Variety IS the spice of life


When I have queried healthy eating challenge participants about which weekly challenge was their favorite this one is mentioned most often. In fact my favorite sister-in-law said she didn't even realize she liked so many vegetables until she tried them on this challenge. She has progressed really far in the years since she made that comment and now she is a full fledged green smoothie drinker with her own healthy eating blog! 

There are many blogs and books that tout
various super foods that are power houses of nutrients. We are so blessed to have access to such a huge variety of these amazing fruits and vegetables. Yet many of us eat the same foods day in and day out. And in making these same food choices we also partake of the same nutrients. It's time to step outside our habits and take part in a wider variety of delicious fruits and vegetables. 

I have written before about a surprising experience I had when I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints the week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So... wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (bought at Costco I just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.

Yet even in my own family I have a nephew that when we reunited after a year apart shared that the last salad he had eaten was when he saw me last. ARRGGHHH! 

I know that on this challenge you have been eating fresh fruits and vegetables. But are you in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit? 

In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.
Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”

So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market (which btw was my favorite place to shop when I lived in Atlanta) with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.

The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”

Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet
• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.
Broccoli slaw- Yes I will accept a SAME vegetable if you can use it in a very different way.Broccoli Slaw is merely broccoli (the stalk?) spiralized into skinny strips. I’ve been using it in a mock Cole Slaw I make with Greek yogurt.
•Dates are a sweet and flavorful snack that keep perfectly in your purse or car.. I buy mine at Costco and use them to sweeten my noon day smoothie.
• Star Fruit- It’s called a star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.
• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip. My neighbor made it for me recently and it was so delicious I literally licked the plate. 

YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.

Here’s a recipe that might be fun to try and please feel free to share any recipes on the blog that you have found for our more unusual fruits and veggies!


Baba Ghanouj 
Makes 2 cups or 8 (1/4-cup) servings

Hands on: 30 minutes 
Total time: 90 minutes

2 pounds eggplant,
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice,
1 small garlic clove minced,
 2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste),
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Grill the eggplant over a hot fire or under the broiler until the skin darkens and wrinkles on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. The eggplant should be uniformly soft when pressed with tongs. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 5 minutes.
Set a small colander over a bowl or in the sink. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit the eggplants lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the hot pulp from the skins and place the pulp in the colander. You should have about 2 cups of packed pulp. Discard the skins. Let the pulp drain for 3 minutes.
Transfer pulp to a food processor bowl and add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until the mixture has a coarse, choppy texture, about 8 one-second pulses. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until lightly chilled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
To serve, use a spoon to make a trough in the center of the dip and spoon in a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.
— From “Perfect Vegetables From the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated” (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)

Per serving: 50 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.
Nutritional bonus points: Don’t let the 72 percent of calories from fat scare you. This is a low-fat, low-calorie dip, and the small amount of fat comes from heart-healthy fats in the olive oil and tahini.


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