Sweet Potato vs. Russet Potato (vs. Red vs. Purple)

June 12, 2014

“Are potatoes as bad as they say?” is a question I am often asked on store tours.  Or, “Are sweet potatoes really much better than white potatoes?”  Let’s take a look.

When we compare the nutrients in different varieties of potatoes, we find some similarities.  Variety of Fingerling Potatoes in CollanderPotatoes are a starchy vegetable, which means that they are a high carbohydrate food and are quite similar in calorie content (purples are slightly lower).  They are all high in fiber and vitamin C, and have almost twice as much potassium as a banana!  They originated in South America.  Peru has been known to grow over 5,000 potato varieties, and still maintains 2,800 varieties today.  In the US, the vast majority of potatoes grown are the familiar Russet Burbank potato, which makes our beloved baked potato and French fry.

Carbohydrates & Fiber
Beyond calories, we start seeing some differences.  Sweet potatoes and Russets have the exact same number of carbohydrates, reds slightly fewer, and purples contain the fewest grams of carbohydrates.  Sweet potatoes are highest in fiber; purple potatoes are considerably lower than sweet potatoes or Russets. 

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, packing almost 700% of the recommended daily value in one medium potato; all the others have none.  Sweet potatoes also have about twice the vitamin C of Russet Burbank and red potatoes.  They all are great sources of potassium, with red potatoes leading the pack.  Purple and red potatoes are unique in the fact that they are packed with antioxidants.  The purple potato is full of the antioxidant, anthocyanin, like most blue/purple foods.

So, which is best? 
With the most fiber and vitamin A & C and a healthy dose of potassium, sweet potatoes come out the winner!  Keep in mind all the potatoes are nutrient-dense and each has a unique nutritional strong-point, so mix it up next time you grab some potatoes.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 2.17.40 PM







Lachman J, Hamouz K. Orsak M.  Red and purple potatoes – a significant antioxidant source in human nutrition.  International Food Information Service.  2005; 99 (7): 474–82.

Collyns D. Peru’s potato passion goes global. BBC News.  8 February 2008.  Accessed 9 Mar 2012. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7231148.stm


Great Health Tip of the Day: National Men’s Health Week

June 11, 2014

Young African American Man Exercising In ParkWith Father’s Day just around the corner, now is a great time to recognize ways in which men can improve their health, or ways in which they are healthy already! Here are some tips for improving men’s health:

Quit smoking. This is the best to improve your health. Tobacco has been linked to multiple health problems such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Secondhand smoke has also been seen to cause health problems to those around you. Quitting smoking will not only help you but your loved ones as well.

Be safe. The third leading cause of death in men is unintentional accidents. Be sure to wear protective gear when performing sports and put on your seat belt when driving.

Stay active. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week. This will help decrease your risk of developing heart disease, keep you energized, and boost your self-esteem. Take a bike ride, toss a ball with friends, or take your dog for a walk.

Monitor your alcohol intake. Chronic alcohol consumption has been linked to cirrhosis, depression, and nerve damage. The recommendation is to limit intake to no more than 2 drinks a day for men.

De-stress and get enough sleep. Too much long-term stress can cause health consequences such as high blood pressure, chronic headaches, and depression. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night can help with de-stressing as well as listening to your favorite music and spending time away from electronics like your phone and laptop.

Eat healthfully. Enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for protection against chronic diseases. Limit your salt, red meat, fat, and sugar intake while exploring your favorite ways to cook vegetables.

Almond vs. Peanut Butter

June 3, 2014

If you and I are anything alike, there are a few questions that keep you awake at night: What is the meaning of life?  Why are we here?  What is healthier: almond butter or peanut butter?AlmondButter

While I’m not exactly qualified to help you answer the first two questions, I can help you decide on the most nutritious nut butter for your needs.  Most people that ask me this question tend to quickly follow it up with “I bet almond butter is healthier, isn’t it?”  But let’s take a look at a few factors to determine which one is really the nutritional winner.


With an abundance of healthy fats, some fiber and protein, it’s no wonder why nuts and nut butters are the darlings of dietitians.  Nutritionally speaking, almond and peanut butter are strikingly similar.  Here’s a look at the nutrition breakdown for two tablespoons of each nut butter:

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.10.02 PM




As you can see, almond and peanut butter are nutritionally pretty similar.  Both almond and peanut butter have about the same number of calories, as well as the same amount of saturated fat.  Almond butter has one more gram of fat than peanut butter, as well as a bit more fiber.  However, peanut butter has more protein.

However, they do vary a bit when it comes to their vitamin and mineral content:

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.11.55 PM





Almond butter edges out peanut butter in regard to most vitamins and minerals, although peanut butter has more vitamin B3 (Niacin) than almond butter.


In this race, peanut butter is the clear winner.  Almond butter is generally more expensive than peanut butter, and can be almost double the price.  However, if you want to try almond butter without committing to a big (and expensive!) jar, check out the single serving packets we sell in the nut butter section, as well as on our Healthy Checkout lanes.

Other spreads

Watch out for other spreads sold in the nut butter section, such as Nutella or Cookie Butter.  These spreads, while delicious, are not made from nuts or seeds, and the first ingredient is usually sugar.  Save these for the occasional dessert, rather than slathering it on your toast every day for breakfast.  If you need a punch of flavor to make your nut butter a bit more exciting, try a Dietitians Choice variety of flavored nut butter; my favorite is Justin’s Honey Almond Butter.

The final verdict

Both almond and peanut butter have nutritional benefits, so it’s safe to say that a tie is the outcome of this race.  Try to include both peanut and almond butters into your diet if you can, as both offer an impressive amount of healthy fat, along with some protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals – not to mention the fact that they are delicious. Just be sure to pick Dietitians Choice varieties to help make sure that your nut butter isn’t a sneaky source of hydrogenated oils, extra sugars, or salt.


Great Health Tip of the Day: National Egg Day

June 3, 2014

It is time to celebrate the incredible egg on National Egg Day! Eggs are often underappreciated outside of Easter, but they should be celebrated all year as a nutrition powerhouse!Eggs

  • Eggs are a great source of lean protein, with 6 grams of protein and only 5 grams of fat (more importantly, only 1.5 grams of saturated fat).
  • Eggs help keep your eyes healthy! They contain lutein and zeaxanthin, important antioxidant nutrients that help reduce your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Don’t skip the yolks! Many of the important nutrients, like lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin D, and choline, are found in egg yolks, so enjoy up to one yolk per day.
  • Try eggs in new ways! Scramble an egg in rice or pasta, make a breakfast pizza, or look for a great frittata recipe.


Great Health Tip of the Day: National Salad Month

May 28, 2014

Do you consider salad to be rabbit food? If so, you haven’t thought very creatively about salads, because they can be so much more! In fact, salads are not only great as an accompaniment to a Caesar salad, macromeal, they can stand alone as a balanced meal. As the weather heats up, a light, balanced salad may be just the answer for a quick weeknight meal. In order to make your salad balanced, be sure to include foods from the following food groups:

  • Vegetables: This is a no-brainer… salad should have veggies—and lots of them! Try to make your salad as colorful as possible, since different colors mean a variety of nutrients. Include greens (spinach, kale, mixed greens), carrots, red cabbage, bell peppers, tomatoes, and whatever else you love.
  • Fruit: I love adding fruit to my salad. It not only adds a natural sweetness, but including fruits with vitamin C (mandarin oranges, strawberries, melon) will help you absorb iron from your spinach, beans, and other iron-containing foods.
  • Lean Protein: This can include chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, eggs, or plant-based protein sources, like beans, nuts, seeds, or tofu. I love to toss eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, and walnuts in my salad for a boost of protein.
  • Grains: Have you ever added quinoa, brown rice, or farro to your salad? It lends a wonderful “bite” and really adds heartiness to your salad. Choose a fiber-rich whole grain and you will be full for hours!

When it comes to cheese and salad dressing, watch your portions. Toss a little feta or parmesan on top—with strong-flavored cheese, a little goes a long way! Choose an oil-based dressing, or even better, drizzle your salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Keep dressing to 1-2 tablespoons so the calories and fat don’t get too high and sabotage your healthy salad.


Great Health Tip of the Day: Hosting an Allergy Safe Party

May 21, 2014


Food allergies and intolerances are much more common than those of us without allergies and intolerances may be aware; around 4% of adults and 8% of children have food allergies and many more have lactose or gluten intolerance. The next time you plan a party, consider whether or not your guests have food allergies or intolerances. Here are some tips to follow that will help you to hold an allergy safe party.

  • If you are not sure whether your guests have an allergy, make a note on your invitation asking guests to inform you.
  • When preparing food for your party, check each ingredient rather than assuming the food is safe and be careful to ensure that no cross-contamination occurs.
  • If a guest with a food allergy asks to bring a safe dish, respond positively and ask them to bring enough to share.
  • If you are hosting a potluck, ask people ahead of time to bring foods that do not contain those ingredients that are of concern (this is particularly important when you have a guest with a severe food allergy).
  • If food is served buffet style, make sure there is a serving utensil in each dish, so that food is not inadvertently cross-contaminated. If space permits, consider putting allergen-free foods on a separate table. If not, you may want to quietly ask guests with food allergies to serve themselves first.

Do you have other tips to share on holding an allergy safe party?


Sour Cream or Avocado?

May 20, 2014

Avocado TreeTo continue our “Which is healthier” series, I present: sour cream and avocado.  Both can add some rich, cool creaminess to your sandwich, soup, chili, or dip.  Now, you may be thinking, “of course avocado is healthier,” but have you ever looked at the numbers?  It’s pretty intriguing and I always think it’s a good idea to compare them.  Also, it’s on my mind since I was lucky enough to attend an avocado farm tour a couple of weeks ago in Temecula, California.

Calories and Fat

Avocado and sour cream contain similar amounts of calories and fat, but keep looking and you’ll see important differences. 

Choose avocados, your heart will thank you.

If you’re at all aware of the nutrition of avocados, you probably have heard they are high in “healthy fats.”  You’re right.  Unlike sour cream, avocados have very little saturated fat and instead are high in monounsaturated fats, which are oh-so heart healthy.  They can actually lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and risk of heart disease, especially when you replace saturated fats with them.

Another nod to the heart is the fiber that avocados provide.  Just 2 tablespoons (or 2-3 thin slices) provide 2 grams of fiber.  Fiber also helps keep you feeling full and satisfied.

Avocados also supply some potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.

Bottom line: It’s worth swapping your sour cream for avocado!

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 3.49.56 PM










So avocados are a clear nutritional winner and tasty too.  Here are some fun facts I learned about avocados on the farm tour that the California Avocado Commission hosted.

All Hass avocados originate from one tree!  Avocados are grown by grafting, which means the tissues of two different plants are connected and grow together.  This way, a variety with a strong root system can be paired with a variety that has optimal fruit—the best of both worlds!

Avocado Tree SmallAvocado Plants







Avocados are one of the few plants that have two sets of fruit at one time, the small “bee bees” and the more mature fruit.

Avocado Bee Bees








Avocados never ripen on the tree.  They ripen once picked.  They are picked by hand using one of these nifty poles.

Avocado Pole








Avocado packing plants have cutting edge technology and carefully handle avocados so they arrive at the store in good condition and at the correct ripeness.

Avocado Facility 1Avocado Facility 2






Avocado dressing is delicious! Many of the vitamins and minerals in avocados are concentrated next to the skin.  So scoop thoroughly.

Avocado Dressing








Butter Milk Avocado Dressing
  1. 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  2. 1 ripe Fresh California avocado, seeded and peeled
  3. 8 oz. low-fat mayonnaise
  4. ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  5. ½ teaspoon onion powder
  6. 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  7. Salt, to taste
  8. Pepper, to taste
  9. 1/16 teaspoon dry thyme
  10. 1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Add buttermilk, California avocado, mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, thyme and Worcestershire sauce to a blender and blend until smooth.
Harmonsgrocery.com Blog http://www.harmonsgrocery.com/blog/

Fuel Your Body

May 14, 2014

Click the image to watch Harmons Dietitian Laura Holtrop Kohl talk about fueling your body during health training and recovery on KUTV’s Fresh Living.

It is important to match food intake with exertion and duration of activity. For a lot of casual exercisers, it’s easy to overcompensate with food.  If you are eating regular meals and snacks, you probably don’t need to add anything.  You could time it so that your meal or snack is soon after your workout so you refuel, but don’t add calories.  

On the other hand, an endurance athlete may have trouble consuming enough calories and need to be more strategic about what and when they eat.

BEFORE – You are looking for a source of carbs to fuel your activity.  You can fit this into your normal snack or meal pattern.  You can eat a meal 2-4 hours before or a snack 1-2 hours before your workout. A little bit of protein 5-10 grams can help with muscle development.

Choose easily digestible food.

DURING – For less than an hour of intense-moderate activity, you don’t need to eat anything.

For endurance activities lasting over 90 minutes, you’ll want to eat during 30-60g of carbohydrates.  Hydration is important as well.

AFTER – After your workout, you’re looking for a mix of carbs and protein. This will restore your muscle fuel as well as help you rebuild and repair your muscles.  Endurance activities and weight resistance activities require more protein than other activities, about 20 grams is recommended.

Carbs are important for restoring your muscle’s fuel (glycogen stores).  This maximizes energy for your next workout.

Protein is often emphasized as being the key to muscle building.  This is somewhat true, but most people do not need as much.  

The casual exerciser needs about 0.8g protein/kg body weight (0.36g/lb body weight).  For a 150lb person, this is 54g protein per day.

Laura, Registered Dietitian

Laura, Registered Dietitian

A more serious athlete or muscle-builder need up to 1.6-1.7g/kg body weight (0.72g/lb body weight). For 150lb person, this is 108g protein per day.
Post-workout, a muscle builder would want about 20 grams of protein to maximize his/her efforts.  More than this does not usually provide any advantage.

Antioxidants (vitamin C and A) can help recovery, so focus on getting your carbs from nutrient-rich sources.

Timing – Eat carbs ASAP because this 30-45 minute window is when your body is most ready to recover and get ready for the next day’s workout.  The latest research on protein allows for more time-up to an hour is ideal.


Great Health Tip of the Day: National Fruit Cocktail Day

May 13, 2014

Can you name all the fruits in fruit cocktail? To be real fruit cocktail, it must contain the following fruits:

  • PearsLibby'sFruitCocktail
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Pineapples

Fruit cocktail doesn’t have to be the syrupy-sweet fruit cocktail that brings back images of childhood cafeterias. Harmons carries no sugar-added varieties, like Libby’s Fruit Cocktail in 100% Fruit Juice. Grab a can of Dietitians Choice fruit cocktail for dessert tonight or make your own fresh fruit cocktail, just be sure to add all the correct fruit varieties to make it official!


Whole Fruits and Vegetables or Juice?

May 12, 2014

Fruits-and-VegetablesHarmons’ dietitians are continuing this series to help you to make sense of some of the more confusing categories of food in the store.  We are basing the topics on questions that we commonly get and today’s topic is, “Is juice just as healthy as whole fruits and vegetables?”

A quick look down the refrigerated drink section or juice aisle will reveal a huge variety of juice, including fruit, vegetable, and a blend of the two.  Many people enjoy the refreshing taste of juice and feel good about drinking it because they are meeting some of their fruit and vegetable servings for the day.  But are juices really equivalent to eating fruits and vegetables in terms of health benefit?  Probably not.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 4.10.48 PM

As you can see from the nutrition information above, a serving of juice is higher in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar than a piece of whole fruit.  While juice does retain most of the vitamins and minerals from the whole fruit or vegetable, it doesn’t have any of the beneficial fiber.  Fiber helps slow the digestion of food, keeping you feeling full longer and slowing the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream.  So while you may be getting some of the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption, you are also getting a concentrated source of calories and sugar.  Adding vegetables to juice will lower the calories and sugar, but you are still missing out on the fiber and chewing.  Some research suggests that drinking calories as opposed to chewing and eating food is not as satisfying and people often consume more total calories throughout the day.

So can juice be harmful to your health?  While enjoying a glass of juice every once in a while will boost your vitamin and mineral intake and help you meet fruit and veggie needs, too much juice without a reduction in overall calories can lead to weight gain.  Studies also show that people who consume juice have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (however, eating whole fruits and veggies are protective against diabetes).  If you do enjoy a refreshing glass of juice, try to keep the amount within the following guidelines:

                  Birth-6 months:  No juice

                  6-12 months:  If juice is given, limit to 4-6 ounces from a cup, NOT a bottle, to avoid tooth decay

                  1-6 years:  Up to 6 ounces per day

                  7 years and older:  Up to 12 ounces per day

And remember, always choose 100% fruit and vegetable juice!  This means no added sugar, so avoid fruit “cocktail” drinks.



Muraki I, Imamura F, Manson JE, Hu FB, Willet WC, van Dam RM, Sun Q.  Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies.  BMJ 2013; 347.

Mayo Clinic:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/expert-answers/fruit-juice/faq-20058024