Tag Archives: nutrition advice

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  It’s no wonder why there’s an entire 30 days devoted to encouraging families to eat together more often. Experts frequently tout the benefits of family meals, including better nutrition, and improved school performance and higher self-esteem in children. In a perfect world, spouses, partners, and kids would be home at the same time, nobody would be cranky, tired, or hormonal, and nobody would complain about the food.  I’m a big fan of family meals, but I also know that making them happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Here’s why you should try anyway.

eat-1583954_1920

Why Family Meals Matter

As the mother of three, I think that sitting down together over a meal helps kids in a number of ways, no matter how often your three year-old wanders off in search of something more interesting, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Family meals help kids develop a sense of regularity and routine that could carry into later life. A study of college students suggests eating at the same time promotes better nutrition. And, eating together allows you to teach kids good table manners and expose them to new foods.

Yet, it may not be necessary to create a soothing, nurturing environment around the table on a daily basis. Some experts and others (including comedian Ana Gasteyer, a mother of two) think the benefits of family meals are exaggerated. Her post is hilarious!

If you can’t make family meals happen as often as you like, take comfort in this: A large study that examined the effects of family dinners on children found that spending time with your kids and taking an interest in their daily lives matters most for their well-being, whether that happens during at meal times, or not.

5 No-Fuss Dinners

Interested in more family meals with less stress?  I highly recommend lowering your standards.

Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home more often. Don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but try to make healthier choices.

Here are five healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:

  • Stir-fry 8 to 12 ounces of lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless, boneless turkey breast with a large chopped onion, cumin, and salt and ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup canned, drained black beans. Spoon the cooked meat/bean mixture onto 4 whole wheat tortillas. Top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato, lettuce, and low-fat sour cream. Or make this chili, and pair it with fruit.

dsc_0522

  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken; salad of prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives; quick-cooking grain such as whole wheat couscous, and milk.
  • Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup (beans are vegetables!); fruit, and a cup of yogurt.
  • Serve Brinner (breakfast for dinner): French toast made with whole grain bread, fruit, milk; pancakes made with whole wheat flour served with fruit and milk; or an omelet prepared with cheese and leftover vegetables, with fruit, milk, whole grain toast or roll.

pancake-2604822

  • Pizza prepared with whole grain tortillas or whole wheat Naan bread and store-bought shredded cheddar cheese; green salad; fruit.

Here are some additional family-friendly meals:

 

 

What You Should Know About Eating Meat

Are you struggling to understand recent reports about beef, bacon, and hot dogs? You’re not alone.  Here’s how make sense of the science, and my favorite way to keep meat on the menu.

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The Beef with Meat 

A couple of weeks ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report suggesting that eating more processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, is linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer, the second leading cancer killer in the United States.

In addition, the IARC said a higher intake of red meat, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, is probably carcinogenic, but the evidence isn’t as strong as for the processed kind. Poultry and fish were not fingered in this report as problematic.

Scary, right? At first glance, yes. But some perspective is in order.

Risk is relative.  While the report indicates that greater meat intake results in greater cancer risk, it’s important to note that about 34,000 cancer deaths yearly around the world are linked to higher intakes of processed meat, while 600,000 are attributable to alcohol. Smoking cigarettes causes one million cancer deaths a year worldwide.

It’s OK to Eat Meat

If you like meat, it’s OK to have it as part of a balanced eating plan.  The question is what type and how much meat is safer to eat.

While the IACR report says the risk of cancer is linked to the amount of red meat consumed, it doesn’t provide a specific level to include in the diet. However, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) suggests limiting red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) weekly.

The IACR doesn’t ask people to stop eating processed meat, but it does makes it clear that lowering consumption can reduce the risk for cancer. The AICR suggests avoiding ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages, and other processed meat, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Processed meats contain nitrate salts that form powerful carcinogens called nitrosamines in the body.

Does that mean the occasional hot dog, ham sandwich, or bacon with eggs on the weekend causes cancer? No, but I consider processed meats, including cold cuts, as “sometimes” foods rather than everyday fare, especially for children.

The upside to eating less meat is the opportunity to include more plant foods, which are rich in compounds that help to ward off cancer and other chronic conditions. Whole grains including quinoa, freekeh, and farro, are filling and are higher in protein than many other grains. Adding vegetables to meat dishes reduces meat intake and stretches your food dollar, too.

Mushrooms and Meat: A Perfect Pair

Mushrooms blend well with meat, in part because they take on the flavors in the dish, including that of the meat.

Many Sliced and Whole Whites

I substitute an equal amount of cooked mushrooms for half the beef in many of my favorite recipes, including Mushroom Burgers, Mushroom Pizza, and Almost Lasagna. Just chop the mushrooms to match the consistency of the meat, cook, and blend into the recipe. Here’s one of my favorite beef stew recipes made over with more mushrooms and less meat. Enjoy!

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Beef and Mushroom Stew

Makes 6 servings

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 pound boneless beef bottom round roast or other stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried thyme leaves

2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (you can use an equal amount of red wine and broth if you like)

16 ounces sliced baby portabello mushrooms or any other type of mushroom

2 cups chopped carrots or baby carrots

1 cup frozen peas

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and black pepper. Add the meat and coat it with the flour mixture.

In a large stockpot, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, add the meat to the pan and brown. Remove the meat from the pan. Season meat with salt. Reserve.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the stockpot. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions have softened. Add 1 cup of the beef broth and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until the browned bits attached to the bottom and sides of the stockpot are dissolved. Stir in the remaining broth.

Return the meat to the stockpot. Stir in the mushrooms, cover the stockpot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 1/4 hours. Add the carrots to the stockpot. Cover, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the beef and carrots are fork-tender. Stir in the peas and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Per serving:

256 calories

8 grams fat

283 milligrams sodium

20 grams carbohydrate

4 grams fiber

27 grams protein

40 milligrams calcium

 

 

5 Nutrition Rules Debunked

Many nutrition rules that we take for granted are more hype than help. It may come as a relief that you can ignore some nutrition advice and still eat healthy!

Advice: Put only the most colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate.

Bottom line: This rule shortchanges white, brown, and tan produce, such as mushrooms, cauliflower, and bananas, which are just as nutrition-worthy as their brighter counterparts. Most of us fall far short of suggested fruit and vegetable servings, so concentrate on including the types you like, no matter how pale. And while we’re at it, let’s stop shaming starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and peas, as nutrition expert Janet Helm so aptly puts it.

Advice: You should eat breakfast every day to control your weight.

Bottom line: The research doesn’t support the claim that eating a balanced breakfast is necessary for weight control, but if it works for you, stay with it. Skipping breakfast probably won’t cause weight gain or prevent weight loss if you stick to your calorie budget throughout the day, but there’s more to breakfast than the number on the scale, including fuel and nutrients for body and brain.

Don’t like to eat when you get up? Divide a balanced breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and a whole grain roll into two morning snacks that you finish before lunch. If you’re not into “traditional” breakfast foods, munch on a slice of leftover thin-crust cheese pizza and fruit, or half a turkey and cheese sandwich and carrot sticks.

Advice: Shop only the perimeter of the grocery store.

Bottom line: Yes, the outer parts of the store have lots of nutritious foods, including the fish counter, produce section, and the dairy case, but the bakery is also located there. The aisles house healthy options including whole grain cereal and pasta, as well as canned seafood and beans, and jars of fruit packed in their own juice. Plan meals and snacks, and head to the grocery store with a list to make it easier to peruse the aisles for nutritious choices. Don’t shop when you’re hungry, or that bakery along the perimeter may be too tempting to walk past.

Advice: You must drink 64 ounces of plain water every day.

Bottom line: Probably not! Water is an essential nutrient, but most of us don’t need to down a half gallon of the stuff every day.  Men, and women who are not pregnant or nursing require between nine and 13 cups of fluid daily, about 72 to 104 ounces, respectively. (Physically active people may need more.) Plain water is preferable for meeting fluid needs, but the water in other drinks, such as milk, coffee and tea (even the caffeinated kinds) contributes fluid, so it’s easier than you think to meet your quota.

Advice: Eating at night leads to weight gain.

Bottom line: Only if you overdo it, which is often the case. If you’re extremely hungry (from under-eating during the day; see section on breakfast, above), stressed, or bored, and you reach for high-calorie foods such as cookies, chips, or candy, you may find it difficult to limit your calorie intake. It’s OK to eat at night as long as you’re mindful of your daily calorie needs. If you struggle to control calories after the sun goes down, read this by Yoni Freedhoff, M.D.

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  It’s no wonder why there’s an entire 30 days devoted to encouraging families to eat together more often. Experts frequently tout the benefits of family meals, including better nutrition, and improved school performance and higher self-esteem in children. In a perfect world, spouses, partners, and kids would be home at the same time, nobody would be cranky, tired, or hormonal, and nobody would complain about the food.  I’m a big fan of family meals, but I also know that making them happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Here’s why you should try anyway.

eat-1583954_1920

 

Why Family Meals Matter

As the mother of three, I think that sitting down together over a meal helps kids in a number of ways, no matter how often your three year-old wanders off in search of something more interesting, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Family meals help kids develop a sense of regularity and routine that could carry into later life. A study of college students suggests eating at the same time promotes better nutrition. And, eating together allows you to teach kids good table manners and expose them to new foods.

Yet, it may not be necessary to create a soothing, nurturing environment around the table on a daily basis. Some experts and others (including comedian Ana Gasteyer, a mother of two) think the benefits of family meals are exaggerated. Her post is hilarious!

If you can’t make family meals happen as often as you like, take comfort in this: A large study that examined the effects of family dinners on children found that spending time with your kids and taking an interest in their daily lives matters most for their well-being, whether that happens during at meal times, or not.

5 No-Fuss Dinners

Interested in more family meals with less stress?  I highly recommend lowering your standards. Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home as often as you can, and don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but do make healthier choices.

Here are five healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:

  • Stir-fry 8 to 12 ounces of lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless, boneless turkey breast with a large chopped onion, cumin, and salt and ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup canned, drained black beans. Spoon the cooked meat/bean mixture onto 4 whole wheat tortillas. Top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato, lettuce, and low-fat sour cream. Or make this chili, and pair it with fruit.

dsc_0522

  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken; salad of prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives; quick-cooking grain such as whole wheat couscous, and milk.
  • Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup (beans are vegetables!); fruit, and a cup of yogurt.
  • Serve Brinner (breakfast for dinner): French toast made with whole grain bread, fruit, milk; pancakes made with whole wheat flour served with fruit and milk; or an omelet prepared with cheese and leftover vegetables, with fruit, milk, whole grain toast or roll.

pancake-2604822

  • Pizza prepared with whole grain tortillas or whole wheat Naan bread and store-bought shredded cheddar cheese; green salad; fruit.

Here are some additional family-friendly meals:

 

 

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