Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quick Fixes

I was thinking about all of the ways that I've already altered my lifestyle to encourage a "healthier" me. I thought I'd share 25 quick fixes that you could all start doing at anytime to help improve your health.  Some of these may seem really obvious and I bet many of them you already do, but this is just a little on-going list I'd like to start on how to eat healthier and simpler long-term.  I could easily write a paragraph on each one of these items, so please feel free to leave a comment and request such information.  For now, I thought I'd keep it as simple as possible.

Good luck making the switches!

1. White rice to brown rice, black rice or brown grain blends; which may include long grain rice varieties.  Trader Joe's sells a great "Brown Rice Medley" that costs around $1.99 for a bag.

2. Regular pasta to whole grain pasta.  There are definitely times when I still eat regular pasta, for example, when I make lasagna or order homemade pasta at a restaurant, but for the most part, it's only whole grain pasta for me.

3. Soda to seltzer.  Duh.

4. Any other cooking oils/sprays to only extra virgin olive oil or canola oil.

I am probably bias, but grown and bottled olive oils
from Italy are the best

5. White bread to whole grain bread (check the food label to make sure the first ingredient is "whole ...")  You should be getting 4 - 6 grams of fiber in each slice.  May I recommend Trader Joe's Fiber Multigrain.

6. Salted peanut butter to unsalted peanut butter.  May I also recommend trying almond, sunflower seed, or any other type of nut-butter.

7. Cooking with heavy cream or whole milk to using plain yogurt instead.  Substitute yogurt in place of cream in almost any recipe.

8. Any other kind of milk to organic fat-free milk.

9. Soy sauce to only low-sodium soy sauce.  Use sparingly.

10. Salt shaker to just fresh pepper or fresh squeezed lemon for flavor.

11. Packaged trail mix to making your own trail mix -- use unsalted almonds, pecans, walnuts, dark chocolate chips, and crasins (no sugar added, all natural, if you can find them).  This will save you calories, various preservatives, and money.

12. Any type of condiment or spread on your sandwich (not that I ever used these anyways) to sliced avocado.

13. Any other kind of yogurt to fat-free Greek yogurt.  Try Fage, Oikos, or Chobani.

14. Ground beef to ground turkey (again, not for every dish all the time, but give it a try for most).

15. 1 yolk for every 2-3 egg whites.  When I make scrambled eggs, I use 1 whole egg and one or two additional egg whites.

16. Pork bacon or pork sausage to turkey bacon or turkey sausage, this is a mega fat-reduction.

17. When making any recipe that calls for sugar, I often only add half as much as the recipe calls for.  Sometimes less.  You could also play around with adding just a little bit of honey in some cases.

18. Butter to, well, still butter.  Just use less.  Much less.

19. White potatoes to sweet potatoes.  You can still enjoy white potatoes every once and while, but for the most part, incorporate sweet potatoes as their nutrients are sky high.

Roast sweet potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh pepper
20. Milk chocolate or white chocolate to dark chocolate.  Go ahead and try at least 70 - 85%.  This is my favorite!

21. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

22. Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes.  Take the stairs, get off the subway at an earlier stop and walk, clean your filthy apartment/house/basement/garage, plant a garden, walk the dog longer, play, join a yoga/pilates studio, go skiing, don't drive -- walk or ride your bike, go out dancing, go for a hike, just go outside for an adventure.

23. Buy lean cuts of meat (like tenderloins, sirloins, top round steaks) and buy skinless chicken.

24. Go meatless at least once a week.

Shop at your local farmers market as often as you can

25. Buy more "real" foods (not food-like substances, processed foods, packaged foods etc...)

Enjoy what you EAT!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Easy Dinner Tonight

I've been trying new recipes and getting more adventurous with different foods, but let's be serious, sometimes you just want a simple tasty meal.
Here's an easy dinner loaded with nutrients: baked lemon chicken, baked sweet potatoes, and a green vegetable.

Baked lemon chicken - 
I tend to only buy antibiotic-free organic skinless chicken breasts.  I bought a some chicken at Trader Joe's the other day, and the package came with three decent sized chicken breasts for around $7.50.  
Add a drizzle of olive oil over each one.  Season both sides with pepper, dried basil and fresh pressed garlic.  Or, you can add any herbs or spices you'd like.  Then cover the chicken with sliced lemons.  I tried using some lime slices too.  I also squeezed some fresh lemon juice over the tops of the chicken.  Bake for 30 mins at 350 degrees.

Add herbs and spices first then cover with lemon slices

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees

Baked sweet potatoes - 
One of natures most nutrient dense foods.  I prefer smaller-sized sweet potatoes for some reason, and I at least always make sure to buy the same sized ones so they bake evenly together.  Wash them thoroughly and stab 'em all over with a fork.  Wrap each one in tin foil and place on baking sheet; they tend to drip.  Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  Or, if you're cooking them at the same time as the chicken...put the sweet potatoes in first for 30 mins at 415 degrees.  Then, when you add the chicken, lower the oven temp to 350, and continue baking the potatoes for another 30 mins alongside the chicken.
I usually just cut the potato in half, sprinkle a little cinnamon over the top, and eat it right out the skin as is.  No need for any butter since sweet potatoes already have so much flavor.  The cinnamon is a nice touch, and it adds some extra antioxidants to your meal.  I don't eat the skin.

Hot potato!

Nutrients in
Sweet Potato
1.00 cup, baked (114.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

vitamin A438.1%

vitamin C37.2%


vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)16.5%



dietary fiber15%

vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)10.1%


vitamin B3 (niacin)8.5%

Calories (102)5%

Green vegetable - 
The easiest one to make, I think, is simply steamed broccoli.  Wash and trim broccoli and steam for 5 minutes.  No more, no less.  The broccoli will be just tender enough and it will retain all of it's nutrients (which can normally get lost in the water when boiled or steamed for too long).  Squeeze a lemon wedge over the broccoli right before serving.
Other simple green veggies to make could be sauteed kale or chard.  Washed and remove thick stems and tear off smaller leaves.  Throw the leaves into a large skillet with a few tablespoons of water and cover.  Cook the greens down a bit.  You can add a little olive oil and fresh garlic if you'd like.  Also, red chili flakes add a nice kick.  A squeeze of lemon is nice over these greens too, when serving.
Or, you could always make a quick garden salad with spinach or baby romaine salad greens tossed with a little flavored vinegar.  

Chard: just took the cover off, after cooking for about 5 mins covered

Chard and garlic being cooked down for a few more minutes uncovered

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Check out Mark Bittman's NYTimes article about American's consuming less meat and the possible reasons why.

I see many more "meatless anydays" in the future...

Garden Salad

Cremini Mushrooms

Roast Eggplant, Tomato and Artichokes with Garlic and Lemon

Vegetable Saute

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Little Seeds of Goodness

We are in the height of pomegranate season-- which usually runs from September through March.  As much as it pains me for summertime to end, I must admit that I get a smile on my face when I start seeing pomegranates back in the markets.  These little seeds of goodness not only add a sweet touch to whatever dish you are eating (or cocktail) they are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.

I don't know what brought about the phrase "fruits of your labor" but my guess is that it must have stemmed from the pomegranate.  Getting those darn seeds out can be a laborious task to say the least.  I've heard of submerging halved pomegranates into water to aid in removing the seeds, though I've never tried this tactic.
For me, I cut it vertically in half first -- right through the top where the stem is.  I think you minimize losing seeds this way.  With each half, you can see where the segments are and can cut each half into quarters on the seams.  Once it's in quarters, gentle hands and patience is the only way to get all the seeds out.  Sometimes I wonder if it's worth all the time (seriously, it takes me about 20+ minutes to get all the seeds out) but I always find myself buying one weekly and enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Costs: Whole Foods and Trader Joe's sell pomegranates for about $3/each.  I've found them to be somewhat disappointing lately though.  There is a fruit cart guy on 14th Street, right by Trader Joe's, that sells them for $1.99 and they have been fantastic.  You can also buy already-seeded packages that come in a ventilated small plastic tub.  These range in price and in the midst of the season, they are about $4 per package and will save you lots of time; but I still prefer to take the seeds out on my own.

Look for:  Good sized (the size of a naval orange or small grapefruit), dark ruby colored, heavy, and unbruised.  If they're bruised or feel soft, you may find brown seeds inside, which is no good.

Toss 'em into your: yogurt, cereal, fruit salads, garden salads, quinoa, couscous, wild rice, brown rice, oatmeal, wrap sandwiches, pitas, muffin batter, bread dough, turkey stuffing, and smoothies.  Even place them on top of your grilled or baked meats, like chicken or pork tenderloin.  Buy eating your meats with vitamin-C boosting foods, like pomegranates, you can even enhance your iron absorption.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meatless Anyday

I think it's important to go meatless at least one day a week and I often find myself going meatless even more than that without even trying.  I love a good steak as much as the rest of you, but it's important to get variety and not load up on the saturated fat that comes along with most meat.  Meatless Monday has health and environmental benefits, so give it a try.

Here are some meatless anyday recommendations:

  • Salad:  This is an easy one.  You can include all types of salads (fruit, quinoa, wheatberry, etc) on your plate.  Here, I made an easy garden salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, and pomegranate seeds; and a roast butternut squash Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous).  The only dressing I have over the garden salad is fresh squeezed lemon.  If you need more of a kick, any kind of vinegar would be fine, may I recommend the Spectrum pomegranate white wine vinegar, found a Wholefoods.  As for the couscous salad, I bought the Israeli couscous at Trader Joe's and I also bought their precut raw butternut squash that was all ready to go in the oven to roast.  There is even a recipe for the whole thing on the Trader Joe's box.  Including different types of salads on your plate is the best way to get all the nutrients you need and to fill you up.  The veggies have most vitamins (especially A and C) and minerals; and the couscous has the fiber and the complex carbs to keep you feeling full.
I always like to add a little fruit to my garden salads for a sweet touch

  • Stir-Fry:  Make the switch to brown rice from white rice.  This way, you gain all the fiber that is striped from the white rice version and you get all the nutrients too.  While you are making the rice, cut up and saute your veggies in a pan.  Use olive oil to lightly coat the pan and veggies.  I like to add broccoli, carrots, snow peas, peppers, and mushrooms the mix.  Once everything is mixed in together, feel free to add a teaspoon of low-sodium soy sauce or other sauce, I like San-J Teriyaki, but only use a little bit because there is a lot of sodium (and added sugar!) in these types of sauces.  If you need more flavor, add garlic to your olive oil when you are sauteing the veggies or try grating fresh ginger over top of the meal.  Again, you have the whole grains for fiber and keeping you feeling full and the veggies for the vitamins and minerals...whole grains have vitamins and minerals too!
For a little protein, try adding an egg

  • Pasta Primavera:  This is also an easy one...I mean, who doesn't have a box of pasta sitting in their cabinet?  I often make this when I have a bunch of veggies that I need to use up sitting in the fridge and I'll just throw in whatever I have.  Use wholewheat pasta, of course, and steam or lightly saute some veggies.  Here I had steamed some kale, chopped up some raw yellow and red bell peppers, and sautéed some crimini mushrooms.  Other good things to add are artichokes, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, swiss chard, even a little avocado would be nice creamy touch.  Feel free to add any herbs, like basil or oregano, for some added flavor.
    Any shape of pasta will do, just use your favorite