answer, fiber! Increasing your daily intake of fiber from whole grains has numerous health benefits, including:
Now let’s talk about some specific whole grains!
What is it: Farro is an ancient wheat with a nutty flavor, known to have once fed Roman legends. This grain has been around the block once or twice. It is quickly gaining traction in the U.S. and is commonly used in Italian dishes. Be sure to buy the farro whole and soak/cook accordingly!
Tastes great in: Salads & hearty soups
What is it: Though technically a seed, quinoa has similar properties as other grains and is known by the Inca as “the mother grain.” Quinoa has a nuttier flavor & more delicate texture than other grains and has quickly become one of the most popular grains on store shelves.
Tastes great in: Hot or cold dishes! Pair with veggies of choice, legumes, and/or your favorite lean protein
What is it: A member of the grass family, barley is a nutrient-packed grain that is often overlooked. Remember to buy hulled over pearled barley as this will have the bran layer still intact, which contains the fiber!
Tastes great in: Soups, stews & risotto
What is it: Rice has become a staple in many households. Brown rice packs in more fiber and protein than white rice because it has not had the nutrient-dense bran and germ removed. Brown rice has a nutty aroma and taste. Note that other rice colors- black, red, and purple- can also be considered a whole grain.
Tastes great in: Stir-fries, rice bowls with vegetables, or a rice pilaf
What is it: Oats are a popular cereal grain sold in many forms, including oat groats (the whole oat), steel-cut oats, and rolled oats. Rich in soluble fiber, oats contain beta-glucan, which can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.
Tastes great in: Overnight oats, muesli, and don’t forget the classic oatmeal!
Since it is National Oatmeal Month, let’s spend a little extra time on this dish with seemingly endless topping opportunities:
Sweeteners- brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, melted chocolate
Nut or seed butter- peanut butter, almond butter, pumpkin seed butter, sunflower butter
Chopped nuts & seeds- cashews, pecans, walnuts, coconut flakes, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed
Fresh/frozen/cooked berries- blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries
Additional fruits to try- kiwis, mango, peach, banana, cherries
After a long day at work ends, it can often seem daunting to spend another hour or so preparing a wholesome dinner. After pondering the willpower needed to accomplish this feat, we find ourselves at the drive-thru of our favorite fast food chain or on our phone ordering delivery. Instead, we may want to consider utilizing a tried-and-true solution to this common dilemma: the slow cooker.
Who doesn’t want to come home to a hearty meal, warm and ready to eat? However, we also don’t want to come home to a potentially unsafe meal that may have us wishing we remained in line at the drive-thru. It is critical we know how to utilize food safety when operating a slow cooker.
Begin with a safe working area
Start with a clean work area, clean slow cooker and clean utensils. Make sure you properly wash your hands during food prep.
Prepare meat and produce separately
Never cut vegetables on a cutting board previously used to cut meat. If you only have one cutting board, be strategic and chop your produce first and then the meat. Or, optimally, use separate boards designated for each food product.
Keep perishable products in proper storage
After you cut up your meat and vegetables, store them separately in the refrigerator until you are ready to start cooking.
Make sure your meat or poultry is defrosted before placing it in the slow cooker to ensure the food cooks evenly and all the way through. Food should be defrosted in the refrigerator and not at room temperature.
Slow cooker contents
Make sure your slow cooker is not overly-full for proper, safe cooking. Contents should not exceed two-thirds capacity of the slow cooker.
Pay mind to size
Make sure you cut your meat into smaller pieces; larger pieces greatly increase cooking time. Cut meat pieces in similar size to the vegetables you include.
Maintain safe cooking temperatures
If possible, utilize the “high” setting on your slow cooker the first hour to reach a safe cooking temp (where any bacteria will be killed) and then lower it to the “low” setting to cook for the remainder of the cooking time. This will allow your food to avoid being in the “danger zone” (defined by temperatures between 40°F-140°F) for longer than necessary. Otherwise, utilize a food thermometer after cooking (see below). If you are leaving the slow cooker on while at work, using the “low” setting the entire time is acceptable as long as the slow-cooker is operating.
Use a food thermometer to measure completion
Each cut of meat or poultry requires a specific minimum internal temperature to ensure it is safe to eat. For example, beef and pork require a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (unless ground which should be 165°F) while poultry requires an internal temperature of 165°F. Invest in a food thermometer if you do not have one already to be certain your food is properly cooked and safe to eat.
If there is a power outage while you are not home, the food must be discarded. If you notice the slow cooker power off while at home, you can salvage the ingredients by adding it to a pot on the stove. If the food was completely cooked (measured using a food thermometer) before the power went out, the food will remain safe for up to 2 hours after the power outage occurred.
Leftovers should be stored in shallow containers and refrigerated within 2 hours of completion. This helps greatly reduce the risk of food poisoning. When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
-Magda Ogorek, SPU intern
New Year’s Eve is a time notorious for setting resolutions. Often, your excitement turns into apprehension that later becomes inaction. Revising the strategy you use can alter the results you see. The common issues that arise when setting New Year’s resolutions are that your goals may be too vague, unrealistic or a plan to achieve that goal is not established.
Utilizing SMART goals can help revamp the way we approach our New Year’s resolutions and improve outcomes. SMART is an acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
Specific- Start by creating a clear goal to keep in mind. It is often helpful to create a “mission statement.” Using the 5 “W” questions can help formulate your goal.
·Who will be involved in the goal?
·What do you want to accomplish?
·Where will this goal be accomplished?
·When will this goal be achieved?
·Why do you want to achieve this goal?
With this in mind, you can change the goal, “I am going to exercise more” to “I hope to decrease my fasting blood sugar and A1C levels for my next doctor’s appointment by purchasing a gym membership at ___ and going 3 times a week for 40 minutes”.
Measurable- Adding numbers to your goal allows you to form a quantitative measure of how successful you are being in pursuit of your end-goal. In our example above, adding that you are going to go to the gym 3 times a week for 40 minutes creates an objective measure of how frequent and how long you hope to go to the gym. The progress and success can now be easily measured.
Achievable- Accomplishing goals can be very empowering. However, if you set lofty, unattainable goals and are unsuccessful, it can cause you to lose motivation to follow through with future goals. Making smaller, more achievable goals increases self-efficacy. Once the goal is achieved, we feel more confident and a new, more challenging goal can be set in place. Allowing for small wins creates gradual progress. This also creates habits which are pivotal for long-term success.
Relevant- Creating a goal that resonates with your values makes it more likely that you will strive towards this goal. If the goal was set by someone else and doesn’t reflect your values, you will be less inclined to work towards the goal. This step addresses the “Why?” of what prompted you to pursue this goal. Once this is identified, it helps solidify the bigger picture in accomplishing the goal.
Timely- Having a goal stretch into infinity is often a recipe for failure. You want to avoid having a vague, arbitrary goal. Including a deadline or time frame will help motivate you and expedite progress.
Once you become familiar and comfortable with the SMART goals method, you can begin to apply this to many aspects and goals in our life.
One common New Year’s resolution goal you may have is “I want to eat healthier”. Now that you are more familiar with the framework of SMART goals, you can revamp this common goal to create more success.
The SMART version of this goal can be revised to, “This month I plan to prep meals including vegetables and fruit to take to work on Sundays and Wednesdays to reduce the calorically dense and high-sodium foods I would otherwise consume.” This goal is specific in that it translates “eating healthier” into incorporating more fruits and vegetables. It is measureable because it specifies the days of the week you are to do this meal prep. It is achievable because it only necessitates two days out of the week to prepare meals for the following days. It is relevant because it removes the unhealthy options for more nutritious ones. And lastly, this goal is timely because it includes when this goal is to be achieved: for the entire month.
Tips for achieving some common goals
Cooking balanced and nutritious meals at home
·Purchase produce on sale. This allows you to save money and eat a greater variety of fruits and vegetables. In addition, produce on sale is also typically in season and often contain higher nutrient content due to shorter transportation times from farm to store.
· Keep healthy foods readily available. Setting days where you prep veggies, fruits and protein sources to have on hand is a great start. After work, all you need to do is put the components on a pan or in the microwave and you have a meal ready in 5-10 minutes. This also allows for customizing meals the day of so you do not get bored of eating the same meals every day.
·Eat the rainbow. Including fruits and vegetables of different colors helps optimize your nutrient consumption as produce of the same color often contain similar nutrients, e.g green produce is high in vitamin K and folate and red/orange produce is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C.
·Plan the meals for the week ahead. This takes out guess work out of deciding on what’s for dinner each night. Indecision can lead you to resort to old habits such as ordering takeout instead. Remember, old habits take time to change!
Incorporating more physical activity
·Take short breaks in between tasks for a brisk walk. This can help energize you and research shows that regular breaks raise workers’ level of engagement and productivity.
·Try to find an “active” hobby. Ideas to consider include bike riding, dancing, joining a local recreational sports league, creating and participating in a scavenger hunt or jumping rope.
·Bring a friend, colleague or family member along with you. This can help increase adherence and hold you accountable. It also allows time to socialize and makes the time go by faster.
·Multi-task. Go for a walk while making/returning phone calls. Or listen to your favorite playlist or podcast. This can be an easy way to accomplish tasks on your to-do list or do activities you would do otherwise while getting some movement.
New Plan, New You!
Once you get familiar with the concepts of the SMART goal framework and can apply it to your goals, change this New Year is imminent. Achieving goals builds self-efficacy and better habits. This can make creating and succeeding in future goals much easier. While you may not have experienced long-term success in your New Year’s resolutions in the past, this is a new year where you can reassess your plan to achieve more favorable outcomes. If you happen to fall short of a goal you put in place it may be in your best interests to reevaluate each category. Perhaps this goal was not yet achievable. Or maybe the time frame you issued yourself was too short or long. Modifying these simple factors can easily put you back on track and set you up for success this New Year!
-Magda Ogorek, SPU intern
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!