Mason Jar Salads

You need to add this to your food prep list.

I love my mason jar salads; most weeks they are a usual part of my food prep routine. I talk about food prep a lot because I've seen what a difference it can make in a person's ability to make their health goals a reality. I don't mean what you're prepping for dinner tonight, I'm talking about what you can prep ahead of time to make your entire week full of healthy food choices.

I've always hated making salads in advance and storing them in plastic-ware (or even "traditional" glassware). You spend all this time washing and cutting up vegetables, just to find a salad with wilted lettuce and mushy cucumbers a couple days later.

Why I will NEVER go back to storing my salads in plastic-ware or traditional glassware:

  • They usually don't last more than 1-2 days before they start to loose their crunch.
  • I try to avoid plastic as much as possible (both for my health and the environment).
  • Mismatched lids and containers are a nightmare.
  • Dressing! You always have to pack it separate, I either forget it or it makes a mess somehow.

Why I will ALWAYS use mason jars for my salad prep:

  • They keep the veggies fresh for 2-5 days, seriously fresh.
  • They are glass, better for you and the environment.
  • They are all the same size with the same lids! Easy to organize and to grab in a hurry.
  • They fit well in a lunch box or cooler.
  • Dressing is already there, without making things soggy; actually making your salad even tastier.

Here's what you will need-

  • Mason jars, 4-5 if you're prepping for just yourself this week
    • You have to get the WIDE MOUTH jars, it will make it a lot easier to fill and empty
    • I use the large 32 ounce jars, but you could also use the smaller variety. The 32oz provide a large salad, the smaller ones would be better for a side salad.
  • Dressing of your choice
    • I love Tessemae's dressings because they meet my healthy fat standards (most dressings have inflammatory oils in them)
    • I also use plain extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar sometimes
  • Protein of your choice (I have cooked chicken pictured below)
    • Ideally this is a meat option, hard boiled eggs (with the shell on) can also be used but read through to see what you do differently
    • Beans would be a vegan option
  • Crunchy veggies of your choice (washed and cut-up)
    • I have broccoli, celery, red cabbage and carrots pictured below
  • Any other non-crunchy veggie (washed and cut-up)
    • I have peas pictured, cucumbers are another favorite
  • Leafy greens of your choice (washed and prepped)

STEP 1

-Place all your ingredients in separate bowls out on the counter or table.

-Make sure your mason jars are clean and dry.

-Take moment to look at the large amount of color you're getting in your diet this week!

STEP 2

-You will start by pouring the dressing in FIRST. I usually add more than I would to a fresh salad; your meat and veggies are going to soak some up! My guess is about an "inch" worth of dressing if you're looking at your jar.

-I found purple mason jars last week and am loving them!

STEP 3

-It's time to add all your goodies, the ORDER is very important.

-Meat or protein goes in first (except hard boiled eggs), followed by your crunchiest veggie. These are going to marinate in the dressing, I find that broccoli, celery and carrots work well.

-You want to make sure that they fill almost half your jar, this will prevent the dressing from leaking on to the lettuce too soon.

-After your protein and crunchy veggies you can add some "not so crunchy" items, like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes or peas.

-DO NOT SHAKE or stir your jar, you don't want the dressing getting on these other items.

-Add the leafy greens. I try to fit as much as possible in mine, usually I smash down the greens a little to do this.

-If you're using a hard boiled egg you could leave room at the top and place it on the greens, or pack it separately. You will just peel it and put it on your salad when you are ready to consume it.

-Place lids on tightly and keep in fridge until you are ready to eat!

STEP 4

-Pack in your lunch for work or enjoy at home!

-Simply pour out onto a plate and everything will fall into place. If you're in a hurry you could just shake up the jar well and eat right from it, although I recommend putting in on a plate or in a bowl.

Below are some other pictures from various food prep sessions. I use these salads to get rid of whatever veggies are in my fridge!

Cheers to food prep! Let me know what you think!


Paleo Shake & Bake Tenders (21DSD Friendly)

You need these in your life. I love chicken tenders. I don't know why, I always have. If I'm going to eat something I know I shouldn't be eating, it's chicken tenders hands down.

Of course I'm going to find a tasty way to eat them!

These are SO easy! I want to say that they kind of remind me of "shake & bake" chicken, but considering I have no recollection of what that tastes like I can't say for sure.

 
Paleo Shake & Bake Tenders (21DSD Friendly) 

Makes: ~10 tenders

Prep: 5-10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

What you need-

  • ~1 pound raw chicken tenders (you can cut up breasts yourself or be lazy like me and buy them pre-sliced)
  • 1.5 Cups Almond Flour/Meal (I highly recommend Now Foods Raw Almond Flour because its heartier than some of the others out there, this makes for a better tender)
  • 3 eggs
  • Seasonings, seasonings, seasonings
  • I used ~1Tb sea salt, and ~1-2 teaspoons of each of the following: pepper, cayenne, paprika, garlic granules

 

  1. Place aluminium foil over a cookie sheet. Set your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place almond flour in a large bowl and mix in seasonings.  Im heavy with the cayenne in this because I love them a little spicy.

 

3. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl to dip your chicken.

4. One by one dip each piece of chicken in the eggs and then the almond flour mixture. Place them on the cookie sheet equal distance apart.


5. Bake for ~25 minutes (at 375F) or until chicken is cooked!

6. Throw some veggies on a plate (because whats a meal without veggies) and a dipping sauce of your choice. Enjoy!

These store okay in the fridge, but are best immediately after cooking. They never last long in my house, my husband is already finishing up the batch I made today.

Let me know what you think!

It's Fall! Time for Chili!

The start of fall food prep!

Chili is a pretty popular dish in my house; when I make it I have to make a lot of it. We basically eat from a large batch for days; while Im prepping to cook such a large amount I always think, "we are going to be so sick of chili by the time this is gone." But we never are. In fact usually it's requested just a couple weeks later.

When there is an item that everyone likes I think of two things-

1. Is it healthy?

To meet my requirements there cannot be any added sugar (bonus for no sugar at all), artificial colors, flavorings or things I cannot pronounce. There cannot be any "unstable" or oxidized fats (see blog post on fats- search fats), or empty carbohydrates (carbs that don't have the nutrients to obtain the energy from them, also known as "carbage").  Major bonus points for the item/meal containing high quality protein, vegetables and healthy fats.

If the answer to question 1 is YES, then I move on to question 2 (see below).

If the answer to question 1 is NO, then I have to "reformulate" the menu item/meal to meet the above requirements.

2. Can I make it healthier? Usually yes. Can I make it healthier without anyone noticing or without altering the taste in a "bad" way? Mmmmm thats a different story.

This is the tricky part. Sometimes I think something taste good and my husband informs me that it may taste good to me, but probably not to the general population. My goal for this question is to make a healthy, nutrient dense, delicious dish even more nutrient dense...all while keeping its taste scores up!

I did it with the chili.

Let's just take a moment to review the "requirements" of question 1 in regards to my chili-

  • No added sugar
  • Only natural sugar from the tomatoes
  • Nothing artificial
  • No oxidized fats
  • Rich in naturally occurring healthy fat
  • No empty carbohydrates
  • Nutrient dense carbs in full force
  • High quality protein WITH vegetables all in ONE meal

Changes made to make it even better...

  • Add butternut squash. Boom.
    • More healthy carbs, phytonutrients and soluble fiber.

 

I made this knowing that we would eat it daily for a couple days, with the option to freeze some (always think about meal prep).

Hidden Butternut Chili

Prep time- 30-40 minutes

Cook time- Varies (~30 minutes, but some people let it simmer all day in a crock pot), its up to you. This time I cooked it and immediately removed from heat to cool for storage, it was just as delicious.

Serves- 5-7? (Im guessing because chili portions vary greatly)

Ingredients-

1 large butternut squash

2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)

2 leeks

1 onion

1 large garlic clove

2-3 bell peppers

~3lbs ground turkey (I used 85/15) or protein of your choice

3 cans diced tomatoes (yes I used canned tomatoes, I need convenience sometimes)

6oz can tomato sauce (splurge and get organic, it tastes better- trust me)

2 cans beans (I used 1 can kidney and 1 can black beans)

salt & pepper

~2 ounces chili powder

*you will also need a food processor of some sort

  1. Preheat oven to 375'F
  2. Slice butternut squash lengthwise and clean seeds out. Place flat side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes to until tender. While this is cooking you will continue making your chili!
  3. Slice and dice your leeks, onion and garlic clove.    Add coconut oil to a large pan (what you plan on making your chili in) and heat over med-high heat until melted. Add leeks, onion and garlic, stir until cooked almost through.      

4. Add the ground turkey along with some salt and pepper. Stir well and continue to cook on med-high heat until turkey is cooked.

5. When the turkey mixture is cooked through you are going to add the bell peppers, 2 cans of tomatoes (set the 3rd can aside), 2 cans of beans (drained) and chili pepper.

6. Check on squash. Get food processor set up.

7. Keep chili mixture over medium heat and stir once in a while.

8. Squash should be done, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Carefully (its still super hot) take out the insides and place into the food processor, add the last can of tomatoes and the can of tomato paste. Blend until smooth.    Do not let your typically chili eaters see this step, it may detour them from trying the chili (they won't be able to tell that you added this gem).

 

9. Add squash mixture to chili mixture and stir well. Add additional salt, pepper, cayenne and/or chili powder to your taste.

DONE. You have a healthy, nutrient dense meal to serve your family and friends. 

Or you have lunch for the week!


You could transfer this to a crockpot if you were serving over the course of several hours, or serve immediately. Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

Protein...the dangerous macronutrient?

Have you seen this? It’s just about impossible not to this week.

“Too much protein in middle age is as ‘bad as smoking.’” (source)

“Too much animal-based protein could lead to early death.” (source)

“Deli Dilemma: Meat and Cheese Linked to Earlier Death.” (source)

I sometimes wonder if these people actually look at the research they are reporting, because I do, and it’s really very disappointing. You would hope that something as significant as the statements above would hold some substantial truth to them- they’re BIG statements to broadcast; but unfortunately there are SO MANY HOLES in the research (probably something larger then holes….) that there should barely be a conclusion at all.

The general public is already terribly mystified about what the hell is happening at the grocery store, and now we’re telling them that eating chicken every night is the same as dragging off that cigarette?  Pleassseeee…..let me wake up from this nightmare.

  So what caused these headlines to pop up all over the place this week? This month there was a study published in the Journal of Cell Metabolism that sparked the flame. Here’s a play by play of what it entailed…

·           18 years ago a little over 6,000 participants filled out a 24-hour diet recall form. According to their answers/food intake on this form, they were spilt into 3 groups dependent on their protein intake (low/moderate/high) on that specific day.

·           18 years later (fast forward to the present), the causes of mortality were looked at for this group of people (that at one point filled out a 24-hour diet recall form). They looked at cardiovascular mortality, cancer mortality, diabetes mortality and all cause mortality.

·           A little over 2,000 of these participants had their insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) level tested, although the circumstances in which this happened were not reported.

·           Then….to follow up that study, they did one in mice. The researchers hypothesized that eating protein increased IGF-1 and examined if it would increase the rate of growth in already present tumors in mice.

 You can see the abstract here, but have to pay for access to the full article. If anything the pictures of the mice they included are a nice touch. The full article may come up here if your interested.

 A few of their conclusions:

  “Overall, our human and animal studies indicate that a low protein diet during middle age is likely to be beneficial for the prevention of cancer, overall mortality, and possible diabetes through a process that may involve, at least in part, regulation of circulating IGF-1 and possibly insulin levels.”

  “We also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid low protein intake and gradually adopt a moderate to high protein, preferably mostly plant based consumption to allow the maintenance of a healthy weight and protection from frailty.”

I know that was a lot to get through but this is why it’s important to QUESTION what the media to telling you. Here are my issues with this “research.”

  • I’m not a mouse. If there are any mice reading this please let me know, I’d like to talk to you about your protein intake. Mice traditionally eat a LOW protein diet; so yes when you feed them a high protein diet (that they naturally aren’t meant to be eating) there may be metabolic consequences. I’m not saying that humans were meant to eat high protein diets, but we can’t rely on mice to tell us otherwise.
  • Have you ever filled out a 24-hour dietary recall form? It’s really considered the CRAP way to get a good picture of someone’s overall dietary habits. Basically you would tell me right now everything you ate yesterday, that’s right- JUST ONE DAY. Based on what you told me you ate yesterday, I would then make conclusions 18 years from now about your diseases processes and mortality. I hope there wasn’t a barbeque, birthday party or buffet at work yesterday (that’s really going to put a damper on that conclusion). Dietitians are now taught other methods to get a better picture of someone’s overall dietary status; I don’t know anyone that still uses a one-day diet recall to assess someone nutritionally. Would you want what you ate for just ONE DAY to be used in substantial research about your mortality?
  • This is not a study that proves causation. It’s looking at a relationship, that the authors should comment on, but not make drastic conclusions from (like they have). Another type of study that would look at a RELATIONSHIP, but not a CAUSE, would be television viewing and rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If those who watched the most television had the highest rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, would that mean that the television was CAUSING the disease? Or would it possibly mean that those people who tend to watch more hours of television also tend to be less active and live less healthy lives compared to those individuals who watch less television? Topics like diet and lifestyle are multifactorial, you cannot draw drastic conclusions from one factor.
  • Do people who eat more meat tend to live less healthy lives? Possibly yes and no. I know people who eat a lot of animal protein…they also don’t exercise as much, drink more alcohol, eat LESS fruits and vegetables and MORE processed foods then I do. Does that mean that because I eat the same amount of animal protein as they do we are in the same risk category for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease? NO. NO. NO. None of these other factors were considered in this study and conclusions. You can see below what my "typical" protein intake is, ~20% of my usual caloric intake. This would place me in the "high protein" group, at the "highest risk" for cancer according to their research. Almost ALL my carbohydrates come from vegetables (some starchy) and fruit (organic), my fat from HEALTHY fats, and my proteins from lean sources (mostly free range/organic/grass fed)- I would consider myself at LOW risk when just looking at my food intake.


  • A HUGE problem with this type of research is that it was NOT initially created to look at the topic of protein. The researchers had to rely on the simple questions that were asked originally and missed MOST of the deaths (and a lot of other factors that may have had an impact). If you look at the facts provided in the supplemental data there were only 113 determinable deaths in the total cohort of 6,381 (that’s less then 2% of the people surveyed originally).  113 out of 6,381? Really?
  • Part of their conclusion is that higher levels of IGF-1 is what’s increasing our risk for cancer…what about other things that increase IGF-1? EXERCISE is the main one that comes to mind. The other culprit was circulating insulin, which your pancreas releases ANY TIME you eat carbohydrates.

A closing message from one of the researchers (who by the way has an equity interest in a large plant protein medical food company).

“We provide convincing evidence that a high-protein diet, particularly if the proteins are derived from animals, is nearly as bad as smoking,” says the University of Southern California's Dr Longo.

I still can’t believe he would say something like that; the damaging effects of smoking are well documented and substantial- this study proves no where near that.

I know that nutrition/food/vitamin/health studies are extremely hard to complete and do appropriately; but this doesn’t mean that we get to jump to conclusions with the ones that are done poorly.

Here’s what I take from this all this “protein = smoking” nonsense-

1.     As always, MOST your plate should be vegetables (organic, non-gmo when possible).

2.     If you want to eat animal protein- do it- but still eat a varied diet. If you don’t want to eat animal protein- don’t- but still eat a varied diet.

3.     I always recommend good quality animal proteins- grass fed, free range, organic (sometimes possible/sometimes not), etc. These types of animal protein have a different composition and nutrient value compared to conventionally raised animals.

4.     Don’t eat processed, cured meat. There’s nothing there for you except chemicals that you don’t need.

5. Don't SMOKE.

6.     Question nutrition news in the media. I'm not saying it's always wrong, but it's definitely worth looking at before you make any drastic changes in your diet/lifestyle.


Protein in the morning.

I need protein in the morning…and sometimes its not eggs.

Do you eat crap for breakfast? By crap I mean a load of sugar that comes in a wrapper or box. If you do, take my advice- get some protein in, your body (and maybe your boss) will thank you later.

Starting your day off right can make all the difference. When you eat concentrated sugary products first thing in the morning, with no protein and no real nutrients (let’s face it, your 90 calorie granola bar doesn’t have much to offer), you’re not reaching your optimal health.

Why you need protein in the morning-

1.     ALERTNESS. Who doesn't want to be alert? Protein provides amino acids that can directly influence the neurotransmitters in your brain. That’s right- WHAT YOU EAT HAS AN IMPACT ON YOUR BRAIN(1).  Getting in the amino acids that your brain needs to function optimally can help you to feel alert and awake; there are a TON of people I talk to in the morning that are clearly not getting in protein at breakfast.

2.     HUNGER. Are you hungry before snack time or lunch? The University of Missouri recently completed a study showing that eating a protein rich breakfast can reduce food cravings and keep you fuller longer(2). Eating a meal high in carbohydrates first thing in the morning can result in you being hungrier faster- carbs are digested more rapidly than both protein and fat.

3.     WAKE UP. WAKE UP. WAKE UP. Feel like your dragging? How was that bowl of cereal or plate of pancakes? Meals rich in carbohydrates can increase tryptophan levels, making you sleepy and relaxed; protein rich meals can increase tyrosine levels, which can increase energy(3). Which do you need in the morning- sleepy and relaxed or more energy and power?

4.     WEIGHT- Have some to loose? Protein rich meals in the morning may help.  Not only do they help with all of the above, but they were also found to help increase satiety throughout THE ENTIRE DAY(4). A high protein breakfast has been found to decrease levels of ghrelin- a “hunger hormone.”

Those of you that have followed me for a while know I’m a fan of EGGS (I’ll post about that later), but I don’t always have time to make them, or feel like eating them.

When I do, a vegetable almost ALWAYS is sitting by their side. I’m OBSESSED with giving some broccoli (or any other veggie) a quick stir fry with coconut oil, salt and pepper and then setting it by my pastured, organic gems (EGGS).

                         

I’ve also been known to bake them, especially if I’m in a rush. I just throw some already cut up veggies in a dish, with some lightly scrambled eggs on top. If I’m really getting crazy I’ll even sprinkle some cheddar on top when they're done.

 

If a day comes along and I’m not in the egg mood (which is rare)… I’ll get creative and be frantically looking for something else with protein. This last week I let some organic frozen berries set out to thaw a bit, I mixed some vanilla protein powder with unsweetened almond milk- and poured on top. It tasted like a dessert; trust me- better than pancakes (who decided frying cake was appropriate in the morning anyways).

 

I also love a banana covered in almond butter, almond milk, walnuts and unsweetened coconut. Fast, easy and healthy!