New moms: Free up some time with these freezer meals

Click here to watch our October 14 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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I’ve been trying to find and embrace balance in a few of areas of my life lately. As you know, I’m all about reducing the barriers to healthy eating by making it quick, cheap and easy – as well as tasty and satisfying, of course. That can be a tall order. On top of that, I’ve added yet another dimension: fresh. This is what has me thinking about balance.

I was a loyal “meal prepper” for a few years, until recently, when I noticed that I just couldn’t get myself pumped up to do it. I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending my entire Sunday – my day of rest – bulk cooking these meals that seemed to lack the love that a fresh meal offers. I missed cooking for my husband – and enjoying the same meal together.

When I stepped away from meal prepping, I started to miss the convenience it offered me during the action-packed week. So I knew that I needed to find a place in the middle, between fresh and convenient, and try something new: freezer meals. The only prep work includes chopping certain ingredients and throwing them into a freezer bag and into the freezer.

Striking a good balance with healthy eating is even more critical to moms who have just welcomed a new addition to the family, because they need the energy necessary to not only care for someone who completely depends on them but also to keep themselves healthy. So I developed a couple freezer meals that moms – or family and friends! – can prep before the baby’s arrival or while he or she is sleeping.

Blueberry Kale Smoothieimg_0182

Benefits:

  • Kale and bananas last up to three months in the freezer; refer to package instructions on how long frozen blueberries last
  • Breakdown of ingredients that are good for Mom:
    • Kale – good source of:
      • Antioxidants (help with preventing various diseases)
      • Calcium (contributes to bone health)
      • Iron (provides energy by helping with holding onto and transporting oxygen to various parts of the body)
      • Vitamin A (contributes to skin health and vision)
      • Vitamin C (contributes to healthy immune system)
    • Blueberries – good source of:
      • Antioxidants (help with preventing various diseases)
      • Carbohydrates (help to boost energy)
      • Minerals
      • Vitamins
    • Almondmilk and nonfat plain Greek yogurt – low-fat dairy products are a good source of:
      • Calcium (contributes to bone health)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)
      • Vitamin B (helps your body to convert the food you eat into fuel)
      • Vitamin D (strengthens bones)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, frozen (from freezer section of grocery store)
  • ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 oz. unsweetened vanilla almondmilk

Instructions:

  1. Place kale and banana in sandwich-size plastic bag with a zipper flatten bag to remove air and for easy stacking and place into freezer.
  2. When ready to enjoy, place frozen kale and bananas and remaining ingredients into a blender, and blend thoroughly.

Note: You may also use the frozen kale and bananas for my green smoothie recipe.

Beef Chiliimg_0181

Benefits:

  • Lasts up to three months in the freezer
  • Breakdown of ingredients that are good for Mom:
    • Lean beef – good source of:
      • Iron (provides energy by helping with holding onto and transporting oxygen to various parts of the body)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)
      • Vitamin B-12 (helps your body with forming new red blood cells, brain function, metabolism and hormone production)
    • Beans (legumes) – good source of:
      • Carbohydrates (help to boost energy)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)
      • Iron (mainly in the dark beans; provides energy by helping with holding onto and transporting oxygen to various parts of the body)
    • Quinoa – good source of:
      • Carbohydrates (help to boost energy)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes no salt added
  • 1-15.5 oz. can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.25 oz. can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste

Options:

  • For a savory chili: Add a can of no-salt-added corn, one diced onion and/or scallions, one diced bell pepper, minced fresh garlic or garlic powder to taste and garnish with a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.
  • For a sweet chili: Add cinnamon to taste.

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a gallon freezer bag, flatten bag to remove air and for easy stacking and place into freezer.
  2. Allow to thaw in refrigerator for a day. Once thawed, dump contents of freezer bag into crock pot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8.

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Preventing breast cancer with color (hint: it’s not pink)

Click here to watch our October 2 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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Most of the recipes I develop are targeted toward people living their daily lives, from packing school lunches to hosting football parties. As we know, healthy eating doesn’t only have its place in a child’s lunchbox or on a coffee table. And it isn’t just about giving our kids brain food or our friends an alternative for hot wings.

Our lives – our whole lives – depend on it.

A healthy diet is undoubtedly beneficial and important for everyone. It helps us to feel our best while preventing and recovering from disease – all in an effort to live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. Eating a healthy diet can even help to prevent diseases like breast cancer.

Here are some healthy eating tips from Susan G. Komen for the Cure for overall health and possible protection against different types of cancer and other diseases:

Maintain a healthy weight by limiting high-calorie foods and beverages and living a physically active lifestyle.

Eat the following:

  • At least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
    • 100 percent whole grain foods (ex. 100 percent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millet and quinoa).
    • Eat “healthy” fats – aka polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (ex. olive and canola oil, nuts and natural nut butters, avocado and olives).
  • Limit the following:
    • Red meat and processed meat. Instead, eat chicken, fish or beans.
    • “Bad” fats – aka saturated and trans fats (ex. red meat, fatty deli meats, poultry skin, full fat dairy, fried foods, margarine, donuts and microwave popcorn).

The recipes below incorporate the guidance above, with a focus on a specific naturally occurring plant chemical that can help to prevent breast cancer, among other forms and diseases: carotenoids. These are the plant pigments that create the color in apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, leafy greens, oranges, sweet potatoes, cooked tomatoes, watermelon and winter squash. I love the color that carotenoids bring into food and that, given their wide range of flavors and textures, they’re easy to incorporate into your diet.

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chicken and Quinoa Chili

It’s finally cooling down in Augusta, and temps have dropped below the 90s! This calls for chili.img_0127

This recipe includes three vegetables that are high in carotenoids – carrots, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. It also incorporates Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s guidance above with the use of whole grains (quinoa), chicken (instead of red meat) and no “bad” fats.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 sweet potatoes, baked, cut down the middle
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, uncooked
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes no salt added
  • 1-15.25 oz. can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.5 oz. can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.25 oz. can no-salt-added corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded with box grater
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional:
    • 1 cup goat cheese crumbles
    • 2 cups or 12 oz. Greek or soy yogurt
    • Cilantro, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients, except for the optional ones, to the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or until the chicken is completely cooked through and chicken can be shredded easily. Mix all ingredients.
  3. Divide chili among open-faced potatoes, and top with desired toppings.

If you’re looking for something with which you can pair this, I recommend a spinach or kale salad. Try some carrots, tomatoes and feta or goat cheese on top with your choice of healthy fat (avocado, nuts, olives, olive oil). Spinach, kale, carrots and tomatoes are all carotenoids.

Green Smoothieimg_0123

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 banana
  • 3 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered peanut butter or reduced-fat natural peanut butter
  • 8 oz. almondmilk (just enough to drench most of the kale)
  • About 10 ice cubes (to fill line)

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender or single-serve blender cup, and blend.

Butternut Squash Soupimg_0131

Check out this recipe, which I shared in March for a segment of healthier lunch foods as part of a “Clean 2016” series.

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