May 10, 2013
May is National Salad Month! What a month to celebrate! Think of all the different types of salads: the classic with leafy lettuce, bound salads like chicken salad, main dish salads, and even those with fruit. To keep with the spring theme I have going (check out Spring into Green (Asparagus)!) and to celebrate National Salad Month, lettuce is the perfect pick.
Just like asparagus, lettuce is a vegetable full of healthful nutrients. Amounts do vary with the type of lettuce, but the darker the leaf, the more nutrients the leaf has. That said, lettuces are a good source of vitamins A and K and folate. And bonus: they are low in calories, usually 10 calories per cup or less, and contain no fat (until you add it). Yes, lettuce is nutrient-dense vegetable!
Since you probably have no trouble eating lettuce in some form, the fun of eating lettuce will come from the variety. Lettuces come in different colors (look for red leaf lettuce) and different textures (romaine and Boston Bib have more crunch than leaf lettuce).
Whether you munch on lettuce like a rabbit or stick to a few leaves on your sandwich, consider the following to get the most out of your lettuce at home:
1) store unwashed in plastic – such as the plastic bag you likely bought the lettuce in,
2) store in the coolest part of your refrigerator towards the back, and
3) use within 1 week.
*Note* Keep lettuce away from apples and pears in your refrigerator. Ethylene gas in those fruits will speed up the decay of the lettuce.
*Note* Be careful of cross-contamination with lettuce and raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Since you rarely cook lettuce, make sure you use different cutting boards for lettuce and raw meat so you do not make yourself sick.
I am a fan of lettuce because of its quick preparation time and how many ways it can be used. I like using lettuces in main dish salads, like in the Asian Chicken Salad recipe below.
Asian Chicken Salad (serves 4)
In this recipe, the romaine lettuce is used as the salad base, along with green cabbage. Although the chicken is cooked, be sure to keep the other uncooked ingredients separate to prevent cross-contamination. Serve it family-style along with crusty bread for a full meal. And add a fruit salad on the side to really celebrate National Salad Month! Try this recipe and tell me what you think!Salad
WEB HIGHLIGHT: Check out more information on lettuces through the University of Illinois Extension. Besides information on nutrition and preparation, learn to grow your own!
WORD HIGHLIGHT: Cross-contamination: The spread of bacteria and other disease-causing organisms from 1) raw and uncooked foods (often meat, poultry, fish, and eggs) and/or 2) unclean objects (used dish clothes, used cutting boards) to cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
April 10, 2013
Welcome to spring! This time of year is great as the sun feels warmer, and the trees and grass start to turn green once again. It is also the time of year when we start to see another bit of green. Who guessed asparagus!? Yes, asparagus! It is one of those classically spring vegetables in Illinois, right up there with onions and green peas. (Incidentally, asparagus can also be white, pink, and purple in color.)
From a nutrition perspective, do I really need to convince you that vegetables – asparagus included – are full of healthful nutrients!? Well, asparagus is a source of vitamins A and C, a source of folate and potassium, and a source of fiber. Even better, asparagus is low in calories, fat, and sodium, all of which are nutrients Americans need to limit. I mark that as a good vegetable!
Now, the trick is actually getting asparagus into your home and onto your plate. If you are a frequent buyer of asparagus, you know what to look for. But if you never have, knowing how to buy it, much less how to prepare it, can be intimidating. Remember, this blog is here to give you confidence in trying new foods. So take a leap of faith and consider the following:
1) trim a bit off the bottom of the spears,
2) stand spears in 1 or 2 inches of water (like a vase of flowers),
3) cover with a plastic bag, refrigerate, and use within 2 to 3 days.
Even though it goes well with spring and is a great nutrient-dense food, asparagus has always been a tough sell for me. I am not a fan of eating asparagus by itself. Instead, I like to pair asparagus with other ingredients, like in the Asparagus Veggie Sauté recipe below.
Asparagus Veggie Sauté (serves 4)
In this recipe, the asparagus is cooked for a short amount of time to stay tender-crisp. For a fancier look, cut the asparagus on an angle. This side dish pairs well with chicken or beef, and a whole-grain roll or side of brown rice rounds out the meal. Try this recipe and tell me what you think!1 Tbsp canola oil
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook – stirring frequently – until translucent (about 4 minutes).
2. Add bell pepper and cook until tender (about 3 minutes). Add corn, asparagus, garlic, and ginger; cook about 4 minutes more.
3. Add broth, soy sauce, and red pepper, if desired. Stir to coat vegetables. Bring sauce to a boil and boil 1 minute, stirring mixture frequently.
4. Serve hot. A serving is equal to 1 cup of vegetables.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 90 calories, 4g fat, 170mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g proteinWEB HIGHLIGHT: Check out more information on asparagus through the University of Illinois Extension. Besides information on nutrition and cooking, read about preserving asparagus at home or even growing your own!
WORD HIGHLIGHT: Nutrient-dense food: A food that has a lot of nutrients but few calories. Most fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense since they pack in nutrients while being low in calories.
March 12, 2013
"I've got confidence on today's menu" is an announcement I heard somewhere. I have a suspicion this sentence originally had nothing to do with a menu or with food, but I think it perfectly reflects the sentiments I want to express through this blog: to give you the confidence to try new foods and new recipes so that you too can say you have confidence on your menu today and every day. (I like this concept so much it might become a slogan we come back to now and again!)
Let me now say "hi" and introduce myself: I am Caitlin Huth, Nutrition & Wellness Educator with the University of Illinois Extension serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt counties. I teach multiple programs focused around nutrition and wellness, including disease prevention and management and food safety. As an educator and a soon-to-be registered dietitian, I am enthusiastic about providing people with information and skills to take up and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
I am sure there are many times you have heard about a new "hot" food that suddenly everyone is eating. Or you read about a "super food" that yesterday was just something ordinary. It is natural to wonder what the food is, how you should eat it (or if you should eat it), and what it all means for your daily diet and health. Well, wonder no more! In this blog, I will explore many different foods, along with their nutritional and health qualities, and explain how you can prepare them – recipes included!
So let's travel across food country and have fun, learn, taste, and build confidence to try new foods and recipes. Stay tuned for information, advice, and recipes!
WEB HIGHLIGHT: While I am not leaving you a recipe for this first posting, let me introduce a March celebration: National Nutrition Month! Check out NNM 2013 to learn more and play games. Incidentally, March 13 is Registered Dietitian Day, so today is a great day to learn what a registered dietitian can do for you.