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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3 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Diet

They say that summer bodies are made during the winter. If that’s the case, what happens during spring? For many of us, when spring has finally sprung, crunch time inevitably has as well.

Say goodbye to wintertime excuses and say hello to a version of yourself that looks and feels the way that you want to. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, after all! To start summer with a clean slate, it’s crucial to look at what you put on your plate. Here are 3 ways to do so:

1. Fiber up – When it comes to cleaning up their diets, most people focus on what they can’t have, rather than what they can have. This notion of deprivation can make eating healthily seem, well, dreadful and depressing. Fear not: clean eating need NOT involve deprivation, dread, or depression. One of the most simple, enjoyable, and effective ways to make healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes actually comes down to adding MORE to your diet—adding more fiber, that is. A diet rich in fiber is associated with a host of health benefits, such as fighting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancers, and, yes, dreaded weight gain. Fiber acts as a “broom” that sweeps harmful toxins from your body.

So how do you get your hands on some of the good stuff? Well, pears are a delicious way to start. A medium-size pear packs 6 grams of fiber, which brings you closer to your daily needs. What are these needs? Women should aim for 35 grams, and men should aim for 38.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – As the days become longer and temperatures begin to increase, so does your body’s need for water. Make sure that you sip on water throughout the day and with meals, aiming for 2-3 liters of water a day. Water is involved in nearly all bodily functions, and fiber, as mentioned above, needs water to work its magic! Your hydration need not be sourced entirely from liquids though—piling your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables can help keep you hydrated too, as they tend to have a high water content. Pears, for example, are 84% water. Pair that with some actual agua, though, to ensure that you’re consuming an adequate amount of water.

3. Clean out and stock up – Spring cleaning shouldn’t just take place in your closet. Show your pantry and fridge some TLC during this season of renewal, too. Get rid of the products and ingredients that have been sitting around collecting dust and freezer burn and use the season of rejuvenation as a time to clean house. To set yourself up for success, attack this task with a plan: make a list—and check it twice, taking into consideration the tricky temptations and tastes that tempt you. Then, select better-for-you options that will satisfy those pesky cravings and keep you looking and feeling your best. If potato chips are your thing, try popcorn, which is also salty and crunchy, but has 3g of fiber per serving too. If your sweet tooth occasionally seems to be your only tooth, or if you suffer from spring allergies, purchase pears, which not only contain fiber, but are also rich in quercetin, a flavonoid that can also help to prevent immune cells from releasing histamines, which worsen seasonal allergies. Better-for-you options are easier to find than you think!

A refreshed, rejuvenated you awaits! So long, winter—lean, green spring is calling!

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

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!

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)

Grilled Pear and Lamb Flatbreads

pear and ground lamb flatbread with fresh mint

Pears and meat are a winning combination. We often think of pork and chicken with fruit, but let’s not overlook lamb. That robust flavor is deliciously complemented by sweet, aromatic charred pears hot off the grill, and both partner perfectly with Middle Eastern flavors. Here we have a complete meal cooked almost entirely on the grill. A very simple dough is rolled out to make homemade flatbreads that get cooked right on the grill, and then topped with sliced grilled pears and red onions, spiced ground lamb, charred halloumi cheese, and an addictive yogurt-tahini sauce. Think of these flatbreads as a pizza of sorts, perfect for a patio party, and they’re as delicious hot as they are at room temperature.

Serves 6

Dough
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)

Toppings
1 cup yogurt
1/3 cup tahini sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 pound ground lamb
1 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes
3 USA Green Bartlett Pears, halved, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each
1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick disks (each layer kept together)
8 ounces halloumi cheese, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slabs
Pine nuts, for topping
Handful torn mint leaves, for topping

To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add the yogurt and fold it in with a rubber spatula, just until blended. Dump the dough onto a work surface dusted generously with flour. Knead the dough gently until smooth, about 30 seconds, then cut it into 6 equal portions. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll each portion of dough into an imperfect oval, about 1/8-inch thick. Add more flour to the surface or the pin as needed, as the dough will be rather sticky. On a large baking sheet, stack the dough between sheets of parchment paper, and cover loosely with plastic wrap while you prepare the toppings and preheat the grill, or for up to 1 hour.

To make the toppings: In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then cover and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, fennel seed, cumin, coriander, chile flakes, and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated, and the lamb browns and becomes slightly crispy in the rendered fat, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Prepare a fire in a charcoal or gas grill. For charcoal, when the coals are ready, distribute them and preheat the grate. Wait until they’ve reached medium-high heat, or when you can hold your palm about 3 inches above the grill grate for 3 to 5 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat on high, covered, for about 15 minutes, then adjust the burners as needed throughout cooking.

Brush the pears, red onion, and halloumi with a light coating of olive oil, and season the pears and onions with salt and pepper. Arrange them on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until all are tender and nicely charred on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes for the pears and halloumi, and 8 to 10 minutes for the onions. Remove the toppings from the grill as they are done and collect them on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Brush the grill grates clean. Grill the flatbreads, two or three at a time, until puffy and charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

To assemble the flatbreads, top each with a generous smear of the yogurt spread, dividing it evenly. Pull apart the onion rings and tear the halloumi and divide them amongst the flatbreads. Scatter the lamb over the top, followed by the pears and pine nuts. Finish with the mint leaves. Cut the flatbreads into triangle-shaped slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

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.

Vacation, all I ever wanted!

RoadVacation is my favorite word. I love adventure, new places and activities, and enjoying time with friends and family: The problem is keeping your health goals on track while traveling. I will be driving across the country this summer to help a friend move and I find road trips make for the most challenging way to travel healthfully. Gas stations, convenience stores, fast food… How do you make smart choices with limited options?

For starters, plan ahead. Pack healthful snacks, including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and plenty of water — enough for the number of days you’re travelling. When you do stop for refreshments or fuel, avoid the candy and chip aisle at the gas station; however, if temptation is too strong, perhaps allow yourself one indulgence each day on the road. If you know the cities you’ll pass through, locating restaurants with mixed options ahead of time may allow more flexibility. Then, aim for adding veggies as a side or an appetizer, splitting meals, or having fruit for dessert. Likewise, staying active may help offset some indiscretions. Many hotels offer exercise facilities, or even better, get out on foot and explore new people and places!

Small changes go a long way on the road, but remember that enjoying yourself is number one. Give yourself a break, relax, and have fun!

Grilled Stuffed Pears

Pears grilled and stuffed with quinoa and cheeseWhen it comes to summer grilling, pears are often overlooked. But the fact is their hardy texture is ideal for standing up to the intensity of the grill, and as they cook, their delicious flavor is enhanced by the smoky flames. Grilled pears can be prepared in both sweet and savory ways: think grilled pear halves topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert, or sliced grilled pears tossed in a summery salad. Here they are cooked on the grill until just tender and juicy, with a quinoa salad stuffing that evokes flavors of the Mediterranean. Extra-virgin olive oil, Spanish-style chorizo, and fresh mint add a bold, summertime flare, while white balsamic vinegar adds a sweet, fruity tang to complement the flavors found in the grilled pears. Serve these at your next backyard barbecue, for an outside-the-box appetizer or entrée.

Serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as an appetizer

4 USA Anjou pears
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (sometimes labeled “golden” balsamic vinegar)
1/3 cup chopped dry-cured Spanish chorizo
1/4 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled feta
8 cups baby arugula

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan and add 1 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the hot quinoa to coat evenly, then spread it out on a platter to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the chorizo, almonds, scallions, and mint and gently toss to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Prepare a hot fire in a gas or charcoal grill, or preheat a stovetop grill pan until smoking hot. Grease the grill grates with oil.

Meanwhile, cut the pears in half. Using a round metal spoon, such as a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon or a melon baller, remove the core plus a little extra flesh. Rub the pears on all sides with a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt.

Grill the pears on the cut sides until deep grill marks appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the pears over and fill them with the quinoa stuffing, piling it on in a big heap in the center of each one. Sprinkle the tops with the feta. Close the grill lid and continue grilling until the pears are tender when pierced with a fork and the feta topping is lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. If they seem to be cooking too quickly on the bottom before they become tender within, simply move them to a cooler part of the grill and continue grill roasting, with the lid closed, until they are cooked through.

Serve the hot grilled pears over the arugula, finished with a drizzle of olive oil over the pears and greens.

Be empowered to shift your perspective around food and your body!

woman cooking in the kitchenAs the summer months quickly approach, the buzz around diets and weight loss become more and more prevalent. This summer, try shifting your focus from deprivation and that elusive “bikini body,” which you already possess, and take the opportunity to slow down. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and “wants” that you may forget to glorify the little things that make your life rich on a day-to-day basis. Be empowered to shift your perspective around food and your body! When you breathe, slow down and harness food gratitude, you’ll be pleased to learn that eating can be an extraordinarily joyful experience.

Eating requires that you engage all your senses, which cause your brain to release feel-good chemicals, elevating your mood and evoking feelings of trust, enjoyment and relaxation. Let’s try it!

Take in and embrace what you see. From vibrantly colorful produce stacked at the market to a beautifully plated meal, our eyes act as a gateway to appreciating the food we eat. This is a great time to consider where your food came from and how it was grown, and if you’re eating a meal, you can reflect on the work that went into preparing it.

Try this: Hold a pear or two in your hands. Note the differences that are present between one pear and another from shape and texture to size and color variations. Currently in season are the Red Anjou and Green Anjou, which have been taking a nice long rest in cold storage since late last fall (they don’t ripen on the tree) and are now ripening perfectly!

Savor each bite. We often choose our foods based on the way they taste and the flavors we enjoy, but we rarely take the time to truly savor each bite. Chew mindfully and pay attention to the experience and the way the flavor and texture of your food changes. By savoring each bite, you can enjoy less quantities of food – and still feel satisfied.

Try this: Take a bite of a ripe pear. Note the texture, level of sweetness and juiciness this particular pear possesses. There are ten varieties of USA Pears, each with its own distinctive features – from taste to texture to color – so have fun to trying the different qualities that each variety embodies.

Inhale. Scent evokes memories and emotions, which you can use to enhance the enjoyment of a meal. How a food smells is directly related to your perception of how that food tastes.

Try this: Cut into a juicy pear and take a moment to embrace the sweet aroma. Does this evoke any emotions or excitement? Take note of your thoughts.

You may give this a go once in a while or incorporate a few of these tips on a daily basis, but either way, the act of engaging yourself in all that your food is offering will allow you to celebrate your plate in a way that takes the emphasis off dieting and deprivation. Happy Summer!