Chia Seed Pudding

overnight oats with Greek yogurt, Chia seeds and banana

Chia seeds were discovered more than 5,000 years ago and were a staple in the Aztec and Mayan diets. It’s no wonder they have stuck around for so long — they are a nutrition powerhouse! One 2-tablespoon serving provides 190 calories, 4 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber and 9 grams fat, along with numerous vitamins and minerals.

Here are three ways to enjoy chia seeds as a pudding for a brain-boosting breakfast, light lunch or snack! Each recipes makes one serving.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened milk)
Dash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey or agave
Optional toppings: sliced kiwi, strawberries or any combination of fruit

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Optional toppings: 1 to 2 tablespoons trail mix for an extra protein boost; sliced strawberries and/or banana

Peanut Protein Banana Chia Seed Pudding
Ingredients
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened milk)
1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey or agave
1 banana, separated — ½ mashed in recipe, other ½ sliced on top
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut protein powder
Optional toppings: cacao nibs and sliced strawberries

Directions for all recipes

1. Place all ingredients except toppings in a medium-sized jar and stir to combine.
2. Cover with lid and place in refrigerator overnight.
3. Remove lid and stir — should be a pudding-like consistency.
4. Top with optional ingredients. Enjoy!

Quick Guide to Nutritious Meals

family-cooking-large

Planning saves time and allows the opportunity to pack the family meal with an extra nutritional punch. Before you make your shopping list and head to the grocery store, consider the following criteria for healthier options:

  • Include at least one selection from each of the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein foods.
  • Limit foods that are fried or highly refined.
  • Incorporate high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.

Here is a balanced and nutritious dinner that the entire family will love: Mediterranean chicken breast (a boneless, skinless chicken breast baked for 20 minutes with lemon juice, a pinch of oregano and topped with feta cheese); steamed broccoli; brown rice; low-fat vanilla yogurt topped with fresh berries; and a glass of water.

Make Meals a Family Affair

Even if in a rush, families still can work together for speedy meal preparation: adults can be in charge of the entrée, older kids can prepare a salad and little ones can help set the table.
Finally, to make the most of your family meals, make conversation part of the dining experience and reduce distractions by turning off the TV and phones and tuning into your loved ones.

When You Don’t Have Time for Homemade

If you don’t have time to whip up a homemade meal, you still can enjoy all the benefits of a nutritious family dinner. Here are four speedy meals you can prepare without breaking a sweat.

  • Frozen ravioli with store-bought sauce and a salad. A well-stocked pantry and freezer can go a long way in cutting down on last minute trips to the supermarket. Fill your pantry with go-to ingredients such as your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce, whole-wheat pasta and polenta, and load your freezer with different varieties of frozen ravioli, stuffed shells or manicotti. A healthful dinner will never be more than 20 minutes away.
  • Rotisserie chicken, frozen mashed potatoes and peas. When it comes to frozen veggies you can lose the guilt. Because they’re flash frozen within hours of harvesting, frozen vegetables actually may have more nutrients than fresh which can sit at the store for days. Plus, they’re ready in the microwave or on the stovetop in minutes. In addition to peas, load up on edamame, carrots, corn, chopped spinach and even mashed potatoes.
  • Veggie burgers with a cucumber salad. A vegetarian meal doesn’t have to mean hours slaving over the stove. Keep staples such as veggie burgers and whole-wheat buns on hand for a meatless meal you can throw together on the fly. Serve with sliced cucumbers drizzled with your favorite light vinaigrette dressing.
  • Grilled chicken Caesar salad with French bread. For a convenience meal that feels homemade, slice up store-bought grilled chicken breasts and toss with hearts of romaine and light Caesar dressing. If you have a few minutes to spare, bake up frozen whole-wheat dinner rolls or French bread and the house will smell like you’ve been baking all afternoon.

How to Meal-Prep 5 Mediterranean Lunches for the Week in Under an Hour

quinoa salad

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

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).

Make these ahead on Sunday:

Best Poached Chicken

Sheet Pan Roasted Root Vegetables

Basic Quinoa

Herb Vinaigrette

Shopping List

Download the shopping list here! We added a few extra shopping list items, like canned chickpeas and hummus, which we use in the meal ideas at the bottom of the page. Depending on how many people you are meal prepping for, you may need to adjust the recipes to account for more or fewer servings. If you end up making more than you need, use the leftovers for dinner this week.

Why Mediterranean?
The Mediterranean diet has long been recognized as one of the healthiest and most delicious ways to eat. It’s an uncomplicated and easy-to-follow way of eating—simply include plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (like olive oil and the healthy fat you get from salmon), whole grains (like quinoa), beans and legumes, lean protein and calcium-rich dairy items.

Let’s Get Started!
Work backwards and start with the recipe that takes the longest to prepare. While things are cooking, you can prep the other menu items. Start by preheating the oven to 450 degrees F for the Sheet Pan Roasted Root Vegetables.

Step 1: Prepare the Best Poached Chicken
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes

This simple poached chicken recipe has crazy-good flavor. The secret is using bone-in breasts and adding white wine and herbs to the poaching liquid. Don’t eat meat? Skip this step and move onto Step 3. We included vegan and vegetarian lunch ideas at the bottom of the page.

Meal-Prep Tips:
• Shred or chop the chicken while it is still slightly warm. It is harder to pull the meat apart after it’s been refrigerated.
• Don’t throw out that poaching liquid! Strain the leftover poaching liquid and use it as you would low-sodium chicken broth in any recipe for an extra boost of flavor. Store it in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
• Super-Fast Meal Prep: Pick up pre-cooked chicken breast or a rotisserie chicken at your grocery deli.

Step 2: Prepare the Sheet Pan Roasted Root Vegetables
Prep time: 10 Minutes | Cook time: 30-40 minutes

While the chicken is simmering, start to prep your veggies. This simple recipe is the perfect example of the Mediterranean diet. Fresh ingredients, plus olive oil and a little salt and pepper are all you need to make a mouthwatering heap of nutritious, tender and colorful root vegetables. This recipe makes enough for lunch this week, plus leftovers for dinner. Don’t need that much veg? This recipe is easy to cut in half.

Meal Prep Tips:
• When batch cooking vegetables, use ones that have a similar cook time so you don’t end up with some veggies that are still raw, while others are cooked to death. Some good combos include…
• Summer Squash + Green Beans + Cherry Tomatoes
• Zucchini + Corn + Bell Peppers
• Beets + Potatoes + Fennel
• Super Fast Meal Prep: Pick up pre-chopped vegetables from the produce section of your grocery store.

Step 3: Prepare the Basic Quinoa
Prep time: 5 Minutes | Cook time: 15-20 minutes

While the veggies are roasting, prepare your quinoa. This foolproof recipe for perfectly cooked quinoa is fast and easy! This high-protein, fiber-rich grain will help give your meal more satisfying staying power.

Meal Prep Tips:
• Quick cooking whole grains like quinoa and whole-wheat couscous are great go-to options for fast meal prep. When cooking grains with a longer cook time, like brown rice or farro, make extra and freeze the leftovers.
• Super-Fast Meal Prep: Buy pre-cooked rice from the grocery store for even faster meal prep.

Step 4: Prepare the Herb Vinaigrette
Prep time: 10 Minutes

While the quinoa is cooking, make your dressing. This fresh herb vinaigrette dressing recipe calls to use whatever herbs you have on hand, so it’s versatile and excitingly new each time you make it. If you want to make this recipe vegetarian, skip the chicken broth and use veggie broth or water instead.

Meal Prep Tips:
• Save yourself from washing a dish by making your vinaigrettes and dressings right in a mason jar. Just add the ingredients and shake to combine.
• Try packing your salads in a mason jar! Watch how to make the perfect mason jar salad.

Step 5: Assemble Your Lunches!
You can either build all five of your lunches now and place in separate storage containers, or store the four base recipes separately and build your lunches as you need them. For the salad recipes, wait till the night before to add the greens so you don’t end up with wilted salad.

Chicken, Quinoa & Veggie Bowl

1/2 cup quinoa + 3/4 cup chicken + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1-2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
(= 342 calories, 19 g protein, 5 g fiber)
To jazz it up even more: add fresh crumbled feta or goat cheese and sunflower seeds

Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

2 cups mixed greens + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1/2 cup quinoa + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta + 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds + 1-2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
(= 355 calories, 10 g protein, 9 g fiber)
To jazz it up even more: serve with a side of toasted pita bread and hummus

Roasted Veggie & Hummus Pita Pocket

1 whole-wheat pita + 4 Tbsp. hummus + 1/2 cup roasted veggies + 1/2 cup mixed greens + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
(= 357 calories, 14 g protein, 10 g fiber)
Cut the pita in half and spread hummus inside both pita pockets. Roughly chop the veggies and add both the veggies and mixed greens to each pita half
To jazz it up even more: add a dash of hot sauce for a spicy kick

Loaded Mediterranean Chicken-Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup quinoa + 3/4 cup chicken + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1/4 avocado, sliced + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese + 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds + 1-2 Tbsp. vinaigrette
(= 499 calories, 23 g protein, 10 g fiber)

Vegetarian Chickpea & Veggie Grain Bowl

Add 1 cup quinoa + 1 cup mixed greens + 1 cup roasted veggies + 1/4 cup chickpeas + 1 Tbsp. crumbled feta
(= 303 calories, 10 g protein, 9 g fiber)
To jazz it up even more: add sunflower seeds or a dollop of garlic-flavored hummus

5 Tips to Curb Your Late-Night Snacking

snacking

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.

End Mealtime Madness

Spend a little time planning ahead and grocery shopping for nutritious meals, including breakfast, and snacks throughout the week. When you eat a variety of foods throughout the day according to your hunger and fullness, you’re less likely to overeat at night. “Eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day provides your body with a steady source of energy to fuel daily activities,” says Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, who is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It also helps to maintain blood sugar levels and ensure greater intake of nutrients that are important for your health.”

Boost Protein and Load up on Fiber

Armul advises individuals to try to eat 20 to 25 grams of protein at each meal, although needs vary by person.

For instance, a breakfast of oatmeal with a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk, small handful of nuts and fruit can provide approximately 20 grams of protein. At lunch, a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter (7 grams of protein), half a can of tuna fish (16 grams of protein), half a cup of black beans (7 grams of protein) or a small 4-ounce salmon filet (25 grams of protein) can help push up protein. At dinner, most people actually get too much protein because portion sizes of popular protein sources are too big. Go for recommended serving sizes such as a small — the size of a deck of cards — 3-ounce chicken breast (27 grams of protein) or a 3-ounce lean top sirloin steak (26 grams of protein).

Dietary fiber also helps us feel full, in addition to being protective of intestinal and heart health. Find fiber in whole grains, legumes such as beans and lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. The Institute of Medicine recommends women strive for 25 grams of dietary fiber each day while men should get 38 grams.

Get Sleep

“Research shows that sleep deprivation can impair glucose metabolism and affect hormones linked to hunger, appetite and body weight regulation,” says Armul “We often confuse hunger and tiredness, especially at night. If you’re tempted to keep snacking after a balanced dinner, your body may be signaling that it needs rest.” Adults should strive for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

Turn off the Screen before You Pick up Your Fork

Screen time has been linked to mindless eating and increased food intake. Eating in front of the TV, while playing video games or surfing the Internet can distract attention from what and how much is eaten, reduce satiety signals sent to the brain and lessen memory of snacking.

“Eating in front of a TV or mobile device makes it harder to detect your body’s satiety signals,” says Armul. “It also can reduce the enjoyment and mindfulness of your meal. Avoid these types of distractions during mealtime, and sit down at a table to eat so you can focus on your food and practice mindfulness. You also may feel a greater satisfaction with your food and notice satiety cues that are otherwise missed when you’re distracted.”

Still Starving after Dinner?

People often eat out of boredom, or because of stress, or just out of habit rather than from true hunger. Consider asking yourself the following questions before eating: Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I tired? Am I bored? Am I sad?

If you ate a balanced dinner, go for lighter snacks. “If you’re still hungry after dinner and have ruled out other factors, it’s OK to have a small snack,” says Armul. “Opt for something with protein or fiber to provide satiety and nutrients. Good choices are Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, veggies with hummus and air-popped popcorn. If you’re craving dessert, keep your portion small and eat slowly and without distractions.”

Friendship Is Good for You

friendship

Family and friends are two important kinds of relationships in your life, no doubt. But when it comes to making you happier over the long term, you might be surprised which group is the more powerful. While family members are important, when it comes to better health and happiness, it’s friendships that make the biggest difference—especially as you get older, according to new research.

An article published in the journal Personal Relationships, which summarizes the findings of two related studies, revealed that while both family and friends contribute to health and happiness, it was the relationships people have with friends that have the biggest impact later in life. In total, more than 278,000 people of varying ages from nearly 100 countries were surveyed, rating their health and happiness levels. Notably, in the second study (which focused on older adults, specifically), it was found that when friends were the source of tension or stress, people reported more chronic illnesses, while when someone felt supported by their friendship, they reported fewer health issues and increased happiness.

Why? It all comes down to choice, says William Chopik, Ph.D., author of the paper and a professor at Michigan State University. “I think it might have to do with the selective nature of friendships—we can keep around the ones we like and slowly fade out of the ones we don’t,” he explains. “We often spend leisure activities with friends too, whereas family relationships can often be stressful, negative, or monotonous.”

It’s also possible that friends fill in the gaps left by family or provide support in ways family members can’t or won’t, he adds. Friends may also understand you on a different level than family, due to shared experiences and interests. This is why it’s so important to maintain ties with old friends or make the effort to reconnect if you’ve lost touch with your childhood bestie or sorority sister. While life changes and distance can make this difficult at times, the benefits are well worth the effort to pick up the phone or send that email.

“Friendships are among the hardest relationships to maintain across the lifespan,” says Chopik. “Part of that has to do with a lack of obligation. Friends spend time together because they want and choose to, not because they have to.”

Thankfully there are some simple steps to maintain and enhance important friendships. Chopik recommends making sure to be a part of your friends’ day-to-day lives by sharing in their successes and commiserating with their failures—basically be a cheerleader and a shoulder to lean on. In addition, he says sharing and trying new activities together helps, as does expressing gratitude. Telling people that you love them and value their presence in your life is such a small thing to do, but it can make a huge difference in everyone’s lives.

Nutrition Basics: Proteins

protein

Proteins are an important part of your bones, muscles, and skin. In fact, proteins are in every living cell in your body.

Proteins perform many functions, including:

• Building structures
• Breaking down toxins
• Act as enzymes, antibodies and hormones

Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. Your body can make some amino acids but not others. Proteins that you get from meat and other animal products and some plant sources contain all the amino acids you need. These include both those your body can make and those it can’t. These are known as complete proteins.

However, there are also some proteins from plant products that don’t contain all the amino acids your body needs. These are known as incomplete proteins. Nevertheless, you can combine plant products to form a complete protein. For instance, eating rice with beans or peanut butter with bread will give you complete protein.

Good sources of protein include:

• Quinoa
• Amaranth
• Buckwheat
• Nuts
• Peanut butter
• Nut butters
• Seeds
• Beans
• Peas
• Lentils
• Soy products (tofu, tempeh, vegetarian burgers)
• Fish and shellfish
• Poultry
• Red meat (beef, pork, lamb)
• Eggs
• Milk
• Milk products (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt)

Nutrition Basics: Carbohydrates

carbohydrates

The role of carbohydrates is to provide energy, as they are the body’s main source of fuel, needed for physical activity, brain function and operation of the organs.

The foods you eat contain different types of carbohydrates. Some kinds are better for you than others. The different types of carbohydrates are:

• Sugars are found naturally in fruit, vegetables, milk, and milk products. Foods such as cakes and cookies have had sugar added. Table sugar also is an added sugar. All of these sugars can be converted in your body to glucose, or blood sugar. Your cells “burn” glucose for energy.
• Starches are broken down in your body into sugars. Starches are found in certain vegetables, such as potatoes, beans, peas, and corn. They are also found in breads, cereals, and grains.
• Dietary fibers are carbohydrates that your body cannot digest. They pass through your body without being broken down into sugars. Even though your body does not get energy from fiber, you still need fiber to stay healthy. Fiber helps get rid of excess fats in the intestine, which helps prevent heart disease. Fiber also helps push food through the intestines, which helps prevent constipation. Foods high in fiber include fruit, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole-grain foods (such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice).

In general, you want to limit carbohydrates that increase your blood glucose levels. If your blood glucose stays high for too long, you can develop type 2 diabetes. To keep your blood glucose in check, limit the amount of table sugar you eat. Also, limit foods with added sugars. You can tell if a food has added sugars by looking at the ingredients list on the package. Look for terms such as:

• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Dextrose
• Fructose
• Glucose
• Lactose
• Maltose
• Sucrose
• Honey
• Sugar
• Brown sugar
• Invert sugar
• Molasses
• Malt syrup
• Syrup

Healthy carbohydrates include:

• Natural sugars in fruits, vegetables
• Dietary fiber
• Starches in whole-grain foods, beans, peas, and corn

Health Benefits of Aromatherapy

aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a fascinating alternative medicine that involves the use of volatile plant materials, also known as essential oils, that can be aromatically inhaled by patients of a wide variety of health conditions. It is often used to improve mood, change cognitive states, and can also be utilized as a supplemental medicine. Some of the most common health benefits of aromatherapy are explained in greater detail below.

Stress Relief: Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help to soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety. This is what most people who perform aromatherapy at home use it for, since the mixtures are very simple and the research on this aspect of aromatherapy is very well-known and widely studied. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lemon oil, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, and ylang ylang essential oils.

Boost Energy Levels: We can all use more energy to get through the hectic daily tasks of modern life. While diet and exercise can also help, many people turn to aromatherapy to put a bit more pep in their step. Many essential oils are known to increase circulation, raise energy levels, and generally stimulate the body and mind. The best essential oils for giving yourself an energy boost include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, angelica, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, and sage.

Headaches: Everyone gets headaches from time to time, and aromatherapy can be a wonderful solution that may not only eliminate your current headache, but possibly reduce the stress, anxiety, or origin of your headaches to prevent them in the future. Some of the best essential oils that have been connected to reducing headaches and migraines are peppermint, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and rosemary essential oils. You can also mix these oils in a carrier oil and spread that oil onto your skin, scalp, neck, and temples. Some of the best carrier oils for headaches include almond, avocado, coconut, apricot kernel, and sesame oils.

Sleep Aid: Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate or cause a huge range of medical conditions and can leave us feeling unproductive and devoid of energy. Luckily, aromatherapy can provide us with a more balanced sleep schedule and even realign our Circadian rhythms so our body naturally gets tired at an appropriate time, sleeps restfully through the night, and is energized in the morning to face the day. Some of the best essential oils for managing your sleeping habits and having a healthy, sedative effect on the body include lavender, chamomile, jasmine, benzoin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang ylang essential oils.

Whatever your condition, and whatever essential oils you choose to use, always consult your doctor before embarking on a new treatment plan. Also, be sure to only acquire essential oils from approved sources and don’t attempt to mix and use oils unless you have been trained as a professional aromatherapist.

Nutrition Basics: Water

waterdorp

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!