Healthy Breakfast for $2 or Less

Would you like tasty recipes that are easy on the wallet and the waistline? Me, too! When I recently stumbled across these hearty healthy recipes that match my family’s needs and my pantry’s contents, I was thrilled. Mighty Bowls of Goodness, tasty recipe suggestions from our Whole Food Market’s Health Starts Here program, are filled with nutritious foods and cost less than $2 a bowl for breakfast.

The recipe is easy: 1 part grain (such as quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats or millet) + 1 part heated liquid (move beyond water with almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk or coconut milk) + fresh or dried fruit (like apples, cranberries, bananas) + topping (try spices, seeds and nuts).

There are weeks full of healthy breakfast options to fill you up without emptying your wallet. If you’re looking to add nutrition, flavor and convenience to your morning routine without added costs, try these Mighty Bowls of Goodness breakfast combinations:

Almond Rice
1 cup cooked brown rice heated with 1 cup almond milk. Top with a sliced banana, an ounce of chopped raw almonds and a chopped date to sweeten.

Cinnamon Apple Oats
1 cup cooked rolled oats heated with 1 cup almond milk. Mix in shredded or chopped apple and cinnamon. Top with chopped pecan.

Peach Quinoa
1 cup quinoa cooked in 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk. Stir in a chopped or sliced peach at the end of cooking. Toss in ground flaxseed, a sprinkle of dried coconut and a dash of nutmeg.

The breakfast possibilities for Mighty Bowls of Goodness don’t stop there, of course. What’s already in your pantry, fridge and freezer? Oh, I spy pecans and frozen blueberries. No need to waste your money with over-sweetened, artificially flavored cereals when you have Mighty Bowls of Goodness.

What Mighty Bowl of Goodness recipe will you be cooking for breakfast? Share how you are warming up your morning without burning a hole in your wallet.

How to Choose Smart Menu Items

Today was a hard day. It was the first day since I started Whole Food Market’s Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge that I had to eat out, and man, it was quite a challenge. It was the first time that I saw the disgusting fat and additives put in our everyday menu items at restaurants. When I asked if they had any vegetables without it cooked in oil or butter, I received a blank look. It was today that I realized that, we, Americans, eat A LOT of processed foods. I know that I am not alone in this experience. I know there are those of you who are wanting to improve your health, but have hit the same wall. As I sit down at my computer, I want to share with you what I learned from the experience, so that you can enjoy eating out as much as you do eating in. 😉 Here are some tips and suggested meals:

  • Avoid bread items such as rolls, breadcrumbs, tortillas, pasta, breading, crusts, etc. Unfortunately, even if something is called “whole-wheat,” it is rare to find items that are ONLY made with 100% whole-wheat (unless the restaurant can confirm the ingredients for you).
  • If the waiter/chef doesn’t know (and can’t find out) the ingredients of an item, then they probably don’t make it fresh in house, which means it likely has all sorts of stuff (like sweeteners and preservatives) in it that you don’t want or need.
  • If they don’t know where the meat came from, then I can guarantee it is not from anywhere special (like a grass-fed local farm).
  • For children, do not order off the kid’s menu! The kid’s menu is almost always processed foods or foods made from processed ingredients (like pasta from white flour, factory made chicken nuggets, corn dogs, french fries, etc.). Instead attempt to put together a plate of adult side items that you think your child would eat (like a baked potato, fruit, vegetable, and nuts or cheese you see offered on a salad).
  • Always ask questions when it comes to sauces, and ask for them to be left off when appropriate. It seems as though everything (including lots of sugar) can be hidden in the most surprising places when it comes to sauces, dressings and marinades.
  • If time allows do some research and look at menus in advance to help you make the best restaurant selection and menu choices.

Fortunately, there are restaurants that are offering Smart Choice menus, such as La Madeleine Country French Cafe. La Madeleine offers more than 15 satisfying and delicious Smart Choices selections for all meals year-round, including Chicken la Madeleine, Mediterranean Paella, Smart Choices Omelette, Smart Choices Salade Sampler, Shrimp & Tilapia Provençal and Tilapia Rustique. Only available until March 19, 2013, the Salmon and French Lentils –  a roasted salmon fillet paired with French lentils, seasoned with celery, thyme, kale, tomatoes, onions and roasted garlic – is a healthy and satisfying option.

Also, Chili’s offers Lighter Choices menu items. The Mango-Chile Tilapia and 6 other menu items complete the Lighter Choices menu – three of which are new – with the bold, Southwestern flavors you’ve come to expect from Chili’s entrees.

In North Texas:
Spiral Diner & Bakery, Ft. Worth and Oak Cliff
Company Cafe, Lower Greenville
Seasons 52, Dallas and Plano
Have any restaurants you recommend for healthy dining? I’ll add them to the list!

Batch Cooking Saves

It’s hard to find the time to cook healthy meals when you’re balancing a household full of activities. For me to survive this 28-day challenge, I going to start the week by batch cooking and storing in grab-to-go containers. It will save me precious time and money.

When you have already prepared meals in your freezer, getting dinner ready is as simple as throwing something in the slow-cooker in the morning before work, or popping it in the oven or microwave when you get home.

Preparing food in bulk is extremely efficient. If it takes 15 minutes to prepare one meal, it only takes about 17 minutes to prepare eight meals of the same recipe. You’ll save money when you always have prepared meals on-hand because you’ll be less tempted to get take-out or go to a restaurant.

Here are some tips to prepare for your batch cooking session:

  • Shop the day before you batch cook. Call your meat order in ahead of time and see if the butcher will divide your meat into the exact portions you need.
  • Use a weigh scale. They’re inexpensive and handy to have around when working with a lot of ingredients.
  • Try to prepare at least three or four portions of the same dish, and freeze the rest for later. For smaller families, pick four recipes and prepare them on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It only takes a few hours and you’ll have 16 meals prepared for when you need them.

28-Day Challenge

Last night, I decided I need some change in my life – a challenge. I have joined Whole Foods Market’s Health Starts Here™28-Day Challenge. It should be noted that I have bi-yearly physical, and I am in good health. I enter this challenge not because a doctor said that I need it, but because I realize that I need to look at food in a new way for me and my family.

I will follow Whole Foods Market’s four pillars of Health Starts Here™ for the entire month beginning Monday.

  • WHOLE FOODS: Eat unprocessed foods and put an emphasis on local, seasonal and organic. (That means I will pick brown rice instead of white rice, use no processed sugars, and use whole grain flours instead of white flour).
  • PLANT-STRONG™:  A plant based diet with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits. I will still have lean meats and avoid all dairy products. (Tillamook Cheese, this means we are on a “break,” BUT I don’t think we have broken up. ;))
  • HEALTHY FATS: Nuts, seeds and avocados will be my main sources of fat. This means using no oils for the month.
  • NUTRIENT DENSE: Choose foods high in nutrients when compared to their caloric intake. Using the ANDI scoring system works great for this, but remember to eat a wide variety of colors to get a wide variety of nutrients.

First things is first. I need to remove everything out of my pantry that is NOT allowed for the month. I don’t want any temptation, and the fact is there are many food banks that could use this food.

All month, I will be posting recipes that I’m cooking if you’d like to join the challenge with me. If you join, please comment below, as I will enter you into a giveaway! Can’t start today? That’s ok! Follow my posts and start when you can. Here’s a video to understand the importance of this journey.

Tips on Carving a Pumpkin

My family loves to eat pumpkins…in everything from soups to pies to breads. This year, we bought a pumpkin so that we could carve and make our favorite goodies. Here are few pumpkin carving tips from our family to yours.

  • Choose large pumpkins that do not have bruises or moldy stems.
  • Pumpkins with a lighter color tend to be softer and easier to carve.
  • When cleaning the pumpkin, save the seeds.  Toasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy, tasty snack (Click here for recipe!).
  • Use a large, heavy metal serving spoon or ice cream scoop to scrape the insides.
  • Use a long serrated knife or a pumpkin-carving knife with teeth to cut through pumpkin flesh. 
  • Use a sawing motion and take your time cutting along the outside edge of the marker lines.

Have fun carving!