As a dietitian, people have certain expectations of me and think I must only eat this or that, or be vegan or paleo, blah blah blah. Sometimes it can be hard to live up to those expectations. The truth is, I’m a normal 23-year-old girl. Do I eat healthier than the average person? Probably. That’s because I truly value my health AND I genuinely enjoy eating the way that I do. I don’t think of my food choices as a “diet”; it’s just my lifestyle. I wake up every day and make a conscious decision to eat certain things and not eat others. That is the key to eating well consistently; your attitude towards it. No, I don’t eat perfectly healthy 100% of the time because special occasions get in the way or I just cave because uh, hello, I love cake too. But I do try to make it easier to make good choices by having healthy foods available and ready to go for the times when I do want to whip up a tasty meal, OR when I’m in a hurry/simply feeling lazy.
So you want to know the secret to eating better? Make. healthy. EASY.
Take another peek into my pantry (slash freezer, fruit basket, etc.) to find a few more of my fave food items that make healthy WAY too easy.
1) Frozen Baby Spinach:
I mentioned this on my Instagram a few weeks ago, but not all of you follow me on Instagram, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on any tips! 😉 Someone asked me once if I had any tricks for making salad mix last longer because it always seems to spoil before they can eat it. Unfortunately, no, I don’t have a solution for that. (I wish I did – I’d probably be rich!) But the closest thing I could think of was this: buying frozen spinach. I know it’s not the same as salad, but I LOVE adding spinach to things and I had the same problem. When it’s fresh it just doesn’t last as long as I’d like it to. Frozen spinach to the rescue! I add spinach to my eggs every single morning. I’ll usually microwave it for about 30 seconds to thaw before I throw it in the pan to sauté a bit and then I add the eggs. I also added spinach to my “spinach mac & cheese zoodles” recipe I shared a few posts back. It could be added to lasagna, chicken & rice casserole, and more! Such an easy way to add some extra nutrition to any dish. And it’ll never spoil on you.
Start your day with a balanced, nutritious breakfast that includes fruit, veggies, protein AND whole grains!
2) Minute Brown Rice Cups:
Everyone’s go-to side dish for dinner = potatoes. In any form. AM I RIGHT?! Yes, potatoes are mm-mmm good and do have some nutritional value. BUT after you add butter, mayo, cheese, bacon bits, and whatever the heck else, they do not. Brown rice, however, is a super healthy and effortless side dish option, whether you cook it from the box OR if you purchase these easy, convenient, microwaveable cups. If you prepare it from the box it only takes ~10 minutes total. If you buy these cups, all you have to do is pop one in the microwave for 60 short seconds and voila! Your meal is complete and balanced with some fiber-rich, whole grain brown rice. They have several options like a plain Brown Rice, Whole Grain Medley, and Brown & Wild Rice that are delicious too. These cups are a little pricier than just the box of uncooked rice, but worth it for the convenience factor when you’re short on time!
3) Frozen Vegetable Stir-Fry:
Yep, more frozen goods. The thought of prepping and stir-frying a bunch of veggies sounds like a lot of work on days when you are so tired you’d honestly rather just pour a bowl of cereal for dinner and call it good. But buying frozen mixed veggies allows you to be lazy and make healthy choices at the same time. Find a good frozen mix that you like and just throw it in the skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and they are tender and tasty before you know it. Pair them with some of the brown rice we talked about and grilled chicken to get your whole grains, veggies & protein in all at once.
I’m foreshadowing a bit here… Wait for it…
4) 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins:
These are exactly what they sound like. I just think they are a nice alternative to boring, ol’ sliced bread. Yes, it’s still bread (sorry, carb haters), but they are round, thin and sooo soft and yummy. Stick with the 100% Whole Wheat kind to make sure you’re getting your whole grains. Nutrition profile? Only 100 calories for 1 sandwich thin! AND 5 grams of fiber & protein (each)! I love to use these for turkey or chicken salad sandwiches and they are perfect for breakfast sandwiches with eggs & spicy salsa too! ?
I know, bananas aren’t exactly “hidden gems”. But if you haven’t noticed by now, I’m obsessed with them so I’m going to talk about them. “A banana a day keeps the doctor away” is my motto. They are just so versatile. Slice one up and toss it in cereal or oatmeal, pair it with peanut butter (or PB2) as a mid-morning snack, throw it in a smoothie with strawberries and protein powder, make a PB banana sandwich/toast. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES. I absolutely love this oddly shaped yellow fruit, and I have one almost every day. And 99% of the time it is with PB2. ? That is such an easy, portable snack: fiber-rich carbs plus fats/protein. Boom. Can’t beat it.
I feel like bananas have a bad reputation and it makes me a little sad. Yes, they are high in sugar/carbs, BUT the natural sugar that is found is fruits is not harmful like the added sugars found in many of the processed foods and beverages we eat and drink. Bananas are also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, manganese and vitamin B6. So EAT UP! Don’t be afraid of fruit, people. The “sugar” in fruit is not going to hurt you. (I don’t advise drinking fruit juice, however, but I’ll save that rant for another day.)
I’ve been asked several times what I use to season my chicken/fish. I’ll tell you the secret: it’s nothing extravagant. I usually use garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and the magic touch… Mrs. Dash! Mrs. Dash seasonings are salt FREE and seriously so delicious! They come in so many different flavors too; it’s an awesome, healthy way to spice up your foods. You can even sprinkle them on veggies or in pasta dishes – anywhere you need some extra flavor! As you can see, I have the original Mrs. Dash (thank you Sam’s Club), Extra Spicy and Garlic & Herb flavors and they are all ah-mazing. Buy some for yourself and try to stop salting your foods or using garlic salt and other sodium-packed seasonings. Mrs. Dash even has taco seasoning packets, ranch packets, etc. It’s the perfect way to reduce sodium in your diet without compromising flavor!!!
Even if you’re young and don’t have high blood pressure or any other health problems, start making heart-healthy choices now! Otherwise, down the road you’ll likely run into these issues and wish you would’ve changed your habits long ago.
Try out some of these items and improve your diet today! It’s never to late to change your lifestyle for the better.
Something I haven’t had in a LONG time is Chinese food. It’s one of those things that is hard for me to justify because take-out is simply put: really unhealthy. (Most of it, anyway.) Most Chinese foods these days are deep-fried and drenched in fattening and/or sodium-packed sauces. I loved this recipe because it was BAKED, but still had the texture of those fried chicken options you might find at your favorite Chinese restaurant. And you can’t even tell they are breaded with whole wheat bread crumbs! Try making this for your family and they won’t even know you’re tricking them into eating healthy. 😉
Baked Honey Garlic Chicken
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs, beaten)
- 3/4 cup plain Panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (next time I think I will try using all 1.5 cups whole wheat – you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!)
- Sesame seeds, to garnish
- Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish, optional
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp sriracha sauce, optional (I didn’t use, but I wouldn’t mind a little added heat!)
- Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the breadcrumbs to a shallow plate/bowl. (Again, I used half plain Panko crumbs and half whole-wheat, but next time I’ll be using all whole wheat for sure! You wouldn’t be able to tell.) Add the eggs to another shallow plate.
- Season the beaten eggs with pepper if desired. Add bite-sized chicken to the eggs and toss to make sure each piece is fully coated in the egg mixture.
- Next, coat each piece of chicken with breadcrumbs and place on the baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (165 F) and slightly golden brown.
- In the meantime, add all the sauce ingredients to a small sauce pan. (I made the sauce first and held it in a tupperware container before I did anything else – this gives the flavors time to combine even more!) Bring the honey garlic sauce to a boil over medium heat, then turn down the heat and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour sauce over chicken and toss so that the chicken pieces are fully coated. I used a spoon to distribute the sauce evenly over the chicken pieces. Then I used the spoon to toss the chicken around and coat it with any excess sauce on the parchment paper. If there’s any left over sauce, use for dipping. Garnish with sesame seeds and parsley if desired.
- Serve over rice and/or veggies. Enjoy!
Enjoy the last few days of September and first few days of OCTOBER! Where the heck has the time gone!? There are lots of fun things coming up in October and the upcoming months so I can’t wait for this fall/winter! 🙂 Enjoy as many pumpkin goodies as possible while they last!!!!!! (I mean… in moderation… 😉 )
eat well. live well. be happy.