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Friday, March 31, 2017

Healthy Tweaks for Grilled Cheese

86% of Americans enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches and about ¾ of cheese-buying Americans eat a grilled cheese sandwich about once a month.  But for a lot of us, grilled cheese conjures us a greasy image that doesn’t shout “healthy”.  Here are some tweaks to allow you to enjoy the great nutrition of a grilled cheese sandwich without the worrying over your health. 

Bread.  Choose your bread wisely.  A higher fiber, wholegrain bread is always the best choice.  Choose something that will hold up to some pressure since we’re not going to have a fried cheese sandwich but a grilled one. 

Cheese.  Choose an actual cheese (not a cheese-food or cheese-like product).  A sharper, more flavorful cheese means you can use less while getting more bang for your calorie-buck.  Mix it up and keep it exciting – a spicy pepper Colby, or even a blue cheese can get you out of the traditional, boring grilled cheese rut.

Extras.  This is where the grilled cheese of your childhood gets a makeover to hold its own in any gourmet menu.  Caramelized onions, refried black beans, sliced apples, hot sauce or chutney make excellent parings for your sandwich and not only jack up the flavor, but the nutrition as well. 

Slather not.  Step away from the mayo or the butter, and keep your bread slather-free.  You can get a crisp bread without drenching it in unnecessary fat. 

Grill don’t fry. Try a Panini press, a grill machine, or even a waffle maker to make your grilled cheese.  You’ll get a nice even heat, crisp outside and gooey inside without the smoke alarm going off from burning one side in a pan on the stove.  Keeps the kitchen cooler as well and allows you to make more sandwiches quicker for a crowd. 

And as always, pair that sandwich with some great produce – whether it’s a chunky tomato soup or a fresh salad.  With a few tweaks, you can healthfully add grilled cheese to your menu. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sack Lunch for Grownups

Why pack a lunch?
Time: Pack your own in 5-10 minutes vs. 30 minutes lunching out (travel and wait time).  That is a savings of 83 hours a year or approximately 3 ½ days of your life each year that you could spend doing something you love. 

Money: Lunching out daily adds up to approximately $1,200 – 2,500/year.  Packing a lunch costs $300-600/year.  Savings = up to $2,000/year. That’s a Disneyland trip for 4!

Control: You are completely in control of the nutrition, balance, variety and portion, whereas when eating out you surrender most of your control in those areas. 

Components to consider when packing lunch:

Beverage: Water is always the best default when it comes to hydration, but many people either dislike water, or are looking for something more flavorful during their lunch break.  I enjoy working with USDA certified organic Cascade Ice because it serves as a great sack-lunch beverage for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it provides some bubbly flavor that adds some zip to lunch, and second of all, the ingredient list is so simple it eliminates all the unnecessary extras you find in most flavored beverages. You can find these at Smiths and Sprouts.  I love the refreshing appeal of lemon flavor.
Balance: Complex carbs (grains), veggie, fruit and protein.  You always want to have some from each of these categories to provide the significant source of nutrition that lunch represents. Sometimes getting a variety of protein sources is tricky especially if you don’t have refrigeration easily available.  Thinking outside the sandwich box, I brought one of my favorite on-the-go protein options.  Chef’s Cut Real Jerky is handcrafted jerky that uses top quality, real ingredients. It is lower in sodium and fat than other jerky on the market – and is a great source of protein that is nitrite-free. With a variety of jerky types, it provides healthy, high-protein, low-fat alternative to the over processed, high fat snacks out there. You can get it at Smiths, Sprouts or Costco. Try pairing it with some whole grain crackers, fresh veggies and some dried fruit and nut mix or with a salad for a satisfying lunch.
Variety: This doesn’t simply mean don’t pack the same lunch everyday, but it also means that you should vary the flavors and textures in your lunch.  Sometimes we may have met our caloric or even volume of food needed at lunch to get us through until dinner, but if it didn’t satisfy the sensory needs and craving we have, we may need to rethink our packing strategy. 
Sweet Tooth: It’s better to plan for your sweet tooth than ignore it and find yourself punching numbers into a vending machine after lunch to get that sweet fix.  Fruit is nature’s dessert, but if that doesn’t quite cut if for you, pack a portion-smart dessert.  Shoot for 80 calories or less: 2 Thin Mint GS cookies, a square of dark chocolate, 2 pieces salt water taffy.

Planning to pack can make a world of difference for your health, your time and your money!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Moderation Monday: Carbs Aren't the Devil's Tool

Carbs.  One of the few 5-letter words that most people consider a 4-letter word.  While fad diets are nothing new (Lord Byron had his own miracle cure back in the 1800s), it wasn't until the 1990s that the high-protein movement really gained traction.  By the turn of this century, protein was climbing the nutrient ladder, and squashing other formerly friendly nutrients as it went.

Do I have a problem with protein?  Heavens no!  It is an essential and fascinating nutrient that comes in some pretty tasty packages (some of my favorites being my Mom's fried chicken, cheese, and a nice smoked brisket).  However, as a nutrient it stands beside carbohydrates and fat, not above on a nutritionally or morally superior plane.

So this Monday, moderate your view of macronutrients.  Remind yourself that your body's main and preferred fuel is carbohydrates and requires a combination of carbs, proteins and fats.  Food is food people.  What you eat doesn't make you better or worse person, and no single food or nutrient should be slandered either.  Slander less and enjoy balanced nutrition more.