Eating o’ the Green

Suzie's ShamrockSaint Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  Little shamrocks adorn my house and work space for all 31 days of the month of March.  To honor my beloved shamrock and National Nutrition month I thought I would pick my three favorite green fruits and vegetables that are easy to snack on throughout a busy day.  Green fruits and vegetables are loaded with important vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium.  Eating a diet rich in green produce can help reduce the risk of some cancers, maintain strong bones and teeth, and promote good vision health.

Fruit:

Green Grapes:  These are by far the easiest grab- and- go fruit snack.  Pick a bag up at the market, wash them, prepackage them in baggies and grab them right out of the fridge for a good snack.  Keeping grapes out on the counter makes it easier to snack on something healthy instead of reaching for the chips.

Granny Smith Apples:  If you like tart snacks this is the perfect mid-day break for you.  Because green apples have a higher acid content than other apples, they take longer to go brown once you cut into them.  So keep them whole or slice it up and snack away!

Kiwi:  This fuzzy, green brown fruit was my favorite as a kid.  I loved the bright green color once you cut into the kiwi and the little black seeds always added an extra pop when eating them.  Kiwis are a little time consuming to peel and slice but worth the work.  If you are short on time, cut it in half and carefully spoon out the fruit inside.

Vegetables:

Cucumber:  This clean tasting vegetable is my favorite to snack on.  You can add anything to it and it is delicious.  I add hummus, cheese slices, even tuna and it’s the perfect little mid-day snack.  Slice up a cucumber and your options are limitless.  If you haven’t added cucumber slices to your water you don’t know what you’ve been missing!

Edamame:  These little green soybeans have the same snacking sensation as popcorn!  I buy mine in frozen individual servings so I can pop them in to the microwave at work add a dash of salt and snack my way through an afternoon conference call.  These are also great to add to salads and stir fry.

Sugar Snap Peas:  If summer had a taste I think it would taste like sugar snap peas.  I have fond memories of eating these straight out of my aunt’s garden.  I would eat them whole in the pod or break them open.  Now I pick up a bag from the market and eat them by themselves or dip them in hummus or ranch dressing.

Be sure to pack some of these lucky green treats with you on Saint Patrick’s Day and every day.

For each petal on the shamrock

This brings a wish your way

Good health, good luck, and happiness

For today and every day

Stockings, a Healthy and Humbling Holiday Tradition!

Yesterday morning I celebrated the holidays by opening up my stocking, a great custom that turns out to be one of the few healthy traditions I have practiced over the last few days! Yeah, something I should work on, but the “eggnog” and homemade cookies are hard to pass up!

iStock_000021725524XXXLarge-Stocking-Christmas-Fruit-NutsEach year the toe of my stocking is filled with assorted nuts in their shell and a perfectly ripe navel orange. For me, the tradition of nuts and fruit go back to when my grandparent placed these items in my stocking when I was young. And, each year I would question why I received these healthy snacks instead of more candy, with the annual response that these items brought good luck for the new year.

Well, as I pealed my orange yesterday morning, my curiosity forced me to confirm this answer, or find the truth! What I found was a great history of giving, and a humbling path back to the past that will keep me placing fruit and nuts in the stockings of my loved ones.

Giving fruit and nuts goes back to the 1880’s, as stockings became a popular way to give gifts during the holidays (learn why stockings were originally hung with care). During this time, these items where hard to acquire as times were tough, but the new railway systems made it possible to deliver fresh fruit before it spoiled. Thus, an orange and nuts were considered cherished treats! For all but the wealthy, this Christmas gift was the only fresh fruit and nuts children would enjoy all winter and spring.

So, for those of you looking for healthy traditions during the holiday season, here is a practice that will not only provide good nutrition, but a story that will bring your family to appreciate the gifts received during this season. And, if you still need a little extra reason, I will tell you it brings good luck for the new year!

Looking for more healthy holiday traditions? Try these delicious recipes for Sweet Potato Casserole and Cranberry Apple Crisp! Yum!

The Healthy Life Schools Challenge

Jordan and Kids Centennial Elementary School AssemblyHealthy Teachers + Healthy Students = Healthy Life. That’s the idea behind the third annual PacificSource Healthy Life Schools Challenge. Teachers and faculty from two school districts in Eugene/ Springfield, OR (Bethel and Springfield) have come together to compete in a month-long competition to find out which school (elementary, middle and high school) can eat more healthfully and get active. Now through May 10, more than 35 participating schools will compete in the wellness challenge to show us how they live a healthy life by replacing unhealthy snacks with fresh fruits and veggies and following the ‘Run/Walk for My Healthy Life’ Couch-to-5K program to train for local races. To help motivate teachers and students to run or walk a 5 kilometer race, PacificSource Health Plans is offering free entries to these races: Casa/Re/Max Champions 6K and Miles for Meals 15K, 5K and 1 Mile. Here’s a look at our ‘Run/Walk for My Healthy Life’ Couch-to-5K program:

Couch to 5K_four week_family guide

J Kent and Kid with CapeAssemblies were held at an elementary and a middle school in Eugene to kick off this year’s Healthy Life Schools Challenge activities. Former University of Oregon three-sport athlete Jordan Kent rallied students to get involved in the challenge by encouraging their teachers to eat fresh fruits and veggies and by training for a 5K race.  Kent also shared some tips on the benefits of heating healthy and getting plenty of exercise. Jordan is the founder of the Jordan Kent Skills Camp for boys and girls ages 6 – 12 that offer life skills education and instruction in football, basketball, and soccer, Jordan Kent.

Of course, the most important prize for teachers is that they’re improving their health and setting a good example to students. But, to add a little incentive, a $1,000 prize will be awarded to the elementary, middle and high school that consumes the highest percentage of fruits and vegetables.  School winners are encouraged to use that prize money towards improving the health of their school.

To learn more about the Healthy Life Schools Challenge or see how your school can get involved, visit HealthyLifeChallenge.org.

A Healthy Life Starts With You!