Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato

I make these tuna burgers a lot. I love them so much that I included them in my latest book, Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy. Don’t worry – you don’t need to be pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive to enjoy the benefits of these burgers! Experts suggest that adults eat at least two fish meals weekly, and that pregnant and breastfeeding women consume two to three meals a week. My burgers are made with canned tuna, an inexpensive, convenient source of several nutrients, including protein, iodine, and omega-3 fats necessary for heart health, and for a baby’s brain development and vision.

Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato are ready in less than 30 minutes!

 

Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato

Makes 4 servings.

4  5-1/2 ounce cans or pouches of tuna, drained

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or red onion

2 teaspoons dried dill

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 pitted avocado, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 small tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

4 2-ounce whole-grain sandwich buns or whole-wheat English muffins

Place the tuna in a medium mixing bowl and break it up into small pieces with a fork.  Add the bread crumbs, eggs, shallots, and dill, and combine well.  Form the mixture into four burgers.

 

Use an empty tuna can to form the burgers so that they are uniform in size and fit on the buns or English muffins.

 

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook burgers for about four minutes on each side.

The tuna burgers should be cooked until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside.  

 

I usually make a double batch of this recipe because they are easy to freeze and reheat for a quick lunch or dinner.

Wrap cooked tuna burgers well and date the package. They will last for several months in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave and make the avocado/tomato topping just before serving.

 

In a small bowl, combine the avocado and tomato until just mixed, mashing lightly while stirring.  To serve, place burgers on sandwich buns and top with the avocado mixture. Enjoy with baby carrots for extra crunch and more vegetables.

Delicious and nutritious Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado and Tomato pack omega-3 fats, fiber, protein, and much more!

 

Per serving:
430 calories; 14 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 139 milligrams cholesterol; 810 milligrams sodium; 40 grams carbohydrate; 8 grams fiber; 39 grams protein

Luck of the Irish Green Smoothie

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. You don’t even need to wear green – you can drink it instead! Sip this no-added-sugar version of a fast-food shamrock shake and count yourself lucky for all the good nutrition and great taste it supplies.

This delicious smoothie supplies one and a half servings of fruits and vegetables, nine grams of fiber, nearly as much calcium as a glass of milk, heart-healthy fat, and much more. You won’t find all that in a pre-fab artificially colored shake from you-know-where!

The recipe calls for matcha, which is finely-ground green tea leaves. Matcha has phytonutrients, plant compounds that protect cells against damage. It also contains caffeine.

When you use McCormick Gourmet Organic Matcha Green Tea with Ginger Seasonings*, the caffeine content is about approximately four milligrams, about the same as a 12-ounce cup of decaffeinated coffee.

If you use regular matcha, the smoothie has about 50 milligrams of caffeine. For the sake of comparison, 16-ounces of Starbucks brewed coffee has 330 milligrams.

It’s possible to leave matcha out of the smoothie without changing its great taste.  You can also make it vegan by using unsweetened fortified soy beverage instead of dairy.

Enjoy!

Luck of the Irish Green Smoothie

Makes 1 serving.

1/2 cup chopped kale (or spinach)

1/2 medium frozen ripe banana, sliced

1/2 pitted ripe avocado, sliced

1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk*

1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Organic Matcha Green Tea with Ginger Seasoning, or regular matcha

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes or tunnel smooth. Pour into a glass and drink immediately.

* Swap 1/2 cup unsweetened soy beverage to make it vegan.

Per serving (using kale and 1% low-fat milk):
281 calories; 16 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 76 milligrams sodium; 32 grams carbohydrate; 9 grams fiber; 8 grams protein

*McCormick is not a client of mine, and neither is Organic Living Superfoods.

3 Better Ways to Weight Loss

Just thinking about what to eat for for weight loss can be overwhelming. These three no-brainer tweaks to your eating plan can get you off the diet rollercoaster for good starting at your very next meal, and without any deprivation.

Peanut Butter, Raspberry, and Oats Smoothie Bowl from Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy.

 

Eat Breakfast

Breakfast serves up an opportunity to include the nutrients you need. The energy it provides jump-starts the body and brain after sleep.

I talk here about how studies suggest that eating the morning meal does not guarantee better weight control, so it may seem like I am contradicting myself by recommending breakfast.

Yes, the research about breakfast and weight loss is inconclusive. But in my experience, people skip breakfast because they’re not hungry in the morning, and they’re not hungry in the morning because they ate too much before going to bed. Eating more regularly throughout the day, starting in the morning, may prevent overeating at night and could decrease your calorie intake overall.

Many people don’t like traditional “breakfast” foods. No problem. As long as it contains enough protein, found in foods such as dairy, eggs, and beans, and it’s otherwise nutritious and balanced, it’s breakfast! It’s OK to divide breakfast up into two smaller meals, too.

Make the Change to Whole Grains

I recently wrote about a new study that showed swapping whole grains for the refined kinds burns calories and boosts metabolism.  What a gift! You eat delicious whole grains, and you burn calories!

This No-Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread is packed with whole grains and nuts. Get the recipe here.

 

Give the change to whole grains a try.  Instead of white bread, have whole wheat. Enjoy oatmeal for breakfast and pass over the white bread bagel and cream cheese. Experiment with  whole grains such as freekeh or farro instead of white pasta or rice at dinner. Easy peasy!

Snack on Nuts

Studies show that nuts have fewer calories than what’s on the label. That’s a good reason to make them your snack of choice.

Research has found that whole roasted almonds have 25% fewer calories than what is listed on food labels; walnuts supply 21% fewer calories; and pistachios also contain fewer calories than what the label says.  It stands to reason the same goes for peanuts, too.

One ounce of nuts is an excellent substitution for the same amount of snack chips, pretzels or chocolate. In addition to fewer calories, nuts provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, powerful plant compounds that protect your cells, as well as heart-healthy fat.

 

 

Dietitians’ Eating Downfalls

For the most part, dietitians practice what they preach. However, nobody eats perfectly all the time, not even the experts dishing out dietary advice, including yours truly. (Shocker!) Since perfection is not the point of this blog, I thought it would be worth hearing from dietitians about their food challenges, since they love to eat and are just as busy as everyone else.  While I have my own major dietary downfall (it’s at the end of this post), I can relate to each and every one of these!

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Kate Scarlata, RDN, FODMAP and IBS Expert: 

I wish I had a few less potato chips in my life! I love a good potato chip. Those salty little fried potato slices are so darn good and somehow make their way onto my plate on a very regular basis, especially when I am eating a sandwich. I don’t feel I have to give up all the chips in my life, but I know fried salty foods are probably not the best for my heart health. I do try to switch it up and add popcorn, baked tortilla chips or reduced fat potato chips to reduce my fat intake in an effort to be a little more healthy. Because I associate chips with eating sandwiches, I find I am less inclined to eat them when I have a salad or leftovers at meal time, so including these other meals helps lower my chip intake too.  My 90 year-old mom loved a good potato chip…so I am hopeful that I can enjoy a long life while still enjoying my beloved potato chips…at least occasionally!

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of www.NutritionStarringYOU.com:

I’m the fastest eater. I’m always leaning over my counter quickly eating between clients or before driving my kids around in the evening. I’m not a mindful eater and I know it’s something I really need to improve. Much easier said than done for a very busy working mom. However, I am trying to eat at the table more, put away my phone and avoid distractions. Small changes are my goal. I’m really trying to practice what I preach to my clients every day!

Six Things You Don’t Know About Registered Dietitians

Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie

Having spent the better part of my career counseling athletes, I am the first one to say that hydration never takes a vacation. But what we preach doesn’t always translate to for what we reach and I admit -I don’t get a perfect score for my pour. I am doing a lot of writing these days and don’t work up a sweat, hate to be interrupted when ideas are flowing to have to get going to the bathroom I am committing to hydrating better throughout the day through the number of glasses of liquid, liquid-containing foods, and more fruits and vegetables.

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Regan Jones, RD, Founding Editor at HealthyAperture.com:

In the last year or so I noticed that my “one” glass of wine while cooking dinner turned into one glass while cooking, then topping it off a little if the recipe takes a little longer and then topping that off as I went to the table to eat dinner with my family. I’m a dietitian, not a mathematician but even I know my “one” has quickly turned into 1++.

I’ve made a concerted effort this year to let “one” glass be one glass. While health experts (and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) agree that one glass for women and two for men can be a part of a healthy diet, night after night of letting that number nudge higher and higher means extra calories that I simply don’t need at the end of every day. I started the New Year with this new commitment to cut back on my 1++ glass of wine and have already noticed improvements in sleep… a bonus I wasn’t expecting, but am definitely enjoying!

Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, Culinary Nutrition Expert and founder of Nutritioulicious:

One of my worst habits is eating in front of the TV, especially at night after dinner. I have a major sweet tooth, and when I’m busy during the day it doesn’t hit me, but as soon as I sit down to relax the pantry calls my name! It’s a common habit for many people and it can lead to weight gain if I’m taking in more calories than I’m burning that day, but even more of a concern is that it leaves me feeling full before bed, which can interfere with my sleep, and I often wake up bloated and less hungry for breakfast, which is such an important meal to start the day. Some of the ways I’m trying to break the habit are to brush my teeth after dinner so I am not tempted to eat again and watch TV in bed instead of in my living room. I also don’t keep the pantry fully stocked with treats.

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Jenna Braddock, MSH, RDN, CSSD, owner of MakeHealthyEasy.com:  

I love making chocolate chip cookies but am that person who could be fine just eating the dough. I often nibble on dough while making and baking cookies and by the time the cookies are out of the oven, I’ve already eaten the equivalent of my share of cookies. After thinking this through (also after a belly ache or two), I have decided that I do love the cookies the most. So, I try to talk myself before even starting the cookie making process to remind me that I really want to be able to enjoy the warm, baked cookies, and the dough isn’t at worth it. I want to be more conscious of what I’m eating while making cookies instead of mindlessly picking at the dough.

5 Confessions of a Dietitian

Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE, The Guilt-Free RD, www.SoundBitesRD.com (blog and podcast):

I wish I had better breakfast habits. I grew up eating a healthy breakfast every day, but now that I’m a mom, I’m more focused on the morning rush instead of feeding myself. I find I’m not very hungry and tend to grab a little something that is more of a snack or a treat than “breakfast” like a cookie or a piece of fruit. I wish I could enjoy a greek yogurt with high fiber cereal and berries – something that provides the fiber, calcium and nutrients I need to start the day off right.

Christy Wilson, RDN, Nutrition Counselor, Writer, Consultant, and Owner of ChristyWilsonNutrition.com:

After work, I am famished, so that after-work/before-dinner time frame is my Achilles heel! I will end up rummaging through my fridge and pantry for things to snack on, whether it’s something healthy or not. Sometimes way too many chips and salsa, a few too many cheese sticks or leftover slices of pizza satisfy my craving. So, even knowing that eating all of this food before dinner is ruining my appetite for the healthy meal I am about to cook…sometimes I just can’t help myself. To avoid this, I’m working on planning ahead and (more consistently) have foods like jicama sticks, sliced fruit  and/or red pepper strips available to snack on before dinner gets started!

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Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD, Co-owner Teaspoon of Spice

When I worked in an office building, I was the poster child of staying hydrated via water daily. I’d take several breaks from my cubicle to fill my water bottle up at the water cooler (cliche but true.) But now, since working at home, I struggle to do the same! My home office is on the second floor and I guess there’s just a mental block with me having to walk all downstairs to refill my glass – which, sometimes when I do, I get distracted with a chore in the kitchen and forget to bring the glass back up! But I really want to work on this as when I drink at least 8 glasses a day, I feel so much better.

Jen Haugen, RDN, LD, Author of The Mom’s Guide to a Nourishing Garden, and blogger at jenhaugen.com:

My one habit I am working on kicking is not planning meals.  I go in and out of phases with this and my weeks go SO much better when I meal plan!  To work on this, I am creating 5-10 freezer meals each month to have ready to go right in the freezer for fast meals.  I’ve also set a reminder on my phone for Sunday afternoons to take 10 minutes to put together a menu plan for the week, and I include my family on that so it’s not just what I want to eat 🙂  Taking just 10 minutes to plan creates more satisfying, stress-free meals!

What Do Nutritionists Eat?

Holley Grainger, MS, RD, Mompreneuer and Nutrition Communications Expert:

As a working mom in constant motion, I find myself mindlessly eating the first thing I can grab when I feel hunger strike. That may mean a spoon straight from the peanut butter jar to the mouth while making a lunchbox or swinging into a gas station to grab an energy bar for “lunch” between meetings. The main lessons learned from this habit–weight gain, exposing my children to bad habits, and never feeling full and satisfied with my food. My solution of late is to have healthier options prepped and packed. This means I do a little more work on Sunday afternoon chopping fruit, putting a serving of nuts in a baggie or boiling a dozen eggs but when the hunger strikes I have a healthy option ready to eat.

And now, for my true confession: I love chocolate and eat it every day after dinner. Problem is, I often exceed the one-ounce limit I set for myself.  I have tried portion-controlled chocolate goodies, such as 100-calorie fudge bars, but I would eat one of them first, then reach for the chocolate, too! I’ve been battling chocolate urges for decades now, and I am pretty sure that trying to outsmart them is useless, and a waste of energy. Oh, well, I think this is one flaw I’ll just have to live with!

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Thanks to everyone for telling it like it is!

Whole Grains Burn Calories, Boost Metabolism

Looking for an easier way to weight control? Whole grains could be a game changer, according to findings from a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Simply swapping refined grains (white bread, white rice, and pretzels, etc.) for 100% whole grains encourages the body to absorb fewer calories, and boosts metabolism. Jackpot!

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More Whole Grains: A Step in the Right Direction

Here’s what’s so exciting about this study.

The group of men and women in the study who replaced refined grains with whole grains took up fewer calories from the food they ate, and burned more calories when at rest – no extra exercise required.  Those losses amounted to about 100 calories a day compared to the group who ate refined grains.

A consistent intake of whole grains could help head off unhealthy weight gain that tends to occur with age.  While weight control isn’t a precise science, swapping 100% whole grains for the refined kind could add up to a “savings” of 36,500 calories a year, or the equivalent of about 10 pounds – as long as you don’t increase calorie intake or decrease physical activity.  Balanced diets rich in whole grains help reduce the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, too, which is nothing to sneeze at!

How to Get More Whole Grains 

Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice, contain the entire grain kernel. Whole grains are naturally high fiber, phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) and other nutrients.

Experts suggest making half of the grains you eat whole grains, for a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily. A portion is 1-ounce slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked grain, or about 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal.

OK, so you’re not totally on board with whole grains, but it may be easier, and more delicious, than you think to get the whole grains you need.  Here’s how to work more whole grains into your eating plan:

• Have oatmeal (I make oats with milk to include dairy) or a whole grain ready-to-eat cereal such as plain Cheerios or the store brand equivalent with milk and fruit for breakfast, or as a snack.

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• Add 1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal to your favorite fruit smoothie recipe.

• Substitute 3/4 cup 100% whole wheat flour for all-purpose white flour in recipes for pancakes, muffins, and quick breads.

• Swap white bread for 100% whole grain bread.  Make sure you see the words whole wheat, oatmeal, or whole oats as one of the first terms in the ingredient list.

• Experiment with whole grains such as farro, freekeh, quinoa, millet, teff, and whole grain barley as side dishes.  Make extra whole grains and add to soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.

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• Switch to whole grain cornmeal when making muffins, cornbread, and polenta.

• Make your own trail mix using 1/2 cup whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and nuts.

• Enjoy whole grain crackers instead of highly refined white versions, and whole wheat English muffins instead of a plain bagel.

• Munch on popcorn instead of pretzels or snack chips.  Popcorn is a whole grain!

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• On pizza night, opt for prepared whole wheat crust or whole wheat pizza dough.

• For a sweet treat with a serving of whole grain in every portion, try these no-bake peanut butter cereal bars.

 

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Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”

It’s February, and thoughts turn to matters of the heart, and to chocolate, of course!  Indulge in this no-added sugar Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream” instead of raiding that box of chocolates. It’s satisfying, heart-healthy, vegetarian, and it’s even gluten-free – the perfect treat for all of your loved ones on Valentine’s Day, and every other day, too!

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Ripe bananas are the silent partner in this frozen delight, and they make it unnecessary to add sugary sweeteners.  Keep chunks of frozen banana in the freezer to use on a moment’s notice, or freeze chopped bananas for at least two hours before making this, or other recipes, such as smoothies.

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I use unsweetened cocoa powder in my “ice cream” because it’s the part of chocolate with the most health benefits, and none of the sugar.  You can also add cocoa powder to savory dishes, such as chili, to amp up flavor and nutrition.

Natural peanut butter is typically free of added sugar, and, along with chopped peanuts, contributes heart-healthy fat, an intense peanut flavor, and creaminess. Learn how to make homemade peanut butter from Sally Kuzemchak over at Real Mom Nutrition. (Hint: It’s easy!)

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Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”

Makes 2 servings

2 medium ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen*

2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (with no added sugar)

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Place bananas in a large food processor. Add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  Blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with peanuts. Serve immediately.

*Freeze for at least 2 hours.

Per serving:
252 calories; 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 132 milligrams sodium; 29 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 7 grams protein

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How to Make Do in the Kitchen

My mother taught me a lot about food, including how to work with what you have on hand to make nutritious meals. She lived through many years when money was tight, and her creativity, coupled with a refusal to waste food, served her well for feeding a family of five. While I have more resources than my mom did for most of her life, her make-do mentality has stuck with me, shaping how I cook and manage food in my household.

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My mom, who recently passed away, but is always in my heart.

Thanks, Mom!

I recently came across a recipe in the Washington Post for Roasted Salmon with Artichoke Topping by Ellie Krieger, nutritionist, cookbook author, and host of Ellie’s Real Good Food. Ellie’s recipe sounded so delicious that I had to make it that night. Problem was, I only had half of the ingredients in the house, and I wasn’t going to the store at 6 PM to get the rest. So, channeling my mother’s flexibility with food,  I changed Ellie’s recipe by:

•  Using canned, drained artichoke hearts instead of the frozen kind.

• Whipping cottage cheese in the food processor to stand in for ricotta cheese.

• Swapping in half as much dried parsley for fresh.

• Using sundried tomato pesto instead of plain sundried tomatoes.

• Substituting regular salt instead for sea salt.

• Relying on minced, prepared garlic instead of fresh

The result? Scrumptious! It goes to show that the best recipes, like Ellie’s, will turn out just fine, even when tweaked quite a bit.

My version of Ellie Krieger’s Roasted Salmon with Artichoke Topping. Almost the same, but not quite.

Do Recipes Matter?

Improvisation in the kitchen comes naturally to me, but I  have to admit that I had doubts about messing with Ellie’s recipe because I was sure that she had worked hard to get it just right. However, as Jacques Pepin explains in this video, even if I had used the same ingredients, my results could have turned out differently than Ellie’s.

Pepin says a recipe is merely a point of departure, and that ingredients and preparation can, and must, change to fit each particular situation.  As a recipe developer, that’s music to my ears.  I want my recipes to “work” so badly for my readers that I get panicky about other people getting the same results as I do, but I guess I shouldn’t worry so much.  Changing up ingredients offers the opportunity to make food that suits your tastes.

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It seems as if my mother was on the same page as Pepin, in her everyday-cook sort of way.  As a working mom who had a home cooked dinner on the table for us every night except Sunday (when my father ruled in the kitchen), I’m not sure she thought too hard about how a recipe would turn out; she seemed to know that her results would be OK, even with alterations.

Emergency Recipe Swaps

Being willing to improvise, and knowing how, helps you to be a better, more efficient food manager (which saves money), and helps you get food on the table.

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It’s always a good idea to scan recipes before starting to cook and realizing that you don’t have an ingredient, or as in my case, six. However, coming up short on ingredients shouldn’t deter you from making most recipes, although it’s more difficult to alter certain baked goods than meat, chicken, or fish dishes.  Here’s a great source for ingredient substitutions that I refer to frequently.

I also find it helpful, and entertaining, to read comments about online recipes for ingredient swap ideas.  I love to see how cooks change recipes because they want, or need, to tweak the ingredients, and I appreciate the tips that they offer after trying the recipe.

What are your favorite ingredient substitution stories?

 

 

 

 

 

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