Tag Archives: Health Eating

Healthy Eating the Mediterranean Way

Healthy Eating - Greek Salad
Image by robynmac

Healthy Eating

The Mediterranean Diet has been popular for some time and the reason is simple – It is easy and delicious. Healthy eating the Mediterranean Way may be an easier switch than you think. In fact, when I took a very close look, I realized that I have been eating this way for many years.

The name is accurate because it emulates the way people eat who live on or near the Mediterranean Sea. When studies were done, it was found that people who live on the Mediterranean Diet, experienced a lower incidence of heart disease, reduced incidence of cancer (including breast cancer), Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s – plus they live longer in general.

The findings were surprising at first because the diet includes fats and wine – two things that are usually “no-no’s” on a “healthy diet.” However, further research found that when the types of fats they use (olive oil and real cheese) coupled with good wine, when used in moderation and combined with a nutrient rich diet, can actually be beneficial.

A nutrient-rich diet should be self-explanatory, but in case it is not, let’s take a look at some of the foods that are included in the Mediterranean Diet.

Fish

If you do not like fish – this is not a good style of eating for you.  BUT . . . if you are like me and LOVE fish, a Mediterranean-type diet is a great choice.

Fish is a natural food for people who live near the sea and being near the warm Mediterranean means being near tons of fish – lucky them! For the rest of us, it is not quite so easy, but good fish is available in most metropolitan areas. And . . . fish is incredibly good for the human body.

Fish is lean and low in calories especially when compared to red met and provides lots of essential fatty acids and amino acids – a wonderful “brain” food and, it keeps you full.

Its easy year-round accessibility (fresh or frozen) makes it an excellent main-dish option.

Fresh  Salads

Salads are a mainstay in all Mediterranean homes – and they are a good way to bulk up a meal without adding a lot of calories.  Plus, they are filled with nutrients, providing the body with iron, calcium, and other minerals.

A favorite for people of the area is simple Greek salad. It is a combination of:  chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber, peppers, olives, and feta cheese – lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Healthy Fats

Going hand-in-hand with fish and veggie salads are all of the healthy fats – meaning saturated fats (not trans fats!) which aid in testosterone production while also enhancing nutrient absorption and improving cholesterol

Seeds and Nuts

Many dishes for this diet include seeds and nuts for flavoring (with lots of herbs). Another excellent choice because they keep you feeling full, which also makes them a brilliant, nutritious snack (including zinc, potassium, magnesium) that will not pack on calories. Add a few nuts or seeds to any salad for crunch and extra flavour.

Fruits and Vegetables

Once again the sunny region in which the diet originated provided lots of berries, grapes, tomatoes, and root vegetables ripe for picking, cooking and eating. This is another big component of the Mediterranean Diet and is one of the biggest ‘secrets’ when it comes to making sure that you enjoy a long, healthy lifespan without getting ill!

In summary, the Mayo Clinic explains:

Key components of the Mediterranean diet

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise

If you have not already tried this diet, I encourage you to do so. If you don’t want to go full force, at least try adding some of the elements, such as more salads, fruits and veggies, plus nuts and seeds.

Simply adding wine to your diet will not do the trick. (LOL)

Meal Planning for Healthy Options

Now that people seem to be more concerned with healthy diets and exercise, meal planning for healthy options is becoming an important dietary tool.

Planning meals means much more than just making a grocery list. To ensure that your diet is both nutritious and delicious, it should include mapping meals and snack choices at least, a week at a time.

Find an App or Do It by Hand

Although this may seem like a chore, there are simple Apps available for smart phones and planners that are downloadable and free on the Internet to make meal planning much easier.

If you are technically challenged, as I am, you can do it the old-fashioned way with a pencil and piece of paper. That is all it takes to begin regular meal planning and to start making healthy food choices for you and your family.

In addition to facilitating healthier eating in general, planned meals and snacking options are especially helpful to anyone who needs to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, manage diabetes or lose weight.

Even if your family is healthy and no one is struggling with disease or health issues, meal planning is necessary. It will help you provide your children with nutritious snack options that will support their rapid growth and active lives.

Most children will be happy with healthy snacks if that is what is available

 

Clean Out Your Pantry and Refrigerator

The first step to meal planning for healthy options is to do a complete inventory of your pantry and refrigerator.

Remove items that are past their expiration date, wilted, or unappetizing to create space for nutritious alternatives. Once those have been removed, start eliminating all snacks filled with sugar, fats, and additives. This includes most packaged snacks, cookies, candy, sodas, bottled juice, potato chips, etc.

With that first step you have started down the road to healthier bodies for everyone. Removing the bad food options makes it more difficult to slip back into unhealthy eating habits. If those foods are not available, you and the family cannot eat them.

Find and Use Healthy Recipes

Healthy Diet Cookbook Cover

Second step . . . search the Internet for recipes, cookbooks, and websites that offer nutritious meals. You will be astounded at how many healthy versions there are of well-loved recipes available for download or included in cookbooks. Check out my book, The Healthy Diet Cookbook as a place to start.

Begin collecting healthy recipes that appeal to you and that you think your family will enjoy. Use those recipes to plan your meals and snacks. The larger your collection, the more choices you have to feed your family well.

Start make healthy adaptations of your family favorites. A few small changes to recipes like spaghetti, meatloaf, and beef stroganoff can turn them into much healthier dishes.

Make It Easy on Yourself

In the beginning choose recipes that are easy to prepare and use ingredients you know the family likes. You can move out of the family’s comfort zone on occasion because trying new foods can be great fun. However, for your basic meal planning stay with tried and true recipes that have been changed slightly to healthier versions.

Begin to stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy foods that you will enjoy . . . and remember to double up on the fruit and vegetables (organic, if at all possible).

Almost any type of fruit can make a wonderful snack, especially for those in the family with a sweet-tooth. Fresh oranges, melons, and crisp, juicy apples are great snacks that keep well in the refrigerator. Melons or berries topped with plain Greek yogurt and a little local honey make a tasty treat.  Sliced apples with chunks of real cheddar cheese are great after school snacks (and also excellent in a packed lunch for a mid-morning treat).

Vegetables like carrots and celery are perfect for a crunch snack and they also store well for up to a week in the fridge. Serve with hummus or almond butter to add a little protein.

Make It Easy to Choose Healthy Snacks

Healthy Fruit Snacks
Image by Christine

The most important thing to remember about keeping fruit and vegetables for snacks is to make them easy to eat by cutting them up into bite-sized servings.

Grapes are best when removed from their vines and washed thoroughly. After washing, dry them completely and put them into containers or baggies. Voila! You have snacks that are perfect for days when family members need to grab and go.

Cherries and grapes are also delicious when frozen – especially for hot and tired children when they come home from school.

For protein, buy lean, grain fed, free range beef if you can, and limit the amount of red meat in your meals. Focus more on poultry, fish and eggs. Lentils are another good source of protein to work into your meals.

Meal Planning Eases Your Budget

When you plan meals in advance, you know the exact quantity of each item to purchase, so budgeting is easier. Meal plans are perfect for the bargain shopper because they give you time to select foods that are on sale and in season.  Clip coupons to add to your savings. Coupons for fruits and vegetables may be difficult to find, so concentrate on the meat sales to save money on your weekly shopping budget.

As I mentioned earlier, selecting a software program or App to help with your meal planning is an excellent time-saver (if you are into technology). These work particularly well for people with careers AND families.

With busy schedules and multiple obligations they tend to be the worst at preparing and eating healthy meals. Using a smart phone or computer to help choose nutritious dinners is the perfect way to incorporate a time-saver with a health-saver!

Find a Good Meal Planning APP

Some Apps allow the user to select certain foods and then offer meals that can be created with those foods. This type of planning helps when you are pressed for time, especially for weekday dinner preparation. If you make lunches for your children to take to school, these programs can help with a large selection of healthy lunch options, as well.

Final Thoughts

Once again, I want to emphasize how planning meals and snacks in advance will be helpful for busy mothers and fathers. Without planning, you put yourself in the position of coming home from work and being forced to scramble to find the ingredients for a healthy dinner. This can be frustrating and stressful for the entire family and may result with the decision to order pizza just to fill the empty tummies.

Having the right ingredients on-hand so you can prepare quick and easy, nutritious meals is the perfect way to change your diet and the diet of your entire family.

Meal planning for healthy options is the ideal tool for busy families. Children can even be included in the planning process. Have fun with it and encourage them to find new foods that everyone may enjoy. It is a great way to get them interested in healthy eating and to build good habits for life.

Are You Eating Enough Fiber?

There is an abundance of commercials touting the benefits of fiber in your diet. So, what is fiber and why is it important?

Fiber-rich Foods
Image by Annata 78

It is interesting that fiber is actually an indigestible component of many foods – including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Unlike most foods that we eat, the body does not digest it. It passes quickly through the digestive tract essentially whole (there is no breakdown of fiber), which is vital for good health. The fiber creates bulk which helps move waste and harmful carcinogens through the digestive tract.

When your diet does not have enough fiber you may suffer with some uncomfortable problems: constipation, sluggishness and irregularity. On the other hand, people who eat lots of fiber typically maintain healthier weights than those who do not; and it lowers the risk of developing  heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.

The reason that foods with lots of fiber help with weight control is because they make you feel full longer. A good example of this is apples (loaded with fiber) – think about how they fill you up, satisfy your hunger and are low in calories. When shopping, keep in mind that fiber-rich foods have less calories per serving than highly processed foods that essentially have very little fiber.

Don’t be misguided into thinking that processed fruit juices are good for you. People often make the mistake of substituting bottled apple juice for soda – thinking they are making a healthier choice.  Unfortunately, most pasteurized fruit juices have been stripped of their nutrients and contain a high-sugar content. In other words, they aren’t much healthier than soda, if at all.

Make the smart choice and eat the fruit rather than buying processed juices. The very best beverage is filtered water. The only other beverage I would recommend is freshly made fruit and vegetable juices. These are filled with nutrients and the pulp will fill your up and provide fiber at the same time.

Get rid of overly processed TV dinners and prepackaged foods and start serving high-fiber foods for diner. That single change in your diet will go a long way in helping you maintain a healthy weight. And . . . as I continue to say – choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. For example, eat broccoli raw or lightly steamed until it is bright green and slightly crunchy. Steaming vegetables not only helps retain the nutrients, it also retains the fiber and water content, both of which help you feel full longer.

Image by fo2Trends
Image by fo2Trends

A healthy habit is to start every meal with a raw fruit plate, veggie plate, mixed salad, or a glass of freshly made vegetable/fruit juice. Take it easy on the salad dressings and/or dip, which can add extra sugar and fat negating  the nutritional value of the veggies.

One way to limit the high-fat  salad dressings is to serve it on the side and dip the tongs of the fork into the dressing before picking up pieces of salad. This provides a crunching, tasty bite without  the excess dressing. When you get used to eating salad this way, you will wonder why it took you so long to discover it. Chances are you will cut your salad dressing serving from two or thee tablespoons to less than one.

You can make delicious  dressings from fruit and spices. Try blending mango, tomatoes, onions, basil and garlic. You can create salad magic with your blender and amaze your family and friends with the tasty combinations you create.

Change your mindset and when you need a snack, reach for raw fruits and veggies. It is impossible to over eat these wonderfully crunchy, fiber-filled, nutrient-filled, low-calorie foods. I guarantee that you will feel better than when you devour a plate of cheese and crackers or half a bag of potato chips between meals – and you won’t be eating very many calories to boot.

Healthy Appetizers for 2015

Healthy Appetizers for 2015 Social Gatherings

Hope your holidays were filled with love and happiness and now you are excited about New Year possibilities and a fresh opportunity to live healthier lives. I know I am.

January is always a challenging month for me. Even though life has started to settle down into a more normal routine, and I look forward to what the future will hold, I also feel a little tinge of sadness that the festivities have come and gone for another year.

But . . . last night I had an epiphany! Life should always be a celebration. We don’t have to wait for a special time of the year to enjoy get-togethers with friends and family. We can create our own festive occasions as often as we like.  Why not quarterly?  Or monthly?

Be creative and find reasons (not that you really need one) to celebrate or to host a gathering.

For example:

  • January – Super Bowl Party; Winter Fun; Snow Day
  • February – Valentine’s Day; Mardi Gras
  • March – St. Patrick’s  Day; First Day of Spring
  • April – April Fool’s Day; Easter; Tax Day Blowout
  • May – May Day; Cinco de Mayo; Mother’s Day; Memorial Day
  • June – International Picnic Day; Father’s Day; Summer Solstice
  • July – 4th of July
  • August  – Lazy Summer Daze
  • September –  Labor Day; First Day of Fall
  • October – Halloween
  • November – Thanksgiving
  • December  – Hanukkah,  Winter Solstice, Christmas

And . . . there are always birthdays . . . a perfect reason to celebrate!

However, you may want to click here for a list of Bizarre and Unique Holidays if you want to find some wacky reasons to have a few friends over.   But…. Do you really don’t need a reason to have fun?

My health challenge to you for this year!

Constantly be on the lookout for healthy recipes that will tantalize and satisfy your friends and family and still fit nicely into healthy lifestyles and not ruin anyone’s New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Everyone can come to your gatherings, enjoy themselves, and eat well all at the same time.

The goal is to build a wonderful, healthy “social gatheringmenu” that we can all share with others.

Each month, I will publish a set of recipes that will help you with healthy entertaining. When you find other scrumptious, healthy recipes, please send them to me, so I can try them out and share with all my readers.

The recipes I have chosen for today are Mexican-style foods (one of my favorites). Even though Mexican food can be filled with lots of fat and calories, these two recipes are healthy, tasty, and easy to prepare.  They can both be found in Mexican Favorites – 21 Traditional Recipes , Volume V of my Mama’s Legacy Cookbook Series.

My inspiration for creating these posts comes from a wonderful new site, Aloha.com. Their mission is to explore the facets of true health through what they call “The 5 Pillars”’ nourishment, movement, relaxation, connection, and right thinking. For more healthy recipes, go to their Healthy Recipe Website.

Ceviche

Ceviche Halibut

Since I have spent the last few months talking about the importance of eating close to nature, this felt like the perfect recipe to share with you this week. I think you will enjoy this deliciously healthy, traditional Mexican favorite. This light and refreshing dish can be served as an appetizer for any social gathering or side dish for lunch or brunch.

I first discovered and fell in love with ceviche when I was working in Houston, TX. I finally realized I could make it myself. If you use very fresh fish, I promise it will be amazing.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds fresh sea bass, halibut, or flounder deboned and cut into ½” pieces.
  • (Any fish or shellfish will work. Scallops and shrimp are especially good)
  • 7 whole fresh limes (enough juice to cover fish)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin and cut in small pieces
  • 1 whole avocado, ripe, but firm, cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, finely chopped, (or substitute 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges and avocado slices for garnish

Directions

  1. Dice the fish (approximately ½” cubes. (If using shrimp be sure to use cleaned, de-veined, steamed or parboiled.)
  2. Spread out fish (except shrimp) in a non-metallic bowl. Squeeze juice of 6 limes and pour over the mixed seafood to cover it completely – use more limes if necessary.
  3. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (This step cooks the fish, do not marinate shrimp, they tend to get tough).

An hour or two before serving:

  1. Chop and diced the tomatoes, onions, avocado and herbs.
  2. Drain the marinated seafood in a colander to remove excess lime juice and pat dry with paper towels and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add shrimp, vegetables and seasonings to the marinated seafood.
  4. Squeeze juice of one lime and sprinkle over the mixture and toss well.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garnish with lime and avocado slices. Servings: Varies – depends on whether it is an appetizer or main dish.  Cooking Time (in lime juice): 8 hours

Recipe Tips

  • You can alter the recipe to suit your own taste. Make it as spicy or as mild as you wish.
  •  Do not marinate shrimp, it will get tough. Steam or parboil the shrimp and add them to the mix a few hours before serving.

 

Guacamole

Guacamole

Guacamole originated in Mexico. The name is derived from two Aztec Nahuatl words – ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (sauce).

Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health, and their value is often overlooked. They are rich with nutrients that improve memory, increase the ability to concentrate, and improve blood flow which results in lower blood pressure and decreases the risk of stroke.

Even though avocados are a fatty fruit that is high in calories, the fat is monounsaturated, the healthy fat, and a serving of one-quarter to one-half an avocado each day provides benefits to the heart and brain that are well worth the calories. Eat them fresh, and eat them often! Viva la guacamole!

Ingredients

  • 5 avocados
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 package (or freshly made) tortilla chips
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tomato  (Roma tomatoes with seeds removed), finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Cut avocados in half and remove the seed.
  2. Scoop out avocado from the peel into a mixing bowl.
  3. Using a fork, mash the avocado.
  4. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more.
  5. Dice the tomatoes very finely. Keep the tomatoes separate until ready to serve.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it.
  7. Refrigerate until ready.
  8. Just before serving, add the chopped tomato to the guacamole and mix.

Serve with chips or fresh veggies strips.

Recipe Tips

  • Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness.
  • Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours.
  • These ingredients must be mixed to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients. Start with the amounts suggested and adjust to your taste.

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