How to Mix and Match Foods for Better Meal Prepping

Why Meal Prep?

Meal prepping is a trending behavior, and there are so many reasons why. Devoting time to prepping meals is a smart way to eat healthier, saving both time and money, and gaining control over what and how much you eat.

There is no silver bullet to meal prepping, so if you’re just getting started, sample different ideas to find an approach that feels right for you. Meal prepping can involve making multi-serving meals to portion and store so they’re ready to re-heat and eat. But meal prepping can also mean pre-cooking, or even just pre-preparing ingredients, so you don’t have to start cooking from scratch. 

Prep on the Weekend

One savvy strategy that works for many people is to prep on the weekend for the coming week. This can be as simple as washing and chopping vegetables so they’re ready to cook, or pre-cooking a number of foods that can later be mixed and matched to create various meals.  

3 Core Meal Component Groups

Veggies

If you’re going to pre-cook several meal components, divide them into three key groups: vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy starches. Veggie prep can be as simple as purchasing ready-to-eat greens to stash in your fridge. You can also dress chilled vegetables or greens in herbed balsamic vinaigrette, pre-make healthy salad dressing so it’s ready to use, or sauté, grill, or oven roast a variety of vegetables to be re-heated when needed.

Lean Proteins

Prepping lean proteins can be as easy as stashing canned beans or wild salmon in the fridge, so they’re chilled and ready to add to salads. You can also cook and store hard boiled eggs, chicken breast, extra lean ground turkey, or seafood. Toss beans, chopped hard boiled eggs or canned salmon with jarred pesto, hummus, or seasoned tahini to pre-make quick protein salads. Or purchase a cooked rotisserie chicken for a meal prep super shortcut.

Healthy Starches

For starches, store pre-cooked whole grains, like brown or wild rice and quinoa, as well as starchy vegetables, including baked sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and oven roasted butternut or spaghetti squash.

Mixing and Matching

When you have these components at the ready, all you need to do is decide how to put them together. For complete meals don’t forget to add a healthy fat, like extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or EVOO-based pesto, olive tapenade, avocado, nuts, or seeds. For example, toss a generous portion of roasted or sautéed veggies with spaghetti squash and diced chicken breast, served over a bed of greens. Make a grain bowl by topping a small scoop of quinoa with greens, roasted or sautéed veggies, lentils, and drizzle with a spoonful of pesto. Pair a generous portion of grilled veggies with black beans, brown rice, and a side of avocado. Stir fry pre-cut veggies in vegetable broth, seasoned with ginger, garlic, and chili pepper, paired with steamed shrimp over wild rice, topped with sliced almonds.

Another way to meal prep is to make a second meal at dinner time and pack it for lunch the next day. These simple and practical meal prepping solutions can help you avoid poor eating pitfalls and give you the tools to eat healthfully for the long haul.

How do you Meal Prep?

Please share your own tips and tricks--as well as the meals from our website you like to make ahead--as part of your meal prep routine. Show us by tagging us on Instagram @naturesgreens and use #backtofresh. Your tip could be selected and featured on our account!

4 Delicious Ways to Eat Fresh On the Go

With so many activities going on in the spring and summer, nobody wants to waste their daylight hours in the kitchen preparing or eating meals. You’d rather have something nutritious to be able to eat during your child’s baseball game, while playing by the water on your family beach vacation, or on a break during your family bike ride.

We know that you don’t want to fall into the habit of grabbing a quick bite to eat from a fast food restaurant when they need a meal on the go, but we know that many families do. How can you avoid doing that?

Last month, we walked you through the steps of how to meal plan and meal prep on Sunday afternoons to make putting food on the table during a busy week much easier. But did you know that you can easily incorporate a few meals on the go during your meal prep?

Breakfast

Have you ever needed to leave in the morning ASAP, but you really wanted something savory and filling to eat? These delicious Savory Breakfast Mini Egg and Veggie Muffins are clutch to eat when you don't have time to do anything else. Simply take a little bit of your time on the weekend or your days off to make the egg muffins, store in the refrigerator, and heat a couple up each morning to take with you.

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Lunch

Nothing says “on the go” quite like A Mason Jar Salad. Make your salad, store it in a mason jar in your refrigerator, and pack it in your lunch box before you leave the house in the morning. When you’re ready to eat it, all you have to do is shake it up to mix! How easy is that? You won’t miss a second of your child’s baseball game and you’ll still get a fresh, delicious meal.

Snack

Most of us struggle to find something good to eat for a snack, especially when we are on the go. We've got a recipe that helps you have something yummy to eat that also gives your body good nutrients it needs to make it to your next meal. Chocolate Cherry Kale Breakfast Cookies are the sweet snack you can indulge on and still feel good about your decision making abilities. Make a batch this weekend and taste your next go-to snack!

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Dinner

Sandwiches are a light and healthy way to eat a meal on the go in the evening. Our BKT (Bacon, Kale, & Tomato) Sandwich is a great one to try! Make a few sandwiches and pair them with some fruit or sliced veggies for a great picnic dinner. Enjoy your dinner at the local outdoor family concert series or during a break on your family bike ride after work. No matter where you choose to enjoy your meal on the go, we know that you’re entire family will love it!

Share your meals on the go photos with us on social media using the hashtags #backtofresh and #naturesgreens, and be sure to tag us! We’d love to see what you’re cooking in your kitchen, and how you’re incorporating our meals-on-the-go tips into your week.

4 Simple Steps to Weekly Meal Prep

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We know how hectic this time of year can be.

With the weather warming up, the extra hour of daylight each evening, and the flurry of spring-time activities, you want to spend more of your time with your family and friends and less time preparing meals in the kitchen. 

You’re looking for meals that come together quickly at the end of the day, but still provide plenty of fresh, nutritious, and delicious food for your family. The best way to achieve this goal is to take the time to prepare for the week ahead with a couple hours of meal prepping on your Sundays. 

Never meal prepped before? We’ll walk you through the process.

#1: Select your recipes.

What meals are you in the mood for this week? What fresh produce is currently in season? Visit our collection of recipes on our website and find inspiration for what you want to eat during the upcoming week. Take note of the recipes that you know you and your family will enjoy.

#2: Set the menu for the week.

Go ahead and map out your week. Who will be home each night for dinner? Which evenings will you be short on time?What ingredients or meals can you easily prepare ahead of time for the nights you need a quick meal? By setting your game plan, you’re setting yourself up for success. You’ll be able to grocery shop efficiently, cut out the last minute fast food decisions, and eliminate the stress of figuring out what to cook for dinner. Put it in writing and stick it to your fridge for a visual reminder throughout the week of your plan.

#3: Create your grocery list and shop.

Once you know what meals you plan to cook, create your grocery list and shop. You can use an app for your grocery list, such as Our Groceries, to organize your list and to easily have it on hand when you’re shopping. 

Pro Tip: use a delivery service like Shipt to shop at Publix, and save even more time each week without the hassle of going to the grocery store yourself. 

#4: Prepare ingredients and meals on Sunday evenings.

After you’ve completed your grocery shopping, start your prepping. Take a look at each recipe to see what you can prepare ahead of time. Are there dry ingredients that you can measure out? Is there poultry that you can go ahead and cook? What vegetables can you chop and store in your refrigerator? There will be some things that you can’t do in advance, but you’d be surprised at how many items you can go ahead and have ready.

Here’s how we’d meal prep on Sunday for our Mediterranean Collard Greens over Spaghetti Squash meal:

  1. Purchase our Versatile Veggies® Diced Yellow Onion and Nature’s Greens® Collard Greens.

  2. Measure out all of the dry ingredients, place in small container, and seal. We personally use mason jars for dry goods.

  3. Mince the garlic and chop the green bell pepper. Place in small Pyrex container, seal, and store in your refrigerator.

  4. Cook the spaghetti squash, remove from the rind, and store in your refrigerator in a sealed container.

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When it comes time to prepare dinner, all of your chopping and most of your measuring is complete! Your prep time is eliminated, and you can have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes. How great is that?

What do you plan to do with all of the extra time that you gain during the week thanks to meal prepping?

Share your meal prepping photos with us on social media using the hashtags #backtofresh and #naturesgreens, and be sure to tag us! We’d love to see what you’re cooking in your kitchen, and how you’re incorporating our meal prep tips into your week.

Becoming a Vegetarian is Easier Than You Think + 3 Vegetarian Recipes

 shutterstock, #640258210

shutterstock, #640258210

Go Vegetarian

Did you know? Between six to eight million adults in the United States choose to include no meat, fish, or poultry in their diets according to a Harris Interactive Poll. With the availability of year-round fresh produce and more vegetarian options at restaurants, becoming a vegetarian has become more appealing and accessible in recent years. 

Being vegetarian means abstaining from eating meat and some animal bi-products. Individuals are constantly choosing to live a vegetarian lifestyle for a variety of reasons including:

  • Health benefits
  • Concern for animal welfare
  • Religion

For some individuals, despite the reasons and benefits, it may seem like an impossible challenge to adopt a new way of eating. We believe that it’s possible! Here are a few ways that you can slowly begin to incorporate a vegetarian diet into your daily lifestyle.

Research recipes

Be excited about eliminating meat from your diet! Research new recipes that you want to try, look for ways to incorporate additional protein and iron into your diet, and talk to your friends that have already adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. Visit your local farmer’s market and explore different vegetable options that you haven’t tried before. Take a peek at our recipe collection online for a good source of vegetarian recipes that include plenty of nutrient-rich greens like kale, collards, and mustard greens.

3 Baby Steps To Becoming A Vegetarian

Go vegetarian for a day

Take a baby step this week and plan a day that doesn’t include any meat. Skip the bacon at breakfast, the turkey sandwich at lunch, and the chicken at dinner. Instead, choose to have Sweet Potato Kale Toast (http://www.rawl.net/recipes/sweet-potato-kale-toast.aspx) for breakfast, Modern Pad Thai (http://www.rawl.net/recipes/modern-pad-thai.aspx) for lunch, and Vegetarian Tacos (http://www.rawl.net/recipes/vegetarian-tacos.aspx) for dinner.

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Sweet Potato Kale Toast

For your next #ToastTuesday, try this sweet and savory vegetarian toast created by Cynthia Sass, RD.

Go vegetarian during the week.

If you liked going meat free for a day, try cutting meat out of your diet during the week. Go for five days, Monday through Friday, without eating any meat, fish, or poultry. Explore restaurants in town to see what vegetarian items you can find on their menus—more often than not, the menu will denote which ones are vegetarian or there will even be a section of the menu completely devoted to vegetarian options.

Go full vegetarian.

If you’re loving your meat free week days, go for a full vegetarian lifestyle! Take meat out of the final two days of your week and embrace vegetarian meals all day, every day.

If you’re adopting a vegetarian lifestyle or enjoying our vegetarian recipes, share your photos with us on social media using #backtofresh #naturesgreens and by tagging us! We’d love to see what you’re cooking in your kitchen and how you’re incorporating our greens and vegetables into your daily diet.

7 Benefits of a Dairy Free Diet

Dairy is a huge part of your life.

Don’t believe us? According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s research, each American consumes 154 pounds of milk per year (nearly 20 gallons!) just through drinking cow’s milk. This doesn’t include the amount of dairy that is consumed through other dairy products like butter, cheese, and ice cream. Milk is produced in all 50 states and from 2004-2014, the United States is the world’s third-largest dairy product exporter. 

  shutterstock, #520397872

shutterstock, #520397872

There are also 270 million dairy cows in the world, per the World Wildlife Foundation. 

Dairy, in the form of cow’s milk, is often one of the very first foods introduced into an infant’s diet.  But it’s also one of the most common food allergies among children and nearly 75% of the world’s population has some degree of a lactose intolerance. What’s the best way to treat either issue? … with a Dairy Free Diet.

What is a Dairy Free Diet and why should you consider one?

A dairy-free diet is a diet that is free of milk and milk products. To go completely dairy-free means  that you are eliminating primary sources of dairy from your diet including milk, cheese, butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, custards, puddings, ice cream, gelato, sherbet, whey, and casein.

If you’re allergic to milk protein or if you have a lactose intolerance, going dairy free might be the best option for you.

What are the benefits of having a Dairy Free Diet?

  1. Less Bloating
  2. Better Respiratory Health
  3. Improved Digestion
  4. Clearer Skin
  5. Reduced risk of developing cancer
  6. Decreased oxidative stress
  7. Prevent milk allergy and sensitivity reactions

How can you get your nutrients on a Dairy Free Diet?

By excluding dairy products from your diet, you are putting three critical nutrient intakes at risk: calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

One of the very best ways to ensure that your body is getting the amount of calcium that it needs is by consuming calcium rich foods. You can supplement your diet with leafy green vegetables like collard greens and kale, with vegetables like broccoli and okra, and with oranges. You can also choose to drink a milk substitute like goat’s milk, coconut milk, or almond milk.

  1 cup of Collard Greens contains nearly 25% of the recommended Daily Value nutrition intake.

1 cup of Collard Greens contains nearly 25% of the recommended Daily Value nutrition intake.

Now what?

Now that you know what a Dairy Free Diet is and why someone might choose to go dairy free, here are a few recipes to help get you started on adding more calcium rich foods into your daily diet:

If you’re planning to explore a Dairy Free Diet, there are a multitude of benefits, especially if you are allergic to milk protein or  if you are lactose intolerant. Just make sure that you are adding calcium rich foods into your diet to make up for what you would typically receive from dairy!

Got (Plant) Milk? Tips on How to Live Dairy-Free

  image from shutterstock , # 356792147

image from shutterstock , #356792147

Whether you’ve decided to go dairy free due to an allergy or intolerance, a desire to eat fewer animal-based foods, or simply as an experiment to see how your body responds, there are a few things to keep in mind.

How do I make sure I am eating or drinking enough calcium and protein?

For many people dairy is a key source of protein, and calcium, but it’s not the only source of these nutrients. One cup of cow’s milk provides 8 grams of protein, an ounce of cheese contains 6-7 grams, and a plain single serve container of Greek yogurt or a half cup of cottage cheese can supply up to 15 grams. Dairy foods also generally provide 15-30% of the daily recommended calcium intake per serving. 

If you’ve been relying on dairy for these nutrients, and you’re now omitting dairy from your diet, be sure to include alternative sources. For example, two ounces of sardines canned in water provides 11 grams of protein and 15% of the recommended calcium intake. A half cup of canned white beans contains 8 grams of protein and 8% of a day’s calcium needs. An ounce of almonds supplies 6 grams of protein and 8% for calcium.

Dairy free “milks” made from plants, such as almond and coconut, are also commonly fortified with calcium, and can provide up to a third of your daily needs per cup. Plant milks are typically low in protein, however, so be sure to read Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods to be clear about which nutrients they supply.

What will I do without butter and cream for my recipes?

When preparing meals, snacks, or recipes, there are several simple substitutions for dairy-based ingredients. Instead of butter for sautéing and cooking you can opt for virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil (note: coconut oil works well when you want to mimic the richness of butter). Spread whole grain toast with almond butter or mashed avocado in place of dairy butter. Make creamy sauces, soups, and casseroles using almond or coconut milk as a base, thickened with pureed cauliflower. Dips and heavier sauces can be made with tahini (sesame seed paste), or pureed white beans, and flours made from chickpeas or fava beans work well as thickeners. Mashed cannellini beans seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs offer an excellent replacement for cottage cheese in Italian recipes, like veggie lasagna. In omelets or tacos use sliced or chopped avocado in place of shredded cheese. Garnish cooked veggies and pasta dishes with chopped nuts or pumpkin or sunflower seeds in place of cheese. These days you’ll also find dairy free versions of yogurt, kefir, and even ice cream at most mainstream grocery stores made from plant-based milks.

Any recipe suggestions?

To experiment yourself check out the dairy free recipes on our website http://www.rawl.net/recipes/dairy-free . You’ll find creamy smoothies, dips, casserole, pancakes, and even chocolate truffles and pudding made without a drop of dairy. If you give them a try please share your feedback. Or let us know what your favorite trick is for swapping out dairy ingredients, or why you’ve opted to go dairy free.   

The Reasons Why People Are Choosing A Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Kale

If you are like us, you might be a little confused at what you can and can't eat these days. Is there a healthier way to eat and live? Are there tangible benefits to living a certain lifestyle? In 2018 we are going to explore these questions, specifically as it relates to gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian lifestyles, and provide recipes that you can use for each of them. Let's dive into our first topic: gluten-free.

(Exclusive gluten-free recipes at the bottom of the post!)

The basics

Gluten-free is one of the trendiest lifestyles and dietary changes being made currently. You cannot go into a grocery store or a restaurant now that doesn't have a gluten-free section or offering in the aisle or menu, respectively. So why is it so popular? 

First, we need to know the answer to the question: what is gluten? According to the Mayo Clinic, gluten is protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and a hybrid of wheat and rye called triticale. Essentially, gluten gives dough its elasticity and helps hold it together while it is being made. Now that we know what gluten is we can move onto the next pressing question: why is it bad for some people?

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The bad

Our bodies’ immune systems function something like this: recognize the difference between what belongs and what is foreign, then attack the foreign. However, many people suffer from autoimmune diseases. One such autoimmune disease is "celiac disease" (CD), caused by consuming gluten. Advocacy group Beyond Celiac states that about 1% of the US population has celiac disease. 

"Celiac disease is a condition in which gluten triggers immune system activity that damages the lining of the small intestine. Over time this damage prevents the absorption of nutrients from food." -- Mayo Clinic Staff

Clearly, people that suffer from celiac disease need to avoid gluten. However, what about people that do not have celiac disease? Why are they opting for gluten-free?

Gluten Intolerance vs. Gluten Sensitivity vs. Wheat Allergy

The Gluten Intolerance Group explain the three most common diagnoses and what they each mean. Gluten intolerance is diagnosed as celiac disease. The only way to treat celiac disease is to practice a 100% gluten-free diet. Gluten sensitivity, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is hard to diagnose as it shares many of the same characteristics of celiac disease and there is no true test developed yet. The only way to identify it is to rule out an autoimmune reaction and a wheat allergy. Finally, a wheat allergy is specific to a rejection of a protein found in wheat, but other gluten from non-wheat sources is okay to eat.

What foods can I eat if I am gluten intolerant or have a gluten sensitivity?

Several different organizations list the foods that you can and cannot eat. We will assemble the highlights here, but if you have a gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, you need to do comprehensive research as well as consult with your doctor on an appropriate diet.

  1. Allowed fresh foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed forms
  • Eggs
  • Lean, nonprocessed meats, fish and poultry
  • Most low-fat dairy products
  1. Avoid all food and drinks that contain the following
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Oats (in some cases)

(From the Mayo Clinic Staff)

Gluten-free alternatives

(From Beyond Celiac)


Another great source for information and recipes is The Gluten-Free Goddess' blog. Karina Allrich writes about what she knows from her own life experience, shares practical ways to live gluten-free, and many tasty recipes.

I am not Gluten Sensitive but I think going gluten-free will improve my health

This is a hot topic right now, as an increasing rate of people who do not have a gluten intolerance are opting to go gluten-free. Among the biggest drivers is a growing suspicion on the potential adverse health affects of consuming gluten. If you do believe that you are suffering from a gluten intolerance, you should consult with a doctor and be tested. Always consult with a medical professional before making significant lifestyle changes. 

Adding fruits and veggies to your meals on a gluten-free diet

As you may know, fruits and veggies are really good for you. They have amazing nutritional properties that our body systems need daily to function. Another great thing about produce: its naturally gluten-free. Regardless of the lifestyle you choose to live, it's probably a good idea to keep fresh fruits and vegetables as a fixture in your diet.

White Bean Kale Cauliflower Casserole

White Bean Kale Cauliflower Casserole

Let's face it. It can be a challenge to get our friends or family to get on the gluten-free train with us. However, serve this delicious recipe from registered dietitian and best-selling author, Cynthia Sass, and your loved ones will be clamoring for more yummy dishes from you! Featuring fresh kale, cauliflower, lemon juice + zest, tahini, and white beans. Estimated prep + bake time is 35 minutes.

Pinto Bean and Collard Omelet

Pinto Bean and Collard Omelet

A Tex-Mex omelet recipe from Cynthia Sass, RD and best-selling author, is full of that southwest flavor you crave. The best part? When you make this for breakfast or brinner ( breakfast for dinner), you are giving your body an excellent source of protein. Also, those veggies aren't in their just for their color. The nutrients found between those veggies will add a healthy portion to your daily needs, and give your body the tools it needs to support itself.

Slow Down and Enjoy the Holidays!

Celebrating with friends, family, and co-workers throughout the holidays is truly special. But it can also be a challenge if you’re trying to eat nutritiously. The truth is, you don’t need to avoid every indulgence in order to be healthy. After all, some of your favorite can’t-live-without treats may only be available this time of year. But being deliberate about how you approach your food choices is a savvy way to sail through this holiday season feeling both satisfied and balanced.  

You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating – don’t go to a party or get together hungry. Before you head out snack on something filling, like a quarter cup of nuts or a handful of raw veggies. The notion of “saving up” calories for a big meal backfires, because it’s counter to how your body operates. Much like how a car uses gasoline to fuel the miles to come, your body prefers evenly spaced out meals to best meet its energy needs. Starving all day then binging at night is like trying to drive your car on empty and then filling the tank after you arrive at your destination – it just doesn’t make sense. 

A healthier approach is to eat normal, healthy meals throughout the day, then strategize at your party or special event. First, choose your splurge item. Of all the indulgent goodies, what’s really going to satisfy you? Whether it’s a slice of pecan pie or a buttery mound of mashed potatoes, enjoy it, and build the rest of your choices around your splurge. Aim to include a lean protein, like turkey breast or seafood, and a generous portion of veggies and/or salad. For other items, like rolls, starchy sides, and appetizers, rank before you reach. Think of a scale from 0 to 5, with 0 being meh and 5 being can’t pass up. If something doesn’t rate at least a 4, you’ll probably feel fine forgoing it.  

If you aren’t sure if there will be lighter choices available, bring something to share. A veggie and hummus tray is always a good bet, or try our recipe for healthy but flavorful veggie stuffed mushroom caps. The idea is to end the meal feeling full, but not stuffed, satisfied, but also energized. This happy medium end point feels so much better, both physically and mentally, than either dieting or overdoing it. 

Finally, slow down while you eat, and enjoy every morsel. Try to put your utensil down between bites, take breaths, and remain mindful of both your food and your fullness level. Eating while distracted can easily lead to losing track of how much you’ve even, or how full you feel. And this is interesting – groups who dine together tend to eat at the same pace. Try an experiment and consciously become the pacesetter. And when you feel you’ve had enough, stop eating, even if that means not cleaning your plate. Regardless of what anyone else is doing, you can empower yourself to enjoy the holidays in a way that feels just right for you, and that’s a real gift.

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Here Come the Holidays!

The holiday season is great for togetherness and spending time with family and friends. For many, it can be the start of weight gain and unhealthy eating habits. Do not worry! The holidays don’t have to be a constant struggle with your health. We are here to give you tips to help you balance your food and fun while staying healthy and happy this holiday season.

1. Incorporate more greens

Add your favorite leafy greens to your mealtime selections. Use chopped greens in your morning yogurt or smoothie, add them to a lunchtime batch of soup or chili, or cut your dinner side of rice or pasta in half and fill the rest of your plate with sautéed greens.

2. Portion control

Dish your own plate and place small portions of your favorite holiday foods on it. Controlling your portion size should eliminate overeating.

3. Stay hydrated

Drinking water will keep you hydrated and curb your cravings.

4. Don't Skip Meals

Do not avoid food all day to save room for a great holiday dinner.  Starving yourself all day may cause you to overeat! Eat a good breakfast and lunch before hitting your holiday dinner party. Be sure to include protein with each meal to help balance your blood sugar and help you get through the day.

5. Be a realist

The holiday season is not the time to lose weight. Rather than try to lose weight, work on maintaining your current weight and set up healthy eating habits. The New Year is right around the corner! January will have less temptation – a great time to start setting those weight loss goals.

Let the time of togetherness be your focus this holiday season. If you overeat at one meal, do not beat yourself up. You will not gain weight from that one piece of pie –healthy eating is a process and we are here to help guide you in your Back to Fresh journey!

 

 

Let's Get Together!

For many people fall is the start of an indulgent eating season that begins with Halloween treats, and continues straight through New Year’s Eve. But autumn is also a perfect time to take advantage of the abundance of healthy fare that makes this season special. A few of my favorites are apples, pumpkins, and greens.

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

Fresh, seasonal chopped apples can be whipped into a smoothie, or added to cinnamon oatmeal. Stir finely chopped apples into pancake batter, enjoy them sliced, dipped into almond butter, or sauté apples in lemon water, along with ginger, topped with a crumble made from oats, almond butter, maple syrup, and apple pie spice. Fresh sliced apples make a delicious addition to entrée salads, cooked cabbage, and stir frys. Shredded apple can also be folded into burger patties or meatloaf recipes. And for a healthy treat, try my recipe for kale and raisin stuffed slow cooker apples

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

After carving a fresh pumpkin, the roasted seeds make a healthy snack, or topping for cooked veggies, salads, fish, beans, and lentils. Fresh roasted pumpkin flesh, seasoned with coconut oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice, also makes a nutritious, satisfying side dish. And unsweetened canned pumpkin makes a perfect addition to smoothies, oatmeal, hummus, or chili.     

Greens, a year round superfood, come to life in all new ways this season. Try my recipe for super green party dip, and a variety of fresh and cooked dishes, from coconut collard crisps, to lentil, yam and kale stew, and salmon mustard greens salad. Give your green smoothie some fall flare by blending kale with ingredients like ripe pear, ginger, and maple syrup.

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

Make healthy eating a priority this fall, and you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite can’t-live-without splurges, without compromising your health or packing on any unwanted seasonal pounds.

Make This Fall Even Tastier with Help from the Crock-Pot®

Life is simpler when not having to spend a long time in the kitchen putting together meals for you, your family, and friends. With the kids back in school and time being stretched even more, cooking with a slow cooker or Crock-Pot® may be your new favorite way to save time and eat great starting this September!

Check out these tips on how to take advantage of the slow cooker, and all of its wonderful benefits!

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

WAYS TO SAVE TIME AND MAKE BETTER MEALS

  • Easy, Balanced, and Wholesome Meals

The best part of cooking with a slow cooker is that you can make a full meal with very little effort.

Registered Dietitian Cynthia Sass says, “With a slow cooker you can make healthy, balanced meals with very little prep time.” Ingredients can be prepped ahead of time, then frozen or refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them. During busy weeks when you miss your grocery trip, you can still have a home-cooked meal for your family.

  • Plan Ahead

At night, jump start your meal prepping for the next day to save time. Before heating up your slow cooker meal in the morning, prepare any ingredients you will be using the previous evening.

This could entail pre-cutting veggies, trimming and thawing meats, or even measuring out simple spices that you will be adding to the pot.

  • Maximize the Flavor

Seasoning, browning, or caramelizing your meats in a skillet beforehand is a great way to make sure your get the most out of your slow cooker dishes. Sure, it may take a little more prep work, but why settle for an average tasting meal when you can make it better!

  • Keep A Lid on It

Remember your mom telling you not to open the oven door because you would let the heat out? Well, with a slow cooker this is most certainly true. Since the point of a Crock-Pot® is to cook foods slowly, continuously taking the lid off will affect the cooking time of your meal. Also, mind your temperature. Realize how long you will be gone while cooking and make sure that the temperature you are using aligns with your schedule, and know that a little temp goes along way. 

  • Don’t Over Fill

Filling your slow cooker to the brim can cause hiccups when you are ready to eat. Some of the items may not be cooked, while others may be overcooked. Filling the cooker to only half or two-thirds full is best. Also, placing veggies close to the bottom of will help with making sure they are fully cooked.

  • Save Money

Using dried beans instead of canned ones in your slow cooker is a great way to save money and cut down on the preservatives that come in canned goods. Soak the beans overnight and they will be ready to throw in the Crock-Pot® before you leave for work!

  • Less Energy

Did you know that a slow cooker use less energy that both stove tops and ovens? Using your slow cooker can save you money on your energy bill.

  • Open Up Your Pantry

A great thing about a slow cooker is that you can throw just about anything into it. Now, we don’t suggest opening up a can of something that is two years expired from the fridge or pantry and using it. However, using canned veggies, beans, and other ingredients that you have been meaning to use will help you clean a spot for new (healthy and unprocessed) items you haven’t had a place for.

Now that we have given you some information about making the slow cooker your new best friend this fall and winter, go out and create some great dishes! Check out our website for delicious slow cooker recipes and always follow our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram for more great tips!

 source: WP Rawl

source: WP Rawl

Simple Meal Ideas for One!

When you think of five ingredients or less meals, sodium laden processed foods probably come to mind. But with a little creativity, you can make ultra simple meals in minutes using fresh, whole foods. My rule of thumb is to always include greens, combined with another veggie or fruit, along with a lean protein source and a good-for-you fat. Sprinkle in some herbs or spices and you have a go-to meal in a jiffy.     

For example, simply sauté some canned (drained and rinsed) chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil with Italian seasoning and black pepper, along with kale, and lunch or dinner is done. Or for a minimal step soup, sauté minced onions in EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat. Add low sodium vegetable broth, Italian seasoning and your favorite greens, bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add a scoop of lentils and you have a complete meal.

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

For a simple dish with southwest flare, toss massaged kale with guacamole, top with pico de gallo, and add a half cup of black beans. For Asian-inspired dish, sauté frozen, pre-cooked ready to eat shrimp in low sodium vegetable broth with greens, fresh grated ginger, and wedges of seedless citrus. Love Italian? Sauté onions in EVOO with greens and fresh sliced cherry tomatoes, and toss with cooked spaghetti squash. Assemble a speedy Mediterranean salad by dressing greens with hummus, topped with a scoop of cooked quinoa and a protein of your choice (such as chicken breast, salmon, hard boiled eggs, or giant white beans), garnished with sliced almonds or chopped walnuts. Healthy and deliciously simple can go hand in hand!

For more easy breezy options check out our recipe collection for fast Back to Fresh dishes. And tell us about the quick and healthy ways you love to use Nature’s Greens®.

Oh, Sweet Kale Of Mine!

This July, we are focusing on sweets. Sweets can be healthy and nutritious too, right?  Of course!

Try to incorporate a healthy and delicious leafy green, such as kale, in your favorite sweet treat. Here are 4 ways that will help you keep your favorite desserts “Back to Fresh”.

 Photo Credit: Buzz Feed

Photo Credit: Buzz Feed

1.       Use neutral tasting ingredients to cut out unwanted calories!

Sugars and sweeteners in desserts help mask the taste of other ingredients. Researchers from Idaho State University found that 8 in 10 people enjoyed fudge made with tofu just as much as they did with butter. Replacing butter with a healthier alternative is a great way to cut calories and carbs. Livestrong.com averages that one brownie of 35 grams, can have at least 20 grams of carbohydrates in it.

Kale is a great ingredient to add in desserts. The sweetness of the dessert tends to cut out the bitterness associated with the leafy green. Also, if your kids aren’t a fan of kale, try our recipe for our delicious Brownie Points, they won’t even know it’s in there.  Cutting these ingredients in half or eliminating them can go a long way in helping you cut calories while enjoying sweet treats!

 

 Photo Credit: WP Rawl

Photo Credit: WP Rawl

2.       Use a puree instead of the butter, oil or shortening!

Making a puree and cutting out half of the butter, oil or shortening in your favorite sweets can go a long way and help you stay on track with your weight loss and diet goals. Using kale, beets, and plant proteins like beans and lentils are great options for the “filler puree”.  

Using a puree also allows for you be sneaky with adding greens. These purees help hide the taste and texture of bitter veggies that people sometimes do not enjoy.

 3.       Mix leafy greens directly into the batter!

Make sure you get your daily 5 to 13 servings of fruits and veggies recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by adding kale or other leafy greens into your batter.

Finely chop kale and incorporate it into your dessert batters. This is a simple way to add some veggies into your baked goods, and make sure you get your daily 5 to 13 servings of fruits and veggies. Doing this makes the texture and flavor of the greens less noticeable in your sweet treats!

 4.       Use dessert recipes that accent kale aesthetically!

 We’ve talked about mixing greens into your dessert so that you cannot see them or taste them, but sometimes embracing the fact that you have added kale is not a bad thing!

Why not impress friends and family with their favorite sweets that have kale, but taste great? A great example of this is our Kale Key Lime Pie. Key Lime Pie has a strong flavor in general, so adding kale to this very tart dessert is easy and as simple as adding to the wiped filling.

 Photo Credit: WP Rawl

Photo Credit: WP Rawl

Tips like these do not take a lot of time, baking skill, or effort. Making these simple changes will help you find ways to embrace starting a “Back to Fresh” journey.

Make sure to check out our website for hundreds of more great leafy green recipes. Follow along on our “Back to Fresh” journey on social media, and share your tips on dieting, weight loss, and healthy eating using the #BackToFresh hashtag!

 

 

 

 

 

15 Minute Meals

One of the biggest obstacles to healthy eating my clients encounter is time, and the struggle is real. One report found that working women spend, on average, less than one hour a day preparing, serving, eating, and cleaning up after meals. And to clarify, that’s not less than an hour for each meal – it’s less than one hour per day, for all meals combined. If you experience the same type of time crunch, one of the best tools for successfully eating well is to find a handful of 15 minute go-to recipes. With quick meals at your fingertips, and the ingredients at the ready, you can whip up balanced, satisfying, and tasty dishes, and still have time for everything else on your plate. To gear up, rely on some healthy shortcuts.

 Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/clear-glass-with-red-sand-grainer-39396/

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/clear-glass-with-red-sand-grainer-39396/

When you’re pressed for time, completely from-scratch meals just aren’t practical. Fortunately, there are a number of good-for-you convenience foods you can rely on to significantly slash your prep and cooking time. Some items I frequently recommend include: eggs; canned wild salmon; canned pulses (beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas); frozen vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pre-cooked shrimp; bagged ready-to-eat greens; jarred pestos and olive tapenade; nuts, and seeds.

For example, mix canned wild salmon with stone ground mustard, balsamic vinegar, and Italian seasoning, served over bagged greens, topped with avocado and a scoop of canned chickpeas. Or for a quick grain bowl, toss thawed pre-cooked frozen shrimp and frozen steamed veggies with jarred pesto, served over a bed of bagged kale, topped with thawed frozen pre-cooked brown or wild rice, and sprinkle of nuts. Eggs are another easy breezy meal option, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sauté frozen veggies and bagged greens in extra virgin olive oil with turmeric, black pepper, and Italian seasoning, add eggs to scramble, and serve with a side of frozen, thawed berries. Or hard boil some eggs to keep in the fridge, then peel, chop, and toss with bagged greens, olive tapenade, and canned white beans. 

 Source: WPRawl

Source: WPRawl

Once you have a few fast meals down pat, they’ll be even easier to rely on as healthy back-ups when you’re in a time crunch. And for the nights you simply don’t have time to make anything, consider combining some items in your fridge with healthy-ish take out. For example, serve a Thai or Chinese order of shrimp and veggies over a bowl of bagged greens, with a small scoop of brown rice, instead of a larger portion or rice or noodles.

For more options check out our recipe collection for 15 minute Back to Fresh dishes, and tell us about the quick recipes you’d like to see added. We’re all about making healthy and delicious totally doable!     

BBQ Time!

The birds are chirping, the grass is green... time to break out the bar-b-que grill!  When hosting friends and family this spring, don't feel limited on the dishes that compliment your meal.  Here are great ways to keep your guests eating fresh and clean this grilling season. 

#1 Kale Slaw is a MUST!

This light and refreshing treat is a great twist to your normal coleslaw. Why not ditch the unhealthy slaw and substitute with a superfood packed with health benefits?  Find the recipe for our Gingery Kale and Purple Cabbage Slaw here.

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

#2 Leafy Greens... on the grill!?

Grilling leafy greens such as kale not only gives it a delicious smoky flavor, but it also removes some of the natural bitterness. Massage both sides of the leaves, place them on a piece of aluminum foil and grill them whole. Grilling makes the leaves crispy, almost like chips.

 Source:  Bon Appetit

Source: Bon Appetit

#3 Chips are meant to be dipped

Add a fun and unique dip to your table with our Zesty Mustard Greens Watermelon Salsa! Mustard greens are high in antioxidants, a great source of immune-boosting Vitamin C, and help lower cholesterol.  Watermelon is high in water content and delivers many other important nutrients, including lycopene and vitamin C.  

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

#4 Breakfast Me!

Ever thought about  breakfast on the grill?  Whether camping or relaxing in your backyard, the grill can be a nice change of pace to your normal routine. Try things like, breakfast burgers, roasted eggs or pancakes on the grill.  

 Source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/G25MV730AV

Source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/G25MV730AV

Fooled by Greens!

When most people think of greens, salads and sautés probably spring to mind. But with a little out-of-the-box thinking you can incorporate greens into nearly any recipe, from savory to sweet, any time of the day.

At breakfast, greens can be whipped into fruit smoothies, added to omelets, egg scrambles, and frittatas, blended into pancake batter, and folded into oatmeal. If you’re scratching your head, thinking, “Really, pancakes and oatmeal?” give my recipes a try. When combined with fruit, and ingredients like coconut oil, maple syrup, ginger, and cinnamon, greens are incredibly palatable, and add color, texture, nutrients, and volume to your meals, all for very few calories. 

Another way to work more greens into your diet is to toss them to meals that don’t normally include them. For example, stir chopped greens into a yogurt, fruit and nut parfait, hummus, potato salad, homemade burger patties, a bowl of mac and cheese, or a batch of soup or chili. Crisp, chilled fresh greens also add a layer of crunch and nutrition on top of piping hot pizza.

Greens also make a perfect bed for lean protein, including chicken breast, seafood, lentils, or beans. To incorporate greens into a side dish cut your usual portion of rice or pasta in half and fill the space with a handful of chopped greens. 

And while you may not think of greens for dessert, there are delicious ways to work them in, from adding baked kale chips to dark chocolate bark, to folding pureeing greens into brownie or cupcake batter.

All you need to do is keep greens handy, and get creative. Feeling inspired? Please share the various ways you’ve incorporated more greens into your recipes and eating regime. We can’t wait to learn about your green-infused meals, snacks, and treats!  

Fool your friends and family with some hidden greens recipes! http://www.rawl.net/recipes.aspx

 

Smoothie Operator

No time in the mornings? We know the dilemma! Saving time and eating healthy does not have to mean grabbing fast food, or spending much more time meal prepping.  Between a busy life and work schedule, it is not always easy to do both. Smoothies can be a great solution for on-the-go people, just like you!

And if you are one of those amazing people who likes to get their workout in before work (we don’t know how you do it!), smoothies are lifesavers: work out, throw the ingredients in, blend and enjoy while you figure out what in the world to wear today. 

Here are a few smoothie tips that will help you get “Back to Fresh,” making 2017 healthy and delicious.

 Source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/UZAO7L631Q

Source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/UZAO7L631Q

Tip #1: Use Many Ingredients

Using many ingredients in smoothies will not only enhance the flavor and taste of your smoothies, but could also add some extra good-for-you nutrients. Using a wide variety of ingredient such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and oats will give you extra nutritional value. Also adding milk, honey, cocoa, mint leaves and other natural flavors can make eating healthy delicious.

 Tip #2: Get a Head Start: Prep! Prep! Prep!

Have you heard of meal prepping? We are sure a lot of you have, but if not, it may be the best way for you to save time! Instead of going through the process of chopping up ingredients in the morning for smoothies, prepare your next day meals at night. Freezing smoothie ingredients in muffin tins, or pre-measuring out ingredients can save you added time to an already time-saving meal choice!

 Tip #3: Mix it up A little

Would you eat the same thing, with the same ingredients, every day? Some of you may, but most people like variety. Choices are good and when it comes to staying on a healthy diet, trying different smoothie’s recipes can help you stay happy and motivated to keep up the healthy choices more consistently. Don’t just use the same 3 to 5 ingredients in your smoothie every time you make one. Plan out your smoothies like you would other meals during the week. Variety will keep you loving your healthy treat and on track to your goals!

Tip #4: Use Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are not only one of the healthiest things to put in your smoothies (and body), but they also blend well with other ingredients. Fruits like bananas, pineapple, strawberries and blueberries are usually go-to ingredients for smoothies!

 Source: WP Rawl

Source: WP Rawl

 

For great smoothie recipes and more, visit our website: www.rawl.net/recipes/smoothies

 

 

 

Snack Your HEART Out!

Daily snacking can be a smart habit. In fact, one recent report found that people with the healthiest diets snack twice as often as those with the least healthy diets. Of course, what matters most is what you reach for (and why) when you nosh. To get that right check out these four simple rules of thumb.    

Develop a snack strategy

In other words, don’t snack randomly. Plan to snack during long stretches between meals. For example, if you eat lunch and noon and dinner at 7pm schedule a snack around 3 or 4pm. A well-timed snack can keep your metabolism revved, boost energy, regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and prevent overeating later in the day.  

Eat real food

A snack is a chance to fit more nutrients into your day. To maximize that opportunity forego processed snacks in favor of fresh, whole foods. Always include produce - veggies, fruit, or both - paired with other good-for-you ingredients, including healthy fat, lean protein, and whole grains. Great choices include: cut veggies, like bell pepper and cucumber, with hummus or guacamole for dipping; a smoothie made with leafy greens, fresh or frozen fruit, chickpea flour, nuts or seeds; or hard boiled eggs, paired with avocado or olive tapenade, and veggies or fresh fruit.   

Raise your snacking awareness

Too often we munch out of habit, boredom, procrastination, or simply because food is there. Commit to becoming more discriminating about the “whys” behind your snack choices. You may discover that instead of being physical hungry you’re actually feeling anxious. Or perhaps you tend eat when others are eating, even if you don’t really need a snack. Once you’re aware of your patterns you can consciously work on making different choices, like talking to a friend rather than easing anxiety with food.

Keep healthy back-ups on hand

My new snack recipes that incorporate greens include deviled eggs, white bean dip, and spiced maple popcorn. But when you can’t get into the kitchen to whip something up, stash healthy portable options in your bag, so you’ll have them at the ready. A small banana and a golf ball sized portion of almonds will do, or an apple with pumpkin seeds. Stocking a healthy reserve means you’ll never have to go without if you’re hungry, or get stuck with a less than stellar option.         

Breakfast ME!

We have all heard it for years - Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!  Eating a nutritious breakfast with fruits and vegetables helps maintain blood sugar levels, prevents binge eating and sets the tone for a healthy day of eating.

Short on time in the morning? Don't let that stop you from starting your day off the right way!

Here are some great quick tips:

1. Get a head start! Getting up 10 minutes earlier or planning out your breakfast the night before can help you get a nutritious "on-the-go" breakfast

 https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-bear-child-childhood-4604/

https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-bear-child-childhood-4604/

2. Add fruits and veggies! Cut up fruits and veggies you can toss into an omelet, oatmeal, or whole grain cereal the next morning. 

Maple-Spiced-Kale-Oats_1050.jpg

3. Make a smoothie! Blend some fruit, yogurt, almond milk and kale for a green power smoothie to-go!

4. The key to a healthy lifestyle is PLANNING! Try to plan out your meals throughout the day starting with breakfast. This may help you control your calorie intake. (Kale Brownie Points if you are able to plan a whole week's menu on Sunday!)

 https://www.pexels.com/photo/iphone-notebook-pen-working-34578/

https://www.pexels.com/photo/iphone-notebook-pen-working-34578/

In 2017, we are continuing our Back to Fresh mission with fresh, new and healthy recipes from our friend and registered dietitian Cynthia Sass.  So join us in our #BacktoFreshChallenge by eating fresh, wholesome ingredients and less of the processed stuff.

We hope that this new year, brings a new YOU! Start your journey now by making these small changes for a healthier lifestyle.  

 

Source: Fruits and Veggies More Matters

How to Balance That Holiday Sweet Tooth!

Has that sweet tooth been giving you those dreaded pangs for something incredibly sweet this holiday season? Don’t worry! We are here to tell you how to show that tooth who is BOSS and “just say no!”

1.       Keep a well-balanced diet. This can help calm your cravings! Vegetables like our beloved greens can help keep cravings at bay.

 Source: https://www.legsmart.com/blogs/healthwellness/7595799-the-importance-of-a-balanced-diet

Source: https://www.legsmart.com/blogs/healthwellness/7595799-the-importance-of-a-balanced-diet

2.       Have protein with each meal or snack. A lean protein, nut or cheese can help balance your blood sugar and avoid that dreaded sugar crash.

 Source: http://www.rawl.net/recipes/shrimp-pico.aspx

Source: http://www.rawl.net/recipes/shrimp-pico.aspx

3.       Trade in the typical sandwich-bread style foods or wraps for a bed of greens! Ditching a wrap and placing the contents over greens can instantly slash 200 calories from your meal, the amount in four large candy canes.     

 Source: http://www.rawl.net/recipes/kale-teriyaki-chicken-salad.aspx

Source: http://www.rawl.net/recipes/kale-teriyaki-chicken-salad.aspx

4.       Trade in the high carb goodies like cookies, cakes or bagels for smoothie made with fresh greens. A nutritious breakfast can set you up for a whole day of healthy eating.  Remember: Breakfast is the most important meal of your day! 

  Source: https://www.reference.com/health/teeth-hurt-eat-sweets-da7d16e340f2d27Credit: Andrew Olney OJO Images Getty Images

Source: https://www.reference.com/health/teeth-hurt-eat-sweets-da7d16e340f2d27Credit: Andrew Olney OJO Images Getty Images

Saying “NO” to sweets may be hard – but it will definitely be worth the effort! You can keep sweetness in your life, but try it in other forms… a sweet kitty, a good book or a cuddly baby.