Five Lower Fat Dishes Made With Lean Ground Beef

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Beef is one of the biggest sources of fat in our diet, and yet it is an important source of protein, zinc, iron, selenium and vitamin B12. We can certainly live without it. Or we can compromise by choosing lean or, better still, extra-lean beef so we can benefit from the key minerals and protein, but without consuming as much fat. To be clear, the terms "lean" and "extra lean" should not be interpreted as being the same as "low fat." Lower in fat, yes; low fat, not quite. You see, when you see that the package of extra lean ground beef contains 5 percent fat, it's referring to the percentage weight of the product, not the percentage of total calories.

Four ounces of extra-lean ground beef (95 percent lean, 5 percent fat) is worth 155 calories, with 5.6 g of fat, or comprising 33.3 percent of its total calories.

Still, it is always better, if you choose to eat red meat, to go with as lean a cut as possible. The concern, from the point of view of cooking, is having dry meat without the fat to add the juiciness. But you can easily compensate. Here are some lower-fat recipes using lean or extra-lean ground beef that work very well.

Low Fat Mini Meatloaves - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Mini Meatloaves. Fiona Haynes

Mini Meatloaves

These low fat mini meatloaves are a big hit with kids and adults alike. For one thing, they're just the right size. Made from extra-lean ground beef and packed with shredded veggies, these mini meatloaves are packed with protein and minerals that all low fat dieters must have. Enjoy these low fat mini meatloaves with skinny mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. More »

Low Fat Southwestern Burger - Fiona Haynes
Southwestern Burgers. Fiona Haynes

Southwestern Burgers

These tasty, low fat burgers use extra-lean ground beef combined with mashed black beans to reduce fat content and make moist, flavorful patties. The jalapeno pepper, cumin and cilantro add a nice little kick. More »

Low Fat Beef Tacos - Fiona Haynes
Beef Tacos. Fiona Haynes

Beef Tacos

These low fat beef tacos make a delightful family-style dinner, where everyone can make their own tacos, starting with some warmed corn tortillas and seasoned extra-lean ground beef.  More »

Low Fat Shepherd's Pie - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Shepherd's Pie. Fiona Haynes

Shepherd's Pie

This a low fat take on a classic English dish. Shepherd's Pie was traditionally made with leftover meat, either lamb or beef. This is a recipe that can be made ahead and frozen for later use. I often prepare it one day and use it the next. If you want to reduce the fat content further, use only 3/4 pound of beef and add an extra cup of vegetables--more peas or some sweet corn. More »

Low Fat Pinto Bean and Sweet Corn Chili - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Pinto Bean and Sweet Corn Chili. Fiona Haynes

Beef, Pinto Bean, and Sweet Corn Chili

This is a quick and easy skillet chili dish that can be on the table in half an hour, which makes it perfect for busy weeknights. More »

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2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Eggs-GettyImages.jpg - Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
No More Cholesterol Limits.  Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), comprising a dozen or so experts in nutrition, medicine and public health, issues its guidance on healthy eating. Its hefty report examines the nation's eating habits and identifies areas of particular nutritional concern, focusing attention on what it terms "overconsumed" and "underconsumed" nutrients. Its recommendations invite public input (after which some revisions may be made) and the end result will form the basis of a revised MyPlate -- the visual tool that replaced the food pyramid back in 2011 following the 2010 guidelines.

Dietary Guidelines Are Meaningless, Aren't They?

On the face of it, consumers may seem little affected by these five-yearly revisions, and it's true that these guidelines have hardly reshaped our waistlines; but in terms of public policy, the dietary recommendations do serve a purpose: they influence school lunch programs and food assistance programs such as WIC and SNAP.

Moreover, the guidelines shed light on a real problem. We continue to be overfed and under-nourished, and we're getting sicker.

The Misinterpretation of Low Fat

Past guidelines have strongly favored a low-fat dietary approach, with recommended limits on the amount of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Unfortunately, while people seemed to take the low-fat message to heart, aided by profit-hungry food companies only too willing to put out new products, they did so by eating a vast array of processed low-fat or fat-free foods that were chock full of added sugar, salt, fillers, and refined carbs.

Our pancreases have suffered, but at least our arteries are clear, right? Well, we're now told that saturated fat may be far less pernicious than first thought, although there is still sound evidence that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats lowers our risk of heart disease.

(Simply replacing saturated fats with carbs, as we've been doing, does not.)

Additionally, nutrition expert and professor at Penn State University Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D, R.D, rejects the notion that saturated fats are harmless, as she explains in this video for the American Heart Association. Others, like David L. Katz of the Yale Prevention Research Center, take aim at those who say cutting back on saturated fat has made no difference or has sickened us.

He makes the point that we never really cut our total fat and saturated fat intake in the first place; they merely formed a lower proportion of daily calories as we diluted them with a steady supply of junk food.

Still, the new guidelines no longer suggest limiting total fat intake to 35 percent of calories. The limit on saturated fat, however, at no more than 10 percent of daily calories (higher than the American Heart Association's less than 7 percent recommendation), remains in place for now.

No More Sugar-Coating

The most recent guidelines have shifted the emphasis away from total fat and cholesterol, removing those recommended limits and instead singled out added sugars as an area of concern. While previous dietary guidelines have called out added sugars as a problem, the DGAC goes one step further this time around and recommends they form no more than 10 percent of daily calories. This is the same level at which the panel recommends that saturated fat intake should continue to be capped.

Eggs Back on the Menu

You can forgo your egg white omelet and embrace whole eggs once again. The panel suggests removing the longstanding recommendations to reduce dietary cholesterol (currently set at 300mg a day), a nod to research that shows that dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on blood cholesterol. Indeed, some high cholesterol foods are actually low or relatively low in saturated fat, like shrimp, and even the humble egg.

Where's the Beef?

The committee recommends cutting back on red and processed meats, saying that a plant-based diet is "more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact" than the present meat-centered diet. Moreover, whatever the arguments for and against saturated fats in the context of the risk of heart disease, there is a link between eating red and processed meats and cancer.

What's Next?

There's much, much more to the dietary guidelines than these. As always, there's a big emphasis on eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, but I wanted to focus on nutrients that affect the diet conscious more specifically, the areas that have sadly become grayer rather than clearer as more research is published.

As much as these guidelines are intended to help consumers, they're also meant to guide the food industry in to  putting out healthier products The recommendations likely don't sit well with certain groups, particularly the meat industry.

Some of the recommendations will be refined further before they're finalized and are represented in the new version of MyPlate, due later this year. Whether we actually change our eating habits in light of updated recommendations seems as likely or unlikely as always, but most likely dictated by our pocket books. In ideal world, though, we would heed Michael Pollan's advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

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A Lighter Easter Brunch

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

There is plenty of good news surrounding Easter Sunday for those who observe the religious holiday. And in terms of more earthly matters, such as your waistline, these Easter brunch options may also be good news. While lighter, these dishes are delicious additions to your Easter table. And in light of new dietary guidelines, which no longer demonize eggs, you can go ahead and eat these dishes without feeling as guilty about dietary cholesterol (subject, of course, to any dietary restrictions advised by your doctor).

Savory Spring Bread Pudding - Fiona Haynes
Savory Spring Bread Pudding. Fiona Haynes

Savory Spring Bread Pudding

This tasty and filling savory bread pudding dish is colorful, hearty, and delicious. It makes great use of seasonal asparagus.

For best results, be sure to use stale bread (a day or two old). I say Italian here, but any artisanal bread will work beautifully. A whole wheat sourdough would be perfect, as well as adding a little extra fiber. More »

Low Fat Crepes - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Crepes. Fiona Haynes

Low Fat Crêpes

Crêpes are thin pancakes which can be eaten in the same way as pancakes or rolled up with a filling of your choice. I like to sprinkle powdered sugar and lemon juice over mine and serve them with fresh fruit. Or you can drizzle them with warm maple syrup. More »

Sausage and Mushroom Brunch Casserole - Fiona Haynes
Sausage and Mushroom Brunch Casserole. Fiona Haynes

Sausage and Mushroom Brunch Casserole

This sausage and mushroom casserole saves fat calories by using chicken sausage, liquid egg substitute in place of some of the eggs, and reduced fat cheese. But feel free to use whole eggs and dispense with the egg substitute if you prefer. Do use whole grain bread if you can for added fiber. Prepare this casserole ahead of time. Refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning. More »

Whole-Wheat Pancakes - Fiona Haynes
Whole-Wheat Pancakes. Fiona Haynes

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Why settle for store-bought pancake mixes when you can so easily make your own, more wholesome pancakes? These whole-wheat pancakes are light and delicious. Serve with powdered sugar and warmed fruit compote or maple syrup. More »

Light Asparagus Strata - Fiona Haynes
Light Asparagus Strata. Fiona Haynes

Light Asparagus Strata

Thanks to eggs, cheese and milk, traditional stratas are high in fat and calories. Thankfully, you can lighten these dishes by using a blend of eggs and egg substitute, nonfat milk, and reduced fat cheese. It also uses whole wheat bread for an extra nutritional boost. To save time on the day, make this strata the night before or a few hours ahead if it's more convenient. If so, simply cover and refrigerate the strata until about a half hour before you want to bake it. More »

Low Fat Herbed Zucchini-Mushroom Frittata - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Herbed Zucchini-Mushroom Frittata. Fiona Haynes

Herbed Zucchini and Mushroom Frittata

This light and fluffy Herbed Zucchini and Mushroom Frittata is perfect for Easter or Mother's Day. I use egg substitute to lower the amount of cholesterol, but you can also use a combination of whole eggs and egg whites if you prefer, or stick with whole eggs. Frittatas can be cut into triangles, small squares and can be served either warm or at room temperature. More »

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Light, Festive Dinners

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No matter what holiday you celebrate during late fall and winter, family and friends tend to gather around the table to share food, fun, and laughter. Well, that's what one hopes. Traditionally, people eat turkey or ham at Thanksgiving. For those who celebrate Christmas, well, there's some variation. Some people, especially Brits like me, eat turkey; others enjoy a nice piece of beef tenderloin or a ham; and others prefer fish. There are no hard and fast rule, unless you must observe a strict diet for religious reasons, as you might for Hanukkah. The key thing is to serve food with love and in the spirit of the season. And if you need to watch what and how much eat then here are some options to help keep you on track.

Roast Turkey Breast - Fiona Haynes
Roast Turkey Breast. Fiona Haynes

Roast Turkey Breast

Usually it's just a few of us around the table at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and so cooking a whole turkey doesn't make much sense, especially as most of us happen to prefer white meat anyway. We want to enjoy turkey for a day or two and then be done with it. A turkey breast allows us to do just that. Plus, our much-preferred white breast meat is much lower in fat than the leg and thigh meat. More »

Herbed Roast Chicken - Fiona Haynes
Herbed Roast Chicken. Fiona Haynes

Simple Herbed Roast Chicken

If your gathering is relatively small, then a simple herbed roast chicken might be just the thing. Or, if you have space, you can roast two chickens at once. Breast meat is leanest, of course, but thigh meat is succulent and delicious, and its richness means you are likely to eat less of it than you would white meat. More »

Pork Tenderloin With Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce - Fiona Haynes
Pork Tenderloin With Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce. Fiona Haynes

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

With pork tenderloin said to be as lean as skinless chicken breast, despite strictly being a red meat (though the marketing campaign of a few years ago described it as the "other white meat"), this makes a great alternative to poultry, which often takes center stage on low-fat menus. Serve this delicious, quick-cooking, succulent pork tenderloin with a tart and flavorful cranberry pomegranate sauce. More »

Broiled Salmon With Lemon Sauce - Fiona Haynes
Broiled Salmon With Lemon Sauce. Fiona Haynes

Salmon With Lemon Sauce

Chock full of omega 3 fatty acids, which the body needs but can't manufacture, salmon should be included in all our diets, including low-fat ones. And during the holiday season, salmon makes a particularly delicious treat, especially on a Christmas Eve menu. More »

Quinoastuffedpeppersmed1.jpg - Fiona Haynes
Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers. Fiona Haynes

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

These quinoa-stuffed peppers make a nice low-fat meatless entree or side dish. Quinoa is a wonderful option for those who can't eat gluten, plus it makes a nice change from rice or meat-filled peppers. More »

Carrot and Butternut Squash Puree - Fiona Haynes
Carrot and Butternut Squash Puree. Fiona Haynes

Holiday Side Dishes

Holiday meals are notoriously fat- and calorie-laden, especially the side dishes, with all their added cream, butter and sugar. These holiday side dishes are a good deal healthier. More »

Low Fat Potato Latkes - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Potato Latkes. Fiona Haynes

Low Fat Potato Latkes

You don't have to wait for Hanukkah to enjoy potato latkes. These low fat latkes are delicious any time. Serve with light sour cream (or fat free Greek yogurt) and apple sauce. More »

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Baking the Low Fat Way

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

One of the big challenges of adapting recipes to make them low fat or "lighter" is making those recipes not only taste good, but also have a good texture. Fat, of course, contributes greatly to both of these qualities, especially in baking. In baking, the interplay of certain ingredients relies on precise measurements, and in some cases, there really is no adequate substitute for, say, butter or eggs. Something generally has to give. So I can't say with one hundred percent honesty that you simply won't be able to tell the difference between a full fat version and a lighter one -- you most likely will, to some degree. But that doesn't automatically make the revised recipe a poor one. It may make it a little less rich, slightly more dense, perhaps. At the same time, by taking some precautions, we can avoid some of the pitfalls of low fat baking -- principally dryness and too much density -- by remembering a couple of key things: measuring flour properly (do not dip, scoop, and pack your cup -- gently spoon flour into measuring cup and level off with the back edge of a knife), and do not over-mix ingredients.

Cake Mix - Fiona Haynes
Cake Mix. Fiona Haynes

1.  Making Low-Fat Cakes from Cake Mix

Nothing beats homemade cakes or muffins, but sometimes when time is short it's OK to cheat and use those oh-so-convenient boxes of cake or muffin mix. In general, it's better, and cheaper, to opt for cake or muffin mix over the ready-made packaged cakes or bakery muffins you'll find on display at the grocery store because you can still exercise some control over the contents. More »

Low Fat Blueberry Muffins - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Blueberry Muffins. Fiona Haynes

2.  Low Fat Blueberry Muffins

Warm, fresh blueberry muffins are hard to beat. I've cut the fat in these muffins by using a small amount of heart-healthy canola oil instead of butter or margarine, and fat-free milk instead of whole or 2% milk. Low fat buttermilk would work well, too. More »

Low Fat Banana Cake - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Banana Cake. Fiona Haynes

3.  Low Fat Banana Cake

This low-fat banana cake is an indulgent treat, but with very little saturated fat, you shouldn't feel too guilty. But if you prefer to omit the frosting, that's just fine. Just a note about the bananas: the riper the better! More »

Low Fat Morning Glory Muffins - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Morning Glory Muffins. Fiona Haynes

4.  Morning Glory Muffins

These wholesome, healthy and delicious muffins are especially good warm. Perfect for popping into lunch boxes or as an an after-school treat, these muffins will be gobbled up before the kids realize they're eating some veggies! For an extra nutritional boost, replace half the flour with whole wheat flour. More »

Low Fat Pineapple Cake - Fiona Haynes
Low Fat Pineapple Cake. Fiona Haynes

5.  Easy Pineapple Cake

This cake couldn't be simpler. It's meant to dense and fruity, and it makes a great cake to serve around Easter time, although you can make it for any season or occasion. More »

One Bowl Chocolate Cake - Fiona Haynes
One Bowl Chocolate Cake. Fiona Haynes

6.  One Bowl Chocolate Cake

A one-bowl cake means less clean up; a one bowl cake that needs only one cake pan means even less clean up. A low fat, one-bowl, one-layer cake also means less fat and fewer calories per slice. A win-win situation all round. This chocolate cake doesn't even need frosting, especially if you enjoy it warm. More »

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Lean Thai-Style Beef Wraps

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
flank-steak.jpg - Robert Reiff/Getty Images
Grilled Flank Steak.  Robert Reiff/Getty Images

Red meat should be an occasional treat. Flank steak is at least a lean source of red-meat protein, so has much less fat and saturated fat than most other cuts. The plus side of red meat, which is why eating it as an occasional treat is OK, is that it's a good source of iron, zinc, and selenium, as well as a significant source of B vitamins. Enjoying a little red meat, combined with fresh vegetables and rolled into a whole-wheat wrap is still a great deal healthier than grabbing a burger.

  • 1 pound flank steak, trimmed
  • high-heat cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 6 whole wheat flour tortilla wraps (use corn wraps if you need to eat gluten free
  • 12 romaine lettuce leaves
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 wraps

Coat grill with cooking spray.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Place flank steak on grill rack and cook for 5 minutes on each side (longer if you prefer it to be less pink).

Remove steak from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes; cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine sliced steak, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, carrots, mint and basil in a large bowl.

Combine brown sugar, soy/tamari sauce, red pepper flakes, and lime juice.

Drizzle sauce over the steak and vegetables. Toss well.

Warm tortillas according to package directions.

Arrange two romaine leaves on each tortilla, trimming the excess.

Spoon about 2/3 cup of steak and vegetables mixture down center of each wrap. Roll up and enjoy!

Calories: 401, Total Fat 11g (sat fat 4g), Cholesterol 38mg, Sodium 762mg, Carbohydrate 49g, Fiber 4g, Protein 24g

Tips and Suggestions:

  • If you prefer not eat red meat, feel free to substitute chicken breasts. Grill them and slice them into strips, as you would the steak. You could also use pork, although that actually counts as red meat, too (though it's leaner than beef).
  • Replace romaine with spinach, red lettuce, or another green leaf of your choice.
  • Add some colorful thinly sliced sweet pepper (red or yellow)
  • Cut each wrap into thirds and serve on a tray as part of a lunch platter.
  • To make this gluten free, be sure to use tamari sauce instead of soy sauce (soy sauce is fermented with wheat) and replace flour toritllas with corn tortillas. As corn tortillas tend to be smaller, you are likely to fill eight of these.
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    10 Super Foods for a Healthy Diet

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    While there are all kinds of conflicting dietary claims out there, we can agree that there are some foods that belong in almost any diet. Here are 10 super foods for a healthy diet -- some of them do actually contain fat, but rest assured that these particular foods contain heart-healthy fats, and can form part an overall healthy diet.

    Avocado.jpg - Iacaosa moment/Getty Images
    Avocado. Iacaosa moment/Getty Images


    We should all include avocados in our diet, even if we eat low fat. While an avocado does contain fat, it's mostly in the form of healthy, monounsaturated fats, the kind associated with lowering cholesterol. The humble avocado is not only a good source of fiber, it's also a good source of potassium (more so than a banana), a number of B vitamins, folate, vitamin E and vitamin C. In addition to providing the main ingredient in guacamole, mashed avocado makes a great substitute for mayo in a sandwich, and it is also delicious chopped or sliced in salads.

    Blueberries.jpg - Karen Schuld/Getty Images
    Blueberries. Karen Schuld/Getty Images


    Dusky indigo blueberries are packed with fiber and full of disease-fighting antioxidants. The contain almost no fat and are delicious by themselves, stirred into oatmeal or atop your morning cereal, or added to a healthy smoothie recipe. Need some ideas? Here are some blueberry recipes for you to try.

    broccoli.jpg - Adam Gault/Getty Images
    broccoli floret. Adam Gault/Getty Images


    Broccoli is probably the most divisive of vegetables. It tends to rank among people's favorite or most hated veggie. I didn't like it much as a child, probably because it was overcooked. Now, it is definitely one of my faves. Which is a good thing, because broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, folate, fiber and is a good source of many other key vitamins and minerals. Raw broccoli florets make a delicious snack, but I also enjoy steamed broccoli, broccoli soup, and any Chines dish that features broccoli. More »

    Eggs-GettyImages.jpg - Getty images
    Eggs. Getty images


    Those on low fat diets have often limited the number of eggs they eat based on the thought that the high level of dietary cholesterol is a factor in raising blood cholesterol. Well, the good news is that the latest dietary guidelines no longer suggest limiting eggs, as research shows no direct link between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. The other thing with the poor egg's reputation was what it's often combined or paired with: often high-fat items such as cheese, sausage and bacon. Yet in its unadulterated form, for a mere 70 calories each, eggs pack a huge nutritional punch. Eggs are a good source of protein and contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, folate, phosphorous, riboflavin, vitamins A, D, E and B-12. Personally, I like nothing better than a soft-poached egg on wheat toast as a weekend breakfast option or a light lunch. More »

    Kale.jpg - Joff Lee/Getty Images
    Kale. Joff Lee/Getty Images


    I know, kale is kind of the "it" girl right now, kicking arugula to the curb. It features in salads and smoothies, and it's also rather delicious sprinkled with a little olive oil and black pepper, and roasted. Kale is loaded with vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, and it's a good source of fiber. I used it recently in this chicken, kale and white bean stew.

    Lentils.jpg - Westend61/Getty Images
    Lentils. Westend61/Getty Images


    Lentils are a great source of protein, an excellent source of folate, fiber and are packed full of all kinds of other minerals and vitamins, including iron. Long loved by vegetarians, lentils can also grace the plates of meat and fish lovers too. Enjoy lentils in a soup or as a base on which to serve some white fish, as I do with this cod and lentils dish.

    Oats.jpg - Westend61/Getty Images
    Oats. Westend61/Getty Images


    Oats are a great source of fiber, which helps you feel fuller for longer, making it an ideal breakfast cereal. If I eat oatmeal, which I do frequently, even in the summer months, I don't feel hungry again until lunch time. The soluble fiber in oatmeal is also thought to lower cholesterol, so is good for heart health. The other great thing about oatmeal is that you can add another of our super foods to it -- blueberries -- for a  stellar start to your morning.

    Southwestern Quinoa Salad - Fiona Haynes
    Southwestern Quinoa Salad. Fiona Haynes


    For those who can't eat wheat, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a great alternative to pasta and couscous. Even if you can eat wheat, a side dish or salad made with quinoa makes a nice change. Quinoa provides all eight essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein, making it popular with vegetarians. It's also a good source of iron, fiber and B vitamins. Despite its status as a super grain, quinoa is technically a seed. More »

    Broiled Salmon With Lemon Sauce - Fiona Haynes
    Broiled Salmon With Lemon Sauce. Fiona Haynes


    The American Heart Association recommends we eat fish at least twice a week. While salmon is obviously a "fatty" fish, the fats are the heart-healthy kind. Chock full of omega 3 fatty acids, which the body needs but can't manufacture, salmon should be included in all our diets, including low-fat ones. More »

    Walnut - Javier Pais/Getty Images
    Walnut. Javier Pais/Getty Images


    While nuts are undoubtedly high in fat, they can still be a part of an overall lower fat diet. Walnuts, for example, are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid), which, as we have noted with salmon, the body must have but is unable to make by itself. Walnuts also contain fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, and protein. I don't recommend gorging on walnuts for a snack; but adding some sprinkled walnut pieces to your favorite muffin recipe, adding a couple of tablespoons to your morning oatmeal or yogurt parfait, will give you a nice nutritional boost.

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    Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015
    Chicken and Spinach Lasagna - Getty Images
    Chicken and Spinach Lasagna.  Getty Images

    My daughter doesn't like traditional lasagna, but that's because she doesn't like red sauce (which is why she doesn't enjoy any pasta dish with a tomato sauce). So I wanted to come up with a white lasagna that would pass the kid/teen test. She loves spinach, so I knew that wouldn't be a problem, and like most people, she loves chicken too. You can poach some chicken breasts and shred them when they're cool, or simply use some leftover rotisserie chicken for speed.

    • 1 tbsp and 2 tsp butter
    • 3 tbs all-purpose flour
    • pinch of salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
    • 2 1/2 cups non fat milk
    • 6 oven-ready lasagna noodles
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
    • 1 10 ounce pack frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
    • 3/4 cup reduced fat Italian blend shredded cheese
    • Prep Time: 20 minutes
    • Cook Time: 30 minutes
    • Total Time: 50 minutes
    • Yield: 4 servings

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    Combine flour with salt, pepper, and mustard powder.

    In an medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. As it begins to bubble, add flour mixture; stir and cook (while still stirring) for 30 seconds. Using a hand whisk, gradually stir in milk and keep stirring until milk thickens -- about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

    Spread about a half cup of sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.

    Place two lasagna noodles on top, followed by half of the shredded chicken and half of the spinach. Spoon with about 3/4 cup of sauce, then repeat. After last two noodles, spread remaining sauce, and sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

    Cover tightly with foil and bake in oven for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 5 more minutes or until cheese is fully melted.

    Serves 4

    Calories: 451, Calories from Fat 77, total Fat 8g (sat 2.1g), Cholesterol 51 mg, Sodium 788 mg, Carbohydrate 52.7g, Fiber 3.4g, Protein 40.3g

    Tips and Suggestions:

    • Use 1/8 tsp of ground nutmeg instead of mustard for a more authentic bechamel sauce
    • If the sauce seems too thick, thin with a little more milk.
    • If you prefer a cheesy sauce; stir in a half cup of reduced-fat sharp cheddar to the sauce, but bear in mind this will add some extra fat and calories.
    • You can use fresh spinach instead of frozen; Wilt 10 ounces baby spinach in the microwave either in a microwave-safe bag, or in a bowl (sprinkle a few drops of water first); squeeze dry and chop.
    • Prefer kale? Trim leaves from center spine, and steam until tender, squeeze dry, then chop.
    • Use leftover roasted turkey breast instead of chicken if you're making this around Thanksgiving or the holidays.
    Read more ...

    Your Healthy Eating Toolkit for the New Year

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    Many of us begin each new year with a list of resolutions, but by the end of January most if not all of those resolutions will likely have gone by the wayside, especially ones that concern diet and food. Why is it so hard to stick with these things? Well, old habits can be hard to break, and undertaking any kind of drastic change takes a special kind of willpower. If you have a specific goal -- to lose a certain number of pounds for your spring break vacation, then you do at least have that motivation. But no matter what your goal is, the key thing is to be realistic. Are you really going to give up carbs forever?

    I'm a realist. I know I can't achieve those things. I don't think they're sustainable. But that doesn't mean to say I don't want to change some of my habits. So if your goal is to eat better, lose some weight, get fitter, you can do those things by setting achievable targets, by making small changes here and there that add up to a lot. So be patient, don't be disheartened if progress seems slower than you expected; in the case of weight loss, you're not going to lose weight faster than you put it on (and if you do, you won't stick to whatever method that got you there)

    Here are a few things to help you if your goal is to eat less fat.

    Olive Oil - Getty Images
    Olive Oil. Getty Images

    Know Your Fats

    So you want to eat low fat. Well, that's fine. But know that your goal should not be to eliminate fat from your diet. Some people, for specific medical reasons, have to eat very low fat. Most of us, though, do not. Because some fat is needed in our diet for healthy skin and hair, for the proper absorption of certain vitamins, and so on, the goal should be to cut excess fat and to choose better-for-you fats, as I explain in "Good fats, bad fats." More »

    Low Fat Foods - Fiona Haynes
    Low Fat Foods. Fiona Haynes

    Stocking Low Fat Foods: The Pantry

    What will help you in your quest to reduce the amount of fat in your diet is to purge your pantry and restock it with healthier options. That way, you have the necessary ingredients on hand to prepare healthier meals, and little to tempt you off your chosen path. More »

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    Make a Healthier Sandwich

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015
    PBJ and Banana Sandwich - Fiona Haynes
    PBJ and Banana Sandwich.  Fiona Haynes

    The very first time I stepped into a New York deli to ask for a sandwich, I was overwhelmed. I'd recently moved to the U.S. from England, and was unschooled in the art of buying a deli sandwich. Sure, we have sandwich bars in the U.K., but they were nothing like ones here.

    The choice of breads, meats, cheeses, salads, and dressings was astounding. Yet, the irony of being faced with all these options to consider was that I had all of about five seconds to make my decision before the impatient guy behind the counter would yell "Next!"

    But what also struck me about about these amazing sandwich places was the sheer size of the sandwich I ended up with. You see, a ham and cheese sandwich in England comprises a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on buttered white bread, possibly with a little mustard or some Branston Pickle -- a spicy chopped vegetable relish.

    But that was it. Skimpy but adequate.

    My New York deli sandwich had literally an inch to an inch and a half of ham and cheese, was slathered in mayo, and served with a mound of chips and a dill pickle -- I wasn't thrilled to find that my bread was made soggy by pickle juice.

    But this behemoth of a sandwich was likely a day's worth of calories in one fell swoop. Even a half sandwich was too much. So I would remove most of the ham and cheese, which was a terrible waste.

    I decided that it would be cheaper and healthier for me if I made my own sandwiches. Here are the basics of making healthier sandwiches.


    Start with whole grain bread or rolls instead of white bread. Be careful, though, because bread that may be labeled "wheat" bread and looks brown may actually be white bread made brown by molasses or caramel coloring.

    The first ingredient on the label should say "whole wheat" or "whole grain." It's not enough for the package to simply state "made with whole grain." Another clue is to look at the amount of fiber. Whole grain bread should have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per slice. And if possible, look for bread that has only 1-2 grams of sugar per slice at most.

    Personally, I find many breads taste too sweet.


    A nutritious sandwich should have some protein. You really don't need mounds of cheese or meat to fulfill that requirement. Three ounces is all you need at most. Healthy options include a hard boiled egg, half a can of tuna, three slices of low-sodium nitrite-free sliced turkey or ham. Roasted chicken and salmon are excellent, flavorful options.

    Of course, peanut butter can be a healthy option, especially the natural variety that has no sugar or salt added.

    Avoid bologna, roast beef, pastrami, liverwurst; these are higher in fat and calories.


    Add volume to your sandwich not through extra meat and cheese, but through vegetables. This is also a great way to add texture as well as extra nutrition to your lunch It's good rule of thumbe when building a healthier salad, too. Lettuce is the obvious green, but instead of choosing shredded pale iceberg lettuce, which adds little in terms of nutritional value, opt for darker, leafier varieties from romaine to baby spinach.

    Once you've picked your greens, add veggie items such as sliced red onions, sweet bell peppers, shredded carrots, a little sliced avocado, tomatoes, and cucumber.

    Don't forget fruit: for example, sliced apples and pears go well with strong cheese and also with chicken. I like bananas in my peanut butter sandwiches (see photo).


    Go easy on the mayo. A little is fine, and arguably better than low fat mayos and dressings, which may contain more sugar and sodium than their regular counterparts. Homemade mayonnaise is divine. Mustard is a low calorie condiment, of course. Mash a little avocado and spread on your bread, or spread a couple of tablespoons of hummus. These both contain healthy fats, but neither is low calorie, so don't overdo it.

    If you like pickles, the vinegar adds a nice tart flavor to a sandwich. I like banana peppers for this.

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