This is the first article in a series that highlights many of the nutritional powerhouse ingredients that we like to include in our EatLove menus.
“I know they are good for me, but what exactly is an avocado? Is it a fruit? Is it a fat? How much is too much? Why are they so popular? I see them everywhere nowadays, but are they really that nutritious or just a trend? Do I need to buy them organic? How do I prevent half of my uneaten avocado from turning brown?”
These are some of the most frequently asked questions about this delicious and versatile superfood. Avocados are a rich, buttery food that can be technically classified as a fruit, but because they contain minimal carbohydrates and are comprised of predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids, nutritionists will classify them in the “fat” group. Genetically speaking, they belong to the Lauraceae family and are related to cinnamon and bay leaves.
Though they are best known as the star of guacamole, avocados have many more uses.
Avocados are a great addition to any sandwich; try it with turkey or on your favorite burger.
You can even try tossing them into a smoothie for an added flavor boost and creamy texture!
Did you know that…?
Avocados are native to Central and South America.
They are sometimes called “Alligator Pears” because of their shape and texture.
One tree can produce about 500 avocados.
In the US, September 16th is National Guacamole Day!
It depends on where you live. In California, avocados are in season between January-March and June-July.
Avocados do not need to be purchased organic, although they are available.
Look for avocados that give in to gentle pressure to ensure they are ripe. If you purchase unripe avocados and plan to use them later, leave them at room temperature for a few days.
If you are pressed for time and need to speed up the ripening process, place avocados in a brown paper bag. Voilà!
Ripe avocados should be placed in the refrigerator, preferably whole, until use.
If you are storing an already cut avocado, store the side with the pit in, and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent oxidation (this keeps the avocado from turning brown). Then cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Paul, R., P. Kulkarni, and N. Ganesh. “Avocado Fruit (Persea Americana Mill) Exhibits Chemo-protective Potentiality against Cyclophosphamide Induced Genotoxicity in Human Lymphocyte Culture.” Journal of Experimental Therapeutics & Oncology9.3 (2011): 221-30.
Rainey, Charlene, and Mark Affleck. “The California Avocado.” Nutrition Today 29.3 (1994):23.
R.E. Martinez Munoz, et al. “Folates and Persea Americana Mill. (Avocado).” Emirates Journal of Food & Agriculture 23.3 (2011):204-213.
Steven M. D’Ambrosio, et al. “Chemopreventive Characteristics of Avocado Fruit.”Seminars in Cancer Biology 17.5 (2007):386-394.
We’re on a 15-city tour to discover what people’s EatLove is – the perfect moment of food, family, and friends. So far, we’ve visited 7 cities and learned so much about how people interact with food, what dinner-table happiness means to them, and tips to make more time for home cooked meals. EatLove is a trusted source for personalized, well-balanced meal plans built for families with optimal health, efficiency, nutrition, and affordability in mind.
Key features that make EatLove different to current meal planning solutions:
Our meal plans are dietitian-approved to meet specific health needs
Our patented-technology incorporates efficiency so that every ingredient counts
We provide smart grocery list, advance prep schedule, and daily reminders
For more information about EatLove, check out our press kit.
Here are a few highlights along the way:
First stop, LA. Hope Wintner and Ted Meisel hosted our kickoff in their beautiful home. Allen Blue, co-founder of LinkedIn and one of our investors, was also available to join in on the fun. We talked about how people never did live demos, but we killed it. We learned a lot about what people expected and how we can add features to fit everyone’s needs.
We were also able to attend IACP 2016 (International Association of Culinary Professionals) to support our content partner Shauna James Ahern, popularly known online as Gluten-Free Girl. She spoke on the panel “What Teaching Cooking Looks Like Now” and was a 2016 IACP Cookbook Awards finalist for her cookbook Gluten-Free Girl American Classics Reinvented. While in Los Angeles, we had the opportunity to sit with Nicki Sizemore, another EatLove partner, and Shauna to talk about how they make cooking fun at home.
Shauna said, “Simple is the best. The faster the dinner is on the table, the more time there is for dance parties!” Nicki said, “We all have the same goals. To eat together with our families and to have fun doing it.”
West of the Loop‘s Emily Paster, EatLove content partner, was also at IACP 2016! We got a chance to enjoy the wonderful lunch exhibition while we discussed her new initiatives and how EatLove can help with those goals.
In Lewiston at the Atrium Bates Mill, we hosted a demo that brought together professionals from the health and wellness industry. An attendee said, “There is no harder working group of folks who love their community. We are at the tipping point of a renaissance and having folks bring very hip, modern things here is vital.”
In Boston, we had a conversation with Alexandra Drane, Founder and Chair of the Board of Eliza Corporation, and Lynn Barendsen, Executive Director of The Family Dinner Project, about the importance of family dinners and how to prepare them in the least stressful way. Alexandra Drane said, “Radical transparency is the best communication. Tell your family why it’s important to eat together as a family.”
The predominant reason people stated for not having as many sit-down dinners as they’d like to was, stress. The stress of thinking about what to make when your family members have different diets and preferences, the stress of grocery shopping, the stress of spending hours preparing meals to only have your family reject what you made, and so on.In New York, we had a discussion with Julie Morgenstern and Leanne Brown about how planning your time and budget for a well-balanced meal can reduce your stress. Julie Morgenstern, Oprah’s time management guru, taught us that when we don’t plan in advance, we are doing and deciding at the same time which is mentally hard on us. She says that EatLove helps you delineate between the two and brings people to the dinner table without the stress.In order to enjoy cooking and mealtime, we need a delineation from work and home. Leanne Brown, NYT bestseller of Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, said that “When cooking and cleaning falls on one person, it becomes a chore. When it’s everyone’s responsibility, it can be fun.”
We also had a Vitamix giveaway at our NYC event! When asked what she is most excited to make with it, our winner said, “I love smoothies. I can get my vegetables and fruits in the morning, but I’m really looking forward to making more soups so they can be more of a meal.” Thank you Vitamix for sponsoring us and being such a supportive partner.
While in New York, we strolled around Central Park asking people what their EatLove is. This couple said, “My EatLove is when I have my family surrounding a nice table with a huge spread prepared. I want to enjoy and savor every moment.” Just because people come from a particular country, doesn’t mean they always want to eat the local flavors. A couple visiting from Mumbai said that some of their favorite cuisines are Mexican and Lebanese. Stay tuned for our video that includes all of our interviews!
At Temple University, we had an eye-opening conversation with registered dietitians about the tools that are currently available to them We found that across all cities, they need tools that provide accurate nutrition data, allow them to build meal plans efficiently, and offer options for any kind of diets and restrictions. Many dietitians in Philadelphia noted that building plans for their patients or clients is often a tedious process done by hand.
Great Expectations Together is an inclusive community in a charming town in Pennsylvania called Narberth. They create an open space and offer numerous programs that fosters social inclusion of people with disabilities and their families, friends and loved ones. We had a discussion with mothers about the challenges they face in their homes to have more sit-down dinners. The stress of being a short order cook for their families made mealtime nearly impossible. They worried about catering to all of their family members needs and could not enjoy food together. EatLove focuses on personalization so that every meal plan fits their families and they can reclaim sit-down dinners.
Anyone who works at a startup must be open to and inviting of feedback. Our dinner demo in Baltimore was insightful because we met with an insightful and diverse group of people in different industries of the food world. These attendees included a registered dietitian, a user with celiac, a public health worker who promotes healthy lifestyle behaviors, and a software engineer. They brought up ideas about how to reach those with allergies and other specific dietary communities with few resources. EatLove is currently building meal plans that are free of what FDA identifies as the most common allergenic foods, the Big 8: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.
In Washington DC, we met with a powerful group of women in public policy, health and wellness, and medical fields, to discuss how EatLove can be integrated in different facets to help achieve targeted goals. A helpful resource that was brought up by a few of the attendees is Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Ellyn says that, “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” EatLove helps families enjoy mealtime again while reassuring them they are cooking and eating simple, nutritious meals.
Meal planning automatically makes you feel like a champ. You’re getting yourself and your family set up for the week. Wahoo! It’s the best well-kept secret among those people that love to eat good food but don’t have a whole lot of time. Ever notice how no one really talks about their meal planning? Sure, you’ll see a pretty Instagram photo of your friend’s meal, but not their beloved weekly plan. Meal planning is so beneficial, but does require some thought upfront. Check out our previous blog post on how to “Set Yourself Up for Success in the Kitchen,” to make sure you have the essentials to get started.
2. Save $$
It’s not rocket science. Dining out and ordering take out cost more than home-cooked meals. As a registered dietitian, I often hear the complaint that “healthy food is too expensive.” There’s no denying that some produce prices can seem daunting, but there are some ways around that. Take one of Leanne Brown’s Good + Cheap meal plans for a spin, and feel good about your dinners and your budget. Did I mention that most of our meals on EatLove cost less than $4 per serving? Time to get a bigger piggy bank.
3. Cut down on food waste
This goes along with #2, saving money. Let’s talk scary stats for a second. The average American family throws away $2,200 a year in food waste (1). I could think of a lot of fun things I could do with $2,200 instead of throwing it down the drain. Be right back, Hawaii is calling my name… Luckily, our plans are optimized to make every ingredient count. If you plan your meals strategically, you’ll use up all your produce and avoid that feeling of guilt when you find that container of berries rotting in the back corner of the fridge. Oops.
4. Less stress
Stressed about lack of time to prepare a delicious and nutritious meal that the whole family will enjoy? Stressed about how much your grocery bill will cost? Stressed that you need to accommodate your son with a food allergy AND your daughter who is a vegetarian? Put the stress aside and accommodate all those needs by updating your taste profile here.
5. Grocery shopping won’t be so overwhelming
I’m going to level with you here: the last place I want to be on a Sunday night is a crowded grocery store. I’ll admit it, I don’t love grocery shopping. I barely even like shopping for clothes. That said, grocery shopping is a whole lot more bearable – dare I say – even enjoyable – when you have a clear list and can zip through the aisles like a pro. Be sure to bring your EatLove grocery list via printout or on your smart phone.
6. Figuring out what to eat after work on the fly is mentally draining
Save brain power and breathe a sigh of relief when you realize you’ve already got dinner covered tonight. And the next night. And the one after that.
7. You’ll have a more balanced diet
When we throw things together last minute, or don’t have anything in the fridge, it’s likely going to be less nutritious and well-rounded than a carefully well-thought-out meal. As Errick Mcadams said, “If you keep good food in your fridge, you’ll eat good food.” Just ask any college student who’s survived on pasta for weeks at a time. Our meal plans will also tally up the amounts of fruit and vegetable servings, so you can easily meet your nutrition goals.
8. Look forward to your leftovers
No more sad tacos or boring sandwiches here. Our plans will calculate how many servings of leftovers you’ll have depending on your family size.
9. Spend more time with family and friends
Okay, so maybe you need to put in a little bit of time to plan your meals one day per week, but it will pay off in the long run. According to the USDA, Americans spend 33 minutes in food preparation on an average day (2). However, many working mothers prefer to spend less than 15 minutes to prepare a meal (3). Imagine the time saved each week if each meal took less than 15 minutes to prep? Woah. Instead of struggling in the kitchen, you’d be free to watch your teen star in their soccer game or help your eight-year-old with their homework. With our easy all-in-one weekly prep schedule, you’ll not only save time, but your kids will also learn skills to last a lifetime. Interested? Get started today with this meal plan from Garlic + Zest. Average prep time: only 15 minutes.
10. Your future-self will thank your past-self
Have you ever completed a project that took a little time up front, but afterwards thought to yourself, “Thank goodness I did that, my life is so much easier now!” You’re welcome, future-self. Though we typically have efficiency tools to help us be more productive at work, we don’t necessarily use them at home. In addition to helping you choose your meals for the week, EatLove offers a simple weekly prep schedule so you can plow through a list of slicing, dicing, and chopping ahead of time on Sunday.
Did I convince you to embrace meal planning yet? I hope so. Drop me a line on Twitter to let me know what YOU cherish most about meal planning.
Love the idea, but not sure where to start? Luckily, we’ve got you covered there too. Happy planning!
Did my last post convince you to start meal planning? Did I ignite a fire in you to get back in the kitchen? Are you brimming with confidence and motivation to cook up your new recipes this week? If so, congratulations!
On the other hand…
If you’re excited, but also somewhat skeptical of your own cooking skills – never fear, we’ve got you covered there, too. Being a new cook in the kitchen can be a fun, yet daunting experience. It’s hard to always feel confident when your foodie friend just “whipped up” yet another gorgeous plate. “It was so easy, all I did was buy 40 ingredients for this one dish and spent all afternoon in the kitchen!” After one too many “Pinterest fails,” burnt popcorn, and Easy Mac microwave explosions (hypothetically, of course), it can be easy to doubt yourself. Luckily, you don’t need to be a “top chef” to cook a nice meal for you and your family.
Anyone can learn to cook. I firmly believe that.
On a personal note, less than 8 years ago, I didn’t even know how to cook chicken in the oven. When it came to group dinners, I was tasked with mincing garlic and onions. That’s it. My more “advanced” chef friends took care of everything else. Flash forward 1 year ahead, and I was spending my summer teaching children ages 8-13 how to cook. (Disclaimer: they might be better garlic mincers than me.) Flash forward again, 3 years later, and I’m leading cooking demos for over a hundred people. I’ve come a long way from mincing garlic and onions.
If you consider yourself to be a novice-level cook, we’ve put together some quick & easy plans to get you started.
This plan is easy enough to put together during the week. Average hands-on prep time is 20 minutes per recipe. This meal plan has a short grocery list too – only 9 fresh ingredients needed. Added bonus: Get over six servings of vegetables with this day’s plan. Wowza!
This is the first of many articles part of the Getting Started series designed to help you find the joy in food and nourish your family in a way that works for you in 2016.
Above all, food should bring you joy. Nourishing your family shouldn’t be a chore, it should fit seamlessly into your lifestyle. However, many life barriers tend to get in the way. With meal planning taken care of, prep schedule organized, and total cook time managed, you would actually be free to spend that extra time with the people that matter most.
With the fresh start of a new year, perhaps you’ve resolved to cook more meals at home, spend more time with your family, or simply eat a more balanced diet. It can be a daunting task, but there are a few simple ways to get started so that you can set yourself up for success. It all starts in the kitchen.
First, toss out what you don’t need (e.g. mismatched Tupperware) or any items that have expired. Next, group objects by purpose and assign them to specific cabinets (e.g. a cabinet dedicated to bakeware or cutting boards).
Make room for a clear prep space. Even if you live in a tiny city apartment, make enough room for a cutting board. If your kitchen lacks counter space, consider a rolling island. They save space and are great for holding appetizer platters during dinner parties.
Every few weeks, go through your inventory to keep on top of your pantry and equipment staples.
Take Inventory of Your Pantry
There are numerous healthy pantry staples that you’ll want to stock up on. For now, we’ll review some of the basics to get you set up, but stay tuned for a future blog post elaborating on these staples.
Let’s start with the grains.The Dietary Guidelines recommends that we “make half our grains whole.” This means that out of all the grains you eat in a day, at least half should be considered “whole grains” vs. processed or refined grains. These recipes from EatLove are a great way to add more tasty whole grains to your family meals.For starters, make sure to have whole grain pasta, brown/wild rice, quinoa, and oats in your pantry. For baking, you’ll also want to include whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour (or gluten-free if needed).
Another important pantry section would be our canned and dried goods. Canned or dried beans are an inexpensive nutritional powerhouse and extremely versatile. Canned tuna or salmon make for a great pantry protein. Canned tomatoes can be tossed into soups and stews and dried fruit (e.g. raisins, prunes) can make for a quick snack.
Our pantry wouldn’t be complete without our cooking oils or spices. Stock up on heart-healthy oils such as canola oil or extra virgin olive oil. Spices will vary per each family’s taste preferences, but some common ones may include dried basil, oregano, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and of course, salt and pepper.
Other miscellaneous pantry items may include honey, maple syrup, peanut butter, nuts, breadcrumbs or panko, mustard, vinegar, and low sodium soy sauce.
Once you feel your pantry is fully equipped, organize your pantry shelves as you would a library, with food items grouped by category.
Clean Out Your Fridge
Have you heard about choice architecture? Many workplace wellness cafeterias will use this nifty design to nudge you to make a healthy choice. For instance, when you grab a cold beverage from the case, you may see water and other low calorie beverages at eye level. Whereas the soda and juices may be placed further below. Without even realizing it, you may be more inclined to grab the water.
Apply this concept to your fridge, and plan to keep fresh produce front and center, and less healthy options below, to gently nudge your family to make better choices.
Don’t Forget About the Freezer
Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh, and can come in handy when you need to whip up a healthy meal in a pinch. Stock up on frozen fruit (e.g. berries), frozen vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach, corn, peas), and even frozen shrimp for a lean protein staple.
Survey Your Equipment
Think about the recipes that you plan to cook in the next few weeks.Contemplating tackling slow cooker recipes to keep warm? Finally jumping onboard the smoothie train? This will help identify what you still need (e.g. slow-cooker, blender) vs. what you already have at home. Stay tuned for a post elaborating on kitchen equipment essentials.
Get Everyone on Board
Lastly, get the whole family involved in your kitchen organization. This way, everyone will be able to move seamlessly about the kitchen, easily finding what they need. This translates into more helping hands during food prep, less mess, less chaos, and more fun food memories.
At EatLove, we truly believe that a simple, enjoyable 30-minute dinner with your family can be an everyday reality. Whether you’re looking for a hearty dinner or a well-balanced breakfast, we’re cooking up something for you.
While we were on tour, we had the opportunity to speak with our dear friend, Dr. Kate Tulenko, about how parents could better equip their children for healthier lives. Tulenko is IntraHealth International’s vice president of health systems innovation. She has been an advisor to national governments on health policy and reform and served on expert panels for the World Health Organization, the American Public Health Association, the Global Health Workforce Alliance, and the American Hospital Association.
Here is our interview with Dr. Kate Tulenko:
Tulenko: As a pediatrician and global health expert, I’ve traveled around the world and have seen firsthand what it takes for people to live happy, healthy lives in a variety of changing environments. There are thousands of lessons you could teach your children to help them improve their health, but they all boil down to a few main lessons;
Eat a plant-based diet. Raising animals for food is not only bad for human health but also it’s bad for the environment. Teach your children how to cook, enjoy a plant based diet and eat meat in moderation (or not at all). Every culture has lots of traditional dishes that can be made either vegetarian or with meat as a flavorant rather than the centerpiece. Teach them that if given the opportunity, choose fish over pork and beef.
Reduce stress. Our globalized world is increasingly fast-paced and competitive and the stress from keeping up can rob you of your happiness and health. Teach your children how to recognize and reduce their stress. Easy ways to reduce stress include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, positive thinking, gratitude, smiling, progressive body relaxation, exercising, getting sufficient sleep, spending time with friends and family (strong social bonds are strongly linked with better health), and setting aside time in your day to do activities you enjoy. Your children can also reduce stress by planning their time and avoiding situations that cause stress.
Practice a life-long sport: Exercise has been linked to longer, happier lives and to health benefits ranging from reductions in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, and depression. Most of us are physically active as children and teens but tend to become much less active with the work and family responsibilities of adulthood. To make matters worse, many children’s sports such as lacrosse, football, cheerleading, and gymnastics aren’t generally played by adults or they can’t easily be continued into adulthood. (My unsustainable childhood sports where volleyball, fencing, and crew.) Help your children to find a sport they love that can be easily carried on through adulthood such as running, soccer, swimming, cycling, dancing, and tennis.
Resist peer-pressure. Peer pressure is linked to many health and social ills including drug and alcohol use, other addictions and irresponsible behaviors, early sex, poor diets, and bad spending and saving habits. Teach your children how to determine their own values and goals and resist peer pressure. Teach them that people who pressure them to do what they don’t want to do are not their friends. These skills will also help them resist the advertising will encounter throughout their lives that will undermine their self-esteem and encourage them to eat and buy things they shouldn’t.
Get help: No matter how well we live our lives, we all encounter health questions or problems throughout life. Teach your children to be proactive about their health, educate themselves, and reach out to healthcare providers when they have a concern.
Kick off your meal planning and take charge of your life this week with EatLove. For any questions you might have, tweet Dr. Kate Tulenko @ktulenko.