Fantasy Fruitball

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It has been said “You’re not American if you don’t do Fantasy Football”. This time of year embraces that statement as many are listening to podcasts, searching the web for current fantasy hype, completing mock drafts, and getting together with friends to build the best football team possible.

fruit stadium

What if people put the same passion into selecting their fruit this fall season? Or better yet, use this selection of fruit to incorporate into tailgating snack choices to stay healthy this fall? Of course, just like fantasy, there would be your top draft picks such as super foods like lemon and blackberries. Then moving up on average draft picks you might find other berries, grapes, cherries, bananas, and some higher sugar fruits like pineapple.


Don’t forget about the breakouts and sleepers. Dragonfruit, rhubarb, and heirloom apples were trending fruit last year and will likely continue to be popular and relevant this year. The sleepers might include hardy currants and lingonberries. Many might not realize their benefits but these fruits really pack an antioxidant punch!


When selecting your winning team, keep in mind you will need variety. You may want to select fruits from different teams (or families) and a variety of colors. For example, it may not be in your best interest to eat only apples and pears. You are missing out on certain antioxidant properties from the family of dark berries and some other vitamins and minerals you might find in orange fruits like mango or papaya.


It is important to plan ahead if you want to make eating well a priority in your life. Set your winning line up each week with your starters, but make sure you have a strong bench, too. If the starters aren’t working for you, mix it up a little with players on your bench. Always keep a core assortment of fresh fruits in your fridge, but don’t forget to pull the frozen berries from your freezer to blend in a refreshing smoothie for a new twist to your week!


My fantasy team will keep me on my toes watching the NFL players, but I know I’ll get just as excited at the grocery store setting my fruitball line-up each week this fall:


Starters (8)

Blueberry         Strawberry

Peach                Honeycrisp apple

Rhubarb           Pear

Craisin              Mango

Defense (1)


Bench (6)

Banana             Orange

Plum                 Cherry

Kiwi                  Pineapple


What does your Fantasy Fruitball team look like this fall? Share your team below!



NO to GMO?

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It’s the bottom line that got us in this quandary: higher yields + higher quality = happy consumers. Many thought genetically modified organisms (GMO) would be the missing factor to solve the equation. So why are so many people unhappy?


The original plan for GM foods was that it would lead to a greater crop yield and improve quality and nutrition. This in turn would help feed the world with superior quality foods and increase the profits of growers. Naturally, weeds and bugs stand in the way of increased crop yields so biotechnologists used genetic modification to develop seeds that would progress the bottom line.

Some may think this process is just speeding up the breeding process. However, many GM crops are made by mixing different species’ genes in a way that would never occur in nature. For example, GM plants are resistant to bugs because a piece of bacterial DNA, from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt toxin), is inserted into plant DNA to give it insecticidal properties.

Once again, plants are given bacterial DNA to tolerate herbicides like glyphosate, one of the main ingredients in Round-Up. Unfortunately, the excessive amount of herbicides being used on crops, though they are bred to handle them, is causing problems in the environment and in humans. Glyphosate along with all the other chemical components of pesticides either get into the soil and water or remain on the plant awaiting human consumption. Studies show occupational glyphosate exposure, as well as exposure to individuals in close distance to fields being sprayed, may cause DNA damage and cancer in humans.

Furthermore, the reliance on glyphosate has led to the micro-evolution of resistant weed species. By not practicing better weed and pest management, we are setting the stage for the growth of “super weeds” and “super bugs” that can withstand the heavy pesticide and insecticide usage.

There is, however, another way to influence plant DNA. The developing scientific process of TILLING, targeted induced local lesions in genomes, is faster than traditional crossbreeding yet does not involve genetic engineering. Instead of adding foreign DNA, plants are exposed to physical and chemical agents and then screened for beneficial mutations that cause the plant to withstand the harsh experimental environment. With all the backlash on GMO, this new method may provide another option for improving the bottom line. Nevertheless, there are risks and drawbacks with TILLING along with benefits.

One could argue that no matter what you do, whether it is traditional crossbreeding, genetically modifying, or practicing TILLING, there will always be survival of the fittest. Weeds will respond to beneficial changes in plants (natural or human-induced) and only the strongest will reproduce. That is nature. All we can do is work to stay ahead of it. But we need to get ahead in a smart way—a way that will not negatively impact future plant and human life.

I am not necessarily opposed to biotechnology, but I also do not blindly support it. There are too few studies looking at the long-term effects of GM foods.   What I would support is a more environmentally responsible way of doing things. Consider possible repercussions before diving into an idea. For example, do we want to spray chemicals all over the earth to support the crops of biotechnology? Weigh the positives and negatives that would result now and in the future.

If we can modify plant genes in a way that would actually be helpful, not harmful, to mankind, I think there would be more support.  If this technology had more to do with improving the nutrition of people (Golden Rice) and bringing fewer burdens on the environment instead of being driven by profit, people would promote it. Until we carry out more research and implement mindful strategies, people will likely continue to be unhappy with GMO.

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Scones

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Hello? Is it me you’re looking for? Thank you, Lionel Ritchie, for inspiring my intro to this post after an extended hiatus. My sincerest apologies. I started a new job, moved to a new apartment, had general summertime things to do (ahem, laziness), but now I have returned. You may not have been looking for me, but your breakfast routine has been looking for this recipe.


I cannot understand someone who says, “Oh, I don’t eat breakfast.” If I don’t eat something within an hour or two of waking, a bad case of the Hangries sets in. I would be useless at work, unable to think about anything other than my pounding headache and desire for scrambled eggs and toast. Research has demonstrated the importance of a balanced breakfast, especially for weight loss/maintenance. As an intern working with diabetic and weight loss clients, one of the first things we stressed was eating something in the morning to wake up your metabolism and avoid binging on unhealthy foods later in the day. It really is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.


Homemade scones may not be the best solution for current non-breakfast eaters. A piece of toast and a hardboiled egg is a tad more feasible for someone venturing into the wonderful world of breakfast. For those of you looking to elevate your breakfast routine, I think this scone recipe could be the answer. The first line under “About Biscuits and Scones” in Joy of Cooking says, “So little effort, so good a result.” It’s true, these scones take almost no time.

whole wheat flour

A classic scone often has heavy cream, however this recipe is a little lighter, using buttermilk instead. Another healthier modification is the use of whole wheat flour. Scones were originally made with oats and baked on a griddle, but the modern version is flour-based. This recipe uses both whole wheat and all-purpose flour (and oats—a whole grain!). Whole wheat flour can be a tricky beast when baking. It is nutritionally superior to all-purpose flour, as it is milled from the entire wheat kernel, however it can result in a less-than-desirable product, especially in a delicate pastry. Products made from whole wheat flour are typically heavier and denser. A scone, though, is pretty robust and can handle the whole wheat flour.


The whole grains in this recipe add more fiber, something many of us don’t get enough of. To further elevate the health status of these scones, I added fresh raspberries. They provide a natural sweetness and create a pretty pink tinge to the scones, as well as being high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And the dark chocolate? Well, who doesn’t want a little decadence to start their day? These scones will keep at room temperature for a few days, or you can make them ahead and freeze them. If you’re having one for breakfast, I would round out your meal with a hardboiled egg and a glass of milk. No more feeling hangry!


*this recipe is adapted from this New York Times article

Ingredients (makes 12 small scones)

  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup oatmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 400° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl (or stand mixer if available), combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, and salt.

If using a stand mixer, add butter and beat on low until just incorporated. You can also use a hand mixer here, or do it the old-fashioned way and cut it in by hand. Just don’t over-mix!

Add the buttermilk, raspberries, and chocolate chips and mix until incorporated. Note: my dough was wetter than I expected due to the juiciness of the raspberries, but the scones still turned out tasty with a nice crumb.

On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a rectangle, and then cut in half length-wise, then into thirds to form 6 squares. Cut each square on the diagonal to form 12 scones. I used a pizza cutter here, which worked great. Transfer to your baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, ~12-15 minutes.


  • 180 calories
  • 4 g protein
  • 27 g carbohydrate
  • 3 g fiber
  • 7 g fat
  • 244 mg sodium


Stranded on a Desert Island

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If you only had three foods to eat to stay alive, for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Beans? Eggs? Brown rice? Milk? Spinach? Salmon? Blueberries? Or maybe you would choose the top three in the super foods list.

Now, if I were trapped on a DESSERT island, I would surely be packing the dark chocolate bars, double chocolate brownie ice cream, and peeps. My peeps would keep me company and I would name one Wilson.


You’re just a peep, but let me tell you what I would choose and why.

Each food serves a purpose and a diet full of variety is what keeps one healthy. People often ask me: “what are the very best foods I can eat?”  I sigh and tell them all whole and natural foods on this earth are good for you!  Of course moderation is key.  But Wilson, three foods!  Just think!  If you had just three foods to sustain life, what would you pick?  What three foods would give you the best proportion of essential protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals to meet all the nutrition requirements the body needs to survive?

To start, I would choose a food that has all the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein.  Essential amino acids (phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine) cannot be made in the body and must come from the diet.  A complete protein contains these nine essential amino acids in the correct proportion.  While most foods contain all the essential amino acids, they do not necessarily have them in the correct proportions our bodies need.  Animal sources like eggs, milk, poultry, meats, and fish are examples of complete proteins.  Plant sources tend to have a lower amount of one or more essential amino acids and therefore need to be paired with a food that can compensate.  For example, combining beans and rice is a popular way to achieve a complete protein.

That being said, I would choose milk to be my source of complete protein.  It has a high protein digestibility score plus it is higher in calcium, magnesium, and B-12 than a serving of egg.  (And I would be so bored on the island I would learn how to make yogurt and cheese.)

Then, it would hit me that I’m on this island alone; I will need a lot of energy to build myself a home and arrange logs to spell out “help.”  Therefore, I need a high-energy food like a starch that will build up my glycogen stores as well as provide immediate energy.  At first one might think potato.  But I’m going to delegate a sweet potato to be my source of energy and added goodies like potassium, Vitamins A, C, and B-6, and fiber.  (I’m totally making sweet potato fries over the fire.  Wilson, you’re next!  You delectable puffy golden brown s’more, you!)

peep smore

Ok, now for my last choice.  (Big puff of air through small opening of mouth.) Man, this is tough.  I have many nutrient holes to fill such as Vitamins E and K, some of the B vitamin family, iron, and the list goes on.

The first food that comes to mind to fill these holes is spinach.  Spinach is high in Vitamins C, A, and K, and folate, and is a good source of calcium, iron, and Vitamins E, B2 and B6.  But even a 10-ounce package of spinach, a half-gallon of milk, and five cups of sweet potatoes, providing a total of 2137 calories, would leave me deficient in Vitamin E, iron, and zinc, and exceeding the safe upper limit for magnesium and calcium, and extremely exceeding the upper limit for Vitamin A.

Really Wilson, I hope this helps you realize you really can’t live off of just three foods and achieve all your daily requirements of every vitamin and mineral.  It would be extremely hard.  But what do you know about hard; you’re a marshmallow.


Please, don’t let Wilson and I carry on this ridiculous dialogue alone.  Leave your comments below.  What three foods would YOU take with you on this desert island?

Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

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brussels sprouts are the best!

Brussels sprouts are the BESSSSSST!

Not your initial reaction when reading the title of this post? I can’t say I blame you. This diminutive cabbage is the object of childhood nightmares, up there with the Boogey Man and the Quadratic Equation. To be honest, I didn’t try my first brussels until a few years ago. I remember being told that they “taste like boogers…literally.” How this person knew what boogers tasted like, I’ll never know. But that cemented in my mind that I would NEVER eat brussels sprouts.

Roasted Brussels sprout salad with Dijon vinaigrette

So what changed my mind? This salad, of course! I think Dijon can make anything tasty, and here it really complements the warm, slightly crispy Brussels sprouts. The sweetness from the grapes, the bite of the onion, and the full flavor that comes from roasting nuts come together to make one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Sometimes you hear “salad” and fall asleep standing up because they can be so boring, but I’m telling you, give this one a try. You won’t regret it. And if your inner child balks at the idea of eating a Brussels sprout, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica family, which includes other nutritional powerhouses like kale, broccoli, and cabbage. The Brassica family is known for having some smelly members, which is due to the release of a sulfur compound in the cooking process. Over-cooking your Brussels sprouts will bring out this strong taste and smell, so be careful! Steaming and stir frying are sure-fire ways to retain the most nutrients and not overcook your sprouts, although I haven’t experienced any adverse smells when I’ve roasted them.

roasted Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts and other Brassica members have been heralded for their health benefits. Of course, like most things green, they are high in vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins C, B6, and K, folate, thiamin, potassium, and copper. Also like all things green, they are low in calories and high in fiber. Cruciferous vegetables are thought to have cancer-fighting properties due to the high levels of phytochemicals, specificially isothiocyanates, which act as detoxifiers. As with most diet-related claims, more research and more powerful studies are needed; however we do know that a mostly plant-based diet rich in varied fruits and vegetables is associated with lower cancer risks. So go ahead, add this Brussels sprout salad into your meal rotation. It’s just another example of how delicious healthy eating can be.

Roasted Brussels sprout salad with Dijon vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 4)


  • 20 brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups spinach or arugula
  • 3/4 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450. Remove any discolored leaves and trim the Brussels sprouts by cutting off the hard base, and then cut in half. Some leaves may fall off, that’s ok. You can still roast the loose leaves, but keep an eye on them as they will crisp up faster. Toss the halves with the olive oil and roast, turning halfway through, for 15-18 minutes or until browned. I like some burnt pieces, but roast them until you reach your desired level of doneness.

While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, prepare your other salad ingredients. I like to toast walnuts in a skillet on med-low, but be careful here as they can burn quickly (it’s happened to me on more than one occasion). When the Brussels sprouts and walnuts are finished, set them aside to cool. Once cool, combine all salad ingredients.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and toss with the salad.

Nutrition Facts

  • 240 calories
  • 7 g protein
  • 19 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 17 g fat (9 g monounsaturated, 5 g polyunsaturated)
  • 118 mg sodium

How bad are artificial sweeteners?

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I love Diet Coke. Having one at lunch, with a sandwich and some veggies, somehow is just refreshing. But I’ve found that my acceptance of Diet Coke, and the artificial sweeteners that make it zero calorie, surprises people.

I get responses like “I won’t touch that stuff” or “I’ve heard that’s terrible for you” or “You drink that shit?”

It’s clear that sweeteners got a bad reputation. However, studies estimate that 75% of the population consumes them regularly (that’s right, they’re even in yogurt). So where does this criticism come from and is it justified?

The Saccharin Saga

Saccharin, most notably found in Sweet’n Low, gained popularity in the 1960’s as demand for a thin waist line increased. At that time sweeteners were widely believed to be a healthy alternative to sugar. But in 1970 a study was released linking bladder cancer in rats to saccharin consumption. Congress mandated that further studies of Saccharin be performed and that products containing it be labeled:

Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

For years saccharin carried that warning label on it, like cigarettes. But unlike studies linking smoking with lung cancer, that study was poorly designed. The lab rats ate more saccharin than a human could proportionately consume. And even then, only male rats had increased rates of bladder cancer, which they are physiologically prone to. Subsequent studies showed no relationship between saccharin and human illness, the FDA removed the warning label in 2000.

Currently there is no sound evidence linking artificial sweeteners to human illness.

Sweeteners and Satiety

In the last decade research has shifted to satiety and hunger, suggesting a link between sweeteners and weight gain.

Some scientists hypothesize that artificial sweeteners upset our brain’s pleasure centers. Eating sugar causes a spike in blood glucose levels that trigger dopamine release, making us feel happy. But because artificial sweeteners provide a sweet taste without raising blood sugar, the pleasure derived from eating sweet foods is decreased. Thus, we eat more in attempt to stimulate the happy feeling we missed by eating sweeteners.

Another theory suggests that satiety is only disturbed when we substitute food for zero calorie products. So, if you drink a diet coke instead of eating a snack, your body is going to respond by being hungry later in the day. This would happen with or without the sweetener. It’s simply how our bodies respond to skipping meals.

These are just two theories for why sweeteners are associated with weight gain. And there is contradicting literature that suggests sweeteners can be beneficial for dieters. If you enjoy the occasional low calorie soda, I recommend having it with a meal or snack to help balance any offset to satiety.


A recent Food Navigator article caught my attention as it focused on our demonization of artificial sweeteners. In it, scientists and public policy experts argued that sweeteners should be more commonly used to replace sugar. As a dietitian, that makes me cringe. Not because I believe them to be unhealthy. But because increasing their use would exasperate our already troubled relationship with food, causing us to eat more, well, shit.

People tend to latch on to simple remedies, or blame one food as a scapegoat for our health problems. When really, there aren’t terrible foods or magic bullets, just balanced and unbalanced eating.

Personally, I think artificial sweeteners are the same as most things in life. Great, if used in moderation.

Berrylicious Tostadas

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Berrylicious Tostadas

I have a fantastic treat for you guys today. I’m sharing one of my all-time favorite desserts with you, and it’s a perfect way to ring in the summer season. I’ve had friends request I make it when coming over for dinner, and almost every time I visit my parents my mom drops not-so subtle hints that she has ingredients for it. Fine, mom, I’ll make it for you.

The original inspiration for this recipe came from a Mexican cookbook that my sister bought at Goodwill. We found a recipe inside for fruit tostadas and knew we had to try them. That recipe, however, used cream cheese and heavy cream in the filling. While delicious, it wasn’t necessarily a dessert my waistline would enjoy. Also, those are ingredients I typically don’t have readily available in my refrigerator. Baking tortillas

So how did I health-ify it? Greek yogurt of course! I almost always have some in my fridge, so really the only thing I have to make sure I have on hand are tortillas. I kept the cinnamon-sugar tortilla shell and the chocolate drizzle, but using either plain or vanilla flavored Greek yogurt lightened up the recipe without sacrificing taste or the decadent feeling you get from eating it. Keep in mind that the vanilla Greek yogurt has more sugar than the plain and will taste sweeter, but both are wonderful.

baked shells

Do I even need to mention the health benefits of berries? Often touted as a superfood, berries are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. I don’t necessarily like the term “superfood” because there is no one food that will work miracles. Rather it is a combination of a healthy, varied diet and exercise that has proven time and time again to have the greatest effect on one’s health. Berries definitely pack a nutritional punch, as does the yogurt and whole grains also in this dessert. And the dark chocolate? Well I believe in feeding the soul, and a little chocolate here and there makes my soul happy.

Berrylicious Tostadas Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups plain or vanilla-flavored fat-free Greek yogurt, divided among 4 shells
  • 2 cups mixed berries, divided among 4 shells
  • 2 Tbsp dark chocolate chips, melted


Preheat oven to 350⁰. Using a brush or your fingers, evenly spread a thin layer of the melted butter on each tortilla. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and then sprinkle it across the surface of the 4 tortillas (you may have some leftover). Using oven-safe bowls, place each tortilla in a bowl to form a cone shape. Bake tortillas for 15-20 minutes or until browned.

Let the tortillas cool (speed this up by placing them in the refrigerator). Spoon the yogurt into each tortilla shell and place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. You don’t want to leave them in too long as the yogurt will harden too much (I found this out the hard way).

When ready, remove the shells from the freezer, add the berries, and drizzle with melted chocolate.

Nutrition Facts

  • 274 calories
  • 17 g protein
  • 43 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g fiber
  • 5 g fat
  • 230 mg sodium