Tag Archives: Nuts and Seeds

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

Hopefully you are convinced (as I am) that the Mediterranean diet is fantastic. It has proven to be a healthy way of life for many people – why not you? Unlike other diets such as the Atkins diet or Paleo diet there is little debate over whether or not it is good for you.

Of course, we have established that it is also quite different from other diets because it is more about food choices and cooking methods – a way of eating – rather than focusing on restrictions. In fact, it doesn’t really even talk about portion control. Although, I do recommend that you use good sense and eat moderately.

Other than that, this is one of the best diets on the planet. It’s tasty, easy to follow, and has multiple health benefits, such as:  reducing your risk of getting nasty diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Also – if you need to lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol . . . the Mediterranean diet is for you. If you want to live a long and healthy life . . . you got it! The Mediterranean diet is for you.

It you are focusing on clean eating, this is a diet that allows you to follow that philosophy, eat well, and enjoy the food.

The diet itself is quite simple and very flexible. You should be able to find most of the food at your local supermarket.

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

The diet can be broken down into a few groups, which makes it easy to shop:

  • Whole grains
  • Healthy oils & fats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Herbs and spices

That’s pretty much it. There may be a few other items, but for the most part, if you stick to these eight categories, you will be eating healthy.

Whole Grains

Please notice it says “whole grains.” In fact, look for the word “whole” or 100% whole wheat or whole grain on the label. Examples would be whole grain bread or whole grain pasta. Good whole grain items would be: pasta, tortillas, bread, oatmeal, cereals, polenta, brown rice, quinoa, barley and pita.

Whole wheat bread dipped in olive oil is a tasty treat.

Healthy Oils

Mediterranean DietHealthy oils are a key ingredient In the Mediterranean diet. Replace butter with healthy fats – especially extra-virgin olive oil, which is excellent for cooking and on salads.

Other suggested oils are: canola, grape seed, sesame, and avocado oil. In the Mediterranean diet, the staple oil used is olive oil. Oils have lots of calories, so try to limit yourself to no more than three tablespoons per day.

Keep the oils in a cool, dark place so that they last longer.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are another group of healthy fats. You must be a little cautious with this group, they are calorie dense. Don’t go nuts with the nuts. Consume them in moderation or you will end up adding pounds you do not want.

A handful a day will provide our body with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Buy them in bulk and pack them in small snack bags – limiting yourself to one bag per day.

Almonds, cashews, flax, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pine nuts are all good choices.

Vegetables and Fruits

Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

These are nutrition-packed foods filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Always buy fresh, organic produce when it is available. Seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables should be eaten daily.

Frozen fruits and veggies are also fine as long as they are quick frozen with nothing added. Avoid canned vegetables, if possible. If you must use canned, be they are low sodium.

Vegetables – you have many choices:  All the green leafy vegetables, plus broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, celery, onions, radishes, tomatoes, squash, beets, mustard greens, avocados, green peppers, etc. Obviously, it is a long list!

Fruits are eaten in place of sweets on this diet. Recommended are: apples, cherries, dates, peaches, kiwi, mango, papaya, grapefruit, oranges, melons, and strawberries.  Again . . . buy organic if at all possible; or, you may be ingesting pesticides that are harmful to your body. If not organic, wash extremely well and peel if possible.

Yogurt and Cheese

Dairy is not a major focus on the diet. It is usually eaten in the form of yogurt and cheese.  Both are good options as a calcium source. Stay with whole natural cheeses and plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (need sweet, add a little honey).

Seafood

Baked SalmonSeafood is heavily consumed in the Mediterranean region. Shrimp, salmon, cod, clams, tilapia, tuna, sardines, scallops and crab are excellent seafood choices and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs are also eaten as a source of protein and a regular part of the diet. Chicken is also served on occasion.  Red meat is eaten rarely – so go very easy on this one.

Lentils and Beans

These are high in protein but low in fats and calories. You have many choices: lentils, chickpeas, clack beans, pinto beans and white beans.

Herbs and Spices

Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to season your food and enhance the flavors. You will not need to use salt or unhealthy fats to make your food tasty. Garlic, mint, cumin, coriander, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro and pepper are good choices.

Don’t forget the garlic – a favorite in the Mediterranean Region.

Red Wine

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

I know this isn’t one of the categories – and is optional on the diet. But if you enjoy good red wine, a glass each evening is encouraged (one for women and no more than two for men).

That pretty much sums it up. The diet is primarily focused on fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and seafood with limited poultry and practically no red meat plus minimal sweets – all good reasons why it is so healthy.

Shop wisely and ENJOY!

Healthy and Simple Mid-Morning Snacks

The key to healthy snacking is choosing wisely. By mid-morning, the energy from breakfast has been used up, hunger is building and the stomach begins to rumble. If you wait until lunch to replenish your energy, chances are you will overeat at your mid-day meal.

Mid-morning cravings and stomach pangs are usually the result of low blood sugar and the best way to avoid that mid-morning low is by planning for and enjoying healthy and simple mid-morning snacks.

Let’s look as some easy-to-prepare, delicious choices:

Fresh Fruit

Fresh FruitFresh fruit is the first and best choice for snacking in the morning. You can either take a piece of fruit whole (in its natural wrapper); or, if you have access to a refrigerator at work, you can prepare fresh fruit snacks before you leave home.

The easiest options next to a piece of fresh fruit are sliced melon (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew), sliced mango or papaya, grapes, fresh berries etc. Wash, peel, slice, hull (prepare as necessary), place in a small container and you are set.

Fruit Pick-Me-Up

Ingredients

  • 1 small apple
  • 1 small tangerine
  • ½ cup of blueberries
  • ½ cup of strawberries

Directions

  1. Slice the apple into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Peel the tangerine and separate the sections.
  3. Wash all berries thoroughly and drain.
  4. Place all of the fruit into a small plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

You can eat the fruit au naturale, without any sugar (which is my preference); or top with plain Greek Yogurt and a little local honey for sweetener – or pack the yogurt and honey in a small cup (on the side for dipping).

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is another spectacular mid-morning snack and blood sugar booster. Oatmeal bars and even oatmeal cookies (if they are low in sugar) can be just the pick-me-up that you need to get you through to lunch.  Or – try “Oatmeal-to-go” as explained in an earlier post.

Bowl of hot oatmeal breakfast cereal with fresh berries
Image by elenaphoto

If you are really pressed for time, grab a packet of instant oatmeal. Add water and pop it into the microwave for a healthy boost. There is a wide variety of flavors to choose from – maple and brown sugar to peach flavored. These small meals can be a wonderful addition to your diet without adding a lot of fat and calories.

Nuts and Seeds

A handful of raw nuts is the easiest, portable snack I know of (next to an apple, banana, or orange).  Put a large handful of nuts into a plastic snack bag and you are ready to go. You can also try a mix of all the nuts you enjoy. As I mentioned in another post Sprouts has the best prices for raw and salted nuts – Trader Joe’s is my 2nd choice.

Salted vs Unsalted

If you prefer salted nuts, try mixing half salted and half raw.  It gives you some salt without overdoing it. This also works well with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Mixed Nuts

  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup salted sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup raisins, dried cranberries or dried cherries

Directions

  1. Combine all nuts, chocolate chips, and dried fruit in a small bowl.
  2. Mix well and divide into 1/2 cup servings in small snack bags. You have nine days of snacks prepared. All you have to do it grab and go each morning.

This combination of nuts, seeds, and a small amount of dark chocolate chips is perfect for a quick snack in the morning or afternoon. The chocolate chips and dried fruit provide enough sugar to give you a little bit of a quick energy boost; and the nuts offer energy that burns more slowly.

Whole Wheat Toast and Applesauce

You can purchase larger containers of unsweetened pure applesauce (no sugar or additives) or you can buy single-serving sized portions to carry to work with you.

In the morning, toast one slice of whole grain bread and slice it into four strips that are just the right size for dipping.

Whole wheat toast dipped in applesauce is sweet, crunchy and filling, making it one of the best snacks for mid-morning munchies. If you do not like applesauce, you can use yogurt for dipping, as well.

Yogurt and Flax Seeds

  1. Choose ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt and either flax seed or sunflower seeds.
  2. Sprinkle the seeds onto the yogurt and add a dollop of local honey and a pinch of cinnamon.

You can either buy small containers or one large container of plain Greek Yogurt that can be divided into small container for each day of the week.  All you have to do each day is add the seeds and honey.

Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and the seeds add both vitamins and nutrients that are important for a busy lifestyle. Flax seeds contain Omega 3 fatty acids that are considered vital for good heart health. They actually contain more of these good fatty acids than fish. As a result for those of you who do not like fish, flax seeds are a great alternative for getting that important nutrient.

Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E and antioxidants that are necessary for overall health as well as being great for your skin.  Try fresh crisp celery sticks filled with cream cheese or peanut butter, sprinkled with sunflower seeds. YUM!

Tuna Fish Spread

  • 1 can plain white tuna in water
  • 1 large tablespoon Hellmann’s or Best Foods Real Mayonnaise
  • Dash of lemon Juice
  • ½ tsp mustard (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 fresh, crisp celery sticks

Directions

Evening before:

  1. Slice ends from celery sticks and wash well (wrap in damp paper towel and place in crisper in the refrigerator).
  2. Open tuna and drain well.
  3. Add mayo, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  4. Mix thoroughly, cover with Saran Wrap and place in refrigerator
  5. In the morning, spread tuna mixture into the 4 pieces of celery, wrap in foil and pack in a cooler to take to work.
  6. NOTE: This can also be made with Greek Yogurt if you prefer – try it both ways.

This snack is healthy and nutritious and you can make enough for several days with just one can of tuna.  Be sure that the snack is well refrigerated at all times before eating.

Healthy mid-morning snacks are not difficult to make; but, it does take time to plan your snacking options. It is wise to plan your snacks for the entire week (both mid-morning and mid-afternoon). Once you have decided on your snacks, be sure to add the necessary items to your grocery lists.

Having a plan in place and the right foods on hand is the perfect way to avoid snacking on, potato chips, candy, sodas, and cookies during the week.

If your office has a microwave and refrigerator, you definitely have plenty of options for healthy homemade snacks and lunches.  If not, it may take a little more work, but it is worth it – and maybe it’s time to start lobbying for the microwave and refrigerator.

Smart Snack Choices to Keep You Healthy

Snack choices can increase chances of a successful outcome for any diet or throw you completely off track. And . . . if your goal is a healthy lifestyle, smart snacking is critical.

The idea of healthy snacks may seem completely impossible when your goal is to eat healthy, nutritious foods. In fact, healthy snacks may sound like an oxymoron because the word snack immediately brings to mind foods like doughnuts, potato chips, ice cream and cookies. Let’s look at some guidelines for smart snack choices to keep you healthy.

There are many delicious, wonderfully healthy snacks that are a vitally important part of your daily intake especially when your meals are spaced more than four hours apart. A tasty nutritious snack prevents starving yourself for a few hours and then gobbling up anything you can find, which are typically foods that are not good for you and kill your appetite for a healthy meal later.

Healthy snacking requires planning (the same as your meals). The process is much easier if you keep a large selection of nutritious foods on hand in your frig and pantry so you always have healthy options.

The first step to healthy snacking is to understand the types of snacks that are good for you.

Fruits and vegetables provide many delicious alternatives to potato chips and cookies. That may seem too simplistic, but when you replace just one cookie or candy snack with a piece of fruit or vegetables strips, you immediately cut a large number of calories, plus eliminate excess sugar, fat, and sodium from your diet.

Image by Christine
Image by Christine

Small changes make a huge difference in your diet and your health. The next time you want to reach for a salty bag of chips, try carrot sticks instead. You get the crunch that you crave without the excess salt and fat. If carrots are not your favorite, there are other options such as, celery, broccoli, jicama, and cauliflower. If you do not like them plain, peanut or almond butter are yummy with celery and jicama; and hummus is a great dip for all veggies. These snacks are not only low in fat and calories but they are extremely high in nutrients that many people are lacking in their diets.

Fruits are wonderful for snacking and most come in their own wrapper! In other words, they are easy to pack and carry. An apple, a banana or an orange can be the perfect portable snack for busy people on the go. Fruits contain natural sugars that your body craves when you are hungry, which makes them very satisfying. Eat an orange instead of that morning candy bar and enjoy the same fulfilled feeling without the calories, excess refined sugar, and fat.

If your diet includes a caffeine or salt restriction, fruit is one of your best options for snacking. Even small amounts of chocolate contain caffeine and fat. Oranges, apples, and bananas are completely caffeine free!

Image by Pakhnyushchyy
Image by Pakhnyushchyy

My favorite snack replacement for chips is raw nuts. When you buy nuts from the vending machine they are usually salted and often have preservatives added. Avoid those if you can. Buy nuts in bulk (Spouts has the best prices, as a rule). You can buy salted, unsalted, and raw. The best choice for snacking is raw and unsalted; but small amounts of salted nuts are also acceptable in most diets.

When you work long hours with minimal breaks, you probably notice those physical lows when you become very hungry and tired. It is during those times that healthy snacking is important. Your body is telling you that it needs refueling.

Many of us eat breakfast very early before leaving for work or school and lunch may be scheduled six hours later. Six hours is too long to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. On your morning break, it is important to feed your body in order to sustain your energy until lunch.

Eating a healthy snack between three and four hours after breakfast also prevents the desire to eat a huge lunch. Everyone is well aware that a heavy, calorie-filled lunch makes you sleepy a couple of hours later. Always eat a light, healthy lunch; then, have another healthy snack mid-afternoon to sustain your energy until dinner time.

Nutrient-filled snacks between meals are especially important when you work outside or in extreme conditions. They not only keep the body energized, they help to keep you warm.

Good snacking habits are a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Healthy, nutritious snacks keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, which is important for the following reasons:

  1. Hunger can make you grumpy and short tempered. Snacking controls mood swings that come from low blood sugar levels, especially between meals.
  2. A small snack keeps your blood sugar from dropping and eliminates those sudden feelings of fatigue during your work day.
  3. Erratic blood sugar levels are one of the main causes of diabetes and other metabolic diseases – conditions you want to avoid if at all possible.

Fruit is one of the best snacking choices to sustain a stable blood sugar level when you have long stretches of time between meals. Freshly-squeezed fruit (and vegetable) juices are another option for delicious snacking. You can either make your own, or find a local “raw” juice establishment to make them for you.

Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are not your only choices.  There are plenty of options for healthy snacks.

  • Low fat cheeses like mozzarella and cottage cheese.
  • String cheese is a portable snack that even children enjoy.
  • Sunflower seeds and raisins (or dried cranberries or cherries)
    • Sunflower seeds contain healthy fats. Dried fruits are sugary but provide a burst of energy that can pep you up for the rest of the day when eaten after lunch.
  • Make your own mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit (go easy on the fruit because of the sugar content).
    • Packaged mixes are not recommended unless you can find a mix that has no additives and sugar added, which can be difficult.
  • Green tea and ginger tea – lightly sweetened with local honey.
    • Green tea contains caffeine, but it also contains many antioxidants that are beneficial to your skin and overall health.
    • Ginger tea is excellent to settle a stomach and decrease bloating that often happens after a large lunch.

Snack foods are available everywhere in vending machines, but BE SMART in your choices.  Make healthy decisions when it comes to snack foods. Read labels carefully and avoid anything that has ingredient names that you cannot pronounce – or added sugar or sugar derivatives. A small bag of chips or pretzels is an acceptable snack on occasion – in others words a couple of times month (and choose those without additives).

The biggest problem comes from allowing yourself to become extremely hungry and making unwise choices just to quell the hunger. This can be solved by eating a good healthy breakfast, and carrying nutritious snacks that can satisfy your hunger, energize your body and help you to avoid eating foods that are more harmful than helpful.  When you plan your snacking options, you never get to the point that you will need to grab ANYTHING that is handy because you are starving!

Nuts and Seeds Are Nutrition Powerhouses

Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of nutrients. They are nature’s compact snack food. They are easy to store, easy to pack, easy to carry, can be eaten anywhere (no mess), and provide a quick nutrition fix. They are packed with vitamins, protein, fiber, healthy unsaturated fats, and  Omega-3 fatty acids. Each type of nut and seed contains its own special combination of essential vitamins and minerals.

Image by Pakhnyushchyy
Image by Pakhnyushchyy

NUTS

Man has been eating nuts since the dawn of time because they literally grow on trees – and should definitely become part of your healthy diet.

The Mayo Clinic states,

The type of nut you eat isn’t that important, although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts — you name it — almost every type of nut has a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package. If you have heart disease, eating nuts instead of a less healthy snack can help you more easily follow a heart-healthy diet.

The best way to eat nuts is in their raw state without salt or sweeteners – except for peanuts, they should be roasted or boiled. They can also be used as a nutritious ingredient in cooking.

Nuts are wonderful in all kinds of dishes both savory and sweet. They are also good in salads, Asian dishes, sprinkled over desserts, breads, and homemade candy. Anytime you want to add extra nutrition to anything, add a handful of nuts or seeds.

As noted before, nuts are compact nutrition, but they are also high in calories and fat, so if you are trying to lose weight, limit your intake. Choose lower calorie seeds like hemp and sunflower seeds instead. If you have the opposite challenge and need to keep weight on, nuts are ideal – eat them in everything, and spread your breads with nut butters. You can even add nuts to a smoothie.

SEEDS

Seeds are plants in embryo and are the source of nutrition for the plant – which are filled with high concentrations of critical nutrients. For a nutritious and filling snack, seeds are one of the best. Check out “The Top 10 Healthiest Seeds on Earth for a list of the best seeds how to eat them.

In addition to simply eating a handful of raw sunflower seeds, a couple of quick examples for other uses are:  use 1 tablespoon ground flax seed to 4 tablespoons of water as an egg replacement. You can also use chia seeds to thicken things to make puddings without gelatin.

Vitamins and Minerals from Nuts and Seeds

  • Vitamin E
  • B Complex Vitamins
  • Omea-3’s
  • Antioxidants
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Fluoride
  • Selenium
  • Copper

For a detailed list of the vitamins and minerals found in specific nuts and seeds, go to: HealthAlternatives.com.

Image by Elana's Pantry
Image by Elana’s Pantry

Keep Them Fresh

I usually buy them in larger quantities in order to always have them available. They should be stored in sealed containers in the refrigerator (or frozen in plastic freezer bags) to keep them fresh and prevent them from going rancid.

Learn the nutritional basics of both seeds and nuts and begin incorporating them into your healthy diet today. You will be glad you did.