How to increase your vegetable intake the simple way

If you like it, veggify it!

One of the easiest ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is by adding them to recipes you already enjoy. This strategy makes healthful eating habits attainable in the following ways:

First, you feel comfortable preparing the recipe. Rather than investing resources to master a brand-new vegetable recipe, simply adding vegetables to recipes that you’re already familiar with conserves your energy and your time.

Second, this suggestion affords you the opportunity to make your favorite culinary classics new again with the diverse flavors and textures of different vegetables.

This week, aim to bolster your healthful consumption habits by making vegetables a priority on your plate. Begin by implementing these recommendations for veggifying popular recipes:

1. Scrambled Eggs

Coat a pan with a thin veil of olive oil. Then, sauté mushrooms, onions, and peppers. Set aside. In the same pan, prepare your scrambled eggs. Next, add the sautéed vegetables to the thoroughly cooked scrambled eggs to make this morning meal more nutrient-dense.

After your scrambled eggs have taken shape and are thoroughly cooked, toss a handful of sliced greens (i.e. Bok Choy, collard greens, Kale, spinach, etc.) into the pan.

2. Brown Rice

Dice two medium-sized carrots. Combine the carrots with diced onions and one cup of snow peas into a pan. Sauté. After that, add in your batch of cooked brown rice.

3. Tomato Sauce

Add a depth of flavor and texture to this Italian classic by cubing four medium-sized carrots and four medium-sized stalks of celery. Sauté. Use the carrot and celery sauté as a base for your tomato sauce.

4. Pancakes

Incorporate squash or pumpkin into your pancake batter.

Grate a medium-sized zucchini to add to your pancake batter. Helpful hint: zucchinis have a large water content, so be sure to press the grated zucchini with a paper towel to prevent your batter from becoming soggy.

Looking to incorporate more vegetables into your diet?

Check out my recipes for Zucchini Chips, Escarole Salad, and Roasted Potatoes and Leeks.

Have you ever veggified a recipe?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Five flavorful alternatives to sugary drinks

I’d like to begin by sharing an exciting announcement…

Let’s Eat Lunch! now offers sharing buttons for email, Pinterest, and WordPress to make it easy to share your favorite posts with your family, your friends, and your social media following! These new sharing buttons serve as additions to the Twitter and Facebook sharing buttons that have been staples on this blog since its inception.

To use any of these sharing buttons, simply click the title of this blog post–Five flavorful alternatives to sugary drinks–and after you arrive at its web page, scroll to the bottom of the post to share, share, share 😉

As always, thank you to my loyal following of nutrition advocates, food bloggers, health enthusiasts, and fellow foodies for supporting Let’s Eat Lunch!.

Five flavorful alternatives to sugary drinks

This summer, Let’s Eat Lunch! is empowering your path to health and freedom. To kick off this new season of blogging, Nannie served as inspiration for you to go after your own #healthgoals. Last week, I focused on how to transform your eating habits by selecting whole foods over processed ones.

The philosophy of choosing whole foods over processed ones to attain optimal health applies to selecting beverages. Sugary drinks such as diet soda, seltzer, and soda contain additives that detract from, rather than enhance, your health. On the other hand, tea (without synthetic sweeteners) and water are beverages that elevate your well-being.

This week, hone your hydration habits to be simultaneously flavorful and healthful. Enjoy fragrant and nutrient-dense flavored water with these alternatives to sugary drinks.

1. Mint Water

One of my family’s favorite breakfast places is always experimenting with flavored water. When a waiter or waitress comes to the table with iced water, it’s always a fun surprise to see the new flavor.

My all-time favorite is mint water, complete with a single mint leaf that sits atop the ice cubes. Mint water is not only energizing first thing in the morning, it also neutralizes breath odor.

2. Strawberry-and-Basil Water

Forget the strawberry-and-banana flavor combination…strawberry and basil is where it’s at! The sweetness of the strawberries pairs incredibly well with the more savory taste of fresh basil.

If you cultivate an herb garden and grow different varieties of this herb, experiment with types such as Thai basil. The vibrant hue of purple basil brightens a glass of water too. To prepare strawberry-and-basil water, hull two medium-sized strawberries, and then quarter them. Add them to a glass of iced water along with a few leaves of fresh basil.

3. Grapefruit Water

Grapefruit water is a staple at one of the dining halls on campus. It’s super easy to prepare by peeling a grapefruit, slicing it into thin rounds, and then placing the rounds into a water pitcher.

Also, it’s aesthetically appealing and a surprisingly unexpected offering in beverage dispensers at barbecues and celebrations. Speaking of festivities, a very Happy Independence Day to my stateside followers!

4. Lemon-and-Lime Water

Please do me a favor and skip the lemon-and-lime flavored diet sodas, seltzers, and sodas. Instead, opt for a DIY-verison of these sugary drinks, minus the synthetic ingredients.

This flavored-water combination is ideal to prepare after you’ve finished a recipe calling for the juice of lemons and limes (i.e. guacamole). Grate the zest of the lemons and limes into ice cube trays, add water, and freeze. Then, add equal parts lemon pulp and lime pulp to a glass, and finish with the lemon-and-lime zest ice cubes.

5. Orange-and-Thyme Water

Water with orange segments is relatively common, but a few sprigs of thyme elevates this citrus fruit to give the flavored water an edgier (savory and sophisticated) taste. If you grow an herb garden, orange and thyme water (as well as other herb-infused waters) is an awesome way to incorporate your garden bounty into your hydration habits.

To prepare orange and thyme water, squeeze the juice of one orange into a pitcher of iced water. Add 10 medium-sized sprigs of thyme to the pitcher, and enjoy. Similar to the lemon-and-lime water, the zest of the orange can be used to prepare orange-zest ice  cubes in this orange-and-thyme recipe.

Looking to make healthful hydration a habit?

Check out these Tips for Drinking More Water, and find out why I’ve hailed H2O – The Rockstar of All Beverages!!!.

What’s your go-to flavorful alternative to sugary drinks?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Consumption patterns: One profound shift to health and freedom

Last week, I wrote about Nannie’s empowered journey to health and freedom. How can each of us reach this same destination?

I’m of the belief that changing our consumption patterns from mostly processed foods to mostly whole foods profoundly affects our diets, and consequently, our collective health.

Whole foods originate from the Earth and its bounty. (Think animals, nuts, seeds, and plants.) Processed foods are manufactured by humans or machines. (Think cereal, hotdog buns, pop-tarts, and seltzer.)

In general, whole foods offer vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients essential for longevity. On the other hand, the majority of processed foods consist of empty calories, that is, they’re devoid of nutrition.

While whole foods are pure, processed foods contain additives, such as artificial colors, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, and other gunk (yes, I ❤ the technical terms 😉 ) that hinder health and wellness.

For example, a recipe for homemade tomato sauce may consist of the following: garlic cloves, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, olive oil, basil, oregano. Voila! It’s a winning recipe because each component is a whole food that originates from the Earth.

In contrast, a jar of tomato sauce purchased from the grocery store may consist of tomato paste, herbs, salt, and pepper, but also guar gum, Red 40, and refined sugar. Yikes! This store-bought tomato sauce is processed because all of its components do not originate from the Earth.

This week, try swapping processed foods for whole foods. However you begin is awesome in every way! Depending on where you’re at in your journey to health and freedom, you may feel ready to make this shift during a single meal one day this week, or at dinner each night for the next seven days. The only thing that matters is that you do indeed begin.

Remember, this shift in consumption patterns doesn’t have to be a monumental change filled with angst and rigidity. Go for a noble effort rather than aiming for suffocating perfection. You totally got this 🙂

Comment below to ask questions, to share your go-to recipes featuring whole foods, and to tell us how this shift in consumption patterns affects your health!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Nannie chooses health and freedom. What about you?

My grandmother, whom I call Nannie, awoke from a sound sleep this past Monday morning due to acute abdominal pain. She rushed to the hospital, and in less than 24 hours, underwent an emergency procedure. When I saw her in recovery, attached to an IV pole and an oxygen tube, my heart broke.

Nannie and I are best friends.

Nannie is the type of person who, while walking down the street, will scout out a stranger feeling blue, engage her or him in conversation, listen to her or his life story, and then proceed to tell that person how he or she should go about fixing what’s broken.

She will call you up, she will call you out, and she will disregard your excuses about why it can’t be done, or why it won’t happen.

People really dig it.

Because as she’s breaking you down and building you back up again, she makes you feel safe. And cherished. And hopeful.

She was born and raised in Dorchestah (Dorchester, MA) amongst 16, (yes, 16) brothers and sisters. She had a childhood straight out of hell: an alcoholic father, an abusive family structure, an impoverished home, and a neglected neighborhood. Food was fleeting, and health was a luxury, not a right.

When Nannie and I discuss how she overcame her upbringing to become the empowered, healthy, and vibrant woman she is today, her answer always comes back to a choice she made long ago. She didn’t want the life that she was born into. So she chose to create a life she would grow into.

Nannie wanted to be healthy, and she wanted to be free. (Isn’t there a piece of all of us, albeit sometimes silenced, that wants the same thing?)

So Nannie made it happen. She did it for her mother, her siblings, her husband, her kids, and most importantly of all, she did it for herself.

Nannie is seventy-seven years old. She’s a yogi. Her form during plank pose is #likeaboss. She eats chia seeds like they’re going out of style. Her manifesto is “all my cells are well.” And she can maintain an informative discussion with you about organic versus conventional produce, the Dirty Dozen, and the Clean Fifteen.

In other words, Nannie dominates on every level.

I’m relieved to report that Nannie is doing quite well following her emergency procedure. In fact, Nannie decided to do Shiva pose at the hospital while attached to an IV pole (once a yogi, always a yogi!).

She is healthy, and she is free. And she has nobody to thank for that but herself.

This summer at Let’s Eat Lunch!, we’re choosing health and freedom. For ourselves, for our loved ones, for our world. Each of us has power within to make this choice. Let’s Eat Lunch! will provide the information and inspiration to sustain it.

Why do you choose health and freedom?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

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Happy Memorial Day! Repost 2014

“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust:  Their courage nerves a thousand living men.”

-Minot J. Savage

This blog post is dedicated with unending gratitude to all of the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

Can’t beat the heat? Kale salad recipe to the rescue…

Here on the East Coast, we enjoyed our first taste of summer this week. The temperature spiked to the nineties, lasting a couple of days. In the midst of a heat wave, who feels like turning the oven on to cook? Certainly not I! Prepare this salad recipe–no oven or stovetop required– for a nutrient-dense afternoon or evening meal during a heat wave.

Can’t Beat the Heat Kale Salad

Serves One

Ingredients:

1 cup of baby kale

1/4 cup of halved strawberries

2 tbsp. of sunflower seeds

Shaved Manchego to taste

1/8 cup of lemon vinaigrette

Method:

Toss baby kale, strawberries, sunflower seeds, and lemon vinaigrette together until fully incorporated.

Then, add desired amount of shaved Manchego cheese atop the salad.

Enjoy! If preparing salad in advance of a meal, simply pour lemon vinaigrette into a separate container from the salad components.

What are your go-to salad recipes when you can’t beat the heat?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

Is the writing on the wall for Whole Foods?

Its food and beverage sales? Waning. Its Board of Directors? Reshuffled. Its stock market performance? Closing price declines. Uh oh. Is the writing on the wall for Whole Foods Market?

According to USA Today, Whole Foods Market ushered in “its seventh consecutive quarter of falling sales in stores open at least a year.” The media company also reported it would not be out of the question for senior executives to put Whole Foods Market on the market.

When Whole Foods Market first opened its doors, it differentiated itself from other grocery chains by sourcing local specialty food items, antibiotic-free poultry and wild-caught seafood, as well as organic fruits and vegetables.

Two things can be attributed to the mind-boggling success of its early marketing campaigns. First, Whole Foods Market sold food and beverage products nobody else did. (Think 80-percent cacao Fair Trade chocolate bar, free-range eggs, organic asparagus, and grass fed beef.) Second, Whole Foods Market offered an experience nobody else did. (Think an artful arrangement of produce, a series of build-your-own food stations, and a Certified Cheese Professional offering you a wedge of Manchego to sample.)

In other words, an exclusive product plus an extraordinary experience equaled a compelling brand.

Throughout the twenty-first century, the grocery chain’s competitors began selling the same caliber, often times the same brand, of food and beverage products as Whole Food Market. For example, free-range eggs have almost become a dime a dozen in that the majority of grocery chains now carry them.

Competitors of Whole Foods Market also began changing the consumer experience at their grocery locations. Our neighborhood Market Basket added a section of prepared food items. The local Stop and Shop started supplying a bowl of oranges and bananas at the entrance of its store for hungry shoppers aged ten and below.

A grocery chain (and any business venture for that matter) must think in the future but operate in the present to remain a frontrunner in the metaphorical race for sales. In the beginning, Whole Foods Market did just that. However, it’s almost as if Whole Foods Market stopped running (and quit thinking in the future but operating in the present) right in the middle of the race!

What has changed about Whole Foods Market this past decade? Nothing. It’s more of the same. For that reason, its competitors have reached (and I’d venture to say that a select few of its competitors have surpassed) it in the race for sales.

In order to get its head back in the game, Whole Foods Market must rediscover its entrepreneurial spirit. Only when it starts to think in the future but operate in the present again will it be able to reverse its monetary woes.

What’s your take on Whole Foods Market’s financial situation? If you sat on its Board of Directors, what action item would you institute to turn the chain around?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

Study links possibility of contracting dementia and stroke to diet soda consumption

It’s another blow to the processed food industry’s widespread use of artificial sweeteners in its products. A new study in the journal Stroke revealed that an individual’s risk of suffering from dementia and stroke widens as his or her intake of artificial sweeteners heightens. Specifically, an individual who consumes not so much as one diet soda per seven days is three time less likely to contract dementia or a stroke in comparison to an individual who consumes one diet soda every 24 hours. While the study did not affirmatively establish the consumption of artificial sweeteners as a cause for these conditions, it did associate these two variables. Even still, yikes!

These findings again demonstrate the marketing prowess of the processed food industry. By adding the word diet to soda, soft drink companies often succeed in duping consumers into thinking that this new and improved (as the food business would like the general public to believe) version of a sugary beverage is somehow healthy. The sheer speed at which tweaks to the formulas of sugary beverages and new marketing claims sprawled across soda cans appear make it difficult to keep up with the methods of processing and persuasion implemented by the beverage industry. A healthy dose of skepticism while making purchasing decisions in the sugary drink aisle goes a long way in ensuring that no beverage is bought until ensuring its contents align with its health claims.

Are you surprised by the Stroke study’s findings? Why or why not? Also, how do you make sure not to be deceived by the marketing claims processed foods and drinks boast?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

Switch Up Your Sides With Polenta Croutons

I was home over the weekend and my Mom prepared polenta as a side dish for dinner. The next day, we made polenta croutons with the leftovers. In particular, we spread out the leftover polenta evenly on a baking sheet and baked until crisp.

Here’s a link to Valerie Bertinelli’s recipe for polenta croutons that our family enjoys:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/valerie-bertinelli/greens-with-polenta-croutons

You’ll notice that Bertinelli’s version contains chopped rosemary. If you’re not a fan of this herb, but you enjoy savory flavors, substitute the chopped rosemary with either sprigs of thyme or leaves of oregano. If you’re feeling adventurous, elevate your polenta croutons with a dash of cayenne for a spicy bite.

How do you switch up your favorite side dishes to ensure variety? Also, how do you repurpose leftover side dishes?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie

3 Food Products Whose Sugar Contents May Be Too Damaging To Your Health And What To Do About Them

This weekend as I walked through a refreshment line at an event, I picked up a bottle of cranberry juice. Turning the juice bottle to its side, I read the ingredient list. Much to my chagrin, the first ingredient was water and the second ingredient was sugar.

The ingredient list got me thinking about the extent to which the processed food industry conceals enormous amounts of added sugar in its products through deception. My cranberry juice bottle–or perhaps more aptly put, my glass of sugar water–serves as only one example of a product marketed as nutritious yet teeming with sweeteners.

Below you’ll find three other food products whose nutrient density must be put into question. At the grocery store this week, set a goal to read the ingredient lists of these products and reevaluate whether their sugar contents are too costly for your overall health and well-being.

Flavored milks and yogurts

Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla milk all too often contain synthetic chemicals that sweeten the product and detract from the nutrient density of the milk. In addition, yogurt with fruit on the bottom may be another added-sugar culprit. I’ve found that sugar pseudonyms such as evaporated cane juice precede the actual fruit in ingredient labels for yogurt. The same goes for drinkable yogurts. My solution? As I’ve said before, purchase plain versions of dairy products and add desired mix-ins at home.

Protein bars

Many a times branded as delicious and nutritious, protein bars often contain vast quantities of added sugar and almost no natural sugar. Scan the ingredient label of your go-to protein bar and look out for terms such as dextrose, maltodextrin, or rice syrup. If you unearth myriad sweeteners, consider switching to another brand. If I may offer a suggestion, my wonderful Auntie Jen recently sent me RXBARs. Void of added sugars, each of these protein bars contain two dates for natural sweetening.

Condiments

If you scan an ingredient label for ketchup, it’s highly likely that one of the first few ingredients will be high fructose corn syrup. This unfortunate reality too often holds true for mustards and mayonnaises as well. I’d recommend substituting whole foods as condiments rather relying upon processed ones. To that end, smear an avocado on a sandwich rather than mayo. Skip the ketchup on a hamburger or hotdog and try homemade salsa.

On January 28, 2017, Michael Pollan wrote “Unhappy Meals” for the New York Times Magazine and explained, “Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”

Edible foodlike substances. Food science. Health claims. Pollan unpacks each of these terms to demonstrate how some foods may not be as nutritious as we would necessarily like to believe. All too often, the added sugars contained in food products are disguised so masterfully it’s difficult to deduce the ultimate nutrient density of grocery store items.

It’s up to each and every one of us as empowered and informed consumers to ensure that the juice we drink isn’t sugar water, and so on and so forth.

Have you ever discovered that one of your favorite and supposedly nutrient dense food products in actuality contained added sweeteners? What strategies do you implement while you shop and while you cook to avoid added sugars seeping into your diet?

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie