In Season: Asparagus

Nothing says Spring better than Asparagus! In season, inexpensive, and easy to make — now is the time to add these long stemmed delights to your grocery list and your dinner table.

Varieties: Asparagus comes in three colors: green, white, and purple. Most common is the long green kind. The white asparagus are grown totally underground and the purple grow with just their tips an inch or two above the earth. The flavor is about the same for all types, but the purple and white variety are sometimes less sweet and less stringy than the green.

How to pick: Look for bunches with firm stalks and tightly closed lids. The stem should be uniformly green from top to bottom and asparagus with large white ends should be avoided. Fresh asparagus has no odor at the tips — old asparagus has a strong and unpleasant odor. Store in the fridge with the stem ends wrapped in a moist paper towel for up to 3 days. To trim, cut off or snap ends.

Loaded with: Antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, potassium; high in fiber and low in calories.

How to prepare: Below are some quick, easy ideas for serving asparagus tonight!

  • Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and lightly grill, broil or roast — then sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • Create an asparagus stir fry with green and red peppers
  • Whip up an asparagus omelet with spring onions
  • Blanch and serve as an appetizer with yogurt dip or hummus
  • Steam and coat with your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing
  • Blanch and wrap in smoked salmon or prosciutto
  • Peel asparagus into ribbons and serve over spaghetti with shaved Parmesan

What’s your favorite way to enjoy fresh asparagus?

15 Secrets to Eating Out

Countdown to a Healthy Summer — Week 3

This week I’m tackling how to eat out successfully. This advice is for those of you who eat out regularly and need to adopt some strategies for healthier and lower calorie eating.

How to order:

  1. Choose lean meats and fish that are baked, poached, broiled, or steamed
  2. Choose foods that do the portion-control for you (i.e., soup, small plates/tapas or appetizers)
  3. Avoid beverages other than water — no calories in your drinks!
  4. Avoid fried foods
  5. Sub-out high fat or large portion rice, pasta and other grains for double-veggies or a side salad
  6. Limit or avoid alcohol
  7. Order salad dressings on the side so you can control amount used; use dip and stab method
  8. Order burgers and sandwiches with sauces/dressings on the side, or not at all
  9. Skip cheese on sandwiches, burgers and salads
  10. Order salmon or grilled chicken entree salads as your meal

Simple Strategies:

  1. Order first! Don’t let others influence your decision
  2. Check out the options online first, know what you’re going to order before you get there (don’t even open the menu!)
  3. Don’t come hungry; plan a snack 1-2 hours before the meal
  4. Eat your veggies/salad first — eat lowest calorie to highest calories
  5. Eat bread plain — don’t soak it in seasoned oil or butter — this alone can save you 100’s of calories!

I worked on an article with Jennifer Huget of The Washington Post last week where we gave tips on healthy, low calorie lunch options at the “company cafe.” Check out my suggestions here.

Next week, we’ll focus on meal planning and at-home eating! Fast and simple recipes using 3-5 ingredients.

The Countdown Continues…Week 2

Now that your pantry and cupboards are cleaned free of all things processed and otherwise unhealthy, it’s time to tackle….your fridge. The first line of defense in the battle of the bulge.

The refrigerator can be a trigger for mindless eating. Especially if the first thing you see is leftover pizza, Jell-O pudding cups and other nefarious items.

A well-stocked fridge is a healthy fridge. A healthy fridge is a healthy you.

Here are some tips:

Take Stock. Once per month, clean your fridge. Wipe it down with a disinfectant and assess “best by” labels.

Shop Wisely and Frequently. Americans waste over $10/week on food that has spoiled or gone bad. Plan meals each week and shop from a list. Think about your schedule. Don’t buy a cart full of fresh fruit and veggies if you know you’re going to be out 3-4 nights that week and won’t be making dinner.

Think Light. Much of what’s in our fridge is from the dairy case. When choosing items like milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, and yogurt choose light instead of fat free. Light versions taste similiar to their full fat cousins and can be substituted in recipes with little difference in taste. Condiments such as salad dressing and mayo are best done light as well.

Lower the Sodium. Dairy foods and cold cuts can be very high in sodium and combined with lunch at Chipotle can add up over the course of the day. Minimize sodium intake at home by choosing reduced sodium condiments and deli meats.

Hide the Desserts. Out of sight, out of mind. Avoid temptation and hide those high fat indulgences in tupperware or in the crisper drawer. Keep healthy snacks in plain sight like salsa or hummus for veggies, and vanilla yogurt for fruit.

Think Ahead. Adopt a habit of making one extra serving at dinner and get it prepped and ready to take for your lunch the next day. Don’t wait until the morning of to think about what’s for lunch.

Filter Water. Keep a water-filtered pitcher in your fridge at all times. Most people prefer the taste of filtered water over tap and filtering it yourself is far less expensive than buying bottled (and you can reduce your carbon footprint). For a little something extra, add a wedge of fresh lemon, lime, orange or other citrus, like pink grapefruit or tangerine.

Next week we’ll look at what you’re doing when you eat away from home when we uncover the secrets to eating out!

Enjoy your weekend and have a happy Easter!