Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Let the Sunshine Continue!

Ahhhh....I will say, I just had a fantastic week in Florida! I was fortunate to vacation with my mom/stepdad, brother, sis-in-law, and the BF in Orlando and then head further south to Marco Island for a friend's wedding! We had absolutely perfect weather all week (mid 80s, sunny, with low humiditiy...!!!) and it was great to just relax and enjoy the sun.

Of course we had good food and to keep our eating costs a little lower we made sure to stock up on groceries to prepare our own dinners at night (we had a great condo with a well-equipped kitchen....two actually!). The family filled up on lean chicken, pork, salads, vegetables (roasted asparagus, squash!) and fish. On our last night with the entire family I was able to create some delicious chicken & fish tacos inspired by Food & Wine. I rubbed salmon filets with chipotle pepper and topped them with cabbage, fresh avocado salsa, lime juice and a bit of light sour cream and we also marinated chicken breast in garlic lime marinade, cooked that and pulled them apart for another flavorful taco filling!

Whenever I go on vacation I "try" to eat as healthy as possible ;) But really, on this trip I think I managed to do fairly well. When I'm traveling I like to try and sample all the local favorites as much as possible and being in Florida we had great access to a lot of seafood. I chose seared ahi tuna, grilled shrimp, mahi mahi, and grouper whenever we went out for dinner and tried to eat a fruit, a salad and/or vegetables with all of my meals.

Here are just a few ideas that I have to help you out on vacation:

  • Produce!!!!: My personal number 1 rule when I'm going out is at least TRY to eat a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal or as a snack if you can. Order a salad with your lunch and dinner or choose a side of a seasonal veggie if it's available. So even if you are indulging in that fried chicken, or a large plate of fettucini alfredo you are filling up part of your stomach with a low calorie, nutrient dense food...and that makes me feel a little bit better about my overall nutrition :) Stop at a grocery store or local market and pick up some fruit to have as a snack. Apples, oranges, bananas, and pears are all fruits that are easy to carry along with you and store in a hotel or condo and can be easily washed and/or peeled for an easy snack no matter where you are. Consider a fresh fruit salad with your morning meal in place of fried potatoes. 
  • Portion control!!!!: I'm a firm believe in having a treat now and then...especially on vacation! But try to keep your portions in check. Yes, go ahead and have that southern cuisine, ice cream, burger, Chicago Dog, Philly Steak, cheesecake, pizza, etc. but how about sharing a portion? I've learned many times when ordering a meal in a restaurant that my eyes were bigger than my stomach and that I could have easily shared my meal with my boyfriend, girlfriend, or family member. Not only does sharing cut down on the amount of food you'll eat but it will also save your wallet a little damage. And if you're still hungry you can always go for another entree, appetizer or dessert! 
    • Try the appetizer portion: Sometimes when I dine out I'll check out the appetizer section and order one as my main meal (and sometimes they are just as large as an entree!) along with a dinner salad or side veggie. I'm getting a slightly smaller portion as well as (usually) saving a little money or I can get more variety (ordering an app with another side dish and maybe even dessert for the price of just an entree). Case in point: when we dined out for our first lunch in sunny Florida, I got the appetizer portion of ahi tuna...it came with a side of mixed greens with balsamic dressing and I was pleasantly satisfied for only about $10! 
  • Bank it: I love Bethenny Frankel and one of her mottos I think is just great. Think of your diet like a bank account. If you know you're going out for a big dinner ("spending a lot") try to "save" a little more at breakfast and lunch. Fill up with whole grain oatmeal, egg whites, fruit and salad during the day so you can splurge a little at dinner. Or if you are thinking that your morning meal is going to be your big treat then try to add more veggies and lean protein to your other meal choices later in the day. On vacation we bought donuts to keep in the condo and I just knew I would cave...so I allowed myself to eat them, but knowing that I would try to cut back on sweets later in the day.
  • Change it: People have heard it over and over I'm sure....get your sauces and dressings on the side and using limited amounts, get meats grilled or roasted without added fat if possible versus frying, ask for whole grain bread/rice/pasta/etc, ask to add vegetables if you can....it doesn't hurt to ask! Quite a few restaurants are offering healthier options on their menus that still taste great! 
  • Try to limit your alcohol intake: I know, I know!! It's vacation...but did you know that there is approximately 100 calories in 1.5oz of hard liquor? About 120 calories in a 5oz glass of wine? 110 calories in an average light beer? 150 calories in a regular beer? Now think about how many drinks you might have on a night out with the guys/girls or just hanging out with the family?? And that is not including anything that you might be mixing with it (think soda, juice, daiquiris, margaritas, pina coladas, etc.)...this can cause you to take in hundreds of calories in just one evening! 
    • Interchange your drinks with water or another low calorie beverage (water is your best option...stay hydrated!)
    • Dilute your drinks with diet soda pop, seltzer/club soda, diet tonic water, use juice sparingly (try a splash of that juice and filling the rest of the drink with water or soda water)
  • Healthy snacks: Load up on those fruits and veggies mentioned above, low salt pretzels, baked potato chips, low sugar/high fiber granola bars (LOVE FiberOne bars!), whole grain bread with peanut butter, nuts, dry whole grain cereal, bottled water, etc. for when hunger strikes and you're not quite ready for that next meal. That way you (and the kids!) won't be ravishing once you're ready to sit down to lunch or dinner and won't overeat. 
  • Make sure to stay hydrated with low calorie drinks (stated above)...sometimes you really may confuse hunger with thirst so down a cup of water when a hunger pang strikes before going for the junk. 
These are just a few of the tips I have for healthy eating on vacation! A tip for physical activity on vacation is always bring good shoes!!! If you have a good pair of walking/running shoes with you I think you're more likely to be active! Walk as much as possible...even if it just means around the parking lot or the property of the hotel you're staying at. Take advantage of the hotel gym (call ahead or check the website to see if one's available) and hit it up for a quick morning workout (even 20-30 minutes is something!!) before you head off for fun activities. If you are sight-seeing...get out of the car and walk everywhere you can! Swim! Hike! Bike! 

Most of all...have fun!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jerk Chicken with Sweet & Sour Quinoa

If you've been reading my posts lately you probably know that I've fallen in love with quinoa! It is a great whole grain loaded with fiber, vitamins and protein and it also tastes good plain and also can be incorporated into a lot of dishes. When I was at the store last week I bought a bag of individually wrapped chicken breasts (great for freezing and pulling out individual portions!) and some Jerk marinade that I thought looked great. Mrs. Dash has a great line of low sodium varieties that taste so good! Check them out :) 

So tonight I wanted something flavorful and easy (as usual!) so I pulled out a couple of chicken breasts from the freezer to thaw while I went to the gym for my workout. By the time I got home they were almost thawed so I covered them in a few tablespoons of marinade and let it sit while I showered and prepped the rest of the meal (about 30-45 minutes).   

I had been thinking about a good side dish to compliment the jerk flavors and kept thinking about pineapple and bell pepper...so I thought, why not try a sweet & sour type side dish. It turned out great!! I loved this meal...full of flavor, easy and very low in fat! Here's what I did:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless
  • Jerk Marinade (I used store bought)
  • 1/2 Cup Quinoa
  • 1/4 Cup Pineapple Juice
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • Thick slice of Onion, chopped into large chunks
  • 1/2 Large Red Bell Pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 1/2 Cup Pineapple chunks
  • Splash of soy sauce
  • Squeeze of lime juice
Marinate chicken for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can prepare all your veggies and pineapple. Mix water and pineapple juice in a small saucepan. Add in your quinoa and bring to a boil. Cover and turn to low heat to simmer for about 15 minutes. While this is cooking and the chicken is marinating, sauté pineapple, onion and pepper in a non-stick pan coated in cooking spray over medium heat until pineapple and onion are slightly caramelized and pepper is still crisp tender (may need to cook the pineapple and onion a few minutes first and then add in bell pepper). Once the produce is cooked and quinoa is done add quinoa to the veggies and sauté with a splash of soy sauce and lime juice for a few minutes over medium heat to allow flavors to combine.

Cook chicken in a sauté pan over medium high heat about 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through. 

I served this with a simple side of sliced garden fresh cucumbers from the market sprinkled with a bit of kosher salt like mom used to! This was always a go-to healthy meal accompaniment in my family and we loved it :) 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Not-So-Fried Green Tomatoes

So just a disclaimer to everyone: I have NEVER, I mean never ever made fried green tomatoes before and have really only eaten them once in my life at one of the best restaurants I've been to in Baltimore (Miss Shirley's...so great!). So this was my first attempt at them after seeing some great looking green tomatoes at the farmers market a couple weeks ago...and my attempt to make them healthier. 


  • Green tomatoes, sliced into about 1/2" thick slices
  • Low fat butter milk, q.b.
  • Italian Bread Crumbs, q.b.
  • Sugar, q.b.
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thin
  • Pesto (homemade or store bought!), q.b. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soak tomato slices in buttermilk for just a few minutes (I did this while slicing the mozzarella and getting out my bread crumbs, preparing my cookie sheet, etc.).

Mix breadcrumbs (I used about a cup) and some sugar (I used about a teaspoon just to give it a hint of sweetness to add to the tomatoes and help caramelize them a bit).

Shake off excess buttermilk from the slices as you lightly coat them in the bread crumb mix (usually I use whole wheat bread crumbs but didn't have any left and just used regular today).  Placed on a well greased cookie sheet in the top 3rd of your oven (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. I turned mine a few times to make sure both sides were golden brown.

Layer slices with fresh mozzarella and top with a few teaspoons of pesto. Voila! Can be served as an appetizer, main dish or side. Kind of a twist on a caprese salad :) I didn't realize until it was all on the plate how "green" my dinner turned out to be....kinda missed the rainbow on this one but still good for you ;)