If you’re stabilizing your blood sugar, you know how
important it is to have high quality protein prepared in bulk for the week. I
like to make our “Everyday Chicken” (find it in your Recipe Tab). It’s fast, super easy and gives you tender,
roasted chicken that you can toss in any of your favorite dishes for a boost of
To keep my meals fresh, I’ve been using the Everyday Chicken
in a variety of fun dishes. Here are a few quick single serving combinations
I’ve come up with recently that take only minutes to make if you’ve got chicken
1. In a pan coated
with fat free cooking spray, combine chopped cooked chicken, a handful or two
of spinach and any other chopped veggies you have on hand. Cook until
vegetables are slightly tender. Stir in
your favorite tomato or marinara sauce and seasonings like fresh basil or
oregano. Top with parmesan cheese.
2. Saute chopped cooked
chicken with shredded carrots, snow peas, mushrooms or any other veggie you
have on hand with some fat free cooking spray.
Add freshly minced garlic and a splash of low sodium soy sauce and sauté
until garlic is soft (not browned). Drizzle
with toasted sesame oil and top with fresh cilantro.
3. Okay, admittedly
this combo is not the highest quality (hello sodium) but it sure is good! And
it’s got the balance of protein, carbs and fat to stabilize your blood sugar. If you’ve ever had buffalo chicken dip, you’ll
like this one. Just refer back to this one sparingly so you don’t bloat from
all the sodium! Chop or shred cooked
chicken very small. Put the chicken in a small bowl, add a dash or two of Frank’s
Red Hot Sauce and microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir in a scoop of low fat cream cheese, a pinch
of garlic powder and another dash or two of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Microwave again for 20 seconds or until heated
throughout. Stir again and serve with
carrot and celery sticks. Add some fresh
fruit on the side if you need extra carbohydrates.
Chicken doesn’t have to be boring- the key is having tender,
cooked chicken on hand for the week so
you can quickly create a variety of dishes on the fly! Make sure to use your “Add Meal” feature in your
Venice Nutrition Online software to create the dishes described above according
to your nutritional parameters. For
more information on how to create balanced meals according to your nutritional
parameters, check out the How to Create Your Own Meals video in your Help
Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach of Venice Nutrition
A few days ago, a friend of mine (who swears she’s allergic
to her kitchen) called me in a panic.
Her in-laws were coming to dinner and she had promised to impress with a
gourmet meal. The trouble was, the only
“gourmet meal” my friend knows how to cook is instant brown rice and ground
turkey (hey, she’s a health nut!).
Needless to say, her lack of culinary skills had her sweating. And that’s why she called me.
As Head Chef for Venice Nutrition, and a Certified Nutrition
Coach for many years, my goal has always been to teach our members how to
create food that helps to stabilize blood sugar, tastes absolutely delicious,
and most of all…….is simple enough that anyone can make! I have had so many wonderful clients over the
years that stick to the same boring food over and over (hello, baked chicken!)
because they claim they “just can’t cook”.
What I have come to find is anyone can cook a great meal….the key is
learning the basics and stepping outside of your culinary comfort zone to try
So , how did I get started?
Yes, I did go to culinary school but I’m truly convinced that though I
learned some wonderful skills there, I have learned just as much on my own! The confidence I possess today as a cook is
not from my formal education, but from the experiments and culinary endeavors
(and disasters!) that took place in my very own kitchen. Below are some tips that have helped me to
become a confident cook and create meals that I’m proud of.
Start by practicing with a basic recipe that can help to
teach you proper seasoning, different cooking techniques and flavor
profiles. A great example would be to
find a recipe for a soup or chili that appeals to you. Soup and chili are very easy to make, and you
can experiment without worrying about drying the dish out or overcooking
it. You can slowly add seasoning and “taste-test”
it as you go to make sure it’s to your liking.
You’ll also gain a great understanding about different flavor
combinations of herbs and spices that work well together. The other bonus about soups and chilis is they are usually on the lighter side and if they are not, they can be with a little tweaking (swap ground beef for lean ground beef, lower the oil to saute the vegetables, etc.)
Once you have
successfully made one chili or soup, it will help to give you the confidence to
make some adjustments. Perhaps in place
of a roasted butternut squash soup, you decide to use sweet potatoes instead. Maybe you add a little diced apple to the pot
to add a subtle sweet note. Or maybe you
toss in a few pinches of cayenne pepper to add some heat. Maybe in the next chili you create, you skip
the ground beef and black beans and try ground chicken and white beans
instead. Noticing a pattern yet? By successfully managing a basic soup or
chili recipe, you’ll have the confidence to switch it up and make it your own,
or try a new soup or chili recipe altogether.
Other simple, basic recipes that I would recommend you try
to master? Roast chicken stuffed with
lemon, garlic cloves, onion and fresh herbs like thyme is sure to impress and
will feed an entire family. Salads are
simply chop, toss and serve and the options are endless. Vegetables drizzled with olive oil and
seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and roasted or grilled go with
everything. A baked or grilled fish like
salmon with lemon, fresh herbs (dill, parsley, etc.) and olive oil is a great starter
recipe for all seafood. Find a recipe
for that particular dish and then use those culinary techniques to explore and
master new recipes.
If you are a Venice Nutrition member, I invite you to check out our database or recipes in the Recipe Tab. I promise that even the most intricate looking recipe has been broken down into easy, basic steps and the end result will be simple but delicious. I'm not into fussy food and when I design recipes for our members and clients, I like to keep it simple.
I like to find culinary inspiration in many sources. After all, we can all learn something from
somebody. When I go to a restaurant and enjoy a creative or delicious dish that
stands out, I’ll try to remember what was in it and re-create it at home. For example, I once had a butter lettuce,
pistachio, cheddar and sliced apple salad with vinaigrette at an upscale
restaurant in Boston. I was able to re-create
this dish at home and give it a healthy spin by reducing the amount of cheese
in the recipe and preparing a low-fat vinaigrette. I served it with grilled fish on the side and
enjoyed my simple but restaurant-worthy meal without the big check and tip!
I’m also a huge fan of the Food Network. If you’ve never watched this channel before and
have any interest in cooking, I highly recommend that you tune in. It’s fun and designed to teach home cooks how
to well…..become cooks! The Food
Network has truly changed the way people view the culinary world, myself
included. Because there are so many
types of culinary professionals teaching their point of view and techniques
they’ve developed and perfected over the years, these shows appeal to so many
home cooks. It’s an unintimidating and
inspirational way to learn to love to cook.
I have learned so much and helped to perfect my own culinary skills and
point of view from watching the Food Network.
When I see a recipe I love, I’ll brainstorm on ways to lighten it up and
many times figure out how to simplify it as well. I’ll then test the dish in my kitchen at home
and put a creative spin on the recipe to make it my own.
Other ways to find inspiration? When you are done reading this blog, stand up
and head to your kitchen. Open up your
kitchen cabinet. I can guarantee you
have a few cookbooks on hand that have collected dust over the years. Peruse the pages and keep an open mind. What recipe catches your eye? What picture makes your mouth water? That’s the recipe you should create
next! Book mark that page, copy down the
ingredients to your grocery shopping list and get cooking!
Do you have a friend or family member who always manages to
wow his or her dinner guests? You know
who I’m talking about. The friend who
makes the stickiest, fall –off- the bone BBQ chicken on the grill or the aunt
whose famous pasta and meatballs are to die for. Ask them to teach you one or two of their
favorite recipes in your kitchen. Offer to purchase all of the ingredients and
invite them to stay for dinner. People
that love to cook also love to show off their culinary skills and would more
than likely be happy to help. Observe,
take notes and ask a lot of questions.
Pretty soon it will be your dish everyone is raving about.
Cooking is a skill that can be learned, perfected and
mastered. The key is putting yourself
out there and trying something new. The
old saying, “practice makes perfect” may be a cliché but it’s true, especially
when it comes to being confident in the kitchen. Try something new and before you know it, you
will be a confident cook who is not afraid to wow your own dinner guests. Eat well! And don't forget to be adventurous..you may just surprise yourself!My best,
Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach
If there is any day of the year that I get a craving for candy, Halloween is it! And while one piece certainly won’t derail your results, bingeing all day on Halloween treats will. Just a few pieces of candy can leave you tired, cranky, bloated and craving more sugar. Worst, the effects of an all-out binge fest can last for a few days. So here are a few tips to stay on track tonight and for the next few days until the Halloween treats are gone.
1. Remind yourself of your goals. I recommend that you read your goals out loud and post them in a place where you can see them (even if it’s on the inside of the front door while you hand out candy!). When your goals are literally staring you in the face, they are a lot
harder to ignore. You’ll also think twice before mindlessly reaching into the candy bag.
2. Keep up with your meals. Whenever you skip a meal or eat a meal that is not balanced in protein, carbohydrates and fat, it’s only a matter of time before blood sugar drops and cravings kick in. Add a bowl full of accessible candy to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster! Keep the physical cravings in check by eating frequent balanced meals to stabilize your blood sugar.
3. Hide it! One of my favorite tricks to avoid over-eating high fat and high sugar treats is to hide them. It's the old, "out of sight, out of mind" trick... and it works! I prefer the basement but at the very least store extra candy up high (not at eye level) and preferably in a cabinet where the shiny colorful packaging can't tempt you. Whatever you do, don’t keep a bowl for “guests” (yeah, right!) out on the kitchen counter. I’ve learned the hard way that the “guest” bowl of candy always seems to end up on my thighs!
4. If you want a piece of candy, choose your favorite and have it with a balanced meal (go light on the carbohydrates in the meal to make up for the extra sugar in the candy). Better yet, skip the
candy altogether and plan a real "off meal" like Saturday night dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant. Sometimes a measly piece of candy just isn't worth the spike and dip in blood sugar but your favorite meal always is!
I can remember as a kid my parents always had to “test” the candy to make sure some stranger hadn’t “poisoned” it. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to re-think your Halloween strategy and implement the tips above!
I'm curious....do you have any tips to avoid the dreaded Halloween hangover? Please share!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
We all know that fruit and veggies are a vital part of a balanced diet. In fact, eating plenty of colorful produce while stabilizing your blood sugar can help you to prevent disease, improve your digestion, reverse the signs of aging and even reach your weight loss goals. Think of fruit and vegetables as edible powerhouses, jam- packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. So what’s preventing so many of us from getting enough? As Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach of Venice Nutrition, I believe that fruit and veggies have a bad "rep". After all, it’s tough to get inspired over boring carrot sticks or a plain old apple. Luckily, we’ve created countless delicious recipes full of vibrant produce in our Recipe Collection. No matter your age or health, now is the time to stock up on fruits and veggies in a creative way so you’ll actually enjoy eating them. Here is a menu of my favorite produce inspired recipes from our collection (for the full recipes and many more, check out your Recipe Tab in your online program today)
Fruit & Veggie Filled Breakfast and Snack Recipes:
Greek Yogurt Parfait- A sweet and creamy blend of high protein Greek yogurt, fresh antioxidant packed berries and nuts
Cottage Cheese Bowl- An unexpectedly delicious combo of fresh apples, peanut butter, cinnamon and vanilla sweetened cottage cheese
Western Omelet- A hearty omelet of chopped tomato, onion, bell pepper, lean ham and melted cheddar
Banana Pineapple Smoothie- A tropical smoothie blended with fresh pineapple, banana, milk and protein powder
Fruit and Veggie Filled Lunch, Dinners and Sides:
Boca Burgers with Roasted Veggies and Garlic Herb Sauce- A classic soy burger with roasted red peppers, sweet onions, tomato, arugula and melted cheese topped with a homemade garlic and herb sauce
Zesty Shrimp Salad- A delicious blend of diced mango, red onion, corn, greens and grilled shrimp with a citrus honey lime dressing
Turkey Veggie Meat Sauce – A hearty meat sauce made of lean ground turkey, portabella mushrooms, spinach and yellow bell peppers
Pork Tenderloin with Butternut Squash and Apples- Lean pork tenderloin smothered in fruit juice and pungent garlic then roasted with hearty butternut squash and sweet apples
Vegetable Salsa- A zesty salsa of corn, black beans, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, perfect for topping your favorite protein
Sweet Potato Soup- A thick and creamy soup of sweet potatoes, apples and carrots simmered to perfection
Fruit Filled Desserts:
Sweet Stuffed Apples – A delectable dessert of warm, juicy apples baked with a walnut, oat, sugar and butter stuffing
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt- A cold, creamy frozen yogurt full of strawberries and good-for-you protein
As you can see, incorporating more fruit and veggies into your daily diet can be easy, delicious and anything but boring. And remember, we are always updating our collection of recipes and we invite you to check your Recipe Tab often!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
By now you know how much we love summer. There’s nothing quite like cooking out with family and friends, taking your workout outdoors and showing off those hard earned muscles under the summer sun. Unfortunately, it’s also our least favorite time of year to spend in a sweltering kitchen! Don’t want to slave over the oven? No problem, fall back on these quick and tasty meal ideas instead…..
Low fat cottage cheese- with real berries, pineapple or any fruit (without added sugar) is quick and light enough for a summer snack, breakfast or lunch.
Greek Yogurt Parfait - Still haven’t tried this one? Check it out under your recipe tab. We promise, you won’t be disappointed! Bonus: Double up the recipe to have plenty on hand for the week.
Lean turkey roll up on a low carbohydrate, whole wheat wrap- Go ahead and load it up with anything you’ve got in the fridge- tomatoes, lettuce, hummus, onions, olives, roasted red peppers, salad fixings, etc. Add some sliced avocado for delicious, heart healthy fat.
Salad topped with tuna, cottage cheese, turkey or pre-cooked chicken. The summer is the perfect time to get creative with your salads. Layer your favorite greens with veggies, chopped or dried fruit, toasted nuts, light dressing and some protein and you’ve got a colorful meal in minutes.
A Protein and Fruit Smoothie is an ideal way to cool down this summer and get a big dose of calcium, fiber, and powerful antioxidants. Even better, having a smoothie a day can help ward off cravings for other high calorie summer time treats like ice cream. Blend low fat milk or soymilk (try Lactaid if your lactose intolerant) with fruit (bananas and berries for example), some “good” fat like peanut butter, nuts, or ground flax seed, with your favorite protein powder (whey or soy) and ice until smooth. Our favorite combo: banana, strawberries, natural peanut butter, vanilla protein powder, 1% low fat milk and ice all swirled together in a blender….delicious!
Want more ideas? Check out your Recipe Tab! Each recipe in our collection is specifically designed to be balanced, delicious, FAST and EASY! And the majority of recipes can be made in bulk and even frozen for meals later on (which fits in nicely with your busy summer). How about Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad or BBQ Shrimp Kebobs? Sure, some of these recipes will require cooking but if you take the time to cook in bulk once or twice this week, you can make enough food to last you for days. Give it a shot and your summer might just get a whole lot easier!
Enjoy your summer. And feel free to drop us a line about your FAST and favorite summer time meals….we’d love to hear from you!
The Venice Nutrition Team
On occasion, I like nothing more than a sweetened glass of cold iced tea or hot mug of coffee. What I don’t like is “drinking” my calories. If there’s a way to impart sweetness without spiking my blood sugar, I’m all for it. I recently had the pleasure of trying Truvia, the newest “real” sweetener made from the stevia plant, to hit the market. I was pleasantly surprised; Truvia was naturally sweet, blended perfectly with my cup of Vanilla and Pomegranate tea and had no aftertaste (really). I decided to share my research on what makes Truvia stand out from the crowd of sugar-free sweeteners.
According to truvia.com, truvia trumps other natural sweeteners made from stevia, because it’s made from rebiana, “the best tasting part of the stevia leaf”. Truvia is calorie free with no effect on the glycemic index, making it a fantastic choice for diabetics and people like me who stabilize their blood sugar for optimal health. Truvia is tasty stirred in your favorite beverage, sprinkled on fruit and can even be used in baking. One packet equals 2 teaspoons of pure sugar (without the sugar spike and calories of course).
All in all, Truvia is a naturally tasty way to add some guilt free sweetness to your life. For more info, check out http://www.truvia.com
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
If you’re stabilizing you’re blood sugar, then you know how important it is to get complete protein every three to four hours. One of the ways to help make that more convenient is to use deli meat as your source of protein for one of your daily meals. Here is what to look for to make sure you and you’re family are eating the healthiest deli meat possible:
- Choose whole, oven-roasted then sliced deli meat in place of pre-packaged, processed, formed or section meats.
- Stick to lean turkey breast, chicken breast, and roast beef. Avoid beerwurst, bologna, pepper loaf, olive oil, capocolla, corned beef, liverwurst, pastrami, proscuitto, salami and pepperoni.
- Aim for low sodium products
- Avoid any products with fillers, gluten, artificial colors and trans fats
Info from boarshead.com
If you’ve got picky eaters who don’t like the taste or texture of traditional whole wheat bread, the new white “whole wheat” breads may be a great solution. After all, what’s better than bread that looks and tastes like the traditional white bread variety but has the nutrition of whole wheat?
Unlike regular white bread, white “whole wheat” bread contains all of the whole grain and has the same fiber and nutrients as regular wheat bread. The difference is, it is made of a certain variety of wheat that is paler in color and has a milder flavor, and there for well tolerated by white bread lovers!
When shopping for bread, aim for a product with at least two grams of fiber, and preferably three per slice. Take a moment to read the ingredient list as well. The most nutritious products will list “whole” (whole grain or whole wheat) as the first ingredient.
The Venice Nutrition Team
*info derived from www.mayoclinic.com
Chances are if you’ve sat in front of your television lately, you’ve watched more than a few commercials promoting the health benefits of vegetable juice. After all, we know we need veggies and isn’t it easier to gulp them down in 30 seconds then actually peel, chop, cook and prep them? As a Nutrition Coach and health nut who enjoys anything convenient that helps me to live a better lifestyle, I decided to do a little research.
According to V8, the most well known vegetable juice company, 7 out of 10 adults don’t get their daily recommended amount of vegetable servings. In order to help address this concern, V8 has a new mission; to create a diverse line of products to make it easier for adults to reach their recommended 2-3 cups of veggies per day. The result? In addition to their line of 100% vegetable juices, V8 has also introduced a new line of vegetable and fruit juice combinations that are more sweet than savory.
According to experts, 100% vegetable juice can help you to increase your daily servings of veggies. Vegetable juice is also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The only drawback? Vegetable juice can also be high in sodium (a concern for those with high blood pressure) and lacks the amount of fiber found in whole vegetables in their natural state. It’s important to note, however, that V8 does make a low sodium version of their famous vegetable juice.
So what’s the bottom line? In my opinion, I believe that the occasional glass of vegetable juice is a great way to load up on your vegetable intake, but should never completely replace whole vegetables in your diet. In addition to being lower in sodium and higher in fiber, whole, natural vegetables are also digested more slowly in your body compared to a liquid. This helps to keep your blood sugar more stable, allowing you to reach your goals faster. So enjoy the occasional glass of vegetable juice but keep your fresh veggies as the front runner!
Head Chef and Lead Venice Nutrition Coach
*information derived from www.v8.com and www.mayoclinic.com
Did you know that beef is the #1 protein source of Vitamin B12 and Zinc? Although beef is sometimes unfairly thought of as unhealthy, the truth is, beef is one of the most nutrient rich foods available. The key is choosing the leanest cuts of beef to gain the extraordinary health benefits while avoiding any unnecessary fat. Below are the best of the best to choose from.
Extra Lean Beef (3.5 ounce portion containing less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol)
Eye of Round Roast
Top Round Steak
Mock Tender Steak
Bottom Round Roast
Top Sirloin Steak
Lean beef (3.5 ounce portion containing less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol)
95% lean ground beef
Chuck shoulder roast
Arm pot roast
While shopping for beef, pay careful attention to the cut. “Prime” is typically higher in fat while “Choice” or “Select” are leaner. And of course, beef should be eaten in moderation. For most healthy individuals, it’s fine to eat beef a couple of times a week.
The Venice Nutrition Team
*research found on ask.com © 1998-2009 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).