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A Guide to Spring Fruits and Veggies

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Before hitting the grocery store or produce stands this season, it's helpful to have a good idea of what spring fruits and vegetables are in season. The following fruits and veggies from Localfoods.about.com should have the best flavor and value during the spring, however, this can often depend on the specific crops and harvest dates in your particular climate

Apricots : come into season toward the end of spring in warmer areas where they are grown. Look for apricots that are slightly soft, not bruised.

Artichokes : main harvest takes places in the spring but there is also a second crop in the fall. Look for artichokes with tight compact leaves, fresh-cut stem ends, and a bright green color.

Asparagus : harvested from March to June. Look for closed and compact tips, and bright green stalks.

Carrots : harvested year-round in temperate climates. Make sure to look for crisp, healthy tops.

Collard Greens : grow year-round, but are best harvested in late summer in cold areas and fall through spring in warm regions. Watch out, it turns bitter when too hot. Make sure it has a dark green, vibrant color before purchasing.

Cherries - sweet cherries are harvested from May to August. Sour cherries have a much shorter season, a week or two during the middle of June.

Lemons - are at their juicy best from winter into early summer.

Pineapple : sniff the bottom for sweet aroma, check for firmness.

Peas - peas including garden, snap, and snow come into season in the spring and last through most of the summer. They should be bright green and should have a bit of a snap rather than being limp.

Radishes - are at their sweet, crunchy best in the spring.

Rhubarb : the first fruit of the spring in many areas. Make sure to check for bright, crisp, heavy stalks with shiny skin.

Strawberries : peak season is April through June. Pick fragrant, slightly soft ones.

 

What are the Health Benefits of Acai Berries?

Written by Lisa Jillanza

The acai berry represents a new trend in weight loss. It has been highly hyped by marketers who refer to it as an elite super food with anti-aging and weight loss ingredients. It's even used in cosmetic and beauty products. But are all these claims true?

According to WebMD, the acai berry is a reddish, purple fruit and usually about an inch long. It comes from the acai palm tree native to Central and South America and contain several substances called anthocyanins and flavonoids. These are both powerful antioxidants that can help defend the body against free radicals. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can interfere with aging and protect against disease such as heart disease and cancer by neutralizing free radicals.

However, few studies can actually confirm that acai berry juice can actually stimulate weight loss. Studies do show that acai fruit pulp contains a higher antioxidant capacity than cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. But so far acai berries show no known health benefit that's any different that other similar fruits.

There's no doubt that fruits and berries are a crucial aspect to any healthy diet and weight loss regimen. And although the acai berry may not actually help you lose weight, it is beneficial to you, like other berries in the same family.

Those with allergies to pollen, however, should be cautious. Some allergy sufferers have been sensitive to this berry and should avoid it.

In conclusion, should you incorporate the acai berry into your diet? Of course! It has a place in a healthy diet, just like all fruits. Should you base your weight loss regimen solely on this fruit? Probably not.

Straight from the Headlines: Less Sugar in Select Breakfast Cereals

Written by Lisa Jillanza

According to an article on msnbc.com, Post Cereal LLC recently announced that as of the beginning of 2011 they have reduced the sugar content in their popular cereals, Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles in order to provide healthier breakfast food options to children and parents.

The cereal maker is the most recent food company to take action by reducing sugar content as a way to address heightened concerns regarding childhood obesity. The sugar content in Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles was reduced from 11 grams to 9 grams.

The article also states that Post Foods decided to join in with other companies like PepsiCo Inc. which announced that it is launching new instant oatmeal with 25 percent less sugar. General Mills is also taking a stand against childhood obesity by cutting the amount of sugar in 10 of its cereals to single-digit grams of sugar per serving.

In addition to lowering the sugar content, Post Foods announced that both cereals will also now be certified gluten-free.

Post Foods does remind consumers that both Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles are already cholesterol free and low fat, and will still offer the same great taste that fans of Pebbles have loved since the early 1970s.

 

Ten Simple Tips to Eating Better

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Once again we have welcomed in a New Year. If your New Year's Resolution is to maintain your health and eat better in 2011, then pay close attention to these ten simple nutrition tips from Healthcentral.com.

1. Add more variety- Your body requires over 40 nutrients for optimum health. So in order to stay healthy you'll want to indulge in a wide range of colorful fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, and low fat dairy products to help ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need.

2. Reduce your portion sizes- By simply keeping tabs on your portion sizes you can reduce your caloric intake and as a result maintain a healthier weight. By still indulging in smaller amounts of your favorite foods you don't feel as deprived.

3. Eat meals at regular times- Try eating several small meals per day in order to avoid unhealthy binge eating. It also helps to maintain a more stable blood sugar level, which is very important in keeping your energy level up all day.

4. Add more whole grain foods- Whole grains satisfy your body's need for carbohydrates and also keeps your blood sugar swings to a minimum. It will make you feel fuller longer and keep overeating to a minimum.

5. Drink 8 glasses of water per day- Our bodies natural processes require water in order to function optimally. Water can also help you feel full, so drinking plenty of water can also prevent overeating.

6. Don't skip breakfast- As we've all heard before, eating a healthy breakfast gives you energy and nutrients that you need to get through the day. After all it's the most important meal of the day so even if you're not a breakfast eater make it your New Year's Resolution to try to eat breakfast every day. Studies show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat later in the day. The best breakfast is one that combines lean protein, with a little whole grain carbs, and some fruit and/or vegetables. For example, an omelet filled with two types of vegetables, and one slice of wholegrain toast. Or, a small bowl of oatmeal topped with berries, natural yogurt, and crushed nuts.

7. Choose broiled or grilled food rather than fried foods- By simply broiling or grilling your food you can achieve a very similar taste to fried foods, but with significantly reduced fat content.

8. Be disciplined at the grocery store- It's much easier to stick to a healthy diet if you try to only buy healthy foods when you purchase your groceries. It's very difficult to avoid the temptation of cookies or chips when they're sitting in your pantry at home. If you don't buy them, you won't be tempted to stray from your diet. Here's an extra tip- instead of chips try pita chips and hummus and instead of cookies try fat-free pudding or yogurt.

9. Reduce your salt intake- Eating foods that are high in sodium can contribute to high blood pressure in addition to water retention and weight gain. Choose low sodium versions of your favorite foods if possible, and don't add salt to your food if you can help it. Instead try flavoring bland foods with herbs, spices, or citrus fruits instead.

10. Reduce the unhealthy fats in your diet- Overly processed meats, or store-bought cakes and cookies, for example, tend to be high in trans or saturated fats, and these foods should be avoided mostly. However, you do need some fat in your diet. So, try using olive oil as a basis for salad dressings, cook with rice bran oil, use mashed avocado as an alternative to margarine spreads, and eat oily fish 1 or 2 times per week. Also, avoid anything that contains trans fats as much as you possibly can.

By following these ten simple tips you'll be on your way to a healthier and thinner 2011.

 

Thanksgiving Calorie Counter: A Handy Calculator for Your Holiday Meal

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season by figuring out how many calories are in your favorite meals using this handy holiday calorie list. By figuring out how many calories you're consuming you'll have a better idea of the amount of movement and activities that you'll need in order to combat Holiday calories.

Salads and Appetizers:

3 cups salad (with light dressing): 100 calories ½ cup jello with fruit: 120 calories ½ cup Waldorf salad: 110 calories 1 cracker with cheese: 70 calories ½ cup mixed raw vegetables: 25 calories ½ cup mixed nuts: 440 calories 1 oz. tortilla or potato chips: 150 calories (75 extra calories per tablespoon of dip)

Main Course:

6 oz. cured ham: 300 calories 6 oz. white and dark turkey: 340 calories ½ cup stuffing: 180 calories ½ cup cranberry sauce: 190 calories ½ cup mashed potatoes: 150 calories ½ cup gravy: 150 calories ½ cup green bean casserole: 225 calories ½ cup candied sweet potatoes: 150 calories 1 dinner roll: 110 calories (45 extra calories with one pat of butter)

Drinks:

1 mixed drink: 250 calories 1 glass of wine: 120 calories 1 glass of cider: 120 calories 1 cup eggnog: 343 calories

Desserts:

2 small chocolate chip cookies: 150 calories 1 piece apple pie: 410 calories 1 piece pecan pie: 480 calories 1 piece pumpkin pie: 180 calories ½ cup whipped cream: 75 calories ½ cup ice cream: 145 calories

Leftovers:

1 turkey sandwich with mayo and cranberry sauce: 450 calories 1 open-face turkey sandwich with stuffing and gravy: 290 calories

Now according to Walking.about.com the first thing that you need to do after a weekend of over-indulgent eating is to increase your activity level. Brisk walking three or more times a week for thirty to forty five minutes will help burn off your Thanksgiving turkey. So enjoy your Thanksgiving feast then make sure to put on your walking shoes. Get some fresh air, get your heart pumping and gear up for Christmas just around the corner!