Archives

Salad in a Bag – Healthy way to eat salads daily.

One of my healthy lifestyle goals is to increase the amount of vegetables in my diet. Not being a vegetable fan this hasn’t been easy. I am also too lazy to make a fresh salad everyday.  I have seen several posts for making salads in a jar on pinterest and I was inspired. I was worried about the vegetables getting old and rotting if I made several batches so I came up with the idea to use my Food Saver vacuum sealer. I received this as a gift several years ago used it a few times then moved it to the garage to make room in my uber small kitchen and promptly forgot about it.  I am so happy that I remembered I had it and even found a box of vacuum seal bags in the back of my cupboard. Really this just means I need to clean out and organize my kitchen a bit.

To test this method I made just two salads. I wasn’t sure how quickly I would eat them since I get really tired of having salad every day. I made these up on Sunday and had one on Monday and one on Friday. The Friday salad was just as good as the Monday one. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the avocados were still nice and green.

Each salad included romaine lettuce, 1/2 an avocado, a handful of : cherry tomatoes, carrots, and broccoli.

I think this is a great method for make ahead lunches, saves, time and saves money. I can’t tell you how much produce I have thrown away over the years because it rotted in my vegetable crisper.

I do have a few hints and tips.

1. Wash and dry all vegetables, especially lettuce,  thoroughly before you vacuum seal.  If you have a salad spinner use it, if not put the lettuce in a clean cloth bag like a pillow case and swing it around. This works great as a poor mans salad spinner and doesn’t take up much room in your pantry.

2. Do not include any salad dressing or oil in the bag as it will cause the lettuce to wilt.

3. Be careful not to put too much in one bag. I actually was a bit over zealous and was full after about 3/4 of each salad.

4. The bags allow you to use less dressing. When you are about to eat the salad add about 1/2 the dressing you normally would fold the bag closed and shake. You will find everything to be evenly coated and are likely to use less dressing.

5. Fold the top of the bag down to create a bowl, fewer dishes to wash!  This is my healthy lunch on Friday.

6. Bags can be washed and re-used. Just make sure to wash well by hand and prop open by placing over the blender, a tall glass, or a wooden spoon in a glass so the bag can completely air dry. If you are worried about germs, fill the bag with water and a teaspoon of bleach. swish around and rinse well. Let air dry and re use.

I like using the bags instead of mason jars because they take up a lot less room in my cupboard and I don’t have to worry about glass breaking.

A Tale of Two Salad Dressings

Yesterday I wrote about a delicious Spinach Berry Salad I made and wanted to take a moment to talk about the salad dressing I chose and the importance of reading food labels.

 

Since I started my healthy lifestyle change I have been taking the time to make more conscious decisions on haw and what I eat so I started reading and comparing labels and have been so shocked by what I have learned.

I wanted a light, low fat dressing that was healthy. After reading several bottles I narrowed it down to two choices.

 Annies Naturals Fat Free Raspberry Balsamic  and Kens Fat Free Raspberry Pecan 

Now normally I try to stay away from fat free, low calorie food because I know they make up the difference by adding chemicals, strange things, more fat for less sugar or more sugar for less fat. Salt, and God knows what. I feel in the long run a little healthy fat is better for you than strange chemicals.

Here are pictures of each dressing, sorry for the poor photography, I was using my cell phone and getting strange looks from other customers.

When reading labels the first thing you want to look at is the serving size. Make sure they are the same so that you are comparing the same information. Some manufactures reduce the serving size to make it appear they have fewer calories but if you compare equal amounts it is not always the case.

Here is what I found. Both products have a serving size of 2 tablespoons, neither have any notable nutritional value, neither had any fat.

Kens had 50 calories per serving and Annies had 30 calories. That was a significant difference. Kens had 280 mg of sodium (12% of the recomended daily intake) Annies had 10mg) Major difference!!!

Then I looked at the ingredients.

Kens: water, high fructose corn syrup, cider vinegar, sugar, cucumber juice, maltodextin, salt, Less than 2% of red raspberry juice, pecans, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium, EDTA, xanthan gum, carrageenan, onion, spice, lemon juice concentrate, garlic, natural and artificial flavor, Red #40, Blue #1

So basically it is sweet, salty, chemical water???

Annies: water, balsamic vinegar, can sugar, raspberry concentrate, distilled white vinegar, xanthan gum, raspberry flavor, sea salt.

Now except for the xanthan gum, I recognize and can pronounce all of these ingredients.

Sorry Ken, Annie is the clear winner in this round.

Ken did win one round in this battle though and that was in price. Ken was on sale for $3.59 for 16 oz while Annie was $4.29 for 8 ounces but you can purchase it online for $2.99. Still when I compare the list of ingredients, Annie is still the clear winner.

As for taste, I cannot comment on Ken’s but Annie had a nice light flavor just the right amount of sweetness and tart that makes a good vinaigrette. The dressing was a great compliment to my Spinach Berry Salad.

 

 

 

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Last week my friend took me out to lunch at Applebee’s where I had their delicious SEASONAL BERRY & SPINACH SALAD Spinach leaves tossed in our strawberry vinaigrette. Layered with juicy blueberries, sliced strawberries, grilled chicken breast, bleu cheese crumbles and honey-glazed pecans. (Picture below is from Applebee’s)

The salad was delicious and I have been craving one every since but being cheap and lazy I decided to make one of my own. I was also hoping to cut down some of the calories by eliminating/changing the honey-glazed pecans, blue cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.

Here is the nutritional breakdown from Applebees for 1/2 salad.

Salad with dressing- Calories 320, fat 17gm, carbs 21 gm, fiber 4 gm, protein 27gm

The Pin Addicts Berry Spinach Salad

Nutritional information from fatsecret.com including dressing.

Calories 164, Fat 11.13 gm, Carbs 13.54, Fiber 4.4 gm Protein 6.14 gm

Now granted my salad did not have any chicken on it but for fun I added it to the ingredients list to see how it would compare

My salad with 1/2 cup chopped chicken breast: Calories 296, Fat 16.34, Carbs 13.54, Fiber 4.4, Protein 26 gm

Wow! I was surprised I thought that my salad would have been a lot less in comparison. Either way my salad was still delicious, healthy , and in the long run a lot less expensive.

Diet tip – When eating salads and vegetables it is actually good to have a little fat with the salad. Fat helps you absorb fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K.  The secret is to not overload your salad with fats. Use a low fat dressing, avocados, or a low fat cheese. The fat will also help you feel more satisfied and full.

Salad dressing tip: To reduce the amount of calories and fat measure your dressing before putting on your salad, also try watering down your dressing. Start with 1 tsp of water to 1 tablespoon of dressing. work your way up to 1 tablespoon of water 1/4 tsp of dressing.

P.S. the Annies Naturals salad dressing listed above is only $2.99 if you order it on their website. I paid 4.29 at my local store. They also have several other great products listed on their website.  I did not receive any compensation for this listing, I just love this dressing and wouldn’t mind if they sent me samples of their other products (hint, hint).

Easy Low Calorie Parmesan Chicken Bake

Another recipe that is so easy my husband could make it!  

There are only 4 ingredients! 

Takes only minutes to prepare!

Recently I was watching a mayonnaise commercial with a recipe similar to this and could only think Yew, ick, all that fat and grease. No don’t get me wrong, I love mayonnaise and could almost eat it straight out of the jar but since I started eating healthier I noticed that fatty greasy foods just don’t look as appealing as they used too.

Soon after watching the commercial I came across an alternative on Pinterest that uses Greek Yogurt.  I was skeptical but since I just happened to have the ingredients on hand I thought I would give it a try. The original recipe is Melt in Your Mouth Chicken. After reading through the comments I decided to change it up a bit.

Lo-Calorie Parmesan Chicken Bake

  • 3 lbs skinless chicken breasts (about 6 medium breasts)
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt 0% fat (I used Chobani)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 tble Dijon mustard

1. Mix yogurt, cheese, and mustard in a bowl.

2. Dredge the chicken in the mixture to completely coat

3. Place chicken in greased baking dish, top with any remaining cheese mixture.        I used two dishes so it would fit in my crowded fridge better.

4. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes until done.

 

 

 

 

Make Ahead– Prepared everything the night before and let sit overnight in the fridge so that when I came home from work all I had to do was heat up the oven, cook up a side, we had quinoa and carrots, and make a small side salad.

This recipe was so easy, the chicken came out tender and juicy and was full of flavor.

Alternative versions:

  • You can substitute the Greek yogurt with plain yogurt, sour cream, or mayonnaise but remember you will be adding extra fat and calories. 
  • Instead of using Dijon mustard add your own mixture of herbs and spices. Black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and a little oregano or basil.  Use crushed garlic or just some season salt. Try using your favorite poultry seasoning. 
  • Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs for a crunchy layer.
  • Wrap each breast in foil and bake on the grill.
  • Use Cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.

My husband ended up eating two servings because it was so good, we packed the rest of for lunches, I hid two in the back of the fridge so he wouldn’t eat them before I did. 🙂 There were just as good the next day.

Enjoy! 

I ate a doughnut today and I didn’t like it

I ate a doughnut today and I didn’t like it, so why did I eat it? I don’t know why, perhaps I’ll die. (channeling old nursery rhymes)

Seriously, Why did I eat it if I wasn’t enjoying it? Don’t get me wrong, I love doughnuts, I could eat half a dozen of them on my own. I can’t walk past the doughnut shop without drooling uncontrollably.

Today I walked into the break room at work and I saw a box of these evil fried and sugar coated spawns of Satan and I felt compelled to take one.  I took a bite and found it stale and overly sweet but I felt compelled to finish it. When I was done I started thinking why didn’t I just stop. Why didn’t I just throw it away.  I started to think about all the food I had eaten and not enjoyed but ate it anyway then felt guilty about it.  I remembered another dessert I had recently eaten only to think that it wasn’t worth the calories, yet I finished my plate.

Is it that I felt that since I had taken it I couldn’t waste the food by throwing it away? Previous food came to mind, was I afraid of insulting the hostess or someone else? Was I afraid it would be my last meal and I would be forced to eat only Brussels sprouts and protein shakes the rest of my life? Was it that I was forced to clean my plate when I was young because their were starving children in China? Never quite got that one and could only think about how I would gladly send those poor starving children my vegetables.

It makes me wonder about all the food choices I have made over my life. How many calories were wasted on food that I did not enjoy?  How many times did I feel compelled to finish my food? How many of us have sat in a restaurant, fully satiated only to continue to eat because there was food on the plate?

I think it is time to start looking at what I eat, how I eat, and why I eat the things I do.  It is time to just say no to finds I don’t enjoy and to not feel compelled to finish. I say that it is ok to throw out food that you do not like. It is ok to ask the waiter to clear your dishes so you don’t continue to pick at a plate. It is ok to give yourself permission to not eat/finish/taste/try something that you do not enjoy.

It is ok to just say NO!  

 

Sunshine in a glass (Green Smoothie)

I first read about this green smoothie on Oprah or Dr. Oz or one of those shows. I decided to try it since I don’t eat nearly enough vegetables and I fell in love with it.  It is really easy to make. It may not look that great in fact my co-monkeys make fun of me and call it green sludge. It is just one of those things you have to try to believe.  On the show is was described as tasting like sunshine in a glass.

Green Smoothie

  • 1 cucumber
  • Juice from 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • Handful of fresh spinach or kale
  • 1 apple
  • 1-2 stalks of celery
  • Any other vegetable you would like such as carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, etc.

This is so easy, no need to peal anything! In fact leave on the peels because that is where the vitamins are.  Just slice into chunks and put in the blender.  I do remove the seeds from the apple but that is it.

The key to this smoothie is the apple for added sweetness. If you don’t have an apple feel free to use other fruit such as grapes or berries but I prefer the apple.

I put hlaf the ingredients in the blender and let them blend while I prepared the remaining vegetables.  Be careful not to add to many ingredients that are acidic such as tomatoes as the smoothie can get too acidic.

  • If the smoothie is too thick you can add water

some water, make sure to blend it well. In the pictures below mine was very thick so I poured some into 1/2 pint jars add water to the blender and blended some more. This also helped get all of the blended vegetables out of the blender.  I then put the jars in the freezer so that I would have smoothies ready to go each morning. By freezing them I was able to use the smoothie as an ice pack to keep my lunch cold on the way to work.  By break time the jar would be thawed out enough for me to drink.

I like to add more water to the glass to help increase my water intake. I find this works well to tide me over from breakfast to lunch and stop snacking.

Here is a picture from my desk, my sippy cup with some water down smoothie, my tea gotta have hot tea in the morning, and a delicious green smoothie for the afternoon.

 

Looks like green sludge but tastes delicious! 

Them’s Fighten words- Portion Control and Moderation

Don’t you just hate when you hear those words?  Said in a whinny nagging tone “Losing weight is all about portion control and moderation”. Yeah, Yeah.  Blah Blah.

I know, I know, you have heard it all before and I am here to say it again. I hate the idea of portion control and moderation. I want to eat what I want, when I want and how I want, but I don’t want to suffer the consequences so this is something I must learn.

I am not here to tell you to weigh and measure everything you eat, that is just too much work for me. I am not here to tell you that you need to be strong and have willpower. Heck if you want a cookie, have a dang cookie, just don’t eat half the package in one sitting.  If you want a bowl of ice cream, have one but consider using a smaller bowl. If you want more go get more but don’t eat the whole carton.

When there is some sort of sweet treat in front of me I have very little self-control. I am the one who licks the chocolaty goodness off of the plate or wrapper so that none is wasted. I have been known to eat 2-3 packages of mini Oreos with milk like I am eating cereal and call it dinner. Strangely if you put a bowl of steamed broccoli in front of me I have no problem obtaining. I think Oreos must have some magical hypnotic power that sends out subliminal messages that say “eat me”.

I saw a interesting gadget on pinterest called a Portion Control Plate. I thought it was an interesting idea but I tried to think of something better.

Then one day while shopping at Wal-mart I noticed some Ziploc plastic containers that came in 1, 2, and 4 cup sizes.  Then the brilliant idea hit me “Why not use smaller containers to help portion and store my food?”

When I want a snack I fill up the one cup size with nuts, crackers, or dry cereal. While I eat my snack I take several good sips of water and find that one cup is enough to fill me up and satisfy any cravings. I use the 2 cup size to package leftovers for lunch and find this is the perfect amount. The 4 cup size I use to store larger amounts in the freezer, salads, or items like fruit.  By doing this I have noticed that I have greatly cut down the amount of food I eat.