Weird Foods Worth Trying

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Is it just me or did your parents also make smoothies out of apple, banana, bitter melon, kumquat, and bell pepper growing up? Really, just me? Oh okay.

When I was in middle school my parents discovered something revolutionary, a Vitamix blender. Thus began their journey of blending every single fruit and vegetable in sight. To this day, my dad still prides himself on his homemade smoothies that contain 20 different fruits and vegetables. During the beginning of their blending obsession, I was introduced to odd fruits and vegetables that I surprisingly enjoyed (granted, I preferred eating them whole). That’s probably the reason why I get excited about trying unique produce that looks strange at first glance.

Although carrots and apples are great, I want to expose you to foods that aren’t well known but packed with nutrition! Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to throw it all into a blender… all I ask is for you to be open-minded and give these yummy foods a try.

Adzuki Beans

adzukibeans
photo by Oprah

Adzuki beans are small red beans that are traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Although we often associate beans with savory flavors, Adzuki beans are often sweetened and used in desserts. In traditional Chinese medicine, this legume is used to support kidney, reproductive, and bladder function. Adzuki beans are high in:

  • Iron
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese

Whew! These beans may be small but they’re definitely nutrition powerhouses.

Preparation:
Begin by washing your beans and soaking them overnight in water. If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, you can also use put them in a pressure cooker for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and simmer the beans in water for an hour. Again, you can also use a pressure cooker by cooking the soaked beans in 2 cups of water for 5-9 minutes under high pressure.

Storage:
Store the beans in a sealed container in a dark and cool environment. They will last 5 days refrigerated or 6 months in the freezer.

Use:

  • Add to soups and stews
  • Mash the beans and use for bean tacos with avocado, salsa, lettuce, etc.
  • Pair with other beans to make a bean salad

Dandelion Greens

DandelionGreens
photo by Nourished Kitchen

Dandelion greens are more than merely pesky weeds that have invaded your garden. It may surprise you to know that they help control inflammation in our bodies and have been shown to be beneficial as anti-cancer agents. On top of that, they are also high in:

  • Vitamin A, E, and K
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Fiber

Use the leaves by:

  • Tossing in salads along with your favorite leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.)
  • Blending with fruits to make a smoothie
  • Chopping and adding them to grains such as brown or wild rice

Feeling adventurous? Try using other parts of the plant as well because the flower, leaves and root are all edible!

Purple Yams

Purpleyams
photo by The Kitchn

If the beautiful violet hue hasn’t convinced you to try these yet then the flavor definitely will. Lightly sweet, smooth and starchy, you’ll feel like you’re indulging when you take a bite into a purple yam. The great news is that yams are full of:

  • Complex carbohydrates and fiber
  • Vitamin C and B6
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Magnesium

My favorite way to eat yams is to simply bake them. Wash thoroughly with water and pierce them a few times with a fork or knife. Place yams on a baking sheet or pan lined with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 1 hour, although the time will vary depending on the size of your yams. Remember to shake the pan occasionally while the yams are in the oven to ensure even cooking.

Baked yams make for a great snack, a quick breakfast on the go, or a healthy way to satisfy any sweet tooth!

Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi
photo by In Sonnet’s Kitchen

Can be eaten raw or cooked

  • Vitamin C and B6
  • Isothiocyanates, which are beneficial against certain cancers
  • Dietary fiber
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium

Try this! Revamp classic French fries by making kohlrabi fries. Begin by removing the stems and leaves from the bulb (you can save them and sauté it!). Next, peel the bulb and slice it into thick matchsticks. Drizzle the kohlrabi with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can also spice things up by adding chili powder or paprika. Spread out the fries on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

Wheat berries

Wheatberries
photo by Food Network

Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels that are commonly ground into whole wheat flour for baking. Because the kernel is left intact, it contains all of the health benefits associated with the bran, which include:

  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Vitamin E

Preparation:
Add 1 cup of wheat berries and 3 cups of water to a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cover the pot. At around 30 minutes check the berries to see if they’re done. Look for a texture that is chewy! Continue to check every 5 minutes until they’re ready. You can store the berries in the refrigerator for about one week after they are cool.

Use:

  • Add to chili for a hearty texture
  • Stir into cooked oats
  • Toss with olive oil, corn, red onion, and arugula for a quick salad
  • Pair with roasted fennel and bell peppers

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

How to Build a Healthier Sandwich

build_healthier_sandwich

I have a theory.

My theory is that food tastes best when you take a big bite full of different textures and flavors all at one time. You see I’m not much of a nibbler, which probably explains why I love sandwiches so much. You get crunchy, creamy, sweet, and salty all in one epic bite. On top of that, there’s nothing complicated when it comes to sandwiches, except for maybe how difficult it was for me to spell the word growing up…sandwitches? sandwhiches? It took me a while to get that part right.

Even though building these beauties is simple, sometimes it can be tricky knowing how to build sandwiches that are healthy. Follow some of these tips and I guarantee you’ll want to make a sandwich your new simple go-to meal.

Step 1: The Bread

Like all great masterpieces, we must begin with the foundation. White breads spike blood sugar levels and lack protein, fiber, and essential B vitamins that give your body energy.  Try some of these whole grain options that are both nutritious and filling:

  • Whole wheat baguette
  • Whole wheat English muffins
  • Whole grain pita bread
  • Rye
  • Pumpernickle bread
  • Whole wheat Ciabatta

Quick tip! Scoop out the inside of thick crusty bread, such as a baguette and Ciabatta, to remove some calories. You can use the bread to make breadcrumbs by blending it in a food processor and baking it in the oven at 300°F until brown.

Step 2: The Moist Maker (aka Spreads)

Here’s where the calories can really start to sneak up on you! Many of us spread thick layers of oil-based spreads to add moistness to our sandwiches. What if I told you that the moist factor could be achieved without adding excessive calories?

Add a light layer of spreads like mayonnaise, Aioli, and creamy dressings on one side of your bread.  By adding a thin layer, you will experience the full flavor without piling on the calories. Keep in mind only one tablespoon of mayonnaise has 94 calories and 10g of fat!

Feel free to add more of your favorite low calorie spread. Try some of these delicious options:

  • Hummus
  • BBQ sauce
  • Mustard such as Dijon, honey, spicy, etc.
  • Avocado or guacamole

Don’t want to use spreads, but still want to add flavor? Toss your veggies in your favorite salad dressing and add it to your sandwich.

Step 3: Cheese

Look for your favorite cheese made from skim or part-skim milk, which has less calories and saturated fat. Use just one thin slice!

Step 4: Vegetables

This is where you can experiment with your favorite veggies! It’s also the perfect chance to try new vegetables you’ve seen at the farmers market. It’s more than just lettuce and tomatoes now…here are my personal favorites:

  • Spring mix
  • Arugula
  • Caramelized onions
  • Avocados
  • Roasted peppers
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Pickled vegetables

Step 5: Protein

Some things to consider when looking for meat:

  • Look for meats naturally low in fat and saturated fat.
  • Aim for less than 500 mg of sodium per serving. Some processed meats are very salty.
  • Choose deli meats free of nitrates and nitrites, which are used as preservatives.

Try some of these:

  • Turkey
  • Roast Beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken, tuna, or egg salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
  • Eggplant
  • Tofu: made from soybeans and is subtle in flavors so it will easily absorb any spices or marinades.
  • Tempeh: made from fermented soybeans and has a unique flavor different from tofu. It has a great chewy texture and it is packed with protein and fiber.

You can also make it without meat and pile on hummus and more veggies!

The last step is slicing it diagonally… it makes the sandwich infinitely better.

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below.