Main Nutritious Intent Website

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dinner in 15

Compared to other nations in the world, America spends the least amount of money, and the least amount of time preparing and eating food.  

Unfortunately this cheap & easy style of nutrition is backfiring when it comes to our health.  Almost ½ of the meals eaten in our homes (not counting eating in the car or at a restaurant) are not prepared at home.  Home-cooked meals are disappearing, and with it a myriad of health, social, and emotional benefits. 

However, while it may be ideal to spend more time in your kitchen preparing meals with your family, that may not be possible every night of the week.  

The good news is that with very little time, you can enjoy a meal with your family that doesn’t come in a Styrofoam container or a grease-soaked bag.  So, for those busy, hectic-schedule days, here are some tips to help you get a home-cooked meal on the table in 15 minutes.
Often it is the grain that takes a good portion of your meal preparation time.  So having great go-to grain options such as wheat foods on hand will really speed up your prep time. The recipes I brought today aren’t mine, but come from the Wheat Foods Council.  Since we need 6 servings of grains per day with half of those servings coming from whole grains, wheat foods provide a lot of versatility and become a building block for a healthy meal.  The nice thing about wheat foods whether you’re choosing whole wheat or enriched, is that they provide lots of essential nutrients such as folate, and other b vitamins, iron and other minerals.  So here we have chicken, kale and black bean quesadillas that come together in 15 minutes.  Add some mini peppers and melon so that half your plate is produce, and you’re set. 

Chicken, Kale and Black Bean Quesadillas

Going meatless is another way to speed up the meal prep process.  With this meatless, main dish pasta salad, during the time it takes you to cook the pasta, the other prep is completed.  Add some fresh or canned fruit to round out the meal and you’re set.

Caprese Pasta Salad

Even a quick BLT on sourdough with some bagged salad makes for a great meal in mere minutes.

Other tips for speeding up the meal preparation include prepping your protein in advance.
Browning a large quantity of hamburger, then dividing it up and freezing in small quantities makes taco night a 15 minute meal.  Cooking chicken or roast in a crockpot then shredding and freezing makes for a great short cut to bbq sandwiches, paninis, or enchiladas.

Good nutrition rarely happens by accident, so with a little planning, you can have your meal and the time to enjoy it too!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Can Cooking Gadgets Improve Your Diet?

Microplane * Mandolin * Immersion Blender * Melon Baller

What do your kitchen gadgets say about you and your eating/cooking habits?  Do they reflect the generosity and creativity of your wedding guests or how well coordinated the color pattern is of your immaculate but under-used kitchen?  Hopefully, your kitchen gadgets reflect the frequency, flavor and nutritional value of your meals.  With this new perspective of your culinary apparatus in mind, let me share just a few ways some humble, and hopefully not-forgotten tools can improve your eating experience as well as the quality of your diet.


I love my microplane and look for any chance I can get to file away a satisfying shower of flavor-dust into most any dish.  I'm a fan of whole nutmeg for this very purpose and the depth it adds to cream soups and sauces, sautéed or roasted veggies, and baked goods like muffins or quick breads.  Occasionally I file away at stick cinnamon to similar effect, however I more often choose pre-ground cinnamon as a time saver since generally I use that spice in much greater quantities when compared to nutmeg.
Citrus is a wonderful candidate for the microplane.  Fresh lemon zest in dressings, ice creams and sorbets, stir fry and baked goods is incomparable.  You get all the essence of the fruit without the acidity.  This definitely delivers more culinary bang-for-your-buck flavor than almost any other single ingredient (which is why I keep a lemon, lime and orange in my freezer for just such zesting emergencies).
Hard cheeses such as Romano, Parmesan or Pecorino are fun to grate with a microplane.  You end up with savory sawdust that is a perfect topper for salads, soups and pastas.
So dig around in that "everything drawer" in your kitchen and microplane some flavor into your next meal.  I'm all about increasing flavor without increasing the typical salt, sugar and fat and sanding some real foods onto your dishes fits the bill.  I'll just say "you're welcome" in advance.


This is a chef's secret weapon.  If you want your meals to rival that of a favorite restaurant, get to know your mandolin.  It is a slicer that can also julienne foods as well as ripple-cut.  You can change the depth from that of steak fry to paper-thin potato chip.  I love using this to make microwave potato chips for a healthful, tasty and fun side dish when we're having a more casual, picnic-style menu.  I also love it for making ribbons of cucumbers, carrots and zucchini.  It provides a great change to the typical lettuce-based salad that we all tend to tire of.  Plus, you'll get a big wow-factor on presentation with a microplane.  Carrot ribbons wrapped around asparagus and lightly steamed is as easy as falling off a log, yet you'll want to get comfy since the stream of compliments will be long and satisfying.  Be sure to use the hand guard to slice your favorite fruit or veggie so that your hand remains intact and your veggies stay vegan.  :)  Here's a link to my favorite way to serve broccoli stems using the mandolin: Broccoli Carpaccio Salad.

Immersion Blender

Soup is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, and I'm a real sucker for a creamy-textured soup.  Enter - the immersion blender.  From a delectable tomato soup just calling out for a dunk-able grilled cheese, to a veggie-packed yet silky smooth creamy cauliflower soup, the key is an immersion blender.  In my mind, not only is the immersion blender a speedy way to blend soups and sauces, it also comes to my rescue every time I find myself stewing over a lumpy sauce, soup, gravy or caramel.  You are able to thicken with pureed fruits or vegetables, thus adding flavor and avoiding the traditional,  yet flavorless butter and flour roux.  So skip the messy pouring of hot liquids into the blender and bring the blender straight to the soup pot.

Melon Baller

This no doubt is the humblest, most inexpensive, and most-likely-to-be-found-in-the-back-of-your-drawer gadget yet. However, don't dismiss it's function simply because of it's common name or cheap price tag.  A melon baller may bring to mind flavorless orbs of, well, melon, but don't be deceived.  There's a lot more edible potential to this double-ended scooper of cantaloupe than meets the eye.  One of my favorite uses for this multi-tasking tool is in making baked apples or for that matter, any type of pome fruit such as pear or quince.  It's a fun way to serve up a pat of butter, or a single serving of cheese as well.  You could even make little round potato balls that you roast with a little olive oil and spices.  The fun shape is more than just functional, it's festive - and that tends to increase the interest and appetite that one has for a meal.  

So, take stock of your kitchen implements and resolve to put them to better use at improving your nutrition as well as your culinary satisfaction.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Is There Room For Dessert in a Healthful Diet?

In 1942 (before wartime rationing) Americans consumed just over 1 pound of sugar per person per week.  Today, Americans consume 3 pounds of sugar per person per week.  

The average adult consumes 22 tsp/day and the average child consumes 32 tsp/day.

So with all this talk about our out-of-control sweet tooth, is there any room for dessert in a healthful diet?  Yes.  A diet that completely eliminates desserts sets you up for failure and to be honest, a more dreary existence.

Here are some tips to cut back on sugar while enjoying the occasional dessert. 

1.     Don’t drink your sugar.  33% of the sugar in our diet comes from soft drinks.
2.     Cut back on processed foods.  The more processed your foods are, the more sugar, salt and fat they contain.  Check the labels and make sure that particularly for non-dessert items, sugar doesn’t top the ingredient list.
3.     Don’t be a dessert-at-every-meal junkie.  You don’t need dessert at breakfast (a lot of “breakfast” foods really are dessert foods.  Just take a look at the labels – strudel, tart, cookie, and bar are all dessert terms that you will find in the breakfast aisle).  You don’t need dessert after breakfast, after your mid-morning snack, and after lunch, and after dinner and at bedtime. 

4.     Be portion-savvy.  If you have a hard time limiting yourself to a reasonable portion-size when it comes to dessert, try a pre-portioned option.  For example, I have a sweet tooth and a little chocolate at lunch boosts my satiety and morale during the day.  Having a portion-controlled dessert option can really help satisfy that craving without going overboard.   

5.     Keep the flavor and nutrition high in your desserts. Choose fruit and nut-based desserts that will offer more fiber, more vitamins and minerals and be more satisfying visually as and taste-wise as well.  For example, a fruit based pie, chocolate dipped strawberries, a cookie filled with dark chocolate chunks, dried cherries and almonds, baked apples, blended fruit sorbet, chocolate-covered nuts, etc. 

Choosing dessert foods with fruit and nuts doesn’t mean that they are suddenly healthful-go-to foods to be eaten with abandon all day long, but it does ensure that you get more bang for your buck when you savor that occasional dessert.

Following the 80/20 or 90/10 rule applies well with desserts. 80-90% of the time, you drink water, eat a good variety of fruits, veggies & whole grains.  You exercise, are active and heed your body’s hunger and fullness signals.  10-20% of the time you splurge a bit.  You order dessert, or enjoy the buffet at your friend’s wedding.  A reasonable balance ensures that you maintain not only life long good health, but happiness as well.