Long Weekend Healthy Meal and Snack Ideas

by Lauren on May 18, 2016

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I feel like I’m starting every post with an apology for not writing more often, but it’s hard to find the time for it these days. I only have a few mornings a week with Jack in daycare, and they quickly fill up with article writing for Respoken Magazine, creating client meal plans and preparing for baby boy #2 who will be here in the next 3 weeks – ahh!

IMG_5591For as long as I can remember the weather on the May two-four long weekend in Ontario is always hit or miss, but this weekend it’s going to be a hit; mid-twenties and sunny from Friday to Monday – oh yeah. My OB gave me the clear to go to the cottage for the long weekend so I thought I would share with you a few long weekend healthy meal and snack ideas for inspiration.

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When the weather is nice at the cottage no one wants to spend a lot of time indoors cooking a big breakfast. I’m bringing some fruit and a big batch of Creamy Overnight (no cook) Steel Cut Oats. This recipe is perfect for taking to the cottage because it can be made the night before, travels easily in a sealed container, and it includes all the essentials (protein, whole grains and healthy fats) to keep you going until lunch. I bring my Whole-Wheat Banana Muffins with me wherever I go, and we’ll also pack a loaf of sprouted bread, aged white cheddar cheese and organic eggs.

Lunch is usually simple; homemade pizzas, leftovers and salads. My sister-in-law is in charge of salads and veggies, and nothing is better than the Costco pre-packaged kale salad – jam packed with cancer-fighting kale, raw Brussels sprouts and broccoli! The dressing is kind of gross, but we usually substitute my homemade Apple Cider Honey Dijon Vinaigrette. Apple cider vinegar has so many health benefits (made from fermented apple juice; it puts good bacteria back into your gut; making it amazing for healthy digestion, it aids in weight loss, lowers cholesterol & high blood pressure, and stabilizes blood sugar), but it can be hard to drink straight up. Mixing it into a salad dressing is a great way to incorporate it into your diet.

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The cottage just isn’t the cottage without happy hour on the boat, and of course a few appies. Guacamole is a fan favourite, but there are months of summer ahead and if you want to keep your calories in check, I’d recommend making my Slimmed Down version that uses zucchini in place of the 2nd and 3rd avocados.

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I’m not a big chip person as they’re typically high in trans fats and calories, but Kettle Chips recently sent me samples of their new Classic Caesar flavour (just in time for National Caesar Day on May 19th), and they’re delicious. Being pregnant, this is a great way for me to enjoy the flavours of a classic Caesar cocktail without the booze. And as far as real chips go (as in real I mean made from potatoes and not lentils or brown rice); I’ve seen worse in terms of ingredients. They’re non-GMO, contain no trans fats, no preservatives and no artificial colours or flavours. I’m not promoting eating chips as regular healthy snack option, but if you want to treat yourself this weekend, give these a try.

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Dinner plans are organic burgers (now available frozen and pre-made at Costco) and I’m making one of my favourite summer meals: Maple Ginger Cedar Plank Salmon with Sweet Potato Fries and salad. Superstore sells my favourite salmon from True North Salmon Company. Their salmon is farmed, but unlike most farmed salmon, the feed is all-natural – no dyes, chemicals or growth hormones.

I hope this gave you a few healthy meal and snack ideas for the beautiful long weekend coming up. Cheers!

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Sorry for the break in posts, but things have been crazy busy! Between attempting to potty train my son, getting ready for baby #2 (coming mid-June), working with clients and my new freelance writing job with Respoken Magazine; my poor blog has been put on the back burner. I’ve also been asked to write a review on a new cookbook that’s just been released called “Nourish, Whole Foods Recipes featuring Seeds, Nuts and Beans” (stay tuned for the review on my blog in the next couple weeks as it includes a giveaway for the cookbook!).

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I flipped through the cookbook today while my son was napping, and I love the overall nutrition message and there are so many delicious recipes I want to try! The nutrition aspect of the book is written by Registered Dietician Cara Rosenbloom and her introduction really stood out to me as it echoes thoughts that I’ve been having lately.

Rosenbloom talks about keeping it simple when it comes to healthy eating; stock your pantry with whole foods, which she defines as: “these foods are as close to nature as they can be. They have not been highly altered, and no further ingredients have been added to them.” She goes on to say that certain packaged foods are ok, like whole-wheat pasta or organic beans. They have only been slightly altered, mostly for convenience purposes but still have health benefits. She advises to cook most of your meals from scratch using whole foods and healthy packaged food choices. Processed foods, like candy, soda, and deli meats, “have been radically changed from how they once appeared in nature” and should be avoided most of the time. They are high in salt, sugar, food colouring and preservatives, which can have negative effects on our health.

What I love about her outlook is that it’s simple. It can be really easy to get caught up in everything you hear on Dr. Oz or what you read on the internet, and suddenly you lose your way. Even as a nutritionist I find there are so many messages out there about health and nutrition and it can leave me feeling overwhelmed and guilty – like I’m not doing enough for the health of my family if I’m not making bone broth on a weekly basis or if I buy canned tomatoes with a BPA lining once in a while.

Don’t get too caught up in the details. Keep it simple; eat as close to nature as possible 80% of the time. Don’t beat yourself up the other 20% of the time when you don’t have time to cook and order a pizza. Life is busy; do the best you can.

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Mac and “Cheese”

by Lauren on March 31, 2016

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A big part of my job as a nutritionist is finding healthy alternatives to classic (not-so-healthy) favourites, like mac and cheese for example. There’s something comforting about the warm, creamy, salty cheese sauce with noodles. Unfortunately, classic mac and cheese is either from a box and full of preservatives, fake powdered cheese, artificial dyes and preservatives, or made with a homemade cheese sauce, which is high in fat and calories.

My healthy version is made primarily of vegetables and no cheese. Sounds gross, but it’s actually a satisfying, nutritious and delicious alternative to the classic mac and cheese. The sauce is made of roasted butternut squash (a great source of fibre, vitamin A), organic chicken stock and nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty, creamy flavour making it a popular cheese alternative for vegans or those with a dairy sensitivity. It’s a complete protein source (8g per 1/4 cup – more than 1 egg!) and a good source of B vitamins (most are fortified with B12) and iron. This type of yeast is safe for those on a candida diet or who are prone to yeast infections because it’s made from a deactivated yeast; therefore does not promote yeast growth in the intestines. It’s available in the organic section of most major grocery stores and health food stores.

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I used to shy away from recipes with butternut squash because the thought of cutting, peeling and dicing it was a major deterrent – it’s a lot of work! Never fear, I’ve found an amazing shortcut that you can use for any recipe that calls for butternut squash…pre-cut and frozen! The roasting instructions are the same, and it tastes just as good as fresh. A lot of people feel that frozen produce is an unhealthy choice because it’s packaged, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I buy organic, frozen veggies (ie. corn, peas, broccoli) all the time! It saves times, and the veggies are fresh when frozen and just as nutritious!

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Squash Mac and “Cheese”
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3 cups frozen, diced butternut squash
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
1¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
½ – 1 cup organic chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. turmeric
3 cups or half package gluten-free brown rice or whole-wheat elbow pasta, dry
1 cup organic frozen peas, thawed
1 cup chopped vegetable of choice (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, caramelized onion), optional
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a medium-size bowl, toss squash with oil and minced garlic. Spread squash evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. The squash will shrink a bit, and you should have about 2 cups once it is cooked.

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If you’re including veggies, chop them up. Depending on what you’re using, you can steam the veggies or leave them raw.

While the squash is cooking, boil your pasta, drain it in a colander, and set it aside (stir in 1 tsp. of organic extra virgin olive oil to prevent it from sticking).

Allow the squash to cool, then add it to a food processor along with the almond milk, stock, yeast, mustard, turmeric and salt. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add more stock for desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pour the sauce from the food processor into a large pot and heat it gently. When the sauce is hot, stir in the peas, cooked pasta and veggies. Cook until everything is heated through.

Serve in bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese, enjoy!

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One Last Soup Before Winter’s Over

by Lauren on March 17, 2016

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Spring is just around the corner, and I can’t wait. Because of daylight savings the light has changed and memories of warmer days are coming back to me. The snow is melting, birds are chirping and I saw some little green stems poking out of the ground this morning. We still have a few weeks before the farmer’s markets start to sell fresh spring produce, so in the meantime here’s one last soup to take you out of the winter season.

A couple posts ago I wrote about the importance of meal planning, and one of my favourite ways to get inspired is to flip through Chatelaine, Alive or Sage magazines for recipe ideas. It may spark an idea for a recipe I haven’t made in a while or inspire me to try something new.

I personally love Thai flavours and pretty much anything with coconut milk and curry, so when I saw a recipe for Thai lentil soup in Sage magazine I had to try it, and it’s a keeper. I made a double batch because there’s nothing better than having leftover soup in your freezer to pull out on a weeknight for a quick, healthy meal.

I love making soups or stews with red lentils because they have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut. On top of that, they are a great source of insoluble and soluble fibre, folate, tryptophan (helps regulate appetite and sleep, elevates mood), manganese, and iron amoung other vitamins and minerals. 

Spicy Thai Coconut Lentil Soup
Makes 8 servings
Adapted from Sage Magazine

Ingredients

2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 small yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 tbsp. red curry paste
2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
1 cup red lentils
2, 900mL cartons organic chicken or vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cilantro, chopped

Method

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add curry paste, and cook for 1 minute.

Add potatoes, lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are cooked and potatoes can be easily stabbed with a fork. Stir in coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes.

Serve into bowls and garnish with cilantro. Serve with Mary’s crackers.

Store leftovers in freezer for up to 3 months.

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