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Eating Healthy

Iron-ing out your facts on iron

by Molly Capito 9. October 2016

Red meats are not the only "good" source of iron! Many Americans consider the best way to get your iron to be through red meat consumption.  Yes, animal sources of iron allow for us to absorb two to three times more of this mineral, however, with talking about red meat, it is crucial to be aware of how much saturated fat and cholesterol is contained in this animal protein.  To follow a heart healthy diet, watching your fat, cholesterol and sodium may lower your risk of heart disease.  Regardless of whether you are coping with such a disease, it is most definitely advisable to prevent heart disease and you can do so with being conscious of what you eat and how much. 

Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, which is an important building block to ensuring that your body can use and carry oxygen throughout your body.  To prevent symptoms of fatigue, pale skin and fingernails, weakness, dizziness, headache, or glossitis (which is an inflamed tongue), try the following foods to healthfully supply your body the iron it needs:


Meat sources:

- Lean beef (although typically higher in fat and cholesterol than poultry or other white meats-try for 90% lean or higher)

- Lean pork (which is not considered a white meat)

- Chicken (try for white meat chicken, skinless- the skin carries the cholesterol)



Vegetarian sources***:

- Pinto, and kidney beans; soybeans and lentils

- Dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens

- Fortified breakfast cereals

- Enriched rice (try for whole-grain rice)

- Whole-grain and enriched breads

***Iron is bound to the fiber found in plants.  Slightly cooking these plants help to break down the plant structures making iron more available for the body.  Also, pairing vegetarian sources of iron with plants rich in vitamin C enhances iron absorption as well!

Reference: http://www.eatright.org/


Healthy Tips

Go Nuts for Seeds (but not too crazy**)

by Molly Capito 21. July 2016

Consuming nuts regularly can be a great way to get your omega-3 fatty acids, as well as heart healthy monounsaturated fat.  Although fats contain more calories per gram than proteins and carbohyrates, 9 calories per gram for fat vs. 4 calories per gram for both protein and carbohydrate, nuts are nutrient dense providing not only healthy fat but protein, vitamins and minerals.

Here is a breakdown of what the Food & Nutrition magazine deems to be "super seeds" in their July/August 2016 issue:

Hemp seed-

  • contain all nine essential amino acids
  • 10 grams of protein per ounce
  • good source of monounsaturated fat
  • can use hemp seed oil for making vinaigrettes

Poppy seed-

  • good source of iron
  • 5 grams of protein per ounce
  • 6 grams of dietary fiber per ounce
  • excellent source of calcium
  • often seen on breads or paired with lemon or beets

Sunflower seed-

  • rich in vitamin E
  • good source of folate
  • good alternative to peanut butter

Mustard seed-

  • world's most heavily traded spice
  • 7 grams of protein per ounce
  • rich source of the antioxidant selenium

Sesame seed-

  • excellent source of iron and calcium
  • ground to make tahini or pressed for oil


  • also known as pumpkin seed
  • excellent source of monounsaturated fat, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc
  • 8 grams of protein per ounce
  • used to top salads, soups, breads, or delicious when roasted for a snack

Chia seed-

  • excellent source of magnesium and a good source of calcium
  • nearly 10 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein
  • more omega-3's per ounce than salmon
  • used as a crunchy topping; can form a tapioca-like pudding

Flax seed-

  • rich in fiber, heart healthy omega-3's
  • one of best source of plant lignans, which are antioxidants
  • best when ground for optimal absorption of their nutrients

**it is important to be aware of how large of a portion you have of nuts, as the calories do add up! (1 oz. chia seeds = 140 calories)

Source: Goesch, H.A. (2016, July/August). Super Seeds. Food & Nutrition, 30-31.



Healthy Tips

Rate My Plate

by Molly Capito 8. July 2016

Primary Reviewers: Molly Capito, Nutrition Student & Melissa Stopera, RD, Ellis Medicine

Overall Rating: A-

Great Job: Portion control, Plant based complete protein sources, Heart healthy Fat.

To Improve: Add a substantial source of calcium  

I’ll break down my analysis of this meal in components, starting with dietary protein.  This meal includes an excellent source of plant protein, called Tempeh.  Many people are unfamiliar with this healthy plant protein, which is a great option because it doesn’t include the saturated fat that typically comes along with animal protein.  Per cup, tempeh typically provides 30 grams of protein.  From the photograph, the plate appears to have about ½cup of tempeh to provide 15 grams of protein.  

Moving on, I’ll briefly discuss quinoa.  Quinoa is an excellent complement to the tempeh, as it is full of vitamins and minerals and also contains protein.  Although tempeh and quinoa are plant proteins, they are both considered complete proteins.  Complete proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids, which cannot be made by the body and need to be orally consumed.

Avocado is a great addition to a meal because it is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, a heart healthy fat.  Healthy fats help with satiety, which can prevent late night snacking or overeating later on in the day.  Avocado is interestingly classified as a fruit, and is an excellent source of potassium.  The lettuce pictured adds a vegetable the meal, adding additional vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients fiber and water.

To improve this meal, a dairy source would add calcium.  Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 50 should aim for 1,000 milligrams (mg) calcium per day.  Tempeh does contain some calcium but minerals found in grains, fruit or vegetables can typically be tightly bound to the fiber preventing optimal absorption.  See the list below for some examples of high calcium options:

300 mg Calcium per Serving:

  • 1 cup milk (fat free, low fat, chocolate, and buttermilk)
  • 1 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup calcium-fortified soy milk or rice milk
  • 1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice
  • 1½ oz low-fat natural cheese (such as cheddar, mozzarella, or Swiss)
  • 2 oz processed cheese (such as American)
  • 1 cup ready-to-eat pudding
  • 1 cup macaroni and cheese

The key to nutrition is look at the big picture.  Reviewing one plate can only provide a small insight to an individual’s overall meal pattern and choices made throughout the day.  This plate could fit in perfectly with additional balanced meals.  If you are curious about how your meal breaks down, consider utilizing the USDA Supertracker at https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodtracker.aspx.  


Optimizing Your Produce This Summer

by Molly Capito 16. June 2016

As we transition into summer, fresh, local produce will soon become widely available.  Purchasing local produce not only supports local farms, but also provides us with produce at its peak freshness.  Local produce does not require a long sitting time being transported to its final destination, as this is what occurs for produce shipped "off-season," typically across the country or from overseas.  Below are some tips on how to optimize your fresh produce purchases and get the most for your money:

When Buying

- Buy most fresh produce in season when possible

- Do not over purchase; purchase produce in one week spans

- Go to a farmers market early in the day to avoid purchasing produce that has been sitting out all day

- Buy loose produce rather than packaged, as you have more control over what you are buying (ie. pick blueberries in late summer rather than purchasing already packaged)

When Storing

- Soon after purchasing produce, be sure to refrigerate the produce that needs it

-whole bananas and potatoes do not need refrigeration

- Refrigerate fresh produce within 2 hours of peeling or cutting and do away with anything left cut and out at room temperature if it has been out for more than 2 hours

- Discard cooked vegetables after 3 to 4 days

When Preparing

- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with cool water before eating as well as before peeling so dirt and bacteria isn't transferred from the knife onto or into the fruit or vegetable

- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to reduce bacteria that may be present and to prevent bacteria growing on moist produce

- Be sure to use separate cutting boards when handling raw meats and when handling fruits and vegetables to prevent cross contamination

-Consider blanching- using boiling water, steam or microwave

-A process where vegetables are exposed briefly to hot water or steam and rapidly placed in ice water to prevent cooking

-stops enzyme actions that would cause a loss of flavor, color and texture

-cleans the surface removing dirt and organisms

-softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack when storing or freezing

-brightens the color and helps to slow the loss of vitamins


Below is a link to find appropriate blanching times based on the produce:



Reference: www.eatright.org 


Healthy Tips

A Protein Packed Parfait

by Molly Capito 22. May 2016


2 tablespoons **Powdered Peanut Butter

6 oz Fat Free Vanilla Greek Yogurt

1 banana

Handful of blueberries (or your favorite berry) 

Powdered Peanut Butter (PB2) Vanilla Greek Yogurt (Chobani 0% Fat) Total
1.5 g Fat 0 g Fat 1.5 g Fat
5 g Protein 16 g Protein

21 g Protein

1. Fold powdered peanut butter into Greek yogurt until you get a smooth consistency

2. Mash the banana and place on top of the yogurt (I prefer mashing the banana; you could always slice the banana if you do not prefer to mash the banana)

3. Throw on a handful of blueberries for added antioxidants



Healthy bacterial growth for intestinal tract

Banana-Prebiotic: helps to promote healthy bacterial life in your gut

Greek yogurt-Probiotic: provides live and active bacterial cultures to aid in digestion

Good serving of protein

Helps you feel satisfied longer

Protein is lower in calories per gram than fat (4 calories vs. 9 calories per gram)


**Powdered peanut butter is a great alternative for spreadable peanut butter; When compared to spreadable peanut butter per 2 tablespoons, a powdered peanut butter has 45 calories with 1.5 grams of fat per serving as opposed to a spreadable peanut butter which is about 190 calories with a fat content ranging from 15 to 17 grams per serving! You can save 145 calories with this simple swap. Mix the powdered peanut butter with water to create a spreadable low-fat peanut butter.



Fads Aren't Fab, Balance is Best!

by Molly Capito 4. April 2016


With spring here and summer approaching, many are looking to lose those couple of pounds that have been gained in the cold winter months.  Although everyone's weight loss plan is individualized based on one's health history, age, and current health status, fad diets are not encouraged for anyone to follow.  A fad diet is a nutritional regimen that is meant to allow the person who is on it to lose a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time.  This weight lost is typically water weight, and not the fat people are looking to lose.  Fad diets typically eliminate one or more of the essential food groups, such as carbohydrates or fats, making it easy to miss out on key nutrients.  Consuming all food groups (protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, dairy) provide you with the necessary macro and micronutrients for your body to function healthfully and optimally.  Below are some simple facts and tips to steer yourself away from fad diets and get yourself ready for summer, and a healthier you:

  • Don't skip meals! 
  • 3,500 calories are equal to one pound- to lose one pound of weight a week, aim to burn 250 calories in your workout and eliminate 250 calories from your diet each day
  • An hour walk at 3.5 mph can burn about 250 calories; A 40 minute bike ride burns about 250 calories; A 20 minute run can burn about 250 calories at 5 mph
  • Work on portion control-  For breakfast, incorporate protein into your breakfast and healthy fats to keep you full until lunch! For lunch and dinner, practice the concept of MyPlate- half your plate fruits and/or vegetables, about a quarter of our plate protein, and a quarter whole grains
  • Be sure to get 3 servings of low-fat or fat free dairy per day- yogurt, milk, low-fat cheeses, low sodium cottage cheese; if you are lactose-intolerant or do not like milk, try almond milk to get 50% of your daily calcium recommendation in one serving!  
  • Remember to practice balance in your diet, not elimination! 
  • Write out a list of goals and set up rewards for yourself if you meet those goals you set- rewards being non-food related 

Don't forget that fads aren't fab! For a more fabulous you, finding balance in your diet ("meal plan"), developing workout habits, and setting positive goals for yourself will help you prepare for a summer that includes a healthier, more positive you! 


Healthy Tips

Heart Healthy Grilling

by Melissa Stopera 14. March 2016

With spring rapidly approaching, I decided to share a photograph from what I had cooking this weekend.  As pictured below, I made salmon kabobs with fresh salmon and vegetables (I used 8 ounces of salmon, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 1 onion, 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 zucchini).  This is a great way to meet the recommendation to consume two 4 ounce servings of fatty fish per week.  Salmon contains EPA and DHA, which are also known as “long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.” They seem to provide the most benefit for the heart, and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.  This made more than 2 servings.  Using lemon and lime is a great alternative way to flavor the fish with natural seasonings.  I recommend placing them next to the cubes of salmon on the kabob to enhance the flavor.

If you have never used a grilling basket (pictured on the left), these are great for grilling vegetables.  I decided to grill brussel sprouts with some onions, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper (if you are trying to minimize your sodium intake, skip the salt).   I would recommend halving the brussel sprouts and tossing them in a small amount of olive oil prior to placing them in the grilling basket.

Overall this is an extremely simple heart healthy meal rich in omega 3's and micronutrients.  It is visually appealing, and quite delicious! 


Hospital dietitians talk new federal dietary guidelines

by Melissa Stopera 10. March 2016

Check out the blog post below, which I recently participated in and was interviewed for!



The Perks of Prunes

by Molly Capito 28. November 2015

Not a fan of pitted prunes or prune juice?  I am currently studying to become at dietitian at SUNY College at Oneonta and an experiment that I took place in tested whether prune puree is a reliable replacement for butter to create a more heart healthy, lower fat acceptable cookie.

With our variable batches of Betty Crocker’s double chocolate chip cookie recipe, it was found that pureed prunes provide cookies with a richer, thicker consistency.  With the added fiber from a natural source, such as a pureed fruit, it allows for the cookies to bake and not flatten out as much as a regular cookie with butter normally would.  Also, for you chocolate lovers, adding prune puree to double chocolate chip cookies brings out the chocolaty flavor one would expect from a cookie, while getting vitamin A and fiber you would regularly not get from a cookie!                                          

Thickness increases as pureed prune content increases in picture below. (From left to right- 0% pureed prune, 50% pureed prune, 75% pureed prune, 100% pureed prune)

How to make your own prune puree-

Add in 6 tablespoons of hot water to 8 oz of whole pitted prunes.  Puree in a food processor until a smooth consistency results. 

To replace butter, add in an equal amount of pureed prunes.


Double chocolate chip cookies with pureed prunes



Packed brown sugar

½ cup

Butter, unsalted


Prune Puree

¼ cup

Vanilla extract

½ tsp

Egg whites

1 egg white

All-purpose flour

½ cup

Unsweetened baking cocoa

3 T

Baking soda

½ tsp



Semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup




Preparation Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and pureed prunes with an electric mixer on medium

speed until light and fluffy, or mix with spoon. Beat in vanilla and

egg white.                                                                                                                                        



2. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Onto an ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart.




3. Bake 7 MINUTES. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookies sheet onto a wire rack.


Next time you bake, whether it is for a weekend event or for the holiday season, consider swapping butter for a healthy fruit puree such as this!





Wake Up with Pumpkin

by Kim Peck 18. October 2015

Pumpkin spice deliciousness is in high demand once the weather turns cool and the leaves begin to change.  But how often do you add fresh pumpkin to your meals?  

Not just a coffee flavoring, pumpkin can now be found in the supermarkets as an addition to breakfast cereals, yogurts, and even tortilla chips!  This bright orange winter squash is full of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and is also a good source of fiber.  Specifically, one cup of cooked pumpkin contains over 200% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, an important nutrient in our diet.  The National Institutes of Health list the benefits of vitamin A as including a critical role in vision, immune function and cell growth.  

Pumpkin can be easily added to recipes by mashing, pureeing or baking.  The seeds can be spiced and roasted for a fulfilling snack.  One easy way to start adding pumpkin into your day is with a morning smoothie. Listed below is an easy recipe to try; I used 100% pure canned pumpkin for my puree to save time.  

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (2 Servings)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 ripe banana

1 cup* unsweetened soy milk, or milk beverage of choice

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 ice cubes

Combine all listed ingredients into a blender and blend to desired consistency.  Pour into glasses and serve.

*This produces a very thick shake.  If a thinner consistency is desired, add another 1/2 cup of unsweetened soy milk/milk beverage to thin the shake out.

Nutrition Facts, per serving:  166 calories, 5 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 5 g fiber

Recipe adapted from Whole Foods Market recipe:  Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

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