Thanks For Giving Me These Holiday Tips!

Thankful for Health

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – being surrounded by family, friends and food and acknowledging the many things for which we are thankful. While it’s okay to indulge (it is a holiday, after all), it’s important to be thankful for our health, our ability to reach this season, and treat our bodies well so that they can continue to care for us. This year, I have a lot to be thankful for! I’m thankful for my fiancé, who keeps me strong, challenges me and loves me unconditionally. I’m also thankful for the fact that I’ll be gaining an additional family in a few short months, and thankful for my own family who has always supported me, through college and grad school, my initial endeavors as a dietitian, and always playing the role of guinea pig when I want to try out a new recipe! I’m thankful for my new home in Florida, all of my new friends, my old friends who continue to stay close regardless of being miles apart, and the ability to do what I love everyday.

I’m also thankful for my attitude toward food, as I’m aware that it does not come easy to many people, and it didn’t always come easy to me, either. Food should be enjoyed, not villainized, and celebrated for all that it can do for us, and we should aim to choose foods that will provide nutrition, as well as joy. In the midst of casseroles, cookies and pies, it can be difficult to navigate the Thanksgiving table with health in mind. Below are some tips so that you can eat your turkey (and pie), and enjoy it too!

  • Start your day with some physical activity. Most of us consume more calories on Thanksgiving than on an average day, so burning some extra calories will help to offset the caloric intake to come. Also, exercise can allow you to burn some additional calories following your workout, although this amount is often small.
  • Focus on veggies. That may seem difficult on Turkey Day, but there are so many seasonal veggies to choose from right now and they’ll help you to fill up with fiber, water and give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals! Some in-season veggies to consider making the star of the show include Brussels sprouts, kale, winter squash, cauliflower and cabbage. My favorite Brussels sprouts recipe is just as tasty as it is pretty!
  • Turkey is a relatively lean protein, especially if you choose the breast meat (white meat). If you’re a turkey lover, feel free to enjoy the festive protein, keeping in mind that one 3 oz serving of poultry is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking a glass of water and choosing foods that contain large amounts of water (like fruits and vegetables) can help you to feel more full, which means you may indulge less and keep portions reasonable. Also, if you’re drinking alcohol, make sure to alternate each drink with water and skip any high-sugar mixers.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains for side dishes. Try a recipe that features farro or quinoa (okay, so quinoa is technically a seed, but it’s consistency and properties are similar to a whole grain) for increased protein and fiber! Farro is my favorite, with a hearty, chewy texture that stands up to sauces and is also great on it’s own with some oil and veggies.
  • Consider serving a veggie-based soup before the meal, such as my pureed roasted cauliflower soup. This seasonal soup tastes creamy and hearty, but it’s relatively low in calories and will fill you up so you don’t overdo it during the main event.
  • Go for an evening stroll with some guests after dinner, which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and add to your overall step count that day.
  • Don’t be fooled by desserts with a health halo – an avocado brownie is still a brownie, although it is likely to be a better alternative since it will have increased monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Even if you offer some “healthified” dessert options, keep portions in check. Interested in sampling a few desserts because there are so many great options? Take small portions of a few and choose your favorite to possibly indulge in a larger piece. My favorite fall dessert? Pumpkin pie! Enjoy my favorite recipe here. More into chocolate? My chocolate goji bark is always a crowd pleaser!

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Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

Cauliflower Fried Rice

This “fried rice” takes care of that comfort-food craving, without all of the calories. This veggie-filled dish is topped with eggs and chicken – lean protein sources that are sure to fill you up – and comes in at about 300 calories per serving!

cauliflower fired rice

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 1/2 lbs. cauliflower “rice” (you can buy this at many grocery stores, or you can simply cut a large head of cauliflower into small pieces)

1 lb. chicken breast cutlets

1 medium sweet onion (or you can use scallions), chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

3/4 C carrots, sliced

1/2 C frozen peas, thawed

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp rice vinegar

3 Tbsp teriyaki sauce ( I like Trader Joe’s Soyaki) – just watch out for sodium and sugar!

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

Dash ground black pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, scrambled (raw)

chicken stir fryDirections:

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces. Spray large saucepan or wok with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray. Add 2 tsp olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add chicken and 1 1/2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce and cook until cooked through (about 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  2. Steam carrots (you can use a steamer or place in microwave safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover and cook on “high” for about 2 minutes, until softened and bright.
  3. Add 1 tsp olive oil to pan and warm over medium heat. Add onions, zucchini, yellow squash and spices (ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder) and cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes. Add minced garlic, peas, carrots and another 2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce. Cook another 5-7 minutes, remove from pan and add to dish with chicken.
  4. Add remaining olive oil and remaining  teriyaki sauce to pan and warm over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower “rice”and sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Add scrambled eggs and stir until cooked through. Add chicken and veggies, stir until well combined and remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!

veggies stir fry

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories 300 calories, Total Fat 9 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 112 mg, Carbohydrates 23 g, Fiber 7 g, Protein 35 g, Sodium 431 mg, Calcium 96 mg

 

Presto Pesto!

Homemade Pesto With Basil, Spinach and Walnuts

This homemade pesto incorporates the goodness of spinach (which offers folate, vitamin K and vitamin C) along with omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts, which may help to reduce inflammation. While pesto is naturally caloric and a good source of fat, this version is lightened up by using minimal amounts of olive oil and cheese and is lower in sodium than many store-bought brands. I like to make it on a quiet Sunday so that I can have an easy grab-and-go topping for zucchini noodles, pasta or fish after a hectic Monday – it can stay in the fridge for a few days to save some time on days when you are busy.

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Ingredients (yields approximately 1 cup or about 8 two-tablespoon servings):

2 C basil leaves, loosely packed

1 C spinach, tightly packed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 oz shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/4 C)

1/4 C walnuts, chopped (use unsalted or reduced sodium to lower salt content of dish)

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

All set to blend together!

All set to blend together!

Directions:

  1. Wash spinach and basil and pat dry with paper towel, making sure to remove all excess water. Place in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped (you may need to sweep the sides with a spoon a few times to get all spinach and basil leaves incorporated).
  2. Add minced garlic, cheese, chopped walnuts, salt, pepper and about half of the oil to basil spinach mixture in food processor. Secure the lid and turn the food processor to high for about 1 minute.
  3. Add remaining oil, give the mixture a stir, replace the lid of the food processor and continue on high until pesto is smooth. Use as a sauce to accompany your meal or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 102 calories, Total Fat 11 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 4 mg, Carbohydrates 2 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 267 mg, Calcium 46 mg

I served my pesto with zucchini noodles and baked salmon

I served my pesto with zucchini noodles and baked salmon

Oodles of Zoodles

Zucchini Noodles with Garlic, Oil and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

This spicy veggie dish is a healthy addition to your busy schedule – from prepped to cooked it takes less than 10 minutes! The summer squash is a low-carb, vitamin C-rich alternative to pasta and offers a lighter way to fill up with water and fiber. Serve as a side dish or include lean protein (chicken, shrimp, scallops, etc.)  for a meal.

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Ingredients (serves 2)

1 large zucchini

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use more or less depending on your love for spice!)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Slice zucchini into thin ribbons (I used my Vegetti tool for this – if you don’t have a tool similar to the Vegetti, you can get this effect by using a vegetable peeler to peel the entire zucchini). Pat dry with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
  2. Mince garlic clove. Set aside.
  3. Warm olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini noodles with minced garlic. Add spices (salt, pepper and crushed red pepper). Sauté until zucchini is heated through and slightly softened, but do not let the zucchini noodles become very limp. Stir occasionally. Divide amongst two plates and enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories 90 calories, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 6 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 304 mg, Calcium 29 mg

Quinoa with Seafood, Pecans and Veggies

Quinoa with Seafood, Pecans and Veggies

This simple dish is a great light meal for the summertime and provides lean protein from shrimp, scallops and quinoa, along with hearty fiber to keep you feeling full. Also, Brussels sprouts are a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C and potassium, while pecans are a great source of magnesium. I love to make this dish early in the week and continue to eat the leftovers on busy workdays, so that I get to eat healthfully even when the craziness of the workweek makes it difficult.

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Ingredients (serves 5):

1 C red quinoa

2 C low sodium vegetable broth

12 oz shrimp, deviated and tail-off

12 oz bay scallops

1 medium onion

1 C Brussels sprouts, halved

2 Tbsp oil (canola or olive oil work well)

1/4 C pecans

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Dash salt

nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cook quinoa and vegetable broth according directions on box (1 C quinoa per 2 C vegetable broth).

3. Spray baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray. Spread Brussels sprouts in a thin, even layer. Drizzle 1 Tbsp oil  and a dash of garlic powder and pepper on Brussels sprouts, combine all ingredients well and roast in oven about 10 minutes. Add pecans, stir all ingredients on baking sheet together, and bake another 10 minutes.

4. Warm remaining oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add shrimp, scallops, cayenne pepper, remaining ground black pepper and garlic powder and salt. Sauté onions until softened and browned (about 7 minutes). Sauté shrimp and scallops until cooked through (about 7-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

5. Combine quinoa, seafood and vegetables in a large serving bowl and mix all ingredients together. Enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 319 calories, Total Fat 13 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Carbohydrates 29 g, Fiber 4 g, Protein 23 g, Sodium 161 mg, Calcium 69 mg

Cozy Up To This Turkey Chili!

Turkey Chili with Red Kidney Beans

This is my go-to dish on cold days, and it makes so much that I can save it to have on busy days throughout the week. This lean chili skimps on fat while filling you up with healthy protein! Additionally, this chili supplies a ton of vegetables, including onion, pepper and tomato, along with protein and fiber-rich beans. Rich in beta carotene (which our body can convert to vitamin A), vitamin C and potassium, this cozy comfort food will become your new winter (or spring – if the weather stays this cold!) favorite.

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Ingredients (serves 4):

16 oz ground, lean turkey meat

1 bell pepper, chopped (I like to use green bell pepper for this recipe, but any variety works!)

1 vidalia or sweet onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

20 oz canned crushed tomatoes (can also use diced or fresh)

8 oz tomato sauce

15 oz red kidney beans, rinsed and drained if canned

1 tsp hot sauce (I like Cholula)

2 tsp oil

2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp ground back pepper

dash salt

 

Directions:

1. Warm oil in large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and pepper and cook approximately 8-10 minutes, until softened.

2. Add the turkey meat and stir occasionally until the meat is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, hot sauce, sugar and spices ( chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper). Bring everything to a boil and let boil about 10 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 1 hour. Enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories 391, Total Fat 17 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 89 mg, Carbohydrates 31 g, Fiber 13 g, Protein 30 g, Sodium 446 mg, Calcium 149 mg

 

Easy Veggie Bowl Inspired By Bibimbap

Bibimbap -Style Vegetable Bowl

This veggie bowl is loaded with vitamins and minerals, such as beta-carotene (which our bodies convert to vitamin A), vitamin C, calcium and folate, while also offering fiber, protein, healthy fats  and a spicy kick! And the best part? It takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. This is my new go-to dish for busy weeknights!

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Ingredients (serves 1):

1/2 C brown rice, cooked (I like to make a lot of rice at once and keep it on hand for dishes throughout the week – just heat it up before everything is finished cooking!)

1/4 C extra firm tofu, cubed and drained (remove excess water by squeezing in paper towel or cloth)

2 carrots, sliced (or about 1/3 C)

1 C spinach, raw

1/2 onion, chopped (or feel free to use shallots or scallions)

1 large egg

1 Tbsp oil

3 Tbsp hot sauce (I like Cholula)

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

Dash ground black pepper

Almost ready - now just top with egg and hot sauce!

Almost ready – now just top with egg and hot sauce!

Directions:

1. Warm oil in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Steam carrots (you can do this by covering them in a bowl and placing in the microwave for about 1 minute, or steaming them over the stovetop).

3. Add tofu to onions in saucepan. Add spices and mix all ingredients together. Cook until tofu is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp hot sauce, stir ingredients together and cook another 1-2 minutes.

4. Spray small pan with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray and warm over medium heat. Crack egg into pan and sprinkle with dash of pepper. Cover with a plate and cook until egg white is cooked, leaving the yolk slightly runny (about 3-5 minutes). Set aside.

5. Add spinach to saucepan with onion and tofu and stir 2-3 minutes, until spinach is wilted.

6. Place rice in bowl. Top with tofu and vegetables. Add egg to bowl and drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp hot sauce over entire dish. Enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 434 calories, Total Fat 24 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 186 mg, Carbohydrates 37 g, Fiber 6 g, Protein 19 g, Calcium 158 mg, Sodium 385 mg