Courtesy Katy Wilkens.
Enjoy fresh, flavorful summer berries in low-salt, low-sugar recipes.

You Are What You Eat: Sneak berries into your summer

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD
Nutrition and fitness manager

We live in berry heaven! The Pacific Northwest has the perfect climate for these “fruits of the forest,” as they are called in Europe. I just finished turning most of my garden’s tart red currants and strawberries into the most wonderful jelly and jam, and today I picked the first raspberries. The blueberries are hanging big and green on the bushes and my black gooseberries are ready to pick. In a couple of months, everyone will be scanning local vacant lots to pick the introduced, and sadly invasive, Himalayan blackberry.

If you don’t have a big garden, try planting red currants or some mountain blueberries. They can sit in your landscape unnoticed most of the year, and supply you with healthy treats in early summer.

Berries are good sources of nutrients. All red berries are brimming with vitamin C, and I’d rather have a bowl of fresh strawberries than a glass of high-calorie, reconstituted orange juice any day. Blueberries are high in antioxidants while raspberries and blackberries have lots of vitamin C, fiber and folic acid.

There are thousands of ways to enjoy berries, but lots of them are found in high sugar desserts. Instead of those, try keeping berry dishes simple and low calorie to let their flavor and colors shine through.

Berries and granola

After eating homemade yogurt in Greece, my yogurt preferences changed dramatically. Now I strain unsweetened low-fat yogurt overnight using my coffee strainer and a paper filter to make my own version of Greek yogurt. Topped with homemade granola and fresh berries, it makes a healthy summer breakfast.

3 cups regular oatmeal
1cup nuts (cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts)
1 cup seeds (sunflower, sesame, flax)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon or cardamom
1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt or milk
1/2-1 cup fresh berries

To make granola, mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Place on a large rimmed baking tray or two. Toast at 300 degrees for thirty minutes turning occasionally. If you want to add dried fruit, add it after the granola has cooled. Serve sprinkled over Greek yogurt or plain yogurt, or with milk, with fresh berries. The granola will keep for about a month.

Serving size is 1/4 cup over yogurt, 1/2 cup if served with milk and fresh fruit.

Nutrition information (for granola):
Calories: 253, Carbohydrates: 28 grams, Protein: 6 grams, Sodium: 3 milligrams

Fresh berry French toast

Make French toast fast with this easy method of baking it in the oven. It’s lower in fat too, so you can splurge on a dollop of whipped cream or a little syrup with your berries if you like.

1-2 cups mixed fresh berries (if using strawberries, slice them)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 slices bread

Heat oven to 425. Mix berries with sugar. Beat eggs and spices together. Dip bread in eggs. Place on greased baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes until golden brown, turn over for another 2-3 minutes. Serve topped with berries. Serves two.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 366, Carbohydrates: 48 grams, Protein: 18 grams, Sodium: 388 milligrams

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2014 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at]

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