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healthy dinners

How to Pack a Low-Calorie Picnic: 4 Healthy Recipes

Written on August 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm , by

Did you know that August is National Picnic Month? As if we needed an excuse to eat al fresco in this gorgeous weather…

Too bad so many picnic favorites pack way more calories than we’d like to eat–especially considering this holiday falls right in the middle of bikini season! Luckily, some simple swaps can slim down your spread and FITNESS has plenty of recipes with all the flavors you love (but a fraction of the fat and calories).

Four we can’t wait to try this weekend:

  • Cool Skewers (150 calories): This no-cook app couldn’t be easier. Just slice, stack and serve!
  • Healthy Potato Salad (131 calories, 2 g fat): Low-fat mayo lightens up this cookout classic, plus, diced veggies amp up the nutrition.
  • Greek Salad Pita Pocket (286 calories, 6 g fat): Think of this as a portable version of your favorite Mediterranean salad! Everything’s betta with feta, right?
  • Double-Chocolate Brownies (111 calories, 4 g fat): Surprise! Cocoa powder can be a diet do when you opt for the unsweetened version. Try using white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour for even more fiber.

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Taste and Tell: Slow-Cooker Vegetable and Chickpea Curry

Written on February 18, 2013 at 9:05 am , by

Time to sharpen my knife skills!

The recipes in FITNESS magazine can’t really be as easy and tasty as the mouthwatering pictures in the magazine make them look, can they? Some readers write in and say they are a bit skeptical, so I (quite an amateur when it comes to the kitchen), decided to put a dish to the test. My hands know their way around a keyboard way better than a cutting board, so believe me when I say everything that I can do, you can as well!

The evening I needed dinner, I was going to indoor cycling class soon after work—meaning I didn’t have much prep time the day of. This also meant that I would need something filling (it was going to be a late meal) yet nutritious (so I wouldn’t undo all of that hard work at the gym). I stumbled upon a yummy-looking fix: Vegetable and Chickpea Curry.

The evening before, I took about 20 minutes to chop all of the vegetables and scooted them into my little slow-cooker dish with the rest of the ingredients to be cooked, which I then placed in the refrigerator. When I came home to change for my workout, I poured in the vegetable broth, put the meal into the slow-cooker and flipped it on high.

By the time I returned from class, my kitchen smelled like an Indian restaurant. I stirred in the light coconut milk and prepared some quick-cooking stove top brown rice, and dinner was ready!

I surprised myself and a pal who joined me for dinner with the gourmet result, which really looked fairly similar to the image in the story, and the taste lived up to the description from the recipe developer. Click below to see the side-by-side pictures and get the recipe to try yourself.

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10 of the Healthiest Restaurant Menu Items of 2011

Written on December 15, 2011 at 9:02 am , by

By Tanya Jolliffe for SparkPeople.com

We’ve seen many restaurants update their menus this year to provide patrons with healthier options. The new Kids Live Well campaign provides families with healthier choices when eating away from home to help kids maintain a healthy weight. While some reports suggest the new healthy options aren’t popular, many restaurant chains aren’t giving up and are striving to be on board with the First Lady’s anti-obesity campaign.

Here are 10 of the healthiest menu options we’ve seen this year:

1. Starbucks Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box
Calories – 270
Fat – 8 grams
Sodium – 520 mg
Carbohydrate – 29 grams
Fiber – 6 grams
Protein – 16 grams

The wheat pita, fresh cucumber, carrot sticks, and grape tomatoes with hummus and grilled chicken do provide a nutrient-rich meal away from home. We really like that this option contains a sodium level that easily fits in many meal plans. One negative is that not all Starbucks locations offer lunch while others only offer a few of the new box options so this one might not always be available.

2. IHOP Simple & Fit Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette with Fresh Fruit
Calories – 330
Fat – 12 grams
Sodium – 690 mg
Carbohydrate – 31 grams
Fiber – 5 grams
Protein – 29 grams

This protein rich omelet, made with egg substitute, is filled with fresh spinach, mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese with diced tomatoes on top to offer a nutrient-rich breakfast with a reasonable sodium content. The fresh fruit side creates a well-balanced breakfast that will stick with you all morning long. To minimize sodium, remember to request “no added salt” when ordering.

3. Applebee’s Asiago Peppercorn Steak with Herb Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables
Calories – 380
Fat – 14 grams
Sodium – 1,520 mg
Carbohydrate – 25 grams
Fiber – 5 grams
Protein – 44 grams

Though it’s a step in the right direction, this meal still has a day’s worth of salt! If you’re watching your sodium intake, choose another option. But at under 400 calories–with plenty of protein and iron–this meal is a big plus for this casual dining restaurant.

4. McDonald’s Hamburger Happy Meal with Apple Slices and Low-fat Milk
Calories – 390
Fat – 11 grams
Sodium – 650 mg
Carbohydrate – 51 grams
Fiber – 2 grams
Protein – 20 grams

Although any food can be incorporated into a healthy diet in moderation, offering a Happy Meal without fried foods and a serving of a fruit and milk is the healthiest meal possible. These new meals that focus on fruit and milk help families take small steps to new lifestyle choices.

5. Cheesecake Factory SkinnyLicious Grilled Chicken
Calories – 560
Fat – 2 grams saturated
Sodium – 1,252 mg
Carbohydrate – 20 grams
Large portion sizes at this restaurant are the norm, but with this dish they have maximized the nutrition. By pounding the meat so it is thinner, they create a plate-size meal without the plate-size calories. Add the fiber-focused topper that lends a bruschetta flavor and you get great taste for the right portion and calorie size where you wouldn’t expect to find it. This high sodium meal might not be right for everyone, but you can lower the impact slightly by asking for “no added salt” when ordering. 

More: Healthy Menu Items 6-10!

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Fall Entertaining Tips From Celebrity Event Planner Andrea Correale

Written on October 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm , by

Stack your apps for instant appeal. If you're feeling fancy, trim with a cookie cutter. (Photo courtesy of 1-800-Flowers)

Summer parties seem to come together in a flash: Toss some flowers in a vase and put it on the picnic table, light up the grill and flip some burgers and dogs. The low-key, relaxed vibe of the season doesn’t hurt either! Fall can provide some unique challenges, with cooler climates, fewer fresh decorations and different guest cravings.

So we turned to Andrea Correale, celebrity event planner, caterer and Celebrations.com expert, to gather some tips about how to throw the perfect healthy and fun autumn dinner party.

  • Let the sun shine. Use a sunflower color scheme to harken back to those summer blooms. For a fall feel, “accent it with burlaps or bronzes,” Correale recommends.
  • Make shapes. Cookie cutters are a quick tool that add elegance to your meal presentation. “Try making an appetizer by stacking beefsteak tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and cutting a shape that fits your theme,” Correale says. Stock up on a leaf or acorn pattern, or swap the tomato for roasted squash and use a pumpkin-shaped cutter.
  • Cater to your guests. This tip fits for any season: Ask your guests ahead of time if they have any favorite dishes or dietary restrictions. The whole crowd will be happier and it might save you some last minute stress! “I did an event last summer where Mary J. Blige was on a special diet and had to have homemade guacamole,” Correale says. “So we drove through rush hour traffic in the Hamptons to get the ingredients and make it happen!”
  • Get them talking. ”Edible bouquets are a visually beautiful option for a centerpiece and they’re also a conversational piece,” Correale says. People will gather around the fruit to snack on their favorites and you’ll save money by combining your flowers and food.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Cardarelli, editorial intern)

Now tell us: How do you make your fall parties festive?

Uncork Some Antioxidants: New Wines and Tasting Tips!

Written on August 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm , by

Written by Lauren Cardarelli, editorial intern

The Cabernet Sauvignon is described as "perfect for backyard barbeques." (Photo courtesy of Wente Vineyards)

Food Network recently teamed up with family-owned Wente Vineyards, in Livermore, CA, to create entwine, a wine portfolio combining their mutual zeal for the alcoholic beverage and cuisine. Hitting the shelves of major retailers this month, the power partnership’s main objective has been to create a line that not only accompanies your menu but enhances the overall dining experience. And besides being delicious, wine (especially red) is high in heart-healthy antioxidants!

“We want food and wine lovers to enjoy the natural relationship between wine and food, so we created entwine,” said Sergei Kuharsky, General Manager of New Enterprises, Food Network.The name represents the easy way family, friends and of course the flavors of food and wine all come together to make any meal a more delicious experience.”

Each of the four entwine varietals—Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon—provide specific food suggestions right on the label for easy pairing. The brand’s Chardonnay, “entwines with: salami, pizza, mac and cheese, meatloaf, tomato sauce, grilled pork, wild salmon & weeknight dinners.” What’s not to love about that?

At the affordable price of $12.99 a bottle, entwine offers fresh flavors, like crisp, green apples and mid-summer plums, for the pleasure of wine-connoisseurs and inquiring enthusiasts alike.

“The wines were accessible but far from generic,” said FITNESS’ Creative Director, John Herr, after an office-wide tasting in June.

Our Digital Director, Christie Griffin, was particularly fond of the Cabernet Sauvignon and said, “It tastes like a romantic wine to me. I picture the holidays with my boyfriend.” Other staffers described this type of red as, “happiness in a glass” for its bold, full-bodied flavor.

Interested in becoming a wine expert? Follow these three easy steps we learned during our tasting (rough workday, right?) and you will be an experienced critic in no time.

  1. Swirl your glass. It draws oxygen into the wine for both taste and aroma purposes.
  2. Sniff. Yep, you heard me. Get your nose right down in there and take a big whiff!
  3. Assess the Color. Finally, before taking a swig, of course, hold your glass over a piece of white paper to evaluate the deepness in hues.

For more information about entwine, visit www.foodnetwork.com/wine or www.entwine-wines.com.

More from FITNESS: Are you a teetotaler? We’re not forgetting about you! Find out which eight nonalcoholic beverages are also great for your health.