5 Easy Diet Tips to Control Blood Sugars

Morning blood sugars, medicines, injectables, insulin. The worry, the appointments, the questions, the diet, the exercises. It is overwhelming! And what happens if they aren’t working…or not as well as they should be for the amount of thought and work you put in to make them better, normal?

Sure you may have cut back on your sugar intake. Maybe you’ve lowered your portion sizes, started eating more vegetables, stopped drinking soda, or even eat breakfast now…but these changes may not have had the impact you hoped.

Try these 5 things. If they work GREAT! But if not you need to talk to your doctor. You should talk to your doctor regardless. Bring them this list. Let them know what you are doing to try and control your numbers.

  1. Eat a bedtime snack. If this is the only tip you take away from this list it may be the difference between normal levels and high ones in the morning. Think protein and carbohydrate. Peanut butter and apple; cheese and whole wheat crackers; Greek yogurt; nuts and raisins; or turkey lunch meat and a slice of whole grain bread. Whatever! Just eat something!
  2. Balance your meals. I know you have heard that protein is important, and it is, but it’s not super important if you aren’t balancing your meals with carbohydrates, fat, and fiber! If all you have for lunch is chicken and your blood sugars before dinner are ridiculous…something is wrong! Balance that chicken out with beans and a salad! Think protein/meat, carbohydrate/grain/beans, and vegetable (not corn).
  3. Watch what you are drinking. Just because you may have stopped drinking soda doesn’t mean that everything else you drink isn’t loaded with it. Juice, iced tea, coffee with flavored creamer, and specialty coffee drinks can have just as much sugar as soda.
  4. Eat every 3-4 hours. Think about your body like a car. It needs to be refueled. By you eating consistently you’re helping your body and your blood sugar. Meals and snacks are super important! Make sure your snacks are nourishing and not just a candy bar out of the vending machine or some stale chips you have in your pantry!
  5. If you do have a meal that has more carbohydrates than your body needs, don’t feel guilty just do better! Every meal, every snack is an opportunity to improve! Take it! Don’t think about starting on Monday or the New Year…do it now!

Remember to keep taking your medicine/insulin, check your blood sugars, and take care of yourself!

Week 6 Meal Plan

Surprise! There’s actually no “real” meal plan per say  here. You know the drill, you know the deal. I want you to create your own! Sit down with a pen/paper or your computer and come up with your own meal plan for the week (or for next week).

Here are some things to keep in mind:

BREAKFAST:

  • Are you in a hurry or can you take your time?
    • In a hurry:
      • Grab and go things like string cheese and whole grains crackers, apple and string cheese, Kind bar, nuts and dried fruit
    • Take your time:
      • Breakfasts that take more time and can be enjoyed at a slower pace like oatmeal with nuts/fruit, eggs and whole grain toast
  • You always want these to be included:
    • Protein: cheese, peanut butter, nuts, cottage cheese, eggs, hard boiled eggs
    • Carbohydrate with fiber: fruit, whole grain bread, oatmeal, whole grain crackers

LUNCH:

  • Are you in a hurry or can you take your time?
    • In a hurry:
      • Pack a lunch that you can eat in your car, in a meeting, or eat without having to heat up: sandwich, salad, tuna salad/crackers/veggies
    • Take your time:
      • If you have more time to spare think of leftovers or soup
  • You always want these to be included in a balanced lunch:
    • Protein: chicken, fish, turkey, peanut butter, beans, cheese, eggs
    • Carbohydrate with fiber: whole grain bread, brown rice, corn, peas, beans, whole grain crackers, fruit
    • Non-starchy vegetable: lettuce, carrot sticks, celery, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower

DINNER:

  • Are you in a hurry or can you take your time?
    • In a hurry: there’s no shame in eating a sandwich or something quick for dinner!
    • Take your time: if you have more time to make a meal and sit down to eat it that is perfect!
  • You always want these to be included in your dinner:
    • Protein: chicken, fish, turkey, pork chop/loin, lean beef, beans, tofu, eggs
    • Carbohydrate with fiber: quinoa, brown rice, potato, sweet potato, corn, beans, peas
    • Non-starchy vegetable: salad, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower

SNACKS:

  • Should give your body nourishment, not just “fill you up”
  • Think whole foods instead of highly processed foods
  • Think lunch box instead of vending machine
  • Nuts, fruit, veggies, hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese

You CAN do this. You CAN and you WILL and you are ABLE.

Week 2 Tips

A balanced diet is getting enough (not too much/not too little) of the right food. It is so important to combine different types of foods together so that you feel satisfied.

PROTEIN: can be from an animal or plant. Keeps you feeling satisfied. For those struggling with blood sugars this can help with that.

  • Animal proteins: meats (chicken, fish, beef, pork, lamb, etc), eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
  • Plant proteins: nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, soy, quinoa

CARBOHYDRATES WITH FIBER: are plants that provide your body energy (carbohydrates) and fiber which helps with a healthy gut (bowel movements) and cholesterol/heart disease.

NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES: vegetables that do not have a lot of carbohydrates (or starches) but provide your body tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  1. Balanced breakfast – just drinking coffee isn’t enough!
    • Protein: egg, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter
    • Carbohydrates with fiber: whole grain bread, oats, fruit, quinoa
  2. Balanced lunch – don’t skip it!
    • Protein: animal meats, fish, legumes, eggs, cheese
    • Carbohydrates with fiber: whole grain bread, potato, whole grain pasta, fruit, whole grains
    • Non-starchy vegetable: salad, tomato, cucumber, carrots, broccoli
  3. Balanced dinner – you need more than just meat and potatoes
    • Protein: salmon, chicken, pork chop, fish, tofu, legumes
    • Carbohydrates with fiber: brown rice, quinoa, potato, sweet potato, corn (this is not a vegetable it is a whole grain!), whole grain pasta, other whole grains
    • Non-starchy vegetable: broccoli, asparagus, salad, cauliflower, carrots
  4. Balanced snacks
    • If you have blood sugar issues make sure to pair that protein and a carbohydrate with fiber. Examples include: apple and cheese; banana and peanut butter; Greek yogurt and fruit; nuts and dried fruit
    • If you do not have blood sugar issues check out my blog on healthy snacking!

Balancing your diet will help you feel satisfied and less likely to binge. Make sure you are eating enough…not too much, not too little, just enough.

Diabetes and the Holidays

As a dietitian I can appreciate how difficult the holidays can be for someone with diabetes. Year round is challenging for those that struggle with blood sugar control, but when you are surrounded by pie, cookies, candy, cakes, carbs, carbs, carbs the holidays can be down right scary.

I have a few tips for those with diabetes and pre-diabetes for this time of year and I hope it helps you get through with level blood sugars and feeling empowered!

  1. Remember it’s not just sugar that increases your glucose. Carbohydrates in any shape or form raise your blood sugars. That is not necessarily a bad thing but the amount is important! Sure the sweets make your glucose go up but so do potatoes, pasta, rice, sweetened beverages, crackers, chips, pretzels and many other foods. Watch your portions.
  2. One cookie may be fine but 3 cookies could make your sugars sky rocket. Know your body and know your limits.
  3. Test, test, test, test, test. Ignorance is not bliss. Know your blood sugars!
  4. Take your medicine/insulin. Again, testing is key but so is being compliant on your medications. If your body needs help controlling blood sugars and your doctor has prescribed you a medication to lower them…take the meds your body needs!
  5. Pair with protein. A meal of cookies, cake, crackers, pie, and fruit punch may land you a trip to the hospital. Lower your portion sizes, pick and choose the carbohydrates you really want to eat, and then pair those carbohydrates with protein. Things like cheese, meats, eggs, and Greek yogurt are great sources of protein.
  6. Don’t waste carbohydrates or calories. If you pick something to eat at a holiday party and it doesn’t taste good Do. Not. Waste. Carbohydrates! Politely throw it away and get something else that you would enjoy.
  7. Alcohol is not a carbohydrate. Contrary to popular belief beer, wine, and liquor will not bring your blood sugars up. Although there are “carbohydrates” on the label alcohol technically digests like a fat so it won’t send your glucose sky high. If you pair alcohol with a sugary beverage then count on the sugary beverage to increase your blood sugars.
  8. Eat regularly. Even if you are going to a big holiday party in the evening, eat a regular breakfast, lunch, and snacks to keep your blood sugars under control.
  9. HbA1c’s don’t lie. Even if your next doctors appointment isn’t until February the HbA1c blood test will tell your doctor an average blood sugar over the last 3 months. He or she will know if the holiday season was tough on your blood sugars! It’s like Santa…it sees you when you’re eating, it knows when you don’t take your medications, so for goodness sake be careful! 🙂
  10. Why do you care what your blood sugars are during the holidays? Because every time your glucose goes too high it impacts your body in a big way. It affects your eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves, and brain especially. Keeping it under control will not only make your doctor happy but it will also make your body happy.

If you need extra help this holiday season go to see your dietitian. Make an appointment to get a game plan for Christmas parties, cookie exchanges, family gatherings, and keeping blood sugars controlled in your every day life. Having trouble finding a dietitian? Check with your local hospital or Find An Expert.

Christmas Quinoa

In the mountains of Western Pennsylvania it gets cold. I mean, really cold. This past weekend was no exception. It was cold, blustery, snowy, and icy. Did I mention that the day before was sunny and 70? At any rate, it’s good weather (the cold stuff) to have the church Thanksgiving dinner because it gets you in the mood for the warmth and comfort Thanksgiving brings. It is one of my very favorite holidays where friends and family can gather, talk, eat a meal, and enjoy one another. The time spent with loved ones is a treasure to be held and cared for. Do me a favor, don’t talk politics or other controversial topics…just be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you.

At any rate, our church’s Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time of feasting, fun, and fellowship. Many bring a covered dish and the church provides turkey, ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This year I decided to bring quinoa salad. I have a few favorite quinoa recipes in my holster and this may be one of the best! It is fresh and light while bringing in some holiday flavors.

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Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a whole grain packed with nutrients. It is best known for having tons of protein and even more than that it is a complete protein meaning it has all of the amino acids (what makes up protein) that you need! Cool huh?! Besides protein, quinoa also contains fiber, iron, omega-3’s, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s fairly flavorless unless toasted which helps it to pair well with most food. Because it is gluten free, you can substitute quinoa for pasta, barley, bulgur, or farro in other dishes.

This ancient grain is one of my favorites to make and as a bonus, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Warm or cold quinoa can be eaten warm with a meal or as a cold salad. Like this recipe, it goes well with fruit or can be part of a tangy or savory side dish.

One of the most important steps to this dish is super simple but adds so much flavor. Toasting the quinoa. I was told by a seasoned chef that you can toast any grain to bring out a nutty, more flavorful version of that grain. There are a few things you should know about toasting any grain; first you need to warm the pan over medium high heat. After the pan is warm simply add the grain, in our case quinoa. The grain will warm up and start to smell nutty. Quinoa will let you know when it’s toasting by hearing “pops”. Simply let it pop for a minute and then add broth or water (see instructions on the back), turn the heat on high, and allow the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the quinoa cook and soak in all of the liquid which takes about 15-20 minutes.

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The rest of the recipe is chopping, mixing, and pouring. Easy peasy and tastes amazing!

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Christmas Quinoa (keen-wah)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red quinoa (if you can’t find red, white is fine)
  • 5 stalks celery chopped (cut up the leaves as well)
  • 8 green onions chopped (if you can’t find them use 1/2 red onion)
  • 1 cup parsley finely chopped (flat leaf or curly)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing (use this on everything…it’s sooo good!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons

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Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until the quinoa salad is ready. This marries all of the flavors together. Yum!
  2. Toast the quinoa. Place a large pan over medium high heat until the pan is warm (not hot). Place quinoa in warmed pan and wait until the quinoa starts popping. Stir continuously until the quinoa pops for a minute or it starts to smell nutty. Do not leave the quinoa during this point or you will burn it!
  3. Once the quinoa is popping and nutty add 4 cups of water, turn the heat to high, and allow the quinoa to boil. Once it starts boiling turn down the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa soaks up the water. (follow the package directions minus the toasting and letting the water boil before putting the quinoa into it)
  4. Let the quinoa cool for a few minutes and then place in a large bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss lightly until the dressing is distributed evenly.
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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NOTES:

  • This is definitely a good make ahead dish. You can make it ahead the day before and the flavors will marry and become irresistible!
  • You can make this salad with any number of grains including (but not limited to) brown rice, wild rice, barley, bulgur, wheat berries, and farro.
  • Nut allergy? Not to worry! Try sunflower seeds or shelled pumpkin seeds instead for an added crunch.
  • Like a little more dressing? Just double the batch and save excess for salads later on!

FOOD ALERTS: Contains nuts. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free.

Try it. Let me know how you like it or if you did something to make it your own!

Souper Easy Wellness Soup

Lame title, I know but it truly is super easy!

It’s fall and where I live, the leaves are gorgeous! Vivid colors that pop out of the green landscape and the cool weather that makes you want to eat warm soup. Here’s a picture taken on a walk last week. Simply beautiful.

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Listen, eating well and homemade cooking does not have to be hard, time consuming, or tasteless. That’s the theme of this blog. I want to show you how to eat well, simply; without having to buy rare ingredients at a specialty store, recipes that take minutes, and taste delicious! This recipe is what I call a “dump” recipe. I dump all of the ingredients into the pot with very little prep time. Easy peasy!

I have spun this soup recipe many ways but I must admit this one may be my favorite. It’s vegan which means it is entirely animal product free! I wanted to do it in October because you could also call this anti-cancer soup or anti-inflammatory soup but wellness soup fits more peoples wants/needs.

You cannot get too many veggies. If I’m missing a vegetable that you usually use in a soup or stew, add it. If there are leftover veggies in your freezer or refrigerator and you want to use them, throw those kids into the pool! Same thing with herbs and spices…use what you have and what you think will taste good together. You can’t go wrong with veggie soup, add what moves you!

To quote my dear friend and fellow dietitian Heather Tressler “Baking is a science, cooking is an art” meaning that when you bake something you probably should follow the recipe or it may not turn out well. Cooking however, is an art meaning that it is up to interpretation. Add, subtract, make it your own piece of art!

Let’s get down to it because I know you want the recipe!

Amanda’s Wellness Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (or more up to you)
  • 1 medium chopped onion (shortcut: use frozen chopped onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you want to really spice it up)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (surprise ingredient)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 32 oz frozen soup vegetables (microwave for 5 minutes in a glass bowl)
  • 7 oz frozen corn
  • 10 oz shredded cabbage (you can shred yourself (about 3 cups) or use already shredded
  • 7 oz can of mushrooms (or any type of mushroom you like)
  • 5 oz frozen chopped kale
  • 1, 32 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat, pour canola oil in and follow it up with garlic and onion. Allow the onion to cook until for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar and allow the vinegar to cook down slightly (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add bay leaves, basil, oregano, lentils, and quinoa. The pan will be fairly dry but that is ok! Allow the lentils and quinoa to toast for about 1 minute before pouring the veggie broth.
  4. Place the soup veggies, corn, cabbage, mushrooms, kale and diced tomatoes into the pot.
  5. Allow soup to cook down (I had mine in the pot all day on low/simmer) or put in a crock pot on low all day.
  6. It’s ready to go right after all of the veggies warm up but I like to let the flavors marry for a few hours.

5 Quick Nutrition Lessons (from this recipe)

  1. Frozen veggies are just as awesome as fresh. In fact when vegetables are not local/seasonal then frozen is actually better than fresh. After veggies are picked they begin losing antioxidants within hours. Frozen vegetables are picked and flash frozen soon after harvesting which saves those amazing antioxidants. So this winter go for frozen vegetables!
  2. Turmeric is amazing (as you notice I have it in almost all of my recipes). It doesn’t work as well by itself so you need to make sure that you are pairing it with black pepper, garlic, and/or ginger for the anti-inflammatory properties to come alive. It’s also not as effective in supplement form. Cook with it! Enjoy that subtle smoky flavor in most of your cooking!
  3. Herbs and spices help improve the flavor of food without having to add a ton of salt. I do add some salt (not a lot by most standards) and let people shake it on if they prefer. We use way too much salt as a society so sometimes it takes a while to get used to the flavor without a ton of it in our food. If you (or someone you cook for) has high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, and some other diseases you may have to cut back. Reduce the salt and increase those delicious herbs and spices!
  4. Lentils, quinoa, peas, and corn are used as protein in this dish. You don’t need meat in order to eat protein…at all. All of these are actually less expensive than meat but more nutrient rich. So eating well doesn’t have to cost more, especially when you use these plant sources as protein. This soup is a meal in itself…protein, starches/carbohydrates, and vegetables all wrapped up into one delicious dish!
  5. This is a great soup for cold and flu season as well. It has been shown that garlic and onions are natural antibacterial and antiviral foods. They can help your body fight off these nasty viruses and bacteria! Remember when mom made chicken soup for a cold? There’s something to be said about that especially if she used garlic and onion. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C which is a building block for your immune system and cayenne pepper has also been shown to ward off illness.

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Basically you cannot go wrong with this soup! From chronic disease prevention to common colds this soup has you covered!

I had leftovers that I wasn’t able to eat so there will be delicious leftovers in a few week!

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I’d like to hear from you! What would you add to this soup to make it even more healthy and delicious?

 

Layered Taco Dip

Football season has officially begun. That means baseball playoff time is about to start and hockey season is on its way. My husband and I enjoy fun game-day food and this 6+ layered taco dip is no exception. Don’t get scared it seems like a lot of ingredients when it’s 6 layers but believe me, it takes about 15 minutes to throw together. The layers are super easy and packed with tons of nutrients like heart healthy fats, protein, fiber, calcium, and a whole lot of vitamins.

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Here’s the deal, not everything that is low in calories is healthy and not everything that is higher in calories is unhealthy. Calories are not the measure of health. This recipe does not use fat free anything except the salsa, tomatoes, and lettuce that are naturally fat free. 🙂 The recipe uses real ingredients that provide your body essential nutrients it needs to improve your health.

I first took the cream cheese out of the frig and let it warm up a bit just so it was easier to incorporate into the Greek yogurt and taco seasoning. I added a touch of sour cream but you certainly don’t have to because the Greek yogurt does the job. Mixing in the taco seasoning, I whipped all of those ingredients together.

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The vegetarian refried beans went down into the dish first. It is a nice firm base and one of those power houses to this dish with tons of fiber and protein. I chose vegetarian because it has no saturated fat.

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The Greek yogurt mixture went on top of the beans. Salsa came next and is packed with lycopene, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals. You can certainly use homemade salsa but I used canned for this recipe. Shredded romaine lettuce is one of the stars of the show and I put this on top of the salsa. It’s crunchy with a bold color, mild flavor, and a great source of vitamin A. Next came shredded cheddar cheese. If you wanted to lower the saturated fat in the recipe you can certainly leave it out. I personally don’t think it added much to the dish except a fun yellow color and a little bit of protein. After the cheese you can use your imagination. I used tomatoes, minced black olives, and avocado. You’ll see in the picture that half of it had all three and the other half didn’t have tomatoes or olives. My taste vs my husbands.

This is a fun dish that you can get creative with. If you wanted to go vegan you could omit the Greek yogurt and cream cheese and just use silken tofu with the taco seasoning likewise omitting the cheddar cheese and use dairy alternatives. If you wanted to add more veggies consider adding scallions, peppers, shredded carrots, or shredded zucchini. Go wild! Instead of refried beans you could do crushed black beans or hummus. Make as many layers as you want and try your own layered dip!

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Layered Taco Dip
Ingredients:
1, 16 oz can vegetarian refried beans
8 oz package of 1/3 fat cream cheese (neufchatel)
5 oz container of 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 packet of taco seasoning (without trans fats)
1/3 cup sour cream
8 oz jarred salsa (you can also use pico de gallo or  homemade salsa)
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tomato or 2-3 small tomatoes diced
2-3 tablespoons black olives (I used minced but use whatever you like)
1/2 diced avocado (if you are keeping this dip out all day mix the diced avocado with lime juice

Directions:
1. Spread refried beans on the bottom of a square or rectangle glass dish.
2. Mix cream cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, and taco seasoning in a medium bowl and spread over refried beans.
3. Place salsa over the yogurt mixture and sprinkle lettuce over the salsa.
4. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over the lettuce.
5. Add the toppings.

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Serve immediately with flour, corn, whole grain, or your choice of tortilla chips. You can also keep this refrigerated until service. Remember to keep it on ice during your party!

This recipe is gluten free (check taco seasoning), nut free, egg free

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!

Spinach, Kale, and Artichoke Dip

I’m a sucker for warm dips. From buffalo chicken, to crab, and spinach artichoke dip. There’s nothing better to eat on a brisk football Saturday or Sunday than a savory warm dip! I watch the Food Network a lot…by a lot I mean some of the cooks/chefs are no longer guests in my house but members of the family (Guy, I’m talking about you!). I’m inspired by their passion for food and cooking as well as their funny personalities. Lately I have been watching Nancy Fuller who has a show called “Farm House Rules”. Many of her dishes are high fat, calorie, salt, sugar, etc but the reason I like her is the love she puts into her food. The other day she was making spinach dip and it inspired me. I wanted to make a rendition of warm spinach and artichoke dip that is packed with nutrients, has a little less calories, and a little less fat but still tastes amazing!

When I’m creating recipes I take ideas from many different sources. Whether it is just general knowledge of food science and nutrition or it is various recipes that I have read I tend to tie all of that together and viola, a new recipe. I sent my husband to the store for these ingredients and let him run wild on the brands. I don’t usually have a specific brand that I’m attached to because I’m a budget shopper and try to select the least expensive yet healthiest option.

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Missing from the photo is chopped frozen kale.

In any rate I heated a medium pot over medium-high heat, added oil, garlic, and onions. I sauteed these until the unions were soft and began literally throwing in the other ingredients. It was pretty simple and took me about 10 minutes overall. I made it in a pot but you could also make it in a slow cooker for game day and keep in on warm the entire day stirring it once in a while. Notice my shortcut garlic and short cut onions. Those are staples in my house (check out my blog on kitchen short cuts).

Nutrition Lesson: Unlike a typical spinach artichoke dip I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, 1/3 less fat cream cheese (neufchatel cheese…an actual French cheese), and part skim mozzarella cheese. I do not like fat free options unless it’s yogurt or milk. Especially when something should have fat (sour cream is literally cream [fat] that has been soured) it probably needs that fat to be that product…follow me? All cheese needs fat to keep it together including cream cheese. If you completely take out an essential ingredient like fat you have to add other things to it. There’s way too many food additives in what we eat so my tip is either use an alternative ingredient (like Greek yogurt) or use the real deal and just eat less.

Back to the recipe. I enjoyed playing with this recipe. It was the first time I’ve made it and it turned out pretty good! The only changes I would make would be to add even more veggies including artichokes (probably 1 1/2-2 cans), cooked cauliflower, shredded carrots, and shredded zucchini. I think they would be fantastic additions to this and boost those antioxidants!

Spinach, Kale, and Artichoke Dip
Ingredients:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup diced onion (add more if you like)
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
16 oz plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1, 14 oz can artichoke hearts in brine, chopped (save the brine)
8 oz chopped frozen kale (defrosted and drained)
10 oz chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and drained)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Directions:
Heat canola oil over medium high heat in pot. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and diced onion. Saute until onion is tender. Lower heat to medium – low heat and add cream cheese, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Add chopped artichoke hearts and the brine and mix. Place kale and spinach in the cheese mixture and mix. Sprinkle nutmeg, pepper, and salt and mix. Allow dip to cook until ingredients marry (about 5 minutes). Place in serving dish, slow cooker, or keep warm on the stove until service.

NOTE: this is definitely a make ahead dip! Make it ahead and keep refrigerated until the party. Take it out and place into a small slow cooker. Serve with whole grain tortilla chips (corn, wheat, mix of grains). Nutmeg may seem weird but it adds another dimension of flavor!

Dietary restrictions: this recipe is gluten free (get GF tortilla chips), vegetarian, nut free, and soy free

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Final thoughts: Eating healthy doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or fun. This recipe isn’t the lowest in calories but it is better than the original and also provides some nutrients through the veggies, probiotics with the yogurt, and and protein with the cheese. Enjoy!

Challenge: even if you don’t make “healthier” versions of your game-day favorites, just simply eating smaller portions. This will help your overall health!