I love starting my weekend with a trip to the farmers market. I may start the day overwhelmed by my to-do list, but everything slows down as I start to walk past the tables of vibrant produce, local honey, and artisanal breads and cheeses. Connecting with your food and those who produce it makes you pause, breathe, and appreciate the great gift of real food. You know you’re doing something better for your body and planet by going fresh and local.
However, you can’t take for granted that everything at your local farmers market is good for you and the planet. Supporting your local farmers market can provide better quality produce and be beneficial to the environment and local economy. However, it is not a guaranty that the produce is free of pesticides, meets safety standards, or that the product is actually from a local source. If you’re not taking the opportunity to get to know your farmer you may not be getting what you bargained for. Here are some questions to ask at your next (or first) farmers market visit.
Farmers Markets in all 50 States Accept Food Stamps and EBT
DO YOU USE PESTICIDES?
Not every local farmer grows organically. Those who do so often proudly display their USDA organic label. If you don’t see the organic label, you need to ask how they spray and fertilize their crops. Some farmers use all organic methods but simply do not have the resources to obtain the organic certification. Others may use conventional methods of pest control and fertilization. If it is a fruit or vegetable on the Dirty Dozen list, make sure to choose organically grown produce.
WHAT DO YOU FEED YOUR LIVESTOCK?
Local and grass fed seem to go hand-in-hand but you can’t assume that is the case. Cows and chickens may still be eating grain due to cost and land availability (or even junk food!). They may also still be getting things you don’t want in your food, like antibiotics. Organic eggs may be the best protein choice at the farmers market. They can be used in a variety of ways and can be less expensive per serving than organic beef. (more…)
Here in the new year, millions of Americans will try to cut back on sugar or drop it altogether. It’s a noble effort because sugar is devoid of nutrients, except for calories, which it has in spades.
Quick fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports each of us consumes 31 five-pound bags of sugar a year. That’s 267,840 empty calories from sugar alone. Still, people will be jonesing for something sweet to eat. Enter: monk fruit.
Traditionally, people used zero-calorie sweeteners to satisfy their sugar cravings at no caloric cost. Synthetic sugar substitutes, including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) and others, are added at the table but are mostly taken as carbonated diet drinks and low calorie foods. But consumption of those foods has taken a nosedive as of late as health conscious consumers flock to natural sweeteners. Stevia, the zero-calorie herb extract, is gaining appeal, but monk fruit is the real one to watch. (more…)
The best part of waking up is oatmeal in my daughter’s bowl. The morning is the most routine part of her day and she sticks by it with military precision. This is her own doing. She rises at 8, requests a bowl of oatmeal, and then gets dressed. Every single day. Her penchant for oatmeal used to be a sticking point for us; I had to boil the water and prep the oatmeal from scratch. This wasn’t feasible every morning.
Have you looked at microwave oatmeals? Honestly, they’re gross — at least to me! For something so pure and natural, most of those boxes read like a chemistry experiment. So we reserved oatmeal for the mornings I had time to make the real thing. Until I discovered Better Oats Raw Pure & Simple Oatmeal. I swear this isn’t sponsored; my endorsement is as organic as the oats themselves! I found it on the shelf at my Kroger one day, and at $1.99 per eight-count box, I couldn’t afford not to stock up. Now it’s a staple on the grocery list and for six months my daughter has had a bowl of this oatmeal every single morning.
Each pouch is filled with raw, pure oats and a blend of quinoa, flax, and barley. We buy the “Bare” — just plain Jane oatmeal. It takes two minutes to prepare: Oats in the bowl, water, microwave for 1:45, and serve. We’ve found that using a little less water than recommended and cooking for less time gives a thicker oatmeal, which my kiddo prefers.
What she actually ends up eating is anything but plain Jane. She has a standard recipe that we abide by: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit, fresh fruit. (more…)
In case you have missed it, rapper Rick Ross has lost over 100 pounds in the past year, and he is crediting his success to one main thing: pears! Ross has recently been very open about his love for pears, literally causing an increase in the fruit’s popularity in America.
“I eat pears now…” Ross proudly claims in an interview. “Shout out to all the pear.”
That simple statement in an interview with Tim Westwood has gained more than 300,000 views on YouTube and spawned an equally popular Vine video.
Nine ways to eat a … what? That’s right, a pawpaw! It is North America’s largest indigenous fruit you’ve never heard of. Affectionately titled the “poor man’s banana,” pawpaw is PACKED with more potassium than a banana and three times more vitamin C than an orange, according to Modern Farmer.
Not convinced to try them? Maybe these recipes will change your mind.
Pick a Pocket Full of Pawpaws: Sure to be the Hottest New “it” Fruit
1. Straight up raw.
Any pawpaw fan will tell you that the best way to enjoy this adventurous produce is straight off the tree during peak season, which is mid-August through mid-October. With a custard-like texture and taste similar to mangoes, bananas, and melons, it’s no wonder eating the raw fruit is the way to go!
2. Pawpaw pie.
Think lemon meringue with a new twist. Combine pawpaw pulp (peeled and seeded) with sugar, milk, egg yolks, and flour to heat over the stove. Then top with whipped egg white meringue and bake for 12 minutes at 350. See the full recipe here.
3. A micro-brewery trend
Midwest microbreweries and distilleries are catching on to pawpaws and have introduced several craft beers and wines that incorporate the subtly fruity flavor. These pawpaw brews are most commonly found throughout Ohio and the Carolinas. (more…)
Now is the time for “pickin’ up pawpaws and puttin’ ’em in your pockets” as the children’s chant goes. The best pawpaws are the fully ripe fruits that have fallen to the ground between mid-August and mid-October, perfect for stuffing your pockets or your face!
Pawpaws are the largest edible fruit native to the U.S. and are an indigenous plant to 26 states east of Nebraska, reaching from Florida to New York. The fruit was an important food for Native Americans and early settlers. Pawpaws graced George Washington’s table in colonial days. And even animals aren’t missing out on this delicious treat — squirrels, raccoons, possums, and bears happily feast on aromatic pawpaw flesh.
Pawpaws are large fruits, similar to mangoes or papayas, ranging in color from yellow to green with skin often flecked. When over-ripe, the skin will turn brown like a banana. They have big black seeds that are easy-to-remove, a custard-like texture, and a flavor that is related to bananas, mangoes and melons. They are known commonly as a poor man’s banana.
“It has a sweet, yet rather cloying taste….a wee bit puckery” is the way their taste was described by a botanist of yore. (more…)
by Amy Margulies, lead registered dietitian for Retrofit
You’ve probably heard people talking, or read articles online, about why eating bananas is bad for you nutritionally and can impede weight loss. While some people insist that bananas are just fine, others are convinced this is a fruit you should stay away from if you’re trying to lose weight – and many do, just in case the rumors are true. But what’s the real deal with bananas? It’s time to peel open this myth.
What the critics are saying
The controversy started with Dr. Susanna Holt, an Australian researcher who developed the Satiety Index, a way to evaluate how full different foods make you feel. “We found that bananas are much less satisfying than oranges or apples,” Holt stated at the conclusion of the satiety study.
Bananas are generally higher in calories from carbs than most fruits. So for those who are counting calories, this may seem like a poor choice for a snack. People have also observed that bananas cause a “binding” effect, or put more simply, they cause constipation. That’s something you don’t want when you look to the scale for signs of progress. (more…)
By Team Best Life
Some kitchen setups support weight loss efforts while others sabotage them. (The one pictured above looks like a good start to us!) Luckily it’s easy to make over a less-than-healthy cooking and baking space. If you have the right gadgets on your counters and fill your fridge and cabinets with the right foods your kitchen can be a weight loss haven, says Best Life chef Sidra Forman. Here are her 11 healthy kitchen essentials:
1. A peeler
A good peeler opens up a whole world of fresh vegetables that might otherwise seem like a huge amount of labor to get through.
2. A salad spinner
Greens are low in calories and loaded with fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients, plant chemicals that protect against disease. A salad spinner makes it easier to incorporate them into your diet. Whether you’re cooking with them or creating a salad (like this tasty Peach Salad with Balsamic Dressing), you’ll want to start with clean and dry greens.
3. A roasting pan or heavy bottom skillet
Roasting is a cooking method that doesn’t require a ton of fat and brings out the flavors in all sorts of foods. If you do a lot of roasting, you’ll need a heavy bottom skillet. These allow you to cook over high heat—they distribute the heat nicely throughout the bottom of the pan—so food cooks properly without burning. A larger size pan is a good buy because you can use it for a lot of different foods. (more…)
If you are anything like me, you like to stay fit but have a good time at night, too. I have the perfect answer for you. Below, I have some great (and healthy!) smoothie ideas that will be (almost) as healthy with a splash of spirits!
Girls night, game night, or movie night can be an empty calorie bomb after a few rounds of daiquiris, martinis, and wine. Those calories in alcohol really add up! But when you make a compromise to indulge with a little of your favorite liquor swirled around in your favorite homemade fruit and veggie-based smoothie, then you get to enjoy a little of everything.
Enjoy these five healthy smoothies paired with a splash of somethin’!
Strawberry Whopper +Coconut rum
Strawberries, spinach, cacao powder, and coconut rum?! Somebody stop me! I am dead serious–this smoothie with a bit of rum is so delicious, and completely guilt free. Since this recipe, created by Nutritious America, already calls for coconut water, it is not that much of a stretch to imagine it with coconut rum instead. To avoid the smoothie becoming too watery, substitute half a cup of the coconut water for the rum instead. Voila! Delicious. (more…)
There are some foods that are better enjoyed at a restaurant. Parfaits are not one of them. They’re often way too sweet, more so than is necessary. A breakfast parfait should be light, subtly sweet, and filling. And that’s exactly what we’ve created.
Forget what you know about yogurt parfaits and follow along closely. Here, the yogurt is a garnish and homemade “ice cream” takes center stage. See, when you freeze bananas and blend them, the texture is eerily similar to ice cream. When you add a little vanilla, you’d be hard pressed to recognize the difference. (more…)
By Janis Jibrin, M.S., RD, Best Life lead nutritionist
Which of your five senses is most important to you? If you said “sight,” you’d be in the majority—four out of five baby boomers chose sight in a survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society.
So be proactive about protecting your sight: Eating to ensure your eyes stay healthy is as easy as following these three steps:
Choose antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E protect your eyes from free radicals, damaging compounds that can cause cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. A recent study of Swedish women found that those who consumed a diet with the most antioxidant power (one that featured antioxidants that worked best together to protect health) were 13 percent less likely to develop cataracts. Fruits and vegetables topped the list of main sources of antioxidants with 44 percent, followed by whole grains (17 percent) and coffee (15 percent).