In the land of milk and honey, what can I eat?

The other day, a friend and I were discussing how hard it is to decide between all the kinds of milk available. Shockingly, although there are at least 10 varieties to choose from in stores, new opinions are suggesting going for what is not available at your local grocery chain; raw milk.

Without getting deep into the discussion, suffice that we concluded there are well-researched opinions to support both sides of every food story, and not only when it comes to milk.

Every time you get ready to make a food purchase, you have to decide between organic vs. non-organic, GMO vs. non-GMO, gluten-free, fat percentages, real or artificial sweeteners, etc., etc.. It’s easy to worry that you are making the wrong decision when there are so many options, and it’s even more stressful when deciding what to give your baby.

The good news is, you don’t need to think so much. Let me do my best to simplify it for you, and you can determine from there how much more or less you want to put into it.

  • Less is more: Choose whatever is closest to its natural state. Avoid added sweeteners (even the artificial kind), salt, etc.
  • Fat is okay, in fact, lactose goes down better with a side of fat, so skip the fat-free dairy.
  • When to go organic: When you are going to eat the peel, and with animal products, to avoid pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
  • What can’t be regulated should be questioned. Food that isn’t FDA approved may not be for a very good reason. It’s not because the government doesn’t want us to have what’s good for us. Be discerning.
  • Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune. There are billions of families without the time or money to get picky about nutrition, and their kids turn out just fine.
  • A little salt and/or sugar won’t kill you or your baby. Just remember that sweet and savory cravings are learned, addictive behaviors. Learning to eat a little and be done is actually healthier than going without and then bingeing because it’s the forbidden fruit.

If you are obsessing about reading every nutrition label, although you are well-meaning, you have too much time on your hands. There are so many ways you are shaping your family, food only being one of them, and no one expects you to be perfect. Shoot to make healthy decisions 80% of the time, and don’t beat yourself up about the other 20%. Some families have no choice but to eat what they can get, so be grateful you lead a lifestyle that allows you to be picky.

My dad is forever telling me he learns new things everyday he doesn’t know how he got by without knowing for all these years. The same rule applies here. When we were kids, no one looked around for any of the labels that stand out to us now, and, for the most part, we turned out okay.

For more nutrition tips, click here.

 


Broccoli, bison, macaroni casserole

I love making casseroles during the holidays because they’re something simple in the midst of December madness.

Between baking cookies, shopping, decorating and wrapping presents, there isn’t much time left for extravagant dinners. Unfortunately, lack of time leads to poor nutritional choices, so I want to share a nutritionally balanced casserole recipe that’s so easy you could even pass the chef duties off to the house novice.

In this casserole, I’ve opted to use bison as my lean meat because bison are grass-fed and their meat is very nutrient-dense in proportion to the caloric value.

Another healthy choice is using quinoa elbow noodles instead of regular pasta. Quinoa pasta is higher in protein, fiber, calcium, iron and amino acids than regular pasta, and it’s also lower in sodium.

Finally, although the casserole is topped with cheddar cheese (Cheddar makes everything beddar, right?), the cheesy, creaminess inside comes from a mixture of diced tomatoes (any variety is fine, as long as there is no added salt) and light, swiss Laughing Cow cheese.

The combination of ingredients in this recipe give you the most nutrient-dense bang for your buck, without skimping on flavor. You’ve got your grain, your greens, lean protein and calcium, all in one yummy package.

Broccoli, bison, macaroni casserole

  • 12 oz ground bison
  • 8 oz frozen or fresh broccoli (pulsed in the food processor)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (drained) (added ingredients like basil, garlic, etc. are fine, but look for cans that read “no salt added”)
  • 1/2 tsp season salt (such as Tony Chachere’s)
  • 5 wedges of light, swiss Laughing Cow cheese
  • 1/2 box of Quinoa elbow noodles
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 400F. Boil water for pasta and cook according to box instructions. Spray a skillet with oil and cook bison. Add broccoli, tomatoes, season salt and laughing cow wedges. Cook until wedges are melted and add pasta. Mix well and pour into glass casserole dish. Top with grated cheddar and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cook for another 2 minutes. Enjoy!


5 Meals to get you back into your pre-holiday jeans

Over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time cooking, and even more time eating.

What’s more?  It’s only the beginning of our holiday season eating extravaganza that ends with New Year’s resolutions meant to undo the damage.

That rattling in your closet is all of your buttons shaking in fear of what you intend to consume over the next month. 

I’m not going to ask you not to eat at parties or enjoy the many holiday treats that will surely show up at your home or office this season. Instead, I’m going to suggest some meal options for the days in-between the butter, cream cheese, sugar, mayonnaise, icing, eggnog-laden gatherings.

Below are five meals you can feel good about. Not only are these dinner ideas healthy and tasty, they are also easy. You’ve already slaved over a turkey. Now you’re off the hook for the rest of the year.

After the holidays, I will absolutely help you get back in shape even if you break every rule in my book; but, success will come sooner and easier if we can temper the damage on the front-end.

What’s for dinner?

1) Meatloaf (using oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs) with cauliflower mash instead of taters

For the meatloaf, use 1 lb of lean ground meat, 2/3 cup of oatmeal, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, 1 drained can of diced tomatoes, 1 Tbsp of worcestershire and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Mix and bake at 350 for 40 mins, top with Heinz 57 and bake for an additional 10 mins.

For the cauliflower mash, steam or boil fresh or frozen cauliflower until tender, then process with your favorite mashed potato ingredients.

2) Lentil sauce over quinoa

Cook 1/2 lb of sausage or ground meat in a pot with 1 tsp of olive oil. Once the meat cooks, add 1 can of lentil soup and 1 can of Rotel. Heat through so some of the liquid evaporates, and serve over quinoa.

3) Taco salad

Cook ground meat with 1 tsp each of the following: chili powder, onion powder, paprika, garlic salt, cumin and red pepper. Add 1/2 cup of diced onion and cook until translucent. Serve over torn up lettuce and top with grated cheddar, diced tomatoes, diced peppers, a dollop of plain yogurt (greek is best because the flavor mimics sour cream) and a sprinkle of crushed tortilla chips.

4) Steak and salad with blue cheese dressing

Marinate steak in 2 Tbsp worcestershire, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp of orange or apple juice and 2 tsp pepper for at least 30 mins. Grill to desired doneness, and serve with romaine, diced red onion and a dressing made of the following: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 tsp chopped onion, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, splash of red wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp of blue cheese – process till smooth and salt & pepper to taste.

5) Roasted chicken and veggies

Heat oven to 400F. Mix juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary or sage will work) and 1 tsp minced garlic. Baste chicken breasts, and use the rest to toss with vegetables of choice (broccoli, carrots, onion, fennel, sweet potato chunks, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.). Bake chicken and vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until done.


Recipe: Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula

This recipe combines sweet-heat with some cool lime yogurt and peppery greens. It’s pretty much a party in your mouth. Although, unlike some parties, this one won’t leave you with a hangover. Low fat, low carb, high fiber, high protein, lots of vitamins and even some calcium means you can feel good enjoying every bite.

 

Jerk pineapple pork chops with black beans, lime yogurt and arugula

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pineapple chunks in 100% juice
  • 1 can crushed pineapple in 100% juice
  • 2 stalks of scallions chopped
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 de-seeded habanero / 1 de-seeded jalapeno / 1/2 tsp cayenne (choose your heat)
  • 4 bone in pork chops
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt
  • bag/bunch of arugula
Instructions:
In food processor, pulse crushed pineapple, scallions, thyme, garlic, allspice, and habanero/jalapeno/cayenne. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Pour canned pineapple chunks (with juice) into a 9×13 glass baking dish, add pork chops and top with mixture from processor. Cover and marinate for 2-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 375/190. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes. Turn off oven, but don’t remove for 5-10 minutes. Use that time to finish your plate prep as directed below, then take it out.
In a small bowl, mix yogurt, lime juice and agave/honey.
To each large salad/pasta bowl (or on a dinner plate) add a handful of arugula, 1/4 of the black beans and 1/4 of the yogurt mixture. Top with one pork chop and some pineapple chunks. Enjoy!

Nutrition tips for a healthier diet

  • Eat a rainbow. Fruits and vegetables are a wide range of beautiful colors for more reason than to make the produce section look pretty. All the colors represent different vitamins and nutrients. So, if you eat a whole bunch of different colors, you’ll get all your vitamins straight from the source.
  • Fill up on water first. Often times we feel tired or hungry when we’re actually just thirsty. Water fills you up and helps lube up your intestines so everything else flows smoothly. Ever seen a dry river bed or stream? Things don’t flow so well. Same goes for plants; they die when they don’t get enough water. Plants are alive; your body is alive; you get the picture.
  • Fill up on fiber. I have spoken to so many people who have cured all of their digestive issues by incorporating more vegetables, legumes and water into their diets. Water helps lube up your intestines, and fiber helps create bulk matter to move on out. Getting your fiber from your diet instead of from a supplement also incorporates more vitamins and nutrients to your diet, since most fiber rich foods are rich in those as well.
  • Have healthy snacks handy. If you keep an apple, raw almonds, lunchmeat, string cheese, yogurt and/or carrot sticks on hand, you’ll be less likely to hit up the snack machine. None of these options are in the snack machine because they won’t live long enough. Take note: If they can live forever in a machine or on a shelf, they can hang out in your body that long, too. You may as well just tape those sodium, sugar and preservative – laden foods to your gut or your thighs. Raw vegetables make a healthier crunch than chips, and they hold up just as well in dips.
  • Skip the soda, mixed drinks, energy drinks, specialty coffees, creamer and concentrated fruit juices. If you want to lose 5 pounds in one month, all you have to do is change what you drink. If you can stick to water, freshly brewed tea, black coffee, and the occasional glass of red wine, you’ll be well on your way to a trimmer waist. Diet drinks may appear to be safe options, but over time you can end up with some wicked bladder issues and a metabolism that thinks sweet flavors don’t require any extra work.
  • Don’t try to trick your body. If you try to trick your body by feeding it fake stuff, the joke will end up on you. I’m sure I’m not the only one still apologizing to my body about the whole olestra thing.
  • Eat at regular intervals. If your body isn’t fed regularly it will go into starvation mode and hold on to everything you feed it. If your body knows it can expect more, it will go ahead and use what you give it. Also, if you wait until you’re starving, you’re more likely to reach for less healthy food options.
  • Picture your last meal. When you get hungry, it can feel as though you haven’t eaten in forever. You completely forget the high-calorie meal you ate just three or four hours earlier. Try keeping a food journal or picturing your last meal before you choose your next one. This will also help you to pick a wider variety of foods. Bottom line – we are fanatical about hand-sanitizer, but we pay hardly any attention to what we put in our mouths.
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes. Your meals should last you 20 minutes for a couple of reasons; 1) It probably took that long for you or someone else to make a meal, so you should show your appreciation by savouring it. 2) It takes 20 minutes for your body to realize it’s being fed. Give your metabolism and digestive system a chance at keeping up with you.
  • Brush your teeth. The minty clean flavor that comes with brushing your teeth or chewing sugar-free gum can deter you from eating more. You know how bad orange juice tastes after you’ve just brushed your teeth? Mint makes other flavors seem less attractive. Don’t have toothpaste or gum handy? Seek out some mint tea. Freshly brewed tea has even more to offer.
  • Eat right for your size. We aren’t all the same size, so we don’t all need the same amount of food. This is easier to figure out at home than at a restaurant. Even if you’re only 120 pounds, a restaurant is still going to serve you the same amount of food as they would if you were 250 pounds. Only you can prevent overconsumption, and forest fires.
  • Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. Your plate should be at least half filled with vegetables. The other half should be a quarter of lean protein, and no more than a quarter of starch. I will never understand why we ever started covering the entire circumference of our plates with starch and then topping it with a little of the stuff that’s good for us.
  • Make your carbs whole-grain. You wouldn’t serve lunchmeat on a mound of bleached flour and sugar, right? If you’re serving white bread, you might as well. As a general rule, brown is better – unless it’s the brown sugar at the grocery store that’s just regular sugar with molasses added.
  • Read the label. If you don’t recognize most of the ingredients on a food label, don’t buy it. Baring spare time and ability, you should be able to recreate anything that is already prepared for you in a grocery store by purchasing all of the necessary ingredients. Looking for a healthier version of a marinade or dressing? Check out the ingredient list and mix up your own minus the artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
  • Share dessert. Split a candy bar, piece of pie, cookie, ice cream, etc. You don’t need to consume an entire mound of dessert to taste the goodness. Why anyone would ever eat a king-size candy bar is beyond me. Got a chocolate craving? Have two small pieces of dark chocolate and a cup of skim milk. You’ll feel satisfied, plus you’ll have gotten some antioxidants and calcium out of the deal.
  • Start with soup or salad. Broth-based soups or leafy greens with vinaigrette will give you a head start towards a healthier meal. Better yet, order soup and salad and skip the big entrée.
  • Eat breakfast. Your metabolism doesn’t start until you “break” the “fast”. Non-instant oatmeal, blueberries, a banana, eggs and whole-grain toast, etc. will work like igniter fluid.
  • Eat your beans. Lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, fava beans, northern beans, pinto beans, lima beans, kidney beans – they’re all good for your heart, great for your digestive system, they fill you up, help reduce cholesterol, and can even prevent cancer. Add them to soup, salad, pasta, roasts, ratatouille, etc.
  • Try to avoid dieting. When we yo-yo diet we confuse our bodies. You don’t like it when someone is a yo-yo in a relationship, right? If you’re yo-yo dieting and trying all the fads, you’re stringing your body along.
  • Give yourself a break. So you fell off the wagon one day. So what. Perfection is unrealistic. Be consistent, and try to make healthy choices 80% of the time.
  • Project “Dish Makeover”: There is a healthier way to make almost everything. Makeover your favorite dish and share the recipe with friends. You might start a chain reaction of healthy yumminess.
  • Make it a family affair. Go to mypyramid.gov and look up the food pyramid and portion sizes. Have your children try to keep up with what food groups they’ve had and what size servings should be on their plates at meals. If they can learn their ABC’s, they can learn Vitamins A, B, C, etc. and other important nutrition tips to live by, too.
  • Make it fun. The idea is to have a healthy, positive relationship with food. Food is not your enemy, preparation and abuse are. Love yourself by feeding yourself well. Unlike a box of cheezits or donuts, your body will love you right back.

Recipe: Apple, Coconut Curry

My mother and I just finished eating our way from Naples, Italy up into Paris, France over the course of the past two weeks. Although I loved every bite of my chocolate filled croissants, crepes, pizza, pasta, foie gras, escargot, creme brulee, etc., I was itching to get back into my kitchen by the end of it.

Any neighboring passengers on my flight home could have seen me napping with a dreamy grin on my face. Perhaps they thought I was dreaming of romance and unicorns, but I was actually imagining what I would cook first – that and getting to see and feed my husband.

I show love by feeding people, I really love my husband, and he and I both love curry dishes with coconut milk. While soaring high above the clouds, I decided I would make our favorite curry dish recipe to welcome us both back home.

As with most of our favorite dishes (hello, pancakes), the first time was not the charm for curry. I tried using the little melting blocks you can get at the store, but they have a ridiculous amount of sodium in them, so I moved on to playing around mixing different flavors and seasoning blends. Try; try again, and eventually you taste what you know wins the ribbon.

The recipe below uses chicken broth and coconut milk rather than oil or butter. It’s low in sodium with a little spice to kick up your metabolism, and it incorporates fruit, veggies and protein, so it will fill you up and hold you for a long time.

I like a bit of sweet mixed in with my savory dishes. The apple, basil and coconut milk give an aromatic sweetness to the entire dish, while the golden raisins give a sweet surprise when you bite into them.

I mentioned the dish having spice, but it is not hot. Other ingredients cool it down, so I would only call it “warm.” If you aren’t into spice, omit the creole seasoning. Although the madras curry powder is labeled as being hot, it is not the spicy culprit in this dish.

The trip with my mom was priceless, but it’s good to be home.

Just as the flavors of this dish intermingle, we intermingle, and it all combines so that even Goldilocks would call it “just right.”

Apple, Coconut Curry

Serves 2 football players, or 3 normal adults – to get to 4 servings, add another chicken breast and up everything else by 1/4

  • 3/4 cup of chicken broth
  • 2 Chicken breasts – cut into strips/diced/cubed, depending on your preference
  • 1 diced apple
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
  • Couple handfuls of spinach (can also use about 1/3 bag of frozen)
  • 1 tsp of creole seasoning (Tony Chachere’s)
  • 1 Tbsp of dried basil (fresh would be even better)
  • 1 tsp of ginger
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 2 tsps of regular curry powder
  • 2 Tbsps of hot madras curry powder
  • 1/2 can coconut milk

Partially cook the chicken in the broth, then add everything except for the coconut milk. Stir frequently over medium heat until there is almost no liquid remaining. Add the coconut milk and serve over quinoa or brown rice.

Buon appetito; Bon appetit; and welcome home.


Recipe: Love fried rice? Try stir-fry quinoa

I love fried rice, but the sodium content and fat to carbohydrate ratio work against my waistline, so I’ve become the girl who always asks for steamed rice and then sneaks bites of fried goodness from my husband’s plate. Healthy attempt = Epic fail

Yesterday afternoon found me more tired than usual, and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I rummaged through our fridge and pantry for dinner options only to find we had a little of this and a little of that, but not a lot of anything. Such a predicament always means one of three things in our house: we’re having 1) omelets (throw everything in with eggs), 2) soup (throw everything in with broth) or, 3) stir-fry (just throw everything in).

Lo and behold (an idiom best said with a British accent), my evening mix-up turned into a healthier replacement for my long-lost indulgence, fried rice.

The nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture of quinoa in this recipe act more like fried rice without the need for a ton of oil – whereas sometimes rice gets too soft without it.

Feel free to play with this recipe in terms of what veggies you like (carrots, snow pea pods, and red peppers would be delicious, too). Keep in mind that I was working off of what I had on hand. The main things you’ll want to keep the same are the amount of quinoa, oil and soy sauce.

DO NOT add any salt or pepper to this recipe. Remember, we are trying to keep the sodium count as low as possible with respect to the fact that we are using some soy sauce. You don’t want to wake up all swollen and bloated wondering why you can’t get your rings on.

Quinoa Stir-Fry Recipe

  • 2 cups quinoa (cooked – so, 1 cup dry + 2 cups water, or according to package)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups of frozen peas
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro
  • Optional: sprinkle or red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds

In a large skillet/wok, cook chicken in oil over medium heat. Once you can no longer see any pink, throw in garlic, beans and onion. Cook for 3 mins, stirring frequently so as not to burn garlic. Add in frozen peas and cook for another 3 mins. Scoot ingredients to one side of the pan and add egg to the other side. Scramble egg and mix the ingredients together in the skillet. Stir in sesame oil and ginger. Next, add in quinoa and mix well. Add soy sauce and cilantro, and any other remaining ingredients (red pepper, seeds), stir well and serve hot.

I like to eat asian dishes with chopsticks because it forces me to eat more slowly, and because we own really cute chopsticks.


Need a diet? Here’s an easy one: Lose weight by cutting out fake food

Don’t eat fake stuff. Sounds so simple, right?

I’m not talking about not eating decorative fruit. Although, it might be a better option than some things we do consume.

It’s sad that we have to look at food labels to make sure what we’re buying is actually made of what it’s called or is claiming to contain. Most cereals that claim to have fruit in them have no trace of actual fruit, and most creamers today don’t have any cream/milk product of any kind in them. Doesn’t it make you nervous when you don’t know what the ingredients listed on your food even are?

Think of it this way: if something has been removed or added to alter fat/calories or enhance color/flavor, something unnatural has likely happened to the ingredient list. An exchange has occurred, and it’s probably not to your benefit in the overall scheme of things.

Okay, so they took out some fat, but look how much sodium is in the new version…

As a rule of thumb, a short ingredient list of things you recognize is a good indicator of a quality product. In contrast, if it has enough preservatives to live in your house for a long time, it can probably live in your body a long time, too.

If you don’t recognize the ingredients you’re putting into your body, how do you expect your body to recognize them? We’re all clogged up with artificial crap and preservatives.

Yes, good, real food typically costs more; however, the money you save buying cheap, processed food will likely be spent many times over in medical fees down the line to undo the damage. Also, if you go to a farmers’ market instead of a supermarket, the price will be lower because they haven’t spent as much overhead on transportation and advertising.

The list of ailments that can be cured with a clean diet is amazing. Mood swings, digestion issues, headaches, obesity, etc. can all be helped by taking the time to make sure what you’re eating is real food.

Skip over all the fad diets, and just reach for real food. It’s a no brainer.