Wednesday, July 7, 2010

what nutrients are in your food?


After reading my post about asparagus pesto, Anna asked: “You say that asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, vitamin A... etc. Are these for raw or cooked asparagus? I mean, I don't eat raw asparagus (don't know can you even do so??) and it would provide greater information for me to know the actual nutrients in the food I consume. I am not an expert on how well different nutrients keep after cooking -maybe you could tell us?”

Usually, I link to the food profile, so you can verify all this information for yourself. Asparagus and many other vegetables do retain nutrients after cooking…some are even improved after cooking. I like the World’s Healthiest Food website (they use Food Processor, a program we use in the nutrition and food science world a lot, to determine nutrient values). You can read about their food ranking system here.


Another good site is the Nutrition Data website, where you can analyze recipes and enter foods based on preparation (i.e. boiled asparagus).

nutr data

I’ll try to be more specific about serving sizes and preparation methods in the future. Here is some general information about preserving nutrients in fruit and veggies*:

  • Choose local produce, which is picked at the height of its growing season and contains the most nutrients.
  • Chopping or slicing into small pieces increases the amount of surface area exposed to the air and allows for greatest nutrient losses.
  • Water soluble vitamins (B vitamins, Vit C) are more subject to destruction by heat and light than fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
  • Refrigerate fresh produce to prevent enzymatic action from degrading nutrients.
  • Use a small amount of water when boiling veggies or steam in small quantities.
  • Avoid overcooking produce, especially that which contains vitamin C.

*Source: USDA

The nutrition camp I’m helping to run this week has been going pretty well. Anyone who’s ever done any community programming before knows that this sort of thing requires a ton of flexibility and patience.


We took the kids to a local organic garden yesterday, but I didn’t get any photos of it because I was too busy trying to prevent plant trampling and fist fights. Today, the kids got to try new kinds of produce, which they really enjoyed.


I think it’s great to expose kids to new kinds of fruit and vegetables, but it really bothered me that the lunches they received as they were leaving were full of Corn Pops cereal, white pb & j without the crust, fruit snacks, and cookies [+ apples & cheese sticks]. Really? How am I supposed to teach kids appropriate nutrition when the government-subsidized lunches are so nutrient poor?!


An afternoon in the 90 degree heat calls for banana blueberry fake froyo. Just blend frozen bananas and blueberries with almond milk and a tablespoon of almond butter for a delish (and dairy free) treat. I like to peel and cut the bananas when they’re overripe before tossing them into the freezer…then I always have frozen bananas ready for smoothies.


Hope everyone is staying cool…the temps = crazy hot. I think we’re going to have a water balloon fight tomorrow! No one really felt like running around for games today. Any tips for tying 100 water balloons in record timing?



  1. Their lunches do sound counterproductive to you camp's efforts. It is hot, hot, hot on this side of the Mitt too - stay cool :)

  2. hahah good luck with all those balloons! can't wait to hear how creative you get

    and i definitely love how the kids at camp are getting exposed to new stuff but youre totally right about the paradox with their lunches! silly government

  3. I love that you are doing this nutrition camp! It sounds like so much fun (and obviously a ton of work). The lunch is pathetic. Maybe you could use that to your advantage? You could say something like, "If you eat these corn pops at home, you could add strawberries and milk and have a nice balanced meal!". I dunno, just thinking.

    Thanks for the food ranking link. I need to really take a look at that site.

  4. it's kind of inconsistency from the government. promoting or creating health eating guideline and at the same time providing not so healthy food to kids.
    that froyo looks good! :) i should make some too!

  5. Sounds like you are enjoying the camp! Sad about the lunches though :(

  6. I love World's Healthiest Foods! Such a great website. I discovered it last year when I had to do a presentation all about bananas.

  7. yum! that smoothie/froyo looks great. nutrition camp sounds cool too.

  8. The temps are killing me, especially with the humidity!

    Your camp looks really cool. I hope you come home every night with a warm, fuzzy feeling because you're doing something really great for those kids.

  9. i love love love the nutrition data website! i use it to make sure the foods i'm getting in have good sources of things (hahaha "things" who says that.)

  10. Sounds like awful lunches for kids in a nutrition program. For some kids where food is more of a priority over actual nutrition (as in below the poverty line and worry about food period), this is not a problem, but for kids where they actually have a choice, this is awful. It has come a long way, and is great for kids who do not know where their next meal is coming from, but for kids learning nutrition because they can make a choice, this sends the wrong message.

  11. i haven't tied a water balloon in decades - but i remember how much my index finger hurts afterwards!

  12. What a lovely blog you have here. Loved reading this post about the nutrition camp!

  13. your camp sounds so fun-even if the lunches are dumb! hope you're making an impact on those kids. can't wait to hear more about it! and how'd the interview go??

  14. I've been on a "blender ice cream" kick too. Perfect summer snack :)

    The government-subsidized lunch program standards are so frustrating, aren't they?? The food provided completely counteracts nutrition education. But you are definitely doing your part. Good for you!

  15. I like knowing that even nutrition professionals use nutrition date.


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