Monthly Archives: October 2017

Breakfast Alert!

Healthy breakfast. Yogurt with granola and berries

As a teenager, you may have rolled your eyes when your mom insisted that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” as you were running out the door. But guess what? She’s right. A new study just found a link between skipping breakfast and what may seem like an unrelated condition: atherosclerosis, otherwise known as hardening of the arteries.

In the study, those who skipped breakfast or ate very little for breakfast were more likely to have the condition — and also have unhealthy cholesterol levels and a higher waist circumference, blood sugar, and body-mass index. What’s the connection? Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast may help to regulate your appetite throughout the day, leading to fewer cravings and more appropriate portions. So frequently skipping breakfast may spell bad news for your eating patterns, which can affect your heart health.

The researchers emphasized that people who eat little or nothing for breakfast tend to have a less healthy lifestyle overall. Which is why skipping breakfast may be a signal to take a look at your daily habits. Keep a journal for a week or two, without trying to change anything, and record your habits without judgment. Write down how much time you spend exercising, your ratio of whole foods (spinach, apples, legumes, brown rice, salmon) to processed foods (frozen pizza, white-flour bread, packaged muffins or cookies), how often you cook, order in or eat out, your alcohol intake, and your sleep. When you’re done, don’t try to overhaul your whole life at once! Get support from a health professional, and from family and friends, for any changes you’d like to make. And by all means, add in a bowl of oatmeal in the morning — try the steel-cut variety, with nuts and fresh berries.

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.