Shari Duncan

Fruits and Veggies

Pass the Tomatoes, Please

by on Jun.18, 2010, under Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, Recipes

They say an apple a day.  I say tomato a day…. the OTHER red fruit!

Tomatoes are considered to be one of the most nutritious among all fruits and vegetables.  This is because tomatoes contain the highest concentration of  a highly potent antioxidant called lycopene,  which is where the tomatoes vibrant red color comes from. Lycopene  is known to help flush free radicals from the body and provides anti-aging benefits.  Many

....  The OTHER red fruit.

.... The OTHER red fruit.

studies have also discovered that lycopene rich diets can help in the fight against cancerous cell formation as well as ward off many other health conditions.  The most compelling evidence so far is the role of lycopene in prostate cancer prevention. Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute stated that whole tomatoes offer better protection from prostate cancer than lycopene supplements alone.

Tomatoes are rich in vitamin K, a vitamin important to bone health. The fiber in tomatoes aids healthy digestion, lower cholesterol and aids in weight loss. Tomatoes also contain lutein which is needed for healthy eyes and may help prevent macular degeneration and to improve vision. 

If that weren’t enough, tomatoes are low in calories, sugar, sodium, and fat and are an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals as well.  One medium-sized tomato containing only 22 calories. And since tomatoes are low on the glycemic Index, they do not cause spikes in insulin in the body and help to keep blood sugar balanced.

Maximizing the Nutrients in Tomatoes

Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes contain more vitamin C than cooked tomatoes as the cooking process destroys some of the vitamin C; however, cooked or processed tomatoes contain higher concentrations of lycopene. Eating or cooking tomatoes with a small amount of healthy fat or oil increases the body’s absorption of lycopene.

Although only mid-June here in South Georgia, fresh garden tomatoes are already plentiful .

Friday Night.... Pizza night.

Friday Night.... Pizza night.

Forget Pappa John and Little Caesar….Try this for a quick, light and nutritious fresh tomato pizza:


Preheat oven to 425.
Spread the pesto on the bread.
Add a layer of tomato and a layer of basil.
Sprinkle or lightly layer cheese over the top.
Dust with Oregano, if using
Bake for 7 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and melted.
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Eggplant…. The Power of Purple.

by on May.29, 2010, under Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, Recipes

Eggplant is ideal for weight loss. Eat eggplant and get some of the nutrients that your body needs–all at a low calorie cost.

Eggplants are a excellent addition to a dieter’s menu with only 35 calories and 3 grams of sodium per cup and they are nearly fat free.  They are also low sodium, high in fiber and rich in minerals. The mineral that is most abundant in eggplant is manganese. This mineral is best known for its function in fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It is also important in proper brain function.  Prepare eggplant with or without skin on.  Leaving the skin on increases the dietary fiber content to ~2.5 grams per serving

Eggplant: a dieter's dream food - 35 calories and no fat per 1 cup serving

Eggplant: a dieter's dream food - 35 calories and no fat per 1 cup serving.

Plus eggplant contains phytonutrients, antioxidants which can help prevent damage from free radicals and protection from certain types of cancer. One of the photonutrients that helps to make up eggplant nutrition is nasunin, a powerful antioxidant found in the skin of the eggplant. Nasunin helps to protect the lipids which are found in the membranes of brain cells

When choosing an eggplant, look for one that has smooth skin and is heavy for size as this indicates high water content.  Look for a stem that is green and bright in color.  Eggplants do not have a long shelf life and should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 days of purchase.

Did you know that technically eggplant is a fruit?  They belong to the same family as tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.

Eggplant is very versatile and can be roasted, baked, braised, broiled, sautéed or grilled. Do not eat raw however due to a toxin that may cause stomach upset.

Excellent companions to eggplant cuisine include olive oil, onions, tomatoes, garlic, lemon, olives, nuts, and spices like pepper, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and ginger.

Probably one of the most well known eggplant recipes is eggplant parmesan.  However, this recipe is generally very high in fat, from the deep frying and added cheeses which are counterproductive for those trying to lose some weight.

Here is a healthier way to “fry” your eggplant. Cut down on the fat by oven frying instead of pan frying in oil. This is delicious eaten alone, as a side dish, or can as the foundation for a much healthier, lower fat version of eggplant parmesan.

Oven “FRIED” Eggplant.


All the taste, without the Fat! Eat alone or layer in Eggplant Parmesan Casserole.

All the taste, without the Fat! Eat alone or layer in Eggplant Parmesan Casserole.

  • 1 large/ 2 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • ~1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute (or egg whites)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoon unbleached flour
  • Italian seasonings (garlic, basil, oregano, etc.)
  • Sea salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray


  1. Trim a couple of inches off each end of the eggplant, and discard. Slice the eggplant crosswise into ¼- 1/2-inch thick slices. Set aside.
  2. Coat a large baking sheet with olive oil and nonstick olive oil cooking spray, and set aside.
  3. Place the egg substitute in a shallow bowl. Season generously with spices.  Place the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and flour in another shallow bowl, and stir to mix well. Dip the eggplant slices first in the egg substitute, and then in the crumb mixture, turning to coat both sides well. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the prepared sheet, and spray the tops lightly with the cooking spray.
  4. Bake uncovered at 425°F for 10 minutes. Turn the slices, and bake for 10 additional minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Serve hot.

Approximately 4 servings.

Calories: 87  Fat: 1.7g   Carbs: 13g   Protein: 5.4g   Cholesterol: 3mg   Fiber: 2.5g   Sodium: 229mg

Excerpted from Best Kept Secrets of Healthy cooking by Sandra Woodruff.

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by on May.15, 2010, under Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, Recipes

Second only to bananas as America’s favorite tropical fruit, Pineapple’s flavor screams COME ON SUMMER!

Lucky for us, they are available nearly year round in most markets.

Pineapples are rich in Vitamin A and C which is no surprise to most of us. But what makes pineapples a nutritional powerhouse is that they contain an enzyme nutrient called Bromelain.  Bromelain is a mixture of important enzymes that aid in the digestion of protein and milk. Pineapples are a great fruit to eat in between meals to improve digestion. You can also eat a few chunks of fresh pineapple first thing in the morning as a digestive aid. Enjoy pineapple on a low to empty stomach to maximize the bromelain induced effects.

The enzyme Bromelain not only helps the body’s digestive system but has recognized anti-inflammatory properties as well.

Pineapples may seem an unlikely source of healing powers, but Bromelin extract from its stem has been

clinically proven  as an effective natural anti-inflammatory  agent that reduces pain and swelling,

improves joint mobility and promotes tissue repair.

What an added health benefit to those of us who lift weights regularly and are looking for nutritional ways to accelerate the recovery process!

Buy fresh, as often as possible, as canned pineapple tends not to have this valuable enzyme as the heat used in the canning process destroys the Bromelain.

Pineapples are natures source of the powerful enzyme Bromelain

Pineapples are nature's source of the powerful enzyme Bromelain

Pineapple Nutrition Tidbits:

  • –      Vitamin C
  • A serving of pineapple contains 78.9 mg of vitamin C—131% of the recommended daily allowance.
  • –      Calories
  • Pineapple contains 82.5 calories per serving. Most of these calories come from sugars.
  • –      Fiber
  • Pineapple is a good source of valuable dietary fiber, supplying 2.3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • –      Manganese
  • Pineapple is a very good source of manganese – which among other benefits supports metabolism and in the development of strong bones and connective tissue. Manganese is a coenzyme that helps the body use thiamin, vitamin C and choline. It also helps to prevent your cells from injury caused by free-radicals.
  • –      Other Nutrients
  • Pineapple is naturally very low in cholesterol and saturated fat. It is a good source of vitamin B6, thiamin and copper.
  • –      How to Select
  • –      Choose pineapples with dark green leaves, heavy for size.  Avoid soft or dark spots and dry-looking leaves.
Did you know that it takes 18 months (or more) to grow one pineapple!


A burst of sweet and spicy. An exciting and exotic meal in less than 30 minutes!

A burst of sweet and spicy. An exciting and exotic meal in less than 30 minutes!

Pineapple is one versatile fruit.

From smoothies to salads;   main course dishes to dessert — feel free to experiment with its fresh, sweet and tart exotic flavor.  Pineapple chunks go  from “chilled to grilled” with ease.  The Bromelain in the pineapple actually serves as a tenderizer for meats and perfectly complements numerous main dishes  – From pork, to fish… to my favorite Shrimp!

One of the simplest (and tastiest) uses for pineapple is to add them to kebobs and grill away! – Alternate pineapple chunks with your choice of protein (shrimp, pork, chicken) and veggies (peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, etc..)

One of my favorites:  Shrimp and Pineapple quesadillas.

The sweet of the pineapple and the spice of salsa, garlic, cumin and cilantro are a winning combination when added to quickly stir-fried (or grilled) shrimp and vegetables.  ( I use fresh peppers, (red and green) and onions. Place in a tortilla with a touch of melted cheese – fold and brown on both sides.  Top with extra salsa, avocado, and low fat sour cream if desired.)

The flavor is amazing and it is so simple that this can be prepared in less than 30 minutes

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by on Apr.25, 2010, under Fruits and Veggies, Healthy Snacks, Recipes, Weight Loss, Whey Protein Recipes

Experiment with different fresh and frozen fruits and yogurt flavors for variety.

Berries should be a staple to your diet… One serving of berries daily will do much more than just keep the doctor away.  They are after all, natures #1 antioxidant fruit.

This protein smoothie is excellent as a post-workout meal, breakfast or mid-day snack or meal replacement.  It provides the perfect balance of protein – from the whey and yogurt, carbohydrates – from the fruit and yogurt, and healthy fats from the almond milk and flax seed.  It is also a great source of calcium, antioxidants and fiber.  And, if that isn’t reason enough to give this a try… it really tastes amazing!

Mix together well in blender or Magic Bullet:

1 scoop of Whey adds approximately 25-30grms of muscle building proteine

1 scoop of Whey adds approximately 25-30grms of muscle building protein

  • 1 scoop vanilla Whey Protein
  • Fresh or Frozen Berries (Blackberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries)
  • 1/2 container low sugar yogurt ( I like Dannon Light N Fit – Pomegranate Berry)
  • 1 tsp milled Flax Seed
  • 6-8 oz Almond Milk
  • Crushed Ice/Water


Try different fruit combinations such as peaches, pineapple, melon, or banana as well as flavored yogurts.  Substitute Soy for Almond Milk if you like.  You really cannot go wrong with this one.


….. READ ON:

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Frozen Grapes….Nature’s Popsicle

by on Apr.04, 2010, under Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, Healthy Snacks, Recipes

If you’ve never tried them, you should.  You will be hooked.  PROMISE.

It’s like eating little frosted candies and how I wish I could take credit for this one!   I buy grapes, I eat grapes; but I never once thought about  freezing grapes BEFORE snacking on them… until I tried some this weekend while visiting my son .

Could something so simple REALLY taste THAT good?

The flavor of the fruit is truly enhanced when frozen.  The sweetness is intensified and the center becomes almost “creamy” in consistency. It is the freshest frozen popsicle!

Grapes are rich in vitamins and minerals and rich in antioxidants that are found in the skin.  The deeper the color of the fruit, the  more potent the antioxidant profile.  Grape seed extract is often used as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent.

So today I went right to my local market and picked up a bag of the deepest, reddest grapes I could find.    And, yes, I did a side by side tastes test:  Frozen verses fresh.  Hands down. – frozen won. Oh, another plus to frozen; they take longer to eat; which means you won’t eat as many in one sitting!

Frozen Grapes; Better than ice cream - REALLY!

Frozen Grapes; Better than ice cream ? I SAY YES!

Here’s what you do:

1)    Buy grapes (red are more nutritious than green)

2)  “Pluck” grapes from stems.  Wash and dry on paper towels.

3)  Stick them in the freezer in airtight bag or bowl.

4)  Forget about them for a while.

It really is that simple.

Next time you crave a frozen sweet treat, reach for the grapes … instead of the ice cream.    You will be glad you did.

Frozen Grapes (red or green) Serving: 1 cup
Calories: ~104
Fat: 0g
Carbs: 27g
Protein: 1g
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Karen’s Baked Zucchini

by on Feb.21, 2010, under Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, Recipes

Thank you to my friend Karen for recommending this nutritious and DELICIOUS Casserole.

This is a very light vegetarian dish that easy and quick to put together.

Fresh Zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes are flavored with Italian spices and wine, mixed with provolone and mozzarella and baked until bubbly.

Serve this dish over whole grain pasta for a vegetarian main course or as a side with baked chicken or fish.Baked Zucchini

  • 4 small-med zucchini, scrubbed and sliced
  • 4-6 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • Minced garlic, to taste
  • ~1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/3c Marsala or other red Italian wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or use fresh)
  • Italian Seasonings (Basil, oregano, thyme)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1- 1 /2 cup shredded mozzarella / provolone cheese.
  • Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Spray a 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Mix all ingredients except Parmesan and 1/2c of shredded cheese and spread into baking dish.  Don’t be shy with the Italian seasonings!

Top with remaining cheeses and bake, uncovered 30-40 minutes until bubbly.


Low in Calories, Packed with Vitamins

Low in Calories, Packed with Vitamins

Zucchini squash are made mostly of water (~95%) and are therefore very low in calories.  There are only 13 calories in 1/2cup of raw and 18 calories in the same amount of cooked zucchini.  Nutritionally, they contain significant amounts of vitamins A & C, folate and potassium.  1 cup of zucchini has nearly as much potassium as one banana! There is also 4 grams of fiber in every cup of zucchini.

Always wash zucchini well but do not peel as most of the nutrients are in the skin.  The darker the skin the more nutrients.

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Fruits and Fructose

by on Dec.27, 2009, under Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, Weight Loss

Fruit Sugar.  Good or Bad?

Fructose is a sugar that’s found naturally in fruits and berries, and it’s also the basis of the not-so-healthy high-fructose corn syrup, a common addition to a variety of processed foods.  But the amount of fructose in fruit is something to consider for those trying to limit sugar in their diet.

It is common knowledge that fruits are  low in calories, high in fiber AND nutritionally dense with antioxidants to boost your health. On a  practical level they fill you up, without loading you up with fat and calories.  And when your stomach is filled up with high volume, low calorie food, there is less room for other stuff. There is also documented evidence that shows that plant-based foods help to control food cravings and overeating.

Low in Calories, High in nutritional value. But be aware of sugar content in fruit

Low in Calories, High in nutritional value. But be aware of sugar content in fruit

BUT, fruits are generally abundant in sugar.  So if you are trying to lose weight by limiting the amount of sugars (simple carbs) in you diet, should you also limit your fruit intake?  This is where some of the low-carb diet plans disagree, as some programs depend more upon glycemic index or glycemic load (South Beach, Zone)  while others just look at total carbs (Atkins, Protein Power).

In general, your best bet, whether counting total calories or just carbohydrates, is to select fruits that are lowest in sugar content.

The following information (from ranks fruits by sugar content. Click on the link associated with a fruit to obtain specific and detailed nutritional information about that fruit.   To maximize your health benefits, be sure to eat a wide variety of colorful fruits (and vegetables) daily. Keep within your recommended daily caloric intake and pair carbohydrates with a protein source with each meal and you will be fine!

Fruits Lowest in Sugar

Fruits Low to Medium Sugar

Fruits Fairly High in Sugar

Fruits Very High in Sugar


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