Nothing sacred about the beginning of the new year, the beginning of a new month or a new week – you can start eating healthier anytime you want. Give yourself a break and remember that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing deal, just do it a meal at a time, adding fresh and local ingredients as you can. Use a few of the tricks I’ve shared here to bring in a few super foods for more protein, less fat and lots of antioxidents, vitamins and minerals. Just do it and you and your family will be eating healthier in no time.
Step one to eating healthier – find and farmers’ market near you
Its winter, but that doesn’t mean that local farms shut down till spring. On the contrary, winter crops abound and in many areas, like my hometown of Charlotte NC, local farmers markets go on a winter schedule but they are still open each an every Saturday morning and often during the week. Shop on a Saturday and see how much of your regular shopping list you can get at the market – then supplement with missing items from the supermarket making organic choices when and where you can.
In Charlotte, I’ll see you shopping for vegetables, herbs, beef, chicken, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese and bread at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, The Atherton Mill and Market, The Waxhaw Farmers’ Market and the Yorkmont Road Regional Farmers’ Market!
Once you’ve bought everything you can at the market, introduce a couple of these “Superfoods” for more protein and less fat in your everyday diet.
Forget that “vintage” Chia Seed pet circa 1980 – chia seeds aren’t just for indoor “gardening” anymore!
These are not your momma’s chia seeds. Now we realize that this ancient superfood is the next new thing. The consumption of Chia seeds boosts energy and increases stamina. They are high in protein, fiber and amino acids, and not only are they naturally gluten/grain free, but they are also rich in antioxidants and essential Omega 3 fatty acids.
You can also use Chia seeds as a real diet aid. Chia seeds absorb about 12 times their weight in water, so a chia seed beverage can help to make you feel full and stave off the craving to snack between meals.
I won’t lie to you, in their liquid form Chia seeds tend to have a rather slimmy texture; and because of that, a beverage may not be the best Chia seed recipe for everyone. But baked you won’t even know they are there and your body can still revel in all the benefits. Use them in place of or in addition to eggs or as a supplement to almost anything you make from waffles and pancakes to salad dressings and energy drinks.
Chia Seed Whole Wheat Waffles
1 Coldwater Creek Farm locally grown and milled Whole Wheat Flour ( available at the Atherton Mill and Market in Charlotte on Sat Mornings or reach out to Donna and Brad via Facebook or Twitter)
¾ cup High Rock Farm chestnut Flour (HighRockFarm.com)
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1 Tbsp. organic Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1½ cup local or organic Milk
2 Chia “Eggs” (recipe below)
3 Tbsp. melted butter
Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturers directions. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Add remaining wet ingredients to mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. Pour waffle dough onto waffle iron and bake according to manufacturers instructions. Serve with your favorite sweet or savory waffle toppings
To make one chia “egg”, combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for 30 minutes until a gel forms. This is ONE chia egg.
Super Food, Super Grain
From seeds to grain. Now that the Quinoa trend has caught on and is widely embraced, its time to mix in some other ancient grains into your diet. Enter Hemp and Amaranth.
Hemp seeds are considered to be a perfect superfood as they are a complete protein. Eating raw hemp is touted to have positive affect with many health benefits including depression or anxiety; help with weight loss; providing increased and sustained energy; helps to insure a rapid recovery from disease or injury; lowers cholesterol and blood pressure; reduces inflammation and improvement circulation. Plus it is a grain high in protein.
Hemp seeds are a more digestible protein than meat, whole eggs, cheese or cow’s milk; they are Rich in Vitamin E and they add a sweet nutty flavor and crunchy texture for those unable to tolerate nuts, gluten, lactose or sugar. Interestingly there are no known allergies to hemp foods, so toss them on or in just about anything you’d like to add a little crunch and a lot of super health benefits.
Peanut Butter Protein Balls
1 cup rolled organic oats
dash sea salt
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
2 Tbsp fresh made organic peanut butter
3 Tbsp organic Hemp seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
Combine oats and salt in food processor. Process until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until blended. Add a few drops of water, if needed, to form balls. If you would like, fold in 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips. Shape the mix into balls, roll in additional hemp seeds, toasted coconut or finely ground nuts if you would like and enjoy!
Amaranth may be consumed as a grain or a vegetable (it is often used as a microgreen as well). It can be popped like corn, cooked similar to rice or pasta, or ground to flour. The amaranth grain is cooked like rice but has 15x the iron of rice and nearly twice the protein. Cup for cup it also offers more protein than oats as well. It’s low in carbs but high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. use it in this next recipe as you would bulgur wheat.
1½ cups water or broth ( I like to keep it vegetarian and use water mixed with 1 Tbsp. tomato powder and 2 Tbsp powdered Herbs in Duxelle Seasoning, both from the Savory Spice Shop – my go to location is in Charlotte’s SouthEnd neighborhood at 2000 South Blvd. in the Atherton Mill and Market shopping area)
½ cup uncooked whole-grain amaranth
2 cups chopped local or organic cucumber
½ cup thinly sliced organic celery
¼ cup chopped organic fresh mint
¼ cup chopped fresh organic flat-leaf Italian parsley
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
sea salt and crushed red pepper to taste
½ cup cooked or canned organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 cup local Uno Alla Volta or Bosky Acres feta cheese, crumbled
2 chopped local firm but ripe tomatoes ( in the winter, when local hot house tomatoes are gone till summer, I turn to canned pomodorini tomatoes (These are available in Charlotte at Pasta & Provisions on Providence Road)
Bring 1 1/2 cups cold water and amaranth to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until water is almost absorbed While amaranth cooks, combine cucumber and all the remaining ingredients.
Place amaranth in a sieve or cheesecloth or coffee filter lined fine colander, and rinse under cold running water until room temperature; drain well, pressing with the back of a spoon. Add to cucumber mixture; toss to blend.
Are you Coo Coo for Coconut Milk?
All kinds of health benefits here – Selenium found in coconut milk is an antioxidant, which relieves arthritis symptoms and decreases the risk of joint inflammation.
Though coconut milk contains saturated fat, it can actually reduce cholesterol levels in comparison to butter and dairy based creams, so its the perfect falvorful substitute to use to make a “Whipped Topping” for your favorite desserts.
Coconut milk is a rich source of good-for-you magnesium, providing around 89 milligrams per cup. This miraculous mineral helps to calm the nerves, lessen the frequency of headaches and can help a body to maintain normal blood pressure. If you have sore muscles or have muscles that cramp a lot, the addition of magnesium to your diet can help to alleviate the problem.
Coconut milk is also rich in fiber, which makes you feel full for a longer time, so used in moderation, in place of dairy full milk and cream and other milk substitutes coconut milk could help to control weight gain as well.
For Dairy-free whipped cream:
1 (14 ounce) can full fat Thai Coconut Milk, chilled in the refrigerator overnight
1 Tbsp (or more to taste) coconut sugar or local honey, optional
Chill mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes before making the coconut whipped cream.
When bowl is chilled, remove the thick and hardened coconut cream from the can and transfer to your mixing bowl, leaving any excess moisture/coconut water in the can.
Using a whisk attachment, beat on medium high for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy and soft peaks form. Scrape down the bowl. If adding sweetener, add coconut sugar or honey, then continue beating for another 2 minutes.
You can serve the whipped coconut cream immediately, or transfer to an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. It will harden up in the fridge. Just whisk for a few seconds before serving again.