The thing is, you probably never intend to throw away food when you buy it. But here’s the usual scenario:
You go to the grocery store and, with perfectly good intentions, buy fresh veggies. When you get home, you only use some of that beautiful produce and by the time you want to use the rest of it, it’s gone bad.
This is why I mostly use frozen veggies. They save money over the long run and the nutritional breakdown between fresh and frozen veggies shows they are comparable (1).
The problem with frozen vegetables is that sometimes the texture can be off or they can taste a little bland. That’s why I’ve become kind of a ninja when it comes to preparing frozen veggies.
One of my favorite uses for frozen veggies is to roast them, especially during the fall and winter. They caramelize, which makes them sweet and delicious, plus they get a little crispy. So good!
And even better is the fact you can roast them straight-up from their frozen state. No thawing required!
The Secret to Perfectly Roasted Veggies
Here’s the trick: You have to preheat the pan AND the oil to prevent your veggies from getting soggy as they thaw in the oven.
Last weekend I had a terrible case of insomnia so I got up super early and decided to get my grocery shopping done … and that meant I had to go to Walmart because it was the only store open. I am not a huge fan of the produce section at my local store, so I hit the freezers for my veggies.
Bonus: I scored a 5-lb. bag of California blend veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower) on sale.
When I got home, I roasted the whole bag and had veggies on-hand for several days.
This method will work with nearly every kind of veggie, but keep in mind that thicker/bigger veggies (like broccoli) will take longer to roast than small veggies (like sliced carrots or green beans).
How to Roast Frozen Vegetables
Line 1 or 2 rimmed baking pans with foil (to help with cleanup later).
Put 1-2 tablespoons of high-heat oil (such as coconut oil or avocado oil) on the pans.
Place pans in oven heated to 425 to 450 degrees to preheat. (I like hotter ovens for thicker/bigger veggies.)
Meanwhile, coat the frozen veggies in a small amount of fat/oil. The oil not only helps with taste but also can help your body better use the micronutrients contained in the veggies.
When the oven is heated, CAREFULLY remove the pans from the oven and make sure the oil is equally dispersed in the pan.
Add the veggies in a single layer.
Place pans in oven.
Cook for 30 to 45 minutes (again, thicker/bigger veggies take longer to cook). Carefully stir the veggies every 15 to 20 minutes to ensure even roasting.
When done, remove from oven and season with salt/pepper/herbs/spices.
How To Serve Roasted Veggies
Roasted frozen veggies with balsamic glaze and a sunny-side up egg.
Roasted vegetables make a delicious side dish, and they taste even better the next day.
Personally, I do not like microwaving leftover roasted vegetables because they get mushy, so I usually heat them in a pan on the stove. It’s a win-win: it only takes a few minutes, and they taste better.
You can use them cold in a salad sprinkled with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and vinaigrette; make a warm salad with greens and chicken or shrimp; or top them with an egg (one of my lunchtime faves).
Seriously, roasting your frozen veggies will make you appreciate your grocery’s freezer section!
The other night I made a delicious meal – OK, actually 8 meals – that required no chopping whatsoever.
Basically, all I did was throw a bunch of stuff in an oven-proof skillet and, barely 30 minutes later, ended up with a nutritious, filling and low-cal meal that tasted great.
That’s why I love frittatas, which are kind of like Italian omelettes but require absolutely no folding or flipping. That means cooking them requires very little actual cooking (yay!).
Plus, they’re pretty much infinitely versatile and are a great way to use up any veggies or ingredients that you have left over in the fridge.
Low Calorie Frittata Recipe
I made this frittata for my dinner on a Sunday night and, after I ate, I still had seven meals left. Well, in theory anyway, because it tasted so good that on Monday, I actually ate two servings for lunch (but once you look at the nutrition numbers, you’ll see that’s not a big deal).
Yes, the purist in me doesn’t love convenience foods. But the realist? Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and this recipe heavily relies on canned/packaged foods. But as “convenience” foods go, the ones I’ve included in this recipe are fairly harmless.
The feta cheese in this recipe doesn’t necessarily go with the Mexican theme of the rest of the ingredients, but it’s what I had the fridge and I like its zesty flavor. If you have a different cheese on-hand … or if you want to go without cheese … that’s OK. If you do a swap out, know that the nutrition info might be a bit different.
And just as you can swap out the cheese, you can also use different bean varieties and also different veggies.
But I happen to like this combo because it’s basically rinse, toss it into the pan, and cook.
Calories Count in Weight Loss
If you’re looking to make a change in your body composition, knowing exactly how much you’re eating is vital. Calorie are the units we use to measure both how much fuel we take in and how much we expend.
Creating into a modest fuel deficit is (eating just slightly less than we burn off) is the key to long-term and healthy fat loss.
Anyone else love their iced coffees and iced lattes? Especially on a hot summer afternoon?
And especially if they’re mocha iced lattes? So yum.
The problem with coffee shop iced lattes and coffees is not only the price, but who knows what’s in them? If you’re not careful, you’ll be ingesting a bunch of unnecessary and potentially harmful sugar, fat, and processed food products (1).
Also, they really don’t do very much for you nutritionally.
That’s why I came up with this iced protein coffee recipe, which you can rev up to make a full-on latte if you want. It lets me enjoy my afternoon treat guilt-free. It’s low in sugar, has a favorable macronutrient profile (fats/carbs/protein), and is pretty darn tasty.
Adding protein not only adds some extra creaminess to this recipe, but protein helps keep your blood sugar stable as well as helping you to stay fuller, longer. Not only that, but if you are trying to lose weight, it’s important to eat an adequate amount of protein so you can maintain your muscle (2).
If you’re staying away from caffeine, this is just as delicious with decaf coffee. You also could make it with a coffee substitute, such as Teeccino or chicory root, although honestly neither of them will impart the true coffee flavor. But they’re close.
Here’s a recipe for a Starbucks-like mocha Frappuccino, revved up with some extra protein.
Cherries were on sale last week at the grocery store. Like, big-time.
And you can big-time bet that I bought a whole bunch. I even pitted some and put them in my smoothies because they are so delicious. Plus, I was thinking of trying a couple of new recipes (cherry clafoutis, anyone?).
But guess what? Mangos were on sale too. Again: big-time. And they, too, are also delicious in smoothies and recipes.
I wanted to horde them all because I know in a couple months they’ll either be unavailable or cost four or more times what they do in-season.
You know what I hate, though? Buying fresh fruit and veggies, only to have them go bad before I can eat them. Ugh. So, no extra fruit for me.
And then I remembered. Doh.
My Grandmother’s Frozen Raspberries
Back in the day, my grandmother (“Nanny”) used to grow rows and rows of raspberries every year. Her raspberry pies were renowned – local restaurants would buy them from her for big bucks – and Nanny made the most amazing “fresh” raspberry compote even in the middle of January.
The berries weren’t mushy and nondescript mashes of goo, either. They were beautifully preserved … and it wasn’t because she did anything magical with them.
She just froze them.
And … duh! … I realized that with a teeny-tiny bit of time and effort, I can freeze practically any fruit I want, too, the same exact way Nanny did. I remember hanging out in the kitchen with her every summer during the not-so-elaborate freezing process.
I know this isn’t rocket science, but I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen and I figure if this hasn’t occurred to me before, then it likely will be new-ish news to someone else. (I hope the mangoes are still on sale this week.)
How to Freeze Fruit for Smoothies and Healthy Recipes
First, gather your fruit and thoroughly wash it.
Then, grab a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper.
Next, it’s time to prep the fruit.
For larger fruits and/or those with pits, you will want to remove the skin or peel, and then slice them.
Citrus fruits can be divided into sections or quarters.
Fruits that turn brown – like apples – can be dipped into a solution with lemon and water to prevent them from discoloring.
Berries need no additional prep beyond washing.
Once your fruit is good to go, all you do is place it on the lined cookie sheet, and then put the sheet in the freezer for 2 to 24 hours. After, you can put the fruit into containers (I use freezer bags) in portion-sized amounts so it’s ready for a quick grab & go.
Seriously, so easy!
Beyond smoothies, this frozen fruit can go a long way toward beating an ice cream craving. Just put some frozen fruit in a high-speed blender and whir it up into a sorbet-like concoction. Delish!
This morning I threw together a quick and easy smoothie from my fresh-frozen fruits.
Banana Cherry Smoothie
This delicious smoothie is packed with vitamins and minerals to start your day right ... but it also makes a great anytime snack.
No matter how “healthy” you eat, if changing your body composition – losing fat, gaining muscle – is a goal, it won’t happen until you get a handle on how you’re fueling your body.
To lose weight (and fat), you have to eat less fuel than you burn.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
I created this calculator to help you see how many calories you actually need during the course of a day, along with a handy macronutrient calculator so you can try to get the ideal amount of protein, fat, and carbs based on your goals.
When it comes to choosing a macronutrient profile that suits you, remember: each one of us has a unique operating system.
If you’re trying to lose weight and are healthy, you can help stay full and maintain muscle by eating a higher (not necessarily high!) protein diet.
But there’s no need to overload your body with protein (or fat!). Experiment and see what works best for you!
Note: the calculations for women are different than men, so I’ve tailored this specific calculator for women. If there’s enough interest I’ll make one for men too 🙂
How Do You Track Your Macros?
Exactly how you follow your macros is another post for another day, but a good app to use is either Fitbit’s food log or MyFitnessPal. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of tracking your macronutrient protocol, just focus on the calories.
I figured out how to do it myself, after monkeying around with some nutrition calculators. Honestly, I think that’s the best way but there can be a high frustration level.
I’ve written a super-cheap book on how to track your macros (the link is in the menu bar) but I’ll also put together an easy-to-follow post in the near future. I just wanted to get this calculator out to you!
Do you get into food ruts? You know, when you tend to eat the same meal every day?
Sometimes I do – and I’m OK with that. Especially when it comes to breakfast.
Because when I have a favorite go-to meal every morning, it starts my day out right. I look forward to it (although maybe not as much as I look forward to my morning cup of coffee!).
My most recent fave breakfast was a Berry Good Green Smoothie with kefir. It was creamy, refreshing and had just a little “bite” from the kefir, which is packed with probiotic and protein.
But when I went to the grocery store last week, there was no kefir to be found.
So I asked one of the clerks, “Where’s the kefir?”
After much investigation, we had the answer, which confused even the clerk, as the demand for kefir is so high they have a hard time keeping it in stock.
They were no longer going to carry it.
Hello, Berry Chia Green Smoothie
Now, I know I can make my own kefir (and someday soon I might) or go to the health food store and buy it there.
But I took this as a little challenge to mix things up.
You see, a while ago my doc ran some food sensitivity tests and I came up “highly intolerant” of dairy. And in fact, most of us are intolerant of dairy – 65 percent of us have issues digesting it after we leave infancy. (1)
It’s not like I consume a bunch of dairy on a daily basis. And kefir can actually help with intolerance issues because of all the enzymes and nutrients it contains. (2)
But that didn’t matter at the moment, because there wasn’t any kefir to be had. I had to come up with a new breakfast that would make me happy.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of typical breakfast foods leave me hungry soon after I eat. I love cereal, but it makes me want to eat all day long. Or, it makes me want to eat the entire box.
Eggs and bacon? Yum! But who has time? Plus, there’s something I like about a cool breakfast.
So anyway, as I stood there in the Hannaford “healthy foods” aisles, my stubborn streak came out and I wanted to preserve as much of my original smoothie as possible.
And I realized I could do that with chia seeds.
Chia seeds, before and after soaking for 10 minutes
You’ve probably heard about all the health benefits of chia seeds: they’re rich in antioxidants (which is why they don’t go rancid quickly), high in fiber, and also contain calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and more. Plus, they’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.
Some people toss chia seeds directly into smoothies but I like to let mine soak for at least 10 minutes, or as long as overnight. That gives them a gel-like consistency that gives your smoothie a creaminess that’s really delicious.
Now, I happen to think negotiating the maze of non-dairy milks is a very low-impact version of walking through a minefield. There’s no super-nutritious alternative. Unlike non-dairy milks, “real” milk is loaded protein and calcium – but it also has that other stuff in it that makes it hard for a lot of us to digest.
Plus with dairy, even if it doesn’t bother you or you load yourself up with enzymes to help you digest it, you have to be really careful what kind you buy. Otherwise, what comes out of the jug or carton can be riddled with hormones and antibiotics.
That’s why I tend to change out the non-dairy milks I regularly use, and I make sure to choose organic non-GMO varieties. When you’re choosing a non-dairy milk, consider steering clear of those that contain carrageenan (a common ingredient in almond and coconut milks), as it might have an impact on gut health. (3)
Green Smoothie with Chia and Berries
So anyway, that’s the very long story of how I came up with my latest breakfast go-to. It’s especially delicious if you blend it for a couple minutes to let it get nice and fluffy. If it’s too thick, just add more milk.