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Healthy Living: Tea for your health

It makes sense that January is National Hot Tea Month. When the weather’s cold, and you’re possibly fighting off the cold and flu bugs that are making the rounds, a nice cup of hot tea sounds especially appealing.

But it turns out that tea is actually good for you all year long. A growing body of research has linked the consumption of tea to health benefits that may include weight loss, cancer prevention, and strengthening of the immune system. A big factor is that tea contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties, which help stave off many chronic diseases, including heart disease.

Also, if you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, tea is a wiser choice. The average cup of black tea (what’s in regular tea bags) has under 60 milligrams of caffeine, half what you are likely to get in an average brewed cup of coffee.

What’s more, the specialty tea market has also grown dramatically over the last decade. So even if most of the tea you drink is of the iced variety, like many Southerners, you may find that some of the newer flavors or blends of tea taste good hot, too.  And while almost all tea has some health benefits, each has a little something different to offer.

Green tea: This is the tea that’s gotten most of the attention health-wise. It is a mild, almost grassy tasting tea that has been linked to lots of good things.  It may fight diabetes and strokes, lower cholesterol, burn fat and slow down some signs of aging. If you don’t like the taste of green tea plain, try one of the many flavored varieties now on the market.

Black tea: Black tea doesn’t have as high a level as antioxidant as green tea, but its consumption has also been linked to the prevention of heart disease, stroke, some cancers and more mild maladies such as tooth decay. And, many drinkers prefer its clean, mild flavor, especially because this is the kind of tea most of us have grown up drinking.

Herbal teas: Strictly speaking, most herbal teas aren’t actually tea at all, but rather a mixture of dried herbs. Many of these herbal teas have long been used as home remedies or simply to promote good health. Chamomile tea, for instance, is often considered a natural way to help relax; so is lavender. And hibiscus tea, known as jamaica in Spanish-speaking countries, offers Vitamin C and antioxidants, and has been linked to lowering blood pressure.

Family Matters: New Year’s resolutions

If your New Year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more are already going by the wayside, here’s an idea: Enlist your family to help.

It will help you stay on track if everybody’s on the same routine. And chances are, they could use a little boost, too. About one-third of American children and teenagers are now overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. And even if your children do not have a weight problem now, the habits you help them learn in childhood will help them stay fit and healthy as adults.

Rethink meals:  An easy fix is to reduce fat where you can: Buy lean meats, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk. Cut back on fatty snacks. But that’s easier said than done, especially with kids in the house. Instead, look for healthier substitutes that everybody likes (“light” microwave popcorn instead of chips; yogurt instead of ice cream.) Try cutting the amount of meat you serve in half, replacing the empty space on the plate with whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

Revamp your cooking: Take the kids to the grocery store and let each one try one new “healthy” food – whole wheat pasta, maybe, or a different kind of apple. Rely on NuVal scores to make choosing healthier foods easier – these scores are listed right on the store shelves, and the closer the score is to 100, the better that food is for you. Make it a family mission to look for healthy recipes to try or ways to reduce fat and calories in family favorites. You can often reduce the amount of fat in a recipe by about ¼ without really noticing it at all. (This, however, does not apply to baking, where recipes are more precise.)

Cook together: It’s often stated that kids are more likely to try new foods that they have helped cook. But it’s also important for them to learn their way around in the kitchen, so they don’t rely on junk food and restaurants when they head off to college. It will also help them see just how much fat and sodium goes in some favorite dishes, and understand proper serving size. Since portion control is a big part of weight management, this is an important tool.

Get off the couch: Studies have shown that children tend to imitate their parents when it comes to exercise. So make it a family activity. Challenge them to an active video game – most kids will love beating their parents at Just Dance or Wii bowling. Dust off those bikes in the garage and go for a leisurely (or quick) spin. Look into family membership rates at the Y or another fitness facility; more gyms are now offering fitness classes even for younger children, to get them in the exercise habit early.

Get outside: Raking leaves, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, stacking firewood – all kinds of outdoors chores burn calories and give you a teachable moment about the value of hard work. (And you’ll save money if you’ve been paying a service to do these chores, too.) Or, even simpler: A simple walk around the block or in the neighborhood park costs nothing, and is a good time to catch up on everyone’s day.

Product Talk: Whole grains and General Mills

A new year often prompts us to make new pledges about living better and eating better – but we all know how hard those promises are to keep out in the real world.

So here’s some help, from some products that are probably already on your family’s table, Big G Cereals from General Mills.

Big G cereals include many favorite brands, such as Wheaties, Chex, Cheerios, Fiber One and Lucky Charms. Most cereals are already a low-fat, healthy breakfast option, but over the past few years, General Mills has been working hard to improve the nutritional content of their cereals. They’re boosting the whole grain content, lowering sugar, decreasing sodium, and adding ingredients with health benefits.

For instance:

  • All General Mills Big G Cereals now list whole grains as the first ingredient, and contain more whole grain than anything else. This is in keeping with a USDA recommendation that consumers look for products that list “whole grain” as the first ingredient listed on the nutrition information panel.
  • All Big G cereals advertised to children – like Trix, Reese’s Puffs and Cookie Crisp – now have 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. This reflects an ongoing effort to reduce sugar content in these products over the past five years. There has been an average sugar reduction of 14 percent on Big G kids’ cereals since 2007; some cereals have had their sugar content reduced by up to 28 percent. What’s more, General Mills continues these efforts, and is committed to reaching single-digit sugar levels on all its cereals advertised to children under age 12. And somehow, they’ve done this while maintaining the flavor and texture you and your children enjoy.
  • All Big G kid cereals provide a good source of calcium and many other vitamins, along with at least 8 grams of whole grain in every serving.

Why is this important to you? Well, you already know the importance of lowering your sugar consumption, and taking in the recommended allowance of vitamins and minerals. But whole grains are increasingly recognized as an important factor in healthy eating, and most Americans don’t eat enough.

Simply put, whole grain means the complete grain. When grains are refined, as in white flour, the bran and germ are removed, so you don’t get their nutritional benefits, which include B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.

Recent USDA recommendations suggest adults should get about 48 grams of whole grains daily – which means whole grains should make up about half of all the breads, cereals and other such products you consume.

That sounds like a lot. But when you consider that a bowl of Big G cereal has at least 8 grams of whole grains – and often as much as 16 – you can get a good start on that daily requirement just by eating breakfast. And suddenly, that New Year’s resolution to eat better doesn’t seem quite so impossible.

Healthy Living: Cutting back on salt

Most of us probably eat more salt than we should. It’s hard not to; processed and convenience foods, fast foods, and the salty snacks that we love are all packed with sodium.

Too much sodium can cause us to retain fluids and end up with higher blood pressure – which can lead to heart disease and stroke. But if you don’t have any of those problems, you’re free to eat as much salt as you want, right?

Not necessarily. Earlier this year, the federal government released new dietary guidelines that recommend many of us eat less salt.

The new rules suggest a daily salt intake of 1,500 milligrams per day for anyone who is 51 and older and all black persons, in addition to anyone who has already been diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. That is just a bit over a half-teaspoon or about the amount in many frozen dinners. Everyone else is supposed to take in just 2,300 milligrams daily, or about a teaspoon.

Since the average American now takes in about 3,400 milligrams of sodium, it would do us all good to review some ways to reduce salt in our daily diet:

Recognize how much sodium you’re eating: For a few days, note the sodium content of as much of your daily diet as you can. Does the total surprise you?

Cook from scratch: This is obvious, but if you start with raw foods, you retain total control over the amount of sodium you use. Fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables naturally contain little sodium; fresh and dried herbs, chills and fresh-squeezed citrus juice can punch up flavor in place of salt.

Read labels: Sodium is often hidden in ingredient lists, and there can be a wide variation in sodium content for any given food, even seemingly innocuous foods like bread or pasta. In addition to plain salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium phosphate, and sodium nitrate are common ingredients that can lead to higher sodium levels.

Understand salt-free vs. low sodium vs. “lite.” Lots of products advertise their sodium content, but are careful. Sodium-free means each serving has 5 mg. of sodium or less. Very low sodium products contain 35 mg or less. Low sodium products can contain as much as 140 mg of sodium. However, reduced-sodium products or even “light” in sodium products are not necessarily all that low in sodium. They simply have a salt content that has been reduced by at least 50 percent from the original product. With some items, like soups, chips13 or frozen meals, these products may still be quite high in sodium.

Season with hard cheeses: Just a pinch of parmesan or other hard, intensely flavored cheese can add a lot of savory flavor; just don’t season with it AND salt.

Switch to coarse-grained kosher salt or sea salt: Kosher and sea salts have the same amount of sodium as regular table salts by weight – but not by volume. So, a teaspoon of coarse salt contains less sodium than fine salt, because the teaspoon contains fewer grains. Some people also find that they naturally use less coarse salt at the table, because they can see and taste the individual grains more easily.

Cut back gradually: You have probably become slowly used to saltier and saltier foods. So, first, reduce the sodium by about one-quarter when you’re cooking. After a few weeks, take away the salt shaker at the table. Once you’re used to that, reduce salt in recipes by another quarter. Eventually, you’ll wonder how you managed to eat all that salt.

Dine-In: Pumpkin Pudding

I love pumpkin! On cool fall mornings, I enjoy a warm pumpkin spice latté, and on Thanksgiving, you’d better be prepared to fight me for the last piece of pumpkin pie.

What can you not like about pumpkin when it has a NuVal score of 94! (That’s just six points away from the perfect NuVal score of 100, meaning it’s about a nutritious a food as you can get.) One cup of pumpkin has 763% of your daily recommendation of vitamin A.  Vitamin A not only helps fight infections, but it helps prevent night blindness and contributes to red blood cell production, growth and development. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, iron, potassium and fiber.

When Thanksgiving rolls around, skip the 316 calories, 14 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat in a slice of pumpkin pie and go for a lower-fat pumpkin treat. This year, I’ve been asked to make this pudding instead of the traditional pie. Serve this pumpkin pudding over crushed gingersnaps and you won’t even miss your pumpkin pie.  

Easy Pumpkin Pie Pudding
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus refrigerating
Serves: 8

2 (1.34 oz) boxes Food Club Sugar Free Instant Vanilla Pudding
4 cups Full Circle Fat Free Milk
1 cup Food Club Canned Pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup Food Club Fat Free Whipped Topping
1/4 cup pecan, chopped

In a large bowl prepare pudding with milk. In a medium bowl, mix together pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold pumpkin into pudding. Spoon filling into glasses. Refrigerate glasses for 1 hour. Garnish with whipped topping and pecans.

Nutritional Information: Calories per Serving: 114, Fat: 3 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 496 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 5 g

© 2011, Brookshire Grocery Co.  Nutrient counts are rounded to the nearest whole number.  All dietary and lifestyle changes should be supervised by a physician.

Family Matters: Eating Right Through the Holidays

The holiday season is a time for indulging in your favorite festive foods, from grandma’s stuffing at Thanksgiving all the way to your sweet neighbor’s warm, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies at Christmas. Many of us feel that once the holiday season starts, nutrition is out the door. With the help of NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, however, you can take some of your favorite holiday foods and “trade them up” for a more nutritious product.

NuVal is a Nutritional Scoring System that is in place at Brookshire’s. NuVal rates foods on a scale of 1 to 100; the higher the score the better the nutrition. All you have to do is look right at the price tag to find the score. It really is as easy as that!

Look how easy it is to make holiday meals just a little healthier:

  • When eating that holiday turkey this year, skip the drumstick and go for the skinless turkey breast. This little trade-up increases the NuVal score from a 30 to a 48.
  • We all love our grandmother’s stuffing! Nothing feels more like home than when you see the steam rising from the stuffing and the kitchen filling up with the smell of sage. This holiday season, add a few nutritious ingredients to that traditional recipe. My personal favorite is adding chopped apples (NuVal 96) or diced pears (NuVal 96). Other fruit options are apricots (NuVal 100) or cranberries (NuVal 100). Winter squash is another nutritious added-in to your grandmother’s stuffing. Acorn squash scores a 99 and butternut squash has a perfect score of 100. Vegetables like collard greens (NuVal 100) or kale (NuVal 99) add a lot of nutrients too! I also like a little crunch, like nuts, in my dressing.  I love adding pecans (NuVal 65) or walnuts (NuVal 82) for that little crunch.
  • Side dishes are my favorite at dinner time! English peas, green beans and mashed potatoes are always my request when the family gets together. Sometimes when we have a lot to cook, we don’t really like preparing all things fresh. The good news is you can find canned and frozen vegetables that have almost as high, if not the same score, as fresh produce score. For example, if someone has requested a green bean casserole, you can use fresh, canned or frozen green beans. Del Monte Fresh Cut Canned Green Beans and Food Club Frozen Green Beans both score a perfect 100.

With the NuVal Scoring System, finding nutritious products in the grocery store is not hard at all. I hope you and your family have a great and nutritious holiday season!

Healthy Living: Avoiding holiday weight gain

During the roughly six-week winter holiday season, which begins right about now, the average American gains from 1 to 7 pounds, depending on which source you believe.

But the really bad news? Most of us never get around to losing that extra holiday weight, according to a widely cited study published in the respected The New England Journal of Medicine. So, even if you gain on the low end of that spread, you could easily be carting around five or ten extra unwanted pounds in just a few years.

The trick, obviously, is keeping the pounds off in the first place. Easier said than done.  And most “tips” about avoiding holiday weight gain are, frankly, sort of hard to follow. Who really wants to just eat carrot sticks instead of Christmas cookies at the office Christmas party? And that often-repeated tip about eating a full meal before heading to a holiday gathering – well, won’t most people just end up eating twice as much?

Instead, here are a few simpler ideas for minimizing your holiday weight gain:

Don’t tempt yourself at home. Since the office and every holiday gathering will be well-stocked with sweets and snacks, cut back in the environment you can control – your house. For instance, stop buying chips, and skip the chocolate-chip cookie you often enjoy after dinner.  If you receive gifts of nuts or candy, consider taking them to work to spread the enjoyment – and the potential weight gain – among your colleagues. And if you are baking treats for a party or friends, don’t make extras; try a cookie or two just to make sure they’re good enough to give away, but then package up the whole batch and get them out of your house.

Indulge in one or two treats per party – not the whole buffet. When you arrive at a holiday party, size up the offerings and eat only your favorites. Station yourself in a room far from the buffet table if you are easily tempted or prone to mindless eating while chatting.

Limit the alcohol. Especially if you don’t drink that often, a few alcoholic drinks can quickly add up to a bunch of empty, unexpected calories, and may also make you more apt to pig out at the buffet later. So go ahead and have that glass of champagne – one. Then switch to sparkling water with a slice of citrus.

Eat lightly the day of a big party, but don’t skip meals. If you know you’re going to be over-indulging in the evening, eat about one-third less than you might normally eat at breakfast and lunch, so you “save” some calories. If you skip meals and starve all day, you’re that much more likely to overeat as soon as you see the cocktail wienies. Along the same line, it’s often recommended to eat a healthy, protein-heavy snack right before heading to a party – so that you’re not as hungry. However, if you know that won’t stop you from eating just as much once you arrive at the party, skip the snack and save those calories.

Make your own party treats healthy: If you’re bringing goodies to a potluck, take something healthy, so you know there will be at least one lower-calorie offering to fill up on. Magazines like Cooking Light are filled with delicious, but lighter, holiday ideas this time of year.

Moderation in all things, even moderation:  Choose one or two events  – maybe Thanksgiving dinner and your neighborhood potluck – where you eat whatever you want, guilt-free. It will make it easier to limit your eating the rest of the season. The rest of the time, strive for moderation. If you do overeat at a party, don’t feel guilty or, worse, let it spiral into weeks of over-indulging. Shake it off, spend an extra 30 minutes at the gym, eat a salad for lunch, and then go about your holidays – hopefully, without any extra pounds in tow.

Healthy Living: NuVal News

One of the great things about NuVal, the at-a-glance system for figuring out a food’s nutritional value, is that the NuVal people constantly update their information. So, as products change their formulation, and new products enter the market, you can be sure you are getting new, current information about the foods you are feeding your family. In the NuVal system, food gets a score from 1 to 100. The higher the score, the better the overall nutrition of that product.

Each month, I receive a report with changes in NuVal scores. Scores can go up or down depending on how a product has been reformulated. With the addition of fiber or the removal of trans fats the score can increase. If fiber is removed or sugar is added the score can decrease.

I am always pleased to see how manufactures strive to have a more nutritious product and sad when one of my favorite product’s score has declined. Here are a few items that have recently had a score change.

  • Dannon Strawberry, Blueberry and Vanilla Greek Yogurt all had a score increase due to the fortification of Vitamin D. Fortification is adding a micronutrient (like vitamins and minerals) to a product that was not there before. Dannon Strawberry Greek Yogurt went from a 27 to a 43, blueberry went from 28 to a 40, and vanilla went from a 28 to a 38.
  • Dole Fruit Cups had the syrup in the product replaced with 100% juice. Diced pears went from a score of 5 to a 24, cherry mixed fruit went from a 6 to a 24 and mandarin oranges went from a 7 to a 23.
  • Kellogg Peaches and Berries Special K Bars had a score increase from a 3 to a 24. The product’s reformulation resulted in more fiber and less sugar and trans fat.
  • The Taco Bell Dinner Kit had the removal of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a trans fat, resulting in a score increase from 8 to 20.

If you have any questions about NuVal or why a scored changed feel free to e-mail me at .

Product Talk: Dried beans, simplified

Dried beans, simplifiedExcept for the whole time and convenience thing, dried beans are so much better than canned beans, in so many ways. They’re cheaper, they taste richer and more flavorful, and you can better control the fat and, especially, the sodium content.

Of course, the time and convenience thing is pretty big. Not everybody thinks ahead enough so they have time to soak beans overnight and then cook them a few hours too. But what if I told you something big about dried beans – that you don’t have to soak them first?

Yes, I know that goes against pretty much everything you have probably been told about beans, and what you and your family have probably been doing for years. But it’s true. It’s what cooks do in many other countries, including Mexico. And more American cooks are finally coming around to this idea.

The main idea behind soaking dried beans was to diminish cooking time. But newer varieties of beans have been bred to absorb water more quickly, so they cook more quickly anyway. Additionally, some cooking experts say that soaking beans strips them of some of the flavor.

So you can take the beans straight from the bag into the pot, and they’ll still be done in a couple of hours.

I’ve cooked dried beans – pintos, black beans, navy beans, you name it – both ways, with soaking and without. And really, about the only time soaking seems to make a difference is when the beans were old, and had been sitting in the back of the pantry for a year or two. (Actually, if dried beans don’t ever get soft enough to eat, that’s probably the problem, not your cooking technique; your beans were probably old.)

The other thing you ought to try with dried beans? Don’t wait to salt them till the end. Again, that’s what most of us have been trained to do, believing that if you salt them earlier, they’ll never soften. However, again, I have found that not to be true. Try adding salt mid-way or three-quarters through the cooking time. That way the beans, not just the broth, get well-seasoned.


Light & Refreshing

Chicken and fruit salad with orange vinaigrette!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Serves: 4

2 Tbs flour
1 3/4 tsp Lawry’s® 25% Less Sodium Seasoned Salt, divided
3/4 tsp Lawry’s® Seasoned Pepper, divided
4 small boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
6 Tbs canola oil, divided
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
8 cups salad greens
1 (8.25 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries

Mix flour, 1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt and 1/2 tsp seasoned pepper in shallow dish. Coat chicken evenly in flour mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken; cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Mix remaining 4 tablespoons oil, orange juice, vinegar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each seasoned salt and seasoned pepper in small bowl until well blended. Toss salad greens and fruit in large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette; toss to coat well. Top with chicken. Serve immediately.

Recipe provided by McCormick®

Copyright © 2010-2018, Brookshire’s. All rights reserved.
The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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