My Make-Ahead-Enjoy-Anytime Menu for a Full Day of Healthy Eating

So, what does an entire day of balanced nutrition look like? Let’s break it down meal-by-meal. For example, the following delicious dishes were my breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday. Not only did they pass the taste test, but they required minimal effort and used whole food ingredients. Yeah…that’s a win in my book!

Recreate these recipes for 12 hours of only the freshest fuel (that won’t even feel like you’re on a diet).


Breakfast: Apple & Carrot Smoothie

  • Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup rice milk
  2. 1 tbsp. almonds
  3. 1 apple
  4. 1 carrot
  5. 1 tbsp. nut butter
  • Preparation
  1. Peel and chop the apple.
  2. Peel and chop the carrot.
  3. Finely chop the almonds.
  4. Combine all the ingredients in a blender.
  5. Puree until the mixture is smooth

carrot apple smoothie ingredients       carrot apple smoothie   

Lunch: Lighter Cobb Salad

  • Ingredients
  1. 1 egg (hard boiled)
  2. 1 avocado (sliced)
  3. 2 Roma tomatoes (diced)
  4. 1/2 cup corn (off-the-cob)
  5. 1 cup lettuce (shredded)
  6. 1/2 cup chicken (chopped)*
  7. 2 tbsp. bleu cheese (crumbled)**

* If your dietary needs/preferences exclude animal protein, you can easily omit the chicken or use a vegetarian substitute (i.e. tofu or tempeh).

** If your dietary needs/preferences exclude dairy, you can substitute a vegan “cheese” product.

  • Preparation
  1. Boil the chicken (or protein substitute) in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  2. Saute the corn, uncovered, on medium-heat for approximately 8-10 minutes.
  3. Hard boil the egg in 1/2 cup of water for approximately 12 minutes (for step-by-step hard boiling instructions, click this link).
  4. While the chicken, corn, and egg are cooking, prep the other ingredients, then set aside.
  5. When the egg has finished cooking, chop it into bit-size slices, then set aside until the chicken is cooked.
  6. Once all the ingredients are ready, arrange the lettuce at the bottom of a salad bowl, then layer the other ingredients on top of the lettuce.
  7. Toss the salad thoroughly so as to evenly distribute everything.

cobb salad   

Dinner: Shrimp, Mango & Avocado Flatbread

  • Ingredients
  1. 2 tbsp. organic orange juice
  2. 1/2 tbsp. lime juice
  3. 2 tsp. organic honey
  4. 1 tsp. orange zest
  5. 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 tbsp. plain hummus
  7. 1 piece Stonefire whole-grain naan*
  8. 1/2 pound shrimp (peeled)
  9. 1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
  10. 1 mango (peeled and chopped)
  11. 1 avocado (peeled and chopped)
  12. 2 tsp. cilantro (finely chopped)
  13. 1 tbsp. peanuts (finely chopped)

* If your dietary needs/preferences exclude gluten, you can substitute this GF naan recipe from Queen of Quinoa.

  • Preparation
  1. In 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil, saute the shrimp on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  2. Combine the orange juice, honey, lime juice, and orange juice together in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk the other 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil into this mixture, then toss in the shrimp once they are finished cooking.
  4. Allow the shrimp to marinate in this mixture between 5-10 minutes, then add in the mango, avocado, and onions.
  5. Warm the naan in the oven on 350 degrees F for approximately 5 minutes, or until crispy.
  6. Allow the naan to cool slightly, then spread a thin layer of hummus on the bread.
  7. Drain excess liquid from the marinade, then spoon the shrimp, mango, avocado, and onion mixture on top of the hummus.
  8. Garnish with a few pinches of chopped peanuts and cilantro.

shrimp mango avocado flatbread   

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Clean Up Your 4th of July Cookout

Hotdogs and baked beans are so 1776.

Fire up the grill, gather some friends, and serve these even better alternatives to a traditional all-American BBQ. Your backyard is sure to be this year’s block party hot-spot long after the fireworks display fades out.


Chick Pea Veggie Burgers (yields 6 – courtesy of Best Grilling Tips and Recipes)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 2 16-oz. can chickpeas (rinsed & drained)
  4. 1 red bell pepper (seeded & halved)
  5. 1 red onion (quartered)
  6. 1/2 cup olives (sliced)
  7. 6 cloves garlic
  8. 3/4 cup feta cheese (crumbled)*
  9. 1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
  10. 1/4 cup Italian dressing
  11. 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  12. 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  13. 1 tsp. black pepper
  14. 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs**
  15. 6 whole wheat pita pockets

*If your dietary needs exclude dairy, substitute extra-firm tofu soaked overnight in lemon juice.

**If your dietary needs exclude gluten, substitute crushed GF Rice Chex cereal.

  • Preparation:
  1. Boil the water in a small pot and add the brown rice, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
  2. Allow the rice to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is tender and the water has absorbed.
  3. Preheat the grill to 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) and coat a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray.
  4. Once the chickpeas have dried off from being rinsed, transfer them to a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.
  5. When the chickpea mash becomes thick and pasty, set the mixing bowl aside temporarily.
  6. Put the pepper, garlic, olives, and red onion into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
  7. Strain the excess water out of this veggie mixture, then add to the mashed chickpeas and stir thoroughly.
  8. Pulse the cooked rice and feta cheese (or tofu) in the food processor, then stir into the chickpea mash.
  9. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, Italian dressing, oregano, parsley, garlic, and black pepper.
  10. Add this mixture to the chickpea mash as well, then stir in the bread crumbs until the mash holds its shape.
  11. With your hands, form 6 patties and place them on the greased sheet of aluminum foil.
  12. Coat the grill grate with cooking spray, then place the aluminum foil holding the patties on the grill.
  13. Cover the grill and cook the burgers for about 20 minutes, flipping them once after 10 minutes.
  14. Place 1 burger inside each pita pocket and serve with any condiments of your choosing (I suggest a dollop of plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tsp. olive oil).

chick pea burgers   

(image courtesy of thedailyspud.com)

Chili & Lime Corn-on-the-Cob (yields 6 – courtesy of All Recipes)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 6 corn-on-the-cob ears (husks removed)
  2. 3 cups water
  3. 1/2 cup lime juice
  4. 1 tbsp. chili powder
  5. salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • Preparation:
  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and coat the grate with cooking spray.
  2. Pour the water into a mixing bowl and add the corn, then let them soak for 5-10 minutes.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine the lime juice, chili powder, salt, and pepper, then set this mixture aside temporarily.
  4. Remove the corn from the water, dry them off completely, and place on the heated grill grate.
  5. Cook the corn cobs for 3-5 minutes on each side, turning periodically and brushing on the chili mixture as you turn them.

corn on the cob   

(image courtesy of allrecipes.com)

Quinoa, Black Bean & Mango Salad (yields 6 – courtesy of Skinny Taste)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 15-oz. can black beans (rinsed & drained)
  2. 1 cup cooked quinoa
  3. 1 cup corn (off the cob)
  4. 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  5. 1 mango (chopped)
  6. 1/4 cup red onion (diced)
  7. 1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
  8. 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded & diced)
  9. juice from 1 lemon or lime
  10. 1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  11. 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  12. 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  13. 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  14. 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • Preparation:
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, mango, corn, pepper, cilantro, onion, and jalapeno.
  2. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon (or lime) juice, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, garlic, and olive oil.
  3. Drizzle this mixture over the quinoa salad, then refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

quinoa salad   

(image courtesy of skinnytaste.com)

Minty Rosewater Lemonade (yields 6 – courtesy of Banglish Kitchen)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 bunch mint leaves (chopped)
  3. 1 1/2 cups Stevia powder or organic honey
  4. 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  5. 3 tsp. rosewater*

*You can typically purchase rosewater at Middle Eastern ethnic markets.

  • Preparation:
  1. Boil the water in a medium-sized pot, then add the mint leaves and Stevia powder (or honey).
  2. Continue boiling this mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sweetener has dissolved in the water.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the lemon juice and rosewater, then allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Remove the lemonade from the heat, pour it into a pitcher, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Add some ice cubes and more lemon juice or sweeter to taste, then refrigerate the lemonade for another 15 minutes before serving.

rosewater lemonade   

(image courtesy of sunandglory.com)

Berry & Tapioca Parfaits (yields 6 – courtesy of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

  • Ingredients:
  1. 3 cups almond milk (divided)
  2. 1/3 cup tapioca pearls
  3. 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  4. 3 tbsp. agave nectar
  5. 1/2 vanilla bean (split lengthwise)
  6. 1 lb. strawberries (washed & stemmed)
  7. 1 pint blueberries (rinsed & drained)
  • Preparation:
  1. Put the tapioca and 2 1/2 cups of almond milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Turn the heat down to a simmer and continue to cook this mixture for 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1 tbsp. of the remaining almond milk and set aside temporarily.
  4. When the tapioca pearls have become translucent, add the remaining almond milk, 1 tbsp. agave nectar, and vanilla bean to the pan.
  5. Return the heat to a slow boil and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
  6. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pan and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pudding thickens.
  7. Remove the pudding from the heat and transfer it to a metal bowl and scrape out the vanilla bean.
  8. Place the metal bowl in an ice bath and allow the pudding to chill for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Slice the strawberries into quarters and pulse them in a food processor with 2 tbsp. agave nectar, then divide the puree into 6 glasses.
  10. When the pudding has cooled, divide it equally among the 6 glasses on top of the strawberry puree.
  11. Refrigerate the glasses for at least 15 minutes before serving, then top with a generous amount of blueberries.

parfait   

(image courtesy of blog.fatfreevegan.com)

15 Snacks to Get You Through the Day Without Undoing Your Diet

Need an afternoon pick-me-up halfway between lunch and dinner? Well, next time you find yourself poking around for the Cool Ranch Doritos, nibble on these guiltless goodies instead:

1. Frozen Grapes: put approximately 30 (1 cup) red or green grapes in a large Ziploc bag and store inside the freezer for a minimum of 2 hours

2. Apples & Nut Butter: core 1 apple and cut horizontally into thin slices, then spread 1 tbsp. nut butter (I suggest almond) on 2 slices and press them together to make a “sandwich”

3. Carrots & Hummus: peel and slice 2 large carrots into fourths or simply grab 10 pre-cut baby carrots and serve with 2 tbsp. organic hummus

4. Edamame & Sea Salt: boil approximately 10 (1 cup) edamame pods, then shell the individual beans and sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt

5. Greek Yogurt & Honey: swirl together 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt (preferably nonfat) and 1 tsp. organic honey, then top with fruit slices or a dash of cinnamon

6. Green Tea Smoothie: put 3/4 cup of green tea, 2 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt, 2 tsp. agave nectar, and 6 ice cubes in a blender and puree until smooth

7. Baked Kale Chips: slice the stems off 1 bunch of kale and tear into bite-size pieces, then drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil and cook in the oven at 400 degrees until crisp

8. Toasted Almonds: place approximately 20 (1/4 cup) whole almonds in an ungreased skillet and sautee over medium-heat until golden brown

9. Avocado & Lime Juice: peel and thinly slice 1 avocado, then coat the slices with 2 tsp. lime juice and top with a few dashes of organic stevia powder

10. Oatmeal & Berries: boil 1/2 cup of whole grain rolled oats in 1 cup of water, then mix with an assortment of fresh berries (I suggest blueberries or raspberries)

11. Spiced Orange: slice 1 orange in half horizontally and sprinkle with a mixture of organic stevia powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves

12. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: lightly brush 1 tsp. olive oil over 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds and cook in the oven at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown

13. Tomatoes & Feta: dice 1 medium-sized Roma tomato and mix with 1 tbsp. feta cheese, then top with a few squeezes of lemon juice or 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

14. Dried Mango: peel and slice 1 mango and brush with 2 tsp. agave nectar, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 185 degrees, flip each slice and cook for another 30 minutes

15. Egg White Scramble: sautee 1/4 cup raw spinach and 1 clove of garlic in a skillet on low heat, then add 2 egg whites and scramble until fluffy

Greet the Day With Wholesome Protein Power

Earlier today, my sister and I indulged in the obligatory Sunday brunch at a cozy homestyle cafe. But instead of the infamous grease-fried bacon, buttermilk pancakes bigger than your head, and other coronary bypasses served at a typical breakfast joint, this restaurant offered a tantalizing (and cheap!) array of healthy menu options…all of which were calling my name. Finally, I settled on a protein wrap and proceeded to lick my plate clean. In fact, I enjoyed it so immensely that I’ve decided to replicate the recipe.

This is one breakfast you’ll definitely consider a morning staple.


Ingredients:

  • 1 10″ whole wheat tortilla
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (beaten)
  • 1/4 cup spinach leaves (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 avocado (mashed)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. low-fat shredded cheddar*

*if your dietary needs exclude dairy, then substitute vegan “cheese

Preparation:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a small skillet, then add the beaten egg whites.
  2. Turn the stove-top burner up to medium and scramble the egg whites until the consistency is fluffy.
  3. Heat the remaining tbsp. of olive oil in another skillet, then add the garlic and veggies.
  4. Turn the stove-top burner down to low and simmer the veggies, stirring occasionally.
  5. Scoop the scrambled egg whites into the center of the open-faced tortilla, then spread to the outer edges.
  6. Spread the veggie mixture over the eggs and top with the mashed avocado.
  7. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar (or vegan substitute) over the avocado.
  8. Fold in the edges of the tortilla and roll it tightly (like a burrito), then cut in half before serving.

Serving Suggestion:

Garnish this breakfast wrap with a dollop of Publix Greenwise organic salsa and a few avocado slices fanned out on the plate.

Image   

Here’s what the final product should look like. Tempting, huh?!

Stock Up on Whole Foods While Still Staying on Budget

Whole Food (noun): any form of sustenance that is naturally grown or cured, has not been processed or refined, and contains no artificial ingredients.

In other words…what you should be eating.

“Gahhhh! But it’s too expensive,” you say. Ain’t nobody got time (or, let’s face it, money) for that. WRONG! Just because most of us can’t afford to actually shop at Whole Foods (uppercase “W”) doesn’t mean we ought to exclude ourselves from the whole foods (lowercase “w”) lifestyle. With a little resourcefulness, resolve, and sheer common sense, anybody can easily integrate an organic diet into their daily regimen.

That’s right, “au naturel” is no longer just a status symbol for the rich and famous. It’s for you and me. And our bodies will be ever so grateful. But…like…how do you follow a whole foods meal plan that leaves both your palate and wallet satisfied?

Glad you asked!


  • Fruits & Vegetables:
  1. Shop for produce at local farmers’ markets, which are typically cheaper than buying from a grocery store and almost always organically-grown.
  2. Try to only buy produce in-season, which retain nutrients longer and cost less than fruits or veggies that have been imported from other climates.
  3. Plant a backyard fruit, veggie, and herb garden, which will drastically cut down on spending and ensure that your produce is at the peak of freshness.
  • Meats & Proteins:
  1. Buy frozen poultry and fish, which saves a few dollars and has a longer shelf life than refrigerated meat (just make sure there are no added preservatives).
  2. Purchase meat in bulk directly from a farming source, which eliminates middleman mark-ups and often guarantees grass-fed or free-range quality.
  3. Look for alternatives to satisfy your protein needs, like eggs, yogurt, beans, or nuts, which are budget-friendly and often more wholesome than meat.
  • Grains & Carbohydrates:
  1. Make whole grain goods from scratch, which removes preservatives and cuts costs in half (homemade tortillas, granola, oatmeal, or bread saves at least $3 apiece).
  2. Shop at ethnic markets for large sacks of quinoa, brown rice, or other grains which is more economical than buying smaller often overpriced packages from the grocery store.

 

Love Thy Lentil (It’ll Love You Back!)

Lentils are, in short, amazing.

Often hailed among the world’s healthiest foods, these lovely legumes are rich in fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and B vitamins. They have been proven to lower cholesterol, regulate blood-sugar levels, reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, and treat gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome. Just 1 cup of lentils provides 7 of the body’s essential minerals and maxes out at 230 calories. (Now, I don’t necessarily advocate counting calories, but the point is lentils are ideal for those looking to manage their weight).

If you’re not yet familiar with the lentil’s nutritional benefits, tender meaty texture, woodsy flavor, and appetite-satisfying heartiness, then here’s a recipe you need to try. This is my mom’s creation, and she recently taught me how to make it when I moved into my own apartment. Easy to whip up, absolutely delicious, and convenient to store in the fridge for anytime you don’t feel like cooking, this dish gets my seal of approval.


Ingredients:

1 cup lentils (I prefer red, but you can also use either the green or yellow variety)

1 cup carrots (finely chopped)

3 stalks green onion (finely chopped)

1 1/2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (I add this for creaminess, but if your dietary needs exclude dairy, shredded vegan “cheese” will work too)

6 cups water (3 cups for prepping lentils, and 3 cups for cooking lentils)

Preparation:

1. Pour 1 cup of lentils into a strainer (make sure to use a strainer with small holes) and rinse them off in the sink.

2. Transfer the lentils into a large stainless steel or teflon pot, then pour 3 cups of water into the pot.

3. Set the pot aside on your counter top and let the lentils soak for 1 hour.

4. When the hour is up, run the lentils back through the strainer (they should have expanded in size).

5. Transfer the lentils back into the pot, then pour in another 3 cups of water.

6. Heat the lentils and water on a large burner and bring to a rolling boil.

7. While the water is boiling, chop the carrots and green onion into fine slices.

8. When the lentils have softened, lower the heat to a simmer and add the chopped veggies.

9. Stir the mixture, then cover and let simmer on the lowest setting for 1 hour.

10. When the hour is up, taste the lentils and veggies to ensure softness (if they are still tough, bring back to a boil).

11. Once the water has absorbed, add the bleu cheese crumbles (optional) and stir thoroughly.

Serving Suggestion:

This savory recipe can be enjoyed as a filling and nutritious meal in itself for lunch. Or, serve it as a side dish for dinner along with sauteed chicken, fish, or tofu (for all you vegetarians out there) and a fresh spinach salad.

Image   

And here’s how my first attempt turned out.

Bon appetit!

 

8 Amazing Alternatives to 8 Recipe Ruiners

Living natural starts in the kitchen (naturally). But while a home-cooked meal kicks McDonalds’ ass any day of the week, you might not be aware of just how harmful some of the most basic and accessible cooking ingredients actually are. The result: even though you think your health is right on track, those sneaky little culprits are thwarting all your efforts. And you’re blissfully unaware as you shovel cheesy goodness down that gaping pie hole. (Well…what’s the problem?! The recipe said vegetarian!).

Fear not though: I’ve compiled a list of delicious AND nutritious substitutions for the ingredients you love but won’t love you back. And the best part? Once you try these alternatives (or even get creative and experiment with your own ideas!), you’ll never notice the difference.

Well, maybe you will…but it’ll be a good difference. Trust me.


1. Instead of Butter or Margarine: Try pureed avocado, no-sugar-added applesauce, hummus, mashed black beans, or nut butters (e.g. cashew, almond, all-natural peanut)

2. Instead of Dairy: Try nut milks (e.g. almond, soy, hazelnut), seed milks (e.g. hemp, flax, chia, coconut), or grain milks (e.g. rice, oat,)

3. Instead of White Flour: Try ground quinoa, rolled oats, whole grain flours (e.g. spelt, millet, barley, buckwheat), or seed meals (e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, chia)

4. Instead of Sugar: Try agave nectar, chopped raisins or dates, cinnamon or nutmeg, brown rice syrup, or all-natural sweeteners (e.g. stevia, monk fruit)

5. Instead of Table Salt: Try herbs (e.g. basil, dill, rosemary, oregano), spices (e.g. cumin, tarragon, cracked red pepper), garlic, dried seaweed, or lemon zest

6. Instead of Sour Cream or Mayo: Try plain Greek yogurt, honey mustard, or Mediterranean spreads (e.g. tzatziki, baba ghanoush, olive tempenade, pesto)

7. Instead of Eggs: Try silken tofu, pureed fruits (e.g. bananas, pumpkins, apples), ground flaxseed paste, egg whites, or arrowroot powder

8. Instead of Vegetable Oil: Try heart-healthy oils (e.g. coconut, olive, avocado, palm), or 100% fruit juices (e.g. cranberry, pomegranate, carrot, beet, lemon, lime)

So, what are you waiting for?! Get in the kitchen and show those processed fake ingredients that they’ve finally met their match. (Spoiler alert: both your waistline and digestive system say “thanks!”).