Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Fun Way For Kids To Learn About Fruits & Vegetables

Kids and parents will find fun and educational games on foodchamps.org. The site was put together by the non-profit Produce for Better Health Foundation. Their mission is to create a healthier America through increased consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The games are for kids between 2 to 8 years old. Kids will love the online interactive games and will also find coloring sheets, activity pages and easy recipes that they can make with adults. There is also an art gallery where kids can submit their original creations!

Fun and Educational games for kids ages 2-5:
  • Fruit & Veggie Matching Game
  • Fruit & Veggie Naming Game
  • Fruit or Vegetable?
  • Find the Fruits & Veggies
  • What Color are the Fruits & Veggies?
Games for kids ages 6-8 - Learn how food gets from farms and orchards to your dinner table!
  • Fruit & Vegetable Math
  • Fruit & Veggie Pyramid Game
  • Healthy Choices Maze

I really like the activity sheets on foodchamps.org. The Supermarket Scavenger Hunt will make grocery shopping an adventure for your kids. The Fruit & Veggie Eater Meter is also a great tool for kids to track their fruit and veggie consumption.

Nutrient and fiber rich fruits and veggies will keep your kids healthy and strong. They may eventually crave fruit and veggie snacks and eat less sugary treats!

Easy Fruit & Veggie Recipes

Check out the site Fruits & Veggies More Matters to learn all about the benefits of fruits and veggies!

I love the quick and easy recipes on the site. The recipes are full of fruits and veggies and will help add extra vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients to your diet.

Kid Friendly Recipes

Quick Recipes: 30 Minutes or Less

Tips on How to Cook with Fruits and Vegetables

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Pineapples are my favorite fruit! They are so juicy, sweet and tart. They make you feel like you're on a tropical island.

Pineapples (Ananas comosus) take eighteen months or longer to grow! They must be grown from the crowns or tops of other pineapples and are only harvested when they are ripe.

Pineapples are grown in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Thailand, China and the Philippines. Christopher Columbus was the first person to bring pineapples to Europe after finding them on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1493.

Pineapples are Healthy

Pineapples are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, copper, manganese and dietary fiber. One cup of pineapple provides 94% of your RDA of vitamin C and only 74 calories. Pineapples also contain a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain. Bromelain is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. There have been many research studies that focus on bromelain.

Benefits of Bromelain

  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • May inhibit platelet aggregation
  • May interfere with the growth of malignant cells and tumors
  • Enhanced absorption of drugs (amoxicillin)
  • Skin debridement properties (The healing of burns, pressure ulcers, etc.)
  • May dissolve the fibrin in blood clots facilitating wound healing (Fibrinolytic activity)
  • May help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • May act as a blood thinner and help relieve symptoms of angina and thrombophlebitis
Cancer Prevention

Scientists at Cornell University found that pineapples reduced the formation of nitrosamines (potential carcinogens) in humans.

Using Pineapples

Find a pineapple that is heavy for it's size, free of soft spots and bruises and free of darkened "eyes." Pineapples stop ripening as soon as they are picked, so choose one that has a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. They can be kept at room temperature for about 1 to 2 days or stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Pineapple juice is a perfect base for marinades. Since pineapple contains bromelain, it acts as a meat tenderizer.

Pineapple Recipes

Grilled Pineapple

Maui Gold pineapple recipes

Baked Plantain and Pineapple Dessert

Vegan Light Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Rum-Spiked Grilled Pineapple with Toasted Coconut

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Surf Sweets - Natural and Organic Candy

Sometimes I really crave candy. Fruit and veggies don’t always fix that craving. (Not for me!) Well, one day I was at Whole Foods and went directly to their candy aisle. I love jelly beans, so I immediately noticed Surf Sweets Jelly Beans. I checked out the label and was happy to see that the ingredients were all natural and 97% organic. Traditional jelly beans are usually full of corn syrup and artificial ingredients. I found that organic evaporated cane juice is one of the main sweeteners used in Surf Sweets Jelly Beans. Cane juice is a better alternative to refined sugar because it’s less processed and retains more of the nutrients that are found in sugar cane. I’m not saying Cane juice is healthy! It’s just a better alternative when you’re looking for a sweet, occasional treat. I bought a bag or Surf Sweets Jelly Beans and was surprised at how tasty they were!

I’m a Dietitian, so I’m always checking out labels. I personally don’t like artificial sweeteners and try to avoid corn syrup. Surf Sweets are made with organic fruit juice and sweeteners, natural colors and flavors, and are fortified with vitamin C. You won’t find corn syrup or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their products. You also won’t find Yellow 5, Red 40 and other artificial colorings that are said to be linked to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.

Surf Sweets products are made in a nut free facility and are also gluten and casein free. They are a great treat for people who have specific food allergies and intolerances since they are free of the eight most common allergens. The eight most common allergens are: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder), Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp), Soy and Wheat. Many of Surf Sweets products are also vegetarian and vegan.

I was on Twitter about a week ago and decided to let Surf Sweets know that I was impressed with their candy. I didn’t even expect a reply, but I ended up getting a box from Surf Sweets a day later with their entire product line. Thank you Surf Sweets!

Surf Sweets Jelly Beans (click on the link to get Nutrition Facts and Ingredients)

The Jelly Beans are vegetarian and made with 97% organic ingredients (Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word "organic".) I believe they aren’t vegan because of the confectioner’s glaze. It’s hard to tell, but I think the flavors are grapefruit, cherry, lemon, orange and grape. Since natural colors are used (black carrot juice, turmeric, annatto), the jelly beans are muted in color. Pectin is used as a gelling agent. The jelly beans have a hard shell and have a chewy consistency like traditional jelly beans.

Surf Sweets Sour Worms

The Sour Worms are vegan and are made with 92% organic ingredients. They are tart, but not very sour. The worms have a pleasant citrus flavor and are soft and chewy.

Surf Sweets Fruity Bears

The Fruity Bears are vegan and made with 96% organic ingredients. They are soft and chewy. I believe the flavors are the same as the jelly beans.

Surf Sweets Gummy Swirls

Gummy Swirls are vegan and made with 87% organic ingredients. The Gummy Swirls were my favorite because they were unique and had a little bit of a “creamy” flavor. They are very soft and chewy, which I like.

Surf Sweets Gummy Bears

The Gummy Bears contain gelatin, so they aren’t vegetarian. They contain 91% organic ingredients. They look similar to traditional gummy bears, but have a stronger fruit flavor. They are very chewy. I recognized one of the flavors to be grapefruit.

Surf Sweets Gummy Worms

The Gummy Worms also contain gelatin, so they aren’t friendly to vegetarians or vegans. They contain 91% organic ingredients. They were a little too hard and chewy for me. My teeth hurt a bit after having a couple worms.

Wrap Up

Surf Sweets natural and organic candy is a good choice for an occasional treat. I’m not saying the candy is healthy and should replace nutrient dense snacks like fruit and vegetables. However, some children and adults want a sweet treat once in a while. Surf Sweets products are great for holidays, to take along to the movies, or just as a small treat!

  • Made with Organic Fruit Juice & Sweeteners
  • Natural Colors and Flavors
  • 100% of Your Daily Vitamin C
  • Free of Corn Syrup and GMOs
  • Made in a Nut Free Facility
  • Gluten Free
  • Casein Free
  • Gummy Swirls, Fruity Bears and Sour Worms are Vegan
  • Jelly Beans are Vegetarian

Additional Links

Surf Sweets FAQ

Feingold Association of the United States

American Academy of Pediatrics ADHD and Food Additives Revisited

Monday, April 13, 2009

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt Review

I'm a big fan of Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier and richer than regular yogurt. That's not even the best part! It has more than twice the protein of regular yogurt and is lower in sugar and lactose.

The higher protein content will help you feel full for a longer time! Like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt also contains live cultures (probiotics) for healthy digestion.

Why is Greek Yogurt Different Than Regular Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey (the liquid), giving it a thick and dense texture. You won't see liquid on top of Greek yogurt when you pull off the lid. Also, Greek yogurt can stay fresher longer since the whey is removed! Greek yogurt contains less carbohydrates than regular yogurt and therefore contains less lactose.

*Make sure to select low fat and non fat varieties of Greek yogurt. There are full fat versions out there that contain a significant amount of fat!

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt

I use Stonyfield Farm Organic Yogurt often, but I haven't had the opportunity to try Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt. Recently, I was approached by the nice people at Stonyfield Farm. They sent me some coupons so I could try their Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt. Thank you Stonyfield Farm!

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt is made by the world's leading organic yogurt-maker, Stonyfield Farm, in partnership with Euphrates, makers of authentic old-world foods.

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt has 0% fat and twice the protein of regular yogurt.

Here is what Stonyfield Farm's website says about Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt:

Called “yiaourti” in Greece, Greek yogurt is creamier than regular yogurt. Authentic Greek yogurt like ours owes its extra creaminess to a centuries-old straining process that removes the whey (liquid) from the yogurt.

For hundreds of years, Greeks have prized strained yogurt for its richness and creaminess, and because it makes a wonderful cooking ingredient that’s less likely to curdle when heated. Before the time of mechanical refrigeration, Greeks also knew that yogurt stayed fresh longer with the liquid strained off. Today we know that straining makes Greek yogurt richer in protein than regular yogurt, and lower in lactose.

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt is also different from other Greek yogurt products because it's organic! Stonyfield Farm makes it clear that Oikos is made from organic milk produced without the use of toxic persistent pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, or artificial growth hormones (rBST). You can find more information about organic farming from the Stonyfield website: http://www.oikosorganic.com/WhatIsOrganic/

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt is Versatile

You can use Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt in many recipes!

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt can be used as a healthy cooking ingredient in a variety of recipes. Since Oikos is strained, it is thicker than regular yogurt and more versatile in recipes. You can use Plain Oikos to make fat free dressing, spreads, creamy dips, fat free desserts, delicious smoothies and more.

Oikos is a great substitute for mayonnaise, cream, sour cream, cream cheese or ricotta cheese. Oikos is less likely to curdle when heated since the whey is removed. Try some plain Oikos on your baked potato or use it on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise.

My Review of Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt

Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt comes in Plain, Honey, Vanilla and Blueberry. I only found Vanilla Oikos at Whole Foods. I was lucky to find Plain and Honey a couple days ago at another store close to my house. I'm still looking around for Blueberry Oikos. The suggested retail price is $1.99, but each 5.3 oz container at Whole Foods was over $2.00. Oikos is a little expensive, but it costs more to produce organic food.

If you're concerned about the sugar content, then Oikos Organic Plain Greek Yogurt is your best choice. You can add fresh fruit or nuts for extra nutrients and flavor. I added some honey and walnuts to my Plain Oikos and it was delicious! It is a bit tangy (which I like) and especially thick and creamy for nonfat yogurt! I definitely recommend it.

Oikos 5.3 oz Plain: 90 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 6 grams sugar and 15 grams of protein.

Oikos Organic Honey Greek yogurt is also thick and creamy with a subtle honey flavor. I was surprised to find honey at the bottom of the container! I didn't realize it until I was almost done. Yummy!

Oikos 5.3 oz Honey: 120 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 17 grams sugar and 13 grams of protein.

Oikos Organic Vanilla Greek yogurt has a gentle vanilla flavor and is thick and creamy. However, it is a little too sweet for me. I expected the honey yogurt to be sweet, but I'd like to see the vanilla yogurt have less sugar. It's still pretty tasty though.

Oikos 5.3 oz Vanilla: 110 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 11 grams sugar and 15 grams of protein.

I still would love to try Oikos Organic Blueberry Greek yogurt! For now, I'll just add fresh blueberries to my plain Oikos!

Oikos 5.3 oz Blueberry: 120 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 15 grams sugar and 13 grams of protein.


Oikos Organic Plain Greek Yogurt was my favorite followed by Oikos Organic Honey Greek Yogurt. I liked plain the best because I prefer adding my own ingredients like fresh fruit, honey or agave syrup, nuts or low fat granola. All the flavors are very thick and creamy. I was satisfied and remained full for a few hours after having Oikos.

Benefits of Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt

  • Low in calories (120 calories or less per serving)
  • 0 grams fat
  • High in protein (13-15 grams of protein per 5.3 ounce serving)
  • Certified Organic
  • No artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors
  • Higher in calcium than other brands of Greek yogurt
  • Contains probiotics for a healthy digestive system
  • Thick and creamy
  • Can be used in various recipes and won't curdle easily
  • Delicious!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Did you know that mushrooms are the "fruits" of fungus called mycelium? They grow in soil, wood or decaying matter. There are thousands of varieties of mushrooms and to untrained eye, it's very difficult to identify the differences between edible and poisonous mushrooms. Don't pick a mushroom from the ground unless you're sure it's safe to eat!

Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Mushrooms contain large amounts of the antioxidant selenium. They actually contain more selenium than any other fruit or vegetable. Mushrooms also contain the antioxidant ergothioneine, known for its anticancer properties. They are a great source of B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. White, portobella and crimini mushrooms are excellent sources of potassium and white button mushrooms are rich in vitamin D.

If white mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light for 5 minutes after harvesting, they may contain 869% of the daily value of vitamin D!(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12370708/)

A recent Australian study found that women who consume mushrooms daily may reduce their risk of breast cancer by two-thirds! (http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/9327)

One serving of mushrooms contains 20 calories and no fat!

Click the links below to learn more about mushrooms!

Discover Mushrooms: Nature's Hidden Treasure (American Dietetic Association PDF)

Mushroom Council

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teff - Another Gluten-Free Wheat Alternative

image courtesy of shilohfarms.com

Teff is definitely not a new food! It is said to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 B.C. and 1000 B.C. Teff seeds were discovered in the ruins of the Dassur Egyptian Pyramid which was built in 3359 B.C.

Smallest Grain in the World!

Teff is one of the smallest grains in the world. The grain is 1/32 of an inch! Actually, "Teff" means "Lost" in Ethiopian because if you drop it on the ground, you'll never find it!

Teff is an annual grass with very tiny seeds that have a nutty flavor. There are three types of teff: white, brown and red. White teff tastes a little like chestnuts and can only be grown in the Central Highlands of Ethiopia. The flour is used to make injera, a flat bread that is used by most Ethiopians. Brown teff tastes a little like hazelnuts and can be used like oatmeal. It's also used to make alcohol in Ethiopia. Red teff is the least expensive and isn't used as much, but it is very high in iron.

Why is Teff Healthy?

Teff grains consist primarily of the bran and germ. Since the bran and germ are the most nutritious part of any grain, this makes teff extremely nutrient dense. Teff is an excellent source of amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Teff also has a high calcium content and ounce for ounce, it supplies more fiber than any other grain. There are 15.3 grams of fiber per 4 ounces of flour). Other important nutrients found in teff are iron, phosphorous and thiamin. Since teff is gluten free, it can be used safely by people with celiac disease.

How to Use Teff

Teff can be found as a grain and in flour form. You can find it in most health food stores, in ethnic food stores and online. It can be stored in an airtight container or can be refrigerated for longer storage.

Teff can be used in baked goods, pancakes, as a thickener in soups and stews, in casseroles and even in stir fry dishes.

For leavened bread, use whole wheat flour with up to 20% teff flour.

To cook teff, put 1/2 cup teff and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it stand covered for 5 minutes.

Once teff is cooked, it can even be used to make vegetarian burgers.