What makes a recipe healthy? To me, healthy eating means consuming a wide variety of whole foods, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting fat and sodium intake and trying to meet the minimum vitamin and mineral recommendations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Because we lead busy lives, we need healthy recipes that can be completed in a hurry and provide all those requirements.
Since many of us do use processed foods to cut down on time spent in the kitchen, learn to read nutrition labels. Make special note of the number of servings in each package, and the serving size. Most people eat far more than the recommended serving size of most foods. Also pay attention to ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates, to keep you and your family safe.
Besides the basics of paying attention to calories and serving size, here are a few tips from the Food and Drug Administration to guide you:
● Choose products with high daily value percentages (20 percent or more per serving) of fiber and of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
● Look for low daily value percentages (5 percent or less) of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
● The following terms signal added sugars, which contain lots of calories but little nutritional value: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and maple syrup.
Ideally, if we had all the time in the world, we would cook everything from scratch for our families, using only the most fresh and organic products. But guess what? We don’t always have the time or energy. We know that life gets in the way of even the best plans, and sometimes we can use a little assistance in the form of a time saver when it comes to cooking. There are some convenience products that are great time-cutting products that, also, meet healthy standards for nutrition and flavor.
Here Are My Top 10. What Are Yours?
Using Healthy Convenience Foods for Quick Dinners
The recipes below have a low percentage of fat, lots of fiber, cruciferous vegetables, and fruits, and a wide variety of ingredients. They are ready in 30 minutes or less, or have a preparation time of 20 minutes or less. Try some of these recipes this week and feel good about the food you’re feeding your family.
Easy Baked Fish Fillets
Serve with quick cooking brown rice that cooks in 10 minutes.
- 4 (4 ounce) fish fillets, such as, tilapia, flounder, cod, grouper.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 (16 ounce) package frozen vegetables with broccoli and carrots (or any combination your family likes), defrosted and drained
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees F). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Place the fillets in the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
Combine spices and sprinkle over top of each fillet. Top each one with a slice or two of lemon.
Arrange the frozen mixed vegetables around the fish, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Cover the dish and bake for 2o to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until vegetables are tender and fish flakes easily with a fork.
Cheese Ravioli with Veggies
Use any combination of frozen vegetables that you like in place of the California Blend.
- 1 package (16 ounces) frozen California-blend vegetables
- 1- 9 ounce package whole wheat cheese ravioli
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash garlic herb salt-free seasoning blend
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fill a Dutch oven two-thirds full with water; bring to a boil and add salt to the boiling water.
Add the frozen vegetables; cook for 5 minutes. Add the ravioli. Cook 5 minutes longer or until vegetables and ravioli are tender; drain.
Gently stir in oil. Sprinkle with seasoning blend and cheese.
Pork Chops With Chard and White Beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 boneless pork chops (3/4 inch thick; about 1 1/2 pounds total)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leaves torn into bite-size pieces (about 5 cups)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 15-16 ounce can low sodium cannellini beans, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the pork with the paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil.
2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard stems and onion and cook, tossing occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, chard leaves, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the chard is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more. Mix in the vinegar and serve with the pork.
For a bit of sweetness, add a handful of raisins to the bean mixture.
Baked Eggs Florentine
- 36 ounces frozen spinach
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 8 large eggs
- 8 slices tomato
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook spinach according to package instructions. Wring out as much water as possible and stir in olive oil and butter. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread spinach over bottom of the dish. With a spoon, make 8 indentations; place tomato slices into indentations. Crack eggs over tomatoes and lightly season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Evenly divide and sprinkle parmesan over casserole.
Bake on middle rack of oven 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and eggs are cooked to desired level of doneness.
Fettuccine with Scallops
Serve with a small salad on the side.
5 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
- 8-9 ounces fresh whole-wheat fettuccine
- 1 pound sea scallops or bay scallops
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, (Wondra all purpose flour works well here)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
- 3/4 cup finely shredded Romano cheese, divided
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook fettuccine according to package instructions. Drain.
- Meanwhile, pat scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and scallops and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Whisk milk, flour, white pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour the mixture into the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Return the scallops and any accumulated juices to the pan along with peas and return to a simmer. Stir in the fettuccine, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, chives, lemon zest and juice until combined. Serve with the remaining cheese sprinkled on top.
Quick Berry Cobbler
Self Rising Flour is a time saver. It is all purpose flour that already has the leavening ingredients (baking powder and salt) in it that gives quick breads, biscuits and other similar recipes the ability to rise. It is considered a convenience item for a baker because it cuts down on the number of ingredients to measure out.
- 1 cup of sugar ( or use 1/2 cup light sugar-Domino or Truvia)
- 1 cup of lowfat milk
- 1 cup of Self Rising Flour
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 cups of fresh, washed berries *
- 4 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Blend
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a glass 8 inch square baking pan in the microwave.
Combine sugar, milk, water, and flour in a large measuring cup
Pour mixture over melted butter.
Pour berries over the top and spread them evenly.
Bake: 350° for 45 min.
* whatever berries are in season
- Quick Summer Side Dishes (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Speedy After-Work Dinners (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Recipe – Baked Fish with Herbs, Healthy, Delicious and Easy to cook! (ahdalin.wordpress.com)
Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.
LIST OF WHOLE GRAINS
The following are examples of generally accepted whole grain foods and flours.
- Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn
- Oats, including oatmeal
- Rice, both brown rice and colored rice
- Sorghum (also called milo)
- Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut®, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheat berries
- Wild rice
WHOLE WHEAT VS. WHOLE GRAIN
A question that gets asked regularly is, “What is the difference between whole wheat and whole grain?” The answer is in another question: “What is the difference between a carrot and a vegetable?”
We all know that carrots are vegetables but not all vegetables are carrots. It’s similar with whole wheat and whole grain: Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat.
If you’re reading this in Canada, be aware that Canada has a different regulation for whole wheat flour. Canada allows wheat flour to be called “whole wheat” even when up to 5% of the original kernel is missing. So in Canada you’ll hear two terms used:
- Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains at least 95% of the original kernel
- Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains 100% of the original kernel
“Whole grain whole wheat flour” would be redundant in the U.S.A. — whole wheat flour is always whole grain in the United States.
Source of Essential Nutrients
The charts below list some of the nutrients that whole grains contribute to a healthy diet, and the proportion of the Daily Value for each.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a food to be a “good source” of a nutrient if a standard-size serving provides 10% of the recommended daily value; an “excellent source” provides 20% or more than the recommended daily value. We’ve noted when some nutrients in whole grains go even farther above these levels. Note that a blank, white block does not mean that a particular grain contains none of that nutrient. Very often levels fall just short of reaching the “good source” level – but these foods can still make important contributions to your nutrient needs, in combination with other healthy foods. Whole Grains Council May 2004
A SERVING OF 100% WHOLE GRAIN FOODS
If you enjoy foods made entirely with whole grain, you can follow the suggestions in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where a serving of whole grain is defined as any of the following:
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
- 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-wheat pasta
- 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
- 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
- 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
- 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
- 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
The Whole Grains Council has created an official packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain.
You can easily add whole grains to your meals, often using favorite recipes you’ve always enjoyed. Try some of the following:
MAKE EASY SUBSTITUTIONS
- Substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Or be bold and add up to 20% of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
- Replace one third of the flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats.
- Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.
- Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.
- Use whole corn meal for corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins.
- Add three-quarters of a cup of uncooked oats for each pound of ground beef or turkey when you make meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
- Stir a handful of rolled oats in your yogurt, for quick crunch with no cooking necessary.
TRY NEW FOODS
- Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or farro.
- Enjoy whole grain salads like tabbouleh.
- Buy whole grain pasta, or one of the blends that’s part whole-grain, part white.
- Try whole grain breads. Kids especially like whole grain pita bread.
- Look for cereals made with grains like kamut, kasha (buckwheat) or spelt.
Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Peppers, Turkey Sausage, and Cheese
Makes: 4 servings
12 ounces whole wheat or dark spelt* spaghetti (available at some supermarkets and natural food stores)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet Italian turkey sausage link, (about 4 to 5 oz.) casing removed
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 bell peppers (one each red, green, orange, and yellow), cored and sliced
1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook per package instructions until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and saute, crumbling it with a spatula, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
3. Pour off any fat, then heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
4. Add the drained pasta and reserved cooking water to the pan and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and toss the pasta with the cheese. Season with black pepper and serve.
Notes * Spelt is related to wheat, but it’s higher in protein and vitamins. Its deep, nutty flavor gives pasta and breads a rich taste.
3-Grain Salad with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Parmesan
Makes: 4 servings
1/2 cup hulled barley*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup farro**
1/4 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 cup drained, rinsed cannellini beans
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; boil for 30 minutes. Add the farro; boil for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until both grains are tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, bring 6 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the vinegar, onion, garlic, and remaining salt.
4. Add the grains to the vinegar mixture while still warm; toss well. Remove the garlic and stir in the beans, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; season with black pepper to taste. Fold in the Parmesan and serve.
Notes:* With its chewy, pasta-like texture, barley is a great addition to soups and stews. It’s loaded with satisfying protein and fiber.
** A hearty grain with plenty of protein, farro is used in soups and salads. It has a distinct nutty taste.
Spicy Salmon with Olives and Lemon Quinoa
Makes: 4 servings
1/2 cup chopped scallions
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound skin-on salmon fillet
1 cup quinoa*, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons pitted, chopped black olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the scallions and red pepper with the salt and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Spray a small roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and lay the salmon in it skin side down. Cover the fish with the scallion and red pepper mixture. Roast the salmon in the top third of the oven until it is opaque at the center of the thickest part, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa; cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining olive oil and the pine nuts, olives, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Serve the salmon over the quinoa.
Notes * Technically a seed, quinoa is packed with protein and magnesium, a nutrient that lowers blood pressure. Light and fluffy, quinoa is perfect for salads and side dishes.
Tabbouleh with Feta and Shrimp
Makes: 4 servings
1 cup bulgur*
1 packed cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
8 ounces medium cleaned, shelled, tail-on shrimp, thawed if frozen
1 large pickling cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil and then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon of the parsley with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, oregano, and mint.
3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cool water.
4. Place the bulgur in a serving bowl and toss with the shrimp, cucumber, tomato, scallion, feta, the remaining parsley, and the dressing. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Note:* Bulgur cooks quickly and has a subtle, nutty flavor. Try it in soups, salads, and stuffings or as a substitute for rice.
Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup
Cannellini beans, fresh herbs, and amaranth, a wonderful whole grain thickener, makes this hearty soup filling enough to be a main dish. For a thick and creamy soup, puree all of the soup rather than leaving half of the beans whole.
2 tablespoons. extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup amaranth
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then add the amaranth grains, stock, bay leaf, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the bay leaf from the amaranth mixture, add 1 cup of the beans, and use a handheld immersion blender to puree in the pot until smooth. (Alternatively, puree the beans in a food processor, add the amaranth mixture – working in batches if necessary – and puree again until smooth, then return to the pot.)
4. Stir in the remaining beans, the herbs, and the salt. Warm gently just to heat through. If desired, thin the soup with additional stock. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Nutrition Reminder: Whole Grains Aren’t Always What They Seem (blisstree.com)
- Whole Grains Demystified [Bread miniseries part 2/4] (fooducate.com)
- how to make a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (glutenfreegirl.com)
- Food Fraud: Multigrain (donteatdirt.com)
- 7 Negative Effects of Refined Flour (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- Canadian scientists developing colourful purple wheat to boost health, economy (vancouversun.com)
- Bulgur, quinoa star in summer salads (dailyherald.com)