Tag Archives: Quick and Healthy

Great Snack: Two Easy Dips with Pita Chips!

So as most of you know, I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s πŸ™‚ This past weekend when I was grocery shopping, I came across two dips that I thought would make a great snack: The Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus Dip, and The Masala Lentil Dip. I’ve had a bunch of different Trader Joe’s hummus dips before, but I had never tried the organic version. The organic version actually has better nutritional information than the regular version (20 fewer calories per serving, with the same amount of fiber & protein). And I’m pretty sure the Masala Lentil Dip is new because I hadn’t seen it before! (It also has good nutritional value – only 60 calories for 2 Tbsp, and a good amount of fiber & protein!)Β  Both were fabulous, and I served them with home made Pita Chips (recipe below). But you can also eat them with sliced veggies – e.g. carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, zucchini, etc., and you can also combine them with a cheese plate if you pick your cheeses wisely πŸ™‚

Here’s the Organic Hummus Dip…

And here’s the Masala Lentil Dip…

And here’s the Pita Chips Recipe!!

Note: I like making Pita Chips at home rather than buying the pre-made, packaged version. Usually those have either added fats, preservatives, etc. to make them taste good – which end up adding more calories to the pita chips. Also, they’re usually not made with whole wheat pita bread, so you lose the added fiber and nutritional value there as well. It’s really easy to make pita chips at home – took less than 5 minutes!

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat pita bread
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt, pepper, other spices to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan or panini press over medium-high heat, spray with olive oil spray
  2. Put 1 whole wheat pita bread on the panini press, spray the top lightly with olive oil spray and close the panini press (if on a grill pan, flip the pita once the side that’s down is crispy and browned)
  3. Take the pita out once it’s crispy (like a chip!), season with salt/pepper/or your favorite spices to taste
  4. With a serrated bread knife, cut the whole pita into 8 equal wedges. Serve with dip!

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Two Fun, Unique Summer Fruit Ideas: Watermelon Salad and Chili-Rubbed Melon

Last week, I discovered a couple awesome ways to dress up fruit, courtesy of one of my favorite cafes! On Monday, they were serving yellow watermelon – which I had never had before. It actually tastes just like red watermelon but feels a little lighter/fresher, and it’s just fun to eat because it’s a yellow watermelon πŸ™‚ And later in the week, they served Honeydew Melon rubbed with Chili and Lime which was really unexpected but tasted amazing! Here are two fun ways to dress up the usual summer fruits – hope you enjoy them!

Fruit Idea #1: Watermelon Salad

Ingredients: Cubed seedless yellow and red watermelon (4 cups), cubed jicama or cucumber (3 cups), fresh lime juice (1/4 cup), salt and pepper to taste, mint leaves thinly sliced

Directions: Toss all the ingredients together and serve immediately! Enjoy πŸ™‚

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Fruit Idea #2: Chili-Rubbed Melon

Ingredients: 1 Honeydew Melon, cut into large slices or wedges, chili powder, lime juice, salt

Directions: Take each of the melon slices and coat with lime juice. Then rub the chili powder and salt generously on both sides of the slice (the lime juice and natural juices of the melon will help it stick). Serve immediately and enjoy!

The great thing about both of these recipes is they will satisfy your sweet tooth, and are super refreshing, but are extremely low in calories! 1 huge cup of watermelon only has about 40-50 calories; and 1 huge cup of honeydew melon has about 60 calories. The spices and lemon juice are pretty negligible so you can definitely enjoy these treats without ruining your diet!

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Healthy & Easy Meals: Great for College Students or Busy Professionals!

Earlier this week, I got a comment from Monica – she’s a college student and doesn’t have much time, but wanted some easy, healthy recipes that she could use during the week. I thought it was a great question – and would apply to anyone who is super busy and just doesn’t have more than 15 minutes to spend in the kitchen. So here are 5 simple, healthy recipes: one for each night of the week — and you only need to buy 5 vegetables in order to make them! You can just use the same veggies in different ways throughout the week, the rest of the ingredients should be pantry staples that you have on hand. The other great thing is that each of these meals is super balanced with veggies, whole grains and protein, and none of them should run you over ~400 calories. Enjoy!

The Secret: Cut all the veggies when you buy them or have extra time (like on a Sunday). That way, when it comes to actually making the weeknight meals, all you have to do is throw the ingredients together and you’ll be done in under 15 minutes!

So here are the 5 veggies you need:

  1. Bell peppers – any color will do – just get your favorite (red/yellow/green/orange – they’re all good!)
  2. Tomatoes – I like roma tomatoes the best, but again just get your favorite
  3. Baby spinach, pre washed & bagged
  4. Garlic
  5. Red Onion

Monday – Egg White Scramble and Toast


Ingredients you will need:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes (chopped)
  • 3 egg whites (note: you can add a pinch of the yellow of one of the eggs if you like the flavor)
  • 1-3 tsp 1% milk
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Whole Wheat bread
  • Ketchup or other condiments that you like with your eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick fryingΒ pan to a setting just above medium.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and salt. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Add veggies to the mixture.
  3. Spray the pan with cooking spray. Add the eggs mixture to the pan. Do not stir immediately. Wait until the first hint of setting begins. Start the Martha Stewart scrambling technique (“Using a spatula or a flat wooden spoon, push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute runny parts.”)
  4. Continue this motion as the eggs continue to set. Break apart large pieces as they form with your spoon or spatula. You will come to a point where the push-to-center technique is no longer cooking runny parts of the egg. Flip over all the eggs. Allow the eggs to cook 15 to 25 seconds longer. Transfer eggs to serving plates. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with ketchup and two slices whole wheat toast.

Tuesday – Veggie Quesadillas with Refried (or whole) Black Beans


Ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes (chopped)
  • Low fat shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Refried black beans or whole black beans
  • Taco seasoning
  • Cooking spray
  • High fiber tortillas (either whole wheat or Mission low carb tortillas will do – each one should have ~120 calories and over 3g fiber)
  • Salsa

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small pan, heat beans over medium heat. Add taco seasoning to beans, stir until mixed through and heat for about 5 min until beans are cooked through.
  3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay tortillas out on the baking sheet. On each tortilla, spread 1/4 cup refried beans (or whole beans), 2-3 Tbsp cheese, and veggies.
  4. Fold tortillas over, and broil on low for 10 minutes or until tortillas are browned and crispy on top. Serve with salsa & enjoy!

Wednesday – Quick Pita Pizzas


Ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, garlic (chopped)
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Whole wheat pita pockets
  • Shredded cheese (fontina, parmesan, mozarella – just get your favorite – any one will do!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • On each pita pocket, spread pizza sauce, garlic, veggies, and 1/4 cup cheese (max) on top.
  • Broil in the oven for 5-10 min or until pita pockets are toasted through and cheese is melted & bubbling.

Thursday – Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


Ingredients

  • Whole wheat bread (I like Oroweat Double Fiber bread)
  • Tomatoes, Onions, Spinach, Garlic – chopped
  • Your favorite cheese – I like Fontina or a Mild Cheddar
  • Ketchup
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Heat a pan over medium high heat (or if you have a grill pan/panini press – warm that up)
  2. Layer one slice of bread with a couple thin slices of cheese (shouldn’t be more than 1oz)
  3. Top with healthy serving of all veggies, salt & pepper and the second slice of bread (make the sandwich!)
  4. Spray pan / grill pan / panini press with cooking spray
  5. Grill on both sides until crispy and cheese is melted. Serve with ketchup!

Friday – Asian Stir Fry


Ingredients

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, garlic (chopped)
  • Soy sauce or bottled Thai Red Curry Sauce
  • Tofu
  • Cooking Spray
  • Minute brown rice

Directions

  1. Cook brown rice according to package directions, set aside
  2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray
  3. Saute tofu in the pan with soy sauce until lightly crispy on the outside. Set aside.
  4. Saute veggies and garlic until tender, add soy sauce half way through cooking. Add tofu back to the pan, add 1/4 cup of thai red curry sauce (or other low calorie asian sauce) if you like – towards the end of cooking
  5. Serve with brown rice.

Thanks Monica for a great comment that inspired this post! And a quick note for you: For an easy Indian Meal – check out this recipe – super easy Channa Masala that will taste great!

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Simple, Healthy Asian Stir Fry with Veggies and Tofu!

Yesterday I got home after a long day, and still had tons of work left that I needed to finish that evening! So basically – I was in no mood to spend more than 20 min in the kitchen cooking dinner for me and my husband. Luckily, we had frozen vegetables in the freezer, and tofu in the fridge – and I immediately thought of doing a super healthy, quick Asian stir fry for dinner! I guarantee this recipe won’t take you more than 20 min to make, and you don’t even need any oil for the stir fry – I promise! The recipe and ingredients are below – hope you like it πŸ™‚

Ingredients

  • 2 Packages of Frozen Asian Mixed Veggies (you can find these in the frozen section – I like to get the one with the greatest variety of veggies – Trader Joe’s has an awesome option, see picture below)
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1 Package Firm Tofu, cut into cubes
  • 1 Package Thai Baked Tofu, cut into cubes (see picture below – I use the kind from Trader Joe’s but you should be able to find baked tofu in the refrigerated section of most supermarkets)
  • Trader Joe’s Thai Red Curry Sauce (see picture below – again you can pretty much use any bottled sauce mixture you like – check out the Asian section in your supermarket. But make sure to get a sauce that’s relatively low in calories and sugar! I like the Thai Red Curry Sauce because it’s only 80 calories for 1/4 cup – which is really all you need if you mix it with Soy Sauce!)
  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
  • Quick Cooking Brown Rice (I like minute brown rice – see picture below)
  • Sesame Seeds (just to sprinkle over the finished dish)

Directions

  1. Cook 1 cup of minute brown rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium to medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray, and pour the frozen veggies into the pan. Stir fry 5-10 min until the veggies are cooked through, add soy sauce to taste towards the end of the cooking process (note – the Trader Joe’s Asian Veggies comes with a great soy flavored sauce – so I usually just add that instead of soy sauce. But if you get a different frozen veggies mixture, then soy sauce is a decent substitute).
  3. Spray another pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Saute the tofu cubes until slightly crispy on the outside, add 1-2 Tbsp soy sauce towards the end of cooking for flavor
  4. Add the tofu cubes to the veggies, and add 1/4 cup Thai Red Curry Sauce (or more to taste). Stir fry lightly just until the entire mixture is heated through. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top (not too much – just a pinch for each serving). Serve with brown rice and enjoy!

Nutritional Information: While I don’t have exact nutritional stats for this dish, I’d estimate it would be around 400-500 calories per serving (depending on how much tofu and rice you take). Also – the mixed veggies provide tons of fiber as does the brown rice, and the tofu is a great protein. All in all, a really well rounded meal!

Pictures of the Products I Used:

Finished Product!


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My Top 10 Healthy Snacks

I often get asked what kinds of foods I eat in order to maintain my weight. A lot of those questions are about snacking – especially for those of us who have desk jobs and without-fail, get the “munchies” around 3 or 4pm! So I thought I’d put together a list of my top 10 healthy snacks – those that I eat on a regular basis that are filling, tasty but still healthy and low in calories. My general rule for snacking is I try to eat whole foods – so I stay away from most packaged goods if I can help it. But I am including a few of my favorite packaged goodies in the list below for those emergency situations! πŸ™‚ Hope this is helpful to all of you!

Top 10 Healthy Snacks

1) FRUIT! Fruit is an awesome snack – and it’s available year round! Most fruits are high in fiber, sweet, tasty, and filling. In the Fall, I go for Fuji Apples, Grapes and Bosc Pears (but any Pear will do!). In the Winter, I go for Oranges (I love blood oranges), Apples, Tangerines, Bananas (but be careful – one banana can have up to 130 calories). Spring and Summer are awesome, because there are so many options! My favorites for Spring/Summer are: Apricots, Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Grapes, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Stone Fruits like Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, Pluots (which is a Plum/Apricot hybrid that is usually sweeter than a Plum).

2) Raw Veggies with Hummus (or other healthy ) Dip: Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Raw broccoli, etc are all good options. I like to eat them with 2-3 Tbsp Hummus. But you can also eat them with Laughing cow cheese, or fat free dressing (~25-35 calories per serving).

3) Non-Fat Yogurt with 1/4 cup Fiber One or All Bran Cereal: This is a great snack and very filling. The yogurt gives you lots of protein and the fiber one has (of course) fiber, and is only about 30 calories for 1/4 cup! I like Fage 0% Greek Yogurt – which is only 90 calories but packs over 10g protein! You can sweeten the yogurt with a bit of splenda or sugar free preserves, or honey (but don’t go overboard with the honey – 1 Tbsp has about 60 calories!). By the way – one trap a lot of people fall into is topping their yogurt with Granola. Granola (though it sounds healthy) is actually FULL of sugar and calories. 1/4 cup can have up to 100-150 calories!

4) Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: Yeah, yeah, I know these are kind of a dessert. But dark chocolate (make sure you get the kind that’s like 70% cacao) is full of antioxidants, and almonds are full of fiber and protein! These also satisfy a sweet tooth really well πŸ™‚ Just make sure you read the label and don’t take more than 100-150 calories (which is probably about 4-7 almonds depending on their size)

5) Nuts and Dried Fruit: The key here, is to make sure the nuts you buy are just that – nuts. The package should have one ingredient (maybe two if they roast the nuts with salt). My favorites are Almonds, Walnuts and Cashews. The same rule applies for dried fruit – there shouldn’t be any added sugars or oils on the packaging. I like raisins, dried blueberries and dried cranberries. The one trap people fall into with nuts and dried fruit is they take too much – and end up eating like 500 calories. 1/4 cup of almonds is about 150-170 calories (applicable for most nuts). So I’d aim for about 2 Tbsp nuts and 2 Tbsp dried fruits. That should be filling enough to hold you over until your next meal! πŸ™‚

6) 100 Calorie Packs: So this is one of my packaged snacks on the list – 100 calorie packs! These are great because they are already portioned out – and it feels like you’re eating a lot when you get to finish the bag. The other great thing is – they come in like 1,000 different varieties now. They even have 100 calorie pack hostess cupcakes! So pick your favorite, and enjoy!

7) 1 Slice of Oroweat Double Fiber Bread (toasted) with 1 Garlic Laughing Cow Cheese Wedge: The great thing about this bread, is it has like 7g fiber and only 70 calories per slice! The Laughing cow cheese wedges are only 30 calories per wedge, and one is more than enough to spread over a slice of bread. I like to toast the bread so it’s crispy, and spread on the cheese while the bread is hot so the cheese gets nice and melty πŸ™‚ 100 calories and a great snack!

8 ) Pretzels, PopChips, All Bran Fiber Crackers (only take about 100 calories worth – for the Fiber Crackers, that’s about 10 of them): This is a good snack if you want something crispy, salty, but you don’t want to eat a bag of potato chips. By the way – PopChips taste a lot like potato chips but are much healthier! These are also all good packaged snack options when you’re on the run.

9) Tea and a 2/3 cup of Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal: When I’m sort of hungry, but not really hungry – I’ll usually make myself a nice cup of hot tea (black tea with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, splenda, and 1/4 cup of nonfat milk is my favorite). If I want something to munch on, I’ll take a handful of Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal – and depending on how big a handful I take – that’ll end up being ~50 calories.

10) Protein Bars: My favorites are Clif Bars, Lara Bars, and Luna Bars. They all have > 4g fiber; about ~200 calories; and at least 5-6g protein. My favorite flavors for Clif are: Chocolate Peanut, Chocolate Brownie, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Oatmeal Raisin. My favorite Lara Bar flavors are Cashew Cookie and Peanut Butter Cookie. My favorite Luna Bar Flavors are Nutz over Chocolate, S’mores, Caramel Nut Brownie.

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Cumin and Lentil Quesadillas

For dinner tonight, I was looking for something quick and easy to make. I had 2.5 hours of intense dance practice earlier today, so I was hungry and tired – and in no mood to spend more than 30 min in the kitchen! I was inspired by a recipe for cumin & bean sprout quesadillas – from VegetarianTimes.com. I changed the recipe a little – and it turned out great! The cumin was super flavorful and the meal was really healthy overall. And the best part – it took only 20 min to make (30 min including bake time) πŸ™‚ Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 4 Mission 8″ Soft Taco Carb Balance Tortillas (link here)
  • 1/2 cup grated low fat Mexican 4 cheese blend
  • 1 cup cooked small lentils (I used Trader Joe’s Steamed Packaged Lentils – link for picture here)
  • 1 cup pico de gallo – Trader Joe’s has a great flavorful version that only has 5 calories per serving!
  • ~1 cup frozen corn

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Toast cumin seeds in large, dry skillet over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until fragrant, shaking pan constantly. Transfer to small bowl, and set aside.
  3. Toast corn in the same skillet, shaking the pan for about 5 min or until cooked through. Transfer to small bowl, set aside.
  4. Arrange 4 tortillas on a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.
  5. Sprinkle half the tortilla with ~2-3 Tbsp grated cheese, and 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds. Top with 1/4 cup lentils, 1/4 cup corn, and fold the other side over. Repeat for the next 3 tortillas.
  6. Put the tortillas in the oven and broil for 5-10 min until the tops are lightly browned and crispy. Serve with Pico de Gallo.

Nutritional Information (per quesadilla)

Calories: ~200 (6g fat)

Protein: 8g

Fiber: 5g

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Healthy Eggplant Parmesan (and other ways with Roasted Veggies!)

Say no to Eggplant Parmesan at restaurants!

I was talking to one of my friends recently, about how she LOVES Eggplant Parmesan, but always feels guilty eating it because it’s loaded with fat & calories. For those of you who don’t know, Olive Garden’s Eggplant Parm has 850 calories and 35g of fat! That is just way too much for one meal. I was watching Food Network, and I was totally inspired by Robin Miller’s Eggplant Parmesan Recipe. I’ve come up with a way to make it even healthier, and you can use this method to make a bunch of different meals. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • Eggplant Slices
  • Olive oil spray
  • Your favorite marinara sauce
  • Fresh, shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil (1/4 cup)
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet, spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray, sprinkle them with salt & pepper, and bake for 15-20 min until slightly crispy.
  2. Remove from oven. Top each eggplant slice with 1-2 Tbsp sauce and 1 Tbsp shredded Parmesan Cheese. Bake 8-10 min until cheese is bubbly. Top with basil before serving.
  3. You can also serve the eggplant with 1/2 cup cooked whole wheat pasta for a complete meal. Enjoy!

Note: Each eggplant slice shouldn’t have more than 50 calories, so you could have 4 huge eggplant slices topped with cheese for only 200 calories! Add the pasta, and it’s still only about a 400-500 calorie meal depending on how much pasta you eat. And it’s full of healthy fiber, and still tastes great!

Now the fun part πŸ™‚ Use this same method to make a bunch of different, healthy meals!

1) Mexican: Replace the eggplant with zucchini and other squashes to roast in the oven. Once out of the oven, top with a shredded four cheese Mexican blend and broil in the oven for 5 min until the cheese is bubbly. Top with salsa, guacamole, fat free sour cream, and serve with stewed black beans and brown rice. Yum!

2) Mediterranean: Replace the eggplant with tomatoes to roast in the oven. Once out of the oven, top with fat free feta cheese and broil for just a few min until the feta is slightly melted. You can serve the tomatoes on top of a Greek salad (romaine, cucumber, red onion, etc.), or you can put the tomatoes in a pita with hummus and romaine, or you can put the tomatoes on a bagel and eat it for breakfast! The possibilities are endless πŸ™‚

3) American: Replace the eggplant with sliced new potatoes and sweet potatoes to roast in the oven (note the potatoes might have to roast longer in order to cook fully through). Once out of the oven, top with your favorite cheese (cheddar would be my pick), steamed cut broccoli, fat free sour cream, and any other veggies/toppings you like!

If you have any other ideas on how to customize this recipe, feel free to add them as a comment!

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