Contributed by Atlanta-based Registered Dietitian Joanna Skinner
I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!
I’m back to talk about the nutrition highlights of two meals I recently had the pleasure of sampling. This week, I tried the cinnamon sweet potato pancakes with primavera egg whites and vanilla Greek yogurt with strawberry compote, and the lentil stuffed pepper with a mixture of vegetables, brown
rice, and cheese with a side of mashed cauliflower.
Both meals have an assortment of flavors, and they pack a serious nutritional punch. In addition to the excellent nutrient profile, both meals feature ingredients (sweet potatoes and cauliflower, respectively) that are in season in Georgia now. As you could probably tell from my last post about greens, eating in season is a priority for me.
Seasonal or not, one way you can tell whether a meal offers you a wide range of vitamins and minerals is by looking at the variety of colors. The more colorful your meal (artificial colors not included, of course), the more vitamins and minerals you’ll get. That’s what I love about both of the meals I tried: they each had an array of colors, so I knew I was getting a lot of different nutrients. I’ll break down the main nutrition highlights of each meal.
Sweet Potato Pancakes, Greek Yogurt, and Eggs:
Sweet potatoes are very high in beta carotene (the orange color gives this away), which is converted to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A helps protect your eyes, skin, and immune system. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C (which is good for the collagen in your skin and may boost immunity), iron (an important part of red blood cells) and calcium (to keep your bones strong and help your nervous system work properly).
Greek yogurt, as you’re probably aware, is known for being a good source of protein. Though it’s not as high in calcium as non-Greek yogurt, it’s still a good source. It also contains potassium (which helps keep your blood pressure normal and is necessary for muscle contractions) and vitamin B12 (to keep your brain functioning well and your blood cells healthy).
Egg whites are high in protein and free of saturated fat and cholesterol, making them heart healthy. Mixing them with vegetables like spinach and mushrooms adds some fiber and small amounts of a few extra nutrients, such as vitamins A and D.
Stuffed Peppers with Cauliflower:
Have you ever doubted that white vegetables, such as cauliflower and onions, contain many nutrients? If so, put your doubts away. A cup of cauliflower, for example, contains more than half the vitamin C you need in a day, and it also has potassium, folate (needed by everyone for healthy red blood cells and DNA, but especially by women of child-bearing age), and vitamin K (needed for normal blood clotting as well as for bone health).
Bell peppers of all colors are high in vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, and potassium. In addition to providing a meaty texture, the lentils in the pepper’s filling contribute protein, iron, folate, phosphorus (which is mostly found in bones and teeth, but also assists with kidney function and tissue repair), potassium, and large amounts of trace minerals that keep your body working.
On top of providing an assortment of vitamins and minerals, vegetables in general are high in fiber and low in calories. Though we often associate holiday eating with endless sugary and high-fat foods, it’s a great time of year to chow down on veggies, too.
Happy (and healthy) eating!