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6 Lightning Fast Mini Dinners


(Warning:  this strategy might not work so well if you have kids or a grumpy spouse)

I don’t know about you, but when summer comes around, I’m not big on slaving away for hours over a hot stove. I like to enjoy some free time outdoors. You know – get outside and really experience life.

I’m not against cooking nice filling dinners in the summer, but doing it every night is a real time drain. I’d rather be hiking around a neat park or reading on a blanket in the shade. I’d rather be playing tennis and taking the dogs to play at the dog park. You with me?

When you don’t get home from work until 6 or 7pm, spending an hour or more on dinner is a good way to drain the rest of your energy while simultaneously killing your good mood.

As long as you get an adequate breakfast and nutritious lunch (lots of veggies), there’s no need to go overboard with big dinners all the time – especially if you’ve packed on some winter pounds.

Here are some ideas for tiny snack-like dinners that you can prepare and eat in just a few minutes. They all have enough protein to give you some energy to go out and explore the world.  And you could always toss them in a cooler with some wine and go for a picnic in the park.  (Tip: If you get hungry again close to bed, sip on some warm milk with cinnamon and nutmeg.)

1.  Banana w/ nut butter and granola. Grab and partially peel a banana. Use a knife to spread a blob of your favorite nut butter on the next bite of banana. Dip it into a bowl or bag of granola to coat.  Eat and repeat.

2.  Tuna in a pouch. (made using the solid-white albacore tuna in air-tight pouches)  Cut open the tuna pouch and throw in a small forkful of mayo (or avocado instead) and some random stuff from the fridge. Maybe toss in some grapes or nuts or a little lettuce and some radish. Eat straight up with a fork or on crackers (my favorite crackers are Wasa).

3.  Fresh mozzy’s. Cut up a fresh mozzarella ball and put on toasted bread, crackers, or in a wrap with fresh basil and tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add a sprinkling of salt and pepper and enjoy.

4.  Simple  salad. Grab a handful of spinach or micro-greens and throw on a hard-boiled egg  (precooked earlier in the week) or goat cheese. Add a couple other veggies of your choosing (onion, radish, broccoli, etc) and drizzle with a quick dressing (whip together extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fancy brown mustard). You can crumble some cracker on top if your feelin’ it.

5.  Cottage cheese with strawberries. Pretty simple stuff here, just slice strawberries on some cottage cheese (or yogurt if you’d rather) and eat with a fork or wrap in lettuce and eat with your fingers.

6.  Yogurt dipped veggies. Combine just a little bit (to suit your taste) of a ranch seasoning packet with some plain yogurt. Serve with raw veggies of your choosing.

So, there you go. I’m giving you permission to eat small for dinner once and a while. Permission to get out of the kitchen and out enjoying the world.

Do you have any idea’s of your own?? Leave them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article, do me a HUGE favor and share it with your twitter or facebook friends. That’s pretty much the only way my writing reaches new people. Thanks a ton for your support as always!

(photo by Antikris)

Categories: Eating Strategies Food Rules

Food Rule: Born From Love?

by lu_lu

Here it is folks, I’ve come up with a simple rule to help you choose foods that will keep you on the path of health.

As a Dietitian, I am constantly asked ” What should I do to lose weight?”.   I’d always relay to them the simple message from author Michael Pollen “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  Its a practical statement ringing with truth and clarity and shifts the focus on health instead of the guilt that arises from weight issues.  If only I’d thought of it myself.

I figured it’s about time for a Dietitian to come up with a statement of simplicity for our community.  We can’t let the journalists take over all our authority.   I’m here today to reveal my food mantra and explain the meaning behind it.  Here it is:

If you think about where your food comes from, there are two general paths.  Either it comes from loving situations or non-loving situations.  And there are two ways in which food is consumed – loving and non-loving.

Non-Loving Situations

Non-loving situations lack care for the environment and care for the consumer.  These are the factory farms, the dirty feed lots, the crowded dark hen house, the fast food restaurants , and the chemically showered fields.   These are the animals injected with growth hormones and antibiotics to the point they can no longer stand on two feet.  The plants and animals that don’t receive the love and respect that human interactions demand.

And the consumer loses.

Our health declines and disease becomes more common even in the midst of scientific breakthroughs.   We might save a couple bucks at the grocery store, but we end up spending it on material items that clog our life and mask happiness.   The burden on our health and the health of the environment is  shifted from producer to the consumer or government.

It’s also possible that we are not consuming our food in a loving manner.   To me, love is about pleasure and acting with care.  It’s a feeling thats hard to describe and easy to debate.   One thing I do know:  Scarfing down a plate of food in less than five minutes is not love.   Making no attempt at tasting the individual ingredients is not love.   And stuffing yourself until you feel sick is not a loving situation.

Loving Situations

Many of us choose to nourish our bodies with  food that is born of love.   Vegetables fertilized with healthy compost and handled with care come from love.   Animals given room to run and fresh air to breath are loved.   Cows and pigs raised primarily on grass and allowed to naturally come to maturity are living a life of love.   Chefs who prepare our food with pride and attention are dishing out the love – and the really great ones always use the freshest local foods when possible.

Wild antelopes running through the prairie breeze feel the love.  Farmers that return waste to the very soil the animals graze on instead of  letting it pool and leach into our precious water supplies are showing love for the environment.   And growing our own food is the ultimate gift of love – its like getting to raise quiet, happy children year after year.

And the consumer wins.

Eating food from our garden is a magical, appreciative experience.  Meat from pastured or wild animals  is lower in total fats (especially the saturated kind),  lower in calories, and two to four times higher in omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s higher in vitamins and minerals, and bigger on flavor.

Pastured meats are more expensive, and its a good thing.  Farmer’s undertake preventative measures for the health of the environment and our government’s liability is reduced.  They understand that we want to pay more for our meat because we know it’s healthier and that our investment will pay dividends down the road in the form of reduced medical expenses.

When we choose to only eat meats raised with love, we afford less and will gradually shift our dietary reliance to heart healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains.  These fruits and vegetables should be free of the chemicals that can negatively affect our reproductive systems and brain function.  This will probably result in less calories consumed and a gradual return to a healthy, maintainable weight.

We should be consuming our food with more love.

Take some time to consider where it came from as you sit at the dinner table.  Taste the different flavor sensations – the bitter, sour, and sweet.  Try to decode the individual ingredients and  notice how they play off each other.  Notice how the acid from our wine perfectly cuts through the sweetness of our roasted carrots.   Put down the fork for a minute and engage in conversation with your friends and family.  Appreciate how it nourishes our bodies.  Smell your food!  Chew your food!  Love your food!

Categories: Food Rules

4 Unconventional Tips for Healthier Eating


We’ve been told a million times to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce processed carbs and sugars. Oftentimes, healthy eating advice can be boring and ineffective. What follows are four actionable ideas that are not conventionally preached as eating advice. Some may even help you save a buck.

1. Get Smaller Plates

The main reason people gain weight is by simply eating too much. We forget to watch our portion size. Although I definitely don’t advocate fast food, an interesting video documentary by James Painter called Portion Size Me proved that even a 30 day diet of nothing but fast food can make you lose weight and lower cholesterol. The key is proper portions.

Want to automatically trick yourself into eating less food? Get smaller plates. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, refers to studies that show you eat less food with smaller plates. The average plate size in America has been steadily increasing since the early 80’s, resulting in national weight gain.

To get back to the way things should be, get yourself some nice 8-10 inch diameter dinner plates and donate the big ones in your cupboard to your local charity or throw them off train tracks (I’m kidding, I swear!).

2. Start Gardening

Most everything that comes out of a garden is healthy and delicious. You will be eating the freshest food on the planet resulting in a maximum amount of nutrients.

And BONUS- you will be saving money! According to Vegetable Gardening for Dummies, a garden that is 20 feet by 30 feet requires an initial investment of $70 for things like seeds and soil, and produces more than $600 worth of vegetables over the course of a season.

There are several ways to get started depending on your situation. You can start small by potting plants in containers on your porch or just growing herbs from your kitchen window. Take it up a notch by creating raised beds in your backyard or at a friend’s house. You might also look into joining a community garden, where you’re sure to get expert advice and meet friendly neighbors. You can find more tips and links in my article “How to Start Gardening“.

3. (Beef Eaters) Organize a Cow Share

If you’re a beef eater who has seen documentaries such as Food, Inc that expose the horrors of factory farming, you’re probably interested in getting more of your beef from local farms raising animals on fresh pasture. You may also have noticed that grass-fed beef is more expensive.

For some, the high price of grass-fed can be beneficial by causing you to rely more on fruits and vegetables. For many people however, it’s a deterrent which causes them instead to choose factory farmed beef that’s higher in saturated fat and lower in good fats and omega-3s. To make the switch to grass-fed without killing your wallet, buy in bulk.

Get a few friends together who prefer grass-fed and go in on a whole or half cow from a local farm and store it in your freezer. With whole butchered cows typically selling for less than $3.00 a pound, you can stand to save a lot of money over time. Visit eatwild.com to find an ethical farming operation in your area.

4. Read a Compelling Book

Sometimes, a well-written compelling story is needed to drive a point home and solidify it in our minds. Over time, these ideas can turn into habits that shape our actions. I think one easy way to eat better is to read about healthy food and the surrounding industries. Here are 4 books you might consider to get started:

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Great information! If you haven’t already, check out Darya’s thorough review of this life changing book.
The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. One of the most talked about food books of the last few years and for good reason. A beautifully written book that is part policy and all heart.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. This is a great follow up to The Omnivores Dilemma, loaded with fascinating information I hadn’t a clue about.
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. It shows why you might not realize how much you’re eating, what you’re eating, or even why you’re eating.

Categories: Eating Strategies

The Minimalist’s Guide to Eating


photo by ARG

There’s more to life than food. I mean gosh, we spend a hell of a lot of time in the kitchen and thinking about what we’ll eat. We all have those day’s were we wish we could just inject ourselves with a liquidy goo of calories.

Well, I think adopting the minimalist approach to eating could save you some serious time.

You don’t have to own less than 50 items or live in a mini-house to adopt aspects of the minimalist way of life. We’re just talking about keeping it simple. Pair down your routine and you will be released from the constant struggle of decision.

And it’s healthy!
Freaking healthy as can be! Yeah, that’s right – healthy AND easy. It’s probably the last bit of diet advice you’ll ever need. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if you subscribed to this blog and kept hanging out and talking healthy with me- but it’s probably not necessary. This is a philosophy you could adopt and use for the rest of your life. You’d probably live longer and feel better.

I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore minimalist, but I do have tendencies. I’m fine living in a little apartment and keeping few possessions. Nate and I have moved twice in the last two years so we’ve kind of been forced into this lifestyle. After selling some of the larger things (couch, bed, etc), we have been able to fit all of our possessions in a subaru forester!!

We appreciate the sense of freedom from living a minimalist lifestyle and have begun to look for other ways to simplify our lives. We paired down our meal-plans and grocery lists and are really enjoying it. We still give ourselves a couple meals per week where we make fun recipes, but more often our meals are really basic. Today, I’m excited as heck to share our ideas with you! Here they are:

1) Buy Less Ingredients
Go to the grocery store or farmer’s market with a simple plan. Stick to fresh veggies, fruit, milk, yogurt, eggs, nuts, grains, legumes, and maybe one or two others. Buy essentials such as tamari, hot sauce, spices, herbs, and oil in large quantities when its on sale so you don’t typically run out (maybe check on prices if getting low). Bake your bread and get your meat locally. Vegetarians and vegans can simplify further.

2) Prepare Simply
Cook your foods only a few ways. No elaborate sauces or extensive preparations. A sprinkle of fresh herbs, dash of salt and pepper, or spritz of lemon can go a long way. Here are some examples:

Slice hearty veggies and roast in the oven with fresh herbs for around 45 minutes, putting a meat in halfway or so
Steam fish, rice, and veggies all at once
Sauté tofu and tender veggies in butter and olive oil and serve with brown rice
Cut up tons of raw veggies and fruit for a large salad and maybe throw in a protein (chicken, tofu, beans, quinoa, hard-boiled egg, etc). Toss with olive oil and balsamic or red-wine vinegar.
Throw leftovers between two pieces of bread with cheese.
You can try using a 5 or less ingredient rule (besides seasoning & oil) – which shouldn’t be too hard. Examples: breakfast – oatmeal, nuts, fruit. Lunch – (sandwich) bread, goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, sprouts. Dinner – black beans, onion, tomatoes, cilantro, corn tortillas.

3) Eat Less
Down a large glass of water as you begin to prepare a meal. Use the smaller 8-inch diameter salad plates for all your meals and try to fill them halfway with veggies. This just leaves room enough for a small amount of protein and whole grain or vegetable starch.

Do like one of the oldest living populations on the planet – the Okinawans, and only eat until your %80 full. Don’t clean your plate completely and never go back for seconds. Leftovers become new meals or a quick snack for later saving you even more time.

Simplify your diet and you’ll simplify your life. Feel the weight lift and the stress melt.

Anyone have any ideas for simplifying further?

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Categories: Eating Strategies