How many clients do you think have asked me to write them a meal plan? Not as many as you might think. Instead I teach them how to write their own weekly meal plan that fits their health goals and preferences. Some people want lots of variety and thrive on coming up with new recipes from cookbooks and pinterest. Other people just want to eat similar foods most days and do the bare minimum when it comes to cooking. Some families do well with theme nights for suppers, this is especially helpful for families with young kids or kids on the Autism Spectrum since it creates structure. It also helps take the thinking out of planning and grocery shopping. Maybe the "theme" is a type of meat or a type of cooking style. This allows for enough flexibility that taco night can be made with chicken, beef, or shrimp! Or chicken night could mean that it's grilled but it might also mean that it is roasted. Many families like to leave weekends open ended and use them as a time to eat up leftovers, eat out, or make a slightly more time intensive meal.
Monday - Burgers / Grill
Thursday- Stir Fry
Saturday - Leftovers
Meal planning helps us make a complete grocery list sometimes prevents me from buying things we don't need, or making more than one extra trip to the store during the week. Ultimately, it saves timed money. Despite buying a lot of the same things, we actually end up with a wide range of flavors thanks to different seasonings and dressings/sauces.
Since having Fredrik, our meal planning has changed several times over. Now that the weather is nice, we are trying to grill more, but also have to take into account the fact that he wants to eat too. While I'm all for serving him the same things we eat, not every food is appropriate for this.
ex: shoshito peppers, cabbage slaw, broccoli salad. Currently Fredrik has decided to boycott most meat and fish and eggs, must be a texture thing... I'm having get a bit creative with what I serve him. Anything mushy or crunch seems to be ok. Pickles, bananas, muffins, and teething crackers are favorites.
To stream line Ryan and I's lunches we have adopted the Mark Sisson 'Big Ass Salad'. I prep a giant bowl of salad stuff on Sunday, cook a couple packages of chicken thighs in the instant pot or now on the grill, and then divvy it all out for lunches Monday to Wednesday. I'm having a lot of fun creating homemade dressings or trying different Primal Kitchen flavors. Come Thursday we switch it up. Ryan usually ends up with a can of chicken mixed into a Trader Joes Indian Fare pouch and Fredrik and I eat various leftovers or make salmon/sardine/tuna salad. I know that Monday and Wednesdays need to be leftover nights since Ryan and I both work those days and get home too late to cook. A recent week of planning looked like this:
Weekly Salad - Asian (sesame dressing, bok choy, cilantro, sunflower seeds)
Sunday - bun-less burgers + 1000 island slaw (sweet potato for F)
Tuesday - sloppy joe meat (in freezer) + cauliflower rice (cauliflower patties for F)
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - turkey sausage skillet meal
Friday - pork loin + broccoli salad (steam broccoli for F)
Hope this helps you dear reader, now go forth and meal plan! Then grocery shop...
How does your family do meal planning? What works best for you?
For supper the other night Ryan grilled up some yummy grass fed beef burgers. I thought it might be fun to turn them into "big macs" with 1000 island dressing aka 'special sauce'. Instead the dressing ended up going on a bag of T.J. cruciferous crunch salad mix along with some sliced cherry tomatoes. IT WAS FANTASTIC! The dressing is adapted from Primal Cravings Cookbook. If you don't feel like making your own check out these dressing brands that don't use canola or soybean oil.
Why no canola oil? A recent study showed that canola oil increases our risk for Alzheimer's dementia, and we have known for a while now that soybean one of the common 'vegetable oils' is really not good for any cell in our body. Stick with monounsaturated oils like olive oil or avocado oil. Small amounts of polyunsaturated oils such as unrefined sunflower oil or unrefined safflower oil are fine too. Also, I'm not a zealot, so if all you can find is mayo made with unrefined canola oil....just buy it. It's certainly a better choice than using a brand made with soybean oil.
Now, onto the salad!
1/3 cup Mayonnaise or sour cream if you are like my sister and hate mayo.
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Ketchup
1/4-1/2 cup diced dill pickles or pickle relish
Salt/pepper to taste
1 bag cruciferous crunch salad or about 10oz of shredded cabbage/kale
1. Combine all ingredients except salad mix in a small bowl.
2. Toss dressing with salad mix/shredded cabbage.
3. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
Makes a great side dish, and then top with leftover meat/fish/shrimp....for lunch leftovers the next day
Ryan's mom likes to say that Fredrik is going to be a genius. That may or may not come true, but we do know that eating certain foods does appear to confer specific benefits to the brain. Max Lugavere, health & science journalist, wrote a book all about it, and aptly titled it "Genius Foods." I'm not going to do a lengthy review of the book, I'm just going to say that I really enjoyed it! Tons of well researched information, and presented in a way anyone can understand. Essentially it comes down to reducing inflammation, and providing the body with adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So what are the top brain foods according to Max; and how can you and your family eat more of these foods?
Check out some of these recipes for inspiration:
Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli)- Steamed with butter for infants, broccoli salad for adults (use Swerve instead of sugar in the dressing).
Dark Leafy Greens - Ryan and I's current favorite way to eat these are in salads. A bag of cruciferous crunch salad mix from Trader Joe's added to chopped romaine and spinach makes it easy to get in a nice combination of greens. If you prefer your greens cooked, a quick sauté is nice, but after living in Georgia, southern collard greens is a real treat for us.
Avocado - While I happily eat avocados with just a dash of salt, Fredrik will not. He actually cries when I try to feed it to him plain. However, mashing it with frozen/thawed raspberries is favorite breakfast. Making chocolate avocado pudding will get you bonus points with your family.
Fatty Fish - Fredrik likes smoked salmon and canned oysters. For budget conscious families, make a salmon salad using wild caught canned salmon. We always buy the big can from Trader Joe's.
Nuts (almonds) - Try this yummy yummy almond banana coconut muffin.
Eggs - scrambled/egg bake/frittata/quiche/soufflé are a favorites around here.
Berries (blueberries) - Just eat them up plain, or top with whipped cream. Fredrik has recently discovered that freeze dried strawberries are a great snack. They are also part of this Strawberry Fluff.
Grass Fed Beef - Fredrik likes ground beef with a little marinara sauce, mild salsa, or creamy stroganoff sauce on it. Meatloaf is also easy for him eat. But a slow cooked roast, shredded or cut into chunks also works well as a meal all three of us enjoy.
Dark Chocolate (80%) - Make a chia pudding with cocoa powder and cocoa nibs. Personally I just grab a couple squares of the Montezuma dark 100% chocolate, and top it with whatever nut butter I have in the fridge. It's a brain boosting Reese's.
Olive Oil - After listening to Max and and his guest Nicholas in this podcast, I definitely believe in buying a better quality olive oil now. As Nicholas says, just POUR the oil onto your food. Or make a sauce like pesto or chimichurri to eat with your grass fed bee.
Coffee - Drink it black, or with cream, with collagen, or bulletproof with coconut and MCT oil. Just please please please find a replacement for fake creamers that are made with processed oils and high fructose syrup.
Yummy Yummy gluten and dairy free, no sugar added muffins! Seriously...these taste good. Fredrik is a fan of grabbing big chunks and shoving them into his mouth. Ryan likes to toast and top his with peanut butter, but that's how eats all flavors of muffins. I like mine with a big smear of butter on top.
1.5 cups almond flour or almond meal
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 cup mashed banana (2 large) or mashed sweet potato
2 Tbs room temp butter or olive/avocado oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut. (or use raisins, chocolate chips, chopped pecans...)
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Prep muffin pan with either paper or silicone liners. I still give my silicone liners a little spritz of oil, just to prevent ANY sticking. It's probably overkill.
2. Combine the almond flour, flax seed meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl.
3. In a blender, or a large bowl beat together eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Stir/blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then fold in the coconut.
5. Divide between the 12 muffin cups. Bake 20-30 minutes, until browned. (Mine needed about 23 minutes) Allow to cool completely before storing in a air tight container on your counter for a few days, or several months in a freezer.
1 muffin: 185 kcal, 15g fat, 9g carb, 3g fiber, 5g protein
If you read my post on Foods 4 Focus, you know that iron and zinc are two important minerals for brain health, and many people/kids are deficient in them. But how to get them? Add anchovies! And I don't mean to your pizza. These briny, fatty, little fish are full of nutrients.
"A portion of five anchovy fillets (canned in oil and drained; about 20g) has 42 calories, 5.8g protein, 1.9g of fat, and no carbohydrates. Anchovies are an excellent source of calcium, iron, and zinc."
If you are scared of adding these tiny fish to your diet, but enjoy eating tuna, or salmon, or other canned fish try mashing them into a tuna salad; you'll never know they are there. Personally, I buy skipjack tuna since it is lower in mercury than albacore, or yellow fin. This 'recipe' could also be done with chicken or egg salad if you are not a fan of fish. The anchovies just add a little salty flavor.
1, 5oz can tuna, drained
1, 2oz can anchovies, drained
1 Tbs Mustard
1 Tbs lemon/lime juice or apple cider vinegar
1tsp dried dill
1/4 cup diced celery
2 small dill pickles diced
Ground Black pepper
1. Combine and mash all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
2. Serve on a bed of lettuce, wrap, sandwich, crackers, cucumber slices, whatever works for you and your family. Use fresh lemon/lime wedges or vinegar for extra moisture on your salad.
Want another delicious recipe using anchovies, try my crockpot Chicken Puttanesca.
For more info on anchovies, the difference between oil packed, and salt cured, check out Precision Nutrition's post.
Need an easy and delicious dinner idea? Here you go, Crockpot Chicken Puttanesca! You can make it low carb by skipping the pasta, potato, or polenta; and even without the starch, this dish is very filling and satisfying. The anchovies add a touch of Omega 3 fats, as well as calcium from their bones. This is the perfect dish for a dreary, cold, fall evening; and would be great to serve to family or friends. I used the leftovers to make an Italian version of shakshouka, which is what I have pictured here, along with baby kale.
1.75-2# Chicken Thighs or Breast (2-3 cans drained chickpeas or white beans to make it vegan)
2, 15oz cans diced tomatoes (only use 1 can to make a less 'saucy' version)
1/2 cup chopped green or black olives
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2-1 Tbs Italian Seasoning
6 anchovy fillets
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes (optional)
1+ Tbs capers (optional)
1. Brown the Chicken in the olive oil
2. Combine the chicken with the remaining ingredients in your slow cooker.
3. Cook on high 3hrs or low for 5+ hours. Or Instant Pot, high pressure or poultry setting for 15 minutes.
4. Serve over pasta, baked potato, polenta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.
Feel free to sprinkle with fresh parsley or parmesan cheese.
Having a baby is hard work, bringing one home and having your life turned upside down is even harder. Between feeding, diapering, cuddling, and frantic attempts at calming a screaming baby, there's not always time to cook. However, mom and dad need to be well fed to keep up their stamina for that constant care giving. (Even when that's just snuggling on the couch-See picture) Living on coffee and dry cereal just won't cut it. The same could be said for people going through any major life change such as moving, home renovation, divorce. Or other stressors such as the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, someone having major surgery that impacts their mobility, chemotherapy and other medical treatments.
If you know someone who could use several meals I highly recommend starting a meal train. My MOMs club members used this takethemameal.com to organize a meal train and brought us 2 meals a week for 3 weeks. The website has great ideas for meals specific to different diets, but I've also listed some yummy links and ideas below. It was so nice to not have to think about going to the store, let alone cook a meal. Our favorite meals where ones that required very little assembly and could be easily re-heated in the microwave or pot/skillet. Leftovers were also HIGHLY appreciated, so consider doubling the recipe. Something else to consider is if the family has kids or food allergies/sensitivities, or other dietary requirements such as being Kosher or Vegan. Example: After my grandparents died several people brought lasagna or spaghetti to my parents house where we were staying. My sister is very lactose intolerant and canned tomato products also give her digestive issues, so she couldn't partake from any of these offerings.
Crock Pot or Instant Pot:
Buffalo Chicken + tortillas +ranch or blue cheese + carrots & celery sticks
Indian Butter Chicken + sliced cucumbers + Rice/Cauliflower Rice
Beef Roast + Fresh Veggies
Pulled Pork + Buns + Slaw
Chicken Puttanesca (with vegan option)
Vegan White Bean Soup
Picadillo + Rice/Cauliflower Rice + Plantain Chips
Eggroll in a Bowl + Sriracha Mayo
Sloppy Joes or Maidrite + Buns or Baked potatoes + Cole Slaw
Curried Lentils + Rice/Quinoa/Naan + Cucumber Salad
Egg Bake + Fruit + Salad
Meatloaf + Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Spaghetti Squash Pizza Pie
Salmon Cakes + Green Beans (frozen or fresh) + Winter Squash
Black Bean Enchilada Casserole
No Cook/Store Bought:
Rotisserie Chicken + Bag Salad/Dressing, Frozen Sweet Potato Fries
Gyro Meat + Pitas + Tzaziki & Hummus + Fresh Cut Veggies or big salad
Smoked Salmon Salad (just buy pre cooked/peeled hard boiled eggs)
Canned or Store-Made soup + Baguette + Really Good Cheese
Sushi + Seaweed Salad + Frozen Edemame
Tuna Salad from the deli + Crackers + Fresh Fruit
Brownies, black bean brownies, keto brownies, vegan brownies
Fruit + Dip
Canned Cold Brew Coffee
Bottle of Wine or 6pk Beer
As I prepare for maternity leave I couldn't help myself but to find a way to thank my co-workers for all of their support during my pregnancy. While it's been a fairly easy pregnancy; knowing that I get to go into an office twice a week with a team of people who have my health and safety and wellbeing in mind was so nice and reassuring. Everyone was always asking how I was doing and if I needed anything to be more comfortable. ( I almost always said no.) To thank them, I thought a light and fluffy desert before my departure would be highly welcomed. I found this yummy looking No-Bake Strawberry Cream Pie recipe and decide to make just the filling and bring a few toppings for people to build their own 'parfait' with. I did make a few changes such as omitting the strawberry extract, and I used the Kite Hill Greek almond milk yogurt in place of the cows milk yogurt, and it turned out perfect! I made a second batch with whipped coconut milk and it too was super delicious. It was a bit more dense and rich since you don't get same lightness with coconut milk as with heavy cream.
If you don't like strawberries or are allergic, I'm sure you could try this with any freeze dried fruit such as blueberries or raspberries. I used 1 bag of the Trader Joes brand freeze dried strawberries.
While this is technically a desert, the protein and fat in it make it perfectly suitable for a kids afternoon snack or even a breakfast.
1.2-1.5oz freeze dried strawberries
1 cup plain greek yogurt (or plain almond/coconut milk yogurt)
1/4 - 1/2 cup swerve or coconut sugar (depending how sweet you want it)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks (or use canned coconut milk to make it 100% non-dairy)
1. Pulse the strawberries in a coffee grinder or blender until most of it turns into a powder. Let it sit a few minutes to let the powder settle.
2. Combine the strawberries and the next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the strawberry mixture.
4. Fold in the remaining whipped cream with the strawberry mixture.
5. Serve immediately or refridgerate.
To serve, top with: toasted coconut, shaved chocolate, cocoa nibs, granola, chopped nuts, fresh/frozen berries. Or use as a dip for fresh sliced fruit (apples, banana, pear, strawberries...)
It started early on in my first trimester, waking up in the middle of the night with a strange stomach pain that would only go away when I ate. It wasn't hunger, just pain.
Now as I enter my third trimester I've come to expect that no matter what I eat, or when I eat it, I will wake up at 2:30am, walk to the kitchen and get a snack. Most likely the first 3 months this night time eating was driven by the fact that I simply couldn't eat enough during the day due to food aversions, indigestion, and low appetite. Now that I can eat adequately during the day I've have had several nights where I didn't need a snack. But many nights I still do.
So what does one eat at 2:30am? I've settled on pumpkin or banana bread. Sometimes I'll have 1/2 banana with P.B., but most nights I have 1/2 of a midnight muffin with a little butter, nut butter, or cream cheese on it. My favorite recipe is the Chunky Monkey Muffins from Primal Cravings. I make a few changes that better suit my tastes and needs. I replace the coconut sugar with Swerve or erythritol to lower the carb/sugar content. For a while I swapped the mashed banana with canned pumpkin. I always leave out the chocolate chips and walnuts for myself since they can get stuck in my teeth, but I'll make 1/2 the batch with them since Ryan likes the chocolate chips.
Why this works for me:
1. I can use the light from the fridge to find the muffin container on the counter and spread whatever fat I want onto it.
2. I don't make so much noise that I wake up Ryan.
3. Unlike munching on nuts, crackers, or cereal, the muffins don't get stuck in my teeth, leaving me to pick it out with my tongue as crawl back in bed.
4. It's just the right amount of food so I fall back asleep quickly, and stay asleep.
5. It's fast and I don't really have to think about it.
Ryan and I love visiting Minnesota State Parks. Several years ago we spent a week car camping in Grand Marais, we've backpacked a couple others, and this past weekend we celebrated our 8yr anniversary by renting an AirB&B cabin on the Baptism River. Whenever we have a long car ride with a potential lunch stop over make us turkey/chicken salad sandwiches with a side of veggies and hummus. Keep it all packed in a cooler with some ice or we often use frozen water bottles. This isn't much of a recipe, but after several hours in a car and a very muddy 2 mile hike through Jay Cooke State Park it sure hit the spot. We can also testify that it's mighty delicious after the Split Rock Light House Tour while sitting on the rocks/beach of Lake Superior. This is a great way to use up leftover chicken or turkey any time of the year, but especially when leaving home for several days. If you don't have any cooked, feel free to use canned.
10oz cooked chicken/turkey, cut into small pieces.
1 Tbs mustard
3-4 Tbs Mayonnaise
1Tbs apple cider vinegar
Lots of Penzey's Now Curry Spice blend
1-2 stalks celery, diced
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Add more mayo or curry powder as desired.
Serve with a spoon, lettuce wrap, regular wrap, bun, or bread.
I ate mine with a spork and chunks of celery and red bell pepper. Ryan's was on a hollowed out bun (so you can put more stuff in it) with pickles and sriracha sauce. As you can see we do actually use plastic...GASP! When it comes to traveling it's lighter weight, and we don't have to worry about it breaking.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.