Spring cleaning: makeover for your fridge

When you are ready to start making healthy habit changes, physical environment can be an influential factor in your success. When you open the fridge and see leftovers, expired jars of sauces and dressings, processed foods with long ingredients lists, or soda – it hardly inspires adoption of new healthy habits.

Out with the old. In with the new.

If you’ve already started your health journey, you may have already crowded out a lot of foods in favor of more unprocessed options.  If not, here’s a few places to start.

Crowd Out:

  • Soda or other sugar sweetened beverages. Instead drink water or iced herbal teas. Even if you are drinking diet soda, cutting that out can make a big difference in how you feel. Artificial sweeteners have been known to cause all kinds of issues depending on what studies you read. Your body doesn’t know the difference between real or artificial sugar, so you can be setting yourself up for various imbalances in your body by continuing your diet coke habit.
  • Yogurt with artificial sweeteners or sugar-sweetened fruit. You may think you are doing yourself a favor by choosing low-fat yogurts, but check the labels — there’s either a lot of artificial sweeteners or a lot of sugar added to make them taste better.  Instead, get some plain greek yogurt and add your own fruit – fresh or frozen works.
  • Expired or tired food. Everyone has that ancient bottle of mayo or a veggie crisper full of good intentions and wilted greens. Time to toss them both and start with a clean slate. When buying fresh fruits and veggies, have a plan in mind for how you will use them, and if you wash and prep them right when you get home for the store, they will be there ready to consume when you need them!
  • Prepackaged or frozen entrees. They have ingredients and nutritional labels. Can you pronounce the ingredients? What’s the sodium count? Making your own food is one of the best things you can do for your health, and you completely control the ingredients list. Also, did you know that calorie counts and nutritional info can be off by plus or minus 20%? That can add up over time. Whole, unprocessed food is the best way to guarantee you are getting the nutrients you need to support your healthy body’s needs.

Add In:

  • Water or iced tea! Having nice cold water or some homemade iced tea with lemon on hand means you may drink it. Get yourself a cool pitcher or some mason jars to keep in the fridge so you’ll always have something cold to drink, especially as the weather heats up.
  • Seasonal fruits or veggies! Living in northern California, I’m lucky that I am able to buy fresh, seasonal and local produce right in our grocery store. Buying local and in season foods ensures that your food will have the right nutrients and taste better too. Mass produced food that has to travel thousands of miles to get to you may not have the same quality or even taste as purchasing local.  Pro-tip: wash and prep veggies right out of the grocery bag and even package into single-serving size grab and go containers to take for a snack or for lunches on the go.
  • Healthier spreads and condiments. Ditch the sugar sweetened ketchup or salad dressings and opt for fresh salsa, hummus, lime or lemon juice as a substitute for your jarred condiments.
  • Meal prep! Make room in your fridge for things you can cook in advance when you have time on the weekends or pick a day out of the week that works for you. Think about cooking once and eating twice as a practice, meaning cook to have enough for leftovers you can bring to work for lunch. Or make bulk quinoa, beans, or salads that can be used for a variety of meals during the week.  Once you clear out room in your fridge, stocking back up with easy to assemble meal options will help ensure that you will stay on track with your health food habits.

Have other pro-tips for keeping your fridge game on point? Let us know in the comments!

Meal prep or meal planning?

Are you a prepper? Or are you a planner? Or a little of both?

I’m definitely a lot of both. But I like to keep things simple. First of all, it’s really important for me to know what is in the the food I eat. I would say that 95% of the food I eat is purchased and prepared by me or my husband. We rarely go out to eat (and actually prefer to make our own most of the time). But since I had gastric bypass surgery, I need to know what is in my food. I need to avoid added sugars and fried foods as those are an instant recipe for disaster and the need for a very close bathroom. There’s also some foods I used to eat, but my digestive system no longer tolerates.

Meal prep is now part of my weekly routine. But for me, planning comes first. I typically sit down on Friday or Saturday and think about what I want to prepare for the upcoming week. And then out comes Pinterest. I typically will make one or two recipes for the week, either a salad or soup, and then plan for roasted vegetables, and maybe a few Instant Pot recipes (lately egg bites have been in rotation and I sometimes make either quinoa or some kind of vegetarian recipe using beans or lentils). On the weeks when I am getting a farm box from Farm Fresh to You, I pick my box contents around what recipes I might make. Sometimes when I’m just not in the mood to cook, I just pick things I can prep and eat raw.

I have seriously memorized the layout of our local Nugget Market, so I make a list of all the things I need for recipes in the order they appear in the store: produce, then bulk items, then anything from the meat/seafood/vegan sections, frozen fruit for smoothies, almond milk, eggs. And that’s it.  I keep almost completely to the outer aisles of the store, where things have no packaging or ingredient lists. Whole food is my thing. Exceptions may be oats, spices, coconut milk, or Bragg’s ACV. Minimally processed.

In my planning, I like to honor meatless Monday, and I will often do a completely vegetarian week, if not vegan. Lately I have been looking for baked tofu recipes or something with tempeh, which I honestly could eat plain and uncooked and be a happy girl.

There are some weeks where raw foods work for me. There are some weeks when raw carrots or radish immediately give me an uncomfortable heartburn-like feeling.  I’ve learned to roll with it and just make sure I have options available for days when my digestion is tempermental. I also keep nuts like cashews and almonds on hand, either as snacks or as part of meals.

Once I get everything home, I follow somewhat of a routine too. Frozen stuff in the freezer, staples get put in the pantry, and then all the produce gets washed, dried, then prepped, either for recipes, or for snacking. I put things away in single serve sizes (I have these little Lunch Box containers which are the perfect portion size for a bariatric patient. They also stack easily in the fridge. And when they are prepared and ready to go, I know I will actually consume them and not just add them to the compost pile in the backyard. (Sound familiar?)

I do the same with my recipes. I either package up complete meals in single serving sizes or store them in bigger containers for assembly in the morning as I get ready for work. At the moment, I am doing 2 protein shakes a day, so one is typically in the morning mixed with chai tea or in a green smoothie with frozen fruit, a few handfuls of greens, and either chia seeds, or chlorophyll or some other supportive superfood supplement.

I’ve had clients ask me to do meal prep for them, and that’s actually fun for me, as long as they are eating in alignment with foods I already eat. My biggest problem is I can’t actually eat a whole recipe by the end of the week. I will either cut the recipe in half or freeze half in mason jars for future consumption.

I just chatted with a client this morning about meal planning. In recent weeks, she had asked me for tips on meal prep. Today, she told me that last week, she and her husband sat down and planned out all of their meals for the week, then stuck to the plan! She’s not big into the all-at-once food prep, but the planning worked for her.

My point here is that you really need to find what works for you, through trial and error. I have such a daily routine during the week, I need to have everything pretty much ready to go for me to pack and bring to work. And when I come home, the last thing I typically want to do is cook. So it’s all about assembly. Bio-individuality applies to daily routine just as much as it applies to food. They say one person’s food is another’s poison. I can’t dictate my routine to anyone, nor would I dictate my exact diet. Everyone needs to find that right balance on their own.

I’m curious to hear about other routines or suggestions for meal prep and planning. Share in the comments or on social media!

Turmeric Quinoa Salad

Recipe: Turmeric Quinoa Salad

Buy LocalThis quick recipe was adapted from a simple quinoa recipe from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I had made it before, but I wanted to make something that incorporated more turmeric which I could include as a nice pairing to the Red Lentil Dal I made earlier.

This “salad” incorporates green onion, fresh basic and parsley, as well as some healthy extra-virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

I typically use grains sparingly as an accompaniment to a salad. The intent today was to pair it with lentils and fresh arugula to get some added greens in my life. The spices blend perfectly with the peppery arugula. This will be a great meal prep meal for me.  This can be made vegan, but I used chicken bone broth instead of water for some extra protein and hopefully healing properties for my nagging knee osteoarthritis.

Turmeric Quinoa Salad

10 minPrep Time

20 minCook Time

30 minTotal Time

Yields 6

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa (I used a local tri-color quinoa from Lundberg)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used light, but full-fat can be used too)
  • 1/2 cup water, vegetable broth, or chicken bone broth
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Wash quinoa well and strain.
  2. Add quinoa to coconut milk and water (or broth).
  3. Add turmeric and stir well.
  4. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or following timing on quinoa package).
  5. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  7. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
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https://offtheplatehealthcoach.com/2017/12/29/recipe-turmeric-quinoa-salad/

Fresh Chopped Parsley

Food is Medicine: Exploring the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

I’ve been exploring the concept of food as medicine as a way to help deal with the pain and inflammation of my knee. So many years of bearing excess weight, and running half marathons at 200+ pounds have caught up with me. I’ve got bone on bone in my left knee, along with damage to all of my ligaments. Since my gastric bypass, I am no longer able to take NSAIDs for inflammation and pain, so I have turned to more homeopathic approaches like arnica, CDB topical products, heat and ice, and food. Yes, food.

Since starting my health coaching program, I have learned quite a bit about the healing properties of a lot of different foods and spices and the benefits of a primarily plant-based diet to help heal a variety of ailments. I recently picked up the book “Healing Arthritis” by Susan Blum. The book connects arthritis to other immune and inflammatory disorders and focuses on restoring gut health, elimination of inflammatory foods, and reducing inflammation without adding medication. I heard Dr. Blum discuss the connection between gut health and arthritis in an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman on Twitter. I’m a skeptic at times, but the science makes sense to me.

Last week I received a few recipes from my own health coach and fellow student at Institute for Integrative Nutrition to address my goals of adding more plant-based foods and more anti-inflammatory, healing foods into my diet. One was this recipe for Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal, which I ended up pairing with a modified version of a quinoa salad that features turmeric.  Seemed like a good pairing.

Both recipes together took me about an hour to prepare and clean up (for me, I need to know how much clean up there will be, and I am definitely getting more efficient about cleaning as I go). I’m definitely going to incorporate these recipes into my food prep tool box.  Considering the volume of food I can eat, I may consider cutting the recipe in half next time, or sharing with my food prep clients too. If you try them, let me know what you think!

Serves 6

Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal

5 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

20 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups dried red lentils
  • 1 (15oz) can of coconut milk (full-fat or light - I used light)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper (or to taste)

Instructions

  1. Wash lentils in a strainer and let them drain.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Add lentils and coconut milk.
  4. Return mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Cook (uncovered) for 10 minutes until the lentils have softened, then stir in spices and cook for another 5 minutes.

Notes

Serve with quinoa, cauliflower rice, or brown rice. The turmeric quinoa recipe pairs nicely, served on a bed of arugula.

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https://offtheplatehealthcoach.com/2017/12/29/food-is-medicine-exploring-the-anti-inflammatory-diet/

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad

For Christmas eve, we were asked to come up with some kind of a vegetable side dish to go with dinner, and since I had all the ingredients on hand for this super easy and healthy salad, I proposed this.

My husband isn’t exactly a kale guy, but he knew that there was plenty of other food for him to eat if he didn’t want the salad.

This salad is simple to make and can be done without a whole lot of concentration, and everyone can joke about how you are giving the kale a good massage.

The verdict: thumbs up from everyone. In fact I even got a thumbs up the next day because apparently it made great leftovers too.

That’s my favorite thing about kale. Aside from being nutrient dense and just plain good for you, it’s also pretty hearty in terms of consistence and holds up well when prepped in advance. This is actually a good one to make for meal prep as you can enjoy it for a few days.

The rest of the story: my sister-in-law has what I would consider a dream kitchen. Modern, open, lots of surface space. Multiple people can be making different things without getting in the way of each other. The only think I really needed the stove for was the quick toasting of the almonds. The joy of a gas cooktop is something I can’t describe (since our kitchen is the original harvest gold electric cooktop and is now on it’s last burner). We have been on the hunt for a gas cooktop that would fit in the same space as our current electric one — it’s an odd size.  So — we’ll planning a big kitchen remodel! Stay tuned for more as plans take shape.

With all the food prep I’ve been doing, I’ve really started to enjoy spending time in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to inviting clients in for some experimentation with healthy recipes in the new year! Goodbye harvest gold!

Massaged Kale Salad

15 minPrep Time

3 minCook Time

18 minTotal Time

Yields 3-4

Author:

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Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch raw kale
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Sea Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
  • Pecorino, parmigiana or asiago cheese, shaved (optional)

Instructions

  1. Remove stems from kale and slice into thin ribbons.
  2. Massage with lemon juice to soften the leaves and cut the bitterness.
  3. Combine kale and olive oil in a large bowl.
  4. Massage until kale softens. Drain any liquid released from the kale.
  5. Toast almonds in skillet over medium heat until they begin to brown.
  6. Add the almonds and tomatoes to the kale and toss.
  7. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  8. Top salad with shaved cheese (optional).
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https://offtheplatehealthcoach.com/2017/12/28/massaged-kale-salad/

Winding down 2017 — as a prepper!

Chopping Vegetables with caption: Meal Prep Mania

It’s not what you think. I am not preparing for the end of the world by stocking up my underground bunker in the middle of nowhere. I find myself at the end of the new year venturing into new territory!

For the last two weeks, I have been testing out a service: meal prep. I’m not just creating Pinterest boards full of bento box perfection (although I did create a Food Prep board). I’ve started preparing meals for a client at her insistence.This wasn’t what I had in mind when I started on this health coaching track, but hey — if I can help someone take control of their health and well-being, why not! She wants to eat healthy, but doesn’t want to take the time to do all of the prep.

I get it.  There’s sometimes when it’s easy to grab some pre-boiled eggs and some string cheese and call it a day. But to really eat healthy, to get in your greens and fiber, and all the goodness of whole food nutrition, it takes work and planning.

And meal prep for someone else keeps me on track too. I’m definitely getting more efficient the more I do this.

I thought I would share a few tips for you to try if you’re embarking on a food prep adventure in the new year.

  1. Planning starts with the menu. Pick a few recipes that you plan to make and that you can make in bulk.  I usually will make a few different entrees, a few vegetable side dishes, and sometimes a grain. Then I find a few breakfast recipes like steel cut oats, protein muffins, egg fritatta muffins, and green smoothies. Once I have the menu down, I make a grocery list. Many times I already have a lot of staples at home, but I’ll just need a few extra thing.  I also plan things like extra greens for smoothies and salads, fruit and veggies for snacks, and some basic protein options like eggs, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt that can be used at any time for a snack or meal.
  2. Shopping – I try to do all my shopping at one place, and since I know the layout of our local store well, I try to put my lists in the order that food is laid out at the store.  Believe it or not this saves time. For produce, I tend to buy organic, or at least follow the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen guidelines. I also go with frozen organic fruit for smoothies.  I consume such a small amount of food, it usually goes bad before I can eat it unless it’s frozen.
  3. Unpack and prep. Once home, I put away anything I’m not going to immediately use, but I will wash and chop all the veggies needed for recipes so they are good to go.
  4. Plan your order. If you are roasting vegetables, I try to get those washed, chopped, and prepped to throw in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so, and I can switch out sheet pans as I go. I try to find all recipes that cook at roughly the same temperature to save some time too.
  5. Clean as you go. I am one of those people who tends to use every bowl, pot and pan in the house when I do food prep.  I like to clean up between each recipe to keep things organized and to save some time at the end when the last thing in the world I want to do is wash another dish.
  6. Package for mix and match. As I prep my food, I portion everything out for my portion sizes that are roughly the same caloric value or macro nutrients. That way, I can just grab a few things to mix and match during the day that can also be interchangeably breakfast or lunch or dinner. I tend to make “buddha bowl” type things where I can add  various proteins to greens, grains, roasted vegetables, and maybe add an interesting dressing or sauce, or just top with hummus or some other pureed bean recipe. I like to make it an adventure.
  7. Save what works! When you find a recipe that’s easy and tasty, make sure you pin it to a Pinterest board or add it to your folder of favorite recipes.  You’ll want to add that to the rotation.
  8. Have fun! Put on some good tunes and your Fitbit and dance around the kitchen.  Time on your feet is time you aren’t on the couch, and cooking really can be a lot of fun.

Now that I have a few weeks under my belt of actually doing this for someone else, I can see some benefits for myself. I’m challenging myself to try some new things — like baking.  It was never really my thing, but now I have made a number of different sugar free and low sugar treats, and really awesome protein muffins made from black beans!

Whether your goals for 2018 are to eat healthier or move more, there’s a way to build some simple steps into your life to get you on that track. I’d love to discuss your goals and intentions for the year. Are you ready for the big things ahead?  I know I sure am! Contact me for a free consultation if your are interested in learning more about health coaching and about how you can incorporate more home cooking into your diet and lifestyle.