When hunger strikes, be it at meal time or late-night, it’s a minute too late to plan a healthy meal. Once you’re hungry, it’s hard to make healthy decisions, especially if they take time to prepare.
For all the complicated diets out there, this one is really simple, and only relies on one ingredient. Apples.
Anytime I want something I shouldn’t eat, or it’s a time of day I shouldn’t eat (such as late at night), I eat an apple.
In my opinion, the goodness apples offer outweighs the nutritional intake, so they don’t count toward my daily calories. In researching for this blog, I actually found studies proving that the 60 calories from the apple can actually save you about 180 calories in bad decisions, such as what you’ll consume at a meal post-apple.
Put into play, here’s what my apple trick looks like:
- I’m hungry, chips are handy, but I know I should make a salad or an omelette. I eat an apple while I make the healthy option.
- I get done working out, am suddenly famished, but don’t want to undo the good I just did by stuffing my face or pulling through somewhere for a fast snack. I eat an apple.
- It’s 9:30p, I’m watching “Game of Thrones,” and somehow I get the munchies even though someone just lost his head. I eat an apple.
Apples are sweet enough to parlay a candy craving, and the fiber and water content help fill you up. I always tell myself, if I still want what I was originally craving, I can have it after the apple. Thanks to the apple, the craving either goes away, or I indulge in less of it because I’m already more full from having the apple. It’s my version of the apple-a-day concept.
You’ll never regret having an apple. Unlike many food options out there, you’ll never say, “Man, I really shouldn’t have eaten that apple.”
Need help finding the right apple? I choose my apples by smell. I stand in the produce aisle sniffing each apple until I land on the one that makes me want to take a bite.
This trick will not work with applesauce or apple juice. Go for the whole apple, skin and all.
Plan to have a washed apple ready to eat in your car, purse, desk, gym bag… anywhere. If you have a bottle of water and an apple with you at all times, you will be setup for success. Some studies have even shown apples to be fat blockers.
I hope this trick helps you the way it helps me. Apples are an easy, inexpensive way to make a good decision each day. Let that good decision lead to more!
Here I go again, making squash pie for dinner. Although, last time it was spaghetti squash, and this time it’s butternut. Totally different…
Truth…I’m a southern girl. If it’s in a pie shell, there’s a really good chance I’m going to like it. Plus, it looks fancy even though it’s really easy.
This dish is vegetarian, but carnivores should expect a hearty, complete meal with protein. Between the eggs, nuts and cheese, you’re covered. Add it to your meatless Monday rotation.
It’s also complete from a nutritional perspective, and the flavor and vehicle is family friendly.
Savory Butternut Squash Pie
- 1 frozen pie shell
- 1 bag of frozen butternut squash
- 1 handful of frozen kale
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/3 cup parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 handful of walnuts
Preheat oven to 400.
Cook onion in olive oil until golden, add garlic, stir for one minute, add squash and kale and cook until fully defrosted, remove from heat and add to pie shell.
Whisk eggs, basil and a sprinkle of each salt and pepper. Pour over mixture in shell. Top with parmesan then walnuts.
Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Just as cold months have us clambering for thick, rich foods, warmer months are all about salads and grilling. Our bodies instinctually know we don’t need as much fat when it’s warm, but we do need more hydration, and the season is ripe for beautiful fruits and vegetables.
Below is an easy salad packed with flavor and health benefits.
Grapefruit is loaded with water, fiber, vitamin C and lycopene. It helps you feel full, slim down, fight aging cells and build immunity.
Avocados are great for eyes, skin, hair, heart, good cholesterol, fighting cravings for bad fats, absorbing other nutrients…they’re even good for unborn babies.
Walnuts help with weight management, sleep, hair, heart disease, skin, preventing cancer, diabetes and dementia, and fighting off stress.
Basil has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.
Put them all together, and you get a glow-inducing meal that tastes as amazing as it is healthy.
Grapefruit, avocado salad with chicken
- 1 package of mixed greens
- 1 bunch of basil
- 1 Grapefruit
- 1 Avocado
- 1 handful of walnuts
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon
- 1 tsp jelly (I used peach, but the fruit won’t be strong enough to alter the flavor, so use what you have)
- Salt & pepper
- Torn/cut grilled or rotisserie chicken
Wash all greens (if needed) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop up grapefruit and avocado into chunks. Mix oil, vinegar, dijon and jelly. Toast walnuts in skillet or oven. Put all ingredients, including chicken, in a large bowl, toss with dressing and serve.
I was very excited to see hormone and antibiotic free rotisserie chicken at the store yesterday. I really try to go as clean as possible when it comes to animal proteins. I’ve got plenty of hormones kicking on my own, thanks!
Anyway, we’d had a busy day, and I just wasn’t in my normal cooking-mode. Easy was the name of the game, and it doesn’t get easier than chicken that’s already been cooked for you.
As a side, I roasted vegetables while I showered. Don’t pretend you’re not impressed at my multi-tasking.
The point is, you can keep dinner healthy and have it ready in the same amount of time it would take to make a processed, boxed option.
Rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- 1 squash/zucchini
- 3 peppers, preferable mixed colors
- Olive oil spray
Heat oven to 400F. Slice veggies, spread out on pan, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. If your chicken needs reheating, you can put it in the oven halfway through cooking the veggies.
That’s really it. Just cut up your chicken and serve it next to the veggies.
For all the people out there making excuses not to improve their health (we all find time for what’s important to us), today I want to focus on the people with the best of intentions who are making it harder than it has to be. I want to reach out to the amazing people who are making the effort, and make your lives a little easier.
To the person who wants to burn their fat off doing cardio before picking up weights to tone: Resistance and cardio go hand-in-hand and should be equally prioritized from the get-go. To get the most bang for your buck, do cardio within 24 hours of strength training. You’ll have after-burn from your strength training to add to the calories you burn while doing cardio. Plus, you need muscle to get your metabolism moving faster.
To the person who has always run, but it doesn’t seem to work like it use to: When you’re under 25, you keep your muscle mass whether you use it or not. Once you start to lose it, your metabolism slows down, and running doesn’t build muscle. Although running is great cardio, you need to add weights/resistance training as an adult in order to see the same results.
To the person waiting to plateau, or trying it on their own, before accessing more resources: If you can complete your journey faster by using all the tools out there for you at once, why not? Maintenance is way easier than initially reaching a goal. Take the easy road to the easy road. Besides, if you are fully capable of reaching your goals on your own, why are they constantly out of reach?
To the person cutting calories like crazy and not seeing results: If you don’t eat enough, your body goes into starvation mode and won’t let go of anything. You need fat, you need some carbs… you need to eat to lose weight.
Above all else, invest in yourself.
What do you spend on your hair? I know people who spend hundreds of dollars regularly on their hair, but think it’s wildly expensive to spend money on a personal trainer or nutrition plan. Why not spend money on the front end to make the best use of your time and energy? Healthcare is expensive; significantly more expensive than preventative maintenance. Unlike your hair, you don’t have to spend the same amount over and over again. Do it right once, and the upkeep becomes a tiny fraction of the initial investment.
What is your time worth? What is your health worth? What advice would you offer someone else in your situation? Keep that dedication, just make it more efficient.
Take those good intentions, and multiply them. You may find out you can eat more and workout less. Sounds nice, right?
Okay, so it’s not really pesto, but it looks like pesto, and sneaks in greens. If you love pasta with pesto, but are trying to make better choices, you should give this dish a shot. It is very kid-friendly, very easy, and very healthy.
Looking like pesto came about as an accident. My day ran long, and I was feeling lazy, so rather than chop my broccoli and mushrooms, I threw them in the processor to pulse. In my distracted state (hangry 18-month old hanging from my leg), I over-pulsed. My husband didn’t even know we weren’t eating pesto until I told him. If I had called it broccoli sauce, it wouldn’t have seemed nearly as appealing.
I’ll admit my measurements are guesses in this one. I’m more of an eye-baller, plus I recognize everyone’s tastes are different. Maybe you like more garlic or less mushrooms. Just adjust to your own tastes.
You don’t have to use shrimp, it just happened to be what I was in the mood for. You could use any meat, or no meat. However you go about it, I hope you enjoy it!
What I loved about our pasta wasn’t so much that it was gluten-free as that it had quinoa, corn and rice flour, so the protein-carbohydrate ratio was really balanced.
Broccoli-mushroom pesto and shrimp pasta
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1 bunch of mushrooms
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 bag of defrosted-frozen (or fresh) shrimp
- 2 Tbsp parmesan
- s&p to taste
- gluten-free pasta
Pulse rinsed broccoli and mushrooms in the processor. Cook with next 3 ingredients for 10 minutes. Add half of olive oil and add shrimp. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through. Toss cooked pasta with remaining oil. Salt & pepper pasta, then add broccoli-shrimp mixture and parmesan. Toss together and serve.
This flatbread made me feel fancy, like I was at a restaurant, and it was a big hit with my husband and the kiddo.
The whole time my son was eating it, I kept thinking how I didn’t try brie or arugula until after college. Watching him shovel what I consider foodie-food into his mouth makes me so happy.
You could easily skip the prosciutto to make this meal vegetarian.
Although you do get some good nutrition out of the apple, arugula and fig, I’ll admit the brie and prosciutto make it a bit on the indulgent side, but there are worse nutritional sins you could commit. It seems to be working out okay for the French and the Italians.
I made my fig spread by rehydrating some dried figs, so I avoided additional sugar, but if you have fig spread handy, go ahead and use whatever is easiest.
This is a really easy meal, and it’s more filling than you might think. I hope you enjoy it. I had to write this one down so I’ll remember it for next time. Don’t you just love recipes with short ingredient lists?
Brie, fig, prosciutto, arugula & apple flatbread
- 3-4 whole wheat flatbreads
- 1 wedge of brie
- 1 package of dried figs
- 1 package of prosciutto
- 1 apple
Preheat oven to 400.
Boil figs in water for 20 minutes, puree, adding a little more liquid if needed to make a paste.
Spray flatbreads with cooking spray or baste with olive oil.
Spread fig spread over flatbreads, top with thinly sliced apples, then brie. Put in the oven for 10 minutes.
Remove and top with prosciutto and arugula.
Cook for 10 more minutes and enjoy!
All the nutritional knowledge in the world does nothing to combat my craving for sweets in the morning.
In heaven, I plan to eat a chocolate croissant and biscuits with honey butter every morning. (Heaven is calorie-free, right?)
In my current reality, most morning sweets will hold my appetite for a very short time, while holding the sides of my hips for a very long time. Also, I know that making healthy choices all day long starts in the morning.
Having seen the line at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts each morning when I use to commute to work in Atlanta, I feel safe assuming I’m not alone, so I thought I’d share some of my sweet solutions.
There is a lot to love about the following options. They’re easy, yummy, healthy and kid-friendly. I don’t use exact measurements for any of them, so just make them each “to taste,” and ask if you have questions.
Sweet, healthy breakfast options:
Nutty Nana Oatmeal: Boil water, add old-fashioned oats, once boiling again, add banana and almond butter. Reduce to simmer and cook until mixed and absorbed. Add a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
Ezekiel French Toast: Soak Ezekiel bread (regular or cinnamon-raisin) in mixture of egg, unsweetened vanilla almond milk and cinnamon. Cook in a skillet. Enjoy with a little butter and honey, if needed.
Nutty Cinnamon Prunes: Smear a bit of nut butter on a few prunes, sprinkle with cinnamon.
And, of course, there are always my healthy pancakes!
As a spin-off to my slow-cooker turkey breast soup blog, I want to share a recent recipe I’ve been having fun with.
Like the soup recipe, I still coat the defrosted turkey breast in pesto and cook it in the slow-cooker. What’s different on this one is that I throw in whatever vegetables I have on hand (I’ve done onion and different squash varietals, red peppers, carrots, etc.), add in just enough broth to help their flavors mingle and keep them from sticking, then, I serve them on top of fresh kale. The heat from the meat and veggies wilts the kale just enough.
I add a little Israeli couscous for my son since he needs the additional carbs, but we don’t.
Using spinach or kale as a rice or pasta substitute is a great, easy way to completely revamp the nutritional profile of your meal. Between the fiber and the overall nutritional makeup of dark, leafy greens, you’ll stay full longer, and avoid unnecessary starches. You don’t have to completely change your diet to eat more cleanly; just make easy swaps like this one.
This meal is great all-around because it’s ready whenever we finish our whirlwind day and are ready to eat, and it’s family friendly. Eating well as a rule is easier than trying out a fad-diet. It’s just too hard to make a special, healthy meal for one person. You need options, like this one, that everyone can enjoy. Eating well should taste really good.
Actual conversation from last night:
Me: I’m trying to only have a glass of wine OR chocolate if I want a treat at night.
H: A good wife has wine AND chocolate with her husband.
Can you say spouse-pressure? Lucky for me, my husband was (half) kidding, but family intervening in healthy decisions is a larger problem than you think.
When you’re single, it’s easy to make a diet/lifestyle change, because it only affects you. The more people it affects, the more resistance you encounter.
Shockingly, even someone trying to lose weight and improve her health – changes other family support in theory – can be stopped in her path when other family members aren’t on board with how it affects them. It’s tough to stick to your guns and avoid temptation when it’s in the house, whether it’s there because you want it, or because someone else wants it.
If there is chocolate in the house, I will eat it, if there isn’t, I won’t. Period. If I decide to not have chocolate in the house, my husband can’t have any either. No chocolate for me equals no chocolate for him.
Removing processed, junky food from your diet means removing it from the house, just as going to the gym often requires encouragement from an entire household. If you are trying to eat more vegetables and hit the gym, but your partner is asking you to hangout on the couch with a bag of cheetos, he is not supporting you.
Ask your partner about his/her behavior. Maybe…
- He knows he needs to make changes, too, but doesn’t want to, so your healthy behaviors are an unfriendly reminder/suggestion to him.
- She doesn’t want you to lose weight because of the attention you’ll get. (Sad, but true story.)
- He can eat whatever he wants and not exercise, and he never gains a pound.
- She doesn’t realize she isn’t supporting you.
Making healthier choices is a lifestyle change for your entire support system. Just as people need support to fight addiction and remove negative behaviors, they also need support instigating new, positive ones. The people in our lives bring us up or down, and they aren’t always aware of it.
Make healthy behaviors a family affair, and speak up when you need better support.