SECOND SLICE: FOUR NUTRITIONAL NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS WORTH KEEPING

January 2nd, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

The following is a guest blog entry written by What About Watermelon expert panelist Elizabeth Somer, M.A. (nutritionist, dietitian, watermelon lover). Enjoy!

 

pic2It’s the New Year and you’re primed for a New You. This is the year you’re determined to redefine yourself, get healthy, lose those extra pounds, and boost vitality. Don’t sabotage yourself with some quick-fix scheme (they have a 100% fail rate!). Instead, build the foundation for the New You on the three time-proven skills for permanent weight loss and health management.

FOCUS ON PLANTS – While there aren’t many black-and-white topics in nutrition, one habit you can be absolutely sure of: People who eat the most colorful produce are the ones who are the healthiest, leanest, smartest, and happiest.

Literally thousands of studies have repeatedly and consistently shown that loading the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables is one of the smartest diet habits to adopt. By doing this, you automatically cut back on bad fats, added sugar, and unnecessary calories. In addition, fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and contain at least two of the magic three ingredients for weight loss: protein, water, and fiber. These nutrients fill you up before they fill you out, making you satisfied on fewer calories.

For example, watermelon is fiber rich and 92% water. What a great way to snack to your heart’s content without packing on the pounds!  Watermelon is also an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. It is the best dietary source of the antioxidant, lycopene, shown to help lower disease risk. And, it contains two compounds that help keep blood vessels healthy: citrulline and arginine.

Make sure that at least half of every plate is heaped with colorful produce. For example, accompany your breakfast cereal with watermelon cubes, add a slice of watermelon to a turkey sandwich at lunch, top a spinach salad with watermelon cubes, and quench your thirst during the day with a watermelon smoothie.  (No excuse about watermelon being hard to find in the winter. It’s available all year around!)

EAT REGULARLYWhen you eat is just as important as what you eat. Large, infrequent meals result in big-time hunger, and when you’re hungry, you lose control of your appetite. In contrast, eating regularly when you’re comfortably hungry keeps you in control of your appetite and helps you make wiser decisions. To make this rule work for you, bring healthy snacks with you and stock the kitchen. Pack your food stash with watermelon cubes drizzled with lime juice or watermelon salsa with baked tortilla chips. In the kitchen, keep watermelon cut up and in the fridge for an easy-to-grab snack.

GET PHYSICAL – Your health and waistline depend on being active. Start small. Walk for 10 minutes a day with the goal of increasing that commitment to exercise so that by the end of the year you’re working out at least five hours a week. Your body will repay you a thousand-fold for this tender loving care!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! (AND MY 2014 WATERMELON RESOLUTION)

December 31st, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

pic2Hopefully today’s blog entry finds everyone in good spirits as we bid farewell to 2013 and hello to 2013. I’m sitting here at home getting ready for our big New Year’s celebration, which will include plenty of snacks and watching the ball drop on TV.

I’ve spent the last four weeks or so mulling which watermelon-related New Year’s resolution I would conquer in 2014 and reminiscing about my past resolutions. My last two goals worked out reasonably well. In 2012, I organized and competed in a watermelon seed spitting contest. This year, I tested my farming abilities by growing my own watermelon. The contest was more of a success than my watermelon-growing adventure, but both experiences were a lot of fun.

In 2014, I’ll return to my competitive roots by vowing to compete in a watermelon eating contest. Similar to my seed spitting contest adventure in 2012, the challenge will be finding a contest in my area to compete in. I’ve found a few local watermelon eating contests in the past, but I have to cross my fingers that they’ll make them an annual event and have them again next year.

Unlike my seed spitting adventure, which I had never done before and required lots of practice, I do have experience when it comes to eating competitions. Those who know me well are well aware of the five or six years I spent as a semi-professional competitive eater. (I use the term “semi-professional” very loosely. I won only a few contests and earned less than a $100 from my exploits.)

I gave up competitive eating about four years ago, right around the time I got married, although my wife had nothing to do with my retirement from the sport. In my heyday, I competed in contests of all types – hot dogs, shoo fly pie, ice cream, pizza, chicken wings (which included my very first contest win), giant hamburgers, and tacos, just to name a few.

Despite my experience at “the table” (as competitive eaters call it), I’ve never competed in a watermelon eating contest. That means I’ll need to practice a bit to learn the best techniques for effectively devouring one of my favorite foods. As always, I’ll post regular updates about my New Year’s resolution progress throughout the year, so stay tuned!

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GUEST BLOG ENTRY: HOW TO “BEAT THE BLOAT” IN 2014!

December 26th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

In case you haven’t noticed, we have a very knowledgeable panel of experts listed in the right hand sidebar of this blog. You can ask them anything (preferably related to watermelon) and they’ll take a crack at answering it. One of those experts is Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D. Elizabeth is a nutritionist, dietician, watermelon lover, and the author of several books. She’s also today’s guest blogger!

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pic2Who hasn’t had one of those days when you can’t get your “fat” jeans to zip up? Your eyes are puffy, your canvas shoes are too tight, your stomach resembles a water balloon, and you feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds since lunch. One in every 10 people report being frequently bothered by bloating. The good news is, all of this is avoidable!

There are two basic causes of bloating. First, if you are puffy all over, that’s water retention. The one-two punch to beat it is to cut back on sodium and consume more water. (That’s right, consume more water!)

Give up the salty junk, like processed and fast foods, and consume more liquids to dilute the sodium in your body so your kidneys can flush out excess fluid. Watermelon is Mother Nature’s natural diuretic. It’s 92% water, low in sodium, and rich in another mineral – potassium – which makes it the perfect combo for flushing out sodium and being bloat-free. Compliment that watermelon snack with enough water throughout the day so your urine is pale yellow.

Second, if it’s only your tummy that’s pooching, that’s probably gas. Typically, too much gas-forming foods, such as legumes, sugary or highly refined grains, and even dairy products and wheat for some people, can cause gas when bacteria that live in your colon dine on leftovers your small intestine didn’t digest. The result is bloating and discomfort. Cut back or cut out these foods, eat frequent small meals, and avoid chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages, and wolfing down a meal where you swallow air that ends up as gas later on.

As always, if your discomfort or bloating is chronic or painful, you should consult your physician to rule out a serious medical digestive disorder. But if it’s just water retention or gas, following these tips should help you beat the bloat in 2014!

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

December 24th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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Yes, those are watermelon in the four stockings picture above, and no, they’re not real watermelon. (Not that anyone would be fooled by my intentionally-crude photo editing skills.)

I’ve mentioned in the past about oranges earning a spot in millions of Christmas stockings worldwide. In that blog entry, I stopped short of suggesting that people put watermelons in stockings, but I’m going to change my stance and go on the record as an outspoken supporter of the “watermelons in Christmas stockings movement.”

As far as I know, no such movement currently exists, mainly because very few stockings are large enough to accommodate a watermelon. But if you have a stocking that’s a little on the large side, you could probably squeeze a mini watermelon in there, right?

Regardless of what you put in your stocking this year, I hope everyone has a very happy holiday. We’ll be going over the river and through the woods (quite literally) to grandma’s house for gifts and dinner tomorrow. Watermelon probably won’t be on the menu, but I might change that by whipping up some festive watermelon wine spritzers.

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GIFTS FOR THE WATERMELON LOVER: WATERMELON PLUSHY

December 23rd, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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As you can tell from the image above, I’ve saved the most adorable prize for last in our month-long celebration of “Gifts for the Watermelon Lover.” This 16-inch plush watermelon slice (buy it here) would make a nice pillow or a toy for a little watermelon lover you might know.

I know my three-and-a-half year old daughter would love this squishy little guy, but if you could see her toy room you’d know that the last thing she needs is yet another stuffed figurine. Of course, that won’t stop her grandma from getting her a few more for Christmas!

I’ll choose one comment at random from all the comments left on this blog entry to receive this cute slice of joy. To get the ball rolling, feel free to leave a response to this question:

If you won this plushy, would you keep it for yourself or give it away to a younger watermelon lover?

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RECIPE: WARM ORIENTAL FRUIT COMPOTE

December 20th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

pic2Winter officially begins tomorrow, but the cold weather has already arrived (at least where I live). That’s a good excuse to create meals designed to warm your heart and soul. Meals like today’s recipe for Warm Oriental Fruit Compote.

Before I made this recipe, I had never made a “compote” before (defined as a dessert originating from 17th-century France made of whole or pieces of fruit in a sugar syrup). To be honest, I’m not really a fan of the name “compote.” To me, it sounds too much like “compost,” which is decomposed organic matter used as a fertilizer in gardens. Not that appetizing, right?

If I were to rename this dessert, I’d call it Warm Watermelon Fruit Awesomeness. True, it doesn’t sound as fancy as Warm Oriental Fruit Compote, but it’s still a delicious winter dessert!

WARM ORIENTAL FRUIT COMPOTE

INGREDIENTS

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup fresh cantaloupe chunks
2 pears cored, peeled, and chunked
2 apples cored, peeled, and chunked
2 cups watermelon puree
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

Place ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

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FROM MINNESOTA TO SINGAPORE: WATERMELON SCULPTURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

December 18th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

Watermelon really is an iconic fruit. It’s colorful, immediately recognizable, and the mere sight of it evokes pleasant memories of picnics, state fairs, or just kicking back at home with a giant wedge and not a care in the world.

With all of that going for it, it’s no wonder watermelon is also a popular subject for sculptural art. Below are three that I discovered online. They weren’t easy to find, either. Searches for “watermelon sculpture” or “watermelon art” turn up lots of images of carvings, but very few images of giant slices of watermelon. Regardless, I’m pretty sure these three works of art represent just a few of the many, many renderings that can be found in parks around the world.

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This sliced ode to watermelon is constructed out of scrap metal that’s been pieced together by artist Ken Nyberg. You can find it along Route 210 in Vining, Minnesota. The town is actually known for its annual Watermelon Day celebration and its “Run for the Melon” 5K and 10K race.

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Unlike many watermelon sculptures, this is one that encourages people to climb on it because it’s a children’s playground in Singapore. The structures are adorned with red and green mosaic tiles and holes in the watermelon double as windows and seeds. Why didn’t they have playgrounds like this when I was a kid?!

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When I discovered this image, it came with no indication of where this creation was located. By using my web-savvy detective skills, I Googled “Bayside Marketplace” (the name I assume is on the banner in the upper left of the image) and “watermelon.” The results led me to downtown Miami, Florida, where there is, indeed, a giant slice of watermelon outside of a very busy (some say “touristy”) shopping and entertainment destination.

So there you have it. Three watermelon sculptures from three corners of the world. If anyone has seen any others, let me know by leaving a comment!

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GIFTS FOR THE WATERMELON LOVER: WATERMELON PURSE

December 16th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

pic2For years, I’ve half-joking told my wife that I was going to buy a fanny pack to use when we go on day trips and family outings. Even though it might draw snickers from passersby, the fanny pack would come in very handy, because I’m usually the one who has to carry the staggering amount of stuff that we always seem to need for a four-hour trip to an amusement park.

I finally broke down and bought something to help lighten the load. It’s a rugged, military-style mini-backpack thing and it’s way cooler than a fanny pack. My wife calls it my “man purse,” and I don’t mind the name because it means my pockets will no longer be jam-packed with sunscreen, lip balm, car keys, and a spare juice box.

Of course, if I were a woman, I might trade my olive green canvas bag for something a little flashier. Something like this week’s “Gift for the Watermelon Lover” – the watermelon purse seen above (you can buy it here).

The purse is about 10 inches long and 6 inches high and is made from a soft faux leather material with black rhinestone seeds. It includes a zipper closure and a detachable shoulder chain strap. It does NOT, however, include a first aid kit, a Swiss Army knife, cough drops, two granola bars, $40 in spare cash, and a tiny mirror for signaling airplanes (you never know). You’ll find those things in my man purse, because those are the kinds of things a man keeps in his purse.

I’ll choose one comment from this entry to win this colorful bag. To help get things started, feel free to answer the question below.

What’s one thing you MUST have in your purse?

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GIFTS FOR THE WATERMELON LOVER: REFRIGERATOR MAGNET PUZZLE

December 11th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

pic2I’ve always loved refrigerator magnets. Everywhere I go and every trip I take, the one souvenir I have to pick up is a refrigerator magnet. I also buy random magnets (mostly food-themed) that catch my eye for various reasons. My fascination resulted in a fridge covered top to bottom in keepsakes from Cape Cod to San Francisco and countless miniature burgers, beers, hot dogs and, yes, even a slice of magnetic watermelon.

That all changed when we bought our new house four years ago. The fridge in our new home is a very nice stainless steel model. But guess what? Magnets don’t stick to stainless steel refrigerators. It made absolutely no sense to me – after all, it’s stainless steel – but I’ve learned to live with it, and now my magnets are stuck to the side of the fridge which is pressed up against the wall.

Hopefully you don’t have one of those magnet-hating stainless steel refrigerators, because this week’s “Gifts for the Watermelon Lover” prize is a watermelon magnet puzzle (buy it here).

The uniquely designed magnet puzzle piece shapes let you slide and align the pieces together with ease on any magnetic surface. The puzzle measures 6 x 9 inches when fully assembled. According to the description on Amazon, the magnets stick to most refrigerators, dishwashers, filing cabinets, lockers, washers, and dryers. (Note: It says “most refrigerators.” As in “Most refrigerators except for the one owned by the guy who really loves refrigerator magnets.”)

I’ll choose one comment at random to win this gift. To get the conversation started, leave a comment below by answering this question:

How many magnets do you have on your fridge right now?

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RECIPE: WATERMELON HEAVEN

December 9th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

To me, the words “watermelon” and “heaven” are kind of redundant, but this recipe definitely deserves the title because of all the other tasty ingredients it uses. Sour cream, vanilla, powdered sugar, and almond slices. All are great, and when combined with watermelon and served on angel food cake, they get even better.

Actually, I just realized this, but I wonder if the angel food cake has something to do with the “Watermelon Heaven” name. Angels, heaven – get it? Whatever the reason, I created this dessert and it was, well, heavenly.

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WATERMELON HEAVEN

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup toasted almond slices
7 cups watermelon puree
6 slices angel food cake

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir in the toasted almonds. Place a one-cup pool of watermelon puree on each of 6 serving plates. Place a slice of cake on each pool. Drizzle the remaining watermelon puree over the top of the cake slices and then put a dollop of the sweetened sour cream with almonds on each serving as a garnish.

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