www.eating-made-easy.com is finally here! In a few months, this blog will be extinct. But Eating Made Easy has all the same info but in a more user-friendly format, and with even more great tips. Check it out!
I have good news!: My new site, www.eating-made-easy.com, which will be like this blog but with many more cool features, will be up and running by mid-March. SO EXCITED to share it with you -- I can't wait!! Until then, I have to stop blogging here, so that my web team can work their magic. In the meantime, look for recipes and nutrition tips in these places:
Follow me on Twitter: @healthymeels (soon to become @eatingmadeeasy)
If you're a busy mom (or busy anyone!) who feels like the only snack you can ever think of is apple slices with peanut butter, you're not alone. It's hard to think of new snacks, and the old staples (that you already know your kid likes) are so easy to reach for. Though I'm not a mom, I get in snack ruts all the time, so it's time for some new ideas. Below are some snacks to try. You may initially think "Nice idea, but MY kid isn't going to like that." Before you dismiss an idea (which sometimes happens when you yourself don't like a certain food, right?), I encourage you to give it a whirl. Thinking outside the box of "kid foods" opens up a whole new set of taste preferences for kids, and you never know what your kid will like. Also keep in mind that kids may not like something the first time they see it or try it, but that doesn't mean you can't try again; it can take up to 10 introductions for a kid to feel comfortable with a new food (I know that might mean 10 times of fighting then having to make something else, so don't feel bad if you're not up for it :) ).
These can of course be adjusted to fit your kid's taste buds:
For Toddlers (older kids will love too)
Corn Quesadillas -- 1 corn tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese & a sprinkling of corn kernels, microwaved then folded over, or cooked until crisp in a skillet.
Honey wheat pretzels sticks with dips -- For the dips, try: mustard + honey or maple syrup (you can make it spicy or sweet), shredded cheddar whisked into warm milk for cheese sauce, peanut butter + honey, refried black beans + light cream cheese + lime juice.
Smoothies -- Use milk as the base rather than juice, then add plain yogurt and frozen fruit of any kind. (Tip: make your own frozen fruit in the summertime. And anytime, buy a bunch of bananas and let them get really ripe, then peel, break into pieces and freeze in a Ziploc for quick smoothies, shakes, or even banana bread). My favorite combos: strawberries + blueberries + vanilla soymilk + plain yogurt; mango + pineapple + banana + plain Kefir or low-fat buttermilk.
Tortilla Roll-Ups -- Start with a whole wheat tortilla, then go to town with the endless possibilities! Try one of these combos: peanut butter + apple slices + raisins; Italian cheese blend + prosciutto or ham + dollop of marinara sauce; cream cheese + turkey slices + chopped tomato; cheddar cheese + steamed egg (beat an egg w/ fork in a mug, microwave 1 min or until fluffy & cooked); refried beans + mild salsa + avocado.
Yogurt "Blend"-- simply mix plain yogurt with mashed fruit of any kind. Kids this age would of course love the overly-sweet commercial yogurts if you gave it to them, but there's no need, because to a toddler, plain yogurt even tastes sweet -- capitalize on this! Mashed bananas are easy, but you can also thaw any frozen berries, mango, pineapple, melons, etc in the microwave until very soft, then mash with a fork and add yogurt or Kefir (Kefir is cultured milk, very similar to yogurt but it is drinkable -- look for it near the yogurt in the grocery store). Other items to mix with yogurt: canned pumpkin, baby food sweet potatoes, baby food prunes, or applesauce.
Mini Rice Cakes/Soy Crisps with toppings -- Top little rice cakes or soy crisps with peanut butter + banana slices + raisins; cream cheese + strawberry slices + honey; hummus + cucumber slices; avocado + olive oil drizzle; cream cheese + sliced black olives/olive tapenade.
For Older Kids (with lots of teeth) & Adults
Dip Contest-- Kids will try anything if they get to vote or play a game. Put out 3 different kinds of dip (hummus, ranch made with Greek yogurt & seasoning packet, fruity salsa, cheese sauce, honey mustard dressing, etc.) and a tray of cut veggies. Say something like this: "Today, you guys are judges, and your job is to decide which of these dips is the best! I need you to try each one, then tell me which is #1, #2, and #3, and then we'll figure out which is the winner." Watch this table of kids gobble down broccoli florets like you've never seen.
Homemade Flavored Popcorn -- microwave (Light or Unbuttered) or stove popped (super easy, just heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large pot for 2-3 min then add 3 Tbsp of popcorn kernels and cover with a lid: you'll have popcorn in a few short minutes). Then try one of these combos: nonstick cooking spray + grated Parmesan cheese, lime juice + few splashes Tapatio or Tabasco + salt, 1 Tbsp melted butter + brown sugar, nonstick cooking spray + cinnamon + sugar.
Fruit Parfaits -- Set out cottage cheese or plain yogurt, 2-3 bowls of chopped fruit or berries, a small bowl of chopped nuts or granola, and small clear glasses or plastic cups. Have kids build their own parfaits by layering the ingredients, then top with a drizzle of honey.
Homemade Trail Mix -- Place bowls of different nuts, dried fruits, cereals, and a few chocolate covered raisins (if your kids can handle that!) then give each kid a small plastic cup where they can make their own trail mix. Trader Joe's is a great place to find well-priced and unique dried fruits, nuts, and cereals, to keep everyone's interest.
Tropical Fruit Tray -- so often we only think of apples, bananas, and oranges, but there are so many wonderful fruits in every season that kids love. Make trays with a variety of colors to increase appeal, and let kids go to town (give them skewers to make their own "kabobs"). In the summer it's easy: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, nectarines, golden plums, apricots, tons of berries, grapes, fresh figs. In the fall, try persimmons, different kinds & colors of apples, and pears. In the winter, try kiwis, star fruit, satsumas, pink grapefruit. Keep your eye out for new or exotic fruits at the grocery store or farmer's market...and if you're not sure what to do with something, ask the farmer or produce guys -- they'll happily tell you how to cut it, which parts to eat, and how to tell if it's ripe.
Fruit Dip -- Just like with veggies, dips can make fruit more exciting. Make your own fruit dip by mixing 1) 6 oz fruit yogurt + 1/4 cup whipped topping or whipped cream + lemon or lime zest; 2)6 oz plain yogurt + 2 Tbsp peanut butter + 1 Tbsp honey + pinch of cinnamon;3)cup of Ricotta cheese + 2 Tbsp caramel or chocolate sauce + pinch of cinnamon or cocoa powder; 4)cup of Greek yogurt + chopped fresh mint + lemon zest + 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup.
Sweet Potato Treat -- turn baked or microwaved sweet potatoes into a "dessert" kids will love. Give each kid half a sweet potato (halved lengthwise), top with a little butter, then help them add a drizzle of honey, maple syrup, sweetened condensed milk, or brown sugar + pinch of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice + dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt. Let them mash it all in and enjoy.
Every home cook needs some tricks up his or her sleeve. A handy list of healthy and natural (as opposed to potentially hazardous) "kitchen hacks" was brought to my attention, and I can't wait to put some of them to use starting today! Below are some ways to recover from common cooking mishaps. For more great food storage, cleaning, and other random but awesome tips, click here.
We’ve all goofed up when it comes to cooking. Here are some simple tips that will help you in a pinch.
31. If you’ve burned your gravy, pour it into a new pan and sprinkle a dash of sugar in it. - The sugar will counteract the bitterness from the burned gravy, but won’t leave it with a sweet taste. 32. Did you add too much salt? Throw in a peeled potato. - Throw in a peeled potato while your dish is still cooking. 33. When boiling eggs, add a pinch of salt to keep the shells from cracking. - This is great right around Easter time. No one wants cracked Easter eggs. 34. Is your rice a bit brown on the bottom of the pot? - Place a piece of white bread on top of the rice for approximately 5-10 minutes. This will take away that burnt flavor. Remember to take off the burnt part when you serve it! 35. When your casseroles or other dishes end up to greasy, add a piece of ice. - The ice cube will attract the fat, which you can then spoon out. 36. No need to buy expensive mixing bowls with rubber bottoms. - Set you’re bowl on top of a damp cloth. You’ll never have to worry about it sliding around while you’re mixing something. 37. Burnt food smells can removed from the air by placing a shallow bowl about ¾ of the way full with white or apple cider vinegar . - The odor should disappear in less than a day or if it’s a really strong odor it might take 1 to 2 days. 38. Soak stove burner grates in 1 gallon warm water and 1/2 cup baking soda. - them Leave them in there for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry them and they will be looking shiny and new. 39. To get rid of those stuck on food splatters in the microwave, place a water-soaked sponge inside and cook in on high for two minutes. - Leave the microwave door closed for another five minutes to let the sponge cool off. The steam will loosen up the food and you can easily wipe it all off without the use of chemical cleaners. 40. Spills in the oven - If that dish your cooking starts to cook over, take it out of the oven and pour salt on the spill. This will soak it right up. When the oven is cool, wipe with down with a damp sponge. **tips from http://www.mritechnicianschools.org/56-healthy-natural-hacks-you-should-be-using-in-the-kitchen/
I know, sounds weird. And hard. But it's neither. It's easy and delicious, and a great way to use fresh, beautiful produce like this:
even in the middle of winter. Click here for the Carrot Souffle Recipe. In my slightly more low-cal version:
I use 1% milk instead of whole, and only 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar. Still SO good. If you were having company or wanted to eat this over a few days, you could make individual little souffles like this:
Awhile ago I had polenta with chicken sausage and maple syrup at Nickel Diner in downtown LA, and since then, I can't get enough of this meal...or at least my healthier version of this meal. It is so warm, comforting, hearty, and satisfying: perfect for a weekend brunch or quick weeknight dinner.
POLENTA WITH GREENS & CHICKEN SAUSAGE
1 cup polenta (course or medium ground cornmeal,
you could also use grits)
4 cups water
1-1/2 cups 1% milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
Bring the water to a boil, add salt, stir in the polenta and whisk constantly until it thickens, then pour in the milk and continue to whisk until creamy and smooth (should take 5-10 min). It's hard to ruin polenta -- just get it to a consistency you think is good, like oatmeal or Cream of Wheat.
4 chicken apple sausages (I like the uncooked ones from the Whole Foods meat case)
Grill pan or skillet
Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat, add a drop of oil, then place sausages in pan and brown on all sides (2-3 min/side). Remove to a cutting board, slice in half lengthwise, then grill the inside for a couple minutes until browned. Set aside.
In the same grill pan or skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add a couple handfuls of the greens and a sprinkle of salt and saute until wilted, then add more greens and keep doing this until all your greens are somewhat wilted. Add a few splashes of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or balsamic vinegar, remove from heat. This is a great time to use these greens:
Spoon some of the polenta into a bowl, pile some greens on it, then lay a sausage on top and drizzle with maple syrup (use Grade B for best flavor, its darker and more robust). Enjoy! Makes 4 servings.
Want a few healthy snacks to go along with your Chip Buffet, Buffalo wings, and 7-Layer dip this Superbowl Sunday? Look back at my blog about roasting, and try one of these:
Roasted Garbanzo Beans with Pistachios
Drain and rinse a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), toss with a little olive oil, roast at 425 for 15 minutes or until browned and pretty crunchy. Pour into a small bowl with some shelled pistachios and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Roasted French Green Beans
Empty the contents of a bag of Haricot Vert (French green beans, the thin ones--they sell them pre-cut & washed at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco) onto a baking sheet, toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for 12-15 minutes at 425. They are supposed to get brown on the ends and wilt...if you want them crunchy, roast for only 3-4 minutes. For a fun presentation, put them in a glass like this so people can just pull out a bean at a time.
**Thank you to Kari for this wonderful bean presentation idea!!
If you like to eat seasonally, winter can present a challenge. We have plenty of winter produce in California (that is shipped to your state if you live elsewhere), but it may be less familiar to us than summer and fall items. Most of us wouldn't see kholrabi or chayote at the market and think "Oooh! Just what I was hoping to make for dinner!" We're more likely to give it a weird stare and move on to the bag of baby greens and yellow-looking tomatoes we at least recognize. Here are some delicious fruits and veggies to keep your eye out for in the winter and early spring.
Over the month of February I will feature recipes with winter produce, so keep your eye out for these in-season vegetables and fruits at your farmer's market or grocery store. Below is the first idea -- a simple cabbage slaw (to replace a green salad that's better suited for spring or summertime).
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1/2 head Radicchio (small leafy red-cabbage-looking ball)
2 carrots, shredded or thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
handful of fresh cilantro, mint, or basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, or sliced almonds
Combine all these vegetables in a large bowl. Pour about 1/3 cup Asian-style dressing (try Newman's Own Lowfat Sesame Ginger, or Ken's Lite Asian Sesame) over them and toss gently with your hands to coat. Let the slaw sit in the dressing for 5-10 minutes, tossing occasionally, before serving.
Note: this recipe makes a lot, and can be saved in the fridge even with the dressing on it: it just gets more flavorful.
Other things you could to this salad: sliced snow peas, thin cucumber slices, shredded raw zucchini, shredded broccoli stems, shredded red cabbage, boiled edamame beans, tofu cubes
To make your own dressing: whisk together 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 3 Tbsp rice vinegar, juice of 1/2 lime, 2 Tbsp sugar or honey, dash of Siracha or other hot sauce, and either 2 Tbsp peanut butter or
So often weekend breakfasts turn into enormous, heavy meals, after which we are so full all we can do is take a nap for the rest of the day. Not that a nap is a bad thing, but a few weekend overeating episodes can undo all the hard healthy eating work we've put in during weekdays. So, here's an idea for a hearty breakfast that will fill you up, taste special, and get your weekend morning started off right.
Oatmeal with Fruit Topping
1 cup cooked oatmeal of any kind (steel cut oats, quick oats, oat bran, old fashioned oats)
1/2 cup sauteed fruit
Fruit Topping Idea (Note: this is the perfect time to use fruit you have that's getting too soft/mushy, or anything frozen)
1 Tbsp butter
1 apple, sliced
1 cup fresh cranberries (or 1/4 cup dried)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp walnuts
Melt butter in skillet, saute apples for ~3 min with a tiny pinch of salt
Add cranberries (& 1 Tbsp water if mixture is getting dry)
When fruit is soft, add nuts and sugar and stir
Remove from heat and spoon onto oatmeal with drizzled milk Another Topping Idea
1 Tbsp Butter
Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
Same directions as above.
Other Fruit Topping Ideas
1 cup frozen raspberries + segments of 1 orange + 1 Tbsp white sugar
2 cups strawberry slices + zest of 1 lime + 1 Tbsp honey
1 sliced banana + 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts + 1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 mango cut into chunks + 1 Tbsp shredded coconut + 1 cup frozen blueberries
All of these Toppings would also work well for pancakes or waffles --even frozen whole grain waffles (like Kashi GoLean).
You always hear that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." That may or may not be true, but research does show that people who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day, and that they tend to eat healthier overall. So yes, eating breakfast is a good idea.
But don't be intimidated: you don't have to sit down to a large meal, eat breakfast-y food, or give up your quick morning routine to be considered a Breakfast Eater. Eating breakfast just means getting something into your body within 1-2 hours of waking up. Here are some examples of healthy breakfasts, all between 200-300 calories (approx) each:
If you like breakfast, but you're in a hurry in the morning, try these on-the-go options:
Spread 1 dollop peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla, layer with sliced apples or bananas, and roll into a burrito
1 Luna bar (Nutz Over Chocolate is my fave) + 1 large orange
Small baggie of whole grain cereal (try Kashi Heart-to-Heart or Barbara's Cinnamon Puffins) + 6oz container of yogurt (for good yogurts, see my yogurt post)
Dunkin Donuts glazed donut + small nonfat latte (please note: I do not suggest you eat donuts for breakfast, but if you're already going to eat something at Dunkin' Donuts, it's one of the lower-calorie options, and if it prevents you from binging at lunch then go for it)
Coffee Bean Medium Sugar-Free Vanilla or Mocha Ice Blended
Coffee Bean Medium Sugar-Free Tea Latte
McDonald's Egg McMuffin w/ no butter + small coffee
McDonald's Medium Nonfat Latte w/ 2 pkts sugar
Jamba Juice 12oz Sunrise Strawberry yogurt blend (ask for 3 scoops ice if you want it thick like a regular Jamba smoothie)
Jamba Juice oatmeal with fruit topping
If you "aren't a breakfast person," try bringing one of these to eat when you get to work:
If you've been trying to eat healthier this 2010 but can't bear the thought of another salad, how about an omelet for dinner? This traditional brunch item can be just as healthy as a salad, but a nice change of pace when you're craving something warm and hearty in the winter.
Simply heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small skillet. Cut up whatever veggies you have around and saute with some salt & pepper. Here I sliced 3 asparagus spears, a few mushrooms, green onions and let those cook a few minutes, then added 2 handfuls of baby spinach. (Looks like a warm salad, doesn't it?)
While that's sizzling away, scramble one extra large egg (or 1 large egg + 1 egg white) with 2 Tbsp lowfat milk in a bowl. Remove veggies to a plate, add another 1/2 tsp of olive oil to the skillet, then pour egg mixture in and roll around until the top starts to solidify (heat should be on med-low). Sprinkle some low-fat cheese on top if you want:
Then just pile the veggies on the egg, and using a spatula (or two if you want to make it pretty), gently fold one half over the other.
Plate up with a piece of whole wheat toast (if you're like me and must have some hearty carbs with every meal) and you've got yourself a balanced meal that feels like a relaxing Sunday brunch!
I've mentioned Michael Pollan's Food Rules book a few times, but it is so in line with my nutrition & food philosophies that I just have to give it more attention. So for the next few months, I'll be posting intermittently about some of the rules and how to apply them (realistically) in your life.
I have lots of favorites when it comes to the "rules," but this is one of them: It's not food if it's called the same thing in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, Pringles).
Seriously, this stuff is not food, it's a collection of edible substances created by someone in a lab. Gross! (Not to say you should never eat these foods if you love them, but once in a great while should really be the goal).
Walking into a grocery store can be so overwhelming. You're hungry, tired, don't know what to make, not sure what you have at home, and there are often 20,000 items to choose from. It's no wonder you feel like running home and ordering takeout. Here are a few basics to make shopping easier:
PLAN BEFORE YOU GO - Think about what want to eat (consider meals at home, school/work lunches, and on-the-go snacks). Then do an inventory of your fridge & pantry, so you don't overbuy or forget something you thought you had. When you plan meals, try to plan things with overlapping ingredients, so you save money and waste less food.
MAKE A LIST AND STICK TO IT - Your list is your guide through the grocery store; it will help you avoid "impulse buys" (which are never healthy) and also prevent you from blowing your budget.
DON'T SHOP HUNGRY - The reason for this is obvious: you'll end up with a cart full of Cheez-its and M&M's. If you have to shop after work, or when you know you'll be hungry, keep some small snacks in your purse or glove compartment (individually-packed nuts, dried fruit, or granola bars) so you can kill the hunger pangs before walking into the store.
I got this pizza idea from an unlikely source (sorry Linds!) -- my good friend Lindsay :) She is in the process of becoming a whiz in the kitchen, and the pizza I had at her house recently was fab:
1 refrigerated pizza dough (try TJ's whole wheat)
3/4 bunch asparagus, trimmed & sliced into smaller pieces
4 thin slices prosciutto, torn or chopped
1-2 cups Italian cheese blend, mozzarella, or Parmesan cheese
Sprinkling of pine nuts
(I also added lots of fresh basil & drizzle of olive oil)
Let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 15 min before you stretch it out onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or olive oil. Then stretch out dough and pile on the toppings. Bake at 475 for 10-14 min or until cheese is browned and dough is crusty on the edges. Let sit 5 min before slicing.
To make vegetarian, replace prosciutto with Greek olives or artichoke heart quarters.
If you don't like a particular vegetable, or are not sure if you like it, try it roasted. Roasting makes every vegetable super tasty--even broccoli, spinach, or celery, veggies you wouldn't necessarily think of putting in the oven. Not clear on what roasting is? It's baking at a high temperature -- like 400 or above. How to roast most veggies: toss with a little olive oil and generous sprinkle of salt & pepper, lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast at 425 or 450 until the edges of the veggies are brown & a little crispy, and the insides are soft. The timing will depend on what veggie you're roasting. Some examples:
Asparagus: 12-15 min
Broccoli florets: 17-20 min
Cauliflower florets: 35-40 min
Chopped kale or other greens: 3-6 min
Zucchini chunks: 30-35 min
Butternut Squash chunks: 30-35 min
Snap Peas: 10-12 min
Fingerling potatoes: 30-35 min
Sweet potato chunks: 30-40 min
Frozen corn (rinse kernels under hot water to thaw first, drain well): 12-15 min
Apple or pear chunks (not a veg, but yes, roast them!): 15-20 min
Garbanzo Beans (not a veg, but yes, roast them!): 20 min
Tofucubes (not a veg, but toss with your fave sauce & roast it!): 20-30 min
....and the list of yummy things to roast goes on. Some other roasting tips:
Make sure all your veggie chunks are the same size, so they're done cooking at the same time.
Don't overload the baking sheet -- a single layer is key for the veggies to brown. If you overload, the veggies will steam each other and you'll get a big pile of mush.
Amount of olive oil you use is up to you, but to get the vegetables to brown/caramelize, they need to be well-coated. Not swimming in oil, but coated. This will also prevent sticking.
Lay a piece of foil (shiny side down) on your baking sheet to reduce clean-up time.
Sprinkle dried herbs of any kind along with your salt & pepper to boost flavor of the veggies.
Experiment with different kinds of salts & peppers -- these can bring out different flavors in the veggies. And don't skimp on the salt--it makes all the difference in the taste of the veggies.
Try adding some minced garlic to the olive oil before you toss the veggies in it--your house will smell divine, and you'll think you've become a gourmet cook!
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with dried thyme
My new favorite thing to roast: chopped greens. Toss with olive oil and minced garlic,
then roast for 6-8 minutes until the edges are crispy. So good!!
Not everyone's up for bread-making, but if you are, here's a delicious loaf:
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea or kosher salt (1 tsp if using table salt)
3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups wheat bran (or use 1 cup oat bran, whole wheat flour, or rye flour)
1 Tbsp dried Rosemary & Thyme, or other herbs of choice (or 2-3 Tbsp fresh finely chopped herbs)
1 packet active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. When everything is combined (and your arm is tired!), remove dough to a floured surface and knead for about 5 min. Return to bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and place in a warm spot for 1-2 hrs or until dough as doubled in size.
Punch down (really, sock it to the dough) then reshape into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with towel and let rise again for an hour. Bake at 425 for 10 min, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 30 min, or until loaf sounds hollow when you knock on the top. Let bread cool directly on cooling rack for an hour before slicing (or at least 20 min if you are dying to sink your teeth into a hot piece with butter). Note: you can also do this in a mixer or food processor with the dough hook attachment -- the machine will do the mixing and kneading for you. Just let it rise right in the bowl and put in loaf pan for 2nd rise.
Just because you haven't been to the store doesn't mean you can't eat dinner at home. Having a few frozen veggies, an egg or two, some random things in jars, and a bread item of some sort, means you can throw together a tasty dinner in a flash. Really. Here's what we had last night:
Corn tortillas, broiled for 2 min in the toaster oven with a few old clumps of goat & cheddar cheese
Frozen spinach mixed with a handful of fresh chopped kale that was starting to wilt
The rest of some salsa mixed with 1/2 can black beans & 2 pieces leftover chopped grilled zucchini
1/2 pkt leftover pre-cooked rice from a packet
A fried egg, tomato slices, and about 6 leaves of old-but-still-good cilantro (literally) on top
Not fancy, but it was really good. And free. And utilized food that would have gone bad. You can do this too!
Figuring out whether your bread, pasta, cereal, etc is really whole grain can be tough, because there are so many terms & words used on packaging to make you think a product is healthy, even if it's not. Here are some of the most common terms defined, to help you make an informed decision about what products to buy:
100% Whole Grain
No refined grains or refined flour was used
Means product has fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and slows digestion so that you stay full for longer, and end up eating less.
If something is 100% whole grain, it should have at least 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories.
Note: there may be other grains used in addition to wheat, like oats, oat bran, spelt, flax, rye, or barley flour. These are all "whole grains."
This is a good sign. Buy products that say this.
100% Whole Wheat
Made with only whole wheat flour, no refined flours
If you read the ingredients list, you should see that the ONLY flours listed are stone-ground whole wheat, 100% whole wheat, or whole wheat.
When buying bread, look for "100% whole wheat" on the label
This means nothing, because ALL bread (except gluten-free) is wheat bread.What you want is whole wheat.
If you read the ingredients listand see "enriched wheat flour," or "unbleached wheat flour," or "fortified wheat flour" -- don't be fooled, these are not whole grains!
Has at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 3 grams of fat per serving
Good because fiber helps fill you up, and keep you fuller for longer
Good Source of Fiber
Has 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving
May or may not be 100% whole grain, but if the ingredients are all whole grains, then it is
More Fiber or Added Fiber
Has at least 2.5 grams more fiber per serving than the regular version of the food
Watch out! -- many products that have tons of fiber (like 10-25 grams/serving) have all sorts of unnatural additives to make them higher in fiber -- and these added fibers do not have the same beneficial effects on health as naturally occurring fiber -- so just be aware of this if you choose to buy these products.
Good clues that a product is high in synthetic fiber (not the naturally-occurring kind):
If the product is white, like a "country white bread" but has fiber -- clearly the product is not whole grain because it's white & refined, so you know the fiber is from an additive, not from the grain itself
If the product is not the type of food that would normally have fiber (a grain, fruit, or vegetable) -- like a Pop Tart, candy, beverage, or yogurt.
Made with Whole Grains
There might be whole grains in the product, but the product is not 100% whole grain
This is a company's try at getting you to believe their product is completely whole grain, even though it's not
Let me know if you have other specific questions about fiber or whole grains and I'd be happy to answer! * picture from www.applepiepatispate.com website
Yesterday morning I donated $5 to Wyclef's relief organization in Haiti simply by texting YELE to 501501. Later in the day, as I watched a CNN report on the current situation in Haiti, it dawned on me that a $5 donation from someone like me is ridiculous. I spend more than $5 on a magazine that I feel like reading, or on my 3X/weekly frozen yogurt habit. I am far from rich, but I can definitely afford to put some of my daily luxuries aside for a week or two in order to provide much-needed assistance to a people who have nothing. So I got online and gave an amount that made me feel just a little uncomfortable, but also like my donation was truly going to help. In thinking about what you can afford to give, I encourage you to push the limit a little. No matter how hard our own recession has hit, Haitians need our money more than we do.
At the beginning of the New Year, we all try to ditch bad habits and form good ones. Here is my own bad habit I'm trying to kick (and by kick I mean reduce the frequency of, NOT eliminate. God no I could never do that):
Getting out of a habit may seem daunting, but the good news is, by getting out of an old habit, you are already forming a new one. Just like you can get used to having dessert after dinner every night, you can get used to not having dessert after dinner every night. It just takes a little time -- usually 2 weeks is enough for food habits -- of not doing what you're used to, and then TADA!, a new (good) habit is formed. To help get you through the sometimes tough period of adjustment (when you are craving frozen yogurt with sprinkles so badly it's taking over your entire being), it's helpful to fill the time you used to spend on the habit with a specific planned activity. For example:
When I get the craving for dessert I'll go through my dresser and find clothes to give to the Goodwill.
When I'm at work and I get the craving for salty snacks at 4pm, I'll leave the building and go on a 5 minute walk around the block, breathing deeply and refocusing my attention.
To prepare for the craving I know I'll get for my nightly glass of wine, I'll go the grocery store and find 3 new cool herbal teas that I can jump up and make as soon as the craving strikes.
.....and so on. Really, it's not as hard as you think. Our bodies are amazing and can re-learn pretty much anything. So, I'll let you know how the frozen yogurt battle goes!
If you can reduce your food waste, not only will your food budget go down, but also your carbon footprint. On average, Americans waste between 12-20% of what they buy, and America as a whole wastes about 40% of its food supply. Producing this food that never gets used accounts for more than 1/4 of America's consumption of fresh water, and also uses about 300 million barrels of oil per year. Not to mention all the methane that emerges when this wasted food rots (methane is a potent greenhouse gas)!
Luckily there are LOTS of ways you can reduce the amount of food you waste at home, from buying less to being more efficient with what you have lying around. I am going to write about many of the ways you can achieve this over the coming months, but to start, a few words about expiration dates.
There are different kinds of expiration dates:
"sell-by"= a guide for the store to know how long it can display an item for sale (yogurt, milk, most dairy products are sell-by ....which means if your milk/yogurt/cheese doesn't smell spoiled or look weird, it's probably fine...I don't even look at the date on my dairy products, I just trust my senses, especially with yogurt--which is kind of like spoiled milk anyway--usually tastes good for up to a month after the date on the carton)
"best before"or "best by" = refers to the quality or flavor of the food (like jelly/jam, nuts, oils)
"use by"= this is a true expiration date, after which it's best not to use a product at all (like mayonnaise, meats, etc)
"use or freeze by" = literally, use it or freeze it by this date; once it's in the freezer, the product will last 3-6 months longer than the date, depending on the type of food)
For a complete guide on how to read expiration dates, check out this easy-to-read article from Business Week.
Remember, the things that give you food poisoning or make you sick are usually colorless, odorless, and tasteless -- so you're not necessarily avoiding illness by throwing away your 1-lb block of cheese that has a tiny speck of mold on it!
Michael Pollan is one of my favorite food-related authors. His new book, FOOD RULES: An Eater's Manual, "is a useful and funny purse-sized manual that could easily replace all the diet books on your bookshelf," says Tara Parker-Pope, a columnist for the NY Times.
Parker-Pope goes on to say "I love this book not only for its simplicity and practical advice, but because the rules themselves are memorable and will ring in your head long after you read it. Choosing just one rule that is new to you from each of the book’s three sections would certainly lead to meaningful changes in your eating habits."
If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.
It’s not food if it’s served through the window of your car.
It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language.(i.e. Big Mac, Cheetos, Coke)
Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. (this is not because homemade junk food is healthy, but because it's labor-intensive and cumbersome to make, so you won't make it very often & will eat junk in moderation by default)
This is a humorous book, with realistic and practical "rules" you can try to integrate into your life. There are 64 of them not because you have to do all of them, but so you can choose ones most relevant to you. I highly recommend at least flipping through this!
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 zucchini or yellow squash, grated
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (I like to use the fire-roasted ones, or with green chiles)
4 pre-cooked chicken sausages, sliced into half-moons
4 cups rough chop kale/spinach/cooking greens (I use the Southern Greens mixture from Trader Joe's)
1-2 cups Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Pacific, or Imagine--in the qt-size box)
1 cup water or broth
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large pot. Add onion & pinch of salt and saute until softened. Add dried thyme and grated squash and saute a few more minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, sausage, boxed soup, and broth/water. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until near boiling. Add the greens, a cup or two at a time, and cook until they're wilted and somewhat softened, about 10 minutes for the Southern Greens, but only 2 min for spinach which wilts quickly. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Variations & Notes:1) You can skip the boxed soup and use all broth--I just like the creaminess-without-cream that the soup offers. 2) You can make this vegetarian by replacing the sausage with a jar of roasted red peppers, drained & sliced. 3) Use whatever bagged, pre-washed greens you can find at the store to make this soup super easy; baby spinach or arugula might be the easiest to find. 4) If you have some wine open, red or white, add a few splashed to the onions before adding the other ingredients, for extra flavor.
Few foods offer more health benefits than yogurt. In addition to being a great source of protein and calcium, it provides live & active cultures, which are beneficial for many reasons, primarily because they promote healthy digestion & can boost immunity (there are lots of wannabe immune-boosting foods out there; yogurt is a real one). You can even eat yogurt if you're lactose-intolerant; it may actually help you digest! Not all yogurts are created equal. Some are healthy, but others have so much sugar and so many additives, they should barely be considered yogurt.
Facts to help you choose a good yogurt:
Plain yogurt has about 12g of naturally-occurring sugar per cup --this is from lactose, a natural component of milk, and is not the same as refined sugar. Even tart, unsweetened yogurt contains this lactose, so don't let it scare you off.
A teaspoon of sugar = 4grams. So for example, if you buy a cup of yogurt that has 32 grams of sugar (like regular Yoplait or a grocery store-brand), that means it has 8 whole teaspoons of sugarin just one serving-- chances are you would never feel comfortable adding this much sugar into anything, so why would you eat it in yogurt?!
If you're not into the tart taste of yogurt, add your own honey, maple syrup, fruit preserves, berries, or other chopped fruit (this is a much healthier than buying pre-sweetened yogurt, as you'll add less sugar). Aim for a little (1 tsp) then add more if you need to. Or, mix a few tablespoons of a flavored yogurt into plain, to get the benefits of both.
Frozen yogurt from a yogurt shop, even if it's nonfat and or sugar-free, is not as beneficial as regular yogurt.It's definitely better than ice cream, and better than many commercial yogurts, but keep in mind it's still a dessert, and it tastes that good for a reason.
"Tart" frozen yogurt, from Pinkberry & other yogurt shops, is not unsweetened. It's actually very high in sugar (32g in a 8oz serving, which is usually the smallest cup-size), they just add citric acid to make it taste tart.
Here are some of my favorite types -- they are not only tasty, but healthy:
Siggi's Skyr Icelandic Yogurt
Siggi's "skyr" is a thick, tart, flavorful yogurt, with a hint of sweetness. They offer all sorts of unique flavors, like orange-ginger, pomegranate-passionfruit, and grapefruit. High in protein (16g) and low in sugar (10g) -- very rare in a yogurt. Only drawback to Siggi's is it's $2.99/6 oz container. But a great occasional indulgence.
Fage 0% Greek Yogurt
Fage is one of the original Greek yogurts in the U.S. It comes in Total (full fat), 2% (reduced fat), and 0% (fat free). Go for the fat-free & plain -- it's so thick & creamy you won't feel any sacrifice. If you want sweetness, add a teaspoon of honey or chopped fruit rather than buying the sweetened type; that way you can control the amount of sugar and calories added.
Note: Trader Joe's sells a generic 0% Greek yogurt--it's Fage only with a Trader Joe's label--and about half the price.
Trader Joe's European Style Fat-Free Yogurt
This yogurt is thinner than Greek, but is equally creamy and delicious. It's still high in protein (14g) and low in sugar (10g), and tasted very tart. Add 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup to a cup if you prefer a sweeter yogurt (even adding your own sweetener will keep yogurt much lower in calories and sugar than if you buy sweetened yogurt).
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt
I love almost all of Stonyfield's yogurts. The milk comes from family farms in Vermont and the yogurts are super high quality. Some of them are pretty sweet, so if you buy a fruit-on-the-bottom one, leave the fruit-at-the-bottom. Or, mix a little of the fruity yogurt into a larger amount of plain.
Other brands to check out (Read the Nutrition Label before buying -- look for less than 20g/sugar per 6-oz cup -- and even less is best!)
Mountain High -- Plain fat-free, Plain lowfat, Lowfat Vanilla (esp if you mix w/ plain)
Cascade Fresh -- Even the flavored ones are lower in sugar than other commercial fruit yogurts
Brown Cow -- Plain fat-free, Plain Lowfat, Maple Lowfat
365 (Whole Foods brand) Lowfat and fat-free varieties
Wallaby Organic -- some flavors are lower in sugar than others--read the label
Oikos (Stoneyfield's Greek Yogurt) -- all flavors are good & pretty low in sugar
Yogurts I recommend avoiding:
Yoplait Custard Style
Ralph's, Von's, Safeway, Kirkland Signature, etc. -- these regular fruit-flavored yogurts are super high in sugar and calories
"Light" yogurts -- these are reduced calorie, but sweetened with aspartame (Nutra-Sweet) and contain many additives. If you need sweet, these are a better choice than regular versions calorie-wise, but not necessarily healthy.
Are you about to drink lemon-water-syrup-cayenne pepper juice for 10 days to "cleanse" your system? Do you plan to eat nothing but vegetables for two weeks to "rid your body of toxins?" Or maybe buy an expensive juicer so you can have liquid meals & supplements for the month of January and "shed excess fat?"
If the answer to these questions is yes,let me save you an enormous amount of hunger, misery, money, and time spent on the toilet:Cleanses and detox diets are hogwash. They're basically glorified fasts, and the only thing they guarantee is that the people who invent them are going to make a lot of money.
"Wait!!" you say, "But I've been so indulgent and mean to my body during the holiday season--and maybe all of 2009--that I need to 'start fresh' and rid my body of the evil things I put in it for so long!!"
News flash:you, along with every other member of the human race, have a built-in detox system. It's called a liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin. These powerful organs work round-the-clock to protect you and make sure that whatever you've ingested that doesn't serve you is excreted. And I assure you, this is the only detox system you need.
Not only will a cleanse or detox not do what it promises, but it can also cause harm to your body. When you flush out "bad stuff" from your body, you're also flushing out good stuff, like vitamin & mineral stores, and the good intestinal bacteria that keep your digestive system healthy. Not to mention, the "flushing" of your body's insides means you'll likely have frequent gas and diarrhea, which can quickly lead to dehydration, the breakdown of skin on your bottom, and hemorrhoids. Sound gross? It will be.
In addition to unpleasant symptoms, these types of diets severely restrict your calories, to a level that can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability, body aches, inability to think clearly, and overall lethargy. So forget exercising -- it would leave you lightheaded at best -- and plus, your detox diet is so low in protein that you won't be able to rebuild lost muscle tissue.
While you will probably lose weight during your diet (because of the severe calorie restriction), studies have shown that you will probably gain the weight back and more, soon after you start eating normally again.
Now, if you've gained some chub over the holidays, eaten nothing but cookies and prime rib, and partied like prohibition was about to be reinstated, then doing something to jump start your new year is a good idea. The something (moderation) is not as sexy as a cleanse, but it works, lasts, and won't leave you starting your new year on the pot. Here's what I'd recommend:
Cut back on high-fat foods, meat, and sweets. You could even give these foods up for two weeks, to allow your body to readjust to a new healthy routine, and to reduce cravings. Just don't plan to give these up completely for too long--it won't last anyway.
Eliminate alcohol, or reduce your consumption to 1-3 drinks per weekend, and no alcohol during the week.
Reduce reliance on caffeine. If you feel you need a little, limit yourself to one cup of coffee or tea in the morning, then stick to caffeine-free beverages for the rest of the day. You'll adjust after a week or so, and will sleep better and have more natural energy.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. This does not mean add lettuce to your cheeseburger, but rather replace some of what you're eating now with vegetables. If you normally have meat, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable for dinner, replace the potatoes with another lower calorie vegetable.
Don't drink your calories. Stick to water and other calorie-free beverages like sparkling water, herbal tea, iced tea, and the occasional diet soda.
Don't do anything extreme. If you give up foods you love completely, you won't stick to your new healthy lifestyle plan. You'll eventually (probably sooner rather than later) revert to your old habits, and you'll gain weight back, feel fatigued, get lazy, etc.
Take baby steps. Make mini-goals that are specific, realistic, and don't make you feel overwhelmed. For example: this week I will eat primarily vegetarian meals. Or, this week, I won't bring any unhealthy foods into my house, to reduce temptation.
Eating in moderation is the only way to maintain a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle in the long run.
I made this bread pudding at 11pm on NYE, it was ready by midnight, and it was the best I've ever made. Not healthy, but reduced calorie, and definitely delicious.
Challah Bread Pudding
3/4 lb loaf of Challah, about 12 oz
2 cups Light Egg Nog (I used Horizon Lowfat)
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Cut Challah into 1-inch cubes and lay them out on a baking sheet. Toast the cubes for 10 min. **
Meanwhile, whisk together eggnog, egg, milk, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl. When bread cubes are lightly toasted, remove them from the oven and place in a baking dish (whatever dish you have that fits the cubes--a pie plate or casserole dish). Pour milk mixture over the bread and toss them gently with your fingers, to coat. Press down on the cubes a bit so they soak up the liquid. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. At that point, remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, pudding is golden brown on top, and it feels semi-firm to the touch. ** Serve warm with a drizzle of caramel or butterscotch sauce (I mixed a little Amaretto into caramel sauce) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Note: the eggnog is a stand in for making a real custard, but it doesn't make the bread pudding taste like eggnog. So if you're cooking for a picky crowd, not to worry.
Meels is my nickname and meals are my passion, so my friends call me Healthy Meels. In Spring 2010, the Healthy Meels blog will become Eating Made Easy, a site that will remove confusion & add joy to your eating routine. Stay tuned!!