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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Planning Your 4 Week Meal Plan

GettyImages-980276548(1)The Coronavirus can’t stop Spring from coming, but it can be detrimental to our health and prevent us from enjoying the beauty Spring has to offer. It is important to stay on-top of your health and take care of your immune system.

WEEK 1: Planning Your 4 Week Meal Plan

It is important to have a 4-6 week plan for you and your family, in the event of being quarantined and practicing social distancing. Creating a nutritious, yet minimally perishable menu can be a daunting task. It is important to meet nutrient needs but ensure the foods are either shelf-stable, can be frozen, and/or last longer periods in the fridge.

Step 1: Determine the caloric needs of the people in your household. To determine caloric needs, see the Dietary Guidelines. That will be important when you start planning the meals, because this will drive the portion sizes and ensure you are buying enough to meet the needs of all members.

Step 2: Consider budget. Knowing your budget will guide your decisions.

Step 3: Consider your storage space. Storage space is important to consider, because one with a lack of freezer space wouldn’t want to plan a ton of meals with frozen goods and opt for more low-sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits in water. On the contrary, one with a deep freezer can capitalize on some of the convenience, healthy frozen meals along with the frozen fruit and vegetable options.

Step 4: Start by planning breakfasts for 4-6 weeks. Consider having 2-3 breakfast options and rotate those options daily throughout the 4-6 weeks. Ideas include protein pancakes made from shelf-stable mixes or NIFS recipe below, oats topped with nut butter and frozen or canned fruit, or omelet with frozen or canned veggies (eggs can keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks).

Step 5: Do the same thing for lunch and dinner. This is a good time to check out canned meats or freeze fresh meats and seafood (depending on storage space). Bread and cheeses can also be frozen and used for later times. Shelf stable foods include brown rice, chickpea pasta (has extra protein), sauces, whole grain pizza crusts, beans, legumes, canned vegetables (get low-sodium and rinse prior to use), canned fruits in water, tuna, canned chicken, jelly and nut butters.

Step 6: Plan 4-6 snack options, and buy enough for family members to have 1-2 snacks daily for the 4-6 weeks. Check out protein bars, granola bars, nuts, and fruits (canned, frozen, and dried)

Step 7: Reflect. Do all your days include each food group? Are there enough whole grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy or dairy-alternatives planned into each day? If not, go back and find a place to add the lacking nutrients. Having all food groups helps to reach vitamin, mineral, and fiber needs.

Step 8: Reach out to your Registered Dietitian if you need help!

RECIPE FOR THE WEEK: Protein Pancakes

Enjoy these protein-packed pancakes. They are easy to prepare, made with no refined grains and use ingredients that have a long shelf- and fridge-life.

GettyImages-1179137591Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 banana (ripened)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup egg whites
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 2 tbsp flax meal

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients until no clumps exist
  2. Heat skillet or griddle on medium-high heat.
  3. Pour ¼ cup mix on skillet per pancake. Once the edges start to look dry and bubble, flip the pancake to cook for another minute.
  4. Serve warm with toppings of choice.

Pro tips: *Instead of syrup, try pan-searing frozen berries over medium-high heat and pour them over the pancakes!

*Once your bananas ripen, freeze them to use them for future recipes.

If you want more convenience, check out Kodiak pancake mix, Krusteaz pancake mix, or Kroger brand protein pancake mix. All have whole grains and packed with protein!

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If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our Registered Dietitian, Sabrina Goshen by e-mail at SGoshen@nifs.org.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits calories meals meal planning

Getting Started with Meatless Monday: Vegan/Vegetarian Meal Staples

GettyImages-1136561497Mondays can be hard enough, getting back into the swing of things after a much-too-short weekend. The last thought on your mind is what to cook for dinner, right? You might go out to eat instead, pick up carryout, or eat a frozen pizza for the most painless dinner prep possible. However, what if you opt for something that is not only easy for you, but also healthy for you and the planet?

Meatless Monday is a global movement with this message: one day a week, cut the meat. The goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and the health of the planet. Did you know that over 40 countries participate in Meatless Monday? Check out these easy tips on how to get your Meatless Monday started!

Breakfast

Breakfast, known as the most important meal of the day, is one of the easiest times to make a meatless meal. I understand it can be hard to get out the door on time in the morning, especially if you are also trying to get kids and pets taken care of. Opt for a carbohydrate and a protein at breakfast to create a breakfast that satisfies you throughout the morning.

Meal Ideas

  • Oatmeal + nuts/nut butter + fruit
  • Whole-grain toast + peanut butter + banana slices
  • Yogurt (try Silk soy yogurt) + granola + nuts
  • Smoothies

Staples

Rolled oats, variety of fruit (apple, banana, frozen berries), nuts/nut butters, plant milk, yogurt variety (try a plant milk option!), whole-grain bread.

Lunch and Dinner

I’ve combined these two meals because, honestly, what’s easier than eating dinner leftovers for lunch? Just make sure to cook an extra batch the night before. If you’re not a fan of day-old food, I have a few fresh ideas as well!

Meal Ideas

  • Veggie wraps (hummus + spinach + bell peppers + tomato + avocado)
  • Tofu stir-fry (baked ½-inch cubes of extra-firm tofu + brown rice + assorted veggies)
  • Fajitas (peppers + onion + black beans + salsa)
  • PBJ (fresh fruit slices + peanut butter + side of carrot sticks and hummus)
  • Veggie chili (beans + assorted spices + cornbread)

Staples

Canned beans (black/garbanzo/kidney/pinto beans, etc.), hummus, whole-grain bread, variety of veggies (peppers, onion, tomato, carrots), fruit (apples, berries), extra-firm tofu.

Take Care of the Planet and Yourself

It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about switching up your usual routine, but I promise it will be so worth it! You might even find that you actually love chili without the meat or hardly notice it missing when you begin to experiment with the vast array of spices that plant-based cooking uses. Make your grocery list and stock your kitchen with these staples and you’ll be good to go! The year 2020 is all about addressing the needs of the planet as well as ourselves. A plant-based diet has never been easier to try!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: lunch breakfast vegetarian vegan meals meal planning Meatless Monday dinner

Get an A+ in Back-to-School Nutrition

GettyImages-1026132188Whether you are starting your first year in college, sending your kids off to school, or are teaching classes this school year, make sure that your nutrition stays at the top of your priority list. It can be easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day routine and quickly lose sight of your goals. Follow these steps to help you stay on track this year.

1. Eat Breakfast

It’s okay to be a creature of habit and eat the exact same meal every morning, as long as it is nutrient dense and keeps you satisfied throughout the morning. Pair a little protein (about 15–20 grams) with a carbohydrate. This gives your brain the boost it needs, but also helps keep you full so that you don’t arrive at lunch with a growling belly.

A few ideas to try:

  • Oatmeal with berries and a spoonful of peanut butter (try making overnight oats for easy grab and go).
  • Scrambled egg with sautéed veggies and whole-grain toast.
  • Banana or apple slices with a thin layer of almond butter on whole-grain toast.

2. Take Snacks

Your body needs a little fuel throughout the day to keep energy levels high and keep you focused. Just like breakfast keeps you full throughout the morning, you want to make sure you aren’t arriving to your next meal famished—otherwise, people have a tendency to eat too much, too quickly. Keep the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy and easy snacks so you can grab one and go in the morning.

A few ideas to try:

  • The original fast-foods: bananas, apples, oranges.
  • A variety of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and pecans.
  • Granola bars such as Larabar or KIND snacks.
  • Hummus and veggies.
  • Whole-grain crackers and guacamole.

3. Practice Smart Hydration

Skip high-calorie beverages and aim to increase your intake of water. Opt for alternatives like flavored sparkling water, unsweet tea, or fruit-infused water to mix up your choices. (Here are some more tips for proper hydration.)

4. Make a Meal Plan

Just like you plan a time to do homework, work out, or go to sports practice, don’t put your nutrition on the back burner to everything else. Sit down as a family or roommates and write out your plan for the week. Start with breakfast—this is often the easiest. Next, plan dinners—dinner often will help you fill in your lunch plans with leftovers. From here, make your grocery list. This not only helps keeping you out of the closest fast-food joint, but it also helps with budgets—a win for everyone!

Meals do not need to be complicated. Keep the Plate Method in mind. Simply try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies, keep protein portions to one quarter of your plate, and make the other quarter of your plate whole grains.

5. Allow for Splurges

After a long day of exams, helping with book reports, or grading papers, everyone deserves a little treat, right? Try to avoid rewarding yourself with food at the end of every day, but also know that if you plan for some of your favorites you will be less likely to over-eat these items when you “cave” at 3 AM on a Tuesday! Take the kids for Friday night ice cream every week, hang with your friends and enjoy a slice or two of your favorite pizza, and then plan to get right back on track with healthy eating after that. One meal or snack will not throw you off track.

Sweet alternatives:

  • Chocolate hummus with fruit
  • Dried and pitted dates filled with almonds or dark chocolate
  • “Nice cream” (frozen banana blended with peanut butter)

***

We at NIFS hope your school year gets off to a great start. Best of luck in the 2019–2020 school year!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast hydration school meals meal planning

How to Maintain Healthy Eating During the Holidays

GettyImages-613788476The holidays technically started on Thanksgiving, and now the season is officially in full swing. For many of my clients, the holiday season means a variety of different things. There are office parties, celebrations with friends, and even traveling to visit family. The festivities of the holidays can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful, especially if you are trying to stick with a healthy eating plan and fitness regimen.

It would be easy to sit here and say that the holidays really are just three days out of the year—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day—and only those three days are the days you can eat whatever you want. Right? But truth be told, it’s not so much what happens on those three days as it is what happens in between that matters most.

To help keep you on track with weight loss or weight management, I’ve created a holiday survival guide. Try these out—good health and good cheer will follow.

Office Parties

Keep the alcohol in check. Besides the added calories, you don’t want to become this year’s office party joke. Slow down when drinking by having a glass of water in between cocktails. As hard as it might be, leaving the eggnog behind and sticking with wine, beer, or drinks that are not made with juice or added sugar, is a sure-fire way to cut calories. If it becomes too hard to cut back, maybe the best idea is not even starting in the first place. Whatever your choice may be, remember to enjoy the festivities and the company of co-workers.

Getting Together with Friends

Whether it’s out to dinner or meeting at a friend’s house, good choices will keep you on track. Being mindful when ordering will set you up for success. Veggies instead of French fries? Yes, please! Fish over a hamburger? Absolutely! Water rather than soft drinks? Keep it coming! Bread? Desserts? Alcohol? Choose the one you can’t do without during this holiday season and enjoy only that one.

Traveling Out of Town

Visiting family out of town can always be tricky, but it doesn’t have to completely throw you off your game. Here are a couple of ways to help keep you on track and ensure you don’t set yourself up for failure.

  • Go grocery shopping. You’ve reached your destination and realize that there isn’t any produce to be found in the house anywhere. The solution? Go shopping! Try to lighten the load of relatives who are preparing for a big family holiday get-together and offer to go grocery shopping. You will lessen the load and set yourself up for success.
  • Come prepared. If your travel plans consist of driving, come prepared with your own food. Making on-the-go snacks will not only allow you to stay on track, but it will also help you avoid stopping at the drive-through or wanting to spend extra money on food when you already have some. Pack those snacks!
  • Offer to cook. Along with helping to grocery shop, why not guarantee not only you, but the whole family gets a healthy meal by cooking? Prepare it just the way you would at home and it’s sure to be a hit. Here are some holiday recipes that include superfoods.

There are plenty of other tricks and tips you can use to help you survive the holidays in a healthy way, including workouts that work when you’re on the road. At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up if you gave in to an extra cookie, or ate a little bit more than you had planned. Learn from it, move past it, and start fresh. And most important: ENJOY EVERYTHING ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating holidays weight management Thanksgiving traveling new year's christmas meals dining out

Struggling to Get in Your Vegetable Nutrition? Try Frozen!

GettyImages-846048468It can be a challenge to get in the recommended 2–3 cups of vegetables each day. Even people who like vegetables can struggle coming up with ways to increase them. Thankfully, the food industry realizes this and has come out with a ton of quick and easy options to make it simple to get in those servings.

The key is to take a stroll down the frozen food aisle. Some people are concerned that frozen veggies aren’t as healthy as fresh vegetables, but that isn’t the case. Frozen vegetables are flash-frozen at their optimum nutritional state. This guarantees that all of those nutrients are preserved. Cook them to crisp tender and the majority of those nutrients will be intact.

Not only can you go for the traditional frozen veggies like broccoli and carrots, but now there are lots of fun options to make it easier to get the recommended plant-based nutrition and vitamins into your meals.

Delicious Frozen Options

Here are some new items to toss into your grocery cart at your next shopping trip.

Cauliflower Craze

Spiralized Sensation

Protein Power

Watch the Sodium

One thing to be cautious about is that some of these frozen veggie options are higher in sodium than the standard bag of plain frozen vegetables. Make sure to drink plenty of water with your meal to help flush out the sodium, and pair your frozen veggie side with a fresh piece of protein and a whole grain. Don’t add additional salt to the dish, and review the nutrition facts label to see which ones are higher than others.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: vitamins plant-based frozen food veggies meals