Meal Planning Series: 2.0

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I have a new family meal plan to share with you!

If you missed the introduction to the series, be sure to check it out as it walks you through why my week is arranged this way and how to make similar accommodations in your own family’s plan!

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The menu for this week is:

Monday: Bell Pepper Taco Nachos

This is an easy meal that can be individually customized. Simply brown some meat and prepare the toppings. For the hubby, I had him add his own toppings to make a traditional taco. For the little one, I can whip up a quick quesadilla for her. And for me, the bell pepper nachos. One base meal made a few different ways relatively simply and quickly.

Tuesday: Lemon Chicken with Pasta and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This is a family favorite that I do not need a recipe for. No matter how late it is, how tired I am, this is my go to recipe. The whole family likes it, or at least the little one will pick and choose whatever she likes and wants to try for that particular day…

Wednesday: Pulled Pork

There really isn’t any day of the week that doesn’t pose its own unique challenges, but Wednesday being in the middle of the week just has that fatigue-feeling at the end of the day. If you can plan a simple enough recipe on Tuesday (or even eat leftovers or if you’ve gone out), prepping a slow cooker meal for the next day is a smart move to ease the to do list on Wednesday.

Pulled pork – or any pulled meat- is my favorite, and this recipe is perfect to solve those humpday problems. Throw a lean pork tenderloin into a slow cooker, add some vinegar and spices, in the am and at the end of the day you simply shred it and eat! Pair with a salad or quick slaw and a 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat sandwich thin | round | flat- any brand will do!

Thursday: Dietitian-Approved Burgers

I recently tested out having Thursday nights be the night I have the hubster cooks, and it worked beautifully! It freed me to focus on the babe, do a load of laundry or anything else I need to get done as the week winds down.

Keeping it something simple and grilled, is the key here, at least for his culinary preferences. He can throw together some homemade burger patties made with ground sirloin {90/10 or 93/7}  and I can roast some sort of vegetable to go with it. He gets whatever bun he wants and I’ll use my go-to sandwich thins.

Friday: Homemade Pizza

This is another themed-meal where it can be individually customized. I can use a 100% whole grain tortilla, English muffin or pita whereas my husband can use Naan bread. The baby will eat anything cheese + bread so this is a family favorite for Friday night. It’s minimal cooking and if we don’t have everything we need on hand, it’s a quick trip to the local store for just a few ingredients. I’ll use up a homemade marinara if I have some in the fridge, if not I opt for a lower sodium sauce.

Saturday: Fish Tacos

Another customized meal? You guessed it. I’m not ever going to recommend that anyone makes multiple meals for their family, but it’s nice when meals can be tailored to consider other’s preferences with just a little extra effort.

I’m not a fan of just baked white fish. But my husband can be in charge of cooking the fish and boiling water for his beloved daily rice. I’ll work on a veggie for all plus make a quick zesty slaw for myself. We always have tortillas on hand – because I’m part Hispanic, didn’t you know? So I turn baked fish into fish tacos and everyone is happy. Except Lillian, she’s not a fan either so we are still working on what she can do on this night. Eat leftovers? PB & J?

Sunday: Zucchini Lasagna

If I’m going to make a more labor intensive type dinner, 99% of the time I’ll save it for Sunday. I can kind of work on it throughout the afternoon while doing other things as well. I make two small batches of his and her lasagna. His comes with regular lasagna noodles, her is made with grilled zucchini or eggplant. Both are made with the same cheese-mixture- and meat sauce using reduced fat cheeses & extra lean ground meat.

If for some reason our plans change and the nights switch or we decide to grab take out instead, that’s no big deal, just one less meal to figure out for next week!

xo,

Becca

Frozen Margarita Mocktail

I’m not the type of come home every night and need a drink. I’m not judging those that do, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want that glass of wine.

But my weakness is Margaritas, so much so, that when I was pregnant the one thing I needed my husband to do with me is not have any margaritas either. He could drink anything else, our signature wedding cocktail { A Rusty Nail}, beer, or other cocktail, but not a margarita. Especially if he’s making his beloved recipe. Nope, that was non-negotiable!

Fortunately, he happily complied.

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His signature recipe comes from his stepfather and it uses a simple store-bought mixer as a base. And while it’s a delicious combo, and I’ll always love it, it’s also loaded with sugar. Add the double layer of alcohol on top and you get a super high sugar and high calorie drink.

Special occasions? Fine.

But everyday, not so good, especially when you could easily drink more than one and that’s just not healthy.

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So when I was researching how to make a tasty and satisfying lower sugar recipe, one of my favorite chef’s to the rescue- Ina Garten! Her traditional Margarita recipe is just fresh citrus, juiced, and mixed with ice and alcohol.

My version is inspired by her simplicity and wholesome ingredients, but it goes even further to make it a mocktail! That’s right, the tart and refreshing flavor, with only a few calories, low sugar, and alcohol free!  It’s great for pregnant and breastfeeding mommas, anyone watching their sugar or calorie intake, or those that just don’t want the alcohol!

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Frozen Margarita Mocktail

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

1 cup ice

1 1/2 lime, juiced

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 orange, juiced

1 cup seltzer water

2 packets True Lime

1 packet Truvia

Directions:

In a blender, combine the ice, lemon, lime, and orange juice. Pulse until the ice starts to break apart. Pour in the seltzer water and pulse again until the ice is crushed and everything is well combined.

On a small dish, mix together the True Lime and Truvia. Rub the rim of each cocktail glass with a leftover wedge of lime.

Dip the rim in the lime-Truvia mixture. Pour the frozen mixture into each cocktail glass. Serve with lime slices and mint.

Per Serving: 15 calories, 0 fat, 15 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 2 grams sugar, 0 protein

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Fair warning, this recipe is slightly tart due to the only sweetness being provided by natural fruit sugar. You could add a touch of your own preferred sweetener to the mixture. I only used the Truvia on the rim as a bit of sweetness right on the tip of your tongue when you take that first sip.  I like it this way, but your tastes are different than mine, so make it your own and adjust as needed!

If you’re like me, no there’s no need to wait ’til Cinco de Mayo or National Margarita Day to enjoy your favorite cocktail- mocktail style!

xo

Becca

 

Bell Pepper Taco Nachos

If you aren’t familiar already, I’m part of this awesome community of food bloggers called The Recipe Redux where we create and share better-for-you recipes. Each month we have a themed-recipe challenge and this month our theme is tacos!

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If you also don’t know, I love anything tex-mex and tacos are a go-to easy weeknight meal that’s an all-time, long-time family favorite! That makes this month’s theme extra challenging though as it’s hard to twist something that is so beloved in it’s classic form.

These bell pepper nachos are a perfect blend of traditional with a twist.

Simply brown your extra lean ground meat (beef or turkey breast) and sprinkle the meat along with your favorite toppings over chunked bell peppers. Broil and eat as nachos!

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And, truly that’s the whole process. It’s more nutritious with the fiber and nutrients from the peppers as well as lighter in calories and sugar-carbs (albeit potential whole grains) from corn or whole wheat tortillas or chips.

It’s easy to make any night of the week or even serve it up at your next party with friends!

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Bell Pepper Taco Nachos

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

93% extra lean ground beef or 93-99% fat free ground turkey breast

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon homemade taco seasoning

3 bell peppers

1 cup black beans

1/2 cup 2% shredded cheese

1/4 cup corn

shredded lettuce

1 avocado, diced

Directions:

In a large skillet, brown the meat until it is fully cooked through and sprinkle on the taco seasoning.

Cut the bell peppers into large chunks. Layer them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. {Try to not leave any empty spaces to the meat and toppings get onto the peppers as much as possible and not the pan}.

Sprinkle the meat onto the bell peppers in an even layer. Repeat this process with your favorite toppings. I chose black beans and corn.

Bake in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, just until the beans and veggies have warmed through and the cheese melts.

Sprinkle on the shredded lettuce and avocado.

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You can also add tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos- whatever flavors you like! I try to use up whatever I have on hand without making extra trips to the store, so this was what I had at the moment.

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You could also whip up a greek yogurt-lime and cilantro dressing to drizzle on top for extra flavor and depth, but it’s not completely necessary. The cheese, avocado or guac definitely give it that ‘dressing-like consistency you may desire.

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This is a great recipe for nights you don’t want to strictly follow a recipe.

You can really add as much or as little of the ingredients as you’d like. Just be careful with portions of the fats like the cheese and the guacamole or avocado, but there’s free range with items like peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.

You could even make this completely vegetarian and just saute beans and lentils or even tofu in place of the meat, sprinkle on the seasoning and then layer everything onto the peppers!

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I hope you enjoy this and find it as tasty as I do! For more recipe inspiration check out these other Recipe Redux-ers and the blog posts this month:

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xo,

Becca

Dark Chocolate Coconut Truffles

It’s often hard to believe that anything that tastes good can actually be good for you.

But that’s exactly what these little chocolate treats are! Good for you!

And- in so many ways!

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From the heart healthy plant-based fats {from coconut oil that are not only good at increasing your heart protective HDL cholesterol but they also keep you feeling satisfied and fuller longer}…

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to just a teaspoon of added sugar per serving {good for your waistline, blood sugar, and heart}…

to the unsweetened cocoa powder that is good for your heart, brain, and stress levels!

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These truffle bites give you feelings of indulgence and decadence, but the health benefits of the simple ingredients makes these bites part of a healthy diet! If you’re worried about just eating one, rest assured, they are super rich and filling!

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Dark Chocolate Coconut Truffles

Makes 24-26 servings

1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut flakes, divided

2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

In a food processor, add 1 cup of coconut flakes and blend until it resembles smaller flakes {almost like snow}. Pour the coconut crumbs onto a plate or bowl. Set aside.

In the same food processor bowl, add the melted coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and sea salt. Pulse until well combined. Add the second cup of the coconut flakes and pulse to combine. The coconut flakes will break up into small pieces.

In a mixing bowl, sift the cocoa powder.

Add half the sifted cocoa to the coconut mixture. Pulse to combine. Add the remaining half. Pulse again quickly to fully incorporate.

Pour the mixture into a bowl {you can use the same mixing bowl used to sift the cocoa}. Set in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Using a small spoon or teaspoon, scoop the truffle mixture, press to combine slightly, and roll into a ball in your hand. Roll into coconut crumbs. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Per serving {1 truffle}: 100 calories, 9 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 10 milligram sodium, 8 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, 2 grams protein. 

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I love these as an easy recipe I can make with the little one and feel good about having it after my meal. Not only is it a sweet-treat but it’s incredibly nutritious and oh-so-delicious!

Enjoy!

xo,

Becca

Heart Health Priorities

The past few months I’ve had a shift in focus on my top nutrition recommendations and priorities.

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It all stems from an early morning phone call I got from my husband while we each parted ways on our routes to work.

It was something I inevitably thought I’d hear one day, but I just never knew when.

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My dad had a minor heart attack in December which was followed by open heart surgery with a quadruple bypass.

He didn’t have the best eating habits. I knew this. I’d fuss at him for it, but it just wasn’t his time to listen or take action.

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The positive side to the story is that he’s recovering incredibly well.

And now he is willing to listen.

He’s listening closely. Although still rolling his eyes at me.

And he’s changing.

Changing his eating, his exercise, his beverage choices. His overall health. All for the better!

Fortunately, his minor heart attack with a serious subsequent surgery has gone profoundly well and I am super proud as his daughter and dietitian!

But this has all meant my focus has really shifted to him and his heart health.

So my February article in Health and Fitness magazine is highlighting the top priorities to get your heart in shape, perfect timing for National Heart Month. The list’s order will vary for anyone based on their current habits and subsequent needs. This list is prioritized for my dad, but you can see what would be best for your loved ones.

You can read the full article here.

xo,

Becca

 

Meal Planning Series: Intro

Let’s be honest here.

One of the biggest struggles in maintaining good nutrition is:

meal planning!

Not just for yourself, but for the whole family.

Where you don’t feel like a made-to-order cook at a restaurant.

Where you are meeting the food likes of everyone.

Whether you’re cooking just for 1.

Just for 2.

Or the whole family.

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I’ve heard it all. And the truth is, we all have trouble with meal planning. Period.

It’s always a work in progress. You have to learn to keep variety in the routine so you don’t get bored. But you also may need to stick to some pretty structured recommendations if you’re trying to be successful towards any nutrition-related goals.

Clients tell me, “it’s just me, so it’s hard to cook for one person.”

Other clients say, “It’s just the hubby and me, so it’s hard to cook for just for two.” {when they are used to cooking for their kids too}.

And then others with little ones comment, “they are picky which limits what we all can eat.”

So what happens with each of these three different scenarios? They all resort to eating out. Which means- uncontrolled food environments, higher calories, less nutrients, more sodium, less fiber, more expensive!

Adapting! That’s what we have to get good at! Adapting our perspective so that we can take on these new challenges. Adapting our behaviors so we can be successful with our goals.

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This meal planning series is created to help take one less thing off your plate. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration to try a new dish. Maybe you’ll remember an old recipe you loved and can learn to twist it into a healthier version. Maybe you follow this entirely one week out of the month and it helps you save money, time, energy, and stress.

I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I’m happy to share what has worked for me and my family so you can benefit. I’ll even share what doesn’t work so you don’t have to make my mistakes too!

Meal planning is always one of my weekly goals because we need to keep it interesting, nutritious, and budget-friendly. But let’s face it. You need to find time to make the plan, get input from the fam, write the grocery list,  go to the store, and then actually implement it. I’m a big multi-tasker. You kind of have to be these days right? And I’m a working mom with a 2 year old and a picky husband. So you’re not alone!

Here are the basics to the structure of my weekly meal plan for dinners:

The hubs and I are each good about bringing leftovers for lunch which means we most likely need to cook every night. If you want to prep a different meal to eat off of for lunch each day, then you won’t need to cook every night, maybe only every other night. So this one week meal plan can stretch into two weeks.

7 days in a week = 

1 night of beef

1 night of pork

2 chicken or poultry

2 fish

1 misc.

Now this is the goal, but it doesn’t always work out. Some weeks we don’t have enough fish in the plan – and that’s mostly due to playing around with other ingredients I have on hand at home, trying to clean out the freezer, etc.

For the misc night that could be eating extra leftovers {because someone ate out at lunch or we had extras from a recipe} or it could be the one time during the week we get take out or it could be a night where we fend for ourselves. In our house that tends to be the hubby eating pasta of some sort, me eating breakfast for dinner, and LEM eating whatever she wants because she’s at that stage right now.

Anticipate the week & arrange easier meals, leftovers, or eating out on nights you’ll be getting home late from work or you know you’ll have a long day and just want to order something. Work that into your own plan.

If you’re only cooking for one, then you can stretch these meals out between a couple lunches and dinners and only need to cook a few items each week. If you don’t like to do that or you don’t like leftovers then freeze {in small containers} so you can easily defrost for a quick meal anytime you need! So to be gentle but frank, cooking for one or two, is not a reason to let yourself eat out every night or not an excuse to prevent yourself from eating healthfully at home.

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Now for those with little ones, yes you want to tailor meals towards them but without restricting option so much you limit what they are exposed to. You still want to offer things they like as well as new foods, but without making a totally adult-only friendly meal.

For example:

what not to do:

scenario 1: every one eats something different every night

scenario 2: child eats chicken nuggets + macaroni and cheese while mom & dad eat grilled fish & roasted broccoli

what to do:

everyone likes rice, baby sometime likes salmon, baby doesn’t like broccoli =

whole grain brown rice + baked salmon + roasted broccoli

You consider their likes, but still offer things they don’t like or haven’t tried yet.

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So let’s take a look at what our family’s plan is for this week.

I asked the hubs his input and he wanted 1. pot roast and 2. meat loaf. Now this is breaking my beef once per week rule, but work with what you can.

So to compensate and make sure we get in those heart-healthy fish oils, I made sure that fish made it in the plan twice. Roasted salmon is an easy 20 or 30 minute dinner we can easily make after work as the oven does most of the work. Blackened fish po’boys are our healthier version of the New Orleans classic, but we use whole grain bread, homemade remoulade and minimal sodium added- if any at all- seared fish. And if you want the crunch like a fried version, simply dust on some whole grain corn meal and bake it!

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I have our eating out planned for Friday night as we have been recently taking Friday night runs to Target. Since by the the time we get home from work, less traffic die down, and get home from our adventure, it’s usually too late to cook something super homemade and still get the bedtime routine done in a reasonable time for everyone. So Friday night is take out.

Monday is a later night of work for me, so leftovers are perfect for those late evenings. Thursday this week is also another later night, but I don’t anticipate having left overs. It’s also a potential eating out night {which may mean a quick rearrange of the plan for Friday night}, but as of now I have quick grilled chicken salads. This is something the hubs is best at {grilling} so he can do most of the cooking and I’ll play with LEM when I first get home.

So the only other night left to explain is Wednesday. While Shepard’s pie is not a super fast meal,  I thought I could make cauliflower mashed “potatoes” once with the meat loaf and make enough to use again with the Shepard’s pie. Since we already have beef here twice this week, I opted for turkey instead. We may have enough left overs that we won’t have to make the chicken salads or eat out Thursday.

So there’s some options and room for rearranging as needed. Whatever we may not get to, because life happens and we need to be flexible, I can always put on the plan for next week. That’s actually what happened with the pot roast- I bought the meat last week and we never made it, so it’s on the menu for this week.

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And there you have it- the realistic, flexible, and nutritious meal planning strategies with an example.

Do you have any fool-proof meal planning tips? I’d love to hear them!

xo,

Becca

 

Oven Baked Louisiana Seafood Boil

In a world where you are more often told what not to eat, then what you should eat- fish and seafood happen to be two of the most heart-healthy, lean protein sources you can eat!

While options like salmon and tuna will be your most omega-3 rich {heart-healthy fat rich in antioxidants and good for not just your heart, but also your brain & eyes!}, that’s not to say you can have shrimp, crawfish, oysters, white fish, red fish, etc. etc. etc.

And it’s a myth cholesterol from food like shellfish {shrimp, crawdads, lobster} are the culprits for raising  your blood lipids or blood cholesterol. The two biggest dietary factors that contribute to elevated cholesterol {specifically high LDL} are excess saturated and trans fats.

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Now there is a caveat to all of this.

If you are from Louisiana then you know how beloved our seafood and seafood boils are! Since we are about to be in the season for crawfish and other various seafood boils as well as Lent, I wanted to share a recipe that can give you the flavor of this beloved and annual tradition without all the sodium from the seasoning! Not to mention you can do this recipe year round, rain or shine!

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Louisiana Seafood “Boil” Bake

1 pound shrimp and/or crawfish tails

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon Sal & Judy’s Creole Seasoning, divided

freshly ground black pepper

2 Nitrite|Nitrate free chicken sausages

6 half-ears of corn

1/4 red onion

1 bell pepper, chopped*

lemon & rosemary for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a small baking sheet, layer with foil and then spread out the shrimp into an even single layer. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning, and black pepper. Toss well to combine.

On a separate small baking sheet, layer with foil, and then add the chicken sausages, corn, onion, and peppers. In a small bowl or ramekin, combine the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the 1/4 teaspoon of Creole Seasoning. Brush the Creole oil mixture onto the corn, peppers, and onion (not needing to coat the chicken sausage).

Bake the corn, sausage mixture for 20 minutes and then add the shrimp to the oven.  Allow both to cook together in the oven for 10 minutes.

* I used a handful mini sweet peppers as they are always on hand for me as a snack, but I also love the tri-colors and the appeal that adds to this dish.

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I explained one of the downfalls of traditional seafood boils being the abundant amounts of sodium found in the various brands of seasoning. There are liquid boils available that do not have any sodium, but if you want the traditional spice mixtures, try Sal & Judy’s Creole seasoning with 1/3rd less sodium than other brands like Tony’s or Old Bay. Paul Prudhomme’s blends, even his regular Magic Seasoning blends besides his No Salt No Sugar line, has similarly low sodium stats with only 100 milligrams per 1/4 teaspoon.

I obviously love these local NOLA brands so much that I even cleaned out my parent’s pantry and cabinet and replaced their seasonings with their daughter’s dietitian-approved options.

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You’ll also notice that I added a lot more veggies to my recipe than the traditional corn and potatoes, both of which aren’t super nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals,but also higher in calories and starchy carbs.

So I added some broccoli, bell peppers, okra, and red onion!

You, of course, can add whatever you like. I tried to keep to popular southern-style veggies,hence the okra, but you can really tailor this to your liking!

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Enjoy!

xo,

Becca