Fall Produce Picks

fall-veggies

The sun is setting sooner, the nights are getting cooler and wool socks are starting to sound like a cozy idea. This is the perfect time to celebrate the seasonal gems of autumn! Head to your local market and fill your basket with these fall produce picks.

Pumpkin
“Fall is the season for winter squash — satisfying, hearty vegetables perfect for a cool night,” says Academy Spokesperson Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN. “While butternut squash is a go-to winter vegetable, pumpkin is another delicious squash, even after Halloween! Pumpkin is full of fiber and vitamin A, which is great for your skin and eyes.” Foroutan likes to balance pumpkin’s sweetness with savory herbs, such as sage and curry. “Dishes such as pumpkin curry soups are the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Use coconut oil and coconut milk instead of butter and cream to switch up the flavor profile. Turmeric is curry’s base, so you get great anti-inflammatory benefits with each bite.”

Beets
Beets are edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and are delicious sautéed. The grocery store most likely will carry red beets; your local farmers market may have more interesting varieties, such as golden or bull’s blood, which has a bullseye pattern of rings. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure. Roasting or steaming beets whole takes the fuss out of peeling — the skin easily slides off after cooking. They also are delicious raw, shredded and tossed in salads or thinly sliced and baked into chips.

Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes charge ahead of white potatoes in terms of fiber and vitamin A. “Sweet potatoes can make a great breakfast side dish” suggests Foroutan. “Cube left-over baked potato and sprinkle them with cumin and coriander. Toast them in the oven until golden and serve them with poached eggs and sliced avocado.”

Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Cut it in half to reveal a pocket of seeds; scoop those out and pop the two halves into the microwave or oven and cook until tender. Scrape a fork into the flesh and spaghetti-like strands appear! Voilà! Toss with pesto or marinara sauce for a quick veggie side dish.

Kale
Kale is a current media darling — from food writers to restaurant chefs, and farmers markets to school cafeterias — we can’t get enough of this luscious leafy green and with good reason. Kale is a nutrient powerhouse. It tastes sweeter after a frost and can survive a snowstorm. If you plant kale in your garden, you can dig it out of the snow and serve fresh salad in January! One cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese. Kale is great sautéed and cooked in soup, but also is excellent raw in salad; simply remove tough stems, slice into thin slivers and pair with something a bit sweet such as carrots or apples. One advantage of using kale for your leafy greens is that you can add your dressing ahead of time; the kale becomes more tender and delicious, not wilted.

Pears
When we can buy fruit year-round, we tend to forget they do have a season. However, pears are the most delicious in the fall when they’re at their peak. Pears are unique in that they do not ripen on the tree; they will ripen at room temperature after they’re picked. How do you know when they are ready to eat? Check the neck! If the fruit near the stem gives to a little pressure, it is ripe. There are a wide range of pear flavors and textures. And, just like apples, some are excellent eaten fresh while others are best cooked or canned for the winter. Try pears on the grill, poached in red wine, tucked into a panini, pureed into soup or a smoothie, or simply sliced with cheese and wine. If you eat the peel too, one medium pear has 6 grams of fiber – that’s 20 percent of the daily recommendation!

Okra
Okra commonly is fried, but also is wonderful in more nutritious dishes. Around the world, chefs cherish the thickening properties of the seed pods in dishes from Louisiana gumbo to Indian curries and other stews. If you wish to minimize the thickening property, try okra briefly stir-fried. The pods are high in vitamins K and C, a good source of fiber and folate and low in calories. At the market, look for pods that are no longer than 4 inches and are bright green in color and firm to the touch.

Parsnips
Parsnips are cousins to carrots — they have the same root shape but with white flesh. They’re typically eaten cooked, but also can be eaten raw. One-half cup of cooked parsnips is full of fiber (3 grams) and contains more than 10 percent of the daily values of vitamin C and folate. Try these pale beauties roasted, pureed into soup or mashed. You can even top a shepherd’s pie with mashed parsnips instead of the traditional mashed potatoes!

Cranberries
Fall is the time to get to know these tart berries and their wealth of nutritional benefits. Cranberries may help protect from urinary tract infection. They contain a compound called proanthocyanidin which prevents harmful bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Fresh and dried cranberries pair well with a variety of meats and poultry. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but often are cooked. Dried cranberries are delicious in grain and vegetable salads and make a healthy snack on the go.

CalFresh Challenge

Could you feed yourself three nutritious meals a day with only $5?

That’s the average CalFresh benefit amount in California. Thousands of our neighbors in Mendocino County subsist on such a budget for themselves and their families through their CalFresh benefits. Whether due to a minimum wage job, job loss, health issue or simply bad luck, thousands of local families are income eligible for CalFresh. This program provides households with the financial resources to purchase groceries—literally putting food on tables for millions of American children, adults and seniors; giving them the fuel to better their lives and create stronger, healthier communities.

Many families survive entirely on the food acquired through their CalFresh benefits. That budget, on average, equates to only $35 per week for food. What if that’s all you had to spend on groceries?

We challenge you to try living on such a food budget for five days. Find out about the CalFresh Challenge, read what other participants are saying, and then share your experience.

The CalFresh Challenge gives participants a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables. The challenge provides an opportunity for participants to experience how difficult it is for families living on CalFresh to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with limited resources.

You can register here. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try

This challenge is open to all individuals and involves living on what would be the weekly CalFresh allotment in California for five days, so you can get a sense of what it would be like to subsist on CalFresh. This means spending only $5 per day, per person, on everything that you eat, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.

After you register for the CalFresh Challenge, you will receive a booklet in the mail to record your experience over the 5 days of the Challenge (any 5 consecutive days you choose during the month of October). Once you’ve finished, we’d like to learn about your thoughts and ideas during the Challenge, so please return your completed booklet to:

Food for All Mendocino
c/o North Coast Opportunities
413 N. State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482

WHY RETURN YOUR BOOKLET?
First of all, every returned booklet will be entered into a drawing to win an INSTANT POT! So please don’t forget to include your name and phone number on your booklet before returning.

Second, your experiences and comments will provide us with insights and quotes we can share to highlight the successes and challenges of the CalFresh program.

Third, a deadline is always a good way to actually do a challenge!

Completed booklets are DUE BY OCTOBER 31, 2017 in order to be entered into the prize drawing.

Here’s a sample menu plan to get you started. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try these ideas.

CalFresh Challenge Guidelines

  • Each person should spend up to $5 for food and beverages per day during the Challenge period, which is the average benefit for a CalFresh beneficiary in California. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including dining out, must be included in the total spending.

  • During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by friends, family or work, account for it in your CalFresh budget.
  • Keep track of food spending and take notes of your experiences throughout the week.
  • Share your experience.
  • CalFresh Challenge participants are encouraged to keep a daily journal and share their experiences—during and after the challenge—with their friends, family and others.
    Once you register, you will receive a CalFresh Challenge booklet in the mail for you to record your food log, as well as your thoughts and ideas.

Reflections and Food For Thought

Here’s what you may find when you keep a food diary.

You may notice these pitfalls:

  • Your food costs are really high (way higher than a CalFresh budget of $5/day/person!)

  • You eat a lot of packaged, pre-made, or restaurant foods and drinks
  • You engage in lots of unplanned eating (snacking)
  • You don’t eat enough (skipping meals)
  • You eat too much (larger portions than necessary)
  • Your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • You forget to drink plenty of water instead of sugary drinks

You may notice these successes:

  • You are doing a great job at preparing meals at home (that can be very economical!)

  • You are eating five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day
  • You eat fresh, nutritious food from local farmers and ranchers
  • You drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • You limit expensive snack and drink purchases

Take time to reflect on what you’ve noticed after completing your food diary. Have a conversation with friends about the true cost of food. Think about:

  • The average CalFresh benefit for a low-income household is $5 per day per person. Is it possible to feed yourself well on $5 per day every day? What would you have to change in order to keep to that limited budget?

  • Why it is that some food is really cheap (food like ramen noodles and chips), and other foods can be more expensive (food like apples and peanut butter, and local foods from the farmers market)?
  • What are the “externalized” hidden costs of cheap foods? How does some food get so cheap? For some answers, check out this 2 minute video.

Going Nuts!

With mounting evidence showing their many health benefits, it’s OK to include nuts as part of a healthy diet. In fact, it’s more than OK.

Tree nuts are plant-based proteins that contain fiber and a combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for each variety. They have cholesterol-lowering properties and are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim for food labels that states: Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. These nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts — which contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat for a 50-gram (about 1.5 ounces) serving.

The combination of fiber, protein and fat in nuts provides satiety to meals and snacks, making them an excellent option for weight management. There is a caveat, however: portion size. While nuts are healthy, they are calorie-dense. Nuts range from 160 calories to 200 calories per ounce. To get their health benefits without breaking the calorie bank, it’s best to replace them in the diet for other foods, particularly those high in saturated fat. This can be achieved with one to two ounces a day.

It’s easy to lump nuts into one category, but what makes each nut meat special is its unique package of nutrients, taste, texture, origin and culinary uses. Here’s a taste … in a nutshell.

Pistachios
(Approximately 49 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Contain antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating in-shell helps slow consumption. Bright color makes for great addition to salads, grain dishes and as a coating for meats. Native to the Middle East, home of favorites like baklava, halvah and ma’amoul, a shortbread pastry.

Almonds
(Approximately 23 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, also provides calcium and folate. Versatile ingredient, can be used whole, sliced, blanched to remove skins, and as flour, paste or butter. California provides 80% of the world’s supply, but almonds are enjoyed in savory and sweet dishes globally.

Cashews
(Approximately 18 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Excellent source of copper and magnesium. Soft consistency with delicate, sweet flavor. Native to South America, but introduced by colonists to Africa and India. Commonly eaten as a snack, raw or roasted, but often used in Asian recipes and to make a rich, creamy nut butter or vegan cheese.

Macadamias
(Approximately 10-12 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Native to subtropical rain forests of Australia, this nut is high in fat, but 17 of the 22 grams are monounsaturated. Excellent source of manganese. Unique rich, buttery taste and smooth texture lends to eating as a snack raw or roasted. Often baked into cookies and coated with chocolate.

Hazelnuts
(Approximately 21 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Also known as filberts, they are rich in monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of vitamin E, copper and manganese. Available in-shell, whole, diced, sliced and as a meal for gluten-free baking. Pairs well with savory, citrus and sweet flavors, particularly chocolate, and commonly used in confections.

Pecans
(Approximately 19 halves per 1-ounce serving)
Rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Sweet, mellow flavor and meaty texture lend well to a variety of dishes, including salads, as a coating for fish, and in sweets such as pralines and pecan pie.

Walnuts
(Approximately 14 halves per 1-ounce serving)
Integral part of Mediterranean diet, contributing to health benefits of this style of eating. Rich in antioxidants and excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3. Grooves hold onto flavors well and are delicious when seasoned sweet or hot. Oil can be used in dressings and sautés.

Brazil Nuts
(Approximately 6 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Largest nut commonly eaten. Grows wild on trees in Amazon rain forests. In addition to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, contain more than 100 percent of the daily value for antioxidant selenium. Rich, creamy texture lends well to snacking, raw or roasted, and confections.

Pine Nuts
(Approximately 167 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Soft nut found inside the cone of several varieties of pine trees. Good source of vitamin E and phosphorus. Standard ingredient in Italian cuisine and most known for its use in pesto. Light, delicate flavor also lends well to pastas, salads, sautés, breads and other baked goods.

Workplace Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace. The ultimate goal of ergonomics is to design the workplace so that it accommodates the variety of human capabilities and limitations and prevents injuries. Working Americans spend about 2,000 hours per year in the workplace. All of these hours can take a toll on your eyes, back, arms, and neck. Here’s how to set up your workplace to make it a healthier and safer place for you to work.

ergonomic

Power of Produce Club

POP

The Power of Produce Club helps children ages 5-12 to make healthy food choices by offering educational activities, recipe tasting, and money to spend at the Fort Bragg farmers’ market!

Participating children will receive $4 each week of the program to spend on fruit or vegetables. Look for the POP booth at the farmers’ market, and enjoy fun activities like recipe tasting, seed planting, art and science activities. Read more about the program here:

POP Flyer

Join POP at the Fort Bragg farmers’ market every Wednesday in the month of September: September 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at Franklin and Laurel Streets in the heart of downtown Fort Bragg.

If you live outside the Mendocino area, go to Farmers Market Coalition to see if your local farmers’ market has a POP Club already. If they don’t, you can apply to start your own in your own backyard. Let’s keep the Power of Produce growing and our children growing stronger and healthier!

Carbohydrates: Complex Carbs vs. Simple Carbs

carbs-in-foods

Carbohydrates are the main source of calories in a healthy diet and are the primary fuel for the brain and muscles. Typically, about three-fourths of daily calories should come from carbohydrates. It’s also important to choose the best carbohydrate sources. That means two things:

• Choose complex carbohydrates, rather than simple carbohydrates.
• Choose carbohydrates that still have their fiber, like brown rice or brown bread, rather than white rice or white bread, from which the fiber has been stripped away.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates may be referred to as dietary starch and are made of sugar molecules strung together like a necklace or branched like a coil. They are often rich in fiber, thus satisfying and health promoting. Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in whole plant foods and, therefore, are also often high in vitamins and minerals.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are sugars. All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy, as they are very rapidly digested.

Getting the Best Carb-Rich Foods

Choose whole, unprocessed foods from plant sources. Choosing whole fruit instead of juice, a whole-grain side dish instead of crackers, and fresh vegetables instead of potato chips will ensure you are getting complex carbohydrates, complete with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Remember also that all types of meat and eggs are essentially devoid of carbohydrates.

When buying packaged foods, check food labels for the word “whole” in front of the word “grain” and make sure that corn syrup or one of the other simple carbohydrates listed above doesn’t appear among the first few ingredients on the list.

Carbs

Got happiness? Enjoying life boosts your health!

smiling

Enjoying your life doesn’t just put a smile on your face. It’s good for your health!

Life satisfaction, enjoyment of life, optimism, and other aspects that make up what researchers call “subjective well-being” may profoundly affect health. Positive emotions, both passing happiness and longer-term contentment, seem to make us more resilient to stress and are linked to healthier behaviors as well as better cardiovascular health and improved immune system functioning. Good feelings may even slow down the aging process itself.

Of course, unlike clothes, books, and blenders, good vibes can’t be ordered with the click of a button, and “don’t worry, be happy” is easier said than done. You have to generate good feelings. Healthy daily routines, like regular exercise and good sleep habits, can produce feel-good brain chemicals and lower stress hormones.

Make sure your relationships support your happiness, too, by investing in the ones that make you feel good — and divesting from the ones that don’t.

Adding a mindfulness meditation practice to your routine will help you manage the inevitable stresses of life and keep you feeling good. Don’t know how to meditate? Try this:

1. Sit or lie comfortably.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Sleep Is Good Medicine

sleep

Sleeping together makes for a more harmonious relationship — and better health. And we mean sleeping in the literal sense! New research shows that insufficient shut-eye can amp up hostility between partners and make relationship conflicts more damaging to your health. It’s not all that surprising when you consider how grumpy you feel after a bad night’s sleep, right?

To find out how sleep quality affects romantic relationships and health, researchers interviewed 49 couples and asked how many hours they’d slept the previous two nights. Then they took blood samples, had each couple discuss a topic that tended to provoke conflict, and then took a second blood sample. Those who hadn’t had much sleep had a greater inflammatory response, which over time is associated with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. In fact, for every missed hour of sleep, levels of two inflammatory markers rose by 6 percent! And when both spouses slept less than 7 hours, the couple was more likely to argue, making the situation worse.

Think of sleep, relationship harmony, and physical health as a kind of “love triangle.” Work together on following good sleep habits, and if either of you has a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, be sure to see a physician for treatment. The couple that sleeps together may just stay healthy together!

Four Steps to Good Health

healthyfood

About 40 percent of adults over 40 are thought to have “metabolic syndrome”, a cluster of three or more of the following risk factors: high triglycerides, a waistline circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 for men (regardless of body-mass index), low HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. The good news is that while metabolic syndrome may be silent, the prescription for counteracting it is loud and clear.

1. Eat real food. Vegetables, legumes, fish, fruit, olive oil, intact grains, nuts, herbs and spices…these are the foods that nourish us and support metabolic and overall health. Highly processed foods, refined flour and sugar, and manufactured oils never have and never will.

2. Just do it. Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise can help prevent and reverse metabolic syndrome. Make exercise a game, make it a goal, make it a date, whatever it takes. Getting 150 minutes of moderately intense activity a week is ideal, but don’t fall into the all-or-nothing trap. If you can’t make your Zumba class or don’t have time for your 30-minute walk, take a few brisk loops around the block or do a few minutes of jumping jacks and push-ups. Something is always better than nothing.

3. Lose weight if you need to. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can lower your heart disease risk by 20 percent.

4. Chillax. For a lot of people, stress reduction should be step number one for the simple reason that it makes other beneficial habits much more likely. When you’re in a state of chronic stress, it’s easy to let healthy habits fall by the wayside. Chronic stress can also increase inflammation, which can fuel metabolic syndrome. A regular practice of meditation, yoga, tai chi is a fantastic way to work stress relief into your routine. When in doubt, just breathe: spending 5 minutes doing slow, deep breathing can trigger the body’s relaxation response.

Family Fun – Get Moving Together!

family-riding-bikes-street_cnlyyp

Anyone who has tried to sit through dinner with wiggly young children can see that the human body is made to move (and that not spilling beverages is an acquired skill!). Making sure kids and teenagers keep moving, despite the constraints of dinnertime, school, screens, and our sedentary culture, can help set good habits for life.

Physical activity among American kids and teenagers is alarmingly low, according to a new study. More than half of teenagers, half of 6 to 11-year-old girls and 25 percent of 6 to 11-year-old boys, don’t meet the World Health Organization’s recommendations for at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. And the average activity of 19-year-olds is similar to that of 60-year-olds!

The researchers emphasize that all physical activity matters, not just the heart-pounding variety. In a study that pushed 8 to 10-year-olds to do 70 minutes of physical play a day, their grades and tests scores went up as their belly fat went down. So start brainstorming ways to increase activity of all kinds. Can your children walk or bike to school some days instead of driving or taking the bus? How about a family walk after dinner? Make weekend excursions for hiking, biking, or walking around a city part of your routine. Organize sports, dance classes, swimming, or good old-fashioned tag, kickball, or capture the flag. At the beach this summer? Bring a Frisbee and soccer balls — and have everyone leave their screens inside! As much as possible, make movement a family affair, and everyone will benefit.