Tag Archives: healthy

Very veggie tuna salad

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

Making healthy food more convenient is the way to kick the convenience food habit! But I can’t deal with the kind of meal prep that requires having 12 different casseroles in the freezer to drop in the slow cooker. What works for me is having a lot of different ingredients and meal components chopped and/or cooked, so they’re ready to be thrown together at a moment’s notice, for quick, easy meals — not just dinner, but also super easy lunches, since I work from home.

Lately, I’ve been on a tuna salad kick. It’s a perfect lunch for summer – no cooking needed! I do sometimes do the super-simple version of throwing a packet of tuna, a bit of homemade mayo, and some lemon pepper together and eating it on romaine hearts. Might even throw in some chopped celery and/or pickle, if I feel like a little something extra. But lately, I’ve been doing variations on a tuna salad dressed with oil and vinegar, rather than mayo. And this is a great way to work in lots of veggies, too!

This would work great for a lunch to pack for work, school, or a picnic, too.

The core recipe is:

1  2-to-3 oz. package of tuna

about 1/2 c. of diced onion (but you can eyeball* it)

1 T. of lemon juice or rice vinegar

2 to 3 T. of olive oil (use 2 if the tuna is packed in oil; 3 if it’s packed in water)

1/4 c. chopped parsley – again; just eyeball* it

1/4 to 1/2 avocado

1/2 t. kosher salt (or 1/4 t. regular salt)

1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper – or more to taste

a pinch or two of dill – optional

*”Eyeball it” = just throw in an amount that looks to you like it would fill a measuring cup of that particular measurement. If you’re not comfortable doing that straight away, measure it out and pay attention to what that looks like, and remember it for next time. This saves you the few seconds of getting out a measuring cup. (And saves some space in the dishwasher.)

This is where my meal prep comes in handy. I always keep a container of already-diced yellow onion in the fridge, and a container of already-chopped parsley in the freezer. I squeeze fresh lemons every few days and keep a bottle of that in the fridge. If you’re cool with the pre-squeezed stuff that comes in a bottle, I won’t judge! I also keep tuna packets in the fridge, so the tuna is already cold when I add it to the other salad stuff. When I buy a bunch of parsley, I chop it all and put it in a baggie in the fridge. It stays a nice green and is super easy to grab what you need and toss it into any dish.

Avocado is something that’s best cut up at the last minute, but thanks to the acid in the dressing, the avocado won’t turn too brown if you need to hold this for a few hours.

Then add the other veggies of your choice, and stir it all together gently. It’s best if you can let it chill for a couple hours or so, but I rarely think ahead that far! Whenever you’re ready to eat it, taste it first and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add more salt if it’s just overall bland; more lemon/vinegar and/or pepper if it needs more zing!

Here are some of my variations…

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

This has been my standby combo for years: to the basic core recipe, I add some chopped bell pepper — also something I keep ready in the fridge — and some chopped tomato. (Tomatoes should always be kept at room temp for best flavor, so those can’t be stashed in the fridge.) Measurements aren’t important; just add it till it looks like an amount you’ll like.

Lately, I’ve been trying to live without nightshades — a family of plants including potatoes, tomatoes, and all peppers except black pepper. (Not because these veggies are bad for you! But some people have a sensitivity to them, and I’m experimenting to see if they have any impact on how I feel.) So here are a few nightshade-free tuna salad variations.

nightshade-free tuna salad

Here, I used diced cucumber to replace the crispy texture of the bell pepper, and pine nuts to fill the role of the sweetness of the tomatoes. It turned out quite nice!

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tuna salad with ranch dressing

And here’s another slight variation on that: still with cucumbers, but I’ve also got some diced celery, chopped celery leaves, and homemade paleo Ranch dressing added to the mix. Oh, and half a hard-boiled egg — another thing to keep on hand, if you like them.

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mayo-free tuna salad variation

Another alternative for those avoiding tomatoes: blueberries! I know, it sounds weird, right? But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! The blubes have a sweet-slightly-tart flavor that makes an excellent sub for tomatoes.

Pretty easy lunches, huh? I hope this gives you some inspiration: with some of your favorite pre-diced veggies in your fridge and a couple other staples on hand, you can mix up any number of variations of your own favorite salad, and it really just takes a few minutes.

These could serve two people for a light lunch; especially if you serve something else with it. I must confess, though, that most days, I polish it all off on my own!

easy lunch - all gone!

 

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Is fat healthy? Experts now saying fat as evil “has no basis in science.”

fat is healthy again - enjoy that bacon!

Until recently, asking “Is fat healthy?” would get you a look of disbelief from most people.

But the tide is turning.

Consider these excerpts from a June 24, 2015 article on Forbes.com:

The latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – the government-sanctioned recommendations about what we should and shouldn’t eat – will include a game-changing edit: There’s no longer going to be a recommended upper limit on total fat intake.

Here’s why fats are coming back into style. The fats restriction largely stemmed from the fact that saturated fat was once thought to be a major culprit in heart disease – and this somehow extended to all fats. But in recent years, it seems that saturated fat may not be so bad, and may even be good in some ways (as in its effects on HDL or “good” cholesterol)…. This is especially true when compared to a diet high in refined carbs…. In fact, refined carbs and added sugars, which have typically been the alternative to fats, are linked to a laundry list of health ailments.

Placing limits on total fat intake has no basis in science and leads to all sorts of wrong industry and consumer decisions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, one of the authors of the new paper. “Modern evidence clearly shows that eating more foods rich in healthful fats like nuts, vegetable oils, and fish have protective effects, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Other fat-rich foods, like whole milk and cheese, appear pretty neutral; while many low-fat foods, like low-fat deli meats, fat-free salad dressing, and baked potato chips, are no better and often even worse than full-fat alternatives….”

Research has shown that high-carb diets, which have typically been the fallout of the low-fat movement, increase the risk of metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and even heart disease….

This echoes what the Harvard School of Public Health has been saying for some time:

Findings from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study show no link between the overall percentage of calories from fat and any important health outcome, including cancer, heart disease, and weight gain. (source)

Need another big name to convince you? I just ran across a stunning article from the Wall Street Journal. It’s kind of a long read, but if you want to learn how we got off on such a wrong track for so long, what role Big Food had in the early success of the American Heart Association, and why high total cholesterol may actually be good for women over 50 — yeah, you read that right…

If anything, high total cholesterol levels in women over 50 were found early on to be associated with longer life.

— then this read is well worth your time: The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease

Now, go enjoy some real food!

 

Is fat healthy? Yes -- filet for dinner!
I believe the science: had filet for dinner!

Herb-crusted salmon and pumpkin soup

paleo dinner: herbed salmon + pumpkin soup
paleo dinner: herbed salmon + pumpkin soup
I try to serve salmon at least once a week — gotta get those omega-3’s! I love that it cooks quickly, and there are so many ways to top it, encrust it, or otherwise embellish it. I’ve found, though, that it’s not as satisfying as red meat. We usually find ourselves hungry a couple hours later.
When I started making bone broth several month ago, I found that it is super satisfying. My theory is that it sticks with you because it’s providing a lot of minerals, gelatin, and other good, healing things your body is craving. So my strategy now is to always serve a bone broth-based soup on the nights I serve salmon.
A few nights ago, I made my herb-crusted salmon along with cream of pumpkin soup, using homemade chicken bone broth. My husband said, “I like this soup. It’s comforting, kinda like coffee.” (He is sorely missing his coffee with cream and sugar in the morning!)
Cream of pumpkin soup is easy to make Whole30 compliant by making it dairy-free: just swap out the cream for full-fat coconut milk. This recipe from AllRecipes is the one I use (minus the croutons): Cream of Pumpkin Soup.
This dinner is easy enough for a weeknight (especially if you make the pumpkin soup the night before, up until adding the cream), but special enough for a Fall or Winter dinner party, I think.
This pairing will go in our regular Whole30 rotation! I’m working toward publishing a four-week meal plan. Hopefully coming soon!

 

Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out

jason-s-deli-salmon-salad
Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out can be a challenge. My husband is getting ready to try the Whole30 thang, and needing some Paleo-friendly lunch options, so this post is especially for him. And as such, it focuses mostly on his tastes. So there may be a lot of other options out there, but this list caters to someone who’s not crazy about chicken or salads. And its scope is also limited to restaurants on the west side of Wichita, KS. But there are a few national chains here, as well as guidelines for any Mexican restaurant, or any burger, so there should be help here, no matter your locale.

(Please note: this list may not be 100% Whole30 compliant; I was not able to track down which oil most things are fried in, for example. But it seeks to avoid grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes.)

Applebee’s

Beef: The Ribeye and NY Strip are the only two steaks that aren’t cooked in soybean oil.

Seafood: Garlic Herb Salmon

Sides: steamed vegetables; or sweet potato fries??

Burger places, or any place that serves ’em

Bunless burger topped with grilled onions and mushrooms. Or grilled onions and jalapenos. Served on spinach? Or get a side of broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potato, if available.

Chili’s

Beef: Cajun Ribeye, Guiltless Carne Asada Steak, Flame Grilled Ribeye, or the Classic Sirloin – ask for no savory steak butter as this contains gluten. If you want a burger, the Bacon Burger or the Old time Burger (ask for no bun or onion strings) are good choices. I also like the burger that comes with guacamole and peppers; it’s quite tasty even without the bun!

Seafood: Guiltless Grilled Salmon or the Salmon with Garlic & Herbs

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Chipotle

Order two sides of steak or carnitas with guacamole, and any salsa you want, except for the one with corn and beans. Depending on how much food you want, you can order extra sides at $2.25 a pop.

Note: Occasionally you’ll get a new employee who might put the sides in a sides container. If they do this, ask them if they can put it in a bowl. If they do that, they’ll often realize it’s not actually that much meat and give you more for free.

Jason’s Deli

Pollo Mexicano, without cheese and sour cream, – add guacamole; try to eat less of the white part of the potato

Mighty Wild Salmon Salad, without beans, with Italian dressing (NOT Leo’s fat-free Italian)

McAlister’s Deli

Your best bet: the grilled chicken salad, hold the croutons (and the cheese, if you’re avoiding dairy). Here’s the nutrition info for the entree-sized grilled chicken salad, as well as the only salad dressings with less than 20 grams of carbs and less than 1000 mg of sodium.

nutrition info for mcalister's deli: salad

 

Mexican places (go local, not chain)

Ask for no chips when you’re seated. (If you order carryout, specify no chips.)

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Order a tostada topped with meat of your choice, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and/or onions. Eat everything but the tortilla.

Panera

The Greek dressing is the only sugar-free dressing, but you can request it on any salad.

(I need to do more research into the broth bowls. They’ve changed the menu since my original post.)

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General guidelines

Always ask for NO SEASONING SALT in restaurants. MSG is often added to this, as is sugar.

When you see the following adjectives on the menu, ask lots of questions and be prepared to take a pass on foods that don’t meet your standards:

  • Deep fried
  • Crispy
  • Battered
  • Coated
  • Breaded
  • Sauced
  • Meatballs/Meatloaf/Croquettes (probably include breadcrumbs)
  • Sausage
  • Fritter
  • Dumpling

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Sources:
http://thepaleomama.com/2013/01/the-paleo-mamas-guide-to-dining-out-paleo-style/
http://fentresscrossfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FAST-FOOD-OPTIONS.pdf
http://theclothesmakethegirl.com/2015/02/26/paleo-tips-eating-restaurants/
https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/menu-categories/salads.html

Foolproof, easy, 4-ingredient mayo

breadless-blt-27s-cu-400
homemade mayonnaise: paleo/whole30 mayo ingredients
I’ve been meaning to try to make my own mayonnaise for ages, because it seems impossible to find a mayo that’s both sugar-free and not made with canola. Most, if not all, canola is genetically modified. And sugar in mayonnaise?! Yeah, you’d be surprised. Read labels next time you go to the store.

But I thought homemade mayo surely had to be tricky. Perfect temperatures and/or timing, danger of the emulsion breaking, that sort of thing. Turns out… nope! I tried this recipe and method from The Healthy Foodie, and it’s so easy it’s ridiculous! Worked the first time, and every time since then. All that’s necessary is a stick blender, and a jar that’s the right size. It might also be just as doable in a normal blender, but I haven’t tested that.And, yes, for those who care: this is Paleo, and Whole30 compliant.

Perfect for my gluten-free, grain-free “BLT’s without bread“! A super-easy, low-carb Paleo snack or meal. Quick, too, if you have already-cooked bacon on hand — and you should!

I go crazy for these when good tomatoes are in season! But they’re still pretty tasty when the only decent tomatoes available around here (<sarcasm> yay, winter in Kansas! </sarcasm>) are grape tomatoes.

Plain ol’ mayo needs no herbs, but if you want to bump up the flavor a bit, add a pinch or two of your favorites. I’ve included my suggestion in the ingredients list….

Easy homemade mayo recipe

  • 1 large egg, taken straight out of the fridge (no need to bring to room temp)
  • 1 cup very-light-tasting olive oil (NOT virgin), or other flavorless oil of your choice
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons lemon juice, rice vinegar, or other pale vinegar of your choice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt (start small; mix; taste; adjust if necessary)
  • Optional bonus: flavor it with a pinch of dill and a few pinches of fresh chives – YUM!

Put it all in your carafe or jar, blend holding the stick still till the mayo-in-the-making reaches almost to the top of the oil, then move up and down a few times till all oil is incorporated. Yeah, it’s that easy.

Here’s the original mayo recipe, with detailed instructions. This works great in the beaker/carafe that came with my blender (below), but if you’re just using a glass jar, the size of the jar matters, so I recommend looking that up in the original recipe.
Note: when freshly made, it tastes kinda oily. If you’re going to immediately blend it into a salad dressing or slaw mix, that won’t be a problem. But if it’s going to be a star player, a chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight will be a good thing.
P.S. My old Braun stick blender (also called an immersion blender or hand blender) went kaput this week, so I just ordered a new one from Amazon – Cuisinart this time. I consider it an absolute essential in the kitchen! The price goes up and down on Amazon, so if you want one and it’s currently over $45 — and you’re not in a hurry — put it in your cart and leave it there. They’ll send you an email if the price goes down!

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Thinking of going Paleo?

Check out my 20-Day Countdown to a New Way of Eating!

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Mealprep: 40 recipes to stock your freezer and free your mind!

Tacos-1

One of the best ways to eat healthy is to eat at home more. But for any busy person, this becomes a real challenge when it’s 4:30 and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Prepping some ingredients and/or dishes ahead of time to stash in the freezer can save the day. Not only does it save you cooking time, it also saves you brain effort at the very time of day your brain is most overtaxed!

Sure, these mean a little more work on the weekend — but you can do it at a leisurely pace, when you’re rested and not rushed. Which I’ve found makes cooking so much more enjoyable!

NOTE: not all of these are real food/Paleo/Whole30.

Mealprep: taco kit from The Kitchn
A week of dinners in the freezer, from The Kitchn. Recipes for: Baked Manicotti – Freezer Taco Kits – Twice-Baked Potatoes – Chile & Sausage Oven Frittata – Cranberry Pork Chops – Chicken and Wild Rice Bake. (Also includes side dishes, not listed here.) You can also find this same list of recipes with additional notes on how to turn prep day into a Freezer Meals Party.
Mealprep: stocking the freezer

Here are tips for stocking your freezer with precooked and seasoned meats, which gives you more versatility than already-assembled dishes. Includes instructions (but not exact recipes) for twice-baked potatoes, two different ground beef mixes, a teriyaki marinade that you can use on any meat, poultry or seafood (lots of sugar in it, though), and shredded chicken plus broth. Also has a few nifty tricks for neater packaging.

ingredient prep, + why i like it better than meal prep

For the past several months, I’ve gotten into the habit of ingredient prep. This works really well for me! It’s less labor-intensive on the front end, and more flexible at go-time! (I was originally inspired by this post by Mel Joulwan at Well Fed.)

Mealprep from Pioneer Woman

Here’s Pioneer Woman’s freezer cooking post. Not a lot of healthy stuff on the list, but I do love her tip for grilling whole chicken breasts and freezing them to have on hand for dozens of uses. I count about 11 main-dish recipes on her list, skipping the carb-laden ones.

Mealprep: chicken breasts
I also like this method for an easy way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts, from Small Home Big Start.
Mealprep from New Leaf Wellness

Eight healthy freezer crockpot meals in 75 minutes, from New Leaf Wellness. Well, really four different meals, double batch of each. Beef Roast and Carrots – Chicken Fajitas – Mexican Chicken Soup – Garden Veggie Soup with Ground Beef.

Mealprep shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour – super organized and detailed; even includes shopping list! Really just five recipes; double batch of each. Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken –  London Broil – Quick Taco Soup – Orange Glazed Pork Chops – Creamy Italian Chicken

Mealprep - more shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour, take 2; the no-bake version; includes five warm weather recipes that are cooked either on the grill or in the crockpot—no oven required!

More about the method…

Here are a couple resources that aren’t recipe lists, but more of a how-to go about mealprep and make it work for you.

From Mealime: Meal Planning: The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Meals Stress-Free. This is an exhaustive collection with tons of tips — how to plan, how to shop, how to cook, etc.

Mealprep - the non-planned approach

A planned/non-planned approach. No recipes here, but some pointers for stocking your freezer with ready-to-go meat and cheese portions, then how to plan meals the weekend or night before, taking into account your schedule, the weather, and what’s in your fridge that needs to be used up.

 

And here are a few ingredients to have pre-cooked and ready in the freezer:

And a few things to know about food safety and quality:
Mealprep: freezer recipes

Grain-free, sugar-free granola

grain-free-paleo-granola-450x675

Cranberry Walnut Paleo Granola, from Cook Eat Paleo

I cannot believe I’ve never posted a link to this recipe for Cranberry Walnut Paleo Granola from Cook Eat Paleo! I discovered it more than a year ago, and it’s one of my favorite low-sugar, grain-free treats. I’m not doing the whole pure paleo thing, but there are components of the diet that line up with my nutrition philosophy, so I find paleo food blogs a great source for recipes.

I’ve made my own variation of the original Cranberry Walnut Paleo Granola version (notes below). I haven’t made the Cinnamon Raisin Spice Paleo Granola, but it sounds incredibly tasty, too!

This would make a great sugar-free Christmas goody giveaway. (I’ve also put together a list of 12 Homemade Christmas Treats That Aren’t Sweets.) It has no processed sugar, and is sweetened with a small amount of maple syrup, making it vegan-friendly, too.

And here’s my version…

Cranberry Walnut Paleo Granola Recipe

I have halved and tweaked the original recipe. This fits nicely on a 10 x 15″ cookie sheet; and the 4-cup measuring cup works perfectly for a mix-and-pour bowl.

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds without hulls)
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut – larger flakes are better
1/8 teaspoon table salt (or 1/4 t. sea salt or kosher salt)
1 Tblsp coconut oil, melted
1.5 Tblsp maple syrup
1/2 cup dried cranberries and/or other dried fruit; I like to use these pre-chopped prune bits called “Amazins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper, or lining it with foil that’s oiled or sprayed.

Combine nuts, pepitas, and coconut in mixing bowl, or a 4-cup measuring cup. Mix together coconut oil and maple syrup until well combined, and stir into nut mix.

Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared cookie sheet. Optional: sprinkle with 1/4 t. kosher  or sea salt.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until coconut is just lightly browned. (Your oven may vary.)

Remove from oven, add the dried cranberries and/or Amazins, and toss to combine. Cool completely before serving.
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Disclosure: “Amazin” links go through my Amazon affiliation, but you can find them at your local grocery.