Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Pasta

I have always been a lover of veggies, but some times I’m just not in the mood to eat meat.  Meat contains a ton of essential nutrients so I do enjoy it on regular basis, but I choose to skip it entirely about one day a week (something my husband will never understand). Anyways, for you fellow veggie lovers out there- here is a SUPER simple 20 minute meatless dinner idea that still packs a powerful protein punch (17-20 grams per serving)!

Ingredients (serves 6):

3-4 whole vegetables of your choosing (I used 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 zucchini and 1/2 red onion)                                    *eggplant, broccoli and tomato would be excellent choices as well*

2 cups uncooked Barilla Protein Plus penne pasta

4 oz goat cheese

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 bunch fresh basil

*Optional: pine nuts for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Wash and slice vegetables into bite size pieces. Lay flat in single layer on lightly greased baking sheet & roast in over for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and slightly soft (but not mushy).

3. While vegetables are roasting, prepare pasta according to directions on package.

4. Add olive oil, garlic and basil to food processor and blend until well combined.

5. Combine vegetables, pasta and sauce and mix well. Crumble goat cheese and stir in last.

6. Serve 1 cup of pasta topped with a sunny side up egg for 17 grams of protein per serving. *Optional: add even more protein by garnishing with pine nuts*

7. Enjoy!

Guiltless Chocolate PB “Ice Cream” Cups

Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Ice Cream are my three favorite ways to satisfy a sweet tooth. When I reach for items containing any of these at the supermarket I am always frustratingly disappointed at the ingredient list. Now, I’m not being unrealistic- I understand I am indulging in an occasional treat that will most likely be high in sugar and not offer much else nutritionally BUT is it really necessary that an endless number of chemical preservatives, artificial flavors and colors be added to it as well? Anyways, knowing full well the dangers of consuming such ingredients, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I came up with an all natural and MUCH healthier version of an American favorite: Reese’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cups. I have included a nutritional comparison at the bottom to show you just how big of a difference there is between the traditional version of this dessert and my homemade recipe.

Here’s how I made it…

Ingredients: (Makes 12-14 cups)

1 16 oz can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (creamy)

1/2 cup milk (I used organic cows milk, but almond milk, coconut milk or soy milk should work just as well)

6 pitted soft dates

1 Tbsp 100% pure maple syrup (may substitute with honey)

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Coarse sea salt to taste

Directions:

1. Add garbanzo beans, peanut butter, milk and dates to food processor. Mix until well combined and smooth (about 1-2 minutes).

2. Add chocolate chips & stir in by hand.

3. Place batter into lined muffin tin. Top each cup with a pinch of coarse sea salt. (don’t skip this step! It enhances the flavor tremendously)

4. Freeze for at least 2 hours.

5. Allow “ice cream” cup to soften at room temperature for 3-5 minutes before eating. Enjoy!

These are seriously SO delicious. I know it’s hard to believe that garbanzo beans can taste like smooth cold ice cream, but they do! And it’s not just my crazy dietitian taste buds that think so- this recipe is 100% husband approved (and he’s the KING of Reese’s peanut butter cups)!

Now for the good stuff: wonder how these Chocolate PB “Ice Cream” Cups compare to the real deal? Take a look at this nutritional break down (per serving):

                          Reese’s                                                VS.                                                  My Recipe

                        220 calories                                                                                                     120 calories

              16 g Fat (8 g Saturated Fat)                                                                         5.5 g Fat (2 g Saturated Fat)

                          0 g Fiber                                                                                                            3 g Fiber

                        16 g Sugar                                                                                                           8 g Sugar

                        2 g Protein                                                                                                           4 g Protein

                * 8 chemical additives                                                                                      * ZERO chemical additives

                   * 1 artificial color                                                                                              * ZERO artificial colors

There you have it! You do not have to sabotage your diet in order to satisfy a sweet tooth. I hope you all love these as much as I do. Let me know what you think 🙂

10 Tips for Eating Healthy When Dining Out

Eating out for just two meals a week can pack on 1 pound of body fat! Curious as to why? Studies show that the food we typically eat at a restaurant is nutritionally worse than the food we eat at home. In addition to the lousy nutritional quality of most restaurant meals, their distorted portions (as you can see in the photos below) cause us to eat a lot more than we would at home too!

So without even giving it a thought, research shows that people will eat healthier (and less) at home than they will at a restaurant. With that being said I don’t expect everyone to become hermit crabs and eat at home for every meal. But for the sake of your health I encourage you to limit how OFTEN you go out to eat- and when you do choose to dine out, consider these tips in order to make the healthiest choices possible:

1. READ THE MENU BEFORE YOU GO

Most Restaurants have their menus (as well as nutritional information) posted online. Research the menu before you go out to eat to look for healthy, low calorie options. If you can’t find any, choose a different restaurant.

2. SKIP THE BREAD BASKET

The average piece of bread is about 100 calories and each pat of butter will add another 36 calories to that. When you sit down hungry, it is very easy to consume an entire meal’s worth of calories before any food even hits the table. Limit yourself to one piece or skip the bread altogether. Try distracting yourself by drinking water or chewing gum while waiting for your food to arrive.

3. STICK TO LOW CALORIE DRINKS

Some beverages can contain more calories than an entire meal- with no nutritional value or satiety to offer for it! Avoid high calorie cocktails and sweetened beverages like sodas and lemonades. Stick to water, seltzer water with lemon or lime, unsweetened tea or coffee when dining out. If you’re reaching for alcohol, wine, light beer or mixed drinks made with seltzer water tend to be lower calorie options.

4. START WITH A SALAD

A standard side salad will provide you with one serving of vegetables. Its high fiber and water content will also help you feel satisfied sooner and therefore eat a smaller quantity of food and fewer calories overall.

5. SHARE YOUR MEAL OR SAVE SOME FOR LATER

Most restaurant portions are huge. It’s not uncommon for one meal at a restaurant to provide a full days worth of calories. Choose a small portion when possible. Otherwise share a meal with a friend or eat half and box the other half to take home for later.

6. SWAP SIDES

Choose a side salad, fresh fruit or steamed vegetables instead of fries, chips or onion rings to accompany your meal.

7. MAKE MODIFICATIONS

  • Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side- then you can dip or skip and use less.
  • Replace regular salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Add extra vegetables to an entree.
  • Ask for grilled chicken instead of breaded or fried.
  • Omit or go easy on high calorie ingredients like creamy sauces, gravies and cheese.
  • Order your dish “dry” without any added butter or oil – or ask them to go easy on it.
  • Ask for whole wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • Substitute bread or wraps with large leaf lettuce.
  • Order a burger “protein style” -with no bun.
  • Ask for less sugar in your cocktail.

8. PICK HEALTHY PREPARATION METHODS

The WAY foods are prepared says a lot about them nutritionally. When reading the menu, avoid words like deep fried, pan-fried, crispy, tempura, sautéed, au gratin, buttered, creamed and breaded as these tend to indicate high calorie preparation methods. Instead choose menu items described using words like steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, poached or roasted as these tend to be healthier.

9. EAT SLOWLY

Take your time and enjoy yourself. Eating slowly will help you enjoy your food more and prevent overeating.

10. SKIP DESSERT

Skipping dessert can shave off a tremendous amount of calories from your meal. If you’re someone who needs to finish a meal with something sweet, choose fruit or sorbet or share something small with a friend. You can also pack yourself a chocolate square or a small piece of candy from home to satisfy your sweet tooth after a meal.

Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid on Food Labels

As consumers we want to believe that food manufacturers have our best interest in mind, but it’s time to wake up and smell the artificial ingredients! The majority of companies are more concerned with their products’ taste, appearance and shelf life (as well as their bottom dollar) than they are concerned with our health. Our health is certainly not their priority, which is exactly why we need to make it ours.

There is a laundry list of chemicals, preservatives, and artificial additives lurking in our food supply today and I would have to write a novel to even put a dent in it. BUT if you can just dedicate yourself to avoiding the following 5 ingredients, you will be drastically decreasing your risk of developing a myriad of diseases and health problems. Also, chances are if you avoid these 5 ingredients you’ll be avoiding most of the other harmful additives too, because they tend to travel in groups.

1. Hidden Sugar

Earning it’s spot as number one on my list of ingredients to avoid, added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. Sugar is unnecessarily ADDED to 80% of our food supply and contributes to almost every single disease known to man kind. Quite frankly, it’s killing us and it shows up in foods where you’d least expect to see it. Unfortunately avoiding added sugar isn’t as simple as locating the word “sugar” on an ingredient list. There are well over 50 words disguising sugar on food labels so I’ve dedicated an entire post, Identifying Hidden Sugar, to teaching you exactly how to avoid it.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

High Fructose Corn Syrup is possibly the most dangerous form of added sugar in our food supply. It’s an inexpensive alternative to sugar and is therefore used to sweeten the majority of processed foods on the market today. HFCS is a highly processed form of sugar made from corn (which is usually genetically modified) and health risks include insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

3. Hydrogenated OR Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated or Partially hydrogenated Oils (of any kind) are the primary source of trans fats in our diet. Trans fats do not exist naturally- they are industrially made and are incredibly difficult for our bodies to digest. The consumption of trans fats contributes to a whole slew of health problems including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and several cancers. Regardless of whether or not the nutrition panel says “0 grams Trans Fat,” if you see any of the following terms on your ingredient list, the food product contains trans fats:

Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated Oils (Fully-hydrogenated oils are trans-fat free)

Shortening

DATEM

Mono- and Di- glycerides

Check out my post Get the Facts on Trans Fats to learn more.

4. Artificial Flavors

When you see “artificial flavors” or “_____ flavor” on a food label, it can indicate a single unnatural additive or a blend of hundreds of chemicals. For example, the average “butter flavor” is made of 100 different man-made chemicals! The FDA does not require companies to disclose the ingredients that go into their “artificial flavor” so we really don’t know what chemicals each “flavor” comprises of, let alone all of the health risks they have. There is very little documented research published on the effects of artificial flavors, but the bottom line is they are not natural, they are man-made chemicals that our bodies are in no way designed to digest. Artificial flavors are known to cause allergic reactions, headaches, fatigue, DNA damage and brain damage, but I have a feeling the list of risks is much longer- there is just too little research to confirm it.

5. Artificial Dyes and Colors

Most artificial dyes are made from coal tar and petroleum extracts- does that sound like something you want to eat? They show up in all kinds of surprising places and are listed as Red #3 and #40, Yellow #5 and #6, Blue #1 and #2, and Green #3, etc on your food’s ingredient labels. Potential health risks include hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), other behavior problems, chromosomal damage, tumor growth and cancer.

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE: Most of the “food” we eat today hardly resembles food at all. Become an avid label reader. Read every label on every single product and know what you are putting into your body. Look for foods with short, simple ingredient lists. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. And as always, the best way to avoid unwanted additives is to focus on eating whole, natural, minimally processed foods- and cook your own food from scratch as much as possible.