Peggy, Week 3: Shaking Up My Shopping List

Armed with my shopping list and my coupons, my weekly trip to the supermarket is all about three things:

  • getting in
  • getting out
  • and occasionally, getting a great deal by combining a coupon with a special sale.
kiwi berries

photo via

I have never lingered in the produce aisle to check out fruits or vegetables I have not previously tried. I simply gravitate to the bananas, grapes and apples—with perhaps a brief glance at a product I don’t really recognize. On an adventurous day, I might grab a different type of apple, such as a gala or rome instead of red delicious. But I never would have glanced at sunflower chokes; let alone bring them home to try. (Just so you know, sunflower chokes came in the weekly produce package we get from Melissa’s Produce as part of the Healthy Family Challenge. You cook them as you would a potato).

Some of my family’s favorite arrivals from Melissa’s include:

Kiwi berries. They are the size of grapes and do not have a fuzzy skin. You simply rinse them off and eat them. They are bite sized and a great snack after a long day. Amanda loves them.

Pomegranate seeds. These seeds are both sweet and sour at the same time! Put a teaspoon in a salad for a great burst of flavor. They also make a good snack when you want to eat sweets! The seeds arrived vacuum sealed and separated from the pomegranate, making them a very convenient. Although I never noticed them before, I now realize they’re in my local supermarket. )

Baby cucumbers. They’re just the right size for a single salad. All you have to do is rinse and slice.

Mini sweet peppers. They add a little fun color to any dish you would use peppers in.

So, linger a few minutes in the produce aisle, and pick out one new thing this week for your family that is a little more adventurous than a different type of apple. Leave a comment and let me know what you’re going to try!

Have You Done A Plate Check Lately?

Portion sizes

Stephanie Karpinske, R.D. is the Lehman family’s nutrition coach for the Healthy Family Challenge.

You always hear that you should eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But what’s a serving? Five baby carrots? Half a banana? Serving sizes can be confusing because they vary for different fruits and vegetables. So rather than trying to figure out how much lettuce equals a serving or how many grapes fill a cup, simply do a quick “plate check.”

Before you start a meal, review what’s on your plate. Half of it should contain fruits and veggies. If it doesn’t, you need to make some adjustments. I asked the Lehmans to do the “plate check” at every meal as a reminder to eat more fruits and vegetables. If their plate was mostly meat and grains, they could see that they needed to add more fruits and veggies to their meals. If they had vegetables at a meal but no fruit, they knew to include fruit as a snack later in the day.

The “half-plate” rule is easy to remember so it’s great for kids. It’s also helpful when you’re eating out. For instance, if you have a choice of sides and you’re thinking of the “half-plate” rule, you may decide to order a vegetable side dish or a salad instead of rice, pasta, or bread.

Give the “plate check” a try. And if you want to see a visual for how to divide your plate, go to

What’s the usual make-up of your plates? Post a comment and let me know!

Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.

Your Top 3 Fruit and Veggie Mistakes

Sometimes you have the best intentions, but end up getting the worst results. Take eating more healthy, for example. Ever gave up dessert only to find yourself eating more dinner and not losing weight? Eating more fruits and veggies is a great idea, but sometimes how we do it takes away from the health benefit. To help you maximize your results, we spoke to Miki Hackney, corporate chef at Melissa’s Produce.  Watch out for these healthy food slip-ups she pointed out.

Mistake #1: Cooking Veggies Too Long
“The longer you cook them, the fewer nutrients you’ll get,” explains Chef Miki, who warns that the veggies keep cooking even after you’ve turned off the heat. She says most people over-bake and over-stirfry because they prefer soft vegetables. But if you want more vitamins and minerals from your food, work on developing a palate for crisper produce.

Mistake #2: Drowning Your Salad
Fess up. How much French, Ranch or Caesar dressing are you pouring on your greens? Probably too much. “You only need an ounce of dressing for a side salad, but most people put on at least ¼ cup,” reveals Chef Miki. That means at a minimum you’re drizzling double the amount of calories and fat, which can get pretty high. “Dressing is supposed to enhance the flavor of the salad, not take it over,” says Chef Miki. Aim for that and you’ll pour out less.

Mistake #3: Letting It Go To Waste
Instead of tossing out rotten strawberries or blueberries, freeze your extra fresh fruit before it goes bad. Just wash and slice it first before you put it on ice. “It will lose some of its nutrient value and texture,” admits Chef Miki. But it’s better than letting fruits and veggies end up in the trash.

What fruit and veggie mistakes are you guilty of? Post a comment and fess up here!

In addition to sending our Healthy Family Challenge teams weekly bundles of new fruits and vegetables to try, Melissa’s Produce offered up corporate chef Miki Hackney as an advisor to our families.

Challenge Yourself: Make a Healthy, Hearty Salad


Every day, Peggy has been concocting new recipes from her fruits and veggies. In her most recent post, she mentioned a delicious salad she threw together: lettuce, pomegranates, feta cheese, baby cucumber and black cherry tomatoes with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

You, too, can make healthy, hearty salads in minutes. Start with a bed of greens, then add lots of fruits and veggies. Top with a lean protein (like chicken, tune or egg whites). Then add a small amount of light dressing, or just a little oil and vinegar.

Need inspiration? Check out our recipes here:

30 Simple, Scrumptious Salads

7 Main-Dish Salads

7 Healthy Salads

What’s your favorite healthy salad recipe? Share in the comments below.

Peggy, Week 2: Creating Healthy New Recipes

Today I packed a healthy lunch: a salad with lettuce, pomegranates, feta cheese, baby cucumber and black cherry tomatoes with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Dinner will have a new twist as well. I’m thinking soup: homemade chicken and vegetable soup (since I have leftover rotisserie chicken, carrots, corn, onion and these little baby potatoes). This is so easy I left the recipe for my daughter, Amanda, to make, since I will be working late.

Melissa’s sent us baby coconuts and a recipe for coconut rice. You use the coconut water in place of regular water to make Basmati or Jasmine rice.  There is an average of 12-16 ounces (1 3/4 to 2 cups) of liquid per coconut. This sounds like it might be good with pineapple, pepper, onion and chicken or shrimp BBQ skewers, so I may try it later this week.

The only way to discover if you like something new is to try it. Leave me a comment and tell me about something new you tried this week.