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BEST way to cook okra – GRILLED

char-grilled okra piled on a white plate

I grew up in the south. This means that fried okra was on the menu frequently. In fact, I am not sure I knew that you could eat it any other way until I was an adult. Lucky for me, my mom was a health-conscious southern cook and did not use heavy batter or deep fat. It was, however, still fried. When I started to cook on my own, okra was just not on the menu. That is until a few years ago when I discovered THE best way to prepare okra – GRILLED.

Okra is a great choice and is loaded with vitamins and fiber. It is only 30 calories or so per cup.

Okra pieces scattered on an outdoor grill top being cooked

This is a non-recipe recipe as the proportions are not critical. For about a pound of okra, you will need about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. I prefer to use Maldon or other flaky salt but kosher salt will do just fine too.

Wash and dry a pound of okra. You can slightly trim the ends but do not cut off the whole top. You can also leave as is. Dry completely using a kitchen towel or place in the refrigerator uncovered for a few hours. In a large bowl, toss the okra with olive oil. Toss well so that each pod gets a little oil. You can also spray with oil if you like. You really don’t need much oil. Grill using an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan. Turn the okra frequently. They are done when they are well charred and soft. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with salt. You can serve hot or room temperature.

I love to serve these as an appetizer as finger food. You can just pick them up using the stem end and enjoy. I have even served these to non-okra eaters who now profess their love of grilled okra.

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Healthy Pancakes Do Exist!

You may think that pancakes are off the menu for you. Too many unhealthy carbohydrates, sugar in the syrup – no pancakes for you. However, it is possible thanks to this great Med Instead of Meds recipe. There is truly such a thing as healthy pancakes and the biggest plus is, they are super easy to make.

A friend recently said it best, “I don’t know why anyone would eat pancakes any other way after having these…yum!”

This recipe continues to be clicked on more than most on Med Instead of Meds. So, whether for a special breakfast during the week OR a dinner treat, enjoy these guilt-free, delicious cakes. Bet you too will be sharing the recipe with someone as you will be so happy with yourself. Enjoy!

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Best, Easy Corn Salad: EVER

white plate with a scoop of corn salad in the center and squash peels and cherry tomatoes as a garnish

With all the fresh corn available you may be tired of just plain corn on the cob. I have been experimenting with using corn to make a cold summer salad. I like cooking the corn in the husk in the microwave. The corn comes out perfectly every time. I like a sherry vinaigrette but you could use any vinaigrette you like. Here is my latest version of this delicious salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 ears fresh corn, unshucked
  • 1 small zucchini or yellow squash
  • 12 cherry tomatoes – a variety of colors is best
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • 4 T sherry vinaigrette

Directions

  1. Cook each ear of corn separately in the microwave for 4 minutes.
  2. Use hot mit to remove and cut off end. Grab the silk end and shake, the corn should come out without any silks. See a video here.
  3. Cut the corn off of the cob and toss with vinaigrette.
  4. Use a vegetable peeler to make squash ribbons.
  5. Plate according to picture.

Nutrition Information per Serving

  • Serving Size: 6.5 ounces
  • Calories: 170 calories
  • Total Fat: 8 grams
  • Sodium: 70 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams (Includes 0g Added Sugars)
  • Protein: 4 grams

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Chicken Cutlet with Cucumber and Greens

Chicken cutlet is a year-round favorite and a simple way to get more bang for your buck. One boneless skinless chicken breast makes for two hefty cutlets when pounded thin. The surprising addition of crackers goes the distance by adding both crunch and flavor. When paired with a simple summer salad – one full of fresh cucumbers – this meal is sure to be on the summer-time menu plan. 

Recipe from NC EFNEP

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 10 whole-wheat ritz crackers or saltines, pounded to crumbs
  • 1  teaspoon salt, divided 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 1 lemon, zested, then juiced 
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (about 16 ounces)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 bag mixed greens (about 5 ounces) 
  • 1 cucumber

Directions

  1. On a plate or shallow bowl combine the flour, half the salt, and half the pepper. Mix to combine.  
  2. One a separate plate, add the egg, and zest from one lemon. Mix until fairly beaten, without any streaks of white. 
  3. On a third plate, add the crushed crackers. (This is a three-step breading station.)
  4. Slice the chicken breast in half horizontally and season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Cover with an ample layer of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or the back of the sauté pan (that will be used for pan-searing the chicken breast) pound the chicken until it looks like it has doubled in size, but not thickness. Repeat this process for the other half of the chicken breast. Place them on a cutting board
  6. Place a large skillet on medium heat and add the olive oil. 
  7. Dredge one piece of the chicken in the flour, then egg, then crackers and place into the skillet. Repeat for the other chicken breast. Wash hands throughly after handling raw chicken.
  8. Cook the chicken in a single layer, so that neither breast is touching. Cook for 5 minutes per side, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165˚ F. Once cooked, transfer the chicken onto a paper towel lined plate. Cut the 2 cutlets in half to create 4 servings of chicken.
  9. Cut the cucumber and add it to a large bowl. For added appeal, peel the cucumber alternately then cut it in half half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and then cut horizontally into crescent shapes.
  10. Add the remaining salt, pepper, oil, and lemon juice and toss to combine. 
  11. Add the mixed greens to the bowl and toss to combine. Serve next to the chicken cutlets. 

Nutrition Information per Serving

  • Serving Size: ~ 4 ounces of chicken with a quarter of mixed greens bag
  • Calories: 320 calories
  • Total Fat: 14 grams
  • Sodium: 730 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 2 grams (Includes 0g Added Sugars)
  • Protein: 31 grams

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10 Unique Walking Destinations in North Carolina

Not all of our readers live in North Carolina, but I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorite walking destinations in NC. Most of these I have personally visited while some are on my bucket list. Hopefully sharing my list of favorites will spark you to find your favorites in North Carolina or in your home state. When researching, I found someone who said “ask 10 people what their favorite trails are in NC, and you’ll get 10 different answers.” This is so true! I challenge you to find parks and trails that cater to your interests. The important thing is that we keep moving! 

Western NC

  • Otter Falls, Seven Devils, NC: Want to see a beautiful NC waterfall without a strenuous mountain hike? Otter falls is just from the parking lot! In 2017, an observation deck was even built for easier viewing. 
  • Wildcat Falls, Canton, NC: Near Ashville and looking for an easy hike to a beautiful 60-foot waterfall? Wildcat falls is the trail for you! This trail, right of the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a 1.5-mile trail where you’ll encounter multiple cascades, a huge waterfall, and beautiful old bridges that were formally part of a road that passed through the area. 
  • Boone Greenway, Boone, NC: Greenways are wonderful because of their accessibility and versatility. Greenways can be found in many cities around the state. 

Central NC

  • Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail, Hillsborough, NC: Easily my favorite “day-to-day” train in NC.  Here you will walk the 1-mile oval loop that was previously the Orange County Speedway (active 1948-1968).  Along your walk, you will see antique stock racecars, the ones that once raced on this track. The old flag stand, grandstand, and concession stands are also still in their original place and offer quite the scenic walk. Now, this racetrack is grown up with tall, shady pine trees just beside the Eno River, making this a cool, flat, and easy walk.  Offshoots of this trail can connect you with the beautiful Eno State Park, Occoneechee mountain, and other walking trails in the area.
  • Neuse River Greenway, Raleigh (area), NC: Visit for a walk, jog, or bike ride and you will see beautiful overlooks of rivers, featuring artwork from local artists (including school-aged artwork), amazing bridges and tunnels, historical sites, and more. 
  • Clemmons Educational State Forest, Clayton, NC: My favorite “hiking” spot. This Park makes you feel like you might be in western NC with its beautiful and diverse terrain. The highlight of this park, especially for my little one, is the “talking trees” and “talking rocks” trails. These two trails will take you through a walk with buttons. Hit the button and you will hear about the history of the forest and about the rocks and trees that make up the landscape.

Eastern NC

  • Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, Seven Springs, NC: Whether fishing, hiking, camping, swimming, or kayaking are your thing, you’re going to love this park! Just outside of Goldsboro, NC, Cliffs of the Neuse is a park with loads of active living opportunities. The hiking trails are awesome and range from easy to difficult. The highlight of this park is the amazing cliffs overlooking the Neuse River. This view is well worth the drive if you are not local.
  • Fort Raleigh, Manteo, NC: Run by the National Parks Service, Fort Raleigh is home to the Lost Colony, this park is full of history and beautiful foliage. There are many trails in and around this park, many leading to small beaches that lend themselves perfectly to a picnic area where you can splash around or just relax. 
  • Fort Macon, Atlantic Beach, NC: You will get your steps in just exploring this fortress! Adventure slightly outside of the fort and you will find beautiful trails and beaches that are perfect for a morning walk or jog. 
  • Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach, NC: Have you ever seen a Venus flytrap? This is the park you go to see these unique, carnivorous plants! Miles of hiking trails, boat accesses, and campsites make this a must-see when in the Wilmington area. 

Many of the trails listed are easily assessable, some being handicap and wheelchair accessible. Be sure to research all trails and parks before visiting to get the scoop on amenities and accessibility. Remember that safety is always first and take family and/or friends when visiting a new place. Wear appropriate shoes and clothing and be careful on different types of terrain.

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More Reasons to NOT Skip Breakfasts

glass jar with overnight oats topped with apples seasoned with cinnamon

I don’t know about you, but the recent research around breakfast has been very confusing to me. Originally, it was considered to be the ‘most important meal of the day.’ Then the evidence around the importance of breakfast for overall health and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight became mixed as intermittent fasting started to show some promise as one approach to weight loss. Since most intermittent fasting (IF) schedules include only a short window of eating, such as the 16/8 method – only eating between 11 am and 7 pm or noon and 8 pm OR the 14/10 method – only eating between 10 am and 8 pm, IF eating patterns do not typically allow for breakfast.

As a breakfast lover, I experience the personal wins from starting each day with a healthy breakfast complete with a whole grain, protein, and fruit. A little coffee, too, never hurts. This breakfast fuels me with the energy to work out most mornings, walk my dog, get my kids out of the house, go to work and morning meetings, and successfully carries me through until lunchtime. I don’t know how I would function without it. Ok, maybe I would function, but would perhaps alienate my entire family and co-workers in the process.

This week, I was elated to see the recent article once again singing the praises of my beloved breakfast! Ok, perhaps, that is a slight exaggeration, but the article did say that skipping breakfast leads to nutrient deficiencies and overall lower diet quality. The article is in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

Key findings of the study showed:

  • Breakfast skippers consumed fewer vitamins and minerals compared to those who ate breakfast. The biggest differences were seen in consumption of folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D.
  • Breakfast-eaters consumed more calories/day; however, the lunch, dinner and snacks were larger among breakfast-skippers and were of a lower diet quality.
  • Nutrients missed by skipping breakfast among breakfast-skippers were not compensated for during lunch, dinner and snacks.

Additionally, here is a link for the press release.

HOORAY!  Another WIN for breakfast lovers!

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FootGolf

I was recently introduced to the game called FootGolf and it is a great physical activity that lets you hang with friends and spend an afternoon moving more! I have since learned it is much more official than just a game and is considered a sport. There is actually an American FootGolf Federation that was founded in 2011.

You are probably saying to yourself, what is FootGolf? Well, it is a sport that combines soccer and golf. The main goal is similar to the main goal of golf: to get the ball from the teeing ground into the hole in the least number of shots possible. 

FootGolf is primarily played on golf courses or courses very similar to traditional golf courses. The flags, tee markers, and ball markers are the same or similar to golf. The ball must be a #5 soccer ball. The size of the FootGolf Cups are between 50cm-52cm and are at least 28cm deep to accommodate the soccer ball. You can play with indoor or turf soccer shoes (regular sneakers are also fine), but your shoe requirements may differ by course. The scoring is similar to golf as each hole has an assigned par. 

FootGolf can be as fun or competitive as you want and would be a great family activity with older children. If you are lucky, there may be a free course in your area but it also appears that as the sport’s popularity has grown golf courses are also now offering FootGolf rounds for a small fee. Some courses are 18 holes while others are 9 holes. 

Basic Rules of FootGolf

*specific rules may depend on the course you are playing

  1. Review the scorecard and wait for your turn. Make sure your kick will not interfere with other players.
  2. Play the ball from where it lies.
  3. The ball must be played in a single movement: your foot should be set separate from the ball, clearly behind, before the kick.
  4. Wait to play until the ball has completely come to rest.
  5. The player farthest from the hole is the first to kick the ball.
  6. Kick off your ball from a position behind the tee markers. 
  7. Water Hazard: retrieve the ball and place it within 2 steps from the closest land point from where the ball entered the water.
  8. Cleaning the ball is only allowed between the holes, not during active play.

Locate a Course Near You: https://www.footgolfusa.org/courses or contact a local golf course and inquire about FootGolf courses. You may even want to try your local Parks & Recreation Department. 

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Ways to Stay Properly Hydrated

Active old man having a break during his jog routine outside.

As we are approaching the end of June and going deeper into the summer season, the temperature is rising and dehydration is knocking at the door. For those of us who still love to go outside to move more or simply just to enjoy the weather, it is crucial to replenish our bodies of lost fluids by drinking a lot of water. Well, don’t worry because there is a nationally recognized day for this too, and it is known as National Hydration Day!

National Hydration Day this year falls on June 23rd, 2021, and is aimed to, ultimately, keep your body safe and healthy through drinking plenty of water. No, National Hydration Day isn’t the only day that we should be drinking plenty of water, however, is a day to boost the awareness of hydration, as well as the medical conditions that come with dehydration. Believe it or not, our bodies are made up of about 60% of water and it is mostly stored in our vital organs such as the heart, brain, and lungs, helping prevent symptoms such as mood change, overheating, constipation, and kidney stones. 

A few tips and tricks to drinking more water and staying hydrated:

  • Drinking plain water is the #1 best way to replenish fluids as it contains 0 calories
  • Adding a lemon or lime wedge to your water may improve the taste of your water and may help you drink more than usual
  • While working in the heat, it is recommended to drink about 1 cup, or 8 ounces, of water every 15 – 20 minutes
  • By the time you feel dehydrated you are already behind in replenishing your fluids
  • Do not drink too much water! Drinking more than 48oz of water per hour can be harmful and cause a medical emergency
  • Replenishing after working in the heat is, if not just as important, then more important than replenishing while working in the heat
  • Giving yourself several hours to replenish your fluids will put less stress on your body fighting dehydration

With all of that being said, water is the absolute key to eating smart and moving more. For National Hydration Day, you can participate by spreading awareness to your family and/or friends and encouraging them to drink more water this summer! 

Information about healthy drinking water near you: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/index.html

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“This program helped me learn how to eat better…”

Quote from Susan

Below is a testimonial from an Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes participant:

I started Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes in July 2020. I had gained so much weight my clothes had gotten too small for me. I had to start buying new clothes in the beginning of 2020 so I could have something to wear. This program helped me learn how to eat better and what I should be eating to lose weight. I started trying different foods, especially vegetables, that I had never eaten before and learned that I liked them. I learned to plan my meals using healthy foods. Taking an inventory of all the food I had in the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator made this easier for me. To continue to lose weight and maintain it I know this is a lifestyle change. I now know what to do to continue with my progress. I have gained much knowledge through this program. Please continue this program.

– Susan, Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes participant

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“By making relatively simple changes to our diet and lifestyle, I was able to lose 10% of my initial body weight…”

“I’m walking more, my metabolism is better, and I lost inches from my waist.”

“I lost 28 lbs., reducing my BMI by more than 5 points…”

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10 Blogs for Summer

water melon

Healthy Summer Dessert – Yasso Frozen Yogurt

Healthy Bite-Sized Summer Dessert

Favorite Summertime Salad – Confetti Bean

In-Season Produce to Add to Your Shopping List this Summer

Food Safety for Summer Grilling

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