Nowadays, just about every coffee shop, smoothie bar and bakery features their own creative offerings using the trending superfood matcha. This green tea powder is not new to the scene, however. In fact, its use in Japanese tea ceremonies dates back hundreds of years and has been worshipped for centuries for its long list of benefits. Check out this guide on how to prepare matcha, amazing health benefits and even matcha powder recipes you can try yourself.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a concentrated, powdered form of green tea that can be stirred into hot or cold beverages, infused into baked goods, blended into smoothies and more.

What are the Benefits of Matcha?

Matcha is known to promote energy and accelerate exercise recovery, making it an ideal pre-workout boost. Matcha promotes a feeling of ‘calm alertness’ thanks to high levels of L-theanine, which is an amino acid.

By drinking matcha you can increase your levels of L-theanine and promote alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. L-theanine has been shown to benefit patients diagnosed with anxiety by increasing levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain. (source)

Some other benefits of Matcha include reducing abdominal fat, improving immune system function and even boasting disease-fighting abilities like preventing cancer! Matcha is the optimal food source of catechins, or polyphenol compounds that halt oxidative cellular damage. These powerful antioxidants are also found in cocoa and apples.

According to a Harvard review of recent studies, green tea may lower LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, and thereby reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. (source)

Baking with Matcha - how to prepare matcha, recipes and benefits

Where to Buy Matcha?

You can find matcha lots of places, at health food stores, online and even the grocery store. You can find matcha green tea lattes all over the city, but but be aware that most contain excessive amounts of sugar.

Related: speaking of superfoods, do you have any of these 5 beneficial spices in your pantry? Read it to find out!

How to Prepare Matcha

Opt for unsweetened varieties and stir in honey, stevia or coconut sugar instead. Stock your pantry with matcha powders for DIY recipes at home. Look for a ceremonial-grade Japanese variety to ensure the best quality.

Matcha in tea bags is ok for steeping, but only provides 10-20% of the tea’s benefits. To really take advantage of the tea’s rich antioxidants, chlorophyll, amino acids and vitamins, you’ll want to get your hands on the powdered form. This way you’ll be consuming the tea leaf in its entirety.

Matcha Powder Recipes: Try This Iced Vanilla Matcha Latte At Home

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 packet stevia in the raw
  • Ice to preference

Directions: Mix matcha in tall glass with milk until combined. Stir in vanilla and stevia. Pour over ice and enjoy!

Post written by FFC registered dietitian Kristen Marias.

About Kristen

Kristen studied dance at The University of Colorado until life and a trajectory towards a career in the arts took an unexpected turn. A handful of years, a cross-country relocation and two daughters later, she took on one of her greatest and most rewarding challenges. Following a lifelong passion for wellness, she returned to school in pursuit of a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition. After graduating with honors, she launched her dietetics career in the clinical cardiac space. There, she provided Medical Nutrition Therapy to acute cardiac patients in Intensive Care. Practicing alongside a leading cardiologist in Palm Beach, Florida, she also provided nutrition education and counseling services to newly diagnosed cardiac patients.

In the summer of 2017 her love for fitness and holistic wellness steered her career in a fresh, new direction. She traveled to Italy to obtain a Yoga Teaching Certification as a complement to her nutrition practice. Today, back in her hometown of Chicago, she has found her perfect fit at the intersection of fitness, nutrition and general wellness. She believes food and exercise should be more than just daily tasks; they should be pleasurable, dynamic and memorable experiences. This philosophy is presented in her approach to nutrition. With a lifestyle-first, real food focus, she aims to help her clients make uncomplicated, sustainable changes. Her motto is simple: “Live to eat…with purpose.”

Kristen is a fitness enthusiast, passionate foodie and home cook. She loves travel – especially to the islands of the world. She spends most of her free time adventuring around Chicago with her husband and two daughters. You can follow along with her on Instagram here or check out her website for more info.

 

A dream of mine? To be told I should eat more food – by data, no less. That dream came true during my recent resting metabolic rate test at Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago. What’s a resting metabolic rate test, you ask? In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism. Sure, you could work with a RMR calculator (there are a couple online) to find out how many calories you should be eating – but since those aren’t based on your unique metabolism, they can be off. To get an accurate reading, it’s better to meet with a licensed registered dietitian and have an RMR test administered.

Cardio Coach metabolic testing machine for RMR test

How the RMR Test Works

As opposed to an RMR calculator, the resting metabolic rate test requires the use of a machine with a tube you breathe into that will use oxygen consumption measurement to determine your caloric requirements for weight loss, gain or maintenance. Since you need to be completely at rest, you will asked to recline in a chair while you have the test done, as well as wear a nose clamp (sounds weird and scary, but basically it’s just a padded thing you put on your nose to keep your nostrils closed so that all your breathing happens in the tube).

RMR Calculator vs RMR Test: Why You Should Do an RMR Test

As I mentioned before, RMR calculators are great and all – but they’re based on a formula. An actual RMR test analyzes your breath and gives you MUCH more accurate data. For example, I use an app called MyFitnessPal (when I remember) to keep tabs on my diet and to try and reign in my occasional snacking festivals – especially in the winter! According to that app, I was supposed to eat something like 1200 calories a day. Between meals and snacks there was barely room for anything else. I was constantly going over, feeling guilty all the time. I also incorrectly accounted for my exercise – I typically try to work out at LEAST 4 times a week. They’re also fairly intense workouts. Couple that with a meager 1200 calories and you get one very tired, irritable and hangry individual.

Related: how to use MyFitnessPal to help you with your weight goals.

When FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall and I looked at an online calculator before my test, it was also pretty low – around 1325 calories a day. Post test, we found out that my actual RMR is up around 1555 calories a day – at a slightly elevated level beyond “normal”. Add in my exercise, and I should be eating something like 1900 calories – even in order to lose a pound a week!! So with no exercise, I should have been eating an additional 230 calories a day than what was predicted by the RMR calculator (which operates using an equation known as the “Mifflin St. Jeor” equation).

In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism.

Emily explained that with the equation estimation, it would have taken a fair amount of time and trial and error to figure out how much to eat for my body and goals – but with the RMR test, I have a much better starting point right off the bat. Not to mention, with the results, I can feel the effects that much faster – eating more and fueling my body properly means more energy, better ability to focus and a faster exercise recovery time. I have been feeling pretty sluggish lately and I am definitely noticing a slight change since being more mindful of eating proper snacks etc. Of course, this is my personal result based on my body – it will be different for everyone. However, there is something to be said for having a roadmap to get to one’s goals more quickly and accurately. Our bodies are like machines and are a lot more formulaic than we realize. The right combination and amount of fats, proteins and carbs can really make that much difference in how well and efficiently it functions!

RMR calculator vs RMR test - why you should get a resting metabolic rate test done

Important note: I agreed to do this test in the lobby to help bring awareness to the awesome power of data and wellness, but this is not the norm. You will definitely have privacy! Unless, you know, you want to hang out and wave at people while you’re taking your test. You do you.

How to Prepare for the RMR Test

If you happened to see my post about my Vo2 Max experience a couple of months ago (which basically measures how efficiently you exercise), you’ll know that gearing up for a test like this requires some prep on the front-end. As in, the fasting kind. My recommendation is to try to schedule the test as early as possible so you don’t have to worry about depriving yourself of food or caffeine for very long! (I did mine bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7 AM). In order to get the most accurate results possible, you will need to make sure you

  • Don’t eat or drink anything prior to your test (check with the registered dietitian for specific timeframe).
  • Don’t drink caffeine before your test.
  • Refrain from exercise 24 hours before your test – if your workouts are high-intensity, you may need to hold off for 48 hours. Again, check with the RD!
  • Wear regular clothes (I wore my regular office clothes).
  • Bring something to occupy yourself for about 25-30 minutes that you can do with one hand in case you need to hold the tube for more comfort.

Things I’d Want My Former Self to Know Before Taking an RMR Test

The test was quick and painless – albeit a little awkward, but overall very simple. Emily did a great job of explaining the process to me, what each of the pieces of equipment was for, how the machine worked, etc. Here are a couple of tips & tricks for anyone considering taking an RMR test.

  • #1 most important thing – bring chap stick! If your lips get dry easily, I recommend some kind of chap stick or lip balm. If you get drooly, they will have tissues for you. The RD will explain!
  • Yes, they do use all-new disposable nose clamps, mouth pieces and breathing tubes – no germs here.
  • Don’t do the test with a cold – because you’re only breathing through your mouth, it can do wonky things to your head pressure – I would maybe stay away from the test if you’re experiencing a head cold.
  • Breathing with the tube will be weird – kind of like a snorkel.
  • Hold the tube with your hand if you find yourself wanting to bite down on the mouth piece so that your jaw doesn’t get tired! That’s why I recommend a phone or Kindle etc. that you can hold with one hand.

How to Sign Up for an RMR Test

Yes, this might sound a little more complicated than a simple online RMR calculator, but I promise the data and knowledge you will come away with will be well worth it. Now, I can use my results to figure out meal plans, and have a much better understanding of how much I should be eating for specific goals. Plus, if I ever wanted to start a race training program, kick up my weight loss a notch, etc., I would have an accurate roadmap to do it. To sign up for a test at FFC, you can visit this link or email metabolictesting@ffc.com! Questions about the specifics? You can email registered dietitian Emily Marshall at emarshall@ffc.com or visit your club’s RD.

Post written by FFC marketing manager Megan Zink.

 

Feel pain in a tooth? Your first thought might be, “I need to go to the dentist”. Need help with your taxes or finances? You’d probably go see an accountant or financial planner. Car need a tune-up? Take it to the mechanic! All of these are no-brainers when you’re in need of some help. Yet, when you’re in need of some nutritional guidance, seeing a registered dietitian (RD) may not be your first thought. Many people typically go to their friends, family members or a google search to determine what steps they need to take to get their eating on track. Read on to learn the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist and how a registered dietitian can benefit you!

Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

What is the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist? While the term nutritionist may seem more natural, there is unfortunately no regulation around the term. This means anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. In other words, seeing a nutritionist means you could be working with someone who actually does not have any knowledge in counseling someone about their diet or food intake. On the other hand, registered dietitian is a highly regulated term. To be a RD it is required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health related field, as well as complete specific coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

RDs also have to complete an accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation and pass a national exam. Lastly, RDs have continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis. Some RDs may call themselves a nutritionist, but do so by choice because the public is more accustomed to it. When choosing to see someone for nutritional guidance, it’s okay to be choosy! You can ask them about their educational background, their approach to nutrition counseling, and what their specialties are. This can help you feel more comfortable with putting your trust in him or her.

Looking for Answers in Other Places

Earlier I mentioned going to friends, family members or Google for answers. Unfortunately, these methods may lead to a confusing and misinformed outcome. For instance, your friend’s diet may not work with your body or lifestyle. You might try it out, but not see the same results as they do. This can leave you feeling discouraged. In addition, you might try a google search for information about dietary changes to help with diabetes, digestive issues or clearer skin. What may happen is you’ll end up with conflicting information from different sources which can also leave you feeling discouraged or frustrated. Stop wasting your time with this and start finding the answers to your many nutrition and health related questions! Registered dietitians are the food and nutrition experts and here’s why.

Related: no time for an appointment? Here’s the next best thing – check out this list of the top 10 registered dietitian-approved books and documentaries.

What Can an RD Do for You?

There is a lot that a registered dietitian can do for you! Seeing a dietitian on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting can help you develop the knowledge about how to fuel your body the best. What’s great about working with a dietitian on a one-on-one basis is you’ll get personalized advice for your specific needs, challenges and goals. Together, the client and the RD can create an individualized approach to help you navigate nutrition, eating and your overall wellness. RDs can help you with managing various health conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • gout and other conditions

RDs can also help if you are experiencing digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas), Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance and other food sensitivities.

Food Allergies

RDs also help people manage food allergies. If you’re interested in changing your weight or relationship to food, a registered dietitian is a great resource because RDs are trained in a patient-centered approach. The RD will work with you to help you reach YOUR goals in a way that you can feel good about.

Sticking to a Plan

Maybe you feel that you already know what or how to eat, but just aren’t following through with your plan. RDs can help with that too. Sometimes it’s not the education or knowledge that influences changes in behavior; rather, a change in our attitude, beliefs and values is needed. With a RD you’ll start to learn how you can make sustainable, realistic changes that can have a big impact on your long term health and wellbeing.

Diet Experimentation & Training Programs

Interested in trying out a vegetarian or vegan diet? Want to know more about how to fuel your exercise routine or sporting event like a marathon or triathlon? Just want to find out more about what to look out for when grocery shopping? RDs can helps with that too! Seeing a registered dietitian for a group event is a great way to learn more about a specific topic and be with like-minded people who have similar questions as you.

Meet with a FFC registered dietitian today and discover what you’ve been missing!

Post written by FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall.

About Emily

Emily Marshall is a registered dietitian at FFC West Loop. She loves building relationships and working one-on-one to help people with nutrition, how it fits into their lives and overall health. Want to set up a complimentary consultation with Emily? Email her at emarshall@ffc.com!

 

We’ve often heard that snacking between meals can wreck a weight loss plan. However, FFC registered dietitian Alicia Huggler has helped guide members to re-think snacking. If you’re on an exercise program, it’s important to stay fueled. Rather than banning all snacks, swap out the processed, packaged stuff for healthy snacks that taste good too. Look for foods that use whole ingredients, avoiding refined sugars, syrups, and oils. The more “whole” foods you have, the more fiber and complex carbs you’ll get…fueling future workouts. These peanut butter cookies with quinoa flakes are great for a healthy snack. The dates and banana will help you satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about crashing an hour later. Plus, the quinoa flakes pack an extra protein punch and have loads of fiber. Make a batch on the weekend, enjoy as a quick pre-workout snack in the morning or snack on a few after work before you head to the gym!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Quinoa Flakes (Gluten-Free, Vegan and Kid-Friendly)

Level: medium

Servings: 13

Ready in: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, (200g, 7 oz)
  • 1 medium ripe banana (110g)
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond meal (sub brown rice)
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Related: colorful AND delicious Egyptian spiced avocado corn radicchio lettuce cups will get you out of a food rut – try the recipe now!

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment on a non-stick silicon baking mat.

To make the cookie dough: in a food processor, combine the dates, banana, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add 1/4 cup of water. Puree until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Add the almond meal, quinoa flakes, salt, and baking powder. Puree until combined.

To portion and bake the cookies: portion about 2 teaspoons of dough onto the cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch in between cookies. Once you’ve portioned all of the cookies, wet your fingers with a little water. Gently push down the cookies to flatten. Shape into pretty, round disks, if needed.

Bake the cookies 15-18 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through cooking. The cookies will be golden brown on the bottom when ready.

Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving or storing.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze in an air-tight plastic bag (or wrap in foil) for longer.

*Chef’s tips:

  • Use roasted peanut butter that has no added ingredients. Check the ingredients list to make sure there’s no added oil, sugar, or syrup.
  • If you don’t have a food processor, you can also puree the wet ingredients in a blender. When they’re smooth and creamy, transfer the wet mixture to a bowl, then stir in your dry ingredients.
  • For extra texture, add chopped peanuts, currants, or mini vegan chocolate chips.

Yield: about 26 cookies.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

 

 

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/13 of a recipe (2 cookies)

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 125.05
  • Calories From Fat (28%) 35.21

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 4.13g 6%
  • Saturated Fat 0.6g 3%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 128.25mg 5%
  • Potassium 166.69mg 5%
  • Total Carbohydrates 20.77g 7%
  • Fiber 2.23g 9%
  • Sugar 12.86g
  • Protein 3.11g 6%
  • Calcium 1.31mg <1%
  • Iron 30.89mg 172%
  • Vitamin A 7.35IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0.46mg <1%

 

 

Oatmeal muffins were first introduced in American cookbooks in the mid-1800s. They are similar in size and shape to a cupcake, but can be healthier for you if you include the right ingredients! Check out a list of the different types of oats, their benefits, plus a recipe for easy blueberry oatmeal muffins below!

What are the different types of oats available?

There are 5 main types of oats. They include:

  • Instant oats: oats that have been steamed and flaked.
  • Rolled oats (also called regular or old-fashioned oats): oats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): you get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
  • Scottish oats: these are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
  • Oat groats: this is the whole oat kernel — no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

What are the benefits of oats?

Benefits of oats range from lowering cholesterol to protecting us against free radicals.

  • Oats contain beta-glucan fiber. This particular fiber can aid in lowering cholesterol and can strengthen your immune system.
  • Oats also have polyphenol compounds that have antioxidant properties that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

What are some healthier oatmeal toppings?

Healthier additives to incorporate into your oatmeal muffin (or just oatmeal!) recipes include:

  • Nuts such as walnuts or nut butter such as almond butter or peanut butter
  • Blueberries, bananas, unsweetened applesauce or other fruit
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice etc.
  •  

Bonus: instead of white flour (which has little to no nutritional value) put rolled oats in a blender to make your own oat flour!

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 17 minutes
  • Total Time: about 22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray large muffin tin with non-stick spray.
  • Mash banana until smooth.
  • Add banana, oats, beaten egg, baking powder and vanilla to a bowl.
  • Stir until just combined.
  • Stir in blueberries.
  • Using a large spring-release scoop, fill muffin tins with batter. (I usually fill to the top; these muffins don’t rise very much.)
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking for 12 more minutes.
  • Allow muffins to cool slightly in the muffin tin for a few minutes. Removing them while hot will likely cause the muffins to break apart, as they are very moist.

Original recipe written by Paula Jones – you can find it here: www.callmepmc.com.

For more information on how to incorporate healthy foods into your daily lifestyle please reach out to FFC Park Ridge’s registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, at ahuggler@ffc.com

Post written by FFC Park Ridge registered dietitian Alicia Huggler.

 

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), “Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food.” It’s important to know that foodborne illness is the most common during the months of November and December. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take, like considering food safety temperatures and other basics, to keep you and your loved ones well this holiday season!

Preparing Food

First, it’s important to know the basics of food safety. Following these steps every time you prepare food will help prevent foodborne illness.

1. CLEAN: Take the time to wash your hands, clean your kitchen cooking surfaces and utensils, and wash your produce before you use it. Do you know how long you are supposed to wash your hands for in order to effectively clean them? It’s about 20 seconds or the length of time to sing happy birthday to yourself. It’s important that all kitchen surfaces and utensils are clean prior to cooking, as well as right after cooking so as to prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce your chances of bringing pests, such as mice or ants, into your house.

Produce must be cleaned before eating or cooking because it may also be harboring bacteria or other pathogens from the grocery store or from the ground it was growing in. I like to wash my produce in a nice clean sink filled with water with a splash of white vinegar added to it. I let the dirt fall to the bottom of the sink as the produce soaks in the water, then I take it out and rinse it well and allow it to air dry.

2. SEPARATE: Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from fresh produce on surfaces and in the fridge. This is an important one. Raw meat is especially prone to containing bacteria and other pathogens and must be kept separate from ready to eat foods. The best way to thaw meat is in a shallow dish with a lid in the refrigerator overnight and up to 2 days. This is to ensure that that the meat or fish stays at a safe temperature throughout the entire thawing process.

It also ensures that no drippings or juices from the thawed meat accidentally touch other foods in the fridge. Always use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling raw meat and produce. Clean the area that was used to cut or handle raw meat with a disinfecting cleaning solution before placing other foods or produce in that area.

Cooking Food

3. COOK: Use a cooking thermometer to consider food safety temperatures in order to tell when all the bacteria has been killed during cooking. This is the only way to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature. According to the Food Safety Inspection Service, hot food must be kept hot at a temperature above 140 F. Leftovers must be reheated to 165 F. It is recommended to cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F before removing the meat from the heat source.

For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Poultry should register 165 °F to be considered safe to eat.

Related: with little to no calories, spices pack a surprisingly interesting and powerful punch. Check out these 6 to always have on hand!

4. CHILL: Never let perishable food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. I often see this at parties and gatherings. Dips, catered food, appetizers, and main courses are typically left to sit out for hours for guests to nibble on, but the longer a food sits out at room temperature, the more opportunity it has to harbor pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Make note of how long the food has been sitting out for and store it into Tupperware containers in the fridge or freezer before two hours. Otherwise, you’ll have to throw it away.

Remember, your freezer is your best friend when it comes to storing food you’ve prepared and saving it for another day. This can save you time in the long run, but a good tip is to put a label on the container of food you put in your freezer and keep tabs of what you have stored away. Freezing food will keep bacteria at bay, but the quality of the food may not be as good after a year of being in the freezer. For best quality use frozen foods within 6 months. Check to make sure your freezer and fridge are at the correct temperatures. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below.

Following the food safety basics are the main ways to prevent foodborne illness all year round and can make the difference in saving you a trip to the hospital or emergency room. Many people may have been in contact with food that has been contaminated with harmful pathogens, but fortunately their immune systems have been strong enough to fight it off. Those who are more prone to developing foodborne illness are children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems due to medical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and HIV/AIDS; or to receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Emily Marshall.

 

With the weather getting colder, it’s getting easier and easier to stay inside – so much so that you might start to feel a little cabin feverish! Don’t worry – the global flavors of these easy lettuce wraps (that are also vegan AND gluten-free) are a light, delicious way to elicit the wonders of the world – without stepping foot into the ever-dipping wind chill. These Egyptian spiced avocado corn radicchio lettuce cups are packed with delicious, healthy flavor and work for more than just dinner. Serve them as a light appetizer at a party or serve them to your kids for a fun hands-on dining experience. Crunchy, creamy, and refreshing – these lettuce cups are satisfying any time!

Easy lettuce wraps recipe for vegan Egyptian Spiced Avocado Corn Radish Salad

Level: easy
Servings: 6
Ready in: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 head radicchio lettuce *
  • 4 ears corn
  • 6 small radishes, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds**
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon each: paprika, coriander, turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh cilantro, to garnish

Easy lettuce wraps: Egyptian Spiced Avocado Corn Salad recipeDirections

To prepare the radicchio: use a small paring knife to cut a circle around the core of the lettuce.  Remove the core. Gently peel off the radicchio leaves, one at a time, until you have reached the small heart of the lettuce. Wash and rinse the radicchio leaves. Set aside to let dry.

To make the Egyptian spiced avocado corn filling: husk and wash the corn. Cut off the kernels from the cob. Place into a medium bowl. Trim and dice the radishes. Halve the grape tomatoes.  Pit and dice the avocado. Add these to the bowl with the corn. Add the sunflower seeds, cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning.

To make the radicchio cups:  Fill each radicchio cup with about ½ cup of the avocado corn filling.  Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

* Radicchio lettuce tip: radicchio is a bitter salad green, adding an interesting flavor to balance the sweetness of the corn and the richness of the avocado. If you don’t enjoy the bitter flavor (or if making this for kids and picky eaters), swap out the radicchio for bibb or even romaine lettuce.

** Chef’s calorie tip:  If you want to reduce the amount of calories in this recipe, swap out the sunflower seeds for a can of chickpeas or a cup of raw, sprouted beans. The chickpeas and beans will be lower in fat, while adding extra fiber and protein.

Yield: 12-16 lettuce cups (5-6 cups of just the filling).

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (about 2 or 3 lettuce cups).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 262.38
  • Calories From Fat (57%) 148.42

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 17.74g 27%
  • Saturated Fat 1.9g 10%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 219.74mg 9%
  • Potassium 679.02mg 19%
  • Total Carbohydrates 23.82g 8%
  • Fiber 6.31g 25%
  • Sugar 6.85g
  • Protein 8.53g 17%
  • Calcium 16.78mg 2%
  • Iron 42.75mg 238%
  • Vitamin A 519.82IU 10%
  • Vitamin C 9.92mg 17%

 

For Your Pinterest: Easy Lettuce Wraps: Egyptian Spiced Salad Lettuce Cups

Easy plant-based Egyptian spiced salad lettuce cups

Whether resolving to spend less on eating out, trying to keep up with a busy day (which doesn’t leave much time to escape the office) or simply because you want to improve your diet, bringing your lunch to work has a ton of different benefits. Read on to learn the necessary components in a quality, balanced lunch for adults and kids alike, plus some easy, healthy lunch ideas for work (or any other time you need convenience!).

Healthy Lunch Component #1: Lean Protein Source

When it comes to healthy lunch ideas for work, one of the singular most important components to consider is a lean protein source. By starting with a lean protein source, you’ll ensure the lunch is filling and helps you stay focused for the rest of the afternoon.

  • Chicken or turkey breast, shredded or chopped
  • Canned tuna or salmon, no salt added
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • 3-bean salad
  • Babybel cheese
  • Turkey burger or Beyond Burger

Healthy Lunch Component #2: Complex Carbohydrates

Make sure you round out the protein with a complex carbohydrate to add fiber, natural energy, and satisfaction. [Remember, growing kids and those looking to maintain weight and/or build muscle need more of these than those looking to lose weight.]

  • Baked potato
  • Whole fruit or mixed cut-up fruit
  • Triscuits
  • Whole or sprouted grain wrap or bread
  • Corn, cut it off the cob for easy eating
  • Whole grain pasta salad
  • Brown rice

Healthy Lunch Component #3: Healthy Fats

A little goes a long way in this section! Add a bit of healthy fats for awesome flavor and to control cravings later in the day.

  • Peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of mixed nuts
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole or sliced avocado
  • Olives

Related: this healthy “New-Tella” recipe uses different kinds of nuts plus dates and cocoa to cure that sweet craving, without going overboard!

Healthy Lunch Component #4: Non-Starchy Vegetables

Once you have the proper portions of each of the sections above, pile on the non-starchy vegetables. These provide more filling fiber and less calories, allowing you to keep on eating! This list could go on forever, but here are a few that are lunchbox-friendly.

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Bell peppers
  • Spinach salad
  • Homemade zucchini chips
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Leftover stir fry, roasted, or grilled veggies

Putting It All Together: Healthy Lunch Ideas for Work

Bento is a word mostly encompassing Japanese culture, with Chinese origin, meaning “useful thing” and “convenient”. A “bento” box is a great way to combine the components above into a satisfying and easy healthy lunch for work! Here are a few combinations to consider for your next meal!

  • Stir fry with chicken or beans, veggies, and brown rice.
  • Tuna or salmon packets on top of greens with roasted chickpeas or quinoa and balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Cabbage, carrots and bell peppers mixed with quinoa and shrimp, topped with peanut dressing.
  • Sandwich on sprouted grain bread with chicken breast and hummus, side of raw veggies with more hummus!
  • Corn tortillas with veggies, beans, or leftover meat. Top with greens and guacamole.
  • Hard boiled eggs, mashed with avocado on top of brown rice cakes. Leftover roasted veggies on the side.
  • Tuna or chicken salad (try plain Greek yogurt in place of mayo) in lettuce wraps, fruit on the side.

How would you combine these groups into a delicious lunch? Let us know in the comments! Want more information on nutrition programs or to set up a free consultation? Email Amy at asilver@ffc.com!

Post written by FFC registered dietitian & nutrition coordinator Amy Silver.

 

 

For Your Pinterest

Bring Your Own healthy lunch ideas for work or any time you need a convenient meal

My friends and coworkers often ask me about weekly meal prep. I am very passionate about healthy eating. In multiple conversations with friends and coworkers, I have noticed most people want to do it, but find it difficult to justify the time and question the cost savings. As someone who has prepped meals for years, I am a firm believer that it saves time, money, and provides many health benefits.

Here are the common questions people ask me about meal prep:

  • What do you make during meal prep?
  • How long does it take to cook?
  • Does your food taste good at the end of the week?
  • Is it cheaper than eating out?

As a member of corporate America, I find myself constantly influenced by the dark side of donuts, candy, and/or some sort of processed food. In the beautiful city of Chicago, it’s even more difficult, having restaurant upon restaurant within blocks of my apartment calling my name with cuisine from around the world. I believe that life is short and you should enable your body to experience these great restaurants.

Notice that I used the word “enable” versus “treat myself.” What I mean by this is that I believe there’s always a balance between treating yourself and eating too much of the wrong stuff. With that said, I feel that one meal we can take control of and help us throughout our day is lunch. Lunch is the meal that creates the break in our work day. Regardless if you’re in corporate, hospitality, or health care, you need to eat lunch. It is far too easy to go with what everyone else is having (hamburger, processed sandwich, etc) and let this meal get away from us.

This is where meal prep comes into play and making a healthy choice can really be easy with weekly meal prep. Meal prep enables your body to truly enjoy cheat meals (I’ll explain that later) without the guilt. The purpose of this message is to not only answer the questions above but outline them in a way that logically proves that meal prep is worth your time and money.

Though you can meal prep for any time of day, I will keep this overview to lunch – as it’s the most common meal everyone asks about. Lets get started!

What do you make?

The answer to this questions depends on the type of food you eat. Personally, I prefer the Paleo lifestyle and my food choices are limited to lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and healthy fats. I look for a balanced portion of a protein, greens, and carbohydrates for lunch. This allows me to have my break during the day and be able to get back to work without the afternoon dip.

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

I start with skinning the sweet potatoes and throw them into the oven since they take the longest. I time the broccoli start time to end the same time as the sweet potatoes. Once those two are complete, I move onto the chicken and grill it outside, which takes roughly 30 minutes. The food prep and cooking time will take you roughly 1.5 hours in total.

Related: check out even MORE food prep tips for various steps in the process to help make this easy time, money and progress saver a regular part of your routine.

Meal Prep = Time Saver

I always like to compare this to the alternative. Let’s look at both scenarios of going to get food and bringing it back to your desk versus eating there. I did time trials by walking with coworkers to grab their lunch and I found that the average time was roughly 15 minutes to go there and back. Total time throughout the week is an hour and 15 minutes. Ok, we’ve saved some time!

In a different situation, let’s look at how much time is saved in comparison to when you eat at a restaurant. I began timing this trial from the time we sat down and began to eat. I excluded any sit down restaurants that included a server since the lead times varied by person and restaurant. I came to the conclusion of an average 15 minute eating time. Combining that with travel time, you’re looking at 2 hours and 30 minutes saved per week.

Does your food taste good at the end of the week?

This one intrigued me for a while as I did notice that my chicken would become rubbery or not taste as good toward the end of the week. A trick you can use to help your food last and taste better longer is with your freezer. I do my meal prep on Sundays and put Monday and Tuesday’s meals in the refrigerator. The rest goes into the freezer and I pull out one meal each day throughout the week. Monday, I pull out Wednesday, etc.

Is it cheaper than eating out?

Yes, meal preparation will save you money. Below is an outline of the cost comparison between purchasing groceries vs. eating out. Please note, I am measuring groceries for a single person, using the chicken/broccoli/sweet potato meal outlined above.

If you go out to eat each day, lunch costs anywhere from $6 (typical fast food options) to $10 (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) depending on where you go. Add a sugary Coke, that’s another $2.00. The numbers speak for themselves.

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

Regardless if you’re training for a race, show, or looking for ways to be healthier, I am a firm believer that meal preparation can bring value to your day and life. You will not have to worry about answering the question, “What should I eat for lunch?” You have the opportunity to learn to cook new meals and try something new every week. Not only will meal prep save you money on a weekly basis, but you’ll get more out of your day. We can’t get more time in a day, but we can make the most of it.

For more about meal preparation and fitness, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R. 

 

Herbed cauliflower and potato mash - try this healthy recipe!With all its versatility and nutritional benefit, it’s easy to see why cauliflower has become such a popular ingredient in some of our favorite comfort foods. It’s become the go-to substitute for cutting calories in everything from rice to pizza, even! If you haven’t hopped on the cauliflower train yet, I suggest you start with this easy cauliflower mash recipe.

This is a nearly fool-proof way to introduce more healthy veggies into your diet using a classic comfort-food recipe (mashed potatoes) that you already love. Cauliflower is rich in healthy fiber, vitamin C and powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants.

No special equipment is required – just a pot of boiling water and a potato masher! A few key ingredients (almond milk and nutritional yeast) keep this 100% vegan. You can also swap out for a traditional dairy milk and even parmesan cheese – especially if you’re still trying to win over finicky eaters.

Use it as the perfect complement to grilled veggies or chicken, or as a heartier option to balance out warm weather salads and other dishes!

 

Related: speaking of substitutions in things we love, have you see this ‘New-tella’ recipe with dates?

Herb Cauliflower Mash with Yukon Potatoes

Level: easy
Servings: 8

Potato and cauliflower mash - perfect for your next party or picnic!Ingredients

  • 1 big head cauliflower (about 3-4 cups florets)
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Instructions

To cook potatoes and cauliflower:

  • Clean the cauliflower and scrub the potatoes.
  • Trim the cauliflower.
  • Cut both the cauliflower and potato into large pieces.
  • Place in a large pot and cover with water.
  • Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Potatoes are ready when a knife can easily be inserted and the potato slides off.

To make mash:

  • Chop the parsley.
  • When potatoes are done, drain the potatoes and cauliflower.
  • Immediately return the potatoes and cauliflower to the same hot pot and let any excess water steam off.
  • Add the remaining ingredients: milk of choice, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and parsley.
  • Use a potato masher and mash away. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

If you prefer a creamier potato, use a hand mixer.

Chef’s tip: Yukon Gold potatoes are a thin-skinned potato, which means you don’t have to peel them. You can also use butterball potatoes, or, for a little color, red-skinned potatoes.

Yield: 7-8 cups

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.