Everything is Better With Squash!

They say you should always have a good friend who is a doctor, a pharmacist, a lawyer, a mechanic and even a plumber; but, I’d like to add that we should all have a friend that is a gardener!Yes, I know we do not choose our friends based on their professions but it’s always nice to have a friend who is an expert on subjects that you may not be as familiar with. Recently, one of my friends at Crossfit Instinct brought in a plethora of spaghetti squash from her and her parents’ gardens to share. Using spaghetti squash in place of pasta is an excellent way to lighten up an original carb-heavy meal.

Here is an easy semi-homemade dish that is always a crowd favorite.

sqaush

Italian Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut length wise with seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil or grass-fed butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped fresh parsley and basil
  • ½ pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • At least ¼ cup parmesan cheese, shaved/shredded
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the meat sauce

  • 1 ½ lbs ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil or grass-fed butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 jar of organic tomato sauce
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425o Cut off the very bottom of spaghetti squash. Place the cut side flat down on cutting board and cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds with spoon. Lay spaghetti squash halves flat-side down on baking sheet. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until squash become tender and threads easily. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil/butter in  2 large skillets, one for the meat and the other for the spaghetti squash. Once heated, add the respected amount of shallots and garlic to each pan. Heat for about 5 minutes until just slightly browned.
  3. Add meat to one pan and cook until done. Once meat is cooked through, drain excess liquid and then add tomato sauce. Heat over low until sauce is warm.
  4. In the other pan, add fresh herbs and tomatoes and toss for 1 minute. Add spaghetti squash and cook for a few minutes on low until warm throughout. Add Parmesan cheese last and serve warm.

A New Spin on Breakfast in Bed

Romance-red-rose-newspaper-breakfast-in-bedWhat better way to pamper a loved one than by serving them breakfast in bed! However, many times these special meals consist of biscuits, donuts, toast, waffles, pancakes and syrup. We might have the best of intentions when making these menu items, but a heavy refined-carb breakfast may make one feeling sluggish and bloated a couple of  hours later. Not to mention, this wouldn’t make the best choice of food items for someone who has blood sugar problems. This is a new breakfast that I am absolutely obsessed with! I made this for my mom and sister while visiting them in Tennessee. There’s nothing better than starting off the day with a light, healthy, green and omega-3 rich meal!

Veggie Scramble with Smoked Salmon

Serves 4-5
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• ½ bundle of asparagus, cut into small segments
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 5 tbsp leeks
• 5 oz baby spinach
• 2 garlic cloves
• Pinch of salt/pepper
• 9 eggs
• 4 oz goat cheese
• 6 oz smoked salmon

photo 3

1. In a medium-large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Meanwhile cut and prepare vegetables.

2. Once oil is heated, add asparagus, zucchini, leeks, spinach and garlic sauté for about 8 minutes or until asparagus stalks become slightly tender.

3. While veggies are cooking, whisk together eggs and goat cheese. Pour eggs on top of cooked vegetables and let sit for about 1 minute. Then begin to gently push eggs around with spatula until cooked all the way through.

4. Add smoked salmon once eggs are cooked and continue to heat for another 1-2 minutes. You may season with a small amount of salt and pepper or dill and chives. I sprinkled a little bit of remaining goat cheese on my dish.

Simple, delicious and a slight gourmet touch!
Recipe adapted from againstallgrain.com

Cholesterol Month – Part 2

Diet:

  • Limit saturated and trans fats.
    • Saturated and trans fats are found in fatty or fried meats such as: bacon, sausage, hotdogs, bologna, pepperoni, salami, poultry skin, fried chicken, fried pork tenderloin and fried fish.salmonheart
    • They are also found in whole milk products, high-fat cheese, ice cream, butter, cream, margarine and lard.
    • Foods made with hydrogenated oils (pizza and other packaged food items), candy bars, crackers, chips, pastries, doughnuts and muffins are additional ways these bad fats can be found in our diets.
    • Take Away Message: Try to avoid/limit red meat, fried foods, processed pastry/bakery items and dairy products made with whole milk.
  • Limit total amount of fat that you eat (good and bad) to 25%-35% of the total calories you eat.
    • Even if you’re not a calorie-counting whiz, the simplest way to accomplish this is to stick to heart-healthy fat sources such as: fish, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocados and olive oil and limit/avoid the sources of unhealthy fats.
    • A small popcorn from the movie theater contains 42 grams of fat, which would be 25% of total calories for a person following a 1500 calorie diet. Here’s an example of a healthier way to incorporate fat into the diet: Try adding ½ medium avocado (15 g) with breakfast, 1 Tbsp of peanut butter (8.5 g) with a snack and 4 oz of salmon (12 g) with dinner to create nutritious, well-balanced meals.
    • Become more familiar with reading food labels  and utilizing online resources for finding fat content of foods. A great website is www.calorieking.com for finding nutritional information on foods and menu items. This is very useful when dining out or ordering in! Pizza is a very common source of unhealthy fats in our diet. Two slices of pepperoni pizza plus garlic dipping sauce contains 37 grams of fat.
  • Increase Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
    • This recommendation goes right along with choosing healthier sources of fats in one’s diet. The benefits of omega-3 fats go well beyond heart health. They can also help with reducing inflammation and supporting eye and brain health.
    • Omega-3 fats, specifically Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are found in canola, soybean and flaxseed oil.
    • The most potent sources of omega-3 fats include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines (EPA and DHA sources).
    • Ground flaxseed and walnuts (ALA) are two wonderful ways to incorporate omega-3 fats into your diet, especially if you are not a fan of fish.
    • The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease get 1 gm of omega-3 fatty acids from a combination of EPA and DHA per day. Consult with your physician before adding a fish oil supplement into your regimen as this may have possible interactions with other medications.
  • Increase dietary fiber intake to at least 20-30 grams per day.
    • Fiber is Mother Nature’s cholesterol lowering medication. While total fiber is very important, try to include sources of soluble fiber into your daily intake.
    • Soluble fiber is found in oats, oat bran, kidney beans, broccoli, ground flaxseed, apples, bananas and potatoes with the skin. It is also added in fortified fiber products such as Fiber One and Fiber Plus cereals and snack bars.
    • Fiber is only found in plant-based foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes and whole grains. When choosing a grain (pasta, bread, cereal), make sure it is made with 100% whole wheat or whole grain. Barley, quinoa and brown rice make great choices too. Focus on filling ½ your plate with fruits and/or vegetables. Add nuts/seeds to salads, cereals or simply enjoy them by themselves.

Patients often ask me, “But Amanda, I don’t eat fried foods and I never eat red meat; why do I have high cholesterol?” In many cases, it’s not a matter of consuming too much of the bad stuff, it’s that you may not be consuming enough of the good stuff, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids and enough fiber.

Read part one of Cholesterol Month here!cholesterol colors

Drive-Thru Dinners- What’s the Best Option?

We are Americans. We love baseball, 4th of July, Black Friday deals, reality TV shows and eating out. In fact, we love eating out so much, 48% of the money we spend on food is spent on food consumed away from the home. Family meal times have been transformed from the dining table to inside the minivan.

chart

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40545.pdf

Eating out every once in a while is perfectly normal. However, when this practice becomes habitual, it can have serious health consequences. In general, meals consumed away from the home are lower in many nutrients including dietary fiber, potassium and calcium to name a few. These valuable nutrients are often replaced by meals loaded with saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Luckily for us, fast food restaurants are slowly meeting the demands of consumers by increasing the variety of healthier menu options and creating dishes with fresh ingredients. If you are looking for healthier menu items, try following these simple guidelines.

  • Winning the war on saturated fat and sodium. It’s very difficult to find menu items that are both low in saturated fat and sodium, but you can at least find options that are lower in fat content. The easiest way to accomplish this is by not ordering anything fried. Here are some quick, easy swaps to decrease the amount of fat in your next drive-thru purchase:
Healthier Items Less Healthier Items
Grilled Chicken Sandwich Crispy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich
Soft Shell Chicken Tacos (fresca style) Hard Shell Beef Tacos
Roast Beef Sandwich BBQ Rib-eye Sandwich
Eggs/Ham on English Muffin Eggs/Bacon on Biscuit/Croissant
Single Hamburger 6 Piece Chicken Nuggets
Turkey Sub with all the Veggie Fixings Meatball Sub
Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken

 

  • Steer clear from chicken nuggets. For real, turn around and run away as fast as you can. A 6 piece chicken nugget meal contains 281 calories and 18 grams of fat. While 281 calories seems pretty reasonable, it’s the amount of fat that makes this selection a bad choice. After crunching the numbers, we learn that 58% of this 6 piece meal is made from fat. Doesn’t that sound strange to you? After all, chicken is considered one of the leanest and most common sources of protein in our diets. The reason for this disproportion of fat and protein falls back on the way chicken nuggets are made.
  • Try to forgo the cheese. Adding cheese to a sandwich or on a salad increases the amount of saturated fat, sodium and calories in your meal. Just one slice of American cheese adds over 100 calories and almost 9 grams of fat to a sandwich. If you absolutely cannot go without adding cheese, then try to stick to lighter varieties such as natural Swiss or Mozzarella.
  • Go with calorie-free beverages.  Sticking with water or a diet-beverage can help save you hundreds of calories and limit your intake of added sugars. Tea naturally sounds healthier than soda, but unfortunately, sweet tea packs in a whopping amount of its own calories and added sugars. Try to avoid sports drinks too. These extra calories and electrolytes are completely unnecessary outside of a sport or competition.

Building Better Salads – Part 1

Rabbit food. This is the word my husband has coined for my side and entrée salads that I prepare for many of our lunch and dinner meals. It must be part of the guy-code manual that every male must make fun of eating salads. strawspinachsaladDespite his constant teasing, I will add that he continues to gobble up these salads every time I prepare them. (I’ll take that as a wife-win!). The key to making a great salad is to add just the right amount of ingredients to create a variety of nutrients and textures.

Salads often go hand-in-hand with health foods. However, sometimes salads can be some of the unhealthiest items on the menu. Beware of these common salad ingredient villains.

  • Breaded proteins. Protein is an important ingredient for a salad, especially if it is going to be considered as an entrée salad. Breaded and fried chicken/shrimp will increase the amount of saturated and trans fat in your salad. The good news is that most restaurants will let you substitute a grilled protein for a breaded one. Other excellent protein choices include grilled/baked flank steak, salmon, tuna, shrimp, turkey, ham, hard-boiled eggs or even beans.
  • Croutons and chow mein noodles. These items provide a nice crunch factor in our salads, but they come in next to last place for their nutritional value. Try adding sunflower seeds or heart-healthy walnuts instead to provide a healthier, crunchy substitute.
  •  Bacon and cheese. Here are two ingredients that can make a salad’s saturated fat and sodium content go through the roof. If you can’t forego both items, try to at least opt for one or the other and be mindful of portion size. A serving size of cheese is 1 oz or ¼ cup which is about the size of 2 dominos or 4 dice.

Wimpy salads (as I call them) that only include iceberg lettuce, cheese and dressing are not only nutritionally inadequate, but just plain boring to eat! Start with a dark leafy green mixture and add any combination of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and proteins for a more decadent salad. If you’re looking for ideas, here are few salads I commonly throw together:

Strawberry-Spinach Salad:man-salad

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Feta cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Red onion
  • Grilled chicken (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Modified Greek Salad:

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Grilled onions
  • Avocado slices
  • Roasted red bell peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Grilled chicken or flank steak (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

California Salad:

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Sweet corn kernels
  • Avocado slices
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Grilled chicken
  • Slivered almonds
  • Ranch dressing
  • Cilantro to garnish

Read on for Building Better Salads Part 2.