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Heart-y Soups

Monday, February 02, 2015

February is 'National Heart Health' month.  What better way to warm your heart and your belly this time of year than to prepare and enjoy a delicious soup with loved ones?

Many soups, particularly cream-based ones, are high in saturated fat and sodium.   Light, broth-based soups are often healthier choices, but unless the soup has some heartiness to it, you'll likely find yourself hungry soon after.

That being said, soups have the potential to be super heart-healthy and satisfying.   While most soups fill the stomach initially, to sustain your fullness and energy to the next meal or snack, make sure to include a source of carbohydrates (starch) and a source of protein (beans, meat, cheese, etc.).  Homeade soups are best because you can control the sodium and add extra ingredients to increase nutrition.  Vegetables, beans, healthy oils like olive oil and whole grains are all heart-healthy soup additions.  Here are a few soups to make a meal out of this season!  

Here's one we adapted from Cooking Light:

Loaded Potato Soup


4 (6-ounce) red potatoes 
2 teaspoons olive oil 
1/2 cup prechopped onion 
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided 
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
3 bacon slices (or turkey bacon), halved 
1.5 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/3 cup) 
4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions


1. Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on HIGH 13 minutes or until tender. Cut in half; cool slightly.

2. While potatoes cook, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth. Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk; add to pan with 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil; stir often. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream, salt, and pepper.

3. Arrange bacon on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel; microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon.

4. Discard potato skins. Coarsely mash potatoes into soup. Top with cheese, green onions, and bacon.

Other soups you may want to try:

White Bean Turkey Chili

White Bean and Cabbage with Chicken Sausage 
Note:  Try this with red cabbage to add some extra antioxidants

Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Avgolemono Chicken Soup
(Greek Lemon and Chicken; use 1/2 salt to reduced sodium)

Tomato Seafood Soup

And make sure to enjoy a piece of dark chocolate after!  ALSO heart healthy!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Water.  It's so easy to forget it this time of year but SO important not to.  50-60% of the body is water and it's a critical ingredient for all metabolic processes.  We need about 1ml of water for every calorie we consume daily; this equates to 48-64oz for most - more if you are an athlete. 

So, how do you know if you're not getting enough?  Fatigue, dry skin and headaches are a clue.  More severe signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, irritability, restlessness, dry mouth, little or no urine output (or very dark colored urine). 

During the colder months, we're less likely to crave a cold beverage.  However, there are other ways to get your fluids in.  Try decaffeinated or herbal tea or hot water with lemon.  Even coffee and regular tea offer the benefits of water intake but also may increase your need for fluid due to the diuretic effect. 

A good way to ensure you're getting enough is to shoot for 16-20oz of fluid with or between each meal.  After breakfast or lunch, fill up a water bottle or travel mug and keep it with you.  Having a water bottle or mug handy makes it more likely you'll take opportunity to get fluids it.  Another option during cold weather is soup.  Have a 16oz bowl of soup with your lunch and you've just about met your fluid needs for that meal.  Here are some great soup recipes from one of my favorite sources, Eating Well Magazine.


Pass the Cheese Please!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Are you a cheese lover?  If so then you're in good company!  This time of year definitely puts me in the mood for some warm brie, a nice viney blue or our family favorite, Dubliner.  Which is why this article in Food & Wine about the best artisinal cheese got my mouth watering.  It features some local New England cheeses including one from Shy Brothers Farm in Westport, MA.  Luckily, we don't have to travel to Vermont, Connecticut or even Westport to enjoy these delicious artisinals.  If you visit the farm's websites, you can find out where their products are sold or possibly order online.  

Many people assume cheese isn't "healthy" due to it's high fat content.  Before I argue that point, let's just say, so what if it isn't healthy?  Must every morsel we put in our mouths be contributing to the greater good of our body?  Is enjoying food important?  Is it possible to balance nutrition with enjoyment?  What happens when you deprive yourself of foods you love?  Managing your relationship with food is a personal matter and these are good questions to ask yourself. 

More often than note, deprivation leads to over-indulgence.  Think about this throughout the holiday season.  Let go a little more and let your body cues guide the way.  Try to avoid 'all or nothing' mentality.  Instead think 'some'.  Many people give themselves unrestrained permission to eat throughout the holidays with the caveat "my diet starts in January".  This can be a set up since the message remains that it's really not ok to eat these foods and therefore, you better get it all in while you can!  I'm going to repeat my favorite quote from Ellyn Satter once again, "when you give yourself permission to eat, you can give yourself permission to stop."  

Now for the health benefits of cheese.  It is "healthy".  Cheese is an excellent source of protein (5g/oz) and of course, calcium (~300mg/oz).  It also has a good amount of fat to help with satiety .  Cheese satisfies the palate's craving for creamy, rich and savory food.  Finally, recently a lot of attention has been placed on the importance of our microbiome (see former post,  "Getting to Know Your Microbiome" for more on that).  While there is still a lot of research to be done, probiotics appear to help improve gut bacteria. One of the best sources of probiotics is raw milk.  That's right raw, as in not pasteurized

If interested in raw milk, you will want to find a local farm that sells it. The Raw Milk Network within the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) is a great resource for finding local dairy farms.  You will also find more information here on local, organic foods.  Eastleigh Farm in Framingham offers raw as well as pasteurized dairy. 

So go on, enjoy your cheese; along with a variety of other foods this holiday season!  

Here are some of our favorite combos:

1.  Baked brie with fruit.  Try this one Baked brie with apples and cranberries .
2.  Fruit and cheese platter.  Here are some tips for creating it.
3.  Baked into things like in these cheese crisps.
4.  Sprinkled on salad.  Read about 5 great cheeses for salads.

Get Your Greens!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

We featured the first smoothie listed below at our wellness table at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Quincy last week and received rave reviews!  Many people asked for the recipe so we thought we'd re-post it.  Try both of these great green smoothies, each with a different nutrient profile.  The Kale-Pear smoothie is packed with vitamin C, folate and other B vitamins, lutein and zeanthin while the Avocado-Melon smoothie provides a good amount of mono-unsaturated fat, vitamin E, calcium and protein.  Both smoothie offer the benefits of fiber and water.  

Use these energy boosters as part of your breakfast or lunch or between meals instead of coffee.  Loading up on greens is a great way to recharge without the caffeine!  

Kale-Pear Smoothie (makes 3-4 servings)

1 banana

2 cups kale, cut, large rib removed

1 pear

1 cup grapes

1/2 orange

1 scoop veggie protein powder*

1 cup water (trade a 1/4 c for apple juice if you'd like)

1 cup ice

Mix in blender and enjoy!  You've just had your day's worth of folate, potassium, vitamin C and oodles of other vitamins and minerals.  Plus it's got fiber and a protein to help fill you up and balance blood sugar.

*Optional if you want some extra fiber


Avocado-Melon Smoothie

1 ripe, fresh avocado

1 cup honeydew melon chunks

juice from 1/2 lime

1 cup fat free milk

1 cup fat-free or lowfat yogurt

1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice

1 TBSP honey

This sweet, creamy smoothie is a great alternative to ice cream adding the benefits of potassium, B-6 and folate along with the calcium.





Great Gazpachos for Hot Summer Days!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

You can't have summer without cookouts, campfires and s'mores but on these hot summer days, let's face it, sometimes it's nice not to have to cook at all! 

BUT, before you cave and serve ice cream for dinner, try some of these refreshing, cool soups at the end of the day.  Served with some cold cut, chicken salad or tuna  sandwiches  or even crackers and cheese, they're a great meal and make use of summer's plentiful bounty.

Chilled Pea and Tarragon Soup
Cold Strawberry Soup
Melon Soup
Cucumber Soup and more!                


Watermelon Frenzy

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's finally feeling like summer and what's better in this heat than watermelon?  My kids and I had our fill yesterday and it got me thinking.  Watermelon is delicious simply on it's own but what else can you do with it?  Then I remembered this amazing salad I'd had at 51 Lincoln; Grilled Watermelon Salad.  Yum!  This is the perfect salad for a sunny summer day.  Grilling it gives the watermelon a completely different texture that is hard to describe and the balsamic glaze and feta offer the perfect balance for the sweet fruit.  You gotta try it!   Here are some other fun ways to use watermelon this summer. 

Watermelon Keg

Watermelon Slushie

Fresh Watermelon Cake

Grill Meets Salad

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Looking for a healthy alternative for the grill?  Think salad.  It's definitely not the first food you'd think of tossing on the fire but it's definitely one of the best things I've tried.  I was out to lunch recently and out of curiosity ordered the 'grilled romaine hearts'.  The salad came topped with chopped onions, grilled grape tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon and gorgonzola cheese and was dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Grilled shrimp was the perfect addition.  It was absolutely delicious and I plan to attempt to reproduce the recipe at home.  Let me tell you, this is a salad that won't leave you missing your burger!  Find some other great grilled salad recipes here.  

Earthly Delights

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jackie Ballou, MS, RD

To my delight, my boyfriend’s mother recently made me up a bag of fresh vegetables to take home.  The delectable leaves, roots and flowers inside were anything but ordinary. 

She told me one of the vibrant looking leaves was an herb called amaranth.  I was surprised, for I knew amaranth to be a gluten-free, nutrition powerhouse of a grain (technically speaking, a seed), containing protein and fiber.  What I was not aware of was the nutritional value and versatility of the leaves of this same plant, which produces the seeds I am more familiar with.

Upon doing a bit of research, I found out that amaranth leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K and are also a good source of the minerals, calcium and manganese.  The leaves of this plant can be used as a substitute for spinach.  The more mature leaves should be cooked (stir frying or sautéing with a olive oil and some garlic works well) while the younger, more delicate leaves may be used raw in salads.  Similar to kale, it can also be added to soups and stews.

In admiring, learning about and tasting amaranth leaves, I got to thinking about the abundance of exotic plant foods found at farms and farmers’ markets.   And furthermore, what an opportunity lies in exploring these treasure troves with kids.  I can’t think of a better way for children to explore a new food in its entirety than picking out a new fruit or vegetable, taking it home, preparing it, and sampling it. 
To plan your next fruit and veggie treasure hunt, find the closest farmers market or pick your own farm at


Cranberry Couscous Salad

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Looking for a tasty and healthy dish for the summer?  Try this versatile cranberry couscous salad.  It's a great side dish but also complete enough to be a meal itself.  This low glycemic salad is nutrient-packed with lots of fiber, protein, B6, folate, vitamin E and healthy mono-unsaturated fats.  It's delicious hot or cold which makes it great for dinner parties or cookouts.  You can also substitute other grains for the couscous; Quinoa is particularly good and packs in more protein as well.  Enjoy! 

Cranberry Couscous Salad

Eat Healthy in No (or Little) Time

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Want to eat healthy but short on time?  Here are a few tips to streamline healthy eating for you and your family.

1.  Plan Ahead

Planning is key to eating healthy with limited time.  Invest 15-30 minutes a week into planning meals and your grocery list.  Think of 2-3 breakfast and lunch options and 3-5 dinners.  After you decide what's on the menu, make up a grocery list.  If you have a smartphone, keep a list of items you need each week and add or subtract as needed.  Many grocery stores offer delivery for a small additional fee of $5-10 (or free if you have a coupon).  Use the time you would have spent at the store for planning. 

2.  Stretch Foods

Choose foods that you can use over multiple meals.  For example, a rotisserie chicken can be dinner tonight and chicken salad to top your greens for lunch tomorrow.  Side dishes such as the edamame succotash recipe on our site (Edamame Succotash) are great for leftovers.

3.  Modify Convenience Foods

Prepared foods are typically high in fat, calories and sodium and low in fiber and nutrients despite their convenience and palatability.  Nonetheless, when pinched for time, they can make good starters for a healthier dish  Adding veggies, lean proteins and/or grains to convenience foods helps boost their nutritional quality without a lot of prep time.  Veggies like cooked spinach and broccoli make great additions to prepared pasta sauces and macaroni & cheese.  Or, take store-bought potato salad, typically loaded with mayo and give it a healthy and  appetizing  makeover  by adding a couple additional skin-on potatoes (5 minutes in the microwave) and/or some peas along with a little extra seasoning.  The same can be done with pasta salad; add some whole wheat pasta, beans and a cut-up red pepper and you've substantially improved a nutritionally blah food. 

4.  Plan For and Utilize Leftovers

Buy extra meat, fish, poultry or veggies when grilling and find recipes to use the leftovers in.  Grill up some grass-fed beef and use the extra for steak & cheese subs the next day; use a whole wheat baguette with some leftover grilled veggies and a little cheese and you have a well-balanced and delicious meal.  For another idea, use grilled chicken in a pasta recipe like this one from Pioneer Woman (one of my favorite sites for recipes by the way) Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta.

5.  Simple Salads

Keep ingredients for easy-to-make salads on hand.  For a base, use pre-washed, bagged greens or wash your greens right when you get them home so they're ready to go when you need them.  Add some grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, beans, edamame, olives, sliced beets and/or some nuts and you'll have a salad with absolutely no slicing or dicing.  For added protein, boil some eggs and store them in the fridge.  That extra grilled meat comes in handy for this too.  Berries, mango and avocado are great additions to summer salads too but may require a little extra work.  Having all the ingredients ready to go and visible increasese the chance you will use them. 



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