Quinoa, Apple, and Onion Stuffed Squash (gluten free)

photo: A Couple Cooks

photo: A Couple Cooks

I love this stuffed acorn squash as a main course for a weeknight meal. In less than 30 minutes, including any chopping time, you have a delicious, filling, and healthy dinner. Top it with nuts or crumbled Gorgonzola for a non-vegan dish. I like to serve this with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

This recipe is both gluten-free and vegan, however it makes a great side dish to serve along with chicken or pork.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or pistachios or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush squash with 1/2 tablespoon oil. Roast cut side down on a baking sheet until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Shut heat off, leave cover on and let steam for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  3. While quinoa cooks saute garlic in 1 TBS olive oil over medium-low heat. Then add in diced onion and apple, saute until softened. Keep warm.
  4. When quinoa is cooked add onion and apple mixture. Stir in parsley, maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide mixture equally between two squash halves. Top with pistachios or walnuts if desired.

Eating Healthy on a Budget – 15 Money Saving Tips

GroceryBagI often hear that it’s almost impossible to eat healthy on a budget. It does seem tough at first, especially if you’re used to buying prepackaged convenience foods. It is possible to eat healthy, however, without breaking the bank. I’ve developed some strategies for saving money without sacrificing my healthy habits.

  1. Shop the sales. Read your local supermarket’s sale circular and purchase the healthy options that you enjoy while they’re on sale. Plan your meals for the week around the sale items you purchased.
  2. Use coupons. Most grocery stores have a loyalty card and send extra coupons for the items you frequently purchase. Check out the coupons for the week and use what you can. You’d be amazed how much you can save.
  3. Know the unit price. There are two prices listed on the shelf, the actual price and the unit price. The unit price is the actual cost per serving and that’s how you determine which brand is more economical.
  4. Buy the store brand. The store brand generally tastes the same but is cheaper since they aren’t spending money on advertising.
  5. Buy in bulk. I will double up on chicken and other meats when they’re on sale and stick them in the freezer. When seasonal vegetables and fruits are on sale I buy extra and freeze them to use later on. If your store has bulk bins for grains, nuts, etc., shop there as well. No packaging makes it a cheaper buy.
  6. Buy what’s in season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are cheaper than those that are out of season. In the fall apples will be much cheaper than strawberries. Asparagus is cheaper in the spring and fall than in the winter and summer months.
  7. Stretch your meat. Adding beans to your meat dish, making a stir fry or stew lets you stretch the amount of meat you purchased. Vegetables and beans are less expensive and add nutrients to your meal.
  8. Skip the convenience foods. Sure, pre-chopped veggies save you time but you pay dearly for the time save. Spend a few minutes chopping the vegetables yourself. Make your own soups and freeze them in individual containers, rather than buying cans of soup.
  9. Repurpose your leftovers. A roast chicken can be eaten one night, used for tacos another night, and used for soup a third night. Do you have leftover brown rice? Make a stir fry with it another night. Using your leftovers in different ways lets you finish them up without becoming bored.
  10. Cook in bulk. Making soup or chili? Make enough to freeze leftovers. Making chicken breast? Cook extra and freeze unused portions. You’ll have foods for nights when you don’t feel like cooking and save money on ordering out. They can also be used for grab and go lunches.
  11. Buy less expensive cuts of meat. Less expensive cuts can be tougher but cooking them in the crock pot or slow roasting them makes them tender and juicy.
  12. Buy whole grains. Whole grains are another great way to stretch a meal. They are generally inexpensive, full of vitamins and minerals plus the fiber keeps you full longer.
  13. Go meatless. Pick a day or two to skip the meat altogether. Lentils, black beans, and chick peas are all delicious and healthy alternatives to a meat based dish.
  14. Shop a discount store. Do you have a discount grocery store, such as Aldi’s? The no frills approach can help you save big. You many not find everything you want but you’ll save money on many staples.
  15. Meal prep. Having the healthy foods in the house doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use them. Take a few hours one day to prep your meals for the week ahead. It will save you time and money during the week.

What are your tips for saving money on a budget?

Do you want to start adopting a healthier lifestyle? Do you need help with eating better? Email me at janinemchale@gmail.com to see how I can help you reach your goals.

Your Body is Capable of More, Ignore the Naysayers

I’ve been deep water via @runcompetitorpool running these past few weeks. I had been having trouble with my plantar fascia this training season. I went to the podiatrist, did physical therapy but the fascia had enough of training. I ended up with a partial tear and a walking boot.

I don’t love pool running, particularly but I am grateful to be able to do an exercise that keeps up my running fitness. I’m currently only allowed to do this, swim, or activities where I’m off my foot. No biking, including Spin, elliptical and the like. I can walk only in the boot, even in my house. I go to the YMCA 5 days a week. On Saturdays I do either chair Tae Bo or other chair cardio workouts. (and they really do get my heart rate up).

It hammers at your confidence to be injured, especially when you’ve had other injuries recently. I’m hearing a lot of “maybe this isn’t your sport” “maybe you should stop running” and “why would you want to do this anyway.” It’s annoying and it’s not helpful, even when it’s meant well.

My tipping point today was a woman told me I was crazy for even thinking of walking a half-marathon. I know what I am and aren’t capable of. When my foot is healed I’m completely capable of walking 13 miles. If I were indeed crazy I’d try walking it whether I was healed or not. Nope, not crazy. I respect my injuries and my body’s healing process.

Our bodies are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. We are made to move. Running a marathon may not be everyone’s cup of tea but neither is Zumba, Spinning, or rollerblading. To each their own, just move.

Keep your body strong and healthy. If you’re sidelined try to find something that you can do and ALWAYS check with your doctor before attempting it. No sense in sitting on the bench longer than necessary.

Don’t listen to the naysayers, either. You know, deep down, what you’re capable of.

Want more healthy tips? Follow me on facebook and twitter.

 

 

The Pressure to Be Perfect

perfectMost of us put a crazy amount of pressure on ourselves to do things perfectly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to do your best in most circumstances but perfect is generally not attainable. Or, at least, our idea of perfect isn’t attainable.

In a perfect world I’d be running every morning, my house would be clean (not even in wildest imagination do I think my house could be spotless), meals would be prepped ahead and I would have dinner ready well before 8 pm.

In truth, my house gets messy, I run or exercise when I have time that particular day, and some days we often eat dinner after 8 pm. What I get right; my meals are usually healthy, greens are washed and ready to go, there are healthy grab and go meal options for when I am crazy busy, and I fit exercise in.

I have run with friends who beat themselves up if they need to walk, run a little slower or end their run early. Listening the their bodies actually helps their next event, they’re not too exhausted to give it their best. Generally they do well at their races and sometimes even beat their envisioned times. The training may not be their idea of perfect but the results are pretty darn good.

I have a client who is frustrated with his meal choices but hates cooking. My job is to figure out if there’s anything he doesn’t mind making at home and how to have him order the best options for the rest of the time.

Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s better than eating junk food or meals that are supposedly healthy but don’t keep him satisfied. He has also confessed to hitting up the drugstore and grabbing candy at night. Seriously? I’d rather you ordered a meal or, at least, grabbed a yogurt and a piece of fruit.

So you don’t always buy organic, meals aren’t always from scratch and dry shampoo has become you’re biggest beauty must-have. The world isn’t going to end.

Are you struggling with healthy choices and making time for fitness? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to schedule a consultation. Together we can come up with a plan that works for you.

Why I Dislike My Fitness Tracker and Use it Anyway

runners legsI am not a fan of my fitness trackers. Yes, I have two. No, I don’t wear them both at the same time. I’m not quite that obsessive.

They have their good points, especially if you tend to be sedentary during the day. I sit at my computer a lot for work and like the reminder to get up and move more. I also like to see how consistently I am exercising on days when I don’t run.

What drives me nuts is that FitBit seems more accurate with mileage and counts the exercise I log towards my steps. But the Jawbone UP3 wins for one simple reason; I can program it to buzz me when I’ve been sitting for longer than an hour. I can choose the time period as well as the days for this. (It’s turned off on the weekends. I move more than enough without the reminder).

The truth of the matter is most of us sit way too much during the day and an hour’s worth of exercise doesn’t negate that. Blech. There are days I’m better at getting enough movement in than others. For the days I’m not moving the tracker comes in handy.

There is a weird satisfaction on feeling it buzz when I’ve hit my 10,000 steps for the day. And it can be annoying when it doesn’t hit those steps when I’ve been active during the day. Some days I will walk around the house to get those extra steps, other days I don’t.

Would I recommend the activity band? If you sit a lot during the day and this can help get you moving I say yes. If you like data and want to track your food, sleep and exercise then I say go for it.

Rather not wear a tracker? There are other ways to remind yourself to get up and move. A reminder in your phone or computer can help. Wearing a cheap pedometer can help you track your mileage. There are plenty of apps to help you get up and get moving, too.

Do you get enough movement in during the day? Need some help in getting track for a healthier lifestyle? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a consultation.

Half and Full Marathon Thoughts and Training Plans

Brooklyn Half 2014I have entered into temporary running madness. 3 half-marathons in 3 months with a full set for November. Not just any full marathon but NYC, which is intimidating, exciting, scary and thrilling all at the same time. Some days I think “what the heck have I signed up for?” and other days I think “I’m going to rock this.”

I ran one of my halfs last month and it was fun. I was glad when I hit the finish line and I think, uh oh – how will I do a full? And while I’m looking forward to my Runapalooza half-marathon in Asbury Park I’m not as excited about the Brooklyn half. I’ve run both and I prefer Asbury. I signed up for Brooklyn because my friends are doing it. Yes, Mom, I will jump off the bridge if my friends do!

I remind myself that I’m not training for a full at the moment and that I can run 18 miles when I am trained for it. I am stronger than when I trained last year for the NJ Marathon. I am still doing my PT exercises and I am going to follow the beginner plan. I am not a beginner runner but I am a beginner marathoner. I’m not naive enough to think there isn’t a difference.

I’m deciding on my training plan, I’m tossed between traditional marathon training, which is what I do for my halfs, and the Hansons method. You run about the same mileage each week but the Hansons method doesn’t have runs longer than 16 miles. The thought is you are running that distance on tired legs so it’s similar to running the last 16 miles of the race. You’re fatigued but less beat up over all. Then again, 6 days of running sounds crazy!

I have friends who have run NYC and they assure me I can do it. I believe, deep down, that I can do it. I can see me crossing the finish line and I am looking forward to it.

Have you run a full marathon? Want to share some tips or advice? I’d love to hear from people who tried the Hansons Method, too!

Why I Don’t Believe in Everything in Moderation

968eIt sounds great, doesn’t it? “Everything in moderation.” Especially when you’re trying to shed a few pounds and watching what you eat. But that damn scale keeps creeping up. You start wondering why and get frustrated because you’re following all things in moderation. So why isn’t this working? Do you need to give up carbs or maybe try a low-fat diet?

Then you start looking back over your food diary and realize that you’re eating moderate portions of snacks three times a day, every day. And there’s a relaxed eating day over the weekend on top of these daily treats. Think about it, a cookie mid morning, a salty or sweet snack in the afternoon and a square of chocolate after dinner may be in moderation but those treats add up. That’s not including the weekend dinner out, cocktails and the pancakes for breakfast.

There are also the foods you can’t seem to have in moderation: A pint of ice cream, rather than a half-cup serving. The bag of chips instead of one ounce. Sometimes you even sensibly portion our treat out, only to go back for another serving. You think, well I’ll just have a little less at dinner or I’ll skip whatever later on. Except you don’t. We are creatures of habit and instant gratification is a powerful draw.

A lot of the runners I work with feel they deserve a treat for running so many miles per week. I love treats too and I know when you’ve burned hundreds of calories on a long run a doughnut, plate of waffles or cookies can be a powerful lure. While I don’t say no, don’t eat them. I do say eat a healthy meal first, replenish what you lost. Then if you want a treat go for it.

Daily treats become more of a habit instead of something we actually want. And we end up needing more of them to satisfy cravings. Instead of giving in to every craving wait a while, have some water or drink a flavored tea. Still want a sweet, eat some berries. If you’re hungry pair a piece of fruit with a protein. Some easy choices are yogurt with those berries, string cheese and an apple or a small banana with nut butter.

There will be days when you really want that cookie, cupcake or serving of chips. Go ahead, sit down and enjoy every bite of your treat. (Don’t keep extra servings in the house if you know you’re going to go back for more). I also suggest planning it for one time during the day. It may be easier to say no to a cookie when you know you’ll be enjoying that ice cream later on.

Do you have trouble moderating you servings? Not sure why your weight is creeping up? Email me, janinemchale@empowereplate.com, and together we can come up with a plan designed specifically for you.

Eggs Are Dairy, Bread is Bad and Other Food Lies

I always ask my client’s what they eat and what they enjoy eating. A common theme are the clients who proudly tell me that they only eats egg whites and wheat toast without butter when they get breakfast from the diner. When I asked why no yolk I hear “I don’t eat dairy”; “cholesterol is bad for you” or “they’re so full of fat.”

As odd as that seemed to me it is a popular misconception that eggs are dairy; they are not. (A true dairy product is made by the mammary glands of a mammal. Eggs do not fit this definition; they are an animal by-product). The yolk contains the most nutrition and I recommend clients eat at least one yolk. but honestly why not go for broke and eat both. One egg has 75 calories, 6g protein, 5g fat and are no longer considered a food that raises cholesterol.

The fat throws some people, I know. I’d rather see you eat 2 eggs and pair it with a slice of bacon and a bunch of veggies than an egg white omelet with toast. Why? The fat is going to keep you full, along with the fiber from the vegetables. The fat also helps your body synthesize the nutrition from the veggies. The slice of bacon tastes good and is another protein source. (Keep the bacon to a slice or two and buy a nitrate free uncured brand).

I don’t demonize bread or recommend always skipping it. I like whole grain sprouted bread, especially toasted and spread with grass-fed butter. I just think we tend to eat a lot of it an, try having a side of oatmeal or grits if you want a more nutritious carb choice when dining out. It’s rare that your local diner has 100% whole grain bread.

If you’re going to eat bread, eat 100% whole grain bread preferably sprouted. I generally buy Ezekiel brand bread and keep it in my freezer (it goes bad quickly). Read your labels, whole grain products need to say 100% whole grain. Otherwise they’re just a mix and generally not much more nutritious than white bread.

Do you want to boost your energy, regain your focus and keep up with your kids or grandkids? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and I will work with you to create a plan that works for you and your busy life. (It will even include chocolate, I promise).

Not So Challenging Fitness Challenge

cropped-running-with-dog1.jpgIt can be challenging during the holiday season to fit workouts in. There are a lot of fitness challenges out there right now to help motivate you. Run streaks, 21 day yoga, 21 day Fit and the Do Something Challenge. I happen to like the concept of the last one, even if I don’t love the exercises.

I’ve participated in an arm workout challenges, yoga challenges and a run streak. I loved my arms after the first challenge, ended up doing my own yoga practice (and that’s not a bad thing) and was close to hating running at the end of the run streak. (You can check out my blog on why I would never do another one). What I can say proudly is that for the last 15+ years I have exercised regularly.

I do some form of fitness at least 5 days a week, usually 6, whether or not I belong to a gym. So my challenge to you is to do some form of exercise for at least 15 minutes a day, every day through New Year’s Day. Yes, I want you to move on New Year’s Day – it will help the hangover.

There are no other rules. Activities could be walking, dance, yoga, Pilates, Cross Fit, running, strength training – or whatever else floats your boat. You can mix and match your activities. Do something gentle on days before or after a hard workout (if you choose to do one) to let your body recover. My goal is to get you to move during a time when you think you are too busy. Holiday shopping? Walk a few laps, take the stairs and park your car a bit further from the mall. There, you got your activity in.

Seriously, I don’t care what you do – just move. You can hashtag me on Facebook or Twitter with #notachallenge and let me know you got your fitness in. Add a picture if you like!

Reducing Inflammation Naturally

glowing skinAre you suffering from chronic inflammation? In previous posts I’ve talked about foods to avoid and foods to include to reduce inflammation. There are other things that you can do to reduce swelling and pain so you’re not reaching for NSAIDs or Tylenol. Taking over the counter medicine regularly can cause a variety of physical complications. Stress management, diet and exercise can help manage symptoms with little to no side effects.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Natural supplements help the body have a more appropriate inflammation response. Omega 3’s can help to reduce morning stiffness and joint pain.

Probiotics – Probiotics add good bacteria back into the gut which helps to reduce pain from arthritis and intestinal inflammation.

Yoga – Regularly practicing yoga can reduce inflammation by 20% and helps reduce fatigue. Yoga also manages stress which can cause flare ups for those with chronic illness.

Meditation – There are a variety of meditation practices, including ones geared towards those who fidget. (I resemble that remark). Taking the time to sit and be still reduces the stress that contributes to inflammation.

Exercise – Moderate exercises such as walking, swimming and the elliptical machine bring movement to the body and reduce stiffness. High impact and intense activities raise inflammation levels so it’s important to go easy when you’re experiencing chronic inflammation.

Relaxation – Make time to do activities you enjoy. Giving yourself time to do things you like lets you relax and melts stress.

Sleep – This varies for individuals but getting the right amount of sleep for you is crucial for managing inflammation. Sleep deprivation can result in chronic inflammation.

Hydrate – Not drinking enough water leaves the body dehydrated which leads to a variety of conditions, including inflammation. Not a fan of water? Add fruit slices, herbs or a splash of juice to make it interesting.

Making changes in your daily life can have a big impact on your health. Gradually adding new habits makes it easier to adopt them for lasting change. Let me know if you need help with that, that is exactly the way I work with my own clients. I can be reached at janinemchale@empoweredplate.com.