Eating for Two

I would have to say that one of the biggest differences between this pregnancy and my first is that I’m a lot less strict about what I’m eating. The first time around I cut caffeine cold turkey, obsessed about calories (was I  getting too little? Too much?) and tried to avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible.  I was so worried that the smallest glitch in my diet would produce a baby who wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t want to be responsible for doing anything to potentially harm her.

Now even though I still make sure I’m eating as healthy as possible to give both myself and my growing baby the nutrients we need, I’ve definitely learned that balance is okay. I’m also trying to not focus so hard on what I shouldn’t be eating, and more on what I should be eating. When I know I can’t have something, it makes me want it even more. All I want is a deli sandwich for lunch and a large plate of sushi with wine for dinner. Why is it that the foods I know I can’t have are the ones I crave the most??

Most OB doctors and midwives spend a good deal of time talking with expecting mothers about the foods that are off limits. Rarely is there time spent on reviewing the foods and nutrients that bring benefits to expecting mothers and babies- even though it’s just as important!

Pregnancy is a time of high metabolic and nutrition demands. It’s important to remember that even though you are feeding both yourself and baby, the baby is not the size of another adult. Calorie needs are higher during pregnancy, but you don’t need to literally “eat for two.” Conversely, it’s important to meet the higher calorie needs to support a healthy growing environment for your baby. Eating too little can cause intrauterine growth restriction, low birth-weight, and may even set metabolic markers in place that results in the baby being more likely to become obese as an adult. There’s evidence that if that baby’s not getting adequate nutrition in utero, it causes their tiny bodies to think they will have very little to survive on. This can result in their metabolism being impacted long term. A poor diet during pregnancy can also put the baby at risk for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease later in life. So what can you do to make sure you are giving your growing baby and body everything it needs?

What you need

Folic Acid

This important nutrient is found in all prenatal supplements. In fact, it’s role in neural tube defect prevention is largely why practitioners say taking a prenatal vitamin is so important! I actually recommend that women of childbearing age aim to get an ample amount of folic acid in their diets, either from foods or a supplement, before trying to get pregnant. The reason? Because of the amount of development that happens in those first few weeks post-conception, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t folic acid deficient from the start. Food sources of folic acid include orange juice, fortified cereals, beans, lentils, leafy greens, and whole grains.

Iron

Iron needs are high during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, fetal development, and the possibility of blood loss during delivery. Iron needs increase as the pregnancy progresses. It’s important for proper brain function, especially in the development of the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory formation and emotional regulation). Because the baby’s brain experiences a growth spurt in the 3rd trimester and then relies on iron stores obtained in utero to sustain growth for the first sixth months of life, consistent and adequate iron intake is essential during pregnancy. Children who aren’t exposed to enough iron prenatally have been shown to have poor cognitive and motor skill development due to improper gray-matter organization. Iron-deficient children tend to suffer learning and behavioral problems and also show abnormal cognitive development into their late teens.

Iron is found in a variety of plant and animal foods as well. The type of iron found in animal foods (red meat, seafood) is referred to as heme iron, and is absorbed best by our bodies. Nonheme iron is found in many plant foods, the best sources being spinach and other leafy greens, dried fruits, beans and peas, tofu, seeds, nuts, soy milk and fortified breakfast cereals. Nonheme iron has a decreased rate of absorption by the body, so if you are getting most of your iron from non-animal sources try consuming a good source of Vitamin C in the same meal. The acidity will help to absorb the iron. Avoid consuming nonheme iron sources with foods high in tannins and phytate (coffee, tea, bran, soy and pinto beans, potatoes) because they compete for absorption and reduce iron availability. Iron isn’t commonly found in prenatal supplements, since the calcium found in these will bind to it and reduce absorption. If you are anemic you may need to take an iron supplement throughout your pregnancy.

Calcium

Calcium absorption is increased in pregnancy, which typically results in positive calcium balance. You will still want to get calcium from food sources, because prenatal supplements only provide about 500mg (the maximum amount that can be absorbed by the body at once). Aim for at least 2 extra servings of calcium per day. Aside from cow’s milk, good sources include yogurt, leafy greens, beans, soy/nut/rice/hemp milk and fortified juices and cereals.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is currently the focus of ongoing research. It has been suspected to be linked to preeclampsia, low birth weight, poor postnatal growth and higher incidence of autoimmune disease in babies. The best food sources of Vitamin D is oily fish, fortified foods (some dairy products, soy milk, cereals), egg yolks and cheese.

Omega-3’s

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is a necessary part of cell membranes and is important for brain development. Babies born with higher umbilical cord plasma levels of DHA have been found to have higher memory function once they are school-age. Sources of DHA  include fatty fish (salmon, herring, anchovy), fish oils, and fortified egg and dairy products. ALA is a fatty acid that is converted to DHA, and is found in flax seed, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola oil and leafy greens. The conversion of ALA to DHA can be reduced by having an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Sources of omega-6 fats include animal meats, eggs and vegetables oils (corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower). Aim for obtaining fats from DHA and ALA sources, and less from omega-6 sources.

My favorite lunch- salmon with salad and quinoa. The quinoa isn’t fancy, it’s straight out of a steamable bag found at Target. BUT it tastes amazing!

 

Strive for balance and variety

Eating a well balanced diet when pregnant may result in having a child who’s more inclined to try and accept a larger variety of foods. Around 21 weeks post conception, babies start talking gulps of the amniotic fluid surrounding them- and it actually tastes like the foods and beverages mom has consumed in the past couple of hours! It was hard for me to pass up sweets in my first pregnancy- and my firstborn loves them (but then again, what kid doesn’t love sugar??). But she also loves and is willing to eat about any vegetable I put in front of her. Something else I ate a lot of when I was pregnant with her!

To make sure you are getting the most balance and variety in your diet as possible when pregnant, aim for lots of color in your meal. The more colorful your meal, the more nutritious it is! Try to avoid an all brown or all white plate. I know this can be hard in the first trimester- I lived off buttered pasta and bread for two months straight! Once the nausea wears off and food tastes good again, really try to focus on that good nutrition. It’s when it matters the most.

BLT and homemade sweet potato fries. My favorite summer meal. I crave bacon when I’m pregnant!

You’ll want to ask yourself each meal if you are getting all of the major nutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein). Aim for carbohydrates that are high in fiber like fruits and whole grains. Reach for lean proteins and healthy fats. I know I feel much more energetic when I eat a healthy balanced meal- especially in that 3rd trimester! With my last baby, it was extremely difficult to eat a full meal once I was past 30 weeks. Especially since I  was so pregnant in the heat of the summer! I have a short torso, and eating the littlest bit made me feel overly full. Instead of focusing on meals, I tried to make the most out of snacking. I would snack about once every 1-2 hours, still incorporating a variety of all the major nutrients. Smoothies were my best friend! Much easier to eat spinach and fruits blended together with flaxseed than making myself eat a big salad or heavy meal.

Balance doesn’t just mean eating that perfect plate. It’s about treating yourself a little bit too! My sweet tooth definitely comes out when I’m pregnant, and it can be hard to control at times. I remember having one of those huge cupcakes from a food truck in Austin, TX when I was about 27 weeks pregnant with Carli. I told myself I would only eat 1/2 and finish the rest later, but I couldn’t stop from eating the whole thing. It was delicious and Carli seemed to enjoy it too- the gymnastics she did in my belly from the sugar rush kept me up until almost 2AM that night!

My love for cupcakes passed through to her in utero

Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing what you can to provide the best nutrition for yourself and your growing baby. I’ve definitely had to give up the guilt I’ve had for not passing up my morning coffee or being too tired to make anything other than a bowl of cereal for dinner (or..ahem..ice-cream) some nights. I just make sure that 80-90%  of the time I’m filling my body with the best nutrition I can give it- and in just 13 more weeks, I’ll be enjoying that big plate of sushi and tall glass of red.

 

 

Real Fruit Popsicles

Last weekend I took Carli to pick strawberries for the first time this season. Unfortunately, most of the berries were either not ripe enough or very close to being too ripe. It’s early in the picking season so hopefully later this spring there will be a better selection. Carli loves to fill up her bucket, so we had a pretty good quantity of strawberries to bring home that were only edible for a few days. 

I decided to freeze most of them to put into smoothies later on. I recently purchased Popsicle molds from Amazon and had promised Carli we would make our own popsicles soon. I thought it may be fun to try and make popsicles out of some of the fresh strawberries that were starting to become over-ripe. It was something my two year-old could easily help me with, and it was pretty cool to teach her how to make something with one of the freshest ingredients possible- fresh fruit that she picked from the ground herself!

First, I sliced the strawberries into small pieces. Then I let Carli fill each mold to the top with the berries.

After the molds were full with strawberries, I added lemonade to the top of the molds to fill the spaces between the berries. I froze them overnight, but they only took about 4 hours to set.

They were definitely a hit! I felt good about letting her eat them for a treat the next afternoon- much lower in added sugars than the popsicles you would find at the grocery store. Another option would be to add yogurt instead of lemonade to hold the berries together- we are going to try that next time! Maybe I can trick Carli into thinking it’s ice-cream.

 

 

Here’s some other combinations that may be worth trying:

Kiwi, peaches and strawberries with fruit juice of choice (dilute the juice for less sugar)

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with vanilla yogurt or grape juice (this would be perfect for a Memorial Day or 4th of July treat!)

Blueberries and Greek yogurt

Oranges, pineapple and grapefruit with orange or pineapple juice

Chicken Salad Obsessed

The weather is getting warmer, and there’s nothing I love more for a spring/summer lunch (or in my case these days, even a snack) than chicken salad. Lately it’s been one of my biggest cravings and I’ve made several trips to Zoe’s, Chicken Salad Chick and Sprouts to grab a container to have in my fridge at all times. Zoe’s chicken salad was one of Carli’s first foods, and she’s loved it ever since (although there’s not many foods that child doesn’t love). I’ve been wanting to make my own for awhile now to control the ingredients that are going into it, especially since I’m pregnant and also because my two year old will eat so much of it. Only the best for my growing girls! I’ve seen recipes for homemade mayonnaise, and I always intended to use a homemade mayo to put into my chicken salad. At the last minute I decided against the homemade mayo and opted for a mayonnaise that was store bought. I’m all about quick and easy!

After some trial and error, here are my 3 favorite chicken salad recipes that I will be sure to make over and over again this summer. The mayo I used in these recipes can be found here. The only ingredients are avocado oil, organic cage-free eggs and yolks, organic vinegar, organic rosemary and sea salt. It’s sold at our local Publix, and I’m sure you can find it at most large grocery stores or health food stores (such as Sprouts or Whole Foods). It’s a little more expensive than Hellmann’s or Kraft, but the ingredients are definitely higher in quality. If you want to make your own mayo (less expensive but a little more time consuming), here is a good recipe.

Greek Chicken Salad

This is super easy to make, and most closely resembles your typical chicken salad. We had friends come to visit over the weekend, and they loved it!

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cooked chicken breasts (shredded) or you can use chicken from about 1/2 a rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1.5 cups sliced red grapes
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Greek seasoning (see recipe below)

Directions: 

Mix the mayo and Greek seasoning together. Blend with remaining ingredients. Serve with crackers or on top a bed of salad greens.

 

Greek Seasoning Recipe

Mix the following herbs together. Store in an airtight container- you can use this later for a Greek chicken recipe! Yum!

  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tsp onion powder
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion flakes
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

 

Avocado Chicken Salad

If you love avocado, I promise you will love this. The avocado replaces the mayo in the chicken salad and it’s delicious.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (again you can also use about 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 avocado (ripe enough to mash)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash the avocado and mix with all other ingredients. This tastes really good on top of toasted bread or pita chips.

 

Herb Chicken Salad

This resembles a type of chicken salad I love from Publix. It has a light taste and is delicious. I was able to sneak some veggies into it too, which was a bonus!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (again you can also use about 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

Stir together the mayo, mustard, dill, parsley, and garlic until smooth. Add the chicken, green onion and carrots. Enjoy!

 

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!