SalmonBerry

Posts Tagged ‘protein’

Healthy Lunches for Kids

In Nutrition on October 21, 2015 at 4:20 am

“Time’s fun when you’re eating flies.” – Kermit the Frog

healthy lunches

Nobody likes packing school lunches. I used to put way too much pressure on myself to make it balanced even though my kids would rather run around during lunch time than eat (they consistently tell me they “don’t have enough time” to eat lunch). I am fine with this BUT kids do need nourishment to make it through the long school days that, honestly, seem pretty intense compared to what I experienced during my childhood. I wish they had more time for both playing AND dining. I find these two things to be most essential to life and wouldn’t it be nice if our schools could reinforce that? To that end, at my home, I’ve focused more on providing a solid, balanced breakfast than putting all my energy into lunch but that’s another post.

For some guidance in packing a healthy, balanced lunch that a kid might actually eat…see below:

  1. Three main elements to a healthy meal: protein, healthy (plant-based) fats, carbohydrates (mostly from fruit & vegetables). Proteins: tofu squares, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat (nitrate-free), leftover meatballs, breakfast sausage, grilled chicken, hummus, edamame/other beans. Fats: olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese, hummus. Carbs: whole fruits, raw or roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta spirals, mini whole wheat pitas, whole grain crackers, hummus, edamame/other beans.healthy snack
  2. Aim for fruits and vegetables making up 1/2 the meal.
  3. Evaluate the “healthy-ness” of the lunchbox, by noting the ratio of pre-packaged foods to whole foods that you have packaged yourself. Skip almost any food labeled “kids” or specially packaged for kids as they are usually loaded with sugar (think yogurt squeezers and fruit chews) and/or heavily manipulated to not resemble the whole food’s origin.
  4. Dip It! Besides ranch, try smashed avocado alone or mixed into mild salsa, nut butters with a drizzle of honey or mixed with fruit-sweetened jam, or hummus (do some taste-testing to find a hummus your kids will love!). Hummus covers all 3 healthy lunch elements so it’s worth finding a favorite brand.
  5. Easy on the candy bars masquerading as granola/energy bars. Good choices are salmonberry barLarabars, Kind Bars (without chocolate), and GoMacro Bars. These bars are both heavy on the nuts which provides plenty of protein and satisfying fats as well as fiber which is important for regulating blood sugar and energy. Kind and GoMacro have added sweeteners but sugar grams are reasonable and are balanced by the high fiber content.
  6. Facilitate the eating of less popular fruits & veggies by combining them with favorites that you know they will eat. Examples: pineapple & blackberries, carrots & apple slices, cucumber & orange slices, bell peppers & sliced grapes. The flavors mingle making veggies more palatable. Obviously, this strategy won’t work on the “separatist” children!
  7. WATER, WATER, WATER. A hydrated child is focused and calm within a healthy and cooperative body. There are no good reasons to give your child a juice box or even milk. If you must pack milk, give them whole, plain milk. Flavored, as well as low fat or 2%, milk, is piling on the carbs. Whole milk is more satiating and allows for a balanced metabolic response.
  8. Resist packing your child a dessert (at least not daily). Yes, sweet is one of the five flavors that, if included within a meal, will lead to palate satisfaction; however, this flavor can be addressed using fruit as opposed to a cookie. The habit of needing something sweet after every meal contributes to a life-long sweet addiction, potential future weight issues, or other health concerns such as an imbalance in the gut microbiome affecting mood, hormones, and nutrient uptake.

For accessible, evidence-based nutrition guidance that is current, check out The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health. Great resource website and they have a better version of the Healthy Plate (a graphic your kids may be familiar with…).

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Happy Gut, Happy You

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on July 11, 2013 at 12:27 am
gooey chocolate cookie

Gooey, chocolatey, sugar bomb.

Gloomy weather, stressful relationships, lack of sleep, can all affect our sense of well-being and kick sugar cravings into high gear. Mindlessly giving in on just a few occasions only intensifies our cravings and the vicious cycle begins. Why do we turn to sugar when we are feeling anxious and stressed? Perhaps conditioning – for some, sweets are associated with reward or comfort. Or perhaps it’s physiology – adequate amounts of carbohydrates allow for increased seratonin production, aka the “feel-good hormone”.

What does this have to do with your gut? Well, it turns out the GI tract produces 95% of our body’s seratonin! Taking care of our gut allows GI cells to produce all the seratonin we need. In turn, we will be less likely to turn to sugar when we’re sad, lonely, anxious, and stressed.chocolate bars

In a another post, I discussed beneficial foods for our gut – fiber and fermented foods. The question begs: “Are there foods that are harmful to gut health?” Yup, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it…Sugar! Sugar provides fuel for certain gut bacteria to proliferate far beyond what is healthy leading to a bacterial imbalance. So, even if we consume adequate fiber, we won’t have enough beneficial bacteria to fuel our GI cells. They’ve been outcompeted by other, less-helpful bacteria due to sugar-induced overgrowth.

What are the consequences of GI cells not getting the fuel they need? At the very least, you will have gas and bloating or, worse, suffer from anxiety and depression.

packaged veggies

Pre-washed and chopped veggies. High in fiber. The fuel our GI cells need.

Our gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it has its own complex nervous system and is highly influenced by our thoughts and psychological stress. Most of us know this on an intuitive (and experiential) level and certainly Traditional Chinese Medicine and other healing traditions have recognized this for generations. Finally, western medicine has acknowledged the huge role our gut plays in our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Recent research has shown that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut alters brain chemistry leading it to become more bold or more anxious. Alternately, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making us more vulnerable to infectious disease.

What is sugar? It is a carbohydrate of which there are 2 general categories: indigestible (fiber) and digestible (everything else). Your body does not absorb fiber but your colon uses it for many healthy functions (as discussed here). Digestible carbs are those used by your body for energy – or, if you are taking in more energy than you are expending, they are stored (in your fat cells).

To balance your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and keep your gut bacteria in balance, remember these 3 things when consuming carbs/sugars:

dates

Deglet dates. Often used to sweeten desserts but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Limit added sugars. Most added sugars are refined carbohydrates meaning it has been stripped of other nutrients and comes in a potent package that is a shock to our bodies. Added sugars include the “natural” sugars, too. Remember, “its not the vehicle, its the payload.” Use sweeteners sparingly – even honey and dates.

Eat carbohydrates higher up on the “whole foods” chain.

What does this look like?

Brown rice -> brown rice pasta/bread -> energy bar w/ brown rice syrup

Apples -> applesauce  -> apple juice

Steel cut oats -> rolled oats -> quick oats -> instant oatmeal packet

peppers, goat cheese, bread

Red peppers with goat cheese and honey on toast. Balanced protein, fat, and carbs.

Combine carbs with fat and protein at each meal. Toss sunflower seeds and unsweetened coconut on that fruit salad. Mash avocado on whole-grain toast. Add flax oil and walnuts to your banana-berry oatmeal.

Curb your sugar cravings: easy on the salt and animal products, eat sweet vegetables (tubers and roots), choose sprouted products, eat more sour or spicy flavors, and, finally, fully chew all carbs b/c those grains, legumes, and veggies will become sweeter the longer you chew.

Perfect Parfait

In Nutrition, Recipe on July 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm
fruit, yogurt, go raw

Fruit, yogurt, Go Raw Original Granola

Please step away from the acai bowls! They are loaded with added sugars. Sugar is added to those little, frozen packets of smashed berries and to the nut milk that is blended with it and, finally, the granola that gets tossed on top. No wonder they are a big hit – you might as well be eating dessert!

You can do a much better job by BUILDING YOUR OWN breakfast bowl with fresh fruit that hasn’t been processed, packaged, and flown in from Brazil. I eat a lot of fruity, nutty, yogurt-y concoctions. Some might call them parfaits, others might call them fruit salad. Either way, the hot summer months, with their abundance of fruit, call for cool, juicy breakfasts with enough fat and protein to keep you satisfied and nourished. On the outset it appears that the parfait is ‘healthy’ but there is much variance as to the value of each ingredient so I think it merits a discussion.

papya parfait

Papaya, yogurt, hemp seeds, coconut, & sunflower seeds.

There are usually 3 components to a parfait: (1) yogurt (dairy or vegan), (2) the fruit, and (3) the ‘toppings’ (hopefully nuts & seeds). What I find is that most parfaits resemble dessert in that they are much too high in sugar and other carbohydrates. Let’s leave the job of providing sugar and fiber to the fruit (choose a colorful variety) and do our best to eliminate it from the other two components.

Begin by choosing a sugar-free – yes, that means PLAIN – version of yogurt, whether it be a Greek dairy yogurt or coconut milk kefir or soy yogurt. This is not always easy, especially with the diary substitutes, but it can be done. Also, choosing a FULL-FAT version is essential for 2 reasons: (1) the balance of protein/fat/carbs is more supportive of health (nonfat yogurt is heavy on carbs) and (2) the plain flavor is not as sour b/c the fat is still included (hence less sugar needed to make it palatable). Even if you are trying to lose weight, a full-fat version is more supportive of satiation, smaller portions, and weight control (I promise!).

go raw simple

Go Raw brand granola – unsweetened or sweetened with dates & raisins

End by choosing toppings that include healthy fats and no added sugars. Sorry, folks, but ‘granola’ is not going to do it here. Yes, it’s delicious but it’s usually very high in added sugars. Low sugar varieties are available, such as those from Go Raw that are sweetened with dates and raisins, and, yet, this healthy choice is still adding unnecessary carbs to the balance. It’s much healthier to take a deconstructionist view of granola as a topping. Say what? Sprinkle on sunflower seeds or almonds or walnuts or hemp seeds or coconut flakes or chia seeds or pepitas or sesame seeds…you get the idea. These toppings add healthy fats and protein as opposed to more carbs.

Finally, add a little shake of cinnamon or cocoa or fresh mint to up the flavor factor without adding more volume or calories.

Building your own breakfast bowl ensures you get ‘good’ carbs, a healthy amount of (the good) fat, and plenty of fiber and antioxidants. Have fun and get creative!

Salmonberry Spread

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm
Salmonberry spread on romaine leaves topped with avocado, lemon, and cayenne.

Salmonberry spread on romaine leaves topped with avocado, lemon, and cayenne.

This one is a crowd pleaser. Be you raw, vegan, omnivorous, or on a “cleanse”, you really will love this fresh and tangy alternative to tuna salad. This nut-based recipe adds in some herbs and veggies with a bit of sweet and sour flavors.

Soaked almonds and sunflower seeds, red pepper, parsley, lemon.

Soaked almonds and sunflower seeds, red pepper, parsley, lemon.

Using raw nuts and seeds maintains the integrity and; therefore, healthfulness, of the essential fatty acids found within. Fatty acids are the building blocks of cell membranes, the gatekeepers of our cells, which regulate the flow of nutrients, water, electrolytes, and enzymes. Healthy, functional cell membranes are critical to the life of the cell and; therefore, critical to the life of our tissues, our organs, and, finally, our body. Nuts and seeds are also high in fiber, protein, and minerals such as phosphorous (bone health)  and copper and manganese (enzyme function).

Ingredients:

1 cup raw almonds (soaked in water for 24 hrs)

1 cup raw sunflower seeds (soaked in water for 5 hrs)

honey lemon garlic

Honey, lemon, garlic.

1 lemon – juiced

1 T honey

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 red bell pepper

1 small jalapeño

4 green onions (white parts too)

1/4 t pepper

1/4-1/2 t dulse

1/2 t dried or 2 T fresh dill

Serving (1/2 cup) = 400 calories, 34g of fat, 8g of fiber, 6g of sugar, and 13g of protein

mock tuna ingredients

All ingredients into processor.

Toss all ingredients into food processor and process until desired consistency.

Serve on romaine leaves with avocado, lemon, and cayenne as a light, hot weather meal. Also wonderful as an appetizer topping a cucumber or apple slice. Experiment with turning it into a paste (highly processed) and spreading inside a pita stuffed with veggies or keeping it chunky (less processed) and tossing on a bed of greens.

Choco-Chia Nut Spheres

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 3, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I just couldn’t use the word ‘balls’. Again, more chia and coconut (easy, affordable, healthy fats, high fiber). Almonds add healthy fats, protein, and more fiber. All these ingredients can be found in the bulk aisle. If you are shopping at a market that does not have a bulk aisle, perhaps you should find your way to one that does as these markets tend to have healthier food options. Yes, these are a kind-of glorified trail mix but are healthier than a highly-processed energy bar and serve the same purpose. Use as a tea-time dessert or as a great post-workout snack.

nut spheresIngredients:

1.5 cups dates – pitted

1/2 cup water

3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2.5 TBSP chia seeds

2 cups almonds (if you use raw almonds, chop a bit first or it’s gonna be hell on your processor. If you don’t care about the recipe being raw then use tiny roasted & salted ones)

Coconut flakes (unsweetened)

Dash of cinnamon and/or cayenne

In a food processor, purée pitted dates and water until a sticky paste forms. Add cocoa powder. Add chia seeds and almonds in batches to create solid dough. Shape mixture into TBSP-sized balls and roll in coconut or cocoa powder. Refrigerate for 30mins. Makes ~25 spheres.

1 sphere = 88 kcals + 6g fat + 3g protein + 2g fiber

Plant-Strong Diets = Bean-Strong Meals

In Nutrition on April 1, 2013 at 2:47 am

Do you feel vulnerable when you eat beans? Plant-strong diets include plenty of beans but please don’t avoid them for fear of digestive consequences! It’s possible to prepare and consume beans in such a way that you can eliminate digestive protestation. Beans are nutrient-dense, low-calorie, high-fiber powerhouses providing protein, carbs, iron, folic acid, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium to your diet. A diet staple since long before biblical times in India, China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas…millions of ancestors can’t be wrong!

Canned beans are a easy way to get beans into your diet and I definitely use them from time to time. But dried beans are a staple in my house. Dried beans are healthier (lower in salt) and more affordable than canned beans and they turn out delicious after simmering in a crock pot all day. Yes, it’s springtime, and I’m definitely incorporating more raw plant foods into my diet as they become available, but there’s still a cold, damp, wind off the ocean that makes me want to warm myself from the inside out with cooked foods.bean and avo

 If you struggle with digesting beans, eat lentils, adzuki, peas, and mung beans more often and pinto, kidney, garbanzo, and black beans less often. Soybeans are the most difficult to digest; however, soy products (tofu, tempeh) are a bit easier. Also, if your digestion is weak (i.e. gas, bloating), eat beans only with greens or other non-starchy veggies. If your digestion is heartier, feel free to combine with grains (rice, quinoa). Consider using a digestive enzyme like bromelain or papain which are extracted from pineapple or papaya, respectively, to aid in digestion. Lastly, digestion is hormonally-controlled so it will be influenced by moods, stress, and menstrual cycle. Make note and don’t have the same expectations of your body on a daily or weekly basis.

I Heart Eggs

In Nutrition on March 31, 2013 at 2:08 am
photo (70)

Colorful eggs from happy backyard chickens.

I LOVE EGGS. I know it’s hip to be vegan but I just can’t give them up and it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do for my body. So I eat them. Often. With gusto and relish (not the condiment). I eat eggs from perhaps the happiest chickens in SoCal. Maybe it’s the ocean view – they check the surf at Scripps Pier – salt air, or foraging in the veggie garden but most likely it’s the sunny, 7-year-old girl who adores them and showers them with love. And, in turn, all those happy, loving vibes are ingested by me.

It is OK to eat eggs everyday…yes, really! Whole eggs are a nutritious part of everyone’s diet. Even for those of us with high cholesterol, eggs can be safely consumed (studies have shown dietary cholesterol to have little effect on blood lipid levels). Egg whites are a complete protein source meaning they provide all the essential amino acids the body cannot make on its own. However, if you are only consuming the whites you are missing out on vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Whole eggs are low in calories and packed with nutrients so poach ‘em, fry ‘em, scramble ‘em, frittata ‘em, quiche ‘em, french toast ‘em, rancheros ‘em…have I left anything out?

photo (5)

Whole grain toast topped with avocado, poached egg, and salsa verde.

Easy Smoothie

In Nutrition, Recipe on March 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

A balanced meal on it’s own, this smoothie is the perfect way to get much needed nutrients and calories into kids, athletes, and picky eaters. Packed with protein, healthy fats and hidden greens, it makes a nice meal replacement. I used pineapple for the smoothie pictured below which is why it’s so pale in color. Pineapple is a good choice for kids and picky eaters b/c its sweet, not seedy (like berries), and naturally contains enzymes which add digestion. However, if you are looking for the most nutritional value, I’d recommend frozen mixed berries.

Silken tofu, flax oil, and coconut milk make this vegan smoothie a perfect meal replacement.

Silken tofu, flax oil, and coconut milk make this vegan smoothie a perfect meal replacement.

Ingredients:

1 banana

3/4 cup frozen fruit

1/4 cup canned coconut milk

1/2 cup silken tofu

1 TBSP flax oil

2 handfuls of kale leaves

Add water to improve consistency as desired.

8oz = 203 kcals, 10g fat, 4.5g fiber, 7g protein. High in vitamins A, C, & K and omega-3 fatty acids. Good source of manganese, potassium, and copper.

Green Smoothie

In Nutrition, Recipe on March 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm

This drink may be a bit chunky if you don’t have a high speed blender but the flavor profile is still quite nice! The addition of raw, soaked cashews adds fat and protein making it a balanced meal that avoids blood sugar spikes. Place ingredients in blender in the order listed below for ease of blending. Comments from my neighbors, who are not regular green juice drinkers: “surprisingly refreshing” and “it kind of grows on you” hahahahaha

Mosty greens, a bit of fruit, and raw soaked cashews balance out this smoothie.

Mosty greens, a bit of fruit, and raw soaked cashews balance out this smoothie.

Ingredients:

2 chard leaves

2 kale leaves

1 cup parsley

1/2 cucumber – peeled, chopped

1/2 lemon – juiced

1/2 apple – peeled, cored, chopped

1/2 cup frozen mango

1/2 cup cashews – soaked

1 cup water

Makes about 16oz. Drink 1/2 in the morning and save the rest for an afternoon snack. Will keep for 1-2 days in fridge but tends to get thicker over time :/

8oz = 246 kcals, 12g fat, 5g fiber, 7g protein. Good source of vitamins A, C, & K, iron, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and magnesium.