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Go there to check out my new post: Size Matters: How Portion Sizes Can Make A Big Difference


The Best Healthy & Frozen Meals

Frozen meals get a bad rep for being full of preservatives and deemed unhealthy due to soggy meatloaf and brands like Hungry Man; however, when chosen properly, they can be a huge time-saver and healthy meal option. Since starting my summer internship, I've lived off of frozen meals. I'll make my lunch once in a while if I have time but convenience eventually takes over and I get down right lazy. Yes, fresh is always best but life happens and sometimes its just easier to accept the microwave as your friend.

When buying a frozen meal, it's important to look at the nutritional label and ingredient list. Frozen meals are notorious for being saturated with sodium so beware (Try to look for ones under 600 mg). To keep your calories in check, look for options that are 350 calories or less and over 8 grams of protein. Higher quality meals (like Kashi or Amy's) range from $2.50 to $4.00 but is the same or less than what you'd spend at your work's cafeteria or a quick trip to Panera.

Key words to look for when shopping

Steamed: these options are often healthier because they freshly steam right in the container-- how convenient!
Low sodium: these meals contain less salt than their saltier counterparts but check the ingredients to make sure it's low sodium isn't compensating for another ingredient.
Whole grains: especially in pasta dishes, these meals contain more fiber and nutrients that white flour.
Organic: this seal of approval is a safe go-to when picking any frozen meal.

Still need some help deciding which meal is best for you?

Here are some of my favorites:

      Calories: 340
      Total fat: 9 g
      Saturated fat: 1 g
      Sodium: 380 mg
      Fiber: 8 g
      Protein: 9 g

      Calories: 340
      Total fat: 8 g
      Saturated fat: 1 g
      Sodium: 380 mg
      Fiber: 7 g
      Protein: 8 g

         Calories: 230
         Total fat: 5 g
         Saturated fat: 2 g
         Sodium: 490 mg
         Fiber: 5 g
         Protein: 10 g

      Calories 260
      Total fat: 4 g
      Saturated fat: 1 g
      Sodium: 570 mg
      Fiber: 3 g
      Protein: 15 g

       Calories 310
        Total fat: 9 g
        Saturated fat: 0 g
        Sodium: 550 mg
        Fiber: 3 g
        Protein: 21 g

        Calories: 260
        Total fat: 7 g
        Saturated fat: 2 g
        Sodium: 550 mg
        Fiber: 4 g
        Protein: 9 g

        Calories: 290
        Total fat: 6 g
        Saturated fat: 1 g
        Sodium: 590 mg
        Fiber: 5 g
        Protein: 20 g


         Calories: 240
         Total fat: 4.5 g
         Saturated fat: 2 g
         Sodium: 480 mg
         Fiber: 4 g
         Protein: 8 g 
          * 94% Organic
          ** Gluten-free

                Calories: 240
                Total fat: 5 g
                Saturated fat: 0.5 g
                Sodium: 590 mg
                Fiber: 5 g
                Protein: 11 g

What are some of your favorite frozen meals, share them with me by leaving a comment!


How To Ease Into A Vegan Lifestyle

Quiz time! Besides being stunning, what do all of these women have in common?



If you said "they're all vegan", you're a smarty pants or you read the post's title; regardless, you're correct!

The vegan lifestyle is something I don't live but it fascinates me. I have always wanted to attempt it for several reasons: (1) I support a lot of the diet's values, (2) it's a healthy diet and good for the body when well-balanced and (3) I'm curious if I could survive without fish. If I had to, I could go vegetarian because I'd live off eggs, veggies and tofu; however, vegan is a whole other animal (no pun). Since I'm lactose intolerant, the no cheese or dairy aspect is easy but I doubt I could live happily without eggs. This lifestyle is not for everyone but I hold a high level of respect for anyone who carries it out. This is a diet hard to switch to cold turkey especially if you're a heavy dairy or meat eater. It's important to transition slowly and not be hard on yourself if it's not the right lifestyle for you. Below is a 5 step guide for anyone interested in easing into a vegan life.

(1) List your reasoning: Just because the celebrities are doing it isn't reason enough to cut out all animal-based foods. "Go though and make a list of all the reasons you want to adapt this type of diet," says Elizabeth DeRobertis, Director of The Nutrition Center at Scars Medical Group in Scarsdale, NY. This is a good way to organize your thoughts and really decide if its something you want to commit to and stand behind.

(2) Do some research: Like anything new skill, you must take time to obtain the proper resources to do some heavy research. You will need to become familiar with which foods you can and cannot have and also be able to read the big, scientific words on the nutrition labels. DeRobertis says to check with your doctor and "take a look at your medical history and family medical history, as vegan diets are often rich in soy".

(3) Learn the cooking style: This is the fun part, looking up recipes! Find some vegan recipes that look interesting and give 'em a go! The more practice you have cooking vegan the easier it will be to shop for the right ingredients.

(4) Trash the temptation: Why tempt yourself with foods you can't have? Create an environment that is vegan-friendly and always have your shelves and fridge stocked with vegan foods. If it was me, I'd also find some sweets that are vegan-friendly so temptations are easier to subside-- it's no fun having a chocolate craving and the only means of sweets is a slice of chocolate cake.

(5) Find professional help (in a good way): Team up with a dietitian to make sure your diet is well-balanced and rich with the right vitamins and nutrients. The point of a vegan life style is to be healthier not malnourished.

Even if you don't want to go completely vegan, try a vegan recipe for fun!

If anyone has any advice on becoming vegan or has tried it, please leave your comments!


The BBQ Picnic Diet Survival Guide

Summer means AC, no school and picnics full of BBQ-deliciousness. What does BBQ stand for? Good question; but, it's a signal to strap on a bib because you're about to eat something really scrumptious. We had barbecued chicken and ribs for my graduation party with all the fixings. It was a carnivore's paradise. I don't eat meat a lot, but when I do I tend to have portion distortion and channel my inner dinosaur. By the end of my consumption, I had a face full of saucy war paint. I looked like a child who had just eaten her first bowl of Spaghetti-Os, but I was a happy child.

Putting my primal instincts aside, it's difficult to health-consciously load up your plate at a picnic. A portion of meat is usually cut for a small family and the pasta salads and cookie trays always look more appetizing on a check-board table cloth. Put down that turkey leg, King Henry. Here are some tips I use to slim down my BBQ and save some calories:

Avoid The Creamy Dips: Yes, the Spinach-Artichoke dip looks heavenly but healthier choices taste just as good. I stay away from anything dairy-based so I opt for guacamole which is a super food though higher in calories. If you're wary of calories, choose the fresh salsa instead and enjoy as much as you want!

Veggies Are Your Friend: I am a veggie freak, maybe a tad obsessive. I overload my plate with fresh veggies so by the time I get to other sides, I don't have much room. Veggies are filling and low-cal so you'll get stuffed on a low-calorie intake. Nice.

Pick Your Meat Wisely: If available, veggie burgers are a great alternative to beef patties. If you're craving some meat, lean towards items that are grilled versus slathered in sauce. If you just have to have the ribs, just be aware of your portion size and you'll be fine. Try this Lamb Burger with Greek Yogurt Dressing for a healthy alternative!

Go Bun-less: If possible, I go bun-free. If there's large pieces of lettuce, I'll make burger wraps instead. Take a large lettuce leaf, roll in your patty of choice and voila! Need a bun? Try to look for whole-wheat options.

Be Condiment-Conscious: All that mayo and ketchup can add extra calories to your burger. Try raw tomatos or salsa instead of ketchup and mustard over mayo!

Be Dessert Decisive: Desserts are my weak point and I wish I had 8 stomachs just to fill with chocolate, but sadly I don't so I'm very selective when satisfying my sweet tooth. Eye all the desserts and only narrow in on the ones you can't resist and can't have all months of the year-- no need to grab for the boring sugar cookie that you can buy at the store. Try a small slice of your cousin's famous apple pie and enjoy!

Beware Of Brews: If you're going to throw some back, look for lighter options because beer can add extra calories fast. Check out these lower calorie beers when you need a cold one.

Bib up and enjoy!


"Healthified" Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Memorial Day weekend was filled with my 3 favorite F-words: fitness, family and food. My family, boyfriend and I spent the weekend in the Adirondacks soaking up the perfect and sorta-bug-free weather. We didn't have much service which was a welcomed change; however, it didn't stop me from taking pictures of trees and desserts with Instagram. My aunt is a skinny-chef who whips up cookies the size of Frisbees then goes for a 17-mile run; so, though I didn't run a 1/2 marathon this weekend, I still got some yummy looking pictures!

A gym of any sort is out of the question so we stay active by running, biking, rowing and hiking. My boyfriend and I didn't bring our road bikes up this time--- the first hill off my road is known for flashing your life before your eyes--- instead, we hiked and the view looked like a photograph (and with the help of Instragram it really did, mwhaha!).

Whew! Going up was a workout but we did see 21 frogs--- which doesn't have to do with the hardness of the hike but it was still a lot of frogs!

Before the weekend my aunt and I bought several bushels of rhubarb from the farmer's market. I haven't cooked a ton with it but wanted to try a crisp with a healthy twist, so I introduce to you my "healthified" version of Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp.

What you'll need:

4 C chopped rhubarb
3 C hulled and halved strawberries
14 packets of Stevia (we only had individual packets)--- or use 1/2 cup of suagr
2 tsp cornstarch
4 tsp butter at room temperature
4 tsp unsweetened applesauce
1 C soft white wheat flour 
1/2 cup oats 
1/4 cup brown sugar

What to do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, strawberries, Stevia, and cornstarch. 
  3. Pour into the greased baking dish.
  4. In another bowl, add the butter and applesauce into the flour oats and brown sugar.
  5. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake about 30 minutes, topping should be golden brown.
  6. Let cool and enjoy!

The crisp..... 

and weekend was a success!



The Organic & Cage-Free Myth

How many times during your grocery shopping trip do you idly scan shelves in hopes to select the most organic and environmentally-friendly product? I do this an average of 5 times per trip and most of the time it occurs in front of the egg and meat aisle. We’ve all heard that happy food comes from happy animals; therefore, these animals are not raised in cramped cages or killed inhumanly. Knowing this, I do my best to buy products that are dubbed organic by the USDA and featured the words “grass-fed” or “cage-free”. I assumed I was doing my part as an ethical carnivore until I read an article that made my rethink my buying habits.

The article featured on PETA’s site wrote:

Many organic and free-range farms cram thousands of animals together in sheds or mud-filled lots to increase profits, just as factory farms do, and the animals often suffer through the same mutilations—such as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers—that occur on factory farms (PETA).

I was really hurt by this information and felt I was being tricked by companies that trusted. I’ve always tried to buy organic beef but the FDA said that this meat can be labeled as organic as long as the cows are given organic feed; therefore, these cows are deemed organic but still sent to factory-farm feedlots to be fattened prior to slaughter.  Cows on organic dairy farms may still be kept in inhumane enclosures though their milk is labeled organic. I also read that some organic and “cage-free” chickens have their beaks cut off. According to my own opinion, this is not what I or the USDA should consider “organic”. I’ve always believed organic meant that animals were raised properly and never mistreated; however, this definition is becoming misconstrued and twisted into something more of an antonym of its core meaning.

What really is "Organic"?

The only advantage of organic products is that they do not contain antibiotics, hormones or arsenic-based addictive. The flesh may be somewhat healthier than non-organic animals but to avoid all of these unethical animal behaviors is to avoid all meat, eggs and dairy. This is difficult for someone like myself who doesn’t eat a ton of red meat but loves eggs. Realistically, there’s no win/win in this situation. I look for “organic” and “cage-free” eggs and buy from suppliers that I trust. There is no perfect answer and my advice is just to do the best you can when selecting your produce.


Lamb Burger with Greek Yogurt Dressing

I've been buggin' my friend and fellow blogger, Tony, for months now to share one of his delicious and inventive recipes! He'll describe his lasted dish in which I wipe up my drool and follow up with a "Tony, when are you going to send me this recipe for my blog?" Atlas, I am thrilled to feature one of Tony's yummy creations on my site. He is a gifted technological guru who's digital presence has thrived over the past years and has been an huge inspiration to my own blog. Check out his impressive website, Sheckiiville, and Twitter!

This lamb burger is as delicious as it is healthy and I'm about to grill up a few up this Memorial Day (FYI: Tony just informed me that if you're going to grill these, add some bread crumbs to the mixture for more patty firmness!) 

Thank you so much Tony and enjoy everyone!


Recipe for Summer Burger with Greek Yogurt Dressing

Ground lamb
Red onions, diced
“Greek seasoning” (garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, mustard powder, thyme)
Ground Cayenne red pepper
Fresh garlic, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Red pepper, diced
Ground pork

Greek yogurt
Whipped cream cheese
Cucumber, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Cantaloupe, diced
Lemon juice
Lemon zest

Before I start explaining the recipe, here are some pressure points:

·        Dressing needs to be in fridge immediately after mixing the ingredients. The burger’s temperature will make the mixture runny — and a thick, rich dressing is better.  
·        Most people under season. Also, if you have never cooked with lamb, it reacts to seasoning different from beef. So, a pinky nail-sized test meatball is recommended.
·        When cooked, the patty’s circumference will shrink, while the thickness will increase. Keep that in mind and form accordingly to bun size.

Start with the patty mixture using a 3:1 lamb to pork ratio. The pork is optional, but a 100-percent lamb burger doesn’t taste right to me. For this recipe, make it a total 16 ounces (ie: 16 ounces of lamb or 12 ounces of lamb and 4 ounces of pork).

Dice up about a fourth of a medium sized red onion. The red pepper is optional, but I think that spice adds a very interesting taste profile with the dressing. Mix that into the patty mixture.

I’m a huge believer in season it to your pleasing, so please forgive me if you hate those type of cooks. I added a 1/4 cup of the Greek seasoning, and two cloves of finely diced garlic.

(I bought a premix named “Greek seasoning.” I’ve listed what was in the ingredients at the top.)

For the olive oil and cayenne pepper, I mix those in a small bowl together. After dividing the patties into equal amounts (I made six burgers from that 16-ounce mix), I rolled each of the meatball-shaped portions into the mix, generously coating it. Then, I formed each burger patty.

Notice I haven’t added salt and pepper yet. I adjust accordingly after the taste meatball.

After you’re please with the mix, put it into the fridge, patties fully formed and ready to cook. Let it chill there for about 30 minutes.

Now work on the dressing, but add in the Greek yogurt last.

Dice equal amounts of cucumber, tomatoes and cantaloupe. Even if you don’t like one or two of those ingredients separately, an equal combination of those together brings a lovely mix and texture.

The great thing about this dressing is that you could eat it as a desert, too — so dice a generous amount. The highlight of this burger is this dressing!

Combine it with the Greek yogurt and mix. Add in a small amount of lemon juice. Then, put it back into the fridge.

After the patties have been set for about 30 minutes, cook it on a pan on medium heat.

Because it’s a summery burger, I don’t like to toast my buns with salt, butter, mayo or anything. Like stated above, the dressing should be the highlight! Still, a light toast is recommended.

Take out the dressing from the fridge and put a light coat on the bottom bun. Put the patty on the bottom bun, put more dressing on it and generously sprinkle the lemon zest. You’ll love the scent!

I’d recommend serving this with apple fries (still working on a good recipe for this) with a whipped cream and whipped cream cheese mix (whipped cream cheese alone is pretty dense). Or a nice baby greens salad mix with a mango ginger vinaigrette.


Gardening: Basil & Onions & Peas, Oh My!

Every summer I look forward to planting my garden because (1) I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with every grown vegetable and (2) I love food. My garden is essentially my child in which I'm incredibly proud of. When plant shopping, I pick my seedlings with precision and a critical eye. It would probably be unbearable for anyone to accompany me because I've been known to scan a single section for 15 minutes...or more (I have a tad case of veggie OCD) in hopes to adopt the perfect addition to my garden family. I am also prone to buying more vegetables than what will fit in my garden. It's like being at an animal shelter and having all of those adorable animals tug at your heartstrings, how can you say no?

This year my 3rd year so I've gotten an idea on what works and what doesn't (zucchini = huge success and broccoli = epic fail). I bought tomatoes (Early Girl and Cherry), cucumbers, yellow straight-neck squash, zucchinis, sweet banana peppers, baby eggplant, white and yellow onions, Brussels sprouts (curve ball), Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas, green beans and basil. Holy cow!

Here's the forest I had to cut down before I started planting:

After I broke out my machete and anaconda repellent, I finally had a blank canvas to color with basil and onions and peas (oh my!):

My boyfriend is like my personal landscaper and garden expert, he was a huge help in leveling my back bed, topping off my soil and planting. He grounds me (no pun here) when gardening because I get planting-happy and he reminds me that my children need space to thrive. I have an issue that I can't leave a lone seedling unplanted, so I had several extra pots full of tomato and pepper plants. We worked in the full sun for a solid 3 hours and I have the sun burns to prove it.

The backyard supermarket is open and ready for business:

I can't wait for everything to grow because that means new recipes and tasty new summer dishes! 
What do you plant in your garden?


Banana Nut Breakfast Cookies

What if I said that you could have cookies for breakfast? Delicious cookies. For breakfast. Can you contain your excitement? I can't. What if I told you that these cookies are also healthy? Hallelujah, it's like every childhood dream that followed us into adulthood has come true.

I saw this recipe in my May issue of Fitness Magazine. After seening the words "breakfast" and "cookies", somehow the the oven was magically turned on and set at 350. They're full of fiber, iron and yumminess. A perfect start to any day. Here's the recipe:

I slightly tweaked the recipe and used two banana vs. one (more bananas = more fun) and Stevia over honey--- sadly, honey wasn't home. These cookies are  >150 calories a piece according to the recipe but will be more or less depending on how big or small you want them.

Step 1.

Ground 1 cup of ground oats in a food processor.

Ground walnuts and flax seed.

Step 2.

Mix all of the ingredients together and mash the bananas (isn't this a line from a kid's song? mash bananas, mash mash bananas, go bananas, go go bananas--- any one?)

Step 3.

Place on a well butter sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Step 4.

Let cool and eat! You have permission to enjoy these outside of breakfast.



Ander's Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My downfall is sweets especially chocolate. If it's covered in chocolate, it seems to quietly speak to me in a tongue that only my stomach can understand. Knowing my downfall, I've substituted healthier alternatives into my baking. Baking has also given me a greater respect for skinny chefs; somehow when I bake, there's always more broken cookies than whole and the perfectionist in me can't serve cookie halves (so they find their way into my stomach). Oh well.

I had the opportunity to bake for my graduate class, I was excited to produce healthy cookies that tasted far from healthy. A few tweaks in the ingredients and I was able to create ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies that wouldn't take tolls on waistlines.

What you'll need:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup whole-wheat flour
5 teaspoons water (to balance out whole-wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid Stevia (or 3/4 cup sugar)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used minis for a bigger chocolate punch)

Yields about 3 dozen (depending on cookie size) 
with less than 90 calories a cookie!

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350.
Add dry (minus chips) ingredients in a large bowl and wet ingredients in seperate large bowl.
Mix both bowls well.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet (add half, mix well, then add the rest).

Add chips!

Try not to eat all the dough (this is the toughest part).
Spoon (about an inch or two apart) onto a well-butter sprayed cookie pan lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

And bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool, pair with almond milk and enjoy!

I think they were a hit with my class (the 2 lone cookies were #proof of success). They couldn't believe they were healthy and I was proud to show how healthy can be delicious!

What healthy substitutes do you use while baking or cooking?


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