Top 5 Healthy Springtime Tips

Even though spring has barely sprung outside, the spring semester is coming to an end. Tomorrow is my last day of class for the semester! Thankfully I don’t have any final exams, just one presentation on Wednesday and then I will no longer say that I am in school and working at the hospital at the same time. Now I’m taking a week of rest and relaxation until I hit the books again to start studying for my RD board exams (it makes me nervous just thinking about it!).

Since we are well into spring, I thought I would just share some of my 5 favorite things to do in the spring to stay healthy and happy!

1. Go outside! I know the cold weather is still lingering (especially up here in Cleveland), but getting fresh air and sunlight has been found to increase energy, decrease stress, improve digestion, and give your immune system a boost. Going for a walk is a great way to try to hit your 10,000 steps for the day and soak up some vitamin D.
2. Clean! Throwing out all the unnecessary stuff in your house/apartment/room has some surprising benefits. Living in a clean and uncluttered space decreases stress levels and makes you more productive. Not to mention, people who live in clean spaces are more likely to eat healthy, and cleaning can be a bit of a workout 😉
3. Check out a farmers market! The growing season is in full swing and farmers markets are the perfect for stocking up on produce. They are a great way to try out a new fruit or vegetable, see what is in season, and support local farmers. Plus you get the great to know exactly where your food came from and how it was grown.
4. Socialize! The longer days and rooftop restaurants & bars are the perfect excuse to spend time with friends and family. Spending time talking with other people can boost mental health and reduce your risk for dementia.
5. This is a big one…get ready…Put your phone down! It is so easy to get caught up in the virtual world of work and social media that it can be hard to disconnect (I’m guilty of it too), but try to unplug for at least an hour every day. Maybe put your phone in airplane mode an hour before bed, don’t check email or social media for at least an hour after you wake up, or leave your phone at home while you do my first four tips. It will help you be less distracted, more productive, more present, and you might even talk to someone and make a new friend.

Happy spring!

Healthy and Fast Meals with (almost) No Cooking Required

I’m not going to lie, I have slacked off a little (or a lot!) when it comes to cooking this year. Between school, work, trying new workout classes ;), and trying to get a decent amount of sleep, cooking just hasn’t been a priority. But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m having frozen meals or fast food – it just means my meals are a little more simple and don’t take much time to make.

Whether you are a student like me, a working professional, home taking care of kiddos, or have other responsibilities, time is always the number 1 excuse for not eating healthy, so today I thought I would share my tips and tricks for fast and easy, healthy meals.

1. Cook ahead of time – I typically only turn on my oven and stove one or two times a week. I’ll make some chicken, roast some veggies, brown some ground turkey, and cook some rice or quinoa. From start to finish, it usually takes me no more than an hour. I keep everything in separate containers in the fridge so it’s ready when I get home from a long day at work.

2. Build a meal – Now that you have all the food is cooked and ready to be eaten, all you have to do is put it together. Think of it like an assembly line…add some rice, chicken, broccoli, and sauce to a bowl, pop it in the microwave and voila, dinner is served.

3. Oh, wait – there is no step three 😉 It is so easy there are only two steps! See, no excuses!!

Here is a little cheat sheet for building a healthy meal:

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  • Tricks if you are really short on time:
    Choose canned tuna, buy a pre-baked chicken, or try canned beans which don’t require cooking for your protein sources
  • Use frozen veggies that you can steam in the microwave – no baking or chopping required.

Now that you have the “recipe” to build your own healthy meal, I thought I would share some of my favorites. Some might sound strange, but I promise they are tasty! Also, lots are vegetarian since I was experimenting with being a vegetarian for a month.

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No excuses now! What are your favorite meals to build?

Breakfast Cereal

Cereal: It is the “go-to” breakfast. Whether you pour a bowl at the table in the morning or dump some in a bag as you are running out the door, it is a pretty classic breakfast. In fact, grain-based breakfasts have been found to help people lose weight better than those who eat a traditional eggs, sausage, and toast breakfast.

Unfortunately, those grain-based cereals can be more like sugar-based cereal. Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Coco Puffs, and Lucky Charms and even cereals like Kellogg’s Smart Start, Kashi, and Raisin Bran that are all marketed as “healthy” have heaps of sugar in them… sometimes more than a chocolate chip cookie!

I know that makes finding a healthy cereal very confusing, so here are my top 4 tips for choosing a healthy cereal to start your day with.

  1. It should have less than 10g of sugar per serving
  2. At least 3g of fiber per serving
  3. At least 5g of protein per serving
  4. The first ingredient should start with the word whole (ie. Whole wheat, whole grain, etc.)

If your cereal box doesn’t meet all 4 of these, put it back on the shelf and try another one of the other 500 cereals in the aisle. The one exception is protein. If your cereals falls a little short on protein, that is fine, but I would recommend having a side of eggs or low sugar Greek yogurt on the side.

I’ll also mention that portions are a big deal with cereal. The serving size is usually ¾ to 1 cup but we often dump 2-3x that in the bowl. Try measuring out your cereal for a few days. You might be shocked by how much you are actually eating.

Here is a list of some good cereal options:

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Meatless Monday

If you thought hospital cafeterias were full of healthy food options, you thought wrong. Unfortunately, even in the building where heart disease is being treated, it is also being served on a plate in the form of fried chicken, onion rings, French fries, pizza, and deli sandwiches. Since those are the main options, I resort to the salad bar daily for my lunch, filling my bowl with romaine, kale, tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, and chicken. But it is only now, after almost 12 weeks, that I realized the cafeteria does “Meatless Monday’s”. I just thought every now and then the salad bar was out of chicken, but I have now realized it happens to be every Monday…the same day they don’t serve chicken fingers or BBQ chicken pizza.

With research linking meat consumption to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity, at least the hospital is on the right track one day a week. Meatless Monday’s is a concept used to both reduce health risks, but also reduce our carbon footprint since there is so much water and fuel used in meat production.

After the Meatless Monday realization I had, I decided I would try something other than a salad this past Monday. In a cafeteria where most of the food looks slightly suspicious, my meatless lunch was actually delicious – stuffed sweet potato with a kale, quinoa, and cranberry salad and a quarter of a roasted acorn squash. It was also nice to switch things up and have something other than a salad.

I have never participated in Meatless Monday’s before, but I think I might try to continue Meatless Monday’s through dinner at home. It is great motivation to get creative in the kitchen, try something new, and get some health benefits.

Worried you won’t get enough protein by going meatless? No need to worry! 85% lean ground beef has 10.4 grams of protein per 100 calories and broccoli has 8.5g per 100 calories… Pretty close, huh? Plus broccoli is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that meat doesn’t really have. And of course, there’s always quinoa, tofu, lentils, yogurt, beans, and nuts which are all good sources of protein.

Sure, meats have lean protein, vitamin B12, and iron, but you don’t need to have it everyday to reap the benefits. Give Meatless Monday’s a try! If anything, it is a good excuse to fill your plate with extra veggies, which never hurts.

Up for a challenge? In doing some google-ing about Meatless Monday. I also found there is a campaign called #NoRedOctober encouraging people to cut meat for the entire month of October. I know October is almost over but you can try it any month. Think you could do it? It would be tough, but even a meatless day or week is better than nothing.

Kodiak Cakes

Since school is out and I have plenty of time in the mornings to make a big breakfast, I thought I would share one of my favorite grocery finds: Kodiak cakes.

Kodiak Cakes is a company that makes all sorts of pancake & waffle mixes, dessert mixes, oatmeals and granolas. While I haven’t tried many of the products, the two pancakes and waffle mixes I have tried are delicious!Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 11.35.10 PM

The two I have tried are the Protein Packed Flapjack Mix and the Protein Packed Peanut Butter Flapjack Mix. Why Kodiak Cakes over the other pancake mixes?

  • The protein packed kind I buy has 14g of protein per serving!
  • The mix only has whole wheat grains (including whole grain wheat flour and whole grain oat flour).
  • I can read and pronounce every single ingredient in the mix (and there are only 7 of them).
  • There is no bleached white flour or artificial additives in the mix.
  • They only have 3g of sugar per serving.

In order to have a healthy and balanced meal, we need a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat at each meal. Because pancakes are typically all carbs, they can get a bad wrap for being too much like dessert for breakfast. That is why I love this protein packed mix. It takes care of the protein that is typically missing in pancakes.

Now, since Kodiak Cakes has our carb and protein needs covered, all we need is a little healthy fat. That’s where I turn to my beloved nut butter collection. Just drizzle some nut butter on your pancakes and you are good to go with a balanced breakfast.

Still aren’t convinced these pancakes can be healthy?

Lets take oatmeal, for example. Many times, the little instant packets of oatmeal have just as many (if not more) carbs than a serving of regular pancakes mix, with no fat or protein. We often make oatmeal out to be some much healthier than pancakes when really they have almost the exact same nutrients (almost all carbs).

I will say that oatmeal typically has more fiber than regular, white flour pancakes, but neither makes for a very balanced meal because there is no fat or protein. Now, oatmeal can be made into a balanced meal by added protein (egg whites or greek yogurt) and healthy fat (nut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds, etc.) just the same way that protein and fat can be added to pancakes.

My point is that we just have to be aware of what is in our food. Oatmeal may seem healthier than pancakes, but they are really quite similar. By adding protein and fat to either oatmeal or pancakes, you will have equally healthy and balanced meals.

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My Protein Packed Kodiak Cakes with banana slices and cashew butter

I happen to love mixing up my typical morning oatmeal with a big plate of pancakes every now and then so I always turn to my Protein Packed Kodiak Cakes for a balanced breakfast.

Want more info on Kodiak Cakes? http://www.kodiakcakes.com/

Bowls

If you haven’t noticed, bowls are one of the biggest food trends right now. Buddha bowls, poke bowls, acai bowls… they are everywhere!

Last week I checked out a new restaurant in Cleveland called Rebol. Guess what they serve?? You got it—bowls! They are 100% nonGMO, organic when possible, don’t use any refined sugar, and only cook with avocado, coconut, and olive oils. You can see why I had to try it :).

Anyways, I got a chicken bowl with zucchini noodles, corn salsa, cauliflower & bok choy, apricot ginger honey mustard, cashews, and toasted sesame. It sounds like a strange combination, but it was delicious. They use lots of bold spices to make the food super flavorful. It just goes to show that healthy food doesn’t taste bad (contrary to what some people believe).

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This week I decided to jump on the “bowl” train and make my own at home. Since I move out of my apartment in about a week I have been trying to use the ingredients I have instead of buying more food. I put my cooking skills to the test and was trying to use up some quinoa and BBQ sauce. I think my hours in the kitchen are starting to pay off because my bowl turned out super yummy…so yummy that I have made it for dinner every day this week.

Here’s how to make my BBQ Chicken Quinoa Bowl:

  • Grab a bowl
  • Add about ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • Toss in 3-4oz of shredded baked chicken breast
  • Throw in a handful of broccoli
  • Drizzle on about 1 Tbsp of BBQ sauce (try to choose one that is low in sugar!)
  • Top it off with a fried egg
  • Mix it up and enjoy!

Since I wanted this every night for dinner, I ended up making a bunch of quinoa, baking two big chicken breasts, and steaming a large head of broccoli all on Monday so each night all I had to do was assemble to bowl. No excuses for not eating healthy because it literally takes 2 minutes to put this bowl together, pop it in the microwave, and then add a fried egg.

*Note: I just baked my chicken completely plain because I knew I was going to add BBQ sauce to the bowl but feel free to add any more spices you like.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Dana

P.S. I officially took my last final exam on Wednesday so I am officially done with undergrad! T-9 days until graduation.

Thankful for Fruits and Veggies

Happy belated Thanksgiving! Here is a little update on my Thanksgiving festivities and foods.

Before heading back home for Thanksgiving, my roommates and I had a Friendsgiving at my apartment last Tuesday. It was my first time any of us had cooked for a large group of people or been “hostesses” of a little gathering. Last weekend, we planned the menu and went grocery shopping and then Tuesday after we were all done with class, it was all hands on deck. We had lots of paper chains and toilet paper tube turkeys for decorations, plus lots of peeling, chopping, mixing, and cooking for our meal. We served chicken (I know, not your traditional Thanksgiving but we were all going to have turkey on Thursday so we decided to mix it up), sweet potato fried, corn on the cob, homemade bread, and an apple crisp, plus the mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, broccoli, and pie, our guests brought. We had an amazing time and would love to do it again!

For our family Thanksgiving, I had to get creative after my Fruiturkey from last year. This year, my mom and I made a turkey out of vegetables. Our vegetable turkey was much easier and less time consuming than the fruit turkey, but he was just as cute and delicious.

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We used pea pods, bell peppers, cucumbers, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, and broccoli around a bowl of hummus. The body is made of a mini cucumber with a carrot beak, red pepper snood, and black peppercorn for eyes.

I also tried to get creative with the fruit tray this year, but it didn’t work out completely as planned. The goal was to make a cornucopia out of waffle cones and stuff them with fruit. It didn’t quite turn out to look like the cornucopia– Oh well, just an excuse to try to make something new next year. But in any case, grabbing a cone filled with fruit was a new, fun twist on the traditional fruit bowl.

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