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No Need to Cry-Let’s Celebrate the Onion

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

onion recipe

The onion is a hardy vegetable that can be planted right now. It does well in cool climates and can be planted five to six weeks before the final spring frost date, which is early June here in the Northland. You can plant seeds or small starter bulbs.

Onions are the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States, according to the National Onion Association. Per person consumption is about 20 pounds per year, which translates to more than 450 semi-truck loads of onions used each day.

There are two main kinds of onions, fresh and dry. Fresh onions include green onions, also known as scallions, and sweet onions, such as Vidalia, that are availablein spring. Dry onions, also known as storage onions, can be yellow, white or red. Dry onions usually have a stronger, more pungent flavor.

The onion’s strong flavor and odor come from sulfuric compounds. These compounds cause our eyes to tear. To keep tearing to a minimum, refrigerate an onion for 30 minutes before cutting and leave the root end on as long as possible, which reduces the release of the sulfuric compounds.

Onions provide a little vitamin C, folate, calcium and potassium. Onions are high in flavonoids, the antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals and suppress inflammation in our bodies. One flavonoid is quercetin, which has been linked to protection from lung cancer and asthma.

For some people, onions can increase the symptoms of gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome. Onions, especially when eaten raw, can bring on symptoms of GERD or heartburn because the valve between the esophagus and stomach does not to close well, allowing the acid from the stomach to come up into the esophagus. Some people can tolerate cooked onions or onion powder better than raw onions.

For those with irritable bowel syndrome, onions are a source of fructans that need to be broken apart by an enzyme in the small intestine. If they don’t have enough of this enzyme, the fructans continue into the large intestine where they ferment and result in gas, bloating and/or diarrhea. Avoiding all types of onion is best. Try adding onion flavor by sautéing large pieces of onion in oil, removing them and then only using the flavored oil.  This doesn’t work with soup because fructans are soluble in water and remain in the soup.

Here are two recipes featuring onions.

Marinated onions are a great addition to sandwiches and salads. Try different onions, such Vadalia onions for something sweeter or red onions to add some color.

Marinated Onions

1 medium onion

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup rice vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey or granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Peel and thinly slice onion. Separate into rings. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well blended. Add onions. Shake to coat onions. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Nutrition facts

Serving:  About 6

Calories:  40

Total fat: 2 grams

Saturated fat: 0 grams

Trans fat: 0 grams

Cholesterol:  0 milligrams

Sodium: 1 milligram

Potassium: 35 milligrams

Carbohydrate:  6 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Protein: 0 grams

French onion soup is usually very high in saturated fat and sodium but this one is more heart-healthy.

The traditional soup uses toasted French bread but whole-grain bread makes it more nutritious.

 

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions

4 cups thinly sliced red onions

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon ground pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

6 cups unsalted beef stock (140 milligrams sodium or less per cup)

½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

3 slices whole-grain bread, toasted and cubed

¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, pepper and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in wine, broth and thyme, bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a pan. Add 1 cup of soup to each bowl. Add ½ slice of toast cut into cubes and then top with 2 tablespoons of Swiss cheese. Broil for 3 minutes until cheese begins to brown.

Nutrition facts

Servings: 6

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories: 195

Total fat: 7 grams

Saturated fat: 3 grams

Trans fat: 0 grams

Cholesterol: 13 milligrams

Sodium: 250 milligrams

Potassium: 150 milligrams

Carbohydrates: 21 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Protein: 10 grams

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

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Healthy Community Grants Available through Crow Wing Energized First application deadline April 15

{shared with permission from Essentia Health press release}

Crow Wing Energized is awarding Healthy Community Grants to support efforts to move our community to a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
Crow Wing Energized
Grant applications to Crow Wing Energized, a grassroots community movement led by Essentia Health and Crow Wing County Community Services to improve health and wellness in our community by making healthy choices essential, are being accepted. The first application deadline is April 15, 2017.
 
Organization criteria for applying includes serving or located within Crow Wing County, including but not limited to: neighborhood, youth, or environmental groups; faith-based organizations; health care organizations; civic or citizens’ associations; economic development agencies; local government entities; local businesses; school districts and other similar groups. Applicants are not required to be incorporated 501(c)3 organizations.
 
Applicant projects need to align with the Crow Wing Energized guiding principles as well as Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) SHIP’s financial guide:
• Creating and sustaining a united approach to improving health and wellness in Crow Wing County
• Collaboration towards solutions with multiple stakeholders (e.g. schools, worksites, medical centers) to improve community engagement and commitment focused on improving community health
• Being anchored in evidence based efforts around greatest community good that can be achieved through available resources.
 
The Healthy Community Grants are made available through Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funding that was awarded to Crow Wing Energized. Grant applications are reviewed by the Crow Wing Energized Community Leadership Team and Goal Groups:
Healthy Choices goal group develops sustainable strategies and encourages healthy choices by increasing access to healthy foods, increasing active living opportunities, and helping to promote and support the healthy environments.
Mental Fitness goal group encourages and equips citizens in achieving and maintaining mental fitness by building networks throughout the county for achieving resilience, increasing the practice of intentional choices to help reduce stress and anxiety, and educating our communities to increase the knowledge of mental fitness so it will help to make positive choices regarding their overall health.
Workplace Wellness goal group helps to create a healthy and energized workforce by increasing employee satisfaction, maximizing productivity, minimizing absenteeism, and helping to reduce health care costs.
 
For a Healthy Community Grant Application visit crowwingenergized.org “Resources” page or to learn more about Crow Wing Energized and what it’s community partners are currently doing, please contact Cassie Carey – Crow Wing Energized Coordinator at Cassie.Carey@crowwingenergized.org or 218-828-7443.
 
 

How to navigate food marketing in the grocery store

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

 

A visit to our favorite grocery store can become routine. We know where items are located and we pick up our favorite brands.

What we may not understand is why the grocery store is laid out the way it is. Why are some items displayed at the end of an aisle or at the cash register? Why do some brands get shelved at eye level while other brands get the bottom shelf or the very top one? The answer is food marketing.

Nearly all large American supermarket chains generally follow the same layout, offer the same products, and use the same display techniques, according to Gary Rivlin, an investigative reporter who wrote “Rigged: Supermarket Shelves for Sale” for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2016.

Grocers use a plan to keep customers efficiently moving through the aisles and spending money. End aisle displays, center aisle cardboard displays and the checkout aisle are prime real estate to sell more products, often as impulse buys. Food manufacturers pay for these locations in large grocery store chains, Rivlin found. Grocers only have so much space, so it may be necessary for food manufacturers to make a deal.

The payments or trade fees that manufacturers make to retailers influence which products are offered and how they are displayed. Many consumer and nutrition advocates believe these placements help drive what we buy. Rivlin says contracts can insure that manufacturers’ products will be in the store and be well located. They may even pay to have them featured in the weekly advertisement or on the supermarket’s website.

The “bull’s-eye zone” is the front and center location on the shelf that manufacturers often pay for. Similar products by brands that are not nationally recognized may be below this eye-level location and can cost less. Top shelves may hold some local items or products from small companies that the store’s management has chosen.

Space by the cash register is prime. It’s often stocked with candy because many shoppers don’t go in the candy aisle. But everyone needs to go through the checkout. Impulse buys at the checkout can account for more than half of a candy-maker’s profits in a store.

Mary Story, associate director for academic programs at the Duke Global Health Institute, is a leading scholar on child and adolescent nutrition and child obesity prevention. In Rivlin’s report, she says: If you look at the checkout aisle and the endcaps, it tends to be soda and snacks and other highly processed foods. If you want people to eat healthier — and if you don’t want them to get soft drinks or Pop-Tarts or chips or any of these foods that are highly processed — we need to better understand the factors that put those foods there in the first place.”

Trade fees can also include a slotting fee that manufacturers pay just to get their product in a store. The Federal Trade Commission studied slotting fees in 2001 and 2003. The FTC noted the fees shut out smaller competitors and meant fewer choices for consumers but both reports concluded further study was needed before the federal agency could take action.

Your favorite grocery store may or may not be operating with trading fees but it still pays to be a savvy shopper. Here are some tips to help you be a better shopper – and eat healthier:

  • Always shop with a list and stick to it to help avoid impulse buys. Often our impulses tend toward less healthy products with more sugar and more sodium.
  • If you’re pulled to an end aisle display, check similar products in the aisle itself to see if the displayed product is really a good deal. Then check up and down the shelf, not just the products at eye level. You may even find a product that’s lower in sugar and sodium. For example, I find my favorite unsalted chicken stock on the bottom shelf. I’ve never found it on an end aisle.
  • Experiment with new brands of a product. If you’ve used the same brand for decades, you may be pleasantly surprised to find another that tastes good and is healthier.
  • Buy more fresh produce since trade fees are rarely allotted in this area. It will also help you eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Promote a healthier checkout space by requesting a candy-free aisle in your favorite store.

Take cabbage beyond St. Patrick’s Day {#HealthyRecipes for the cabbage lover)

(Guest Post from Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health}

St. Patrick’s Day brings out the cabbage. It’s the biggest holiday for fresh green cabbage consumption in America, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

cabbage

The Irish found cabbage a sustainable vegetable during the Great Potato Famine that began in 1845. Cabbage grew well in Ireland and when the potato crops failed, cabbage was the main course in many meals. The Irish ate a lot of it – about 65 pounds per person each year based on crop production at that time.

Cabbage is a green leafy vegetable that is known as a cruciferous vegetable. It’s related to broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. High in vitamin C, cabbage also contains vitamin K that’s good for bone health and contains phytochemicals called indoles that may help prevent cancer. The inexpensive vegetable is easy to grow and stores well through the winter.

Varieties include green cabbage, which is known as the king of cabbage, and red cabbage, which is similar but has dark red or purple leaves. Then there’s Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, which is oblong shaped and has thick yellow-green leaves. Savoy cabbage has the round shape similar to green cabbage but has crinkly dark green leaves. Bok choy is another loose-leaf variety with dark green leaves and tender stems.

Cabbage can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried, sautéed, stewed or pickled. Pickling or fermenting is one of the favorite ways to preserve cabbage, such as creating sauerkraut or kimichi. Kimichi, which is often made with Chinese cabbage, is a spicy condiment often found in Korean recipes.

Avoid overcooking cabbage. Its characteristic flavor comes from glucosinolates, which contain sulfur. Overcooking cabbage produces a hydrogen sulfide gas that releases its unpleasant odor.

Expand your menus beyond corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Here are some tasty recipes that use the budget-friendly and healthy vegetable.

Here’s a great low-sodium alternative to corned beef and cabbage.

Cabbage and Beef Hot Dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
1½ cups onion, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots (about 2 cups), grated
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 cups green cabbage, shredded
3 cups red cabbage, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Add olive oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and brown. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, salt, pepper and hot pepper. Cook until cabbage is soft, about 15 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition facts
Serving size, 2 cups; calories, 215; total fat, 10 grams; saturated fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 50 milligrams; sodium, 200 milligrams; potassium, 640 milligrams; carbohydrates, 15 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein, 17 grams.

Celery Seed Coleslaw
14-ounce package classic coleslaw mix (or 4 ½ cups shredded fresh cabbage and 1 cup shredded carrots)healthy coleslaw recipe
2 stalks (¾ cup) celery, diced
1 small (¾-cup) green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons distilled vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon celery seed
⅓ cup olive oil mayonnaise

Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. In separate small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, olive oil, celery seed and mayonnaise. Mix well with a wire whip. Add dressing to vegetables and mix well. Yield 10 servings.

Nutrition facts
Servings size, ½ cup; calories, 55; total fat, 3.5 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 65 milligrams; potassium, 110 milligrams; carbohydrates, 5 grams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 1 gram; and calcium, 25 milligrams.

This recipe is a lower sodium alternative to sauerkraut. Sauerkraut has about 750 milligrams of sodium in one-half cup.

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 small head (8 cups) red cabbage, shredded
1 large (1 1/2 cups) Granny Smith apple, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Put oil, cabbage, apples, onion and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the vinegar and water. Add salt, pepper and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. If you want it thicker, mix 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons cold water in a cup until smooth. Add to cabbage mixture and simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until liquid thickens. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size, ½ cup; calories, 120; total fat, 3.5 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 90 milligrams (if you added optional salt); potassium, 200 milligrams; carbohydrates, 22 grams; fiber, 2.5 grams; protein, 1 gram.

This soup is a great low-calorie, low-sodium vegan option.

Cabbage Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
½ pound carrots, sliced
½ bunch celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
½ pound frozen green beans
28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
½ head green cabbage
6 cups unsalted vegetable broth
¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Add garlic and onion to a large soup pot along with the olive oil and sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft and transparent. Add carrots, celery, bell pepper and frozen green beans. Add diced tomatoes (and their juices) and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Allow the vegetables in the pot to heat while you chop the cabbage. Chop the cabbage into 1-inch strips or squares, then add to the pot. Add the vegetable broth, chopped parsley, paprika, oregano and thyme. Stir to combine. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the pot to simmer until the cabbage is tender (about 20 minutes). Finish the soup with lemon juice. Start by stirring in one tablespoon of lemon juice and add more to your liking. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition facts
Serving size, 2 cups; calories, 120; total fat, 2 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 200 milligrams; potassium, 730 milligrams; carbohydrates, 22 grams; fiber, 6 grams; protein, 3 grams.

Bonnie Brost of Essentia Health

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health

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