Boost your variety of foods

June 27th, 2015 1:51 am

First Posted: 2/24/2013

Written by Maryrose Ammirati, Marywood University Dietetic Intern, edited by Mary R. Ehret

March 1 starts the celebration of National Nutrition Month, making it a great time to explore and expand your food horizons. Throughout the month, we challenge you to incorporate not only every food group at every meal, but also to choose foods within them that are outside your norm.

This year's theme is Eat Right Your Way Every Day!

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For grains, try quinoa in place of white rice and pasta. This whole grain originated in South America and contains all the essential amino acids making it a complete source of protein. Quinoa is relatively unknown among everyday consumers, but once explored it often become a new favorite.

Instead of enjoying a salad with your everyday greens, try using arugula, watercress, or spinach in place of iceberg and romaine. Watercress and spinach are particularly beneficial in place of iceberg lettuce due to their high vitamin A and vitamin C content, which are both antioxidants.

As a special treat for you and your family, purchase one of the more unfamiliar fruits. Produce aisles offer a wide variety of fruit that go unnoticed by the average shopper. Some examples are prickly pears, papayas, kiwi, and star fruit.

When it comes to dairy, many people have already made the switch to the high protein, low fat alternate to yogurt—Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt comes in a wide variety of flavors and brands. Be mindful, however, of the number of calories. Choose a non-fat plain or vanilla flavor and add your own choice of fresh fruit for a little less protein, less calories and less cost.

There is more than just chicken or beef when it comes to incorporating protein into your meals. Some plant-based proteins include tofu, nuts including walnuts and almonds, and edamame – a legume that can be added to salads or eaten alone. Choosing these plant-based proteins will significantly reduce intake of saturated fat and lead to optimal heart health.

Make a goal to choose at least one new healthy food from fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy food groups for each week during March.

Quinoa-Edamame Salad

Cook Time: 20minutes

Total Time: 20minutes


1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

2 cups fat-free, low sodium vegetable broth

1/2 cup drained roasted red peppers, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 cup frozen edamame, thawed and shelled

1 avocado, peeled and sliced

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Toast uncooked quinoa in a medium skillet for 5 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a large pot, add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Remove from heat and empty into a serving bowl. Add chopped peppers, tomato, sliced zucchini, sliced avocado, chopped walnuts, and thawed edamame. Stir well.

Whisk lemon juice and olive oil together and pour over quinoa mixture. Toss well. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6

Mary R. Ehret, is with Penn State Cooperative Extension, Luzerne County, 16 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, Pa., 18643. (570) 825-1701/602-0600. Fax (570) 825-1709.