Posts Tagged ‘meal planning-preparation’

Seeing the Value in Personal Chefs for a Healthy Diet

My clients often complain they are too busy to plan and prepare healthy meals, so they can’t keep it up consistently. When they can’t find the time, they end up going back to fast food, cereal, take-out pizza, or a hodge podge of things they find in their cabinets and refrigerator. Seldom are these substitutes healthy and often they are unsatisfying.

It does take some time to plan meals for the week, grocery shop, and then plan and make luncheons and dinners. And there are a number of options when you run out of time on a regular basis.

    • Find a local place that has healthy meals to go. If you do a little investigating, you will mostly likely find a place near where you live or work that has a healthy line of prepared foods that you can take home. It could be a restaurant, supermarket or carry out gourmet cafe. In my area alone there are five places I can go for really good healthy choices.

 

    • Cook extra food, when you do have time, and stock up the freezer for those weeks when you are busy. While you may not think you like leftovers, it may be worth giving it another try. Most food tastes just as good reheated, and some taste even better. Experiment with ways to double up favorite recipes.

 

  • Find a personal chef to make the meals for you. This is a great option that too few people consider. The general assumption is a personal chef is too expensive. That is seldom the case. Very often, the cost is very reasonable, and personal chefs are highly flexible. You can have them prepare meals for every day of the week, just a couple of days a week, or on a schedule that meets your busiest times. They will also prepare foods the way you need and like it, and they are well versed in making meals without allergens, to a specific diet or with locally farmed ingredients.

To find a personal chef in your area, do a local Internet search, check out Yelp.com or go to either http://www.personalchefsearch.com/ or  http://www.hireachef.com/. Personal chefs don’t have to be in your town or cook in your own kitchen. They can prepare foods in another part of the state and ship it to you without a problem.

Expand your options when you are too busy to cook, so you can maintain a healthy diet more easily. When you’ve got a home-cooked meal all ready to go, it is easier to sit down to enjoy it. Instead of excuses for not being able to eat healthier foods, create a stress-free positive way to eat healthy foods that are delicious, satisfying and hassle-free. You’ll discover how much you look forward to coming home to a good meal.

How to Prepare Healthy Foods in 5-10 Minutes

 

 

 

Making healthy dishes can be fast, easy and hardly any work to prepare, and that is how I manage to fit healthy meals into my daily lifestyle. It can take just five-ten minutes to prepare a meal using healthy whole foods.


This week I wanted to show the people in the New You healthy lifestyle groups how they could make healthy meals really quickly, even on a busy night, and love the results.

So I invited them all to my home for a cooking demo and a healthy balanced meal. On the menu was four different ways to prepare asparagus, along with two easy ways to have fish and two super simple side dishes (basmati rice and sweet potato). It all started with a wonderful bean spread that took only a few ingredients and 5 minutes to whip up.

Here is what I did for our evening event:

Yummy Bean Spread – Everyone Loved This!
Served with Kashi stone-ground wholegrain crackers as well as Blue Diamond’s nut-thin rice crackers (for those who are gluten intolerant).

1 can Cannellini beans – mashed with a fork (after draining the liquid)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
3 Scallions (or 1 slice red onion) – finely sliced
2 tsp Rosemary – fresh (or sage or thyme)
Salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together.
Can also add tiny bit of lemon or sherry vinegar.
Can put on top of sliced banquettes – as a cannellini bean crostini.

4 Simple & Easy Ways to Make Asparagus
Rinse asparagus and break off one end to see where the natural break is. Then cut all the other asparagus in the bunch by the same amount. This saves time in having to break each end off.

1. Roasted Asparagus
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil and spray with olive oil from a can. (I used PAM for this)
Lay the bunch of asparagus across the sheet.
Then spray the olive oil again across the asparagus to lightly coat them.
Sprinkle with a mix of salt and thyme. (I used a mortar & pestle to release oil from the thyme)
Broil (or bake at 400 degrees) for about 10 minutes – until starting to shrivel and brown.

2. Steamed Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Place the bunch of asparagus into a large frying pan or sauté pan.
Add 1/4 cup of water.
Cover with a lid.
Cook for 3 minutes until the asparagus starts to get a tiny bit soft and the water is gone.
Don’t let it fully cook, or it will quickly get too soft.

Place in a dish and pour balsamic vinaigrette over the asparagus.
(I used Lilly’s balsamic vinaigrette, which you can get at most grocery stores.)

3. Steamed Asparagus with Garlic & Herbs
Same first 5 steps as #2.
Push the asparagus to one side of the pan.
Pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the pan where you have created some space.
Add in 1 clove minced garlic (fresh or from a jar)
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Cook the herbs and garlic in the oil for about a minute or two.
Mix in with the asparagus and remove from heat.

4. Sautéed Asparagus with Onions, Garlic & Herbs
Cut up bunch of asparagus into 1 – 1½ ” pieces.
Heat up frying or sauté pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil
Sauté the onion and garlic for 1- 2 minutes
Add in the chopped asparagus.
Sprinkle with bit of salt and dried thyme (or any herb you like).
Cook until asparagus gets a bit soft.

Super Simple Sweet Potato Even the Kids will Love

Roasted Sweet Potato “Chips”
Rinse a large sweet potato (or yam) and slice diagonally in ¼” slices.
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil. You can often reuse tin-foil from prior roastings.
Spray with olive oil from a can. (I used PAM for this)
Lay the pieces of sweet potato on the sheet.
Then spray the olive oil again across the slices to lightly coat them.
Sprinkle with a mix of salt and thyme.
Broil (or bake at 400 degrees) for about 10 minutes – until starting to brown on bottom.
You will have to use a spatula to check the bottoms.

A Fish Anyone Can Make
You can broil a lot of different fishes, and for this event I picked up a pre-marinated “cajun” catfish at our local fish store, David’s Fish Market in Salisbury. You can also take a white fish and marinate it yourself.

Line a baking sheet with tin-foil.
Lay the fish pieces on it.
Broil for about 8 minutes – if about ¼-½ ” thick. (5 minutes if thinner)
Turn over and broil for about 4 minutes.
It is done when you can slide your fork all the way through, without any resistance.

This is the same way you can make swordfish. Top with bit of salt, pepper and a seafood rub, and broil for 8 minutes. When you turn it over, you can re-apply the seasonings or not.

How simple was that!

The basmati rice was from a brand called Tilda, which comes in a blue foil bag. You boil 6 cups of water, then add in 1 cup of rice. 10 minutes later, you strain it (pouring the rice and water into a strainer) and then douse with hot water. You get perfect rice that isn’t sticky.

The remaining shrimp dish came from a Williams Sonoma recipe called Shrimp with Wine & Herbs out of their “Food Made Fast: Seafood” cookbook.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the participants have to say about their cooking demo evening with me, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Quick & Easy Food Strategies


 

 

 

Cooking Demo from Local in home cooking

This week the groups got the chance to spend part of an evening with Katie Habib, owner of in home cooking (personal chef, interactive dinner parties, cooking lessons and party prep) right here in Newburyport at her home. Our interest was vegetables and easy, quick ways to prepare them. We wanted to know how she would whip up a side of yummy broccoli, green beans, asparagus or eggplant. When we arrived we were welcomed to her big kitchen and a tasting of crackers with a delicious caponata spread (an Italian eggplant, balsamic vinegar, olives and capers) and another simple spread made from carrots and sweet potato.

Within the hour we spent with Katie, we learned how easy it really can be to roast or sauté vegetables. She demonstrated roasting by cubing up an eggplant and a red onion, dropping them on a thick baking sheet and drizzling with a bit of oil, crushed garlic and bit of salt and pepper. She broiled them in less than 20 minutes and tossed with some feta cheese. You can broil (or bake) nearly any vegetable that way, and they come out with a wonderful flavor. She also sautéed broccoli florets in a bit of oil with garlic, salt, pepper and as it finished cooking added in some raisons and red pepper flakes. She did something similar with the green beans, finishing those instead with balsamic vinegar. We left inspired to add more vegetables into our meals.

Tim, who was the lucky winner of Katie’s services for his award in health improvement, will not be the only one signing up for her services, such as her weekly crock pot meals or in home cooking lessons. For more information about all Katie’s options, visit www.inhomecooking.net.

Developing Food Strategies from Hindsight
Back in our group sessions, we talked about those times during the week when it was challenging to maintain portion control or avoid eating less than healthy choices. Everyone has learned not to beat themselves up when that happens, and now they can use those experiences as learning opportunities.

It is amazing what you learn when you look back and see what might have worked better in different situations. For example, several people said that Easter didn’t go quite as planned, even though they were pleased they remained in greater control than ever before. For example, some found it easy to keep nibbling at food that remained on the table as everyone sat around. One easy way to avoid that is to put the food away, getting it out of everyone’s reach. Several talked about eating too much dessert because of the portions that get served, yet they were in control of the portion size. They realized that they automatically cut big pieces of pie or cake because that is just what they’ve always done, but they could just as easily do smaller slices.

Once you can identify specific strategies from past events, you can think about them proactively the next time the same type of event comes up. This is exactly what two of them did when they knew that Easter dinner would involve a buffet, since we had talked about dealing with buffets before. They both had a little healthy snack an hour or so before going, so they didn’t get to the buffet too hungry. One of them had already decided ahead of time that she would start with a salad, and both of them took a walk through to see what was on the buffet table before getting their plates. That enabled them to think about which things they really wanted most, and in what ways they could have them in a healthy balanced way. And then they left room for a bit of the desserts and again picked a couple of small things they thought looked best. Neither got full and both were perfectly satisfied. In fact they felt great about their choices and themselves.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the contestants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

An Easy Way to Make Healthy Food Choices

 

 

 

This week, the main topic for our group sessions was balanced eating and how to easily make healthy meals and snacks without it being complicated or restricted.

These days it isn’t easy to make healthy food choices, and one of the problems is the confusion about what is and is not healthy to eat. You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out the latest research or trying to sort out everything you’ve learned about good nutrition. A number of people who applied for this contest told me that they weren’t sure how to pick healthy foods and some admitted they weren’t sure they had ever had a healthy diet, largely because of all the dieting they had done. And that makes sense, most diets aren’t healthy and all the noise about good foods and bad foods are often contradictory.

The good news is, healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Once you know the basics about nutrition and how to easily balance foods, it is actually very simple and gives you a lot of freedom in your choices. I call this Balanced Eating, and it is a way to make meals and snacks that are nutritionally balanced, satisfying and provide a low glycemic impact.

Why low gylcemic impact matters. Carbohydrates are rated on a glycemic index by how fast they break down and raise blood sugar levels, and those with a high glycemic index (often called fast carbs or simple carbohydrates) break down the fastest, causing rapid and high spikes in blood sugars. To stabilize blood sugars and insulin levels, you want to eat foods that take longer to digest and have a lower glycemic impact, and these are complex carbohydrates (or slow carbs), which are then balanced with protein and fat. When this combination represents the bulk of your meal or snack, then a little bit of simple carbs won’t throw off the balance or raise that glycemic response.

So here is Balanced Eating in a nutshell, as I explained it to the group:

  • Eat more frequently throughout the day every few hours or whenever you get hungry, evenly spreading out your meals and snacks.
  • At each meal or snack, create a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fat. And if you want foods with simple carbohydrates and saturated fats, add them in small quantities.
  • There is no good or bad food. Many simple carbs for example are healthy, such as fruit or carrots.
    So instead of labeling a specific food, determine what category it falls into and balance accordingly.
  • Aim for about 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat. Carbohydrates are what primarily fuels our metabolism, so we need them. We also need fat to keep our cells healthy, be our secondary source of fuel, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. And protein builds and repairs tissues, amongst other things.

The hardest thing to learn is what category does a food fall into. Is it a carbohydrate, and if so what type. Is it a protein, and if so is it lean or fatty. Or is it a fat, and is it unsaturated or saturated. Sometimes it is hard to tell, and you have to look at labels. I gave the group the following chart to help them more easily determine that. I put foods into categories that represented their primary nutrient, like milk as a simple carbohydrate. If you look at the label on your milk, you will see that it is mostly a carbohydrate and that most of that is a milk sugar. And the rest is protein and some fat.

The other thing that is challenging is knowing what are the right combinations. There is no right way to do this. Instead pick a meal you typically eat, and see how balanced it is now and what would make it more balanced and have a lower glycemic impact.

For example, if you tend to have cereal, milk, juice and fruit for breakfast, you will notice this is very high in carbohydrates and high in simple carbs. When you start the day with a surge of carbs and blood sugars, you will often start a cycle of craving carbs the rest of the day. In this breakfast, there is a little bit of protein and probably a bit of fat in the cereal. To better balance this, choose a whole grain cereal with low sugars (like oatmeal) that you like, pick a milk with a bit higher fat content or add some nuts, pick either the fruit or the juice, and perhaps add a piece of lean sausage. Now it is higher in complex carbs, lean protein and fat.

The best way to begin eating healthier is to make minimal changes to the way you eat now. Start by changing one meal at a time or one type of meal during the week, and just as important is to choose what you enjoy eating and tweaking it so it is healthier and just as – or even more – satisfying. This isn’t about going on a diet, it is about making modifications to what you are already doing or your current recipes so you enjoy it more, it is fully satisfying and it carries you for a few hours. In time this will become easier and more intuitive.

Each person in the group picked one of their meals and experimented with ways to make it more balanced and healthier. They told us what was in the meal or snack, and then they told us what those items were in terms of complex or simple carbohydrates, saturated or unsaturated fat, or lean or fatty protein. In this way, they could learn how to think in terms of balancing key nutrients (proteins, carbs, fats) and know when they had a healthy meal or snack or not very easily. They all got this down very quickly and many of them noticed how much better they felt and how much more satisfying it was when they had a balanced meal or snack that was primarily complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fat.

Try it yourself. You will be amazed how easy it really can be and how much better you will feel.

Read What the Group Members Experienced This Week
Find out what the participants experienced with Balanced Eating and how they are doing in making other healthy changes. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at the contest website.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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