Guilty Pleasures: An RD’s favorite packaged foods

For the most part, I pride myself on eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, favoring ingredients that are local and organic. However, there are times when convenience takes over and I find myself at the mercy of processed foods. I try to look for packages that have some of the qualities I prioritize, but more often than not, I just end up following my taste buds. Below are my picks for my favorite packaged foods…

Guilty Pleasures: An RD's favorite packaged foods

Backcountry Bundle Trail Mix (Whole Foods Market): This trail mix is a delicious blend of almonds, pistachios, raisins, dried cranberries, and sour cherries. While it would probably be much less expensive to buy the ingredients from the bulk section and make my own, this delightful mix has absolutely everything I need in the perfect proportions. I like to keep a package in my desk drawer at work for when the afternoon slump hits. It also makes a great travel snack.

Champagne Pear Vinaigrette with Gorgonzola (Trader Joe’s): I rarely ever go to Trader Joe’s, but this salad dressing is worth the trip alone. The ingredients certainly don’t have the organic, local, or minimalistic qualities that I typically look for in foods, but I absolutely love the sweet, creamy taste, and I can’t believe that it only has 45 calories per two tablespoon serving. In my book, anything that gets me to eat more vegetables is money well spent. Additionally, the presence of Gorgonzola in the dressing makes cheese, while still welcome, an unnecessary addition to the salad.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Lean Cuisine: Frozen entrees are a last resort, and I try not to rely too heavily on them. Nevertheless, it’s good to keep one in the back of the freezer. While this dish isn’t from one of the organic or natural brands, I feel better knowing that it is a vegetarian entree, and doesn’t feature too many industrialized animal products. I am also constantly surprised at my foodie self for genuinely enjoying this vegetable rich supper.

Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna Bar: This is my pre-workout snack before my morning gym sessions. I also love to travel with these. While protein bars aren’t very natural or food-like, they can be a reliable source of nutrients when balanced, vegetable rich meals are out of the question.

Do you ever rely on packaged foods? Which ones are your favorite?

– Kelly

Advertisements

16 Healthy Halloween Snacks From Around The Web

Happy October, everyone!

Just because Halloween is one of the most diet-busting holidays on the calendar, doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for nutrition. So I scoured the web for the best healthy Halloween snacks, including fruit and veggie platters, as well as heartier fare. The snacks pictured below keep the Halloween spirit alive, without sacrificing nutrition. Enjoy!

witchbrooms

1) Witch brooms made from pretzels & string cheese, Image via Concinada con Catman

hallofruit

2) Banana ghosts and clementine pumpkins. I love this! Image via Pinterest, original source unknown

allrecipesappleteeth

3) Apple teeth with slivered almonds, via Allrecipes.com

vegskel

4) Veggie skeleton, image via feeding four little monkeys

spookyyogurt

5) Ghost inspired fruit & yogurt, image via Lisa Storms

smoothie

6) Jack-O-Lantern Smoothie, image via See Vanessa Craft. Note- for a healthy orange smoothie recipe, I recommend this carrot-apple-banana smoothie or this peach pie oatmeal smoothie.

carrothummus1

7) Hummus with carrot fingers. Image via Pinterest, original source unknown.

hummuscarrot2

8) Hummus with carrot & parsley pumpkins. Image via Parents.com

spider deviled eggs

9) Deviled eggs with olive spiders, image via Sunset

pumpkinegg

10) Pumpkin deviled eggs, image via Foodista

mummydip

11) Mummy dip with green veggies, image via hostess with the mostess

plumspider

12) Plum + grape spider, image via Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons

pumpkindip

13) Adorable veggie platter presentation! Image via Pinterest, original source unknown

cck

14) Fruity Jack-O-Lanterns, image via Chocolate Covered Katie

easy

15) Easy Jack-O-Lantern Oranges, image via Under Construction blog

fruitcup

16) Fruit cup Jack-O-Lanterns, image via Pimp My Dinner

For more Halloween food inspiration (yes- there’s more!), see my Pinterest board. Wondering what dips to serve with fruit and veggie platters? See my picks for healthy dips here.

Happy Halloween!

– Kelly

Ask the Dietitian: Are snacks healthy?

Snacks can be some of our greatest allies, but they can also be the source of our undoing. My rule for snacking is as follows:

Snacking is healthy, so long as you don’t eat “snack foods”.

We all know that chips, candy, and sodas are unhealthy choices, but my principle also applies to “healthy” diet snack products. While a 100 calorie pack of cookies may only do 100 calories worth of damage, there is absolutely nothing nourishing or healthy inside of that package.

09york100caloriewafer

During my early foray into “healthy eating” (and before my nutrition education took off) you would find my dorm room well stocked with 100 calorie packs of peppermint patty bars. (Side note- an actual Peppermint Patty only has 70 calories. Thus is the twisted logic of the food industry). I used to jokingly refer to these snacks as “700 calorie packs”, because you had to use every bit of willpower not to devour the entire tasty box. But I digress…

Snack foods on the market today are pure junk. Desserts in disguise. Salty, fatty treats carefully engineered to keep you coming back for more. A few foods warrant careful consideration, such as Greek yogurt and granola, but one must remember that even these “health foods” are littered with excess sugar. So what are you to snack on if not “snack foods”? Nature’s original snack foods- fruits and vegetables!

Healthy snacks

For more healthy snack ideas, see this post

I know, I know. It gets tiring hearing the same old song and dance about nature’s bounty. But come on… you can’t be that sick of them. As a nation, we hardly even eat any! Fresh, in season fruits are so delicious, that they hardly need any accompaniment. However, vegetables can be a tougher sell. Pair them with homemade hummus or 100% nut butter to boost the nutrition content, and add that fatty mouthfeel that we all crave. Or, if you’re a weirdo like me, oven roast some veggies and call that a snack. There is hardly a salty craving that a warm, crispy, oven roasted Brussels sprout can’t cure. At least in my opinion.

Occasionally (0kay, pretty frequently), I will relent, and a few Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna Bars or organic Greek yogurt cups will make their way into my grocery cart. But I make a solid effort to enjoy my Luna Bars how anything called “Chocolate Peppermint Stick” should be enjoyed: with an ice cold glass of milk (fat free and organic, nonetheless) and on a dessert plate. Not to mention, a Luna Bar is hardly a Hostess Cupcake. But the principle remains.

The main problem I have with snacking is that it never ends. As Marion Nestle so accurately explains, “it is now socially acceptable to eat more food, more often, in more places…These are recent changes… just since the 1980’s—exactly in parallel with rising rates of obesity” (Nestle, 2006, p. 13). Snacking can indeed be healthy, so long as you pick something that nourishes you, rather than the processed garbage sold everywhere. But let’s bring back an old adage… don’t spoil your dinner! 🙂

– Kelly

5 Healthy Late Night Snack Ideas

1. Banana chocolate “ice cream”

banana ice cream

1 Frozen banana + 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. This simple snack requires a bit of muscle (frozen banana chunks don’t blend easily without liquid) but it really is quite simple. Just give it a strong stir between blends, and you’ll be enjoying a rich, chocolatey treat in a matter of minutes. And with no added sugars, it doesn’t get much healthier than this. Just fruit sprinkled with antioxidants.

2. Strawberries + Graham Crackers

Healthy Late night snacks

As soon as strawberry season rolls around, this becomes one of my favorite treats. I just slice up a cup of strawberries (about half of the carton) and then top with 1 crushed graham cracker. Think of it as a simplified version of strawberry pie with graham cracker crust.

3. Popcorn Brussels Sprouts

Healthy Late Night Snacks: Popcorn Brussels Sprouts

Former President and COO of McDonald’s wants to make brussels sprouts the new french fry at his new healthy venture, Lyfe Kitchen. I don’t blame him! When oven roasted until crispy, brussels sprouts have the satisfying salty bite of popcorn. I tossed 1 cup of frozen brussels sprouts in 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and a generous amount of lemon pepper, then roasted at 425 F for 30 minutes (until crispy on the outside).  Other tasty seasonings to try would be Nature’s Seasoning or Nutritional Yeast.

4.  Popcorn

Smart Pop
Did you know that popcorn is actually a whole grain? It’s the movie theater butter that gives this fiber filled treat a bad rap. A bag of low fat popcorn is perfect for sharing with friends while watching late night chick flicks or ESPN. Smart Pop also comes in 100 calorie packs (both butter and kettle corn flavored). Prefer to do things yourself and avoid unknown additives? Here is a recipe (and video tutorial!) for how to make your own microwave popcorn using corn kernels and a brown paper bag.

5. Dessert oatmeal

Healthy Dessert Oatmeal

I use this 5 minute recipe to make chocolate oatmeal, and then I sprinkle some sliced almonds on top for added crunch. Oatmeal is an incredibly healthy choice, no matter what time of day, and sweetening oatmeal with a banana makes it more nutrient dense than sugar sweetened oatmeal.

– Kelly

Cute Easter lunches and snacks from around the web

Spring has sprung! While it might not look that way in Boston (I wore my snow boots today), winter is over and Easter is just around the corner. To celebrate the arrival of spring, here is a round up of the cutest (healthy) Easter snacks and lunches from around the web.

lisastormsbunnylunch1

Whole grain, please. Image via Lisa Storms

creativefunfood

Image via creative fun food

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image via papa wow

alisonDeviled-egg-chicks

Image via Alison Artisan

pinterestcup

Image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

russianladybug-sandwiches

Image via Russian Report

Hope you enjoyed this roundup! For more cute spring and Easter food ideas, see my Cute Spring Food Pinterest page. Also, stay tuned for a post on Easter fruit & veggie platters.

– Kelly

Healthy Valentine’s Day Menu

It’s almost that time of year! Instead of spoiling your loved ones with sugary treats that could lead to upset stomachs and dental carries, show them that you care by cooking some extra special, wholesome meals. Here is an entire day’s menu of healthy Valentine’s meals. The images are meant to inspire you, while the accompanying text will guide you through how to keep each meal nutritious. Enjoy!

Breakfast: Heart Shaped Pancakes

Healthy Valentines Breakfast

Image 1 via More Design Please, Image 2 via a pretty cool life

You can get these lovely heart shaped pancakes by using a squeeze bottle, cookie cutters, or even a plastic sandwich baggie with a snipped off corner. Serve with fresh fruit and a protein source (such as Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, or scrambled eggs). Make sure that you are using a whole grain pancake mix, such as one of these below.

Healthy Pancake Mixes

1) Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix, 2) Kodiak Cakes Frontier Flapjack and Waffle Mix – Whole Wheat Oat and Honey, 3) Hodgson Mill Multigrain Buttermilk Pancake Mix with Milled Flax Seed & Soy

Lunch: LOVELY Sandwiches

Healthy Valentines Lunches

Image via Lisa Storms

The possibilities with this one are endless! I love the balance with the fruits, veggies, and nuts. Just be sure to aim for a whole grain bread.

Snack: Heart Fruit Kabobs

Heart Fruit

Image 1 via Parents.com, Image 2 via Spoonful.com

A great set of cookie cutters goes a long way! Feel free to serve with either low fat or nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese on the side.

Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup for the SOUL MATE + HEARTS of Palm Salad

Valentines Dinner

Image 1 via Recipe by Photo, Image 2 via Paula Deen

This link has a great tutorial on how to make the heart shaped carrots. For a basic chicken noodle soup recipe, start here. I also like the one in my new Ellie Krieger cookbook. Paula Deen’s Hearts of Palm Salad with strawberries and spinach looks great as is, but hearts of romaine and heart shaped veggies (such as cucumber slices) would also make for a special thematic treat.

Dessert: Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

sunday-brunch-46

Image via the Berry

It just wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without something sweet. I love the look of these X’s and O’s cupcakes. Instead of sugar laden box cake mixes, try this winning Red Velvet Cake recipe from the New York Times, which includes whole grain flour, cherries, apple sauce, and beets, among other healthy ingredients. Also on my list of healthy Valentine’s Day desserts to try is this Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Icing, and these Gluten Free + Vegan Red Velvet Brownies.

For more heart shaped food inspiration, check out this page on Pinterest. What will you be making this Valentine’s Day?

– Kelly

5 Healthy Holiday Snacks

Did you enjoy my 12 days of Christmas fruit and veggie platters? For days when you don’t need an entire tray of holiday food, here are 5 healthy snack ideas. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy them!

Candy-Cane-Fruit

image via The Diva Dish

xmasbens

image via Little Nummies

watermelontree

image via Shop Lasoo

snowman dinner (2)

image via Nifty, Thrifty, & Thriving

20b2bc68-910e-46d1-857f-0301d757d2ad

image via Live Better America

For more Christmas food inspiration, check out my Christmas food board on Pinterest. Happy holidays!

– Kelly

10 Best Thanksgiving Fruit & Veggie Platters from Around the Web

Eating healthy around the holidays can be hard, especially when surrounded by festive treats and comfort food favorites. That’s why I am LOVING these super cute Thanksgiving fruit and vegetable platters! These Thanksgiving themed displays would be great to bring to fall parties and Thanksgiving dinner, and would also make excellent after school snacks. Great presentation can make fruits and vegetables more appealing for kids and adults alike. I hope that these images inspire you as much as they inspire me. Enjoy!

image via LivingLocurto

image via The Happy Raw Kitchen

image via Eating with Food Allergies

image via Catch my Party

image via Why Veg

image via Brimful Curiosities

Image via Family Fun

Image via Family Fun

Image via Clean and Scentsible

Image via The Happy Raw Kitchen

Check out my Pinterest page for more healthy inspiration!

-Kelly