Posts filed under ‘Food’
I recently gave a nutrition talk at a local elementary school’s PTA meeting, and I thought I would share the ideas and resources here on my blog, so all of you can share in these delicious (and nutritious) breakfast ideas.
Inspired by the Eat This Not That books, I organized my talk by discussing quick, easy, delicious, and healthy alternatives to some of the most popular children’s breakfast items out there today. For each unhealthy breakfast item, I list a better option and then a best option. The main difference between my lecture and the Eat This Not That books is that in general, I tried to focus on healthy, whole-food alternatives that are not pre-packaged whereas the book gives you packaged alternatives. Here goes:
1. Instead of sugary cereal
Try a cereal with less sugar and more fiber like Cheerios or Kix
Interested in reading some nutrition labels and finding your own best cereal option? Click here for some strict guidelines you could follow to choose a better bowl of cereal, or try these more flexible guidelines developed by a registered dietitian.
The best alternative would be oatmeal.
Three different ways to make oatmeal quick and easy:
- Instant – Yes, you could buy the instant flavor packets, but you are also buying plenty of added chemicals when you do that. Try making your own instant oatmeal packets for a better bowl of oatmeal at a fraction of the cost.
- Regular – You can easily cook regular oats in the microwave in less than 3 minutes! Some delicious topping ideas are yogurt, fruit, drizzle of honey, cinnamon, apple butter, or applesauce. My all-time favorite bowl of oatmeal is made by mixing in 1 or 2 Tbs peanut butter plus one mashed up over-ripe banana. Yum!!!
- Overnight, No-Cook Oatmeal – I cannot believe it has taken me this long to try it. Basically, you mix old fashioned oats with milk, yogurt, and any flavorings you want and then refrigerate overnight. The oatmeal is ready to eat in the morning; just pull it out of the fridge and enjoy cold! This is absolutely perfect for our hot summer days and it is delicious! Click here for some recipes and awesome flavor ideas. I love the cocoa banana; I consider it a valid and healthy reason to eat chocolate for breakfast. One note, I have made these recipes with the chia seeds as recommended, but you could leave them out if you want. You would probably need to add a few more oats if you do that, but I highly recommend you try to find the chia seeds and add them. Chia is an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Enjoy!
2. Instead of Pop-Tarts
Try toasted whole wheat English muffins spread with all-fruit jelly. Even better, top it with peanut butter* and strawberries.
*A note on peanut butter – Unless you absolutely want to consume extra sugar, unhealthy oils, and various chemicals, your peanut butter should have only 2 ingredients: peanuts and salt. Yes, you can find this in the regular grocery store; just read your labels! Some will argue that peanut butter like this is annoying because the oil separates. All you have to do is mix the peanut butter once really good when you purchase it and then store it in the fridge; if eaten in a reasonable amount of time, the oils will not separate that badly again.
The best option (and super portable just like Pop Tarts) would be homemade trail mix. You can make it super simple by just mixing peanuts and raisins together, or you can get fancy with other nuts and dried fruit. Want to be a super saavy nutrition oriented person? Anytime you consume a vitamin C rich food along with a source of iron, the body will be able to absorb more of the iron. Therefore, add a small glass of orange juice or an actual orange to this meal to help the body absorb the iron in the raisins. And yes, oranges are very portable as long as you purchase the mandarin orange variety (commonly sold as Cuties); the skin peels easily and there are usually hardly any seeds.
3. Instead of white flour pancakes or waffles topped with butter and syrup
Try a variety made with whole wheat. Better yet, make your own using whole wheat flour.
The best option would be to top the waffles with something healthier than butter and syrup. Try peanut butter and bananas or apple butter and blueberries. Yogurt or applesauce are also good toppings. Another fun and healthy idea that falls into this category is to make a banana dog, which is simply an entire banana placed inside a whole wheat hot dog bun spread with peanut butter.
4. Instead of Toaster Scrambles
Try Triscuit crackers and cheese* slices (microwaved for 20 seconds if you like it hot). I specify Triscuits because of their simplicity. They have only three ingredients: whole wheat, oil, and salt. Try finding that in any other store bought cracker! Have you ever read the ingredient list on Wheat Thins? It is riddled with words I cannot pronounce. I don’t know about you, but when I buy crackers, the last thing I want to buy is a ton of chemicals! Another hot breakfast option is simply to reheat leftovers from last night’s healthy dinner.
*A note about cheese. Make the switch to block cheese and you will not only save yourself money but will also decrease unnecessary ingredients from entering your body. Here are the ingredients in block cheese: Milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, and sometimes annatto which is a coloring agent that can be avoided if you purchase white cheese. The ingredients in a package of pre-shredded cheese include all of the above PLUS: potato starch, cellulose powder, calcium sulfate, and natamycin (yes, this is basically an antibiotic…it is added to shredded cheese to prevent mold growth). No wonder cheese tastes better when you shred it yourself!
The best option to replace a Toaster Scramble would be to make your own breakfast burrito using eggs, whole wheat tortillas, salsa, and cheese. Some may argue that this is not quick or easy, but I will tell you that eggs scramble in no time at all on the stove. If you do not want to mess with dirtying a pan to cook the eggs, you can easily make scrambled eggs in the microwave. Here is a tutorial that shows you how. It does not get an easier than this! Oh, and the eggs made in the microwave taste great; I have tried it! Bonus points if you have any leftover beans you can throw into the burrito for some extra protein and fiber.
5. Instead of a Starbucks Frappucino
Try making your own chocolate or strawberry milk. You will not only save money but will save your body from ingesting the whopping 39 grams of sugar found in the frappucino (homemade chocolate milk has only 13 g of sugar). I’ll admit that a glass of chocolate milk is far from a complete breakfast, but it is a vast improvement to the frappucino.
The best substitution in this case would actually be to make your own smoothie out of yogurt, fruit, and milk, but I must admit to you that I never do this because I absolutely hate cleaning the blender! Does anyone else out there agree with me that washing a blender is the absolute worst kitchen chore? Anyway, because I am trying to make these suggestions quick and easy, I say the best thing to have for breakfast instead of a frappucino would be a delicious bowl of plain Greek yogurt topped with blueberries and a drizzle of honey. This is actually my go-to breakfast and snack and is a fabulous option for anyone trying to increase their protein intake (Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein). If you use frozen blueberries and microwave them for 30 sec to 1 min first, then you will have some blueberry juice as well that helps to flavor and color the yogurt.
Now, I am not saying that all of these options are the perfect, wall-balanced breakfast; but I am saying that all of these options are better than the unhealthy, pre-packaged variety shown at the start of each suggestion. You could easily add a glass of milk and a piece of fresh fruit to make a more complete breakfast.
What if you need something even simpler? What if you literally do not have the time or frame of mind to think about combining a few things to make a breakfast? You can opt for two other easy ideas:
- Fruit and cheese
- Fruit and nuts
The best fruits that require minimal preparation in my opinion are: bananas (they have their own wrapper!), kiwi (just slice in half and eat with a spoon), mandarin oranges (otherwise known as Cuties), Apples (wash and go), and avocado (slice in half, remove pit, and eat half with a spoon).
When all else fails, just pour a tall glass of milk and call it a breakfast! It may not be the ideal balanced breakfast, but that is much healthier than eating nothing at all.
I hope you found these ideas helpful in your busy life. Please pass along any of your own healthy breakfast ideas my way. I would love to try them.
Are you looking for more information regarding healthy eating for kids? My favorite sites are:
- Eatright.org/kids – This is our American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- RaiseHealthyEaters.com – This is a very useful website made by a registered dietitian. There are plenty of recipes and interesting articles here.
- Weelicious.com – This site has a plethora of unique, fun, and mostly healthy food ideas for children.
Have I mentioned before that I love freebies? Well, over the past 3 weeks I have celebrated my birthday again and again by redeeming all the free offers sent to me from local companies that I had previously signed up with. I thought I’d share these in case you were not aware of them, and I would love to hear if you know of any others that give out great rewards for their members.
Just to clarify, I did not eat all of this in one day. Many of these offers give you a week to a month to redeem, so I spread them out for my snacks and occasional treats throughout the last few weeks. For those of you who know me well, you know that I do not go out to eat very often (usually twice a month or less), so this was a wonderful treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite (oh, and shared some with my husband and daughter too).
The absolutely 100% free offers that I received:
1. Marble Slab Creamery’s fan club gave me a free waffle cone. Yes, that is cheesecake ice-cream with fresh strawberries mixed in. Yum!
2. I scored a free Flauta Plate from Taco Cabana’s eClub. This was a filling and delicious meal!
3. More yummy (and free) ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s ChunkMail club.
4. CVS Beauty Club sent me $3 off any purchase, so I picked up some free shower gel and of course a little chocolate as well.
5. Baskin Robbin’s birthday club gave me a free cone. A warning from a previous year’s experience. You must give them your free birthday scoop coupon before they scoop your ice cream; otherwise, they’ll give you too big of a scoop and charge you for it. The free scoop is a junior sized scoop. Nevertheless, still delicious!
6. Jason’s Deli Birthday Club sent me a coupon for $5 off any menu item. I found out that their Savvy Chicken Salad Wrap is only $4.99, so I got myself a delicious free lunch (including pickle and chips as well…the pickle is important when you’re pregnant). In fact, I was so excited about eating this meal that I forgot to take the picture until after I had already consumed most of it. My apologies to Jason’s Deli. The meal really does look nicer when it is not half eaten.
7. Schlotsky’s Bun and Fun E-Club gave me a coupon for either a free small sandwich or 8″ pizza. I chose the veggie pizza and was extremely impressed. It was absolutely wonderful! The pesto sauce made it extremely tasty. Mmmm…just writing about it makes me want another one.
8. My Starbucks Rewards program gives out a free drink of your choice (any drink, any size). The catch to this one is you have to register a gift card on-line and then make at least one purchase with that card within a 12 month period. This is no problem for me because my fabulous husband tends to receive Starbucks gift cards for Christmas from his students and he so generously shares these gifts and we go on nice little morning dates together.
9. IHOP’s Pancake Revolution Club sent me an offer for a Free Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity meal (or any menu item of equal or lesser value), but I neglected to redeem this offer in time. It has now expired.
Other offers I received that are not completely free because a purchase is required:
1. Gringo’s El Club gave me a free Presidente Plate (comes with both the cold and hot plates below) with purchase of any other entree. This was completely worth it! My husband and I went to Gringo’s on my birthday and enjoyed basically a buy one get one free meal. This plate was delicious and I would definitely order it again if I was really hungry or wanted to be sure to have leftovers (it was plenty of food for two meals for me).
I did not redeem any of the other offers I got, but I’ll list them below in case you are interested in getting these offers on your birthday.
2. A free brownie sundae at Chili’s with the purchase of at least one entrée.
3. Free dessert at Buffalo Wild Wings.
4. One free creation at Cold Stone Creamery when you buy a creation.
5. One free dessert with purchase of one entrée at Pappasito’s.
6. Free birthday dessert with purchase of entrée at Applebee’s.
7. Buy one entrée get one entrée free at Carrabba’s.
8. $5 off any purchase at DSW.
That is all. If you love freebies too, my suggestion to you is to look at the websites of the stores and restaurants in your area and sign up for their e-mail list or their rewards club.
You could even create a separate e-mail account that you use for this sole purpose so your regular e-mail doesn’t get flooded with junk mail. My regular e-mail account works fine for these offers, they really don’t send very much e-mail and when they do send something it is usually a coupon, so I’m happy to receive it.
If you know of any other great places to sign up for birthday freebies, please share it with everyone by leaving a reply to this post.
It is so easy for us to read about Esau and look back and say to ourselves, “What a foolish decision!” Can you believe he gave away his birthright as firstborn for a bowl of lentil stew? (see Gen 25:29-34).
Then the very last verse of our reading today says that Esau’s wives were “a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” It looks like Esau just has trouble making the right decisions. I do not think Esau was trying to displease his parents by marrying foreign women, but it just happened as a result of his decisions.
Esau’s decisions are not so far removed from our own. I’m sure we have all made a mistake or two. Are you being foolish in any of your current decision-making? Have you asked God to help you make the tough decisions in your life? Let’s pray about our upcoming decisions instead of making choices in our own strength.
A little something extra to get your taste buds smiling today. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe for Lentil Soup. Be forewarned: it is delicious! Don’t make any foolish decisions in exchange for a bowl!
Lentil Bean Soup
- 1 pkg lentils
- 1 lb carrots, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 can Rotel
- 1 lb ground meat (ground beef is delicious, but deer meat adds a tasty variety to this dish)
Rinse beans and cover with water to cook. While cooking add carrots, onion, celery, and Rotel. Season to taste. Beans and vegetables take about 20 minutes to cook. Meanwhile, cook the ground meat and drain if needed. Season to taste. Add ground meat to pot of beans and vegetables toward the end of cooking. You may have to add some extra water. Serve hot with some homemade cornbread. Yum!
Radishes. I was so excited as I pulled up a small harvest of radishes from the garden a few days ago. The vibrant colors are enough to make me smile, but then I sliced one up and put it in my salad. Talk about turning something that was kind of plain and boring into a delight for my taste buds! The radish added just enough zing to the salad to really make a difference.
What things are you adding to your life that pep it up a bit? For me, a delicious dark chocolate bar in the afternoon picks me up, but I’m talking about mentally, emotionally, spiritually. What are you doing to be sure your engine stays revved up?
The best thing in my life over the past week has been reading the Bible daily in the morning before any other distractions of the day arise. I find myself looking forward to waking up early (even though it is not easy…my daughter still is not sleeping through the night). I can’t wait to get out of bed and open the Bible and see what God is speaking to me for the day. Talk about adding some zing to my day; it is like any energy drink for my soul!
What stirs your passion for life?
A few nights ago I made chicken tacos and I realized I did not purchase any toppings for them. Much to my excitement, I remembered I have some lettuce growing in my small garden in the backyard. I simply took a few steps outside, picked a few leaves of lettuce (just what I needed for the meal) and we were able to eat delicious tacos with crisp, fresh lettuce as a topping.
I continued to enjoy my backyard grocery store the rest of the week as I picked fresh lettuce for salads to accompany a spaghetti meal and a broccoli quiche. It is so convenient to just walk outside and pick the vegetables you need for your meal. The thing I like most is I do not have to worry about any of it going bad in my refrigerator; I just pick what I need each day.
Then I realized that God works this way in my life if I would just let Him. He provides exactly what I need at exactly the right time. The key is choosing to take those few steps toward Him every day for sustenance, just as I have to actually make myself walk out of my back door for vegetables, I have to come to Him in prayer and get to know Him through reading the Bible. Once in His arms, He provides everything I need for that day.
Do you have a daily time set aside just to spend with God? As a mother of a 10-month old I know it is tough to find quiet moments, but they do happen. Seize those moments and spend them with your Maker. He is running to you with open arms, all you have to do is take a few steps toward Him.
Over the past year I have discovered the marvelous money-saving technique of buying whole chickens instead of packages of chicken breasts at the store. Yesterday I was reminded of just how awesome this is. I was able to purchase a whole chicken for less than half of what it would cost to buy a package of 3 chicken breasts.
I jumped on the opportunity, purchased the whole chicken, and we had a delicious roast chicken with vegetables for dinner last night. The only thing that used to bug me about buying a whole chicken was then trying to cut it up after it is cooked. I always seemed to destroy it. Yesterday, I watched this brief video on YouTube and I was able to effortlessly carve my chicken, and it looked almost as good as the chicken the French chef carved in the video .
My husband, my daughter, and I enjoyed roast chicken and veggies leftover for lunch today, I am in the process of making a batch of homemade chicken stock (which usually yields the equivalent of 10 cans of broth) from the bones and carcass of the bird, and I have 2 cups of diced cooked chicken leftover that I’m making into a Mexican chicken casserole tonight. Yum!
One bird sure goes a long way. Oh, and the house smells divine as the bones have been simmering for about 3 hours now. I cannot think of a more delicious and pleasant way to save money. What is your favorite way to save money on groceries? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.
Every now and then I challenge myself to skip a week of grocery shopping. The result is twofold: save money on groceries and keep the fridge, freezer, and pantry relatively clean. Last week was one of those weeks, and I had a blast trying to come up with edible combinations from the food we had on hand.
Well, I stumbled upon some frozen kielbasa that was leftover from another meal as well as one loaf of frozen bread dough and a little leftover barbecue sauce. The combination turned into a meal my husband raved about. The recipe is as follows:
- 1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
- 6 links kielbasa (I think it was probably about 1 lb of meat)
- 3 Tbs barbecue sauce
Divide bread dough into 6 equal portions and flatten out with hands. Spread a little barbecue sauce on one side of each piece of dough. Place one sausage link in the middle of each piece of dough. Wrap the dough around the link and attempt to seal the dough (you may have to wet the dough with a little water to get it to stick together). Place seam side down on a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. My husband insisted that dipping them in a combination of ranch dressing and barbecue sauce was even tastier. Serve with some veggies and fruit and you have got a delicious meal.
I’m sure I’ll be making these again in the future. Have you ever come up with a tasty meal that was thrown together from what you had on hand but later became a family favorite? I’d love to hear about it.
Have you made any homemade bread lately? This day in age, it is so easy just to run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread, tortillas, muffins, or some pitas. However, some pleasure is lost in the process. For those of you who have ever made any sort of bread you know that there is something fulfilling about kneading the dough. Feeling the flour mixture under your hands and pounding, turning, and forming it into whatever shape you desire.
I had never made homemade tortillas before, but last week I gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was. But most of all, I enjoyed the process. Yes, I got flour all over the kitchen and dough stuck under my fingernails. But I must say that I have never enjoyed a tortilla more than those fresh ones straight out of the pan.
Isn’t that how life is? There is tremendous appreciation for those things we work hard for. There is joy in the process. Sometimes the shortcuts in life cheat us out of those pleasurable moments of kneading and waiting. Let me encourage you to slow down. Do not be so caught up in getting to the destination that you are unable to enjoy the journey.
Will I make homemade tortillas all the time? Of course not. Will I make homemade tortillas again? Absolutely.
In an effort to be sure my daughter gets exposed to a wide variety of healthy foods, I have been more adventurous when shopping in the produce section lately. Most recently, I have discovered parsnips for the first time in my life. For those of you who do not know, they basically look like white carrots and they have any amazingly sweet and earthy flavor.
I cooked some and mashed them up with a mixture of ground turkey to make some meat patties and that was a delicious experiment, but I still had almost an entire package of them. I made a roast the other day and instead of adding just potatoes and carrots on the side, I added some parsnips to the mix. Let me say one word: wow!
Roasted parsnips are a wonderful thing. As my daughter ate dinner with us that night, she chowed down on parsnips, smiling at me as she smacked her lips. It was her first experience with roasted parsnips and my first experience as well. How fun it was to enjoy something new together! Have you tried any new vegetables or fruits lately? Please share your experience in the comments section.
Lately, my husband and I have decided to start calling leftovers “encores.” Leftovers have such a negative connotation, but encores sound so delicious. Overall, it is more about a change of attitude toward the abundance we have been given. We live in a land of great abundance, yet so much of it is wasted, and many times I’ve found myself ungrateful for having to eat yet another serving of the same thing I had yesterday.
Tonight as I made a lentil, cheese, and tomato quiche for dinner, I realized there is so much more to be done with abundance than just grudgingly eat it. For the quiche, I actually took the time to make a homemade pie crust. Because I am unable to roll a pie crust out to a perfect circle, I had to trim the edge of the crust once it was in the pan. Well, I ended up with a small fistful of leftover dough. In general, I thought, there are three things one could do with an abundance:
- Throw it away
- Give it away
- Use it/Re-purpose it
I almost threw the fistful of dough away, but then I realized it took way too much effort to make it, so I decided on using it to make two small, individual serving size pear pies. The pears came from my mother who gave out of the bountiful crop she had off her trees this year. The pies turned out to be the perfect complement to the meal. What a delicious lesson to remind me to take a second look before I simply throw out the abundance I’ve been given!