Ultimate healthy snack list

During some client sessions, we spend a lot of time coming up with meal and snack ideas. I find many people don't eat well not because they don't want to, but because they're not in the habit of it. It takes learning new habits—and also experimenting with new foods—to really change the overall pattern of a diet. After the last such session, where we spent at least 20 minutes brainstorming how to get fruits and vegetables into this family's diet, I thought "I really need to come up with some handouts!" And so this list of healthy snacks was born. You can also download it as a PDF if you want to print it out for a handy reference. What other healthy snacks do you love to have on hand?

Air-popped popcorn: Try this easy at-home techinique: Put 2 T. corn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the top over a few times and cook in the microwave about 2 minutes. Topping ideas: a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan; nutritional yeast; chili seasoning mix

Whole-wheat toast with natural peanut butter and banana, apple or pear slices

A whole-grain toaster waffle topped with nonfat ricotta and berries

Frozen berries, defrosted in the microwave, served with plain yogurtand a bit of granola for added sweetness and crunch

Fruit smoothie: Combine ½ banana, ½ c. frozen fruit (any combination of berries, peaches, mangos, pineapple), ½ c. plain yogurt and ½ c. of 100% fruit juice, milk or water. If it’s too tart, add a little honey. Could also add a few drops of vanilla extract, or a dash of cinnamon or ginger.

Raw veggies and dip (Veggies: carrot sticks, pepper slices, cucumber spears, cauliflower florets, celery sticks, radishes; Dip: hummus, ranch dressing, plain nonfat Greek yogurt gussied up with onion flakes, dried dill or mint and a little garlic—or mix the yogurt with ranch to get the flavor of ranch with more protein from the yogurt)

Raw fruit and dip (apples, pears, grapes, banana coins…if you’re feeling ambitious you can skewer them and make fruit kebabs). For a fun dip, try mixing plain or vanilla yogurt with peanut butter or cinnamon or some chocolate syrup.

Cinnamon apples: Sprinkle apple slices with cinnamon

Mexican mango: Sprinkle mango chunks with lime juice, a little salt, and a little hot pepper. (This topping also works well on crunchy jicama).

Homemade whole-grain muffins or scones: I like to make morning glory muffins, or other muffins with fruit and nuts, using whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white flour.

Kale chips: Buy a bag of chopped, cleaned kale, spread it on a baking sheet in a single layer, toss with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees) until crispy and a little brown (around 10 minutes).

Cheddar cheese, apple slices, carrot sticks, olives, roasted nuts: I love assembling platters of differently-textured foods to snack on. This combo has salty, sweet, crunchy and soft…perfect.

Posted on March 6, 2014 .

How to Cook 12 Pounds of Vegetables

Last week my friend told me I could pick up her CSA share, since she was out of town—"take two shares," she said, explaining that she hadn't picked up in weeks and so was owed several weeks worth of food. Not belonging to a CSA myself, I was unprepared for the motherload that was a late August CSA share. Zucchini, corn, cucumbers, carrots, beets, potatoes, watermelon, canteloupe, soooo many kinds of greens, tomatoes and eggplant. Lots of them. 12 pounds worth of them. While I was in no rush to cook up the root vegetables, the other produce needed to be cooked now. Right now. So here's how I dealt: 

Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins (non mini, no frosting, not great).

Chocolate-Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Icing: determined to find a chocolate-zucchini recipe that works, I baked on. Found this one from the Chocolate & Zucchini blogger. It worked, nicely.

Zucchini-Corn Fritters served with a gigantic salad of lemon vinaigrette dressed baby greens

A gigantic salad with raw corn shaved off the cob,  tomatoes, cucumbers and oil-packed tuna...AMAZING!!! 

Baba Ghanouj sans lemon juice and parsley because I forgot. It wasn't missed. I've never seen two eggplants be consumed so quickly.

Greek salad with watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta. This. was SO. good.  And I don't even really like watermelon.

Braised greens. An easy way to wilt down and eat an insurmountable amount of greens.  

So there you go. What have you been doing with the bounty of late summer produce? 

mmmm....cake

mmmm....cake

When vegetables are super fresh, they taste very very good. 

When vegetables are super fresh, they taste very very good. 

Bab ghanouj begins with roasted eggplants. 

Bab ghanouj begins with roasted eggplants. 

Posted on August 29, 2013 .

Black bean & kale tacos

It might be a stretch to call these tacos, but I didn't know what else to call a tortilla filled with stuff and eaten folded, taco-style. It also might be a stretch to write a recipe for this, but since I eat this kind of meal fairly often, I thought it deserves a description. Basically, you cook up some vegetables—I'm partial to peppers, mushrooms, onions, garlic and carrots—add beans and spices and pile it on to a heated tortilla (cheese optional).

Recipe

Serves 2

2 t. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small carrot, diced

3 - 4 mushrooms, chopped

2 - 3 handfuls of greens (chopped kale, baby spinach...)

Spices to taste (I used cumin, coriander, chili powder, TJ's smoke)

1 c. cooked black beans (or canned, rinsed)

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1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar (optional)

Possible toppings: Cilantro, avocado, plain yogurt or light sour cream

Instructions

Heat oil over medium heat in medium - large pan. Sautee onion, carrot and mushroom until they start to soften. Add spices, garlic, greens and beans until greens are wilted and beans are heated through. Meanwhile, top each tortilla with 2 T. of shredded cheese, and heat in an oven or toaster oven until the cheese is melted. Spoon filling into the tortillas, add topping and serve.

Nutrition facts: 460 calories, 22 g protein, 7 g sat fat, 15 g fiber, 245 mg sodium, 295% vit A, 143% vitamin C, 37% calcium, 24% iron

* I didn't actually measure how much cheese I used (or any of this), so if you want to lower the saturated fat and sodium, just use half as much cheese--or no cheese and add avocado for healthy fats.

Posted on May 20, 2013 and filed under Recipe.

Pan Bagnat with Cucumbers & Radishes

I love hard-boiled eggs in sandwiches, which is why it's no surprise I'm a fan of Pan Bagnat—the classic southern French sandwich that features hard-boiled eggs, alongside tuna and other veggies. I put my own twist on it yesterday for a yummy, satisfying sandwich. I shaved radishes and cucumbers with a mandoline, for super-thin, crispy slices, and used radish greens in place of lettuce. Try it!

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Springy Pan Bagnat

4-inch baguette, sliced in half

1 - 2 radishes, thinly sliced

2" piece of cucumber, thinly sliced

Handful of radish greens, washed

1 hardboiled egg, peeled and sliced

2 oz. oil-packed light tuna*

Salt & pepper to taste

Layer it up, and serve. If you have time, you can wrap it up tightly and let it rest under something heavy—it will let all the flavors meld together and make it more wieldy to eat.

*I've been preferring oil-packed tuna, which helps retain more of the omega-3 fats, but you can also use water-packed if that's what you prefer or have on hand.

Easiest, Healthiest Raspberry Jam

Orange-currant scones with warm raspberry jam

Orange-currant scones with warm raspberry jam

Today I had a stroke of inspiration. I warmed up a frozen homemade scone—the lightest, yummiest whole-wheat scone you've ever had, mind you—and topped it with homemade jam. Since it was second breakfast, I wanted some fruit with it. So I heated up some frozen raspberries with the teensiest bit of sugar until they were warm, brilliantly red and soft and used it as jam. Easy-peasy and oh-so-good. Try it!

In case you're wondering, the scone recipe is from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin and I bumped up the whole-wheat flour ratio, so it's half-whole-wheat. Best Orange-Currant Scones around.

Posted on April 26, 2013 .

Black Bean Mushroom Chili

The other night I got a hankering for chili and cornbread. Although I've made versions of this before, the flavors really came together in this batch, so I decided to share the recipe. I wrote it down after the fact, so hopefully my memory served me (and you). As you can see, it's also incredibly healthy. The combination of beans and mushrooms make this a fiber-rich meal that's sure to satisfy your appetite.


Black Bean Mushroom Chili

Serves 4 (generous portions)

Ingredients

2 t. olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 small sweet potato, cubed

8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced (can include stems)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 t. cumin

1/4 t. coriander

1 t. chili powder

2 c. black beans

14 oz. fire-roasted tomatoes

14 oz. water

salt (to taste)

cilantro, for garnish

Plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)

Cheddar cheese (optional)

Deliciousness

Deliciousness

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Instructions

In a large-ish pot or Dutch oven, sautée onions and sweet potato in olive oil over medium heat until the onions start to get translucent. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms start to shrink. Add garlic, sautée for one minute. Add spices and cook for another 30 seconds. Add black beans, tomatoes and water and simmer about 15 minutes to let flavors combine and vegetables cook through. Taste and add salt or additional spices as desired. Serve with chopped cilantro and a dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese, if you'd like. Enjoy!

Nutrition information

Calories: 217; Sodium: 158 mg (higher if you add salt); Fiber: 11 g; Vitamin A 106%; Folate 43%; Potassium: 32% DV; Vitamin C: 27% DV; Iron 22%

Posted on March 27, 2013 and filed under Recipe.

Grocery Essentials

I've been traveling on and off for the past several weeks. When I returned Monday morning I went grocery shopping—stocking my kitchen with most of the basics I need to cook is a surefire way for me to feel at home.

A homecoming shopping trip...fresh produce, dairy, grains and beans.

A homecoming shopping trip...fresh produce, dairy, grains and beans.

I already have some other essentials on hand (I'll post about those another time). So the foods I needed to get me started on a week of cooking and eating ended up being:

Fruit: Bananas, oranges, tangerines and frozen raspberries (late winter selection...this varies based on season and what I'm in the mood for).

• Vegetables: Kale and broccoli (need green!...I'm thinking kale salad, pasta with beans and greens), onions and garlic (essentials for almost any dish), radishes (for shaving into salad), mushrooms, cilantro and red cabbage. I already had carrots, sweet potatoes and white potatoes at home.

• Dry Goods: Black beans and fire-roasted tomatoes (planning to make a black bean soup or chili with mushrooms, carrots, onions and canned tomatoes), millet (wanted to try a new whole grain), toasted buckwheat (a blogger I follow has been sprinkling it on yogurt and salads), nuts (cashews, almonds and hazelnuts...some for eating, some for adding to a batch of granola), dried cherries and coconut flakes (also for granola).

Dairy: 1% milk (I usually buy a 1/2 gallon of 1% and a 1/2 gallon of whole milk, which I use for coffee, and go through them at about an equal rate), plain yogurt (I'm not a fan of Greek yogurt, so this Maple Hill Creamery yogurt is one of the only ones at City Market that had the texture I liked, was local-ish, and was from 100% grass-fed cows. It is a whole-milk yogurt, but I don't get a ton of saturated fat from other sources, so I'm okay with that), butter (I always like having butter on hand for baking).

As I go through the grocery store, I try to think of what meals I'm planning to make this week...I inevitably end up augmenting with other trips to the store later on. For this trip, I was thinking I needed food for breakfast (milk, fruit, yogurt and ingredients to make granola...already had rolled oats at home), wanted to make a black bean soup, and planned to make a kale salad.

Community Question: What are your grocery store essentials?

Posted on March 20, 2013 .

Healthier Morning Glory Muffins

I heart morning glory muffins. I love that I can get carrots and apples in a yummy baked good. But many recipes for morning glory muffins are heavy on the sugar and oil and bound together with white flour. That's why I made my own recipe for morning glory muffins, making as many healthy changes as possible. The result is an incredibly moist and flavorful muffin, with a nice crispy top. Let me know what you think!

MORNING GLORY MUFFINS

Yield: about 18 muffins

Ingredients

Wet Ingredients

2 c. shredded carrots

1 large apple, diced

8 oz. crushed or cubed pineapple + the juice

1/2 c. canola oil (olive oil is okay too...it will give it a stronger flavor, but I like it)

3/4 c. sugar

3 eggs

1 t. vanilla

I made petite loaves (these are equivalent to 1.5 muffins, I think, so the nutrition information would be different if you're making this larger serving size).

I made petite loaves (these are equivalent to 1.5 muffins, I think, so the nutrition information would be different if you're making this larger serving size).

Dry Ingredients

2 1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 c. shredded coconut

2 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 c. walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cups or spray with nonstick cooking spray. 

Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients, except for the walnuts. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined. Fold in the walnuts. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way full and bake until muffins spring back when you press on the top--about 20 minutes.

Nutrition info

Calories: 202; Saturated fat: 1.5 grams; Added sugar: 8 grams; Fiber: 2 grams; Protein: 4 grams; Vitamin A 42%; Vitamin C 4%; Iron 8%

Posted on March 4, 2013 .

Best & Worst Super Bowl Foods

The Twittersphere (and probably the larger American world) is all abuzz with talk of what people will be eating this Sunday. Super Bowl parties are notorious for some not-so-healthy foods, like pizza and Buffalo wings. Nevertheless, it is possible to participate in this classic American experience without doing damage to your waistline.

While my first recommendation for curbing excess on Game Day is to make some healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods, it also might be handy to have a cheat sheet to help you decide the lesser of two evils.

I worked on this piece for EatingWell Magazine to help you figure out whether you should go for ribs or wings, tortilla chips or potato chips, guac or bean dip. Here's the skinny on the results—see the article for more details:

  • Go for wings over ribs—you get to eat more of them for fewer calories
  • Tortilla chips narrowly beat out potato chips for having less sodium, on average
  • Both guacamole and black bean dip have good qualities—just watch your portions
  • Mixed nuts deliver way more nutrition than pretzels, so they're a better bet.

Community question: What are your favorite Super Bowl recipes?

Image courtesy of StockFreeImages.com
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Posted on January 30, 2013 .

4 Low-Calorie Ways to Naturally Flavor Coffee

While pumpkin lattes and mochaccinos might be popular, they're not all that good for you. The syrups in those drinks bump up the sugar content, making them calorie bombs. Case in point, a 12-oz. whole milk pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks delivers close to 300 calories—almost 100 calories more than an unflavored version, because of the 6 teaspoons of added sugar. But if you're a fan of flavored coffee drinks, take heart. You can naturally flavor your coffee without tons of extra sugar. Here are some of my favorite ways:

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1) Add ground spices to the coffee grounds: cinnamon or cardamom are two of my favorites, but you can get creative with pumpkin spice and your other favorite blends.

2) Make your own eggnog lattes using a lighter eggnog—some of the soy versions are pretty tasty and deliver way less saturated fat (as in none) than regular. Just heat a cup or less in the microwave and add super strong coffee or espresso.

3) Use cocoa powder to make a healthy mocha: Cocoa powder is packed with heart-healthy flavanols. Mix together a heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of vanilla, add a little coffee to form a paste, then add more coffee and steamed milk.

4) Buy flavored coffee or make your own by storing whole spices (like cinnamon sticks) in your whole bean coffee. It will infuse the batch with flavor.

Photo credit: Stockvault.net

Posted on January 24, 2013 .

What Good is Good Health?

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A series of snowstorms has me housebound and I've been reflecting on the importance of health. Everyone has different definitions of healthy and probably different motivations, too—wanting to look good, feel good, live long, etc. For me, being healthy isn't the ultimate goal. Good health is a gift—one that, in part, we give to ourselves. When you have it, it frees you to do other things. Being healthy allows me to pursue other interests and enjoy life without being hindered by physical limitations.

If I were to turn this into a resolution around health, I would say try to find the middle way. When you go to either extreme with eating—either being hyper consumed with what you can't and can eat, or being so negligent that what you eat takes a toll on your health—it gets in the way of living. Eat in a way that brings you joy. For me, cooking a meal and eating vegetables brings me pleasure, as does drinking hot chocolate and whole milk lattes, sharing a holiday meal with family or discovering a new bakery. I don't get obsessed with shoulds in eating and I eat in a way that feels good for my body, rather than following some sort of prescription for health.

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Posted on December 31, 2012 .

Fishy Business

If you're picky about the fish you eat—and, let's face it, you should be—then buying fish just got fishier. Actually, the problem has been around for a while, but a new report just confirmed that much of the fish for sale (both at stores and in restaurants) is mislabeled. The problem is most rampant in Los Angeles, where 55 percent of the seafood sampled by Oceana was mislabeled. But Boston (48 percent), New York City (39 percent) and Miami (31 percent) all are plagued by the problem.

Certain varieties were more likely to be incorrectly labeled, including wild salmon, red snapper, white tuna, cod, halibut and sole. What's most troubling about the report is that fish are often substituted by varieties that people are often urged to avoid. For instance, high-mercury tilefish for red snapper, GI-distress-causing escolar for white tuna or less-healthy farmed Atlantic salmon for wild.

Buy fish from larger grocery chains, rather than small independent ones and be wary about sushi restaurants—76 percent of them had fish fraud.

Posted on December 13, 2012 .

Sleep in, Eat Less

I'm reviewing some diet books for a Cooking Channel article and one of them—The 8-Hour Diet, by Dave Zinczenko—advocates sleeping in as one of the keys to weight loss. (His premise is based on the benefits of intermittent fasting. By confining your eating to just eight hours a day, he says, the pounds will melt off and you'll be healthier. An oversimplification, but I've just read the intro so far.)

Sleeping kitty! Great blog, right?

Sleeping kitty! Great blog, right?

A new study out today gives yet another nod to those addicted to the snooze button. The study, published in Sleep, found that men and women who slept just 4 hours a night had more reason to overeat than those who slept for nine hours...but their reasons differed. Sleep-deprived men had increased levels of ghrelin—the appetite-stimulating hormone, while women had lower levels of a hormone (GLP-1) linked to satiety.

Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_132057.html

Posted on December 12, 2012 .

Simple Swaps for Weight Loss: Lowfat Dairy

A new study found that simply swapping lowfat alternatives for high-fat counterparts (think lowfat milk or yogurt rather than whole), helped people lose an average of 3.5 pounds.

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It's a strategy that makes sense...if you do it right. While swapping skim milk (80 calories) for whole milk (150 calories per cup) cuts calories without adding anything more, some lowfat alternatives are not better swaps. Many lowfat and fat-free products replace fat with other ingredients--often sugar and additives. So stick to just trying out low-fat alternatives to whole foods, like milk or yogurt.

Posted on December 7, 2012 .

New Day, New Kale Salad

I'm launching this website and thought it would be fun to add some sort of daily bite. Sometimes (like today) I'll post something yummy I'm eating. Others I'll add interesting snippets of nutrition research or something I'm inspired by.

Now, I love all things kale. I like how I feel when I eat it—like I am infused with health-—and I like how it tastes. So when I saw the recipe for this kale salad with some of my favorite add-ins (nuts, goat cheese and dried cherries), I had to try it. And it's a good one. You can find the recipe here.

Hearty kale, crunch cashews and sweet cherries make this a super-satisfying salad

Hearty kale, crunch cashews and sweet cherries make this a super-satisfying salad

Posted on November 29, 2012 .