Month: November 2022

A beginners guide for eating more plant-based meals

Going plant-based is one of the best things you can do for your body, your mind and your overall health. It doesn’t have to be a major decision that you overthink into paralysis either. It doesn’t mean you have to start an exclusively vegetarian diet or vegan diet (where you eliminate all animal products including dairy products).

All it means is that you have a new found focus on whole foods and plant-based foods – healthy foods, not necessarily eliminating all animal foods. It can be done slowly one meal at a time! 

Check out these tips courtesy of Dole Food Company to start including more fruits and vegetables in your diet today! 

But before we get into the tactical tips… lets overview why plant based is so good for you.

Health Benefits of plant-based eating

Research has shown that balanced vegetarian and plant forward diets can reduce the risk of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and some cancers! Some of these benefits, aside from weight loss include:

  • Lower body fat with a focus on healthy fats and lower overall calorie intake which lowers the risk for obesity, in turn lowering risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Lower blood pressure, which could be a result of fruit and vegetables intake. But it could also be the result of other lifestyle factors unique to plant-based eaters such as increased exercise, lower alcohol intake and typically following a non smoking lifestyle.
  • Lower risk for heart disease which may be due to lower saturated fat intake in combination with antioxidants found in plant-based foods.
  • Digestive issues such as constipation and divercitular disease is diminished. This is likely the result of the high fiber content of fresh fruits, vegetables and plant-based alternatives.
  • Lower risk of some cancers including prostate, colon and rectal which are likely a result of higher fiber content of fruits and vegetables in combination with increased micronutrient and antioxidant intake! Additionally less fat tends to be consumed along with lower consumption of carcinogens.
  • Lower risk of kidney disease, kidney stones and gall stones. IT’s thought that lower protein content found in vegetarian diets plus increased intake of legumes and vegetables
macro friendly food
Omnivores plant forward dinner!

Tips for building plant based meals today!

  1. Start by looking at what you can add. Which meals do you and your family already love? Are mac n cheesebaked ziti and pizza on the list? Let’s see how we can add more plants! Try adding chopped steamed broccoli into the cheese sauce, add sautéed peppers and onions to your meatloaf and pop open a salad kit to go along with pizza night. Viola, plant-forward dinners are served. 
  2. Explore with just one vegetable at first so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Think about how you could take a head of cauliflower and try incorporating it a bunch of different ways throughout the week. You could roast it whole as an entrée or, you could mash it like potatoes with nutritional yeast for a tasty side dish. You’ll gain a comfort level for what to do with it, so it doesn’t seem foreign.
  3. Do a little research. Pick three new plant-based recipes that you really get excited about, it could even be a healthy snack recipe. Commit to trying them and then add them to the rotation. Going vegan or vegetarian can require different cooking skills so it’s best to start slowly. 
  4. Stick to what you know how to make – it’s a good idea, especially in the beginning. Do you have chicken salad on repeat for a quick lunch? Try using mashed chickpeas instead. Are Taco Tuesdays on rotation? Add more produce with this recipe that includes the DOLE® Ultimate Caesar Kit. 
  5. Lean on your grocery stores for meal prep. Will buying a pre-made mirepoix (chopped carrots, celery and onions) make a quick minestrone soup come to life for you? What about meal prep kids like Dole’s Sheetpan Meal Starter Kit
  6. Substitute, in full or partially! Take a meal your family already loves like meatballs or baked ziti and substitute half of the ground beef with whole plant foods like diced mushrooms or lentils. You could substitute all of the ground meat the celebrate meatless Mondays too!
bowl trend

7. Jump on the “bowl” craze. Literally, grab your favorite bowl, start with a base of greens and add from there! You could create a cold Buddha bowl with other vegetables and proteins or add cooked brown rice and curry for a warm option. 

  1. Remember that whole grains are plants too! Oatmeal, quinoa and farro are great additions to make at meals, and they’re particularly easy to have for breakfast! 
  2. Be sure to get enough protein! When going plant-based it’s easy to eliminate animal proteins and substitute them with vegetables. But, if you don’t add plant-based proteins, you will feel unsatisfied. Turn to beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, lentils if you’re looking for plant-based options!

Foods to stock up on for your plant based journey

Plant based foods

Nut butters – peanut, cashew, almond, walnut, chunky or sooth, they are all full of healthy fats plus protein and can add satisfaction to any meal, snack or smoothie. Just be wary, that many of the natural versions without added oils, sugars or stabilizers must be refrigerated for best quality.

Soy milk – yes, soy milk and soy products are most like milk and dairy when it comes to macronutrient profile of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Plus I happen to think it tastes better than a lot of the other dairy alternatives too! If you’re not a fan of soy, almond milk or coconut milk are fine options, but they will not offer the protein that traditional dairy or soy can provide.

Beans, beans beans – whether canned or dried, beans such as black beans, chickpeas and lentils are a pantry staple that ensure you can make a plant-based version of your favorite burgers and sauces.

Oatmeal – Choose from quick oats, rolled oats or unsweetened steel cut oats for a variety of uses. Traditional breakfast cereals have a lot of added sugar, but when you choose oatmeal, you have an ingredient that makes for a quick breakfast but can also be used in a variety of other dishes too.

Other meat substitutes – Think about tofu and seitan. You may want to pick up a brick for when you’re ready to move beyond beans and edamame!

alternative milk options

Seasonings– Whether you already have a favorite blend or your looking for something new, I highly recommend finding a seasoning mix that you like. Mine is Seasonello. It is an Italian seasoning salt that is amazing on everything from poultry to tofu to veggies. I also recommend trying nutritional yeast if you’re trying to find a cheese replacement! It’s also a good source of B6 and 12!

A really good olive oil – (or two!) Choose a good quality olive oil for most cooking and then select a higher quality extra virgin oil for finishing dishes or dressing salads. A high quality oil can make a big satisfaction impact!

Leafy greens – Spinach, kale, spring mix, arugula are just a few. I suggest a variety of fresh and frozen for versatility!

Starchy vegetables – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, corn, peas, and beets. Stock up on these for filling and colorful meals! Many can be found semi prepared in your produce department so you won’t have much prep to do at home!

If you are thinking about going all plant based or vegan, there is more to learn about vitamin B and vitamin D, these nutrients are primarily found from animal sources and may require supplementation. If you have questions or concerns about your unique nutritional needs, speak with your doctor or schedule a consult with a registered dietitian.


Melanie Marcus Selfie

Hello & Welcome!!

I’m Melanie.

I’m a chef, registered dietitian, foodie, wife and mom.

If you’re looking for quick and healthy meal inspiration that supports your health goals while feeding the rest of your family (including the kiddoes) well, then you’ve come to the right place!

The perfect texture rich, cozy fall harvest farro salad

When the calendar turns to November, my usual salad just won’t do. I usually turn to warm and comforting foods, but I find that roasted vegetables on top of arugula are just one of those hearty salads that you just want seconds of! I love this as a meal prep lunch for the work week, but it would also be a beautiful and unexpected addition to any Thanksgiving table.

I am the Registered Dietitian for Dole Food Company and they generously covered the cost of ingredients for this recipe.

What is farro?

farro

Farro is an ancient grain that has a nutty flavor and a pleasantly chewy texture when cooked. It looks a lot like barley. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t get mushy, even if you overcook it!

Ingredients you need for Harvest Farro Salad

  • farro
  • red onion
  • sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and cinnamon
  • lemon juice
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • honey
  • baby Arugula
  • pomegranate arils
  • pepitas or pumpkin seeds

Tips for putting it all together!

  • Prepare your farro in advance, according to package directions, remove excess liquid once done cooking.
  • Use a rimmed baking sheet, lined with nonstick foil when roasting vegetables.
  • Let the farro and veggies come to room temperature before laying salad.

Substitutions & Additions

  • Instead of sweet potato you could use butternut squash
  • If you don’t have canned mandarins, use fresh!
  • If you don’t have farro you could use barley, wheat berries, quinoa or whole grain brown rice.
  • Carmelized brussels sprouts would be an amazing addition
  • A beautiful garnish would be goat cheese or feta cheese crumbles.
  • If you don’t have pomegranate arils you could always use chopped apple.
  • If you don’t have lemon juice you can use tangy apple cider vinaigrette or vinegar instead!

Nutrition Rundown

While this salad isn’t gluten free because of the farro, it could easily be made without gluten by substituting another whole and hearty grain. Try quinoa!

This recipe is naturally vegan and vegetarian and chock full of antioxidants from ingredients like arugula, pomegranate, sweet potato and pepitas!

Farro is an excellent source of fiber which helps keep us full, but it also helps keep our digestive system regular and happy! It’s also a wonderful source of complex carbohydrates which provides that immediate satisfaction for the brain, but has the added fiber to be a longer burning fuel for the body. Farro also contributes iron and magnesium to the diet.

How to cook farro

I just followed the package instructions which was to use 1 cup dry farro and 2 cups of water. Bring them to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes until all the water was absorbed.

PRO TIP: rinse your farro after it’s done cooking to prevent further cooking!

What to do with leftover farro

I has leftover farro when preparing this recipe, so if that’s the case with you, here are a few ideas to help you.

  • Serve it like oatmeal with milk and honey
  • Fry it up like fried rice with veggies and an egg or shrimp
  • Add it to salads
  • Use it as a base for a grain bowl
  • Mix into sautéed spinach and garlic

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out my family’s special recipe for creamy balsamic salad dressing. It’s amazing for salads but as a marinade too!

Delicious Autumn Salad

Autumn Harvest Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Salad
Servings 8
Calories 251 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup dry farro rinsed and drained
  • 1 red onion cut into wedes
  • 1 sweet potato cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup mandarins in juice
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted pepitas

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F; line a rimmed baking pan with nonstick foil. Prepare farro as label directs; cool.
  • Toss onion, potato, 1 tablespoon oil, ½ teaspoon salt and cinnamon in a large bowl; spread on prepared pan. Roast onion mixture 25 minutes or until golden brown and tender, stirring once.
  • Whisk lemon juice, parsley, honey and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a separate large bowl; whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in remaining 3 tablespoons oil to emulsify. Fold in arugula, Mandarins, farro and onion mixture. Makes about 7 cups.
  • Serve salad sprinkled with pomegranate arils and pepitas.

Nutrition

Calories: 251kcal
Keyword autumn
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Is the viral Tik Tok Coconut Blue Cloud Smoothie from Erewhon healthy?

I recently learned about the viral Tik Tok drink – coconut cloud smoothie. It’s a famous blue smoothie that has been described as having an unmistakable beautiful cerulean marble color and a lot of trending ingredients. (That description reminds me of “The Devil Wears Prada”)! The original recipe was created by influencer Marianna Hewitt and was featured at Erewhon grocery store during the month of March 2022. Did I mention that it costs $17.00?

The original Erewhon coconut cloud smoothie is made with Malk almond milk, vanilla collagen peptides, banana, pineapple, avocado, a can of coconut milk, blue Majik Spirulina, vanilla stevia, and almond butter. While all of these ingredients on their own bring a variety of health benefits and offer a lot to love, just one serving easily has over 600 calories and over 20g fat, most of which is saturated and above the recommended daily values. That said, it is beautiful and certainly makes you feel special while drinking it, so with a few tweaks, I made a version using Dole bananas and pineapples and truth be told – I’d be happy to drink daily!

Jump to Recipe

I am the registered dietitian for Dole Food Company and Dole generously covered the cost of ingredients for this recipe.

Here’s what you need to make a healthier version of the Erewhon recipe for a fraction of the price!

  • Coconut cream – we’ll use the decadent coconut cream, and whip it before adding to the glass – but we won’t use as much.
  • Blue spirulina – this was pricey, but makes that signature blue color, so it just can’t be done without it.
  • Almond milk – you can you any kind of almond milk that you like.
  • Banana – I recommend using a frozen banana for this
  • Pineapple – we will use frozen here also!
  • Vanilla stevia – for natural sweetness.
  • Vanilla extract – for extra vanilla flavor.
  • Collagen peptides – these add a bit of protein as well as a really cool frothy light texture.

I found all of the ingredients I needed at my local Whole Foods Market, but you could also get what you need from your local grocery store plus a 1-2 items from Amazon.

Jump to Recipe

Here’s the trick to beautiful marbling

  • First whip you coconut cream well with a whisk or fork – this gives a creamier consistency. Then layer half on the bottom of the cup.
  • Next take 1/4 tsp of the spirulina powder, the most important ingredient, and sprinkle it on top of the coconut cream as well as the sides of the glass.
  • Then mix the rest of the ingredients in a high powered blender or Vitamix until light and fluffy.
  • Now pour the smoothie mixture into the prepared glass.
  • Top with remaining coconut cream.

The dietitian review

I’ve heard the Erewhon smoothie described as full of healthy fats. Which isn’t exactly true. While many coconut products are enjoying a health halo right now, it doesn’t change the fact that it has a significant amount saturated fat, or that the original recipe uses a hefty amount of coconut cream which is solid at room temperature, and not encouraged as part of a heart healthy diet. I’m glad I tried to make it, but I would not make the original version on a regular basis because it just has too many calories, overall fat and carbs. It’s just A LOT.

That said, I invested in purchasing the blue spirulina powder and came up with a version of this smoothie that I can make weekly. It really is beautiful and why not enjoy how the smoothie looks as you drink it?!

I also made a version for low carb day that you can find on my instagram @miss_nutritious_eats.

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is a type of algea, and can be either blue or green. Ancient Aztecs actually harvested it from ponds and incorporated it into baked goods in their diet. You can find it in a variety of forms, but I think powdered is the most popular. Believe it or not, it’s an excellent source of protein, and a variety of nutrients including B vitamins, iron, manganese, potassium and a good source of vitamins C, E, K and folate! And if you’re wondering, it is vegan!

Studies have suggested that spirulina has beneficial effects on blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. It also has cancer protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.1

5 ways to use spirulina

In addition to adding to your favorite smoothie try:

  1. blend into yogurt
  2. add to oatmeal or millet
  3. add to cookies or cake batter
  4. add to your salad dressing
  5. mix into hummus or guacamole

So is it worth it?

If I were able to order one, just to try it, I would! But it would definitely be a splurge item for my wallet and my diet -> that is FOR SURE! There’s nothing wrong with indulging in foods every once in a while, just remember the 80/20 rule. And if you want an indulgent blue smoothie, try this version!

You may also like to try the DIY Pumpkin Spice Dole Whip! It’s another major winner!!

Nutrition

Take a look at those vitamin and mineral values! So many of them are more than 10 or 20% which are benchmarks for good and excellent sources! Let’s just call out a few.

Vitamin A – This smoothie provides 590% of the daily value (DV)! Vitamin A supports healthy vision, gene expression, reproduction, growth and immunity! It can be found in both animal and plant sources, but those from plant sources must be converted in order to use them!

Vitamin B6 – You’ll get 30% DV with this drink! It plays a really big role in the body because it’s necessary for enzymes to perform their functions which includes releasing stored energy (in the form of glycogen) from muscles. As we get older, it can be difficult to get the recommended amount of B6, which is usually found in tuna, salmon, turkey breast, bananas, sweet potatoes and chickpeas.

Vitamin C – This smoothie sets you up with 50% DV of C. which aids iron absorption, supports collagen formation in the body and strengthens immunity. Many Americans are consuming the recommended amount of C. Cerries, bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels, papaya, strawberries and pineapple are top sources!

Manganese – This trace mineral helps activate powerful antioxidant enzymes into action! It helps convert fat to energy and support cartilage and bone formation. Sources to include are oats, pine nuts, brown rice, spinach, pineapple and raspberries among others!

Coconut Blue Cloud Smoothie

Lightened Up Coconut Blue Cloud Smoothie

Check out this lightened up version of the Erewhon and viral Tik Tok smoothie!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 1

Equipment

  • 1 High Powered Blender

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp coconut cream canned
  • 3/4 tsp blue spirulina powdered
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana frozen
  • 1/4 cup pineapple frozen
  • 5 drops vanilla stevia
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 scoops collagen powder
  • coco whip optional

Instructions
 

  • Add coconut cram to serving glass and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp spirulina.
  • Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
  • Pour smoothie into prepared glass. Top with coco whip if desired!

Notes

This recipe keeps the coconut cream from the viral original but eliminates the fat from the almond butter and avocado.  
Keyword Smoothie
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

References

  1. Tonia Reinhard, Super Foods. (Firefly Books, 2014).