February 13, 2014
Have you ever tried spaghetti squash before? This oblong, yellow winter squash is a fun vegetable the kids will love. Once cooked, the flesh is scraped out with a fork into long thin strands that resemble spaghetti noodles. And because spaghetti squash is not as sweet as its winter squash companions, such as acorn or butternut, it actually tastes similar to pasta.
To get those "spaghetti-like" strands, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and place it cut side down in a glass dish filled with ¼-½ inch of water. Bake the squash in a 350 degrees F oven for about 45 minutes, or cover and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes. Squash can also be boiled in a large pot of water that covers the squash for 20-30 minutes or put in the slow cooker with 2 cups of water and cooked on low for 8-9 hours.
Why use spaghetti squash rather than spaghetti? Consider this: 1 cup spaghetti noodles has 197 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrate, while 1 cup spaghetti squash has only 42 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate! Plus, spaghetti squash is packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary fiber and potassium. To save on time, I'd recommend either microwaving or cooking in the slow cooker, which is just as easy as boiling a pot of spaghetti noodles! Kids and adults alike will love the spaghetti squash with meatball recipe below; if you'd rather use canned spaghetti sauce, just look for a low sodium version. Try spaghetti squash in place of spaghetti noodles in any dish, and you'll feel good about your low-carb choice.
Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs
1 spaghetti squash
¼ cup water
1/3 cup bulgur
½ cup boiling water
2 (14.5 oz.) cans no-salt added crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼-½ cup water
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place cut-side down in microwave-safe dish; add ¼ cup water. Microwave, covered, on High for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and scrape out flesh with a fork. Meanwhile, place bulgur in large bowl; pour boiling water over bulgur and let stand 10 minutes or until water is absorbed. In a medium saucepan, combine tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, red pepper, oregano and basil over medium high heat until boiling. Add in water as needed so it doesn't get too thick; simmer on low. Stir in beef, egg, garlic and Italian seasoning into bulgur; shape into 1-inch balls. Lightly coat skillet with cooking spray and preheat to medium-high heat. Add meatballs and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Serve meatballs and sauce over squash.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 300 Calories, 7 grams fat, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 240 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams dietary fiber, 22 grams protein
February 7, 2014
Are you wearing red today in support of The American Heart Association's National Wear Red Day®? It's a wonderful reminder to pamper our own hearts and avoid the life-altering diagnosis of heart disease. Pampering your heart means being smart, and as good as it may sound, lazy days on the couch with a box of chocolates in hand is actually not what this loving organ desires. One of the keys to a healthy heart is a nutritionally sound diet filled with lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. But most of us already know this; so why does heart disease continue to be the number one killer?
We need to put our knowledge into action. There are three things we need to act on before lifting that fork full of food into our mouth: 1. Limit saturated and trans fat. 2. Go for low-sodium. 3. Choose foods with omega-3 fatty acids.
Saturated fats come from animal products, including beef and cheese, but can raise bad cholesterol levels, increasing your risk for heart disease. Select lean cuts of beef and pork, looking for the word "loin" or "round" in its name. Remove the skin from chicken, drain off all the fat from cooked ground meat, cut back on processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon, and choose low-fat dairy products, such as 1% or non-fat milk and low-fat cheese. Saturated fats can also be found in palm oil, coconut oil, and butter. Replace these with healthy oils, such as olive or canola.
Trans fats are man-made fats that can also raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. They may be found in some fried foods, pastries, and stick margarines but in order to be sure, look for the words "partially hydrogenated oil" on the ingredient list on package labels, and if you see it, don't buy it!
It's no lie, that cutting back to the recommended amount of sodium (1500 mg per day for anyone over 50 years old, African American, or those with diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease) can be difficult, but not impossible. When shopping look at the nutrition facts label, which is a great source of information, especially if you know the 5 and 20 rule: If the percent daily value is 5% or below for that nutrient, it's low. (That's a good thing when looking at saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.) If the percent daily value is 20% or more for that nutrient, it's high. (That's not a good thing when looking at saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium). So if a can of soup has 18% of the daily value of sodium, that's probably not the best choice since it's close to 20%.
Finally, look for foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which are good fats that can protect against heart disease. Fatty fish, such as salmon or albacore tuna is an excellent source. But if fish just isn't your thing, add heart healthy fats found in walnuts, almonds or pecans to cereal or salads. Use flaxseed or canola oil, or try ground flaxseed mixed in meatloaf, pancakes or muffins.
Knowledge is power, but it's more about our actions. Make the commitment to pamper your heart with healthier foods. Go through your cabinets and gather the foods that don't belong (high sodium, saturated and trans-fat ingredients). Then, make a grocery list of healthier foods that can be substituted for these, and buy them next time you go to the store. It's these foods and your healthier lifestyle that your heart will fall for.
Grilled Tuna Steak with Olive and Celery Relish
Olive and Celery Relish
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup pitted ripe olives, chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 3/4 lb. tuna steak, trimmed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all relish ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush each side of tuna with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Grill tuna until seared on both sides and cooked all the way through (about 4 minutes on each side). Serve with Olive & Celery Relish.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutritional Information per serving: 190 calories, 5 grams total fat, (0.5 grams saturated fat,) 50 milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium, 1 gram carbohydrate, 0 gram dietary fiber, 33 grams protein
January 31, 2014
Some people look more forward to Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. Football fans anticipate the big game, and even non-football fans await the laughter and sentiment of the best commercial advertisements of the year. Behind Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is often recognized as the second largest food consumption day in the United States!
While the typical traditions may still include pizza, mini sausages and beer, healthy foods and snacks can still fit into the party menu. When making dips, use fat-free or low-fat versions of dairy products, such as plain yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. Vegetables, pretzels, pita chips, or whole grain crackers can be healthy dipping companions. The Super Bowl menu often includes various appetizers, rather than a main entrée. One of my favorites is the Mini Taco Cup recipe below. A mixture of lean ground beef and beans delivers a great source of protein that doesn't require you to eat ten of them to fill you up. Find the wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle; they make a perfect holder for many different appetizer fillings.
Party goers need to come hungry but not starved. Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch prior to the start of the game. Also, beverages may add extra calories into the diet without it ever crossing one's mind. Try not to over-indulge in high calorie drinks, such as regular soda, regular beer, punch, and other calorie containing cocktails. Bring your own bottled water to avoid the temptation. The Super Bowl party can be fun for the whole family, and while you may indulge in a few treats that you don't often have, the important thing is to not overdue it. Stop when you're full and avoid the never-ending plate. It can be easy to continuously fill up the plate during game time, but it can easily lead to stuffing yourself beyond misery. Try popping chewing gum in your mouth when you feel the urge to get more food.
The important thing is to enjoy the food, enjoy the company, and enjoy the game (and commercials)!
Mini Taco Cups
24 wonton wrappers
½ lb. lean ground beef
1 (15 oz.) can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (1.12 oz.) package dry low-sodium taco seasoning mix
¾ cup chunky salsa
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
Preheat oven to 425°F. Press one wonton wrapper into each muffin cup. Cook the beef in a 10–inch skillet until browned. Drain grease. Add beans, taco seasoning mix, and water called for on the seasoning package and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of the taco meat/bean mixture into each wrapper. Top with a spoonful of salsa and cheese. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 24 servings, 1 taco cup each
Nutritional analysis per serving: 70 Calories, 1 gram fat, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 230 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams protein
January 23, 2014
Macaroni and cheese is generally popular among the young tykes, but as an adult, I just can't shy away from it either. It's creamy and delicious! But mac and cheese is not known for its outstanding nutrition. High fat ingredients such as cheese, whole milk and butter make it a high calorie dish. However, a few modifications and additions and voilà! Mac and cheese can turn into a healthy entrée or side dish.
Instead of butter, use trans-fat-free margarine and instead of whole milk, use non-fat milk. Try a mixture of low-fat cheeses and use whole grain pasta rather than enriched. Get creative and dress up your macaroni and cheese by adding vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or artichokes. Whole wheat panko bread crumbs or crackers can add a nice crunch. And if you're missing the meat, try chicken or tuna. The comfort of a macaroni and cheese meal can still be included in a healthy diet.
Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz.) bag fresh baby spinach
1 Tablespoon trans-fat-free margarine
1 ½ Tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups non-fat milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
¾ cup reduced-fat Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
1 (7.5 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and halved
8 oz. whole grain medium shells
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
Cook macaroni shells according to package directions, omitting salt. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray; add garlic and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted; remove from skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, add margarine. When melted, sprinkle with flour; whisk to combine. Add milk and continuously whisk until it just begins to thicken. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and cheeses. Stir to melt. Add artichokes and cooked pasta. Fold in spinach and top with bread crumbs.
Yield: 4 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 320 Calories, 7 grams fat, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 690 milligrams sodium, 52 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams dietary fiber, 17 grams protein
January 15, 2014
My saving grace during the winter, where calorie-laden foods seem to be everywhere, is citrus fruits. The clementine is one of my favorites. It's juicy, sweet, and serves as the perfect snack. But what exactly is a clementine?
Many people think that a clementine is the same as a mandarin orange, but that's not entirely correct. A clementine is a variety of mandarin oranges, but they are not the same as what you buy in a can or fruit cup. Most canned mandarins are a variety called Satsuma, originally from Japan. Tangerines are also a variety of mandarin oranges.
Television commercials for clementines are generally marketed toward children because of their smaller-than-an-orange characteristic and their easy-to-peel nature. They're also sweet and seedless so that choking becomes less of a concern. But adults have proven that this citrus is not just for kids. The scent of a clementine at the office can linger many cubicles down, making the entire office staff jealous!
One clementine is only about 40 calories, and yet it is filled with vitamin C, folate and potassium. Besides snacking, clementines can be used in recipes calling for oranges, tangerines or mandarin oranges. Try them on salads, in smoothies, and salsas. Use them in an orange chicken stir-fry or toss them with cooked bulgur, toasted almonds and citrus vinaigrette. However you use them, they will sure to brighten your winter meals.
Clementine Poppy Seed Muffins
2 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup poppy seeds
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, ginger, and baking soda. Finely grate the rind of 2 clementines; add to the bowl. Peel all the clementines and coarsely chop the segments to make about 1 cup; add to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, and butter. Pour over the flour mixture; stir until just moistened. Spoon into 10 greased or paper lined muffin cups; filling two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
Yield: 10 muffins
Source: Utah State University
Nutritional analysis per muffin: 200 Calories, 6 grams fat, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 290 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams protein