MyPlate Power Salad

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As promised, I am providing fun MyPLate recipes for National Nutrition Month! This yummy salad has all five food groups: fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean protein.

Here’s the Breakdown:

Fruit: Blackberries

-Full of Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants

-Perfectly bittersweet

Vegetable: Kale

-Vitamin A, C, K; fiber, and even protein

-When massaged (I’ll get to this later) it takes away the harsh texture

Bonus Veggie: Butternut Squash

A great source of fiber and beta-carotene!

Grain: Barley

-Loaded with fiber, which improves digestion and controls blood sugar levels

-Adds a chewy and nutty element

Protein: Rotisserie Chicken Breast

  • Perfectly lean and loaded with protein

Bonus Protein: Walnuts and Pumpkin seeds

  • Not only rich in protein, but full of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals

Dairy: Feta Cheese

-Easier to digest than a lot of dairy, full of calcium, -salty, crumbly, cheesy goodness

As you can tell by the ingredients, this isn’t your boring house salad with cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s so much better. Try it out to get your full MyPlate meal- you won’t be disappointed!

MyPlate Power-Up Salad

Barley

  • ⅓ cup pearled barley
  • 1 cup water
  1. Bring water and barley to a boil in a pot then cover and reduce to a simmer until tender (about 25 minutes)

Butternut Squash

  • ½ butternut squash peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix squash, olive oil, salt, and pepper, in a bowl.
  3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Pour squash onto sheet and spread evenly.
  4. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes until squash is tender

Homemade Maple Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Mix ingredients together in a bowl and set aside ½ mixture

Rotisserie Chicken Breast

  1. Discard skin off one Rotisserie chicken
  2. Pull off as much of the breast meat in shreds

Kale

  • 10 oz deboned and chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Cut the leaf off of the stem and chop the leafy part, throwing away the stem
  2. Add chopped kale and olive oil and salt to a bowl
  3. Massage the kale- just how it sounds. Rub the oil into each piece. It will go from a dull green to a bright and shiny green right before your eyes!

The rest

  • 2 6 oz packages of Blackberries
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds

 

  1. Take your massaged Kale and add it to a big big mixing bowl.
  2. Add in the barley, squash, chicken, blackberries, feta, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and reserved vinaigrette mixture.
  3. Toss that salad and serve it up!

*Recipe makes about 6-8 servings

Chicken-broccoli-rice Bake

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I wrote about MyPlate in my last blog. To give you a basic overview, each meal you eat should include five food groups: whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and fruit. This Chicken-Broccoli-Rice-Bake is a one-pot meal that has all food groups, but fruit. Have a small bowl of berries with dark chocolate drizzled over it for dessert and you have one heck of a meal!

Enjoy!

Chicken-broccoli-rice Bake

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of water
  • 5 cups of brown rice
  • 3 chicken breasts chopped in small cubes
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can of lite coconut milk
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt divided
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil divided
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Combine the rice, ½ teaspoon of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 3 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to a simmer for 30-35 minutes. You can do this quicker with a rice cooker or instant pot!
  • 15 minutes prior to the rice finishing, add chicken to a deep pan or Dutch oven, and pan fry for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. If the chicken or mushrooms are sticking, add a couple tablespoons of water.
  • 5 minutes before rice is finished:
    1. Preheat oven to 350
    2. Add remaining ½ cup of water to a pot with a steamer basket. Bring to a boil. Place broccoli in basket, cover and steam for 3 minutes.
  • When rice is finished, mix in pan with chicken mushrooms.
  • Toss in broccoli.
  • Mix in coconut milk, remaining sea salt. Italian seasoning, and cheese.
  • Transfer to a casserole dish and add ground pepper to taste.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.

 

Why I recommend MyPlate over fad diets

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Are you on the Keto diet that everyone is raving about? I am not and I actually do not recommend it to my clients either because it is so easy to miss important nutrients when you focus on any fad diet. In honor of National Nutrition Month, I wanted to do an entry on my approach to nutrition.

I follow our government’s recommended nutritional plan called MyPlate. It’s the modern version of the Food Pyramid you may remember from childhood. Using MyPlate is an easy way to make sure you are reaching your health goals in the most balanced way possible.

Here’s the scoop:

The MyPlate plan focuses on what your plate should look like each meal, recommending that you have something from each of the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and whole grains.

I’ll dive deeper into those five food groups.

Vegetables

Vary those veggies! Try adding fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to salads, sides, and main dishes. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables and prepare them healthfully by having them raw, sautéed or steamed.

Fruits

Choose whole fruits. These are nature’s candy. I love using fruit in smoothies or in my salads. I often throw an apple or banana in my purse to have as a snack when I’m on the go. The government says 100 percent fruit juice counts, but I personally recommending nixing the juice and choosing whole fruit.

Lean Protein

Choose lean meats like turkey breast, chicken breast, and lean beef cuts. Also vary your proteins with vegetarian options like beans, tofu, and nuts.

Whole Grains

So many people are kicking whole grains out of their life and it makes me mad because they are such an amazing source of nutrients and fiber—and they help give you energy! Look for whole grains listed first or second on the ingredients list—try oatmeal, popcorn, whole-grain bread, quinoa, wild rice, and brown rice.

Low Fat Dairy

Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and cheese, to cut back on saturated fat. Replace sour cream, cream, and regular cheese with low-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese.

 

There you have it. If you want to get started on MyPlate. Check out the website, it has a plethora of amazing resources!

 

 

Pack in the potassium with a Tropical Chia Parfait

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As Heart Health Month comes to a close, I am compelled to write about the mineral that is so important when it comes to your heart!

Potassium is the mineral I’m talking about. It is a mineral that cannot be produced by the body, so you have to turn to food for this important heart protector.

This mineral is also an electrolyte. You’ve probably heard that electrolytes are good for recovery after a hard workout. They also assist in a number of regulatory functions in the body like: water balance, Ph balance, nerve impulses, digestion, blood pressure, and muscle contractions.

Specific to the heart, eating a potassium-rich diet has proven to lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease.

If you get muscle cramps, there is a chance you are not getting enough potassium. Reach for a banana or another potassium-rich food if you find yourself coming down with a lot of muscle cramps or spasms.

Foods that contain potassium are those such as:

  • Fruits like bananas, apricots, kiwi, oranges, and kiwi
  • Veggies: leafy greens, carrots, and potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Lean meats
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts

So let’s pull from that list to make you a delicious and nutritious, potassium-packed dessert!

Tropical Chia Parfait

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup/ honey or coconut sugar
  • ½ banana chopped
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Whole grain, low sugar granola

Instructions::

  1. Mix chia seeds, milk, vanilla, and sweetener in a bowl.
  2. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours – overnight is best
  3. Assemble: in a small bowl or mason jar spoon in ¼ of mixture then add fruit, granola, and coconut. Add another ¼ of mixture and top with remaining fruit, granola, and coconut chips
  4. Enjoy!

*recipe makes 1-2 servings. Chia pudding can remain covered in fridge for up to 5 days

 

 

Wild over whole grains

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Even though it’s the last day of September, I am not going to let this month slip on by without celebrating Whole Grains Month. Already, this month, we have celebrated National Cheese PIzza Day, National Peanut Day, and National Chicken Month,

In honor of Whole Grains Month, I am going to zero in on more uncommon ones. Sure, you’ve probably heard of barley, oats, and rice, but what about teff, farro, freekeh, millet, or amaranth? These might sound like foreign words to you, so we’re going to break them down and talk about how they could be beneficial to add in to your diet.

As a little introduction about why whole grains are awesome—they are packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, slowing down the digestion process. Insoluble fiber helps food to pass through the stomach and intestines. Simply put, fiber keeps things movin’! Whole grains also come packed with vitamins and minerals.

Moving on to teff and farro, two uncommon grains that are so worth trying!

Let’s start with teff, a species of grass, native to Ethiopia. It comes in the form of a seel much like quinoa. It has a lot of the recently discovered dietary fiber, resistant starch. Resistant starch goes un digested in the intestines, passing to the colon and feeding the good bacteria that live there. You’ve probably heard a lot lately about the importance of gut health and this is one of those things that promote good gut health! It’s also very high in calcium with 123 mg per one cup cooked. For all the Celiac and gluten sensitive people out there, this grain is gluten-free! You can buy it as a whole grain and cook it as you would rice or buy it ground into flour and use it in place of your other flours.

Another ancient grain is farro. Farro originated in Mesopotamia and is actually the name used to describe three different wheat grains. Those three grains are Einkorn, Emmer, and Spelt. Typically in the U.S., the grain that’s most commonly found is the Emmer grain. It’s much like a rice grain that is sold dry and cooked in water until soft and squishy. A typical serving of farro is ¼ cup which contains 170 calories, 34 grams of whole grain carbs, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of plant-based protein! It also packs in a number of minerals and vitamins including magnesium, zinc and vitamin B3. It’s also a good source of antioxidants which help prevent heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Have you started to notice a trend here? A lot of the ancient grains are similar to one another but each offer their own unique benefits. Whole grains are all good sources of fiber and plant based protein that helps keep you full long after you’ve eaten them. As always I like to promote a good mix of everything. So if you’re looking for a break from your usual rice or quinoa, try swapping them out for some of these ancient grains. I challenge you to try out a new grain each week for the next month and see how you feel and find some new favorites to add to your pantry!

 

Six Great Dishes to Bring to a BBQ

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It’s prime BBQ season. Chances are you’ll be invited to at least a few more barbecues. Impress your friends and family with healthy but delicious dishes that will sure to be a hit! Here are my absolute favorites!

Cauliflower Deviled Eggs

It’s almost illegal to have a BBQ without serving deviled eggs? Even though deviled eggs are vegetarian-friendly and offer a good amount of protein, they can be heavy on the calories the way most people prepare them. Well, here’s a healthy swap for you! Replace the yolk and mayo with a pureed deliciously-spiced cauliflower filling. The Paleo Diet made cauliflower popular; while I’m not Paleo, I dig this recipe. Click here to grab the recipe from my website!

Tabbouleh Salad and Quinoa Salad with Black Beans

Macaroni salad is a popular BBQ dish. Sneak whole grains into the salad selections at your next BBQ. For a Middle Eastern flare, click here to try my amazing Tabbouleh Salad recipe. For a Mexican-inspired salad, click here to try my Quinoa Salad with Black Beans

Pomegranate Citrus Salad

Fruit salad is always a refreshing choice for summer get-togethers. I love the standard watermelon, grape, cantaloupe, honeydew combo, but I wanted to create a super-food fruit salad so I came up with this oh-so-delicious pomegranate citrus salad. Click here to check it out!

Triple Bean Salad

This is not your typical triple bean salad. It has edamame, Lima beans and black beans with a touch of sweetness by adding mangoes! Click here to make this phenomenal dish.

Mango Salsa

What’s a BBQ without chips and salsa? Can you tell I am obsessed with mango yet? Well, when you try this salsa, you will be too! Click here for my magnificent mango salsa recipe!

Keep on having fun this summer! And delve into the picnics and barbecues with your arsenal of healthy food dishes and you’ll stay in shape for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome whole grains

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I know, I know, you are going to tell me that you are trying the ketogenic diet, or paleo, Atkins, South Beach, or some other diet that “bans” carbs! I think each diet has merit to some degree or another, but I am actually going to tell you why you would want whole grains!

First of all, let me set things straight. I am NOT advocating refined carbs like crackers, cookies, white bread, flour tortillas or even white rice. I am suggesting you welcome whole grains—grains that contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm (for example, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and popcorn).

Whole grains are filled with fiber and almost every person I know (even healthy eaters) do not get enough fiber in your diet. Fiber helps keep things moving in your digestion system, keeps you fuller longer (so yes, it can help with weight loss), and it also lowers your risk of getting heart disease.

Whole grains also loaded with important B vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are amazing for reducing stress levels and giving you energy.

Speaking of energy—if you experience major dips in your energy throughout the day, whole grains can help prevent that! Why? They help regulate your blood-sugar levels. Lulls in your energy level often indicate that your blood sugar levels are not remaining steady throughout the day. Fix that with whole grains!

Are you unsure about how to try incorporating whole grains into your diet? Here are just a few tips:

  • Use whole wheat pasta when you would normally use regular pasta.
  • Swap white bread for whole grain bread.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast!
  • Look for whole grain crackers!
  • Instead of white rice, try cooking with brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or millet.

Continue reading

The Power of Five

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How good are you at assuring that you get the five powerful foods in your diet every single day? I’m talking about protein, dairy, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains? My guess is that you may have the protein part down (specifically if it is meat), but the other groups are more challenging.

Let’s go through each group and I will provide some suggestions about how you can incorporate these essential foods into your everyday-life.

I’ll start with whole grains. Too many people turn to refined grains and this is not smart because refined grains (pasta, white bread, cookies, crackers, etc.) are devoid of nutrients. Whole grains, on the other hand, have fiber, helping you to feel full longer, not to mention protecting your heart! You are supposed to aim for 6-8 servings of whole grains a day.

  • Make sure you sandwich bread is whole grain.
  • When you cook brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa, cook extra for another meal!
  • Oatmeal is a great choice for a whole-grain breakfast.
  • There are whole grain crackers too—look at the fiber content; if there is a decent amount of fiber, it’ s likely whole grain.

Dairy isn’t too hard to work into your daily regimen and dairy is a great source of calcium and protein. Always choose low-fat or skim (otherwise, you have to worry about bad cholesterol). Use cheese as a condiment on your salads or as a flavor enhancer to your meals. Try cottage cheese or yogurt for breakfast or a snack. Smoothies made with skim milk are delicious as well.

Protein is an easy group for people. Did you know you only need 6 ounces of protein a day? My suggestion is to turn to lean options like chicken breast, lean ground beef or turkey, and definitely fish! I also recommend eggs and plant protein (nuts, seeds, beans, etc.).

As for vegetables, aim to get 4-5 servings a day! Sometimes you just do not have the energy to cook a veggie at the end of the day so stock your freezer. Frozen veggies are as nutrient-rich as fresh and they last way longer! Keep salad greens on hand and veggies that last a while in the fridge like peppers and carrots.

Fruit is the dessert of food. You should try to consume 4-5 servings of fruit a day. Always have a fruit bowl near you—at work and home! Add fruit to your lunch or dinner salads and to your breakfast cereal.

The best way to assure you get the power of five in your day-to-day life is to go for combinations, like these in your meals:

  • Strawberry spinach salad
  • Tarragon chicken salad
  • 3-bean salad with kale
  • Fresh mozzarella and tomato salad
  • Healthier cobb salad
  • Blueberry overnight oats
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
  • Hard- boiled egg
  • Berry and yogurt smoothie

And skip the candy bar or cookies for your snack! Look to the power of five. Here are more than a dozen options:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Trail mix
  • Edamame poppers
  • Hummus dippers
  • Greek yogurt and granola
  • Tuna and whole grain crackers
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Popcorn
  • String cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Greek yogurt & berries
  • Dried fruit
  • Frozen watermelon kiwi or grapes
  • Melon kabobs
  • Cherry tomato & cheese kabobs
  • String cheese
  • Whole grain cereal dry

I hope these suggestions help you! The power of five is the best way to assure a balanced and healthy life!

 

 

The Difference between Insoluble and Soluble Fiber

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You’ve heard this from me before: EAT MORE FIBER!!! In fact, only 10 percent of Americans are consuming enough fiber every day. Fiber is absolutely essential in achieving a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. It aids in weight loss, helps lower cholesterol levels, and keeps your blood sugar levels stable.

The American Heart Association eating plan suggests eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.

In order to reap all of these benefits of fiber, it’s important that you consume both soluble and insoluble fiber.

When soluble fiber dissolves, it creates a gel that helps improve digestion. These fibers absorb water, increasing stool bulk, and lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber helps soften the stool because it attracts water into your stool; this prevents constipation and keeps your intestines healthy.

The best types of soluble fiber are fruits like apples, grapefruits, and oranges, as well as beans, lentils, peas, oats, oat bran, and barley.

The best types of insoluble fiber include vegetables and whole grains like wheat, quinoa, stone ground cornmeal, bran, buckwheat, and brown rice.

So now you know what foods are great fiber choices. Here are some tips to get a fantastic amount of fiber in your body every day:

– Choose fruit for your snacks!

– Oatmeal for breakfast!

– Add a banana to your cereal

– Cook with brown rice instead of white rice.

– Always, always, use whole grain bread for sandwiches and toast.

– Add chickpeas, kidney beans, or black beans to your salad (one of the easiest salads every is a couple cups of mixed greens, a half-cup of black beans or kidney beans, a few tablespoons of salsa and a quarter cup of low-fat shredded cheddar cheese)

– Always have a vegetable with dinner—hey even sweet potatoes count for my “meat and potato” fans!

I hope I have inspired you to eat your fiber! Let me know any tips that have helped you!

By Kelly Springer RD, MS, CDN

 

 

Better than Rice & Beans

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I love experimenting with different fiber-filled whole grains during this No White Flour Challenge. Millet has a nice nutty flavor and quinoa is a personal favorite because it is a COMPLETE protein source. I wanted to add a little bit of green to this recipe so I diced up a zucchini and added it. Feel free to swap that for green pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of millet rinsed
  • 1 cup of quinoa rinsed
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 jar of organic salsa of choice (I like Newmans)
  • 1 zucchini chopped in small cubes and steamed for 5 minutes

Directions: Bring quinoa, millet and water to a boil in water. Once boiling, turn to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes. Immediately transfer grains to a big mixing bowl and fluff with a fork. Add beans, salsa and zucchini, and voila! You can add a small amount of part-skim cheddar if you are a cheese fan. Anyway you have it; this is a tasty, easy way to get in good, hearty whole grains.