Carb Solutions: Winter Fruit Snack Platter
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the effect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts has been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
• The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
• The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how many digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while ten or less is low.
Here’s a recipe I like to prepare about this time of year when the trees are bare, the days are short and my energy level seems to fall with the lower temperatures of the January. Winter weather is also a ready-made scapegoat for those extra seasonal pounds, though there is an easy solution to high carb grazing even in winter: fresh fruit. While the many feet of summer soft fruit harvests have vanished from retail produce displays, there are still plenty of fresh and exotic treasures to be found in those same isles for this snack food recipe that also serves as an instant mood elevator for days -- every time I open the ‘frig!
Start with a lipped platter filled with a mixture of Greek yogurt, fresh mint, lime juice, chia seeds and a thickener, like xanthan gum. While this mixture is left to chill and firm up overnight, take a trip to the market for the fun part of this recipe– a winter fruit scavenger hunt! That is, bring no written ingredient list. Instead, arrive at the store with an open mind and search out five or six different fruits of various colors with flavors that would work together. You will be surprised at the number of beautiful fruit varieties available in the dead of winter from around the world that you will have to eliminate just to stay within the ingredient limit.
Start with a lipped platter filled with a mixture of Greek yogurt, fresh mint, lime juice, chia seeds and a thickener, like xanthan gum. While this mixture is left to chill and firm up overnight, take a trip to the market for the fun part of this recipe – a winter fruit scavenger hunt! That is, bring no written ingredient list. Instead, arrive at the store with an open mind and search out five or six different fruits of various colors with flavors that would work together. You will be surprised at the number of beautiful fruit varieties available in the dead of winter from around the world that you will have to eliminate just to stay within the ingredient limit.
This time, the fruits that struck my fancy were a cantaloupe and a honeydew melon, some Fuyu persimmons, a few kiwis, a mango and a pomegranate. This list will vary due to availability, condition, and, of course, one’s own mood. Actually, after deciding on the first five items for their diversity of colors and flavors, I spotted the pomegranate that would not only add a crunchy texture and a burst of flavor but also sparkle up the dish a bit. I envisioned a ruby red streak of pomegranate arils swooshing across a platter of multi-colored fruits. So why should I even be thinking about a “sparkling” presentation for a dish that only I will see? Because (grasshopper) this platter is designed with a two-fold purpose: a healthy, low carb dish to satisfy those gloomy winter day hunger craves while also getting hit visually with a rainbow of fruits, despite the weather outside, and rainbows always uplift. Something for the body and something for the mind!
Once the fruit hunt is completed and the platter of yogurt mixture has thickened, preparation is quick and straightforward. Depending on the chosen fruits just slice, dice or chop each into bite-sized pieces. Combine all in a bowl, except the pomegranate arils, and toss with sesame oil if chosen. Let this bowl of fruit sit at room temperature for about an hour, tossing the fruit occasionally so that the sesame oil can meld with the fruit. Finally, simply spread the fruit mixture over platter of yogurt, then run a streak of arils across the plate.
Covered in plastic wrap this platter will keep for several days in the ‘frig, though the probability of it lasting that long would be an extreme test of willpower without a lock on the door! Actually, the best part of this dish is forgetting that the platter is sitting there until discovered during an afternoon (or midnight!) hunger hunt. Looking like a brightly colored circus wagon, one cannot help but smile as this cacophony of deliciously healthy fruit– there’s the uplift part. This “discovery” is immediately followed up with a large serving spoon and bowl. Plus, those chia seeds in the yogurt mixture will provide a physical energy boost no matter the weather. Try it!
Winter Fruit Platter
3 cups Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 bunch mint, whole picked leaves / rough chopped
2 limes, juiced
5 tablespoon Chia seeds
1 cup cantaloupe, medium balls
1 cup honeydew, small balls
3 Fuyu persimmon, small dice
2 medium kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
½ cup toasted sesame oil
1 pomegranate, seeded (arils)
Pinch of sea salt
In a blender or food processor, combine the yogurt, chopped mint, lime juice, chia seeds and xanthan gum. Pour this mixture onto a large platter with a slight lip. Refrigerate overnight.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the fruit except the pomegranate arils, then toss the sesame oil and let steep for about an hour, tossing occasionally.
Cover the platter of yogurt mixture with the fruit.
Add the arils in a stripe across the platter of fruit, sprinkle salt to taste evenly over the entire dish, cover and refrigerate for a scoop of a refreshing fruit snack anytime!