Monday, March 3, 2008

Fruits & Veggie-More Matters!

Next Generation of 5 A Day!
Fruits & Veggies-More Matters

As seen on KMGH-TV7

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Do you remember the Five a Day Program? The recommendation was for Americans to consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Now, new research shows that eating more of the plant stuff confers even better health benefits.

To more effectively meet your needs, there is a new health initiative that takes the 5 A Day Program a step further. This program builds on the momentum that 5 A Day created, taking it to the next level by encouraging you to eat more fruits and veggies at every eating occasion.

Fruits and Veggies: MORE matters
Ø The new recommendations call for none servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Ø This translates into 2 cups of fruit/day plus 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day.
Ø About 90 % of Americans don't eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a registered dietitian I know people are convinced they need to eat more fruits and vegetables, but they find the task daunting-so are skipping it.
Ø That's alarming, considering how important vegetables are to maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle — but not surprising, given that many people would love to have barbecue sauce, French fries and ketchup classified as vegetable servings and be done with the whole affair.
Ø Eating produce help lower cholesterol, prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease, aid in digestion and help maintain satiety, so you feel full for a longer amount of time.

For March National Nutrition Month, I come armed with a sample day’s menu to illustrate how to fit in the recommended 4 ½ cups.
Ø People aren’t opposed, they just need more tasteful ideas.
Ø And today, I decided to go a bit more gourmet. I know everyone is busy, time-challenged to shop, and cook. But there is keen interest in fine dining and gourmet cooking.
Ø I have brought elegant food dishes that look complicated, but in actuality are simple to make.

Let’s start with breakfast: Fiesta Brunch Strata
Ø Filled with raisins, and spiced with pimentos, green chilies and salsa. Serve with red potatoes, and a beautiful assortment of fresh fruit, and tomato juice with celery.
Ø Already you have 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables
Ø Raisins are an easy way to slip in extra nutrition. Low-fat, and filled with fiber, anti-oxidants, potassium and flavor, just ¼ cup equates to a fruit serving. The vitamin C content of the tomato juice helps absorption of the iron content of the eggs and raisins.

Lunch: Caramelized Onion Soup with Golden Raisin Pesto
Ø The savory soup is filled with onions and tomatoes. An elegant pesto of cilantro, pine nuts and golden raisins tops the soup.
Ø Serve with a sandwich of thinly sliced turkey. Use olive or raisin bread to add to the veggie count. And don’t wimp out with a limp piece of lettuce. Stuff your sandwich with crunchy cucumber slices, and sprouts to up the veggie count.

Snack: Try zucchini bread or carrot-raisin bran muffins. That way, it doesn't seem like you're being forced to eat a side fruit or plate of veggies.

Family social hour: Pour everybody a glass of his or her favorite juice over ice. Add some straws, cocktail umbrellas and sit together to talk about how everybody’s day went.
Ø We want the kids in on the elegance too!

Dinner: Maple-Pesto Salmon Salad with California Golden Raisins and Toasted Pine Nuts
Ø An easy way to fit more veggies in is to serve main dish salads. These can be cold, or try this hot dish made with salmon.
Ø Pile asparagus spears, hearts of palm and California raisins to towering heights and top with grilled salmon.
Ø Congratulations: you have just finished your veggies servings.

For those who just can't — or won't — make vegetables a part of their daily diet, there are always supplements that can be taken.
Be warned that many vitamin supplements are not well absorbed by the body, nor do they take the place of real food.
Trying to take separate nutrients in pill form can never compare to eating real, whole foods.
Scientific evidence shows that the protective nutrients found in vegetables work in harmony to improve health, rather than alone, as in supplements.


Fiesta Brunch Strata
Make it; keep it in the refrigerator overnight; bake it and serve a hearty brunch entrée.

12 slices bread, lightly buttered and cubed
3 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
1-1/2 cups California raisins
2-1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
8 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
1 jar (2.5 ounces) diced pimiento, drained

Arrange half the bread cubes in bottom of 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Spread chicken and raisins over bread. Sprinkle with 2 cups of the cheese. Top with remaining bread cubes. In large bowl, combine eggs, milk, green chilies and pimiento; mix well. Pour over bread cubes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Cover tightly. Refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 350°F. Uncover strata. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with salsa, if desired.

Serves 12: Nutrition Facts (per serving) Calories 320 (23% from fat); Total Fat 8g (sat 2.5g, mono 3g, poly 1g); Cholesterol 165mg; Protein 27g; Carbohydrates 34g; Fiber 3g; Iron 3mg; Sodium 540mg; Calcium 330mg;

Caramelized Onion Soup with Golden Raisin Pesto

Olive oil, as needed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
4 large ripe tomatoes; cored, peeled and diced*
1 quart chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Golden Raisin Pesto
1/2 bunch cilantro
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil, as needed
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup California golden raisins
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro leaves; for garnish
Whole California golden raisins; for garnish

In sauté pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil until almost smoking. Add onions and cook until caramelized, stirring constantly. Stir in garlic and tomatoes, stirring all the while; cook about 5 minutes. Then add broth; bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes more. Salt and pepper to taste.
Golden Raisin Pesto
In blender or food processor, combine cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil as needed, pine nuts and raisins. Pulse until well blended and smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, adjust seasonings in soup; divide and ladle into bowls. Garnish with dollop of pesto, fresh cilantro leaves and whole raisins.

*One can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes may be substituted

Serves 8: Nutrition Facts (per serving) Calories 130 (22% from fat); Total Fat 3.5g (sat 1g, mono 1g, poly 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Protein 4g; Carbohydrates 23g; Fiber 3g; Iron 2mg; Sodium 70mg; Calcium 28mg

Maple-Pesto Salmon Salad with California Golden Raisins and Toasted Pine Nuts

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality maple syrup
2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
12 to 15 thin asparagus spears, blanched or lightly steamed
1 cup California golden raisins
1 can (7.75-ounce) hearts of palm, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 pound salmon steak, divided into 4 pieces
4 large red lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (pignoli), coarsely chopped

Whisk vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup and pesto together in bottom of a large mixing bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Cut asparagus spears into 1-inch pieces and add to bowl with raisins, hearts of palm and basil. Toss to coat and combine. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

To serve, brush salmon with reserved dressing and let stand about 30 minutes. Place one red lettuce leaf on each of 4 individual salad plates. Divide chilled salad and spoon on top. Quickly grill or broil salmon and arrange on top of salads. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
Note: Even better with additional vinaigrette on the side.

4 Servings: Nutrition Facts (per serving) Calories 410 (26% from fat); Total Fat 13g (sat 2g, mono 0g, poly 0g); Cholesterol 75mg; Protein 35g; Carbohydrates 44g; Fiber 5g; Sodium 360mg; Daily Values: Vitamin A 15%, Vitamin C 25%, Calcium 10%, Iron 25%.

Hot and Sweet Watermelon

This sweet and spicy dessert is refreshing and very healthy.

¾ tsp. whole peppercorns or coarsely ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp. very finely chopped mint leaves
6 cups ¾-inch seedless red watermelon cubes
Fresh mint leaves

Place peppercorns on chopping block. Using the bottom of a heavy saucepan, press firmly, into a heavy downward motion and crush peppercorns into a semi-coarse texture. Combine ground peppercorns with finely chopped mint. In a large bowl, toss spice mixture gently but thoroughly with watermelon cubes. Spoon into 4 individual serving glasses or bowls. Serve chilled, garnished with a fresh mint leaf.

4 Servings: Nutrition Facts (per serving) Calories: 71; Total Fat: 0.4g; Saturated Fat: 0g; % of Calories from Fat: 5%; Protein: 1g; Carbohydrates: 18g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sodium: 2mg

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