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It’s no secret that kids love snacks.  And snacks can be a good thing.  They can help your kids (just like adults) from overindulging in main meals and help maintain energy levels for physical activity and keep focus for homework after school.  The key is getting them to eat nutritious snacks and not empty calories. I find you’ll be much more successful doing this if you make a healthy snack fun and appetizing for your child to eat.  Kids tend to be very visual, so if it looks good they’ll want to try it.  I’ve gathered a few examples of healthy snacks that meet these criteria.

 

Artic Apple Wedges with Pumpkin Almond Butter from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters is particularly good this time of year with its fall inspired flavors.  You’ll create this dip by combining pumpkin puree, almond butter (feel free to substitute peanut butter if you prefer), maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Serve with sliced golden delicious apples or sliced Granny Smith apples.

 

Apple_Wedges_Pumpkin_Almond_Butter_500
Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

Banana Zucchini Oatmeal Cups are terrific as either a mid-morning or after school treat.  They are lightly sweetened and use whole grains, so they are great for keeping energy levels high.  You’ll use flaxseed, almond butter, maple syrup, very ripe bananas, grated zucchini, almond milk, vanilla extract, old fashioned oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Fill muffin cups with the mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 23-28 minutes.

 

banana zucchini oatmeal cups
Courtesy of Hummusapien

 

Another great idea from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters is Tic Tac Toe Veggie Pizza.  Seriously, what kid doesn’t love pizza?  And, this one you can feel really good about serving.  Use pita rounds as the base.  Top with reduced sodium pizza sauce, sliced summer squash (for the “O’s”), sliced carrot and bell peppers (for the “X’s”), and reduced fat string cheese (for the grid).  This one is sure to be a hit with your kids.

 

TicTacToe_Veggie_Pizza_500
Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

Join me next Monday when I’ll be celebrating apple season with five ways you can add apples to your diet this fall.

 

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Grains make up an important part of a nutritious diet.  In fact, grains are one quarter of the MyPlate guidelines and the USDA recommends that you make half of these whole grains.  But, what exactly is a whole grain?  A whole grain is the entire seed of the plant and is made up of three edible parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.  It is protected by an inedible husk that keeps out sunlight, pests, water, and disease.  A refined grain is missing one or more of these parts and the key nutrients they contain.

 

GrainParts_WGC_4x4.5_WGC
Courtesy of The Whole Grains Council

 

A few of the more common whole grains include:

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn
  • Farro
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Wild Rice

 

I’ve collected a few recipes that include whole grains I think you’ll enjoy.  Try to substitute whole grains in your recipes whenever possible.  For example, use brown rice instead of white rice in a casserole dish.  Let’s start with this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad.  This dish can be a meal on its own or a side salad.  Quinoa, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans, marinated artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, and fresh basil make up your salad.  A zesty vinaigrette is made with freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly squeezed lime juice, olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.

 

quinoa-salad-spoon-g1-650x975
Courtesy of The Harvest Kitchen

 

This Chickpea, Spinach, Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Bowl is a satisfying vegetarian meal.  Both the chickpeas and the sweet potatoes are roasted with spices.  The spinach is sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic for a great flavor.  You’ll cook the brown rice for about 30-40 minutes until soft and then arrange everything in a bowl together.  You’ll create your own tahini dressing by combining tahini, lime juice, maple syrup, and a little water.  Drizzle the dressing over top of the bowl and enjoy!

 

greenevi_brownricebowl3
Courtesy of Green Evi

 

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Barley Burritos are terrific for a chilly day and you can let your slow cooker do all the work!  Simply add vegetable broth, uncooked pearl barley, frozen corn, chopped green onions, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, ground red pepper, canned black beans, and canned diced tomatoes to your slow cooker and cook on low heat for 4 hours or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender.  About 15 minutes before serving, add minced garlic and fresh cilantro.  For toppings, you can use sour cream, salsa, or fresh cilantro.

 

black bean and barley
Courtesy of In Fine Balance

 

Check back next Monday when I’ll have some great healthy, kid-friendly snack ideas.

 

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I find that the beginning of each school year time is a commodity.  Maybe it’s simply getting back into the swing of school and work schedules after summer vacations, but I always find myself crunched for time at the end of the day.  And, this means less time to fuss in the kitchen in order to prepare a nutritious meal.  Good news–you can still eat healthy, delicious meals without slaving for hours over the stove.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a variety of recipes titled 30 Minutes or Less, which are specifically geared for busy lives.  Select from such delicious options like Crunchy Vegetable Burritos, Spinach Pesto Pasta, and Chicken Cacciatore.  This week, I’m featuring a few recipes that taste great, are packed with nutrition, and are ready in no time.

 

Zucchini Noodle Bowls with Oriental Salmon is a simple dish that uses only soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic for its seasonings.  The contents of this bowl are spiralized zucchini, snap peas, baby spinach, and brown rice.  You’ll top this combination with the cooked salmon and sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onion.

 

bowl-oriental-salmon-zucchini-noodles-bowl-recipe
Courtesy of iFoodReal

 

Another quick and healthy dish is this recipe for Lemony Kale Pasta with Asparagus.  The key ingredients for this dish are whole wheat pasta, vegetable broth, fresh asparagus, fresh kale, grated Parmesan, garlic, fresh basil, Greek yogurt, lemon zest, lemon slices, and cornstarch.  You’ll love the way the Parmesan and lemon flavors blend with the kale and asparagus.

 

main-far-clean-eating-lemony-kale-asparagus-pasta-recipes
Courtesy of iFoodReal

 

Chicken Quinoa Bowls with Mango and Black Beans are packed with flavor.  Chicken breasts, chopped kale, diced mango, sliced avocado, black beans, minced jalapeno pepper, and chopped cilantro sit atop quinoa.  An avocado dressing made from avocado, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, maple syrup, salt and pepper is drizzled over top.  This recipe is a terrific source of protein with the chicken , black beans, and quinoa combo.  Plus, it’s also got a decent serving of fiber.

 

bowl1-mango-black-bean-superfood-bowls-recipe
Courtesy of iFoodReal

 

Next week I’ll take a look at the different types of whole grains and some great recipes that include them.

 

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September is National Chicken Month.  I highlight this because chicken can be a terrific source of lean protein–just make sure you use the white meat and remove the skin.  It’s also important how you prepare chicken.  No deep frying, which will add unnecessary fat and calories.  Try methods like roasting, broiling, grilling, and braising.  And, be sure to include lots of fruit and veggies to your chicken dishes to further boost the nutrition.  For this week’s blog, I’ve selected some ideal chicken recipes that are both delicious and good for you.

 

One Pan Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Asparagus is bursting with flavor.  Skinless chicken breasts are lightly coated in a garlic/lemon mixture, Parmesan cheese, and Panko bread crumbs before baking.  When the chicken is halfway done, the asparagus is placed on the pan, next to the chicken, and drizzled with lemon/butter sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Finish baking (about another 10-12 minutes).  You’ll top the chicken and asparagus with a sauce made from melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and honey.

 

Sheet-pan-lemon-chicken
Courtesy of Chelsea’s Messy Apron

 

Burrito Bowls with Chicken are a fun dinner entrée that are loaded with healthy ingredients.  Cilantro lime rice provides your base.  Toppings include boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced avocado, black beans, salsa, shredded romaine lettuce, and sour cream.  You’ll love the blend of textures, colors, and flavors in this dish.

 

burrito-bowls-3-683x1024
Courtesy of Dinner at the Zoo

 

Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has Thai Pineapple and Chicken as one of their featured Healthy Plate recipes.  It blends sweet and spicy flavors in this dish and features skinless, boneless chicken breasts, fresh pineapple, and bell peppers.  In addition, you’ll use onion, broccoli and brown rice in this recipe.

 

Thai-Pineapple-Chicken_500
Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

Enjoy these dinner ideas and next week I’ll be back with some time saving ideas to help you with dinner, now that we’re back in the school and extracurricular activities mode for fall.

 

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