To Snack or Not to Snack? Intuitive Eating Answers the Question

That is the question of the hour! Popular media is full of nutrition advice, often encouraging wacky diets that cut specific food groups, macronutrients, or favorites. (Like cupcakes, I can’t live without cupcakes!) In this landscape of restrictive eating, I see people struggling with the constant merry-go-round of weight loss, weight gain, loss, gain… I know people not eating for long stretches each day or only eating every other day. The truth is, most of us can lose weight if we’re motivated. But, diets don’t teach us to listen to our bodies, which can lead to weight gain.

Intuitive eating is a lifestyle strategy that encourages mindfulness – listening to your body, rather than telling it what to do. It’s not a radical concept, but it’s one that encourages a healthy relationship with food and the body. By letting go of the diet mindset, rejecting the good food/bad food dichotomy, and allowing ourselves to enjoy food while listening to what we need, we can cast off the media spell that our bodies were all made from the same mold — and live better lives. Here are five of my favorite principles of intuitive eating…

1. Honor your hunger. This is simple: If your body is hungry, nourish it.

2. Respect your fullness. Listen to your body. When it tells you it’s no longer hungry and is comfortably sated, it is appropriate to stop eating. If you’re a fast eater like me, consciously take your time, rest your fork, and listen to what your body is saying.

3. Discover the satisfaction factor. If you truly “allow” yourself to enjoy favorite foods, you will feel more satisfied – likely with less food.

4. Honor your feelings without food. Instead of finding comfort in food when you are sad, stressed, or bored, find other activities that fill emotional needs.

5. Honor your health. Your health is a composite over time, not one snack or meal. Listen to what your body needs, choose foods that nourish, and eat with compassion.

So, what is the answer, should we snack or not? If your body says it needs a snack, then, listen to your biology. When a little hunger kicks in I try to reach for a yummy snack that fuels my busy life, like a pear with peanut butter. Living healthfully feels good, but it feels better off the carousel.

For more information, visit http://www.intuitiveeating.org.

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5 Tips for Plant-Powering Your Eating Style

Plant-based eating is hot, hot, hot! More and more people are turning away from the traditional American plate – with a slab of meat at the center – towards a gorgeous, colorful, plant-centric plate filled with pulses (beans, lentils, peas), whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. No wonder this eating style is catching on—it’s downright delicious! From a whole grain bowl filled with chickpeas, pears and sunflower seeds, to a homemade veggie burger with avocado slices, there are so many delicious offerings.

A plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat altogether if you don’t want to; it just means that your diet focuses mostly on plants. This flexitarian eating style is linked with a boatload of benefits, such as lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and obesity, as well as lowering your carbon footprint. With so many reasons to go crazy for plants, what are you waiting for?

My Top 5 Tips for Plant-Powering Your Diet

1. Breakfast with Plants 

Kick off the day by flooding your body with feel-good nutrients from plants. Try nutritious, tasty starters, such as oats topped with pear slices and walnuts, buckwheat waffles with almond butter and berries, or a veggie burrito stuffed with sautéed veggies and black beans. See what I mean?

2. Whiz Up a Plant Smoothie

For energy and protein fuel, turn to your blender to create a plant-powered smoothie for a healthy snack or light meal. Throw in soymilk, a handful of nuts or seeds, sliced pears, and greens to create a lean, mean, green smoothie

3. Meal Prep

Instead of turning to takeout or fast food, pack your own nutritious lunch combinations by prepping your meals at the beginning of the week following this easy formula:

In an individual, airtight container layer: Salad greens (kale, arugula, spinach) + whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, farro) + plant protein (beans, lentils, tofu) + veggies (bell pepper, broccoli, snow peas) + fruit (diced pears, raisins, blueberries) + sauce (tahini dressing, vinaigrette, hummus) = nutritious and delicious.

4. Let Plants be the Star on Your Dinner Plate

When you ask the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?”, go straight to the plants in your fruit bowl, refrigerator and pantry. With simple ingredients, such as pears, quinoa, carrots and pistachios, you can create a flavorful pilaf. Yum!

5. Snack on Plants

You don’t have to limit your plant offerings to mealtime; munch on them between meals by dipping snow peas into tahini, pear wedges into almond butter, and whole grain flatbread into hummus.

Looking for more ins-pear-ation? Here’s my easy, delicious recipe for Jade Pear Pistachio Salad.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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6 Ways to Eat Well, Waste Less and Save Money

Each March ushers in spring and National Nutrition Month! This annual celebration of nourishing the body through food began with the presidential proclamation of National Nutrition Week in 1973. This year’s theme is Go Further with Food, which encourages us to achieve the benefits of eating well while reducing food waste. In other words, planning and managing food resources will save both nutrients and money! The message of eating well while saving money is particularly close to my heart, and who doesn’t want more money in the bank?

We can also think about nutrition status as a bank. We have nutrients stored in the body; when we eat we make a deposit and when we’re active we make a withdrawal. Throughout the day, the goal is to maintain appropriate fuel for living our best lives, and the same idea is true for your food budget. If you eat mindfully, you’ll get more out of your resources on hand rather than be relying on the bank. How can you eat well, waste less, and save more money? Start with these six steps…

1. Plan ahead! Some people spend an afternoon preparing food for the week. My weekends are too busy for this, but I still manage to plan at least 1-2 days ahead to prevent splurging. This means I eat better and spend less on food!

2. Visit the grocery store more often. This seems counterintuitive, but shopping more often means you can purchase less at a time, have fresher food on hand, and waste less food.

3. This may be the easiest change to make: Think about what you already have in the fridge before purchasing at the store. This deters spending more and prevents food waste!

4. Eat only until you’re satisfied. Overeating means spending more calories and money over time. Instead, portion out how much your body needs and slow down!

5. Fuel properly. Being active is important, so fuel your body with a wide variety of foods to go further.

6. Think about alternatives to more expensive foods. Usually, the most expensive choices are animal proteins and out-of-season or exotic produce. Consider vegetarian protein choices, such as legumes, whole grains, eggs, and low-fat dairy. Likewise, choose fruit and vegetables that are in season, or choose frozen or low-sodium canned options. Some fruit, such as pears, are available year-round for a delicious, nutritious option!

With a little forethought, you can go further with food. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for more ideas!

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

Instant Pot Pear Oatmeal Jars

The Instant Pot, that magical cooking appliance that allows you to do everything from sautéing to pressure-cooking, is all the rage right now. I put it to use in the morning to cook steel cut oats in no time. What’s even better is that the oats can be combined with any variety of ripe USA Pears and cooked right in individual mason jars for the family on the go. After cooking, the jars are topped with a variety of toppings to jazz up this heart-healthy breakfast.

Makes 4 one-pint jars

Ingredients:

2 cups diced USA Pears

1 cup steel cut oats

1/4 cup chopped dried fruit, such as cranberries, cherries, dates, or raisins

6 tablespoons honey

8 teaspoons chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Sea salt

About 3 cups water

Topping Ideas:

Coconut Milk Yogurt or Greek Yogurt

Dried fruit

Toasted Coconut Flakes

Cacao Nibs

Directions:

In each of 4 pint-size mason jars, combine 1/2 cup of the pears, 1/4 cup of the oats, 1 tablespoon of the dried fruit, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the honey, 2 teaspoons of the chia seeds, 1/8 teaspoon each of the cardamom and ground ginger, and a pinch of salt. Pour about 3/4 cup water into each jar, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Screw on the tops and shake the jars vigorously to mix everything together. Loosen the lids slightly to allow steam to release as they cook.

Prepare the Instant Pot by placing a wire rack in the bottom and pouring in 1 cup of water. Place the jars on the rack and secure the top of the pot. Select high pressure and set the timer for 20 minutes.

When done cooking, allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. (Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.) Open the pressure cooker and carefully remove the hot jars. Allow them to rest until the contents stop bubbling. Remove the lids using hot pads, being careful for steam. Stir each jar, then top as desired with the optional toppings. The oats can be served immediately or the lids can be put back on to serve them later.

Want more pear recipes? Visit our recipe page!

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Photography: George Barberis (@georgebarberis)
Recipe and Styling: Andrea Slonecker (@andreaslonecker)

Hasselback Baked Pear Oatmeal Bowl

This warming bowl of oats is the perfect way to start a chilly morning! Naturally sweetened with banana, this breakfast is topped with a caramelized, soft, hasselback baked pear. Prep the pears the night before, and you can throw this bowl together in 5 minutes!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry oatmeal (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 USA Bosc pear
  • Coconut oil
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice or Apple Pie Spice
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Creamy almond butter (other nut butter is fine)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Slice pear in half and remove seeds. Cut side down, make narrow slits into each half, being careful not to slice all the way through.
  • Grease a small cast iron skillet or baking dish with coconut oil. Place pears cut side down in skillet.
  • Sprinkle with a little more coconut oil and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until soft and tender.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the oats with water or milk, according to package instructions.
  • Mash banana in a bowl, and add to cooking oats with chia seeds and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice.
  • Stir well until oatmeal is cooked to desired consistency.
  • Divide oatmeal evenly into two bowls. Top each bowl with ½ of the baked pear, a scoop of almond butter, and other toppings of choice. Enjoy immediately!

If preparing the pear the night before, microwave for 30 seconds – 1 minute to reheat.

Recipe development and photography by Alexandra Aldeborgh (@daisybeet).

Pear and Pumpkin Pancakes with Cider Syrup

Chilly fall mornings are back! Before bundling up the family for a trip to the pumpkin patch, fill them up with a hearty breakfast that celebrates the season. Grated pears add sweetness to a fall favorite, pumpkin pancakes, limiting the sugar and bumping up the nutrition. Here it’s best to use a tender, juicy pear variety that is on the sweeter side, such as Bartlett, Comice, Anjou, or Starkrimson. To top it off, pear cider is cooked down with maple syrup to make a simple yet delicious all-natural syrup for drizzling. Serve with bacon and eggs for a complete brunch while entertaining houseguests when the holidays roll around. These fluffy flapjacks are sure to be a new family favorite.

Makes 12 pancakes (serves 4 to 6)

Pancakes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 cup pumpkin purée

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 ripe USA Pears, coarsely shredded

Syrup

2 cups pear cider

1 cup maple syrup

2 cinnamon sticks

For Serving

Unsalted butter

Powdered sugar

To make the pancakes: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin purée, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the shredded pears.

Fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until mostly combined. Set the batter aside for 10 to 20 minutes.

To make the syrup: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cider, syrup, and cinnamon sticks to a boil. Simmer until the mixture reduces by about half and is slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and keep the syrup warm.

To cook the pancakes: Preheat the oven to 150 to 200˚F to keep the pancakes warm while cooking in batches.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and melt about 1 tablespoon of butter, swirling it around to coat the pan. Add 1/4 cup portions of batter to the pan, gently spreading it out with the bottom of the measuring cup. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the bottoms are nicely browned, 1 to 2 minutes, then flip and continue cooking on the second side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more. Transfer the pancakes to the warm oven, and repeat to cook additional batches.

Serve the pancakes with pats of butter, a sprinkling of powdered sugar, and the warm cider syrup drizzled on top.

Sweet Breakfast Barley Bowl with Pear and Walnuts

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, bestselling author and nutrition expert
www.franceslargemanroth.com; @FrancesLRothRD

As a parent and professional, I’m always looking for easy, yet flavorful and delicious recipes that can be prepped ahead of time and taken on-the-go. With the warmer weather and longer daylight, it’s all the more important to be satisfied so I can seize the day.

Enter one of my go-to breakfasts bowls. Both the barley and pear are high in fiber (this recipe has 17g per serving!), to keep you feeling full until lunch.

Instead of making the individual servings, you could use the whole batch of barley at once and top it with the sliced pears and walnuts to bring to a picnic or other summertime gathering. Bosc and Red and Green Anjou, so called “winter pears” are in season at the moment, and only ripen evenly to sweet, juiciness after a good long rest in cold storage. As they don’t ripen well on the tree, they’ve been chilling since late last fall and are now perfectly ripe for adding to your favorite spring and summer recipes!

A white bowl of barley topped with pears and walnuts on a blue tablecothSweet Breakfast Barley Bowl with Pear and Walnuts

Makes 6 servings

2 cups uncooked hulled (or pearled) barley, rinsed
pinch of salt

Per serving:
2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk or any type of milk
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1 USA pear, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

1. Cook the barley: In a large saucepan, combine the barley with the salt and 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes, until tender but still chewy. Drain off any excess water.

2. Once the barley is cooked, you may use it immediately or let it cool and transfer it to a large airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

3. When you’re ready for your breakfast bowl, place 1 cup of the cooked barley in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk the milk, cinnamon, honey, vanilla and raisins together in a small bowl and then pour over the barley. Microwave for 40 seconds. Arrange the pear slices and walnuts on top and enjoy.
Calories: 411
Fat: 0.29g (sat 0.03g, moo 0.03g, poly 0.1g)
Protein: 10g
Carbohydrates: 83g
Fiber: 17g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 59mg
Potassium: 593mg
Calcium: 84mg

This recipe for Sweet Breakfast Barley with Pear and Walnuts is from my cookbook, Eating in Color.

Pear “Toasts”

Pears sliced lengthwise topped with delicious toppingsYou’ve probably noticed how trendy the idea of toast has become, with food magazines, cooking shows, and restaurant chefs across the country coming up with enticing toppings for a humble slice of bread. There are even entire cafes dedicated to the concept. But what happens when you have the wacky idea to exchange a slice of pear for the bread? Magic!

Here are four delicious ideas for topping pear “toasts” at home. Consider this a jumping off point for coming up with your own creative combinations, using whatever variety of pear you have ripening on the counter, and any tasty toppings sitting in your fridge or pantry. The options are practically endless, since pears taste amazing with both sweet and savory flavors. These quick creations are a yummy snack for kids and adults alike, whether the craving strikes after school or at the office. But really they are great anytime of the day, from breakfast on the go to a midnight snack.

The first step is to slice a ripe USA pear lengthwise, cutting on either side of the core to create 1/4-inch thick planks. Next, get topping!

Toast 1:
USA Green Anjou Pear
Almond Nut Butter
Banana Slices
Honey Drizzle
Cinnamon Sprinkle
Poppy Seeds

Toast 2:
USA Bosc Pear
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Cucumber Slices
Crumbled Feta
Chopped Kalamata Olives
Dill Sprigs

Toast 3:
USA Bosc Pear
Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese
Salami Slices
Chopped Hazelnuts
Chopped Parsley

Toast 4:
USA Red Anjou
Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Chopped Dried Apricots
Mint Leaves
Black Sesame Seeds

Spring is in the Air

pear blossoms on a tree in springSpring is in the air. And along with that, at least for me, comes the feeling of renewal – out with the old, in with new. First thing I like to do is go through my closet; sandals to replace boots, t-shirts replace sweaters, and long sleeve dresses make room for sleeveless ones.

Next stop, the kitchen. I try year-round to make sure my cupboards and refrigerator aren’t stocked with foods that have expired. But part of my spring-cleaning ritual still includes a thorough review. And after the gloominess of winter, I long for a kitchen stocked with fresh produce that make me feel great.

Well, hello, Anjou pear.

Yes, I could have enjoyed you when it was snowing outside, but honestly, I got sidetracked. Packed with satiating fiber and with the powerful antioxidant of Vitamin C, you are a welcome addition to my refreshed, spring lifestyle. Since I’ll be even more active than I was in the winter (just completed my yoga teacher training last month!), I’m going to need to stay satiated and energized with the right foods.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy pears:

1. Sliced and cooked into my morning bowl of oatmeal for some sweetness.

oatmeall topped with pears and walnuts in a bowl2. Thin slivers on a slice of 100% whole wheat bread with peanut butter for crunch and sweetness (instead of jam). Perhaps with a drizzle of honey. Whole wheat toast topped with peanut butter and sliced pears
3. Slices or cubes added to any type of mixed green salad with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar for crunch and sweetness. Goodbye croutons and sugar-laden salad dressings.Mixed greens topped with fresh, sliced pears
4. Cut into wedges served with a tablespoon of almond butter for a delicious snack.Sliced pear wedges with nut butter for dipping

And now, I’m feeling properly prePEARed for spring!

Pickled Pear and Irish Cheddar Toasties in a Bread Basket

Little grilled cheese and pickled pear snadwiches stuffed inside a hollowed out bread loaf on a green plateLittle toastie sandwiches, filled with melting Irish Cheddar and piquant pickled pears, are (adorably) presented right in their own hollowed out bread loaf. This recipe makes 2 pints of sweet and tangy pickled pears perfumed with caraway and bay. You won’t need that much for the toasties, so you’ll have pickled pears in your fridge for a month, if they last that long! Enjoy them with cheeses and charcuterie, in salads and sandwiches, or as a tasty snack.

Makes 8 toasties; serves 4 (because everyone will want 2!)

Caraway Pickled Pears
2 medium ripe or slightly underripe Bosc pears
1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 bay leaves

For the Toasties
1 unsliced loaf of hearty whole-grain sandwich bread (AKA a “Pullman” loaf)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
7 ounces Irish cheddar cheese, sliced and at room temperature
16 slices Caraway Pickled Pears

To make the pickled pears: Halve and core the pears, and slice each one lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Pack the slices into 2 wide-mouth, pint-size glass canning jars, or other heatproof container(s). Bring the vinegar, water, honey, salt, caraway seeds, and bay leaves to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan, stirring until the honey and salt are dissolved. Boil for about 2 minutes. Pour the hot brine into the jars, completely covering the pears. Cover the jars with lids and set aside to allow the brine to cool to room temperature as it pickles the pears. When completely cooled, use right away or refrigerate the pickled pears for up to 1 month.

To make the toasties: First preheat the broiler.

loaf of bread on a cutting board with the crust and top intact, but the middle removed in a blockUsing a bread knife, saw off the top crust of the bread, just where it begins to dome (if it is a flattop loaf, then just saw off about ½ inch of the top crust); set the top aside. Now cut out the inside of the bread in one giant rectangle, so that you will basically have a crustless smaller loaf within the outer shell of crust. Here’s how to do that: Saw around the perimeter of the bread parallel to the long and short edges of the loaf, leaving about a ½-inch border on all edges and without cutting all the way through the bottom crust. Now cut a slit through one of the long edges of the crust that runs parallel to the bottom crust, about 1/2-inch from the bottom of the loaf, leaving about a ½-inch border on either end of the loaf so as not to completely slice off the bottom crust; this will free the inside bread rectangle, leaving a long slit toward the bottom of the bread bowl (but that won’t matter, it’s a secret!). Carefully remove the now crustless interior rectangle of bread and cut it into 16 slices.

Arrange the slices in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet and brush the top sides with butter. Place them under the broiler, about 4 inches from the top heating element, until nicely toasted. Flip and toast the slices on the other side. Remove them from the oven, and now preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Top 8 of the toasted bread slices with a slice of cheese and then 2 slices of pickled pear. Place the other 8 bread slices on top, creating 8 little toastie sandwiches. Stuff the toasties back into the hollowed out bread “basket.” You will likely only be able to fit about 6 of them inside, so set the other 2 aside for now. Replace the top of the bread. Wrap the entire loaf in a sheet of aluminum foil and place it on the center oven rack. Bake until the cheese is melted, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the remaining 2 toasties on a small baking pan and heat them in the oven a few minutes before the big loaf is done, just until the cheese is melted.

To serve, place the bread basket and extra toasties on a large platter, and enjoy while the cheese is hot and melty!