Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Traveling and Eating Healthy

Sometimes my job or my personal life require travel.  This brings the challenge of clean eating while on the road.


The good news is that if you plan in advance you can successfully eat healthy on the go.  It just takes time and thought.


Every day, I look at my schedule and figure out a meal plan for myself and whoever is with me.  This way I don't wind up grabbing convenience foods, which are often not healthy or tasty choices.


I will share in this post some tips that work for me and my family.  I will tell my story in pictures.  I hope this advice can help you too.


Packing food for a family vacation!
We eat in the hotel as much as we can.

If you are staying in a hotel, find out if they have a fridge.
Many hotels will set one up for you for about $20 a day.
This is a significant savings over eating out.
And it tastes a heck of a lot better too.
And you know what you are eating.
I fill the fridge with milk, fruits, veggies, hummus, cheese, and yogurt.
I then pack plastic bowls, plates, and plasticware.
At a minimum, this takes care of breakfast and snacks.



Recently on a trip on my own, I had a hotel with a fridge and a microwave.
I shopped at Whole Foods for the week.
I have here: bean soup, teriyaki chicken, and chicken lettuce wraps.


When going out to eat, I research our options and the menu.
I look at nutritional info, if it is on their website.
Oftentimes, I google "organic restaurant" and the location.
As an example, here is a burger place that is organic.
Grass fed beef and vegan/vegetarian burgers.
I love places that post nutritional information like this.

Veggie burger with tomato, lettuce, and guacamole.
About 420 calories here.
I added a side salad.
At a coffee shop and my husband needed breakfast.
I got him whole wheat toast with brie cheese and an apple chutney topping.
Served with a side of grapes.


Sometimes restaurants do not have nutritional information available.
Here is where you have to challenge yourself to make good choices.
We were at a stir fry restaurant.
I chose: shrimp and a ton of veggies.
About 2 tbsp. of soy sauce.

Here is my stir fried dinner.
Photo taken by my son.
Photobomb courtesy of my husband.

Breakfast to me is a must.
Again, my favorite breakfast is here: Power Yogurt
I pack this often on days I travel.
If I am on the go and there is no microwave, I pack this as a lunch in a cooler bag.

Pack: Greek yogurt, bag of granola/nuts, bag of berries.
Recently I forgot my power yogurt and I was in a hotel with a fridge.
I found a nearby market and bought these items so I could put together this breakfast.
I was traveling and needed lunch.
I found a salad restaurant in a mall.
Granola is a great snack and easy to take on the go.
I wrote a post about these peanut butter oat bars.
I love taking these when I am on the go.
Sometimes these are a great breakfast or big snack.
I was traveling near a college campus with lots of college type restaurants.
Chicken wings, hot dogs - you get the idea.
However, they also had a Barnes and Noble bookstore.
And the bookstore had wraps with calorie information posted.
This breakfast flatbread wrap was dinner.
Traveling with family - I found an organic market that had great Yelp reviews for their café.
The café had sandwiches and salad.
This salad includes organic chicken, goat cheese, and walnuts.
It was so good that I did not add the dressing to it.
I do not drink soda but I do drink tea.  Organic tea!

On the go in the car is common.
We pack fruit for the kids.
Usually, I add a bag of nuts for some protein.
Once again, fruit is easy and portable.








I hunt out farmers markets wherever I travel.
In this example, I was in Poland.
If you are ever in Poland, eat as many apples as you can.
They are the BEST!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Five Easy and Healthy Lunches


I get asked a lot about how I plan for lunches, so I thought I would share what I do to successfully plan and pack lunches for me and my husband for the week.

I have 3 main strategies to get us set up on lunch for the week:
1. On many Sundays, I meal prep some meals that we can grab for the week.
2. I use dinner as an opportunity to make enough food for leftovers to get used for lunches.
3. I keep simple ingredients on hand that can be used to prepare for lunch the next day, in a pinch.

I will now share some examples of what I do.  The big theme you will see here is: I keep it very, very simple.  Working full time with 3 kids at home does not leave me a lot of time to make elegant food, but eating healthy is very important. and very possible.  This is why i plan the menu for the week  carefully.  I spend a period of time every evening prepping food for the next day.  You do have to prioritize time for this to be successful.  But it doesn't have to take up all of your time either, when you keep it simple.

Example 1: Chicken/veggie/quinoa dish

  • This meal is a good Sunday meal prep activity.
  • Take about 2 lbs of chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper, and place in a baking dish in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes (depending on chicken thickness).  Shred it when it comes out.
  • Cut up a bunch of vegetables and roast them.  Roasted vegetables is something I shared in a previous blog post.
  • Cook up a bunch of quinoa on the stovetop.
  • Package this up for the week.
  • If the taste is too bland, add a tablespoon of dijon mustard, BBQ sauce, or your favorite condiment.
  • I divide a little of each amongst several containers.
    I usually package 4 oz. chicken and 1 cup cooked quinoa per container.
    I then add as many vegetables as can fit in the container.

Example 2: Black bean bowl
  • This meal is a good prep the night before example.
  • Drain and rinse a can of black beans.
  • Cook up a bunch of quinoa on the stovetop.
  • Chop up a head of lettuce.
  • Pull out a bag of shredded cheddar.
  • In separate bowl, mix the quinoa and black beans.  
  • Put a portion of lettuce and shredded cheddar into separate bag or container.
  • For lunch - heat up the quinoa/black bean mix, then mix in the cheese towards the end.
  • Mix in plain greek yogurt or salsa, if you would like some more flavor.

    Packaged lunch.
Use the lettuce as a wrap or make it like a salad.  
You could also use a whole wheat tortilla. 


Example 3: Chicken salad

  • This is a good at home option for lunch.
  • Cut up your favorite veggies.  I like radishes and tomatoes.
  • Cut up lettuce and spinach.
  • Grill up a bunch of chicken.
  • Mix in nuts and/or cheese.
  • Feel free to add your favorite dressing, or oil and vinegar.

I used feta cheese on this one.


Example 4: Tuna salad 

  • Another good prep the night before option.
  • Hard boil a bunch of eggs.  If you are tired, buy hard boiled eggs in the bag at your local grocery store.
  • Chop up some celery.
  • Chop up the hardboiled eggs.
  • Mix some tuna with plain Greek yogurt.
  • Add the celery and eggs to this mix.
  • Package it up.
  • You can eat it as a wrap with lettuce.  Again, you could also use a whole wheat tortilla.
Tuna is packed with protein and can give you a lot of staying power.

Example 5: Chicken stir fry

  • This meal is an example of making a dinner portion and using leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Cut up your favorite veggies.  If you are feeling tired, buy a bag of mixed veggies in the produce section of your grocery store.
  • Grill up a bunch of chicken.
  • You can either cook up some brown rice, quinoa, or farro on the stovetop - or you can use cauliflower rice, which is what I decided to do in this case.

A popular option for us at home is to make stir fry for dinner.
Then we take leftovers for lunch the next day.
Here are the dinner leftovers, packaged up for lunch.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yogurt Covered Strawberries

This is an easy snack and great protein and fruit combo that is perfect for hot summer days.  You feel like you are having a treat but it is healthy!


  1. Hull about 20 small strawberries.
  2. Open up your favorite 5 oz yogurt container.  I chose a strawberry flavored Greek yogurt.
  3. Dip the strawberries and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I only had aluminum foil, so I worked with what I had.
  4. Freeze for about 2 hours.
  5. Let them thaw a little bit before eating them so they are not rock solid.
  6. Save whatever you do not immediately each in a freezer bag.
Before freezing them, they did not look so pretty...
After they froze, they looked much more presentable.
The kids really enjoyed these treats.
Yum!
Presented in a snack bowl.







Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wheat and Flaxseed Strawberry Pancakes


Off the shelf pancake mixes have a lot of ingredients and preservatives.  I spent a lot of time researching pancake mix recipes and finally found a combination that allows me to incorporate wheat flour and flax seeds to health it up a little.

The best part is that my daughters have no idea that these are made with those ingredients.  They are happily eating them up, just like buttermilk pancake mix.  These pancakes still have that light and fluffy taste but I feel so much better about what they are eating. Because of the strawberries inside, they don't even need any syrup, which is another bonus!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup white flour 
1/2 cup wheat flour 
3 tbsp flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda 
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp honey
1 cup diced strawberries 

Instructions:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl.
  2. In another bowl, mix together milk and lemon.  
  3. Let the milk and lemon mixture stand for 5 minutes and then stir to break up clumps.  Note: Instead of doing this in steps 2 and 3, you could just use 1 cup buttermilk.
  4. Add egg, vanilla, and honey to the milk and lemon juice.  Whisk to combine.
  5. Fold in strawberries to the wet mix.
  6. Pour the wet mix over the dry mix and gently stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  7. The batter is now ready for the pan or griddle.   
  8. Spray or oil your pan and cook to your liking.  A plastic spatula works well for slipping.
You can see that the mix is darker in color.
 
This is because of the wheat flour and flax seed.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

I recently went strawberry picking.  In total, we picked about 15 quarts!  Therefore, I will be posting some strawberry recipes this week.

Some of the picks from this week.



I have a couple of kids who don't eat a lot of fruit and veggies, so having them come pick with me with their very own containers was Step 1.  It is THEIR fruit and having that ownership seems to make them more motivated to eat them.  

Step 2 is what to make with them.  I want to continue encouraging consumption of fruit, so asking for my kids involvement in recipes is great.   They are eating them as snacks but I had the idea to make smoothies with them based on my son's request.  It is a great option for breakfast for him, as he is not a big breakfast eater.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries - I hulled and diced the strawberries that we picked and then froze them overnight to make smoothies in the morning.
  • 1 ripe banana.  I chose a medium sized banana.
  • 1 cup milk - I used dairy free for my youngest.  I know others use almond milk, which I am sure would be great as well.
  • 1 tbsp honey.  Use if necessary to sweeten it up.  
Combine ingredients in a blender, and enjoy!

If you find it too thick, add more milk.
If it is too thin, add more fruit, or crushed ice.








Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Roasted Vegetables


I used to eat very few vegetables before I started my cleaner style of eating.  Now, vegetables are half of my plate at dinner.  My favorite way to prepare vegetables is by roasting them.

Roasting vegetables is super easy.  
  • Preheat your oven to 400 F.  
  • Cut up whatever vegetables you like.  
  • Toss them with some olive oil and some seasonings.  I like salt and pepper.  
  • Place them on a baking sheet.  I like to line mine with parchment paper.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  If you like them crispy, broil for a couple of minutes at the end.  Voila!

To make weekdays easier, I usually cut up veggies at night for the next day.  To keep cost down, I buy what is in season.  I am really enjoying the farmer's market right now.  This is also a great way when you have random vegetables in your fridge to use, to get them consumed.

Before picture: everything is seasoned and ready to place in the oven.
After picture: Slightly crispy and yet tender.

Before picture: Right now, asparagus and radishes are in season.
After picture: Radishes taste so good when roasted!

Before picture: Tossing in some sweet potatoes and dried cranberries with brussels sprouts.

After picture: This would make a great Thanksgiving Day dish.
I really like broiling the brussels sprouts and getting them pretty crispy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

I shared this recipe before, except I made some substitutions and rolled them into energy balls.

This time I followed it to a T.  My kids love these and I find them to be a great snack before a workout or in the middle of the day.  They are very filling and satisfying.  I would recommend trying it!

Here is the recipe.

Here is the result!


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Strawberry Quinoa Salad

I took this salad to a party today and it was eaten in its entirety.  Looks like a keeper.  And it is super easy too.

All you need is:

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups cut up strawberries
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Let the quinoa cool after you cook it.  Put into bowl and add strawberries and spinach.
Whisk the oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Pour into bowl and toss.

I need to credit to Katie and her Mom to Mom Nutrition blog for this dish.  I took this recipe and doubled it.





Thursday, June 9, 2016

Banana Chocolate Hobo Meal

I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  I found this recipe while looking for hobo meals for my son's Cub Scouts camping trip.  And it is only about 150 calories.  Well worth it for a quick, sweet treat.

All you need is a ripe banana, chocolate chips, and peanut butter.

Thanks to Every Day Maven for this recipe.

The finished melty product of banana and chocolate.
Slice open the banana as shown, with the peel on.
Spread 1 tsp peanut butter inside.
Top with 1 tsp semi sweet chocolate chips.
Wrap with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350F.
Enjoy while warm!




Monday, June 6, 2016

Recipes with Oats - Nutella Granola, Peanut Butter Cheerios Granola, and Chocolate Chip Granola


I am a huge fan of granola.  I eat granola pretty much every day.  And up until now, I have been buying it.  It really has been bugging me to do this, because I know that I can make it myself and it is cheaper and I know exactly what goes in it.  So guess what I decided to do?
I used to take a Snickers bar in the car as a snack...
Now I take granola.

This weekend I made 3 granola recipes using oats.  I managed to finish this task in one hour, and that was with a 5 year old "helping" me.    :)

Making granola and granola bars with oats is actually pretty easy.  You mix the dry ingredients (oats, chia seeds, nuts, whatever else) in one bowl and then I would use a 2 cup glass measuring cup for the wet ingredients (honey, peanut butter, Nutella, oil) which I would then microwave to melt.  After melting, pour over the dry ingredients, mix, and pop in the oven.

All of these recipes I found from bloggers on Pinterest.  I will give credit to all as I followed their recipes, in some cases making tweaks due to being low on ingredients or in a rush and just plain old messing up the order of events.  Regardless, everything came out fantastic and I am a granola maker.


Here is the final output of my granola fun!


Recipe #1: Cheerios Granola
  • Dry ingredients: 3 cups oats, 2 cups Cheerios (I used multigrain), 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.
  • Wet ingredients: 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup peanut butter (melt and pour over the dry).
  • I spread the mixture on parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • I baked at 250F for 30 minutes and stirred it at the 15 minute mark.  


I must give credit to Kristine's Kitchen Blog for this recipe! 

Once they came out of the oven, sweet and crunchy.


Perfect to pop into a Tupperware to take on a road trip.



Recipe #2: Nutella Granola
  • Dry ingredients: 2.5 cups oats, 1/2 cup chopped pecans (original recipe called for hazelnuts).
  • Wet ingredients: 1/4 cup Nutella, 2 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp canola oil (melt and pour over the dry).
  • Add a pinch of salt to the mix.
  • I then added 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips - whoops, the recipe says to add it after cooled...oh well...
  • Spread the mix on parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • I baked at 325F for 30 minutes and stirred it at the 15 minute mark.


I must give credit to Julie's Eats and Treats for the original recipe!   You can read Julie's recipe and see which way you would like to make yours.

The taste reminds me of Cocoa Krispies!

I ate so much of this that I made my husband send the rest to a friend.
Otherwise I would have eaten it all!


Recipe #3 Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
  • Dry ingredients: 4 cups oats, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 cup chopped pecans.
  • Wet ingredients: 3/4 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup honey (melt and pour over the dry)
  • Add chocolate chips - I really have no idea how much I added - I just dumped the remainder of my semi sweet bag of chocolate chips into the mixture.
  • Spread into a 9 X 13 baking pan.
  • I baked at 350F for 30 minutes.  Cool and cut into squares.  What a great way to replace those name brand bars - cheaper, healthier, and you know what went in your food!
Thanks to Jessica for this recipe from How Sweet it is!
    I may have overdone it a bit on the chocolate chips ...
    Well, the kids did not complain about it.
    I cut these up into squares.
    Guess what the kids and husband get in their lunches every day?