Brain Gains!

Having a healthy brain and adequate cognitive function is essential. There are certain foods we can include more of in our diets to ensure our brain is performing at its best. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance in the number of free radicals and antioxidants in your body. When free radicals are not balanced by antioxidants, they don’t fight off pathogens as well. This can lead to infection, damage to fatty tissue, DNA and proteins. Below is a list of foods to help combat oxidative stress, cognitive decline, and promote healthy brain function.

  • Avocado: Packed with healthy mono-saturated fats, avocados can help improve blood flow to the brain, reduce blood pressure, and support information-carrying nerves in the brain. All of which combat cognitive decline.
  • Berries: Berries contain antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation throughout the brain and body. They can also improve memory.
  • Coffee: With antioxidants that are great for brain function, coffee can increase the brain’s capacity for processing information. 
  • Dark Chocolate: This contains many antioxidants that boost mood and alertness as well as improving brain plasticity which is a key contributor for learning.
  • Fatty fish: Salmon and many other fatty fish contain omega 3 fatty acids which can improve the structure of neurons in the brain and improve blood flow to the brain.
  • Nuts and Seeds: These contain many antioxidants but they are particularly high in Vitamin E, which helps combat oxidative stress and improves cognition.
  • Whole Grains: Whole grains also contain vitamin E and vitamin B, which reduces inflammation. They can also help maintain blood sugar throughout the day, keeping you focused and alert. 

Incorporate more of these foods into your diet and see how much more focused and alert you feel! Whether you are going back to school, trying to stay sharp at work or just performing your best at daily life, we hope these brain-boosting foods could have a positive impact on your life.


Caprese Salad

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Caprese Salad


Caprese Salad or Insalata Caprese – 

My favorite summer entree salad with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. It is quick, easy, healthy and very satisfying.

This salad was created in Italy in the early 1920s. It is a patriotic reflection that visually incorporates the tricolors of the Italian flag red, green and white.


Fresh mozzarella: I like to buy the pre-sliced to make the assembly go faster.

Extra virgin olive oil: Make certain your olive oil says “extra virgin” which will be less processed with more flavor.

Fresh tomatoes: Garden grown tomatoes are the best.

Balsamic vinegar:  Place full bottle of vinegar into a pan, heat on low 15-20 min. to reduce it  down and it becomes thickened. I keep the extra balsamic glaze in my refrigerator to have ready for my next salad.

Salt and pepper:  add to taste to bring out and compliment the flavors of the dish.


Assemble salad:  Layer tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzle with olive oil, balsamic glaze and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Why is Breakfast So Important?

Eating in the morning is beneficial because it affects important processes within your body, including:

  • Metabolism: Eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism, helpingyour body burn calories.
  • Adequate Nutrient Intake: When you skip breakfast, that’s one less meal to contribute to necessary daily nutrients. 
  • Concentration/Alertness: Eating breakfast stabilizes blood sugar, which helps improve your memory, cognitive ability, and attention span.
  • Mood: Eating breakfast can improve mood by providing glucose to your famished brain. No one likes to be “hangry”!

Eating breakfast also prevents unhealthy eating later in the day: When you are hungry because you skipped breakfast, you are more likely to binge eat or consume convenient, unhealthy foods.  People who eat breakfast tend to be healthier and have fewer weight problems and associated issues like diabetes. 

To ensure you have time for breakfast, think “Plan & Prep”:

  • Plan: Plan your meals for the week ahead of time so you are not scrabbling for something as you run out the door.
  • Prep: Put everything in containers the night before so there is no hassle in the morning.

Not a breakfast person? It helps if you plan meals you actually enjoy eating. Try some overnight oats topped with fruit or make a breakfast bowl with turkey bacon, eggs, a little cheese, and maybe some veggies. Or break away from traditional breakfast foods altogether: Can you eat soup for breakfast? Of course! Spring rolls? Go for it! The important thing is . . . when you wake up, eat up!


Food Waste & You!

Three Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Improve Nutrition


Between National Arbor Day and National Gardening Day, April is a month of celebration for all that our beautiful earth provides. This, of course, includes one of the most precious resources that we happen to enjoy every day – food! Try the 3 strategies below to power the planet and your body at the same time.


Number 1:   Shop Smart

One of the biggest mistakes we make when it comes to food waste and good nutrition is buying more than we can use in one week. When planning ahead, a practical approach is to plan one week at a time, with an emphasis on seasonal, local options. Keep in mind that fresh produce and meat stay fresh for about 3-5 days on average. Knowing this, a good strategy is to be sure to include a mix of fresh, frozen, and, believe it or not, even canned goods in your meal plan. Next time you are planning, try this –

  • Focus on 2-3 fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables each week and try to think of ways to include these in multiple recipes. Oh, and avoid shopping on an empty stomach!
  • Contribute to a greener and healthier environment over time by reducing your carbon footprint. When we buy locally we are reducing the travel time for those wonderful fruits, vegetables, dairy, and even meat that often comes from across state lines. By doing this, we are enjoying fresh, crisp goods while reducing CO2 emissions which in turn helps support a healthy food supply for decades to come.
  • When it comes to health and packaged goods is to always look for items that are low in added sugar and salt. This small change can help those managing their cardiovascular health, diabetes, high blood pressure, bone health, and much more and still feel good about their environmental impact. On the flip side, make sure to recycle aluminum and glass when you can to help reduce the impact on our landfills and ecosystem.
  • Like our canned goods, when it comes to frozen foods we want to look for items that are not pre-seasoned or flavored. Seasonings and flavors tell us that there has likely been salt, sugar or even preservatives added. By doing this, we can then add unique flavors to make it work with whatever dish is on the menu. Way more fun!
  • Bonus – frozen goods are great for those cooking for one because you can easily get one serving out and then pop the rest back in the freezer for next time.

The truth is, there are many healthy options when it comes to packaged and fresh foods – and staying informed is one way to help meet your health and environmental goals.

Number 2:   Proper Food Storage

Americans discard more food than any other country, nearly 40 million tons — or 30-40 percent of the entire US food supply. So what can you do?

  • Follow FIFO! If this term is new to you, it stands for “First-In, First-Out” and refers to a food storage method that is used for both sanitation purposes and food waste reduction. What it means is that as you are putting away the groceries make sure to put them away in an order that allows you to use the oldest items first. For example, yogurt in the refrigerator is one of those that inevitably end up spoiled in the back of the fridge. If we are intentional in placing the newest yogurt behind the old one, it will remind us to use the oldest first. I know it’s tempting to grab the freshest one however when it comes to food waste we’re doing ourselves a disservice for minimal flavor difference.
  • Preserve foods by keeping your leafy green in an airtight container with a dry paper towel. This will help absorb the moisture and keep the item fresher longer.
  • Another idea is to keep items like celery in the refrigerator with a small amount of water around the root which will keep the leaves thriving and fresh longer.
  • When it comes to fruit, try not to cut this too far in advance which will help it from turning mushy before you’re ready to enjoy it.
  • Use eco-friendly glass, plastic and other items like re-usable storage bags for both improved freshness, financial savings, and concerning nutrition – reduced intake of potential carcinogens.
  • Use reusable drink holders more often and reduce bottle water intake. This will help to make keeping up with daily water intake fun and even motivating.

Number 3:   Use EVERYTHING!

For many, the idea of eating leftovers is nothing short of boring. However, we know that with a high rate of food waste here in the United States an easy change like including 1 to 2 leftover meals per week can have a big impact. But who wants to eat the same thing twice in a row? Me either! Instead, try “re-inventing” it into something completely new and exciting!

  • Keep leftover meat and vegetables for a quick stew or chili.
  • If vegetables like corn, peas, and beans are leftover, try adding to a cold salad the next day for added flavor and texture.
  • If you happen to be among those that enjoy leftovers, refrigerating and freezing leftovers in individual serving sizes is one of the best ways to help ensure that always have something nutritious available for those crazy days when cooking goes out the window.
  • When it comes to peels and scraps from items like oranges, lemons, limes, try saving for everything from dried seasoning and rubs, salad dressing, vinaigrettes and jam – bring on the phytonutrients!

It is encouraging to know that small changes each day with food purchasing, storage, and enjoyment can work together to support our health and environmental goals. On behalf of Banister Nutrition, thank you for all you are doing to support a healthy, happy world for yourself and others. ~AS


“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi 

Cast Iron Breakfast Hash

Gluten-Free Dining

Keeping Produce Fresher Longer

Keeping fresh produce “fresh” can be tricky. In recent months, I have backed off on how many times I grocery shop each month. Keeping fresh produce around for longer than a week can be challenging, but I have started using some of these strategies to keep produce looking and tasting great for weeks!

Storing Produce Properly

Let’s start with how to store your produce! Avoid storing produce at the top of the refrigerator where it is more likely to freeze. Instead, keep fresh produce in the center of the refrigerator to prevent freezing or thawing. Let’s dive into storing techniques for common grocery buys: 

  • Asparagus: Place in a glass of water (like flowers) and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Carrots: Store in a covered container of water in the refrigerator to keep firm until ready to use. Replace the water every 2 to 3 days.
  • Celery: Wrap in aluminum foil to maintain freshness and crunch and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Cucumbers: Store on the countertop at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
  • Lettuce/herbs: Place a dry paper towel around to soak up excess moisture that can cause mushiness, molding, or browning. Change towels every 2 to 3 days. 
  • Mushrooms: Keep in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator to prevent excess moisture causing mushiness, molding, or browning.
  • Tomatoes: Store on the countertop at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
  • Winter squash/pumpkin/onions/potatoes: keep in a dry, cool space like the pantry or garage. Ensure these foods are not overcrowded and have adequate air circulation to prevent breakdown.


Washing Produce

It is recommended to wait and wash produce prior to using it to prevent excess moisture during the storing process. Berries are a bit different. Try soaking them in a vinegar solution (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar) for 5 to 10 minutes. Fight the urge to rinse the vinegar off. The vinegar helps fight off molding. Don’t worry, you won’t taste the vinegar on your sweet berries. Let berries dry completely. Then, return to a breathable container prior to storing in the refrigerator.


Isolation to Prevent Ripening

Some fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, pears, and potatoes produce a gas called ethylene. When this gas is released it can cause any produce near it to ripen faster. Prevent this by storing these foods separately in the refrigerator or on the countertop. Alternatively, you can even place these items near avocados if you are impatient like me and ready to devour the avocados before they’re ripened!


Slow Down The Ripening Process

The cold environment of the refrigerator or freezer can allow you to store produce for much longer. Always allow fresh produce like pears, avocados, melons, bananas, peaches to ripen at room temperature first. When at ideal ripeness, transition the produce to the refrigerator until ready to use. Before any produce goes bad, use the freezer to keep it “fresh” until ready to use. Most vegetables need to be blanched before storing in the freezer. Blanching helps halt enzyme activity that impacts flavor and texture; it also helps to clean the produce prior to storing. Put herbs in ice cube molds with olive oil. Chop up green onions and place in a plastic bottle for easy dispensing. Place all produce in an airtight container and use within 6 months.


I hope these strategies are as helpful for you as they have been for my family! LN

Weighing Your Risk – Nutrition, Obesity & COVID-19

At Banister Nutrition, we recognize that a variety of factors play a role in your overall health. As we work alongside our clients, we see first-hand the impact that nutrition has on the ability to positively influence outcomes associated with illness and disease. In fact, as we learn more about COVID-19 and the dynamics that influence both risk and severity, it is confirming our understanding that to best manage our health, we must leverage what we know about nutrition and do what we can now to meet our health goals for today and our future.

When it comes to COVID-19, new evidence may suggest that obese individuals are more likely to be hospitalized and admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) compared to those who are overweight or of healthy weight. Currently, weight status is defined using the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale which categorizes individuals as underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese. By these standards, 42.4% of Americans are currently considered obese. With that being said, it is important to recognize that while BMI does not take into account a person’s body fat percentage, the reality is, there is a strong body of evidence that shows BMI as a reliable indicator of health status and health outcomes. In addition, by dismissing the potential correlation between weight and COVID-19 outcomes, we may be missing an opportunity to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Lastly, multiple studies have shown obesity linked to impaired immune function, decreases lung capacity, and altered sleep patterns, thereby further complicating outcomes associated with COVID-19 – all of which can be positively influenced by nutrition!

At this point, you may be asking – what are some of the links between nutrition and weight, and what can I do to put myself and my loved ones in the best position to fight COVID-19? See our thoughts below on ways to curb your risk by maximizing your sleep, physical activity, and stress management, all through the power of nutrition!


Nutrition, Weight & Sleep

What we know – Insufficient sleep can result in a disruption to the body’s hormone regulation mechanisms including those that control the production of ghrelin and leptin, hormones that help regulate hunger and satiety (or fullness). This can lead to an imbalance in energy and weight gain over time.

What we can doTry to limit foods that might disrupt your sleep patterns for at least 1-3 hours before bedtime including foods with added caffeine & sugar or those that are greasy or high in saturated fat. Examples include fried foods, soda, and sweets/desserts. On the flip side, foods with quality fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and grains along with healthy fats and protein such as fish, nuts, and seeds may actually improve the quality and duration of sleep.


Nutrition, Weight & Physical Activity

What we know – Daily physical activity, in addition to proper nutrition, supports the growth and development of lean body mass (LBM) which is critical for proper nutrient utilization and a healthy metabolism.

What we can doThe types of foods, as well as the timing of the foods we eat, is important in maximizing your efforts in the gym (or newly designed “home gym”). For example, give your body at least 1-4 hours to eat and process food before working out. Examples of meals/snacks that include a quality protein with a quality carbohydrate are oatmeal with almonds and blueberries or a no-sugar-added Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries.

But don’t stop there! In the first 30 minutes following an intense workout, your body is primed and ready to receive and use an easy to digest (you guessed it) quality protein and a quality carbohydrate source such as a glass of low-fat chocolate milk or even a peanut butter smoothie made with low-fat milk and half a banana. Refueling after a workout is just as important as the meal prior, if not more, in building lean muscle!


Nutrition, Weight & Stress Management

What we knowWhen our body experiences stress, it begins to produce cortisol which can influence weight management through its impact on appetite signals and the body’s insulin response.

What we can doMake sure to eat consistently throughout and include foods that help you to feel good which means those that help you to maintain energy levels, support a healthy immune system, and improve cognition and focus. Examples of foods to include daily are those high in fiber and healthy fats with special attention to those with added Vitamin A, C, and zinc for immune and memory support. Examples include citrus fruits, nuts and seeds, as well as omega-3 rich sources such as salmon.

If you or someone you know needs additional support and guidance on the best plan for them, Banister Nutrition is here to help!


Wishing you and your family and happy and healthy holiday season!  ~ AS & The Banister Team~

Strong Immune System Against COVID-19

In the current state of the world, health is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  Our health is directly dependent on the essential role of our immune system. It relies on complex interworkings of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues to recognize and neutralize harmful viruses, bacteria, cell changes, and other organisms that cause disease.

Our immune system is such an elaborate system of many interconnected parts that requires balance and harmony. Our desire is to live a healthy lifestyle that builds a strong immune system in order to fight off the coronavirus or other harmful substances should we come in contact with them.

Our immune system also operates better when bolstered by healthy lifestyle choices.

Healthy ways to reinforce a strong immune system to prevent or fight COVID-19 include:

A Healthy Diet

Our diet is key to a strong immune system. Be certain to eat at least 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.


Numerous nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are required to support the normal functioning of your immune system Some micronutrients that play a role in maintaining your immune system include:

  • Vitamin B6 –found in chickpeas, chicken or turkey, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables, potatoes (with skin)
  • Vitamin C – found in oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, kiwi pineapple, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, red peppers, Brussel sprouts
  • Vitamin E – found in almonds, sunflower and safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanuts peanut butter, spinach, asparagus, red bell pepper, avocado, trout, mango
  • Zinc – found in foods including oysters, crab, lobster, beef, pork chop, chicken, baked beans, beans, nuts, yogurt, Swiss cheese. Some evidence indicates zinc may have a beneficial role in the immune response
  • Vitamin D – found in fortified foods such as dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. A maintenance dose of vitamin D is vital during the winter months as well as for those with low vitamin D levels.


One way exercise may improve the immune system is by boosting your overall circulation making it easier for immune cells to travel more easily throughout your body. Studies have shown 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily helps stimulate your immune system.


Water is a necessary component of your lymph system which carries infection-fighting immune cells around your body.


Important infection-fighting molecules are created while you sleep. Inadequate sleep leaves you more prone to getting sick.

Minimize Stress

Chronic long term stress over an extended period is certainly bad for our health. The uncertainty we are now experiencing with COVID-19 can trigger a stress response. The secretion of cortisol suppresses your immune system, thus increasing your chance of infection or illness. Given that stress has a direct negative impact on your health it is important to know how to identify your stress and have treatment options that work for you.

In addition, continue to minimize trips outside your home, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently. If you do come in contact with the virus, you’ve already taken proactive steps to have a strong and healthy immune system that can strengthen your defense against this harmful disease.


Flavor Without The Sodium

February is American Heart Month!

In celebration, I would like to provide you with some great seasoning tips that help reduce or even eliminate sodium from the diet. Leave the “it won’t taste like food” comments at the door. Herbs are a great way to season dishes with an explosion of flavor.

Protip: Use herbs to liven up the presentation of any dish.

Let me introduce some common herbs found at the grocery store (and are also very easy to grow from your own backyard): 


  • Flavor: fresh, grassy 
  • How to use: wash, chop the leaves and stem (stem can be used)
  • What to season: sauces, salads, garnishes, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lamb, beef, chicken, fish, tofu


  • Flavor: bright and citrusy
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: salsas, guacamole, chutneys, soups, curries, salads, avocado, tomatoes, bell pepper, chicken, fish, shellfish, lamb, lentils, tofu


  • Flavor: pungent, peppery
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: tomato sauces, pizzas, salad dressings, artichokes, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, chicken, beef, lamb, fish


  • Flavor: woody, pungent
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: focaccia bread, tomato sauces, pizza, soups, stews, roasted veggies, mushrooms, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, chicken, lamb, pork, fish


  • Flavor: minty
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: rice, dips, stews, roasted veggies, tomato sauces, carrots, peas, potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, chicken, pork, lamb, duck, fish


  • Flavor: sweet, cool
  • How to use: wash, strip the leaves from the stem, discard the stem and chop the leaves
  • What to season: fruit salads, curries, cream sauces, soups, marinades, carrots, eggplant, watermelon, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, beans, lentils, lamb


  • Flavor: sweet and peppery flavor
  • How to use: wash, remove the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. To prevent burning, add to your dishes near the end of cooking.
  • What to season: pestos, tomato sauces, soups, stews, stir-fries or curries. Can also be used to add flavor to bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, chicken, beef, fish or tofu