Week 2 Challenge: Be Balanced

You can think you are eating the best diet but if you are missing foods or if you are not balancing your meals and snacks you may find yourself engulfed in cravings.

Every so often a new wave of fad diets come in the scene and it takes years to phase out. Low fat diets and low carb diets, especially, have distorted our view of eating foods that are actually quite good for us! Here’s a quick list of different foods and why they are so awesome for our bodies.

  • Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and carbohydrates for energy
  • Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and tons of fiber. There are two types that give our bodies different benefits.
    • Starchy vegetables have a good source of carbohydrates for energy (like potatoes, yams, and winter squash like pumpkin and butternut squash).
    • Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes have a small amount of carbohydrates but are loaded with filling fiber.
  • Whole grains have been given a bad rap but these gems of the plant world are great sources of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Don’t box yourself in with just wheat either. Whole grains include oats, barley, quinoa, amaranth, farro, brown rice, black rice, and wild rice.
  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are incredible little wonders of the nutrition world. They are super high in protein…I mean really high. They are also rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Nuts are a food group you don’t want to miss out on (unless of course you are allergic then by all means please miss out!). These foods are unique in that they have a great amount of protein and also super heart healthy fats along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Animal products are not necessary to a diet but can provide some health benefits. Fish is an incredible addition to your diet, especially cold water fish. They have omega-3 fatty acids, protein, sometimes calcium and vitamin D. Other meats (chicken, turkey, beef, pork) are rich in zinc, B12, and protein. Dairy products like yogurt and kefir are loaded with probiotics which help your gut.

Why all this? Because you need to know that all foods are important to keeping you healthy. Your body relies on nourishment that you give it. Without a good balance of all of the above foods, your body isn’t getting the nourishment it deserves.

Check out the tips to understand a balanced diet!

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?

Endometriosis Diet

There are many women who struggle with a disease called endometriosis. Not many dietitians have approached the subject because there is not a lot of research for diet and endometriosis but it is a huge problem for millions of women. It is an inflammatory disease of the endometrium (a thin sheet-like tissue that surrounds the uterus). When it starts to creep out into areas that it shouldn’t, it is called endometriosis.

This is a significant issue for women and can cause severe abdominal pains, bowel issues (constipation or diarrhea), bladder incontinence, and infertility. It can disrupt a woman’s life more than many people think but there are things women can do to reduce the symptoms.

Because endometriosis is an inflammatory disease, an anti-inflammatory diet may be able to help reduce the symptoms. Please do not read me incorrectly, I do not think an anti-inflammatory diet will cure endometriosis…I’m not that kind of “nutritionist”. But I think it could significantly make a woman’s quality of life much better and reduce the syptoms.

So what is an anti-inflammatory diet? It is a way of eating to reduce inflammation in the body…a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oils, nuts, seeds, fish, herbs, and spices. If you are wanting an anti-inflammatory meal plan please see your local dietitian who can discuss this with you personally and work with you to create a diet that will work for you.

Foods to incorporate into your diet:

  1. Fruits – fresh and frozen are the best. Get a variety and at least 2 servings daily. Just eating apples and bananas are good but you’ll be missing out on antioxidants found in tropical fruits, berries, melons, and pit fruits like peaches.
  2. Vegetables – similar to fruits, fresh and frozen are the best and getting many different colors will give your body tons of antioxidants. You need at least 3 daily but I’m a big fan of getting in as many as possible. Shoot for reds (tomatoes, bell peppers), greens (spinach, asparagus), yellows/oranges (butternut and summer squash), blues/purples (purple cabbage, eggplant), whites/tans (mushrooms, cabbage).
  3. Grains – because they are a plant food they also have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Along with those benefits these power foods also have protein and fiber! Instead of the processed grains like white flour (white bread) and white rice choose whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice. PS corn is a whole grain not a vegetable 🙂
  4. Oils, Nuts, and Seeds – these super important fats are needed in our bodies ESPECIALLY on an anti-inflammatory diet. Canola oil and walnut oil are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and are great to cook with. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory. This means that eating more foods that are higher in omega-3 fats will help your body with inflammation. Along with canola oil and walnuts (walnut oil), flax seeds, chia seeds, pecans, and wheat germ are also high in omega-3’s. Other oils, nuts, and seeds are beneficial as well for your heart health and overall well-being.
  5. Oily fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are packed with those anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Fit these in to your weekly meal plan or consider taking a quality tested fish oil supplement (check with your doctor before beginning any supplement). Canned salmon and tuna are very budget friendly ways to get in these fish. I prefer them on salads or sandwiches!
  6. Herbs and Spices – many herbs and spices are naturally anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is a heavy hitter in this department. This proven inflammation reducer has shown to be a big player in the anti-inflammatory world. Other herbs and spices have shown some benefit as well like ginger, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

So what would an anti-inflammatory diet for endometriosis look like? Here’s a glimpse with two examples:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with walnuts, chia seeds, and blueberries
  • Whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana

Lunch:

  • Salad with canned salmon and black beans
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread and carrot sticks

Dinner:

  • Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice
  • Baked mackerel, asparagus, red skinned potatoes

Snack:

  • Raisins and walnuts
  • Celery sticks and hummus

I recommend, for those that have endometriosis, to meet with a registered dietitian and go over your diet to see how you can make it more anti-inflammatory. Again, it will not cure the disease but if it can improve your symptoms and overall well-being then it is worth a shot! Some insurances may cover nutrition counseling for diseases like endometriosis so check with your health insurance company prior to your appointment.

To find a dietitian in your area check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert

*If you think you have endometriosis please see your gynecologist. For those that have endometriosis and decide to change your diet please let your gynecologist know*

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!

Healthy Kitchen Shortcuts

I have 3 kids, 4 and under. Don’t be alarmed, two of those are twins. My goal as a wife-mom-dietitian is to provide the best food I can for my family. That means making healthy, homemade meals in between diapers, spit up, and toddler problems.

Cooking dinner tonight I came up with this blog post. You can read about me in my bio section but I like to get as fresh and as local as possible. But let’s get real, sometimes we are looking for healthy AND quick. Taking shortcuts has been my go-to since having children.

Here are the 5 quick and healthy items I keep in my kitchen always:

  1. Minced garlic. Yep, I buy the garlic in the glass container and I LOVE IT! Almost everything I cook has garlic in it. Any time I need a clover or two I get in my refrigerator, grab a spoon and boom, it’s done! Fresh garlic is delicious but when I need a time saver (which is daily at this point) I go with it!
  2. Diced frozen onions. Similar to the garlic, I could grow my own onions, dice, and freeze them and someday I will. But right now I need diced onions without having onion juice all over my hands when the babies are screaming. Frozen diced onions it is! This only works if you’re cooking, if you are making a dish that isn’t cooked (summer salsa, salads, etc) then use fresh onions.
  3. Frozen veggies of all types. When I’m making vegetable soup in the winter I buy frozen. If I have any fresh then of course they go in the pot but frozen is so much better than fresh in the winter. All year long I keep frozen broccoli and cauliflower bulk bags in my freezer. Corn isn’t a veggie but that’s also a staple frozen food that we keep on hand.
  4. Lemon and lime juice concentrate. There’s nothing better than fresh lemons or limes but in a pinch, concentrate can be a recipe saver. You can use the concentrate in any recipe that calls for lemon or lime juice so it works well in fish and chicken dishes, salsa, sauces, and tea.
  5. Quick grains like quinoa, farro, and brown minute rice. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and farro (pronounced fare-oh) are whole grains packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients. All three of these power packed grains cook completely in about 15 minutes unlike regular brown rice or other grains that may take about an hour to cook. To flavor these up toast them in a dry pan first and then cook with vegetable or chicken broth or stock.

I’ve learned, after having twins, that sometimes shortcuts are A-OK and you have to be A-OK with the shortcuts. Cooking healthy doesn’t have to mean preparing a gourmet meal, using tons of ingredients or ingredients that you have to find at a specialty food store, or spending hours in the kitchen.

Final thoughts: We unfortunately do not live on a cooking show set where there are tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs/spices, and any ingredient we so desire. Sometimes we need shortcuts to make our lives easier especially when cooking for our family day in and day out. Use some shortcuts to make your life simpler!

Challenge – if you are overwhelmed with cooking and menu planning for your family, figure out which shortcuts would work best for you and run with it! Share your shortcuts with us!