Add this to your “Honey dew” list

Study after study shows that people basically eat three pounds of food a day, regardless whether the food is high calorie or low calorie. Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a nutrition research at Pennsylvania State University, has conducted a ton of research on appetite and has found time and time again that people feel just as full after a low-calorie meal vs. a high-calorie meal, provided that both meals contain the same volume of food.  

So what does this mean? Foods with high volume and low calories are a dieter’s best friend. Watermelon, honeydew and soup all have one thing in common: they are full of water and fiber and low in calories. Basically, you will feel more full and satisfied from a cup of melon than a slice of cheesecake.

Honeydew is a great high volume food because about 90 percent of the melon is water.  Research shows that water in foods, such as melon and soup, do a better job of appetite control than solid food plus a glass of water, although no one knows why. The Volumetrics Diet explains this in more detail and is a great everyday diet solution.

Honeydew is not only great because it is low-calorie, it also is full of potassium, vitamin A, calcium and magnesium. One cup of honeydew has a whopping 404 mg of potassium! Potassium can lower rates of heart disease and stroke and is a key component of healthy blood pressure.  One study found that people with high blood pressure who ate potassium-rich foods lowered their risk of fatal stroke by 40 percent.

Honeydew and other melons are a great choice for keeping kids hydrated during the hot days of summer and satisfying the entire family’s appetite between meals.

Now that summer is approaching, melons, such as honeydew and watermelon are in season. So add honeydew to your “honey do” list and pick one up for your family.

I personally prefer to eat melon plain and I am not a fan of it in soup or smoothie’s, but I found a great recipe on Epicurious for a honeydew-lime Popsicle that I wanted to share with you. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Do you like honeydew? What do you think about the study that high-volume foods are the key to weight loss? I’d love to hear from you!

Honeydew Lime Popsicles


  • 1/4 cup superfine or regular granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (3 1/2-lb) ripe honeydew melon, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice


  • Dissolve sugar in water by stirring if using superfine or by heating in a small heavy saucepan if using regular granulated (then cool).
  • Blend half of melon and half of lime juice in a blender until smooth. Add syrup and remaining melon and lime juice and purée until smooth. Force purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart glass measure or bowl, pressing on solids and then discarding them.
  • Pour mixture into molds and freeze until slushy, about 2 hours.
  • Insert sticks, and then freeze Popsicles until completely hardened, at least 6 hours.

Black is the new brown

Black is the new brown. That is what I hear from all of the latest health research that shows that foods that are naturally black, dark blue and purple are full of antioxidants and are linked to a host of health benefits, from lowering cancer and heart disease risk to reducing inflammation.

Black rice, blackberries and black beans are just a few of these antioxidant rich foods that you can add to your diet.

Why are black foods so good for you? Because the same substance that gives these foods their dark hue, anthocyanins, also serves a critical role in preventing multiple health conditions.

The bran from black rice contains higher levels of vitamin E, which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Black rice is not commonly found, but you can find it in natural grocery stores, such as Earth Fare and Whole Foods.

Black beans contain bioflavonoids, which are potent in fighting cancer. They are also full of fiber, folate and iron.

Blackberries, which are coming into season right now, contain polyphenols which scrub cells that harm brain function. Blackberries are rich in vitamin C and manganese, which strengthens the immune system. Blackberries are also chockfull of fiber and low in calories. One cup of blackberries has only 75 calories, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat and 7.6 grams of fiber!

This weekend I decided to make a big pancake breakfast with my kids at the cooking helm. We made whole wheat pancakes with blackberries and bananas. I made their initials with the pancake batter and even made a few butterflies, teddy bears and Mickey Mouse. We made them on Sunday before church and it took so long to make them that we were running late, so we threw them in a ziplock bag and ate them as a picnic brunch at Riverwalk. Nothing says summer picnic like blackberry pancakes, right?

Try out the recipe and let me know what you think:

Whole-Wheat Blackberry Pancakes

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ½ cup Trader Joes strawberry keifer
  • 1 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 sliced banana


Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix well with a spoon until there are no more dry spots.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Spray non-fat cooking spray to lightly coat. Make the pancakes into letter shapes (spell backwards so it comes out correctly,) animals or other fun shapes. Drop the blackberries and/or banana slices on the pancakes while they are setting up. When the bubbles settle and the edges begin to set, flip the pancakes.


Chicken Cacciatore Made by a Cacciatore – Secret Family Recipe Lightened Up

Given that my last name is Cacciatore, you would think that Chicken Cacciatore would be part of our family’s regular repertoire of meals. However, traditional chicken cacciatore can be high in calories, especially when served over pasta, so I hadn’t prepared the beloved family recipe in years.

I bought fresh mushrooms at Trader Joes last weekend because they are one of the 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. I originally planned to make a mushroom pizza, but I realized I didn’t have all of the ingredients. I scanned my cookbooks and my dog-eared, worn and stained family cookbook and tripped upon our old family recipe for Chicken Cacciatore. I decided to lighten up our version and make it in the crock-pot instead of on the stove.

The mushrooms took the lead in this recipe, which had my kids skeptical. Mushrooms are odd if you think about it. They are a fungus and they grow on organic matter, such as decaying wood and cow patties. They’ve been used medicinally in Eastern medicine for years. Mushrooms are able to absorb and safely eliminate toxins. Cremini (white button mushrooms) are packed with nutrients. One 5-ounce serving has 50 percent of the Daily Value for the cancer fighting mineral selenium, 40 percent of the Daily Value for riboflavin, 35 percent of copper and 30 percent of niacin, 20 percent of panthothenic acid, phosphorus, zinc and 10 percent of manganese and thiamin. Also, a new study in The Journal of Nutrition just found that cremini mushrooms reduce the severity of collagen-induced arthritis. That is just among many of the the health benefits of mushrooms which include:

  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Protect against breast and prostate cancer
  • Protect against infections with their natural antibiotics
  • Boost immunity
  • Contribute to weight loss
  • Relieve arthritis

I was surprised when I read research that proved mushrooms can contribute towards weight loss because of their antioxidant L-ergothioneine. L-ergothioneine.acts as a metabolic energy enhancer and stimulates the breakdown of sugar in red blood cells and transports fat into the mitochondria of the cells where the fat can be burned for energy. This amazing transformation is exactly what those expensive weight loss pills promise to do, but don’t deliver.

My Chicken Cacciatore recipe is a great example of a traditional favorite made even better with healthier ingredients, quicker prep time and easier preparation for the busy working mom. This recipe only took me minutes to throw together in the crock-pot before work and my family has begged me to start making this every week. This recipe is also great for sneaking veggies in your diet. There are three servings of vegetables in this recipe; tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms. Quick, easy, healthy and perfect for the busy family on the go – You can’t ask for more! Try out the recipe and let me know what you think.

Cacciatore Family Chicken Cacciatore


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup Trader Joes triple pepper mix
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • Whole Wheat Penne Pasta


  • Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the Crockpot and sprinkle with salt and pepper,
  • Mix the tomato sauce, tomato paste and chicken broth together. Add the 2 cups of mushrooms, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and pepper strips. Pour tomato sauce mixture over the chicken breasts.
  • Cook on low in the Crockpot for 7-8 hours
  • Right before serving, cook whole wheat penne until al dente.
  • Serve chicken and sauce over penne and grate a bit of parmesan cheese on top.

Chunky Caramel-Apple Pumpkin Spice Dip and the Health Benefits of Cloves

This is for all of my friends who asked for this Chunky Caramel-Apple Pumpkin Spice Dip recipe after I posted on Facebook last night. I made one mistake on my Facebook post though – this dip doesn’t have 80 calories a serving, it only has 52 calories a serving! This pumpkin apple spice dip is the BEST dip I’ve ever made. It’s so good that it doesn’t even need to be eaten as a dip, you can just eat it by the spoonful, which I have to admit, I did.

We had friends over last night while we watched the Steelers playoff game and I made this amazing dip as an appetizer. I liked it so much, that when my husband brought out the Apple Brown Betty pie that he bought from Fresh Market, I opted for a spoonful of this dip instead.

Did I mention that not only does this dip taste amazing, but it is chockfull of good-for-you ingredients, including apples, pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves? All for only has 52 calories a serving. I have to give Hungry Girl credit for this amazing recipe. If you haven’t heard of Hungry Girl, go to and sign up for her newsletter – she has the most amazing healthy versions of typically calorie-laden foods.

I want to share the recipe with you, but first I wanted to talk a little about the health benefits of cloves. Cloves made the top 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth list for their medicinal properties. Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. They resemble little nails and their name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail. Cloves have been consumed in Asia for more than 2,000 years. Back in 200 BC Chinese men would keep cloves in their mouths to keep their breath fresh when courting women. In Asian medicine cloves are thought to be among the spices that promote energy circulation and increase in metabolic rate.

Cloves are best known for their antiseptic and anesthetic properties. The next time you have a toothache try putting a little dab of clove oil on your gums. The pain dissipates almost immediately and clove oil works better than any over-the-counter product I’ve found. You will also notice clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.

Cloves contain significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which is known to help kill bacteria and viruses. Eugenol is also an anti-inflammatory and contains a variety of flavonoids, kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also contribute to cloves’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Cloves are also an excellent source of manganese, fiber, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.

So when you eat this dip you’ll know that you are not only getting the amazing antioxidant power of apples, the potassium and fiber punch from pumpkin, blood sugar stabilizing cinnamon, but also the metabolic boost of cloves. All of that in a Super bowl party snack? Try out this recipe and please post back on this blog and let me know what you think. I can’t wait to hear if you love it as much as I do!

Chunky Caramel-Apple Pumpkin Spice Dip (recipe from Hungry Girl 200 under 200 cookbook)


  • One 8-ounce container fat-free cool whip
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 1 small box sugar-free fat-free instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups chopped apples
  • 1 tablespoon Splenda
  • 2 teaspoons fat-free caramel dip
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves


  1. Place apples in bowl with ¼ cup water. Microwave for 2 minutes. When cool enough to handle, drain water.
  2. Place ½ cup cold water in small saucepan. Add Splenda, cornstarch, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Bring saucepan to medium-high heat, and then add caramel dip. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick, hot and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Then add apples and stir until mixed. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and cloves and remaining vanilla extract into the fat-free cool whip.
  5. In a large bowl, combine sugar-free, fat-free vanilla pudding with the pumpkin and stir well. Fold in the cool whip until completely blended. Refrigerate.
  6. Once the caramel apples are cold, stir them into the pumpkin mixture.
  7. Serve with sliced apples or cinnamon rice cakes.

Southern New Year's: Collard Greens & Black Eyed Peas

New Year’s Day in the south isn’t complete without black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread. We have a tradition in our family to eat black eyed peas to bring luck in the new year and collard greens to bring money. I typically am not a fan of this cruciferous vegetable, but I eat it at least once a year.

We had a New Year’s Day celebration, combining the best of the northern and southern traditions, with a menu of kielbasa, sauerkraut, pork chops, collard greens, black eyed peas and corn bread.

Collard greens are pure “soul food” and have been a staple of Southern cooking for years. Collards are a cross between cabbage and kale and are loaded with valuable cancer-fighting phyotochemicals.

Just like spinach, collards are loaded with calcium. One cup of collards provides as much calcium as in 8 ounces of milk and a whopping 5 grams of fiber. This nutritional powerhouse is also loaded with magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, A and K. You can get all of these vitamins, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are key nutrients for eye health, for a measly 49 calories per cup. Talk about getting the most bang for your buck! Speaking of buck, collard greens are also very inexpensive, especially when purchased fresh. Just make sure you clean them thoroughly before cooking.

I wish I had a great recipe I could share for collard greens, but sadly we just make them the easy way: from the can. It provides just as many key nutrients, but without the fuss. I wish you a very Happy New Year! May 2011 bring you luck, love and all of your heart’s desires.

I can’t believe that I started the 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth blog one year ago today. I’m looking forward to sharing more healthy foods, recipes and tips in 2011. I hope you stay with me in my journey to healthier eating in 2011. I’d love to hear from you. What would you like to see on this blog in 2011? Anything you want me to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Are Fries Healthy?

I was thrilled when Hungry Girl released her first cookbook with tons of butternut squash recipes. My favorite is the butternut squash fries. Yum! My kids don’t like butternut squash, but they LOVE butternut squash fries. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t fooled into thinking they are “French fries,” but any recipe that gets my kids eating a new vegetable is a winner in my eyes. Butternut squash fries are simple to make. Just peel and cut the butternut squash into strips, coat with non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Squash is on the list as one of the 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. One of my favorite vegetables is butternut squash. It brings back memories of my Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, as she would make it every year, alongside the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. I carry on the same tradition, but my family doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the bright orange vegetable. At press time, I’m the only one that enjoys the veggie (more for me!) but that doesn’t stop me from trying!

I am a runner, training for my first marathon at Disney World in January 2011, so I try to eat a diet high in potassium to keep running cramps at bay. So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that acorn squash is a potassium powerhouse. Did you know that one cup of acorn squash has almost twice the amount of potassium as a banana, topping the charts with 896 milligrams? Compare this to 451 grams of potassium in one banana or 348 grams in one cup of milk and you will see why these stats are so impressive. Potassium isn’t only for runners though, it is a crucial mineral for preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis and cancer.

Acorn squash is also a fiber heavy-weight, proving a whopping nine grams in every cup, with only 115 calories. I’ve blogged previously about my enthusiasm for fiber as a weight loss tool, but I’ll say it again, I think that increased fiber intake is one of the most important factors in keeping hunger at bay and keeping weight off. Not only does a high-fiber diet contribute to weight loss, but it also can lower the risk of developing many diseases, including: heart disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney stones.

Speaking of weight loss, squash is an excellent food choice for dieters because it has high water content. Dr.  Barbara Rolls at Pennsylvania State University conducted research that showed foods that are “high-volume,” meaning that they have a lot of bulk for little calories, are integral for a successful weight loss program. I blogged about the benefits of the Volumetrics diet in a previous post and I am a huge proponent of high-volume foods for weight loss. I love to eat, so I’m a huge fan of any food that allows me to eat a lot for little calories (popcorn, squash, watermelon and soup.)

Butternut squash is a vitamin A superstar, proving an astonishing 22,868 IUs per cup! Vitamin A is crucial in eye health, especially helping with night vision. I read an interesting study recently about the health benefits of Vitamin A and beta-carotene (in which is butternut squash is also high.) This study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology, Volume 45, Issue 10, pages 2201-2007, October 2010, evaluated the bioaccessibility of vitamin A and beta-carotene in cooking of yellow-orange vegetables. This study actually found that stir-frying in the presence of a small quantity of oil, brought an enormous increase in the bioaccessibility of beta-carotene and vitamin A. This is most likely due to the fact that fats, such as oil, help the body better absorb vitamins and minerals. This presents an interesting new concept that fats are not evil. The next time you prepare winter squash or sweet potatoes, think about cooking them with a little olive oil to increase your body’s absorption of the vitamins and minerals.

I want to hear what you think – how do you feel about this new study that finds cooking oil increases the bioaccessibility of vitamin A in yellow-orange vegetables? Will this new research change the way you prepare your foods?

Try out this recipe to reap the health benefits of squash and reap the benefits found from this new study.

Butternut Squash Stir-fry


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup asparagus
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds


Combine lemon juice and honey, set aside. Heat coconut oil on high in a skillet or wok. Sautee garlic for a few minutes and then add squash. Add asparagus and stir-fry for three minutes. Remove from heat and toss with honey mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Day 32: All Hail the Kale

I thought that kale was just that annoying green fluffy stuff that restaurants put on the side of your plate to “decorate” it. Boy was I wrong.

Do you remember the ORAC scale that I blogged about on Day 12 when I wrote about the health benefits of blueberries? Well, in case you don’t remember I’ll provide a little refresher…..the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale is the test used by the USDA and others to determine the antioxidant level of fruits and vegetables. Blueberries ranked #1 in the fruit category and kale ranked #1 in the vegetable category! Shocked again! I always thought that raspberries had the highest antioxidant level of any fruit and I assumed that spinach was the top vegetable (for some reason I always think of spinach as the healthiest vegetable. Maybe because of PopEye?) Kale received an ORAC rating of 1770, with spinach coming in second at 1260.

Kale is actually a relative of cabbage and contains powerful phytochemicals and cancer-fighting indoles, which are plant compounds that have been found to protect against breast, cervical and colon cancer. Kale is also high in sulforaphane, which I also blogged about in my post on broccoli on day 27 , which is great for removing free radicals and other chemicals that may cause cancer. A recent study in Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer proliferation.

Additionally, kale contains phytonutrients that actually signal our genes to produce enzymes to detox our cells, eliminating harmful compounds. A study of Chinese women in Singapore, a city in which air pollution levels are often high putting stress on the detoxification capacity of residents’ lungs, found that in non-smokers, eating cruciferous vegetables lowered risk of lung cancer by 30%. In smokers, regular cruciferous vegetable consumption reduced lung cancer risk an amazing 69%!

Kale is also great for the eyes, as it contains two very important vision nutrients: Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A. One cup provides 192.4% of your Daily Value for Vitamin A and seven times the amount of beta-carotene as broccoli! Added bonus, 2 cups of kale has 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and only 66 calories.

So, how did I prepare my kale? A salad? Raw? Sautéed? Boiled? Nah, I didn’t go the traditional route, I made something absolutely amazing that you guys would never even believe could be done or taste good…..I made kale chips.

Yeah, you heard me right. I made kale chips, which is just like it sounds, crispy, salty, crunchy chips made with kale leaves. The best part: It was super easy and my three-year-old begged me for more!


  • 1 bunch of fresh kale
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • oregano or italian seasoning
  • olive oil


If you would have told me a month ago that my daughter or I would enjoy eating kale, I wouldn’t believe you! I wasn’t even going to offer it to her because I thought she wouldn’t eat it, but she saw it come out of the oven and then asked me to try it. She not only ate the one I gave her, but she asked for another. My son, on the other hand, did not enjoy it. This challenge has taught me that you never know what you (or you kids) will like unless you try it. I have tried so many new foods in this first 31 days and I have been pleasantly surprised more than once.

Have you ever eaten kale? Have you ever been surprised by liking a food that you never thought you would like? Please share!