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Posts tagged with Healthy Eating

Snack time

Trail mix: A satisfying and easy snack.

Trail mix: A satisfying and easy snack. by Sarah Henning

In the month of January, I’ve discussed several of the finer points of cleaning up your eating in the new year: shopping and dining strategies, the freezer as your friend and letting yourself eat chocolate.

Now, it’s snack time.

Acknowledging that, yes, chances are you’ll eat between meals goes a long way in the world of eat healthy strategy.

Because here’s the thing: When making healthy changes, a lot of us don’t plan on snacking. I’ve had many a moment over the years where I pack my lunch for work and don’t bring anything else because if I bring it I know I’ll eat it. And I figured that if I didn’t bring a morning snack and an afternoon snack, I would save myself the calories and cost associated with both.

The gaping hole in this logic: If you don’t bring something to snack on and you get hungry — and you know you will — you’re left with few choices:

  1. You could rush home to get the snack you didn’t bring, but chances are you won’t have time.
  2. You could just sit there with a hole in your stomach waiting until it’s a socially acceptable time to devour your lunch (Come on, 11 o’clock!).
  3. Cop for something decidedly unhealthy in the work vending machine/snack trough/nearest coffee shop.

We all know which answer is most likely to happen during a busy work day and it’s not good if you’re trying to make wholesale changes.

Thus, it’s a good idea to just go ahead and assume you’re going to need snacks to go right along with your newly healthy lunch and dinner. If you don’t eat it, fine. If you do: Don’t beat yourself up about it. You were hungry. You needed to eat. Eat.

My strategy for this during the workweek is simple: Fruit and nuts.

As I mentioned in my first “pep talk” post this month, I have a bowl on my desk that I fill up at the beginning of each workweek with fruit. Apples, tangerines, pears and bananas. Each piece has under 100 calories and is packed with fiber and various vitamins, which means one or two make a great snack.

For times when I need more than just a piece of fruit, I keep a mixture of raw almonds and walnuts in my desk drawer. Throw in a few chocolate chips and goji berries (or raisins), and you’ve got a homemade trail mix that’s both a great snack and a great little dessert.

Start there, and see if you can not only train yourself into accepting that you’re going to snack, but also teach yourself to do it in a healthy way.

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Inspiration on ice

The kiddo (and the rest of the family) gobble these up. Twenty minutes in the oven and they're ready to go.

The kiddo (and the rest of the family) gobble these up. Twenty minutes in the oven and they're ready to go. by Sarah Henning

Last week, I wrote about the little things you could do to help make it toward your goal of eating better in the new year.

This week, inspired by the crazy cold temperatures, I thought I’d continue this January pep talk with my top three frozen helpers. You know, the foods that are real and reliable and readily available (how’s that for alliteration?) and help me make sure my family gets the healthiest foods possible with the least amount of hassle.

Now, I prefer fresh foods. Fresh fruits, veggies and unaltered ingredients, all without processing. However, because I’m a working mom, there is no way in heck that I can buy only those things week in and week out and manage to A. Use it all before it goes bad B. Do anything but cook to keep on top of it.

I do rely on some frozen items. And before you ask, I prefer frozen to canned because there often aren’t added ingredients (e.g. salt) and I don’t have to worry whether or not the can might be lined with BPA. Of course, if the power goes out, I lose money, but to me, it’s worth it in the end.

  1. Frozen fruits and vegetables: Whenever freezer section berries and veggies are on sale, I load up. Blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, cherries, strawberries, etc., plus every kind of vegetables available. All the berries are great in smoothies, homemade sorbet and crumbles, while all the vegetables work well in stir-fries and slow-cooker recipes. Also, all work just fine eaten all by their lonesome (they’re mushy but hey, they’re healthy.) Note: Make sure to choose berries without added sugar.

  2. Hilary’s Eat Well Mini Veggie Burgers: I used to love to go to Local Burger and buy the regular-sized veggie burgers there in bulk. Now, not only can you get the big ones, but little kid-sized mini ones, too. The kiddo prefers the tiny ones and I love that not only do I know there are no ingredients I don’t want in them, but I know (and have interviewed many times) the person who created them, Hilary Brown (and no, I wasn’t paid to say anything about these).

  3. Pizza dough: OK, so I make the pizza dough and then freeze it. It’s easy to make, saves lots of money, freezes well and then you can make super healthy pizza with ease. And yes, I do believe homemade pizza is worlds better for you than the frozen kind (which is usually rife with salt, extra fat and chemicals you won't use if you make it at home). Use this recipe, divide it in half and you've got two pizza-sized balls of dough at the ready. Stick the dough in a plastic bag and freeze. All you have to do is remember to put the ball of dough out on the counter before you leave for work in the morning.

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A couple of green things to try along with your green beer on St. Paddy’s Day

Another green beverage for you to try on St. Patrick's Day.

Another green beverage for you to try on St. Patrick's Day. by Sarah Henning

OK, I might be health nut, but I'm not crazy. I know some of you are going to roll your eyes at my upcoming suggestion to try to include as many green foods in your diet as possible on St. Patrick’s Day.

Yeah, I know it’s all about green beer, and that’s that. But you can’t just have green beer all day. Well, maybe you can, but you’ll feel a bit green if you do.

Here’s my suggestion: Try to fit in a few extra green things on Sunday.

Even if you do OD on green beer, you can at least feel like you didn’t lose a whole day’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all about balance, people. Balance your green beer (or pancakes, cupcakes, cookies, and whatever the heck else green dye ends up in) with some things that are naturally the right hue, and you might not feel half bad coming Monday.

Your head still might pound if you went overboard on the green beverages, but at least you’ll know you made an effort.

If green beer isn’t your thing and/or you have kids, maybe make a game out of eating as many green things as you can on Sunday. That’ll probably work with kids and adults, and maybe start a habit or two.

The following are just a few suggestions of pretty green things to try out Sunday (or anytime). They’re mean, they’re green and they’re super good for you.

Brussels’ sprouts: It’s pretty obvious from both this column and my space in Delicious/Nutritious that I’ve been crushing pretty hard on these little guys. They’re just so wonderful roasted with a hint of salt, pepper and garlic and a little crisp on them (which is saying a lot because I hate my food blackened). If you haven’t tried these little guys, give them a go. If you don’t like them, just do a green beer chaser and you’ll be just fine.

Spinach: I buy a giant tub of baby spinach every week. It’s so perfect for adding “something” green to nearly any meal because it’s so mild and forgiving. Throw it in your morning smoothie (only the color will change, it’ll taste the same — promise), use it as a bed for roasted veggies, beans, meat or other more “dense” foods, add it to the top of a homemade pizza (seriously), and you can even juice it, should be so inclined.

Avocado: This green, unsweet fruit is full of fabulous monounsaturated fats, plus vitamin C and 9 grams of fiber (for a whole avocado). Use a quarter or half of an avocado to jazz up a smoothie, salad, sandwich or pretty much whatever. I probably don’t have to tell you what an awesome fruit it is.

Kale: Everyone knows kale is my food BFF. It’s nutritional profile is excellent, and though it’s an acquired taste, once you’ve acquired it, you’re golden. The tough leaves need a little aid, so saute them, make kale chips, or “massage” ripped up leaves with avocado, salt, pepper and lemon juice to use as the base of a salad. If you’ve already discovered the joy of kale and are used to the taste, try it in your next smoothie or juice. It’s not nearly as mild as spinach, but it’s a good nutritional kick in the pants.

Green kombucha: This is kind of a cheat. There’s only one or two kinds of kombucha that are green, so it’s OK if you try one that isn’t green. What you’ll find in kombucha of any color are strains of bacteria similar to those in yogurt (aka the good bacteria that makes your gut happy), plus copious amounts of B vitamins and folate. So, what’s in the green version? Super food water-loving plants blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella. Sounds fishy, tastes good.

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Finding inspiration for healthy eating on the Web

Chloe Coscarelli's Pad Thai (photo from www.chefchloe.com).

Chloe Coscarelli's Pad Thai (photo from www.chefchloe.com). by Sarah Henning

We all know that it can be expensive to just suddenly try something new in the kitchen. Maybe you found a kick-butt, dinner-party-friendly entree but you have nothing in your pantry for it. So, you have to go to the store, hunt down each aisle for a long list of ingredients and come home with $70 worth of spices, canned goods and ingredients you’ve never used and may never use again.

Yes, that’s expensive. Especially if you end up with a total dinner fail and have to put your tail between your legs and order pizza for a full dining room.

Double dinner fail.

But here’s the thing: If you’re new to healthy cooking or new to cooking in general, you’re going to have to buy stuff. You’re probably going to try new recipes, and those recipes will call for things you don’t have and it’ll get expensive. Or it’ll at least seem a bit daunting and like it’s expensive, even if it’s not.

And there are ways to make this sort of transition less painful. A few of the best (which you’ve probably heard before from me or someone else):

  1. Buy spices in bulk. Buy only a little, or exactly what you need (this goes for other dry goods like grains, nuts and seeds, too). That way you save yourself some dough, rather than buying a full bottle or box/bag of an ingredient.

  2. Buy vegetables from the freezer section. Fresh vegetables are very expensive, yes, especially this time of year. To offset some of the cost (and make it impossible for you to have it wilt and die in your crisper), buy some of your vegetables in the frozen foods section. Unlike canned vegetables, frozen veggies don’t have any added ingredients (aka salt) and they’re comparable in nutritional value to their fresh counterparts. You can’t buy everything frozen, and you wouldn't want to depending on what you’re making, but this trick should help you a bit in the beginning (and next winter).

  3. Make simple food. This is the biggest way to keep eating healthy from being expensive, in my humble opinion. If you make a dinner that has five ingredients, it might be inherently cheaper and easier than if you made a dinner with 18 ingredients. This isn’t always the case because five ingredients can be super pricey if they happen to be the right ones (grass-fed beef, high-quality cheese, medjool dates, anyone?). When browsing recipes, try to take into account not only flavor and health but also what you already have on hand and what you might need to buy to complete it.

Now that we’ve got that down, I’ll get to the real goal of this post: To help you get free resources besides this blog to help you eat better. And what’s better than resources on the Web? Nothing. There are so many free recipes and sites that it’s almost TOO much, if you know what I mean. So I figured I’d share some of my favorite blogs/easy, low-cost/healthy Web-based recipes. I’ll link to the recipes specifically, but I urge you to check out the whole site for some good advice and a chance to join a community.

I’ve scoured my resources to try to find the simplest (and hopefully cheapest) recipes from my favorite sites in hopes that they’ll be of help and inspiration. So, without further ado, five of the best:

Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie - http://kimberlysnyder.net/blog/ggs/

Kimberly is a celebrity nutritionist, which might turn some of you off, but if you just can’t get into the whole green smoothie crazy, you really should give her recipe a go before giving up all together.

Gena Hamshaw’s Sweet Potato Breakfast Salad with Almond Butter Protein Dressing - http://www.choosingraw.com/sweet-potato-breakfast-salad-with-almond-butter-protein-dressing/

Gena is a med school student and her blog is a fabulous resource for those who want to eat whole foods on a budget. She’s very good at explaining the nutrition in her recipes and the benefits of particular ingredients. And because she’s a student — with little money or time — she doesn’t ever really go crazy with outrageous or time-eating ingredients.

Chloe Coscarelli’s Pad Thai Noodles - http://chefchloe.com/entrees/pad-thai-noodles.html

Chloe has a really great cookbook and a resume that includes winning “Cupcake Wars” with a vegan cupcake (against non-vegans). She doesn’t have a ton of recipes on her site (though she’s got hundreds in her two cookbooks), but this version of pad thai hits all the requirements above. Plus, it’s probably the very simplest recipe for pad thai I’ve ever personally made this side of a pre-prepared box.

Terry Walters’ Crispy Roasted Chickpeas - http://terrywalters.net/2011/03/crispy-roasted-chickpeas/

I have two of Terry’s cookbooks and I love them. That said, my husband calls them “elitist” cookbooks because they tend to call for ingredients we never have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered through a giant shopping list just to make one of her recipes. That said, her basic recipes like this one are totally awesome. And I think her cookbooks are great for when you’ve been eating healthy for awhile and want to try something new and maybe a bit more challenging.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Ancho Lentil Tacos - http://www.theppk.com/2011/05/ancho-lentil-tacos/

It’s no secret that Isa is my very favorite recipe source. There’s a good reason for that: Her food tastes great and my husband will try any of her recipes at least once. She’s really great at making vegetable-centric food pop and her dishes are often amazing (I don’t think we’ve ever been disappointed). But many of her recipes do involve several ingredients, though most of the time that’s because her recipes often contain a lot of different spices or herbs. If you have a good spice cabinet (or are willing to use that buying in bulk trick I mentioned above), you’ll be good to try any of her recipes without any sweat off your brow.

Good luck and I hope you try the recipes listed and maybe get other good ideas at those sites.

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