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Healthy Picnic Food 101

Written by Lisa Jillanza

It’s getting warmer and it’s almost time for picnics, barbecues, and outdoor parties! But just because you aren’t choosing all of your meals, that doesn’t mean that you have to pack on the pounds this summer. 

Keep these tips in mind at your next picnic:

  • Choose lean ground meat when making burgers. You should also try low-fat hot dogs, sausages and bratwurst and other grilled favorites.
  • Seafood and chicken are great grilled foods and are both still healthy picnic options.
  • Don’t forget your greens and mix in a salad to your picnic or party menu.
  • Remember your veggies as they are also great on the grill and in side dishes, especially summer time veggies like squash and zucchini.
  • Instead of chocolate desserts, think fruity desserts instead, and take advantage of a season when fruits are plenty.

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on Spinach

Written by Lisa Jillanza
  • The vitamin K in spinach provides 200% of the daily value in fresh spinach and nearly 1000% of the daily value in boiled spinach.
  • Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, folate and magnesium.
  • Cooked spinach is a great source of iron and is totally fat free.

 

Recipe: Wilted Spinach Salad

  • 10 to 12 ounces spinach, washed and torn into pieces
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 5 to 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, 1 chopped and 1 sliced
  • 2 to 4 slices bacon
  • 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper 

Place prepared spinach in a large bowl. Add onions and radishes. Refrigerate, tightly covered. Fry or microwave bacon until crisp; remove to paper towel and set aside. In a small jar or measuring cup combine drippings with sugar, vinegar, water, salt and pepper. Refrigerate all ingredients until just before serving. When ready to serve, microwave the dressing on high for 30 to 45 seconds, or until mixture boils. Toss the chopped egg with the greens then pour the hot dressing over greens mixture; toss again lightly. 

Recipe: Spinach Lasagna

  • 2 egg whites
  • 26 oz of prepared spaghetti sauce
  • 24 oz of ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz of Lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 10 oz of frozen spinach, thawed and chopped, then squeezed dry
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, grated, reserve ½ cup
  • ¾ cup of Parmesan cheese, grated and divided, reserve 2 tablespoons
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • Olive oil 

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 9x13 dish. Cook lasagna noodles as directed on the package, then rinse and drain. Combine parmesan cheese, ricotta cheeses with the egg whites, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Pour ¼ cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and spread it out using a spatula. Cover the sauce with a single layer of lasagna noodles. Spread about half the cheese mixture over the noodles, and then cover with about half of the spinach and shredded mozzarella cheese. Finish this layer with half of the remaining spaghetti sauce. Add a second layer of noodles, topping with the remaining cheese mixture, spinach, and mozzarella cheese. Top with the final layer of noodles and remaining spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle the reserved Parmesan cheese over the top and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set for 10-12 minutes. 

 

Food for Thought: Healthy Grab and Go Breakfasts

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Sure, we would all love to sit down to a plate of eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, sausages and waffles for breakfast, but that would absolutely kill our waistlines and besides, who has time to sit down to breakfast? Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day and because we live in a fast-paced world, we all need to learn some of the best go-to, easy and healthy breakfasts.  Here are seven grab and go breakfasts.

 

Smoothies – Everyone needs their fruits and veggies, so why not drink them?  At the base of every smoothie is of course fresh or frozen fruits (and vegetables) but it doesn’t have to stop there. Try adding Greek yogurt for a creamier taste, peanut butter for extra protein or soy or almond milk for some non-dairy smoothness.

Muffins and quick breads – Now don’t get confused here… store bought muffins are not the healthy options we are talking about.  Homemade muffins and quick breads are much better for you because you can determine what ingredients are in your muffins and quick breads. 

Frittatas and Quiches - Another great choice for breakfast when you need a quick go-to option is always quiches and frittatas.  These can also be made ahead of time and eaten throughout the week.  You can also make mini frittatas by using a muffin pan.

Yogurt Parfaits – They look nice behind the glass at those fancy coffee shops, and they are super easy to make. All you need to do is combine Greek yogurt, granola and whatever fruit is in season or your favorite.  Layer these ingredients as many times as you would like and dig in. 

Breakfast Sandwiches – Take some time over the weekend and prepare some quick, tasty breakfast sandwiches for the week. You can use eggs, vegetables, tofu, or virtually anything that will pack that protein for your first meal of the day.  Reheat them as you are ready for them and eat them during your commute or at your desk.

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on Mangoes

Written by Lisa Jillanza
  • Mangoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and they are also an excellent way to replenish potassium lost through exercise or for those who are constantly “on the go.”
  • An average-sized mango can even contain up to 40 percent of your daily fiber requirement, thereby being a great way to curb constipation and irregularity.
  • Mangoes can also help to prevent certain types of cancer and help to lower blood cholesterol levels, too.

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Recipe: Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad 

½ cup prepared or purchased honey mustard dressing

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

4 chicken breast halves without skin, boneless

1 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk seasoning

2 large fresh mangoes

10 to 12 cups mixed greens 

Stir together honey mustard dressing and lime zest.  Cover and chill dressing while preparing chicken. 

Rinse chicken and pat dry; sprinkle with Jerk seasoning.  In a large skillet cook the seasoned chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat about 6 minutes on each side until browned and no longer pink.  Thinly slice each chicken breast. 

Arrange warm chicken and mango atop greens on four plates; drizzle with the honey mustard dressing.

 

Recipe: Mango Pork 

2 medium ripe mangoes

1 pork tenderloin, about ¾ pound

Cooking spray or olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot pepper sauce 

Put pulp of one mango in food processor or blender.

Cut the other mango into small cubes.  Trim pork tenderloin and slice into 1-inch thick medallions.  Flatten slices lightly with hand.  Spray a skillet or medium saucepan with cooking spray or add a small amount of olive oil and heat on medium-high.  Brown pork for one minute on each side. Season each side with salt and pepper to taste. 

Reduce heat and cook pork another five minutes to cook through.  Remove to plate and add mango to skillet or saucepan. Cook puree about, scraping up brown bits of pork, for about 30 seconds.  Add several drops of hot sauce and the mango cubes.  Toss cubes in puree while heating through.  Spoon sauce over pork and serve with pasta or hot cooked rice.

In the News: Understanding High Fructose Corn Syrup

Written by Lisa Jillanza

It seems that one of the most asked questions these days is high fructose corn syrup worse for you than regular sugar.  Well, according to studies, last year alone Americans consumed 27 pounds of high fructose corn syrup, after all it can be found nearly everywhere including the fruit on the bottom of your yogurt and in many whole wheat breads.

Corn Syrup
Corn Syrup

While that number is down from the 37.5 pounds consumed per person back in 1999, it seems that most Americans are filling in those remaining calories and pounds by adding in good old-fashioned sugar.

Normal table sugar is made up of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. But since fructose is sweeter than glucose many manufacturers increased the ratio, to inexpensively hook their consumers.  High fructose corn syrup contains 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose.

Because it is sweeter, people who eat foods high in high fructose corn syrup it may cause overeating and weight gain.  Studies have also shown that high fructose corn syrup may also contain varying amounts of mercury. 

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy stated that “mercury was present in nearly a third of 55 popular brand name food and beverages in which high fructose corn syrup was the first or second ingredient on the label.”

It is important to be a good label reader and avoid foods that list high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient on the label. Even if an item is marked “natural” or in the health food aisle, it still can contain high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient.

Even though table sugar isn't as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup, it can still wreak havoc on your diet and weight loss goals.  Indulge in sugary items as a treat or only on special occasions, instead of at every meal.