Sunflower Strawberry Salad

It’s still verrrry much spring where I live. Like the local strawberries just started to come out and it’s mid-June! BUT that’s ok because I can enjoy Carolina strawberries in early spring and local strawberries in late spring…winning!

I never really liked fruit in my lettuce salads for some reason…that is until lately. Now, I’m all in! I have a great winter mandarin salad, this spring strawberry salad, and summer…maybe I’ll load it up with blueberries? We will see!

Usually the main attraction of a salad, for me, is the dressing. I mean, isn’t that why most of us eat a salad? Because, we like the dressing? Well, in this salad, the dressing takes a back seat (although it is delicious) to the amazing crunchy, salty, sweet flavors that hit every bite! I use a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing that’s not too tangy and not too sweet. I make my dressings to taste so these may not be the exact measurements BUT make yours to what you like!

I buy a big box of spring mix each week and it usually stays good for about 5-7 days

Salad Ingredients:

  • Spring mix or spinach (2 cups per salad for a large salad)
  • Feta cheese (1 tablespoon per salad…more or less based on your taste)
  • Sunflower seeds (1 tablespoon per salad)
  • Spring onions (1-3 teaspoons)
  • Strawberries, sliced (1/4 cup per salad)

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1 whole lemon juiced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use 1 small clove minced too)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (more if you like a sweeter dressing)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Honestly, this salad isn’t hard to make because many of the ingredients are grab-n-go!

Grab a wide bowl. This isn’t super necessary but honestly, it makes it look prettier! Throw the lettuce in the bowl and then layer the ingredients. I like strawberries, feta, sunflower seeds, then onions personally but, go on…do yo thing!

For the dressing, I use the Pampered Chef manual food processor. This thing is a kitchen staple in my house! I don’t have an electric food processor because, well I don’t need it with this bad boy! Toss all the ingredients in the food processor and chop away! It comes out rich and smooth and delicious!!!!

Refreshing, crisp, and delicious! (also quick and cheap!)

This entire salad provides nutrients from the lettuce to the fixin’s to the dressing. It is seriously a nutrient power house! There aren’t many other foods that you can get TONS of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in just one bowl. Let’s just go over some of the nutrition highlights of this bad boy!

Power-Packed Lineup!

  • Spring Mix: tons of Vitamin A, C, K, and folate (a B vitamin). Some iron (although some of it does get lost during digestion), fiber (much of that insoluble to keep everything “moving”). **If you are on a blood thinner and watching vitamin K you can eat iceberg lettuce as a LOW vitamin K food**
  • Feta Cheese: look, honestly theres such a small amount you aren’t getting much but a tiny bit of protein and calcium BUT it tastes great! Even if you are watching your sodium intake you shouldn’t worry too much because again, a small amount (190 mg-ish)
  • Sunflower Seeds: loaded with heart healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein! Also a good source of iron and potassium makes this a crunchy little firecracker!
  • Spring Onions: although, like feta, the amount you are using isn’t huge, the little boost of immune-boosting antioxidants in the entire onion family are something to keep on your radar! Plus…fiber!
  • Strawberries: do you know that strawberries have more vitamin C per serving than an orange…fun fact! In just one serving of strawberries you get WELL over 100% of your daily vitamin C. Along with that you have fiber and a LOAD of antioxidants in this yummy little gem!
  • The dressing is also loaded with amazing nutrients from the ingredients in it so even just a few teaspoons on the salad gives you flavor and nutrition!
Enjoy my friends! I know we did!

Week 5 Challenge: Eat at Home

I love eating out. As a mom, I appreciate when a meal is prepared, delivered, and cleaned up for me…all I have to do is make a decision on where I want to go and what I want to eat. I like two types of restaurants…the old trusted places that serve my favorites and the new age modern farm to table type restaurants. I like different, ordering things I’ve never tried before, or what the wait staff thinks is awesome (they usually are pretty good judges). But eating out can get you in trouble with your weight management goals.

A lot of calories are hidden in the large dishes restaurants prepare. If you don’t remember anything else from this post remember that fat, sugar, and salt adds a lot of flavor so restaurants put a lot in their food. Why is that important? Making a similar dish at home can cut calories, fat, sugar, and salt, and quite possibly portion sizes, obviously helping with your weight management goals.

What does this mean? It means eating more homemade meals. It means cooking at home and preparing meals. For some of you this is scary. You’re busy, you have a full time job, you are a mom, father, you’re single and it’s hard to cook for one, you have a hectic schedule…I know, I get it. Not so long ago I was a wife, mom, and worked full time at a job I absolutely adored. Now I’m a full time stay at home wife/mom to an amazing husband and 3 beautiful children. Life is busy…and I have no doubt life will continue to be busy…for many years.

Even though life can be hectic I get so much joy out of making a delicious and healthy meal for my family. Since we have 3 little ones we don’t eat out much. We do get take out every week as a treat (mom doesn’t cook on Friday) but we save a lot of money and calories by eating homemade the other days.

Healthy cooking doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time consuming. Cooking well does take some meal planning, grocery shopping, recipes (or ideas), and some kitchen equipment but it’s not as hard as you think!

So what are the real benefits of eating homemade food rather than eating out all the time?

  1. Saves you money. Sure the health benefits are there but if we are talking real life, it’s so much cheaper to make your own food than going out to eat.
  2. Less fat. Restaurants add butter, margarine, trans-fats, saturated fat, fat fat fat. Fat adds flavor…a lot of delicious flavor. At home you should definitely add fat to your food but use oils like canola, olive, grape seed, etc.
  3. Less salt. We eat too much salt. A lot of salt. Restaurants add salt because it tastes good. Even in while cooking pasta restaurants salt their water heavily.
  4. Less calories. From large portions to more fat and more sugar, eating out can pack on the calories! Cooking at home you can control the calories by cooking well and watching your portion sizes.
  5. It’s a good way to bring families together. From meal planning, to grocery shopping, and finally meal preparation cooking at home can include every member of the family. Kids can be an important part of eating well and kids tend to eat healthier if they are involved in meal preparation. Check out Eat Together PA for great tips!

Think about how much you eat out. Keep in mind breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that you buy “out”. You don’t have to totally cut it out just cut back. Make it a goal this week to eat in (or pack from home) more than you eat out.

Smokey Chicken

This week my family (all 5 of us) were sick. We got a bad head cold and it ran through us like the plague! I hadn’t cooked all week because we were just surviving and who feels like cooking when you can’t taste it anyway, am I right? Finally last night I could kind of breathe again so I decided to make this delicious dish.

I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked really good a few months ago. What happens when I find recipes though, is I look for ways to “Amanda-fy” them…make them more of something that I’d like to eat, cook, or try out. This is one of those recipes that went from a Pinterest idea to something different.

Nutrition Lesson

Everyone talks about chicken breast and it being super lean source of protein. It really is BUT it can be more expensive than chicken thighs or drumsticks. Not everyone in the world has an unlimited budget that they can just willy nilly spend on food. I will be the first to tell you eating well does not have to be more expensive but there are certain tips and tricks I have in order to be able to say that with confidence. Like this chicken for instance. Although boneless skinless chicken breast is lean, chicken thighs and drumsticks aren’t as high in fat as most red meats.

I want us to be clear on what LEAN really means. When dietitians talk “lean meats” we are talking about the amount of fat in meats. For instance, haddock (the fish) is in the running for the leanest meat because it has a verrrrry tiny amount of fat in a 3 ounce serving (like about 1 gram of fat naturally). So when we say “lean” we are talking fat grams per 3 ounce serving. The leaner the meat the less fat it has, the less fat it has the less saturated fat (not so good for your heart fats) it has, the less saturated fat it has usually the less cholesterol it has (the stuff that can clog up your arteries), the less cholesterol it has usually the better it is for your heart and overall health.

Below is a nice little chart that shows how lean each meat is (I put them in order from least lean to leanest).

Meat Serving Calories Fat Grams

Saturated Fat

4 chicken wings 3 oz 426 35.9 14.1
Sausage links 3 oz 331 27 9.6
Prime rib 3 oz 276 21.6 8.7
Ground beef (80/20) 3 oz 230 15.2 5.7
Sirloin 3 oz 207 12.0 4.8
Bacon 3 slices 138 10.7 3.5
Ground beef (90/10) 3 oz 184 10.0 3.9
Chicken thigh (no skin) 3 oz 178 9.3 2.6
Ground turkey (93/7) 3 oz 128 7.1 1.8
Chicken breast (skin) 3 oz 156 7.0 1.8
Salmon 3 oz 144 5.7 1.2
Chicken drumstick (no skin) 3 oz 146 4.8 1.3
Pork loin or chop 3 oz 122 3.0 1.0
Chicken breast (no skin) 3 oz 122 3.0 0.7
Haddock 3 oz 95 0.8 0.1
Tuna 3 oz 99 0.7 0.2

Table information gathered from RD411, Calorie King, and Calorie Counter.

Yes. You read that right. Four wings. Not 6, not 12 but just 4. Regardless, the point of this blog is that skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breast are all better choices than beef. Venison, grass-fed beef, buffalo, bison, and other wild game are in an awesome category of their own.

When eating well and eating on a budget needs to go hand in hand, stick with me and this blog. I won’t lead you astray!

Smoked paprika is the star of the show for this recipe. It’s not something I use often but it is good too have on hand, especially when you want to throw in a subtle hint of smoke and beautiful red color!

So here’s the recipe you voted for and were waiting so long to get your hands on!

Smokey Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 5 drumsticks (you can also use 2-3 breasts)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your love of spice)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place apple cider vinegar, canola oil, garlic, and all of the spices into an iron skillet (or oven safe pan). Heat until simmering.
  2. Place drumsticks with the skin removed or pulled down into the skillet. Cook on the stove top for 5 minutes on each side of the drumstick.
  3. Place skillet into the oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

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NOTES:

  • For more drumsticks just double the recipe on the vinegar, oil, spices. Extra isn’t a bad thing!
  • For breasts make sure you don’t dry them out.
  • INTERNAL TEMPERATURE IS SUPER IMPORTANT! Get yourself a food thermometer ($5 at walmart) or a more fancy version (I have one that goes into the oven with the meat and tells me when it’s done).
  • For more smoke add more smoked paprika
  • I served my smokey chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli…it was delicious!

How do you use smoked paprika?

Simply Eat Better

There is so much information out there about how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. The do’s, don’ts, rules, regulations, and laws are just enough to make you crazy! Much of the nutrition information out there isn’t even from someone legit. Side note: I’m not here to call out the fakes although some days I would like to, I’m here to give you feasible and educated information so that you can work through it to find whats best to move your health forward.

There’s no cookie cutter right way or wrong way of eating. There’s no perfect diet and that’s the great thing about nutrition! It’s always a journey to be better, to eat better. I don’t want to tell you what to eat, I simply want to give guidance and recommendations letting you choose what to change.

Here are 10 simple guidelines for a better diet:

  1. Eat less. Even if that’s all you change, just eating less will improve your overall health because chances are you eat more than you should. This not only helps with weight management but studies show that being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Try smaller plates, keeping food in the kitchen instead of on the table, and ordering smaller sizes at restaurants.
  2. Eat more often. Eating every 3-4 hours helps to keep you from getting ravenously hungry and lets your metabolism run smoothly. Small nutrient rich snacks in between meals are key. Think about foods like nuts, seeds, yogurt, string cheese, fruit, and veggies.
  3. Slow down. Enjoy the flavors of your food. It should take you 15-30 minutes to eat a meal. As a mom of  twins and a four year old sometimes when I give that advice I think HAH yeah right! But seriously food should be savored not scarfed. When is the last time you truly smelled, tasted, and felt what you were eating? Food is as much for nourishment as it is for the soul.
  4. Eat more vegetables. The recommendations are to eat at least 3 servings daily. If you can get more than 3 servings that is AWESOME! Eat up! 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup lightly steamed or raw are considered servings. Lunch and dinner are perfect for vegetables but there’s no stopping you from sauteing mushrooms and spinach with your eggs for breakfast or crunching on some snap peas with hummus for a snack.
  5. Eat just enough fruits. Shoot for at least 2 daily. Local seasonal fruits are packed with nutrients and super delicious! Blueberries in the summer, apples in the fall, tropical fruit in the winter, strawberries in the spring. Head to your local farmers market for the best deals and watch the sale adds in your grocery store for budgeting.
  6. Work in some whole grains. Don’t box yourself into just whole wheat. I mean, wheat is fine but branch out a bit! Think about barley, farro, buckwheat, quinoa, corn, brown and black rice…the list could go on! Whole grains provide tons of fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Get as whole as possible!
  7. Forget the fat fear. Fat should not be avoided! Especially plant fats. Eat avocados, olives, oils, nuts, and/or seeds regularly. Animal fats like butter, sour cream, and cream cheese are fine in small amounts. Try to buy organic animal products when possible. That’s a post for another day!
  8. Spice it up! Instead of adding a ton of salt to food try herbs and spices. I’ve used Gourmet Garden’s guide when trying new ones http://www.gourmetgarden.com/en/herb-guide.  I think it’s the most helpful pairing guide out there.
  9. Love the legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients. Not only are they amazing for your health but they are budget friendly. Legumes go great in soups, salads, and side dishes. Because they are so high in protein you can use them instead of meat!
  10. Go to a dietitian and talk about your nutrition goals. When looking for the best nutrition advice do not go to a doctor, chiropractor, “nutritionist”, health coach, or any other self proclaimed nutrition guru. I promise that I have made right so many wrongs from past clients that have gone to these people about their diets first. Interested in seeing a dietitian, check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert. Look for the credentials “RDN” (Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist), “RD” (Registered Dietitian), “LD” (Licensed Dietitian), or “LDN” (Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist).

Diet isn’t a four letter word. Diet is simply what you eat day in and day out. Having a love hate relationship with food is no way to live. Enjoy food and be comfortable with it and around it. Health and wellness isn’t about torturing your body, starving yourself, avoiding food, and guilt trips. It’s about saddling up for a delicious adventure that will take you from where you are to a healthier you.

Final thoughts: I don’t know where each and every one of you are at on your journey through the wide world of nutrition but I do know this: I’ve been a dietitian for over a decade and I’ve talked to many people. The ones who are willing to take the guidance, take action, take the steps to improve their diet, and take accountability for choices are the ones who continue to progress towards a healthy eating pattern.

Nutrition Challenge: this week take a look at your diet and decide what you’d like to change about it. Work on one change that is most important to you.

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

My aunt has huge gardens. She’s on vacation this week so my mom and I harvested tons of cucumbers and green beans. Thank you Aunt Nancy! In any regard we’ve been having a lot of cooked green beans and my daughter’s favorite, creamy cucumbers. Tonight for dinner I decided to try out something else.

Who doesn’t like a good green bean almandine? It reminds me of a fancy dinner but you know me, simple is the way to go! So here it is:

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (I buy whole almonds and just cut them with a knife – its cheaper)
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Steam green beans until slightly crunchy
  2. While green beans are steaming, melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet
  3. Cook garlic and onions until onions are transparent
  4. Add the slivered almonds to the skillet
  5. Place green beans over the butter, garlic, onions, and almonds
  6. Cook beans until desired texture and then season with salt to taste

NOTES:

  • If you don’t have fresh green beans, frozen works just fine
  • You can use canola oil or olive oil blend for cooking instead of butter

They came out fantastically! Crunchy yet tender. The almonds gave it a nutty flavor without being too over powering and the lemon and garlic gave it a zesty undertone. Refreshing!

Crunch, zesty, flavorful
Crunch, zesty, flavorful

Final thoughts: I love taking typical foods and putting a twist on them. Sometimes my recipes are trial and error. I dream of a delicious BBQ sauce recipe that I don’t have to dump. It’s been a few years in the making. These green beans came out delicious in the first try and sometimes that’s the luck! Once you get the hang of cooking, making up recipes gets easier because you can go with the flow! My wonderful friend and dietitian side-kick Heather once said “baking is a science but cooking is an art” and it is so true! Cooking doesn’t require the exact amounts of anything for it to turn out delicious!

Challenge: make up your own recipe!

Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!