Quick and Healthy: Recipes for Busy Weeknights

We’re big proponents of planning out your meals and even meal prepping when you have the time.  But, as we enter one of busiest times of the year, having options on hand that are quick, delicious, and of course healthy is a no-brainer.  Below you will find links to our favorite recipes that require few ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to get on the table.  We also recommend making a little extra for leftovers, whether you take them for lunch or use them again the next night to simplify things a bit!

Mediterranean Panzanella Salad

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas (serve with a tossed salad)

Shrimp and Grits (Quinoa)barbecue, bbq, delicious

Pesto Salmon Kebabs (serve with roasted vegetables and brown rice)

Open Faced Avocado BLT Sandwich

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Pasta (yes, it is healthy! We recommend whole wheat pasta)

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables (makes great leftovers)

5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili

Korean Beef Bowl (for the meat lover in your life, opt for grass fed ground beef or sub ground turkey)

 

Apple Galette with Yogurt Drizzle

Because this recipe requires half the crust as a normal apple pie, it provides all the holiday festivity for less calories, fat, and sugar.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • applegaletteholidays2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 pounds of apples, cut crosswise in 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and apples in a large bowl; toss to coat.
  3. Unwrap dough; place on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Roll dough to a 15-inch circle. Place parchment paper with dough on a baking sheet. Spoon apple mixture onto dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of dough over filling to partially cover. Brush edges of dough with egg white. Bake at 425°F for 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.
  4. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup yogurt, and vanilla bean paste in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Serve with galette.

Recipe adapted from Cookinglight.com

Fit for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again!  Leftover Halloween candy gives way to Thanksgiving buffets.  Then follow the holiday parties, cookie baking, New Year’s toasts, and the next thing we know, we’ve entered into another year and our health and fitness goals that we were maintaining so beautifully somehow got left in the dust.

This holiday season can be different!  As with any other time of the year where our routines may be a little out of whack (think vacations or work trips), we may need to adapt our goals to fit the time we have available and circumstances we may confront.  And while we are at it, let’s not overlook that the holidays are meant to be a special time of year.  It’s time to reclaim the next two months and enjoy our time with friends and family.

Try these tips to stay on track:

  • Maximize your workouts. You may not have as much time now due to travel or extra obligations on the weekends, therefore you need to condense your typical 45 to 60 minute workout into 20 to 30 minutes.  HIIT training for cardio or circuit training for strength are two ways to get the most bang for your exercise buck.  HIIT (high intensity interval training) consists of hard effort intervals followed by recovery intervals.  If you are new to this, we recommend trying a 1:2 ratio, such as 1 minute hard intensity effort, followed by 2 minutes of a easy/moderate recovery effort, repeated a few times.  Circuit training is a strength training method that keeps your heart rate elevated while working your muscles.  You move quickly through a handful of exercise stations with little to no rest in between.  Once you complete the sequence of stations, you rest, then complete the circuit 1 to 2 more times.
  • Stock up for success. While there may be more temptations in your office now, or extra baked goods finding their way into your house, be sure to stay stocked up on healthy foods.  Also, don’t overlook the benefits of staying fueled.  When we get too hungry, it makes it harder to say no to foods we didn’t plan for.
  • Plan it out. Speaking of planning, plan for the treats.  We don’t want you to go through the entire holiday season eating nothing but kale and chicken, however, when you do have a treat, make sure it’s part of your plan.  At a holiday party, you may plan to have 1 to 2 glasses of wine, but you also may plan to pass on the dessert.
  • Gear up! If travel is a part of your holiday plans, try investing in a set of resistance bands or a jump rope for an on the go workout.  You may just inspire a relative to join you for a few sets.

Note:  Always complete an effective warm up and cool down before and after any workout, and consult your doctor when you start new workout programs.

In the News: Is Diet Soda Better?

This question comes up quite frequently.  The thought is that diet soda has no calories and therefore should help us all decrease our overall calorie intake if we usually drink soda.  The logic behind this reasoning may be flawed as we dig through the research.

To understand the findings better, let’s first talk about the biggest difference between regular soda and diet soda: artificial sweeteners.  Think Splenda, Sweet N Low, and Equal.  Essentially the sweeteners you see in the yellow, pink, and blue packets at the coffee shop.  These sweeteners are being used in more than just our coffee.  Many packaged food products use them to reduce calorie and sugar content, and they are the reason diet soda is called “diet”. Therefore, our reasoning behind consuming foods with these sweeteners is that if there are no calories or sugar in a product, our bodies will not respond as they typically would when do consume calories or sugar.

Research is proving this wrong.  In one study, participants who consumed an artificial sweetener before a sugar treat released 20 percent more insulin than the participants who just had water prior to the sugar treat.  Why is this important?  Insulin, which is a hormone, helps our body absorb sugar, but it also tells our body to stop burning fat.  Other research studies are producing similar outcomes: that artificial sweetener may affect our metabolism. 

The lesson we should take away from these studies is that artificial sweeteners may have been too good to be true.  For our healthiest selves, we should focus on staying hydrated through water and unsweetened teas.  If you’re trying to cut out soda, try these tips:

  • Try making your favorite iced teas at home. Steep 6 to 8 tea bags for 10 minutes in 2 cups of water that were brought to a boil.  Remove the tea bags, then pour the tea concentrate into a gallon pitcher and fill with cold water.  Enjoy!  Try adding sliced citrus for extra flavor.
  • Sparkling water with fruit can be a good way to enjoy the bubbles without the extra sugar.
  • Carry a water bottle with you to reduce the temptation to grab a can of soda on the run.

References:

No Bake Pumpkin Energy Bites

With fall finally in full swing and Halloween right around the corner, there is no lack of pumpkin recipes. But not all are created equal. Many pumpkin recipes are loaded with excess sugar, which takes away from the health benefits. If you are looking for a recipe that you can make in about 10 minutes with limited equipment, this is the perfect recipe for you to try!

Prep Time: 10 minutes Yields: ~25 1 inch balls

Ingredients:pumpkinbites-6

  • 8 oz. (about 1 packed cup) chopped dates
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (dry, not cooked)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Directions:

Combine dates, honey, pumpkin puree, chia or flax seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and combined. Then, transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the oats, coconut flakes and pepitas until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once the mixture is cool, use a spoon or cookie scoop to shape into 1-inch balls. Alternately, you can line a small baking pan with parchment paper, and press the mixture evenly into the pan, let it cool, and then cut into bars. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

 

Be Happier in 4 Simple Steps

The title may be a bit misleading. While the steps are simple, creating happiness can be more difficult than we think. We live in an environment with constant stress, whether it is due to work, family, or other triggers. Sometimes it seems impossible to get out of a slump. Try these tips today to see the impacts immediately!

  1. Practice gratitude

Make a conscious effort to think about positive aspects of your life. When you dwell on the negatives, it can consume your mind, but the same is true when you highlight the positives. Try this exercise to help keep a majority of your thoughts positive. If a negative thought arises, try to think about 3 positives to focus on instead. This is where the idea of keeping a gratitude journal comes from. It helps you create a pattern of highlighting a few things that you’re grateful for or that just made you happy each day.

  1. Complete a random act of kindness

Research has shown that people who engage in random kind acts are happier. Doing something nice for someone else has been shown to reduce anxiety, decrease depression, and increase your connection with that person. The acts can be as small as holding open the door for a stranger or donating to your favorite charity.

  1. Recite a mantra

Have a mantra on hand for times when you are feeling especially stressed, angry, sad or anxious. Write it on a piece of paper and post it somewhere you look often. Here are some examples. Feel free to take one of these or create your own!

  • I am in complete control of determining my emotions.
  • I accept abundant love, happiness, and positive energy into my life.
  • I will observe myself free of judgment.
  1. Meditate

Meditation has been shown to increase happiness, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness. If you are new to meditation, try an app to guide you through it. Our favorite is Calm. You will be amazed at how you feel after taking a short break from your daily stressors. If finding time throughout the day feels difficult, try waking up a few minutes earlier or try it right before bed.

Now that you have read the tips, it is time to put them into action. Start small by implementing one a day and work your way up to having these become a part of your daily routine.happy-5

Yogurt Choice Overload

Finding the perfect healthy snack can be difficult because often times the most convenient ones are low in nutritional value. A fantastic and versatile choice is yogurt! If you go into the grocery stores these days, there are many varieties making it difficult to choose. Yogurt is a great snack due to its protein, vitamin D, and calcium content, not to mention the probiotics! While regular yogurt is an oldie but goodie, try these variations to shake up your snack time.

Greek

In the process of making Greek yogurt, some water is removed, making it thicker than regular yogurt. The taste is also slightly tangy and less sweet than other varieties, making it great for a savory dressing or dip to pair with veggies. Try this recipe as a great snack on the go!

Honey Mustard Greek Yogurt Diphealthyhoneymustard_1

Stir ½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, ¼ cup honey, ¼ cup spicy brown mustard, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl and mix until creamy. Store in the refrigerator and serve with your favorite veggies or whole-wheat crackers.

Skyr

From Iceland, this yogurt is rich in flavor and creamy in texture. Skyr is not quite asgranola-parfait-2 thick as Greek yogurt and is sweeter, which makes it great for parfaits. Prepare this recipe the night before or day of and run out the door.

Granola Parfait

Layer ½ cup of Skyr yogurt, 1 cup mixed berries, and ¼ cup of your favorite granola. Optional: top with your favorite nuts. Store in a plastic container and refrigerate.

Swiss-Style

Also referred to as stirred yogurt, the preparation of this yogurt yields a thinner and creamier texture than Greek or even Skyr. This type is slightly lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates, which means it’s naturally sweeter than other options. Try this recipe if you have a sweet tooth and are craving chocolate!

Chocolate and Banana Frozen Yogurtchocbananayogurt-3

Add 1 frozen banana, ½ tablespoon honey, ½ cup Swiss-style yogurt, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into a food processor. Process until creamy, which should be about 2-3 minutes. Then, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Kefir

If you suffer from lactose intolerance, this choice may be right for you. Kefir has beneficial bacteria and is fermented with yeast, which increases the probiotic amounts above other yogurt products. Kefir is much thinner than the other varieties, making it great for smoothies!

Raspberry Smoothieberry-smoothie-4

Place 1 cup plain kefir, ½ frozen banana, ½ cup raspberries, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon flaxseeds, and ½ cup of ice in a blender for about 30-60 seconds or until smooth.

Now that you are familiar with the different types of yogurts and how versatile of a snack they can be, there is just one thing to keep in mind. Sugar is often added to all varieties of yogurts so when possible, it is best to get plain, unsweetened yogurt and add you own flavors, such as fruits, honey, agave, or stevia. Now it’s time to pack your snack for tomorrow, just don’t forget your spoon (or straw)!

Make Your Habit Stick

Have you tried a new workout routine, seen results, and then a few weeks later find yourself low on motivation? It’s common! Many of us who start new routines find it difficult to stick with in the long term. That is, unless, we can adapt our mental and physical environment for better success.

When reading the tips below, try thinking of a time you were starting a new healthy habit. What did you enjoy about it? When did you feel like you were able to stick with it? Then think about the flip side – what didn’t you enjoy? What made you feel like it was becoming difficult? Analyzing past attempts can make us stronger in the future!

#1: Don’t set yourself up for failure in the beginning.Image result for new habits success

This is huge! Telling yourself you will work out every morning at 5:30 am sets you up for failure. What happens when you have a late evening? Or it’s cold outside? Or you get sick? When those times come and you’re unable to get out of bed to work out, we automatically call it a failure. And when we analyze that experience as unsuccessful it becomes more difficult to continue. However, success begets success.  Ask yourself what you really feel capable of at first. Is it two days per week? Is it a walking routine and not the CrossFit workout your neighbor is doing? Being honest about what is possible for you now will set you up for success. When you’ve had three to four weeks of working out for 2 days each week, you’re likely going to feel more motivated!

#2 Create the right environment

Sticking with our morning workout routine example, think about how the environment plays a role in your success. Is it having your shoes out by the door as a reminder of your commitment? Is it telling a person you live with your goal? Also, think about what you can do to make the environment more enjoyable. Can you download new music or a new audiobook to listen to? Would walking with a friend make it more fun? Find the pieces of your environment that will set you up for success.

#3 No more than one habit at a time

It’s called decision fatigue. On average, we make about 35,000 decisions every day. As it turns out, your willpower is like a muscle which can get fatigued. Every time you make a decision, it’s like doing another rep in the gym. The strength of your willpower fades as you make more and more decisions. If you’re trying to overhaul your whole routine, you will fatigue more quickly than if you take on one new habit at a time. Your willpower will be more powerful! Therefore, give yourself at least three to four weeks before making an additional change to your routine and overall health. You’ll find that in the long run, you will have more healthy habits that stuck.

Breakfast on the Go

If you’re sending your kids back to school or your work schedule or personal routine are getting more hectic as summer comes to a close, that could mean a healthy breakfast could be taking a backseat to getting out the door!  We’re here to provide a few quick tips to make breakfast snappy and healthy!

Tip #1 Stock up on the basics

We recommend keeping old fashioned oats, whole grain bread or waffles, yogurt, eggs, fresh fruit on hand. It’s easier to create variety when your pantry and fridge are stocked.

Tip #2 Come up with easy go-tos

Once you’ve found two or three quick and healthy breakfast items you and your family enjoy, it’s easier to whip it up in the morning without extra thought – especially if you’re stocked.

Tip #3 Experiment for a few mornings to find what works best

Here are a few ideas for a delicious, quick and healthy breakfast:

Whole Grain Toast or Waffles with Nut Butter and FruitImage result for whole wheat waffle toast peanut butter and banana

Toast one or two pieces of toast or waffles. Spread with 2 TBSP of your favorite nut butter (opt for soy nut or sunflower seed butter if you’re dealing with
allergies), then top with fruit. Bananas and berries tend to work best. You can wrap this up in foil or a sealed container to take with you.

Make Ahead Oatmeal Cups

These grab and go oatmeal muffins can easily be configured to your favorite toppings:

(Makes 6)Image result for healthy mini oatmeal muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or chopped nuts
  • 1/3 cup raisins or other dried fruit
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter, or 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 3/4 cup milk (any kind)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease six muffin cups very well with butter or coconut oil, or line with paper muffin liners.

Combine the oats, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and nut butter (or melted butter) until smooth, and then slowly mix in the milk. Pour the liquids into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir well.

Divide the oatmeal mixture among the muffin cups, filling each one up to the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly risen and dry on top. Run a knife around each muffin and turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Muffins can be kept an airtight container on the counter for up to 5 days. Individually wrap any muffins you won’t eat within a few days in plastic wrap and freeze. To defrost: leave overnight at room temperature. Once defrosted they can also be reheated in the microwave for about 45 seconds if you prefer them warm.

Scrambled Egg Muffins

Love savory in the morning, but don’t have time to whip up an egg sandwich? Make these on the weekend for a delicious morning all week.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggsImage result for egg muffins
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1 medium bell pepper, red
  • 3/4 cup spinach
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Dice the bell pepper into small pieces. Stack the spinach leaves, roll them up, and slice them thin. Add the peppers, spinach, and shredded cheddar to the egg mixture.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until centers are set and no longer runny.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Extras may be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or a freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to a month. Microwave thawed egg cups on high for 45-60 seconds or until hot.

Are you getting enough protein?

Despite what you may be hearing, you’re likely getting enough protein in your diet. Whether it’s just another weight loss promotion or something from the Paleo diet, it seems that many food items are touting themselves as being “high in protein.” You’ve likely heard that protein, along with healthy fats and fiber, can help you feel fuller longer. Protein also helps you repair and build lean muscle. And with this push, it’s likely you think you’re not getting enough.

Despite what we hear, most of us are likely getting enough proteiImage result for protein foodsn. Recent studies show that on average, men consume about 98 grams of protein per day and women consume about 68 grams of protein per day. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is well below that at 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women. Some protest that the RDA is only set at a level to prevent deficiencies and not at a level for optimal health.

Experts agree that we should eat more than the RDA, in which case we would eat around the proper amount each day. However, we can easily fall into the “more is better” approach due to the fact that excess protein eaten is still excess calories, which can contribute to weight gain if not balanced out with your overall caloric intake.

So, how much protein should you aim for?  A good recommendation is somewhere between 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So a 150 pound person would be about 68 kilograms and would require somewhere between 54 to 82 grams of protein. Some individuals may need more or less depending on activity level and overall health status.

It’s good to remember that protein comes from sources other than just meat. Low fat dairy, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, eggs, and whole grains have varying amounts of protein. Focus on consuming a variety of protein rich foods to ensure you’re not ingesting too much saturated fat and also getting a variety of nutrients.

Bottom line, you’re likely getting enough protein in your diet.  We encourage you to take inventory of where you’re getting your protein from and aim to create variety within your daily eating patterns.