FEATURE | Posted April 17, 2014

When celebrating with food, remember to offer healthy options

Spring produce makes this easy to do

Spinach salad with strawberries

Spinach salad © iStockphoto

1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
½ cup orange juice
½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 cup sliced strawberries
⅔ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 pound spinach leaves

1. Combine orange peel, juice and vinegar for dressing.
2. Remove hulls and slice strawberries and onion into the dressing.
3. Just before serving, pour dressing over spinach and mix gently.
Options: Add mandarin oranges or sliced pears instead of strawberries.

Yield: 4 servings. Nutrition facts per serving: 120 calories, 4% of calories from fat, 0.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 4 grams of protein, 29 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of fiber, 690 mg of sodium.

For more recipes, check out the “Quick and Simple Heart Healthy Recipes” booklet (pdf) from the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program.

Spring is a time when families gather and celebrate, typically with lots of food. With so much fresh produce now available, it’s also a good time to celebrate healthy eating, according to Marie Barone, a dietitian with the UC Davis Health Management and Education Program.

“It’s important when planning get-togethers with family and friends to remember that a lot of people are working hard to stay healthy and keep their weight under control,” says Barone. “It’s thoughtful to include plenty of healthy options on the buffet table.”

Barone, who works with people who have diabetes and heart disease, recommends focusing on seasonal produce when planning meals. This is especially easy as more farmers’ markets open, including the UC Davis Health System farmers market on April 24.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Serve a salad with a variety of greens and add extra color with radishes, carrots and tomatoes
  • Turn salads into complete meals by adding fresh fruit and lean grilled meat
  • Consider serving parfaits with berries and low-fat Greek yogurt for dessert
  • If you are planning a brunch, prepare a vegetable frittata with asparagus and green onions

A favorite springtime recipe is spinach salad (see sidebar), which can be easily altered to accommodate different variations of fruits and vegetables. In addition to salads, Barone says it is a good time to take advantage of special vegetables that are just now coming into season.

“Be on the lookout for asparagus, artichokes and fava beans, along with fun recipes that incorporate them,” she said. “They contain many nutrients and add a lot of interesting flavor and texture to meals.”