Avocados. I like them?

As a dietitian I am probably going to humiliate myself by admitting to this, but I’m just going to come right out and say it: I do not like avocados. The only time I will excitedly eat an avocado is if it comes in the form of guacamole or on a tuna avocado sushi roll, but that’s about it. You won’t catch me eating trendy avocado toast or putting sliced avocados on top of my salads. I really couldn’t tell you why, but I can tell you that this is a travesty. Avocados have done nothing wrong to garner such harsh opinions from me. If anything, the avocado is a wondrous fruit (yes, a fruit) with many gifts to give, and so I set out on a quest to determine a way to like them. Whether you’re iffy on avocados like me or if you are already an avid lover, keep reading.

What’s so great about the avocado?

Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense fruits available. More specifically, they provide ample amounts of monounsaturated fats and fiber. Monounsaturated fats, which can also be found in foods like salmon, olive oil, and almonds are cardio-protective, help fight against inflammation in the arteries, and reduce cholesterol. Avocados are also super high in fiber, which also helps lower cholesterol, produces feelings of long-term fullness, and evens out blood sugar spikes. A half of an avocado dishes up about 5g of fiber, so not too shabby (the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the daily goal of dietary fiber for women is 25g/day for adult women and 38g/day for adult men). Other nutrients packed into the avocado include potassium, vitamin K, folate, antioxidants vitamin C and E, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and magnesium.

What else should I know?

A ripe avocado will have a little give when you squeeze it; it shouldn’t be hard and should feel a little mushy. The best time of year to buy avocados is in the summer during warm weather. Additionally, once cut open, avocados will oxidize and turn brown quickly. A good way to slow this process down and to save half your avocado for later is to squeeze some ascorbic acid onto the flesh (think: lemon juice or lime juice – not just used for flavoring in guacamole!!). Then, place in tinfoil or a plastic bag in the refrigerator and eat within 1-2 days.

Stop talking about them, let’s eat them.

Again, I’m forever dabbling into different ways I can enjoy the avocado a little more. One way I’ve found is to mash half of an avocado into plain 2% Greek yogurt and mix in ranch seasoning. This can be used as a spread for sandwiches or a dip for veggies. Another favorite I’ve uncovered is this tuna salad. Check out the recipe below!

Avocado Tuna Salad on the Half Shell

Serves: 1

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: less than 1 minute

Ingredients:

1/2 ripe avocado

1 pouch or can of albacore tuna in water (i prefer the pouch)

1 Tbs honey dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste

Additional optional ingredients: chopped onion (red or white), chopped celery, chopped carrots, chopped apples, olive oil, sliced almonds, apple cider vinegar, you can really customize this to your preference, but I chose to keep mine simple.

Instructions:

1) Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit.

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2) Score the avocado in a lattice/criss-cross pattern. Remove the flesh with a spoon into a bowl.

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3) Mix in the tuna, honey dijon mustard, and any other ingredients with the avocado. Taste as you go and add the salt and pepper as you mix.

4) Scoop the tuna back into the skin, which will serve not only as a bowl but an effortless way to look fancy and impressive.

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Nutrition Facts: Calories: 234, Total fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 45g, Total Carbohydrate: 9g, Dietary Fiber: 5g, Protein: 20g.

The verdict: I LOVE THIS and this may have turned me into an avocado believer. The fat from the avocado is reminiscent of those really high-mayo tuna salads from the deli that I love (but without the artery-clogging type of fat), and the protein from the tuna combined with the fat and fiber of the avocado are seriously satisfying.

Tell me – what’s YOUR favorite way to eat an avocado? Also do your avocados look as messy as mine??

Want to learn more about them? click here and here (sources).

Super Sweet Potatoes

Kale. Chia. Quinoa. Goji Berries. These trendy super foods are blowing up everywhere, and while they do have many health benefits, to me they just seem inaccessible, expensive, and difficult to work into my daily routine.

Enter: the humble sweet potato. Lumpy, brown, and covered in dirt, but when cut open offers a brilliant shade of orange and is bursting with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A medium sized sweet potato offers more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and 50% of the RDA of Vitamin C. Both are important antioxidants that help fight free-radicals (hello beautiful skin), protect against carcinogens, and boost immune health. The sweet potato is also a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, as well as essential vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. All of these micronutrients, along with the flesh’s complex carbohydrates, work together to help protect against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and wound/skin breakdown.

So, if you’re having trouble keeping up with the latest trends in super foods, there’s no reason to stress. Put a sweet potato in your weekly rotation to reap all of the benefits this non-pretentious root has to offer. For instance, I love to cook a sweet potato by poking holes in it with a fork, sticking it in the microwave for about 6 minutes, then slicing it open and topping it with pretty much anything I can find (example: black beans, salsa, sour cream, and cheddar cheese). For a side dish, nothing is better or easier than these sweet and spicy sweet potato fries. They are SO easy to make, and you can customize them to your liking. This recipe is meant for 2 servings but to be perfectly honest they’re so good I almost always end up eating them all by myself (and I’m not sorry).

Sweet Potato Fries 

serves: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: Anywhere from 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 1 dash crushed red pepper
  • 1 dash ground cinnamon

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (and wash your hands!).

2) Take the large sweet potato, slice in half and marvel at how beautiful the inside is (life metaphor).

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3) Proceed to cut the sweet potato into quarters. If you wash the sweet potatoes beforehand, make sure they are VERY dry, otherwise they will come out soggy and sad. Take each quarter and slice into fry-shaped pieces. Allow for varying sizes and shapes to make the final product more interesting.

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4) Place the fries onto a tin foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil. Then, sprinkle the salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and cinnamon onto the potatoes. Use the amount of each spice to your liking, or, use your own ingredients like rosemary and basil to customize this however way you like it. Then, toss the fries with your hands until they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Arrange on the baking sheet evenly, making sure not to overcrowd any of the fries or they will again likely come out soggy and sad.

5) Place in the oven for about 14 minutes. Then, take them out and flip them over using a fork, and continue to bake for about 11 minutes. If you like your fries more crispy and burnt, keep them in for a little longer. If you don’t like them as crispy, go for a little shorter. I like a good mix and find that 14 minutes on one side and 11 minutes on the other works for me. Experiment with the time to find your happy place.

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7) Let the fries cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy with your dipping sauce of choice. I personally like mine plain in order to allow for the wonderful flavor to shine through!

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 117, Total Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 972 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 13g, Dietary fiber: 2g, Sugars: 3g, Protein: 2g. 

How do you like to season your sweet potatoes? Have interesting ways to incorporate trendy super foods into your daily diet? Let me know!

My Top 5 Apps

I have definitely come to notice that everyone seems to be addicted to his or her phones. I’ll admit that I, along with likely everyone else in my age bracket, am no exception to this rule. Maybe there’s a good reason it’s impossible to peel our eyes away from our tiny little screens. I rely heavily on my phone to help me navigate the overwhelming task of staying healthy and fit. If it weren’t for my top five favorite apps listed below, I don’t think I ever could have achieved my fitness goals. If you’re looking for some inspiration towards losing weight, starting to run, or just living an overall healthier lifestyle, then you might want to give these 5 free apps for iPhone and Android a look. I know these reliable apps have served me very well for several years, and I would recommend them to anyone who wants to live a healthier lifestyle.

1. MyFitnessPal  

There arMyFitness Pale a million wonderful things that I can say about this food, weight, and exercise tracker. If you want to lose weight, then look no further than MyFitnessPal. You enter in your goal weight and the timeframe that you want to lose it in, and it will calculate a daily calorie and exercise goal to help you get there. Then, you track your food using a super easy bar code scanner or the practically endless included database. MyFitnessPal not only tracks your calories, but you can look at daily breakdowns of macronutrient and micronutrient intake. Don’t think you’re hitting your DRIs (that’s daily recommended intake) for calcium, iron, fiber, etc.? Take a look at your daily reports to see where you’re lacking. But, most importantly, this app WORKS. I have personally been successful losing weight with MyFitnessPal, unlike with other weight loss apps. I don’t know what sets this one apart from the others, but I’ll take it and gladly pass it along.

2. Couch25k

I was NEVEC25kR a runner. I hated running. I was strictly against running because I thought I was horrible at it, and couldn’t run for more than 20 seconds without passing out, and then this app actually changed my life. About 6 months ago, my friends and I signed up for a 5K fun run, and we honestly really wanted to run it, so I downloaded Couch25K (that’s Couch to 5K, not Couch 25k), The program provides 3 run/walks per week for 8 weeks that slowly build you up to running for 30 minutes straight. TIP: if you do this program, don’t be afraid of that first day of straight running/no walking at week 5 day 3. If I can complete this program then anyone can.

3. Fooducate

I think thiFooducates app is amazing. Like MyFitnessPal, it has the food tracking features, but the primary reason I use it is to figure out what to buy when I’m at the supermarket. This app also incorporates a barcode scanner to display information about any particular food item of your choosing, and assigns the product a grade (from F to A+) with a thorough explanation, plus better alternatives. Amazing.

4. Sleep Cycle

Sleep CycleResearch suggests that people who sleep more/have more restful sleep will lose weight more easily and are generally happier people (well OK, maybe not the second part but at least I feel that way about myself). Sleep cycle works by placing your phone under your pillow or somewhere in your bed, and then tracks your movements while you sleep. The idea is more restful sleep = a deeper REM cycle = improved health and mood. You can track daily behaviors like exercise, stress, and caffeine consumption, and Sleep Cycle will analyze which behaviors lead to better sleep. I just think this app is super cool and interesting.

5. MapMyFitness

There MapMyFitnessare many fitness-tracking apps out there, and while I use other popular apps like Nike+ with equal enthusiasm, I think MapMyFitness is the complete package. It tracks not just running, but other activities like cycling, hiking, board diving, hang gliding (what??), house work, snowshoeing, skydiving; really anything you could possibly want to do, it tracks. MapMyFitness will then generate a nice little calorie, speed, and elevation breakdown and syncs with MyFitnessPal (score!).

There are seriously millions of nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle apps out there at your fingertips, but I find that these solid 5 have been the most helpful for me. What are your favorite healthy lifestyle apps?