Heart Health – Chocolate Chia Oatmeal

Welcome back to PorrazzaNutrition! February is American Heart Month! Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and it is largely preventable? According to the American Heart Association, “About 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and action.” This means that changes to your diet and lifestyle (decreasing stress, exercise, etc) can boost your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 80%!

One way to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease is by consuming more fiber. This means incorporating more whole fruits and veggies, legumes, and whole grains (like quinoa)! One way to boost your fiber intake is by power-packing your morning oatmeal. Instead of serving it up plain, add in things like fresh fruit and unsalted nuts. With my crazy schedule these days, making a big batch of this chia oatmeal has really been a lifesaver for me. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Chocolate Chia Oatmeal (Vegan & Gluten-free)PB Oats
2 cups plant-based milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup gluten-free quick-cook oats
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 large banana, mashed
Toppings: walnuts, unsweetened dried fruit, seeds, fresh banana etc

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat milk, vanilla, maple syrup, and peanut butter over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and add in oats, cooking for 5 minutes while stirring.
2. Add in cocoa, chia seeds and mashed banana. Whisk or stir until well incorporated. Remove from heat and let stand (chia seeds will gel up).
3. Divide oatmeal among 3-4 mason jars (or bowls) and top with additional ingredients (nuts, fruit, etc)

Recipe Notes
-I used flaxseed milk for more protein and fiber; however, you can use unsweetened almond, soy, or cashew milk too
-If you don’t have Celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance, you can use regular rolled or steel-cut oats. If using steel-cut oats, cooking time may need to be adjusted.
-Ground flaxseeds or hemp seeds can be used in place of the chia seeds.
-The maple syrup can be eliminated or you can substitute a plant-based sweetener. You will need to adjust the amount.
-Sunflower seed butter or almond butter can be used in place of the peanut butter. You can also make without any nut/seed butter and the recipe will still turn out great!
-Recipe can be made as overnight oats without cooking first.
-For a banana-berry option, eliminate the cocoa and peanut butter and add in 1/4 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries. If using frozen, add in with the milk to soften them up!

This batch is made without peanut butter and is topped with unsweetened dried blueberries and walnuts!

5 Health Tips for the Big Game

As the big football game is fast approaching, that means loads of snacks and apps. Let’s face it, most game day snacks are not the healthiest options – loaded nachos, fried wings, cheesy dips. While a few treats here or there won’t harm the waistline, keep your health in check this Sunday with these tips.

#1 – Eat Before Your Go
While it is often a common thought to decrease calories or not eat at all before a party, it is actually a better idea to consume something well-balanced before heading out. Not only will it curb your appetite, and decrease the amount of food you snack on, but it will help you to choose items more wisely. Think about it, how sensibly are you thinking about healthy eating when you are starving? Load up on some high-fiber carbohydrates (like oatmeal with fresh fruit) and a bit of lean protein (like nuts) to curb your appetite.

#2 – Bring a Healthy Dish
Most football parties lack in the nutrition realm, so instead of settling for what is available, come prepared with a healthy dish. Veggies and hummus, salsa with whole grain pita, or fruit kebabs are all great finger-foods that can lighten up the menu.  

#3 – Move Away From the Food
It is tempting to pick on snacks when you are standing right by the buffet table. Instead of mindlessly munching, grab a small plate, pick a few items and move away from the food!

#4 – Drink Water or Unsweetened Beverages
While you may indulge in a cocktail or alcoholic beverage, remember to keep hydrated with water. Keep a bottle or glass of water by your side and try alternating it with every alcoholic or sweetened beverage you drink. You can spruce up plain water or seltzer with lemons, limes, or mixed berries. 

#5 – Enjoy Yourself
If your healthy eating strategy doesn’t go according to plan, don’t beat yourself up over it too much. The key is to just get back on track with your health after. Don’t let one day or one outing ruin your healthy eating routine!


Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

Welcome back to PorrazzaNutrition!

When I first went went full-time with my practice and quit my “day” job, I got out of the habit of packing a lunch. I was mostly out seeing clients in the AM and after dinner, so I only really needed to pack snacks on-the-go. This January, I took a short-term teaching contract at a local community college and with teaching 4 classes back-to-back and my office hours, snacks just weren’t going to cut it!

I wanted to share with you my essentials for packing a healthy lunch, basics to keeping the nutrient balance, and how to prep smart!

Lunchbox – I prefer the insulated varieties and definitely go with boxes/bags that have a handle since I carry a lot of work bags.

Ice Packs – I like the gel ones versus the harder packs. The gel makes it easier to mold around my containers.

Reusable Containers or Mason Jars – I love using the short mason jars for my soups, stews, and fresh fruit since they don’t spill! I did buy a collapsible container for my leftovers; however, I didn’t think about how large it was when I bought it. It is awesome, but doesn’t fit in my current lunchbox. So, make sure you have your lunchbox specs before buying a fancy new container!

20180124_193704Nutrient Balance
When I pack my lunch, I always think of PCV – protein (lean), carbohydrate (high-fiber), and veggie (usually non-starchy) for the main fare. I also pack some extra veggies, fruits, and bars for my snacks/sides. I never know what food mood I will be in (i.e. crunchy, sweet, savory, soft), so I like to have a variety to choose from. Side note here, having a backup plan is key! You never know if you will hit traffic in a work commute, if you need to hang around for questions from staff, or if lunch ends up getting pushed back. Be prepared for when life gets crazy so you stay on track and fuel your body with good-for-you foods.

Prep Smart20180124_192852
I won’t lie, I rely a lot on portioned unsweetened applesauce  cups, no-sugar-added dried fruit (mango and prunes are my favorites), and baby carrots for my lunch/snack staples. I have been trying to spend more time on prepping the larger parts of my meals versus the snack/side items to save time.

I usually carve out about 30-minutes of time on Sunday nights to prep for the week. This means peeling oranges and portioning them into containers, putting baby carrots in containers, scooping out hummus, and pulling applesauce cups from the bottom of the fridge to the top. Whatever will make my night before prep easier the better!

I also make a lot of my lunches from my leftover dinners. I highly recommend batch-cooking grains (i.e. brown rice and quinoa) and even your proteins (like tofu) to make into easy meals. I have been trying to make more of my own snack bars/power balls versus buying them since it has gotten pretty costly. I like making these peanut butter balls 1 day and eating them all week for snacks!

I hope this gives you some tips to packing a healthy lunch! Have a great rest of your week!

Bean and carrot salad with hemp seeds + oranges + dried mango + sweet potato chips

Better-For-You Lasagna Recipe (GF, Vegan)

The time has come! I finally (I hope) perfected my lasagna recipe! I don’t even know the last time I had lasagna since gluten-free lasagna noodles are so hard to find! This is a simple and easy-to-freeze recipe that the whole family will enjoy!

Better-For-You Lasagna Recipe (Gluten-free, Vegan)
2 boxes Explore Cuisine Green Lentil Lasagna*
1/3 cup 100% lemon juice
 12-ounce soft tofu, drained **
1/4 cup nutritional yeast + extra for layers
2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of salt and pepper
Low-sodium vegetable broth***
Two 24-ounce jars of Victoria pasta sauce (or marinara)****
Optional Ingredients: 1-2 handfuls of spinach, 1/4 cup Vegan Parmesan, 1 bag Vegan “meat” crumbles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9″ baking dish.
2. In a high-powered blender or food processor, puree: lemon, tofu, nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, olive oil, optional spinach, onion, salt and pepper.
3. Layer in baking dish in this order: about 1/4 cup marinara/sauce, 3-4 noodles, 1/4 cup of marinara, 1/4 cup tofu ricotta, optional crumbles, 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon optional vegan Parmesan, 2 tablespoons sauce and 3-4 noodles. Repeat ending with noodles topped with sauce and Vegan Parmesan.
4. Bake, covered, for 45-55 minutes.

Recipe Notes
*You can use any pasta; however, this brand is gluten-free and vegan. It also has a nice amount of protein and fiber, which makes it more of a complete meal. These lasagna noodles are also ones that do not need to be pre-cooked, which saves time.
**Regular firm tofu can also be used. This creates the “ricotta.”
***If the tofu ricotta is too thick and will not blend properly, add in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth or almond milk to thin out. Do this by 1 tablespoon at a time, as you don’t want the recipe to become runny.
****I prefer this brand since there are simple ingredients. You can also use homemade pasta sauce too or any other brand. Typically, I use the full 2 jars. If you like more sauce on your lasagna, plan to reheat  it or will be hot holding on a serving line, I would grab 3 and add in a little extra sauce within the layers so it does not dry out.

–> Optional Ingredients: You can barely see or taste the spinach, so I always add it to boost the nutritional content. I would highly suggest putting the spinach in the food processor versus throwing in the loose leaves.

–>For the layers, I just estimated the amount of sauce and ricotta. Typically, I just scoop and spread in an even layer until the noodles are covered. You can totally pack the layers more and do less “noodles,”  or add more sauce. It really is up to your preference.

Spicing Up Your Vegetables

Welcome back to PorrazzaNutrition! If you read the last blog with tips for choosing bitter and sweet veggies, then you may be back to learn just how to spice up the flavor! Once you choose a vegetable, the next step is sprucing them up with herbs, spices or other foods. Check out the steps below for how to create vegetable dishes that you will actually enjoy eating!

Step #1: Pick a Veggie
Start with a vegetable you already enjoy or choose one that you have never had before. Trying new vegetables can expand your horizon to increase your vegetable intake. If you didn’t like certain vegetables in the past, try them again now with a variation of spices or cooking methods to see if they make it back into your favorites!

Step #2: Choose a Way to Spice or Sweeten your Veggie
There are many ways you can add flavor to your vegetables for enjoyment. Making your vegetables either spicy, sour or salty can balance out the bitterness of the vegetable. Adding healthy sweets or healthy fats (like avocado, nuts, or olive oil) can also soften the bitter taste of vegetables.

– For spicy flavors, try black or red pepper, ginger, cumin, paprika, garlic, or fresh chilies.
– For a more sour flavor, try lemons, limes, vinegar, or fermented veggies like kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut. Just keep an eye on the sodium content for these items.
– For a tangy flavor with some sweetness, try adding orange slices, sweet onions, or even olives.

Step #3: Pick a Cooking Method
Make sure to wash under running water your fresh vegetables before eating or cooking. Some healthy ways to cook your vegetables could be through steaming, sauteing, grilling, baking or braising!

Challenge yourself to trying a new vegetable this week! Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!


Guest post written with the assistance of Biancha Jackson, a current Cedar Crest Distance Dietetic Intern.

Vegetable Consumption – Bitter Vs. Sweet

“Don’t forget to eat all of your veggies on your plate!” The clean-your-plate club is one childhood memory that many of us will never forget. As we grow into adults, we have more freedom in what we choose and unfortunately, vegetables are often left off of the plate. Whether lack of vegetable consumption is due to the taste or convenience factor, there are ways to boost your consumption without compromising your taste buds.

When choosing different vegetables, keep in mind your preference for bitter and/or sweet taste. There are many vegetables with a natural sweetness that can satisfy a sugar craving. Actually, roasting vegetables in general will help bring out their natural sweet flavors! Check out the lists below of the least to most bitter vegetables and also those with a bit more sweetness! Choose your favorites or try something new based on your taste preferences.

Bitter Vegetables (from least to most bitter)
-Brussels Sproutscabbage-2281210_1280 -Belgian Endive
-Swiss Chard
-Collard Greens
-Dandelion Greens

Sweet Vegetables (from least to most sweetest)
-Red Radishes
-Green Cabbage
-Sweet Potatoes
-Sweet Onions
-Winter Squash

Knowing the levels of bitterness and sweetness of vegetables can help you to choose those that you actually enjoy eating! Give a new vegetable a try and leave a comment to let us know your thoughts!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog, which will feature some of the best ways to flavor your vegetables!

Guest post written with the assistance of Biancha Jackson, a current Cedar Crest Distance Dietetic Intern. 

Stuffed Mushroom Caps Recipe

I have been in a huge food rut lately! Anyone else ever get to that point? I feel like all I do is cook the same meals over and over. To spruce things up in the kitchen, I made it a point to buy and cook foods that I haven’t made in a while (or never tried before). My goal was to try something different at least once per week.

With that, I have fallen back in love with mushrooms, which are currently in season. Mushrooms are low in calories, yet, high in Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), which plays a key role in energy production and metabolism. Mushrooms are also good sources of Niacin and Copper. Check out the recipe below for my stuffed mushroom creation, which can be altered to your food preferences! This is a great way to use up leftovers too.

Stuffed Mushroom Caps Recipe
Plant-Based, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free

6 baby bella mushroom caps, cleaned with stems removed
3/4 cup mild low-sodium salsa
1 flax-egg
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup cubed extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons almond flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder and onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Dash salt and pepper
Optional toppings: fresh, diced tomatoes + shredded dairy-free cheese + nutritional yeast

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or greased foil.
2. In a single layer, place mushrooms with cap side down.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients and gently stuff into each mushroom cap.
4. Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until caps are soft and stuffing is hot.
5. Top caps with optional ingredients and broil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!


Recipe Notes
-Portabello mushrooms can also be used. The mix makes enough for 5-6 portabello mushrooms.
-In place of salsa, you can use diced tomatoes.
-In place of the brown rice, you can also use quinoa.
-1 flax-egg can be made by mixing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for about 3 minutes (will gel together).
-Tempeh or a crumbled veggie burger can be used in place of the tofu.
-Flaxseed meal, coconut flour, whole wheat flour, can also be used.
-Seasonings can be adjusted based on taste preference.
-Extra “stuffing” can be heated on the stove-top and served with whole grain or corn chips!
-To reduce cooking time, ingredients can be sauteed in a pan prior to stuffing in each mushroom.