Do’s and Don’ts of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? In response, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recently released stricter high blood pressure (hypertension) guidelines, narrowing the diagnosis from ³140/90 mmHg to ³120/80 mmHg. These numbers represent the amount of pressure exerted against the blood vessel walls when the heart contracts and relaxes. Over time this elevated pressure damages the heart, blood vessels, and increases risk for heart attack and stroke. The stricter guideline means more people will be diagnosed with hypertension, but instead of a push for pharmacologic remedies, the American Heart Association recommends improving diet for long-term heart health. February is American Heart Month, the national campaign to tackle heart disease. Is there a better time to love your heart?

A heart-healthy diet is attainable for everyone, with more DOs than do NOTs. For instance…

-Do eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread.

-Do replace solid fats with unsaturated liquid fats or unsalted nuts and seeds.

-Do eat more fish and plant-based proteins.

-Try not to eat excessively salty or processed foods. This may mean eating fewer meals and snacks on the go.

For me, eating hearthealthy means running out the door with portable food in hand to prevent vending machine and fast food temptations. Preparing larger amounts and portioning them into portable containers for one-pot meals is my secret! Try

– Sprinkling sliced pears, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and gorgonzola atop a bed of lettuce or quinoa; drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.

– Mixing grilled veggies, chicken, brown rice, and a splash of seasoning or lite soy sauce.

– Tossing together oats, diced pears, dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon or brown sugar (if you like), and low-fat milk. Refrigerate overnight for refreshing overnight oats, pop in the microwave for a comforting breakfast or lunch, or check out this One Pot oatmeal recipe!

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Want more ideas? Check out delicious, heart-healthy recipes at USA Pears!

I’ve Fallen Off The Wagon. Now What?

The holidays are behind us and grey months are ahead of us, which makes today a good day to consider the rest of 2018. Many of us make health-related New Year’s resolutions, and only 9.2% of people feel they successfully meet these goals. The problem may be that our goals were too drastic or too restrictive. We are all guilty of this type: “I’m going to run five miles every day” or “I’m only eating 1000 calories a day!” Unfortunately, drastic pledges that limit enjoying our lives generally don’t work. Plus, shouldn’t we enjoy life? YES! So, what can you do?

Step 1: Keep it simple. Counting calories or minutes on the treadmill may not be the best way to tackle your goals. If you currently don’t exercise, try adding one or two short walks during the day – even just ten minutes adds up to 70 minutes each week! If eating out is your doom, split a meal, try an appetizer instead of an entrée, or swap a side of fruit for a sugary dessert. Small changes really do make for long-term changes.

Step 2: Start fresh. Instead of drastically cutting calories, swap fresh fruit and a glass of water for a sugary/salty snack or side dish. Or maybe you don’t love veggies or you’ve grown tired of your go-to items – try something new! I get in ruts like everyone else, but a stroll through the produce section usually produces fresh ideas. It’s also easy to start the day fresh, I add sliced pears to cereal, oatmeal and yogurt, or diced veggies and salsa to eggs.

January 1 is no more magical than February 1 (or today, for that matter!). Start fresh and see how you feel in a few days! For more ideas, check out what the USDA suggests for small changes that lead to lasting results.

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Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

Celebrate Pear Love During American Heart Month

With an occasion like Valentine’s Day, there’s no better month to celebrate the heart than February. Embracing heart-healthy habits this Valentine’s season can translate to a lifetime of improved wellness, and one is as simple as eating more of a delicious food you enjoy – pears!

According to the American Heart Association, many factors contribute to heart disease, including your diet, activity level, age, and genetics. However, eating more produce may help fend off a heart attack or stroke. Pears in particular are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of immune-supporting Vitamin C – both key nutrients linked to heart health. With 6 grams, one medium pear provides nearly a quarter of the daily recommended fiber intake.

Including more pears in your diet – especially Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears, which have all been Heart Health Certified by the American Heart Association – is one simple tactic for taking good care of your ticker. And it’s easy to incorporate pears into meals, snacks, and desserts. Blend a ripe pear into your morning smoothie or fold a diced or shredded pear into your oatmeal. Add fresh or oven roasted pear slices to a garden salad or mix chopped pears into a gingery stir-fry. At snack time, pair a fresh sliced pear with either almond butter or Mediterranean olives. For dessert, drizzle whole pears with a combo of maple syrup, fresh ginger and cinnamon, and bake in the oven, or dip fresh pear slices into melted dark chocolate.

Another savvy heart-health strategy is to simply keep more fruit, including pears, on hand, within sight and reach. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90% of Americans fall short of the recommended minimum daily fruit intake. During American Heart Month, USA Pears is promoting a social contest called #WhatsInYourFruitBowl. The belief is that keeping a well-stocked fruit bowl within easy reach is a simple way to inspire more people to reach for fresh fruit. Give it a try and track your own fruit intake. And for more information about pears and heart health, visit

Make sure to follow USA Pears on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for all things pears!

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

5 Meal Prep Tips for a Healthy New Year

A healthier new year starts with building better nutrition habits. Cooking is one way to get yourself into a healthier groove, and adding a little bit of meal planning to make a significant difference! Making sure you have a well-balanced, varied diet can easily be achieved with meal prep. Here are 5 meal prep tips to give you a head start:

1. Less is more

Begin meal prepping with recipes that are easy to prepare and require simple ingredients. I like to select recipes with no more than 10 ingredients (less is better!). Once you get the swing of preparing these recipes, you can expand to more robust dishes.

2. Batch cook

Cook a large amount (double or triple the quantity of a recipe) so you can enjoy part of it that day, and then save or freeze the rest for another day in the week. Dishes that freeze well include chili, soups, meatballs and muffins.

3. Creatively reuse

Eating the same exact meal every night can get boring, especially if you have kids! Repurpose your meal creatively throughout the week. For example, grilled pears can be enjoyed in a sandwich, sliced and diced into a salad, or blended into a savory soup.

4. Don’t forget snacks

Snacks should include foods and nutrients that you may not get enough of during meals. As 90% of Americans don’t get enough vegetables and 85% don’t get enough fruit, snacks are a perfect way to add them to your healthy eating plan. Plan for snacks like sliced pears and cheese, Greek yogurt topped with granola, or trail mix.

5. Stock up on containers

The right containers are everything to a meal prepper. Stock up on containers that take up less space and are BPA-free, leak-proof, dishwasher safe, freezer safe and microwave safe. You may also want to stock up on glass jars or bento boxes so you can easily tote your meals to work.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

Make sure to follow USA Pears on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for all things pears!

Toby Amidor, MS, RD is a nutrition expert and author of best-selling The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.

Fresh Fruit for the Holidays!

Tis the season for gift-giving, social gatherings, and indulging. With all the excitement of the season, it’s important to make sure you add eating healthfully to your to-do list. It’s the most wonderful time of the year to savor everything the season has to offer, and December also happens to be National Pear Month! Pears are an especially festive fruit and a refreshing change of pace during a season chock full of high-calorie food and drink. If you are attending bunches of social events, fruit is an excellent addition to your daily intake, particularly considering the sometimes frenetic and unusual eating schedule during the holiday season. Consuming fruit provides necessary nutrients to maintain energy for the endurance needed on long days, and may fight cravings by maintaining satiety and blood sugar levels. I like to drink a glass of water and eat a piece of fruit or some fresh cut veggies before meals, errands and gatherings – this way I’m not ravenous and prone to undesirable decisions.

The fiber boost from pears is filling, so I’m not hangry when I arrive, and also helps limit blood sugar peaks and valleys that can trigger cravings or overindulging. And if alcohol will be consumed, it is even more important to eat! Fiber and other food components can reduce the absorption rate of alcohol, and this delay is enhanced when consumed with protein and/or fat. Pears are a festive and fitting addition to your wine and cheese board, in part because cheese contains both protein and fat, but also because the creamy texture complements the sweet and refreshing flavor of pears. Not sure which pear to pair with your favorite cheese or wine? For ins-pear-ation, check out these pairing suggestions on our site.

During the holiday season, it’s important to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of everything else. Even if you aren’t following your usual routine, adding a quick nosh on fruit is a convenient and delicious fix. Happy holidays!

We’re celebrating National Pear Month by giving away a box of pears! Enter HERE.

3 Sweet Reasons to Choose Pears if You Have Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month and it’s also a great time to find perfectly ripe pears, which comes in handy since pears have a lot of the attributes we recommend in a diet to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. Pears are a low glycemic index (and low glycemic load) food – a medium-sized pear ranks 38 on the glycemic index – which means they have a mild effect on blood sugar levels. While there isn’t a cure for diabetes (yet!), we do know that food is a very powerful tool that can be used to reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life. As registered dietitians, we see the power of food every day, and the research supports just how much of an effect food can have on reducing the impact of diabetes.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or want to make some preventative dietary changes, we think including pears in your diet is a great idea. Here’s why:

Fiber. Soluble fiber, the type that binds with water to form a gel-like substance in your digestive tract, slows the rate that your body pulls glucose from food in your stomach. In other words, soluble fiber can help slow down the rate at which your blood sugar rises. A medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber (24% of your daily needs), and some of that 6 grams is in the form of soluble fiber! From a preventative perspective, eating a diet rich in high fiber foods (like pears) might reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Flavorful sweetness. Reducing added sugar is an important part of keeping blood sugar levels stable at meals and snacks and avoiding spikes, or quick rises, in blood sugar levels. When you use pears to add flavorful sweetness to things like plain oats or yogurt, you get sweetness along with lots of flavor, so you wind up needing to use a lot less sugar (and oftentimes you won’t need any sugar at all!). Pears also add natural sweetness to smoothies and peanut butter sandwiches, so you can skip the added sweeteners altogether.

Kitchen creativity and fun. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming when it comes to revamping your food choices to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Pears are a delicious way to add flavor and fun to your time in the kitchen, whether it’s diced in a chicken salad, sliced in a turkey sandwich, or ”pear-ed” with aged cheddar cheese for a snack. A diabetes diagnosis might mean changes to the way you eat, but it certainly doesn’t have to mean bland or boring meals and snacks!

For additional information on pears and diabetes, check out this link.

Add Pears to Your Tailgate or Watch-Party Spread

Tailgate and game watch party food are among my favorite meal categories. While I love indulging in some of the heartier game-day fare, I also like to balance things out and cleanse my palate with fresh produce. Juicy and naturally sweet USA Pears, which offer an excellent source of fiber (6 grams for a medium size), can play a crave-worthy role in any game-day menu.

A fresh, fruit salad is a staple dish I always enjoy on game day, whether it’s a get-together that I’m hosting or one where I’m attending as a guest. A fruit salad is also a crowd-pleaser, from toddlers to adults. (On a side note: The other day, my 4-year-old spotted the first pears of the season on our kitchen counter and literally squealed, “Ooh! Can I have one?” True story.)

While pears are in peak season during fall and winter, mix them into a salad with other fall fruits, like I did here in this Pear, Apple, and Grape Salad with Thyme and Walnuts. Or, if you’re a true pear connoisseur like me, use a few different pear varieties with a range of colors and textures and use just pears in your fall fruit salad!

I also add pears in my White Wine Sangria with Winter Fruits and in my mixed green salad made of spinach, arugula, pears, toasted almonds, and vinaigrette.

Happy tailgating!

Michelle Dudash, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. Join her on Instagram at @michelledudash for more delicious and healthy eating inspiration.

Want more fun pear-ific recipes to please a crowd? Check out our Recipes page!

Eating Seasonally

Pears with mother and son

You may have heard mention of the importance of eating seasonally, but what does that mean and why does it matter? Eating produce when it is in season is not a new idea, in fact, it was the norm before industrialized agriculture and giant grocery stores. The general idea is that we eat foods when they are naturally harvested, such as berries in the summer and pears starting in the fall. The nutritional benefit is that seasonal fruits and vegetables tend to pack more nutrients and richer flavors than foods that should ripen before being harvested or during shipment. And in this way, seasonal foods tend to be cheaper and less damaging to the environment. An interesting fact about pears is that optimal ripening actually occurs after being harvested and cold storage, and therefore, they are available nearly year-round!

So which fruits and vegetables should I eat now? Interestingly, autumn is the season when the most produce is harvested, including pears, apples, grapes, persimmons, kale, broccoli, squash, and brussels sprouts. Check out SNAP-Ed for a more detailed list to get your mouth watering! Try adding fresh seasonal produce to recipes for added flavor and texture. On a side note, since canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are picked during their peak seasons, these are also excellent choices as additions to your dishes. Look for products without added sauces and fruits packed in juice to limit added sugars. Happy eating!

For more information, visit the American Heart Association.

Three Reasons & Ways to PEAR More Often This School Year

By Ashley Koff RD*

An apple for the teacher? Why not a pear?! I love pears, so I get especially excited during this time of year. Pear season is kicking off (look for Bartletts, Red Bartletts and Starkrimsons!), and before I share some of my favorite ways to enjoy pears, I thought I would tell you a little about the nutritional benefits of this healthy, in-season fruit.

  1. Pears pack fiber – If you are trying to improve your fiber intake,** then pears are your better choice. A medium pear provides about 6 grams, which is a great way to help you meet your daily fiber goals. Plus, fiber helps you feel full and satisfied longer, so when it comes to smart snacking, fiber is a must.
  2. Pears have excellent skin – with pears it’s best to eat the skin for the better nutrition win! Rich in a variety of plant compounds like flavonoids, as well as providing fiber, I recommend enjoying your pear skin and all!
  3. Pears offer variety – different flavors, colors and textures for different dishes means there are so many ways to bring pears into your better nutrition plan more often.

So, with all that good news here are some of my favorite ways to snack on pears – perfect to help power parents and kids through the new school year:

Slice ‘em up and use them as “toast” or “crackers” for a better nutrition upgrade more often.

  • I love topping mine with nut butter, delicious spices (like turmeric) and cacao nibs for extra crunch (see my photo).
  • Take slices, add nut butter or cheese or dairy-free nut cheese and make mini sandwiches to take with you as an easy midday better nutrition pit stop and a great after school or pre-workout snack.

Pear Egg Boats

  • Halve a pear, scoop out a little space in the center, add an egg and bake/broil.
  • Top with cayenne pepper and/or a pinch of sea salt. Share on Instagram or just eat it on up J

Dice ‘n Swap

  • Move over croutons, pear cubes just took your salad from a 50 to 100% delicious and packed with better nutrition.
  • You can roll your pear cubes in oil and some spices and bake them for a different taste.

Pear Dippers

  • Slice firm pears lengthwise to make dippers
  • Dip in yogurt, hummus, and even chocolate (oh and you can freeze these too for an awesome bite later on!).

*Ashley Koff RD is a raving fan of pears (I love writing about myself in the third person 😉 but I am also told its proper for legal disclosures). She is a paid sponsor for this post by USA Pears

** Adults need >25g fiber minimum daily and many of you are not hitting that number often enough. How do you know if you are meeting your better fiber needs? Try the Better Fiber Evaluation to assess your current fiber nutrition intake and needs.

Beat the Heat!

Creamy pear popsicles with chunks of kiwi and yellow sticks

Summer is my favorite season, because of the social gatherings, barbecues, picnics, and summer treats that satisfy my sweet tooth. I pay attention to my calorie intake carefully – especially during the hot summer when cold, decadent treats are everywhere. So, what is a dietitian to do? Make popsicles, of course! Anything that can be made into juice or a smoothie can also be made into a delicious popsicle that fulfills that sweet craving, cools you off, and packs in nutrients without unnecessary calories.

Making popsicles is very easy, in fact it’s a fun activity for the whole family. And you don’t need any molds or special equipment, paper cups and popsicle sticks will suffice. For this method, place the cups on a tray, fill them ¾ full, cover the cups with saran wrap, and press the sticks through to keep them in place. Once frozen, just peel off the paper cup. No blender? No problem! Slice or dice fruit into small pieces, place in molds or paper cups, and fill cups ¾ full with juice.

So, what makes a delicious popsicle? I skip the added sugar and go straight to the fruit. A basic recipe might be a sliced, cored, ripe pear blended with enough water to make smoothie consistency. I like the sweetness and texture of blended Bartlett or very ripe Anjou pears for my popsicles. Then try simple additions, such as other fruits, 100% fruit juices, coconut water, dairy or alternative milks, and maybe some herbs or favorite extracts. Maybe you’re craving a creamier, more decadent treat? Try blending pears with yogurt, a banana, or an avocado. Popsicles are great for entertaining, too. If you really want to impress your guests, unmold your frozen popsicles, drizzle with chocolate sauce, dust with nuts or sprinkles, and place back in the freezer before serving.

Indulgences don’t have to be elegant, and treats that beat the heat can be just as satisfying! Want more inspiration? Try this recipe for creamy pear popsicles with kiwi and lime.