Monday, December 10, 2012

Yummy Slow Cooker Chili

It's cold out and most of us are busy this time of year. Instead of reaching for something easy and unhealthy like fast food, here is a quick, cheap recipe for a no bean chili that can be made in a slow cooker. Prepare it in the AM and have dinner and a few meals set for the rest of the week.

olive oil
2 onions
2 (28oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
1 (6oz) tomato sauce
1 cup of chopped celery
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 lb of grass fed ground beef
2 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp of oregano
1 tsp of garlic powder
1/4 tsp of cayenne

photo: Maria Quiroga

1) Cook the beef with some olive oil and add the onions. Saute all together and add to the slow cooker.

2) Pour the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce over the meat

3) Add chopped celery and carrots (feel free to add kale or other yummy greens as well)

4) Add spices. Feel free to adjust to taste

5) Mix everything in the crock pot and set it to low for 6-8 hours

This makes about 8 servings.

Eat alone or serve over brown rice and top with a few slices of avocado. Yum!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fast Food Advertising

I was curious about how much money was spent on fast food advertisements, so I did a little research. McDonald's is at the top of the list year after year. But what can parents do? First, limit the amount of time kid's watch TV. Second, make sure that meals are eaten at the table and not in front of the TV. Third, teach your kids about food and proper nutrition. Introduce them to different foods and try to include them in the preparation of their own food.

We can't control what is advertised but we can control what kid's eat and what/how much TV they watch.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza? Yes, please!

Many people love pizza but would like an alternative to the regular flour crust. Some people are gluten-free and others just prefer to not eat flour of any kind. Whatever your reason, here is a great recipe for Cauliflower Crust Pizza that serves 4-6.

photo by Maria Q
  • 1/2-2/3 head cauliflower (about 2 cups riced)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil (optional)
  • Toppings (baby spinach, grape tomatoes, onions, kale, etc...)
Cooked Cauliflower Crust-- photo by Maria Q
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Prep a cookie sheet or pizza stone. You can grease the cookie sheet or use parchment paper or use a pizza stone or a greased round pan.
  3. Wash the cauliflower and remove the stems and leaves. Next use a fine cheese grater and grate the cauliflower. You can also use a blender or food processor but be careful not to over chop or the cauliflower will become very liquidy. The cheese grater works best in my opinion.
  4. Next sauté the shredded cauliflower in a non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook until translucent. This takes approximately 5-8 minutes. I am not a fan of the microwave but you can use the microwave instead of the stove. Put the shredded cauliflower in an uncovered microwave-safe bowl and cook for 6 minutes or so depending on your microwave.
  5. Next, in a bowl combine the cooked cauliflower with the cheese, a beaten egg and the spices. Use your hands or a spoon to mix the ingredients. It may look strange at first but keep mixing, the consistency will improve after a couple minutes.
  6. On your pizza stone, cookie sheet or pan, spread dough out asevenly as possible so that it is about ¼ of an inch thick. The pizza should be about 10 inches in diameter. Brush or drizzle the olive oil over the dough. The olive oil is optional but will brown the crust of the pizza nicely.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is crispy and lightly browned.
  8. Remove the crust from the oven and top with pizza sauce and toppings. Be sure not to add too many fresh tomatoes or heavy ingredients as this will make the pizza soggy.
  9. Broil the pizza for 5 minutes, or until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted. Allow the pizza to cool for 2-3 minutes then cut and serve immediately.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Healthier Eating in Paris and Prague?

©maria quiroga 2012
I just got back from 2 weeks in the Czech Republic, Germany and France. The thing that struck me most walking out of Penn Station when I got back into NYC was the size of Americans. Of course I saw some overweight people during my travels, but not the size and quantity I witnessed on my walk home from the train.

I have heard people say that because Parisians walk a lot that they are thinner. Sure they walk a lot, but New Yorkers walk quite a bit as well. And per square mile I am willing to bet that NYC has more than triple the gyms than Paris and Prague combined. In this case I really don't think exercise is the culprit, it's more likely food and portions.

A few years ago a friend from Tokyo was visiting and after an afternoon of shopping we ended up at a diner in Murray Hill. We ordered some omelettes and when they arrived she took out her camera and started photographing our plates. She couldn't believe the size. I started paying more attention when I traveled and did notice that usually our portions in the US are much bigger than in other countries. I guess people want to feel that they are getting their money's worth, but are they really? Overeating leads to many health problems and in general places that serve smaller portions use higher quality ingredients. Bigger is not always better.

Real food was quite popular among the European countries that I visited as well. Soups made from scratch, warm baguettes and egg yolks that were rich orange in color. Food tasted better. Portions were smaller. Even the supermarkets in Paris and the Czech Republic seemed healthier. The largest section of the stores were real foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, eggs, dairy, fresh fish and fresh meats. The canned food isle was much smaller than in the states and the snack food aisle was a fraction of the size of the ones here. People in Paris just eat more real foods and less processed "fake" foods. By "fake" foods I am referring to items like "cheese-like" products that are popular in America.

©maria quiroga 2012

My clients can attest to my encouraging of real foods at every meal. Real food aren't always the easy choice as they usually costs more money and take more time to prepare, but with some guidance, patience and planning, real foods can become the majority of a person's regular diet. By eating real foods, cravings are diminished, energy is high and you just feel better all around. All of my clients that have started eating more real foods have lost weight, improved their complexions and have more energy. I guess what I am trying to say is that next time you are grocery shopping, maybe reach for some fresh food to cook instead of a can of over-processed ready-to-eat food. Remember to read ingredients, learn about smarter choices and enjoy real food!

**It should also be mentioned that the guidelines regarding food in these countries are stricter than the US when it comes to pesticides, GMOs, etc.. 

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Hospital Food

I remember as a child hearing that airplane and hospital food were terrible. I assumed that the adults were referring to the taste of the food. Yeah, the food doesn't taste so good but now I realize that the real issue is the nutritional value of these meals.

In recent years airlines have started to offer less food and even charge for it. Of course these changes are motivated primarily by cutting costs, but nonetheless there are now healthier selections such as fruit and nuts or hummus and veggies. Passengers now need to either pay for food or bring their own. This is great in my opinion. Maybe more people will begin to bring their own food on board or eat a healthy meal beforehand. While I feel airlines' food programs have taken a step in the right direction, it seems hospitals have a long way to go.

One would think that a hospital would be serving healthy food to the people in their care. This isn't the case at all. My fiancée has spent a lot of time in hospitals recently giving me time to inspect the meals brought to him. On Friday my fiancée was served microwaved veggies and dark chicken meat drowned in a mystery sauce, a sugary drink loaded with artificial coloring and preservatives and a wheat roll. My first thought was that at least the bread appeared healthy. I inspected the label and was horrified to see about 40 ingredients on the list with High Fructose Corn syrup in the top five. Really? Why? There is no need to put HFCS in anything, especially bread.

Hospitals employ nutritionists and dietitians so why aren't meals prepared better and the choices healthier? Unfortunately money is probably why and there isn't always attention to detail in large instituitions. A dietician or nutritionist may ask for a meal to include specific food groups but perhaps they aren't the ones doing the ordering or they don't follow up to see what is actually served to patients. I'm not sure where the problem is but there is a problem. Schools face similar issues but in recent years some have made huge improvements in the food choices offered to students. It seems that the parents stepping in and taking charge are the ones initiating change. How can these improvements be made in hospitals too? Usually patients aren't there long enough for family members to step in and try to initiate changes. What is the solution?

I am not sure what the answer is but perhaps hospitals could hire people to oversee ingredients going into foods, how they are prepared and how they arrive to the patient. The price of meals may increase, but in my opinion, you can't put a price on what goes into the body, especially an ailing patients' body. I'm not saying that hospitals need to buy organic produce, although that would be amazing, but perhaps they could start by taking small steps. First let's cut out anything with food coloring, added salt, added preservatives or HFCS.  Get rid of microwaves! There are ovens to heat towels and blankets, why not the chicken and carrots? I haven't seen a food tray with fresh fruit at the hospital very often. How about a banana or an apple instead of a syrupy soggy fruit mix? I realize that things are easier said than done, but a hospital is supposed to be a place of healing. Food can help heal and in my opinion the state of hospital food right now is doing much more harm than good.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July is national blueberry month.

July is national blueberry month! Blueberries are high in fiber, vitamin K, Vitamin C and Manganese. I eat blueberries with my fruit almost every morning. I love them raw with almonds or on a salad. Try them in a smoothie, on your cereal or in your yogurt.

What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy blueberries?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tips for Eating at Restaurants


Do you find it hard to healthy items on the menu at a restaurant? Below are a few tips to help you make better choices.

1.  Really read the menu. Avoid dishes that are fried, breaded, creamy, dipped in batter or sauce. These items are usually high in calories and unhealthy fats. Look for words such as "steamed"or "broiled" or "boiled". Choose tomato based sauces over cream sauces. Don't be afraid to ask how something is prepared if you aren't sure from the menu description.

2. Don't be afraid to ask the waiter/waitress to have the kitchen hold the sauce or put it on the side. Many dressings and sauces are high in fat and calories. By having the sauce or dressing on the side, you are in control of how much to add.

3. Many dishes wouldn't be so unhealthy if they were better prepared. Special order and ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for "no butter" or to have something steamed rather than deep fried. Too often a side order of broccoli or spinach with be served swimming in butter or sauces which makes your healthy veggie not so healthy.

4.  Remember to take your time eating. Chew your food and enjoy every bite. It takes about 20 minutes before your brain gets the message from your stomach that you are full.  Put down your fork between bites and talk with family/friends.

5. Order water over sodas and juices. Don't drink your calories! Most sodas and juices are loaded with sugar and calories.

6. Some restaurants have a "healthy" section on their menus. Usually these items have less fat/calories, are better prepared or are just smaller portions. Try to choose from this section but don't be afraid to still ask questions or make a special request.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don't Skip Breakfast!

Photo: Maria Q
I almost never skip breakfast, even when I am in a hurry.

When I have skipped breakfast in the past, I am light-headed and have trouble concentrating. Eating breakfast usually means that a person will take in less calories over the course of the day. It's also been shown that people who regularly make a point to eat breakfast are about 30% less likely to be overweight. So now that it's been established that breakfast is an important meal, what should it consist of?

Try to eat breakfast at home. Eggs and veggies are a great combo and should keep you satisfied until lunch. Many mornings I opt for a large bowl of fruit. I like to include banana, pear, apple, strawberries and blueberries. I sprinkle crushed walnuts on top of this colorful bowl for an extra crunch that is filled with Omega 3's. This works great for me but I have some clients that prefer oatmeal or cereal. Choose cereals with a short, wholesome ingredient list (5 or less ingredients), low sugar and some fiber. Sprinkle blueberries and walnuts on top and you have a great meal.

photo: Maria Q

If you have must grab breakfast on the run, keep the following in mind. Fancy coffee drinks often have over 500 calories and are loaded with fat and sugar. Yogurt/granola combos often have 50-60g of sugar and 15g or more of fat! Donuts often contain over 20g of fat, 350 calories and 12g of sugar. A bagel and cream cheese breakfast can contain over 500 calories and provide enough carbs for more than half the day and over 15g of fat. What about muffins? Well, let's just say that muffins are basically cake in a cute round shape.

Eat breakfast! You will feel better and consume less throughout the day!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Bread Worth Buying

I don’t buy bread very often but when I do, I like fresh bread made from quality ingredients. I tend to opt for fresh bread from the bakery since most breads in the supermarket today have a long list of ingredients. Making your own bread is probably best but if you don’t have the time, there is hope at the grocery store. I am happy to report that I found bread at Garden of Eden on 23rd Street in Chelsea, NYC that is made with only a few ingredients. The brand is called Calandra’s Bakery. I bought the whole wheat bread tonight and was pleasantly surprised to find only 4 ingredients! Stone ground whole wheat flour, purified water, salt and yeast. That is it! How does it taste? Delicious! And cost? Under $4 a loaf. The only downside is that the bread only stays fresh a few days. 

If you eat bread and don’t have time to bake your own, give Calandra’s line of breads a try.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Little Planning Goes A Long Way!

A little planning can go a long way when it comes to eating healthy.

Most of us are too busy with work and family during the weekdays to be able to come up with quick healthy meals. Here are a few hints.

When you grocery shop, make sure you shop for the week if possible and not just for that evening’s meal. I like to buy all of the veggies and fruits for the week on Sunday and about once every few weeks buy chicken. I usually buy some 15-20 chicken breasts and clean, marinade and cut them into portion size containers that I freeze. Then during the week as I use a container of chicken from the fridge, I pull out another from the freezer. This is a great way to always have some meat ready to throw into a salad, stew or stir -fry.

Another idea if you have a family or crazy schedule is to make a couple dishes on the weekend such as a stew or chili that can be eaten throughout the week. Stews and chilis are great because you can eat them over rice or quinoa or with veggies and create a little variety throughout the week. You can even freeze some of the chili/stew to use in future weeks.

One misconception that some people have is that healthy meals have to be complicated or time consuming to prepare. Not so. Sometimes for dinner I throw together three veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli and squash into a steamer and then sautee the prepared chicken with some nice olive oil and garlic. I like to brown the chicken a tiny bit and then add the veggies and mix it all together. I then squeeze a lemon over the dish and perfection! This dish is easy, healthy and fast to throw together. If I am out of meat or don’t feel like eating meat, an omelette stuffed with veggies is always a healthy, quick option as well!

Make a list, plan and see how less stressful preparing meals during the week can be!

Bon Appetit! 

Monday, March 5, 2012

All Calories Are Not Created Equal

Do you count your calories?

It’s a good idea to learn approximately how many calories are in the foods we eat but I believe that counting calories is not such a great idea. First, most people underestimate the amount of calories in
their food and tend to not be able to accurately determine what a serving size is. In the end, although they are counting calories with all the best intentions, the numbers could be way off. 

Another issue that I have with people wanting to count calories is that I don’t think it is sustainable over a long period of time. I have met very few people that could do this for more than a few days. People tend to either quit after a couple days or get obsessed with calories when in reality they should be caring more about what kinds of food they are eating and NOT the number calories in the food. All calories are NOT created equal.

Which foods you choose to get your calories from will determine how full you get and also whether the calories will be used quickly by the body or stored as fat. When you eat empty calories (calories with little or no nutrients), your body usually begins to crave the missing nutrients. This often leads to overeating. Protein and foods high in fiber will keep you satiated longer. Foods that are mostly sugar lead to an increase in insulin and fat to be deposited into your body. 400 calories from donuts are not the same as 400 calories from a turkey and veggie omelette. As I said before, all calories are not created equal.

Sugar covered deep fried donuts.
2 egg omelette with turkey and veggies.

 Text and Photos by Maria

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cooking at Home

We all know that preparing meals at home is the way to go. It’s the only way to know what ingredients are being used. When dining in a restaurant, there is no way to really know how much oil is being used to cook the meal or what kind of oil they are using. What kind of ingredients do they use? How much salt are they adding? Basically, what you eat is in the hands of someone in the kitchen. Kind of a scary thought if you want to eat healthy.

So, yes… meals at home is the way to go, but if you aren’t cooking from scratch or using wholesome whole ingredients, you may be defeating the whole purpose of a “home cooked meal”. We all know that microwaved TV dinners aren’t healthy, but many people don’t realize that things like Hamburger Helper or other meal preparation aids are probably worse than eating out. They assume it’s just a few spices and don’t bother to read the label. Did you know that Hamburger Helper contains trans fats, food colorings, MSG and some other preservatives that I can’t pronounce? The list is really long and pretty surprising.

If you are cooking a meat dish and want to add some flavor, use spices like dried oregano, garlic powder, parsley flakes and dried basil. Adding a homemade tomato sauce is also a great way to give meat more flavor as well.  Don’t rely on the quick meal helpers like Hamburger Helper. Be creative and experiment. Search online for recipes and always take time at the grocery store to read the food label. 

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sodium. How Much Is Too Much?

Salt. I used to add it to almost everything. Then I started to cook at home more and use less salt and sure enough, my taste buds changed. Now when I go to restaurants, I usually can’t order the soup or anything with sauce. It’s almost always way too salty.

The RDA of sodium for adults is 2400mg. This number should be reduced to 1500mg a day for individuals with high blood pressure, African Americans or anyone over the age of 40.  This sounds reasonable, but how much IS 2400mg of sodium?

One teaspoon of table salt has about 2300mg of Sodium! One teaspoon of soy sauce has about 300mg. How much sodium does Denny’s Lumberjack Slam Breakfast contain? Almost 4500mg of sodium! And that is before most customers add even more salt to the eggs or potatoes. Scary. 1 cup of chicken soup usually has between 850-1200mg of sodium, sometimes more. I guess it should come as no surprise that Americans consume on average over 3400mg a day.

What can you do?

Read labels and compare products. It seems logical that if you are buying something, let’s say Ricotta cheese, that most of the brands will have about the same amount of sodium, right? Nope. Safeway’s Ricotta cheese has more than double the amount of sodium as Sargento’s Ricotta cheese! I was surprised, so I started to pay more attention to the sodium content for the same food made by different brands. What I found was that the amount of sodium varied dramatically.

I encourage my clients to stay away from frozen meals because of the long ingredient lists, preservatives and high sodium content. Here is an example of taking in over 2 days of sodium in one meal. Swanson’s Hungry Man Turkey Dinner has over 5400mg of sodium!

The best bet if you want to reduce your sodium intake is to cook meals at home and stay away from packaged foods and restaurant made meals. When grocery shopping, check labels and always compare products.

Sodium in moderate amounts is fine, but what most Americans consider “normal” or “moderate” is usually around 3400mg of sodium a day. Wow! Not only is that well above the RDA, it is almost 3 times what the American Heart Association recommends on their website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Food Cravings

Photo By: Maria Quiroga


Often cravings are our body’s way of telling us that something is missing in our diet. Have you ever wanted salty potato chips and then after you devoured a bag you still weren’t satisfied? Have you craved a cupcake, given in and then found yourself even more hungry an hour later? Sometimes giving into your cravings only makes things worse because you aren’t satisfying the real reason behind your cravings.

Craving salty foods like chips or pretzels? Usually if you crave salty foods you could be deficient in sodium, have inadequate mineral levels or maybe you just aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day.

Do you crave chocolate all of the time? This craving could mean you may have a B vitamin or magnesium deficiency. It is also worth noting that chocolate is addictive because it stimulates dopamine and contains Phenylethalmine, which stimulates endorphins to be produced. No wonder so many people crave chocolate!

What about if you crave sweets and carbohydrates like cake or cookies? This craving is often the result of not enough nutrients and essential fatty acids in your diet. Another reason is the “high” people get from eating sugary treats. Sugar’s sweetness releases endorphins that offer us this “high” and relaxes us. Ask yourself if you are seeking cake for comfort.

Although cravings usually exist because of some sort of deficiency as I have mentioned, sometimes we get cravings because we aren’t getting enough sleep or are trying to fill an emotional void.

So, what can you do to tame your cravings? Try supplementing or adjusting your diet if you aren’t getting enough nutrients with essential minerals and essential fatty acids. Some people swear that including flax seed oil in their daily diet cuts their cravings tremendously after only a few days. Make sure to balance your blood sugar by eating nutritious meals that include protein throughout the day. Avoid eating close to bedtime and get a restful 7-8 hours sleep every night. If you believe your cravings are emotional, try to get to the root of the problem/stress. Sometimes going for a quick walk or exercising will curb the craving as well. Experiment and see what works for you.

Society sometimes labels cravings as a weakness, but I disagree. I see cravings as an opportunity to ask yourself  “why?”. Next time you crave something, ask yourself why and take a look at your diet and state of mind. Try to deconstruct your craving and see what you come up with.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Easy Resolution for 2012. Stop Using the Microwave Oven

Here is an easy resolution. Eat healthier by avoiding the microwave oven. Microwaved food is less healthy than raw or traditionally cooked foods. Microwaving destroys nutrients and can even be carcinogenic

In college most of us only had a microwave oven and a small square refrigerator to call a kitchen. I heated up everything from soup to vegetables to pizza. I didn’t think twice about microwaving my dinners and it wasn’t until I moved into my first apt in NYC that I started heating food without a microwave. Food tasted different. Food tasted better. What was the deal?

I remember as a kid being told not to stand to close to the microwave oven while it was on because it emitted dangerous radio waves, but why was microwaved food OK to eat? What is the deal with microwave ovens? Are they safe? This article does a nice job of explaining.