Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

I recently discovered an app I really think is great called The Daily Dozen. On it is a list of foods you should be eating every single day, with spaces for a checkmark next however many servings of that food you should be having. For instance, there’s three spaces next to beans, one space next to berries, and two spaces next to greens. You can check in to the app throughout the day to keep track of the “superfoods” you’re eating and over time, hopefully you’ll have trained yourself to put the healthiest foods first in your diet.

There’s a section for grains on there, and I think that’s important to note. A lot of people avoid grains these days because they believe they are inflammatory or cause weight gain. Here’s what I know about whole grains (I’m talking about things like brown rice, oats, and barley here, not Froot Loops with “whole grains”). Eating whole grains is associated with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Read here  for more information on whole grains and heart disease. Read here for more on whole grains and blood pressure. And read here for more on whole grains and other foods that lower cholesterol. If you are trying to avoid grains in the short term, I support that. Sometimes avoiding a certain food for a month or so can help reduce inflammation and de-sensitize you to that particular food. Then you add the food back in in small amounts to ensure your sensitivity is gone. There are doctors like Dr. David Perlmutter (author of The Grain Brain) who have profited mightily by telling people all grains are bad for you, but I really don’t subscribe to that thinking at all. I *do* believe we Americans have too many grains in our diet, and that most of those grains are of low quality and low nutritional value (think a slice of white bread or a bowl of sugary cereal). However, whole grains have many proven health benefits.

Back to the app. What I love about this new tool is that it also includes things like spices, flaxseeds, and Vitamin D. These recommendations are all rooted in science and have been proven to be beneficial for one or more reasons.

Daily Dozen was created by Michael Gregor,  M.D., who is the founder of NutritionFacts.org and has a podcast called Nutrition Facts with Dr. Gregor.

I think it’s a great daily tool you can use as a fun challenge to clean up your eating habits and add some solid nutrition that will help reduce your risk of disease. Win/win!

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Portobello “Burgers”

Last night was Sunday, which made it Crappy Dinner Party night. Haven’t read about our weekly CDP? I recommend doing that right away, and then laying plans for your very own regular Crappy Dinner ASAP.

It was my husband’s birthday this week, so we hosted. He wanted to grill burgers and dogs, which are super yummy and yes please to all of that. However, if you are trying to reduce your red meat consumption or are vegetarian or vegan, I find portobello burgers to be a really worthy substitution. (Recent studies seem to show a correlation between eating meat of any kind of your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Studies also show that eating meat raises your risk of cancer and heart disease. This is not to say you have to give up meat entirely, but rather substitute some of your meat choices for vegetarian choices instead. Click here for an explanation and some tips.) You still get the meaty texture when you bite down, and the mushrooms soak up any delicious marinades you throw their way. Top with sautéed onions, a slice of cheese, and pickles and I guarantee you will enjoy your experience!

Here’s the marinade I use to make my portobello burgers.

INGREDIENTS:

4 portobello mushroom caps

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil (avocado oil has a higher smoke point)

1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the mushroom caps, turning every 15 minutes until time to cook, making sure to pour the mixture into the underside of the mushrooms before grilling. Throw on the grill and cook until desired doneness.

If you’d rather put them in the oven, preheat to 425°, place mushrooms stem side down in a baking dish, and roast for 18-20 minutes.

portobello grilled

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Chicken Apple Sausage and Bean Soup

chicken apple sausage and bean soup
Yesterday, I had a package of chicken apple sausage and a craving for soup. I also had beans, onions and diced tomatoes in the pantry and carrots and celery in the fridge. I had a little bit of pesto that needed to be used. So, I created this recipe for dinner last night, which came together with about 15 minutes of prep and the amount of time it took for my InstantPot to go through the “soup” cycle.
The result was a delicious, hearty and healthy soup that my whole family enjoyed. My 13 year old rarely eats a large portion of soup, but she gobbled this one up. My husband went back for seconds.
The thing about chicken apple sausage is that it’s a great ingredient to have on hand, and it lasts a long time in the fridge. I make this easy roasted sausage and vegetable dish about once every other week because it’s hearty and healthy and SO SO EASY.  I have also used it to make this chicken apple sausage pasta. But it’s fun to try new dishes for the same old ingredients, which is how this soup came to be.
The fantastic thing about this soup is that you can add whatever beans you have, whatever veggies you have (diced potatoes, parsnips, whatever other hearty veggies you like) and any seasonings your family enjoys. This recipe is a loose guide, so do whatever sounds good to you. If you prefer chicken broth over veggie, great! If you hate pesto, no worries. If you are a newer chef, once you get the hang of using recipes, you will start to feel more confident in adjusting them to your tastes.
This soup is full of very good things: beans are a wonderful source of protein and fiber and are a great example of a complex carbohydrate (complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and supply a lower more steady release of glucose into the blood stream, which help you feel fuller longer). The carrots and celery are high in antioxidants and fiber and contain vitamins and minerals like beta carotene and vitamin B6. Garlic and onions are from the allium family and have been linked to reduced risk for breast and colon cancers, not to mention that garlic is a natural antiviral and onions are anti-fungal.  The tomatoes are high in lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant thought to protect the body against many different diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. You can feel good about making this soup and serving it to your family, not just because it’s delicious but because it’s nutrient rich.
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 x 15 oz cans of beans, any variety (good choices include white beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and black beans) drained and rinsed
  • 16 cups water or broth (if using water, see next ingredient)
  • 4 tsp vegetable base (I like Better Than Bouillon)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juices
  • 2-4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced (to taste)
  • 4 oz prepared pesto (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 package fully-cooked chicken apple sausage (I like Aidells)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Sauté carrots, celery, garlic and onion on medium high for about 5 minutes in oil, until starting to soften.
  2. Add beans, tomatoes, water, and bouillon and stir.
  3. Add the chicken apple sausage and stir.
  4. Cover and cook on medium low for about 30 minutes, until flavors come together.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pesto until fully incorporated (pesto is optional)

RECIPE NOTE: You can use an Instant Pot for this recipe. Simply follow instructions 1-3, and then put the lid on and set to “soup” setting. If you want to use a slow cooker, follow instructions 1-3 and put on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6.

This recipe should serve 6-8.

 

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Your Immune System

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Flu season is rampant this year, with a strain that isn’t well matched to the vaccine (current estimates place it at about a 10-30% match). While getting the flu vaccine is at the top of my family’s to-do list every fall (here is a good overview on why we believe in the flu vaccine), there are other things we do to support our immune system, like eating healthy foods, getting exercise, and supplementing with Vitamin D. I also take a daily zinc supplement (read here about why zinc is important).

There can be many reasons for why our immune system isn’t functioning at optimal levels, including drinking too much alcohol, having high stress levels, and eating too many refined carbs/sugars. While getting sick from common viruses like colds and enterovirus (aka: stomach flu) is quite normal, if you find yourself getting sick often, it’s worth it to get checked out for underlying causes.

Even though I know all the things to do in order to keep my immune system in good shape, I still get sick a couple of times a year. We can’t always nip our stress in the bud as quickly as we would like, or it’s the holidays and we are partaking in more rich food and alcohol than we normally do (not to mention our exercise routines tend to go out the window in November and December). Keep this handy info page taped to your fridge or mirror to remind yourself of all the ways that you can naturally help your immune system be stronger.  And remember, this information should never take the place of a discussion with your doctor or trusted health professional, and never start a supplement without first talking to your medical professional.

immune system page 1

Immune system page 2

Vitamin C Smoothie (Great For Your Immune System)

Vitamin C Smoothie (Immune system)

This week is bound to be super busy and possibly stressful, especially those of us who celebrate Thanksgiving. With increased levels of stress come increased rates of cold and flu. If you’re traveling by airplane, consider your risk even higher (one study published in the Wall Street Journal showed a 20% increased risk). And if you’re visiting family and there are many of you staying in the same house, usually someone ends up sharing germs, too. So how do we navigate the holiday season without succumbing to feeling miserable? One thing we can do is make sure we are feeding ourselves with nourishing and immune boosting foods. Foods high in Vitamin C pack an antioxidant punch, which helps lower your risk of getting sick. Vitamin C also helps regenerate other antioxidants in your body. Fiber is another important nutrient, as it helps lower inflammation. And yogurt, which is a probiotic rich food, helps keep our gut flora in check. Because about 80% of our immune system resides in our guts, we want to make sure it’s always balanced and healthy.

For the past week I’ve been having a green smoothie every day for breakfast. It starts my day off on the right foot and by the time I’m finished drinking it I’ve already had at least three servings of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. This helps keep me healthy and sets me up for wanting to continue eating healthy throughout the day. Since I know I’ll be enjoying a lot of my favorite foods at Thanksgiving, this is a good way to ensure I’m getting proper nutrition leading up to the long weekend.

Try this Vitamin C smoothie and let me know what you think. Feel free to customize it for your own needs (swap out spinach for kale, for instance).

Enjoy!

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THANKSGIVING

Nourishing Lentil, Ham and Potato Soup

Last week it was our turn to host Crappy Dinner Party, so we pulled out a bone-in ham from our deep freezer to smoke in my husband’s smoker. We were worried the ham might be dry but it was ridiculously good. Since we had some leftovers, we put the bone and the leftovers back in the freezer for another time.

Fast forward one week, and I was craving soup. I checked out my pantry and saw that I had green lentils, potatoes, and onions. In my fridge I had carrots and celery and Better Than Bouillon. I knew I had what I needed to make something really yummy. After reading several recipes and adjusting for what I had, here is the recipe that I created.

NOURISHING LENTIL SOUP

SERVES 12

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2-3/4 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 celery ribs, chopped

2 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over

12 cups stock (meat or vegetable) homemade, or store-bought. I like Better Than Bouillon

1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cups cubed ham

1 ham bone, if you have it

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a dutch oven or soup pot, place the soup bone, if you are using, and 12 cups of water (if using Better Than Bouillon) or stock and heat until boiling. Lower heat to simmer for at least an hour (I left mine on for several hours). Using a slotted spoon, remove the soup bone. If you are not using a soup bone, skip ahead to sautéing your vegetables. Add a few tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon if you aren’t using stock. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes minutes. To the pot of stock, stir in lentils and softened vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at least 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in potatoes and ham and simmer covered until potatoes are softened, at least 10 minutes. This soup can stay on simmer for a long time before serving.

ENJOY!

Ham and Lentil Soup

 

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Your Immune System — Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

We’re in it, people. It’s cold and flu season and everywhere you go someone has a cough, the sniffles, a sore throat, or worse. How do we keep ourselves healthy and energetic all season long? One approach is through our food choices. Excess sugar, processed carbs and too much alcohol will suppress our body’s ability to fight off infection (which is a shame because aren’t the holidays MOSTLY ABOUT SUGAR, CARBS AND COCKTAILS?!?!). I’m not advocating giving up your favorite holiday treats, because part of what keeps us healthy is not being stressed out. Also spending time enjoying ourselves with people we love is pretty high up on the list for immune-boosting activities, and if we are hyper focused on every little thing we put in our mouths, we will ruin it for ourselves and those around us.

However, what I would like to encourage is making the majority of your food choices healthy ones. So, when you are cooking/eating at home, which should be most of the time, make those meals impactful. Start every day with a healthy breakfast because it helps keep the rest of the day on track (click here, here, here or here for great breakfast choices). For lunch, choose something like a big salad with good quality proteins like chicken and chickpeas, and choose olive oil and vinegar dressing. Or, make a huge batch of soup on Sunday and eat it all week long. I love the hearty lentil soup I make all winter.

You want high quality protein, you want good sources of fiber and fat (the good kind, like olive oil, those found in nuts, coconut oil, and organic and grass fed meats). And pile on the vegetables and fruits. The more antioxidants you eat the better. They will reduce inflammation which will help fight off cold and flu bugs. They also contain natural antiviral and antibacterial agents.

Check out this recipe for Carrot Ginger Turmeric soup. Carrots are very high in vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Ginger and turmeric contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s warming and soothing for the coldest days and will keep you nourished.

Stay tuned for more immune boosting recipes and information!

*If you don’t like coconut oil or are allergic, feel free to sub with olive oil.

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