Healthy Challenge

Join us each month for a healthy challenge!

May’s (2017) Healthy Challenge: Eat sunflower seeds. Over time, your brain and body will rejoice! These seeds are more than a satisfying crunch; they improve your health! They are high in protein and loaded with some heavy-hitting nutrients that are especially good for your brain. Sunflower seeds also help prevent high blood pressure, migraine headaches, boost your immunity and fight chronic inflammation, heart disease and cancer. More details are found in this month’s post, Sunflower Seeds: Brain Boost.

April’s (2017) Healthy Challenge: Eat Arugula this month. Popular in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines, this flavorful green can be used for the lettuce and herbs. Add spice and greens in one swoop to salad, pasta, grain, and sandwiches. Don’t forget to top your pizza or any other food you eat. Arugula isn’t just delicious. It’s also brimming with health-protecting nutrients. In fact, arugula strengthens your bones and may make exercising easier. These rock star rockets may even help keep your brain sharp and smelling better.

March’s (2017) Healthy Challenge: Skip the white refined stuff, even when eating out! Choose healthier whole grain bread options instead. Traditionally made sourdough bread made with whole grains and a long fermentation time is a wise bread pick. Some sprouted whole grain bread brands are right there too. Along with these bread choices, some 100% whole grain bread options are helpful to your health as well. Even gluten-free bread made from healthier grains are available for that suffereing from Celiac disease. Read The Healthiest Bread for specific shopping instructions.

February’s (2017) Healthy Challenge: Eat blood oranges this month. They are a perfect winter fruit full of lots of vitamin C, folate and powerful phytonutrients like their citrus cousins. As a bonus, blood orange’s contain powerful phytonutrients, anthocyanins, evident by their red color. Eat half of your meals and snacks in fruits and vegetables for your daily “detox cleanse” and don’t forget to eat a variety of colors, including bright and dark colors. In the winter, include these delicious red oranges! Read more here.

January’s (2017) Healthy Challenge: Bring in the new year by making a new habit that will benefit your health. It’s not a hard one either, so you can actually keep this new year’s resolution. Eat a Brazil nut every day to ensure you are eating enough selenium in your diet. This powerful but sometimes under-consumed nutrient is integral to metabolism and the immune system to fight all sorts of diseases, improve brain function, increase fertility, and possibly even mood. Unfortunately, not everyone eats seafood which is rich in selenium. But one Brazil nut provides a full-days amount of selenium (along with other great nutrients) and ensures that you take in enough selenium to boost your health even if you eat seafood. Stay with a natural, whole food way to consistently consume this powerful mineral rather than selenium supplements that have been shown to have problems. Word to the wise: more is not alway better. Given that Brazil nuts are the most concentrated source of selenium don’t go crazy and stick to one, maybe two a day. No worries, though, even if you eat a lot of seafood. When nutrients are eaten in whole food form, you get some wiggle room. I just don’t want anyone going crazy eating more Brazil nuts cause they think more is better. It’s not! Read more in this month’s post, Brazil Nut’s Superpower for more details.

salmon-from-vital-choice

December’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Start by eating more salmon this month. News Flash! Mercury toxicity is not an issue in most varieties of seafood contrary to what was once suspected. In fact, more research into mercury toxicity revealed eating seafood improves IQs. Seafood has other valuable nutrients, that we are not eating enough of and that are difficult to find in other foods. Pregnant women and young children are especially in need of these valuable nutrients but are unaware of seafood’s terrific benefits for them and their children. Read more details in my post, Seafood News Flash. Eating sustainable marine life for everyone is more important to your health than you can imagine! Canned and pouched salmon or tuna are readily accessible forms of fish. To make it easy and delicious, I’ve recently found an online company called Vital Choice that is a trusted source of seafood for fast home delivery. Their salmon, both canned and frozen, is amazing! They also have fantastic gift packs for the holidays too. Gift you and your loved ones with wonderful nutrients this holiday by eating more seafood.

Pure Maple Syrup November’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Eat more fruit daily and to use pure maple syrup instead of processed sugar when fruit doesn’t do the job. Now that Halloween is over, it’s time to get rid of the candy and move on to healthier options. Even with Thanksgiving around the corner, you can make healthier choices without being on a “diet”! For the biggest impact on your waistline and your health, focus on eating less processed sugar. Eat fruit in its whole form instead of sweets. Sweeten foods with fruit rather than sugar when possible. While pure maple sugar isn’t nearly as healthful as fruit, it’s a much better choice than processed sugar and provides nutrients to help negate the problems associated with a concentrated sugar source. Read A Healthier Sweet Tooth for more specifics.

Flax seedsOctober’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Add ground flax seeds to your life on a regular basis. In fact, 2 to 3 tsp of ground flaxseed is a sure-fire way to get the ALA omega-3 fatty acids you need each day in a whole food form, especially if you’re not eating seafood and even if taking a fish oil supplement. Plus, flax has up to 800 times the phytonutrients commonly found in other seed oils. The fiber content, both soluble and insoluble, adds bulk and helps clean out the digestive tract and may help control cholesterol and stabilize blood sugars. Read my post, Fabulous Flax, to learn more about this powerfully nutritious seed.

Okra from the Durham Farmer's MarketSeptember’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Take advantage of the season and eat okra. It wasn’t a vegetable I ate much until recently when I was surrounded by it at a farmer’s market in my new home of Durham, North Carolina. It’s delicious roasted at 450 degrees tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper. After 15 minutes it’s nicely browned and delicious without any slim factor. However, that stuff in okra that can make it slimy if cooked wrong has some amazing nutritional benefits. Read this month’s post, Southern Okra Fun, to find out more!

Peanuts and Peanut ButterAugust’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Eat more peanuts! That is assuming you aren’t allergic to peanuts. Always be mindful of the possibility that others might be allergic. That said, Peanuts aren’t nuts but do have the heart and longevity health benefits nuts have with some extra bonus value as well. Peanuts are most closely related to beans and lentils. They may even make you healthier, leaner, and smarter over a lifetime. Interestedly enough, it may be the peanut itself that prevents peanut allergies from developing. Read more about peanuts in Peanut Health Punch.

Fresh cottage cheese with raspberriesJuly’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Eat Cottage Cheese. It’s a secret weapon to increase protein to keep body fat down and stay strong. It makes recipes creamier and taste better without even recognizing its presence. Cottage cheese contains about twenty-eight grams of protein per cup. So if you tolerate dairy, then take advantage of this protein-packed craving stopper and muscle protector. My post, Cottage Cheese: Secret Weapon tells you how much protein you need and how to sneak it into food for a delicious protein boost.

papayaJune’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: It’s time to start eating papaya if you aren’t already. You are in for a treat! I hadn’t found good tasting papaya in the US, outside of Hawaii, until recently. Now, I’m hooked. It’s delicious and chalk-full of powerful nutrients that are especially good for digestion and silent internal inflammation that seems to be an underlining cause of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Papayas are ready to eat when they are green with about one-third yellow color. Don’t make my mistake and wait until they are mostly yellow to cut into them. Read my post, Powerful Papaya, to find out more. Eat up!

barleyMay’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Make barley a part of your diet on a regular basis. If you are in a rice, pasta, potato rut, barley is the way out! It’s easy (rice cooker), delicious, and super nutritious. In fact, barley has great protective effects against heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and even gallstones. Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with almost 14 grams of fiber per cup, compared to oatmeal with 4 grams per cup. Try buying hulled barley for more nutrients since only the inedible outer layer is removed and use where you would use rice. For more ideas and tips read, Barley to the Rescue. You’ll love it! Your body will benefit along with your taste buds!

parsleyApril’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Eat more fresh parsley. Packed full of vitamin, minerals, and powerful phytonutrients, this green is worth more to your body than the artistic touch it offers to your plate. Even a couple of sprigs has 70% of the daily value we need of vitamin K and three times vitamin C than in oranges. To make fresh parsley easier to use, skip careful chopping and use both the leaves and the stems. Freshly chopped parsley is a wonderful addition to top hot food, salads, and your favorite vinaigrette. It’s even terrific in a green smoothie. MiddleEastern salads like tabbouleh and fattoush are full of parsley and are delicious! Read more about parsley and how to use it in my post, Parsley Power.

SorghumMarch’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Eat sorghum ground in flour form, popped, or in grain form that looks similar to pearled couscous once cooked. This gluten-free, whole grain is especially high in minerals and phytonutrients to boost health. While sorghum grain isn’t on the grocery shelves like quinoa, it is available at some stores and online through BobsRedMill.com and Wondergrain.com websites. Learn more by reading Sorghum: The Next Quinoa.

Pink grapefruit

February’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Celebrate national grapefruit month and enjoy delicious pink grapefruit. It’s powerful nutrients boost our immune system, fight cancers with gusto, decrease the risk of heart disease, help our insulin work more effectively, and even give us an edge in the battle to lose weight. It’s so powerful that it can cause medications to pass from your gut to your blood faster than normal. Grapefruit should be avoided with certain medications like statin drugs, some psychiatric medications, and calcium blockers. If you aren’t taking drugs that interact with grapefruit, don’t miss out on all this winter sunshine fruit has to offer to help feel GREAT! Learn more by reading Red Grapefruit Strength.

January’s (2016) Healthy Challenge: Eat more dried peas, beans, and lentils (called pulses)Take the 2016 Pulse Pledge today and eat these legumes the whole year not just the whole monthPulses are nutritious, sustainable, inexpensive, versatile, and tasty. Learn how to prepare them quickly and make them taste fantastic in this month’s post, 2016 Pulse Pledge.

CinnamonDecember’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Add more cinnamon more often to your food to take advantage of its many health benefits. Cinnamon contains compounds that protect against chronic inflammation within the body, diabetes and insulin resistance, bacterial and fungal infections, cancer, strokes and heart disease, as well as protecting our brain. Only a half teaspoon of cinnamon per day can help fight disease, promote our health and maybe even help us think better. Learn more about the differences between the two major varieties of cinnamon, buying and using cinnamon in meal preparation by reading, Cinnamon: A Gift for a King.

Colorful CarrotsNovember’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Enjoy carrots in all their varieties. Carrots, no matter the color, are a delicious, attractive, and familiar way of taking in important nutrients we need to improve our health. They are readily available, easy to eat raw, and especially good steamed or roasted. Read more about them in this post, Colorful Carrots.

Black rice on plate on wooden backgroundOctober’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Add black rice to your table and eat up. Throw it into soups to get started. Eat black rice straight or enjoy black rice mixed with brown and white rice for a great taste. In fact, different color rice is sold mixed for convenience. These rice varieties are tasty and easy to make in a rice cooker or stove top. Sell it to the family as part of the Halloween fun or even play the Emperor’s Rice card to get everyone on board. In China, black rice is known as forbidden rice since black rice was so rare, tasty, and nutritious that only the emperors were allowed to eat it. However, you make it happen; black rice is another way to slip in whole grains along with valuable nutrients more commonly found in dark-colored fruits and vegetables. For more information and cooking tips see my post, Black Rice: The Emperor’s Rice.

red grapeSeptember’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Eat more grapes this month. Add them to salads like in my copy-cat Kale Quinoa Salad from Cheesecake Factory or add them to grains of any sort. Eat them fresh or frozen to enjoy their delicious taste and health boosting nutrients. Grapes’ greatness is due in large part to their overwhelming number of phytonutrients, which reduce the risk for countless diseases. Each grape contains hundreds of these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. It’s actually the grapes used to make red wine that provide such amazing health benefits. These delicious berries may even help us live longer.

Kombu and kim noriAugust’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Add seaweed to your diet. This sea vegetable not only tastes amazing but is the ultimate super-food, providing a wide-range of nutrients not commonly found in other foods. It’s easier than you think to add into your diet. Start with seaweed snacks. Full of a delicious, savory taste, these snacks are a great choice for when you need a salty-tasting fix for low calories and, despite their salty taste, relatively low in sodium. Dashi, the chicken stock of Japan, is a simple stock to make to use in Asian styles soups and noodle bowls. Nori dried sheets could be wrapped around or added to foods to add extra flavor and nutrition. Learn more about the different seaweeds and how to use them in the post entitled, Super Nutrition: Seaweed. You’re in for a treat!

Shelled Hemp SeedJuly’s (2015) Healthy Challenge:  Add two to three tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds (hemp hearts) to your food every day to add high-quality protein and other health-promoting nutrients. The protein in hemp contains all 20 amino acids, including significant amounts of all the nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. Hemp seed hearts are soft with a subtle nutty taste and are easily added to foods like oatmeal or smoothies to boost protein without much effort or change in taste. Read more on this month’s post, Plant-based Protein Boost: Hemp Seeds.

cherryJune’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Eat cherries to help prevent diseases like cancer, hypertension and harmful inflammation and to help relieve sleepless nights and muscle aches. They can be added to everything from pasta to pork, eaten raw or cooked down to make a sauce, or strained for juice. Serve this luscious whole food by the bowlful for dessert. Cherries aren’t around for long, and unlike most produce we see in the store all year round, cherries are there one day and gone the next. Read more about cherries here.

WatercressMay’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Add watercress to your diet to boost your health, shrink your waistline and improve your workouts. This garnish-gone-superstar is loaded with nutrients. In fact, it has the most nutrients in relation to the calories than any other food. Add this slightly peppery green to everything you eat including salads, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, whole grains and pasta. Read more about watercress here.

PineapplesApril’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Take advantage of pineapple season and eat fresh juicy pineapple today. It’s loaded with nutrients that encourage great skin, strong bones, a healthier immune system, and better digestion. If a center leaf from the top of the pineapple comes right out, it’s ripe. Turn your pineapple upside down for about thirty minutes before cutting to redistribute the sugars more evenly through the pineapple. Read more here. Enjoy!

fresh green cabbageMarch’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: With all the cabbage varieties and tasty recipe possibilities beyond coleslaw and corn beef and cabbage, eating more cabbage can be fun. Common, inexpensive cabbage is chock-full of powerful nutrients that fights disease and promote health in dramatic ways. Short sautéing or steaming when cooking cabbage helps preserve the essential nutrients and enzymes needed to fight disease. Read more about cabbage and how to prepare it in The Humble but Mighty Cabbage post. You will be doing your body and taste buds a big favor!

TurmericFebruary’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Use turmeric in your cooking. Turmeric fights damaging inflammation better than all other common herbs and spices, so let’s learn how to add more in our diet. Commonly used in Indian food, it gives a subtle curry flavor to lentils, rice, soups, stews and vegetable recipes. Although, it needs to be cooked with these foods rather than added afterward. Eating healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, fish oil, and seeds seem to increase the body’s absorption of the active phytonutrient in turmeric. Turmeric offers poultry and seafood a warm color and compliments their natural flavors. Keep in mind that turmeric should be added slowly, as its flavor grows during cooking and using too much at one time could ruin your recipe.

Pouring water into glass on blue backgroundJanuary’s (2015) Healthy Challenge: Drink more water. We need to drink water to burn fat. Fat cells need to be hydrated to be broken down. Let’s keep our fat cells hydrated throughout the day and evening to burn calories more efficiently. Have water with you everywhere you go. Drink a big glass first thing in the morning and just before you go to sleep. Of course, once the cell are completely hydrated, more fat won’t be burned if you drink more water but drinking water all the time helps ensures that the fat cells are able to be used as much as possible. Around three liters (100 oz) of water spread out through the day should do the trick for most adults, but divide your weight in half to estimate the number of ounces of water you need to drink per day (150 lbs = 75 oz. of water) of water you need to keep hydrated. Read my post entitled, Water: New Science for Weight Loss, for important details.

pomegranate December’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Eat and serve pomegranates during this holiday month while they are still in season. The power of the phytonutrients in pomegranates puts these babies at the top of the list for fighting disease. Pomegranates’ gorgeous seeds add flavor and a delightful crunchy, juicy texture to your holiday dishes, while boosting your health. I love hummus topped with pomegranate seeds, in salads, as well as served with vegetables like roasted Brussels sprouts. Read more about their amazing health benefits, find recipes and watch my minute video on how to cut them fast in my blog post entitled, Pomegranates: The Crown Jewels of Superfoods. They make food more attractive, nutritious and tasty!

Romanesco November’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Shake things up a bit and serve Romanesco, an artsy, science-intriguing vegetable that is delicious and healthy. Romanesco is a fractual; a natural phenomenon (or mathmatical set) that contains a repeating pattern at every scale. Sometimes referred to as Romanesco broccoli or Romanesco cauliflower in North America, it’s not just another hybrid. It’s actually a species unto itself.  It’s excellent raw or cooked. It’s crunchier than cauliflower but not as bland and doesn’t have the chalky edge of raw broccoli. With the holidays around the corner, don’t forget to add this artsy pick to your appitizer vegetable platter. It cooks up well too. Romanesco can be cooked using any method that works for broccoli or cauliflower and substituted in any recipe that calls for them. Enjoy your new adventure!

edamameOctober’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Eat edamame and enjoy this whole food along with all of its high-quality, plant-based protein. It’s also loaded nutrition from vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients all to boost our health. Found both with and without their pod in the frozen section and sometimes the produce section of your grocery store, they’re already cooked, so no preparation is needed. Add them to all your recipes. I especially like them in my pilafs and rice bowls; they’re mild with a pleasant taste. They go well with any whole grain recipe, soups, salads and are especially good as a snack when their warm and in their pod. The edamame slips right out of the pod and into your mouth. Even kids have fun eating them. Enjoy this super food without any worries! Read my post, Edamame: Whole Food Fun, to find out why soy is so misunderstood.

eggplant September’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Eat eggplant! Low in calories and carbohydrates, while high in fiber and powerful phytonutrients, eggplants are a tasty way to improve your heart and brain health as well as fight cancer and control blood sugars! My favorite way to cook eggplant is by grilling. Cover eggplant slices with 2 or 3 tablespoons salt (the salt will pull out the extra moisture and prevent the eggplant from being soggy during the grilling) and let drain for about an hour before grilling, then rinse and dry it off with paper towels until dry. Brush slices of eggplant with olive oil and grill them with pesto sauce or balsamic vinegar over medium-high heat until golden brown, with grill marks. Enjoy! Learn more about the health benefits of eggplants in my post, Empower with Eggplants

Fresh healthy bunch of beetrootAugust’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Eat beets and enjoy many health benefits. Beets can be steamed, boiled, pickled, or eaten raw, but they are particularly delicious when oven-roasted, which brings out their natural sugar. Wrap each beet in foil, then roast for about an hour o, depending on the size of the beets, at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or until they can be pierced easily with a knife. Their skins easily rub off with paper towels after cooling slightly. The finished beets can be eaten immediately or be kept on hand in the refrigerator to add to foods like salads. Beets pair well with bitter greens, most fruits, cheeses, and nuts. In addition to protecting against chronic disease and boosting your energy level, they are delicious!

RaspberriesJuly’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Eat raspberries! They are full of anthocyanins which are powerful health promoting compounds that seem to improve chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer as well as brain function in regards to memory and age-related mental decline. Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese, and dietary fiber as well as many other nutrients. Take advantage of the delicious fresh raspberries in season now, but don’t hesitate to use frozen raspberries all year long as they have been frozen within hours of being picked.

Watermelon WedgesJune’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Indulge in watermelon. It’s a great tasting nutritious replacement for less healthy summer treats. Watermelon has the highest concentrations of the powerful phytonutrient, lycopene, of any fresh fruit or vegetable to fight inflammation and disease. Its nutrition content doesn’t end there: Read the Watermelon Wellness post to find out more. Use thumping method of finding a ripe watermelon: A fully ripened watermelon will have a deeper, hollower “bass” sound rather than a solid and shallow “soprano” sound. So enjoy watermelon’s juicy and thirst-quenching crunch this summer while packing in it’s super nutrition!

sardines swimmingMay’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Eat more low mercury, sustainable seafood to take advantage of the incredible omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and several other vital nutrients that we need to eat! Marine life is the primary source of the active form of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that helps to prevent heart disease, boost brain and immune health, and help inflammatory diseases like arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Selenium helps the thyroid and supports healthy immune function as well as offset’s problems from mercury that can buildup in our bodies. Check out the Super Healthy, Sustainable Seafood Post for choices.

Heirloom Radish Bunches at Farmers MarketApril’s (2014) Healthy Challenge: Try a variety of colored radishes like red, rose, purple, lavender and white and incorporate them into meals as the main event rather than just a garnish. Eat them roasted and stir-fried as well as in salads and sandwiches. These vegetables have a nice tangy taste that flavors any food with almost no calories but a major amount of nutrition! They are particularly good at detoxifying the body and preventing cancer among other awesome health-promoting properties. Read the Spring Radishes post for more reasons to add radishes to your food.

Kiwi fruitMarch’s (2014) Healthy Challenge:  Eat kiwi several times a week to sleep and look better, while also protecting yourself against heart disease, high blood pressure, muscle loss, and even constipation. A lot of nutrition is packed into this little green fruit, making kiwi one of the most nutrient-dense fruits available. Read more about Kiwi in my post Kiwi is King. Kiwi is a bite of delicious sunshine during the winter months, but can be bought year round. Kiwi from California is available November through May while New Zealand kiwi is in season June through October.

kaleFebruary’s (2014) Healthy Challenge:  Eat kale at least two times per week this month to take advantage of it’s amazing anti-cancer, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant health benefits.  Kale is arguably one of the healthiest vegetables available so add this royal vegetable to your food plan; so many nutrients packed in one food! Kale’s in season during the cold months (and sweeter) but available year round. If you don’t like Kale yet read 6 Tricks to Turn Kale Haters Into Kale Lovers. Those taking blood thinners, like warfarin or similar medications should not eat kale without consulting their doctor first since it counteracts with the medicine.

yogurtJanuary’s (2014) Healthy Challenge:  Eat or drink three to seven fermented foods per week to improve your health and slim down.  Fermented foods are full of flavor while helping to promote our gut health, boost immunity, and may even be a key to being slim and trim.  Kefir,  yogurt, and kombucha tea are particularly potent sources of probiotics.  Probiotics also can be found naturally in much smaller amounts in foods such unpasteurized sauerkraut, olives, pickled vegetables, Korean kimchi (spicy fermented vegetables mixed with seasonings), soy sauce, sourdough bread and cheese as well as fermented soybean products, including tempeh, miso, and natto.  Olive bars and delis in grocery stores often carry healthful traditionally fermented varieties olives and vegetables.

Olive oilDecember’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Replace butter, cream and vegetable oils with olive oil when using heat at medium or lower.  Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) should only be used with no heat or low heat like for vinaigrettes, finishing foods, sauces and sautéing.  Fine virgin or virgin olive oil can be used it for sautéing or cooking foods on a medium-low heat.  Refined or “light” olive oil can be used with medium heat, but never high heat.  Rich in monounsaturated fat, olive oil has well-documented heart health benefits and may possibly decrease belly fat.  It’s also loaded with health-promoting phytonutrients so find your nearest olive oil store and try some olive oils infused with herbs or fruit.  Read Olive Oil: Powerful But Fragile to learn more.

Purple potatoesNovember’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Eat purple potatoes.  Replace white potatoes, especially french fries and fat-loaded mashed and baked potatoes, with purple potatoes to provide real health perks.  Purple potatoes have 4 times as much antioxidant than russet potatoes to protect from cancer and heart disease, as well as strengthen the immune system and possibly protect from age-related memory loss.  Purple potatoes also appear to help regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and decrease inflammation in the body.  They are delicious too!  Read the Purple Potato Post for more information and recipe ideas.  It’s a royal super spud!

PumpkinOctober’s (2013) Healthy Challenge: Eat more delicious pumpkins.  Try roasting your own baby pumpkin but look for a narrow, thin stem and throw the whole pumpkin in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes to make the peeling and cutting so much easier.  Don’t forget to roast those super nutritious seeds as well.  If pumpkins are too much trouble to roast, canned pumpkin will do the trick.  Learn more about eating pumpkin and try these healthy recipes.

eggs September’s (2013) Healthy Challenge: Eat eggs, preferable farm fresh eggs, to cash in on their great nutrition!   Truly a superfood (for those not sensitive to eggs) if there ever was one; eggs are packed full of nutrients that are not as prevalent in other foods.  Don’t worry about eating egg yolks: they have been cleared of previous charges.  In fact, recently the American Heart Association amended its guidelines on eggs so there is no longer a specific recommendation on the number of egg yolks a person may consume in a week.  Eggs are not equal in nutritional content, but they all provide an inexpensive, quick, high quality protein that can enhance your health and appearance.  Farm raised eggs contain 3-6 times vitamin D than conventional eggs and usually contain more of the active omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA, than even omega-3 enriched eggs. So eat up!

peachesAugust’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Enjoy the sweet, juicy peaches available now and take advantage of the disease-fighting phytonutrients they offer.  Try some of my peach recipes for tasty ideas.  When the fresh peaches are gone, don’t hesitate to enjoy canned peaches.  The canning process opens the cell walls of the fruit’s flesh, making some nutrients more readily available.  Read more about the benefits of peaches in the Peachy Keen post.

Raw Honey ImageJuly’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Use raw honey to sweeten your food instead of sugar, processed honey or agave nectar.  Raw honey is loaded with valuable nutrients that are destroyed during the heating and pasteurization process that commercially-processed honey undergoes.  Processed honey is similar to white refined sugar while raw honey is absorbed into the blood stream at a much slower rate and provides vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and living enzymes that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.  Raw honey is not clear like processed honey, but is opaque.  It’s also often solid at room temperature, but melts nicely on warm food.  Raw honey can be used in almost any food with which you would typically use sugar.  Read my Healthy Raw Honey post to learn more why honey is created equal.

PopcornJune’s (2013) Healthy Challenge: Replace snacks like gold fish, Cheez-Its, crackers, and pretzels with delicious nutritiously popped popcorn.  Be a a healthy popcorn eater so you can join the American popcorn eaters who consume more than twice as many whole grains and more than 22 percent more fiber than people who don’t eat popcorn.  Filled with antioxidants, popcorn is the best snack other than fruits and vegetables if made and seasoned nutritiously.

Sugar Snap Peas

May’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Eat lots of delicious sugar snap peas.  These simple but overlooked edible pods are easy to prepare and, especially, healthy and delicious.  Be sure to check out the easy recipes on my post, Spring Surprise: Sugar Snap Peas.  Sugar Snap Peas provide a lot of nutrient and flavor bang for your calorie.  I call that nutrient dense and nutrient smart!  So simple yet so good!

Buckwheat April’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Add buckwheat to your diet using raw buckwheat groats, crunchy kasha (roasted buckwheat), buckwheat flour in baked goods, pancakes and crepes and soba noodles whenever possible to tap into buckwheat’s superior nutrition.  It’s gluten-free and delicious!

Madjool DatesMarch’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Replace sugar with nutritious, disease-fighting dates.  They are an incredibly nutritious sweetener, so use them to replace sugar in your recipes.  Medjool dates are readily available and are usually found in the produce department.  Costco sells Madjool dates along side the other dried fruits.  You will need a food processor and/or a high powered blender to truly take advantage of their sweet goodness and powerful antioxidants.  Don’t be too surprised at how good they taste.

orangesFebruary’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Eat oranges as snacks and in meals every day for a flavorful winter month packed with disease-preventing nutrition.   An orange has hundreds of different phytonutrients, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and blood clot-inhibiting properties, as well as strong antioxidant effects.  An orange a day may keep the cancer away (and other diseases too)!

January’s (2013) Healthy Challenge:  Replace butter and vegetable oil (but not olive oil) with unrefined, cold-pressed organic extra virgin coconut oil to take advantage of it’s potential heart healthy and weight loss benefits.  For specifics,tips and recipes read Coconut Oil: A Healthy Saturated Fat.

December’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Celebrate the holidays by enjoying healthy dark chocolate (containing 70% or higher cocoa).  Eat one or two squares (no more) of dark chocolate on a regular basis throughout your life to take advantage of it’s enormous health benefits.  Add cocoa powder in your cooking when possible and try some of the recipes in the Healthy Dark Chocolate post.   One square a day may keep the doctor away! Yum!

November’s (2012) Healthy Challenge: Take advantage of cauliflower’s delicious taste and easily masked identity in foods, by adding cauliflower to a variety of recipes for your whole family to enjoy.  If you haven’t eating roasted cauliflower, this is the month to try it!  You won’t be sorry, but you will be surprised at how good it is.  Nutrient-rich cauliflower helps strengthen the immune system and protects against the development of cancer and heart disease while being low in calories.

October’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Take advantage of Swiss chard’s fall growth and enjoy its delicious taste and awesome nutrients.  Swiss chard is one of the healthiest foods in the world!  Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and other great nutrients, Swiss chard helps regulate blood sugars, prevent cancer, maintain healthy blood, hair, eyes, bone and brain.

September’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Eat apples every day alone or in recipes.  Not an apple lover?  Try Lime Apples and other recipes in this month’s apple post.  Many studies have established an association between apple consumption and numerous health benefits due to their unique combination of phytonutrients and fiber.  Choose firm varieties that are organic whenever possible.  Try a Honey Crisp Apple this season and enjoy!

August’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Try new ways to eat zucchini squash.  Loaded with nutrients for only 10 calories in 1/2 cup, it’s time to explore new ways to prepare and eat zucchini.  Use a vegetable peeler to cut the zucchini in ribbons and sauté for a texture that is similar to smooth noodles rather than mushy squash.  Add uncooked zucchini ribbons to green and pasta salads for a new look and new taste.  Grill, roast or steam them.  Fix them in ways you haven’t before and go on a zucchini adventure.

July’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Eat chickpeas several times a week to improve your diet and health.  Replace unhealthy snack foods with roasted chickpeas to take advantage of their optimal balance of fiber, protein, phytonutrients, vitamin and minerals.  Cut calories and feel full, improve digestive health, stabilize blood sugars, and improve cholesterol levels by eating more chickpeas in your diet.  Read more about chickpeas in this post called Great Garbanzos.

June’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Eat blackberries several times a week and enjoy their delicious taste while benefiting from their fantastic nutrition.  Blackberries lead the pack in powerful antioxidants.  They were ranked number one out of 1120 antioxidant foods for total antioxidant content by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  They are in season now so gobble them up and treat your body to their super antioxidant powers for only 62 calories and 8 grams of fiber per cup.  Yum!

May’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Serve and eat freshly cooked artichokes frequently.  This nutrient-dense food is worth stepping out of your comfort zone, for its wonderful flavor and excellent nutrition.  May is the best month to find baby artichokes, which are easier to prepare and  don’t have a hairy choke or thorns to worry about, cook up quickly and can be eaten in their entirety minus a few outer leaves.  Have your kids help you prepare these interesting looking vegetables and enjoy.

 April’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Add Farro to your family’s diet and enjoy a healthy new flavor with a wonderful texture.  Kids will enjoy eating Pharoh’s wheat as much as you love eating a delicious nutty flavor that happens to be very healthy!   Let us all know your results by commenting to the post, Farro: Pharaoh’s Wheat.

March’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Eat oatmeal several times a week and find ways that you and your family can enjoy eating this nutritious, disease-fighting food.  Try fresh fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit (I love frozen blueberries rinsed in warm water for 30 seconds), real maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, cinnamon, canned pumpkin, apple sauce, almond butter, peanut butter (great with bananas), nuts and/or sunflower seeds as toppings for oatmeal.   Try my Overnight Slow Cooker Oatmeal using steel-cut oatmeal and wake up to the most amazing aroma.  Enjoy and have the health of champions!

February’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Eat Brussels sprouts, an important disease-preventing food.  If you think you don’t like Brussels, try them one more time.  Just don’t overcooked these babies, releasing sulphurous compounds that gives them an unpleasant smell and taste.  Sauté or roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper and Brussels sprouts may even become your family’s favorite vegetable!

January’s (2012) Healthy Challenge:  Eat more mushrooms!  Chop mushrooms up and add them to your recipes.  They are often undetectable while still adding more flavor and nutrition.  Packed with phytonutrients that help the immune system fight sickness and prevent unwanted inflammation, and full of vitamins and minerals not usually found in vegetables, in addition to having a wonderful savory taste with lots of fiber and few calories, mushrooms should be eaten by everyone!

December’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat cranberries in their whole form as much as possible to obtain all of the super health benefits they have to offer.  Their amazing phytonutrient power is where they really shine!  The biggest challenge is trying to compensate for cranberries extreme tartness without adding much sugar.  Try some of our cranberry recipes and please share recipes under the comment section of the The Competent Cranberry Post if you find a healthy, tasty cranberry recipe.

November’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat lots of winter squash!   It’s loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants while being low in calories.  Winter squash turns out to be the best primary food source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene in the entire diet!  Winter squash is easy to roast or steam in the oven or microwave.  For faster, more convenient ways to use winter squash in your cooking, buy fresh, cubed squash from your produce department or Costco.  It’s also sold already cubed or pureed in your freezer section.

October’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat broccolini (baby broccoli), a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli.  It’s slightly sweeter than broccoli so more kid-friendly.  To provide terrific benefits to your health, eat a 1/2 cup of broccolini or broccoli (or any cruciferous vegetable) per day or a 2-cup serving twice a week.  Available at most grocery stores and is even sold at Costco in a 2 lb bag called  organic Broccolette by Earthbound Farm.

September’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat both chili and sweet peppers while they are in season.  Experiment with mild and medium chili pepers if you don’t like spice.  Adding one medium chili pepper in a whole recipe adds more flavor than spice.  Serve children cut red, yellow and orange peppers especially after school school and during meal preparation.  Try grilling and roasting peppers and recommended recipes in this month’s post, Peppers-a-Plenty.  Red, yellow and orange sweet peppers contain more nutrients and are sweeter than green peppers because they are left on the vine longer.

August’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat the proportions of the food groups that the new MyPlate suggests:  Make half your plate fruits and vegetables (more vegetables than fruit).  Make at the other half of your plate whole grains and lean or plant based (like beans or lentils) protein.  Have a low-fat or non fat dairy food like milk or yogurt.  See MyPlate Replaces Food Pyramid for more details.  Good luck and let us know how it goes!

July’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Take advantage of the abundant and less expensive supple of mangoes during these summer months.  Incorporate them in you and your family’s meals and snacks.  Experiment with mango recipes and eat more mangoes!

 

June’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Replace unhealthy fats in your diet like butter, margarine and mayo with avocado.  Avocados are a delicious and healthy fat source loaded with over 20 nutrients, as well as help your body absorb more nutrients from other healthy foods.  Read the Amazing Avocado post and don’t miss the short but interesting youtube linked in this post on how to keep avocados from turning brown.

May’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Add chia seeds, nutrient-dense whole grain seeds, to your foods and delight in their outstanding culinary capabilities while adding nutrition.  See chia seed post.  Two serving of 1 1/2 tablespoons per day are 152 calories well spent.  Found in higher-end grocery stores and Whole Foods.

 

April’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat lots of asparagus this month while it’s in season. Don’t overcook asparagus:  roast it, stir fry it, or steam it until it’s bright green and somewhat crisp.  Check out tricks and tip of  asparagus.

 

March’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat more fish.  Aim to eat fish at least twice per week.  Australis Barramundi, (TheBetterFish.com) has no contaminants yet loaded with heart and brain healthy omega-3s while promoting the enhancement of environmentally sustainable fish farming.

 

February’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat Bok Choy at least once a week.  Packed full of anti-cancer nutrients and well absorbed calcium, this Winter wonder vegetable provides only 9 calories per cup.

January’s (2011) Healthy Challenge: Eat more beans and lentils. These nutritional powerhouses can improve your health. Beans and lentils tend to be cheaper and moreavailable at ethnic grocery stores.

 

December’s (2010) Healthy Challenge: Eat a handful of nuts in place of desserts and other high calorie,low-nutrient foods. Buy in bulk and large containers but pre package them in 1/4 cup portions. Check-out the Go Nuts THis Holiday post and have a happy, healthy, nutty holiday!

November’s (2010) Healthy Challenge: Introduce quinoa, a “super-grain” native to the Andes Mountains in South America, into you and your family’s diet. Most supermarkets carry it, as well as Costco and Walmart. Most of the quinoa is pre-washed now but you may want to rinse it before using it if it’s not clearly written on the label to eliminate a bitter taste.

October’s (2010) Healthy Challenge: Enjoydelicious ways to eat more sweet potatoes! Try to eat the skins since they are packed with fiber and antioxidants. Fortunately, sweet potatoes are a low pesticide food.

Purple sweet potatoes are fun to eat and the antioxidant activity is over 3 times that of blueberries. Taste tests are terrific ways to have kids try new foods. Use different color sweet potatoes which can be found at higher-end grocery stores. One type of sweet potato will win if it’s a contest between three kinds!

September’s (2010) Healthy Challenge: Eat more yogurt, especially Greek yogurt. Because Greek yogurt is more concentrated it contains almost twice the protein of traditional American yogurt and is lower in sodium and sugar. With the recent popularity of Greek yogurt, it is becoming increasingly more available. Target has started carrying larger containers of at least 3 different brands of greek yogurt and one of the brand, Choboni, sells a 32 oz. container of strawberry greek yogurt, as well plain and vanilla. Good luck!

August’s (2010) Healthy Challenge: Eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This will take some active counting each day but think of it as a challenge and see how you do. Track your progress each day.

First, try counting your servings of fruits & vegetables for a few days to see how you are doing. Get everyone in your family to count them up as well. Make it fun! As a positive experience, this activity will help kids (and spouses) be more aware of how many serving per day they eat and how many they should eat.

One serving of fruit is about 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen or canned or one medium piece of fruit about the size of a tennis ball. 1/4 cup of dried fruit is equal to a serving. Don’t count fruit juice as a fruit serving for this exercise as a way to encourage fruit in fruit form.

One vegetable serving is equivalent to 1/2 cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables.

For adults playing the “count your fruits and vegetables” game, see how many vegetables are eaten in the vegetable subgroups over a week and then compare them with USDA recommendations. Don’t stress over this, but it is a good general guide.

  • Dark green
  • Orange
  • Legumes (beans & lentils)
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Other vegetables

Help children to make a rainbow with the colors of fruits and vegetables they eat for this fruit & vegetable activity rather than have them worry about counting the vegetable subgroups. Whatever you do, make it fun and positive! Negative comments of any kind can sabotage the desire in participants to eat more fruits & vegetables so bite your tongue if that is what it takes. Refer to the “Eating Lots of Fruits & Vegetables Can Be Easy” post for suggestions and tips on ways to meet this challenge.

July’s (2010) Healthy Challenge: Purchase a 1 lb. package of organic baby spinach and eat it all with your family within a week’s time. Continue to incorporate spinach into your diet throughout the month of July.

These large 1 lb. packages of Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Spinach are only $3.99 at Costco. I love that it’s organic and pre-washed plus the packages are made from recycled bottles. If you make recipes using cooked spinach, you will be surprised how quickly the spinach disappears.

Use it in everything you can. Slip it into smoothies, make different kinds of spinach salads, add it to your pasta dishes and soups, and saute it with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. Check out the Super Spinach post for valuable information. Spinach recipes are posted to help and please share your spinach devouring ideas and recipes with all of us. Have fun and good luck!

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