Author Archive | Becky Flansburg

#Essentia Health Tips | Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


It is the A to Z time of summer: August brings an overabundance of zucchini.

Essentia Health Tips -Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


Zucchini is exploding in our gardens and filling up stands at farmers’ markets. What do we do with this green veggie and its close cousin, the yellow summer squash?


A popular option is zucchini bread. Recipes often add a lot of sugar and then we top the bread with high saturated fat butter. This tasty treat does not promote the health benefits of this summer garden gem.


One cup of sliced or spiralized zucchini is a great source of potassium. It has 295 milligrams, which is higher than an orange at 240 milligrams. We need 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day to insure our heart beats well, our blood pressure is under control and we metabolize our food well. Zucchini also is a great source of the “eye vitamin” known as lutein. Lutein is one of two major carotenoids found as a color pigment in the human eye. It is thought to function as a light filter, protecting eye tissues from sunlight damage. 


Zucchini has recently become popular in the foodie world. “Zoodles” or zucchini noodles, are the internet’s favorite pasta substitute. The lean green spirals are thin slices of zucchini, styled to mimic the look of pasta. Zoodles are popular in low-carbohydrate menu plans. While one cup of pasta has 200 calories and about 40 grams of carbohydrates, a cup of zoodles has only 20 calories and about five grams of carbohydrates.   


Using zoodles instead of pasta is an easy way to boost the amount of vegetables we eat. Vegetables insure that we get the needed vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to ward off cancer, heart disease, diabetes, eye disease and other chronic diseases. 

Essentia Health Tips -Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 87 percent of Americans do not get the recommended two to three cups of vegetables. Adding spiralized vegetables, starting with this season’s zucchini, can get us closer to this goal.


Spiralizing gives a new and enticing look that is pleasing to the eye and we know that we eat first with our eyes.


There are hand spiralizers and table-top spiralizers. Hand models are less expensive but only do thin swirls. Table-top models, which cost $25 to $40, usually come with multiple blades to make fancy fun shapes, including ribbons and half-moons. Small to medium zucchinis work best with the spiralizers. For a huge zucchini, try a hand-held julienne peeler to make straight thin zoodles that look like fettucine. You can also try a potato peeler to test this concept before purchasing a new device. I tried a hand-held spiralizer and the julienne peeler. I’m thinking about purchasing a table-top model to experiment with a variety of vegetables and add more eye appeal to my vegetable presentations.


A simple meal to try is zucchini spirals topped with your favorite spaghetti sauce. It works well to warm the zoodles in a frying pan. Heat a skillet with a little olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the zoodles and pepper to taste. Sauté the zoodles for one to two minutes, until slightly soft. Remove from the pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel. Allow the paper towel to soak up the extra moisture for about two to three minutes. Then divide the noodles on plates and top with the sauce.


Try zoodles in Zucchini Caprese Salad, a cold salad. Or cook them in Stir Fried Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Peppers, a recipe that I adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s “Spiralize This” cookbook. Zucchini Noodles with Chicken in Peanut Sauce is a delicious way to fill up with less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per serving and plenty of protein and vegetables. 

So, try a new twist on zucchini this summer.


 Essentia Health Tips -Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”

Zucchini Caprese Salad

2 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, spiralized (about 2 cups)

1 green onion, thinly sliced

16 grape tomatoes, cut in half

6 large fresh basil leaves, torn in small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pepper to taste

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped in small chunks


Mix vegetables and basil in a medium bowl. Combine olive oil, vinegar and pepper; mix well and then add to vegetables. Top with chunks of cheese and serve. 


Nutrition facts

Serving size, 1 cup; calories, 125; total fat, 8.5 grams; saturated fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 20 milligrams; sodium, 95 milligrams; potassium, 270 milligrams; carbohydrates, 5 grams; fiber, 1.5 grams; protein, 6 grams. 


Stir Fried Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Peppers

2 small to medium zucchini, spiralized to make 6 cups of zoodles

1 large red pepper, cut into very thin strips

1 large yellow pepper, cut into very thin strips

2 tablespoons low-sodium teriyaki sauce (less than 150 milligrams sodium per tablespoon)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste

1 ¼ pound fresh boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Chopped cilantro for garnish


Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini noodles, Boil for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain again.


In a small bowl, combine teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch and chili paste. Stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.


Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and coat the pan. Add chicken strips and brown on both sides, for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.


Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic and ginger; stir. Add peppers and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Return chicken to pan. Add zucchini noodles and sauce mixture. Stir together until noodles are heated through and coated with sauce. Serve garnished with cilantro. 


Note:  Peppers could be spiralized if you have a table-top spiralizer.


Nutrition Facts (calculated using Asian Fusion Low Sodium Teriyaki Sauce)

Serving size: 2 cups; calories, 300; total fat, 9 grams; saturated fat, 0.5 grams; cholesterol, 80 milligrams; sodium, 250 milligrams; potassium, 750 milligrams; carbohydrates, 18 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein, 36 grams. 


Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 medium carrots, shredded (about 1 ½ cups)

1 cup red cabbage, shredded

1 large red pepper, very thinly sliced

2 medium to large zucchini, spiralized (8 cups)

2½ cups fresh chicken breast, cooked and shredded


Peanut Sauce

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

1-2 teaspoons hot chili sauce


Prepare peanut sauce first by combining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until peanut butter has melted. If too thick, add 1-3 tablespoons of hot water. Remove from heat.


Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil and garlic in a large skillet. Add carrots, cabbage and pepper slices. Cook for about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add zucchini noodles and shredded chicken to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour peanut sauce over chicken and vegetable and toss until well coated. May be garnished with cilantro, chopped green onions or sesame seeds.


Nutrition facts

Makes 6 cups; serving size, 2 cups; calories, 320; total fat, 14 grams; saturated fat, 2.5 grams; cholesterol, 65 milligrams; sodium, 230 milligrams; potassium, 620 milligrams; carbohydrates, 18 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein 28 grams.



Tell Fat to Fork Off- The Beauty of a Diet Buddy

Tell Fat to Fork Off- The Beauty of a Diet Buddy

Not too long ago I sat in on a talk on healthy eating and lifestyle changes.  It was a good one.  I couldn’t take notes fast enough. There’s a big, fat, juicy health and wellness article amongst those notes, I just know it. I can’t wait for the opportunity to sit down and create it.

Tell Fat to Fork Off- The Beauty of a Diet Buddy

I could go on forever about healthy grains, the scary facts about milk, and eating foods “closest to their natural state”…but I won’t. Maybe I’ll torture you with that stuff later.

Through all the great info I gleaned, one of speaker’s quotes sticks in my mind…

“Preaching Doesn’t Work.”

Really? Oh, not me. I love being ragged on.

Just kidding. Preaching doesn’t work. You want to see me glaze over and fade away on you, just start yipping at me about all the things I “have to do” to achieve the healthy weight loss goals that on my radar. I know all of this, for pete’s sake so exposing me to hours worth of blah, blah, blah and regurgitated facts is only going to make me want to pump the brakes or throw in the towel.

Basically this means that nagging and ragging doesn’t work. If you have someone in your life heckling you about weight loss, chances are it will have the reverse affect on you. This may be a good time to politely inform this person it’s time to lighten up. Or in my world it would be “Check youself, Jack. You’re getting on my nerves.” How ever you chose to do it, take this opportunity to explain that you just aint’ feelin their pressure anymore. Period.

What I do know, for a fact, that the one thing does work is ACCOUNTABILITY.  I know if I have to write down what I eat and how much exercise, and actually show that to someone (Amy), I know I’ll behave. There’s something very critical about accountability in weight loss efforts. Look at groups like TOPS or Weight Watchers. Yes, they supply you with super valuable information and great tips, but you also know darn well you are going to have to step on that scale and SEE what you did or didn’t do at that weekly meeting. Pretty inspiring, ‘eh?

Tell Fat to Fork Off- The Beauty of a Diet Buddy

If you can’t afford a weightloss coach then rustle up a like-minded diet buddy to have in your corner. Someone you can call on a moments notice to talk you down from the urge to raid your kid’s Halloween buckets or go face first into that box of Tim Horton’s donuts. A friend who doesn’t hesitate to smack your hand with a butter knife (gently of course) when you reach for that second half of restaurant sandwich you swore you would Doggy Bag home.

Web MD defines a Diet Buddy as: a partner who not only shares your weight loss and workout goals, but can help you navigate a kinder, gentler path to sveltsville. Many experts now say buddying up can make the difference between failure and success with any weight loss plan.

Tell Fat to Fork Off- The Beauty of a Diet Buddy

So who makes a good diet buddy? Well, that’s pretty personal choice. I’d say pick some-one you know well and someone who will build you up with encouragement, not tear your down with criticism. The ‘experts” say it’s two people who share a common goal and they know they can count on each other to achieve that goal. The primary mode needs to be contact and support. And it must be someone who takes the journey seriously. A diet buddy isn’t much help if you are both eyeing the all-you-eat-dessert bar and in unison say, “Screw it! Let’s EAT!”

Be serious. Be committed. Work it like a project, baby.

Food Shelf Coalition helps Crow Wing County Food Shelf get a new look

Crow Wing County Food Shelf gets a new look

The Crow Wing County Food Shelf family has some exciting new news. When clients stop in at the Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes, they choose the foods they will use at home. The food shelf now resembles a mini grocery store, with refrigerated glass display cases and wide aisles for shopping carts.

Crow Wing County Food Shelf
It’s a radical departure from the way most food pantries operate where individuals and families in need pick up a box of pre-packed food at the counter. The Pequot Lakes food shelf adopted a client choice model last November, based on what they learned through the Food Shelf Coalition.

Before the coalition began about three years ago, the six public food shelves in Crow Wing County rarely, if ever, communicated with each other. Carolyn McQueen, SNAP-Ed Educator through the University of Minnesota Extension Northeast Region Office in Brainerd, is a member of Crow Wing Energized’s Healthy Choices Goal Group. McQueen brought up during a meeting that they should get the food shelves together to talk, share ideas and find out how other food shelves operate.

Crow Wing County Food Shelf

Soon after, representatives from the Salvation Army Food Shelf in Brainerd, Cuyuna Range Food Shelf in Crosby; Crosslake, Emily and Garrison area food shelves and Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes began meeting monthly, along with McQueen, a representative from Second Harvest Food Bank in Grand Rapids and Crow Wing Energized. McQueen introduced the concept of client choice through a three-hour training session for the coalition.

Crow Wing County Food Shelf helps clients with better ways to make better choices

Giving people a choice in the food they take home from the food shelf eliminates food waste and food return, helps people with dietary restrictions make healthier food choices and, ultimately, can save food shelves money by only purchasing food that their clients use.

Of the Crow Wing County Food Shelf family, the Salvation Army Food Shelf in Brainerd was the first food pantry in Crow Wing County to change to a client choice model last year. Lakes Area Food Shelf in Pequot Lakes was the second.

The operational change required a complete renovation of the food shelf. Instead of picking up a 70-plus pound box of food, clients push a cart through the food shelf, assisted by a volunteer, who helps them pick items from different food categories off the shelves. The food shelf received a grant to buy new refrigerator cases, which helps them keep foods fresh.

“I didn’t like it at first, I’m going to be honest with you,” said Carey Rasinski, Lakes Area Food Shelf manager, of client choice. “But I really like it now. It works perfectly now.”

Crow Wing County Food Shelf

Food shelf volunteers get to see what foods clients want – and don’t want. Canned sliced potatoes are a popular canned vegetable choice, while cans of creamed corn remain on the shelves. This allows food shelf staff to purchase and restock accordingly. Otherwise, clients would bring back the foods they didn’t use on their next visit.

Deanne Ebert, a longtime Lakes Area Food Shelf volunteer, said she enjoys the change. She no longer has to lift heavy food boxes – clients push the shopping carts directly to their cars and use their own reusable bags. Christi Tenczar, another volunteer, agreed. She said she has gotten to know clients and their families. They get the opportunity to talk when they shop together.

“For some people, we might be the only people they talk to all week,” Tenczar said, of their senior clients.

Rick Paine, president of the Lakes Area Food Shelf board, said it’s too early to determine how much money the food shelf has saved since the new model was implemented. But clients, staff and volunteers all appreciate the positive change. The food shelf averages about 30-35 families served each Tuesday and Thursday morning they are open.

“We’re busy, so unfortunately the need is there,” said Paine. “Fortunately, we are able to fill it.”

Food Resources in Crow Wing County

If you or your family needs supplementary or emergency food assistance, Crow Wing Energized offers a list of food resources available in Crow Wing County.

Visit and click on “Healthy Choices” to find the Food Resources brochure that lists agencies and programs that offer help for children, seniors, individuals and families.

*shared with permission from Essentia Health press release


#Esssentia Health Tip: Swimmer’s Itch Getting Under your Skin?

Swimmer’s itch is an uncomfortable but harmless skin rash that you can’t see when you step out of the water after a swim, but boy, can you feel them later.

Swimmer's Itch

What is Swimmer’s Itch?

Swimmer’s itch (cercarial dermatitis) – also known as “duck itch” or “lake itch” – is microscopic parasites lurking in lake water, capable of causing a skin rash that’s itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable.
The critter responsible for causing the annoying temporary rash is a flatworm with a complex life cycle. The worm begins in the intestinal lining of water animals such as ducks, geese, beaver and muskrat, according to the Minnesota DNR. The worms lay eggs inside the host animal and the animal excretes the eggs into the lake water.
The eggs then hatch and the parasites swim around in search of a snail, a second host. They live inside the snail until it releases them back into the water, where they seek yet another host. This is when they often come across a human and burrow into the skin. People aren’t suitable hosts, and the parasite soon dies. But the itching is already underway, spurred by the body’s immune system.

Should I seek treatment for swimmer’s itch?

Physician assistant Melisa Palmer who cares for patients at the Essentia Health Urgent Care and Convenient Care Clinics in Baxter and Brainerd says, “It will normally clear up on it’s own, however to ease the discomfort use antihistamines, anti-itch cream or take an Epsom salt/baking soda bath. Seeking medical attention is necessary only when not alleviated by over-the-counter remedies.”
Swimmer's Itch Treatment
Not everyone who comes in contact with the parasite reacts. Some people show no signs of swimmer’s itch. But for those unlucky souls who do, the symptoms can be quite annoying – though ultimately harmless. Red welts are a telltale sign. So is the can’t-stop-scratching feeling that can last for 2-7 days.
Essentia offers three convenient locations for walk-in care 7 days-a-week when the unexpected happens: Convenient Care located at both the Baxter and Brainerd Cub Foods, respectively located at 417 8th Avenue NE in Brainerd and 14133 Edgewood Drive in Baxter. These locations are open 8am-8pm; and Urgent Care, located at the Essentia Health Baxter Clinic 13060 Isle Drive in Baxter, open MondayFriday 8am-8pm and on weekends from 9am-4pm.
 ***shared with permission from Essentia Health press release

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