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

Winter Veggie Soup with Turkey Meatballs

Winter Veggie Soup with Turkey Meatballs

This soup is great as a meal on its own, or as a hearty snack or side, and is packed with winter vegetables, like kale, parsnips, turnips and carrots. This winter veggie soup offers tons of antioxidants, like beta carotene (which is converted in our bodies to form vitamin A) and vitamin C, along with nutrients like folate, potassium and vitamin K. Also, this soup contains fiber and lean protein, which is perfect for filling you up, without filling you out! In fact, this hearty soup contains less than 250 calories per serving! I like to make a large pot of this soup on Sunday and enjoy the leftovers for lunch or dinner during the work week, when things are more hectic.

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Ingredients (serves 6):

3/4 small onion, chopped

1/2 C mushrooms, chopped

2 C baby kale, raw

1 1/2 C carrots, sliced (pieces should be about 1/4″ thick)

2 medium parsnips (about 6″ long), sliced

1 medium turnip (about 4″ in diameter), chopped

2 small yukon gold potatoes (about 2″ in diameter), chopped

16 oz lean ground turkey breast

5 C low-sodium vegetable broth

6 C water

1 Tbsp butter or Smart Balance

1 large egg

1/4 C whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp olive or canola oil

1 small bunch dill, rinsed

1.5 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper, plus a dash

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

Ready to bake the turkey meatballs in the oven!

Ready to bake the turkey meatballs in the oven!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9″ x 13″casserole dishes with nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Empty ground turkey breast into large mixing mixing bowl. Crack egg in separate, small bowl, scramble and add to large mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs, garlic powder and onion powder to mixture and combine. Form small meatballs (about 1/2″ in diameter) and place in casserole dishes (4 rows x 6 columns). There should be about 48 small meatballs in total. Bake in oven 15-20 minutes.

3. Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and oil and cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale, dash of salt and ground black pepper and sauté until soft and slightly wilted, about 4-5 minutes.

4. Add carrots, parsnips, turnips and potatoes to large pot. Cover with vegetable broth and water. Add turkey meatballs, remaining salt salt and a 1/8 tsp ground black pepper. Add dill (remaining on stem). Cover and bring to a boil. Let boil about 45 minutes (covered), until vegetables are soft. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook another 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Sautéed kale, onions and mushrooms. Now just add the rest, bring to a boil and simmer!

Sautéed kale, onions and mushrooms. Now just add the rest, bring to a boil and simmer!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving

Calories 232 calories, Total Fat 4 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 78 mg, Carbohydrates 26 g, Fiber 5 g, Protein 23 g, Sodium 787 mg, Calcium 78 mg

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Unwrapped Shrimp Burrito

Unwrapped Shrimp Burrito

In this hot weather, I like to lighten things up. For this dish, I went tortilla-less and made a mixed plate filled with burrito-y goodness. Spicy shrimp, onions, peppers and black beans offer a ton of flavor for minimal calories. Plus, the only grain on this plate is brown rice – a whole grain. This dish lets you spice things up while staying light and cool in the heat.

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Ingredients (serves 2):

1/2 lb. large, uncooked, shrimp

1 C brown rice (*Note: I like Trader Joe’s frozen, microwaveable brown rice – it’s ready to serve in just 3 minutes.)

1 green bell pepper

3/4 large onion

1/2 C black beans (*Note: If canned, use a “no salt added” version and rinse under water using a colander. If not using canned beans, beans should be ready to use for this recipe.)

1/4 C salsa (I like Whole Foods Medium Salsa – it has all fresh ingredients and skimps on sugar and salt)

1/4 C guacamole (Try making your own using my simple recipe – here!)

1 oz reduced-fat, shredded Mexican Blend cheese

1 Tbsp olive or canola oil plus 1 tsp

dash salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

dash cayenne pepper (optional – depends if you like your food spicy!)

IMG_1287Directions:

1. Warm 1 Tbsp oil in large skillet over medium heat. Warm remaining 1 tsp oil in separate, small skillet over medium heat.

2. Wash bell pepper, remove stem and seeds and pat dry with paper towel. Cut into thin slices. Set aside.

3. Cut onion into thin, lengthwise strips. Add to large skillet. Cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. On a separate cutting board, cut or pull the tails off of each shrimp. Remove the long vein that runs along the center of each shrimp. Cut each shrimp into thirds.

5. Add peppers and spices to large skillet with onions. Cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Add shrimp to small skillet. If desired, add extra spices to shrimp skillet. Cook until shrimp are cooked through and no longer translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally.

7. Cook brown rice as directed (if using Trader Joe’s Frozen Brown Rice, pop in the microwave for 3 minutes and let stand 1 minute.)

8. Add cooked shrimp and black beans to large skillet with vegetables. Combine. Add cheese, stir and remove from heat.

9. Place 1/2 C brown rice on each plate. Cover each plate of rice with half the shrimp and veggie mixture. Top each plate with 2 Tbsp  guacamole and 2 Tbsp salsa. Enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?IMG_1289

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories 495 calories, Total Fat 20 g, Saturated Fat 6 g, Cholesterol 180 mg, Carbohydrates 46 g, Fiber 7 g, Protein 35 g, Sodium 700 mg, Calcium 316 mg

*Note: Sodium content will vary greatly depending on brands used for guacamole, cheese, salsa and beans. This estimation uses varieties with sodium in order to account for a possible range. 

 

 

A Different Way To Relax – Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad 

Kale has a ton of nutrients, including vitamins E, K, A and C. However, when eaten raw, it can be bitter and the nutrients are less available for your body due its tough cell walls. When eating raw kale, it is always best to “massage” the kale with an acidic marinade, which begins the breakdown process and also counteracts its bitter flavor. For this kale salad, I massaged the kale with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and added avocado, tomato, cucumber and some salt and pepper. Simple, presentable and delicious!

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Ingredients (serves 2):

4 C raw kale, chopped (*Note: remove large stem from middle)

1/2 avocado

1 C cucumbers, sliced

1/2 C cherry tomatoes, halved

juice from 1 fresh lemon

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

dash salt (to taste)

dash ground black pepper (to taste)

kale - ready to be "massaged"!

kale – ready to be “massaged”!

Directions:

1. Wash kale and pat dry. Add kale to large bowl.

2. Squeeze lemon juice directly over kale (watch out for seeds!) and add olive oil. Gently massage kale with dressing for 2-3 minutes, until kale begins to wilt and turns dark green. Kale should be soft when finished.

3. Slice avocado into small cubes. Add avocado, tomatoes and cucumber slices to salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and enjoy!

The Goods: What’s Inside?

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories 228 calories, Total Fat 16 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 23 g, Fiber 7 g, Protein 6 g, Sodium 142 mg, Calcium 200 mg