Category Archives: Recipes

Don’t Forget Chicken – the Most Versatile and Healthy Protein

Baked Marinated Chicken

Our bodies need protein and if you enjoy meat in your diet, chicken is an excellent choice. You may enjoy red meat as much as I do, but chicken is an equally good source of protein,  easier to digest, much lower in fat and calories, and typically has a short preparation time.

When you add in its versatility, you have a winner. There are so many main course dishes based on chicken, you will always have new ways to serve healthy, delicious meals to your family.

As an important part of your chicken cooking repertoire, we recommend the following methods to keep the calories at a minimum and contribute to a healthy heart.

Five Healthy Cooking Methods

Steamed Chicken                                         

You can have a flavorful, tender dinner in 20 minutes or less when you choose steaming. The prep time for this method is minimal and each serving is much lower in calories and fat because oil is not required.

White or dark meat? That is the question. White is healthier (and my favorite) with less fat and fewer calories, but many people prefer the richer, more moist dark meat. Whichever you choose, we recommend you use skinless, boneless pieces.

The secret to amazing flavors when steaming is seasoning.

You can layer the chicken with herbs and citrus slices for a tasty, tender meal. The acidity of citrus (lemons, limes, or oranges) will tenderize the chicken as it cooks.

Salt and pepper both sides of 2 medium chicken breasts, lay them in the steamer and sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic and a light dusting of chili flakes (optional). Top with the zest of a large lemon. Add the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and steam until chicken is tender.

A mixture of paprika, crushed red pepper, and chili powder sprinkled over the chicken works wonders for those who enjoy spicy dishes.

Steaming chicken retains all the nutrients, so adding your favorite vegetables to the cooker creates a lovely nutritious meal.

NOTE: Be sure to use fresh, young chicken. Don’t skimp on cost and buy less than prime or your result may be tough and not-so-delectable.

Boiled Chicken

Boiled Chicken SaladThis is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken because it makes fall-off-the-bone chicken that can be used in so many ways – chicken salad, chicken tacos, nachos, quesadillas, chicken-topped pizza, sliced chicken sandwiches, shredded chicken sandwiches, and many other possibilities.

Use boneless or bone-in – white or dark meat, they all work. Place the children in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, add one onion (sliced), a large celery stalk with leaves (cut in 2” chunks), one bay leaf, salt and pepper, and a large garlic clove. (These are my choices – you will find your favorites when you realize how easy this is.)

Add just enough water to cover the chicken (this is critical), bring the water to a boil, cover, drop to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, just until chicken is tender. Most of the water will be absorbed into the chicken and vegetables.

Remove, drain, slice, and serve with a side of vegetables and a small portion of whole grain pasta (or shred and use in any way you choose).

AND . . . Don’t throw away the broth, it is perfect for chicken soup, which cures all ails.

Baked Chicken

This is one of the easiest ways to prepare chicken and can be extremely tasty.

It is best to use boneless/skinless equally-sized chicken breasts – but dark meat can also be used if you prefer. Place the chicken in a lightly-greased oven-proof baking pan, season with your favorite seasonings and bake at 375° F. until chicken is tender and no longer pink in the center (~15 to 20 minutes).

When done, it’s best to remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Small potatoes and carrot sticks placed around the chicken during baking will absorb all the juices and make a complete meal when served with a crisp green salad.

Experiment with marinating the chicken overnight to add wonderful flavors to the meat – see the information below  – Learn to Marinate.

Grilled Chicken

Grilling is a delicious, low-calorie traditional American method of Grilled Chickencooking chicken – especially during the summer months. It can be grilled in the oven (under the broiler) or on a BBQ grill on the back patio.

Brush lightly with melted butter (optional), sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, a light dusting of paprika and the juice of one lemon. Voila! You have a lovely meal when served with grilled potatoes and fresh asparagus. Don’t overcook.

little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)

Stir-Fried Chicken

This method takes a little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)

You will need a large cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven, or wok with a small amount of oil.

Cut up the chicken and vegetables of choice (broccoli, zucchini, green peppers, diced carrots, garlic, onions, etc.)

Add all the pieces to the hot cooking pan, season to taste – stir and cook until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender. (Do not overcook!)

Serve immediately with steamed brown Basmati rice.

Learn to Marinate

Good marinade tenderizers the chicken, keeps it moist when cooking, and adds wonderful flavor without excess fat.

Tips for Marinating

  1. To keep the dish as low in calories as possible, use skinless chicken breasts – dark meat is higher in fat and calories.
  2. The skin adds 20% more fat. If you prefer the added flavor of cooking with the skin, remove it before eating.
  3. Marinating for suggested times below allows the juices to be fully absorbed and makes the chicken tender. Over-marinating can result in a less-then-desired outcome.

Time Chart for Marinating Chicken

  Source: https://www.eatbydate.com/long-marinate-chicken/ 

  1. Always discard the marinade once you have removed the chicken. DO NOT use it for anything else or you risk salmonella poisoning.

Tasty Marinades

    • Teriyaki Chicken Marinade: a simple sesame-ginger marinade
    • Chicken Enchilada Marinade: a no-cook version of my favorite enchilada sauce
    • Tandoori Chicken Marinade: a simple curry marinade that is big on flavor
    • Honey Mustard Marinade: always a classic for you mustard-lovers
    • Pesto Chicken Marinade: pesto sauce works just as well as a marinade!

After trying some of the above recipes or others that you can find on the internet, tap you’re your creativity and experiment – create your own recipes. There are many combinations of ingredients that make healthy, delicious chicken dishes.

Check out this article, How to Make Your Own Marinades from TheSpruceEats.com.

If you are pushed for time, use one of the gourmet bottled marinades from your local grocery store – read the labels carefully and avoid those filled with unnecessary additives.

Read this article in Prevention Magazine, Marinades: Your Meal’s Healthiest Friend for healthy bottled choices.

Happy Eating!

 

Related Articles: 

Chicken Salad – Cool and  Healthy

How to Choose the Best Drinks for a Successful Diet

Choosing the Wrong Drinks Adds Extra Empty Calories

Adapted with permission from the original article published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal.

You are starting your weight loss journey. You’ve been through your kitchen and thrown all the junk food into the trash. A diet plan has been chosen and you’ve taken those awkward “before” selfies.

What is the one thing you may have missed?

Frappacinos not healthy living
Credit – domtree_m

Have you made the common mistake of underestimating the caloric content of your favorite drinks?

The majority of beverages consumed by the American public each day are packed with hidden calories. The drinks you gulp down could be responsible for weight loss plateaus or lack of progress toward your weight loss goals.

Examples of Non-Healthy Drink Choices

  • The “healthy” smoothie from the organic store? It contains more calories than a double cheeseburger (a large Strawberry Surf Rider from Jamba Juice has 640 calories; a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger has 440 calories).
  • Heavily sweetened coffee on your morning commute?  A Venti Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino has 550 calories, while two Dunkin Donuts Glazed Donut have 520 calories.
  • Having a beer with dinner? That’s more calories than a candy bar (a Lagunita’s IPA has 220 calories, while a Hershey bar has 214 calories).

This is not a suggestion to replace empty-calorie drinks with empty-calorie fast foods or sweets – it was for comparison only.

Beverages Can Add 100s of Calories Each Day

Whether it it a juice drink, flavored coffees, sodas, beers, popular “healthy” smoothies made commercially, they all contain high amounts of empty calories.

Instead of changing your diet, try rethinking your lifestyle.

Don’t count calories, make calories count!

Every calorie you choose to eat should be filled with nutrients (including beverages). Make them count. They should satisfy your hunger and help you reach your weight loss goals. The next post will discuss the best drinks to help you get there.

Beverages Are Not as Satisfying as Nutrient-Rich Foods

The first step is to be aware of the number of liquid calories you’re consuming each day, which often have little nutritional value. They may satisfy your sweet tooth; but they do not satisfy your hunger.

Studies have shown that meals with solid foods provide better sensations of fullness compared to liquid meal replacements alone.1

When you limit your daily calorie intake to kick-start weight loss, it is important to maximize the nutritional value of every calorie.

Every Calorie Counts When Committing to a Healthy Diet

  • A typical 16 oz bottle of soda has around 200 calories; that’s approximately equal to six ounces of chicken breast.
  • An average juice smoothie from a national chain has around 300 calories; that’s the equivalent to four whole eggs.
  • Most beer has at least 150 calories, equivalent to five pieces of turkey bacon.

Choosing the non-beverage option in each of these scenarios will not only provide more nutritional value but will also help you feel full.

The soda manufacturers have taken advantage of the “diet mentality” that is a big factor in drink choices. They have provided an alternative to “sugared drinks” in the form of diet or zero-calorie drinks. The problem is they remove the sugar and add artificial sweeteners – neither one is good for your health. Bottom line: sodas are not healthy drinks.

Potential Side Effects of Sweeteners

Studies have shown body weight, fat mass, and blood pressure may all be negatively affected by the consumption of sweeteners.

Two of the most commonly added artificial sweeteners are aspartame and saccharin.2 Another is sucralose. All three carry a potential risk of adverse metabolic effects and type 2 diabetes.3

Be careful. Limit your intake of artificial sweeteners. They can be harmful to your health.

The best choice is always a natural, non-processed drink that contains minimal sugar and minimal artificial sweeteners to be safe. We will discuss those in the next posting.

Starting today….every time you have a craving to buy your favorite beverage. Stop and ask yourself some simple questions. 

  • What is in this drink? (Learn to read labels or look it up on the Internet.)
  • How many calories does it contain?
  • Are they healthy, nutritional calories – or empty?
  • Do I really need this, or should I eat something solid instead?

Treating your self occasionally with a favorite drink is OK, but don’t make it a habit that takes the place of real food.

Awareness and making smart food choices are the first steps to a successful diet.

See you next time for the second post in the series,Seven Healthy Drink Options for a Healthy Diet.”

Nancy

Note:  This was a long article originally that I am posting in segments for easier reading. If you want more information on the research, click on the numbered links in the posting. They will take you to the references in the original article. 

 

How to Reach Your Weight-Loss Goal

Reach Your Weight-loss Goal
Image by graphit

Deciding to go on a diet is easy, but sticking to a diet is not easy! So, when facing that challenge, it is important to know how to reach your weight-loss goal.

Of course, you have to decide you want to lose weight and be committed to doing so; then, you must stick to your guns and stay motivated or the goal will never be realized.

There is no magic bullet, but there are two important tips that can help you reach your weight-loss goal.

#1 – Take It a Week at a Time

You must break your ultimate goal into smaller chunks and have bench marks that will indicate you are moving in the right direction.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Over the long term, it’s best to aim for losing 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week.”

When you have a realistic weekly weight-loss target, you will be more confident in your efforts and you will know exactly what you are going to measure at the end of each week.

Your long-term goal may be 40 pounds, but take it “one week at a time” (1 to 2 pounds/week = 20 to 30 weeks)

In addition to choosing a healthy diet that fits your lifestyle and current health conditions, plus a solid commitment to stay with it, don’t forget to get plenty of rest and exercise. .

Image by tashatuvango
Image by tashatuvango

BUT . . .  the primary target should be the number of pounds you plan to lose each week. That target should be clear – and realistic. If it is, you should be able to stick to your weight loss program and enjoy success week after week, after week. AND, feel good in the process.

If you are not hitting your target, be willing to look closely at what you are doing, or not doing – and figure out why you are not reaching your weekly target.

Maybe the target you set was not sensible or reasonable; or, maybe you are putting too much pressure on yourself.

Honest introspection is a good way to see what you are really capable of doing and then, you can develop or choose a plan that is suitable for your unique lifestyle.

#2 – Be Patient with the Process

This is a critical factor in being successful in anything that you choose to do in life. It is also one of the hardest things to sustain. You have to be patient in order to get the things that you want.

It is easy to forget that when you gained the weight you so dearly want to lose, it did not happen all at once. It took days, weeks, months, even years for the weight to compound and settle in. That should help you understand why it will take you days, weeks, months, even years to lose it all.

Patience Is Critical

We all want to believe that there is a “quick fix” that will make it possible to radically change our appearance. We want to believe that it will only take a couple of weeks or at most a couple of months to make the weight magically disappear; but, the reality is very different.

If you have enough free time and money to hire a personal trainer who will work out with you for several hours every day; plus hire a cook to prepare and serve healthy, nutritional meals, your weight loss journey will be much easier and a lot shorter. But, those options are not within the reach of most people.

For the majority, losing weight has to be built-in to daily life that is filled with lots of responsibilities connected to families and work. So, it must be well-thought-out and planned over the long-term.

Successful weight loss comes from setting long-term goals, taking things slow and easy, and moving at a pace that fits your personal lifestyle. By spreading your weight-loss target over a longer period of time, you have time to adjust your eating and exercise habits and ease into the life changes that will move you toward your ultimate goal.

Taking it slow and easy is actually a very good thing! The slower the weight comes off, the more likely it will stay off permanently.

Setting realistic targets for a week at a time and being patient with the process are two important and helpful practices that will ensure that your weight loss journeys is happy and successful.

Mediterranean Diet Is Not for Everyone

For the past few weeks I have been talking about the merits of the Mediterranean Diet. However, I have to acknowledge that no diet is perfect for every single person and Mediterranean diet is no exception to that rule. The Mediterranean Diet is not for everyone.

There may be some people who find that they have negative reactions to some of the foods on the diet – others may find that it simply is not suitable for their lifestyle.

Excellent Choice for Most People

Explaining the Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

However, it is an excellent choice for most people because the health benefits are tremendous. Lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol levels, reduced risk of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and much more.

The diet is based on consuming wholesome fresh foods in their natural state and by cooking them in a healthy ways.

Red meats are eaten only on occasion; sugar, processed foods filled with additives, fast foods, and junk food, which are the cause of so many illnesses in today’s world are simply not eaten.

It should not be news that most health problems in the US can be attributed to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

The Mediterranean diet solves both problems, if you let it. It provides the healthy nutritious foods your body needs for energy and well-being; plus, it incorporates exercise to solve the sedentary lifestyle issue.

Potential Difficulties

Let’s look at some of the potential difficulties.

1. The diet can be expensive.

When you eat primarily fish, fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, nuts, etc. you will find that they are more expensive than grabbing a cheeseburger from a fast food joint or buying junk food from the vending machine at work.

But . . . if you consider the health problems you may endure in the future and the cost of health care that goes with those problems, you may want to think twice about the actual cost. The healthy foods on the Mediterranean diet may not seem so expensive after all.

2. Possible food allergies.

It is possible that some people may have allergic reactions to some of the foods in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil may not agree with their digestive system, etc. It happens. If you have serious reactions to any of the foundational foods of the diet, you would probably want to choose another diet – just make sure it is a healthy one.

3. The toxicity of fish.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish and is one of the most toxic foods on the market today because of pollution in the world’s waterways

Educate yourself and find out which fish are richest in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lowest in mercury contamination, and sustainably produced. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there are better (and worse) choices when buying fish.  Check out their website for details on how to buy fish – The EWG’s Seafood Guide.

You can also get your omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as flaxseed, walnuts and Brussel sprouts.

4. Cost and availability of fruits and vegetables.

It may not always be easy to obtain fresh seasonal produce and some of the more common choices in the Mediterranean Region may not be available in your area – or the cost will be prohibitive – especially for organic.

Easy to Adapt?

Will it be easy to adopt the Mediterranean Diet with a full commitment?  Maybe not.  It may take some serious adjustment and determination to stay with it.

As Americans we are used to eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. If we are feeling hungry or blue – grab that tub of ice-cream. When we are bored, frustrated or angry, we reach for comfort foods like a bucket of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and biscuits form KFC.

Food has become far more than sustenance for many people. It is frequently used as a form of ‘medication’ for emotional problems. It that plays into your eating patterns, staying with any diet will be challenging.

When you start the Mediterranean Diet it can take time to adapt to the practice of thinking about what you are eating and being willing to make healthy choices. Eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes with thick gravy is not encouraged. The tub of ice cream should be replaced with a bowl of sweet, healthy fruit that is preferably high in fiber.

Such dramatic changes in your approach to food and eating habits may not sit well with some people. It may be too different and troublesome. Maybe that will be the case initially. But, you know that anything worthwhile often has challenges that must be faced. Major accomplishments rarely come easily.

Adopt the Mediterranean Diet!  Give it your best shot (including your time and energy), keep a positive attitude no matter what, and you may be surprised at how fast you realize that this is diet you want to stay with the rest of your life.

Your body and health will reflect the benefits of this diet in time . . . give it a real chance!

 

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Since grade school we have known about the food pyramid, but the food pyramid I want to discuss today is quite different: The Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

The pyramid is used by countless health organizations, clinics, doctors and many others to guide people to eat in a healthy manner. It is the standard to live by and health professionals unanimously agree that by following this diet pyramid, your health will benefit tremendously.

The pyramid is a wonderful synopsis of what the Mediterranean Diet entails. It shows four different food groups and the optimal number of servings of each group that should be consumed.

The pyramid was created based on research of the diet that the people in the Mediterranean countries consume. The area was selected as the model because of the low incidence of heart disease and high life expectancy found in the region.

One of the primary reasons for the healthy results of the diet is that the people not only use fresh, unadulterated ingredients, they also cook their meals in very healthy ways.

They are among the minority of the world’s population that have not embraced the fast food culture that dominates the US and Australia. It should be noted that both countries are battling an obesity epidemic.

You Will Eat Fresh, Healthy Foods

There are no processed foods, colas, white flour products, pizzas or any unhealthy food in the food pyramid. There are only categories of fresh, healthy foods: fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, beans, fish and seafood, and healthy oils (primarily olive oil) – plus a little red wine.

Your fat consumption should be moderate along with consumption of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. Eggs can be consumed daily.

Fish (seafood) is preferred over meat and should be consumed twice a week. Poultry is also preferred over red meat and should be consumed once a week. Red meat should only be consumed 3 to 4 times a month. The rest of the time, vegetables, legumes, and/or pasta should be the focal point of your meals.

Fruit and vegetables (7 servings) should be consumed daily.

Get rid of your salt shaker and start seasoning with fresh herbs and spices. Don’t forget the garlic and onions.

Cook primarily with olive oil. Butter should be used minimally, if at all.  NEVER use margarine or hydrogenated oil products.

The use of unhealthy hydrogenated oils is very rare in Mediterranean cooking – and they rarely eat red meat or sweets (other than fresh fruit)

Avoid all foods that contain processed sugar. That means chocolate, candies, and most rich desserts are to be consumed minimally.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is red wine. This is not an open invitation to include all alcoholic beverages such as beer, vodka or bourbon in your diet. The Mediterranean diet advocates ONLY wine. About 1 glass for women and no more than 2 glasses a day for men and usually, consumption is after dinner.

The food pyramid is just a guideline to help you eat in a healthy way. You do not need to be overly strict and get upset if you do not follow it exactly. As long as you eat the foods on the pyramid and stop eating the healthy damaging junk/processed foods that are typical on the American diet, you will be doing well. If you make those changes, you will be giving yourself one of the greatest gifts possible: Good Health!

Photo from: https://www.unitypoint.org/madison/filesimages/News%20Article%20Images/mediterranean-diet-pyramid.jpg

From the same site, check out the 7-day Mediterranean Menu (Autumn/Winter).  Not only does it suggest full menus for all meals, it includes recipes and calorie count for the day.  ENJOY!