Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

Welcome back to PorrazzaNutrition! 

When I first went went full-time with my practice and quit my "day" job, I got out of the habit of packing a lunch. I was mostly out seeing clients in the AM and after dinner, so I only really needed to pack snacks on-the-go. This January, I took a short-term teaching contract at a local community college and with teaching 4 classes back-to-back and my office hours, snacks just weren't going to cut it! 

I wanted to share with you my essentials for packing a healthy lunch, basics to keeping the nutrient balance, and how to prep smart! 

My fancy new collapsible container!
Lunchbox - I prefer the insulated varieties and definitely go with boxes/bags that have a handle since I carry a lot of work bags. 

Ice Packs - I like the gel ones versus the harder packs. The gel makes it easier to mold around my containers. 

Reusable Containers or Mason Jars - I love using the short mason jars for my soups, stews, and fresh fruit since they don't spill! I did buy a collapsible container for my leftovers; however, I didn't think about how large it was when I bought it. It is awesome, but doesn't fit in my current lunchbox. So, make sure you have your lunchbox specs before buying a fancy new container!

Baby carrots for the win!

Nutrient Balance
When I pack my lunch, I always think of PCV - protein (lean), carbohydrate (high-fiber), and veggie (usually non-starchy) for the main fare. I also pack some extra veggies, fruits, and bars for my snacks/sides. I never know what food mood I will be in (i.e. crunchy, sweet, savory, soft), so I like to have a variety to choose from. Side note here, having a backup plan is key! You never know if you will hit traffic in a work commute, if you need to hang around for questions from staff, or if lunch ends up getting pushed back. Be prepared for when life gets crazy so you stay on track and fuel your body with good-for-you foods. 

Prep Smart
Peanut butter balls for snacks!
I won't lie, I rely a lot on portioned unsweetened applesauce cups, no-sugar-added dried fruit (mango and prunes are my favorites), and baby carrots for my lunch/snack staples. I have been trying to spend more time on prepping the larger parts of my meals versus the snack/side items to save time. 

I usually carve out about 30-minutes of time on Sunday nights to prep for the week. This means peeling oranges and portioning them into containers, putting baby carrots in containers, scooping out hummus, and pulling applesauce cups from the bottom of the fridge to the top. Whatever will make my night before prep easier the better!  
I also make a lot of my lunches from my leftover dinners. I highly recommend batch-cooking grains (i.e. brown rice and quinoa) and even your proteins (like tofu) to make into easy meals. I have been trying to make more of my own snack bars/power balls versus buying them since it has gotten pretty costly. I like making these peanut butter balls 1 day and eating them all week for snacks!

I hope this gives you some tips to packing a healthy lunch! Have a great rest of your week!

Bean salad with carrots and hemp seeds + orange + dried mango + sweet potato chips!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Better-For-You Lasagna Recipe (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

The time has come! I finally (I hope) perfected my lasagna recipe! I don't even know the last time I had lasagna since gluten-free lasagna noodles are so hard to find! This is a simple and easy-to-freeze recipe that the whole family will enjoy!

Better-For-You Lasagna Recipe (Gluten-free, Vegan)
2 boxes Explore Cuisine Green Lentil Lasagna*
1/3 cup 100% lemon juice
12-ounce soft tofu, drained **
1/4 cup nutritional yeast + extra for layers
2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of salt and pepper
Low-sodium vegetable broth***
Two 24-ounce jars of Victoria pasta sauce (or marinara)****
Optional Ingredients: 1-2 handfuls of spinach, 1/4 cup Vegan Parmesan, 1 bag Vegan "meat" crumbles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9" baking dish.
2. In a high-powered blender or food processor, puree: lemon, tofu, nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, olive oil, optional spinach, onion, salt and pepper.
3. Layer in baking dish in this order: about 1/4 cup marinara/sauce, 3-4 noodles, 1/4 cup of marinara, 1/4 cup tofu ricotta, optional crumbles, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon optional vegan Parmesan, 2 tablespoons sauce and 3-4 noodles. Repeat ending with noodles topped with sauce and Vegan Parmesan.
4. Bake, covered, for 45-55 minutes. 

Recipe Notes
*You can use any pasta; however, this brand is gluten-free and vegan. It also has a nice amount of protein and fiber, which makes it more of a complete meal. These lasagna noodles are also ones that do not need to be pre-cooked, which saves time.
**Regular firm tofu can also be used. This creates the "ricotta."
***If the tofu ricotta is too thick and will not blend properly, add in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth or almond milk to thin out. Do this by 1 tablespoon at a time, as you don't want the recipe to become runny.
****I prefer this brand since there are simple ingredients. You can also use homemade pasta sauce too or any other brand. Typically, I use the full 2 jars. If you like more sauce on your lasagna, plan to reheat  it or will be hot holding on a serving line, I would grab 3 and add in a little extra sauce within the layers so it does not dry out.
--> Optional Ingredients: You can barely see or taste the spinach, so I always add it to boost the nutritional content. I would highly suggest putting the spinach in the food processor versus throwing in the loose leaves.
-->For the layers, I just estimated the amount of sauce and ricotta. Typically, I just scoop and spread in an even layer until the noodles are covered. You can totally pack the layers more and do less "noodles,"  or add more sauce. It really is up to your preference.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Spicing Up Your Vegetables

Welcome back to PorrazzaNutrition! If you read the last blog with tips for choosing bitter and sweet veggies, then you may be back to learn just how to spice up the flavor! Once you choose a vegetable, the next step is sprucing them up with herbs, spices or other foods. Check out the steps below for how to create vegetable dishes that you will actually enjoy eating!

Step #1: Pick a Veggie
Start with a vegetable you already enjoy or choose one that you have never had before. Trying new vegetables can expand your horizon to increase your vegetable intake. If you didn't like certain vegetables in the past, try them again now with a variation of spices or cooking methods to see if they make it back into your favorites!

Step #2: Choose a Way to Spice or Sweeten your Veggie
There are many ways you can add flavor to your vegetables for enjoyment. Making your vegetables either spicy, sour or salty can balance out the bitterness of the vegetable. Adding healthy sweets or healthy fats (like avocado, nuts, or olive oil) can also soften the bitter taste of vegetables.

- For spicy flavors, try black or red pepper, ginger, cumin, paprika, garlic, or fresh chilies.
- For a more sour flavor, try lemons, limes, vinegar, or fermented veggies like kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut. Just keep an eye on the sodium content for these items.
- For a tangy flavor with some sweetness, try adding orange slices, sweet onions, or even olives.

Step #3: Pick a Cooking Method
Make sure to wash under running water your fresh vegetables before eating or cooking. Some healthy ways to cook your vegetables could be through steaming, sauteing, grilling, baking or braising!

Challenge yourself to trying a new vegetable this week! Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

Guest post written with the assistance of Biancha Jackson, a current Cedar Crest Distance Dietetic Intern. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Boost Your Vegetable Consumption - Bitter Vs. Sweet

“Don’t forget to eat all of your veggies on your plate!” The clean-your-plate club is one childhood memory that many of us will never forget. As we grow into adults, we have more freedom in what we choose and unfortunately, vegetables are often left off of the plate. Whether lack of vegetable consumption is due to the taste or convenience factor, there are ways to boost your consumption without compromising your taste buds.

When choosing different vegetables, keep in mind your preference for bitter and/or sweet taste. There are many vegetables with a natural sweetness that can satisfy a sugar craving. Actually, roasting vegetables in general will help bring out their natural sweet flavors! Check out the lists below of the least to most bitter vegetables and also those with a bit more sweetness! Choose your favorites or try something new based on your taste preferences.

Bitter Vegetables (from least to most bitter)
-Brussels Sprouts
-Belgian Endive
-Swiss Chard
-Collard Greens
-Dandelion Greens

Sweet Vegetables (from least to most sweetest)
-Red Radishes
-Green Cabbage
-Sweet Potatoes
-Sweet Onions
-Winter Squash

Knowing the levels of bitterness and sweetness of vegetables can help you to choose those that you actually enjoy eating! Give a new vegetable a try and leave a comment to let us know your thoughts!

Stay tuned for next week's blog, which will feature some of the best ways to flavor your vegetables!

Guest post written with the assistance of Biancha Jackson, a current Cedar Crest Distance Dietetic Intern. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Stuffed Mushroom Caps (Plant-Based, Gluten-Free)

I have been in a huge food rut lately! Anyone else ever get to that point? I feel like all I do is cook the same meals over and over. To spruce things up in the kitchen, I made it a point to buy and cook foods that I haven't made in a while (or never tried before). My goal was to try something different at least once per week.

With that, I have fallen back in love with mushrooms, which are currently in season. Mushrooms are low in calories, yet, high in Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), which plays a key role in energy production and metabolism. Mushrooms are also good sources of Niacin and Copper. Check out the recipe below for my stuffed mushroom creation, which can be altered to your food preferences! This is a great way to use up leftovers too.

Stuffed Mushroom Caps Recipe
Plant-Based, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free

6 baby bella mushroom caps, cleaned with stems removed
3/4 cup mild low-sodium salsa
1 flax-egg
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cubed extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons almond flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder and onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Dash salt and pepper
Optional toppings: fresh, diced tomatoes + shredded dairy-free cheese + nutritional yeast

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or greased foil.
2. In a single layer, place mushrooms with cap side down.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients and gently stuff into each mushroom cap.
4. Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until caps are soft and stuffing is hot.
5. Top caps with optional ingredients and broil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes
-Portabello mushrooms can also be used. The mix makes enough for 5-6 portabello mushrooms.
-In place of salsa, you can use diced tomatoes.
-In place of the brown rice, you can also use quinoa.
-1 flax-egg can be made by mixing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for about 3 minutes (will gel together).
-Tempeh or a crumbled veggie burger can be used in place of the tofu.
-Flaxseed meal, coconut flour, whole wheat flour, can also be used.
-Seasonings can be adjusted based on taste preference.
-Extra "stuffing" can be heated on the stove-top and served with whole grain or corn chips!
-To reduce cooking time, ingredients can be sauteed in a pan prior to stuffing in each mushroom.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Back to School Lunch Tips (Plant-Based)

Summer is coming to a close and before you know it, school will be back in session. Although school lunches have come a long way in terms of healthful options, some may still choose to brown bag it due to limited lunch options or long lines at school. No matter if you choose to buy or pack a lunch, nutrient-dense foods should still be at the forefront of your menu. After all, a nutritious lunch will help to fuel your child’s growing body and give them the energy they need to focus during the school day.

If you are planning to have your child buy lunch, review with them the school lunch menu so they can pick healthy and well-balanced options for each day. When packing a lunch, it is important to get your child involved since they are more likely to consume what they helped pack. You will also help to eliminate food waste when taking into consideration their food preferences.

When choosing or packing a lunch, try to aim for a balance of lean protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Some plant-based protein options could include tempeh, tofu, beans, nuts, or seeds. High-fiber carbohydrates can include whole fruits, whole grain breads, whole grain pastas, unsweetened applesauce cups, or quinoa. Healthy fats could include nuts, seeds, avocado, or low-sugar almond yogurts. Keep lunches cool and at a safe temperature by sending ice packs, insulated lunch boxes, or frozen waters.

Check out some of the sample lunch options below for inspiration!
-Fresh fruit salad using cookie cutters for fun shapes.
-Hummus and veggies (baby carrots, broccoli, celery sticks, cucumbers)  with whole grain pita.
-Apple slices and peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter) with whole grain pretzels
-Homemade veggie soup in an insulated container with whole grain crackers.
-Salad topped with roasted chickpeas and mixed veggies and served with fresh fruit.
-Whole grain tortilla wraps stuffed with veggies and lean protein.
-Healthier PB&J made with chia jam, natural peanut butter, and whole grain bread.
-Homemade granola bars with fresh fruit.
-Brown rice bowls (or quinoa) topped with sauteed veggies and chickpeas (or tofu).

Posted also available at EatRight

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tips for Cooking Healthier

Healthy meals, whether they be for one or a family, can often be the biggest struggle my clients have. Knowing what to serve. Knowing how to cook. Having the time to cook. All of these can be barriers in the way of you and your family's health. We don't want to spend hours in the kitchen; however, we still want to make sure we (and our families) have the best nutrition available.

Check out some of the healthy cooking tips below to see what you can incorporate in your daily routine!

Try one new, healthy, recipe per week (or month)
Feel like you make the same things over and over again? Try cooking one new healthy recipe once a week or once per month. Start weeding through your stacks of paper recipes, cookbooks, or Pinterest saves. You may even find something that becomes apart of your weekly meal rotation!

Try better-for-you cooking methods
Instead of frying try baking, roasting or steaming for your veggies and protein sources. Baking can be a simpler way to get a meal on the table, since it is a bit more hands off once you get the food in the oven. Roasting is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness in veggies! Steaming can help to retain the nutrient content of your foods (versus boiling).

Leave sauces/dressings on the side
We often think about dressings or gravies on-the-side for eating out; however, try the same strategy at home. If you need to, cook with a small amount of the sauce you need and leave the rest on the side to use sparingly.

Swap it out
Do you normally use mayo? How about swapping in avocado instead? Normally use a lot of oil? Try swapping or cutting the oil with a low-sodium vegetable broth. Use white breads or rices? Try whole grain or brown rice options. Look at your typical meals/recipes and see where you can swap in a more nutritious item!

Use more herbs and spices
In place of high-salt, high-fat sauces or seasoning blends, try using fresh or dried herbs/spices - basil, parsley, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika. etc. Read through the label of your favorite seasoning blends to see if you can replicate a healthier option.

Cook once, eat twice
When cooking grains (rice, quinoa, barley, etc), cook in larger quantities. Use leftovers for the next day's meals so you can reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen.

Add at least 1 cup of veggies
Most Americans are not eating enough vegetables. One way to boost your intake is to commit to choosing at least 1 cup (2 servings) of veggies with each meal. Alternate with fresh, no-salt-added frozen or canned veggies. Try a variety of herbs and spices or sprinkle fresh lemon or lime juice on cooked veggies. The veggies will add a variety of nutrients (including fiber) to the meal and help to keep you fuller for longer.

How will you plan to cook healthier this week? Do you have a healthy cooking tip to share? Leave it in the comments below!