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Butternut Squash Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my favorite comfort foods. Unfortunately, like most comfort foods it is loaded with fat and processed carbohydrates. Not the best option if you’re trying to be healthy.

This lasagna recipe uses butternut squash in place of traditional lasagna noodles, for a healthier take on this old favorite. Make this recipe your own by changing up the vegetables, spices, or using dairy free cheese.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and sliced into thin rounds
  • 8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, chopped, and drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese or low fat cottage cheese
  • 32 ounces jarred pasta sauce or 4 cups Rustic Marinara Sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions:
  • Peel butternut squash and cut into thin slices using a sharp knife or mandolin.
  • Heat olive oil in a heavy sauté pan, add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms and cook until vegetables a soft, stir often to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Mix well.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Lightly oil a 9×13 baking pan.
  • Spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  • Begin layering lasagna: butternut squash slices, 1/3 sautéed vegetables, 1/3 cheese/ spinach mixture, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup pasta sauce. Repeat layering 2 more times.
  • Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of foil.
  • Bake covered for 45 minutes.
  • Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Serves 6-8 people

Leftovers can be frozen.

*To prevent the lasagna from being too lumpy, purée marinara sauce until smooth.


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Start Your Week with a Healthy Plan

Will you:

  • Take a walk after dinner every night this week?
  • Eat more vegetables?
  • Quit smoking?
  • Devote 10-15 minutes to your meditation practice each day?
  • Cut back on your alcohol intake?
  • Take a yoga class?
  • Eat slowly and mindfully?
  • Get 6-8 hours of rest each night?

Feel free to share your answers in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.


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Rustic Marinara Sauce

Whether it’s whole wheat spaghetti, rice penne, shirataki noodles, or spiralized zucchini almost everyone loves a bowl of “pasta” topped with tomato sauce. Sadly, most store bought sauces are full of sugar and preservatives. But, why buy from the store when making your own tomato sauce is quick and simple. This Rustic Marinara sauce is delicious, and it only takes about 1 hour to make. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and frozen for 3-4 months.

I love this recipe because it is hearty and full of vegetables. Roasting the vegetables, rather than cooking them down in a kettle, adds a caramelized flavor that sets this sauce apart.

No matter what you put them on, homemade tomato sauces are full of nutrition. Tomatoes contain lycopene, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and folate among other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Cooking tomatoes makes lycopene more available to the body, so enjoying a homemade tomato sauce is a great way to get this nutrient into your diet.

Rustic Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 pound zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 pound yellow squash, chopped*
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine or water, if desired
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine tomatoes, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, onion, garlic and basil in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Place all ingredients on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  • Roast vegetables in the oven for 10 minutes, stir and roast and additional 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft and caramelized.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  • Place 1/2 of the vegetables in a food processor or power blender and process until smooth.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of wine or water to mixture and pulse to combine.
  • Remove to a bowl and add the remaining vegetables to the sauce and stir to combine.
  • Use over pasta, spaghetti squash, spiralized vegetables or on top of bruschetta.
  • Store extra sauce in the refrigerator or freezer.

This recipe produces a chunky sauce, so if you like a smoother sauce simply purée all of the roasted vegetables to your preferred consistency.

*If you are not a fan of yellow squash, try adding 3/4 cup of chopped carrot instead. Actually, feel free to experiment with any vegetables of your choice. I like spinach and eggplant in this recipe as well.


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Eat a Rainbow – Go Green

Last week I introduced you to the idea of “Eating a Rainbow“. As a brief review, eating the rainbow means consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables from 5 different color groups to ensure you get all of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need to keep you healthy.

This week we are exploring the GREEN group of fruits and vegetables.

Green fruits and veggies are loaded with health enhancing compounds including:

  • Lutein-an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation, fight cancer, and protect the eye from damage from the sun, blue light, cataracts, and macular degeneration
  • Folate-also known as vitamin B-9, an important factor in red blood cell formation, health cell development, treating depression, and preventing birth defects
  • Vitamin K-a vitamin necessary in the clotting of blood
  • Isothiocyanate-a group of phytonutrients that help fight the effects of carcinogens, cancer causing agents
  • Chlorophyll-a powerful antioxidant
  • Insoluble Fiber-helps support a healthy digestive system

It is important to remember that some vitamins, minerals, and other compounds found in these fruits and vegetables can interfere with certain medical conditions and medications, so it is best to talk to your medical professional about which green fruits and veggies are safe for you to include in your diet.

Fruits and vegetables in the green color group can help prevent cancer, reduce inflammation in the body, support healthy digestion, promote eye health, and boost the immune system. They are a delicious addition to your daily diet and add 1-2 servings per day can help ensure you meet the minimum daily requirement for 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Check out these recipes designed to help you add more green to your diet:

Bok Choy and Radish Coleslaw

Brussels Sprout, Kale, and Mango Salad


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Improve Your Health, Eat a Rainbow

You are probably familiar with the phrase, “Variety is the spice of life.” But when it comes to our nutrition, many of us avoid “spicing it up”. I am not talking about adding spices to your food (although it is a great idea), I am talking about including variety.

Take a moment to review your food choices over the past week. Do you eat the same thing for breakfast every morning? Does your daily salad consist of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, a slice of cucumber, and some shredded carrot?

If you are like most of my clients you are in a nutritional rut, eating the same foods day after day often prepared the same way. That’s why this month I am encouraging you to “eat the rainbow”.

What does it mean to “eat the rainbow”?

We all know we should be eating 2-3 servings of fruits and 3-4 servings of vegetables every day in order to meet the minimum requirements for a healthy diet. But, did you know that we should also be eating a variety of different colors of fruits and vegetables?

You probably know that fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy, but they also contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemicals made by plants to protect them from diseases, insects, and other harmful agents. Fortunately, they can do the same for us! Phytonutrients can help prevent certain cancers, support the immune system, and fight inflammation, among other things. Different colors have their own unique set of phytonutrients. For example the phytonutrient, Lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, macular degeneration, and certain cancers, is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, and strawberries their red color. Fruits and vegetables generally fall into 5 color categories: green, red, orange/yellow, blue/purple, and white/brown. Over the next 5 weeks we will explore each color in more detail.

Why “eat the rainbow”?

There are several benefits to “eating the rainbow”, including:

  1. Improved nutrition– As I mentioned earlier, different colored fruits and vegetables have different types of phytonutrients which benefit our health.
  2. It’s easy– Just 1 serving of each color guarantees you get at least 5 servings of fruits/veggies which means you are effortlessly getting the minimum requirement for the vitamins, minerals, and fiber these foods contain.
  3. Prevents boredom– Let’s face it, eating the same foods over and over can get boring. Boredom can lead to skipping vegetables or replacing them with less healthy choices like, sugar laden juices. The “eating the rainbow” method encourages you to try different foods within the color group, for example trading your romaine lettuce for arugula or bok choy. Also, different cooking methods affect the availability of nutrients within a food, cooked spinach provides more nutrients than raw spinach.
  4. Supports the local economy– Another part of the eat the rainbow plan is to eat seasonally. This means buying fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Often the best place to do this is at your local farmers market.
  5. Can help you save money– It may seem like buying all of these different colors of fruits and vegetables can get expensive, however produce that is in season is often less expensive than an off season option. Think of the difference between buying blueberries in the summer versus in late winter. Also, filling up your diet with healthy fruit and vegetable options means you will be less hungry for expensive snacks. Think of the money you will save by taking an apple to work for mid afternoon snack time rather than dumping money into the vending machine for chips or a candy bar.

It is important to remember that “eating the rainbow” is not a diet, but rather a handy tool to help ensure you consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. It helps ensure you get plenty of important nutrients without getting bored or having to think too much about what to eat.

Next week’s post will explore the the nutrients and types of foods found in the GREEN category. Until then, here is a game you can play to see how well you, “eat the rainbow.” The game works great with kids, but many of my adult clientsenjoy it as well.

Eat The Rainbow Game

What you need:
  • A picture of a rainbow
  • A magic marker or sharpie
  • A box of gold stars or small stickers
How to play:
  • Print out your picture of the rainbow.
  • Use a marker or sharpie to divide the rainbow into seven sections and label 1 section for each day of the week.
  • For each serving of a color group you eat, place a gold star/sticker on the corresponding color.
  • Repeat the process every day for a week.
  • At the end of the week, review your results. How did you do? Did you get at least 5 servings of fruit and veggies each day? Were you lacking in any particular color group? Do you avoid one color all together?
  • Challenge yourself to improve your eat the rainbow performance the next week.

Have fun, be adventurous, and until next time, have a happy healthy day!

If you want to learn more simple and effective nutritional habits, join my online nutritional coaching program that starts September, 9th. Learn more at: https://procoach.app/wellnessphx


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Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups eggplant, chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut length-wise and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon pink salt
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Instructions:
    • Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large sauté pan.
    • Sauté onion, garlic, and bay leaf until translucent. Stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
    • Add eggplant and continue cooking 8-10 minutes until eggplant is soft.
    • Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and salt.
    • Cook an additional 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
    • Remove from heat, add basil, and pepper to taste.

    Serve Ratatouille alone or over steamed rice, eggs, or tofu.


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    Strawberry Caprese Salad Skewers

    Strawberries are one of my favorite things about summer. As a child I picked strawberries to earn spending money, I think I ate more than I picked, but fortunately we were not charged for eating the profits.

    There is something about the strawberry’s sweetness and slight tanginess that appeals to me and I try to make good use of them in my summer recipes.

    The great thing about strawberries is that not only are they delicious, but they are packed with nutrients as well! Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent damage to the body’s cells and can reduce the risk of heart disease, improve cognitive function (aka improve memory), protect the eyes from diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, and even help prevent cancer. Strawberries also contain high levels of Vitamin C which supports immune system function. In addition, strawberries contain potassium and magnesium which can aid in lowing blood pressure.

    One of my favorite summer strawberry recipes is Strawberry Caprese Salad Skewers. Creamy mozzarella combines with sweet strawberries, tangy tomatoes and crisp basil topped with a sweet tang of balsamic vinegar. This is a fun delicious recipe that makes a terrific appetizer or side dish for a picnic or summer potluck.

    Strawberry Caprese Salad Skewers

  • Ingredients:
  • Marinade:
    • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plain or strawberry infused
      2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
      Salt and pepper to taste

    Skewers:

    • 8 bamboo skewers, 6-8″ long
    • 24 ciliegine mozzarella balls
    • 24 cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
    • 16 strawberries, washed, dried and halved
    • 2 large bunches sweet basil, enough for 24 leaves, washed and dried
    • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    Instructions:
      Whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a medium sized bowl.
      Add mozzarella balls and marinade in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
      Wash and dry tomatoes, strawberries, and basil.
      To make skewers, slide 1 strawberry half to the end of the skewer followed by 1 basil leaf, 1 mozzarella ball, and finally 1 tomato, repeat 2 more times and finish with an additional half strawberry . Repeat the process for all 8 skewers.
      To serve, arrange skewers on a serving tray and drizzle with additional balsamic vinegar.

    If you do not want to go to the trouble of making skewers, combine marinade, mozzarella, tomatoes, strawberries, and 1/3 cup thinly sliced basil leaves in a bowl and gently mix. Serve over spinach or kale.

    ENJOY!


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    Pineapple and Papaya Salsa

    Salsa is a fun and delicious way to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Whether they are made with tomatoes, peppers, or tropical fruits like the recipe today, salsa can be eaten alone, with tortilla chips (in moderation of course), or used to garnish fish, meat, tofu, or eggs.

    This pineapple and papaya salsa is loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and enzymes that can help support and improve digestion.

    Pineapple and Papaya Salsa

    Ingredients:
    • 2 cups pineapple, cut into 1/2″ chunks
    • 2 cups papaya*, cut into 1/2″ chunks
    • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons pepitas
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon lime zest
    • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • Instructions:
    • Combine all ingredients in a nonmetal bowl and mix well.
    • Cover and place in refrigerator for 4-6 hours to allow flavors to mingle.

    Serving size= 2 Tablespoons

    Serve over chicken, pork tenderloin, grilled tofu, or a green salad in place of dressing.

    * If papaya is unavailable try mangos. Yum!


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    Road Trippin’ Nutrition

    Summer is here and that means, vacation time! If your summer vacation involves a road trip, you may be tempted to leave your good nutrition habits at home. But, with a little bit of preplanning you can have room in the car for your luggage and your nutritional goals.

    Here are a few tips to help you stay on track on the road.

    1. Pack a cooler – Between luggage, golf clubs, beach umbrellas, and the floaty unicorn, space in the car can be limited, but leaving space in the front seat for a small cooler let’s you pack quick and healthy snacks that are easy to eat in the car. Pack snack size bags of bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, broccoli, blueberries, apple slices, raw nuts, or any other healthy finger foods. Protein bars or shakes, beef/chicken jerky, or freeze dried soy beans are great ways to add protein. Don’t forget to include a few bottles of water as well. Packing a cooler not only keeps your nutrition on point, but you will save time and money by not stopping to eat at less than healthy roadside establishments. For some inspiration, check out my Road Trippin’ Trail Mix recipe.
    2. Make smart convenience store choices – Eventually you are going to have to stop for gas. Fuel station convenience stores are full of snack options, unfortunately most of them are loaded with fat, sugar, and preservatives, but with a small amount of effort you can find healthy and tasty options. Most stores have refrigerated sections where you can find protein shakes, yogurt, fruit bowls, and my favorite, string cheese! If you simply MUST have some “junk food” opt for baked chips/cheese puffs, pretzels, or plain popcorn. Avoid the pitfalls of sugary drinks by choosing bottled water (I like sparkling water for variety) or unsweetened tea/coffee.
    3. Eat out smart – Healthy snacks are only going to get you so far down the road. You are going to have to stop somewhere to eat a real meal. Whether it’s a fast food joint or a roadside cafe, look for the best possible option when it comes to your nutritional goals. Most places have a few different salad options, even if a “salad” consists of lettuce, 2 tomato wedges, a slice of cucumber, and shredded cheese, add some protein and your good to go. If possible pass up the greasy burger and go for a grilled chicken sandwich instead. While you’re at it, only eat 1/2 of the bun or skip it altogether. It’s best to live without the fries, but it is vacation so if you must, order a small size and share it with your car-mate.
    4. Make a list of healthy options – Before you leave for your trip, make a list of potential snacks and meals. Having a list of healthy options handy when you go into the convenience store makes it easier to avoid the temptation of hot dogs and Twinkies. Also, do some research to find out what restaurants are on your route and what their menus offer. Make an effort to schedule your meal breaks at the restaurants with the healthiest options.

    Your nutritional goals don’t have to stay at home when you go on vacation. With a little planning, you can make sure you have room for healthy habits and the unicorn floaty.

    Wherever you roam, have fun, be safe, and have a happy, healthy trip!


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    Road Trippin Trail Mix

    Having a quick, easy to eat, healthy snack when your on the road can help you stick to your nutrition goals. This recipe combines healthy nuts and antioxidant laden blueberries with freeze dried soy beans for protein, and dark chocolate nibs for a little treat.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup freeze dried blueberries
    • 1/2 cup freeze dried soy beans or lentils
    • 1/4 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
    • 1/4 cup raw almonds
    • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
    • 1/4 cup raw cashews
    • 1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds, shelled
    • 1/4 cup dark chocolate nibs, optional

    -Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Measure by 1/4 cup into 10 individual containers/snack bags.

    *Add variety by changing up the nuts. Pistachios, hazelnuts, or Brazil nuts are great options.