IMG_0028

Minestrone soup is unaffectionaly sometimes referred to as the kitchen sink soup…meaning you can put just about anything in it! To me, it’s a God-send for staying within a food budget AND eating healthy. That combination isn’t something you come across every day.

Minestrone soup is essentially a broth-based soup with lots of veggies. You can add just about any vegetables you have on hand, or even better, use all of those veggies in the produce drawer that are on the verge of going bad. You can also make this soup on the fly, since frozen veggies work great too. For a little added protein, beans are a common ingredient, but I also added some leftover cooked chicken for this round. Leftover rotissere chicken or that half serving that won’t be enough for a complete meal are easy add-ins for this dollar-saver.

As with so many soups, you start with sauteeing the standard trio – diced onion, celery, and carrots. Feel free to add garlic to this combo too.  Once soft, it’s down to adding broth (vegetable or chicken work well), your veggies and protein. Canned tomatoes are another common go-to for this soup. I prefer diced tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano, but fire-roasted can be awesome too. Sprinkle in any spices at this point. I prefer oregano or a bay leaf, but let your tastebuds guide you. Bring all of this to a simmer for at least 30 minutes so the flavors can marry – a fancy way of saying “makes it yummy”.

While there are many variations to this soup, here is the general recipe I use.

Easy Minestrone Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

3 carrots, diced

2 gloves garlic, chopped

1 32 oz. container low-sodium chicken broth (can substitute vegetable for vegetarian option)

2-3 cups of vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces (Examples: zucchini, green beans, squash, broccoli, fresh spinach, mushrooms)

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic

1 15 oz. can canellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded (optional)

Season to taste – salt, pepper, oregano

Warm oil over medium to medium high heat in a stock pot. Add onion, celery, and carrots and sautee until slightly softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broth. Then add vegetables, tomatoes, beans, chicken and seasoning. Stir to combine. Cover pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.

Serve with a salad, whole grain crackers, cheese toast or all on it’s own. Enjoy!

I am a lucky girl. I have a wonderful family, comfortable home, amazing friends and yet I struggle with the same pull for perfectionism as many of you.

Yet, my luckily life brings me harsh lessons at seemingly perfect times. This week I had the great fortune of meeting Glennon Doyle Melton, the refreshingly honest blogger behind Momastery.com. Glennon makes speaking from the heart seem effortless and comical and essentially sweet all at the same time. Thanks to my friend Laurie and an amazing (spontaneous) group of women, we formed a “book club” that allowed us to meet Glennon from the comfort of her closet…I mean, how could you NOT love this lady?

Book Club with Glennon

In the midst of our conversation about her book, it’s raw and revealing stories, and her underlying message of love I was struck by her pull to start a blog so that she could write about the truth…well, actually the “truthiest truths” as she calls them. Those messages that are at the heart of every one of us.

It was a slap to the face for me, because that is EXACTLY what I wanted to do with this blog – except with a health spin.

I have worked for years in health care, helping people to find wellness through better nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy ways of managing stress. Yet, it was the struggle and feeling of futility in the quest of many following fads diets and trendy programs that made me want to help people see the TRUTH of living well.

Lately, I have been in a state of apathy over my blog, not “feeling it” anymore because it didn’t feel like a reflection of what I wanted to do. It seemed too pretty, too perfect and that was certainly not the expectation of nor the pressure I wanted to add upon my readers. Thanks to Glennon, I have remembered my original pull to write!

So my lovely readers, I am going back to telling the truthiest truths about health. You will see some changes coming with the layout and hopefully the “flair” in which the information is presented. And in the spirit of truth, I’m going to be honest…I’m no techie, so this transition may take some time. Hang with me and I promise, I’ll help you find the truth about how you can live well – not perfect, but well.

And feel free to share what you want to see on this blog too. It’s intended for you, after all. Let’s get to the truth together!

 

Quest for the Best: Granola (part 1 - store bought)

 

 

I just love granola. And not because I now live in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, I know the stereotypical visions of people eating a snack with all of the flavor of cardboard as a survival tactic while on long hikes, stopping only to hug a tree or two along the way, right? Far from it!

For me, granola conjures up the comfort of a warm bowl of oatmeal in my grandma’s kitchen, the sweetness of dried fruit that I loved snacking on as a kid and the surprise of various spices that keeps my adult palate intrigued. It is filling without being fussy.

As a Dietitian, I find the idea of mixing whole grains with fruit and nuts or seeds as pure genius. Essentially, granola is a rare food that can combine sweet, savory, and crunchy while supporting the plant-based way of eating that is undeniably proven to promote health.

Yogurt parfait

So yeah, I’m a fan. What’s even better is the many forms and flavors that granola can take on.  That’s why I’m on a quest to find the best!

Today, I’m taking on granola in its pure form – loose, like a cereal. While I love combining the individual raw ingredients and custom making a granola to suit my mood for the day, there are times when I have to get real. I (and you) don’t always have time to make things from scratch. So, I wanted to test some of the pre-made granolas on the market.

Granola in bowls

Fortunately, I had this idea formulating when I was sent a free sample of Ladera Granola (no, they didn’t pay me to write a review, only to enjoy a free sample their product – no strings attached). To be fair, I added a few other granolas to the taste test – one that is a local granola from my closest farmer’s market, and two others that you can find on many store shelves nation-wide.

Sotre-bought granola brands

Along with a discerning taste panel (my kids), we had a blind taste test – well, not blind to me, but my kids had no clue which brand was in each bowl. While all of the granola samples were tasty enough, we found a clear winner. Here’s what our taste buds thought and how we chose to rank the four brands.

Number 4Bear Naked – I’ve long been a fan of this company and their granola, but I have to admit that this particular flavor ranked lowest. The granola had a very plain flavor punctuated with sweetness from cranberries. Bear Naked has recently introduced this higher protein line, which derives its extra protein from soy protein isolate – not the natural source I would have liked to see in a granola. Because of this and it’s lackluster flavor, it gets the lowest rank. This variety contributes 140 calories per 1/4 cup with only 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of sugar. I have seen this brand available in most major grocery stores, even Target, at a range of price points. This 11-ounce bag was priced at $4.88 (that’s $0.44 per ounce, which is the cheapest of the sampled granolas).

Number 3Hammer and Tuffy’s – This is a farmer’s market favorite for me. But before you start to leave a comment in vain, you can order this granola online too. I added it to the taste panel because I wanted to compare the flavor and texture of commercial granolas made in large-scale processing plants versus a small-scale variety like this one; the kind you would envision made with the attention to quality that you might think the big name guys wouldn’t be able to have. Surprisingly, the difference wasn’t as significant as I would have thought. Of course, I like the idea of supporting the local guy who supports my farmer’s market too. The Red Tractor Blend flavor is $9.95 for an 16-ounce bag (that’s $0.62 per ounce) and  runs 130 calories for 1/4 cup with 3 grams of protein and 7 grams of sugar. It has an added benefit of using gluten-free oats, if that’s your thing, and some organic ingredients. The flavor is slightly nutty with a hint of salt. Overall, a really nice balance of wholesome goodness.

Number 2Kind – I’m a big proponent of Kind granola bars, not just for their yummy taste, but mostly because they have limited ingredients, all of which are pronounceable real food items. The granola we sampled was their Oats and Honey Clusters variety and it was most noticeable that this granola was definitely in bigger “cluster” pieces and super crunchy, making it a much easier snacking option than the rest. It seemed to have a real nutty, almost peanut butter flavor, which is something I liked. This brand is also very easy to find at major retailers with a variety of pricing as low as $5.99 for the 11-ounce bag (that’s $0.54 per ounce). While the nutrition facts label reflects a 1/3 cup serving size, I’ll keep the comparisons the same by giving you the stats based on a 1/4 cup serving – which would be 98 calories, 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar – impressively light compared to the rest.

Number 1Ladera – I have to say that I was surprised. I’m not easily swayed by the samples that I often receive on my doorstep, however this surpassed many homemade granolas I’ve tasted in the past. In fact, that was my comment after my first bite – that it tasted so fresh and homemade. This granola was distinctly loose, making it suitable for topping on yogurt or eating as a cereal, but a little messier to snack on…although I wasn’t afraid to try! The flavor profile was more complex than some of the other granolas, showcasing the natural goodness of the oats with a perfectly paired cinnamon finish, not to mention the caramelized almonds and pecans. With slight embarrassment, I had to admit that this granola was better than some of the home-made versions my kitchen has produced in the past. I haven’t gone so far to caramelize nuts in my own granola recipes, but after tasting this granola, I’m thinking it might be worth it! My son even said “kids don’t always like oats, but this will make them like it.” Since this is a relatively new brand, it might be a little harder to find. Of course, you can order directly from their website and if you are lucky enough to live in California, you can check out the store finder on their website to see which stores near you carry the granola. It costs $8.99 for a 12-ounce bag (that’s $0.75 per ounce; note online orders require a min of 4 bags per order) and weighs in a 150 calories for 1/4 cup serving with 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of sugar. Delicious!

If there is a brand that you have found in your own quest, I’d love to hear about it. If you are still on the hunt, I encourage you to try one of the brands listed above. I think you’ll be happy you did!

As for the homemade variety, I’m excitedly testing some recipes now. If you’ve got a recipe that you think is among the best (loose granola, bar or ball), let me know. Even if it isn’t featured in the my Granola Part 2 post- all about homemade granola, I’d be happy to add any (healthy) recipes to my Granola Pinterest board.

What's Hot about Hot Yoga

It’s clear…yoga is hot! In almost every city you can find a multitude of yoga studios; many of them are offering hot yoga.

Hot yoga is basically the practice of yoga in a hot, humid room; generally between 80-95 degrees. The twist on this centuries’ old practice is intended to help warm your muscles so that you can more easily stretch and hold postures that you might otherwise have difficulty holding. I personally think the trend is particularly hot because we are moving into an era of extreme sports.

Whether pushing ourselves to extremes through programs like Insanity, participating in races like Tough Mudder, or even turning up the heat in your traditional yoga class, it seems that we have a real thirst for our exercise to be intense, challenging, and far from boring.

So I decided to give hot yoga a try. Luckily, I have a friend who opened an adorable new studio (shout out for Twist Yoga @TwistYogaLO) which made it all the more alluring to test out this trend. While I have long been a lover of yoga – although not always consistent in my practice – hot yoga is a variation that seemed a little intimidating to me. So I called a friend and experienced yogi to join me in my initial try.

Twist Yoga

To start, I wanted to make sure I was clear on what I was signing up for. Some yoga studios offer Bikrim Yoga, which is a specific class with a set series of postures that happens to take place in a hot studio. “Hot Yoga” as a more general term, can mean any form of yoga, just in a hot space.

Walking into the room for the first time, it felt as if I’d open the door to the beach. Warm, humid air hit me immediately and I felt instantly relaxed. It didn’t take long into the class for that relaxed feeling to wane into a serious workout. If you’ve never taken yoga of any kind, you’d be mistaken to think it is only about touching your toes or twisting like a contortionist. Sure, there is a great deal of flexibility that comes into play, but the strength needed to hold certain postures is the real secret. It wasn’t long before I was dripping with sweat. Ah, like a free facial!

Our instructor, Kristin Fondran, would add absolutely motivating statements such as “breathe in what you need (.ie. strength, confidence) and breathe out what you don’t (i.e. self-judging, worries).” This is where the mind part of this mind-body exercise becomes so addictive. Every “practice” (a great reminder that you don’t have to be perfect at this) ends with a relaxation that involves lying on the floor. To me it is the absolutely reward for the hard work you just put in.

Karma shirt

Overall, I would say that hot yoga may help you to feel a little more limber as compared to regular yoga. Any yoga practice should be a progression and if you don’t like it at first, give it a few more chances before you throw in the yoga mat. You should dress appropriately (cropped yoga pants and athletic tank are good…remember no shoes), bring plenty of water, and you may want a yoga towel to cover your mat – because you are going to sweat! And in ANY kind of exercise, you have to listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or in general not right – just come to your mat. Yogis are extremely forgiving.

If you are a complete newbie, get there early, tell the instructor you are new and let her know of any injuries you may have. Blocks and straps are helpful yoga tools that help you achieve poses if you aren’t quite flexible enough. Humility is another great tool to bring. Leave your self-judging at the door and understand that it is ok if you don’t get everything right. You may be tempted to look around the room, but realize there might be people in the class who have done yoga for years – so don’t compare.

I have never once regretted the time I’ve taken to be at a yoga class. It really is one of those exercises that makes you feel good in body and mind. It is refreshing in a way that the treadmill is not. I don’t consider myself an expert yogi by any means and I certainly like the variety of many different kinds of exercise in my fitness plan, but yoga has stood the test of time for a reason. Hot or not, I encourage you to give yoga a try.
photo credit: Amber Karnes via photopin cc

Creamy Squash and Carrot Ribbons

 

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent which is the 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter.  Lent is supposed to be a time of reflection and preparation for Catholics, but for my entire life it has always meant answering the dreaded question “what are you giving up?”

While I prefer the idea of doing something good in preparation of Easter, and that is still something I promote with my children, my Catholic guilt always brings me back to picking some kind of sacrifice.

So, my dear readers, I’ve picked something this year that I think might benefit you in the long run. I’ve decided to give up meat. Yes, that’s right, I will avoid eating all beef, pork, chicken and turkey…although I will be able to eat fish. And since I’m not going vegan, I can still eat eggs and dairy products. I also will allow beef broth for soups, etc. because I think this is going to be change enough and I don’t need to be a purist to feel the challenge.

Now, some of you who are vegetarian might think this is no big deal. But I also cook for a family who is not taking on this same challenge, so I say “oh yeah, this is a sacrifice.”

On the upside, I’ll be sharing some of my meatless meals with you. Even if you have no interest in ever giving up meat, going meatless two or three days a week can not only be healthy, but it can be less expensive and kinder to the environment.

One of my favorite TED talks is Graham Hill’s speech about becoming a 2-day Veg(etarian). Even Meatless Mondays have become a trend that some families adopt as a way of easing into the notion of serving a meal without the need for meat.

And most recently, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a vegetarian diet is beneficial at reducing blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease. With the anticipated rise in meat prices predicted this summer, this might be the perfect opportunity to keep your grocery bill in line while improving your heart health.

So join me, or experiment with going vegetarian just one or two days this week. Either way, I’ve got some yummy recipes to share that will keep you satisfied and not missing the meat at all.

 

Creamy Squash and Carrot Ribbons

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium onion, chopped

4 large carrots, cut into ribbons using a mandolin

2 summer squash (can substitute zucchini), cut into ribbons using a mandolin

Salt and Pepper

Pinch dried basil

3 ounces neuftal cheese (light cream cheese)

3 tablespoons vegetable broth (more if you prefer a thinner sauce)

¼ cup pine nuts

 

Carefully cut the squash and carrot ribbons using a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, thin slices work fine too.

Squash and Cucumber ribbons

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened. Add squash and carrot ribbons, salt and pepper, and bail; sauté until softened.

Saute vegetable ribbons

 

Remove the squash and carrots from pan. Add the cream cheese and broth to the pan, stirring to help the cream cheese melt. Add more broth if needed.

Melt cream cheese

 

Once the cream cheese has softened, add pine nuts to the pan. Heat for a minute, then return carrots and squash.

Add pine nuts

 

Fold to coat the vegetables in the cream sauce. Serve immediately.

recipe

Are Your Workouts Intense Enough to Get Results

When it comes to the secret of getting REAL results from your workout, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that you can get amazing results in a short amount of time! That’s great for all of you who are time-strapped with the demands of life…that’s pretty much everyone reading this, right? The bad news is that you are going to have to step up your effort.

Wait…don’t stop reading yet! This doesn’t mean you have to quit your day job and become a gym rat to have any kind of muscle definition. Hear me out…

We’ve all heard the recommendations for physical activity and we are well aware of the incredible benefits of regular exercise. Yet, only 5% of American adults actually meet these recommendations, because it can be hard to figure out how to make physical activity fit into our lives.

I’m going to break it down for you, show you how you CAN make it a part of real life, and tell you how to get the most from your effort.

Just so that we are all on the same page, here are the recommendations for physical activity.

Physical Activity Recommendations

See, if you can bring that intensity level up to vigorous, you can cut your time in half! Of course, it is good for cardiovascular benefits to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity in a session, but you can see health benefits in as little as 10 or 15-minute bouts.

In fact, a recent study at the University of Utah proved that higher intensity activity is associated with lower BMI (body mass index), where lower intensity activity didn’t have the same reduced risk of overweight and obesity. One researcher said “The intensity of the activity matters more than the duration.

Now, we can’t all jump into Insanity-level workouts (although I have to say those videos are amazing!), but the goal is to increase your intensity small bits at a time. Instead of going for a leisurely 30-minute walk, research suggests you are better off jogging for 5-10 minutes, running for 1-3 minutes, and back to jogging or walking. Throwing a few bursts of high-intensity exercise adds more interest to your workouts too, and it allows you to finish in shorter amount of time or in fewer days each week.

As always, you need to listen to your body anytime you are working out. Challenge means work, but it shouldn’t mean pain. Yes, you can be sore the next day, but the soreness should be in your muscles not your joints. If you aren’t sure about form or proper intervals for intensity, seek the help of a trainer or exercise professional. But, if you are sick of not seeing any results for that daily walk you’ve been doing for months, for your standard 3-mile jog you’ve stuck to since the new year, or whatever work out you’ve been stagnating on, it might just be time to increase your intensity!

So back to the “How am I’m going to fit this into my real life?” question.  Here’s how! Pick 4 days this week. It’s better to space them out throughout the week, but really I’m not going to be picky here. Let’s say you choose Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday, you put on some running shoes during lunch or after work and go for a 30-minute walk/run. Alternate walking for 5 minutes followed by running for 5 minutes until your 30 minutes are up. Then on Saturday and Sunday, go for a 10-minute walk followed by the 10-minute Full Body Mix workout. (See spelled out plan below) 

Sample workout plan

 

In 30-minutes or less 4 days per week, you’ve done it! Increase the amount of time in vigorous exercise and you can cut that time even further…or see results faster. Your choice! Drop a comment below if you give this or another workout plan a try.  Do you have your own way of ramping up your intensity? I’d love to hear it.

Edited photo original credit: Louish Pixel via photopin cc

 

Is the Weather Making You Fat

The East coast just got get hit with yet another. ruthless. winter. storm. Newscasters say this is the 15th storm this winter leaving many of you longing for the days when that grey snow melts away and you can enjoy being outdoors again.

60% of the country is dealing with snow, which means that many of us are struggling to stay fit. (if you agree – Share on Twitter!)

Having recently experienced a weekend limited by snowy and icy conditions in the Pacific Northwest, I can sympathize with the limitations the weather puts on your attempts to be physically fit. Aside from trying to entertain stir-crazed kids, it is easy to find yourself in a state of hibernation. I myself, watched TWO movies in one day – I mean, when was the last time I watched ONE movie at home? Were my closets completely organized? Were all of my well-intentioned projects completed? Did I spend the day creating scrapbooks for my children? No! But I found time to watch TWO movies! That’s not to mention the bored snacking that goes on when you are stuck inside. I understand the lure of hibernation. Really, I do.

But here’s the real kicker (and gift) about living well. You don’t have to be perfect! You just need to spend most of your time in a way that supports health. So while I really loved the time curled up with my kids and husband watching movies, I also really valued the time sledding with them, going for a walk in the snow with a friend, and carving out time for ME to exercise. When you are faced with the MANY days indoors that this fierce winter has demanded, you can’t stayed curled on the couch every snow day.

I know, I know…your workout choices are limited. No doubt.

Just because you can’t get to the gym, doesn’t mean that exercise is no longer an option. It’s always wise to have a plan B for exercise. In case you are fresh out of ideas, I want to share with you a super simple plan B. So simple, you’ll think “why didn’t I think of that”.

 10-minute solution - The Weather-Buster

 

This workout is perfect for a hotel room or snow day when you need a quick burst that requires no equipment, no electricity (maybe you want to print this one in the future?) and no trainer. All you need is your own commitment to make it happen. In just a few minutes, you can go back to that movie… until you feel the need to repeat the workout again. Oh, and when you are done and have so much time on your hands, leave me a comment, pin it, or tell your snowed-in Facebook friends about it. I can’t wait to hear what you think of this one?

10-minute solution - The Weather-Buster

Want more 10-minute solutions? Want other workout ideas? Let me know…I can’t read your mind! :) Just leave a comment below. 

 

snow day photo credit: mnotta via photopin cc

10-minute solutions photo credit: nicola.albertini via photopin cc

Be Happy for your Heart

We finally got snow in the Portland area – I know that many of you want to throw a snowball at your computer at that statement, having suffered a brutal winter! As I was sledding with my son yesterday, I was reminded of how important it is to be happy! And not just because I saw this heart-shaped patch of roadway showing through the snow last night…you see it, right?

Heart in snow

Today is also Wear Red Day, a national awareness campaign to remind everyone that heart disease is the #1 killer of women – not breast cancer…heart disease! Having had two loved ones close to me suffering strokes and a family history of heart disease, I know how important it is to live a heart-healthy life.

While I work to exercise regularly, control stress and eat right, the best thing I’ve found that supports heart-health in my life is being happy.

Of course happy people tend to eat better, sleep better, and do all of the things that are better for your heart anyway. But science has proven that happiness, in and of itself, is protective for your heart.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at over 200 studies that showed optimistic people have a 50% reduced risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event, as compared to people who are much less optimistic. One researcher went so far as to say “The most important aspect of well-being is how individuals feel about themselves.”

We are so quick to look at all of our weaknesses, to focus on areas we have failed rather than to celebrate our victories – no matter how small! Want to do your heart a favor today? Celebrate the fact that you got a good night sleep because you went to bed on time when you were tempted to check out your Facebook updates. Celebrate the fact that you drank more water this week than you have been drinking and drank far fewer sodas -regular or diet. Celebrate that you went to the gym twice, even if your goal was to go 5 times this week, because twice is better than none at all! Celebrate that you stopped, took a deep breath, and didn’t reply with emotion to that upsetting email at work this week. You did these things…YOU!

When we are able to be kind to ourselves, our hearts soften to the ability to be kind to others too. Practicing understanding, not assuming we know someone else’s story, and giving people a break. Most of us are just trying. And that some days is worth being kind. It’s amazing how that kindness-karma comes back to you!

I was recently talking to Macey, a fellow blogger (at a PDX Bloggers meeting – happy to share a shout out) about a new project she has taken on. Realizing that we are all in a state of trying to “complete ourselves” (curse you, Jerry Maguire!), she has created an online magazine called [IN]Complete – genius, right? It’s about loving yourself where you are. It doesn’t mean that you can work on being better, but it means that you don’t loathe yourself during the process. Wherever you are, you can find happiness!

Personally, if I need a happiness boost, I turn to music. Here are 3 of my favorite songs lately that are oozing with happiness.

  1. Be Okay by Oh Honey
  2. Happy from Despicable Me 2
  3. Best Day of My Life by American Authors

So on this heart-healthy day in this heart-healthy month, be proud of what you have accomplished and focus less on the areas where you need to improve…you can work on being even more awesome, but acknowledge that you are awesome.  Every story has adversity. Sure there will be challenges for the hero or heroine in your story, but you will prevail. Love yourself for that.

What do you want the next chapter to be? What are you proud of? Take a minute to leave a comment to share your successes below. Your heart will be healthier for it!

 

7 Fresh Takes on the Typical Side Salad

I know many of you are trying to eat a little healthier than you did throughout the holidays, but it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet when the monotony of grilled chicken, baked fish, and salad after salad after salad sets in.

Have no fear (da-da-da…you should hear superhero music in your head); I’ve come to show you seven different salads that are much more flavorful and exciting than your standard side salad. I want you to see that you can eat a completely different salad every day and not feel as though you’re living in a state of déjà vu. From savory to sweet, side dish to the main course, salads can be as individual and interesting as you are if you take a whole new approach. Of course, you don’t have to eat salads to be healthy, but these salads are so yummy(and easy to make) that you will want to!

  1. Panzanella Salad – Who knew that a salad could have bread as an ingredient? Yes, Ma’am! And the best part is that you can use almost any kind of vegetable you have on hand. This recipe is more of a traditional version, but try this salad using fresh green beans, summer squash, or broccoli. Seriously, any fresh veggie combination you like, works here.
    Panzanella Salad
  2. Grilled Lettuce Salad – The sheer notion of putting lettuce on a grill is crazy enough that you have to try this one. Don’t let bad weather stop you. This recipe is beautifully made on an indoor grill pan too.Grilled Lettuce Salad
  3. Beet, Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad – This plentiful salad is amazingly satisfying while packing very few calories. Use my cheater’s method of buying the prepared beets from Trader Joe’s or your local grocery (tip: use rubber gloves to keep from staining your fingers while you handle the beets) and this salad comes together in a few minutes.
    Beet, Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad
  4. Chickpea, Bell Pepper and Avocado Salad – No lettuce? As a bean-based side dish, this salad is packed with protein, healthy fats and vitamin C. If you are feeling bad for the lettuce, you can certainly serve this mixture over a bed of your favorite greens. With leftover chicken, this salad becomes hearty enough to be the main course.
    Chickpea, Bell Pepper and Avocado Salad
  5. Broccoli Slaw with Edamame and Ginger Dressing – Crazy healthy, crazy filling and super transportable is the story of this salad. It’s one of those recipes that gets better when made ahead of time and left to marinate in your fridge. High in fiber and protein, it is a perfect pairing with fish, soup, or all on it’s own.
    Broccoli Slaw with Edamame and Ginger Dressing
  6. Pesto Quinoa and Tomato Salad – Served warm or cold, this salad is a smart way to use leftover quinoa for an easy-to-assemble lunch. Top with chicken or shrimp and call this one a meal!
    Pesto Quinoa and  Tomato Salad
  7. Citrus Spinach and Walnut Salad – More along the traditional note, I love this one for it’s sweetness. Fruit on a salad is the perfect antidote for a boring salad binge. The crunchiness and healthy fats in the walnuts makes the salad complete. For a surprising twist, the dressing is thickened with an unexpected protein bonus of Greek yogurt.

Citrus Spinach and Walnut Salad

 

I can’t wait to hear which one you’ll try! Don’t be shy…leave me a comment. Tell me about your favorite salad. Do you usually eat them at lunch or dinner? Which one is more your style?

How to Slim Down Your Super Bowl

 

Super Bowl is the second largest food event next to Thanksgiving, which can mean big time penalties when it comes to your diet.

Superbowl statistic

Yikes!  To make sure your pursuit of health isn’t sidelined by meaningless munchies, I have a few suggestions that will help you enjoy the big game without making a big mistake.

1. Eat off a plate

 

 

It might sound obvious, but the mindless eating we do while watching the game can mean major calories without you even realizing it. Eating out of a package or constantly picking at a buffet of appetizers means you have no concept of the amount of food you’ve consumed. Mindfully portioning food on a plate at least gives you a reasonable stopping point, if satiety isn’t registering.

 

2. Keep the main dishes in the kitchen

 

 

I know no one wants to miss a key play or a hilarious commercial, but the act of getting up to refill a plate will make you think about what you are doing before you go for seconds or thirds. Keep lighter options like that veggie tray that never gets finished, soy nuts or a bowl of popcorn in the TV room if you feel the need to have munchies available for your guests.

 

3. Think twice about your beverages

 

 

If you are drinking beer or other libations throughout the game, you can easily tack on hundreds of calories that will go straight to storage (your waist, hips, thighs…you get the point!). Choose to drink flavored water, dilute alcoholic drinks with sparkling water, or alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic calorie-free options.

 

4. Learn to pace or chew gum

 

 

When the score is close, the sheer suspense of who will win can lead to anxious eating. Instead, chew a piece of gum or pace – but don’t feed your face as a way of staying calm. It won’t help your team or your waistline.

 

5. Bring a lightened dish

 

 

If you are going to a Super Bowl party, offer to bring a dish to share. You don’t have to bring salad or Brussels sprouts. But you can swap traditional ingredients for lighter choices and no one will know the difference. This way, you have something you know you can eat. Here’s a great slow cooker recipe that is a real fan favorite. Serve with veggies to make it even healthier and to help cut the sodium. I have several other recipes that perfect for any football party, in case you are the host. Either way, be in control so you can enjoy the game and time with your friends.

 Spinach Artichoke Dip

Slow Cooker Light Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, chopped and drained

1 teaspoon (2 cloves) garlic, minced

1 8-ounce block Neufchatel cheese (or reduced fat cream cheese)

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups shredded low fat mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

2-4 tablespoons water (based on how thin you like your dip)

 

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker and place on high for 1 ½ hours.

Slow Cooker Ingredients

 

2. Stir well and keep on high for 30 minutes more before serving. Serve with homemade tortilla wedges or store bought tortilla chips and veggies for dipping.

Slow Cooker after cooking

Serves:  8

Nutrition Facts per Serving (for dip only):

Calories: 175 calories

Fat: 10 g (Saturated 6 g)

Protein: 1.25 g

Carbohydrate: 7 g

Fiber: 1.5 g

Sodium:  415 mg

 

Nutrient Analysis based on USDA database
photo credit: dharmabumx via photopin cc

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...