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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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Cheesesteaks, Hoagies and Clubs–August is National Sandwich Month! While these are a few of the less-than-healthy options, I’ve got some great ideas for tasty yet nutritional sandwich selections beginning with your favorite toppings.  The easiest way to add both fiber and flavor to your sandwich is by adding some veggies and/or fruit.  A few great toppings to try are:

 
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Pickles/Cucumbers
  • Olives
  • Sprouts
  • Avocado
 

In order to keep your sandwich low in calories and fat, use a spread that is low in calories like mustard or if using something like mayonnaise, make sure it’s a reduced fat version.  In place of mayonnaise, you might want to try mashing an avocado and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  It has the same creamy consistency as mayo without the high fat/calorie content, plus the fats it does contain are heart healthy fats.  Use lean meats when making your sandwich, like turkey, chicken breast or lean ham.  Tuna packed in water is also a good choice.

 

The choice of bread can really make or break your sandwich, it can also add a lot of nutrition to your meal.  Stay away from the standard white bread, which contains little or no fiber and choose whole grain bread.  You will find this will add more flavor to your sandwich and will also help to keep you feeling full longer.  Pita bread is another great option, especially for tuna or chicken salad.  Whole grain rolls are perfect for heartier sandwiches.

 

This recipe for Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches is packed full of veggies.  Cucumbers, grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives and red onion are combined with feta cheese to give this salad a wonderful flavor.  I love that it’s placed on a hearty hard roll as its choice of bread.

 

 Greek Chicken Salad Sandwich

 

Turkey Wraps with Chipotle Avocado Spread are a great low-calorie lunch.  This spread is exactly what I referred to doing with avocado in place of mayonnaise.  In this recipe, avocado is mashed together with yogurt, chipotle peppers, cilantro and lime juice, making a slightly spicy and very tasty spread for whole wheat tortilla wraps.  It is then topped with smoked turkey, cucumbers and tomatoes, creating the perfect light lunch.

 

turkey avocado wraps

 

Finally, who says you can’t go back to your old favorite peanut butter sandwhich?  Here’s a great idea of layering thinly sliced fruit on toasted bread, spread with peanut butter.  You choose the fruit–this image shows both bananas and apples, but you can get creative–pears, strawberries, peaches, you choose!  Just make sure you use whole grain bread to get that extra fiber.

 

peanut butter sandwich

 

I hope these ideas gave you a new take on sandwiches and inspire you to create some healthy combinations yourself.

 

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I love salads and there is never a better time to enjoy them than summer!  Hot weather is ideal for breaking out the fresh veggies, not to mention it saves you from having to heat up your kitchen with cooking.  Traditional green salads are always terrific, but I’ve pulled together a few other summertime salad recipes that are also ideal for lunches, dinners or for bringing along to your next BBQ, picnic or party.

 

This BBQ Chicken Entree Salad is exactly how it sounds–a meal in itself.  The salad is the entree.  There are plenty of other entree salad recipes, but what I liked about this one was how it included lots of flavors of the season–BBQ chicken, cooked corn, fresh tomatoes and the dressing is cilantro ranch, which goes perfectly with the BBQ chicken.

 

bbq chicken salad

 

Macaroni salad is a popular summertime side dish, but the traditional dish contains mayonnaise, which adds fat and calories.  It also doesn’t include many veggies outside of a bit of chopped onion and celery.  This is why Grilled Summer Vegetable Salad with Roasted Garlic and Basil Vinaigrette is such a great alternative!   This recipe uses penne pasta as its base and plenty of in season veggies like squash, tomatoes and asparagus.  The flavorful dressing made with garlic, basil, dijon mustard and other spices tops the dish off perfectly.

 

pasta salad

 

Layered salads make for a beautiful presentation at parties.  Fruit salads are a wonderful and healthy dessert during the summer.  Put both of these together and you’ve got Layered Summer Fruits with Creamy Lime Dressing–the perfect party dessert!  This recipe calls for in season, at-their-peak fruits like blueberries, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and strawberries.  The top fruit layer is covered with a dressing made from cream cheese, frozen limeade concentrate, powedered sugar and whipping cream.  It’s the perfect light dessert that will still satisfy your sweet tooth.

 

fruit salad

 

So, this summer while you’re enjoying your fresh garden salad, I hope you’ll also explore some of these other salad ideas as well. Discover how fresh produce can be used in so many other salad combinations.

 

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