Stir-Fried Veggies + Tofu

Normally, I’m not a tofu person. However, I decided to give it a try: in addition to being wonderfully inexpensive, tofu is high in protein, low in fat, and very low in saturated fat. In addition, some studies show it can lower cholesterol and may even help prevent certain types of cancer, including breast and prostate.

Plenty for tofu to boast about, right? This definitely sounds like a protein that should be worked into the menu on a weekly basis and guess what? This recipe is incredibly delicious. Tofu essentially acts as a sponge, soaking up whatever you cook it in – so the flavors that come from the garlic, wine & soy sauce make the tofu completely moist & delicious! I’m completely converted and my tofu-stereotypes have been shattered – you, too?

Stir-Fried Vegetables and Tofu

Ingredients

  • vegetables-ck-225646-l2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup julienne-cut carrot $
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, divided
  • 1 tbsp red chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 cups julienne-cut zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups julienne-cut yellow squash
  • 1 (8-ounce) package button mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 1/2 cups quartered cremini mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 (12.3-ounce) package reduced-fat extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups hot cooked jasmine or other long-grain rice

Preparation

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrot; stir-fry 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili-garlic sauce and 2 tablespoons wine; stir-fry 3 minutes. Add zucchini and squash; stir-fry 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and 2 tablespoons wine; stir-fry 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; sauté 7 minutes, browning on all sides. Add soy sauce; cook 1 minute. Stir in sprouts, salt, and pepper. Add tofu mixture to vegetable mixture; heat thoroughly. Serve over rice.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup stir-fry and 1/2 cup rice)

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 225
  • Calories from fat: 22%
  • Fat: 5.5g
  • Saturated fat: 0.8g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.4g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9g
  • Protein: 10.1g
  • Carbohydrate: 36g
  • Fiber: 2.6g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0mg
  • Iron: 3.4mg
  • Sodium: 418mg
  • Calcium: 58mg

Cooking Light
JANUARY 2000

Creamy Red Pepper-Butternut Squash Soup

It’s that time of year again, where comforting soups seem to top the list when it comes to perfect dinners to warm you up. Filling up on low-sodium soups can actually be incredibly beneficial for your waistline, as well, as it will help you feel nice and full without any extra bloat sneaking up on you later.

Butternut squash soup is a classic, and one that always tops my list of favorites. Butternut squash itself is a fantastic base to work with: low in fat, it delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. Finally, the color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration.

I’m absolutely always looking for a fun new twist to dress up the classic butternut squash soup, though, as you can never have too many tricks up your sleeve. This soup is perfect: it’s jazzed up with red peppers (adding the nutritional benefit pot by adding vitamins, antioxidants and even potential cancer-fighting capabilities), appears creamy simply because of the texture of pureed squash (there’s no cream to be found anywhere near this dish!), is healthy and maybe best of all, is perfectly simple – freezes well and tastes even better the next day.

It could be the perfect soup to make ahead and freeze for hosting duties that may come up in the next few months – paired with a simple salad and protein, your meal will be rounded out fabulously. Note that the soup can be dressed up a variety of ways, depending on what else you’re serving – with a sprinkle of parmesan, chopped rosemary or even toasted almonds – but it also tastes perfectly complete on its own.

Creamy Butternut Squash-Red Pepper Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups chopped peeled fresh butternut squash
  • 3 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 5 cups no-salt-added chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss well. Place vegetable mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once.
  3. Combine vegetables, stock, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Use immersion blender to puree the vegetable mixture until smooth. (Alternately, use blender: place half of vegetable mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Process until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture.) Stir in butter. Top with rosemary, if desired.

Recipe adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, “Creamy Pumpkin-Red Pepper Soup” – see that recipe and nutritional information here!

10 Best Foods for Fitness

Why not do everything in your power to fuel your workout in the most healthy fashion – both helping you feel stronger while you exercise and help you recover the most quickly – reducing soreness and making your feel ready for your next session!

Here are some tips from Women’s Health Magazine – the best foods you can (and should) add into your diet to help you workout longer & stronger and recovery faster:

1. Avocados: The cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat in these green health bombs can help keep your body strong and pain free – not only helping you recover more quickly, but also helping with injury-prevention. University of Buffalo researchers found that competitive women runners who ate less than 20 percent fat were more likely to suffer injuries than those who consumed at least 31 percent. Turns out, diets that are too low in fat can weaken both your muscles and joints – but always focus on healthy fats!

2. Bananas: we recently mentioned on our Facebook page that bananas might be a near-perfect workout recovery snack, and can even fuel your workout better than most energy drinks! Turns out, the potassium in bananas might also be the perfect solution to cure your muscle cramps: While a lack of sodium is the main culprit behind muscle cramps, studies show potassium plays a supporting role: you need it to replace sweat losses and help with fluid absorption. Bananas are also packed with energizing carbohydrates, helping your push yourself harder and longer while working out!

3. Berries: any, and all! Go by the rule of thumb: the deeper the color, the healthier the berry. USDA researchers recently placed fresh berries on their list of the 20 foods richest in antioxidants. Just a handful of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries is an excellent source of these potent nutrients, which protect muscles from free radical damage that might be caused by exercise.

4. Carrots: Carrots pack complex carbs that provide energy to muscles and potassium to control blood pressure and muscle contractions, says Leslie Bo.

5. Whole Grain Cereal: If you are looking to fuel a strong workout, look for a whole grain cereal that packs a combination of endurance-boosting complex carbs and muscle-building protein. Sixty minutes before a workout, fuel up with a 200-calorie snack: ¾ cup of whole-grain cereal with 4 ounces of fat-free milk. “When you eat something before exercising, you have more energy, so you can work out harder and perhaps longer. And you’ll be less likely to overeat afterward,” says Leslie Bonci, R.D.

6. Chicken thighs: A lack of iron and zinc in your diet will make your energy level plummet. Look to most lean proteins to help get your levels back up, but “dark-meat poultry is significantly lower in fat than red meat yet has all the iron, zinc, and B vitamins that women need in their diets,” says Seattle sports nutritionist Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., author of Power Eating.

7. Hummus: the chickpeas and olive oil that combine to make hummus a fabulous combination of complex carbs, protein and unsaturated fats, all of which energize you for a workout. Aim for a snack of 100 calories of hummus, paired with veggies to fill you up for hours.

8. Eggs: Protein-filled egg whites, yes! But don’t skip the yolk, either. One egg yolk per day supplies 215 milligrams of cholesterol—not enough to push you over the 300-milligram daily cholesterol limit recommended by the American Heart Association. Plus, the yolk is a good source of iron, and it’s loaded with lecithin, critical for brain health, says nutritionist Susan Kleiner, Ph.D. Start your day off with an egg white omelet with one yolk tossed in.

9. Chocolate Milk: not only is milk a top source of calcium, but choose a reduced-fat variety of chocolate milk to create an almost-perfect muscle recovery drink. The chocolate kind is loaded with calcium, vitamins, and minerals just like the plain stuff, but new studies confirm that milk with a touch of cocoa is as powerful as commercial recovery drinks at replenishing and repairing muscles.

10. Salmon: As crazy as this sounds, new studies are suggesting that monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats might help lessen abdominal fat! Pair that with a muscle-building workout to whittle your middle in no time.

 

Almost- “Paleo” Coconut Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Heard of the “Paleo” or “Paleolithic” diet? While I don’t follow it or endorse following it, I find it interesting – as its name implies, this diet takes it back to basics…as in way back.. to the caveman days. This diet focuses on what our ancestors originally ate, excluding grains, processed foods, refined sugar, legumes and dairy…which leaves a list of foods that occur naturally, that looks like the following:

  • Meat (grass friend, not grain-fed), Fowl & Fish
  • Eggs 
  • Vegetables
  • Oils (Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil – think natural.)
  • Fruits
  • Nuts 
  • Tubers

So again, I’m not headed in this direction anytime soon, but one cannot argue that a focus, in general, on ones diet into the direction of these healthy, whole foods, and an exclusion of many of the foods dictated here (processed foods, refined sugars) can certainly do no harm. I came across a recipe for a baked bread that is just about “Paleo”, which intrigued me (original recipe found on the super-fun Paleo-focused yummy food blog “the frisky lemon“)! Take a look at the ingredients and you’ll see what I’m talking about – mostly whole, natural ingredients come together with just a touch of clearly non-Paleo ingredients by way of maple syrup and chocolate chips (those chips could totally be optional and swapped in for more paleo (and heart) friendly walnuts to be a little more proper!) to up the delicious factor.

This recipe brought coconut flour and coconut oil into my life for the first time – and since I happen to love coconut, the flavor that came through was absolutely incredible. The coconut oil keeps the bread impossibly moist, and adds some fabulously “healthy fat” benefits – think heart disease prevention, weight loss helper (in moderation! these calories still count), digestion aid and immunity upper. And the coconut flour? Yum! Not only is it gluten-free if you need or prefer that, but it’s got good protein and is PACKED with fiber! Coconut fiber actually has almost double the fiber of wheat bran.

Note that the calorie count is not too bad per serving, but this bread comes with a warning: it’s nearly impossible to stick to a single serving! But you can feel confident in looking at the ingredient list that these are the types of calories you want to be putting into your body, vs the baked goods from your coffee shop, these are healthy fats that are helping you – but the calories do still count.
Enjoy!

Almost- “Paleo” Coconut Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 6 pitted, dried dates
  • 2 Tbsp light maple syrup
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup mini dark chocolate chips (if you can’t find mini dark, focus on the dark and chop them up – as dark chocolate is more beneficial)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a bread pan with parchment paper.
  2. Place dates in microwave safe bowl along with 1 Tbsp of water. Heat on high for 30s and mash with a fork. Repeat once more – if not mashed enough, pop into a magic bullet to fully grind.
  3. Add the maple syrup to the date mixture to make a sweetened date paste.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the coconut flour, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon. Whisk to remove any chunks.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Add the date paste and whisk until well combined.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry.
  7. Add the melted coconut oil and chocolate chips.
  8. Pour the batter into the bread pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.
  9. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy! (note that this bread also freezes very well – and thaws easily in the microwave)

Nutrition Info per serving (10 servings total):

Calories: 235
Fat: 3.6 grams
Carbs: 60 g
Fiber: 5.5 g
Sugar: 10.5 g
Sodium:  60 mg

I made a few small swaps to this recipe – but to see the original and get lots of other healthy and Paleo-focused recipes, click here!

Zucchini Lasagna: low carb style!

Lasagna? Always delicious. Good source of vegetables? Not usually – until now. The amazing genius of skinnytaste.com comes through once again with a zucchini lasagna so delicious, you won’t even notice the pasta is mysteriously missing – oh yes, it’s been replaced with thinly sliced and grilled zucchini “noodles”. Not only does this transform an ordinary lasagna to a low-carb, gluten-free delight, but it amps up the nutrition.

Zucchini (fantastic this time of year, by the way) has many benefits:

  • lowers cholesterol
  • cancer prevention
  • promotes heart health
  • lowers blood pressure
  • promotes prostate health
  • good source of antioxidants and a good source anti-inflammatory agents

Who wouldn’t want these benefits to be a part of your cheesily-delicious dinner? The fabulous and innovative chef at one of my favorite cooking websites had the fantastic idea to replace lasagna noodles with thinly-sliced zucchini (I’d recommend using a mandoline to easily slice the zucchini and keep the width uniform), and voila – this delicious recipe is the result. 

I would absolutely recommend taking the extra time to grill the zucchini slices (I just popped mine onto a griddle pan on the stove), it doesn’t require too much babysitting but really ensures that your lasagna sticks together nicely by reducing the water content in the zucchini. Otherwise the lasagna will have a little more of a “mush”-factor!
Enjoy!

Zucchini Lasagna

Skinnytaste.com 
Servings: 8 • Serving Size: 1/8 • Old Points: 8 pts • Points+: 9 pts
Calories: 345 • Fat: 17 g • Carbs: 16 g • Fiber: 2 g • Protein: 36 g • Sugar: 8 g
Sodium: 801 (without salt)

Ingredients:  

  • 1 lb 93% lean beef
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta
  • 16 oz part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded (Sargento)
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, brown meat and season with salt. When cooked drain in colander to remove any fat. Add olive oil to the pan and saute garlic and onions about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmeron low for at least 30-40minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.

Meanwhile, slice zucchini into 1/8″ thick slices, add lightly salt and set aside or 10 minutes. Zucchini has a lot of water when cooked, salting it takes out a lot of moisture. After 10 minutes, blot excess moisture with a paper towel.

On a gas grill or grill pan, grill zucchini on each side, until cooked, about 1-2 minutes per side. Place on paper towels to soak any excess moisture.

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl mix ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. Stir well.

In a 9×12 casserole spread some sauce on the bottom and layer the zucchini to cover. Then place some of the ricotta cheese mixture, then top with the mozzarella cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Top with sauce and mozzarella and cover with foil.

Bake 45 minutes covered at 375°, then uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand about 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

A very triple berry smoothie

In the heart of summer, it doesn’t get better than the fresh berries that are in all their glory right now! This smoothie is pure in form, as well – just berries, ice and nonfat yogurt make it a perfect well-rounded start to your day – berries are such a fantastically delicious way to get your days’ worth of vitamins and nutrients, starting you off on a healthy note. To add a little protein, bump the weight watcher’s yogurt that the recipe calls for and swap in some greek yogurt!

This recipe came from Skinny Taste, one of the most fantastic resources I’ve found for the perfect combination of delicious and healthy recipes, wrapped into one!

Triple Berry Smoothie
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup blackberries and raspberries
  • 5 medium strawberries
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 6 oz WW berries and cream nonfat yogurt (or I use nonfat greek vanilla yogurt)

Directions:
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Servings: 2 • Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 68.4
Fat: 0.4 g
Protein: 3.3 g
Carb: 12.9 g
Fiber: 3.1 g 

To see the recipe on Skinny Taste, click here!

Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Creamy Pesto

This is one of those great dinners that will fill you up when paired with salad or quinoa, but won’t leave you feeling overly-stuffed. Grilling the skewers give that delicious-charred taste and leaves no mess with pans – win-win!

I love recipes that call for “whatever vegetables you have on hand” – especially when the balance of the ingredients in this deliciously light summer grilled dish are items you will almost always have on hand, and easily editable due to the nice complimentary flavors. So my version of this was made solely with non-fat plain greek yogurt (no sour cream on hand) blended with basil (no commercial pesto on hand!) – and it tasted absolutely fantastic.

Chicken Kebabs with Creamy Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 (1-inch) pieces yellow bell pepper
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon commercial pesto

Preparation

  1. Prepare grill.
  2. Combine rind, 1 tablespoon juice, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss with bell pepper, tomatoes, chicken, and onion. Thread vegetables and chicken onto 4 (12-inch) skewers. Place skewers on grill about 12 minutes, turning, until chicken is done.
  3. Combine 1 teaspoon juice, yogurt, sour cream, and pesto. Serve sauce with kebabs.

 

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 kebab and 1 tablespoon sauce)
Total: 20 Minutes

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving

  • Calories: 211
  • Fat: 7.3g
  • Saturated fat: 2.1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.7g
  • Protein: 27.9g
  • Carbohydrate: 7g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Cholesterol: 70mg
  • Iron: 1.4mg
  • Sodium: 441mg
  • Calcium: 48mg

Jackie Mills, Cooking Light 
SEPTEMBER 2010

Summer Grillin’: Apricot Shrimp Skewers

Apricots are in season right now and oh-so-deliciously juicy, but they’re one of those fruits that can feel tricky to incorporate. Dried apricots are our most typical form of ingesting this fruit – and while season obviously doesn’t matter there, you do up your sugar intake (since the water is removed during the drying process, the sugar content goes up – plus it’s easier to pop quite a few in your mouth at once!) vs noshing on the fresh fruit…and a whole apricot only has 17 calories, making it particularly waistline-friendly.

In addition, apricots really are a great health pick: their vivid-orange flesh is a tip-off that these fruits are absolutely stuffed with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, and a great source of vitamin A, which is essential for eye, bone and immune health. In fact, Women’s Health Magazine tells us that researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that adults with the highest blood carotene levels were less likely to keel over from disease (always a good thing)!

If you need a more exciting and adventurous way to incorporate these juicy buggers into your diet, Women’s Health magazine featured a delicious savory, grilled apricot dish this month. It’s a fabulously unique way to eat this fresh fruit hot – to round out the meal, make a little extra marinade and toss with some quinoa or bulgur wheat, and serve the skewers on top!

Apricot Shrimp Skewers

Ingredients:
2 tbsp + 2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 apricots, quartered, pits removed
12 metal or soaked wooden skewers
Lemon wedges

Directions:

  • In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest and juice, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Add shrimp to marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  • Preheat grill to high. Toss apricots with remaining oil and a dash of salt. Thread 2 shrimp and 2 apricot pieces onto each skewer, alternating shrimp and apricot.
  • Grill skewers until shrimp flesh is firm and pink, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings
Nutrition info per serving:
240 calories
12 g fat (1 g saturated)
9 g carbs
320 mg sodium
1 g fiber
24 g proetin

6 Super-Powered Foods for a Flat Belly

There are actually foods that contain just the right kinds of fats and nutrients that can seriously help you get rid of stomach bulge…which is amazing! Imagine the impact of of shifting your daily routine into some of these foods…but don’t take my word for it, this is backed up by scientific research – some of these foods are shown to actually shrink fat cells, some keep you full longer and others fuel your workout better to be able to torch more calories.

Self Magazine has pulled together some of these studies, and pay close attention – it is quite clear that not all fats and calories are created equal…and just as important as quantity (the totally number of calories you’re eating per day) is the quality. For example, we’ve all heard not all fats are are bad – and it turns out that you should actually be eating certain kinds of fat to reduce your waistline, which is a bit contradictory to society! Self tells us: “Dieters who consumed monounsaturated fats lost more stomach bulge than those eating the same number of calories but less of the fats, a study in the journal Diabetes Care finds. And a study in the journal Obesity reveals that when monkeys ate trans fats, their waists were 30 percent bigger than those of simians eating monounsaturated fats.”

Check out these 6 foods/drinks that could help you flatten your belly!

1. Avocado: avocado is chock-full of the monounsaturated fats discussed above – but how exactly does eating this healthy fat slim you down? Self explains that blood sugar peaks can signal your body to store fat around your midsection, but monounsaturated fats stop the spikes, thwarting fat accumulation.

It doesn’t get much easier to incorporate something into your diet than with the avocado: add to salads, sandwiches or wraps – or whip up a simple guacamole and dip veggies in it!

2. Green Tea: it’s just about impossible to look at a list of what you should be eating and drinking without encountering green tea – it’s that good for you! Self cites a study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, which found that drinking three cups of green tea a day may kick up your metabolism and erase 30 calories daily! Why? It’s the ECGC compound in the tea, which actually helps the body burn fat!


3. Yogurt: 
probiotic-rich yogurt aids in reducing belly bloat by promoting the growth of good bacteria in your body –  this bacteria crowds out other bugs that can cause bloating, Self says citing David Grotto, R.D., author of 101 Optimal Life Foods (Bantam). To make sure you’re getting these benefits, look for the “live and active cultures” seal on the package!

 

 

 

 

4. Blueberries: these berries are all about fueling your workout to help you torch more calories – they’re packed with antioxidants, which “help improve blood flow—which delivers more oxygen to your muscles,” says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Giving your muscles the oxygen they need makes exercise feel easier, so you may work out harder, longer and more often.”

5. Bulgur: another counter-cultural food….bring on the carbs! However, similar to the fat discussion, not all carbs are created equal, and you want to ensure you are working the right type of carbs into your diet: Dieters who dined on whole grains lost more tummy fat than calorie cutters who ate refined grains, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes. How? It’s in the healthy fiber found in whole grains: this fiber aids in keeping your body’s insulin levels low—which researchers speculate may shrink fat cells, Self tells us a study from the University of Kuopio in Finland suggests.

Why focus on bulgur? Half a cup of cooked bulgur has more fiber (4 g) and fewer calories (76) than other grains!

6. Chocolate milk: it may just be the perfect post-workout recovery drink…even better than sports beverages! Self tells us athletes who drank chocolate milk had lower levels of muscle damage after four days of intense exercising than those who guzzled a sports drink, early findings presented at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in Seattle report.

A glass of chocolate milk teams carbs with protein to promote muscle building, Grotto says. Stir in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder or syrup that has less than 20 g sugar and say, “Bye-bye, Buddha belly!”

Deliciously Almond Smoothie

If you are an almond fan (mmmm), you will absolutely adore this smoothie. It’s under 300 calories, so a healthy light breakfast or heavier snack to hold you over, and packs some seriously nutritious ingredients: a perfect combination of vitamins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables – that’s a lot of nutrients packed into one glass! The combination of healthy fats and fiber guarantee this smoothie will help you stay full longer, and want a sneaky trick? A Penn State study found that people whose smoothies were blended for five minutes ate 12 percent less food afterward and felt fuller than those whose smoothies were minimally blended. 

This smoothie stars:

* almond butter: boasting the fabulous “good” monosaturated fats – focus on using only natural almond butter without sugar (or anything else) added, and this is a perfect form of LDL-reducing nutrients (which is our “bad” cholesterol number). In addition, almonds are a fabulous source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant effective at reducing heart disease and cancer

* kale: honestly, this is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet! According to WebMD, “One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.” Wowza!

* banana: this fruit has a long laundry list of vitamins it’s giving you: the potassium enhances the regular rhythm of muscular contraction, helping your heart function more healthily, and the high amount of Vitamin B helps maintain excellent condition of your nervous system

Potassium—8%, Vitamin A—3%, Vitamin B or Thiamin—2%, Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin—5%, Vitamin B3 or Niacin—4%, Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid—7%, Vitamin B6—28%, Vitamin B9 or Folate—5%, Calcium—1%, Iron—2%, Vitamin C—15%, Magnesium—7%, Zinc—1%

* almond milk: while lower in calories than regular cow’s milk, many almond milks have added sugar – so check the nutrition info to keep your awareness. Almond milk does still rank high on the nutritional value scale: high in calcium (helping you build and maintain healthy bones and teeth), according to livestrong.com, “one cup of plain almond milk meets 10 percent of the Recommended Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, 25 percent for vitamin D and 50 for vitamin E, making it high in many nutrients compared to the amount of calories it provides per serving. Vitamins A and E act as antioxidants, enhancing immunity and protecting the body’s cells and tissues from damage. In addition, vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight and supports normal growth and development. Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth, and enhances immunity”!

Awesome Almond Smoothie

1 small frozen banana, sliced
3/4 cup kale, lightly packed, stems removed
3/4 cup almond milk
3/4 Tbsp almond butter
1/8 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger

Blend until smooth….or for 5 minutes to test out the Penn State study above!

Nutrition Info:
Serves 1
233 cal
8 g fat (<1 g sat)
37 g carbs
134 mg sodium
6 g fiber
6 g protein

See the recipe on Women’s Health here!