Build a Healthy Meal Template

Build your meals around nutrient-rich foods to make Mediterranean style meals focusing on:

Mostly plant foods, lean protein such as seafood or occasionally lean poultry, beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, mono fat.

Why? 1. Vegetables, fruits, seafood, lean poultry and whole grains have a low caloric densityCalorie density, also known as calories per pound, is how much energy, i.e. calories, is provided per unit measure of food. Choosing foods with a low calorie density can help with weight loss. 2. These foods are nutrient dense.

Helpful Resource 

This is my favorite book containing a collection of quick to make grain bowls, stews and risottos, that will help you create meals using my build a meal template. The author showcases recipes for vegetarian and vegan meals as well as heartier ones with meat and seafood.

Vegetables    ½ your plate

Salad greens or vegetable salads

Roasted asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper strips, mushrooms, etc.

Sautéed or stir fried mixed vegetables, kale, sugar snap peas

Raw vegetables

Broth based vegetable soup

Lean Protein     ¼ of your plate

Shrimp, Salmon, Crab, Fish, Chicken or Turkey Breast, Egg Whites, Tofu and some tofu products, quinoa, Reduced Fat Cottage Cheese, Low Fat Greek Yogurt, Skim Milk

Healthy Carbs    ¼ of your plate

Sweet potato or potato

Beans, peas, lentils, corn or green beans

Fruit

Whole grain products: cereal, bread, tortillas, English muffins, pasta, crackers

Whole grains such as:

Products Spotlight:    *Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice, precooked and microwavable   *Barilla Whole Grain Pasta    *Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Crispbread      *Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley

Healthy Fat  Small Amounts 

Olive oil, olives, olive tapenade, canola oil

Avocado cream (see my blog)

Pesto, Costco’s Kirkland

Avocado

Walnuts or almonds or other nuts

Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp, flax, sunflower

Light salad dressing

Flavor Boosters  Small amounts of the ones that are calorically dense

Rubs (Spike, El Gaucho, Salish Lodge, Rub with Love), Herbs and Spices, Ceylon Cinnamon, see here more Ceylon Cinnamon info, Turmeric, Salsa, Lemon, Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce, Barbecue Sauce, Sirracha, Chipotles in Adobo, Chili Sauce, mustard, Brummel and Brown Spread, vinegars, Miso, avocado cream, Reduced fat sharp cheddar, feta, goat cheese, reduced fat sour cream, dried fruits, Stevia and erythritol. 

Foods to avoid: saturated fat, food colors, red meat, processed meat, deep fried foods, junky gluten-free products, agave (higher in fructose than other sugars), fast food, highly processed food, added sugar, refined grains like white flour, industrial vegetable oils, trans fats, fruit juice, alcohol, barbecued foods, high heat cooked food.

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Maria Faires’ Lemon Farro and Brussels Sprouts


 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Farro and Brussels Sprouts

Farro is a variety of wheat and similar to wheat berries, farro is still a bit chewy when cooked, rather than soft and mushy. Farro is still a bit chewy when cooked, rather than soft and mushy. If you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s, use wheat berries.

In the spring when asparagus is in season, try substituting asparagus for the Brussels sprouts.

·      1 c. Farro Ten Minute Trader Joe’s or Wheat Berries (Adjust cooking time)

·      2 or 3 c. chicken or vegetable broth (Adjust amount depending on if you are using Ten Minute Farro or Wheat Berries)

·      1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and quartered

·      1 large shallot, chopped

·      2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

·      1/4 c. chopped walnuts

·      1 tbsp. lemon juice

·      zest from 1 well-washed lemon, I like to use a microplane to zest the lemon

·      Salt + pepper to taste

1.    Combine 1 cup wheat berries and 3 cups broth OR 1 cup Ten Minute Farro and 2 cups broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until tender, if using wheat berries about 50 minutes or if using Trader Joe’s Farro Ten Minute, 10 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid. Set aside.

2.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

3.    While wheat berries are cooking, start Brussels sprouts. Toss Brussels sprouts, shallots, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and stir in walnut pieces.

4.    Whisk together lemon juice, zest, remaining 1 Tbsp oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add wheat berries and roasted vegetables; toss to combine, then serve.

 

 

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Damaging Free Radicals and Super Hero Antioxidants

In cells, oxygen is constantly involved in chemical reactions in which electrons are shifted around. This is called oxidation. In an oxidation reaction, one atom or compound will steal electrons from another atom or compound. This process creates highly reactive, unstable, harmful particles known as free radicals.  Free radicals cause damage and many experts believe damage from free radicals is a factor in the development of  blood vessel disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and many chronic diseases. Free radicals can cause LDL cholesterol to oxidize, increasing cardiovascular risk. They can also damage genes in ways that contribute to the aging process. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.

We are exposed to free radicals through normal cellular processes, the effects of ultraviolet light and sun exposure, air pollution, trauma, excess heat, and smoking or when the body breaks down certain medicines. Our bodies also produce free radicals during exercise because we inhale more oxygen and use more energy and through by-products of normal processes that take place in your body (such as the burning of sugars for energy and the release of digestive enzymes to break down food). To generate energy, our cells remove electrons from sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids and add them to other molecules, especially oxygen. All this creates free radicals.

Antioxidants to the rescue. Antioxidants are the superheroes of the complex world of biochemistry because they provide an electron that the free radical is missing and neutralize it, ending the chain of destruction. Antioxidants thus protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants play a role in the management or prevention of some medical conditions and aging. 

It takes a variety of antioxidants and lots of them to help successfully deactivate the different kinds of free radicals. The body’s natural antioxidant defense system is partly fueled by the antioxidants we consume. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, lignan, lycopene, and other carotenoids, and selenium. In general, the best dietary sources of antioxidants are vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds and other plant-derived foods.

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