Plant-Based at the Cookout

Summertime is well underway. Today is July 4th, and for many in America that means a backyard get-together complete with grilling. When you don’t eat meat, the struggle is so, so real when it comes to cookouts. While everyone else is scarfing hot dogs, hamburgers, and barbecue, we vegetarians aren’t left with many options. Maybe there’s some watermelon, if we’re lucky. I also love some grilled veggies, and maybe the grill-master lets me slip a portabello cap or two in there (if I can find a spot not covered in meat char….)  While I love these things, they’re just not going to fill me up. I’ve learned to bring my own food, with enough to go around. I love for people to try new things, so it’s a great opportunity to share some of my favorite plant-based dishes with others!

Here are a few of my go-to favorite dishes for hot summertime gatherings.

Four Bean Salad

Everybody loves this one. This is probably the one I make the most because people request it! It’s packed with protein and fiber thanks to the variety of beans, and has a delicious, rich-tasting but light dressing. Plus, it’s crazy easy! Just make sure to get this made either the night before or several hours before you’re planning to serve it, to give the flavors time to mingle. You can use any types of beans you have available, by the way, so feel free to experiment!

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Makes 4 servings

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen green beans, thawed and drained
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 cup fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp fresh finely chopped rosemary

For the dressing:

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar, coconut sugar, or agave (you can skip this, but I like the hint of sweetness with all the vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, mix the beans, celery, onion, parsley and rosemary. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing.

Loaded Veggie Pasta Salad

Typically when I go to cookouts, the pasta salad is some sort of elbow-macaroni-with-mayonnaise type of situation. I’m just not down with that. (I mean, why?? In no other context would you combine these two things). My version is colorful and full of fresh, crunchy veggies and herbs, and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

1 box tri-color rotini (or gluten-free rotini)
1 cup broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 bell peppers (any color), diced
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup sliced black olives
Large handful fresh basil
Large handful fresh parsley
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Lots of black pepper with salt to taste
½ tsp steak seasoning (trust me — it sounds weird coming from someone who doesn’t even eat steak…..but it adds a nice element to this!)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse and drain well, then place in a large bowl. Add about 1/4 cup water to a small saucepan. Once it boils, add broccoli and steam for 1 minute. Remove and transfer to a colander, and rinse well with cold water. Add to pasta along with all other vegetables. Mix well to coat. Using kitchen scissors, snip in basil and parsley. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

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And now — for dessert! Ice cream is another big hit when it’s unbearably hot out. If, like me, dairy causes you unmentionable gastrointestinal distress, you get sad when watch all the kids licking their drippy, tasty cones and you can’t partake. Enter: NICE CREAM!!! It’s insanely easy and you can make just about any flavor you want. In its most basic form, you only need two ingredients: frozen fruit and almond milk. The rest is up to you. You can add in nut butter, cacao powder, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut…..the possibilities are endless. Just make sure to stir in the “hard ingredients” (nuts and chocolate chips, namely) by hand after you’re done with the food processing part. Bonus: it’s healthy enough that you can eat it for breakfast, so that’s a big win in my book!

Nice Cream

The basic recipe:

4 frozen bananas, sliced (or 2 cups of other frozen fruit)
1/2 cup almond milk

THIS IS LITERALLY IT. You just put it into the food processor and blend until smooth. Then all you have to do is keep it frozen until about 5 minutes before you want to serve it. I told you it was easy!!

My favorite version, though, involves adding some peanut butter and dairy-free chocolate chips…..because I don’t know of a better combo than that. If you’d like to try this, just add:

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like the EnjoyLife brand — they are dairy-free and free of all the common allergens!

BOOM. Done. Scoop it out just like you would ice cream.

Prepare to amaze your friends.

 

Stay cool out there, folks. More plant-based goodness to come!

Peace, love, and veggies,

Jean

Review: Nutrium Client Management Software

Hi everyone! I know, I know. It has been WAY too long. The best excuse that I have is that I’m still full-time at the hospital managing the nutrition department, working on my doctorate (Integrative Healthcare; tell you about that another day), and building my functional nutrition consulting business….all while trying to maintain a household and happy marriage! It’s exhausting, really, and my blogging falls by the wayside. I’m pledging to get back to this regularly, though. I promise!

Anyway, a lot of what I do in my consulting business involves conducting nutrition analyses and writing meal plans. It can be a pretty time-consuming process, especially with my relatively old-school methods of typing meal plans into Word document tables. I was recently given an opportunity to try a software called Nutrium, which is designed especially for dietitians who do this type of thing. It would be ideal for those in private practice, or clinical dietitians who work 1-on-1 doing Medical Nutrition Therapy. I will disclose right off the bat that I was offered a 6-month free subscription to the service for writing this review, but anyone who knows me knows I’m incapable of anything other than honesty. Having said that, and without further ado, here is my honest review.

User-Friendliness

I would consider myself moderately computer savvy, but by no means an expert. Making an account was easy, and there is a tutorial that is offered immediately upon signing in for the first time. I found this very useful and it eliminated pretty much any doubt I had about being able to operate the program. Everything is organized into neat little tabs so information about each patient is easily accessible. You can also upload your business logo, if you have one.

Comprehensive Analysis

A profile can be created for each of your clients/patients, which can be saved for later reference, with sections for both new assessment and follow-up. An example of the patient home screen is below (don’t worry, it’s a fake patient — no HIPAA violations here!). Basic information about them is entered and displayed here, such as their nutrition goals, sleep habits, and food diaries.

nutrium pt info

After the client profile is done, you can begin entering measurements. This includes both anthropometrics and lab work, and these are trackable over time. It’s very comprehensive — so much so that it includes things I don’t even measure! The data makes nice, neat trend lines after two measurements are entered. (I love graphs! So visually appealing, no?) The dietitian can then move on to meal planning, analysis of the meal plan, and so on.

Meal Planning

In the meal planning process, macros can be pre-set. While adding foods to the meal plan, a macros pie chart is displayed next to the plan and updates in real time, so the RD can ensure he or she is staying within the defined macronutrient ranges. This is possibly my favorite feature. Macros are the new “thing,” you know, and I often have clients request specific percentages. This saves me a LOT of math! (I like math, but not that much!) The foods database is pretty comprehensive, too, which is not always the case with this type of software. Because this program isn’t United States-based, some things are in grams that I wouldn’t necessarily measure as such, so my only real complaint here is I wish there were drop-down boxes that offered US measurements such as ounces, cups, etc for easier conversion. Having said that, one can do these conversions online pretty easily with a Google search, but of course convenience is key!

macro graphsRecipes can also be imported here, and templates can be created as a time-saving tool for later. Once the meal plan is written, the RD can analyze it for adequacy. Again, lots of lovely pie charts appear, which even break down fats and carbs into their individual distribution, which is useful for ensuring — for example — that the patient is getting plenty of MUFAs and PUFAs and minimal trans/saturated fats. It’s brilliant, really! Physical activity recommendations are also done here.

nutrium macros

Patient/Client Use

You can then share all of this with your client electronically, which is awesome for those of who do virtual appointments. Meal plans are easily emailed or printed. Follow-up appointments can be entered and tracked, and you can send them reminders. Oh! Did I mention there’s a mobile app they can get? It’s true, and is available for both Android and iPhone formats. They can use this to track their macros, enter their daily intake, and update the RD on their progress. This keeps an open line of communication which is SO important in the dietitian-client relationship. Here’s a snapshot of some of the mobile features:

mobile app

The Verdict

All in all, this is a fantastic software and I fully intend to make good use of that free 6-month subscription. I would even pay for it after that runs out. I truly foresee it streamlining my patient assessment and meal-planning processes, and I think any other RD working 1-on-1 one with clients would find it beneficial as well.

Thanks for reading. New recipes and more coming soon!

 

Snacks you can feel good about

Happy New Year everyone!

One of my resolutions is to be more active on this blog. I have been gaining more followers and I don’t want to lose them out of boredom. Sooooo, you can definitely expect to see more from me this year! Hurray!

To start it off, we’re going to talk about snacks, because who doesn’t love snacks? Many of my clients feel that snacking is a bad thing. They feel guilty and hang their heads in shame when they admit to me they’ve been munching between meals. What do I tell them? Snacking is a good thing! It helps keep you satisfied when it’s not time for a meal, and can actually help keep you from overeating when you do have a meal. HOWEVER — WHAT you snack on very much matters. I’m always being asked for suggestions, so to help you make smart choices, I’ve compiled a list of snacks that you can enjoy without feeling guilty.

General rules – For most people, snacks should be under 200 calories and should contain at least two food groups — one of which should be a protein or healthy fat. If you eat only carbs, the satisfaction won’t last long and you’ll be hungry again in no time. Some great combinations:

  • Apple with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Baby carrots with 1/4 cup hummus
  • Trail mix: 2 Tbsp dried fruit, 2 Tbsp raw almonds, 1 tsp dark chocolate chips
  • 6 oz Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup sliced fruit and 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • Small banana with 1 Tbsp almond butter spread on it
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with 1/4 avocado smashed on top
  • Homemade smoothie, such as the one below: 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup desired fruit, 1 cup baby spinach

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Now, for specific products:

Bars – you must be careful with these. Look for bars without HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), soy protein isolate, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. They often have over 200 calories and are loaded with sugar, so I don’t generally recommend a bar unless it’s meant as a post-workout refuel and meets the criteria above. Protein bars from GNC or other “nutrition” stores are usually poor quality. The brands I like:

  • Larabar (particularly Alt as they have 10 g of plant protein)
  • Kind (including Healthy Grains)
  • Kashi GoLean roll
  • Raw Revolution
  • Chia Warriorraw revolution

Really, you should make your own. There are tons of recipes out there. I love to make the energy balls from Rich Roll’s The Plantpower Way book:

  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted (soak in water for 30 minutes before making the recipe)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp hemp seeds (Walmart carries them)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Grind walnuts in the food processor until mealy. Add in the nibs, cocoa powder, and half of the hemp seeds.  Add dates one at a time and blend until everything is a paste consistency. Turn off the food processor, remove the blade, and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the rest of the hemp seeds. The way I make them I usually get about 16 balls out of it, and 3 of them would equal about 180 calories.

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The energy balls I made last week.

Salty – when I say salty, I simply mean they taste salty. Everything listed here is still considered low sodium, although many of them don’t taste that way! Some Jean-approved products:

  • Skinny Pop — all varieties
  • Lesser Evil popcorn (try the wasabi — yum!)
  • Air-popped popcorn (not microwave…the bags have cancer-causing chemicals, yuck!)  — Can you tell I like popcorn??
  • Most brands of kettle corn
  • Newman’s Own protein pretzels (hard to find, Vitacost has them)
  • Snapea Crisps
  • The Good Bean crispy crunchy chickpeas
  • World Peas (see my review in the previous post)
  • True North Nut Clusters (bonus: also sweet!)

Sweet – now let me be clear on something: this should NOT be your first choice and should NOT replace healthier snacks. Sugar does not keep you full and you will likely end up craving more if you’re not careful. Treat these as desserts or emergency supplies (you know, like if you’re having the worst day ever or PMS). I personally allow myself a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every day after lunch, but wouldn’t eat it in place of my morning snack. It’s all in the balance! Some 200 calorie ideas:

  • Five Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares
  • 2 Tbsp dark chocolate-covered nuts
  • 1/2 cup ice cream (preferably non-dairy versions like cashew or almond)
  • 9 Hershey’s kisses
  • 2 fun-size candy bars

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Happy snacking!