Let’s start with our Soda Free Summer campaign. The goal of the campaign is to reduce consumption of soda and sugary drinks among children and adults in Boston.   As the summer temperature rises so does the consumption of these drinks. The average person eats almost 100 pounds of sugar a year, and the largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet is sugary beverages. This campaign is to raise awareness that these drinks typically have lots of calories and no nutritional benefits.  

Consumption of soda and sugary beverages has been shown to increase risk for obesity and other chronic health problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These issues are very much a reality for Boston residents, as 52% of adults in Boston are overweight or obese, and almost half of Boston high school students are overweight or at risk of being overweight.   

 

Just how much sugar are we drinking?

A 12 ounce can of non –diet soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.

A 20 ounce bottle of non-diet soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar.

To put this in perspective, drinking one 12-ounce can of soda per day can result in a weight gain of 15 extra pounds per year. Drinking one 20-ounce bottle of soda can lead to 25 extra pounds in a year.

Any reduction in consumption is a step in the right direction. Replacing soda with healthier options such as water, water with fruit slices, unsweetened tea, low fat dairy, or seltzer will have positive health benefits. The greatest benefit will be seen by those who reduce their consumption the most, or eliminate soda entirely. To support selecting a healthier option, CLICK here for the quick and easy Raspberry Sprizter. For other helpful information on selecting healthy beverages, CLICK here
 The Soda – Free Summer campaign is a fun way to encourage individuals and youth organizations to take the pledge to be soda free for the summer.     When taking the pledge, individuals have two options:

  1. I pledge to not drink soda this summer
  2. I pledge to reduce the amount of soda I drink this summer

 

Take the Soda-Free Summer Challenge and re-energize your life!

www.bphc.org/sodafreesummer  or www.Facebook.com/HealthyBoston

The second exciting thing about summer is that local produce is now available at Boston‘s farmers’ markets.  The array of produce is fresh-picked so it has not lost any nutritional value in the time it takes to travel long distances that may happen at grocery stores.  The variety of produce makes this the perfect opportunity to try new vegetables such as garlic scapes, which are the early tops of garlic as it’s growing. It’s great chopped as garnish or to add a mild garlic flavor to dishes.   Right now scallions, summer squash, cucumbers a variety of lettuces and salad mix are available.  As the summer progresses, I personally can’t wait for fresh tomatoes.Most of markets around the city have the capacity to accept EBT for individuals using food stamps.  If you would like more information of Boston‘s farmers’ markets dates and times as well as the Boston Bounty Bucks  program  CLICK  here.

 So let’s get out and have fun in Boston this summer, drinking healthy beverages to quench our thirst, and eating local produce to energize ourselves.

The federally-funded Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, better known in the community as WIC, is making history!  This month, the WIC Program has expanded the foods it offers to include a variety of healthy foods from every food group.  This is the first major change for the WIC Program in its 35 years of serving the community! 

 WIC Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The WIC Program serves nearly 9 million low-income women, infants, and children, providing them with a number of services including breastfeeding support, nutrition counseling, and checks to purchase healthy foods.  Since the WIC Program serves such a large number of families, the potential impact WIC can have on family food choices as well as the general health of the country is great.  

 

Foods that were chosen for WIC families were based on recommendations found in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The foods offered along with the messages that they send are beneficial for all Americans, not just WIC families.  After all, each of us could use more fiber, additional vitamins and minerals and less saturated fat in our diets.

veggie basket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foods that are now being offered through WIC include fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, brown rice, tortillas, baby foods, and a whole lot more!   WIC’s key messages:

 

–          Offer a variety of healthy and appealing foods to your family  

–          Lower the fat: offer fat free or 1% lowfat milk to loved ones over the age of 2

–          Eat more fruits and vegetables—you have always known it is the right thing to do!

–          Make half your grains whole—switch to brown rice and whole wheat bread

–          Drink less juice and sweetened beverages

–          Breastfeed—babies were meant to be breastfed

 

These are messages any family or individual can benefit from.  Which message or messages will you bring home to your family?  We’d love to hear from you!

 

Share on Facebook. and thanks to Kara  for contributing to the blog this week.

We are finally back to school and to what feels like the beginning of the days getting shorter and the evenings colder.   I just want to remind you that Farmer’s Markets are still going strong and offer a great variety of late summer and fall produce. 

gourds This weekend,   Mattapan is hosting their Harvest Festival & Perennial Divide on Saturday. http://www.bostonnatural.org/PDFs/evtHarvestFestival09.pdf

 On Sunday, Community Servings Farmer’s market will be hosting Earthworks and you can taste some fresh apple cider from one of the local orchards in Boston.

http://servings.org/about/news_item.cfm?news_id=245

 Along with the festiveness of this weekend, Farmer’s Market’s still have some of the best offerings that include late summer tomatoes. You have to admit that tomatoes taste their best picked right from the garden or the farm, and we all know you cannot get a good tasting tomato in the middle of winter!   Tomatoes are a terrific source of vitamin C, with a touch of vitamin A, potassium and fiber. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may slow down aging of the skin and may be beneficial against certain cancer and heart disease.

 Cooking may actually increase the health benefits of this fruit.   So how do you preserve the great taste and health benefits longer?   I find that roasting and freezing is a great way to preserve tomatoes and is not as expensive or intimating as traditional canning.  Simply slice, roast and freeze and savor the flavors during the colder seasons.    Here a couple of recipes for roasting or freezing tomatoes:  

http://www.relishmag.com/recipes/view/40305/teresas-freezer-tomato-sauce.html

 p://www.instructables.com/id/E1LNGBK0I0EQZJIA3W/

 The fall growing season can also bring another opportunity to try hearty greens that you may have missed in the early growing season.  These include   kale, collards, spinach, cabbage and others which are good food sources of calcium, and iron.  Broccoli and cauliflower is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, foliate and fiber.  As the weather gets cooler, try preparing greens in soups with combinations of beans for protein and you have a quick and easy meal that can satisfy and reduce the amount of meat that we consume.   Here a couple of farmer’s   market recipes and other favorites that will please your family and your budget:  

http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/FMFM_Main.aspx

http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/resources_consumers_recipes.htm

http://www.recipezaar.com/Healthy-Bean-Soup-With-Kale-55796

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=577195

 

 So   here’s the reminder of the dates, and times of the many markets in the city. 

Farmers Market Schedule

Don’t forget your EBT card to take advantage of Boston Bounty Bucks!   Try a couple of new fall recipes on your family.   Along with the variety of vegetables come the fall fruits, crisp apples and fragrant pears.  These fruits are a good source of soluble fiber and potassium and both are delicious in sweet and savory dishes.  Join me next week as talk about seasonal apples and all the free orchards available in the city.

It’s summer and it’s time for grilling! However questions doe arise- how can I create safe and healthy meals?

If you are debating on whether to grill using gas or charcoal, gas is environmentally cleaner while charcoal does release soot and carbon monoxide into the environment.   Many people still prefer the taste from charcoal grill, in this case, it is so it is recommended that you use   “additive-free lump charcoal” as opposed to traditional briquettes.   Set the charcoal together and place tightly wrapped paper or small twigs to start the coals.   Try to avoid using lighter fluid at all because the vapors escape into the environment and are also absorbed by the food. This leaves your food with traces of contaminations and decreases the taste quality. 

Start by pre- heating the grill, with gas this take about ten minutes and with charcoals approximately 15-25 minutes.  After the grill has been preheated, always clean the grill top using a grill brush.  Grills tops are easier to clean when hot.   Final preparation step is to oil the cleaned grill using a brush or thongs with cloth dipped the vegetable oil.   Using oil helps to prevent your food from sticking. Avoid the use of cooking sprays, which could cause the flames to rise.

 The other question that comes to mind, are there harmful health effects from grilling?  The answer is yes. When the high heat from the gas or coals is exposed to the muscle of the meats, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) carcinogens form.  The best way to reduce the effects of HCA is to marinate meat for one hour or more.     According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), marinating can reduce HCA formation by as much as 92 to 99 percent. Select marinates that contains olive oil or citrus juices. Recently scientists at the Food Safety Consortium project at Kansas State University have discovered that herbs of the Lamiaceae family (Basil, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, and Sage) used in marinades reduced HCA formation dramatically. These herbal antioxidants reduce the formation of free radicals (bad stuff) when meat hits heat. Attached is a simple BBQ marinade that is beneficial in reducing HCA, low in calories and big on flavor. 

Another potential carcinogen to be aware of when grilling is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are released from the charcoal when the fat from the meat drips and creates flare up or intense heat.  The effects of PAH are reduced by  selecting meats that have less fat or by removing visible  fats from meats to reduce dripping  on to coals.   Use moderator heat to avoid flare ups which tend to char the meats.  Turning the meat regularly also helps reduce flare –ups and, creates less charred meat. If meat becomes charred slide it off, and do not eat the charred parts. However, always make sure that you cook meats to the appropriate internal temperature.

Healthy grilling also includes vegetables and fruit. Grilled vegetables really are healthier than those that are broiled (where they will lose some nutrient in the water) or fried which add only fat. Unlike meats, produce doesn’t contain the HCA, however you do want o turn your vegetables often to avoid the affects of charring.

 

 For grilling, select vegetables with low water content, such as onions, cabbage, mushrooms, bell peppers and asparagus. You can either grill the vegetables directly on the grill or wrap them in a piece of foil first. If you wrap them, you won’t need to add any fats or oils.  Fruits grill nicely, and the taste becomes greater because of heating the natural sugar found in fruits. 

  Another way to take advantage of the summer produce is to create salsas.   A variety of salsas can add interest too many grilled meats.   See salsa recipes attached

 Healthy BBQ Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Salsa

 

Apple Pear Salsa

 

CantaloupeSalsa

 

MangoManiaSalsa

So for healthy BBQ:  

1. Follow the steps of healthy grilling.

2.  Be sure to  provide your family or  guests with plenty of grilled vegetables rather than the traditional pasta and potato salads, that often are heavy laden with calories from  mayonnaise and other dressings with fat.   

3. Offer fresh summer fruits in the form of salsa or offer grilled fruit for a lighter dessert.

4.  After the meal, go and have fun doing some physical activity.   Play ball, or go for walk.   

 

 Contributor to this blog, Tara Dorsey, Simmons Student volunteering with BPHC this summer.

 Sometimes we think farmer’s markets are not cheap and in this economy everyone is watching their budget tightly, however farmers’ markets are beneficial for both your personal finances and for your local economy.  Farmers’ markets provide closer, fresher, and more nutritious foods for just slightly more than or equal to the price of produce at a supermarket. 

 For some neighborhoods in the inner city, supermarkets are usually far away.   If you cannot pay the extra transportation costs, this leaves people with the limited selections offered at small grocery stores, convenient stores and fast food restaurants.   All of these are places where prices are high, products are processed, and fresh fruits and vegetables are poor quality or non-existent.     Since the smaller stores lack the ability to buy in huge quantities like chain supermarkets, they pay more for the products and produce they sell.  Their prices may also be higher due to higher property costs, higher security costs, higher shrinkage (loss of products due to theft and waste), and higher employee turnover, these costs are all pass onto the consumer.

 When a farmers’ market in your community is open, residents should take advantage of the opportunity to buy some of highest quality food available for themselves and for their family.  The farmers do not have to charge for transportation and middle-men costs. In addition, most  of them take WIC and Senior coupons.  Half of them take EBT, and if you are using EBT, check out Boston’s Bounty Bucks’ to find out how you can double your purchasing power!   

Perhaps the most interesting financial benefit of shopping at farmers’ markets is the impact it has on the local economy.  A lot of people don’t think about where their money goes after it is spent.  When you buy produce from supermarkets, the majority of the money you spend goes to the supermarket corporation, whose headquarters may be thousands of miles away.  Only a fraction of every dollar goes back to the farmers themselves.  This is part of the reason why most large farms are subsidized by the government.  They are actually running at a deficit because of the low return they receive for their products.

 When you buy produce directly from the farmers, they get 100% of the money.  They then reinvest a lot of this money back into their local or regional economy.  Small farms are more likely to buy equipment and supplies from other small businesses in the area, and are also providing jobs for local residents.  Local farms stands and businesses are also more likely to stock and sell products from other local merchants.  Since the money you give them stays and re-circulates in your neighborhood, you actually reap more of a benefit from it in the long term. A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every pound (or dollar) spent on local goods generates nearly twice as much income for the local economy as money spent in national chain stores

 So contrary to popular belief, farmers’ markets are more beneficial to you than supermarkets.  For the same money that you would spend at the supermarket on produce that has been sitting in warehouses and on trucks, you can by fresh, delicious, and more nutritious produce. Often you can find a greater variety of produce at the farmer’s market, because the grocery store purchases on volume and cannot store different varieties in small quantities.

 Shopping at your local farmers’ markets can impact your health, as we had discussed in one of the past blogs, but it can have an even deeper impact, because you will be helping to support your neighborhood, small farmers, and your wallet! 

 The sight of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm, and the interaction with people who grew them, leaves a good taste in your mouth for the summer, but it might offer a reconnection to nature and to where food actually comes from all year long. 

 Come join us at many of the farmer’s markets in Boston.  Here’s the listing of times,  and location.

This  blog is in response to a request from a consumer who asked for tips on how to manage to prepare healthy meals on a regular basis.  The best way to start is to Stock a Healthy Kitchen.

It’s easy to get frustrated choosing what to make for a healthy meal, especially dinner, after a busy day at work.  The best way to ensure that you can prepare a healthy nourishing meal that is not loaded with calories, fats, salt and added sweeteners is to stock a healthy kitchen.  A stocked pantry will make it easier to prepare and serve a healthy meal with the least amount of effort. Quick meals can be just as nutritious as those that require lengthy preparation time. Basically, it’s all dependent on what foods or staples you have and how much time you have for preparation.

Getting your pantry, refrigerator and freezer stocked with healthy items DOES NOT have to break your budget.  Start slowly and add ingredients, utensils as you increase your recipes and cooking skills.  Spring time is the perfect time to think about cleaning out, and restocking.  Here are some suggestions that can make your meal preparation a pleasure rather than a stressful situation.  

 

Keep in dry storage (pantry)  

Canned goods and bottled items

  • Canned beans –cannellini, great northern, and chick peas black, red and kidney beans. 
  • Low sodium  chicken, beef or vegetable broths
  • Tomatoes,   diced, puree, whole and sauce,
  •  Light or white tuna and salmon, water packed
  • Fruits canned in juice
  •  White wine ( Non alcohol variety is available )

Vegetables /fruits and nuts

  • Potatoes , russets  and red
  • Onions , yellow and red
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Dried fruits  all varieties
  • Nuts- almonds,  walnuts, pecans 

Oils and condiments

  • Canola or Vegetable oil for cooking
  • Spray oils canola or olive 
  • Extra virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
  • Reduced –fat mayonnaise
  • Vinegars- balsamic, red–wine, rice –wine, apple cider and white.
  • Sauces,  barbecue, or marinades
  • Lite Soy sauce,  hoisin sauce 
  • Ketchup

Flavorings

  • Iodized salt
  • Kosher salt,  sea salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Onions  fresh and dried
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried herbs,- bay leaves, sage , thyme leaves, oregano, Italian seasoning blend 
  •  Spices  ( whole or ground )  chili powder , cinnamon,  cumin, ground ginger, dry mustard, paprika, crushed red pepper
  •  Sugar , white and brown
  • Honey

  Breads, grains and legumes

  • Breads, whole grain and enriched
  •  Whole grain crackers
  • Flour, all purpose enriched and whole  wheat flour
  • Rolled oats, regular and quick cooking ( but not instant )
  • Pasta in a variety of shapes and sizes- preferably whole wheat  
  • Brown rice,  regular and quick cooking,
  • Sugar, white and brown
  • Plain dry  bread crumbs
  • Whole grain cereals

 Keep in your freezer

  •  Whole grain bagels, pita bread
  • Boneless chicken breasts
  • Fish fillets
  • Frozen vegetables,- all varieties without added butters or sauces
  •  Frozen berries and fruits
  •  100% fruit juices, concentrate
  • Lean beef
  •  Ground turkey
  • Turkey sausage, breakfast links and/or  Italian for quick pasta dishes   
  • Pizza crust
  • Frozen basil or garlic
  •  Frozen low –fat yogurt or ice cream for quick dessert
  • Fresh ginger  ( freeze unused portions and take out  as needed)

 Keep in your refrigerator

  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheddar cheese or feta cheese
  • Good quality parmesan or romano cheese
  • Citrus juice,  orange or grapefruit
  •  Low –fat cottage cheese
  • Dijon mustard
  • Fresh fruits in season
  • Lemons and limes  
  •  Parsley , fresh basil, scallions
  • Fresh garlic
  • Milk, low-fat
  • Salad dressings, light or low-fat
  • Salsa
  • Vegetables,-  carrots, celery, lettuce, green or red  pepper, tomatoes
  •  Low fat yogurt
  • Water packed tofu
  •  Turkey bacon
  • Unsalted butter
  • Trans fat free margarine

 These basic items will get you started on your way to healthy cooking.  To begin, check the sales on your frozen vegetables, canned goods and dry goods and stock up.   Check your discount stores for sales on the dried fruits, herbs, spices and oils.  Often at the discount store you can get the dried herbs and, spices for under a dollar.    Don’t’ forget to use coupons on items that are on sale. This is how you can stock up on the lower cost side.  So as you prepare your healthy kitchen continue to use the other tips of menu planning, and sticking to grocery list except to add one or two items from the stock list to build your base.

The beauty of having a healthy stocked kitchen is that today, I found a new recipe for beef and asparagus stir fry which looks tasty with a nice Asian flavor.   On my weekly menu I had a beef dish planned, but I was busy this morning and did not add the dish to the slow cooker.    We all have days when things do not go as planned.  Not to stress about it because the new recipe I found will be just as great.   I have all the ingredients.  I will use the beef already planned, just slice it thin. All the others ingredients or flavorings, I do not have to run out for, I have them in the dry pantry.  I have in the freezer asparagus (purchased on sale two weeks ago and then froze).   So when I get home I can relax, enjoy preparing a healthy meal in 40 minutes (that’s how long it takes brown rice to cook.) and enjoy tasting a new dish

June is here, which means that farmers’ markets will soon be opening.  There are more farmers’ markets in Boston than you probably think.   Here is a link to all TWENTY farmers’ markets that will be operating in Boston this summer, including locations, days, times, and what forms of payment they take.  Scroll down to find the Suffolk County (Boston) listing.      

 Due to some great work by various partners in the past two years, ALL Boston farmers markets now take WIC and Senior Coupons.  Additionally, about half also now have electronic bank transfer (EBT) machines to accept food stamps. 

Farmers markets’ provide fresh local produce to neighborhoods that have limited access to this healthy option.  Everyone should have the opportunity to affordable food, and Farmers’ markets help make local organic produce available.  

 Here are a few reasons for selecting locally grown produce and for patronizing farmers’ markets. 

  • The soil and production methods used on smaller farms tend to increase the nutritional quality of the crops

Small farmers are more likely to use organic and sustainable methods of growing.  Studies have shown that roots in organic soil grow deeper than in soil fertilized conventionally.  Deeper roots mean the crops take up and incorporate nutrients more efficiently, which increases their nutritional content.  These methods are also better for the environment because famers use fewer chemicals and practice crop rotation.

  • The produce is allowed to ripen before being picked, which increases its vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content 

Produce allowed to ripen before harvesting has higher amounts of nutrients than the same kind of produce ripened in storage.  The longer a plant is attached to the soil, the more nutrients it can absorb.  The soil and sun also help the plant create more antioxidants.  Local produce is picked when it’s ripe because it doesn’t have to endure long transportation and storage time.

  • The produce  is usually sold with in 24 hours of being picked, which means that it hasn’t had time to lose a lot of those nutrients

Produce starts losing nutrients the moment it is picked.  Did you know that conventional produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to its retail destination?  The journey usually takes between 2-7 days, and then the time spent on the shelf at the store begins.  Local produce at farmers’ markets travels an average of only 50 miles.  The food sold there goes directly from soil to consumers’ hands within a day or two.   So you’ll be able to buy corn on the cob picked that very morning in many Boston neighborhoods later this summer! 

  • Farmers’ markets usually offer more uncommon and interesting selections than conventional markets, so you’re more likely to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

More variety means a greater spectrum of new produce for you to try, but also increases your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.   Produce sold at supermarkets has been chosen for endurance of long transportation and storage.  Local farmers can grow more of a variety thanks to handpicking and the limited shipment involved.  Farmers’ markets in different areas may also exhibit various products appealing to ethnic groups that live in each neighborhood.  This gives an exciting opportunity to discover plants used in other cuisines.  Ask how the farmer how to prepare the new produce if you’re not sure!                                                                       

So as we approach the season, mark your calendar so you can experience the joy of attending a farmer’s market.  Being at the market is also a fun social interaction time with neighbors, friends, family, and the farmers.  All of these factors work together to increase of appreciation and enjoyment of healthy, nutritious, locally grown food!

Special thanks to Rebecca Brotzman for her contribution to this blog!