Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pizza Quinoa Bites

Welcome back to PorrazzaNutrition! Today, I want to share with you a recipe I just revamped from my old cooking files. I have been trying to weed through my collection of recipes to figure out the ones I actually use and those I was just hoarding :) I am challenging myself to 1 day per week where I try new recipes and incorporate the tasty ones into my weekly meals or party rotation (since I usually bring healthy dishes wherever I go). My challenge to you this month is to get in the kitchen and try a new recipe or revamp (in a healthy way) an old one from your collection!

Pizza Quinoa Bites

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup low salt tomato sauce **
1.5 cups water
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 flax eggs **
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup nutritional yeast **
Dash of salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, bring to a boil quinoa, tomato sauce, and water. Lower and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a small saucepan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes over medium-low heat.
4. In a large bowl, mix together onion/garlic, quinoa, flax eggs, basil, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to your taste.
5. Form mixture into bite-sized patties and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Flip and bake for an additional 5 minutes (or broil for 1-2 minutes for crispier patties). Serve with fresh tomato sauce.

**Recipe Notes
-No-salt-added crushed tomatoes can be used in place of tomato sauce.
-To make a single flax egg, which is a replacement for 1 whole egg, simply mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Double to make the two needed for this recipe.
-Nutritional yeast is a substitute for dairy-cheeses and can be found online or at most health-food stores.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Simple Homemade Applesauce

This past week, I shared my super simple, no-added-sugar, recipe for homemade applesauce with my cooking class. This is one of my favorite recipes to make especially when I have some older and softer apples. I love the way my house smells while this is cooking too :)

When choosing apples, look for ones with a shiny, firm, and smooth skin. Apples are a good source of vitamin C, which boosts your immune health, and a great source of fiber, which is good for digestive health and may help to lower cholesterol levels. Apples are also high in antioxidants, which may help to reduce your risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. It is best to leave the skin on your apples to retain all of the fiber and nutrients. With the recipe below, since you will be blending the final product, you won't even notice the skins!

Homemade Applesauce (Stove-top)*
Yield: approx. 4 cups

4 apples, roughly chopped, with skins
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg

1. In a large saucepan, mix together all ingredients. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes or until softened.
2. Using an immersion blender, blend apples to reach desired consistency.**
3. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge (I used mason jars).

*Recipe can be made in a slow-cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours (will vary based on size of slow-cooker and amount of apples).
**You can also use a fork or standing blender to mash/puree the apples to your desired consistency. 

Nutrition Per 1 Cup: 70 Calories, 150mg Potassium, 19g Carbohydrates, 3g Fiber, 14g Sugar, 13% DV for Vitamin C

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Healthy Eating During the Summer

Summer is just about here and let's face it, sometimes healthy eating gets pushed aside until Fall rolls around. It can be easy to get off track with vacations, graduation parties, BBQs, road trips and more. While I am a huge proponent of enjoying yourself and indulging here or there, your health STILL matters and shouldn't get the short end of the stick.

How do you find a balance between investing in your health (and keeping up your good habits with nutrition) and enjoying yourself this summer? The first step is figuring out what matters to you! Often I hear clients saying that they want to lose weight for a vacation or graduation party. What happens when that is all done? What is your new motivation? What is going to push you towards sticking to your plan? Figure out WHY healthy eating matters to you. Do you want to feel more comfortable in your own skin? Do you want to control a disease? Do you want to have more energy?

Once you figured out your WHY, devise a plan for yourself. What goals do you still need to work towards? Are you still trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies? Your day-to-day may change during the summer months, so have a plan for how you are going to reach your goals even while on vacation. Pack healthy snacks (carrot sticks, fruits, nuts, raisins, etc) for your beach trip. Buy high-fiber, low-sugar bars to keep on hand while hiking. Make a smoothie to take with you while on a long drive. Don't let the excuses and self-made barriers get in the way of you accomplishing your goals and bettering your overall health.

I like to think of the acronym, "PAL," for any scenario when trying to balance food choices. If you are wondering, I highly doubt this is an actual acronym that people use, just something I thought of :) "P" is for Plan or Prepare. Plan a healthy menu for your shore trip. Prepare a healthy dish for a BBQ. Plan to exercise when there is downtime. "A" is for Assess. Assess the situation you are in. What healthy options are available during a party? Assess after the fact too. What can you do better for next time? What went well for you? How do you feel about your food/drink choices? Lastly, "L" is for Live. Live your life and remember in the grand scheme of things, that extra cookie probably won't undo all of your hard work (maybe the extra 4 or 5 would though ha). Seriously though, enjoying the summer can definitely include some treats and don't let yourself wallow in negativity about your choices. If you are eating well 90-95% of the time, why not let loose and have that piece of cake or cookie? Healthy living is just that, actually LIVING. Not just counting calories, endless dieting, restriction, and guilt.

So this summer, I challenge you to figure out what is going to motivate you to keep up your healthy habits (or start new ones) and to use the acronym "PAL" for your next social outing.

Leave a comment below and tell me what your plan is for healthy eating this summer.

For more tips on Healthy Summer Sips, click the LINK

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Breaking Through Barriers to Your Health

How many times have you made an excuse about your health? "I had a rough day, so I deserve this cookie." "It's just too cold to go to the gym, so I will just stay home." "I ate good all day, so I can splurge at dinner." "I am just too old to lose weight." I am sure you can think of a thousand more excuses you have used or overheard. One of the things I often tell my clients is that, "It doesn't matter why you didn't do it, but that it simply didn't happen." There is always going to be a reason (barrier) why something didn't happen and an excuse that follows. Why you didn't eat more vegetables, why you ate the extra piece of cake, why you didn't exercise, etc. The ultimate key to YOUR success is finding out what your barriers are and how you can overcome them.

So how exactly do you overcome your barriers? First thing is to figure out WHY it happened. Let's say you didn't eat any vegetables today. Why is that? Do you need to plan more? Do you need to actually buy them? Do you need a new recipe so they are more enticing? Do you need to put them at eye level in the fridge so you remember them? What about if you tend to be a stress or emotional eater? Stress and emotions are something that are always going to be apart of your life, so figuring out how to handle them is key. Can you try writing in a journal instead of eating? Can you go for a walk to decrease stress? Can you call a friend to work through your issues? If time is a barrier (often the biggest one), I challenge you to think of how you can make time for yourself and your health. Can you get up earlier to eat breakfast? Can you cut some TV time to meal prep? Making the time now to support your health will decrease your chances of having to make that time later when it is even harder to change. By making time later, I mean for doctor's appointments, medication pick-up, tests, blood-work, etc.

To be honest, there is nothing wrong with a small reward when you have accomplished your goals. What you don't want is for that reward to be is food (constantly). I am not against a sweet treat here or there; however, daily or weekly is hardly a "treat" and more of a habit. If you still want to have some sort of "reward" try to brainstorm things that don't involve food like buying a new book or having a spa day.

One final comment I have about breaking through your barriers is to not stand in your own way by making excuses and comparing yourself to everyone else. "I will never look as good as (insert name here), so why even try." Comparison just puts more pressure on yourself and gives a sense of complacency. Changing your unhealthy habits is definitely hard; however, when you are faced with decisions about your health, ask yourself, "Will I do something about it to help support my goals or will I do nothing at all?" YOU can choose to change your health. YOU can choose to do what is hard. YOU can choose to live healthier.

How have you decided to break through your barriers to living a healthy lifestyle? What will you start doing today that will support your long-term goals? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Healthy Spring Sips (Beverages)

Passion fruit herbal tea bags steeped and chilled
Have you ever thought about the amount of added sugar that you are consuming per day? Most tend to think in terms of sugary snacks and candies; however, many don’t realize just how much added sugar (and calories) are in their favorite beverages. Extra flavor syrups in your coffee, sports drinks, sweetened teas, and sodas, can all add up throughout the day. High added sugar intake can lead to an increased risk for obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, cavities, and more. The American Heart Association recommends an added sugar threshold of no more than 100 calories per day (6 teaspoons or 24g of sugar) for women and no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons or 36g of sugar) for men. The average American consumes more than double the average intake. One thing to note is that whole fruit (fresh, frozen or canned with no-sugar-added) is not included in this added sugar limitation since whole fruit is also packaged with nutrients and fiber and research shows it can prevent the diseases mentioned prior. By taking charge of your health and limiting added sugars you can reach your goals, whether they are related weight loss or disease prevention.

Reading food labels is one way to start monitoring your added sugar intake. Look at the ingredient list to ensure that sugar is not one of the first few (3-4) listed. Ingredients are listed on the package in descending order by weight, which means that the largest quantity appears first. Look at the sugary beverages that you currently drink and think about how you can swap them for something healthier. Instead of lemon-lime soda, try unsweetened seltzer water with freshly squeezed lemon. Instead of sweetened tea, try brewing your own herbal tea bags and serving over ice. Instead of sugary sports drinks with artificial ingredients, re-hydrate with whole fruits like watermelon or simply water. Also, try carrying around a reusable water bottle and refill it throughout the day to help boost your overall fluid intake. Flavor water up with lemon, lime, or orange wedges or try a fruit infused recipe below!

Fruit Infused Water Recipes (for 1 large pitcher)
-Strawberry Kiwi Cooler → 3 cups halved strawberries + 3 kiwis, sliced + 2 lemons sliced + Ice water
-Berry → 2 cups raspberries + 2 cups blackberries + Ice water
-Cucumber → 6 mint leaves + 2 cucumbers, sliced + 4 limes, sliced + Ice water
-Basil Berry → 2 cups strawberries, halved + ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
**Be sure to gently squish and muddle your ingredients to release the most flavor

Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite recipe or beverage is that is also low in added sugars!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spring into Your Health - Top 5 Tips

Spring is here (and has been for the past few weeks), so that means it is time to get back on track with your health. If you feel like you lost momentum with your weight-loss or just healthy eating journey, get your engines revved up. As a Dietitian, I often start to get a lot of clients during this time. Many are looking to get in shape for the summer and fit into a certain bathing suit. While I am all about finding motivation for change, you don't need a special time during the year to get started. Regardless, with the cold weather fading, more people are looking to get moving and get back on track, which I fully support. Today, I have for you my top 5 tips for springing back into your health!

Tip #1 - See a Dietitian
There is so much information in the media today about nutrition; some fact and some fiction. It seems like everywhere you turn, there is a new diet program, new supplement, new food you should be eating, you name it. Meeting with a Dietitian means that you will have an expert giving you the most up-to-date nutrition research. They will help you sift through all of the clutter and find a happy and healthy middle ground for you. One of the awesome things with working with a Dietitian is that everything is personalized. There is no one-size-fits-all approach or meal plan for that matter. As a Dietitian, my focus is to help YOU to reach your goals. I (like other RDs) provide you with resources, support, guidance, and more. So, do yourself a favor this Spring and check-out some RDs in your area. Also, call your insurance company because many allow you to see a Dietitian for FREE, can't beat that.
--> For more information on the services I provide as a Dietitian, click the LINK

Tip #2 - Get to Planning
I have said it before and I will say it again, planning is key to your success! I often find that the times where most of my clients struggle end up being when they don't plan. I am not saying you need to plan out every single piece of food that goes in your mouth; however, have at least a general idea for the week. Commit to yourself and healthy living by taking a few moments during the week to brainstorm a menu plan and build a shopping list. Plan to have back-ups meal ideas for busy days. Plan for snacks on-the-go. Having a plan will take that guesswork out of things. It makes choosing healthy foods easier since they are already purchased and prepared.
-->For more tips on meal planning, click the LINK

Tip #3 - Cut the Added Sugar
There is so much added sugar in the diet of the majority of Americans today. Make it a goal this spring/summer to cut the added sugars. Eliminate sugary beverages and swap to something unsweetened or naturally sweetened with fresh fruit slices (not juice). Cut the processed and sugary snacks and incorporate more veggies. High intake of refined, added sugars, can lead to cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and other types of lifestyle-related diseases. Cutting back on added sugars is definitely hard; however, your body will certainly thank you later.

Tip #4 - Eat More Whole Foods
Most Americans are not getting the recommended intake for fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables not only provide fiber, which can help with weight-loss, weight management, blood sugar control, and decreasing cholesterol, but also, antioxidants, which can help to boost your immune health and decrease your risk for certain types of cancers. Try to ditch a lot of the highly processed foods this spring. Focus on adding whole, real, foods like fresh/frozen fruit and veggies, lean proteins like beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole grains like quinoa or brown rice. By focusing on mainly whole foods, you will provide your body with the nutrients and ultimately the fuel that it needs.
--> For more tips on increasing your fiber intake, click the LINK

Tip #5 - Get Moving
Last, but not least, is to get moving. Try to not only be more active throughout the day, but to also dedicate some time to cardio and resistance (weight) training. Challenge yourself to bump up your activity level weekly. Don't get comfortable in the same routine and don't fool yourself into thinking that just standing and moving around your desk will cut it. Get your heart rate up! The weight training or resistance type training will also help you to increase lean body mass and boost your resting metabolism. If you don't have a program in place, see if you can work with a trainer (even just to get yourself started) or look for a reputable exercise program online.

I hope these 5 tips help you to spring into healthy living! Leave a comment and let me know what tip helped you the most or what you are doing now to better your health.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Baked Avocado Fries with Cilantro Lime Dip

Going along with my green theme for March, I wanted to share an awesome avocado recipe that went over extremely well in my latest cooking class. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical on how these fries might turn out; however, with a few seasoning adjustments, I am sold! Before getting into the recipe, I just want to share some quick information about avocados and how to choose/ripen.

Avocados are a powerhouse of nutrients! Just 1/2 has 20% of your daily value for fiber and they are also good sources of potassium, folate, and Vitamin E. One unique thing about avocados is that they are a fruit (many don't believe me when I say this) and have a nice dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These are the good kinds of fats that help to decrease inflammation in your body.

When selecting an avocado, choose one that is firm, yet will yield a bit to gentle pressure; color is not always a good indicator of ripeness. If you buy avocados that are not ripe, simply throw them in a paper bag and store at room temperature. For faster ripening, add in a kiwifruit (or two). It took about 2 days for me to ripen some rock hard avocados I bought for this recipe. Once ripened, store in the fridge for about 2-3 days. If you store cut avocado, you can sprinkle with lemon/lime juice and wrap tightly to help prevent browning. I always end up trying to use the whole avocado at once since I find it hard to keep them fresh once cut.

Baked Avocado Fries
Prep: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings (1/2 avocado each)

2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon each: paprika + garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Dash of salt and pepper
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice
1.5 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs **
2 tablespoons garbanzo (chickpea) flour

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.
2. In a shallow bowl, mix together flour, spices, salt and pepper.
3. In another shallow bowl, mix together water, lime juice, and ground flax.
4. Place breadcrumbs in a final shallow bowl.
5. Dip avocado slices in flour, liquid, and lastly breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes.

**I used gluten-free Panko. You can use regular fine breadcrumbs, ground almonds, chia seeds, or even flax seeds for other alternatives. 

Optional Cilantro Lime Dip
*Dip recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker
In a blender, combine: 1 ripe avocado, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (can sub in parsley), 1/4 cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, dash of salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup water.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sauteed Zoodles with Fresh Pesto

March is here so that means it is National Nutrition Month! This is one of my favorite times as a Dietitian! For 2017, the theme is "Put your best fork forward," which I love because it makes me think of not only choosing healthy foods, but also, cooking more! I often get client feedback that revolves around not having enough time to cook. My challenge for those of you reading this post is to commit to cooking at least one day/night per week. Once you get that down, increase to two or or even three nights! If the weekdays are too busy for you to cook more involved meals/recipes, try batch cooking on the weekends and freezing for later use. Stock-up on items like canned beans or frozen steamable veggies for when your not in the mood for cooking. To take it a step further, try incorporating new and healthy recipes in your weekly meal rotation.

Try out the zoodles (zucchini noodles) recipe below as a side dish or make it a meal by adding a lean protein and high-fiber carbohydrate (like chickpeas)!

Sauteed Zoodles with Fresh Pesto 
Yield: 4 servings 

4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
2 cups fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice (can increase to 1 tablespoon if you prefer a more lemony flavor)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
Salt & pepper
**Flavor add-ins for pesto: pine nuts, minced onion, walnuts, or nutritional yeast

1. Using a vegetable peeler or spiralizer, slice zucchini into noodles. Set aside in bowl.
2. Food process: basil, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.
3. In a large skillet, combine zucchini noodles with pesto and saute over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
4. Top noodles with tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nutrition: 190 Calories, 17g Fat (12g Monounsaturated Fat & 3g Polyunsaturated Fat), 65mg Sodium, 522mg Potassium, 9g Carbohydrates, 3g Fiber, 3g Sugar, 1g Protein, 44% Vit A, 29% Vit C 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tips for Boosting Your Fiber Intake

Have you been hearing about fiber a lot lately? Most Americans are not getting the recommended intake for fiber, which can be preventative against diseases like diabetes, diverticulitis and certain types of cancer. Low fiber intake is mainly related to the fact that many do not consume enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

What is Fiber?
Dietary fiber is the indigestible component of plant foods, while functional fibers are isolated non-digestible carbohydrates that can be extracted from natural sources or manufactured synthetically and added to foods/supplements. There are two types of fiber that can be found in food sources: soluble (which absorb water during digestion) and insoluble fiber (which remain unchanged during digestion). Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, barley, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, apples, and carrots. Soluble fiber may help to lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and regulate blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber is found in foods like seeds, vegetables, whole grains, and the skins of fruit. Insoluble fiber aids the digestive system in maintaining regularity and may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

What is the Recommendation?
As per the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the recommended fiber intake for women ages 19-30 years old is 28g per day and for males 34g per day. Aiming for about 3-4 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables each day can help you to boost your fiber intake to the recommended values.

Top 10 Ways to Increase Fiber (Without Supplements)
1. Read food labels and look for products with at least 3g of fiber per serving.
2. Eat whole fruit over juices. Juices are stripped of their fiber and antioxidant content.
3. Substitute meat dishes (chili, soups, stir-fries) with beans! One-half cup of chickpeas has 8g of fiber!
4. Choose whole grain varieties over refined counterparts (i.e. 100% whole wheat pasta for white).
5. Swap white rice (0g fiber) for quinoa (1/2 cup = 2.5g fiber).
6. Snack on fresh fruits like oranges, which have 3g of fiber and raspberries, which have 8g of fiber per cup.
7. Keep the skins on your fruits and veggies when possible to retain all of the fiber. A medium sweet potato with the skin on contains 4g of fiber!
8. Power-up your breakfast with oatmeal (1/2 cup dry = 4g fiber) + nuts (1-ounce almonds = 3.5g fiber) + flax or chia seeds (1 tablespoon = 4g fiber) + fresh fruit. 
9. Power-up salads with fresh veggies, beans, and seeds.
10. Power-up sandwiches by choosing a high-fiber bread and topping with avocado (1/2 cup = 5g fiber) instead of mayo.

While it may seem impossible to get enough fiber in the day, you can start by making simple swaps. Try using whole grain bread versus white or swapping in spiralized zucchini for a pasta base. Making small changes can help you to form new and healthy habits. One thing to remember when increasing your fiber intake is to drink plenty of fluids. Also, increase your intake slowly to avoid GI discomfort.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 3 Tips for Sticking to Your Goals

Happy February! How is everyone doing with your resolutions? In January, it seemed a bit easier to get working on those new goals; however, once February hit, is often a bit harder to keep yourself on track. It can be discouraging to lose that momentum when you are trying to start or change a habit. When you find yourself getting off track with any goals or resolutions, it may be a good time to remind yourself why you are doing this. This can help to motivate you to keep moving forward on your healthy lifestyle journey. 

Below are my top 3 tips to help you stick with your New Year's resolutions (or goals for that matter)!

1. Track your progress. 

If you haven't tracked your progress since January, think about starting now. When you track your goal progression, it makes it easier to look back and see how far you have come from your starting point. You can try different methods of tracking like keeping a paper journal (for daily and/or weekly accomplishments), making checkmarks on a monthly calendar, using an app or web-based program, etc. Tracking your progress also comes with planning. If you have a busy lifestyle (like most of us do), try scheduling a time for exercise in your calendar or circling the day where you are going to meal prep. 

2. Re-evaluate your goals. 

Reassess those goals monthly (or even weekly) to see if they need to be altered in any way. The goal you set in January may not be relevant to where you are in February. Also, make sure the goals you set are not too vague or unrealistic. Aiming for a 30-pound weight loss may be a great long-term goal; however, it can also seem a bit intimidating. If you still want to shoot for the weight-loss, think about weekly smaller goals you can focus on, which could mean aiming for 1-2 pounds of weight-loss. Also, when thinking about your goals, ask yourself how you plan to achieve that goal. Do you need to cut back on added sugars, incorporate more exercise, or increase your fiber intake? Breaking down your goals and being more specific about what you are going to do can help you to accomplish them. 

3. Make healthy eating and fitness fun.
Often, preparing healthy meals and exercising can be seen as a chore or something that you SHOULD do (and not WANT to do). Think about switching up your routine to make it more appealing. If you're trying to incorporate more exercise, find a walking partner or coordinate with someone to meet up at the gym. If you're trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, look for fun and different recipes to try. You can even get your family/friends involved by doing a "meal-prep-Sunday" event! Putting a creative spin on your goals can help boost your motivation and positivity, which both can make a huge difference in your healthy lifestyle journey!

Post is co-authored by Felicia Porrazza (Owner & Registered Dietitian at PorrazzaNutrition) and Christine Farinella (Dietetic intern with the University of Delaware that holds a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from West Chester University). 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Top 6 Meal Planning Tips

How many of you reading this are currently meal planning or have tried it in the past? It can be difficult to plan meals while working, going to school, and managing other activities. You may even feel like you prepare the same meals over and over again, which may get a bit boring. Planning your meals can be such a great tool to help you eat a more well-balanced diet! Planning can also help you to be less tempted to order out, which can get quite expensive. Today, I would like to share with you my top 6 meal-planning tips, in case you're feeling stuck or in a dinner rut!

1. Take some time to look for different recipes. 
Don't be afraid to try something new; it may even make it into your weekly meal rotation! Check out websites like Pinterest, Allrecipes, Food Network, etc, for a plethora of recipes for every cooking level and food preference. 

2. Ask your family what they would like to it. 

They may have some ideas or new favorites that they would like to see more on the kitchen table. This can take some of the pressure off of you, while cooking up something delicious you know your family will enjoy.

3. Take advantage of grocery store sales and ads. 

Don't throw those ads to the wayside while you sifting through your daily newspaper. Browse through the ad for some meal inspirations that won't break the bank. Remember to aim for a non-starchy vegetable (like broccoli or brussels sprouts), protein, and high-fiber carbohydrate (like sweet potatoes or quinoa) for each meal. 

4. Create a theme for some days of the week. 

Meatless Mondays, taco Tuesday, pasta Wednesday, and so on and so forth. Creating a theme will give you a starting point when planning meals. Even if you are making a familiar recipe, try switching up some of the ingredients. For example, on taco Tuesday, try swapping in beans for ground meat or using ground chicken. For pasta Wednesday, try a new low sodium pasta sauce, higher fiber pasta or even a new vegetable. 

5. Repurpose leftovers. 
When planning out meals (or theme-nights), remember to designate a day of the week (or two) for leftovers. Those leftovers can really add up and you want to utilize them before they end up going bad. If you don't have enough for a whole family meal, use leftovers in your lunch box for work or incorporate them into a new dish. Let's say you made a baked chicken (or tofu for my vegan/vegetarian friends) recipe on Sunday, but there isn't enough to make another full meal with it. Instead, dice it up and add it to a casserole with extra veggies, a low sodium broth, and some quinoa or brown rice. Or, use leftover proteins on a fresh bed of greens. Get creative with those leftovers!

6. Utilize your freezer. 

If you find that you can't cook a lot during the week, try to double your recipes when you do cook. You can freeze whatever isn't eaten and defrost it at a later time when your stuck on a meal idea or don't feel like cooking.

Leave a comment and let me know how your meal planning/prepping is going and if any of these tips have helped you to step up the variety!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Happy New Year! It’s amazing how quickly the new year came upon us! Have you all made your resolutions yet? 

Previously, I wrote a post about some of the winter fruits and vegetables available. Today, I’d like to focus more on the tasty butternut squash. Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. It is also naturally fat and cholesterol free! A half-cup contains only 50 calories, yet, provides you with 260% of your daily value for vitamin A and 40% of your daily value for vitamin c, which can help support your immune system. 

Now, after reading those quick facts about butternut squash, it sounds pretty enticing, doesn’t it? Makes you want to put it in your shopping cart during your next grocery shopping trip, huh? But, you may worry that you won’t be able to cook it right away or you’d like to find a recipe first before you cook it. Worry not! Butternut squash is a hearty vegetable that can be stored up to about a month in your pantry. When choosing butternut squash, pick one that is heavy for its size, is free of bruises, and is more tan in color than white. Below is a delicious recipe for homemade butternut squash and apple soup. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
Total Time: 60 minutes (stovetop), 5-7 hours (crockpot)
Yield: 3.5 quarts
Servings: 6

1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I used a flaxseed oil variety)
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 cup water
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth 
2 large onions, chopped 
2 medium apples, chopped 
Dash of salt and pepper
*Roasted butternut squash seeds (optional)

Directions- Stove Top
1. Sauté butter, olive oil, and onions in a large pot for about 5-10 mintues, stirring occasionally.
2. Cut squash into chunks and add to pot with apples, salt, pepper, water, and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
3. Remove soup from pot and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender right in the pot!
4. (Optional) Top your soup with a sprinkling of roasted butternut squash seeds.

Directions- Slow Cooker
1. Sauté butter, olive oil, and onions in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer onions to the slow cooker.
**You can also lightly cook the onions in the bottom of your slow cooker. 
2. Cut squash into chunks and add to your slow cooker with the apples, salt, pepper, water, and broth. Cook for 5-7 hours on high heat.
3. Remove soup from slow cooker and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender right in your slow cooker. 
4. (Optional) Top your soup with a sprinkling of roasted butternut squash seeds.

Nutrition Information (approx. 1 cup) 120 Calories, 3.5 g Fat, 68 mg Sodium, 445mg Potassium, 23g Carbohydrates, 5.5g Fiber, 1.5g Protein, 170% Vitamin A, 38% Vitamin C, 16.5 % Vitamin B-6

*Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds
Instead of discarding your butternut squash seeds, set them aside and use for a soup topping or quick snack! Simply rinse your seeds in a small bowl of water (to remove stringy flesh) and pat dry on a towel. Spread the seeds on a greased baking sheet, drizzle them with a splash of olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings of choice. Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees F.  Keep an eye on the time for smaller seeds so that they do not burn. 

Seasoning Blends: 
-Sweet: Cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup
-Savory: Paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Post is guest written by Christine Farinella - Current dietetic intern with the University of Delaware that holds a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from West Chester University. Recipe credit to Felicia Porrazza of PorrazzaNutrition. 

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