There are a lot of benefits to choosing meatless meals. Not only are meatless meals typically cheaper and better for the environment; they're also lower in unhealthy fats and cholesterol.
Lentils are one of my favorite meat replacements. They are a great source of protein and fiber. They easily take on flavor and pair easily with a lot of different foods. I always keep some stocked in my kitchen for last minute dinners.
Last week I was in the mood for Mexican, but was out of refried beans. So I decided to try substituting the protein portion of the taco with lentils. It turned out great!
I used soft corn tortilla shells, and then topped the lentils with salsa, sliced avocado, and a little bit of shredded cheese. If you're a fan of sour cream on your tacos, plain non-fat Greek yogurt makes a great healthy substitute.
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup dry lentils
2 cups water
In a large, high rimmed skillet, sauté garlic and onions until fragrant. Add lentils and water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed.
Scoop roughly 1/4 cup cooked lentils into each taco shell, then top with your favorite toppings.
Today I ate a donut.
I didn't "earn" it. I didn't burn if off later. I didn't skip a meal. I didn't eat less the rest of the day. I didn't feel guilty about it. I didn't feel like a failure. The donut did not define my day.
Today I ate a donut, and that's ok.
I ate a donut because I wanted to eat a donut. I ate a donut because I really enjoy donuts, and this was my favorite kind of all.
As I was scrolling through Instagram tonight I saw that a lot of people ate a donut today. I also saw a lot of people that wanted to eat a donut, but didn't. I saw a lot of people that felt they couldn't eat a donut because it wasn't a "cheat" day. Or they didn't want their workout to be "pointless". I saw people who ate donuts with questionable "fat burning" supplements. I even saw people shaming those who did eat donuts.
If you ate a donut today, that's ok. If you didn't eat a donut today because you didn't want to eat a donut, that's ok too. But if you wanted to eat a donut today and didn't because of something similar to the above reasoning, that's not ok. That's something to talk about.
Healthy living is based on a healthy mindset. Feelings of guilt, failure, fear; letting one food define your day - those are not aspects of a healthy mindset. The power we give food as a society can make it feel overwhelming, but food is just food. The first step to healing your relationship with food is recognizing that.
This week I received the following articles emailed to my inbox from various groups that somehow have my email: "5 Weight Loss Hacks That Can Backfire" "How to Cut Calories From Your Sandwich" "The Problem with Undereating." Ah yes, I thought, summer is upon us.
It's that time of year when people start to worry about getting "beach body" ready. There's a lot of information out there about what you should or shouldn't do to get ready for the summer months, so I thought I'd share my top 5 musts to get your body summer ready.
1. Water. Dehydration can sneak up on you quickly in the heat, especially if you're being physically active. So make sure you have a water bottle with you when you're spending time outdoors, and drink from it often. By the time you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated.
If you like to exercise outside do it during the cooler parts of the day (morning and evening). Try and stay out of the sun as much as possible during the heat of the day, especially on those record breaking days. Heat stroke kills many people every year (over 7400 people died from heat-related illness between 1999 and 2010 in the U.S.) so be aware of when you and your loved ones may be better off inside.
2. Snacks. When you're out at the beach or the park all day it's easy to forget to eat. Sometimes heat can suppress appetite so you don't even realize you're hungry until you're famished. When you skip a meal or go too long without eating you're more likely to over eat once you have food in front of you. That's why I think it's a good idea to always have some kind of snack in your bag. It can be as simple as an apple or small bag of granola. Just something non-perishable that will give your blood sugar a quick boost.
3. Sunscreen. I love being outdoors, especially in the summer. But if you're not careful you can pay a price for all that fun in the sun. Skin cancer rates are on the rise, every year in the U.S. more than 3.3 million people are treated for skin cancer. Invest in a good sunscreen with broad spectrum protection and reapply often! If you need help deciding on a sunscreen, you can get the facts here.
4. Hand Sanitizer. Germs are a year round thing and nobody wants a cold in the summer. Always make sure your hands are clean before touching your face.
5. Meat Thermometer. Summer is the time for grilling out, but before you serve up that delicious feast do a quick temperature check on your meat to make sure it's cooked all the way through. After all, you want to spend the summer out having fun, not stuck at home (or in the hospital) with food poisoning.
Whenever I have broccoli in my produce door my thoughts always go to the cheesy rice and broccoli dish my Mom made when I was a kid. There's just nothing more comforting than cheesy goodness, in my opinion.
One of my favorite tricks for creamy cheesy casseroles is to add low fat Greek yogurt. Not only does it add creaminess while letting me decrease the amount of cheese in the recipe, it also keeps the saturated fat of the dish in check, and bumps up the protein content.
So this week, with a head of broccoli in my fridge and a goal of making a protein packed comfort food, I started cooking with that cheesy rice and broccoli dish as my inspiration.
If you split this casserole among four people you'll get about 265 calories per serving and almost 20 grams of protein. Each serving has about 35 g of carbohydrates (so a little over 2 carb choices).
Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cooked chicken breasts (about 3.5 ounces each), shredded
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 cups brown rice, cooked
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease casserole dish (I used a 3qt one, 7" x 11" would also work, or 8" x 10" for a thicker casserole).
Mix all the ingredients except the cheese together. Add in about 1/2 of the cheese (1/3 to 1/2 cup) and mix. Spoon mixture into casserole dish. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
About a week ago I made Kraft mac & cheese for lunch. It was really more of a casserole because I threw in a can of tuna and some green beans and then topped it with bread crumbs just to be fancy. Then yesterday I had birthday cake (with fudge frosting!) for breakfast.
On neither of those days did I restrict myself for the rest of the day or eat differently. I didn't go to the gym to "burn off" either meal. They weren't "cheat" meals or days. They didn't nutritionally ruin my day or week or life.
I tell you this not because I feel the need to confess my "sins" but to show you, through example, that healthy eating is about what you do the majority of the time.
If you usually eat whole grains, get lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, stick with lean proteins, get a few servings of dairy each day, and limit your salt and added sugar intake then a Memorial Day BBQ is nothing to stress about. Neither is a donut, or a corn dog, or birthday cake for breakfast.
Living healthy is about more than just eating healthy. It's also about being active every day, reducing your stress, and being happy. How happy and stress free are you when you're worrying about that cupcake you just ate? Not very.
When we focus on living a healthy lifestyle we're focusing on big picture, not every little detail. There's always going to be BBQs and donuts and birthday cake that pop up in your weeks. If you want them, have them! I'll let you in on a little secret, once you tell yourself it's ok to eat those things, and allow yourself to do so, the intense desire for them starts to go away. When it's just food and no longer forbidden treasure it just seems a little less exciting.
May is National Osteoporosis Month. A lot of people think of osteoporosis as a disease that only affects people late in life, but did you know that your bone mass peaks in your 20s?
Bone, like skin, is a living tissue and is constantly breaking down and reforming. Until about the age of 25 your body is builds new bone at a faster rate than it loses old bone. Once you reach 30 the process of building new bone slows down.
Osteoporosis is a thinning of bone and loss of bone density over time. It can lead to frequent fractures, pain, back problems, disability, and even death. Just to be clear, although it is normal to lose some bone density as you age, osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to keep your bones healthy (even after 30).
Everyone has heard that for strong bones you need to consume enough calcium, but what does that mean? For people between 19 and 50 years old, the recommendation is to consume 1000 mg of calcium every day (once you're over 50 the recommendation goes up to 1200 mg/day). One cup of milk or yogurt provides about 300 mg of calcium.
There are a number of foods you can consume to help you meet your daily calcium needs. Dairy is an obvious choice, however cooked greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach also provide some calcium (40-140 mg/serving). Kidney beans and pinto beans provide 40-45 mg for every 1/2 cup. There are also a variety of calcium fortified foods from soy products to cereal to orange juice.
It's important to spread your consumption of calcium rich products throughout the day because your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D help your body to absorb calcium more effectively so it's a good idea to try and eat foods rich in those nutrients around the same time.
Vitamin D is fortified into a lot of the same foods calcium is fortified into, but check the label to be sure. You can also get Vitamin D from egg yolk, fatty fish, and beef liver.
One thing to be aware of, especially if you're planning on your breakfast cereal being a source of calcium, is that caffeine inhibits your body's ability to absorb calcium. So you want to space your morning coffee at least 30 minutes after your calcium rich food intake.
Another key part of maintaining healthy bones is performing weight bearing exercises 2-3 times every week. If you're new to exercise or strength training, body weight exercises can be a great place to start. Things like push ups, body weight squats, lunges, and step ups are great ways to both build strength in your bones, as well as increase your balance and muscle strength.
As you get stronger and those exercises get easier try adding weights to increase the resistance your body needs to work against. (It's better to start with too light of a weight than too heavy. Injuries are nobody's friend.)
I love experimenting with new produce. We recently signed up for Farm Fresh to You, which is a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that delivers farm fresh produce to your house on a regular schedule. We receive a box every other week, and I always get excited when something shows up that I've never had before.
CSAs are a great way to support local agriculture and try new, fresh produce you might not regularly buy. Depending on where you live, you may find (like we did) that buying your produce this way is cheaper than a weekly grocery store trip.
Last week there was a bunch of Swiss chard in my box. If you're like me and have never had Swish chard, it's the dark leafy vegetable with the colorful stem in the grocery store. The stems can be any number of colors, red, yellow, white, orange (and of course each color means different phytonutrients). It typically has a bitter taste when raw, but that goes away when it's cooked.
Once I pulled the bunch of chard out I searched for a recipe to use it in. I settled on this one from Chowhound, but altered it a little based on what I had available (like the current tragic lack of feta cheese in my kitchen). Lentils take a little while to cook, but the rest of the recipe comes together pretty quickly.
1 cup lentils
2 cups water
1 bunch Swish chard, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Pour water and lentils into a sauce pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer until water is evaporated.
Chop leaves and stems of Swish chard, then sauté with garlic until the leaves are wilted and the stems are tender. Remove from heat and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. When lentils are done mix Swish chard with lentils and serve.
There's so much talk about healthy eating in our society that it may be hard to believe that you can be "too healthy." However, a growing number of nutrition and health experts (me included), have seen a concerning trend emerging. There are some people who are so concerned about eating "healthy" or the "right" things that the focus on their diet begins to affect other aspects of their lives.
The term "orthorexia" was coined in the 1990s by a doctor trying to describe an obsession with healthy eating that he was seeing with some of his clients. Orthorexia is not an eating disorder, and it is not a clinical term or a medical diagnosis, but it is a type of disordered eating.
We all want to improve our health by eating well, but people struggling with orthorexia take it to the extreme. They often have a long list of "bad" foods and/or ingredients that they won't allow themselves to have. They may avoid social situations where it would be difficult for them to eat "healthy." Much of their time may be spent planning or thinking about food and their meals. Orthorexia tends to be very individualized, there's no one diet people suffering from it follow.
Unfortunately our society's love of fad diets and weight loss "secrets" creates a dangerous environment where disordered and restrictive eating patterns flourish. When diets are restrictive the risk for nutrient deficiency is much higher. When you only eat a handful of foods, it's very difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs to thrive.
I often talk about healthy eating as an art form, because I believe it looks different for everyone. However, one thing all healthy diets have in common is variety and balance. Eating should be a joyful experience, it should never cause you anxiety or feelings of guilt. We eat to fuel our bodies in order to live the lives we want. We shouldn't be spending hours thinking and worrying about the food we consume.
In the media I see so many "studies" and fad diets that seem to push us toward a very restrictive diet. Even with myself I occasionally notice thoughts that, if focused on, could eventually lead me down the path of disordered eating. As a society, I think it's important for us to start focusing on healing our relationship with food. If you ever have a question or concern about what foods are "good" or "bad" try to ignore the noise of fad diets and go right to an expert (a Registered Dietitian).
If you, or someone you know, are suffering from an eating disorder help is available. Reach out to the National Eating Disorder Association at 1-800-831-2237.
If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you might have noticed that I love breakfast. Some might call it an unhealthy obsession, but is there really such thing when it comes to breakfast foods?
They're just so versatile and delicious!
But despite my strong feelings for breakfast and the foods it showcases, there are some mornings that I don't have time for much more than grabbing my coffee and a granola bar as I rush out the door.
That's why I'm a huge fan of make ahead breakfast ideas.
Last weekend I was feeling the desire to make something new for breakfast. I'd recently been given a large number of apples (we're talking at least 8-10 apples in my fruit drawer) that needed to be consumed in the next week, and what goes better with apples than oatmeal and cinnamon?
So the Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake was born!
This was relatively quick to throw together, but I don't peel apples before I cook them. Partly out of laziness, but also because there are nutrients in the skin that aren't in the flesh of the apple.
The bake makes about 12 servings, with each serving providing about 300 calories, 6 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and 14 g of fat (almost all unsaturated). Meaning a serving will keep you full for a while! It was delicious straight out of the oven, but it also kept well. Throughout the week I would put a serving in a mason jar the night before and then microwave it (sans lid) for about 2 minutes before leaving for work in the morning.
Note: I used pecans and walnuts because I didn't have enough pecans. You can use both, only one, or the nut of your choice.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake
3 medium apples, chopped into about 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
5 cups low fat milk
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9" x 13" casserole dish with non-stick spray. Mix apples, cranberries, oats, milk, oil, and cinnamon together until well mixed. Pour into casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
Once it starts baking mix the chopped nuts with the brown sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the oatmeal bake at about the 30 minute mark.
Life can get pretty crazy sometimes. It seems one of the first things to be sacrificed when life gets busy is taking care of ourselves. We tell ourselves all kinds of excuses - "I don't have time;" "It's too much work;" "I'm too tired;" "I'm too busy." One thing we all have in common as humans is that we're all great at rationalizing our choices.
When I find myself starting that kind of excuse cycle I like to sit down and do a time audit. (Yep, it happens to me too! It might surprise you to know that wellness experts are often fighting battles similar to your own.)
I take a piece of paper and I write down what activities I'm doing in a typical work day and how much time I'm spending on them. Generally there are some places I "find" the time I didn't have.
I use a typical work day, and for things that I don't necessarily do every day, or for the same length of time every day, (for example - exercise) I add up the total time spent on it in a week and divide by 5. (We're only counting workdays/weekdays here, people. Your weekend should be yours to do what you want with).
Be honest with your numbers; if you fudge something because you feel embarrassed or guilty about it the exercise won't be effective (and you're only hurting yourself in the end).
Hint: Your total should be 24. ;-)
Between TV and browsing on my phone/computer (screen time) that's 3 hours I could be using for other things.
Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with relaxing by watching a TV show or movie, or browsing Facebook. But doing so 3 hours every day is probably unnecessary.
I also think it's helpful to think about what TV shows/movies you're watching, are they ones that interest you? Or did you just turn the TV on and space out? (I'm definitely guilty of that second one.)
I was introduced to this method by creative career coach Dallas Travers, who was inspired by Robert Palignari's book "The Other 8 Hours." One of my favorite things about this is Dallas refers to it as "time mastery." She explains it as there's nothing to "manage" we're all gifted with the same 24 hours each day. It's about mastering that time and using it effectively.
I'd love to hear from you once you've done your time audit! How much time did you "find"? What do you plan to use it for?
If you plan to use it for some healthy meal prep, here's a recipe that will only take you 30 minutes! The key is to be prepping multiple things at once.
For example: I started the oven preheating and quinoa boiling while I prepped the Brussels sprouts. Once the oven was ready, the sprouts went in and I started prepping the kale. Once the kale was prepped it went into the skillet and the fish went into the oven. While the fish and kale were cooking I mixed together the honey mustard sauce. Once the kale was done I mixed it in with the cooked quinoa. By that time both the fish and Brussels sprouts were ready. I pulled both from the oven and plated everything, topping the fish with the sauce. Viola!
1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place Brussels sprouts in a casserole dish and drizzle canola oil over them. Add garlic and mix to make sure all the sprouts are coated with oil. Cook for about 20 minutes, until sprouts are tender. Once they're done, pull the dish out and drizzle the sprouts with balsamic vinegar before serving.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
5 kale leaves, chopped
In a saucepan, bring quinoa and water to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until water is evaporated (about 10-15 minutes). In a separate skillet sauté the kale until wilted. Once quinoa is finished, mix kale in.
2 3-4 oz salmon filets
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Cook fish in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes (depending on your oven and whether you're cooking from fresh or frozen). While the fish is cooking, whisk together the mustard and honey. Spoon the sauce over the fish when you serve.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.