March brings us St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and everybody's favorite, National Nutrition Month (NNM)! You did know that, right? Well, perhaps it is not cause for pomp and circumstance, but it is a good opportunity for us to pause to evaluate our eating habits. "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right" is the theme for this year's NNM, which encourages us to take time to enjoy and appreciate the traditions and pleasures that food adds to our lives. We should be mindful of the food we eat, and choose flavorful and nutritious food...hmmm, sounds like a good plan!
Additionally, in January the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were (finally) published. The overall message is a pretty straightforward one: follow a healthy eating pattern throughout life to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Well, duh, as my kids would say. But how do we enjoy flavorful food and the experience of eating the food, while keeping our weight in check, providing our bodies with good nutrition and preventing disease?
Really, the underlying recommendations remain the same: eat lots fruits and veggies (half your plate), replace the fats in your diet with heart healthy ones, limit calories from added sugars (less than 10% of calories per day), enjoy whole grains, vary your protein foods, limit your sodium intake, and moderate caffeine and alcohol intake. In my opinion, the best way to do that is to eat "real" food, mostly made at home by you or your family, but not too much of it. To do that requires planning ahead. Make it a priority to find a time every week to plan some meals, grocery shop and food prep (and while you are at it, plan your workouts too).
All that being said, I oftentimes sit down to plan and I cannot think of what to make! Our rotation of meals is getting old and we need some new ideas. Most of clients tell me the same thing. My advice to you is to find a couple new recipes to try to help you Savor the Flavor this National Nutrition Month. None of us have time to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals, so here are a few quick, easy and healthy ones you may like to try.
Crock Pot BBQ Chicken
, courtesy of Weelicious. I love the crock pot! I usually make double and freeze some for later. Serve the whole breasts, or my preference is actually to shred the chicken after cooked to put on whole wheat buns with some pickle slices. I like Two Fat Guys BBQ sauce, which you can find at Mariano's. You will recognize every ingredient on the label. Steam some green beans or brussel sprouts on the side, or make a coleslaw with a yogurt based dressing. See below for an idea for the leftovers.
Slow Cooker Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa
- You can make this meatless or with ground turkey, but it is an easy dump-and-go recipe, you don't even have to cook the quinoa in advance. You can customize the toppings as you wish. Green onion, avocado and some shredded reduced-fat colby jack is how I like it.
Better Than Takeout Chicken Fried Rice
- When you are craving some takeout Chinese food, this is a great recipe. The sesame oil makes this delicious, and I always use frozen stir fry veggies (instead of just peas and carrots), using way more than the 1 cup the recipe calls for. I do use the chicken teriyaki recipe the author recommends (omitting the sugar), but you can use any shredded chicken. When using the author's chicken teriyaki recipe, it makes way more than needed so I always freeze some to have handy for the next time I want to whip up this chicken fried rice. That combined with Trader Joe's Organic frozen brown rice packages makes this meal come together so quickly.
- I always try to encourage my clients to eat more fish, but I frequently hear that they like to order it out but find it difficult to cook well at home. Ditto. Here is a recipe that is difficult to mess up. Even non-fish-lovers can enjoy this one, just doctor it up like a burger to enjoy. I like it with fresh greens, dijon mustard and dill pickle slices on a whole wheat dinner roll.
Homemade whole wheat pizza
- I used white whole wheat flour for this crust, and I rolled it out to one big pizza, although I love the idea of having a bunch of little ones to use as-needed or to let the kids make their own. Spread on some pizza sauce, or marinara, top with cheese and whatever else you'd like. The last one I made I used the leftover shredded BBQ chicken from earlier in the week, and topped with some green onion and cilantro after it came out of the oven. Tomatoes baked on the pizza and them topped with fresh arugula is a favorite of mine too. Yum! I have always been intimidated by making my own yeast-based products and kneading dough, but I used the dough hook on my Ninja food processor and it worked great!
I'd like to note that my kids will eat all of the above meals as well. They do complain about them sometimes (the chicken fried rice mixes way too many foods together in their opinion, since they prefer not everything touch), but they still eat them. It wouldn't be a family meal without a few complaints, right?! The salmon burgers and pizza are no-brainers, everyone dives in and asks for more.
The next time you ask yourself "What can I make for dinner this week?" try one of these recipes. Remember, half of your plate should be veggies and/or fruit, so always include them in, on, or beside your meal. And enjoy a healthy National Nutrition Month!