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Seaweed? For dinner? Seriously?

Yes, yes, and yes! Chances are you’ve had seaweed as part of a sushi roll or even as a side dish or salad at a Japanese restaurant, but have you considered adding it to your regular weekday at-home dining experience? Now might just be the time to try it!

Seaweed has been growing in popularity, making it more widely available in grocery stores, and it is absolutely chock-full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and even trace elements.

Trace elements are dietary elements that are essential to the body for things such as growth, metabolic function and other processses but are only needed in very small quantities (aka trace amounts) and include (but are not limited to) selenium, copper, magnesium, iodine, etc.

Why Should I Care?

The purported health benefits as to why you should be eating seaweed range widely from estrogen regulation (leading many to speculate that seaweed consumption may help lower the risk for breast cancers) to reduction in blood pressure (and therefore a reduction in heart disease). Further research is needed to examine all potential health benefits of seaweeds and determine their maximum therapeutic potential in terms of disease prevention and risk reduction.

Related: click here to register for a free nutrition consultation at FFC!

Seaweed’s most well-documented health benefit is that it is a phenomenal source of iodine, an essential element needed for thyroid regulation. The thyroid, which is a gland located in the neck, secretes and regulates various bodily hormones involved in everything from growth to metabolic regulation. Consuming healthy, adequate levels of iodine is key to maintaining a healthy thyroid – inadequate iodine can cause goiters, extreme fatigue, and even intellectual disability. However, as with all good things, moderation is the key to success! The same way too little iodine can be harmful, so can too much. Be sure to curb your intake if there are medical reasons to limit iodine.

How to Buy Seaweed 101

The 411 on common edible seaweeds: seaweeds are members of the algae family and are typically available in three varieties; red, green, and brown. The most commonly eaten varieties are red seaweed, which is used to form nori, and brown seaweed (such as kelp or wakame), which frequently finds its way into in soups and salads.

Related: try the souping diet! Check out this post to see why.

  • Nori – a red seaweed used most commonly for sushi rolls is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and B12 while being lower in iodine than many other varieties of seaweeds.
  • Dulse – another red seaweed, this varietal is frequently consumed in its dried flakey form as a flavoring for soups, but can also be sautéed with a little butter and garlic for a lovely side dish.
  • Kelp – also known as “kombu,” this brown seaweed is very high in iodine and is often used in combination with dashi to make broth for soups, particularly miso soup.

30-Minute Recipe: Wakame Salad

(adapted from Karman Meyer, RD)

5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz dried wakame, rehydrated per package instructions
  • ½ medium seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into ⅛” slices
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded with a vegetable peeler or zoodler
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

Drain all liquid from the rehydrated wakame and tear wakame into bite-sized pieces, as needed. Set aside in medium mixing bowl.

In a small dish, stir to combine: sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. Pour this over the wakame.

Add sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots to the wakame dressing mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate to chill before serving; for best flavor, allow to marinate for 24 hours prior to serving.

Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top just before serving.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.

When it comes to getting healthy, eating out can sabotage our efforts. Whether it’s takeout, delivery, or even a fancy restaurant, much of the food prepared in these establishments tends to be heavy in salt and fat. After all, the goal of any place selling food is to satisfy customers with delicious flavor. As customers, it’s natural that we like rich, fatty foods. Chefs tend to rely on salt, sugar, fat and dairy to make dishes more delicious – and that can show up around your waistline. On top of that, excuses for relying on eating out often are plentiful: lack of time, lack of energy, lack of cooking ability. My nutritious 5-minute Asian noodle bowl recipe is here to change that.

This quick, healthy dish is ready in just minutes. It uses a few key ingredients that you can always keep stocked in your pantry and freezer for easy access. Healthy buckwheat soba noodles and plant-based protein from edamame will leave you feeling satisfied and fueled for your next workout. Jazz it up with shredded cabbage, baby spinach, or sliced bell pepper. This noodle-bowl will “take-out” your excuses for “takeout”!

Related: sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an on-site registered dietitian at FFC – click here!

5 Minute Asian Noodle Bowl

  • Level: easy
  • Servings: 1
  • Ready in: 5 minutes

Ingredients

Quick Asian Peanut Sauce:

  • 2 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 tbs orange juice (or pineapple juice)
  • 1/8 tsp red chili flake
  • 1/2 tsp tamari or soy sauce

Noodle Bowl:

  • 1 (2 oz) bundle Soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup shelled edamame

Related: need a quick boost of energy? Check out these nostalgic, yet adult-worthy PB & J Oat Bites!

Directions

Make the noodles. You can bring a pot of water to a boil. (This may add a few extra minutes, but will still be pretty fast).

Add the Soba noodles to boiling water.

Make the Quick Asian Peanut Sauce. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, rice vinegar, lime, red chili, tamari, and orange juice.

After the noodles cook for about 2 minutes, add the bean sprouts and edamame. Cook 1 more minute, until hot.

Drain noodle mixture. Toss with the Quick Asian Peanut Sauce and serve.

Chef’s Tip: Use an empty peanut butter jar to make a big batch of the Quick Asian Peanut Sauce. You can then whip up this bowl in even less time, or use it as a dressing for salad, a dip for veggies, or even poured over roasted sweet potatoes.

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving (1 recipe)

Calories 445.44

Calories from Fat (34%) 152.39

  • % Daily Value
  • Total Fat 18.22g 28%
  • Saturated Fat 3.51g 18%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 773.95mg 32%
  • Potassium 744.9mg 21%
  • Total Carbohydrates 63.84g 21%
  • Fiber 4.47g 18%
  • Sugar 7.35g
  • Protein 21.43g 43%
  • Calcium 24.96mg 2%
  • Iron 62.53mg 347%
  • Vitamin A 43.18IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0mg 0%

Post written by FFC Boystown Group Fitness Instructor Katie Simmons.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re bringing you a mini-series to introduce and examine some of the top nutrition trends. We’ll explore what’s hot, where we’re seeing it, why it’s gaining popularity, and what’s in store for the future. In this post, we’ll go through the trend of the low sugar diet, benefits and how you can try it on your own.

Added sugar has been in the spotlight lately, especially as research continues to emerge linking excess sugar to a host of metabolic dysfunction and disease.The average American consumes more than 20 teaspoons of sugar daily. Comparing that figure to the recommended daily limits of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women shows the impact that food manufacturers truly have on our sugary bottom line.

Journalists and health advocates alike have taken food manufacturers to task in recent month calling for a reduction in the sweet stuff and the importance of educating people on a low sugar diet. Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, has outright declared a ‘War on Sugar,’ and numerous highly regarded commercial publications have been raising awareness of the health impacts of added sugar.

So, what’s this mean for the future? As focus on the added sugar issue grows, expect to see demand for (and, subsequently, the supply of) “reduced sugar,” “no sugar added,” and “alternatively sweetened” products to rise. Look for food manufacturers to make the move towards less refined, natural sweeteners like dates, honey, and agave.

There will also be an increase in products made with “all natural” sugar substitutes like Stevia, Truvia, Sweetleaf, Whey Low, and Xylitol. Expect to see one nutrient benefit from this sugar crusade: fat. When the low-fat craze hit in the 1980’s, food manufacturers replaced fat with sugar to keep our taste buds happy (and our wallets open). It’s a safe bet that many companies will offer product lines, especially dressings and dairy that return normal-fat content and reduce the amount of added sugars.

Related: register to talk to a dietitian and receive a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

Low-Sugar Recipe Hack: Make Your Own “Added Sugar” Flavored Yogurt Substitutes

Greek yogurt is all the rage right now, and rightfully so – it packs a high-protein punch. But not all yogurts are created equal. With some commercially prepared flavored yogurts containing as many as 22 grams of sugar for a measly 6 ounces of yogurt, it’s buyer beware in the yogurt aisle. So skip the stress and the worry – make your own! Below are a few recipes to make your yogurt flavorful and nutritious.

Fruit On The Bottom Yogurt

Each of the fruit + honey combinations below is approximately 12 grams sugar, total, cutting approximately 5-10 grams of added sugar from commercial yogurt brands while adding more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and overall volume to your yogurt.

Step 1: Pick one fruit option from the list below
Step 2: Mash or dice your fruit to your preference
Step 3: Mix in ½ TBSP honey, if needed (optional)
Step 4: Add 6 oz plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt
Step 5: Enjoy!

  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 6 medium strawberries
  • ½ cup blackberries
  • 2/3 cup raspberries
  • ½ small peach
  • ¼ cup pineapple chunks

Related: fast, convenient snack options (for when you’re in the airport, for example) without added sugar can be hard to find. Check out this post for some tips and options!

Flavorful Low-Sugar Combos

Not a fruit-in-my-yogurt person? Fear not! There are plenty of other options out there that are high in flavor and low in sugar. Add any of the following options below to 6 oz of plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt:

  • 1 TBSP peanut butter + cinnamon
  • 1 TBSP almond butter + cardamom + dash of vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP shredded coconut + cocoa nibs
  • 2 TBSP pumpkin + pumpkin pie spice + dash of maple extract

Post written by an FFC contributor.

 

“Don’t try to drive on an empty tank of gas.” This essential advice is something I remind my FFC members of all the time. When I teach Motiv8 at 6 AM, I’m pushing you to dig deep and give 100% in your workout. In order to get stronger, you have to train hard. You have to push your body through discomfort. How can you expect to do that on an empty stomach? Whether you’re training first thing in the morning, or right after work, it’s crucial to fuel up pre-workout. Running on an empty tank of gas will leave you tired and can increase your likelihood for injury. What you fuel up with is just as important to give you sustained energy. Check out this insanely easy recipe for peanut butter and jelly oat bites – one of my favorite go-to pre-workout snacks.

The classic combination of PB & J takes us all back to the memories of childhood (but dried currants and all-natural ingredients keep the recipe mature enough for adults). I throw just a few ingredients into my food processor and roll up a batch. Not only are these great pre-workout snacks that are gluten-free, vegan options, they’re also 100% plant-based and have tons of nutritional benefits!

Some of these benefits include:

  • Whole grain oats are naturally gluten-free, providing vegan protein and fiber for long-term energy.
  • Natural roasted peanut butter adds some fat to give you long-lasting satiety.
  • Dried currants provide natural sweetness for an energy boost that won’t leave you dragging in an hour.
  • A dash of cinnamon does double-duty, providing interesting flavor and acts as an anti-inflammatory food (read more about controlling inflammatory foods here!)

One of the best parts? I’ll make a batch of these and keep them in the freezer – and any time I might need a quick energy bite, (or some pre-workout snacks) I throw a few in my bag! They work in the morning before I teach class, in the afternoon when I am craving something sweet, and even on long trips when I’m stuck in an airport. I even make them as a personal chef for my clients who pack them in their kids’ lunch boxes!

Related: want to set up a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with one of our on-site registered dietitians? Click here!

Try This Recipe: PB & J Oat Bite Pre-Workout Snacks

  • Level: easy
  • Servings 10 – yields 20 “bites”
  • Ready in: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free oats for 100% gluten-free treats)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (preferably with no added sugars or oils)
  • 1 1/4 cup dried Zante currants
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or adjust, depending on salt in peanut butter)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp warm water

Related: speaking of energy – check out this easy peasy 5 minute Asian noodle bowl for the next time you’re craving take-out!

Pre-workout snacks - try these easy PB & J Oat Bites!

Directions

Gather ingredients. Place the oats in your food processor. Puree oats until well-chopped, resembling shredded coconut. Remove from food processor and pour into a medium bowl.

Add the peanut butter, currants, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to the food processor. Puree peanut butter mixture until currants are chopped and everything is well-combined.

Add shredded oats back to the food processor. Puree. Add 2-4 tablespoons warm water, until mixture binds together. Continue to puree until mixture naturally clumps into a large ball. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until this consistency is reached.

Remove mixture from the food processor into a medium bowl. Roll about 1 tablespoon of batter into a two-bite ball. Repeat with remaining mixture.

Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week or freeze for longer.

Chef’s Tip: for a peanut-free alternative, try it with almond butter or sunflower seed butter. These are perfect fuel for traveling through airports or training for marathons! Want to see a step-by-step? Check out the full preparation video here!

Nutrition Info

Serving size: 1/10 of a recipe (about 2 bites).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 219.71
  • Calories From Fat (31%) 68.31

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 8.17g 13%
  • Saturated Fat 1.65g 8%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 177.46mg 7%
  • Potassium 346.45mg 10%
  • Total Carbohydrates 31.63g 11%
  • Fiber 4.62g 18%
  • Sugar 13.36g
  • Protein 7.93g 16%
  • Calcium 0.86mg <1%
  • Iron 36.39mg 202%
  • Vitamin A 13.91IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0.04mg <1%

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.

 

Winter weather gets a bad rap for also wreaking havoc on your health. Common questions we hear all the time include those such as “what’s the best way to boost your immune system before cold season?”, “what should you take to help prevent getting that icky bug that’s been hitting everyone?”, “what’s the best germ fighter around?” and “how do you fight colds faster?”

The answer is easy, simple, and my personal favorite: a healthy diet!

A healthy diet chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber is your best dietary weapon against the common cold. How to fight colds faster? Never get one in the first place!

How to Fight Colds Faster

Giving your immune system everything it needs to operate at full capacity on a daily basis is far more effective at preventing illness than nursing reactionary fizzy vitamin C drinks or popping zinc lozenges during cold and flu season.

Far more goes into making a healthy, fully-functional immune system than just vitamin C and zinc (which are two of the most commonly supplemented over-the-counter cold home remedies for immediate or after-the-fact treatment.)

Related: don’t forget to hydrate! Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated.

We need a whole host of vitamins and minerals just to have functional enzymes in our immune system, let alone all the other dietary components that go into making all facets of the immune system. So, the first and most important thing is to maintain a healthy and very well-balanced diet.

Vitamin C & Zinc Can Still Help

That being said, vitamin C and zinc supplementation may yet have their merits. While no definitive research exists to support the use of these supplements to reduce the incidence of the common cold in otherwise healthy individuals (in fact, it’s supposedly just the opposite: a quick perusal of current literature reveals that study after study has found neither vitamin C nor zinc to significantly reduce the number of times a person gets a cold), researchers are now looking into the efficacy of these products once you have already contracted a cold.

The data is mixed, but some studies have found an association between zinc and/or vitamin C supplementation and a reduction in the either the severity of symptoms or the duration of illness. More conclusive research is certainly needed, especially to clarify timing and dosage, which are both still very unclear.

Even though the jury is still out on some facets of cold remedies, one thing is for sure: a healthy diet sure is a tastier and simpler method for staying healthy all year long. Check out some of these delicious recipes for a fast nutrient fix when you’re feeling especially run down and need to fight colds faster or just when you’re in need of a health-kick.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

30-Minute Recipe: 3 Quick Cold-Busting Picks

Open-Faced Veggie-ful Breakfast Bagel

½ whole grain bagel topped with 2 tbsp cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, sliced cucumbers, and spinach with several slices of chicken or turkey.

Healthful Lunch Bowl

Top ½ cup black beans + ½ cup corn kernels with 1 serving fajita seasoned chicken, chopped tomatoes and sautéed bell pepper + onions (sliced and sautéed in 1 tsp olive oil). Additional toppings can include 1-2 tbsp light sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, and/or ¼ cup pico de gallo.

Bonus: this meal is easily made ahead of time in batch for a whole week’s worth of lunches that will keep you health and help you fight colds faster!

Lean Mean Mediterranean Dinner Salad

Toss 2-3 cups spinach with ½ cup chickpeas, 4 oz shredded chicken, and as much sliced cucumber, diced tomatoes, and diced red bell pepper as you like then top with 1 oz crumbled feta cheese; make a dressing from ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp olive oil, as much lemon juice and spices (try dill and a little garlic!) as you like.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.

Ever heard of souping? If you haven’t already, you likely will. Souping has been touted as “the new juicing.” Before you roll your eyes, take a look at what the trend entails and how it can make eating healthy during these colder months easy.

Often shunned for high sodium content, many people wonder if soup is actually healthy. It is! Vegetable and broth-based soups can be both healthful and delicious, packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

A well-crafted soup contains a combination of vitamin-rich vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Soups can provide the fiber and protein for a high-volume meal that is relatively low in calories when compared with other foods with similar nutrient profiles.

Look for broth-based soups that have plenty of vegetables and a serving of lean protein in each bowl. Additionally, soups with a serving of legumes (such as beans or lentils) will provide you with quality low-glycemic carbohydrates, fiber, and additional protein along side the extra flavors and textures they bring to the dish. Beware soups that are cream-based as they are typically loaded in saturated fat and extra calories.

While we don’t necessarily promote “fad diets”, souping can be a great way to reset your diet and cut calorie intake while still getting all the nutrients you need with a quick, 30-minute meal. What should you know about souping? Souping is a short-term diet comprised solely of soup.

Pros of the Souping Diet:

  • Souping minimizes blood sugar spikes when compared to juicing because vegetable and legume-based soups are not only inherently lower in sugar compared to juices (which are primarily made from fruit), but they also provide a greater concentration of complex carbohydrates (which are much slower to digest and raise blood sugar).
  • Nutritious soups have protein, which is typically lacking in a juice cleanse.
  • The extra fiber and protein found in soup not only provides more nutrition than a typical juice cleanse, but it also provides more satiety.

Cons of the Souping Diet:

  • Souping often tends to be low in calories – sometimes too low – which may lead to muscle breakdown instead of fat loss.
  • Souping is a short-term “fad” diet, not a long-term solution. Substantive and maintainable weight loss will require more changes to the big (dietary) picture than a soup cleanse will provide.

Bottom line: nutritious soups can be a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. For some people, replacing a few meals per week with a well-crafted, lower-calorie soup can be a great springboard into making those small dietary changes that eventually add up to big changes.

Related: soups are a great meal to prepare if you are meal prepping. Check out some other meal prep tips here!

30-Minute Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Yields 4 servings.

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 – 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP Italian Spice Blend
  • 2 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup kidney beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the onions and carrots until softened, 3-5 minutes. Ad garlic and continue to sauté ~2 minutes, until softened.
  • Add tomato paste and spices, stir to incorporate and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock, stirring to combine. Make sure to dissolve any tomato paste lumps.
  • Add chicken pieces, cabbage, green beans, and kidney beans, stirring to combine. Bring soup up to a slow simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer until all vegetables are tender and chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Post written by FFC contributor.