Seasonal Eats | August

Eating seasonal produce is not only cheaper, but it's also tastier too! You may be able to find berries in stores come November, but have you ever tasted them? Not nearly as good as during the summer months, right?

This is because in order to get those berries, they had to be chilled and shipped from who-knows-where! Preparing for their long journey ahead, these berries were picked early so that they could fully ripen in transit, rather than on the vine.

These berries not only lack the taste and appearance of their sun-ripened counterparts, they're also lacking vital nutrients! Plants get their nourishment from the sun and soil. Seasonally fresh produce is picked when they're ripe and fully developed. These plants have had more sun exposure, which means they will also have higher levels of antioxidants!

And finally, by eating produce when it is in season, you will also be ensuring that your body is getting a variety of important vitamins and minerals. Sure, eating broccoli is great, but not when that's you're only vegetable! Try zucchini in the summer, sweet potato in the winter, and mushrooms in the spring. Matching your eating habits to the time of year will not only ensure better tasting produce, but a more nutritionally-packed variety as well. 

So, with all of these reasons to eat seasonally, you may be wondering "Okay, so what's in season now?" Well, I'm glad you asked! Today marks the first day of August and there is all sorts of delicious produce in season.

What's In Season in August?

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Dates
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Okra
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Sorrel
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon 

Just to name a few ;) Hopefully this list will give you a few ideas for some yummy summer meals! 

Crispy Zucchini Chips

Summer is here and with that comes an abundance of fresh summer produce. Berries, avocados, corn, cherries, peaches, watermelon, tomatoes...the list goes on! My personal favorite summer produce is summer squash AKA zucchini. 

"Summer squash is a very good source of vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B1, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, choline, and protein."

Not only does it provide a multitude of health benefits, but zucchini and other summer squashes are incredibly versatile! They make it easy to sneak veggies into your diet and/or lower carbs if that's your goal. Check out these recipes for zucchini spaghetti and zucchini oatmeal that we've made in the past!

My new personal favorite way to prepare zucchini has been to make chips out of them! With the help of just a little seasoning and some oil, this squash turns into a deliciously crispy snack without the guilt! Vegan, gluten free, paleo, low carb, you name it! Everyone can enjoy this summer snack :)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tsp olive oil (or oil of choice, cooking spray works too!)
  • seasoning to taste

Directions 

*This recipe uses a dehydrator, continue below for an oven-friendly version

  1. Slice zucchini with a mandolin or some other uniform slicer. You will want your zucchini to be sliced evenly and thin. Cutting them by hand probably won't do it.
  2. Toss zucchini with oil (if using) and seasoning.
  3. Place evenly, in a single layer, on your dehydrator trays.
  4. Allow to cook for approximately 5-10 hours (depending on how thick your slices are) at 125 F. 

Oven-Friendly Version

Cook in an oven set at 250 F for about one hour. Check every 15 minutes. For the first 15 minutes, leave the door slightly cracked to allow steam and moisture to escape.

~Mandy

Healthy Frozen Summer Treats

Some things just don't need to be over-complicated... like when it's hot outside you simply want a cool and refreshing treat. Look no further... I have put together some of my favorites for your enjoyment... and something the whole family will be bound to love!

Frozen Grapes

* Full of antioxidants and vitamins!

  • Ingredients
    • Grapes.... That is literally it! (I prefer using the purple ones because they are sweeter)
  • Directions
    • pull the grapes off the stems, wash, dry and place in freezer-friendly tupperware or ziplock bag in the freezer.
    • Once frozen you can enjoy them as a delicious and succulent treat!

 

Dark Chocolate Dipped Bananas

*Full of potassium, protein and antioxidants!

  • Ingredients
    • 4 oz dark chocolate
    • 1 frozen banana (cut into chunks)
    • chopped nuts, such as walnuts or peanuts (optional)
    • 2 TB peanut butter (optional)
  • Directions
    • cut up a banana into bite sized pieces and place in the freezer overnight
    • line a freezer-safe container with wax paper
    • melt the dark chocolate in a small cooking pot over low heat
    • use a dollop of peanut butter to meld two pieces of banana together (optional step)
    • Dip the frozen banana pieces into the melted dark chocolate one at a time
    • set them in the container lined with wax paper
    • Sprinkle the nut mix over the chocolate before it hardens (also optional, depending on personal preference, dietary restrictions, or allergies)
    • place in the freezer and enjoy their decadent goodness once they are frozen!

 

Orange Creamsicles

* Full of vitamins, probiotics and protein!

  • Ingredients
    • 1 cup of orange juice
    • ½ cup of low fat or plain yogurt
    • 2 teaspoons of honey
    • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Directions
    • Mix the orange juice, yogurt, honey and vanilla in a blender and blend together until smooth.
    • Pour the mix into popsicle molds, filling each 3/4 of the way. (small dixie cups with popsicle sticks can work as well)
    • Freeze the creamsicle in the freezer.
    • Once frozen remove from the freezer and enjoy!

 

Now.... it is time to cool off, pick a favorite, and enjoy a wholesome treat!

 

Health is wealth!

~Julie


 

Healthy Fourth of July Recipes

Happy Fourth of July everyone! I hope you're spending today celebrating with friends and loved ones, enjoying your day off, and having a blast :)

If you're out barbecuing today or you'd just like some great (healthy) BBQ recipes for another time, look no further! We've compiled a list of some delicious recipes for Fourth of July that you can enjoy all summer long. (Click the links below to go directly to the recipes)

Mains

Healthy Rice Krispie Treats (Vegan and Gluten Free!)

Rice krispie treats were always a childhood favorite of mine, but as I grew up I came to realize they weren't necessarily "appropriate" for an adult to consume. I must say, sometimes I still get those cravings though! So in order to crush those cravings, I have come up with a MUCH healthier homemade version of rice krispie treats.

My version only uses 4-5 ingredients, it's vegan, has a high-protein option, and it can easily be made gluten free :) So much better tasting (and better for you) than the traditional rice krispies made with butter and marshmallows! 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups crisp rice cereal*
  • 1/2 cup protein powder of choice (optional)
  • 1/4 nut butter of choice
  • 1/2 cup honey**
  • 1 tbs coconut oil

Method

  1. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together cereal and protein powder. Set aside.
  3. Add nut butter, honey, and coconut oil to a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until boiling. Make sure to stir constantly so that it doesn't burn! Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Add honey mixture to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, add to prepared baking dish, pressing down firmly, and allow to cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Slice into 12 equal pieces, drizzle dark chocolate over top if desired, and serve!

*Make sure to use certified gluten-free rice cereal for gluten free version **Use maple syrup or brown rice syrup in place of honey for vegan-friendly option

These little bars are the perfect sweet treat! And best of all, they're made with real ingredients AND have added protein that helps you feeling full and satisfied. I highly recommend trying them! Especially with a little dark chocolate drizzle ;)

 

Healthy Food Choices for When You're on the Road

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and it's time for a road trip. Fun! But what about your diet? Or just your health in general? When traveling, we're often only left with fast food and convenience stores for meal options, and we all know how notoriously unhealthy they can be. But it doesn't have to be! Even the 7-11 in the middle of the desert will likely have at least one healthy(ish) option, and you can always bring food from home! 

Travel Snacks From Home

When deciding what to bring from home, you not only want healthy options, but foods that are temperature and "squish" resistant. A hot mushy banana that's been sitting in the car all day may be nutritious, but no one is going to want to eat it! Here are some healthy options that you can pack on your next road trip:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies (baby carrots, oranges, apples, sugar snap peas etc.)
  • Dried and freeze dried fruits
  • Nuts and seeds, or trail mix without chocolate (delicious, but a mess if it melts!)
  • string cheese (they sometimes have a tendency to "sweat", but they're still good)
  • Pretzels and whole grain crackers 
  • Individual peanut butter and/or hummus cups
  • Applesauce pouches
  • and of course..WATER

Convenience Store Options

Most convenience stores are actually getting much better with providing healthier snack options. Many gas stations have began offering fresh fruits, veggies, and many of the other snacks listed above. Obviously if you can bring them from home, you will likely save a lot of money, but it's nice knowing that there are still options! Plus, for longer road trips, you can stop in for refrigerated items and eat them right away, without worrying about them going bad or getting hot from sitting in the car.

  • any of the snacks listed above
  • jerky (not the healthiest snack, but high in protein and filling!)
  • greek yogurt
  • protein bars and other whole grain snack bars
  • hard boiled eggs
  • coffee for those long, late night trips ;)
  • and again...WATER

Fast Food Options

Obviously fast food is not the ideal choice, but when you're on the road, sometimes its the only option for a real meal. Don't fret though, there are still plenty of relatively healthy options at most fast food restaurants! And when in doubt, don't be afraid to custom order. Choose lean meats that are grilled vs fried, lots of (steamed) veggies if possible, and dressing/sauces on the side. Here are a few examples of healthier fast food options you can get while on the road:

  • McDonald's
    • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
    • Egg White Delight McMuffin
    • Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
    • apple slices, cuties, side salad
  • Denny's 
  • Burger King
    • TenderGrill Chicken Sandwich, no mayo
    • Morningstar Veggie Burger, no mayo
    • Garden Grilled Chicken Salad
  • Starbucks
    • Black coffee/unsweetened tea
    • Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal
    • Spinach and  Feta Breakfast Wrap
    • Zesty Chicken and Black Bean Salad Bowl

These are just a few of the many choices out there for healthy road trip foods. But as always, the trip is about having FUN. Don't stress about your diet too much, just enjoy the time you have with friends, family, and loved ones :)

~Mandy

The Do's and Don't's for a Healthy Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is just a few short days away, and for most it marks the unofficial start of summer! This often means festive gatherings with friends and family, full of chips and dip, burgers, and ice cold beer. You may be worried about the toll this may take on your body and the dress size you worked to hard to reach just in time for summer. Don't worry, you're not the only one! That's why I have come up with some helpful Do's and Don't's of how to enjoy all that summer has to offer, while staying healthy :)

DO Look For Healthy Options OR Bring them Along

Summer barbecues are often full of burgers, hot dogs, chips, and mayo-laden "salads". But that doesn't mean that there aren't healthier options too!  Fresh fruit, corn on the cob, lean grilled meats, veggie skewers etc. are all great options. 

But what if none of those are available? Ask the host, and offer to bring something yourself! Most people will be more than happy to let you contribute and you'll know there will be at least one healthy option to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite summertime recipes that would be great to bring along:

DON'T Starve Yourself All Day

A common mistake a lot of people make when they know that they are going to indulge later in the day, is starving themselves up until then in an attempt to save calories. Unfortunately, by the time the party or BBQ roles around, you are so hungry that all your self control goes out the window! Rather than filling up on healthier options and sampling a few, more indulgent items, you end up eating everything in site. It's a much better idea to eat lighter leading up to the party, making sure to get plenty of protein and veggies, and then eat mindfully while you're there. 

DO Stay Hydrated and Drink Responsibly 

As tempting as that ice cold beer might be to quench your thirst on a hot summer day, it's important to remember that drinks have calories too and they can quickly add up! Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and with water-rich fruits and veggies like watermelon, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Check out our most recent blog article from earlier this week for some helpful tips on staying hydrated this summer. And if you want to indulge in that bubbly soda or frozen margarita, go for it! Just make sure to enjoy in moderation, keep drinking your water as well, and maybe have arrangements for a ride home ;)

DO Get Active

Take advantage of the sunny, warm weather and get active! Hit the beach for a walk, ride your bike around the neighborhood, go for a swim, play a game of tag with your kids, the possibilities are endless! And if it gets too hot, maybe a friendly water balloon fight to cool off. Just don't forget your sunscreen! 

DO HAVE FUN

Because this is ultimately the point anyway! Don't spend too much time worrying about the food,  just enjoy yourself. Get active or relax, surround yourself with family and friends, or stay home and pamper yourself. Whatever you do, do it for yourself, and have fun! 

~Mandy

 

 

Vanilla Caramel Protein Cookies

Are you struggling to get enough protein per day? Or are you just looking for a healthier dessert alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth? If so, this recipe may be perfect for you! 

Vanilla caramel cookies that are only 50 calories each! Not to mention, they have over 6 grams of protein per cookie. You could easily eat the entire batch for only 300 calories and 38 grams of protein. That's better than a cookie you'll find anywhere else! 

A typical chocolate cookie is easily twice as many calories with negligible protein. And the protein cookies on the market? They're no better,! Averaging about 380-400 calories and 16 grams of protein for only one cookie. 

You may be wondering how this recipe is so high in protein, but still lower in calories AND tastes good. The secret ingredient? Beans. Yes, you read that right! Beans not only provide a healthy dose of protein and fiber, but they create an amazing, soft texture that helps form the base of these cookies. It may sound weird, but trust me, it works ;)

Vanilla Caramel Protein Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white beans, drained and rinsed (navy, garbanzo, butter etc.)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tbs egg whites (or one fresh egg white)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein (I used BPI Vanilla Caramel Whey)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Sweetener of choice (optional)*
  • Chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended)

The amount/kind of sweetener you use is really up to you. I have a big sweet tooth so I used about a Tbs of granulated stevia, but if you don't want things as sweet or if your protein is sweet enough as is, feel free to omit.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.
  2. Blend together beans, pumpkin, egg whites and vanilla. You may need to add a splash of milk to make sure everything is completely smooth. 
  3. Mix in remaining ingredients until fully incorporated.
  4. Spoon on to prepared baking sheet, this made about 6 cookies for me. 
  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until no longer wet to touch. DO NOT over bake these as they can get dense/dry depending on the protein powder used. 

That's it! A healthy, high protein sweet treat that is guaranteed to kill those sugar cravings. Feel free to switch up the flavor of protein or add in different mix ins, it's up to you! I hope you give this recipe a try. Enjoy!

~Mandy

Why "Clean Eating" May Not Be Working For You

"Clean Eating" has been the newest diet trend as of late,.  It emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods and cuts out added sugars, salt, and refined grains. On the surface, this sounds like a great diet to not only lose some weight, but to actually get healthier too. Unfortunately, there are still some instances where "eating clean" may not be working, and possibly even causing weight gain or other health problems!

Eating Too Much "Clean" Food

By viewing foods as either "clean" or "dirty", we may fall into the trap of thinking that we can eat unlimited amounts of "clean" foods. Unfortunately as nice as that would be, no matter the source, "clean" or "dirty", all foods contain calories and it's calories in vs. calories out that determine weight gain or loss. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight. And if you consume less calories, then you will lose weight. 

Take almonds for example. They are a whole, unprocessed food, full of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Clearly a "clean" food. However, these almonds still contain calories! A small handful of almonds could easily be 100-200 calories. Being in the mindset that all "clean" foods are fair game, you might consume a few handfuls of almonds throughout the day, and easily end up overeating an extra 300-600 calories without even thinking about it. It's important to realize that moderation is still important when it comes to healthy foods, not just the "junk"!

Not Eating Enough. Period.

"Clean Eating" is such a vague concept and may have different implications for different people. Back to the almond example, some people may consider them to be processed, and therefore "dirty", if they weren't raw. This becomes a slippery slope as people cut out more and more foods from their diet in the name of "health". Soon there won't be anything left! And despite good intentions, such a limited diet may leave you lacking some very important nutrients.

In addition, a truly healthy diet is all about balance. What will you do if your friends invite you out to eat? Are you going to say no just to stick to your diet? This kind of restriction can easily lead down a dangerous path toward an eating disorder and should be avoided at all costs. It's no surprise that with the rise of "clean eating", a new classification of eating disorders, known as orthorexia, has also risen as well. 

Feeling Deprived

Going along with the aforementioned general under eating and the health implications associated with it, by restricting certain foods, it is likely you will also feel extremely deprived! This is especially true if "eating clean" is a drastic change from your normal diet. By cutting out all of these foods you will likely start having cravings, experience mood changes, and possibly even physical discomfort from the added fiber and increased vegetation. 

With all of these combined, it is no wonder that many people attempting to "eat clean", often find themselves bingeing or feeling the need to have cheat days every weekend. Despite eating well all week, a person can easily undo all of their progress by "letting loose" and giving in to everything they've been craving throughout week. 

So What Do I Suggest?

Moderation. It's as simple as that! I personally like to live by the 80/20 rule where 80% of the foods you choose are "clean", whole, and healthy foods and 20% are "extras" or treats. I don't deprive myself of things I want, I just eat them mindfully. No foods are off limits. I try to choose options with vegetables and lean protein when I go out to eat, but I don't stress over the pasta being processed. And if I'm given a cookie on my birthday? Heck yes I'm going to eat it! 

Dieting shouldn't be stressful or complicated. And if it is, maybe it's time to reevaluate your approach ;)

~Mandy

 

Quinoa Taco Bowls

Happy Cinco De Mayo! Whether you celebrate this Mexican holiday or not, I am of the opinion that it is always a good time for Mexican food. Especially when it's so easy to makeover into a healthy and nutritious meal! 

These taco bowls use quinoa instead of the traditional white rice which drastically ups the nutrition value. "Quinoa is naturally gluten free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein and comprised of all pernine essential amino acids." Not to mention, it's delicious ;) 

Ingredients

  • 1½ c. dried quinoa
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 (1.3 oz.) package taco seasoning
  • 1 (14 oz.) can black beans
  • 8 oz. shredded cheese
  • 3 c. chopped lettuce
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 small can sliced black olives, drained
  • salsa
  • sour cream or plain greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  2. Stir in taco seasoning.
  3. Spoon flavored quinoa into bowls; add toppings as desired.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make and completely customizeable. Feel free to add whatever toppings you'd like! Maybe guacamole instead of chopped avocado? Some grilled chicken breasts for the meat eaters in your family? The options are endless! So get creative and get cookin' ;)

~Mandy

    Snack Attack!

    Very few people eat 3 square meals anymore, often reaching for 5-6 smaller meals and snacks throughout the day instead. But is that a bad thing? Snacking used to hold a bad reputation as a way to overeat or indulge in "junk food". This certainly doesn't have to be the case however!  By reaching for healthy snacks you can:

    • prevent hunger between meals and subsequent overindulgence
    • fill nutritional gaps and boost your intake of fruits and veggies
    • keep your energy level and moods more stable throughout the day

    Sounds great right? It is. But that doesn't mean that you should start reaching for a snack every time you get the chance!  It is important to listen to your body and understand if what you're feeling is really hunger or something else. 

    Part of the reason snacking has gotten such a bad rap is due to the kinds of foods people tend to reach for. Chips, cookies, candy etc. We usually reach for these kinds of snacks out of convenience or cravings, but rarely out of hunger. 

     

    If what you're feeling sounds more like a  craving, it may be best to occupy yourself with something else, it will pass. But if it's really hunger, then feel free to snack away! Within moderation of course ;) These are some of my favorite snacks:

    • Greek yogurt with berries
    • An apple with peanut butter
    • Veggies with hummus
    • Baked pita chips with salsa
    • Mini pop-corn bags

    What are some of your favorite snacks?

    ~Mandy