Tag Archives: Feeding your Family Well

5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

How would you rate your eating habits?  Good? Bad? Or somewhere in the middle?

Are you willing to change your habits to ensure a healthy, nutritious way of eating?

If so, you are in luck – below are 5 simple guidelines for a healthy diet.

Rule #1

First and foremost . . .  buy all-natural, whole, unprocessed foods. Avoid packaged, prepared foods that are loaded with additives, fillers, and preservatives.

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet
Image by Tijana

Rule #2

Cook from scratch using high-quality, fresh ingredients. Instead of spending your hard-earned money on instant foods and packaged meals, learn to create dishes using fresh and healthy ingredients.

Prepare highly nutritious dishes without all the harmful additives, excessive sugars, and fats.

For example – Create casseroles using brown Basmati rice, low-fat milk, fresh vegetables, and lean meats or chicken. I guarantee there will be fewer calories (and no additives).

Yes – cooking from scratch takes more time to prepare and requires developing a rhythm for creating healthy dishes on a regular basis.

With practice, you will become more and more efficient and dinners will go together quickly.

You need to be on the lookout for tips and tricks on how to cook ahead (making a portion or all of the meal the night before – or cooking several meals on the weekend that you can freeze.

Then, you can have dinner on the table in under an hour. (A good place to start is with my book, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table,)

Rule #3

Keep only healthy desserts and snacks in your pantry and fridge.

Children (and adults) love a tasty snack after school (or work).

  • Keep a freezer full of frozen snacks such as fruit juice popsicles and frozen fruit – blueberries and grapes are especially good.
  • Always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter (or in the fridge) – ready for kids to grab, peel and eat.
  • Place a bowl in the fridge of sliced fresh fruit or vegetables – with a dip. Low-fat sour cream and powdered sugar ready for sprinkling (or vanilla Greek yogurt) are great for fruit; and guacamole or hummus for the veggies.
  • Have cans or bags of nuts available for little hands to grab and eat.
  • Offer string cheese to nibble on. This provides quick protein for energy and calms the appetite until dinner.

Rule #4

Buy lean meats – Leaner cuts of meat are the best choice. Always cook a little more than your family will eat and use leftovers for healthier lunches and to create new dishes for an easy weekend meal.

Rule #5

Use healthier oils – My preference is olive oil, which is great for making salad dressings and also for cooking (but not for baking) – use pure canola oil for baking, when required.

If you are watching calories try scrambling eggs or sautéing foods, with cooking sprays. (My preference is PAM® Cooking Spray.) But, having said that, a little butter goes a long way and is much tastier.

There you have it – five simple guidelines for a healthy diet.

All you have to do is choose to follow them, and you will be on your way to a healthier, happier life.

You will look forward to each day with greater enthusiasm, you will have the energy to meet the demands of your busy life, and you will enjoy a wonderful sense of well-being.

The next post will include more specific suggestions on types of foods  to fill your pantry that will make eating healthy easier. 


Stock a Healthy Fridge and Freezer

In order to develop good eating habits and feed your family healthier meals, you must stock a healthy fridge and freezer with food and  meals filled with nutrition and lacking in harmful additives.

Healthy foods that should always be in your refrigerator: 

Fridge fill with healthy foods
Image by olesiabilkei
  • Milk – My personal preference is whole or 2% milk; but, if you are watching calories, choose skim. Organic is the best choice if available and “lactose free” should be used if anyone in your family is lactose intolerant. (Almond milk, rice milk, and soy milk are also options)
  • Eggs – Preferably free range, cage free eggs from a local farm, if at all possible.
  • Cottage Cheese – This is a great snack for a quick protein pick-me-up. It can be eaten alone, served with fruit, or used in salads.
  • Hummus – A natural, vegan food that should be included in every healthy diet because of its nutrient value. The main ingredient is chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – an excellent source of fiber that digests slowly and prevents a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This factor makes hummus an ideal snack for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia – and anyone else, as well. It comes in a variety of flavored versions and is primarily used for dipping veggies and as a spread on whole wheat crackers for snacks

You can make your own or buy tubs from Costco, Trader Joe’s, and more recently in your local grocery store. Be sure to read labels and buy pure hummus without preservatives.

  • Deli Turkey – If you must have lunch meat of some kind, I recommend that you stay with a reliable brand of turkey such Hickory Smoked Black Forest Turkey Breast – 40% lower Sodium and certified heart-healthy and preservative free. Also, if it is available in your area, Dietz and Watson Gourmet Lite Turkey Breast has no nitrates and half the salt of most brands.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables – Stock up on these! You may want to buy several big bags of organic spinach, romaine lettuce, and/or kale each week for soups, salads, and for making wraps. Look for a local farmer’s market in your area and pick up different types of fresh leafy greens each week.
  • Apples – There are so many choices and are available year round.  Find the types that your family prefers and keep them on hand to be offered whole or sliced for the little ones.
  • Organic Carrots and Celery  – These two veggies are the basic snacks that I keep on hand at all times – carrots and celery are great with hummus – a few pieces quickly take the edge off your hunger and add very few calories. (Real peanut/almond butter (no hydrogenated shortening) served with celery and/or apples will also calm sweet cravings.)
  • Fresh Berries All the berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries) are a great source of antioxidants. When served with vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt with a little honey, or a dollop of light sour cream sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are an awesome dessert. (NOTE – Buy in large quantities when on sale – use them fresh for the first day or two, and freeze the rest. Be sure to hull, wash, and dry the strawberries before freezing.)
  • Almond Butter Trader Joes carries a delicious almond butter, or you can make your own. It is an excellent snack with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. As noted above it is delicious with celery and apples.
  • Peanut Butter – Buy only pure ground peanut butter with no added ingredients except salt (or without salt if you prefer).
  • Greek Yogurt My preference is the original (full-fat) variety, but if you are watching calories, you can use the low-fat or fat-free varieties.

Healthy foods for your freezer:

  • Spinach – A bag of organic frozen spinach kept in the freezer is perfect for tossing into your morning smoothie, or in freshly made juice. This is one of the easier ways to add vegetable servings to your daily menu – and you won’t even taste it.
  • Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries (Be sure to buy the fast frozen pure berries without sugar or preservatives.) These are all perfect for juicing, smoothies, and to toss on top of cottage cheese.  For a quick tasty healthy milkshake, place berries, a carton of Greek vanilla yogurt, and almond milk in the blender – drink and enjoy.
  • Corn – Frozen fresh corn kernels are perfect for soups, salads, and appetizers. Read the labels carefully and always buy organic corn because most conventionally grown corn is genetically modified.
  • Broccoli and Peas – These are very convenient when time is limited, but you still want to have veggies with your meal.  Good as an ingredient in casseroles, for soups and a quick stir fry.
  • Chicken Breasts – Chicken breasts are a healthy, lean source of protein. If you are a meat eater as I am, a good supply of frozen chicken breasts, legs and thighs in your freezer is very handy. If you have a local farm where you can buy chicken, you are lucky. If not, look for a good brand at your grocery store. My preference is Red Bird out of Colorado – by far the most tender and flavorful that I have found. It is a little more expensive, but worth it.
  • Fish – Keep your freezer stocked with fish. Some good choices are Alaskan sockeye salmon, tilapia, halibut, flounder, etc. Most fish is high in protein, low in calories, easy to prepare, and extremely versatile – what more can you ask?  When there is a choice – always select wild fish over farmed.

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Add More Veggies to Your Meals

Healthy Veggie Basket
Image by fo2Trends

It is a well-known fact that almost everyone should add more veggies to their meals. In fact, the recommended amount is  four to six servings (½ cup each) of vegetables every day.  Many people continuously fall short of that amount.

Veggies are low in fat (and calories) and filled with nutrients – especially vitamins and minerals. They also contain antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant stress, disease and cancer by boosting immunity. All of which helps the human body stay fit and disease free.

If vegetables have never been your family’s favorite foods, eating enough of them can be a problem. One solution is to learn how to incorporate vegetables in attractive and delicious ways into your meals.

Since many people avoid vegetables completely, trying to eat two to three cups of vegetables each day may seem impossible.   But . . . it does not have to be!

Ideas to Make It Easier

Below are some ideas that you can use to successfully incorporate more vegetables into your diet. They will also increase the daily nutrients that you and your family need

  • Casseroles

Adding diced or chopped veggies to casseroles add color, flavor, and texture to the dish without being obvious. You can start with one or two vegetables in small amounts and gradually increase them over time. For example, adding chopped broccoli, diced onions and tomatoes to a chicken and rice casserole offers a delicious blend of flavors and is usually eaten with great gusto.

  • Salads

Salads are the perfect accompaniment to meals such as pizza, lasagna, hot dogs, hamburgers and a variety of oth

Diced Fresh Vegetables
Image by Clare Brosman

er dishes.  Make it a fun adventure by allowing each person to create his/her own salad. Serve a big bowl of fresh crisp greens and bowls of extras that can be added:  tomatoes, avocados, diced onions, grated cheese, feta cheese, diced bell pepper, sliced bananas, sliced beets, chopped eggs, bacon pieces, etc.  Offer a variety of dressings including some “light” dressing for fewer calories.  You may want to encourage them to experiment with dressing combinations such as Ranch and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

  • Stir fry

This is a great way to serve vegetables and will be enjoyed by almost everyone. Use mostly vegetables that are cut (diced) in small pieces.  Some good basics are: onions, garlic and diced chicken, shrimp or lean beef. Serve the stir fry alone or over steamed brown Basmati rice. Add soy sauce or teriyaki for a more authentic Asian flavor.

  • Sauces

Spaghetti or lasagna sauce is a perfect place to add vegetables. Either make your own (preferred) or buy a good brand (Newman’s Own™) of plain sauce (with herbs or cheese). Then, add a mix of finely diced onions, zucchini, tomatoes and even finely sliced or diced carrots. It gives your sauce extra flavor and also increases the vegetable servings.

  • Veggie Snacks

Fresh raw vegetables provide excellent nutritional value. For snacks, serve strips of carrot, jicama, zucchini, celery, and bell pepper, plus broccoli and cauliflower florets and chunks of tomatoes with a ranch dip, guacamole, or hummus.  Carrots and celery are often a welcome treat when spread with peanut or almond butter

  • Kebabs

If you enjoy outdoor grilling, learn to make kebabs, made by alternating chunks of lean meat with vegetables on grilling skewers. They can be cooked on a grill or broiled in your oven. Serve with a dipping sauce and steamed rice for a healthy light meal – perfect for spring and summer evenings.

  • Soup

You can hide a world of good food (vegetables) in a pot of soup. The traditional favorite, chicken soup, can be made using your favorite recipe and adding diced veggies to increase the nutrient value.

Minestrone is another excellent vegetable disguise that you should make occasionally.  Or, make cream of broccoli or squash soup – a creamy puréed soup that is so good, the vegetable factor is a non-issue.

NOTE: Regardless of the soup recipe you choose for this purpose, the notorious “bad guys from the world of vegetables” are not recognized as such. There is no one particular flavor that dominates the soup – all the flavors meld into one.

  • Wraps

Rolling up your vegetables in wraps is a great way to disguise them. Use flavored or plain whole wheat flour tortillas that allow you to serve your family’s favorite protein such as turkey, ham or beef together with peppers, lettuce, asparagus, tomato, avocado, spinach, onions, etc. These can also be grilled with a little butter on a hot pancake grill or heavy frying pan. The potential combinations are endless.

You can also create simple veggie wraps loaded with fresh veggies, finished with olive oil, salad dressing, or mustard. Try flattening, stuffing and rolling chicken breasts, boneless fish fillets or even fillets of beef with veggies and cheese for a surprise dinner. Insert spinach, tomato and/or roasted red peppers and onions combined with a small amount of feta, blue cheese, or mozzarella to enhance flavor.

  • Vegetable Buffet

There is a good chance that there are various vegetable preferences (and dislikes) among the members of your family – but everyone can benefit from the nutrients in any or all of them. It can be very effective to serve a vegetable buffet where you prepare three to five vegetables separately – incorporating seasonings such as garlic, rosemary, and thyme along with olive oil or a small amount of salt and pepper to spice them up.

It is a good idea to prepare them in different ways – experiment with steaming, grilling, sautéing, and/or roasting – each method offers its own particular flair to the taste.

For example . . . Grilled asparagus topped with melted butter seasoned with minced fresh garlic; green beans with sliced almonds tossed in Italian dressing; roasted squash pieces marinated in salad dressing and topped with Parmesan cheese; or sweet potato fries are all great ways to make veggies tasty and interesting.

Allow family members to spoon up their personal choices. The buffet makes vegetables more fun and gives each person control over what he/she chooses to eat. These two things together make healthy eating so much more fun and delicious.

Find Your Favorites

These are only a few of the many ways to successfully add vegetables to your meals.  Experiment with new and unique seasonal finds, plus try different forms of cooking them, and use a wide variety of seasonings and disguises.

Getting your family to eat more vegetables – without a struggle – can be your personal cooking challenge. Using the suggestions listed in this article is so much better than trying to coerce family members to “eat their vegetables.”

It is likely that your family will try the new “forms” of vegetables far more frequently and willingly than they have in the past.

We would love to hear how you do when you try some of our suggestions. 

*Stevia comes from a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods and has a negligible effect on blood glucose.