Breakfast for Dinner!

Monday’s have been crazy lately, so I’ve missed quite a few of our Monday meals. I battled rough morning (all day) sickness earlier this winter, and now that I’m almost to the halfway point in my pregnancy the nausea is (thank goodness) completely gone. Even though I no longer feel sick, my second trimester hasn’t been as easy with this pregnancy as it was the last. I’ve been struggling with a really poor appetite in the evening along with a lot of fatigue late in the day, which has made it difficult for me to have the motivation to cook an evening meal. Family meals are important to me, so I’m trying to start planning meals again and get back in the kitchen.

There’s a few pancake recipes I’ve been wanting to try, and have never gotten around to making them for breakfast. Carli doesn’t eat as well in the evening as she used to, but always wakes up ravenous. Usually she’s not interested in waiting around for me to cook her something for breakfast- she wants something quick! So I thought- why not try the pancakes for dinner? I love breakfast for dinner, it’s just not something we do often. The recipes are easy, so it was the perfect meal to make with my two-year old.

I got the inspiration to do this tonight after I noticed the four bananas on my counter that were extremely ripe. Both pancake recipes are made with ripe bananas along with a few other simple ingredients and don’t require a lot of prep or cooking time. Perfect for a simple meal!

The first pancakes I made were with bananas, oats and blueberries. Carli loved to help with the measuring and pouring into the blender. She also helped me break up the bananas into pieces to add to the batter.

Blueberry Banana Pancakes:

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • handful of blueberries

Put all ingredients except the blueberries into a blender. Blend until smooth. Fold in the blueberries and pour batter straight from the blender onto a skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped with blueberries and banana slices. You don’t even need syrup for these! I put some on mine but next time I think I’ll do without- the bananas blended into the pancakes add plenty of sweetness.

Next, I tried a peanut butter and banana pancake recipe. My daughter has adapted my love for all things peanut butter, so I knew these would be a hit. This recipe makes really thin pancakes, but they are delicious. My husband thought there was too much banana in the mixture, and although I liked the taste I agreed that some may like it with less banana. I altered the recipe below depending on how much you like banana-tasting pancakes 🙂

Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes:

  • 1-2 ripe bananas (depending on how much banana taste you want)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a blender. Pour batter straight from the blender onto a skillet and cook about 2-3 minutes each side. I topped these with banana slices- it would also be good with melted peanut butter drizzled over the top.

I served the pancakes with turkey bacon and fruit. I had some batter left over, which I kept in the fridge to whip up some quick pancakes in the morning. This was definitely a meal we’ll do again- it was delicious, easy, and something Carli could help out a lot with. Baby girl even enjoyed it- I’ve been feeling her sweet kicks all evening 🙂

What I feed my family

Usually when people find out that I’m a dietitian, they immediately think that my family’s meals consist of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, all organic foods. Then the excuses pour in covering their own eating habits- as if I’m judging them because they happen to be holding a slice of pizza.

I’m not judging you, I promise. I eat pizza too! I also don’t eliminate any type of food from my family’s meals (yes, we even eat gluten) and have always been an advocate for balance. I work in a facility for kids with special needs, and ever since feeding my own child and working with kids professionally, I’ve developed a pretty big interest in child nutrition. I’ve changed the way my family eats because of it, but also try to be careful to not be too restrictive with food. I want my kids to have a healthy attitude around food, not label foods “good” or “bad” and to be able to make their own choices about healthy food as they get older. Having recovered from an eating disorder and having body image issues growing up, it’s also important for me to protect my own girls from thinking the only way they can eat healthy is by dieting or eliminating food groups. My goal for feeding my family is to create a positive environment around food, one that doesn’t cause my kids to feel guilty or deprived in any way.

We don’t have any food allergies in our family, which I consider to be a blessing. I know families with kids who have multiple food allergies and have to completely eliminate allergen-containing foods, which can make preparing and cooking meals quite difficult. Obviously in these situations, families have no choice but to follow diet restrictions. Typically this works best if the whole family is involved, instead of just making the child with the food allergy eliminate what is causing the flare-up. So for example, if a child has a gluten intolerance then it would be best for the whole family to be gluten-free. This would avoid issues with cross-contamination as well. Other than for food allergies and intolerances, I don’t recommend for families to follow diets that are highly restrictive. It’s just not necessary and it’s much easier for kids to get the nutrition they need by allowing them to eat a variety of (nutrient dense) foods. Not a variety of junk food though!

So here are the simple guidelines I follow when feeding my family. We stick with them 90% of the time.

Fruits and vegetables are big at every meal. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling with this lately, especially with the vegetables. My first trimester this time around has been much worse than my last pregnancy- and still seems to be lingering! Vegetables have been tough for me to stomach lately, but thankfully as my symptoms are starting to fade I’m slowly starting to crave those veggies again. It’s interesting though, I’ve noticed that it was much harder to get my family to eat vegetables when I was doing a horrible job of eating them myself. Eating healthy really is a family effort! Kids do by example and I’ve seen this play out over the past few months.

Lean proteins are in every meal, but in smaller portions than the fruits and vegetables- unless my husband is making his own plate. I make a lot of salmon- I’ve been craving it lately, so sometimes  make it as often as 3-4 times per week! At least once a week I try to do a vegetable protein instead of an animal protein. When seasoning foods, I use as little salt as possible. Typically I find herbs and spices to season my meat so that my family’s salt intake is limited. It’s very easy to consume an adequate amount of salt without adding it to food, and most Americans get a lot more than is recommended. I want to train my kids’ palates while they are young to appreciate the natural flavor of foods- without doctoring it up with all the sugar, salt and fat that the food industry does.

 

I don’t leave anything out when it comes to carbohydrates. We eat bread, potatoes, rice, pasta- if it’s a carb, we aren’t afraid to eat it! I buy whole grains as much as possible for the added fiber (and less processing) and avoid foods that are “instant” (such as instant potatoes, etc). I read the ingredients carefully to avoid buying foods that are loaded with MSG, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. As long as the carbohydrates we are eating aren’t heavily processed (and have an exorbitant amount of salt, sugar and fat), they are healthy for our bodies. We are an active family and our cells need the energy that only carbs can provide!

 

When it comes to dairy, my husband is the only one who will drink cow’s milk. I prefer almond milk, and so does Carli, so that is what we typically drink. She gets most of her calcium intake from organic yogurt and cheeses. Dairy is one food group that I will almost always buy organic- along with fruits and vegetables we eat the skin off of.

I don’t buy sugary drinks. No juice, no soda, no sweet tea. I’m a recovering diet coke addict (I still have slip-ups every now and then) and my husband is working on his diet soda intake and trying to replace with unsweetened tea. All Carli drinks is water because it’s all we’ve ever offered to her. If she is at a birthday party or a holiday party at school and juice is being served, I let her drink it there. I don’t want her to feel excluded and this doesn’t happen often. At home, it’s always water and it’s what she asks for. I grew up drinking kool-aid and it took me a long time to appreciate the taste of water. I’m glad my two year old already loves it!

I rarely serve dessert. At the end of a meal if we want something sweet, I always have some fruit cut up. If we are having friends over for dinner or it’s a special occasion like a birthday, I’ll have some sort of dessert available to serve. I try to limit our sugar intake like I do salt. The more sugar we eat, the more our brain craves to get the same sugar fix it did before- it’s literally like a drug! You can read more about that in an older blog post I’ve written here. I used to be super strict on my daughter’s sugar intake when she was younger, but then felt as if I should lighten up and let her enjoy more sweets like other kids do. I’ve seen the outcome- she’s a sugar monster now! Even though I let her enjoy treats at her preschool parties and when grandparents visit (I’ve learned it’s their love language, and no matter how hard I try I will never win that battle), I keep sugar out of our house as much as possible to limit her intake at home. It’s the one thing I guess I would say I “restrict” but I don’t label sugar as being “bad.” It’s just something we limit.

Generally speaking, limiting processed foods and consuming high quality “whole” foods is the best way to feed your family. Taking the focus off of calories and fat grams and putting it on the quality of food you are eating is best for feeding your body. From what research shows and what I’ve seen in my own professional practice, families who are active on an everyday basis are going to be healthier than those who follow crazy diets and are inactive. By active, I don’t mean going to the gym 5 days per week. That’s great to do, but you have to be continuously active. Get the family off the couch and go for a bike ride. Get your kids outside to play. Limit screen time for the entire family. If you are continuously moving your body, I guarantee it will be much easier to stay at a healthy weight and have a healthier body and mind.

Now enjoy that slice of pizza and get that body moving! 😉

 

 

Our favorite easy meal

The last few weeks I’ve made some meals on Mondays that involve quite a few steps and lots of ingredients. I’ve enjoyed spending the time in the kitchen with Carli and she has LOVED getting to help me. But this week I wanted a little break from the amount of prep work and cleanup that I was having to do. We have had this meal several times and I’ve tweaked the recipe just a little bit. It’s easy, healthy, and most importantly delicious.

You can alter this recipe quite a few ways to meet your dietary goals. I’ll give you the recipe we typically use first and then give the altered versions at the end.

 

Oven roasted chicken sausage, peppers and potatoes


  • 1 package of chicken sausage (These come in many different flavors, I usually buy the spinach and red pepper for this recipe), sliced into small pieces
  • 2 medium potatoes (any kind you like will work), cut into small pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • olive oil
  • rosemary
  • garlic powder

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and peppers together. Add olive oil, rosemary and garlic powder. I honestly don’t ever measure these out- I would say about 2 tbsp olive oil, and a tablespoon each of rosemary and garlic powder. I let Carli pour the olive oil in this week so our meal was a little more oily this week than usual. Mix together and spread out evenly on a baking pan. Place in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 15 minutes.

Pouring is her favorite part

I let her cut up soft foods with a butter knife- don’t worry she has learned how to control the knife and is always supervised. She has loved the independence!

Once 15 minutes is up, add the sausage and cook an additional 25-35 minutes. Time will vary depending on how big your potato chunks are, the smaller the faster it will take to cook.

Enjoy!!

Altered versions: Sometimes I like to add about 1/2 sliced onion to the mixture. It adds flavor and more veggies- I just didn’t have on hand this week. If you want to omit the potatoes and just have sausage and veggies, you can do so by omitting the first 15 minutes of your cooking time. Just mix everything together and bake for 35 minutes. If I make it this way I like to serve it over brown rice (our family cannot survive without carbs).

Everything you need in a balanced meal is in this one pan dish, just add a side of fruit for dessert and you’re good to go!

Have a great week!

Monday Meals with Carli- Chipotle Burrito Bowls

There is only one problem with the area we live in. No Chipotle. For miles. Nick and I are pretty much obsessed, and sorry but Moe’s just doesn’t quite cut it for us. I decided to try and recreate their burrito bowls for our Monday night dinner, and I am so happy with how they turned out. Even Nick was impressed, and he’s pretty critical when it comes to Mexican food. This is most definitely one of our new family favorites.

I had a lot of little jobs for Carli to do, but there was also a lot of prep work beforehand (cutting vegetables, getting spices ready) so I did all of that while she napped. It can be tedious to make everything from scratch, and honestly I don’t usually have the time to do this often. I really want Carli to learn about all the ingredients that go into the foods we typically eat, so I’m trying to take the time to walk her through that on the nights we cook together. This might sound like a lot of work, but I promise it’s really not bad. And so worth it in the end.

For our burrito bowls we had the following parts to prepare:

  • Cilantro lime brown rice
  • Mixed veggies
  • Black beans
  • Chipotle chicken
  • Pico
  • Guacamole

These bowls are dairy-free and gluten-free, and can be made vegan if you omit the chicken. If you follow a Paleo plan, omit the beans and you are good to go.

First we started with the rice, it takes the longest. To make enough for our family of 2 and a toddler I cooked 1 cup of brown rice. We had plenty leftover, which is what I was hoping for (easy Tuesday lunch!) To cook 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water and steam until all the water is absorbed. While the rice is cooking, go on to the chicken.

She takes her jobs very seriously

For the chipotle chicken:

It’s all about the spices. If you don’t like spicy, I would recommend cutting the chili powders in 1/2. If you love spicy, you may want to add a little more. The rub is really easy to make. Just mix the following ingredients together:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

I cut two chicken breasts into small chunks and marinated in the chipotle rub for about 30 minutes. While this is marinating, go on to the pico and guac.

Admiring her work

When I was ready to prepare this meal, I already had the tomatoes, red onion and cilantro chopped and ready to go. This made it really easy to just mix everything together- especially since I was cooking with a two year old. If you don’t have the time to prepare these from scratch, they are easy to find in the grocery store. Even though it requires a little more work, it’s cheaper to prepare fresh, and I prefer the taste better as well.

Pico:

  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion (I used about 1/4 onion)
  • 1/4 jalepeno, seeded and diced
  • 5 stems cilantro, finely cut
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • salt to taste

Taste testing- kid approved!

Just mix everything together- YUM!! The guacamole is easy too. Just mash the following ingredients together:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cilantro
  • 1/4 red onion, diced

Carli had the most fun preparing the guacamole. I’ve started to let her cut soft vegetables with a butter knife and she loved cutting the tomato (with my help). I let her use her hands to mash it all together- she was so proud of the part she did “all by myself!!”

By this time your rice should be about done cooking. You’ll want to let it cool for 20-25 minutes. While it’s cooling, begin to cook the mixed veggies, black beans and chicken. I had the veggies cut up beforehand as well to save some time.

For the mixed veggies: 

  • 1/2 green pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thin
  • handful of mushrooms

Throw these in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and saute to your desired tenderness. While these are cooking you can work on the chicken as well. Just placed the marinated chicken you prepared earlier in a frying pan and cook until heated through, stirring frequently. During this time I also had the beans cooking in a small saucepan.

 

Finally the last step is finishing the rice. Once the rice has cooled, mix in 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped), 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp salt and 3 Tbsp lime juice.

Mix everything together and be prepared to be amazed. Healthy AND delicious!!

Monday Meals with Carli

Mondays are tough for us. My husband works an early morning shift, comes home to sleep for a few hours, and then has to go back into work around 10PM to work through the evening. This is after he has been working all weekend. The nice part about it all is that he gets almost 4 whole days off until Friday evening, but by Monday afternoon I’m going crazy trying to find ways to keep our toddler entertained.

Carli is only two, but is fascinated with cooking and loves to be with me in the kitchen. She even goes to the extent of finding cooking shows on Amazon Prime to watch, and can’t get enough of them. I’ve tried to get her into Mickey Mouse and the other typical shows toddlers are attracted to, but the kid isn’t interested! She has always been a great eater, but is at the age where she is starting to form an opinion about what she wants to eat and is getting picky. Not terribly picky, but enough that we are having to find creative ways to get her to sit down and eat a meal with us. One of the best ways to get little kids to eat a variety of foods and to eat healthy is to let them be involved. Carli likes to know (along with most other toddlers I’m sure) that she is somewhat in control of whatever the task at hand is- whether is be eating, playing, or learning something new. I thought I would start putting her interest in cooking to good use and let her be a part of making dinner on Monday nights. It’s been a win-win for both of us. She is learning about new foods and is getting to be more involved with the meal she is about to eat, and I get to test and try out new recipes. We sample the dishes together, add and take away ingredients to make it better and the end result is a dish that both of us have created that’s healthy and full of fun new flavors.

I’ll try to post our Monday meals each week. This has been a fun experience so far and something we both look forward to. Tonight our recipe tonight involved chicken, mango (a fruit Carli has had but not often), whole grains, broccoli (her favorite vegetable) and kale (a new vegetable for her). I’m trying to introduce new foods to her through this experience and it’s grown her interest in trying new foods. I look forward to sharing our Monday meals with everyone!

Mango Chicken with Whole Grains, Kale and Roasted Broccoli

**This recipe serves 2 people (or 2 adults and a toddler). You may want to double or triple the recipe**

First we started with the sauce. If you like your foods to be spicy I would add the crushed red pepper. To make it more kid-friendly I would remove the crushed red pepper- Carli doesn’t like spicy foods so I had to re-make the entire sauce recipe once she tried it so that she would eat it. Both versions are good!

 

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 mango (chopped into cubes)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 min, until brown. Add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, cut 2 chicken breasts into cubes. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture and continue to let simmer.

Next, prepare the grains. I used 1/3 cup quinoa, 1/3 cup millet and 1/3 cup buckwheat. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the grains and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.

While the grains are cooking, prepare the broccoli and kale.

For the broccoli:

  • 1 broccoli head, chopped
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil (you can use any oil you have)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together. Place mixture on baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

For the kale:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh kale, broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (omit if you don’t want it to be spicy)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in pan, add garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

When everything is ready, place a scoop of the chicken with sauce on a plate, along with a spoonful of broccoli and kale. I tossed the grains with a little bit of olive oil and added about 1/2 cup of cranberries to it. I would recommend mixing everything together so the sauce covers the veggies and grains- it’s delicious! Aim for making 1/2 of each plate broccoli and kale, 1/4 of each plate grains, and 1/4 of each plate chicken. The nutrient density and color in this meal is amazing! Carli enjoyed the cranberries and and mangoes the most- “It’s candy Mommy!”

I hope everyone has a great week!

Chili Season!

Although it’s November 1st, I’m writing this post wearing shorts and a tank top and my face is slightly sunburned from a 30 minute run I did earlier today. Autumn where are you?! I love the mild winters that living in the South brings, but I am eager for cooler temperatures. For my family and friends up North, I envy you and your hoodie-wearing weather! I am ready to be done with summer for awhile and to switch out my bathing suits for sweaters and leggings. I’m also ready for the comfort food season that’s quickly approaching. You know what I’m talking about- big pots of creamy soups and chili, warm breads, hot cocoa, Thanksgiving feasts and holiday treats. Because most comfort food isn’t low calorie, a lot of people tend to gain weight this time of year. But who says that comfort food can’t be healthy? I have four healthy and delicious chili recipes I love to rotate this time of year that are warm, filling and oh so comforting to eat. The best part- you can make them all in the crockpot! There’s nothing better than having the aroma of chili fill the house on a cool fall day.

Spicy white chicken chili

If you love spicy foods, this is for you. You can serve it with sour cream and shredded cheese, but it’s just as tasty without the toppings.

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Ingredients:

1 yellow onion, diced

1 large jalepeno pepper, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large rotisserie chicken, chicken pulled off bones and shredded

2 cans Northern white beans, drained

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups salsa verde

1 tsp chili powder

2 tbsp fresh cilantro

1/2 tbsp poultry seasoning

Directions:

Saute pepper, onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Place all ingredients in crockpot, add pepper and onion mixture and set crockpot on low. Cook for 4-5 hours.

 

Chicken taco chili

This chili is very kid-friendly. My toddler can’t get enough of it! She loves it with “extra” cheese and tortilla chips, but this is another chili that tastes great served plain as well.

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Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

1 can of black beans

1 8-oz can of tomato sauce

2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with chili peppers

1 bag of frozen corn

1 packet taco seasoning

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Directions

Place all ingredients into the crockpot with the chicken on top. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 6 hours. 15-20 minutes before serving take the chicken out and shred with a fork. Return to crockpot and continue cooking until ready to serve.

Vegetarian chili

This is my favorite chili and I make it often. I love vegetables, and this dish is full of them! You can switch out the beans for meatless crumbles (such as Boca brand or Morningstar crumbles) if desired. Or if you are a die-hard carnivore you can add 1lb of beef or ground turkey. This makes a pretty large pot and we tend to end up eating it all week long! Cut it in half if you aren’t a fan of leftovers.

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Ingredients

1 can of black beans

1 can of kidney beans

1 can diced tomatoes with chilis

1 28 oz can tomato sauce

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 package mushrooms

1 sweet potato, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped (I use 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6 hours.

Pumpkin chili

Featured in my last post OMG Pumpkin, this chili has become a new favorite. The pumpkin flavor is quite mild, so if you aren’t a pumpkin lover don’t let the name scare you.

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lbs grass feed beef or bison

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 can of pumpkin

1 cup chicken broth (or you can just use water if desired)

2 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 T chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

Heat a large pot over the stove. Add oil and saute onion and pepper until onions begin to soften (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook an extra 8-10 minutes, breaking up the beef into crumbles as it cooks. Transfer meat mixture into crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 6-7 hours on low.

 

Stay warm!

OMG Pumpkin!

October is my absolute favorite month out of the entire year. I love everything about the beautiful colors of autumn, the chilly mornings and cool nights, boots and scarves (with shorts and t-shirts because it’s still 80+ degrees during the day here in Georgia) and of course…pumpkin EVERYTHING. PSL’s, pumpkin candles, pumpkin decorations, pumpkin patches, pumpkin beer, pumpkin desserts- I love them all. Not only does pumpkin stuff smell good, but eating food with pumpkin in it has a few health benefits! Pumpkin is full of fiber (3 grams per 1 cup serving), is loaded with Vitamin A (beneficial for maintaining good eyesight), and contains more potassium per cup than 1 banana. Don’t stop at just the pumpkin though! Their seeds are highly nutritious as well. Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce a mood-lifting chemical called serotonin. Serotonin not only helps to improve mood, but it can also help you sleep better at night. In addition to all of that, pumpkin seeds contain about 7 grams of protein per 1 ounce serving and omega-6 fatty acids, beneficial for cardiovascular health. Hooray for delicious and nutritious!

I have a ton of pumpkin recipes along with a slight obsession of baking pumpkin goodies all throughout the fall. Here are some of my favorites.

Pumpkin Chickpeas

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl add 1 can of chickpeas. In a smaller bowl combine 1/3 cup pumpkin, 2 T pure maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Pour over chickpeas and stir. Place chickpeas on lined baking sheet and cook for 60 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

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Stir together 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 T cinnamon and 1 T honey. Put in freezer until it sets. This is a favorite of mine to eat on hot fall days.

Pumpkin Bread

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I have about 10 different pumpkin bread recipes, but this by far is one of my favorite (and also one of the healthiest). It’s naturally sweetened with applesauce and honey, with just a little bit of brown sugar in the crumble topping. I have this alongside chili or soup in the evening (see chili recipe below!) or with (pumpkin-flavored) coffee in the morning.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 T pumpkin spice

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

For the crumble topping:

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 T butter (melted)

2 T flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9X9 inch pan with cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined, pour into pan. Mix the crumble toppings together and pour evenly over the bread batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Flourless Pumpkin Muffins

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Here is a simple muffin recipe for my gluten free lovers out there. Even if you are a gluten glutton like I am, I promise you won’t be disappointed with these.

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

4 T almond butter

1/4 milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

2 1/4 cups oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (if desired- I most definitely desire this ingredient!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 12-muffin pan or line with paper liners. I typically make mini muffins, in that case you can use 2 mini pans to make 24 muffins. Starting with the wet ingredients first, layer everything except the chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until smooth. You can also use a blender, but a food processor is much easier. Stir the chocolate chips into the batter. Pour into the pans and cook for about 22 minutes.

Pumpkin Smoothie

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Easy and delicious, perfect for on the go snacking. My 2 year old loves these! The ingredients make a pretty tall drink, so we usually split it or put some in the fridge for later (can keep up to 24 hours). Blend together 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1 large banana, 3 Tbsp milk (we use unsweetened vanilla almond milk), 6oz Greek vanilla yogurt (you can use regular if you desire, the Greek provides more protein), 1 tsp agave nectar, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 6 ice cubes and a pinch of nutmeg. Yum! For all my fellow runners, this is a great recovery drink as well for those long fall runs.

Pumpkin Energy Balls

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I revealed this recipe in a previous blog post, just added pumpkin to the mix! You can find the original recipe here. I changed it slightly for this particular post, but if you want to use the old recipe and just add 1/2 cup pumpkin you can.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin

1 1/2 cups oats

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup peanut butter (you can use almond or soy butter if desired)

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix together ingredients and form into balls. Put in freezer to allow to set. Let thaw for about 10-15 minutes before serving. Yum! Great for on the go breakfasts or snacks. A great replacement to cookies!

Pumpkin Hummus

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You’ll need your food processor for this one! Hummus has become a food group for my two year old (she eats it by the spoonful) so I’ve started making my own. Homemade hummus is less processed and is also cheaper! Pumpkin hummus is a fun flavor for fall and tastes great with whole grain or regular pita chips. We also like to dip sliced bell peppers in it.

Ingredients:

1 can pumpkin puree

1 can chickpeas

2 cloves garlic

2 T tahini paste

1 T olive oil

2 1/2 T lemon juice

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

Place all in food processor and blend until smooth. You can use this recipe to make your own hummus year round too, just leave out the pumpkin if you would like!

Pumpkin Pie Dip

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A great appetizer for fall parties, this is a fun fruit dip perfect for dipping apples, pears and and cinnamon flavored pita chips. It’s easy to make too! Mix together 1 can of pumpkin, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/8 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Mix in 6 oz of Greek yogurt then fold in 8 oz of whipped cream. It’s heavenly.

Pumpkin Chili

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I love chili weather! This pumpkin chili is fantastic and the aromas it fills your house with while it’s cooking won’t disappoint!

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lbs grass feed beef or bison

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 can of pumpkin

1 cup chicken broth (or you can just use water if desired)

2 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 T chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

Heat a large pot over the stove. Add oil and saute onion and pepper until onions begin to soften (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook an extra 8-10 minutes, breaking up the beef into crumbles as it cooks. Transfer meat mixture into crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 6-7 hours on low.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal

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I eat a lot of oatmeal on cool mornings. So on cool fall mornings I eat….(duh)…pumpkin oatmeal! It’s easy to make and has a ton of fiber to keep you full throughout the morning. Just heat a saucepan over the stove and add 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk) and just a dash of sugar to taste. Sometimes I add just a pinch of brown sugar or coconut sugar, other times I use 1/2 pack of Stevia.

Have a happy fall y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few of my favorite things

I have a few essentials when it comes to stocking my kitchen. My grocery list varies week to week based on what I plan to cook, and I always buy a lot of fresh produce. Here are some things that I’ve grown to love over the years, that almost always make it into my grocery cart.

Love Crunch granola

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There is absolutely nothing healthy about this granola. Okay wait- it’s non-GMO- so that counts for something. I also like that I can read and understand all the ingredients it’s made of so I know exactly what is going into my body. This granola is loaded with dark chocolate chunks, peanuts and peanut butter. It’s sweetened with honey and a little bit of cane sugar. I love to add just a little bit of this to plain yogurt for a sweet snack- for me it’s kind of like a better alternative to a Reese’s peanut butter cup. This granola also comes in a Hawaiian flavor (dried pineapple, coconut and white chocolate) which does not disappoint.

La Croix

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I am a recovering diet coke addict. I love and appreciate the taste of plain water but sometimes I just need something carbonated. It was a tough switch to make at first but as long as my La Croix is ice-cold I love it. Mango and passion fruit are my favorites right now.

The Good Bean

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I always have at least 3-4 bags of these laying around. They come in so many flavors- bbq, lemongrass coconut, sea salt, cinnamon and Bombay spice just to name a few. I am obsessed with these dried chickpeas. I use them for everything- I eat them out of the bag as a snack, I add them to salads and the sweeter flavors I may add to yogurt. People always ask me where to buy these. You can find them in the health food section at most grocery stores. The weird thing is so far I’ve found the largest variety at Rite Aid- so whenever I’m getting a prescription filled I stock up. I’ve also found a lot of flavors at Sprouts and The Fresh Market.

 

Coffee and Tea

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Pumpkin spice season is here people. There is nothing that gets me more excited than pumpkin coffee. I love drinking Chai tea in the cooler months too. All I do is add a splash of coconut milk or almond milk to these hot beverages and they’re good to go.

Chips and Guac

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These chips were a find from Kroger and I love them. They are made with beans (more fiber and protein) yet still taste amazing. The lime flavor goes great with guacamole. I’m a sucker for homemade guacamole but if I’m in a hurry this stuff is second best. The best part- there are veggies in the guacamole! If you don’t like veggies but love guacamole, this may be a good way to sneak them in.

Crackers and hummus

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This is always a go-to snack for me, but sometimes I can make a lunch out of it if I add cheese slices or my dried chickpeas and some sort of fruit. I’m boring and usually just get the plain hummus- I really like Kroger’s simple truth brand. The crackers I buy are usually Blue Diamond Nut-Thins. They are made with just a few ingredients, namely almonds, brown rice and flaxseeds. They are gluten free and a good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.

Skinny Sticks

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I don’t eat them for my waistline, I eat them because they’re crunchy (can you tell I really like crunchy foods??) and they taste good. I keep a bag of these in the car to keep Carli occupied when we’re driving home from errands or the gym. I’ll do anything to keep her awake and avoid the dreaded late morning car nap- which is always a recipe for a miserable afternoon.

Halo Ice-cream

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A good friend of mine posted this picture on social media and I thought that there is no way this ice-cream can actually taste good. I’ve been burned badly by low-calorie ice-cream in the past (sorry Artic Freeze) and my motto has always been to just enjoy the real stuff in small quantities. But let’s be real, eating ice-cream in small quantities is hard. Really hard. I decided to try this stuff and was blown away with how good it actually was. And bonus- made with lots of all-natural organic ingredients! Blue Bell is still my favorite, but this comes in at a close second.

A Good Day Starts with Breakfast

Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day. It’s true! Breakfast provides the fuel your body needs to get you energized for the day. It provides your brain with the nutrients it needs to tackle tasks throughout the day, whether it be taking a test for school, making important decisions at work, or managing little ones at home. It’s important to start your day with a healthy breakfast- sorry folks doughnuts don’t count! Sugary breakfasts will rapidly increase your blood sugar but then you will crash and feel lethargic throughout the rest of the morning. Try getting some good fat, an ample amount of protein and some healthy carbs in your breakfast. Here are three of my favorite breakfast dishes that I have been eating quite a lot of this summer.

Oats with Greek yogurt and fruit

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I heat up 1/4 cup of oats and add about 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt. I add a handful of blueberries and sprinkled some chia seeds and cinnamon on top. Sometimes I add different fruits depending on what is in season or what we have around the house. There is no added sugar to this breakfast but the fruit and cinnamon make it naturally sweet! This breakfast keeps me full throughout the morning AND gives me the energy I need for early long runs (I’m running my next marathon this fall and am getting to the peak of my training). I used to make my yogurt with granola instead of oats but have found that the oats to be a better alternative because they are more filling and do not have any added sugars.

Veggie omelet with avocado and berries 

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To make my omelets I use 1-2 whole eggs and mix with some egg whites to give it some more volume. If I use 1 egg I add 1/2 cup eggs whites, if I use 2 eggs I add 1/4 cup egg whites. First I saute a handful of spinach, chopped red and green peppers, onion and mushrooms. When the veggies are soft I remove them from the pan and add the eggs. Once the eggs start to form in the pan I add the veggies and fold the eggs into an omelet. I cook the omelet an additional 2-3 minutes and serve with avocado slices and berries. All of the fat and protein in this breakfast keeps me full for hours! If you are trying to lose weight this is a great breakfast idea. More healthy fats and protein and less processed and refined carbohydrates are what help set the stage for weight loss.

Smoothies

I'm not the only one who loves massive green smoothies!

I’m not the only one who loves massive green smoothies!

I make smoothies pretty much every Wednesday and Friday morning. I commute into Atlanta on these days and need a breakfast I can eat in the car. I have a smoothie base and mix it up based on what I feel like drinking that morning.

  • handful of spinach and/or kale
  • shredded carrots
  • scoop of greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • frozen fruit (my favorite combos include mangoes and peaches, mixed berries, strawberry and banana, blueberries and banana)
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed, hemp seeds or chia seeds

I will usually grab a KIND granola bar or an energy ball to eat with my smoothie. It’s always a breakfast I look forward to!

I hope everyone has a great start to the new school year!

 

This crazy life we live and how it’s affecting our health

Life can just be crazy sometimes. Okay let’s be real- it’s crazy ALL the time. We live in a world of unrealistic standards and expectations, and the demands we place on our bodies to meet them is exhausting us. The pressure is on to get the next pay raise or promotion, raise our kids to be the smartest and most talented, keep the house clean, drive our big kids to a million different activities, fill our little kid’s down time with never-ending Pinterest-inspired activities (because simple playing just isn’t good enough anymore) and finally… try get a good night’s sleep. And of course sleep is nearly impossible when all the things that need to be done are swirling around in our brains and just can’t be shut off. No wonder we’re tired! Sometimes I feel as if life is on fast forward and I just want to hit the pause button. But there’s no time for that! Right?!

It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness that life brings, but a lot of the time we just don’t have a choice. The laundry needs to get done. We need to meet deadlines at work. The grass needs to be mowed. If you have big kids you may have to help with homework, drive them to practices and get them off to school in the morning. With all the stuff that builds up during the day, I think the word “relax” has left our vocabulary. A lot of the time I will find myself thinking- okay, just need to get x, y and z done. Then I can relax! Haha nice try. There is always something to do.

Stress just sucks. It’s draining, it’s bad for our health and it just makes us crazy. Stress can set the stage for inflammation which is a precursor for most chronic health conditions (such as heart disease and diabetes). From a nutrition standpoint, it can affect the way we digest our foods, worsen irritable bowel syndrome and can deplete our bodies of nutrients (see post on leaky gut syndrome). From a mind-body health perspective, it can worsen our moods and reduce the production of serotonin and dopamine (feel- good chemicals our body makes).

Managing stress is just as important as putting healthy foods in your body. Health is multi-dimensional and nutrition is just one aspect. You can eat a perfect diet but if your body is chronically stressed you are still going to have low energy levels, digestion issues and a multitude of other health issues if it isn’t addressed correctly.

Don't we all need a little more of this in our lives?!

Don’t we all need a little more of this in our lives?!

Here are some ways that I would recommend to more effectively manage stress:

  1. Say No.

You don’t have to live to please everyone. You also don’t have to commit to everything. Is your activities calendar looking a little crazy? Are you finding yourself missing out on things you enjoy or losing quality time with family and friends because you have too many commitments? If you’re a parent, this goes for your kids too. It’s great for kids to be involved in extracurriculars, but if you have four kids and they are each involved in 3 different sports plus music class and drama class, plus they have homework to get done every night…you get the idea. Do everyone a favor and put a limit to the craziness.

2. Realize that we live in a world of impossible standards and move on.

 I think the social media world has put so many new pressures and expectations on moms (and everyone else for that matter) that are nearly impossible to meet. This generation of moms is just downright mean! No matter what we do for our kids, we are doing something wrong and someone will call us out on it. Of course when it comes to safety that’s a completely different issue, but kids will survive if their baby food isn’t homemade and I’m sure their cancer risk will be just as high from walking outside and breathing the “fresh” air as it would from using a certain brand of sunscreen or bath soap. Let’s just all agree that we love our kids and that our love for them isn’t compromised just because we have a different opinion on bedtimes and the brand of milk we buy them.

3. Exercise.

Exercise produces endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that make you feel energized and happy. Exercise helps you sleep better which in turn gives you a more alert mind and enhances cognitive function. Enough said.

4. Put away the processed foods and reach for the good stuff.

Eating sugar-laden junk food may be easy to reach for when we are stressed out, but it actually makes the situation worse. Processed food promotes inflammation which creates more stress on our bodies. Don’t restrict calories either because that can increase cortisol levels (which are already high during stressful times) which can promote weight gain and fat storage. Fill your diet with healthy fats like avocado, fish oils, nuts and seeds along with nutrient dense fruits, veggies and lean proteins. You’ll have more energy and your body will be in healthier state to manage stress.

5. Sleep!!!

Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, decisions about food (being sleep-deprived will make you more likely to grab something sugary), hormone balance, metabolism and activity levels. It can make you more irritable and make your stress levels even worse.

6. Get a good support system.

Sometimes you just need to vent. Or you just need a mediator to help you reason. Having a safe support system, whether this be friends, family or colleagues is crucial. They can provide a listening ear to help you sort through your feelings and may even help you make a tough decision or provide encouragement.

7. Allow for some flexibility.

Life never goes as planned. For us type-A planners, that’s a tough lesson to learn. I usually get through this by praying and understanding that no matter what, God is in control. You may do the same, or just create a more positive outlook around change. Look for the pros in every situation, not just the cons.

8. Get some ME time.

There is no shame in doing something for yourself every now and then. It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re a career person or spend your time at home raising kids, you need personal relaxation time. I used to feel guilty when our families would come into town and offer to take care of Carli so I could get things done. Even…gasp!…leave the house by myself!! Now I’m all for it. Accept help graciously and shamelessly where and when you need it and get some time to pamper yourself. You deserve it.

9. Deep breathing.

Deep breathing increases oxygen supply to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to promote a state of calmness. Engaging in deep breathing techniques can help to relieve tension and can make you feel more relaxed. Find out how to correctly do breathing exercises here.

10. Manage your time- it’s okay to schedule in some relaxing time!

When we live in a world this busy, sometimes to keep our sanity everything has to be scheduled. Try to schedule in relaxing time for yourself. Try to find a time during the day when the whole family can be together to talk about the events of the day and just unwind. Dinner is usually a good time for this. This is important. Remember, if your schedule doesn’t allow for any sort of down time throughout the week you may want to consider cutting back on commitments.

Now take a deep breath…and have a nice relaxing rest of the summer!