Week 4 Challenge: Eat more plants

Eating more plants really isn’t about going vegetarian or vegan. Eating more plants is about much more than weight management too. Sure, non-starchy veggies are super low in calories and fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, and nuts have so much fiber to keep you full they all help with weight management but it doesn’t stop there.

Here’s what research tells us about eating more plants:

  1. Reduce your risk of heart disease
  2. Reduce your risk of ALL TYPES of cancer
  3. Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  4. Reduce your cholesterol
  5. Reduce your blood pressure
  6. Reduce your weight
  7. Reduce your blood sugars
  8. Improve your gut bacteria
  9. Help you to move your bowels

For the record, I’m talking about whole plant foods not processed plant-like substances.

Here’s a list of plant based foods that you could start incorporating into your diet:

  • Fruits
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now that would be your tropical fruits: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, mandarins, pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas
    • Frozen: shoot for ones without added sugar – these are great for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits
    • Dried: raisins are the best because they do not have any added sugars; cranberries do have added sugar (you wouldn’t eat them otherwise); watch out for the word “chips” which could mean they are deep fried
    • Canned: unsweetened applesauce and other canned fruits in light syrup (which means they are canned in the fruit juice without added sugar) are a good source of vitamins but not a lot of fiber. The words “no sugar added” usually means there is artificial sweeteners used.
  • Non-starchy vegetables
    • Fresh: go seasonal – right now where I’m at, this is tough because the only thing “in season” is what was harvested in the late fall and can stay fresh in a cool dry place. Other times during the year go for whats growing in your garden or at the local farmers market.
    • Frozen: this is best in the winter as these veggies were picked in season and then frozen keeping their nutrients in tact! Plus they tend to be less expensive in the winter than fresh.
    • Canned: although these have less fiber than fresh or frozen they are a less expensive alternative and still provides your body with nutrients. Get the ones without the added salt and season yourself.
  • Starchy vegetables
    • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, and winter squashes are all considered starchy. These guys make a great source of carbohydrates for energy and are SO full of nutrients!
  • Beans
    • Black, pinto, lima, soy (edamame), kidney, cannellini, etc. These gems are packed with protein, fiber, and tons of nutrients! I love black beans on my salad for some carbohydrates (energy) too.
  • Peas
    • Snow peas, green peas, black eyed peas, chick peas (garbanzo beans – they are actually peas not beans). Similarly to beans, peas are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients!
  • Lentils
    • The forgotten legume, lentils are easy to cook, go well in almost any soup, stew, or salad and pack a protein, fiber, nutrient punch to any dish they are in!
  • Nuts
    • In order of awesomeness: walnuts, pecans, the rest. All nuts are great but walnuts and pecans have more omega-3 fatty acids (the ones that are really good for your heart). I like to mix them up so that I can gain the benefits of as many as possible. I’m the one who buys the mixed nuts container at the grocery store.
  • Seeds
    • We tend to think of seeds as sunflower and pumpkin but there’s a whole array of seeds that are super beneficial as well. Chia, flax, hemp, and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. All but the sesame seeds need refrigerated. FLAX SEEDS MUST BE GROUND IN ORDER TO GET THE BENEFIT. I add chia and flax to oatmeal and smoothies almost daily. Chia can be put into tea and drank as well.
  • Whole grains
    • Whole grains aren’t “bad for you”. Ugh when I hear that I want to cry tears of grains. Wheat isn’t bad for you either unless you have Celiac disease. Now that we have that out of the way whole grains are a wonderful addition to get in daily. Bleached, no fiber, processed grains are less than nutritionally dense but that doesn’t mean they are “bad” (again changing mindsets about food). Just don’t eat them often. I’m really talking about the true WHOLE grain.
    • My top 10 favorite whole grains to use/cook with are: oats, barley, wheat berries, brown rice, farro, quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, black rice, and corn. If there are some in this list that are unfamiliar to you, check out your local grocery store to see if you can find them and give them a try! Keep checking the blog for more recipes that I’ll be featuring wheat berries, farro, and black rice. Curious about quinoa? Check out this recipe.

Plants are awesome. Plants are an important part of a healthy diet. Plants are a critical piece to the weight management journey. Eat more plants!

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!

Having a Gluten Free Holiday

Celiac disease is no joke. It’s an autoimmune condition that affects how your body reacts to gluten which is found in some grains. It can be a tough diet because many food products are made with a gluten containing grain or has gluten as an ingredient. I cannot overstate this…CELIAC DISEASE IS NOT A DIET FAD. Gluten free diets, because some individuals believe it is better for you, have been a fad for a few years now but I promise having Celiac disease is not the same. In fact if a person with Celiac disease eats gluten it can be detrimental to their health to the point of severe vitamin and mineral deficiency and even cancer. This is not to scare you but to shine light on how serious it is for people with this disease to remain gluten free for the rest of their lives.

This brings a whole new challenge when the holidays come around…or any time other people are making food and bringing it to share. Those with Celiac know exactly what I’m talking about and those of you who don’t have the disease, this is a good learning point because you may know someone who has it. You see, Celiac Sprue (as it’s formally called) is a serious condition that impacts the small intestine whenever someone with the disease eats gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some whole grains (like wheat, farro, rye, barley) that causes a severe reaction in people with Celiac. Gluten damages the small intestines which makes it unable to do its job; that is, absorb vitamins and minerals.

So what do you do, especially around the holidays, if you have Celiac disease or are cooking for someone who has it? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve been giving gluten free diet recommendation for many years and I’ve also asked the experts…those who have this disease and are able to give real life advice. Here’s what we have to say:

  1. Let people who are planning a party know that you do have Celiac disease. Many individuals want to accommodate guests as much as possible.
  2. Bring a dish that is gluten free and label it as such. Also bring a special utensil that is labeled. Let the host know how important it is that this dish not be combined with anything else and the utensil not to be used for anything else. Need dish ideas? Check out my Christmas Quinoa SaladLayered Taco Dip, and Spinach Kale and Artichoke Dip
  3. If you are the host, have color coded utensils or signs indicating if a food is gluten free. Let your guests know to look out for that and make sure they do not use utensils from other dishes.
  4. Cross contamination is a big deal. This means that gluten has been passed to a gluten free food by using the same knife, cutting board, unwashed hands or utensils. For instance: the host was slicing bread and then used the same knife and cutting board to slice cheese before washing. Gluten is now on the cheese. The person with Celiac thinks they’ve eaten gluten free and later that evening they become ill. Cheese was the culprit and they would have never guessed.
  5. If you have Celiac, don’t go to the party on an empty stomach just in case. Bring gluten free snacks with you as well.

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Celiac disease does not have to ruin your holiday fun and hosting someone with Celiac does not have to ruin your menu. Here are 10 naturally gluten free foods you can serve this holiday season!

  1. Fruits
  2. Veggies
  3. Cheese
  4. Nuts
  5. Potatoes (mashed and sweet)
  6. Corn and rice are naturally gluten free
  7. Meats (as long as they are not stuffed with bread stuffing)
  8. Gravy can be gluten free as long as cornstarch is used instead of flour
  9. Green bean casserole (made with gluten free mushroom soup)
  10. Gluten free stuffing (either a box [check the label] or homemade from GF bread)

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Baking or planning on indulging in some delicious cookies but don’t know where to find them? My good friend Jaemie has some tips and tricks she would like to share:

  1. Gluten free baking requires patience and practice. Baking with gluten free flour is not the same as baking with all purpose (wheat flour). Gluten gives baked goods (and things like bread, pizza dough, and pie crust) elasticity and chewiness. When you take that out it is very hard to replicate and replace!
  2. Jaemie recommends Krusteaz Gluten Free All Purpose flour because of it’s neutral taste and having similar texture to regular all purpose flour. Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix is a great substitute flour for baked goods like cookies because of its nutty flavor (uses almond so be careful if you have a nut allergy).
  3. If you’re not a baker but you love cookies Jaemie suggests: Mi-Del’s GF Candy Cane Cremes and Gingerbread Men, Goodie Girl Mint Slims, Trader Joes GF Candy Cane Joe Joes, and GF Cookie Tray from Cheryl’s Cookies.

Here are two GF cookie recipes to try this holiday season!

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Drop Sugar Cookies

Feel empowered to continue leading a normal life filled with holiday parties, delicious treats, and normal food all the while treating your body with the care it deserves. Have a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

If you or someone you love has Celiac and need more information check out: The Celiac Support Association, National Institutes of Health, Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Anticancer Eating

For many years I practiced oncology nutrition (nutrition for people with cancer). To say that it was one of my most rewarding jobs would be an understatement. I loved meeting new people but more than that I loved meeting people who had the strength of titanium and hearts of gold.

I became interested in cancer prevention during that time. What could I do to help people prevent cancer from coming back and what could I do to help people never have to go through this terrible disease at all? As I began researching there were tons of research articles on diet and cancer prevention. After digging deeper, going to conferences, and reading evidence based books written by dietitians and medical doctors, I discovered that diet has a lot to do with cancer prevention…a whole lot!

In fact, a lot of lifestyle choices have to do with preventing cancer whether it is a recurrence or preventing it all together. What you eat, being active, lowering your stress, and having a healthy mindset are pillars to your well-being and help to reduce your cancer risk.

Here are the top 10 diet changes you can make to reduce your risk of cancer:

  1. Eat more plants: I mean, a lot more than you probably do right now. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends your diet should be at least 2/3 plants. Plant foods include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, wild rice, corn, whole wheat, barley), nuts, seeds, oils, herbs, and spices.
  2. Eat a lot less animal products: that includes meats, cheeses, butter, creams…anything that comes from an animal. I didn’t say avoid them because there are some benefits to eating a moderate amount of animal products (some of which include essential vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from plants). Our society just eats way too much!
  3. Focus on getting colors from your diet: and I don’t mean from m&m’s and skittles…for real. Eating a variety of colors from plant foods, gives your body a variety of antioxidants. Antioxidants can protect your cells from the nasty changes that form cancer cells.
    • Red – tomato, watermelon, red bell pepper, red apple, sweet potato
    • Orange – Oranges, pumpkin, cantaloupe, orange bell peppers
    • Yellow – lemons, summer squash, yellow bell pepper, yellow tomatoes
    • Green – broccoli, green beans, limes, green apples, lettuces
    • Blue/purple – blueberries, purple cabbage, egg plant, purple onion, grapes
    • White/tan – banana (you don’t eat the yellow skin), mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  4. Do what you can to avoid processed animal meat. Processed meats have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding different preservatives. Deli meats, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and smoked sausage are all examples of meats that have been processed.
  5. Drink less alcohol. Men that means 2 drinks daily and women that means one drink daily (12 oz beer, 1 oz shot, 5 oz wine). Alcohol increases the risk of many cancers including breast, colon, liver, and mouth. If you don’t drink, don’t start. The cancer risk far outweighs the heart healthy protection of red wine. There are other things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
  6. Lose weight the healthy way. Being obese increases your risk for cancer. This doesn’t mean to start losing weight in an unhealthy way. Reduce portion sizes, be smart about food choices, eat a balanced diet, and discuss your goals with a registered dietitian.
  7. Eat more fat. But not just any fat, omega-3 fats. These fantastic foods help to reduce inflammation in your body which can help decrease your risk for cancer. Fit in more walnuts, pecans, canola oil, flax seed, chia seed, salmon, and tuna to get those wonderful omega-3’s!
  8. Drink tea. Green and white tea have a phytonutrient called EGCG. This powerful antioxidant has shown to be a super cancer fighter. Using tea bags instead of buying it pre-made in the store is much more effective. A splash of lemon or lime in your tea will increase the effectiveness of EGCG!
  9. Fermented foods. Yep, you read that right! Fermented foods have amazing bacteria that our bodies need in order to keep a good balance in our gut which may help to protect our body from cancer cells. Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefer, sourdough bread (the real stuff), yogurt, kimchi, and tempeh are all great sources of those friendly bacteria.
  10. Incorporate herbs and spices. Especially ones like turmeric, rosemary, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. These have been shown to protect cells against cancer. Try to incorporate them in your typical diet to flavor your food and added protection.

Cancer prevention is so important. Each one of you reading this have been impacted by this terrible disease. Maybe it was you who was diagnosed. Perhaps a parent or sibling. Maybe a grandparent or extended family or a close friend. Regardless, we are fighting a war against cancer. Diet change is the military that can help protect our body from an infiltration of enemy cancer cells.

I’m so deeply passionate about eating for an anticancer lifestyle because I’ve seen cancer at its worst. I have seen it take the strong and make them weak. I’ve watched as it stripped away peoples sense of self. I sat with an individual who used to love to eat and cook not be able to even look at or smell food. I’ve held the hand of people who cried because they never thought it would have been them. But you know what? I’ve seen people rise victorious from cancer. I talked with survivors who can now appreciate the small things in life. I have laughed with survivors who look forward to a brand new life with a brand new outlook. I have eaten with survivors who taste food with so much appreciation. I have been thanked by survivors who said my simple diet tips had made them look at diet as an expedition with others not a journey alone.

Let’s do this together. Let’s change our eating habits together to help fight this terrible disease. Who is with me?!?!

Stay tuned, later this month, for an anticancer eating plan and more tips on making your diet powerful in the fight against cancer!

For more information on anticancer eating check out the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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*

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.

Simply Salad Dressings

Salads…mmm. I love salads. They definitely falls into my favorite foods category. I enjoy any kind of salad too – lettuce, vegetable, pasta, potato, fruit, bean…really, any! I think it’s the flavor combinations that I like. There’s nothing more delicious than a good salad dressing that brings out the best tasting salads. Not just any salad dressing but a good homemade

Sure, I have some store bought salad dressings in my refrigerator for parties and a good ranch dressing is a staple in my refrigerator to mix with buffalo sauce! My every day salad dressings are homemade. I like them better than any store brand plus it’s simple whole ingredients. Similarly to my mother, I don’t really have a salad dressing recipe but I’ll let you in on the delicious secret: as long as you have the basics, you can make a delicious homemade dressing yourself.

Here’s what you need:

  • Acid:
    • Vinegar – balsamic, red wine, white wine, even a simple apple cider vinegar works well!
    • Lemon/lime – fruitier salads pare well with lemons and limes.
  • Oil:
    • Canola: tons of omega-3 fatty acids
    • Olive: great source of mono-unsaturated heart-healthy fats
    • Other oils: grape seed, avocado, nut oils (walnut, almond)
  • Herbs:
    • My favorites: chives, parsley, basil
    • Others to try: cilantro, thyme, sage, rosemary, mint
  • Spices:
    • My favorites: turmeric, black pepper, paprika, celery seed, garlic
    • Others to try: coriander, cayenne pepper, chili powder, oregano, poppy seed
  • Salt:
    • Types: kosher, iodized, sea salt, pink hymalain
    • Salt substitutes: check with your doctor first but these go well in salad dressings
  • Sweet:
    • My favorites: honey and sugar
    • Other alternatives: agave, stevia, maple syrup
  • Others:
    • Dijon mustard makes an appearance in 90% of my homemade salad dressings
    • Mayonnaise is a great emulsifier and is a source of healthy fats
    • Spice/seasoning mixes: Mrs. Dash, Italian dressing seasonings, McCormick’s Salad Supreme. I may use any number of these depending on the salad and my taste mood at the time.
    • Fruit. You can make a great strawberry, pomegranate, blueberry, peach, or plum vinaigrette dressing just by simmering the vinegar with the fruits to get out the flavor.

Mix any of the above combinations based on your flavor profile.

Here is one of my favorite vinaigrette to make.

Amanda’s Herbed Vinaigrette

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 + cup canola oil (I pour in a little over 1/3 cup and you could also use olive oil)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/8 cup fresh chives
2 teaspoons honey (more if you want to balance out the acidity…I like mine more acidic)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced onion (fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon oregano (I use dried)
1 teaspoons minced garlic (shortcut)
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if you have high blood pressure, CHF, or are sensitive to salt)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pour vinegar and oil into a salad dressing carafe (a mason jar with a lid would work). Place all herbs and spices in jar and shake. Let set for at least 1 hour to allow the herbs and spices to marry into the vinegar and oil.

Notes: you can also use white balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar for this recipe.

Pour over your favorite vegetable salad and enjoy!

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OTHER IDEAS:

  • Feta vinaigrette: red wine vinegar, olive oil, feta cheese, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper – goes great with a Greek quinoa salad or your favorite Greek tossed salad
  • Strawberry poppy seed vinaigrette: diced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, poppy seed, honey, salt, and pepper – pairs well with a strawberry spinach salad

Final thoughts: It is important to have fat in your diet. If you are choosing store bought dressing (which is totally fine I have an array in my frig) make sure you select ones that do have fat. Fat free salad dressings tend to have a lot of sugar and other additives. Purchase regular salad dressings and just eat less!

Challenge: have fun with dressings! Make those fruits and veggies pop with excitement and flavor!