Simple and Affordable Holiday Gifts and Seasonal Entertainment

Thanks to ALDI for sponsoring this post! 

With so much food to prepare and so many presents to buy, the holiday season keeps everyone busy! I am always looking for ways to save time and money.  While I shop at ALDI all year long for high-quality food at a lower cost, it’s even better during the holiday season because ALDI simplifies shopping and makes it affordable. By stopping at ALDI first, I cross a lot off my holiday to-do list all at once, and for less money. 

Get more done at ALDI, and have more time for yourself this holiday season! 

You may know ALDI for its high-quality food at low prices, but are you aware that ALDI also carries presents for everyone, including hostess and Secret Santa gifts, toys for the kids, goodies for the dog, and holiday decorations for the house?  

ALDI Finds: Affordable, Premium Food and Gifts

Every week, ALDI introduces new ALDI Finds, a selection of premium food and household items that are only in stores for a limited time, all at unbeatable prices.  Here are some of the items hitting the stores on December 12:

There’s something for everyone, including your favorite pet, at ALDI! 


Cookie kits and bakeware sets are affordable gifts for the chef in your life.

Simple and Elegant Holiday Foods

When friends and family visit, I love to put out a charcuterie board, but I do not like to pay a lot of money for it.  It takes just a few minutes to assemble high-quality ingredients from ALDI such as these (below) on a festive platter, and I get to “wow” my guests without paying a premium price!

You’ll pay less for premium products, include gluten-free foods, at ALDI. 

I always try to include fruits and vegetables in every holiday dish, so I’m thankful ALDI recently announced a 40% increase in fresh foods, including organic produce and convenient ready-to-eat products like sliced fruit. 

This party platter took minutes to assemble with high-quality, affordable ALDI foods! 

ALDI also carries high-quality gluten-free foods, dairy, and fresh meat and fish. In fact, the ALDI liveGfree gluten-free line and the NeverAny! line of fresh meat products (which have no antibiotics, added hormones or animal by-products) recently earned the Good Housekeeping Seal, which is considered the gold standard for guiding shoppers to high-quality food. 

Candy is my splurge! I prefer the delicious chocolate from ALDI. 

Give more, and make more of the holidays at ALDI. You’ll save so much money, you can splurge on yourself! 

Visit aldi.us to take advantage of better-for-you recipes so you can make fresh food at home. For more fun information and tips, “Like” ALDI USA on Facebook and follow @ALDIUSA on Instagram and @ALDIUSA Twitter. And, if you’re like me and want to share your own recipes, photos, tips and tricks, tag ALDI using the hashtag #ALDILove.

Happy holidays!

19 Healthy Simple Meals to Make When You Don’t Want to Cook

Just because you’re stuck at home right now doesn’t mean you will all of a sudden like to cook, or even know how! Or, maybe you prefer to prepare simple meals on most days, even though you like to spend time in the kitchen.  No worries. Here are 19 healthy, simple meals to make when you don’t want to cook, and most use pantry staples.  Double, or quadruple the “recipes” as needed!

 Meals don’t need to be fancy to be delicious and good for you, too! 

Easy Breakfast Meals

In addition to being delicious breakfast choices, these meals make good snacks.  However, you can eat them for a lunch and dinner, too!

• Top a 2-ounce whole-wheat bagel with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter. Serve with 8 ounces 1% low-fat milk or unsweetened fortified soy milk, and fruit.

Five minutes is all it takes to make a batch of No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies that pair perfectly with a carton of Greek yogurt and fruit. 

• Spread 2 slices whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, and top with 1 small banana, sliced, or another fruit. For instance, 2 tablespoons raisins, which contain no added sugar.

• Scramble 2 eggs and divide equally between a small whole-wheat pita pocket that’s been cut in half. Add salsa, a handful of spinach, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese, if desired. Pair with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk.

• Scramble 2 eggs with 1⁄4 cup diced mushrooms or other vegetables, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with 2 slices whole-wheat toast, and fruit.

• Pair a hard-cooked egg with 8 ounces low-fat yogurt in addition to 1 slice whole-grain toast, and fruit.

• Halve a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, remove the seeds, and fill with 1 cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt. Serve with a whole wheat roll.

My go-to fish meal: breaded haddock topped with a can of undrained chopped canned tomatoes and dried parsley with vegetables and whole grain bread. Cook at 400˚F for 15 minutes or until done.

Simple Meals for Lunch and Dinner

These meals require a minimum of cooking, and clean up!

• Microwave a medium potato. Scoop out the insides and mix with 1 cup cottage cheese. Return the filling to the potato skins and warm in the microwave. Add a green salad.

• Top 1 whole-wheat pita round or small whole wheat Naan bread with tomato sauce and sliced part-skim mozzarella or cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve with 8 ounces 100% orange juice or enjoy with an orange or 2 clementines.

• Make a quick quesadilla using two whole-wheat 7-inch sandwich wraps, 2 ounces chopped leftover chicken, and 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese. Grill in a skillet. Enjoy with fruit.

• In a bowl, layer 1 cup cooked whole-grains, for instance, whole-wheat  couscous, 1 cup cooked vegetables, and 4 ounces cooked leftover salmon, or canned or pouched salmon.

• Mix 4 ounces canned or pouched, drained tuna with mayonnaise and pair with 10 whole-grain crackers, and sliced red bell pepper.

Canned lentil soup is a great start to a simple, balanced meal.  

• Mix 1 cup canned reduced-sodium lentil soup and 1 cup cooked pasta or other leftover cooked grain such as farro, brown rice, freekeh, or quinoa, and chicken or beef, if desired. Serve with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy beverage in addition to fruit.

• Combine 1 cup canned white beans, drained, with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 ounces peeled and raw shrimp in a skillet. Cook until shrimp are pink. Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• Saute 8 ounces 100% ground skinless turkey breast meat or 95% lean ground beef with chopped onions and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin. Spoon cooked meat equally onto 2 whole-wheat tortillas in addition to chopped tomato, lettuce, and plain yogurt. (This dish serves two.) Serve with Greek yogurt and salsa and fruit or vegetables.

Use whatever meat or vegetables you have on hand to make quick quesadillas.

• Coat 4 ounces thinly sliced chicken breasts or tenders with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken for about two minutes on each side. Place chicken on a whole-wheat sandwich bun and garnish with tomato and lettuce, and avocado, if desired. Serve with 8 ounces milk and a piece of fruit or baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.

• Fast fried rice: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium skillet. Add 1 cup cold cooked white or brown rice, 1⁄4 cup chopped onion, 1⁄4 cup cooked peas or diced carrots or both, and 2 beaten eggs. Toss the entire mixture until the egg is cooked. Season with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce. Serve with fresh fruit.

When salad is your meal, don’t forget to add protein-rich foods- chicken, tuna, and tofu, for instance – to make one of many simple meals!

• Place 4 ounces cooked shrimp, canned or pouch tuna, cooked or pouch salmon, cottage cheese, or tofu, on top of 2 cups chopped leafy greens and 1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes. Top with a mixture of 2 teaspoons olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with  whole-grain bread or roll.

What are your go-to simple healthy meals these days?

19 Healthy Simple Meals to Make When You Don't Want to Cook

 

Make-Ahead Holiday Side Dishes

Every year, I host two Thanksgiving dinners, one on the actual day and the other on the Sunday before. I’ve been doing this for a while, but this year, I finally got smart and made nearly all of the sides in advance. I was so inspired by the idea of make-ahead holiday side dishes that I asked my dietitian friends for their favorite recipes.  Enjoy! 

The Best Thanksgiving Mushroom Sausage Stuffing from Tawnie Kroll. I love using mushrooms in stuffing for their meaty, umami flavor.

Easy Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Genius Butternut Squash Soup from Katie at Mom’s Kitchen Handbook is brilliant, and a real show stopper.

Make Pumpkin Apple Almond Muffins for breakfast or as a side dish for dinner. 

Cauliflower Cranberry Superfood Salad | The Nutrition Adventure

Cauliflower Cranberry Superfood Salad from Karman Meyer can be made up to two days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

Easy Pumpkin Soup from Jessica Ivey, MS, RD can be frozen and reheated. It uses canned pumpkin, one of my favorite kitchen staples.

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms with Cheddar, Apple & Sage | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnut, Apple & Sage from Mandy Enright uses walnuts in place of meat for a vegetarian appetizer that’s anything but basic.

Make a double batch of gluten-free No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread and freeze a loaf for later. You’ll be happy you did! 

Pecan Topped, Slightly-Sweet Sweet Potato Casserole via LizsHealthyTable.com #thanksgiving

Liz Weiss’ Pecan Topped Slightly-Sweet Potato Casserole can be frozen and reheated before serving. That’s music to my ears!

This make-ahead kale salad stands up to storage in the fridge, and it's an easy way to get started with meal prep. Keep this winter salad on hand for quick, weekday lunches or as a refreshing side dish for your holiday table.

Make-Ahead Kale Salad from Stephanie McKercher. The name says it all! Super convenient and colorful to boot.

 Butternut Squash, Date and Feta Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Dates & Feta from Edwina Clark. I love the spinach-date-and-feta combo!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Dates, Figs and Pistachios (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Dates, Figs, and Pistachios from Sharon Palmer is vegan and gluten-free. And gorgeous!

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Healthy-ish Maple Cranberry Sauce from Sarah Gold. Maple is one of my favorite fall flavors to combine with cranberries!

Cranberry Relish via RDelicious Kitchen @RD_kitchen

This fresh Cranberry Relish from Julie Harrington is a refreshing departure from store-bought canned and it can easily be made ahead of time.

homemade turkey stock

I stink at gravy, so I’m grateful for Michelle Dudash’s Best Turkey Gravy, which you make in two steps, one of them a few days ahead of time.

Roasted Vegetable Stock from Chef Catherine Brown can be made up to five days in advance and refrigerated or frozen for up to six months. Homemade stock is about 1,000 times more flavorful than store-bought, so if you get a chance, make this.

A white platter filled with turkey breast that is topped with crispy skin and gravy with a dish of gravy on the side.

The Best Slow Cooker Turkey Breast + Easy Cider Gravy from Whitney Reist. Yes, this post is about side dishes, but I couldn’t resist including this amazing recipe!

Happy holidays!

Pumpkin Muffins with Almond Flour

I’m always looking for new ways to use pumpkin, one of my favorite canned foods, and I love to use pumpkin in a variety of ways. My trip to an almond farm, courtesy of the Almond Board of California, inspired this recipe for Pumpkin Muffins with Almond Flour.

It was interesting to learn about how almonds are grown and to actually see how they are harvested.

Here are some fun facts about almonds:

• California grows 80% of the world’s almonds

• 90% of California almond farms are family farms

• One ounce of almonds supplies about half of your required daily vitamin E, which protects cells against damage. And, almonds are a far better choice than pretzels, crackers and chips.

But, back to the muffins!

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Here’s why they’re better for you:

I used ground almonds for most of the flour in this recipe, and swapped in whole wheat flour for the all-purpose kind. In addition to the pumpkin and shredded apple, whole grain flour boosts nutrition.

These tasty muffins are a healthier choice than store-bought versions because they provide more nutrition for fewer calories. Muffins from the supermarket and coffee shops can have between 300 and 500 calories.

I hope you enjoy these muffins as much as I do!

Pumpkin Muffins with Almond Flour

Canned pumpkin, California almonds, and shredded apple make these muffins moist, tender, and delicious!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
5 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 18
Calories: 152kcal
Author: Elizabeth Ward

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coarsely grated unpeeled apple

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400˚F. Generously coat 18 standard muffin cups with cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, using a whisk.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, honey, oil, and vanilla until well combined.  
  • Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and combine, using a wooden spoon, until thoroughly blended. Gently fold in the apples.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the 18 muffin cups. 
  • Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Notes

I find that grinding 1 cup of whole almonds makes about 1 1/3 cups almond flour. 

Tips for Better Snacks

Adults consume 400 to 900 daily calories as snacks daily, and half of all children take in about 600 calories between meals, which is enough to qualify as a meal! Use these tips for better snacks and upgrade mini meals for more energy, better focus, and good nutrition.

What makes a healthy snack for kids and adults?

It’s natural to get hungry between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, especially for young children and teens. Kids need to energy grow, and adults who skimp on meals, or skip them, need snacks, too.

It’s OK to snack. The problem is that snacks are often rich in calories, fat, and sodium, and low in good nutrition.

Think of snacks as balanced mini-meals, not meal-wreckers. For example, when you combine cheese, whole grain crackers, and fruit, it’s OK to eat lightly at your next meal.

There’s no limit on snacks, but they should be balanced. And, you should account for snack calories as part of daily calorie needs so that you don’t eat too much. It’s easy to confuse snacks and treats.

When kids snack at home, have them eat at the table.  Eating at a table encourages mindfulness about food.

The difference between a snack and a treat

Pack in the protein for better snacks

Cookies, chips, and candy temporarily curb hunger, but they aren’t particularly filling in the long run, in part because they lack protein.

Protein promotes eating satisfaction, and may contribute to easier weight control.

Protein-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy, lean meat, poultry, and seafood, also provide vitamins and minerals, including choline, iodine, and vitamin B12 for brain health. And, soy, beans, nuts, and seeds supply fiber, which we need every day.

Include carbohydrates for better snacks

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as milk, fruit, vegetables, beans, bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and other grains, and in cookies, cakes, and other sweet foods and beverages.  

Nutritious, satisfying snacks combine protein and carbohydrates, preferably the complex kind. 

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Popcorn is a whole grain. 

Complex carbohydrates, including starch and fiber, take longer to digest. In addition, complex carbohydrates are generally found in foods with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are plant compounds that support health.  

16 tips for better snacks for kids and adults

When it comes to snacks, anything goes as long as it’s on the healthy side!

These better snacks combine protein and carbohydrate, and offer a variety of other nutrients, too.

  • Double Berry Smoothie: 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries or strawberries, 2 tablespoons milk, sweetener of your choice. Combine in food processor or blender and drink immediately.

Try these other delicious smoothie recipes

  • ¾ cup dry roasted edamame
  • Small bowl of whole grain cereal and milk or fortified soy beverage. (Most plant milks don’t supply as much protein as dairy or soy.)
  • Trail mix: whole grain cereal, raisins, nuts
  • ½ tuna fish or turkey sandwich on whole grain bread and a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks and 6 woven wheat whole grain crackers
  • 1-2 hard-cooked eggs and a 1-ounce whole grain roll or slice of toast
  • 1 serving plain one-minute oats prepared in the microwave with 8 ounces milk and topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Carton of Greek yogurt and fruit
  • 4 cups low-fat microwave popcorn tossed with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese; 8 ounces milk
  • 1 cup canned lentil soup topped with ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup cottage cheese and 6 whole grain crackers
  • 10 small whole grain pretzels and hummus
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 10 baby carrots

These no-bake cookies are perfect for snacking. [/caption]

Foods That Improve Memory and Concentration

Diet affects brain function. Find out how foods rich in choline, iodine, and vitamin B12 improve memory and concentration throughout life.

How choline builds and maintains the brain

Choline is part of every cell.

Choline is an essential nutrient. That means you need choline from food or supplements to meet your needs.

Studies show that choline is key to brain development during pregnancy and early life.

Choline is linked to a lower risk for neural tube defects. The neural tube develops into a baby’s brain, spine, and spinal cord.

Choline also plays a role in the development of the hippocampus, the brain’s “memory center.” As a result, choline may help preserve and improve memory.  The hippocampus is one of the only areas in the brain that produces cells into late adulthood.

Some studies show a link between better memory in people with higher choline intakes.  And, people with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of a compound that allows the brain to use choline.

How to include enough choline

More than 90% of U.S. adults don’t consume enough choline, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Here’s how much choline you need every day:

Adults, ages 19-50 (not pregnant):

Female: 425 milligrams; Males: 550 milligrams

Pregnant: 450 milligrams

Breastfeeding: 550 milligrams

Choline is found in a variety of foods. However, animal foods, such as eggs, meat, and seafood, have the most choline. For example, one large egg or 3/4 cup roasted soybeans supply about 30% of your daily choline intake.

You may not get enough choline if you limit or avoid animal foods. As a result, you may need a choline supplement.

The amount of choline in foods can be found in the Nutrient Facts panel. The panel is on food and supplement labels. The Daily Value for choline is 550 milligrams.

Most multivitamins and prenatal pills do not contain much choline.  You may need an additional choline pill, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. However, limit choline intake to 3,500 milligrams daily.

 Coffee, walnuts, and berries for brain health

Iodine and brain health

The thyroid gland contains nearly all the iodine in the body. It stores iodine to make hormones for brain development and growth, and to produce energy.

How iodine builds and maintains the brain

During pregnancy, the body needs thyroid hormones to make myelin.  Myelin helps nerve and brains cells to communicate.

Iodine helps baby’s brain develop properly. Severe iodine deficiency in mom’s diet can lead to mental retardation and Attention Deficit Disorder.

How to include enough iodine in your diet

Iodine needs increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, women in their childbearing years may not get enough iodine.

The Nutrient Facts panel doesn’t list iodine, and that makes it hard to know how much iodine is in packaged foods.

Here’s how much iodine you need every day:

Adults, ages 19-50 (not pregnant):

Males and females: 150 micrograms/day

Pregnancy: 220 micrograms

Breastfeeding: 290 micrograms

All salt is not created equal

People who avoid iodized table salt, seafood, and dairy may be at risk for an iodine deficiency.

Dairy milk has iodine. However, many people avoid dairy foods. As a result, they may be missing out on iodine.

Seafood and sea vegetables supply iodine. Experts suggest eating at least eight ounces of seafood weekly. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat eight to 12 ounces of seafood weekly.

Salt with added iodine, called iodized salt, is a reliable iodine source. However, the same isn’t true of salty packaged foods.

Most of our salt intake comes from processed foods, but food companies almost always use plain salt.

Experts suggests pregnant and breastfeeding women take 150 micrograms of potassium iodine as a supplement daily. That advice also applies to women who may become pregnant. 

The body absorbs potassium iodide well. Taking more iodine is not better for you.

How vitamin B12 helps the brain

During pregnancy, the brain needs vitamin B12 for proper development and growth.  The brain also needs vitamin B12 throughout life. 

Vitamin B12 is part of the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells. The myelin sheath allows cells to “talk” with each other.

Vitamin B12 helps produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help nerve cells communicate.

Foods with vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products, including seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. It is not present naturally in plant foods. However, fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and other grains and nutritional yeast, have vitamin B12.

It’s possible to be low in vitamin B12 if you avoid animal products. You can get enough vitamin B12 with fortified foods and dietary supplements.

Exclusively breastfed infants of women who eat no animal products may develop vitamin B12 deficiency within months of birth. Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can result in severe nerve damage.

How much vitamin B12 you need

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than you think.

Up to 15% of the general population doesn’t get enough vitamin B12. Poor memory, confusion, depression, and dementia are symptoms of too little vitamin B12 in the diet.

You need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily after age 14.

During pregnancy, the daily suggested intake is 2.6 micrograms, and it’s 2.8 micrograms daily during breastfeeding.

Why you may need more vitamin B12

People with celiac disease and Crohn’s disease and those who have had weight loss surgery may absorb less vitamin B12.

Common medications affect how your body processes vitamin B12, too.

Ask you doctor about the medication you take. You may need extra vitamin B12.

Age also affects vitamin B12. The body absorbs less natural vitamin B12 after age 50. As a result, experts say people over age 50 should get most of their vitamin B12 in the synthetic form.

Synthetic vitamin B12 is added to foods such as breakfast cereal and other grains and dietary supplements. Added vitamin B12 does not require stomach acid for digestion. As a result, the body can use it easily.

In conclusion: How to have a better brain

Eating right helps the body and brain develop properly and supports it throughout life. Include foods rich in choline, iodine, and vitamin B12 in a balanced diet. If you don’t, consider taking a daily multivitamin and a choline supplement to meet your needs.

How to Make the Best Smoothie

Peach Melba Smoothie is a riff on the classic dessert.

Smoothies run the gamut, so how do you make the best beverage?

Smoothies can be sugary, low-nutrient drinks, or healthy enough to serve as a meal or hearty snack. They can be bone-building beverages, particularly kid-friendly, or both! Smoothies supply fluid, and they can be healthier than soda and other sugary soft drinks.

I asked my nutritionist friends for their favorite drink recipes and they sent me these mouthwatering recipes! No two of these smoothies are the same. Explore all the links below, no matter what your goal.

Hydrating Smoothie Recipes

Every smoothie supplies fluid, but some have more than others. These picks are super refreshing, especially on hot days.

Carrot, Mandarin, and Cayenne Smoothie looks like sunshine in a glass!

Carrot Mandarin and Cayenne Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Pineapple Ginger Smoothie from Nourishing Plate

Vegan Energy Boosting Smoothie from The Foodie Dietitian

Strawberry Lime Watermelon Smoothie is a delicious alternative to sugary soft drinks.

Strawberry Lime Watermelon Smoothie from Smart Nutrition

Mexican Chocolate Banana Almond Shake from Spicy RD

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie from Your Choice Nutrition

Orange Strawberry Layered Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Vegan Energy Boosting Smoothie from The Foodie Dietitian

Frozen Mochaccino from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake from Real Mom Nutrition

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

Here’s how to make a post-workout smoothie.

Kid-Friendly Smoothie Recipes

Kids crave smoothies, and they love to make up their own flavor combinations. Start with these recipes, and let children and teens create their own sippers.

Strawberry Beet Smoothie is pretty in pink!

Strawberry Beet Smoothie from The Crowded Table

Purple Power Smoothie from Eat Real Live Well

Basic Green Smoothie from Curing Vision

Orange Strawberry Layered Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Mama’s Berry Smoothie from Toby Amidor Nutrition

Mexican Chocolate Banana Almond Breakfast Shake from Spicy RD

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie from Your Choice Nutrition

Grape Juice Avocado Energizing Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Easy Summer Smoothie for the Busy Mama from Crystal Karges Nutrition

PB-Breakfast-Shake-Text

Entice your kids with this peanut butter breakfast shake. Adults love it, too!

Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake from Real Mom Nutrition

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

Pear and Pomegranate Green Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

Smoothies for Snacks

Think of snacks as nutritious mini-meals, not meal wreckers. These recipes supply fruit, vegetables, and protein, so you won’t have to worry if you, or your child, eats less at the next meal.

Arugula meets apple in this smoothie and it’s spectacular!

Arugula Apple Smoothie from Snacking in Sneakers

Creamy Chocolate Cannellini Bean and Cinnamon Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Wild Blueberry Beet Smoothie from Kroll’s Korner

Mama’s Berry Smoothie from Toby Amidor Nutrition

Chocolate Chunk Blueberry Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Bone-Building Beverages

Smoothies are perfect for including the nutrients to make and maintain a strong skeleton, such as protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

Frozen Mochaccino has no added sugar, unlike most coffee-shop drinks that may contain more than a day’s allowance.

Frozen Mochaccino from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Chocolate Chunk Blueberry Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Mama’s Berry Smoothie from Toby Amidor Nutrition

Wild Blueberry Pancake Smoothie from Snacking in Sneakers

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

St. Patrick’s Day Green Smoothie from Foods with Judes

Creamy Chocolate Cannellini Bean and Cinnamon Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (no added sugar, gluten-free, vegan)

Do you love cookies as much as I do? There’s nothing wrong with cookies as part of a balanced diet, but I think you should get more than than calories, added sugar, and unhealthy fats when you eat them.  With eight grams of protein and five grams of fiber, No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are a better way to satisfy your sweet tooth! 

5 no-bake oatmeal raisin cookies on a cutting board

No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies have no added sugar, and are gluten-free and vegan.

Better-for-you cookies

My idea of a delicious cookie recipe is a no-bake combination of oats, peanut butter, raisins, and pure vanilla extract.  Raisins make these cookies naturally sweet, and they need no added sugar. In addition, they are vegan and gluten-free when you use gluten-free oats.  

No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are also 100% whole grain and help to satisfy the suggestion from nutrition experts to eat at least three servings of whole grains daily.  

I love the easy of making these cookies, too. They are ready to eat in about five minutes, and one batch is often enough to last the week.  That’s important for busy people who can’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing healthy foods, but want to improve their eating habits. 

 

uncooked oatmealcreamy peanut butter on a spoonplain raisins on a white background

Can you eat cookies for breakfast?

We usually think of cookies as dessert, but they work for the morning meal, too! You eat breakfast for dinner, so why not cookies for breakfast?

If you don’t like cereal, eggs, or other traditional “morning foods” for breakfast, or you don’t have time to eat before leaving the house, these cookies are for you.

One No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookie paired with milk, fortified soy beverage, or a carton of yogurt and a piece of fruit makes a balanced morning meal.

Trust me: Cookies for breakfast goes over well with kids! They may also want to tote a cookie for a snack before after-school activities start. 

 

5 no-bake oatmeal raisin cookies on parchment paper

No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are OK to eat any time of day!

 

No-Bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (no added sugar, gluten-free, vegan)

These cookies are ready in minutes, require no cooking, and are delicious for breakfast or snacks!
Prep Time5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cookies, glutenfree, no added sugar, peanutbutter, raisins
Servings: 10
Calories: 292kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups California raisins
  • 1 cup peanut butter, no sugar added
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups uncooked oats, toasted* *To toast oats, preheat oven to 350˚F. Spread the oats evenly on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before using. You can save time by skipping this step.

Instructions

  • Place raisins, peanut butter, and vanilla extract in food processor. Blend on HIGH until well combined, about 45 seconds.  The mixture will resemble a paste. 
  • Place the raisin mixture in a medium bowl. Add oatmeal and combine well, using your hands, if necessary.  Form into 10 cookies or balls. 
  • Store in airtight container.

Notes

Per serving (1 cookie): 292 calories; 8 grams protein; 39 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 14 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 164 milligrams sodium; 60 milligrams calcium.

 

How to Make Better Pasta Salad

Whole wheat pasta and chickpeas provide fiber and other nutrients to support health.

Pasta salad is a staple at summertime picnics and BBQs across America, and it’s often enjoyed all year long, too. While this perennial favorite gets gobbled up by the ton every year, I cannot say that I am a fan of the classic pasta salad recipe. That’s why I came up with how to make better pasta salad.

While I like the idea of a cold pasta dish, I don’t go for combining overcooked pasta with a mayonnaise-based dressing and a smattering of chopped celery and bell pepper. To be fair, while this is the most common way, it’s not the only way to make pasta salad. There are dozens of recipes out there with all kinds of interesting ingredients.

Pasta salad can be served as a side dish or made into a meal.

Pasta salad is no “guilty pleasure” that should be relegated to the warmer months. Cooked and cooled pasta is a source of resistant starch, a type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut that help prevent colon cancer and to support overall health. Legumes, and cooked and cooled potatoes, also provide resistant starch. Foods rich in fiber can help prevent, and manage, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

I like a hearty pasta salad that’s more than a side dish.  Here’s how I build a better pasta salad to enjoy as a meatless meal or side dish all year long.

Whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta is a great way to include at least three servings a day of whole grains, which, generally speaking, have more nutrients than refined grains. I like the slightly nutty taste of whole wheat pasta, which is higher in fiber than the regular kind. I favor shapes such as rotini because the ridges hold onto the dressing.

Whole wheat pasta is brimming with manganese, a mineral you need for strong bones and cartilage, and for many other bodily functions.

Why carbohydrates are so good for you

Legumes. Chickpeas and pasta are a satisfying combo that you can really sink your teeth into.  Legumes supply protein, and fiber, which helps to better regulate your energy levels. Legumes are also packed with iron, folate, and plant compounds that protect your cells from damage.

Cottage cheese. I like cheese in my pasta salad for the taste, as well as the protein and calcium. Using low fat cottage cheese in place of some of the feta cheese cuts down on calories and saturated fat.

Low fat cottage cheese has 11 times less saturated fat than feta cheese, but is lower in calcium.

Whole Wheat Pasta and Chickpea Salad

Makes 12 servings.

16 ounces (dry) whole wheat rotini pasta

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

2 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 cup chopped parsley

½ cup diced red onion

½ cup low fat cottage cheese

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, diced

½ teaspoon salt, or more, if desired

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta until just about done (al dente). Drain well and place pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the beans, tomatoes, parsley, onion, cottage cheese, and feta cheese. Combine well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Add the dressing to the pasta mixture and toss until well combined. Serve chilled.

Per serving: 253 calories; 10 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 284 milligrams sodium; 80 milligrams calcium.

Add more vegetables, such as chopped yellow bell pepper, and serve over a bed of greens to make Whole Wheat Pasta and Chickpea salad into a delicious, meatless meal.

Why Carbohydrates Are Important

Is it me, or do those cookies look slightly evil?

Confused about carbs? Before you go cutting them out of your life, read on to find out why carbohydrates are important to your immune system and overall health. 

Do carbohydrates cause weight gain? 

A 2018 survey found that Americans blame carbohydrates for weight gain, which is probably why low-carb diets are so attractive. Yet, eating a more plant-based diet is linked to better weight control and other health benefits.

What’s more, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat. It’s rich in vegetables and whole grains, and is anything but low in carbohydrates.

It’s time we stopped loving to hate carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates give you energy 

The body prefers carbohydrates as an energy source because they are easily converted to glucose, the fuel that cells use.

Carbohydrates are found in foods such as milk, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans), bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and in cookies, cakes, and other sweets.

With the exception of fiber, carbs provide four calories per gram. Fiber is mostly indigestible, but more on that later.

Carbohydrates are classified as “simple,” and “complex.”

Simple carbohydrates, found in foods including maple syrup, honey, table sugar, and white bread, pasta, and rice, and milk, are digested quickly.

The starch and other complex carbohydrates found in foods such as whole grain bread, vegetables, and legumes (beans), take longer for the body to digest, making for a slower and steadier energy release into the bloodstream.

When levels of glucose dip in the bloodstream, your mental and physical energy drops, too.

Feeling “hangry” is a real thing

What happens when you eat a low carbohydrate diet 

A very low-carbohydrate intake forces the body to use protein and fat for energy, which isn’t ideal. That’s because protein is meant to help build and maintain lean tissue, including muscle, and to make enzymes, hormones, and cells to support life. When protein is used for energy, it cannot do its job to the fullest.

When the body breaks down fat for energy, it produces ketones. Blood levels of ketones remain elevated on a very low-carb diet.  Experts aren’t sure about the effects of high ketones on health, but they do know that excessive ketones can be life-threatening in people with diabetes.

A low-carb diet may shorten your life

Cut carbs and you cut calories, which may be the reason for weight loss.

Why low-carb diets work for weight loss

You will probably lose weight on a very low-carb eating plan, such as the ketogenic diet.

It’s no mystery why, though. Cutting carbs means cutting calories, which encourages weight loss.

If you don’t want to drastically cut carbs to shed pounds, take heart. Research shows that reducing fat works just as well for weight loss as lower carb diets.

Maple syrup and honey may be “natural,” but they are sources of added sugar.

Why carbohydrates are good for your immune system

Fiber, found only in plant foods, including whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, protects against diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer, and infection. Your gut cannot fully digest fiber, so how is it beneficial to you? 

Bacteria in the colon ferment, or feed on, the fiber in food, producing short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA protect the lining of your gut and defend it against colon cancer, help to control blood glucose, reduce inflammation, and strengthen your immune system.

Fiber helps to keep you fuller longer, which is beneficial when trying to control your weight. It also plays a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels and keeping them in a normal range, and preventing constipation.

It’s next to impossible to get the fiber you need on a very low-carbohydrate eating plan. As a result, you will starve the beneficial bacteria in your gut that support your overall health.

Some carbohydrate choices are better than others, but you can still have treats! 

How to eat more good carbohydrates 

When it comes to choosing carbs, quality counts. It’s a good idea to consider the company that carbohydrates keep rather than taking them off your menu.

Foods rich in added sugars, such as regular soft drinks, granola bars, and candy, typically offer little besides calories. Limit your intake of foods with added sugars, but know that you don’t have to completely avoid them. Find out what your daily added sugar allowance is here.

Why it’s OK to eat refined grains

Choose high-carb, nutrient-rich foods more often to support your health.

 

Fruits and vegetables, and plain milk and yogurt, contain naturally-occurring simple sugars. They are not on the list of sweeter foods experts advise us to limit, however.

Foods with naturally-occurring sugar, as well as starchy foods such as whole and enriched grains, potatoes, and rice, are desirable because they supply vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, and phytonutrients, beneficial plant compounds that protect your cells.

Fortified grains supply additional nutrients, such as iron and folic acid, which are often in short supply in women of childbearing age.

The downside of going gluten-free

Bread made with enriched grains provides vitamins and minerals that often go missing in our diets.

How much carbohydrate and fiber should you eat?

Suggested daily carbohydrate and fiber intakes are based on calorie requirements.

Experts recommend consuming 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories as carbohydrate. That amounts to:

  • 248 to 358 grams on a 2,200-calorie eating plan
  • 225 and 325 grams on a 2,000-calorie eating plan
  • 202 to 293 grams on an 1,800-calorie eating plan

Just for reference, popular low-carb diets suggest far less carbohydrate than nutrition experts.  For example, the ketogenic way of eating recommends no more than 50 grams daily, about the amount found in a three-ounce egg bagel.

Fruit is full of water, and can help you meet your daily fluid needs.

 

Check this list for the carbohydrate content of foods. 

Suggested fiber intakes are easier to figure:

• For every 1,000 calories consumed, eat at least 14 grams of fiber from food.

• For example, on a 2,000-calorie eating plan, include a minimum of 28 grams of food fiber daily.

Beans supply a type of fiber that help beneficial gut bacteria thrive!

 

How to get the fiber you need every day

It’s easier to include enough fiber and other carbohydrates when you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables (which includes beans) and at least three servings a day of whole grains.

Don’t be concerned about eating refined grains. As long as they are fortified, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, they can be part of a balanced diet.

For packaged foods, check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for fiber content.

Here are some common fiber sources, listed in grams:

Navy beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 10

Lentils, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Black beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Garbanzo beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 8

Whole wheat bread, 2 ounces: 6

White beans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 6

Pear, 1 medium: 6

Avocado, 1⁄2 cup: 5

Soybeans, 1⁄2 cup, cooked or roasted: 5

Peas, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 4

Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon: 4

Apple, medium, with skin:  4

Raspberries, 1⁄2 cup: 4

Potato, medium, with skin, baked: 4

Sweet potato, medium, flesh only, baked: 4

Almonds, 1 ounce: 4

Broccoli, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 3

Orange, 1 medium: 3

Banana, 1 medium: 3

Quinoa, 1⁄2 cup, cooked: 3

Fiber fights high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol 

Conclusion: The truth about carbohydrates

Most foods rich in carbohydrate also contain important nutrients that are not found in other foods.

Like any calorie-containing component of food, including protein, fat, and alcohol, too much carbohydrate may end up as stored body fat because of the excess calories it provides.

Eating much less than the recommended amount of carbohydrate is not a good idea, either, because it may have many negative effects on your health.

Including more plant foods and plain dairy products in a balanced eating plan is your best bet for getting enough “good” carbs.  Added sugar can also be part of a healthy diet for most people, including those with diabetes. (Check with your dietitian about your daily carbohydrate “budget.”)

 

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