Main Nutritious Intent Website

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tasty Party-Fare Makeovers

I love appetizers, dips and noshables as much as the next guy, but that doesn't mean I go hog-wild and offer my family and friends an artery-blocking buffet.  Here are some links to my favorite made-over recipes that are so tasty you don't miss the original:
  •  Spinach Artichoke Dip This recipe from Cooking Light is a real crowd pleaser.  Instead of the reduced fat cream cheese - try Greek Cream Cheese (cream cheese made from greek yogurt).  Serve with some whole grain pita chips or my favorite: Triscuits.
  • Chocolate Cherry Chunk Meringues This isn't necessarily a makeover recipe, but I wanted to include it as a good substitute for Christmas cookies or calorie-laden desserts.  Plus, I'm a sucker for chocolate, cherry and meringues!
  • Mushroom Polenta Canapes I love, love, love this appetizer!  It is fairly simple - but adds a lot of flavor and wow-factor to your party.  Plus it's low fat, decent fiber content make it a great savory substitution for any fried, battered, pie-crust-filled appetizer you pick up at the store.
  • Spring Rolls At 100 calories per serving - these beat the pants off of any fried egg roll.  Consider letting your guests help with the assembly - as it makes it more fun and efficient.  
  • Hot Bean & Cheese Dip Instead of going with a nacho-cheese dip for your southwest flavor-fix, try this recipe.  Loaded with fiber and lower in calories and sodium than store-bought ones.  Serve with veggies or whole grain chips.  
  • Sweet Chipotle Snack Mix Instead of putting out the candy dish - set this mix out.  Such as tasty flavor combination - enjoying healthy nuts and seeds never tasted so good.
  • Water  No this isn't a link . . . no recipe needed.  The best makeover for cocktails or party beverages is to not drink your calories.  You might want to provide some fun garnishes for the glasses:  Freeze cranberries on a skewer to use as a substitute for ice.  Lemon, lime and blood orange slices make a gorgeous garnish for the ultimate calorie free beverage.  
I had a makeover request for a buffalo chicken dip recipe.  While there are some variations in the different recipes out there - some of the constant ingredients involve cream cheese, sour cream and cheese.  So here are my tips to lighten it without losing it's flavor identity:  Go with a mix of reduced fat and fat free cream cheese (or greek cream cheese), swap out the sour cream for nonfat greek yogurt and go with a strong-flavored cheese but less.  For example: instead of using 2 cups of cheddar or colby jack cheese, use 1 cup sharp cheddar.  And if it calls for blue cheese - the flavor is strong enough that a little goes a long way, so the quantity is usually fairly modest.  Serve with celery and keep in mind that it is all about balancing portions.  Have some, but don't make a dip appetizer your entire meal.

Don't forget to set out plenty of fruit and veggie trays - and enjoy noshing on them the next day or two.  Have a healthy, festive and merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Cookies & Insurance Premiums

At a glance you may think that I've lost it.  Christmas cookies and insurance premiums may seem to have nothing in common, but hear me out.  At this time of year plates, boxes and bags of treats, cookies and goodies start showing up on our doorsteps.  Family, friends and neighbors (as well as ourselves) are busy baking this time of year.  Yet, we are trying to keep things in balance and not end the year with a extra pounds and the blood pressure that goes with it.  So what is the first line of defense against these holiday confections?  The break room at work.  Might seem like a good solution, but think it through a bit.  Now you can nosh at home and at work - and probably with greater variety since everyone else brings their treats to work as well.  Does this mean you should never share with co-workers?  Of course not, but don't make the office your dumping ground for mediocre calories.  We all get bored or tired at work, and a trip to the break room for a random cookie becomes just the ticket. . . to poor health that is.  Here are some alternative options:
  • Be selective - if you don't LOVE it, chuck it.
  • Be generous - with commercially wrapped items, donate them to a food bank.
  • Be patient - if it is your all-time favorite, freeze it and portion it out slowly over time.
  • Be thoughtful - always express appreciation for the effort and craftsmanship put into the offer, but be thoughtful of your co-workers and don't sabotage their healthy habits.
Remember that being gracious doesn't mean you have to consume every crumb.  Think about the health of your co-workers - if not from personal consideration, them from the effect that all those co-workers' extra pounds and ensuing health problems will have on your insurance premiums.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter Eating: Accentuate the Positive

I'm a big believer that good health comes from seeking out and choosing to focus on the positive - and I don't just the effects of your attitude or mood.  When it comes to good nutrition and healthful eating, if we sought out more positive, nourishing foods the empty-calorie, less-healthful foods would fall away into their proper place of "once-in-a-while" or "play" foods.
Often at this time of year, folks get downright touchy when it comes to food.  There is a lot of hype about how unhealthy holiday eating is and how much weight gain is inevitable. . . Nonsense! Stop focusing on the negative, defeatist view of food this time of year and start embracing all that is healthful, delicious and nourishing.  If we could stop agonizing over and guiltily replaying every bite of dip, chip or candy that goes into our mouths and instead made it our focus and goal to eat healthy, in-season produce, not only would we have a freer, lighter attitude, but the scale would most likely follow that same direction.  So in the spirit of ignoring the negative and focusing only on the positive, I'm dropping the "don'ts" and providing only "dos".

  • Pack in the Pomegranates

    Pomegranates are not only tasty (and thanks to youtube - a snap to seed), but they are packed with fiber and vitamins C, K, folate and potassium.  Top a toss salad with these edible jewels, mix into a fruit salad, or sit down with a bowl and spoon.
  • Go Nuts

     Nuts are a good idea any time of the year, but they seem to make regular appearances at party and festive occasions.  So enjoy all that fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, calcium, protein and heart-healthy fat.  Studies indicate that people trying to lose weight have greater success when they include nuts into their daily diet.
  • Remember Root & Orange Veggies

    Roots and squash are in-season and the ultimate comfort food on a cold, wintry day.  Whether you go for oven roasted carrots and parsnips with garlic and rosemary, or a steaming bowl of butternut soup - these veggies provide fiber, vitamins A & C, plus lots of antioxidants such as carotenoids.  Also, winter squash contains pectin which reduces inflammation.  So while their saturated colors are a feast for the eyes, the nutrients are a feast for your body. 
  • An Apple a Day

    There are so many varieties and ways to incorporate apples into our diet this time of year.  Sliced apples work great in salads, on grilled cheese, or sauteed over french toast. Apples are packed with antioxidants and fiber - particularly pectin - which help reduce inflammation, risk of heart disease, cancer and help maintain a healthy weight.  So make it a goal to eat an apple a day.  
  • Keep Citrus in Circulation

     We all know that citrus is a great source of vitamin C, but aside from boosting our immune system.  However, citrus does much more than that.  Hesperidin is a flavonoid found in citrus that improves cholesterol and triglyceride levels and protect against heart disease.  Limonoids are antioxidants found in this tangy fruits that protect against many types of cancer.  Plus, since citrus is high in fiber and water, it makes it a natural weight management superstar.

    Make December and the rest of the winter season a time for "dos" not "don'ts" and enjoy the health that comes from better nutrition and less stress.