Please join me there for the latest blog posts featuring food, nutrition and cuisine with a delicious dose of world dining discoveries. Recipes, food trends and what I’m doing (eating) now as a registered dietitian nutritionist dedicated to helping you plan menus at home or dining out to be happy and healthy. What else is there???? And as always, remember that the more you know, the more you eat! – Carolyn O’Neil
Summertime is the best time to go big on adding more fresh produce to every meal. This is the season of farmer’s markets, pick your own farms, road side stands and super affordable prices in the supermarket produce section.
ALDI supermarkets, with more than 1600 stores in 35 states, serves more than 40 million customers each month- and I’m one of them! Are you? Well keep a look out for more ALDI markets because many new stores are sprouting up. I’m delighted to be working with ALDI this summer to tell more folks about their focus on fresh foods and lots of organically grown produce.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I get really excited to share the happy and healthy benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. Think of your plate as a showcase for good health by making sure you’re ‘painting’ at least half of your plates, bowls and platters with fruits and vegetables. Fruit bowls are fun, but I prefer adding nature’s fresh harvest to delicious recipes. Here we go! This photo is from my recent appearance on NBC Charlotte Today. (Don’t worry I’ll get to that super creative andfun recipe for watermelon pizza you see on the table.)
So, let’s get back to the strawberry toast. Avocado toast may be all the rage with food bloggers today, but why not slice up summer’s berries and rather than topping your cereal bowl…top your toast!
I like toasting ALDI SimplyNature Knock Your Sprouts Off 7 Grain Bread and adding a spread of creamy honey flavored goat cheese. (ALDI Happy Farms Preferred Goat Cheese Log). Then layer on sliced strawberries and sprinkle with ALDI Southern Grove chopped pecans. It’s a crunchy, creamy and sweet way to start the day and the perfect summer breakfast for families on the go.
Here’s the recipe from the ALDI website which is like a living cookbook of delicious and nutritious ideas.
Now on to sweet and savory entrees for lunch or dinner! Making grilled chicken again? Of course you are! But, let’s add a touch of the tropics and create a refreshing Pineapple Avocado Salsa.
Let’s get to that salsa! Buy a fresh pineapple- they’re really easy to cut up. Slice off the leafy top and root end, then slice the spiny edges of the sides. Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise and you’ve got two easy pieces to work with. For the salsa, dice two cups of the fresh pineapple, add one cup of chopped cilantro, one cup of diced avocado, 1/2 cup of diced red onion, 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped. Cooking Tip: remove the internal ribs and seeds of the jalapeño, that’s where the heat happens!
The pineapple salsa is not only delicious, it’s super nutritious adding vitamin C, potassium and fiber to every bite. I’m making this recipe for my Fourth of July cookout! Click here so you can print out the recipe for Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Avocado Salsa.
Camp Cooking Healthy!
Get the kids into the kitchen this summer with recipes that could be part of your “Camp Stay at Home Craft Day!” Kids’ Health and Wellness is a priority for ALDI. In fact, over the next two years ALDI is investing more than $4 million dollars in Kids’ Health and Wellness Programs and has launched its own online grant applications program, ALDI Smart Kids. It gives local organizations the opportunity to request grants and gift cards that support youth programs focusing on education, physical activity, nutrition social skills and the arts.
Summer rules! That means easy to wear clothes and easy to cook cuisine. Take the heat off the cook and the kitchen by firing up the grill outside and making no-cook meals perfect for a picnic or pretty meal on a summer night. One of my favorites is from ALDI where the collection of healthy recipes is fantastic. These are summer pinwheel sandwiches with a terrific spread made with Swiss cheese, mustard and cream cheese. I’m working with ALDI this summer to share their delicious and nutritious recipes and food finds.
1 teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Crushed Red Pepper
1 teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Parsley Flakes
½ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Iodized Salt
½ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Ground Black Pepper
½ cup shredded Happy Farms Swiss Cheese Block
8 Pueblo Lindo Burrito Tortillas or liveGfree Gluten Free Wraps
2 cups SimplyNature Organic Arugula
2 7-ounce packages Lunch Mate Never Any! Black Forest Ham
2 7-ounce packages Lunch Mate Never Any! Oven Roasted Turkey
In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, crushed red pepper, parsley, salt and pepper until smooth. Add Swiss cheese and combine thoroughly.
Evenly distribute cheese mixture among 8 tortillas or wraps. Spread evenly to cover entire surface.
Leaving ½-inch around the edge of each tortilla, top with ¼ cup arugula, a layer of ham, and then a layer of turkey.
Tightly roll tortillas. Wrap in foil and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.
Remove from refrigerator and remove foil. Slice into ½ -inch slices, discard ends.
TIP: For a twist, place foil-wrapped tortilla on a medium-high grill and cook for 4-5 minutes each side. Carefully unwrap and slice.
Recipe Courtesy of Chef Alyssa, ALDI Test Kitchen
I hope you like these….I loved making them especially with ALDI Lunch Mate “Never Any!” ham and turkey slices. ALDI has a wonderful selection of cheeses, award winning wines and world class beers for all of your summer entertaining. Check out the table cloth on my layout here. It’s a picnic blanket from ALDI. One of their weekly special ALDI finds at amazingly low prices. OK, now go outside and have some summer fun!
While grilled foods are a year round favorite and a world wide method for adding flavor to food through fire, summertime is the official time for grilling season. And folks are getting pretty creative! Grilling steaks? Why not mix things up and leave the usual steak sauce in the fridge ( it does say refrigerate after opening ya know) and take a tasty trip to South America where gauchos and all great food lovers enjoy a chimi-churri sauce with their fabulous steaks.
Chimi-churri sauce is a brilliant green colored blend of fresh parsley, garlic, olive oil with a touch of acid from lemons and vinegar.
The bright fresh flavors go beautifully with the beef, pork and even grilled chicken and fish!
Here’s a recipe for Grilled Skirt Steak Sandwich with Chimi-Churi Sauce from the ALDI test kitchens. I am working with ALDI to get the word out on great food and good nutrition! #client
Grilled Chimichurri Steak Sandwich
2 bunches parsley
7 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Stonemill Iodized Salt
1 teaspoon Stonemill Ground Black Pepper
1½ teaspoons Stonemill Crushed Red Pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons SimplyNature Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ cup Carlini Vegetable Oil
¾ cup water
2½ pounds Fresh USDA Choice Skirt Steak
6 Specially Selected Ciabatta Sandwich Rolls
¼ cup Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, melted
3 cups SimplyNature Organic Arugula
6 slices Happy Farms Preferred Deli Sliced Havarti Cheese
1 cup caramelized onions
12 minutes (plus 30 minutes to marinate)
35 minutes (plus 30 minutes to marinate)
Combine parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, oil and water in a blender until smooth to make a chimichurri sauce.
Reserve ½ cup of chimichurri sauce.
Pour remaining chimichurri sauce in a recloseable gallon sized bag. Add skirt steak and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Using a cast iron grill pan, grill skirt steak to desired temperature. Let meat rest for 10 minutes.
Split each ciabatta roll and brush with butter. Grill bread on the grill pan until toasted. Reserve.
In a medium bowl, toss arugula with reserved chimichurri sauce. Reserve.
Slice steak against the grain to desired width. Reserve.
To assemble the sandwiches, layer the steak on the bottom pieces of the ciabatta rolls, followed by 1 slice of Havarti and caramelized onions. Finish with arugula and top of ciabatta roll.
Recipe Courtesy of Chef Leigh An, ALDI Test Kitchen
Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with ALDI so more folks know about their great quality foods at great prices.
Did you know ALDI is one of the fastest growing retailers in the US? Their simple approach to grocery shopping means you don’t need coupons or a club cards. Get to know ALDI. On Wednesday, you’ll see a “Weekly Fresh Meat Specials” with extra-low prices on the very best cuts of meat.
Wonder what’s in this ALDI truck I passed on the highway outside of Atlanta today? Stay tuned to find out…in my next blog post. Easy No-Cook Summer Recipes. Here’s a hint….lots of fresh produce, beautiful breads and creative ideas for summer picnics.
May, as National Celiac Awareness Month, may be coming to an end but the need to find gluten-free foods continues. People with celiac disease must totally avoid gluten containing foods including wheat, barley, rye and all of the foods and food ingredients made from these grains. That includes ‘modified food starch’, soy sauce and beverages such as beer made with barley. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But it’s getting easier due to improved Gluten Free food package labeling and an increase in the number of good tasting foods specially made to be gluten-free.
Let’s turn to one of the world’s experts on gluten free ( and my good friend) , registered dietitian nutritionist Shelley Case, author of “Gluten Free: The Definitive Resource Guide.” You’ll find great information on Shelley’s website and certainly in her comprehensive new book.
Shelley says, “To a baker, “gluten” is the substance in flour that, when combined with a liquid, is responsible for creating the sticky, elastic texture of raw dough. But what exactly is gluten? In simple terms, gluten is the general name for specific protein fractions (prolamins and glutelins) in wheat, barley and rye.”
Oats do not contain gluten, but it wasn’t until recently that companies started adding a label that certifies foods made with oats are GF to indicate that the oats were not processed in the same facility as wheat, barley or rye. Avoiding cross contamination is important. So when you’re entertaining, make sure to put gluten free breads, cookies or whatever on a separate plate. If you’re serving sushi, for instance offer Tamari sauce which is gluten free. Soy sauce is not GF.
Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
There’s growing concern that some people may not have full blown celiac disease, but may be intolerant to gluten in foods and suffer digestive issues when they consume gluten. Shelley Case says, “It is recommended that individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity follow a gluten-free diet to alleviate symptoms; however, whether gluten must be strictly avoided for life (as is necessary with celiac disease) is at present unknown.”
Strong is the new pretty. (And my little piggy bank is pretty in pink)
Whether it’s spin classes to boost your cardio, yoga to strengthen you abs or working with weights to tone arms and legs….exercise does way more than burn up a bunch of calories. It makes you look and feel good.
But did you know your bones benefit from work outs too? Yup, weight bearing exercises- like taking the stairs or playing a set of tennis-are super important for building bone health.
What you eat and drink can make or break your bone health, too. Bone is built and repaired with a terrific trio of nutrients including the mineral calcium, vitamin D and protein. Dairy foods, including milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and frozen yogurt are a fabulous package of all three of those needed nutrients.
How much is enough?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 3 servings of calcium rich foods every day for bone health.
The best sources of calcium are dairy foods, fortified breaks and cereal, canned salmon (with the bones), tofu and dark green leafy vegetables such as collards, kale and spinach. (By the way, you have to eat 10 cups of raw spinach to equal the calcium in cup of milk!)
An eight ounce glass of milk provides one -third of the vitamin D needed daily.
The Sunshine Vitamin (That’s why the pig is wearing sunglasses )
Our bodies can make vitamin D, but we need sun exposure on our skin. About 15 minutes a few times a week is advised.
Fascinating nutrition fact from history: Vitamin D was first added to milk in the 1930’s to help prevent bone weakening rickets in children. Then rickets became history! Go Team Nutrition!
Bone Up on Bone Health
Today we worry about osteoporosis. If bones are starved of good nutrition, they become porous and brittle and that leads to fractures. The disease is called Osteoporosis and according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office an estimated 10 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from this debilitating disease. But, osteoporosis can be prevented if we ‘bank’ enough nutrients in our bones during childhood, teen years and adulthood.
Delicious Dairy to Build Bone-gevity
Click on the name of the recipe to find what you need to make these delicious nutritious dishes! They’re all from the Southeast Dairy Association’s wonderful website! (Click here for more nutrition tips.) Here I am on the set of NBC Atlanta & Company for Mother’s Day and May as National Osteoporosis Awareness Month.
Hey snap happy Instagrammers! Looks like those food photos you stand on chairs to get just the right angle, add filters to enhance the drool factor and make your friends wait before digging in….are helping you stay healthier!
(Oatmeal cookies with dried berries, banana and peanut butter above, by the way.)
How so? Well, according to University of Washington researchers who studied Insta-food grams, keeping track of what you eat and how much acts as a online food journal.
PeachDish, home meal delivery kit fans, are ALL OVER Instagram sharing the beauty of their latest dish creations. As one of the registered dietitian nutritionists who works with PeachDish, I am happy to report that posting and sharing nutritious and delicious PeachDish meals on Instagram can be a great way to food journal.
I SEE WHAT YOU’RE EATING
And since you are sharing with the world, it’s not a secret note in your private diary. People are paying attention. Did YOU really eat that a whole bunch of donuts, cookies, nacho chips, fries ? Of course, you didn’t.
It was definitely a kale salad with a rhubarb infused vinaigrette.
MORE ON THAT INSTA-STUDY
This new study from University of Washington researchers -presented at the 2017 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems- describes how some people turn to Instagram to track food intake or to be held accountable by followers in meeting healthy eating or weight loss goals.
The online Instagram community uses #fooddiary and #foodjournal hashtags. #goodidea
EVERYBODY’S DOING IT!
“It’s more socially appropriate for people who are trying to track their diets to snap a photo of their plate when they’re out with friends — everyone’s doing it and it doesn’t look weird,” said UW human centered design and engineering doctoral student Christina Chung.
The interviewees ( there were 16 by the way) said support from other Instagram users ( !LIKE!) helped them stick to their healthy eating goals. It also encouraged them to be more honest about what they were eating.
What’s on your Insta-Plate?
Tips for Food Journaling. Writing or Snapping
Be consistent. Try to capture all meals, snacks and beverages. Yes, fries from someone else’s plate do count!
Keep track of quantities. It’s OK to splurge but keep portions sensible. If you crave a glazed donut, have one. Food journaling helps you keep track of how often you ‘splurge’!
On Instagram, review your grid. The last 9 photos are called your ‘quilt’. Do you see a pattern? This is a snap shot to help you assess meal patterns.
Reach out to support others on Instagram who are also using the photo-app to keep a food journal. #foodjournal #fooddiary
Mother’s Day is one of the best days not to dine out! As a foodie who loves to sample all chefs’ creations, I am a huge fan of dining out. But not on Mother’s Day.
That’s when the crowds descend and the prices often ascend in the wake of taking mom out to brunch or lunch or dinner.
So today’s post is dedicated to making Mom feel special at the family table. Or, if it’s a beautiful day taking brunch outside to the patio or porch. But you don’t have to lose any sleep over this Mother’s Day Brunch Menu. The shopping, the cooking and the presenting are all super easy thanks to the good folks at ALDI, who’ve already thought about our moms on Mother’s Day.
Even Mother’s Day gifts!
If you’re a fan of ALDI you’re already familiar with the markets’ simple approach to grocery shopping. No coupons or club cards needed and a great selection of fresh produce, premium meats, wonderful cheeses, gourmet speciality products ( coffee! chocolate!) and award winning wines. If you haven’t shopped at an ALDI store, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that customers can save up to 50% on grocery bills* as compared to other markets.
*Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores.
Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with ALDI, as a registered dietitian nutritionist spokesperson as we kick off a summer of celebrations. ( Memorial Day is next!)
Recipe Notes and Links: Why they get my vote for Mother’s Day
Spinach, Broccoli and Turkey Egg Casserole: the recipe is literally as easy as browning the Fit & Active brand lean ground turkey, placing in a quiche dish or round baking dis, adding broccoli florets, diced red pepper and SimplyNature organic baby spinach and the Fit & Active brand liquid egg. Bake covered for about 30 minutes, place Happy Farms crumbled feta cheese on top and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes. I added some diced red pepper to the top for a pretty garnish.
Another tip: spray the bottom of the dish with cooking spray so the egg casserole can be sliced and each piece lifts out easily.
Berry Breakfast Cookies:These are really, really good and if you make a big batch, they stay fresh to enjoy the next day or two with coffee in the morning. The ingredients are a healthy mix of Millville Quick Oats, SimplyNature organic coconut oil, bananas, peanut butter, Friendly Farms Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, and Southern Grove dried mixed berries. I baked them on parchment paper, so the cookies don’t stick. No need to waste a morsel.
Mango Strawberry Sunset Smoothies: All you need is a blender and you whip up these pretty layered breakfast drinks with fresh mango, fresh strawberries and Friendly Farms Vanilla Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Tip: place the mango mixture on the bottom of the glass first, then slowly pour the strawberry mixture to float on top. Garnish with a pretty dice of the fresh fruit.
Did someone say Mimosa Bar? Let’s put the sparkle in Mother’s Day with ALDI’s award winning Chiare Blanc de Blanc Brut sparkling wine from Monterrey. Set up a selection of juices so guests can customize their mimosa with Nature’s Nectar raspberry lemonade, peach and mango blend or the classic combo with Nature’s Nectar premium not from concentrate orange juice. Cheers! For a non alcohol version, add bubbles with sparkling water and garnish with a fresh strawberry.
For a fabulous and affordable selection of Mother’s Day gifts, check out ALDI Finds. Look what I found for my Mom ( or for my kids to gift to me). A Hummingbird Feeder…..
…….and a lovely everlasting orchid, perfect for the Mother’s Day Brunch table in my dining room.
Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Mother’s Day!
Now, where’s that mimosa bar???? BONUS TV SEGMENT FROM GREENVILLE, SC. My MOM lives in South Carolina. (:
Squeaky Clean. Clean as a whistle. Making a clean cut and a clean getaway. Coming clean. The word clean conjures up a streamlined approach to cutting through the clutter, telling the truth, as well as simplifying and often sanitizing life. Clean eating has joined the contemporary nomenclature to describe healthier, more nutritious food choices. Clean: Perhaps meaning that a food product has fewer total ingredients, all natural ingredients and all the information you need to know where your food is coming from is revealed. Clean infers transparency.
But, what does CLEAN really mean?
There is no official definition of ‘clean eating’ but the original intention of suggesting we move towards cleaner eating was to guide folks to choose minimally processed foods closer to the whole foods in nature. For instance, rather than a banana nut muffin, how about eating a banana and some nuts?
While chefs are creating wonderfully simple dishes starring seasonal fresh ingredients, cooking at home allows you to control every bite. Clean eating principles encourage us to cook more at home so you can see what you’re adding to recipes and control the amounts of added sugars, salts and fats.
The meal kit delivery service, PeachDish, takes you step by step, ingredient by ingredient – most sourced from local Southern farms – to create your own chef-inspired, cooked by you deliciously nutritious meals. How about Bulgar Wheat Salad with Arugula and Apricot with a sherry vinegar dressing?
Why this dish is a clear clean winner: bulgar wheat is a minimally processed whole grain, fresh arugula and shallots are raw, apricots are simply dried and therefore maintain the fiber and other nutrients, sliced almonds provide nut nutrition and the dressing is a simple vinaigrette with olive oil and sherry wine vinegar.
Before we can fully embrace clean eating by rejecting ‘processed foods’, we should know a bit more about what food processing entails and to what extent.
For instance, a slice of bread or bowl of pasta made with whole grains is a better choice because the external, fiber containing part of the grain hasn’t been milled away, as with refined white flour.
But, freezing foods, which is a process, does not decrease the nutritional content of foods. For instance frozen green peas are a wonderful source of vegetable protein, fiber and the heart healthy mineral potassium. I like to make a green pea hummus with a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and season with a dash of salt and pepper.
The US Department of Agriculture serves up some pretty specific definitions for food processing. So here goes:
Processed foodis defined as any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging, or other procedures that alter the food from its natural state.
This may include the addition of other ingredients to the food, such as preservatives, flavors, nutrients and other food additives or substances approved for use in food products, such as salt, sugars and fats.
But there’s a spectrum of how MUCH a food has been processed.
Foods such as sliced fruits and vegetables, bagged salads and leafy greens and roasted nuts are all examples of minimallyprocessed
The next category of processed foods includes canned foods such as beans, tuna, fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables.
Jarred pasta sauces, yogurt and salad dressing have added oils, sweeteners and preservatives, which makes them a processed food as well.
Examples of heavilyprocessed foods include crackers, deli meat and granolas.
The most heavily processed foods examples include pre-packaged and/or frozen meals.
Remember that wine and cheese are ‘processed’ too.
So keep in mind that the catch-all-phrase ‘processed’ often connected to ‘poor’ choices, may in fact lead you to some pretty darn good choices, too.
CLEAN EATING TIPS for REAL
Eat Your Vegetables….and Fruit; whole, seasonal, fresh.
Enjoy cooking at home to choose healthy ingredients.
Limit added sugars. (including agave, honey, maple syrup)
Limit saturated fats. (the kind in bacon, butter, coconut oil)
Practice food safety in your home kitchen. (Clean utensils, plates and counters!)
Perhaps, don’t clean your plate. Listen to your hunger cues and enjoy foods mindfully.
RECIPE for Sweet Pea Hummus, from The Slim Down South Cookbook by Carolyn O’Neil
2 (9-oz.) packages frozen sweet peas, thawed
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/16 tsp. table salt
½ cup (2 oz.) crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese ( optional )
Place peas and garlic in a food processor; with processor running, pour oil through food chute in a slow, steady stream, processing until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and salt; season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2 hours.
Spoon pea mixture onto toasted baguette slices or serve with sliced cucumber; sprinkle with cheese.
Happy disclosure: I’m thrilled to be working with PeachDish as one of the registered dietitian nutritionists who champion the great food and good nutrition in the meal kit delivery service available nationwide. Visit the PeachDish website to drool over the delicious meals and marvel at all of the terrific information about their tasty dishes. – Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN LD
Late Night TV Binge Watching Leads to Late Night Snack Binging: What to do???
We’ve all been there. Binge watching a TV series into the night. Just one more episode. Just one more episode and I’m going to bed. But then another cliff hanger leads to another cliff hanger.
It’s late, it’s dark and no one is there but you and your TV screen friends. Dinner was hours ago and you’re getting a little hungry so let’s rifle through the fridge and pantry for something fun to eat.Something to help keep you company while the on-screen suspense mounts!
Could be cheese and crackers, could be leftover pasta, could be a large spoon diving into chocolate caramel sea salt sorbet.
You say to yourself, “These calories don’t count.” and “This is fun and who cares?!”
But, a few seasons of this bad habit and the pounds will find you.
OK, two bad things are happening here.
1. Not getting enough sleep
2. Consuming excess calories.
So when I watch a TV series now, I brew a pot of chamomile tea and sip it slowly while the drama unfolds.
Maybe with one small cookie. Usually not.
Here’s what happens next. The chamomile herb tea (I like Celestial Seasonings Chamomile or Sleepy Time Tea) makes you feel sleepy and lulls you into a comfortable calm that helps you realize you can wait to watch the next episodes tomorrow.
We’ve all had days when feel a little fuzzy or super sharp and ready to take on any challenge, but did you know that what you eat or drink can affect how our brains perform lets say during a job interview, taking a test or just focusing on your list of things to do?
Here are some SMART ideas on what to eat to feel smarter!
Protein Throughout the Day- not just for dinnertime.
While grabbing a biscuit or bagel might be easy choices for breakfast on the fly, nutrition scientists who study foods’ affect on the brain say eating nothing but carbs is a bad choice for a big day. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study compared two groups who ate either a high-protein or high-carbohydrate breakfast. Two hours later the carb group had levels of the sleep inducing amino acid tryptophan that were four times higher than the protein group.
So make sure to add an egg to that breakfast biscuit or drink a glass of non fat milk and add some peanut butter or smoked salmon to a bagel to boost the protein power of your morning meal. Lean protein foods such as eggs, chicken, turkey, fish and beans help your brain stay alert by supporting the production of neurotransmitters needed to for smart thinking.
Brain cells crave choline
Eggs are a powerful little package to feed our brains. Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient important for brain cell production and repair…so don’t skip the yolk!
Found in egg yolks, peanuts, soybeans and flaxseeds the nutrient choline helps support the brain’s messenger service, called neurotransmitters. It’s also linked to new memory cell production. And chances are you’re not getting enough choline in your diet, especially if you’re an egg white omelet fan.
According to Boston based nutrition consultant and registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward, “It’s a nutrient that’s frequently under-consumed by those who need it most. In fact, fewer than ten percent of older children, men and women meet the recommended Adequate Intake for choline.” Ward says one egg which contains 125 milligrams of choline can help close the gap.
B vitamins such as folic acid are important to the development of baby’s brains and our brains throughout life. Good sources include cantaloupe, orange juice, green leafy vegetables and enriched breads and cereals. If you’re going ‘low carb’ make sure to find your folic acid elsewhere.
Fish Oils Feed the Brain
The Omega 3 fish oils in fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines – as well as Omega 3 fortified eggs and orange juice -are associated with improved cognitive function.
SMART SALAD RECIPE:
The Classic Salad Nicoise with seared ahi sushi grade tuna, hard boiled egg, boiled new potatoes with green onions, olives, cherry tomatoes, green beans and capers.
Pay Attention with Tea
Coffee may be the go-to beverage for most who want to add some pep to their step but, too much caffeine can cause nervous jitters- not a good look during a job interview. So maybe you should switch to tea today. Exciting new research on drinking tea actually focuses on its effect to calm us down so we can concentrate better and focus on the task at hand. John Foxe, Ph.D. Professor of Neuroscience, Biology and Psychology at City College of the City University of New York found that theanine, an amino acid present in the tea plant increases alpha brain-wave activity which induces a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind. Theanine is found in green, black and oolong teas.
Here’s the VIDEO of Brain Foods 101 from Atlanta & Company.
Sometimes the best souvenirs are memories of uniquely wonderful dishes that add a delicious dimension to travel experiences.
This veggie packed meatloaf recipe created by Executive Chef Josh Drage of The Ranch at Rock Creek is beautiful when sliced revealing jewel like pieces of carrot and celery.
Take a bite, close your eyes and ‘taste travel’ to the ranch lands of western Montana.
Thank you to Gena Berry of Culinary Works for translating chef’s measurements into home cook lingo.
The Ranch at Rock Creek Montana Meatloaf
1 teaspoon, olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 carrots, peeled, 1/2″ dice
3 stalks celery, 1/2″ dice
1 medium onion, peeled, 1/2″ dice
1 large egg
1/2 cup part skim ricotta
1 shake hot sauce
1 teaspoon, salt
1/2 teaspoon, black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 lb. lean ground beef
In a large sauté’ pan, heat oil and sauté’ shallot until soft and starting to caramelize. Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until just softened. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg with a large fork, stir in the ricotta, hot sauce, salt, pepper and sautéed vegetables to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and ground beef and gently stir until well mixed.
Form the mixture into a slender loaf and bake on a sheet pan.
Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, until a meat thermometer reaches 160°, about an hour.
Let the meat loaves rest a bit, then slice using a serrated knife into once inch thick slices. Serve with roasted new potatoes garnished with fresh thyme.
More on the Ranch at Rock Creek.http://www.ranchatrockcreek.com From trout fishing to taking a spin on the mountain bike parked outside your door, this getaway is the essence of ‘glamping’!
Stay in the main house or tuck away into the tented suites complete with footed bathtubs and a fire pit to warm your feet next to the gurgling creek steps outside.
This western Montana Relais & Chateau property is an outdoor lover’s western adventure and luxe lover’s fresh air pampering all under the same big sky.
It’s time to stretch on the spandex, hit the gym with folks who look like they’ve never been there before ( or in a long time )- bless their hearts.
In fact, YES, bless their hearts because no matter what it take to get back on board with health and fitness enthusiasm- good for you!!!
But, here are my Top 3 New Year’s Diet Traps to avoid:
#3. If I buy the foods on the 2017 Trend List I’ll be so much healthier this year.
No, jack fruit probably won’t change your health. But, it might affect how much change you have in your wallet. Often, these ‘super fruits’ are super expensive.
January is citrus season.
Eat more affordable in season delicious and nutritious oranges, grapefruit and add flavor to cooking with freshly squeezed lemon and lime.
#2. I’m going to cook more at home and avoid eating out.
Well, that depends what you’re cooking.
Restaurant meals can be very healthy and in fact, in May 2017 all restaurant chains ( with 20 or more outlets ) have to provide Nutrition Facts information on menu items so you can see what you’re getting into when you order the deep fried calamari or double fudge brownie cake. Or that the hamburger you really want has fewer calories and fat grams than the entree salad you thought you should order. (:
Back to cooking at home; good idea!
Get everyone in the family to learn to add more vegetable to all meals, even meatloaf! This recipe from The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana is one of my all time favorites because the meatloaf includes big jewel like pieces of carrots, mushrooms, and leeks.
RECIPE FOR MONTANA MEATLOAF: Scroll down below! OK it’s written by a chef, so measurements are in weights. But the ratios work for smaller batches, too.
Learn to season with no calorie flavors such as salsas, vinegars, mustards, hot sauces, herbs and spices.
The Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon is great place to start building your healthy cooking skills.
(My recipe below for Shrimp and Grits-(see recipe posted below).. is just one of many easy and delicious weeknight meals in The Slim Down South Cookbook.)
Also, jump into a fabulous new healthy food trend- home delivered meal kits such as Peach Dish, based in Atlanta featuring southern grown foods but shipped locally and nationally.I’m working with Peach Dish as one of their registered dietitians to provide nutrition information and healthy cooking tips.
Now drumroll…..my favorite New Year’s Diet Trap to AVOID!!!
#1.This year I vow to NEVER eat ice cream or French fries EVER again!
Hey, good luck with that. Chances are by Super Bowl Sunday you’ll be knee deep in nachos.
So, rather than making huge promises that will be a huge burden to keep, make small, measurable changes. For instance, when I enjoy ice cream after dinner I’ll serve myself two small scoops in a bowl and top with fresh strawberries or blueberries. I honestly love French fries, so I’ll allow myself to enjoy them once a week- especially if they’re really good! Try mustard ( no calories ) with fries, as opposed to ketchup (lots of sugar).
And as always remember that The More You Know, The More You Can Eat!
Happy and Healthy New Year Friends! Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN ( French fry lover, especially shhhhh dipped into Champagne.)
Shrimp and Grits from Southern Living’s The Slim Down South Cookbook, by Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN
2. Prepare Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and ⅛ tsp. salt. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth and next 5 ingredients; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Stir in shrimp and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach is slightly wilted. Serve immediately over grits.
Serving size ½ cup grits and about ⅓ cup shrimp sauce CALORIES 235; FAT 6.1g (sat 1.9g, mono 2g, poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 19.1g; CARB 25.2g; FIBER 1.4g; CHOL 119mg; IRON 3.3mg; SODIUM 74
The Ranch at Rock Creek Meatloaf
• 5# ground beef
• 1100g (2.5#) carrot
• 550g (1.25#) celery
• 550g (1.25#) onion
• 300g (10oz) shallot
• 500g (2 cups) ricotta
• 1 ¼ cup bread crumb
• 4 large eggs
• 20g (.75 oz) salt
• 5g (.2oz) black pepper
• 5g (.2oz) fresh thyme
• 5g (3 shakes of) Tabasco
Sauté carrots, celery and onion until just softened.
Sauté the shallots separately and cook until sweet and almost caramelized.
Mix all ingredients in the stand mixer until just combined.
Cook off a test piece and check seasoning.
Split into two or three loaves making them long and slender, the same width all the way down.
Bake on sheets, leaving space between each loaf.
Bake at 325-350 degrees uncovered for 45 minutes.
It’s the holiday season with lots of festive get togethers. Hope you’re ready to put on your sparkle and get those parties!
But as an invited guest you may generously ask the host, “What can I bring?”
If their answer is “Why don’t you just bring a side dish?” I’ve got you covered.
Here are some great tasting crowd pleasing recipes that just so happen to be super easy to prepare. I created a buffet of EASY HOLIDAY SIDES for NBC Atlanta & Company.
And if you shop at ALDI food markets, they’re super affordable too. Have you ever been to and ALDI? No frills, but all fabulous.
ALDI is a great place to buy holiday essentials like fresh seasonal produce and organics, dairy, gluten-free foods, USDA choice beef and bakery items, priced up to 50 percent less than at other traditional grocery stores.
Disclosure: I’m working with ALDI this holiday season to get the word out on their great food products, award winning wines and all you need for holiday bash. Find lots more tips, inspiration and recipe ideas at ALDI Holiday Hub.
First Side Up! Twice Baked Butternut Squash
Cut a butternut squash in half, bake and then scoop out the insides leaving enough skin to create your ‘boat’. Mix mashed butternut squash with honey goat cheese, …well hold on…here’s the recipe from ALDI Holiday Hub website.
Twice-Baked Butternut Squash
SERVINGS: 8 | COST PER SERVING: $1.12† | PREP: 10 MIN | COOK: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN
In a large baking dish, place butternut squash cut side up. Add hot water, cover with foil. Bake until tender, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven, discard water, allow to cool. Scoop out tender parts of squash leaving skin intact.
In a medium bowl, combine squash, 3 ounces of goat cheese, half & half, melted butter, mixed berries, pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Scoop mixture back into squash skin, top with remaining goat cheese and chopped pecans. Bake until mixture is slightly firm, approximately 10-12 minutes.
Change oven setting to broil.
Broil until cheese is browned, approximately 5-8 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Morgan, ALDI Test Kitchen
How about these Tomato and Goat Cheese Santas? Stuffed with garlic and herb goat cheese, they are an adorable addition to any holiday party and are pop-in-your-mouth easy to eat and delicious! Top a hollowed out cheery tomato with a grape tomato half as the hat! OK…it’s my secret holiday mission to get folks to eat more fruits and vegetables during the holidays…and all year long!
If you’re going to build and bring a cheese and meat platter to a party don’t forget to add the fresh fruit to add good taste and good fresh seasonal nutrition. The gourmet cheeses including a white cheddar with cranberry and a beautiful brie cheese are from…you guessed it…ALDI.
Pears are in season right now and add a naturally fresh sweet taste to cheese platters. A included Anjou (brown) and Bartlett (green) pears to my platter on Atlanta & Company. Thank you USA Pears!
Oh, and to round things out….how about a little indulgence with teeny tiny bites of cheesecake and wonderful chocolate covered gingerbread cookies, too. The wines, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Italian Prosecco are wines from ALDI’s award winning and super affordable wine collection.
Ok let’s get to the party!!!! Happy Holidays everyone! And THANK YOU Mallory for your fab food styling skills! You made everything look sooooo great! More plaid please. (:
It’s the holiday season and time for you to sparkle too.
Enjoy yourself and know that weight loss is a rare bird during this season of indulgence. But you don’t have to gain any weight.
In fact, maintaining your weight should be the goal so that you don’t wake up on January 1st with a bigger New Year’s diet resolution than you had anticipated.
SLIM DOWN SOUTH COOKBOOK There’s a reason it’s called SLIM!
I have four tips and they spell out the word SLIM!
S- Savor the fresh flavors of the season (enjoy in season squash, apples, dark greens and citrus)
L- Linger longer ( take your time and be mindful of flavors )
I- Indulge a Little ( choose smart portions of splurge foods)
M- Make it Happen (go walking, say no to sugar sweetened beverages)
Please enjoy this video from NBC Atlanta & Company where I explain it all…plus an easy holiday appetizer. Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Mango.
Every food has its day and November 3rd has been designated ( not sure by whom originally) as National Sandwich Day.
What’s your favorite?
From hero to gyros, sandwiches are easy to eat and even easier to love. History or legends that became history tell us that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich in jolly old England ‘invented’ what became know as the sandwich in the 1700’s. The story goes that he was an avid gambler and rather than leaving the hot pursuit of winning cards to take a meal, he ordered meat between two slices of bread so he could use one hand to keep the cards going and one hand to fend of hunger.
The most popular sandwich in the US, according to a number of polls, is the …drum roll……. turkey sandwich, followed by ham and chicken. But, sandwich lovers and sandwich crafters know no bounds of creativity.
Here are a few ideas to add style and good nutrition to the great sandwich.
Add blueberries to a grilled cheese sandwich. Why not? the sweet pop of the blueberries warmed on the griddle and matched with a melty gouda or white cheddar is delicious.
We all know the BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato. But why not make a BLAT and add slices of ripe avocado to the stack. Avocados add a luscious creaminess and healthy fats to the mix.
Pile your sandwich high with salads inside. The Chopped Chicken Sandwich with Crunchy Pecan and Apple Slaw is great way to enjoy veggies and fruit right between the bread. Recipe is from my Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon.
Perhaps the Earl of Sandwich would have been even luckier at the tables with this healthy improvement over simply meat and bread.
The story begins with the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. Yes, it’s chock fun of vegetables. The carrots look like jewels when it’s cooked. Thank you chef Josh Drage of the Ranch at Rock Creek in cowboy boot central Montana.
Welcome to the Ranch at Rock Creek in the Big Sky Country of Montana.
The Ranch at Rock Creek is near the historically charming small town of Philipsburg, MT and one of the very special properties on the lux list of Relais & Chateau.
Let’s get this glamping party started. Surrounded by wildlife and luxury, it’s so quite that you can hear the creek babbling and the birds singing.
Activities include horseback riding, hiking, fishing and I loved getting around on my bicycle. The gravel crunches under your wheels and the wind whistles in the trees. Ahhhhhh.
Finally caught a trout! My guide looks happier than me.
Hiking with my friend Carol Anne Kelly to The Top of the World summit above the ranch. OK, now we’ve worked up a ranch hand appetite so back to that meatloaf!
I added mushrooms to the mix to create a healthy blend of half pound ( 8 ounces) of fresh mushrooms mixed with one pound of ground meat ( I used ground chuck). The mushrooms add moisture, flavor and take the place of some of the beef, so the meatloaf is lower in total fat. Mushrooms are also a good source of many nutrients including vitamin D. Surprise!
Chef Josh Drage’s Montana Meatloaf features carrots, leeks, an egg, and breadcrumbs and was fabulous. I added the mushrooms for even more vegetable variety.
The more you know, the more you can eat. That’s the food philosophy I believe in as a registered dietitian and healthy foodie. So if you thought you had to cut beef out of your diet to eat more healthfully, I have good news. You can enjoy beef and a healthy lifestyle.
The secret is learning how to prepare leaner cuts of beef and knowing that three ounces provides 25 grams of protein and 10 other nutrients including iron, B vitamins and zinc. These nutrients help build and repair muscles, maintain brain function, protect cells from damage and help convert food into fuel giving us energy. For lots more on beef and good nutrition as well as a list of leaner cuts and how to prepare them I like this website: www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com
Meanwhile…..back at the Ranch………a little sunset wine time with freshly baked tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa. I love camping!!!
Follow the Big Red Apple (symbol of nutrition, not just the Real Housewives of NYC) as I lead a quick tour of what Dietitians learned (and sometimes laughed about ) at the annual Food and Nutrition Conference #FNCE organized by our professional organization the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Thousands of registered dietitian nutritionists from across the nation and around the world met in Boston this week to hear the latest on food, nutrition and cuisine.
Did someone say Boston? Well then where are the Lobster Rolls?
My registered dietitian colleague Janet Helm, author of Nutrition Unplugged blog is a trend spotting master. Here she is in action on the exhibit floor of FNCE where food companies, big, small, new and classic strut their nutritious stuff to see if dietitians will bite. Sometimes we love it and tell you all about it…and sometimes have to spit it out. But thanks for trying food folks.
Here are a few of Janet’s food photos from FNCE and a few of mine. Thank you Janet Helm.
Build a better noodle: noodles made from beans, peas and other ‘pulses’ to boost protein and add variety to the ever-lovin’ noodle category.
Classic pastas count for good nutrition too! I like Barilla pastas with a boost of protein from beans in the mix.
Go to Gut Health: Sure gluten-free is a trend but nutrition advice goes way beyond gluten to help folks improve their gut health. Pro-biotics is a hot topic because these foods (vegetables, fermented foods such as yogurt and even sauerkraut, and other foods and drinks packed with friendly bacteria are emerging as a lively category).
Seeing Seeds Everywhere: Who doesn’t love sunflower seeds? sesame seeds? Well, guess what they’re good for our health because they are little power packs of good nutrition. How do you think a plant grows from a seed? I like to add a handful of toasted sunflower seeds to salads for taste, crunch ( instead of friend croutons) and great nutrition.
Sprouted grains ( from the seeds of the plant) are trending in baked goods too. Small bakeries may have started it but now even old favorites such as Pepperidge Farm are in on the sprouted grains trend. I like the nutty taste.
YO! There’s a LOT of Yogurt here!
Grab a spoon because yogurt is a pro-biotic food, good for your gut, made of delicious dairy with so many nutrients including protein, calcium and potassium. Guess what? Even folks with lactose intolerance can often enjoy cultured dairy products, such as yogurt.
And Dannon, which I remember to be the original yogurt introduced to American palates, is still going strong. I love their Light & Fit yogurts. They threw a yoga party for dietitians. Oh wow, aerial yoga? Ever try this?
Serious Sides for Nutrition Truths Today:
-Remember that nutrition is a hot topic so it attracts a lot of click bait on the internet, which means NOT all of the information is going to be accurate!
-Trust a registered dietitian nutritionist RDN when they are quoted in the media. We are trained academically and professionally to translate the latest research findings into easy to understand food shopping, cooking and eating out advice.
-The 2015 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans are 500 pages long, recommending we cut back on sugar, salt and saturated fats and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins…but can be translated (by me) into this little phrase:
“Eat a little bit of naughty, and a lot of Nice.” – Carolyn O’Neil, MS RDN LD
For more information on Food, Nutrition and Healthy Cuisine have fun visiting the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for all kinds of great ideas for good nutrition.
Weeknights are often busy nights with after school activities, late hours at the office and let’s face it America….the stress of fighting rush hour traffic just to get home. The dream scene of a home cooked meal made from scratch every night is just that…a dream scene…so why not rely on your freezer as your personal chef a few nights a week?
Whether you’ve batch cooked and frozen entrees on the weekend, when you had a little extra time….or you simply reach in and find a frozen entree prepared by chefs in their professional kitchens…the freezer really is your best friend. I’m happy to be a spokesperson for Stouffer’s where dietitians and chefs work together to come up with recipes that really are the win-win for taste and health. Their meals are freshly made and simply frozen.
Stouffer’s Lasagna with meat and sauce is certainly a family favorite and guess what? One serving contains 18 grams of protein and only 300 calories.
There are no preservatives because the freezer does the preserving!
Oh and now the ingredient label reads like a recipe with vine ripened tomatoes, freshly made pasta and real mozzarella listed on the package. It’s Stouffer’s new “Kitchen Cupboard” commitment to simplify recipes to include ingredients we all can recognize (and immediately start getting hungry!).
OK, you’ve dashed in the door. The lasagna is baking in the oven. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, hug the kids, get them started on their homework and toss a salad. Don’t want another boring salad? Then, I say, don’t make one. I have two recipes for easy to make and easy to love weeknight salads from my Slim Down South Cookbook that help you balance your plate.
I work with the good folks at Stouffer’s on their #balanceyourplate nutrition campaign. Did you know that the majority of American families don’t eat the number of fruits, vegetables and whole grains they should for a balanced diet?
So let’s fix that by fixing a well balanced dinner.
It’s fall y’all! So toss in some of fall’s deliciously crisp apples into a salad. Apples are a good source of vitamin C , potassium and fiber.
Or if you like grapes, cut them in half and toss into a salad with avocado and grapefruit segments. I like to top with crunchy sunflower seeds for even more good nutrition.
Here’s another way to #balanceyourplate. While the Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat and Cheese is baking and starting to fill the kitchen with ‘I can’t wait for dinner’ aromas…..go back to your freezer and find frozen green peas to make a great sweet pea hummus.
The kids ..and you…can dip carrot chips or whole grain crackers into the pea hummus ( another great source of fiber, potassium and protein) for a healthy snack to tide them over before you serve the lasagna and salad. Recipe: green peas in blender, a little olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper. Whirr, stir and serve. Smile.
So, using your freezer as a personal chef not only helps balance your plate, it helps balance your life because you’ll have more time to talk to the. kids, relax and enjoy those family meals on busy weeknights.
Now, this is the way to celebrate good nutrition and great taste on any night!
RECIPES FROM THE SLIM DOWN SOUTH COOKBOOK by registered dietitian, healthy foodie, Carolyn O’Neil
Farmers’ Market Fall Salad with Sweet and Spicy Dressing
Hit the farmers market or your super market produce section for delicious seasonal vegetables. Can’t decide what to toss in a salad, toss it all in to celebrate your fresh finds.
Makes 8 servings
1 green apple, diced
1 red apple, diced
½ cup thinly sliced green onion
1 cup chopped baby kale
1 cup sliced Napa cabbage
1 cup sliced red cabbage
½ cup golden raisins
Makes 12 servings
Hands-On 5 min.
Total 5 min.
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. celery salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.
Serving size 1 Tbsp. CALORIES 43; FAT 2.4g (sat 0.2g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 0.1g; CARB 6.1g; FIBER 0g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 146mg; CALC 1mg