Gun Hay Fat Choy! Happy, Healthy Chinese New Year!

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Delicious (and healthy) Chinese food!

Delicious (and healthy) Chinese food!

Gun Hay Fat Choy, everyone! This is the English translation for Happy Chinese New Year in Cantonese. Chinese food has always been my favorite type of ethnic food. As a child, when my mom asked where we wanted to go out to eat I always voted for the local Chinese restaurant. It’s flavorful and satisfying, and there’s such a variety of items from which to choose! It’s just all so good!

Typical Chinese menu.

Typical Chinese menu.

Well, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to be more careful about the choices I make at Chinese restaurants and in general. I want to share my healthy Chinese restaurant choices with you so that you can make good choices too.

 

The always flavorful and healthy Egg Drop Soup!

The always flavorful and healthy Egg Drop Soup!

 

1. Healthy appetizers- I always order the Egg Drop Soup instead of an egg roll or crab Rangoon. A cup of egg drop soup has about 50 calories but it contains protein from the egg contained in it. Refer to my past blog post, “An EGGceptional Protein” for more information about the health benefits of Egg Drop Soup, and other egg dishes. An egg roll doesn’t contain egg, but it does have 240 calories and 45 grams of carbs. Definitely not the way to start your meal. Also, one crab Rangoon has 67 calories and 4.2 carbs which doesn’t sound that bad but have you ever eaten just one of them? A usual order has 3-6 in it and eating at least 2 or 3 is pretty customary, which would be almost 200 calories and 12 grams of carbs. That’s just the START of your meal, too

 

 

My favorite healthy Chinese dish, Moo Goo Gai Pan!

My favorite healthy Chinese dish, Moo Goo Gai Pan!

2. Avoid thick sauces and breaded fried meat- When looking at the menu at a Chinese restaurant, it’s important to read the descriptions of the dishes before making your choice. Look for words like, “fried” “Coating” or “thick, glossy sauce”– these are words that mean your entrée is going to be breaded and fried, definite health no-no’s. Also, when dishes come in thick sweet/spicy sauces know they will contain SUGAR, which is another healthy no-no. My favorite dish to order is Moo Goo Gai Pan. It consists of chicken and vegetables in a light chicken broth. Even though the sauce is light it is very tasty and delicious. I add a bit of soy sauce to mine because I like that salty flavor, but you definitely don’t have to because it’s great either way. Another dish I like is either beef with mixed vegetables or pork with mixed vegetables. Both are similarly made with a beef broth, meat and vegetables. Again, no thick sauces, breading, or fried meats are present in these entrees. Again, both are flavorful without all the unhealthy ingredients that can exist in some dishes. And the calorie differences are considerable too. General Tso’s chicken has 414 calories per cup and Moo Goo Gai Pan has 272. It also doesn’t contain unhealthy ingredients so you know you’re providing your body with the fuel it needs to perform optimally.

 

 

Brown rice instead of white. Always.

Brown rice instead of white. Always.

3. Brown Rice- Choosing brown rice instead of white will not save calories, this decision is all about nutrition. Brown rice is a whole grain and has more fiber so it will take longer to digest thus making you feel more full, and it is more nutritious because of the whole grains. Where it will save you calorically is in comparison to fried rice. 1/2 cup of chicken fried rice has 200 calories versus a cup of brown rice which contains 218 calories. I prefer the nutty taste of brown rice over the bland white rice or the greasy fried rice. That’s an easy choice for me!

 

Love me some tea!

Love me some tea!

4. Don’t forget the tea- I spoke about the benefits of Match green tea in my post, “A Healthy Start for the New Year! Drink Matcha Green Tea!” but any tea has health benefits. Tea is full of antioxidants and vitamins, and it can fill you up too, so you don’t eat as much of your meal. Cheers!

5. As always, it’s about portion control- Remember, no matter how healthy the choices you make are, if you eat too much it will become an unhealthy meal. PAY ATTENTION TO PORTION SIZES! Most restaurants serve a tremendous amount of food, far more than any one person can eat. I usually portion off my meal when it comes to me, and know that I will only eat the portion I pulled to the side of my plate. I take the rest of it home and can enjoy it the next day for lunch, so it’s a win-win. Two meals for the price of one!

So that is how I eat in a healthy way at a Chinese restaurant. I love me some Chinese food and I have learned how to eat it and still stay on my lifelong health journey. Let me know what healthy choices you make when eating Chinese food! Eating healthy will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

A Healthy way to Drink in the New Year!

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A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

So the holidays are upon us, aren’t they? 9 more days until Christmas and a little over two weeks from the big drinking holiday, New Year’s Eve. Pretty much every adult I know over 21 will ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. Being an advocate for healthy living, I wanted to let you know what I feel are the five healthiest alcoholic beverages to drink, not just on New Year’s Eve, but any time of the year. Now, healthy to me means that not only is the cocktail low in calories, but it also has positive health benefits, and it tastes good too. That’s why you won’t see VODKA TONIC on my list. Yes, it is low in calories, but other than that it basically has no nutritional value and no flavor. Hence it is not a healthy cocktail in my book.

Here’s the thing though, QUALITY IS BETTER THAN QUANTITY when it comes to the healthiness of an alcoholic beverage. No cocktail is healthy if you have more than 2 of them, and if you get to four or more than it becomes toxic to your body. So my advice to you is, BE A MODERATE DRINKER. That’s the best thing you can do for your health. With that in mind, I will share my healthy cocktail list with you.

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

1. Red or White Wine- This one is one of the healthiest and my favorite so I’m going to call it the number one on the healthiest cocktail scale. First, it contains 5% of your daily nutritional requirements for iron, 9% potassium, 5% magnesium, and antioxidants like flavonoids and nonflavanoids. Resveratrol, which is a nonflavanoid, reduces blood clots and lowers bad cholesterol. Calories range from 110-130 per glass so it’s not a highly caloric option. Taste wise you have many options in flavor. Whether you like dry or sweet, red or white, you can find a flavor that pleases your palate.

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

2. Michelada- I recently tried one of these cocktails at a delicious Mexican restaurant near my daughters’ university and I loved it. It’s a much more interesting and flavorful twist on a Bloody Mary (which is also a healthy cocktail option for you!). It’s spicy, salty, and so refreshing! The ingredients are beer, limes, Worcestershire sauce, Valentina hot sauce, black pepper, sea salt, and ice. Now, beer is not the healthiest ingredient in a cocktail (beer= carbs), but if a light beer is used it’s not too bad since most come in at under 100 calories. The Michelada I had was made with Modelo Especial which though it isn’t a light beer is really delicious, and I only had one cocktail. I don’t even like beer but I really liked this alcoholic beverage. It also contains lime juice which has tons of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your immune system and neutralizes free radicals that damage our tissues. The hot sauce in this cocktail is made from chili peppers, which contain capsaicin (helps in fighting certain cancers). Chilis are used to aid digestion, reduce appetite, and increase metabolism. The sea salt in the drink helps replenish electrolytes, and the Worcestershire sauce has vitamin B6 (builds red blood cells and maintains nervous system function) in it from the molasses, garlic, cloves and chili pepper extract contained within the sauce. It also has antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K (protects against hemorrhaging and bone loss), and niacin, which aids in digestion. Try it, you’ll like it!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

3. Manhattan- I’m not much of a mixed drink girl, but I know many of you are out there so in honor of all of you mixed drink fans, I’ve included the Manhattan as one of the best tasting and healthiest mixed cocktails. The ingredients are bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters. Bourbon is flavorful and only 97-110 calories per 1.5 ounces, vermouth is a wine fortified with herbs and contains 45 calories per ounce, and bitters are alleged to have restorative properties and are used to calm an upset stomach. It’s strong so only one cocktail will be plenty in this case. If you like a mixed drink, this is the one for you!

Mmmm Mimosa!

Mmmm Mimosa!

4. Mimosa/Bellini- Mimosas are champagne and orange juice, and Bellinis are champagne and peach juice. Now these are not particularly low cal drinks because of the juices, but they are delicious and satisfying, therefore one cocktail will be plenty. I had a cocktail while in Las Vegas that contained an Italian champagne called Prosecco, berry puree, and lemon juice that was delicious and so pretty. it was called Berry Prosecco Fizz so I’m including that drink in this category too. All of these drinks contain champagne, which is sweet and slightly caloric at 90-110 calories per glass, but champagne is a wine so it contains a ton of antioxidants. Orange juice and peach juice contain many vitamins and minerals that are great for you. One tip I got was to make the Mimosa with grapefruit juice instead of orange, because grapefruits have more fat burning properties than oranges do. Sounds delish to me!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

5. Guinness- I’m not much of a beer fan as I said above, but I know many beer fans, so folks this one’s for you! Guinness is low in calories despite how thick it is, 128 calories for 12 ounces. Also, Guinness is made from more whole grains than most regular beers so it’s full of nutrients. Guinness is shown to have similar antioxidant properties to red wine, and a University of Wisconsin study showed that drinking it helps reduce blood clots and heart problems. Good deal!

Some others healthy alcoholic beverages that could’ve made my list are Sangria (wine and fruit), Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, salt, pepper), and bourbon/whiskey and soda, all healthy drink choices. Remember though, that moderation is the way to go here, and please don’t excessively drink on New Year’s Eve or at any time. 2 drinks or less is the way to go, and the drinks that are on my list are so flavorful that you don’t need to drink a lot to get a delicious flavor and be satisfied. Enjoy your holidays with a healthy drink or two at the most. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Sick of Sandwiches? Here’s what to eat for lunch!

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This post is for my sister, Paula, who asked me to give her ideas for healthy lunches. I know what she means. I think lunch is sort of the forgotten meal of the day. Usually there is a lot of emphasis put on breakfast and dinner, but lunch kind of gets lost in the shuffle. That usually results in eating some sort of sandwich for lunch, which isn’t always the healthiest choice. I actually enjoy thinking of yummy and healthy lunch ideas. It pushes my creative boundaries. Especially when I was trying to think of lunches to make for Danielle, who hated her high school cafeteria choices, can’t eat gluten, and doesn’t like to eat the same thing every day! She always challenges me cooking wise! So I came up with a few good lunch ideas that I’d like to share with you today. I hope it inspires Paula and all the rest of you in your lunch choices.

Love my leftovers for lunch!

Love my leftovers for lunch!

1.Utilize your leftovers- Don’t be afraid to repurpose your leftovers for a tasty lunch. In the picture above, I heated up the pork carnitas I had made from the other night, with the quinoa I made a different night, and the guacamole I had made with the carnitas. I sliced some tomatoes and called it lunch! If you work outside the home or are making kids lunches and you don’t have access to a microwave, preheat the quinoa and carnitas, put it in a thermal container and it should still stay warm throughout the morning.

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

Chicken corn chowder with a bowl of mixed veggies!

2. Soup, soup, and more soup- For a delicious and hearty lunch I love to have a bowl of soup. In the above picture I had an amazing chicken corn chowder from Urban Ladle, which is a small business here in Indy that makes tasty gluten free, all natural soups and salads. I found them at the Fishers Farmers Market this summer and I like that they have samples to try. I tried the chicken corn chowder and knew I had to purchase it. They sell some of their soups frozen and I put it in the freezer. I also purchased their chicken tortilla soup as well. With frozen soups, you just pop them in the microwave to thaw and then either heat in the microwave or on the stove. Easy and delish!

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store.

Organic soups you can buy in the grocery store

If you don’t have access to a wonderful local soup business, you can purchase great tasting soups from the grocery store. Above are two examples of soups that I enjoy,  Amy’s organic and Pacific. I also eat a lot of lentils and vegetables so these two types of soups fit perfectly within my desired flavor profiles. Use a thermal container if you eat lunch away from home and you’re good to go!

Egg salad- Salad!

Egg salad- Salad

3. Egg salad/chicken salad/tuna salad- Salad- This was one of Danielle’s favorite lunches that I’d pack her when she was in high school. Instead of making egg salad/chicken salad/tuna salad on bread, I’d make it on a salad tossed with a vinaigrette dressing. She LOVED this lunch. I make my own chicken salad with a tablespoon of mayonnaise, teaspoon of Dijon mustard (we like a tang to our chicken salad), 1/4 cup chopped onion, handful of grapes cut in half, 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, and salt and pepper to taste with 2 cups of chopped chicken. I usually make it when I’m making chicken soup because I will have leftover chicken. Or when I get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store I will use the chicken that’s left. I l would send egg salad- Salad during Lent when we don’t eat meat on Fridays because we’re Catholic. To prepare it I boil 6 eggs, peel and chop them, then add a tablespoon of mayo, a teaspoon of yellow mustard, 1/4 cup capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Yummmmm! Danielle doesn’t like tuna salad, but Jacqueline and I LOVE IT! We like to use pink salmon sometimes and white albacore tuna other times. It depends on our moods. I use a tablespoon of mayo, 1/4 cup each of chopped onion, celery and kosher dill pickles, 1 teaspoon of spicy mustard, and salt/pepper to taste. Again, I serve it over a lettuce salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette. My vinaigrette is 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar (but any type of vinegar would work), 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. I pack it in a round Tupperware container with a lid, throw in a fork and out the door they go!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

Quinoa- so versatile and a great lunch ingredient!

4. Quinoa- It’s one of my favorite things for lunch. And you can do sooo much with it. Whenever I make quinoa for dinner I always make twice as much as I need and use the rest for lunch. I either serve it warm as a side dish, like in the first picture at the top, or I serve it cold as a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and vinaigrette. You can use quinoa as a warm oatmeal type dish with milk, cinnamon, honey, and cooked apples or peaches too. It’s so versatile you can do just about anything you want to it and it would still taste good. It can be easily packed for a lunch on the go by using a thermal container. I just love quinoa!

Love me some hummus!

Love me some hummus!

5. Great sides- Now don’t forget your lunch side dishes! My favorite lunch side dish is hummus with carrots and celery to dip in it. I eat it quite often. I like the Sabra brand hummus with tapenade in it, but hummus is easy to make and more delicious that way. Just take 3 cups canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, and 8 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend on high until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste- yummy!

Salsa rules!

Salsa rules!

Another of my favorite sides is chips and salsa. I use gluten free, non-gmo tortilla chips. My current favorites are beet and corn chips called The Better Chips. They taste SO good, even if you don’t like beets I think you’ll like these. They’re salty and tasty! I eat chips and salsa almost every day. Just remember the chips are carbs so take that into account when you’re eating them. Also, pay attention to serving size, a typical serving size is 12 chips for 140 calories. I usually count out my chips and put the bag away before I start eating so I won’t overindulge. Salty is my thing so I have to do that because I could eat salty snacks ALL DAY without stopping.

Well friends, that’s my list of healthy lunch choices. Since I don’t usually eat breakfast, lunch is my first meal of the day and I like to make it really count. Let me know what you like to eat for lunch. I hope you’ll try some of my lunch choices because they’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!