What’s not to love about meal prep? It’s budget-friendly, helps you stick to your diet, and saves you lots of time during the week. In this meal-prep meal plan, we walk you through four super-simple base recipes that come together to create delicious Mediterranean-style lunches for the work week. And the best part yet—all of the prep work can be done in under an hour. We already mapped out the prep plan for you (shopping list included!), and came up with some simple recipe ideas to create for the week (scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the ideas).
After-dinner and before-bedtime snacking when not hungry can result in consuming unneeded calories. Often this may be due to boredom, stress or tiredness. Try these tips to banish evening cravings and curb after-dinner snacking; and, if you must snack, go for nutritious options.
Water is an important part of your body. In fact, it makes up more than 60 percent of your body weight. Among other functions, water:
• Moistens tissues, such as those around your mouth, eyes, and nose
• Regulates your body temperature
• Cushions your joints
• Helps your body get nutrients
• Flushes out waste products
Without water, you would die in a few days. So it’s important that you get enough water. But how much water is enough? Experts generally recommend that you drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid every day (although everyone’s needs are different). But it doesn’t have to be all water. You could satisfy some of your fluid needs by drinking other liquids. Just remember that juice, sodas and milk are high in sugar. Many fruit and vegetables, such as watermelon and tomatoes, are also mostly water.
If you’re being physically active, sweating a lot, or if the weather is hot, you’ll need more fluid. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding also have increased fluid needs.
It’s generally not a good idea to use thirst alone as a guide for when to drink. By the time you’re thirsty, you may already be a bit dehydrated. On the other hand, you don’t need to be constantly carrying around water bottles and drinking lots of water. You are probably getting all the fluid you need if you are rarely thirsty and you produce a little more than six cups of colorless or slightly yellow urine a day. Dark urine can be a signal that you need more fluid. So drink up and stay hydrated!
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that appear to reduce your risk of heart disease. Good sources of omega-3s are fatty fish. These include salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. You can also get omega-3s from plant sources. These include ground flaxseed (linseed), flaxseed oil, and walnuts. Small amounts are also found in soybean and canola oils.
Less healthy kinds of fats are saturated and trans fats. They can increase your risk of heart disease by causing the buildup of a fatty substance in the arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When this happens, your heart does not get all the blood it needs to work properly. The result can be chest pain or a heart attack. These fats can also increase your risk of stroke by causing the buildup of the same fatty substance in arteries carrying blood to your brain. Research also suggests that eating lots of trans fats may increase your risk of breast cancer.
Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Look on the ingredients list on the food package to see if the food contains these oils. You are likely to find them in commercial baked goods, such as crackers, cookies, and cakes. Trans fats are also found in fried foods, such as doughnuts and French fries. Stick or hard margarine and shortening are also high in trans fats.
As with saturated and trans fats, eating too much cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in animal products, such as:
• Red meat
• Egg yolks
• Milk and milk products
Although monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for your health than saturated and trans fats, eating large amounts of any fat can cause weight gain. You should eat fats in moderation. And make sure that fatty foods don’t replace more nutritious foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
As a teenager, you may have rolled your eyes when your mom insisted that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” as you were running out the door. But guess what? She’s right. A new study just found a link between skipping breakfast and what may seem like an unrelated condition: atherosclerosis, otherwise known as hardening of the arteries.
In the study, those who skipped breakfast or ate very little for breakfast were more likely to have the condition — and also have unhealthy cholesterol levels and a higher waist circumference, blood sugar, and body-mass index. What’s the connection? Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast may help to regulate your appetite throughout the day, leading to fewer cravings and more appropriate portions. So frequently skipping breakfast may spell bad news for your eating patterns, which can affect your heart health.
The researchers emphasized that people who eat little or nothing for breakfast tend to have a less healthy lifestyle overall. Which is why skipping breakfast may be a signal to take a look at your daily habits. Keep a journal for a week or two, without trying to change anything, and record your habits without judgment. Write down how much time you spend exercising, your ratio of whole foods (spinach, apples, legumes, brown rice, salmon) to processed foods (frozen pizza, white-flour bread, packaged muffins or cookies), how often you cook, order in or eat out, your alcohol intake, and your sleep. When you’re done, don’t try to overhaul your whole life at once! Get support from a health professional, and from family and friends, for any changes you’d like to make. And by all means, add in a bowl of oatmeal in the morning — try the steel-cut variety, with nuts and fresh berries.
The sun is setting sooner, the nights are getting cooler and wool socks are starting to sound like a cozy idea. This is the perfect time to celebrate the seasonal gems of autumn! Head to your local market and fill your basket with these fall produce picks.
“Fall is the season for winter squash — satisfying, hearty vegetables perfect for a cool night,” says Academy Spokesperson Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN. “While butternut squash is a go-to winter vegetable, pumpkin is another delicious squash, even after Halloween! Pumpkin is full of fiber and vitamin A, which is great for your skin and eyes.” Foroutan likes to balance pumpkin’s sweetness with savory herbs, such as sage and curry. “Dishes such as pumpkin curry soups are the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Use coconut oil and coconut milk instead of butter and cream to switch up the flavor profile. Turmeric is curry’s base, so you get great anti-inflammatory benefits with each bite.”
Beets Beets are edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and are delicious sautéed. The grocery store most likely will carry red beets; your local farmers market may have more interesting varieties, such as golden or bull’s blood, which has a bullseye pattern of rings. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure. Roasting or steaming beets whole takes the fuss out of peeling — the skin easily slides off after cooking. They also are delicious raw, shredded and tossed in salads or thinly sliced and baked into chips.
Sweet potatoes charge ahead of white potatoes in terms of fiber and vitamin A. “Sweet potatoes can make a great breakfast side dish” suggests Foroutan. “Cube left-over baked potato and sprinkle them with cumin and coriander. Toast them in the oven until golden and serve them with poached eggs and sliced avocado.”
Spaghetti squash is a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Cut it in half to reveal a pocket of seeds; scoop those out and pop the two halves into the microwave or oven and cook until tender. Scrape a fork into the flesh and spaghetti-like strands appear! Voilà! Toss with pesto or marinara sauce for a quick veggie side dish.
Kale Kale is a current media darling — from food writers to restaurant chefs, and farmers markets to school cafeterias — we can’t get enough of this luscious leafy green and with good reason. Kale is a nutrient powerhouse. It tastes sweeter after a frost and can survive a snowstorm. If you plant kale in your garden, you can dig it out of the snow and serve fresh salad in January! One cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese. Kale is great sautéed and cooked in soup, but also is excellent raw in salad; simply remove tough stems, slice into thin slivers and pair with something a bit sweet such as carrots or apples. One advantage of using kale for your leafy greens is that you can add your dressing ahead of time; the kale becomes more tender and delicious, not wilted.
Pears When we can buy fruit year-round, we tend to forget they do have a season. However, pears are the most delicious in the fall when they’re at their peak. Pears are unique in that they do not ripen on the tree; they will ripen at room temperature after they’re picked. How do you know when they are ready to eat? Check the neck! If the fruit near the stem gives to a little pressure, it is ripe. There are a wide range of pear flavors and textures. And, just like apples, some are excellent eaten fresh while others are best cooked or canned for the winter. Try pears on the grill, poached in red wine, tucked into a panini, pureed into soup or a smoothie, or simply sliced with cheese and wine. If you eat the peel too, one medium pear has 6 grams of fiber – that’s 20 percent of the daily recommendation!
Okra Okra commonly is fried, but also is wonderful in more nutritious dishes. Around the world, chefs cherish the thickening properties of the seed pods in dishes from Louisiana gumbo to Indian curries and other stews. If you wish to minimize the thickening property, try okra briefly stir-fried. The pods are high in vitamins K and C, a good source of fiber and folate and low in calories. At the market, look for pods that are no longer than 4 inches and are bright green in color and firm to the touch.
Parsnips Parsnips are cousins to carrots — they have the same root shape but with white flesh. They’re typically eaten cooked, but also can be eaten raw. One-half cup of cooked parsnips is full of fiber (3 grams) and contains more than 10 percent of the daily values of vitamin C and folate. Try these pale beauties roasted, pureed into soup or mashed. You can even top a shepherd’s pie with mashed parsnips instead of the traditional mashed potatoes!
Fall is the time to get to know these tart berries and their wealth of nutritional benefits. Cranberries may help protect from urinary tract infection. They contain a compound called proanthocyanidin which prevents harmful bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Fresh and dried cranberries pair well with a variety of meats and poultry. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but often are cooked. Dried cranberries are delicious in grain and vegetable salads and make a healthy snack on the go.
Could you feed yourself three nutritious meals a day with only $5?
That’s the average CalFresh benefit amount in California. Thousands of our neighbors in Mendocino County subsist on such a budget for themselves and their families through their CalFresh benefits. Whether due to a minimum wage job, job loss, health issue or simply bad luck, thousands of local families are income eligible for CalFresh. This program provides households with the financial resources to purchase groceries—literally putting food on tables for millions of American children, adults and seniors; giving them the fuel to better their lives and create stronger, healthier communities.
Many families survive entirely on the food acquired through their CalFresh benefits. That budget, on average, equates to only $35 per week for food. What if that’s all you had to spend on groceries?
We challenge you to try living on such a food budget for five days. Find out about the CalFresh Challenge, read what other participants are saying, and then share your experience.
The CalFresh Challenge gives participants a glimpse into some of the struggles faced by millions of low-income Americans who are trying to put food on their tables. The challenge provides an opportunity for participants to experience how difficult it is for families living on CalFresh to simultaneously avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with limited resources.
You can register here. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try
This challenge is open to all individuals and involves living on what would be the weekly CalFresh allotment in California for five days, so you can get a sense of what it would be like to subsist on CalFresh. This means spending only $5 per day, per person, on everything that you eat, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.
After you register for the CalFresh Challenge, you will receive a booklet in the mail to record your experience over the 5 days of the Challenge (any 5 consecutive days you choose during the month of October). Once you’ve finished, we’d like to learn about your thoughts and ideas during the Challenge, so please return your completed booklet to:
Food for All Mendocino
c/o North Coast Opportunities
413 N. State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
WHY RETURN YOUR BOOKLET?
First of all, every returned booklet will be entered into a drawing to win an INSTANT POT! So please don’t forget to include your name and phone number on your booklet before returning.
Second, your experiences and comments will provide us with insights and quotes we can share to highlight the successes and challenges of the CalFresh program.
Third, a deadline is always a good way to actually do a challenge!
Completed booklets are DUE BY OCTOBER 31, 2017 in order to be entered into the prize drawing.
Here’s a sample menu plan to get you started. If you prefer a plant-based diet, try these ideas.
CalFresh Challenge Guidelines
Each person should spend up to $5 for food and beverages per day during the Challenge period, which is the average benefit for a CalFresh beneficiary in California. All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including dining out, must be included in the total spending.
During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. If you eat food that you already have at home or that is given to you by friends, family or work, account for it in your CalFresh budget.
Keep track of food spending and take notes of your experiences throughout the week.
Share your experience.
CalFresh Challenge participants are encouraged to keep a daily journal and share their experiences—during and after the challenge—with their friends, family and others.
Once you register, you will receive a CalFresh Challenge booklet in the mail for you to record your food log, as well as your thoughts and ideas.
Reflections and Food For Thought
Here’s what you may find when you keep a food diary.
You may notice these pitfalls:
Your food costs are really high (way higher than a CalFresh budget of $5/day/person!)
You eat a lot of packaged, pre-made, or restaurant foods and drinks
You engage in lots of unplanned eating (snacking)
You don’t eat enough (skipping meals)
You eat too much (larger portions than necessary)
Your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables
You forget to drink plenty of water instead of sugary drinks
You may notice these successes:
You are doing a great job at preparing meals at home (that can be very economical!)
You are eating five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day
You eat fresh, nutritious food from local farmers and ranchers
You drink plenty of water throughout the day
You limit expensive snack and drink purchases
Take time to reflect on what you’ve noticed after completing your food diary. Have a conversation with friends about the true cost of food. Think about:
The average CalFresh benefit for a low-income household is $5 per day per person. Is it possible to feed yourself well on $5 per day every day? What would you have to change in order to keep to that limited budget?
Why it is that some food is really cheap (food like ramen noodles and chips), and other foods can be more expensive (food like apples and peanut butter, and local foods from the farmers market)?
What are the “externalized” hidden costs of cheap foods? How does some food get so cheap? For some answers, check out this 2 minute video.
With mounting evidence showing their many health benefits, it’s OK to include nuts as part of a healthy diet. In fact, it’s more than OK.
Tree nuts are plant-based proteins that contain fiber and a combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for each variety. They have cholesterol-lowering properties and are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim for food labels that states: Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. These nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts — which contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat for a 50-gram (about 1.5 ounces) serving.
The combination of fiber, protein and fat in nuts provides satiety to meals and snacks, making them an excellent option for weight management. There is a caveat, however: portion size. While nuts are healthy, they are calorie-dense. Nuts range from 160 calories to 200 calories per ounce. To get their health benefits without breaking the calorie bank, it’s best to replace them in the diet for other foods, particularly those high in saturated fat. This can be achieved with one to two ounces a day.
It’s easy to lump nuts into one category, but what makes each nut meat special is its unique package of nutrients, taste, texture, origin and culinary uses. Here’s a taste … in a nutshell.
Pistachios (Approximately 49 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Contain antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating in-shell helps slow consumption. Bright color makes for great addition to salads, grain dishes and as a coating for meats. Native to the Middle East, home of favorites like baklava, halvah and ma’amoul, a shortbread pastry.
Almonds (Approximately 23 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, also provides calcium and folate. Versatile ingredient, can be used whole, sliced, blanched to remove skins, and as flour, paste or butter. California provides 80% of the world’s supply, but almonds are enjoyed in savory and sweet dishes globally.
Cashews (Approximately 18 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Excellent source of copper and magnesium. Soft consistency with delicate, sweet flavor. Native to South America, but introduced by colonists to Africa and India. Commonly eaten as a snack, raw or roasted, but often used in Asian recipes and to make a rich, creamy nut butter or vegan cheese.
Macadamias (Approximately 10-12 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Native to subtropical rain forests of Australia, this nut is high in fat, but 17 of the 22 grams are monounsaturated. Excellent source of manganese. Unique rich, buttery taste and smooth texture lends to eating as a snack raw or roasted. Often baked into cookies and coated with chocolate.
Hazelnuts (Approximately 21 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Also known as filberts, they are rich in monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of vitamin E, copper and manganese. Available in-shell, whole, diced, sliced and as a meal for gluten-free baking. Pairs well with savory, citrus and sweet flavors, particularly chocolate, and commonly used in confections.
Pecans (Approximately 19 halves per 1-ounce serving)
Rich in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Sweet, mellow flavor and meaty texture lend well to a variety of dishes, including salads, as a coating for fish, and in sweets such as pralines and pecan pie.
Walnuts (Approximately 14 halves per 1-ounce serving)
Integral part of Mediterranean diet, contributing to health benefits of this style of eating. Rich in antioxidants and excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3. Grooves hold onto flavors well and are delicious when seasoned sweet or hot. Oil can be used in dressings and sautés.
Brazil Nuts (Approximately 6 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Largest nut commonly eaten. Grows wild on trees in Amazon rain forests. In addition to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, contain more than 100 percent of the daily value for antioxidant selenium. Rich, creamy texture lends well to snacking, raw or roasted, and confections.
Pine Nuts (Approximately 167 nuts per 1-ounce serving)
Soft nut found inside the cone of several varieties of pine trees. Good source of vitamin E and phosphorus. Standard ingredient in Italian cuisine and most known for its use in pesto. Light, delicate flavor also lends well to pastas, salads, sautés, breads and other baked goods.
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