Quick and Easy Zucchini Boats

When I’m not hangry and have a little time to play around, one of my favorite things to do at the end of the week is to try to use up all of those random leftovers in the fridge.

Hangry definition

This is exactly the situation I found myself in one random Saturday night when I didn’t have anything planned for dinner and needed to figure out a healthy, but filling meal using whatever was in the fridge, and relatively quickly! I saw that we had a couple of zucchinis that needed to be used ASAP, some cooked lentils, and some tomato sauce, and I thought, “zucchini boats!”

Zucchini boats idea

Like my stuffed peppers recipe, best thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever is in your fridge. Have some meat instead of lentils? Use that as your protein! Want to put more of a Mexican twist on it with your spices and toppings instead of the pseudo-Italian one I have going on? Go for it!

Here’s what I found myself doing (full recipe at the end):

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Halve the zucchinis and place on a baking sheet. Once the oven is pre-heated, pop them in for 20-30 minutes.

While the zucchini is cooking, cut up and sauté your veggies. I went with garlic, pepper, and onion.

Chopped garlic pepper and onion

While those were sautéing, I chopped up some tomato.

Chopped tomato

Once the veggies were well cooked, I threw in the (already cooked) lentils and added some tomato sauce to warm it all up.

Chopped veggies with lentils and tomato sauce

By then the zucchini was all cooked.

Cooked zucchini

I then proceeded to scoop out the pulp in the middle. Some recipes have you do this before you cook it and it’s probably to make sure they aren’t as watery. I didn’t find it to be a problem, though.

Zucchini middle scooped out

I don’t like throwing away perfectly good food, so I saved the scooped-out part to have the next day with the rest of the zucchini boats.

Zucchini scoops

Once everything was ready to go, I put the sauté mixture into the middle of the scooped-out zucchini, topped with tomato and some cheese, and put it back in the oven on a low broil until the cheese melted, about 5-10 minutes.

Gluten free zucchini boats

And because I have to add a green to every meal, the finished product:

Zucchini boats with spinach

Bon appétit!

(Gluten-Free) Zucchini Boats

Ingredients:
2 zucchinis, halved
Sautéed vegetables of choice (e.g., onion, pepper, garlic, etc.)
Additional vegetables of choice (e.g., spinach, tomatoes, etc.)
Protein of choice (e.g., quinoa, ground turkey, lentils, bison, tempeh, etc.)
~ 1C tomato sauce
Cheese of choice (e.g., fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, fresh provolone, etc.)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425. Cook halved zucchinis for 20-30 minutes.

Sauté your vegetables of choice while cooking your protein of choice (if protein uncooked). Cook veggies until soft and mix with the protein. Add desired amount of tomato sauce and mix all well.

Once zucchini is cooked, remove from the oven and scoop out the middles. Keep pulp if desired. Top with cheese and any other uncooked veggies. Broil on low until the cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

Questions: Do you enjoy going through your fridge leftovers at the end of the week to make interesting concoctions or do you wish you had a menu plan? Do you try to use everything perishable in your fridge by the end of the week? Do you have a favorite thrown-together meal?

Marathon Monday 2014

Happy Patriots’ Day aka Marathon Monday! Some of my blog friends are running (good luck to Kristin from Sweat Courage!), some are going to cheer on the runners (Patty from Reach Your Peak drove all the way from New Jersey!), and some are cheering the runners from far away, personally knowing the challenges of the race having run it themselves before (Lora from Crazy Running Girl). My mom is also heading in to cheer on her friend who has run the marathon for many years now for charity.

Believe in Boston 2014

I’ll be honest–I would love to see Shalane Flanagan win, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen at this point. I don’t t usually cheer on any particular runners (except for that epic 1996 run by Uta Pippig), but for some reason I just really want an American to win this year. I have nothing against the foreign runners, it would just be nice for an American to win given everything that’s happened. It looks like it may happen for them men’s race!

Update: Kenyan Rita Jeptoo won in 2:18:57,  beating the course record of 2:20:43! Shalane came in sixth in 2:22:01, setting a new PR! Her interview was heartbreaking. She said she wanted her love of Boston to come out through her running, that she wanted to win to show how much she loved the city. 

Boston Strong tee shirt shoes heart

It’s such a beautiful spring day here in Massachusetts and I’m so glad I took the day off. After cleaning up the house and yard a bit, I’m planning on heading out for a run wearing one of my new tees:

Boston Strong tee shirt blue and yellow

And I finally added my shoe tags from Saucony that benefited the One Fund. Yes, I’ve had them for almost a year and just put them on my shoes. I was unable to run when I got them last year, so I had no reason to have my running sneakers on. I felt defeated, discouraged, and depressed (and trust me, I felt awful for feeling so “poor me” when the victims of the bombings were dealing with so much worse).

Boston Strong shoe tags

But now, I’m feeling hopeful and, as cheesy as it sounds, I have Obama’s words on loop in my head all the time, “You will run again. You will run again.” Friday’s run through a local trail and cemetery was pain-free (aside from losing my car keys and having to retrace the entire route, but hey, I certainly earned dessert that night) and I’m looking forward to moving up to stage 14 today!

Pastoral New England run

Not only that, but (knock on wood), my elbow is feeling fantastic! I didn’t sleep well on Friday or Saturday nights on account of the prednisone insomnia side effect, but I got a solid eight hours last night as the dose tapered down a level. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that as the dose keeps decreasing, and I come off of it, that it stays this way! It’s so good to finally feel good! #grateful

Boston Celtics Boston Stands as One tee shirt

Questions: Are you watching the marathon today? How is the coverage where you live? Anything you’re particularly hopeful about or grateful for recently?

Friday Favorite: RAW Protein + Recipe!

Happy Friday of a looooong weekend. At least it is for me. I’m taking Patriots’ Day, aka Marathon Monday, off this year to watch the marathon (from home) and enjoy some time off as there aren’t any hospital holidays between Presidents’ Day in mid-February and Memorial Day at the end of May.

Metro Boston map

Just realized this week what’s on the cover of the (outdated) atlas in my car!

For those who don’t know, Patriots’ day is a Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 (the first battles of the American Revolutionary War). If you’re from Massachusetts, you’ve probably gotten up very early at least once in your childhood to go to watch the re-enactments on the Lexington Green and the surrounding area.

Minute_Man_Statue_Lexington_Massachusetts

Speaking of the weekend, you know I’ve been trying to mix up my weekend breakfasts from my usual weekday yogurt parfaits. Making an appearance nearly every weekend is today’s Friday Favorite: Garden of Life’s RAW Protein.

Garden of Life Raw Protein Vanilla

I’ve used it in pancakes,

Gluten Free Protein Pancakes

Pumpkin protein oatmeal

Large handful of old fashioned oats
1/2 scoop protein powder
2 eggs
~1/8th cup pumpkin
Almond coconut milk as needed for consistency
Handful of almonds (~1/8 c)
Dash of maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger

Mix everything in a pot on the stovetop until eggs cooked and voila:

Gluten free pumpkin protein oatmeal

If you want it more quickly and not to do extra dishes, you could pop it in the microwave for about 1.5 min, but it will come out looking like this:

Pumpkin protein oatmeal in microwave

It’s not quite as pretty and the texture is different, but no problem. Just break with your spooon and up and top it off!

Pumpkin protein oatmeal with walnuts

And, of course, I use the protein powder in its more traditional use as a smoothie.

Mean green smoothie

How did I come across this protein powder? I was at Whole Foods at the end of last summer looking for a protein powder to help me gain some weight healthfully. Whole Foods has single serving packets of some of the brands they carry so you can try the different products without committing to buying an entire container. Boy am I glad they do this, because I tried an egg based one thinking I would like it and I found it to be awful.

I was looking for something a bit different from the usual whey, since I already have a fair amount of dairy-based foods in my diet. And I steer clear of soy because of my under-active thyroid (soy is a goitrogen). I loved the idea of the RAW protein because it’s a plant-based supplement and we could all use more plant-based foods in our lives!

Garden of Life Raw Protein Vanilla ingredients

It’s also, of course, gluten-free (not all of them are) in addition to being organic, raw, vegan, and dairy- and soy-free. Just as importantly, there are no fillers, artificial flavors or synthetic ingredients.

Let’s take a look at what it does contain:

Garden of Life Raw Protein Vanilla nutrition

Some highlights:

  • 90 calories, <1g sugar, and 17 grams of protein (33% Daily Value)
  • RAW organic sprouted protein and live probiotics and enzymes
  • Enzymes, fat-soluble vitamins and nutrient Code Factors™ such as Beta-glucans, SOD, glutathione and CoQ10

It can be a bit grainy in texture, but that’s the only complaint from WHH, who has switched from his regular Trader Joe’s soy and whey proteins to “mine” because he likes it so much. The powder mixes well with everything (as evidenced by everything I’ve put it in!) and doesn’t have that distinctive dairy-esque taste that whey proteins can have. I’ve only used the vanilla flavor, but it comes in original (flavorless?), chocolate, and vanilla chai as well. I’m going to see if Whole Foods carries the vanilla chai in single packets. I’d love to give it a “chai.” ;-)

Since I’m no longer chai-ing to gain weight (sorry—had to throw it in one last time!), I now incorporate it into my weekend breakfasts, as mentioned above, or will make a mini smoothie after a particularly hard run or workout, using about a half scoop and a small cup. You know I generally stick to eating only every 3-4 hours, but there are definitely times when I need to refuel after a workout. Don’t want my hard work to be for nothing! I also find that if I have a quick refuel then I’m less likely to head for seconds at dinner. Win-win.

Mini refueling smoothie

Mini smoothie

We’re also playing around with adding it to cookies, cupcakes, and bars for a healthier dessert alternative. I’ll be sure to post a successful recipe!

As for the rest of stuff, I’m looking forward to checking out a local trail after work to re-do stage 13 of Return to Running. I pulled my right calf on Monday’s run and my plantar fasciitis (on the left) had a slight flare after. I’m fine with re-doing the stage for those reasons and because I’m still working on bringing my endurance back. Those last few intervals of running left me more winded and my legs more fatigued than I’m used to!

Oh, and wish me luck over the weekend! I started the oral steroids early this morning and I think I’ve already felt some effects: I decided a couple of hours ago that my office needed to be cleaned (an RN I worked with joked that the good thing about the steroids is that I’d probably find myself with a clean house by the end of the weekend). A co-worker who’s also dealt with tennis elbow issue lent me his sideways mouse yesterday and my forearms muscles are already feeling better. Fingers crossed this combo works!

Evoluent Vertical Mouse

This is also now nice and clean ;-)

Questions: Do you have Monday off? Are you going to watch the Boston Marathon? Do you incorporate protein powders into your diet? What type/brand do you use?

P.S. As much as I love Whole Foods, I do find their prices a bit steep for nearly everything. I buy my protein powder on Amazon!

Listening to Your Body

Think about some of the longest relationships you’ve been in: your parents (since the moment you were born), siblings (if you have any), relatives, long-time friends, your spouse/significant other. What do all of these relationships have in common? They require effort and good communication to keep them strong. There are easier times and there are harder times. But you always keep working at the relationship because it’s worth it. The rewards far outweigh the effort.

Thanksgiving 2012

It’s the same with our bodies. We are in a lifelong relationship, so to say, with our own body. There will be ups and downs. There will be times you give it the silent treatment and times you will think it’s the most amazing creation. There will be times when you don’t have time for the relationship.

But in the end, the more effort you put into this relationship, the more you will get out of it. The more time you invest in nourishing it, moving it, resting it, and respecting it, the better your life will be. You’ll have energy when you need it. Your body will do what you want it to do (within reason). It will try its hardest not to get sick.

WHH toughing out the Tough Mudder

Granted, it’s not always that easy. Sometimes your body will do things you don’t want it to do. Despite all of your efforts you may get sick or some part may not function correctly. Perhaps there’s a kink in your genes that makes something go awry. It is especially important to listen to our bodies during this time. Don’t push aside those instincts that we all have built into us.

Echinacea and Emergen-C

Take it easy and take care of yourself when you’re sick!

Are you starting to get sick? I beg you to take it easy! Are you feeling a twinge somewhere, but power through your workout anyway? Take note of it and though you shouldn’t necessarily worry about it, don’t ignore it. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Make a real effort to cross something off your list that’s really not very important and get to bed earlier than usual. Your health comes first. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?

Sometimes our bodies can “trick” us. Say you don’t get enough sleep. Ever notice that your body is signaling it’s hungry a bit more the next day or two? This is because the less you sleep, the more leptin is decreased (satiety hormone) and ghrelin (hunger hormone) is increased. In this case you don’t necessarily want to listen to your body in the conventional sense (obeying the hunger by eating), but instead notice the hunger, think about why you may have the hungry horros, down some water, and make sure to get enough sleep that night!

Sometimes the relationship can be especially frustrating and we can get really mad at our body. Really, really mad. I had never experienced such anger at my body as I did last summer. I felt it had betrayed me even though I was doing everything to try to make it healthy. The harder I tried to make it better, the worse I seemed to get, which only fueled a terrible cycle of worry and anxiety, causing my body to pump out stress hormones, which only continued to inhibit healing.

I didn't know I could bruise in so many colors.

I didn’t know I could bruise in so many colors.

Once I started to adopt a more relaxed attitude, one of understanding and acceptance, I could feel my body loosen up and start to heal. I wasn’t fighting it; I was working with it. It didn’t happen overnight and there were some steps back, but the overall progress was forward.

Running after plantar fasciitis

Running again!

I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but I feel it’s an important one that bears repeating. Of course, I’m say this as I’ve reached another frustrating plateau in my tennis elbow saga because I know that I need to continue this attitude moving forward and that it’s what has gotten through my other injuries. I want to be mad and I want to just throw up my hands and give up, I want to fight my body, but it won’t get me anywhere in the end.

KT tape for tennis elbow

KT tape for tennis elbow

Occupational therapy helped for a time. I have better strength and range of motion in my arm and hand than when I started, but I still have pain every day that inhibits my activities. I’m too young to throw in the towel; there’s so much I want to do.

So, after talking through my probable options with my OT and seeking the opinions of a few other people, I have finally accepted taking (oral) prednisone for the next couple of weeks. The idea is that it can hopefully get me over this hump that seems insurmountable. After that? A possible second cortisone injection that I am still very iffy about. Otherwise a very complicated surgery in which they cut open my tendons in order to get that darn calcium deposit causing all of this drama.

Questions: Do you have a good relationship with your body? Do you listen to it most of the time? Ever gotten in a fight with it?

Quick Tip: Run on the Grass

Where did the weekend go? Did yours go by as quickly as mine? My dreaded weekend task wasn’t as bad as I led myself to believe. Tedious, a bit smelly (like paint fumes), and frustrating at times, but overall not too bad. I found the connective tissue encasing each muscle and muscle group to be fascinating. It was like a thick cobweb or thin batting like you’d use for a quilt.

However, when I came across what I believe was the IT band, it was much different. It has a silvery appearance to it, and almost had an iridescence.  The fibers were thick and hard to pull apart from the muscle compared to the other connective tissue. When they did come apart, the fibers had distinct vertical threads that looked like fiberglass when I held it up to the light. It seemed more plastic than (previously) living tissue. I thought anyone out there who deals with IT band issues might find that interesting.

iliotibial band

Speaking of injury, I have been flying through my Return to Running stages lately! I’m now at stage 13! I’ve gone up a stage or two a week for the past month and couldn’t be happier. The big trick with keeping my plantar fasciitis at bay, besides keeping up with my strengthening and stretching routine, has been consistent icing. I do an ice massage the day I run, after rolling my arch on my Foot Rubz and lacrosse ball, then make sure to slap an ice pack on it every single night while I’m reading in bed. That’s all! I forgot to do it after my Friday run and guess what? Discomfort the past two day.

My only problem now is building my cardio and leg endurance back up! I stayed in shape cardio and muscle-wise during my injury, but there’s nothing like running to make you feel out of shape!

Return to Running program

The other thing I think that has helped me brings me to today’s tip: running on the grass. Whenever I’m running around my neighborhood, I try to run on the grass whenever I get a chance. It’s usually the grass between the sidewalk and the street, but sometimes it’s the edge of someone’s lawn if there is no sidewalk. If the edge of the lawn is really nice, I won’t, but if it’s yucky crabgrass like in front of our house, I’ll run on the very edge of it. Use your best judgement–you don’t want your neighbors getting mad at you!

Running on grass

If the snow weren’t there, I’d be running along the fence

It even becomes a bit of a game for me, dodging the trees that interrupt my path, then jumping back on the grass. Makes the run a bit more interesting.

Why do I do it? The softer terrain is better on your feet and joints. Pavement and sidewalks are notoriously hard on your feet, the effects of which travel all the way up the body.

I can feel the difference right away. Friday’s run along the river near my work was heavenly because I was able to stay on a large piece of grass the entire time. My foot didn’t bother me in the least, not even during my warm-up!

Running path along the river

Of course, I had to be careful to dodge the roots of the trees and dog poo. No need to twist my ankle or ruin my shoes. Running on an uneven/grass/trail surface makes it a bit more challenging to look ahead  instead of down the entire time, which is generally better form for running, but all in all, it feels so much better.

Questions: How was your weekend? Do anything unusual? How’s your running or workout routine going? Do you run or walk on the grass to save your feet and body?

Friday Favorite: National Pet Day

(The first paragraph isn’t meant to be funny or disrespectful, it just is what it is and is unintentionally on topic. Also, I really need to stop writing disclaimers!)

Happy Friday! I have to admit that I’m actually slightly dreading this weekend. I need to start my 18 hour cat dissection lab for my A&P class and I’m not exactly looking forward to spending all day in my basement trying not to inhale too much formaldehyde while I dissect a poor cat. The animal lover in me is completely conflicted. I find a little comfort in the fact that the cat is from a kill shelter, not bred for this reason. I look at it this way: instead of being cremated, the cat is living on, so to speak, to help me so that I can help others.

Lab Paq AP-1-CAT

The dreaded box

Speaking of shelter animals, did you know that today is National Pet Day? And did you know that there are some great health benefits to owning a pet? Pets may reduce your risk of heart disease, you’ll be less likely to suffer from depression, and if your kids grow up with pets, they may be less likely to have allergies (ahem, Whole Health Mom and Dad!). I know that when I’ve had a hard day and go to pet my rabbit, I definitely feel a bit more at peace with the world. I can feel my breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate go down, as well as my mind start to clear out.

Rabbit yoga

Someone decided to crash my yoga session, but I can’t be mad when all he wants is to be pet.

My love of animals started at a young age when, like many little girls, I fell in love with horses. I started riding when I was six, training in dressage at an Arabian horse barn, and I kept at it until I was in high school. Once high school hit, I was involved in school sports and had little time for it. Plus, I didn’t enjoy showing and I was being pushed further in that direction. I even considered becoming a large animal vet for a time, but felt my skill set was more of the people variety.

Horseback riding in Bath, Barbados

Bucket item checked off: riding on a beach in Barbados!

I miss riding and hope to return to it someday. It’s definitely one of those things that I regret giving up. There was a part of me that felt more complete being around horses. I felt that the horse and I understood each other (most of the time) and the bond between horse and rider is a unique one. Horses are such amazing, intelligent creatures and I am blessed to have known so many wonderful ones over the years.

Growing up, my parents wouldn’t allow us to have a dog, but they did allow me to get a rabbit when I was about ten. Unfortunately, she broke her back not long after we adopted her and died quickly after that. Then a friend of mine’s guinea pigs had babies, so I was allowed to get two of them. We thought they were sisters until one day I walked into their room, only to find four guinea pigs instead of two. That was a shocking experience to say the least. They lived through most of my high school years and I’ll get to re-live the experience again when we babysit our cousin’s guinea pigs next week!

We have yet to own a dog (though we had a test run/fostered one for about a week), but I look forward to the day we do. Just this week my co-worker was saying that when she was curled up on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night thanks to the flu, her dog was by her side the entire time to watch over her and keep her company. I can’t think of anything sweeter or more comforting!

Corgi foster

Harry, our foster Corgi

In the meantime, we are rabbit people. Though we just have one rabbit right now, WH Family actually consisted of up to three rabbits at one time. This is Bella and Winston, our bonded pair of buns.

Bonded rabbits

Unfortunately, we lost Bella in early 2010 due to a gut issue (food was getting stuck in pockets of digestive tract and kept building up over time, leaving her malnourished—we’re pretty sure her issue was due to serious inbreeding) and Winston in mid-2011 to e.cunniculi, which he had been battling for a few years.

Bella was the first pet we ever had to put down and it was one of the most heart-wrenching decisions and situations we’ve gone through. Choosing to end a life was not a task we took lightly, but we also didn’t want our selfishness of wanting her around to prolong her suffering. In that moment, in those first few days, it is terrible and you feel as though you’ve done the most awful thing possible.

Frozen water bottle for hot rabbits

 Rest in peace, Winston and Bella

Thankfully, we still have Wilbur to love. Now that he’s the only bun in the household, he’s thrived on having our undivided attention. He has slowly warmed to us over the years and though he can still be a bit aggressive if he feels he’s backed into a corner, we’ve figured each other out and love hanging out together.

Wilbur eating Kale

 Wilbur wanted to remind you to eat your greens!

We’ve also worked with a local rabbit rescue group and fostered other rabbits over the years. Quiggles was one of our favorites. He was much closer to a cat than a rabbit, following us around and jumping on us and licking us to death whenever we were on the floor.

Rabbit licking

Quiggles “grooming” WHH

We also had a mom and her three baby buns, who were adorable. The mom had really bad mats in her fur, which was terrible to witness. I don’t understand people sometimes. If you can’t take care of a pet, don’t get one!

Three bunnies

A common misconception about rabbits is that they like to be held. This couldn’t be farther from the truth except in rare instances and when they’re young, as above. In the wild, rabbits are prey. Any time you take their feet off the ground they think they are about to be someone’s dinner. Rabbits haven’t been domesticated for very long so most of their instincts are still very strong. Whenver we occasionally need to pick them up to check them over and clip their nails, they either flail around or play dead. It’s not a pleasant experience for either owner or bun. So if you’re considering a rabbit as a pet, please know this critical fact.

Wrap rabbit in towel to clip nails

Necessary to clip his nails

As a long-time animal advocate and former vegetarian (for over seven years), I’d like to encourage you to adopt if you are considering getting a pet. The rewards of saving an animal are endless, as is their love and devotion. I understand if you want a particular breed of animal and won’t argue with you too much if you want to get one from a breeder, but please consider adoption as your first option.

Questions: Do you have a pet(s)? Did you grow up with pets or only have them as an adult? Do you feel your health has benefitted from having a pet? Have you fostered or worked with a rescue group?

P.S. I’ll be giving a running update next week. I’ve found the less I talk about it, the better I’m recovering, hence the silence!

Also, my work team that ran last weekend’s 5k came in first place, with one of our runners coming in at 16:25 for second place! Holla! I didn’t end up participating due to a plantar fasciitis flare-up the day before and instead manned peoples’ belongings.

Five Tips for Eating Healthy On The Run (Guest Post)

Happy hump day! Today I am incredibly excited to bring you a guest post from my brother! I knew he’d offer some great insight into how he stays healthy with such a busy life in the city (Washington, DC). I also knew he’d bring his great personality to his writing and I was not disappointed.

Man of honor

This special guy was my man of honor.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. So, take it away, bro…

Hi there! I’m the WholeHealthDork’s Bro and she has been sweet enough to ask me to share some thoughts on crafting a good diet when you’re on the run. For the past ten years that I’ve had a meat-less diet I’ve lived in many different places and held many different types of jobs with varying hours and modes of commuting that have made me become pretty good at eating healthy on the run and on the cheap. So here are some tips I want to share with you for keeping it healthy when you’re always on the go.

#1 Keep It Simple!

It may seem like it’s hard to squeeze in cooking a good meal on a tight schedule. You’ve got to search for a good recipe, get all the ingredients and you know, plan something. For many people that may seem like hours worth of work but cooking healthy does not need to be a lengthy or complicated exercise.

For most of my meals I start with a simple base of either a grain or a hearty vegetable and just color the dish with other ingredients that I find in the kitchen and make sure to work in a couple of sides. Good and simple go-to grains, like quinoa, mixed with sautéed vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or asparagus with a side of healthy greens topped with tomato and cranberries or other dried fruit makes a quick, knock-out healthy plate. If you have more time to spend, turn the oven on 450 throw in virtually any root vegetable with some light oil and garlic, wait and savor. And if anything you cook comes out a bit too flat, just toss a little bit of blue / feta cheese or a light balsamic based dressing on it and BAM! Dinner saved.

Five minute brunch

Weekend brunch. This took 5 minutes. Doobie Do.

A great resource for simple cooking is Mark Bittman’s The Mini Minimalist. Most of the recipes in this book have less than 5 ingredients and take less than 20 minutes to prepare. More importantly though, the recipes demonstrates how cooking does not need to be a major operation. My favorite recipe drives this point home: Mussels Provence – probably better than any mussels you ever had a restaurant, only requires 4 ingredients, and they’re ready in 15 minutes.

Mark Bittman The Mini Minimalist

Also, there’s no law that says you have to follow a recipe exactly. I like to read a recipe as a suggestion; it has the basic ingredients, the general composition and some outline of seasonings but there’s no reason you can’t substitute anything you want. The more you play around with different combinations of flavors, the more confident you will feel about your ability to improvise it in the future and eventually you won’t have to think about planning a meal, it will just happen.

#2 Keep A (Mostly) Empty Fridge!

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the way I see it, fridges are much bigger than they need to be to store all the food I really need. The more cluttered a fridge is, the more likely it is that things are going to go bad before you get to eat them. This is probably why Americans throw out 25% of the food they buy every year. Keeping a mostly empty fridge allows me to see everything in it and see what condition it’s in. When I see some greens wilting or a tomato that’s a little past it’s prime, I don’t think of tossing it, I think that today is the day I’m going to use it. This means that instead of stocking up once a week you may be making more trips to the grocery store, but I guarantee that you are actually going to spend less money because you won’t waste food by letting it quietly die in your fridge. Also, this is a great setup for inspiring you to create new dishes just based on what you have left to cook with.

Empty fridge

This is what my fridge looks like. Pretty stark, but nothing dies here.

 #3 Recycle!

Most of the ingredients I use are on their second go around in my kitchen. Nothing gets thrown out because nothing goes bad and so everything gets used twice. You don’t have to worry about cooking the exact amount of food for one or two people once you realize that your leftovers can become the base of your next dish. Grains are particularly good for this, but so is basically anything else you’ve previously cooked. Instead of just re-heating leftovers (boring!) imagine how they can fit into a new recipe.

Leftovers can be put into a winter soul food stew with black beans and kale, tossed with some spring greens for a nice salad or dropped into a curry to form some new fusion food you didn’t even know you could make. This theory also works well when you make a large batch of something like bean burger mix and then force yourself to find 5 new ways to eat it over the next couple of days because you made so much and you’re really going to be mad at yourself if you throw it out after having spent all the time making it.

Bean burger dinner

Bean burger from something else with quinoa from something with a fresh salad = sweet dinner

#4 Get Smaller Plates and Slow Down!

No joke. A plate the size of a Frisbee is way too big. There’s more room for food on plates these days than we should really be eating. So downsize your dinnerware, then fill it up with less food, take your sweet time eating and then wait about half an hour after you’re done and let me know if you don’t feel just as satisfied as having served yourself the Frisbee portion.

The propagation of fast food, grab-n-go and ready-made meals in our society engenders the idea that you should have to fit eating in to a small window of time. But what’s the rush? People will always eat more when given more food and they will eat it quickly. But we all know by now that your brain lags behind your stomach when it comes to feeling full. Smaller plates means healthier portions and more leftovers which will save you time tomorrow for your next meal. So try eating your food in half-size portions twice as slow and skip that feeling of being full and just feel great.

#5 Eat and drink more (fruits and water)!

There are two exceptions to the “eat less” rule. You should eat MORE fruits. You probably don’t do that. An apple a day…? Nah, try an apple, an orange, a plum, some blueberries in your parfait, mango for dinner and another apple. Try substituting some nice sweet fruits for your other go-to snacks (i.e. chips, crackers, etc) throughout the day and see how much better you feel.

Drinking a lot of water is also critical to eating healthy on the go. For me, staying hydrated keep me energetic and it keeps my internal processes working at maximum efficiency. It helps me digest all the good food I’m eating and keeps my stomach feeling mostly full so I never feel empty between small meals and resort to eating more food than I really need.

My trick for eating more (fruit) and drinking more (water)? Reverse portion control. Instead of setting out one apple and one cup of water, I try to give myself large portions to consume. First I stock my office with a ton of fruity goodies at the beginning of the week and then I never have to worry about grabbing something every day of the week. This gives me a big fruit-u-copia at the ready all day everyday. Also, I try to carry around a 1L water bottle with me wherever I go so there is always water at the ready. “Water tastes boring” you say? Throw in a slice of any citrus or a cucumber to spice it up and voila! water is not longer a drag and your body feels great.

Keep fruit at work

It’s like a fruit buffet! Right there on your desk! Hooray!

So these are just some ideas that I have found work for me, but time has shown that they’re pretty reliable. Over the past decade I’ve felt super healthy year after year and locked in a consistent weight which feels great to me without going on a diet, joining a gym or having to resist foods I don’t love. It’s all about finding your balance. I’ve found mine. I hope you find yours too.

Whole Health Bro

WholeHealthBro

 

Thanks, Whole Health Bro! Does anyone have any questions or comments for him?