Becoming Stronger Than Your Excuses : Part Three

a slow cooker Oval Crock Potcrockpot

Taking on healthy eating habits, typically does not occur over night, rather it’s a gradual progression of gaining knowledge and understanding between health foods and less-healthy foods and finding strategies to make health foods fit into one’s lifestyle.

When someone states “I don’t have enough time to make a healthy meal”, my first two questions are “do you have a crockpot” and “do you have a day off during the week”?

Prepare meals ahead of time on your days off. One cooking approach I took up in grad school was cooking my proteins in bulk. On Sundays, I would bake or grill several chicken breasts or fish to have on reserve for my lunches and dinners for the next several days. Doing this saved me time and energy in preparing healthy and well-balanced meals when I would get home after a 12-hour work day as an intern. Using a crock pot is a great method for cooking for those with busy schedules. Home-cooked meals are often lower in sodium than those purchased away from the home.

Purchase pre-cut vegetables or ready-made salads. Purchasing whole vegetables and cutting them up ahead of time will save you a lot of money, but not necessarily time. What’s great about most grocery stores is that they offer pre-cut vegetables that can be thrown into a stir-fry, salad or consumed raw as a snack. Most supermarkets also offer freshly prepared salads which are often bigger (so you can use them for more than one meal) and more cost-effective than a single-serve salad purchased from a fast food restaurant.

Consistency is key. You must be consistent to make any change. This principle applies to many aspects of health. In order for a post-workout protein snack to be most effective, it needs to be taken consistently (for those participating in vigorous strength-training programs). Good habits are as addictive as bad habits. Form a new one now! Eating breakfast can jumpfood3_MP900411701start your metabolism, but it won’t have a lasting effect if you only consume breakfast 2-3 days per week. Exercise can have similar effects on muscle cells just like  Metformin, a common diabetic medication. However, these beneficial effects of exercise last less than 48 hours, raising the importance of daily physical activity. Forming healthy habits can be a challenge for some, but when we identify barriers (our excuses) we can find ways to overcome our challenges and lead healthy, active lives.

Every day is a good day. Some days are just more challenging than others.

I’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite healthy crock pot meals that you have made below in the comment section.

Photo Credit : www.crockpot.com

What’s Your Yogurt IQ?

Fruit-and-yogurtWhat are the health benefits of yogurt?

Yogurt is a high-quality, low-fat, easily-absorbed protein source. (Try saying that three times fast!) Additionally, yogurt is a good source of calcium and active cultures (probiotics) that can promote a healthy gut. Individuals with lactose intolerance often can consume yogurt without gastrointestinal distress. The translation of yogurt “yoghurt” means “dense and thick”. Yogurt is made by the fermentation of milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. This thicker substance is tangier in taste when compared to milk.

With so many yogurt varieties, is there any difference between them?

Not all yogurts contain live active cultures. The term “made with live/active cultures” is somewhat deceiving because all yogurts are made with live cultures; but live cultures do not survive heat treatment/pasteurization. Look for phrases like “active yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures” to identify the yogurt varieties that contain the probiotic benefits. Dr. Ted Paradowski, Springfield Clinic Gastroenterologist recommends patients choose Activia yogurt for its probiotic benefits.

One of the main nutritional differences between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is the protein content. A standard-size container (5.3-6.0 oz) of Greek yogurt contains anywhere from 10-20 grams of protein while the same serving of regular yogurt contains only 5-6 grams of protein. Unsweetened yogurt (both Greek and regular) will contain the lowest amounts of sugars; however, most people prefer the sweetened/flavored varieties. Try to find the yogurts with the least amount of ingredients for increased nutritional value. Be careful of kid-friendly varieties such as Go-Gurt. This type of yogurt contains the highest amount of added sugars and is also lowest in protein content. Basically, your kids are getting more calories from the added sweeteners than they are from the yogurt itself. Watch the calcium content difference. In many cases, Greek yogurt contains less calcium than normal yogurt.

To Greek or not to Greek?

Greek yogurt has been a hot trend to take grocery store shelves by storm these past couple years. One thing I’ve noticed at my local supermarket is that the yogurt section appears to be phasing out regular yogurt options to make room for more Greek yogurt brands and varieties.

Many will argue that the term “Greek” is being used too loosely. Typically, Greek yogurt has gone through an extra straining process that removes the liquid whey and milk sugars. This is the reason why this type of yogurt is much thicker and tangier in taste. However, some brands simply add a thickening agent and protein concentrate to their regular yogurt and call it “Greek”.

This year especially, we have seen Greek yogurt products popping up everywhere from cereal to granola bars to veggie dips.  Greek yogurt is most notable for its lean protein content, but do all these additional products retain the same benefits or are they just a marketing gimmick?

Most of the time, the term “made with Greek yogurt” on food items is simply a way to get consumers to buy that product thinking it’s going to be healthier than the item sitting next to it on the shelf. For example, Post has recently come out with Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal. Compared to their standard variety, Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted cereal, the “Greek” variety contains more calories, more carbs and added sugars with just a minimal increase in protein content. Don’t be fooled by frozen Greek yogurt either. Often, these substitutions are simply sweet treats disguised as health foods.

How creative are you with using yogurt?activia-active cultures

It’s thick, creamy texture makes it a great base for smoothies or an excellent swap for mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes. Whether you use regular or Greek yogurt, these healthy recipe substitutions will add more nutrients to your everyday favorites!

  • Try mixing yogurt with herbs and spices to make a protein-packed veggie dip.
  • Add a dollop on potatoes or tacos instead of sour cream.
  • Substitute yogurt for some of the mayonnaise when making tuna, chicken or potato salad.
  • For additional ideas, download this handout: http://oldwayspt.org/sites/default/files/12ways_yogurt.pdf

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.

Back In Action- Farmer’s Market Kick-Off Today

After a two-week hiatus from the Illinois Products Farmer’s Markets for the Illinois State Fair we are back in action at the market. Join us tonight from 4-7 pm at the Illinois State Fairgrounds for fresh produce, sweet treats, and more. Tonight we will be giving away salad shakers to the first 100 visitors to our booth. shaker1 shaker2 Complete with fork and a special compartment for your dressing of choice. Also tonight you can visit with our Orthopedic Group and pick up our Healthy Recipe of the Week: Chicken Pasta Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing.

Notes from Amanda Figge,” This recipe has already been approved as delicious. The Channel 20 news studio gobbled it up and when I brought the leftovers up to Lincoln this morning; they were completely gone in 30 minutes (by 8:15am!).”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fat-free, sugar-free vanilla yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 ounces dried whole-grain penne
  • 12 ounces cooked skinless chicken breast, cooked without salt, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 ounces spinach, cut into long, thin pieces or torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, halved and slivered
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, dry-roasted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fat-free milk (optional)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

2. Prepare the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt. Drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water until cool. Drain well.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the chicken, pasta, spinach, bell pepper, and onion.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat (using two large spoons works well). Sprinkle with the almonds or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, sprinkling with the almonds just before serving. If the salad seems dry after refrigeration, toss with the milk at serving time to add moisture.

chickenpastasaladcreamypoppyCook’s Tip – For a hearty side salad, omit the chicken and add some shredded carrots, chopped cucumber, or other vegetables.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 358.Total Fat: 7.5 g. Saturated Fat: 1.5 g. Monounsaturated Fat: 3.5 g. Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g. Trans Fat: 0 g. Cholesterol: 75 mg. Sodium: 233 mg. Carbohydrate: 37 g. Fiber: 7 g. Sugars: 4 g. Protein: 35 g.

-American Heart Association, Recipes for the Heart

Building Better Salads- Part 2

Salad Dressings.

Salad Dressing IllustrationIs it just me or does everyone have at least 6 almost-empty bottles of salad dressing in their fridge? I’m sure this is a trait I picked up from my mother and it drives my husband insane. If you’re like most people, a salad just isn’t complete until it has the perfect dressing to tie all those nutritious ingredients together. While there appears to be hundreds of varieties of dressings available at the grocery store, choosing the right salad dressing not only creates the perfect salad ,but it can be beneficial to your health. Too often, our healthy salad creations are sabotaged by choosing the wrong salad dressing. Here are a few simple tips to help guide your next salad shopping adventure.

Don’t always go with the fat-free variety. There are several reasons why fat-free salad dressings are not the best selection. First of all, they don’t taste good…at all. I know this because during my early college years, I had convinced myself everything I ate had to be fat-free. Fat, along with sugar and sodium help flavor the foods found on the shelves at the grocery store. If you remove one of those elements, you’re going to have to add more of the other two in order to make up for lost flavor. We also need a healthy source of fat in order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that are found in the colorful vegetables that make up our salads.

Do monitor portion sizes. A serving of salad dressing is 2 Tbsp which is about the size of a golf ball. If you don’t’ trust yourself in only pouring 2 Tbsp on your salad, serve your salad dressing on the side and dip the tip of your fork into the dressing before each bite. This is a great technique to help control your portion size of salad dressing and it can also help slow down your speed of eating.

Don’t dress your salad too early. You only need to make this mistake once before learning this lesson. It was one of the first holidays I was spending with my boyfriend/now husband’s family. I decided to prepare a delicious spinach salad with a homemade salad dressing for everyone. Unfortunately, I put the salad dressing on the salad an hour before it was served and left everyone with a soggy, sad representation of my culinary skills.

Do try to choose a vinaigrette dressing more often.

  • Vinaigrettes spread easier than other dressings. This can help you keep your portion size of salad dressing under control.
  • The consumption of vinegar before a meal may have beneficial effects on postprandial blood sugar spikes which can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/1/281.long
  • Try making your own vinaigrettes at home by using heart-healthy olive oil as your base. A simple balsamic vinaigrette only needs:
    • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tsp dark brown sugar (optional)
    • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ tsp ground pepper
    • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Do be adventurous. I was always scared of choosing vinaigrette in the past simply because of the word “vinegar”. By trying new foods, I have discovered that some of my favorite dressings are different blends of vinaigrette’s like citrus-lime or roasted red pepper. salad-dressing-aisle

It’s Zoodle Time!

zuc boatsLet’s serve up some Zoodles for dinner tonight!

“I don’t buy vegetables because they go bad too quickly!” It’s an all too familiar phrase I hear in my office. Often, people purchase vegetables with healthy intentions, consume them once and then forget them in the fridge to sadly go to waste. Before you throw in the towel with buying vegetables, there are a couple ways to better handle this situation.

1) Plan Ahead. Individuals who jot down a week’s worth of menus before grocery shopping are more likely to purchase the right amount of food for the week. If you simply walk through the produce section aimlessly, you may be more likely to take more food than what you actually need before your next shopping trip.

2) Think Outside the Box. One of my favorite ways to use vegetables is to come up with unconventional ways to prepare and serve them. Start simple. Spinach should not be reserved only for a salad. It can be added to any sandwich, folded into an omelet or blended in a smoothie. Each week, feature a new vegetable an try to come up with at least 3 ways to prepare and serve it.

Remember the nursery rhyme, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” That is how my cousin, Marianne, felt except instead of children; she was dealing with a surplus of zucchini from her garden. Her family quickly became tired of having sautéed or grilled zucchini with meals, so she surprised them one night by making zucchini lasagna. Replacing noodles with long zucchini slices creates a low-carb, gluten-free twist on this classic dish. For detailed recipe directions and nutrition facts, please visit: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/02/zucchini-lasagna.html.

Zucchini is an excellent source of potassium and is also a source of antioxidants that play an important role in eye health. It is also considered a “high-volume” food meaning a large serving of zucchini contains a low amount of calories.

For the Kids: You can thinly slice zucchini with a julienne peeler to create “zoodles” and substitute for spaghetti noodles. Try making Zucchini boats for a healthy, gluten-free treat:julienne peeler

  • Slice zucchini in half (long-ways) and top with mozzarella cheese, fresh veggies and basil.
  • Place “boats” on a baking sheet and cook and bake for 30 minutes at 350oF.
  • Remove boats from oven and top with parmesan cheese.

Cauliflower used to be a vegetable I could only consume if it was dipped in light Ranch dressing. Now I love eating cauliflower mashed, roasted, steamed, grilled and as a pizza crust! In fact, I hardly ever eat cauliflower raw. Anymore, which is how most people typically consume it. Unique for its white pigment, cauliflower often gets overlooked in the produce section. We have always been told that the best diets are rich in color. White colored items also get a bad reputation because they are commonly associated with white bread, white pasta, white rice, donuts etc. As a part of the cruciferous family, cauliflower has actually made a name for itself as a potential cancer-fighting food.

For the Kids: Creating “fauxtatos” is a simple trick for increasing the amount of non-starchy vegetables your kids will consume.

  • Chop one head of cauliflower into florets.
  • Fill sauce pan with ½ inch of water. Place florets in pan and cover.
  • Steam cauliflower for about 10 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Drain any excess liquid and run steamed florets through a food processor until it reaches a “mashed potato consistency”.
  • Season with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, butter or lemon juice and serve. This can be served by itself or even blended in with potatoes.

Vegetables are one of the least-consumed food groups, which is sad because vegetables are such an important source of nutrients in our diet. Being creative with the way you prepare vegetables can breathe new life into our old, traditional meals.