Meeting my 3-5 Challenge

One of my priorities is to stay healthy for as long as possible and help my husband do the same. Toward this end I’m working to develop the habit of eating 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as recommended by nutrition experts. 

I must confess that, for too many years, our eating habits resembled those of a rebellious 10-year-old. (Vegetables are gross! Give me ice cream!)

Add to that, the challenge of finding veggies my husband and I can both stand. We each have veggies we like and veggies we loathe. Problem is, the ones I like are too often on his “loathe list” and vice versa.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered all kinds of relatively painless ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables past our lips:

  • Add a glass of juice or a small bowl of fresh fruit to our breakfast (one fruit serving).
  • Add a small salad to other meals (one or two veggie/fruit servings, depending on the salad ingredients).
  • Turn a ho-hum sandwich into a Dagwood by piling on shredded lettuce, tomato slices and thinly sliced purple onion (one veggie serving).
  • Cook up enough vegetables for each meal to ensure leftovers. This means I can create a veggie plate from time to time (several veggie servings in one sitting!).
  • Add vegetables like spinach, broccoli or mushrooms to pasta dishes such as lasagna or mac and cheese (one veggie serving).
  • Munch on raw vegetables rather than potato chips. Baby carrots and celery sticks dipped in hummus make a great snack when I have that irresistible urge to nibble, and I usually consume enough of them to equal at least one vegetable serving.
  • Add cut-up fresh fruit and a couple spoonfuls of granola to a bowl of fat-free plain yogurt for another healthy snack (one fruit serving).
  • Replace my afternoon soda with an 8-ounce glass of V-8 juice (two veggie servings!).
  • Throw chunks of frozen fruit and yogurt into a blender – adding some Splenda if necessary – for a dessert that looks and tastes like soft-serve ice cream (one fruit serving, plus a bit of protein).
  • Order a la carte at restaurants. Although restaurant meals tend to include only one vegetable, I can often order a second one on the side for a small “upcharge.” 
  • Ask for substitutions, if this is allowed. When I mention my dietary restrictions, I can usually persuade food servers to replace fries or chips with a serving of coleslaw, fresh fruit or no-sugar-added applesauce (one fruit or veggie serving). 
  • Bring healthy snacks to gatherings. I’ve found that bringing a bountiful veggie platter with dip gives me something to nibble on instead of the fat and sugar-laden hors d’oeuvres usually on offer. This helps me add an extra veggie serving to my daily quota as well.

For more ideas and recipes, see the new “Recipes” page I’ve created. Link HERE.

Recipe: Pineapple lime jello salad

This salad was a Sunday dinner staple at my grandparents’ house when I was growing up, and I still think of it as comfort food.

I took the classic recipe and removed some of the calories, fat and sugar content by using fat-free cottage cheese, sugar-free jello and pineapple canned in its own juice rather than syrup. And the salad is still delicious.

Ingredients

  • Small .3 ounce package sugar-free lime jello
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 8 ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice (no added sugar)
  • 1 cup fat free cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

Bring the water to a boil and add the powdered jello, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and add the ice cubes, stirring until all the cubes have melted.

Drain the crushed pineapple and add to the jello.

Add the cottage cheese, then the chopped nuts, and stir until well blended.

Refrigerate for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.

Makes approximately 6 servings.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 2/3 cup | Calories: 85 | Carbohydrates: 9 g | Protein: 6 g | Fat: 4 g | Saturated fat: 0 | Cholesterol: 2 mg | Sodium: 195 mg | Potassium: 140 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 0% | Vitamin C: 7% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 2%

Recipe: Homemade granola

Granola is so-o-o-o tasty. 

But alas, the store-bought variety is often chock-full of unhealthy ingredients – refined sugar, saturated fat and salt. And did I mention that most granola is a veritable calorie bomb? Some store-bought granolas have as many as 250 calories per 1/4 cup serving. 

So I decided to make my own. This version replaces the unhealthy fat with omega-3-rich olive oil and eliminates both the added sugar and added salt. The recipe can be made gluten-free as well. (Just make sure the rolled oats are certified gluten-free.) 

What’s left is good-for-you protein and fiber and about half the calories.

Now I’m going to confess: I just go ahead and allow myself a more realistic 1/2 cup serving rather than limiting myself to 1/4 cup if I’m eating my own granola as cereal. And I add 1/4 cup rather than the recommended two tablespoons to my yogurt if I’m having a fresh fruit parfait. That means I’ll end up consuming the same number of calories, but I get to eat twice as much.

This recipe makes approximately 4-5 cups of granola, depending on whether one adds the optional dried fruit. I generally make some with the fruit to enjoy as cereal with nonfat milk, and some without the dried fruit so I can add it to a fresh fruit parfait.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsalted sliced almonds or chopped pecans
  • 1 cup unsweetened raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the oil, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Use a stick blender if necessary to mix thoroughly.

Add the oats and nuts and stir until completely coated with the oil and syrup mixture.

Spread the mixture onto a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking oil.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until golden brown.

Add the fruit after removing from the oven.

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Nutrition information for plain granola

Serving size: 1/2 cup | Calories: 200 | Carbohydrates: 19 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 0 | Sodium: 20 mg | Potassium: 90 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 0 | Iron: 3% 

Nutrition information for granola with dried fruit added

Serving size: 1/2 cup | Calories: 245 | Carbohydrates: 32 g | Protein: 5 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 0 | Sodium: 20 mg | Potassium: 90 mg | Fiber: 8 g | Sugar: 5 g | Iron: 3% 

Sometimes I just pour skim milk on the granola and enjoy. But on mornings when I have a little time to relax, I figure, “Why stop there?”

One of my favorite breakfast treats is a fresh fruit parfait. I start with about 3/4 cup of fat-free plain Greek yogurt, pile on a generous layer of fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, add about 1/4 cup of my homemade granola, and top with a dollop of sugar-free whipped cream.

Yummmmm!

Nutrition information for Fruit Parfait

Calories: 235 | Carbohydrates: 25 g | Protein: 20 g | Fat: 8 g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 10 mg | Sodium: 75 mg | Potassium: 395 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin C: 50% | Calcium: 15% | Iron: 1%