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We celebrate Eat Dinner Together Week this week and for many families this can be a challenge.  Busy schedules that include work, school, sports practices, and other extracurricular activities, make it difficult to sit down together and enjoy a nightly meal.  I understand that gone are the days of Leave It to Beaver where June Cleaver had all day long to prepare dinner for her family.  The key to providing a nutritious meal is to be able to prepare something quickly or without much preparation.  Otherwise, you’ll be reaching for the takeout menu.

 
Thankfully, there are many options that don’t require a lot of cooking time or much preparation.  In fact, Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has an entire recipe section devoted to quick and easy meals, namely their 30 Minutes or Less section.  Select from entrees, side dishes, and desserts like Chicken Veggie Risotto or Spinach Pesto Pasta.  Pinterest has a number of quick family meal ideas as well–just be careful as some of these selections might not be quite as healthy.  I did narrow my search and found a few healthier choices, which I’m sharing with you below.
 

Here’s a great recipe for Oven Baked Fajitas using chicken and whole wheat tortillas.  I love that they also make the marinade in the morning, let the chicken, onions, and peppers marinate all day and then everything is ready to go when you get home from work.  Oh, and kids love the “hands on” of putting together their own fajita too!

 

fajitas

 
Here is a perfect one-pot meal for the cooler weather and one that is always a hit in my house–chili!  This recipe for Turkey Chili is prepared using your slow cooker or crock pot, one of my favorite kitchen appliances.  Seriously, there is nothing better than coming home, after a hectic day, and having dinner ready and waiting for you.  This recipe is packed with veggies–tomatoes, corn, peppers, black beans, and kidney beans.  Serve it with a side of corn bread and you’re set.
 

chili

 

I hope you’ll try some of these recipes and enjoy mealtime with your family.  While it takes a little effort, the payoff is definitely worth it.

 

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September is All American Breakfast Month and that’s a reason to celebrate and an opportunity to include more fruit and veggies into your breakfast routine.  While I know many of us do a decent job serving up veggie omelets or a bowl of hearty oatmeal, topped with dried fruit, I’ve got some interesting choices you many not have considered that will tempt your tastebuds, as well as provide you with a serving or more of nutritious fruit and/or vegetables.

 

Instead of the traditional omelet, Fruits and Veggies–More Matters has a recipe for Garden Frittata.  Packed with kale, potatoes, onion and bell pepper, this dish is a colorful blend of eggs and veggies.  Spinach or other greens may be substituted for kale.

 

Garden Frittata

 

Another recipe from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters that is a step away from the typical breakfast fare is Avocado Breakfast Bruschetta.  Avocados, tomato, hard-boiled egg and ricotta cheese top toasted rustic whole grain bread for a new twist to your morning meal.

 

Breakfast Bruschetta

 

Here is an interesting way to add some fruit to your morning–a Breakfast Parfait made with quinoa of all things!  Quinoa is known for its high protein content.  It’s also a good source of dietary fiber and iron.  This recipe combines quinoa with Greek yogurt and fruit such as bananas and nectarines for a delicious breakfast treat that will also provide you with energy to last you until lunchtime.

 

Quinoa parfait

 

For those days when you’re on-the-go, a breakfast smoothie is the perfect choice.  This Berry Green Smoothie for Kids recipe is great for everyone–spinach is the “secret” ingredient that you’ll never know is hidden in this sweet drink.  Greek yogurt, banana, pineapple, mixed berries and chia seeds are blended to give the smoothie its delicious flavor.

 

Breakfast Smoothie

 

Visit Fruits & Veggies–More Matters and search their healthy recipe index for more breakfast options that include fruit and veggies to explore many more creative ways to make your morning a healthy one!

 

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Here’s a fun fact–according to the USDA, each American eats 112 pounds of potatoes each year.  Now, that’s a lot of spuds!  Of course, it’s no wonder since potatoes are so delicious and versatile.  One thing many people don’t realize is how nutritious these tasty veggies are.  Potatoes are fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, high in Vitamin C and a good source of potassium.  The key is how you prepare them–many times it’s the high fat/calorie toppings that give potatoes a bad rap.

 

Since September is National Potato Month, I decided to share some healthy ways to serve up one of America’s favorite vegetables. I know I have relied on taking a large potato and placing it in the microwave to “bake” it quickly for a filling meal.  Then top it with some low-fat toppings.  My personal favorites include cooked broccoli, low-fat shredded cheddar cheese and stewed tomatoes.  A more gourmet version is Fruits & Veggies More Matters recipe for Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken.  This healthy plate has the flavor of buffalo chicken wings minus all the fat and calories.

 

potato skins

 

Potatoes can also make great main dish meals.  In addition, they can be used as substitutes for grains in some traditional dishes like this recipe for Quick and Healthy Gluten Free Potato Lasagna.  Layered Yukon Gold potatoes take the place of lasagna noodles in this dish, while turkey sausage and fat-free ricotta cheese reduces the calorie count.

 

US Potato Board

 
One of my personal favorite ways to enjoy potatoes is by roasting them.  I love this cooking method because it brings out the natural flavor of the potato and because you can enhance them with so many different herbs and spices.  Think rosemary and garlic or something like this recipe for Chipotle and Lime Roasted Potatoes.  This only takes 10 minutes of prep time and 45 minutes in the oven.  Fresh cilantro is added to the potatoes right before serving for added flavor.
 

roasted potatoes

 

Visit this great “Pototo Types” board courtesy of the US Potato Board and check out the different kinds of potatoes there are.  You’ll be surprised to see the vibrant hue of purple that are along the usual white and red-skinned potatoes.  And, be sure to add more of these healthy veggies to your meals in celebration this month!

 

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August is Kids Eat Right Month and if you have a picky eater in your house, which can be the case with many children, that can be quite a challenge for many parents.  For a lot of kids, the variety of colors and textures that come with healthy eating are viewed as taboo.  In many situations, children become accustomed to a very few food selections they are comfortable with, and if given foods outside of this circle they are likely to reject them without even giving them a chance.

 

The best way around this problem is to introduce a variety of healthy foods to your child at an early age.  Children who are familiar with an abundance of colors, textures and tastes are much more likely to try new things.  If you do have a child who hasn’t been exposed to a variety of foods and has become set in his ways, don’t fret–there are strategies to getting him to expand his tastes for more healthy foods.  In some cases, as children grow older, they naturally expand their tastes to include more fruit and vegetables.  You can, however, step up this process with some creativity.

 

One easy way to get your child eating a wider variety of healthy foods is by involving them in the kitchen.  When children are helping to prepare a meal, they are more likely to eat it.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has the Top 10 Ways To Get Kids Involved In Healthy Cooking & Shopping, which are great ideas to get you started.

 

Healthy recipes that are geared toward kids are really key to getting your child to eat better.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters does a great job of making healthy eating fun for kids with these kid-friendly fruit and veggie recipes.  A few of my favorites are Banana in a Blanket, which is simply placing a banana on a whole wheat torilla.  Cover it with reduced-fat peanut butter, honey and nutty nugget cereal, then roll up.

 

 

banana in a blanket

 

Kids love pizza and kids love sweet fruit–put them together and you’ve got a treat they will be asking for over and over again!  Symphony of Fruit Pizza uses toasted english muffins as its base.  Strawberry cream cheese is spread on top and then strawberries, grapes and mandarin oranges are arranged on the cream cheese.  It’s a delicious way for your kids to get their fruit servings.

 

symphony of fruit pizza

 

Here is a terrific and simple idea I found on Pinterest.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are arranged in the shape of Sesame Street characters and dip is provided.  I love the one of Oscar the Grouch using broccoli flowerets and black olives for the mouth. Use some low-fat ranch dip for the veggies.

 

sesame characters

 

Finally, and this is the most important tip of all, in order to get your kids to eat healthy you must also display a good example.  Remember, your children will imitate you!  They are much more likely to eat their fruit and vegetables if they see you doing the same.  Family meals are a wonderful way to get your children into the habit of eating well and one that will last them a lifetime.

 

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It’s the time of year when young adults are getting ready to move into their college dorms for the upcoming fall semester.  For those of us who have gone through that initial experience of leaving home the first time, we’re familiar with the term the “freshman fifteen.”  It refers to the unforunate weight gain many college freshmen put on their first year from having a less-than-healthy diet.  Thankfully, with a little common sense and some smart nutrition choices, you can avoid this altogether.

 

Last year, the USDA developed a MyCampus section on their ChooseMyPlate website.  The section provides a variety of helpful information including tips for how to stay fit while on campus, how to select healthy options while eating in the dining hall, what kinds of healthy foods to pack in your dorm’s mini fridge (think low-fat dairy and lots of fruit and veggies!) and provides a recipe section of quick, easy meals to prepare.  A few of these recipes featured are provided by Fruits & Veggies–More Matters, who partners with the USDA to promote MyPlate and making half your plate fruit and vegetables.  I thought I’d select two that are ideal for college students to prepare as they require no cooking and can be made in minutes.

 

European Salad with Chicken is simple since it uses pre-cut salad greens and cooked chicken purchased at the grocery store.  Add sliced bell pepper and cherry tomatoes to your salad, plus a low-fat vinaigrette dressing and you’re finished!

 

European Salad

 

Late night snacks can be one of the biggest diet dangers of college life.  So, before you reach for the phone to order a pizza or devour a bag of chips, try this healthy option.  Celery Stuffed with Apricot Blue Cheese Spread tastes delicious, yet is still low in fat and is filled with dried fruit and nuts.

 

Celery

 

A few of my own tips from when I was young, on my own for the first time and living on a fixed budget, yet still wanting to eat healthfully are:

 
  • Defrosted mixed frozen veggies are a great option to add extra fiber and nutrition to noodle soups or eggs. Plus, they are very budget-friendly!
  • Limit the alcohol consumption–there is no nutritional value, yet lots of calories.
  • When grocery shopping look for in-season produce, they will be at lower prices and the height of flavor.
  • Canned beans make a great protein substitute for meat and at a fraction of the cost (think vegetarian chili!), they are also higher in fiber and no fat!
 

It is possible to leave home and not end up packing on the pounds–just think about what you’re eating before you eat it.  Not only will you save yourself from gaining the weight, you’ll have a lot more energy to do the things you enjoy.

 

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August is National Peach Month and it’s fitting since these delicious fruits are in abundance right now.  Sweet, juicy peaches typically come into season around late June and are available through late August-early September.  Aside from their wonderful flavor, peaches are a beneficial addition to your diet.  They are sodium free, cholesterol free and a good source of Vitamin C.  Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, has some tips on how to select the perfect peach so that you don’t end up with one that’s overripe.

 

Traditionally, peaches are associated with baked goods such as peach pie, peach cobbler or peach dumplings.  While these treats are delicious, they also contain ingredients that increase the fat and calorie content.  Since peaches are naturally flavorful and sweet on their own, they don’t need a lot of extra sugar and fat.  In fact, they are terrific to enjoy alone for snacking or sliced in a fruit salad.  I did, however, pull a few interesting recipes using fresh, in-season peaches that are outside the typical bakery selections.

 

I’ll start with the savory end of the spectrum.  Chipotle Peach Chicken Tacos combines fresh peaches with spicy flavors–a delicious combination.  This recipe is also low in fat and calories as well, an extra bonus!  Add some fresh veggies that are in season like zucchini, corn or tomatoes and you have a lovely summer dinner.

 

Peach Chicken Tacos

 

On the sweet side of things, instead of a bakery item, Homemade Peach Frozen Yogurt is a perfect summer treat!  This recipe uses only a few simple ingredients–peaches, honey, lowfat, plain yogurt and lemon juice.  Process in a blender or food processor and then freeze and you’ve got a delicious frozen dessert that’s low in calories and fat.

 

frozen peach yogurt

 

Stop by your local farmer’s market or grocery store this week and take advantage of in-season peaches before these tasty fruits are gone until next summer.

 

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