Wellchat Episode XIX: Intuitive Eating

Episode 19: Cristin Stokes chats with Montana Dietetic Intern Steph Tarnacki about Intuitive Eating: an alternative to constant dieting, and a healthy practice for all of us.

 

Here are some additional resources to learn more about the practice of Intuitive Eating:

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

The Incredible Edible Eggplant

MUS Wellness again has the honor of hosting a dietetic intern for two weeks from the Montana Dietetic Internship program. This year’s intern is Steph Tarnacki. Steph earned her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado, and aspires to work as a dietitian in the public school system to improve the National School Lunch Program, provide nutrition education, and establish more Farm to School Programs. We had a reader request for eggplant recipes following our recent post about zucchini, so on day one with us, I asked Steph to write about her favorite ways to prepare eggplant, and she happily obliged. Please welcome Steph Tarnacki as our guest blog writer:

Late August in Montana – the sun shines bright against a foreshadowing chill in the air, the critters bustle and scavenge for food in preparation of the long winter to come, and the gardens burst with deep purple eggplants!   

Eggplants, a member of the nightshade family, are known for their slightly bitter taste, and spongy texture. Their roots trace back to Asia, where you can find over 13 varieties! Rich in the antioxidant nasunin, eggplants help protect against harmful free radicals and, most importantly, protect the fats in brain cell membranes. Talk about some delicious brain food! Nasunin also reduces inflammation, helps our body remove toxic waste, and may help stave off cancer, heart disease and arthritis.1, 2

Eggplants are low in calories, high in fiber and also pack a punch in the vitamin department – rich in B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin K.

So, how can you incorporate more eggplants into your life? Here are a few of my favorite recipes!

BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggplant sliced 1/4″ thick (you’ll need 12 slices)
  • Salt
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 (8 ounce) box Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) package fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Sprinkle some salt on both sides of each slice of eggplant. Layer the slices in a  colander and place the colander in your sink. Place a heavy dish or pan over the top to press them down. Allow to sweat for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse well with cold water to remove salt and blot dry with paper towels
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet generously with cooking spray. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs down with fingers if needed to cover evenly. Place in a single layer on oiled baking sheet and lightly spray tops of breaded eggplant with cooking spray.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes then carefully flip each slice and cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  4. In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread just enough marinara to cover bottom of dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Cover each slice with a spoon full of marinara, a slice or two of mozzarella, and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Repeat with one more layer. Pour any leftover marinara and around edges of eggplant slices and top with any cheese that is left. Sprinkle basil on top.
  5. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Recipe by: Valerie’s Kitchen

BABA GANOUSH

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive oil (for grill and  drizzling)
  • 2 pounds Italian eggplants (4 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • ½ garlic clove, finely grated   
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sumac, za’atar, crushed red pepper flakes, or Aleppo pepper; grilled flatbreads or pita bread (for serving)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; lightly oil grate. Grill eggplant, turning occasionally, until skin is charred and flesh is fork-tender, 25–35 minutes. (Alternatively, you can tuck vegetables into coals left over from grilling something else. Wait until charcoal is completely covered with ash and no black spots remain. Shake grill to knock excess ash off coal, then rake them around and pile them up around vegetables.) Let cool slightly.
  • Halve eggplant, scoop flesh into a colander set over a bowl, and let drain at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour; discard liquid.
  • Pulse eggplant along with lemon juice, tahini, and garlic in a food processor until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle baba ghanoush with oil and top as desired. Serve with flatbreads or pita bread.

Recipe by NYT Cooking

baba-ganoush-1271630_1280
Baba Ganoush

RATATOUILLE

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large (1.25 lb) eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (1.75 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to another plate and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pain. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
  • Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Recipe by: Jenn Segal

And a few other recipe links that look tasty:

Caponata

Penne with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Hoisin Glazed Eggplant

Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini, and Chickpea Wraps

Hopefully these recipes can help you add some eggplant to your life! Please share more of your favorite eggplant recipes!

Steph

Sources:

  1. https://draxe.com/eggplant-nutrition/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X0000202X

Oh Zucchini!

It’s mid-August — the days of hot temperatures, smoky skies, the approach of fall semester, and…loads of zucchini. Sadly, the zucchini plants in my garden didn’t fare so well this year, but I’m lucky to have generous in-laws who recently brought over a bag of zucchini and summer squash for my family, and then I was back in the familiar position of trying to figure out what to do with it all!

I remembered that years ago we asked MUS plan members to share a favorite recipe with us. We must have presented this challenge in late summer, because we received a ton of zucchini recipes! So, if you’re like me these days and trying to use up lots of zucchini, here are a few ways, thanks to your coworkers, to enjoy your summer bounty:

Chicken Zucchini Boats  

Recipe by Cindy Boies

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 4 roma tomoatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, deseed.
  3. Fill a baking dish with about ¾ inch of water. Bake in water bath until tender but not mushy. Approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Pour out water.
  4. Turn zucchini flesh side up in baking pan. Carve out additional trough in zucchini.
  5. Layer the following in the zucchini boat, amounts will depend on the size of the zucchini: Cooked chicken (chopped into small to medium size pieces),tomatoes (deseeded and diced), and avocado (diced)
  6. Drizzle desired amount of green enchilada sauce over zucchini filling.
  7. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over filling.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is brown, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Zucchini Parmesan with Tomato Sauce

Recipe submitted by Annette Galioto

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 zucchini, peeled, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute zucchini until softened, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Season zucchini with oregano and basil.
  3. Add tomato sauce; cook and stir until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over zucchini mixture.

Zucchini Quiche

Recipe submitted by Anita Brown

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup bisquick
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp Parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix all together in bowl.  Pour in large buttered pie dish & bake at 350 for 30-45 min until it starts to brown.

Zucchini Burgers

Recipe submitted by Jill Seigmund

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey or lean beef
  • 1 cup finely shredded zucchini
  • Salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash, or other burger seasoning

Directions:

  1. Mix the ground meat with the shredded zucchini.  
  2. Shape into five hamburger patties and season with salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash.  
  3. Grill and serve as you would a regular hamburger.

Other ideas:

  • Make zucchini noodles, or “zoodles”, with a spiralizer
  • Shred with a cheese grater, and freeze in 1 or 2 cup labeled portions to use in baked goods (this is especially good to do with very large zucchinis)
  • Serve sliced & raw with a veggie dip or hummus
  • Use as pizza or salad toppings
  • Make zucchini “butter”

Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite way to enjoy zucchini!

Happy Eating!

Cristin

 

 

Wellchat Episode 13: The Nutrition Diva and the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade

Episode 13: Cristin interviews the “Nutrition Diva” Monica Reinagel about her collaboration with MUS and the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™, beginning April 9th.

If you weren’t able to register in time for this round, we’re optimistic about offering a second round in the near future!

 

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

30-Day Nutrition Upgrade for MUS

It was at a meeting of local dietitians many years ago that I first heard of Monica Reinagel. Another dietitian was raving about a podcast called The Nutrition Diva, and always on the lookout for good resources, I went home and checked it out. The Nutrition Diva is a podcast produced by nutritionist Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, and after listening to a couple of episodes, and then reading many of her blog posts, I, too, became hooked. Monica’s approach to nutrition was refreshing. Evidenced-based, practical, and relevant, her blog quickly became one of my go-to resources. Other people and organizations also recognize Monica as a trusted nutrition professional; she’s a regular guest on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR’s Morning Edition, and has been interviewed and quoted in numerous publications.

A couple of years ago, I saw Monica was offering a group nutrition coaching program called the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™, an original program that she had developed. The program uses the Nutrition GPA (Grade Point Average) app as a way to track dietary intake. However, unlike the tedious process of entering foods and portion sizes that most diet trackers require, this app consists of 10 yes or no questions about what you ate that day. You can answer the 10 questions in under 2 minutes. While I didn’t hesitate to join the program because I wanted to see what it was about, I admit that I didn’t have particularly high expectations. As a dietitian, I already knew what I should be eating, right?

Day 1: I scored a D. That’s a D based on a regular A through F academic scale. Yikes! For a dietitian, as well as a person who prided herself on earning top grades during school, this was disappointing to say the least. 

Day 2-30: I actively worked to improve my cumulative GPA. I still had a couple of D days and even an F day, but overall the trend was positive, and I reached a point at which I was consistently earning a decent grade, usually a B or better. But I quickly found that it wasn’t just about the grade. On those days that I earned an A or B; I truly felt better. My natural tendency to snack all of the time lessened, and my energy level was steadier. I was able to reign in my sweet tooth without feeling deprived. Here’s what else I liked about the program: it was simple, scientifically-based, it did not prescribe a meal plan or require hours of prep time or special foods, and there were no forbidden foods. It encouraged a realistic and sustainable way of eating. I also found the online community that was part of the program to be surprisingly helpful and supportive.

Day 31+: Despite my modest expectations to start, I truly believe that after completing the 30 Day Nutrition Upgrade™, my dietary habits changed for the better. And even more impressive is that nearly two years after completing the program, I still consider the ten questions when I’m making my food choices. While I can’t say that this program eliminated all of my cravings for chocolate, sweetened cereals, and French fries, I can say that I’m eating more vegetables, more omega-3’s, more fermented foods, and when I do indulge in some not-so-great for you foods, I am thinking more about how to balance out the rest of my eating day. 

But I’m not just telling this story for the sake of a story. After completing the program, I kept thinking about how beneficial it would be for MUS plan members to participate in the Nutrition Upgrade as well. So I reached out to Monica, and (drumroll please)…I am thrilled to announce that MUS Wellness is partnering with Monica to offer the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™ specifically for MUS Benefits Plan members this spring! This is the first time that the program will be offered to a specific group rather than the general public, so we thought it’d be fun to add a little friendly team competition to the mix too! The program will run April 9th through May 8th at a reduced cost of $10/person (savings of $30 off the regular price). In addition to a live online kick-off and two live online check-ins throughout the program, MUS participants will be invited to join a private Facebook group for ongoing support. Plus, participants will have access to downloadable handouts and other program materials.

So, to all of you MUS plan members, this is an amazing opportunity to improve your nutrition habits, to do so along with your coworkers, and have the support of Monica Reinagel and myself. Registration will open Tuesday, March 20th — mark your calendars and watch for an email from your campus Human Resources or Wellness contact. For our blog readers who are not MUS Benefits Plan members, you can sign up here for the next Nutrition Upgrade for the general public, also beginning April 9th.
If you have questions about the program, check out the information here or email me at cristin.stokes@montana.edu

30 day with wellness man

National Nutrition Month: Go Further with Food

It’s March. Finally. Pat yourself on the back–you’ve almost made it through another very snowy and icy winter! Along with the (hopeful) arrival of spring, there are lots of other reasons to be excited for March, including:  

  • More daylight (Spring forward on March 11th)
  • Spring break (for many of you)
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • March Madness
  • And most exciting of all…March is National Nutrition Month! Hooray!

The 2018 theme for National Nutrition Month, designated by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, is Go Further with Food. According to the Academy, this theme serves as “a reminder to eat healthfully for ongoing energy and plan meals and snacks in advance to help reduce food loss and waste.”

One of our past dietetic interns, Kelsey Tanner, wrote an excellent piece about reducing food waste, and in it, she too suggested meal planning as an important strategy for wasting less food.

Meal planning used to be something that I found really helpful, but now that I’m a working mom with a 5-month old, meal planning is essential. With much less time and energy after work, in order for my family to eat healthy, balanced meals, it’s critical to have ingredients on hand and something planned in advanced. While I’ve written before about my meal planning tips, since becoming more consistent than ever with my personal meal planning routine, I’ve rediscovered some of my favorite tools that I thought I’d share with all of you:

  • Weekly meal planning tear-off notepad. While I received mine as a gift, it’s similar to this one. It’s simple. It’s pretty. It has lots of space to write and make notes. It’s backed with large magnets so it sticks to the side of the fridge where both my husband and I can easily reference it. Each Saturday, I tear off the week that’s gone by, and use the back to write my grocery list for the upcoming week, organized according to how my grocery store is laid out: Produce, Refrigerated, Frozen, Canned/Dry, and Bread.
  • Budget Bytes cookbook. I have dozens of cookbooks on hand, but Budget Bytes has been a favorite of mine lately. It’s a great book not only because the recipes are cost-effective, but because they also taste wonderfully, user fewer ingredients than many other recipes, rely solidly on pantry staples, and are relatively quick to prepare. The author, Beth Moncel, has a recipe website too. One of my recent favorites is her Greek Turkey Burgers.
  • Cooking Light subscription. Yes, you can find all of the Cooking Light recipes online, but I love the tactile experience of paging through a Cooking Light magazine, ogling over the pretty pictures, and selecting one or two recipes every week to incorporate into my plan. I’ve had some major recipe fails from online blogs, Pinterest, and some cookbooks, but I have yet to make a Cooking Light recipe that wasn’t at least ok. Most are delicious, and they’re good for you.
  • Slow cooker. Oh how I love coming home to a house that smells amazing and to a meal that is nearly complete. It’s also nice to have extra time in the evening that would normally be taken up with cooking dinner. I typically plan at least one weeknight meal for the slow cooker. Here are a few slow cooker recipes that I’ve been enjoying:
  • Roasting pan. Ok, maybe it’s a stretch to call this a meal planning tool, but I’ve been really, really into roasted vegetables lately, so I had to include it anyway! The combination of roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes is amazing, and makes an awesome side for just about anything. Make more than you need for one meal, and you can have roasted veggies on salads, in wraps, as a snack, or even for breakfast.

And with that, I encourage all of you to take moment this week to think about how you can . Perhaps set a nutrition-related goal for this month in honor of National Nutrition Month. Or consider making a small investment into a meal planning or prep tool like the ones above that will inspire you to stay motivated and consistent. It’s amazing how something like a fun meal planning notepad or good cookbook can help turn what might be considered a chore into an enjoyable task.

Also this month, check out your campus eateries for National Nutrition Month happenings! The dining halls and some of the SUB restaurants here in Bozeman have designated each day of the week with a nutrition special. See below for details:

2018-03-02_09h50_36
Specials this month at MSU Bozeman SUB restaurants. Check your campus for any specials going on this month in conjunction with National Nutrition Month!

Happy National Nutrition Month!

CS

 

New super-vitamin, or just catchy headlines?

“Before you jump on a nutrition bandwagon, and start taking supplements or radically change your diet, dig deeper. Be wary. Find reliable sources. Read the actual study.”

As a dietitian working in the wellness field, nutrition-related news always catches my eye. So I was intrigued when I saw several headlines last summer pertaining to vitamin B3. The first group of headlines were about miscarriage: “Vitamin B3 may prevent miscarriage and birth defects, study suggests” and  “Landmark Vitamin Discovery Could Prevent Miscarriages and Birth Defects”  Then a second group of headlines appeared, this time for vitamin B3 links to skin cancer prevention: “Vitamin therapy could prevent melanoma” and “New review shows potential of Vitamin B3 in preventing melanoma”. Reading the media-written articles about the research, things sounded pretty promising!

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a dietitian, it’s to be skeptical of “too good to true” headlines. So I decided to take some time and investigate the actual basis of the headlines. What I found was surprising, and not in a good way, especially if you went out and bought a bunch of vitamin B3 supplements based on the headlines.

For some background info to start, vitamin B3 comes in two forms: niacin and niacinamide. Niacinamide is derived from niacin, but the two forms are nearly interchangeable in low doses, like the doses found in vitamin supplements. In bigger doses, niacin and niacinamide do vary in their ability to treat certain conditions such as high cholesterol. Vitamin B3 plays an important role in our body’s metabolism, helping convert food into usable energy. Good sources of the vitamin in our diet include meat, fish, nuts, mushrooms, and fortified cereal.

Now, let’s take a look at the study related to miscarriage. An estimated 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, so there could be huge implications for millions of people if the headlines are true and vitamin B3 can prevent miscarriage. Researchers were looking specifically at a group of birth defects known as VACTERL association, which causes abnormalities in many different body systems including the spine, heart, kidneys, and limbs. VACTERL association is rare, affecting 1 in 10,000 to 40,000 babies. Researchers studied four families who had been affected by this particular type of birth defect and found that this association was related to a deficiency of a certain compound in the body known as NAD, or niacinamide adenine dinucleotide. NAD is a coenzyme formed from niacin, which allows cells to produce energy, and which is important for normal organ development. 

The discovery that NAD was involved and responsible for this group of birth defects alone was a big deal, but then scientists went further and found that when mice with the genetic mutation that will result in VACTERL were given extra niacin, their mouse babies didn’t end up with the expected defects.

It was a well designed study and an important one for the prevention of this specific type of birth defect. But, notice that the study was conducted on only four families and mice, and no niacin was actually given to humans! Furthermore, the dose given to mice was the equivalent of ten times the recommended daily amount for people. We also know that body mass index and diabetes can affect how someone produces NAD, and developing fetuses are particularly sensitive little beings. So, while it’s true that niacin may potentially prevent a certain type of birth defects (if humans react in the same way as mice), we are still a long ways off from recommending extra niacin to all pregnant women or being able to say that niacin will prevent miscarriage and birth defects. In other words, it’s an exciting study, but certainly shouldn’t be interpreted as having widespread ramifications for our entire population yet.

Next, let’s take a look at the study, or review rather, that spawned the headlines related to melanoma. A clinical trial known as ONTRAC was recently conducted which looked at the effect of niacin supplementation on the recurrence of skin cancer. Researchers found a 23% reduction in basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers (both non-melanoma cancers) when people with a history of skin cancer were given 500 mg of niacinamide twice per day as compared to a randomized control group receiving a placebo. It’s a compelling finding for people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, especially since niacinamide is safe, inexpensive, and easily available.

However, researchers then hypothesized that vitamin B3 might also be effective in helping to prevent melanoma, based on the promising ONTRAC trial results, as well as the assumed role of vitamin B3 in relation to skin cancer. Vitamin B3 is thought to reduce inflammation and suppression of the immune system caused by UV radiation, and is involved in DNA repair.

So, scientists never actually studied Vitamin B3 in relation to melanoma. They just called for future studies. And yet, somehow, their untested hypothesis that niacin might be able to prevent melanoma got translated into headlines that at first glance anyway, certainly give the impression that there is more of a connection.

Bottom line? Before you jump on a nutrition bandwagon, and start taking supplements or radically change your diet, dig deeper. Be wary. Find reliable sources. Read the actual study. You don’t have to have an advanced degree to find serious limitations of studies including small sample size, animals only, or no control groups. Or, in the case of the melanoma headlines, no study at all; simply a call for future research!

Hopefully we will see follow-up research that support these findings and hypotheses, but in the meantime, the best approach is to get your niacin from a whole-foods based, healthy diet!

CS

Want to learn more about dietary supplementation? Check out our 2016 Webinar Smart About Supplements

 

 

Wellchat Episode VII: The Late Night Binge

Episode 7: Recorded previously, Cristin discusses Bluezones, the myths and realities of late-night eating, and some strategies to curb binges later in the day. Plus Neal shares some latest news regarding the MUS Wellness Incentive Program.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Power Bite Video: Freezing Veggies

As we head into fall and our CSA shares, home gardens, and Farmer’s market bounties of fresh fruits and veggies start to wane, don’t despair! Cristin, with the help of Montana dietetic intern Anna Goodrum, demonstrates how to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables in order to preserve those delicious foods through the winter. The simple technique of blanching is also discussed.

Freezing fresh produce is a great way to prevent food waste, and prepare for easy meals down the road.

For those of you who participate in our MUS Wellness Incentive Program, a new round of challenges will begin next week (10/2). Get a jump on one of them by watching the latest Montana Meals offering!

Happy Eating!

Back-to-School Breakfasts!

School is back in session and for many of us, that means more responsibilities, tighter schedules, and often…less time for food prep. Breakfast especially can take a hard hit if school mornings are chaotic. Even if the start of school doesn’t change your schedule much, it’s rare to find someone who has time in the morning to sit down to a freshly prepared meal, especially as the weather starts to cool, the sun rises later, and your bed feels ever more cozy & comfortable in those early morning hours.

But rather than skipping breakfast or just grabbing a pastry at the coffee shop that will leave you hungry an hour later, do yourself a favor and prepare some healthy items ahead of time that are ready in a jiffy or that you can take with you on your way to work. While the internet is full of make-ahead breakfast ideas, I’ve rounded up some of my favorites to share with you all, plus a few additional recipes that actually sound realistic and manageable for the average working person with morning responsibilities.

Remember to include a source of protein with breakfast to keep you satisfied longer, and to spread your protein intake out throughout the day, which has been shown to be beneficial in helping your body utilize protein most efficiently.

Eggs

  • Mini-Crustless Quiches in Muffin Tins. These are easy to adapt to your preferences with different veggies, cheeses, etc.
  • Freezer Veggie Breakfast Burritos. Make a big batch (i.e. half dozen or more) for the entire week. Take out of freezer in the morning and throw in the microwave for ~2 minutes. Use smaller tortillas (8” or so) for portability and cool the filling first before wrapping in a tortilla and freezing to prevent your burrito from becoming soggy. You can change up the recipe based on what ingredients you have available in your fridge; I always recommend going heavy on the non-starchy vegetables, and easy on the potatoes and processed meat (or skip those altogether).
  • English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches. Again, easily adaptable based on what you have available.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs. Ok, so you probably don’t need a recipe, but I wanted to make sure to include these on the list. Having hard boiled eggs prepped and ready in your fridge means you have a perfect, transportable protein source to take along with your fruit smoothie or oatmeal.

Oats/Grains

  • Overnight Kefir Oats. These are really yummy, plus you can start your day with a boost of beneficial probiotics.
  • Steel Cut Oats: Given their heartier texture, these stand up to being made ahead of time. You can cook a big bowl on the weekend or whenever you have a chance, then add some milk or water when you warm them up. I love throwing a nut/seed trail mix on top, with a spoonful of honey or jam if you want to sweeten them up.
  • Homemade Muesli: Muesli tends to have less sugar and more fiber than granola, especially when homemade and you can limit the dried fruit and any added sweeteners (which I would suggest on the recipe linked above). Can be soaked overnight or added to yogurt/milk in the morning.
  • Homemade instant oatmeal: Most instant oatmeal purchased from the store is loaded with sugar and artificial flavors. Instead, make your own at home! This recipe comes from MUS employee Jane Wolery’s blog, who adapted it from the Iowa Extension’s Spend Smart Eat Smart blog. Thank you Jane!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats or quick cook oats
  • Optional mix-ins:
    • Chia seeds
    • Dried fruit
    • Nuts
    • Cinnamon
    • Pumpkin pie spice
    • Brown sugar (could also add honey or maple syrup right before serving)

Directions

Put rolled oats in blender or food processor. Blend for a bit, until you get some fine powder and some regular oat shapes. You could probably powderize about 1 cup of oats and then add 3 cups regular or quick cook oats to that powder. The powder should make a creamier and faster cooking product.  

If doing different flavors of packets, take about ½ c. of the oats and put in snack-size bags or containers.  Add about 1 tsp of sugar, dried fruits, nuts, chia seeds, etc.  If doing all the same, mix “extra” dry ingredients into one large container with oats and then portion out 2/3 c. or so into snack-size bags.  You’ll have to experiment with the sugar for a bigger batch or just add it to each portion.  When ready to use, pour contents of packet into a bowl, add hot water and let sit until oatmeal is creamy.   

Yogurt/Dairy

  • Yogurt Parfaits: These can be made several days in advance, and then if you want a little crunch, you can sprinkle a whole grain cereal on top just before eating.
  • Chia Seed Pudding With the chia seeds as a natural thickening agent, it’s possible to make chia seed pudding without yogurt, but in my opinion, the texture if far superior when you do add yogurt.

Baked goods

  • Breakfast Muffins. The key to a healthier breakfast muffin is portion size (no oversized muffins please!), less sugar, and hearty ingredients like nuts, seeds, and vegetables to increase prortein and fiber content.
  • Tina and Michael’s Nutritional Breakfast Cookies. Thank you to MUS employee Michael Bloom for sharing this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened                                               1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup peanut butter                                                      1/4 cup chopped figs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar                                       1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract                                                       1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 large eggs                                                                      1/2 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup cider or cold coffee                                          1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour                                                  1/4 cup flaxseeds
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour                                               1/2 cup coconut
  • 2 cups whole oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray or lightly grease baking sheets.
  2. In a large bowl beat together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until creamy.  Beat in eggs and cider or coffee.
  3. In a medium bowl stir together flours, oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Mix flour mixture into peanut butter mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  4. Drop by ice cream scoopfuls (or 1/4 cup measuring cupfuls) 2-1/2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets.  Flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden but still soft.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Smoothies

  • Snickerdoodle Green Smoothie: If made ahead, the avocado may discolor, but a quick stir before eating will make it unnoticeable.

Ingredients

  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ small avocado
  • ¼- ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

Directions:  Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serves 1. Adapted from https://rabbitfoodformybunnyteeth.com/

  • Make-ahead Smoothie Packs. You can package ingredients for individual smoothies in ziploc bags, then let a bag chill in the refrigerator overnight and add the liquid to blend in the morning.
  • You can also prep entire smoothies a couple of days before and store in mason jars to transport. They will require a shake/stir to remix ingredients that may have settled, but they will be all ready to go!

Other

  • Mini-Tofu Quiches: Don’t turn up your nose so quickly at the mention of tofu for breakfast! These are delicious and packed with protein.

Happy Breakfast Eating!

Cristin