Tag Archives: #wholegrains

What to Do When You Fail at Meal Prep

Confession: My idea of meal prep is making a double batch of chili. I know that I should prepare more food on Saturdays and Sundays for the week ahead, but I can’t get myself to devote the time to that task, however worthy.  I am good at stocking my kitchen with nutritious foods and making healthy meals and snacks, so I figure I’m doing something right. Still, getting advice from a meal-prep pro couldn’t hurt.

 

Searching for Inspiration

In my quest to improve my meal prep skills, I headed for Toby Amidor’s latest creation, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Not only does this registered dietitian and working single mother of three prepare delicious and nutritious food ahead of time, she found the energy to write about so that we can, too.

According to Toby, you (and I) should invest in meal prep because it saves time and money; it’s easier to control portions, which helps promote weight control; and you’ll avoid take-out food and processed products to get a meal on the table fast.

If you’ve never prepped meals before or want to be better at it, you can’t go wrong with The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.  There are more than 100 recipes to choose from, designed with simple-to-find ingredients, including Apple Walnut Loaf, Slow-Cooker Three Bean Chili, Arugula Salad with Salmon, and Mason Jar Key Lime Parfaits.

Have I mentioned the two-week meal plans for those interested in Clean Eating, Weight Loss, and Muscle Building? You’ll have no excuse not to shop for nutritious foods when you see Toby’s detailed ingredient lists to make following these plans a breeze.

Check out Toby Amidor’s blog! 

Now, that’s some kind of meal prep! Doesn’t this look delicious? Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz

 

Better, Not Perfect

Even if don’t completely embrace meal prep, nobody’s stopping you from enjoying Toby’s delicious recipes. That’s what I do! I’ve read The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, nodding my head in agreement at what Toby recommends, but the fact remains that while I like the idea of having meals ready to eat at a moment’s notice, I prefer more flexibility at meal time. (Read: I am in no way as organized as Toby.)

I have been feeding a family of five for years, so I do have some kitchen skills, which I allude to at the beginning of this post. I mostly know what I’m making during the week, and I shop regularly for food so I always have nutritious ingredients on hand.

17 Meals in Under 15 Minutes

Here are some of my favorite “fast food” ideas.

Breakfast/Snack

• 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 fortified soy milk, and fruit.

• Spread 2 slices whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, and top with 1 small banana, sliced, or 2 tablespoons raisins.

• 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, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with 2 slices whole-wheat toast, and fruit.

• Pair 1 hard-cooked egg with 8 ounces low-fat yogurt, 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.

 

Lunch/Dinner

• Microwave a medium white 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 covered with tomato sauce with sliced part-skim mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve with 8 ounces 100% orange juice.

• 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-grain couscous, 1 cup cooked vegetables, and 4 ounces cooked leftover salmon, or canned or pouched salmon.

• Arrange 4 ounces canned or pouched, drained tuna, 10 whole-grain crackers, and sliced red bell pepper, and enjoy.

My go-to fish meal: breaded haddock topped with a can of undrained chopped tomatoes and dried parsley with vegetables and whole grain bread. That’s dinner!

 

• 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. Serve with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk and 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 1⁄2 pound 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 along with chopped tomato, lettuce, and plain yogurt. (This dish serves two.) Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• 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.

• Quick 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.

• 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.

 

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

 

How to Shop for Must-Have Kitchen Staples 

Whether or not you plan your meals out to the last green bean, it’s a good idea to have nutritious foods on hand to rustle up healthy meals and snacks in minutes. Here’s a list that you can tailor to your needs.

A few must-have items from my refrigerator.

 

Refrigerator/Freezer Items

• Eggs

• Plain yogurt, Greek or regular

• Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• Grated hard cheese, such as cheddar and Monterey Jack

• 95% lean ground beef

• Ground 100% turkey breast meat

• Low-fat cottage cheese

• Milk

• Tofu

 

Frozen staples I keep on hand.

 

• Frozen fish fillets, frozen shrimp

• Frozen plain fruit and fruit canned in its own juice

• Frozen plain vegetables and no-salt added canned vegetables

 

How to take steps to get better at meal planning

 

Pantry Items

• Canned or pouched tuna or salmon

 

Recipe: Tuna Burgers with Smashed Avocado and Tomato are ready in 20 minutes!

 

• Canned beans, such as garbanzo, black beans, and cannelloni

• Whole grain cereal, bread (such as pita and Naan), and grains, such as pasta, quinoa, and freekeh

• Pasta (marinara) sauce and pizza sauce

• Peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews

 

Recipe: It takes just 5 minutes to make No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

 

• Dried fruit, such as California raisins

• Peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter

I couldn’t get by without foods from cans, jars, and pouches!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts

I love coffee-shop donuts as much as the next guy, and maybe more. I don’t eat them often because while they taste good going down, donuts usually bother my stomach afterwards. When I crave a hunk of sugary fried dough, I turn to my Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts instead.  These baked treats offer way more – and far less – than typical coffee shop choices.

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Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts are baked, not fried, for less fat and fewer calories.

Donuts, including all the variations on pumpkin and maple that are populating coffee shops right now, offer little in the way of nutrition. Most store-bought donuts are fried, which jacks up the calorie and fat content.

Here’s how a Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donut stacks up to a glazed pumpkin donut from a national coffee shop chain. It has:

• 212 calories vs. 360 calories

• 1/3 the total fat, and only 1 gram saturated fat (vs. 10 grams of saturated fat found in the coffee shop donut)

• 3 times the dietary fiber, thanks to whole wheat flour and pumpkin puree

• 64% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, primarily from pumpkin. The commercial donut has just 2% of the DV for vitamin A, which tells me there is very little pumpkin puree in their recipe.

• Nearly 900 milligrams of potassium, about 20% of the DV, again, mostly from the pumpkin.

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Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts use whole wheat flour.

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts*
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin puree (I used canned.)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat two standard donut pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, and add the pumpkin, 1/2 cup maple syrup, vanilla, yogurt, and oil. Mix until well combined.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t overmix.

Spoon the batter into the donut pans, filling to about 1/4″ shy of the rim, and making sure the center post is clear.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove donuts from oven and allow to cool, in the pan, for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan.

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Make the glaze. Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and the milk, and stir until smooth. Frost each donut and top with walnuts.

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Per donut: 212 calories; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 36 milligrams cholesterol; 220 milligrams sodium; 35 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 5 grams protein

*For less added sugar, omit the glaze, and add the walnuts to the batter. If desired, coat warm donuts in maple sugar or a sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Want more pumpkin? Try this Pumpkin Spice Smoothie!

 

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.

 

 

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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No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

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Kick off 2017 with this no-added sugar quick bread that’s perfect for a New Year’s day brunch, snack, or everyday breakfast. Dried fruit and bananas provide natural sweetness so there’s no need for sugar or other sweeteners.  Almonds and walnuts supply heart-healthy fat, and the recipe calls for oat flour instead of wheat flour to keep this dense, satisfying bread gluten-free and packed with whole grain goodness.

You can mix and match the types of nuts and dried fruits you use, and make 12 muffins out of the batter instead of a single loaf. Enjoy this better-for-you bread with peanut butter or cottage cheese, or pair with eggs or Greek yogurt. Happy New Year!

Fruit & Nut Bread
Makes 12 servings.

2 medium ripe bananas, broken into large chunks
2 large eggs
1⁄4 cup canola oil
2 cups oat flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup chopped almonds
3⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
3⁄4 cup dried unsweetened apricots, chopped into small pieces
3⁄4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan with cooking spray, and line with a sheet of parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until no longer chunky. Using a whisk, add the eggs and canola oil and combine well. Add the oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Add the almonds, walnuts, apricots, and raisins, and blend well.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for 15-20 minutes out of the pan before cutting.

* To make oat flour, place 2 cups of gluten-free one-minute or old fashioned oats in a food processor and process on high speed until oats achieve a powder-like consistency, about 1 minute.

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No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Quick Bread

Per serving (1 slice or 1/12 of the loaf):

Calories: 253
Total fat: 14 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 35 milligrams
Sodium: 135 milligrams
Carbohydrate: 29 grams
Dietary fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Calcium: 64 milligrams
Iron: 2 milligrams

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