Tag Archives: Food Products

Build a healthy veggie burger!

Last night, I was super tired when I got home from work, and I didn’t want to spend more than 20 min in the kitchen in order to make dinner. Fortunately, I had MorningStar Veggie Burgers in my freezer, which made for a super delicious, healthy and filling meal! Veggie burgers can be made to be either very healthy, or pretty unhealthy. Below are my suggestions on how to build a healthy burger. Enjoy! 🙂

Ingredients

  • Veggie burger patty – I like MorningStar Tomato and Basil Pizza Burgers the best. But any veggie burger that has 100-120 calories per burger, 3g fiber or more, and 9g protein or more is a good choice.
  • Whole wheat burger buns – I like Orowheat 100% Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns – each bun has 180 calories, 6g fiber and 9g protein!
  • Ketchup
  • Baby spinach – this is a much better alternative to lettuce. Spinach has more fiber and healthy antioxidants!
  • Tomato slices
  • Diced Red onion – a better alternative to white onion (again the red color has healthy antioxidants). I also think red onion has more flavor.
  • Sliced Red bell peppers (optional) – if you want to add a bit of extra fiber/veggies to your burger, red bell peppers are a great option – they have a great crunchy texture and fiber

Directions

  1. Cook burgers according to package directions (I like grilling them on the stovetop – you don’t need any oil or anything – just a nonstick skillet!)
  2. Toast buns, and build your burger! Burger bun, veggie burger patty, onion, tomato, spinach, peppers, ketchup, salt/pepper to taste.

Dinner is served in 20 min!

Btw – using the products above, each burger would have about 300-325 calories, at least 10g fiber and 18-20g protein!

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Breakfast for Dinner! Healthy Muffins & Warm Berry Quinoa

A few nights ago, I had a craving for muffins. Now – usually I stay away from muffins because they’re typically loaded with fat and calories… they’re usually more like a cake disguised as a healthy breakfast food 🙂 But I recently found an AWESOME muffin mix at Trader Joe’s that is super healthy! It’s made with all organic ingredients, all whole wheat/whole grain flour, has flax seeds, low in fat and high in fiber…. and it tastes GREAT! Each muffin is quite filling and a good size, and has only 150 calories (20 calories from fat) and 7g fiber.

Since I was craving muffins, I thought, “why not have breakfast for dinner?” There was another breakfast recipe using quinoa that I had wanted to try for a while – so I put the two together and ended up with a really yummy meal. The quinoa recipe and pictures of the muffin mix are below – hope you enjoy it!

Warm and Nutty Cinnamon & Berry Quinoa (from 101cookbooks)

Note: I got this recipe from 101cookbooks, but then modified it to make it my own. My modified recipe is below – you can find the link to the original here.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup 1% low fat milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup organic quinoa
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 box fresh strawberries, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2-3 packets of Splenda
  • 4 teaspoons honey

Directions

  1. Combine milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed
  2. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes
  3. Stir in berries, nuts, cinnamon, honey and splenda; transfer to four bowls and top with pecans/walnuts
  4. Drizzle 1 teaspoon honey over each serving

Awesome Muffin Mix from Trader Joe's!

Muffins fresh from the oven!

Sliced Muffin + Yummy Quinoa Berry Mixture drizzled with honey and nuts!

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Misleading “Diet” Foods!

Happy new year everyone! With the new year comes lots of new resolutions to get healthier, lose weight, eat better, etc. – which is great! Unfortunately, a lot of people get misled by unfair marketing from food companies – promoting their products as super healthy when they actually aren’t! So what’s a health-conscious consumer to do?

I came across an article this morning from Fitness Magazine that’s actually really helpful in debunking the “myths” behind certain diet foods. The original article is here – and my summary is below. Hope this is helpful in allowing you to be successful for your new years health goals!

10 Diet Foods that aren’t actually healthy!

  1. Flavored Yogurt (e.g. Yoplait Original Flavored Yogurt): Flavored yogurt has over 30g of sugar per serving! Not to mention, about 200 calories. Opt for non-fat Greek Yogurt and stir in a Tbsp of honey, maple syrup, etc.
  2. Sugar-free Cookies: the sad thing here is, when they take out the sugar, they add more fat to make up for it! Sugar free does not mean “calorie-free” – and many times the sugar-free versions have as many calories as their full-sugar counterparts! Instead, have a 100 calorie pack, or just ONE regular small cookie (moderation is better than eating fake food!)
  3. Trail Mix: The unfortunate thing here is, food companies ruin the nutritional value of trail mix by deep frying the banana chips and covering raisins, almonds, etc with partially hydrogenated oils! (basically, adding trans fats). When you look at the ingredients on a trail mix package, “oil” should not be one of them. Fortunately, stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods offer very healthy packaged trail mixes, or you can make your own by buying roasted almonds, raisins, other nuts, etc and mixing your own. Keep in mind though, that nuts still contain a lot of calories and fats (even if it’s good calories/fats) – so stick to a 1/2 cup serving at most when you eat it!
  4. Veggie Chips: Chips are chips – no matter whether they were once a healthy veggie, once they end up in that plastic, sealed bag, they have been deep fried and have lost most of their nutritional value. Veggie chips are basically potato chips in disguise. Instead, opt for baked potato chips or tortilla chips – and stick to only a handful as a serving!
  5. Granola: The word “granola” automatically seems healthy, doesn’t it? Sadly, it isn’t. Granola usually has tons of added sugars and fats (the oats are usually tossed with a sugary syrup before they are baked to give them a sweet flavor). One cup can have up to 560 calories and 28g of fat (without milk!). My rule for granola is – stay away from it. Eat high fiber tasty cereals instead. And if you really love granola so much that you can’t give it up, sprinkle only ONE Tbsp of it over yogurt or oatmeal.
  6. Sushi: Regular sushi with the basics (fish, rice, seaweed, veggies) is usually a good choice. However, many restaurants have tempura sushi – which is basically battered, deep fried meat or veggies wrapped in seaweed. Stay away from that! Instead opt for nigiri, sashimi or cucumber/veggie rolls.
  7. Smoothies: Ah, Jamba Juice. Juice seems so healthy right?? Wrong. Juice oftentimes can have as much sugar as soda! And smoothies that are made with ice cream, frozen yogurt, syrups, granola, etc can pack 500-1000 calories per drink! If you love smoothies, make your own at home with frozen berries, a banana, 1/2 cup low fat milk or soy milk, and 2 tsp honey. That way you’ll get your full serving of fruit without the extra calories!
  8. Diet Drinks: For some reason, diet drinks have been linked to obesity. Studies show that people who consume diet drinks are more likely to gain weight than people who don’t. I don’t quite understand this connection, but there are tons of articles out there about it. Opt for a drink with 3 parts sparkling water and 1 part juice instead.
  9. Fat Free Salad Dressing: From a calories standpoint, this isn’t a bad option (usually these types of dressings are low in calories and have a similar taste to their full fat counterparts – which should definitely be avoided!) The issue is, that without healthy oils in your salad, you won’t be able to absorb the nutrients from it! You can make your own dressing with heart healthy olive oil (2 tsp olive oil, 1.5 Tbsp balsamic vinegarette, minced garlic to taste)
  10. Ground Turkey/Chicken: I basically stay away from meat, but if you do like meat – don’t eat ground turkey or chicken – which often contain fat & skin! The key here is to look at labels and make sure that the meat you’re buying has only 1g fat and no saturated fat per serving.

Hope this info is helpful! Thanks Fitness Magazine for the great article!

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When should you buy organic foods?

Organic foods are everywhere these days! Oftentimes they cost more, and they are definitely marketed to be healthier. The skeptics say that there’s no difference between an organic apple and a regular apple, or organic milk vs. regular milk – that it’s just a ploy to extract more money out of consumers. If that were the case, it would really be sad – all of us health-seeking consumers getting duped into buying more expensive food products without any additional value! The good news is – there have been lots of articles recently touting the benefits of organic foods – but also providing realistic guidelines about when it’s “worth it” to buy organic. This article at MSNBC.com is great – it gives a comprehensive overview of what organic means and what all the different labels mean – and what foods make sense to buy organic. I’m including the highlights in my post below, as well as some tips from another article from Shine that doesn’t focus on organic food but foods that are high in chemicals to avoid if possible.

So – what should you buy organic? There’s a simple list of 12 fruits/veggies called the “dirty dozen” – that if possible, you should absolutely buy organic. They have the highest amounts of pesticides among all the produce out there. They are:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes, imported (Chili)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

Milk, poultry, and meat are also “recommended” to buy organic if possible.

7 other foods to avoid are:

  • Canned tomatoes: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity
  • Corn-fed beef: A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease
  • Microwave popcorn: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer
  • Non-organic potatoes: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation’s most popular vegetable—they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. 
  • Farmed salmon: Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT
  • Milk produced with artificial hormones: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
  • Conventional apples: Apples are the fruits most doused in pesticides – see the dirty dozen above 🙂

Hope these guidelines are helpful – happy healthy eating!

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Low Calorie / Healthier Versions of Candy, Cookies, Dessert!

candyI love dessert! I have the biggest sweet tooth ever – candy, cookies, chocolate, ice cream – you name it – I’m a fan. If I’m at a dessert buffet, it’s always really hard to resist temptation!

Even though all this junk isn’t good for you, depriving yourself completely isn’t necessairly the way to go. If you totally deprive yourself you’ll only crave it more, and eventually you’ll go nuts and eat like 5 chocolate bars and your whole healthy living plan will be gone. Junk food is ok – in extreme moderation.

Because I’m a candy addict, I took the initiative to find “healthier” dessert options when I have my sweet tooth cravings!

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Here are a few tips/healthier sweet options:

jb1) Jellybellies: This is a great alternative to skittles, starburst, etc. One jellybean has only 4 calories!! That means you can have 10 jellybeans and you’ll have only racked up 40 calories. The flavors are great too and will keep your taste buds happy 🙂

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2) Chips Ahoy 100 Calorie Packs: These packages have 15 mini cookies in them. And you’ll only end up eating 100 calories, even if you finish the whole pack! It’s not the same as chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, but it’s a great snacky alternative. There are tons of other 100 calorie options from Nabisco – I like the Oreo 100 Calorie Packs and the Lorna Doone Shortbread 100 calorie packs. Other good cookie options: Trader Joe’s Organic Animal Crackers. Each cookie/biscuit is about 7 calories! Sometimes I’ll make a little snack mix with 2 Chips Ahoy cookies, 2 Oreo cookies, 2 Shortbread cookies and 3 Animal Crackers. That mix is only about 50 calories!

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cdy_3_musketeers_mint_dark_chocolate_24ct3) Mini 3 Musketeers – Mint: This is the greatest chocolate snack ever! If you like mint/dark chocolate you’ll love this. One mini musketeers has only 25 calories! All of the “mini” versions of Mars snacks are pretty low in calories too. Reeses mini cups are about 40-50 calories per cup, Rollos are about 40 calories, Snickers are 40-50 calories per snack, Regular 3 musketeers are 30 calories, Milky Way is 40 calories. If you eat 2-3 of these you’ll get your chocolate fix but will only have eaten up to 100 calories. I like having 2 mini mint musketeers and 1 Reeses mini peanut butter cup – 100 calorie dessert!

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jello4) Jello Sugar Free Pudding Cups: These are only 60 calories per cup and are a great cooling snack for the summer! Chocolate is my favorite flavor 🙂

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3529435576_f4d48eaa7d5) Dreyer’s Slow Churned Light Ice Cream: This is a great alternative to regular ice cream. Each 1/2 cup serving only has about 120 calories max, with only ~30% of those calories from fat! They have TONS of flavors to choose from – my favorite is Cookie Dough.

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These are my favorites when it comes to healthy/low calorie dessert alternatives. What are some of yours?


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Be a Picky Eater – Don’t Drink Your Calories!

Picture1One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from friends of mine who are trying to lose weight is: “I’m eating healthy and working out but I’m not losing as much weight as I should! What am I doing wrong?” And oftentimes, the reason they’re not losing enough weight is because they’re unconsciously consuming more calories than they think. A lot of these “hidden” calories are in drinks! Alcohol, sodas, even juice which is supposed to be the “healthy” option are full of calories and sugar! And your morning coffee could be adding up to 500 calories to your daily diet. So – one of the biggest tips I can give for people trying to lose weight is – don’t drink your calories!!

Here’s how the caloric counts break down:

1. Sodas: For most sodas, 8oz has anywhere from 100-125 calories. So drinking that 16 oz Coke with lunch could add up to 250 calories to your diet! And forget about supersizing – that would add up to over 500 calories per day!

2. Coffee: You might think of your morning latte as having no effect on your diet. But actually – unless you’re ordering either a tall nonfat cappuccino or a tall nonfat latte from starbucks, you could run anywhere from 200-500 calories with your morning coffee! Why? Because of all the sugary syrup add-ins, the whipped cream, the full fat milk (if you don’t ask for nonfat), the caramel, the chocolate, etc. etc.). And the drink titles can be decieving. The “Tall Chai Tea Latte” sounds healthy, but actually has 200 calories and 31g sugar! What’s one of the worst drinks you can get at Starbucks? The Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino® blended coffee with Chocolate Whipped Cream – a grande will run you 470 calories and 17g fat! Ack. You could eat an entire lunch & dessert for that amount of calories.

3. Juice. Basically, the rule with juice is 8 oz carry about 80-100 calories. So if you have a glass of juice, you’re going to be drinking at least that many calories.

4. Alcohol. Wine/beer have about 80-100 calories for 8 oz. 1 shot of any hard alcohol has 60-100 calories. Everything else – all fruity mixed drinks, multiple glasses of wine, etc can go anywhere from 200-600+ calories!

The takeaway here is – if you’re following a 1,500-2,000 calorie/day diet, and you get 500 of those calories from sugar laden drinks – losing weight is going to be a major challenge!

So what does that mean? Should you cut out all drinks? No way! There are some great alternatives – you won’t be stuck with drinking only water for the rest of your life 🙂

Healthier Drink Alternatives

Cans_11. Soda: If you must have soda, there are tons of diet, calorie-free options for all of the big brands – I’ve even found Diet Cherry Coke! And for the most part, they all taste pretty close to the originals. And it’s definitely worth it when you think about the calorie savings! But keep in mind that all of these diet drinks are flavored with artificial sweeteners – which are basically chemicals added to the drink. So if you can, stay away from soda in general and stick to more natural fizzy drinks like sparkling water!

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2. Sparkling Water: This is another great alternative to soda and to juice. If you mix flavored sparkling water with 1/4 cup of apple juice or orange juice, you end up with a very refreshing drink that only has about 30 calories!

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starbucks13. Starbucks: I know sometimes you just NEED coffee. So what are some healthy low calorie options at Starbucks?

– Hot Tea: If you get a Tazo Chai tea bag with water, let it steep for a few minutes and add 1/4 cup nonfat milk and splenda – you end up with a great, tall, hot drink for only 30-40 calories!

– Tall Non-Fat Cappuccino, sweetened with splenda or sugar-free syrup: 80 calories

– Tall Non-Fat Latte, sweetened with splenda or sugar-free syrup: This is about 100-120 calories

– Hot Coffee or Espresso with a shot of nonfat milk, sweetened with splenda – 20-40 calories max

Essentially, you want to stay away from the mochas, caramels, hot chocolates, sugary-syrup add-ins, etc. That cuts the calories down by a lot!

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FLAVOREDTXT4. Juice: Essentially, the way to get around juice is by mixing it with sparkling water (like in #2) or finding sugar free versions that taste like juice. Flavor Splash by Dasani is pretty good – refreshing and doesn’t feel like water. Propel is a good alternative to Gatorade. There’s also Crystal Light powders – which mixed with water make pretty good lemonade!

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wine-glass-red5. Alcohol: Basically, stick to red wine or beer and only have 1-2 drinks max! If you want hard alcohol or a mixed drink, have rum and DIET coke instead of regular, or vodka soda (club soda has 0 calories), etc. Stay away from Long Island Iced Teas, Margheritas, Pina Coladas, etc. etc.

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Healthy Fried Rice with Edamame, Veggies, Tofu!

One of my favorite Asian dishes is fried rice. But I always struggled with how to make a healthier version of it – and then I came across this recipe from EatingWell.com, made a few modifications, and came up with a great healthy meal! See my modified recipe below – if you want the original you can get it from eatingwell’s website.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, greens included, rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 cups leftover cooked brown rice
3/4 cup finely diced red pepper
3/4 cup cooked, shelled edamame
1/2 cup fresh or frozen, thawed, corn
6 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup diced red onion
  • 4 cups leftover cooked brown rice (or freshly cooked minute brown rice)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced red pepper (Equals about 1 red pepper)
  • 3/4 cup cooked, shelled edamame (I use the frozen kind and just defrost it – works great)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen, thawed, corn
  • 6 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (I use Trader Joe’s Thai Baked Tofu – picture below)
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons Thai Red Curry Sauce (I use Trader Joe’s version – picture below)
Frozen Edamame Packet & Trader Joe's Tofu

Frozen Edamame Packet & Trader Joe's Tofu

Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce

Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce

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Directions

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet until very hot (over medium high heat)

2. Add the garlic, red pepper, onion, and ginger and cook, stirring, until softened and aromatic, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the rice, edamame, corn and tofu and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the soy sauce and incorporate thoroughly

5. When cooking is almost complete, add the Thai Red Curry Sauce

Fried Rice - Almost Fully Cooked

Fried Rice - Almost Fully Cooked

Finished Product - Yum!

Finished Product - Yum!

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Nutritional Information

Serving Size – 1.5 cups of rice

Calories per Serving: ~400

Protein: ~10g (at least)

Fiber: 7g

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