Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Healthy 1-Dish/1-Pan Meals

Big, elaborate dinners are nice; however, they are not very realistic for the on-the-go parent or family. Below, I complied some 1-dish, crockpot meals that I found to be quite tasty! If you don't have the time to prep all the ingredients in one day, try prepping some the night before. Then, the day you are cooking, you will just have to throw everything together.
Package leftover portions into dishes that you can freeze and take to work/school for a quick, healthy meal.

Balsamic Chicken and VegetablesIngredients:
•               1/4
cup bottled Italian salad dressing
•               2
tablespoons balsamic vinegar
•               1
tablespoon honey
•               1/8 - 1/4
teaspoon crushed red pepper
•               2
tablespoons olive oil
•               1
pound chicken breast tenderloins
•               10
ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces, or one 10-ounce package frozen cut asparagus, thawed and well drained
•               1
cup purchased shredded carrot
•               1
small tomato, seeded and chopped

1. In a small bowl, stir together first 4 ingredients. 2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken. Cook for 5-6 minutes. Add half of the dressing mix to the skillet and transfer chicken to a serving plate. 3. In the same skillet, add asparagus and carrots. Cook for 3-4 minutes and add to serving plate. 4. Stir remaining dressing mixture, add to skillet. Cook for 1 minute. Drizzle over chicken. Sprinkle with tomato. **Baking Instructions: Mix all ingredients and pour over chicken breasts. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (until chicken is cooked through).

Greek ChickenIngredients:   1 pound carrots, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces, or 3 cups baby carrots   1 pound (3-4 medium) yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut lengthwise into                      1 1/4-inch-wide wedges   2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed   1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth   1/3 cup dry white wine   4 cloves garlic, minced   3/4 teaspoon salt   1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered if large   1 large egg   2 large egg yolks   1/3 cup lemon juice   1/3 cup chopped fresh dill   Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation1. Spread carrots and potatoes over the bottom and up the sides of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Arrange chicken on top of the vegetables. Bring broth, wine, garlic and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over the chicken and vegetables. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 4 1/2 hours on low.2. Add artichokes to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolks and lemon juice in a medium bowl.3. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, whisking 2 or 3 times, until slightly thickened and sauce reaches 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in dill and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and serve.

Apple-Spinach ChickenIngredients: 2 teaspoons vegetable oil4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard1/2 cup apple cider1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced6 cups fresh baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard  Preparation:1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and add to skillet. Cook 5-6 minutes on each side or until well browned. Remove to plate, and keep warm.2. Add next 4 ingredients (through apple slices) to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes. Return chicken and juices to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes.3. Add spinach to pan, and toss until wilted, about 1 minute. Serve hot. 

Eggplant and Chickpea Stew Ingredients:  1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms  3 cups hot water  2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds each)  3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided  2 large onions, thinly sliced  6 cloves garlic, minced  2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled  1 small (1-inch) cinnamon stick  1 teaspoon salt  1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper  1 bay leaf  1 cup chickpeas  1 28-ounce can tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped  1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Combine dried mushrooms and hot water in a bowl. Stir well and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve lined with a paper towel and set the liquid aside. Finely chop the mushrooms.
3. Meanwhile, peel eggplants, if desired, and cut in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides liberally with 2 tablespoons oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until tender, about 25 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut into 1-inch cubes and transfer to a 4-quart (or larger) slow cooker.
4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, cinnamon stick, salt, pepper, bay leaf and the chopped mushrooms; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the reserved mushroom-soaking liquid and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker and stir to combine with the eggplant.
5. Cover and cook until the chickpeas are very tender, about 4 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in tomatoes and parsley.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Looking for some healthy ideas for the most important meal of the day (breakfast if you were wondering)? You have come to the right place!

Skinny Pancakes Recipe 1
Ingredients: 2 egg whites, 1/2 banana, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2c uncooked oatmeal, dash cinnamon
        *Optional add-ins: fruit, honey, unsweetened coconut, protein powder, etc.
Directions: Blend together all ingredients. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

Protein Pancakes Recipe 2
Ingredients: 1/2 banana, mashed (or 1/4c applesauce), 1 scoop of protein powder, 2 egg whites, cinnamon to taste
        *Optional add-ins: fruit, honey, unsweetened coconut, etc.
Directions: Blend together all ingredients. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

Protein Pancakes Recipe 3
Ingredients: 1 egg white, 6 oz. plain greek yogurt, 1/4 c almond or coconut flour, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda
Directions: Stir together dry ingredients. Stir together wet ingredients. Add wet to dry ingredients. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

3-Ingredient No-Bake Bars
Ingredients: 1 cup natural peanut butter, 1 cup honey, 3 cups of oats, protein powder (optional)
Directions: Heat peanut butter and honey in a saucepan on low heat until liquid. Mix in oats and protein. Press in a 9x9 pan and refrigerate overnight.

Breakfast Add-Ons
-Add fruit to pancakes, cereal, or toast.
-Add flaxseed and granola to yogurt.
-Add protein powder to your smoothie.

Ideas for Breakfast On-The-Go
Let's face it, you don't always have time to make fancy breakfast meals. So, what do you do instead? One option is to make a large batch of protein pancakes, bars, or muffins and store in the fridge/freezer to use all week. Another option is to make a quick smoothie (fruit, yogurt/milk, peanut butter, ice, protein powder). I use the magic bullet. It is the perfect size for 1 smoothie and the cups are portable! Another option is to make a trail mix to snack on while you drive.

Happy breakfast eating!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Pops

Looking for a healthy summer treat to cool you off? Try some fresh fruit and yogurt pops!

-2 cups of fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and sliced bananas
-2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
-8 small paper cups (or popsicle trays)
-8 popsicle sticks
-aluminum foil

1. Blend together all ingredients until smooth.
2. Fill paper cups (or popsicle trays) 3/4 full with fruit mixture.
3. Cover tops with aluminum foil.
4. Poke a popsicle stick through the center of the foil on each cup.
5. Freeze for at least 5 hours.

Nutrition Information (per serving)
*Altered slightly based on type of yogurt used
70 calories, 240mg potassium, 12g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 8g sugar, 4g protein


Adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fresh-fruit-and-yogurt-ice-pops/

Monday, July 8, 2013


While reading up on carbohydrates, I found some interesting facts about glycogen!

What is Glycogen?
Glycogen, a polysaccharide, is the main form of carbohydrate storage in animals. Glycogen is stored primarily in the liver and muscle tissues. Glycogen is readily converted to glucose as needed by the body to satisfy its energy needs.

The Difference Between Liver and Muscle Stores
Liver glycogen stores are more readily available for energy and blood sugar maintenance. The central nervous system relies heavily on liver glycogen for energy. Muscle glycogen stores are used solely for muscle fuel because muscle lacks the enzyme G-6-P needed to make glycogen available to other tissues.

Glycogen Storage
Glycogen forms hydrogen bonds with water molecules. This means about 1 gram of carbohydrates is stored with about 3 grams of water.  "The 70kg "average man" stores only an 18-hour fuel supply as glycogen compared with a 2-month supply stored as fat" (Mahan). Fun fact: if all human energy stores were glycogen, humans would need to weight an additional 60 pounds!

Glycogen and Exercise
About 150 grams of glycogen is stored in muscle. This number can be increased five-fold with physical training. If carbohydrates are consumed immediately following strenuous exercise, about 50% more glycogen can be stored.

Glycogen and Animals
In a well-rested animal, the glycogen content of the muscle is high and at slaughter residual glycogen converts to lactic acid. This lactic acid causes meat to become tender. With high stress levels during slaughter, epinephrine and stress hormones cause depletion of glycogen stores. The lactic acid level is then reduced and the meat quality is altered.

Mahan L, Escott-Stump, S. "Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy." Saunders. 2004. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

How Many Carbohydrates Do You Really Need?

Eating healthy should be simple, right? It is apparent that the information given to consumers is mixed and inconsistent. A prime example of this inconsistency is found with carbohydrate recommendations. The recommendations for carbs pushed from the government skyrocket to 300 grams a day or more! The USDA pushes 6oz of grains per day for females and 8oz for males. Once we translate ounces into grams of carbohydrates, you will discover that the numbers do not add up to the recommended 45-65% of carbohydrates also pushed by health professionals. Let's delve into this carbohydrate mystery!

Just to start us off, the AMDR is set in place for the macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) to help prevent chronic diseases. The AMDR for protein is 10-35% and the AMDR for fat is 20-35% (both ranges are for adults).

Version 1 (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges)

Let's take a 25-year-old female at 130lbs with a calorie intake of 1800kcals. Activity level is low.
   Grains: 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates
               810-1170 calories from carbohydrates
               To get grams, we divide by 4kcal/g: 203-293g of carbohydrates 

Version 2 (USDA: choosemyplate.gov)
Let's take the same 25-year-old female from version 1.
   Grains: 6 oz. equivalents. 1 ounce of grains is about 15-20 grams (1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of pasta).
               6 oz x 15-20g/oz = 90-120 grams

Already, a huge inconsistency of 113-173grams! After seeing the whooping difference, my next thought was maybe included in the AMDR are the fruit, starchy vegetable, and dairy groups. Let's see how those groups factor in.

Version 2 (USDA: choosemyplate.gov) + fruit, vegetable, dairy
    Fruit: 2 cups per day. 1 cup of strawberries is 12g of carbohydrates. 1 cup of apples is 15g.
             If there are about 15g of carbohydrates per cup, that leaves us with 30g of

    Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups per day. This number is then broken down into different categories of
                       vegetables to be eaten throughout the week. 1 cup of broccoli is 4g of
                       carbohydrates. 1 cup of green peas is 12g of carbohydrates.  Non-starchy
                       vegetables (broccoli, greens) generally provide about 5g of carbohydrates
                       and starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) about 15g of carbohydrates per

          If our 25-year-old female is consuming 1 cup of starchy vegetables a day (15grams) and
          1 1/2 cups of non-starchy vegetables per day (10g), her grand total of carbohydrates from
          vegetables would be 25g.

    Dairy: 3 cups per day. 1 cup of milk is 12 grams of carbohydrates.
               1 cup of yogurt is 15-20 grams.
           If our 25-year-old female consumes 1 cup of milk (12g), 1 cup of yogurt (18g) and
           2-ounces of cheese (0g), her total carbohydrates from dairy would be 30g.

    Total Added Carbs: 30 + 25 + 30 = 85g

Now, if we have 90-120g of carbohydrates to start with and we added the 85g we would end up with a range of 175-205 grams. This still doesn't add up to the AMDR of 203-293g!

Version 3 (AMDR Method 2)
Another method used to calculate the grams of carbohydrate is to subtract the protein and fat calories from total calories and use the remaining calories for carbohydrates.
      1800 kcal x 15% = 360 calories from protein, 90g from protein
      1800 kcal x 20% = 360 calories from fat, 40g from fat
      1800 kcal - 720 calories = 1080 calories for carbohydrates, 270grams. This number falls in the
      range of carbohydrates found in the version 1 AMDR.

Both the MYPlate and AMDR are pushed by most (not all) health professionals. Mostly, the AMDR is used to prescribe diets for patients and clients to help them reach a healthy weight and decrease chronic disease. Seems ironic to prescribe excessive carbohydrates to clients or patients who are either suffering from a chronic disease or working to prevent one. Also, studies have shown that a diet full of excessive carbohydrates leads to diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. It is time to rethink what you are eating and cut back on the carbohydrates.