Wrap it up!

7 10 2010

There are many things in this world that I really love, and one of these things is most certainly the wrap. When sandwiches or salads get boring, the wrap kind of swings in and saves the day. It is highly versatile, takes very little time or effort, and depending on what you decide to put in it, also very healthy! I previously posted about how Tupperware can save the day when avoiding repetitive and boring packed lunches—and today’s lunch is no different. Instead of the standard lunchmeat, cheese, and tomato sandwich that I tend to pack for the boy and myself (which are also good, but get old after a while), I decided to go with something a bit more fun… and healthy!

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wrap

  • About 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into little pieces
  • A touch of olive oil (for cooking the chicken)
  • A generous amount of Frank’s Red Hot (the only hot sauce I would use for this recipe)
  • About a tablespoon or so of low-fat ranch dressing
  • One stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • Diced tomato
  • Spinach
  • A couple of wraps (I purchase mine from ALDI)

You start by browning those pieces of chicken in a bit of olive oil. If you want it to be a bit tastier, you can use butter… I like it this way, but it’s obviously healthier with the olive oil. You cook until they are done through, and then throw them in a bowl with the celery and mix with enough Frank’s Red Hot and Ranch dressing to coat. You can mess with the amounts to get it as spicy as you like it. Anything goes!


That mixture should be enough for about four wraps (this covers the two days I pack lunches for me and the boy). You can make it ahead and leave it in the fridge to use if you pack in the mornings. I find this easiest.

When you’re ready to assemble your wrap, put a few good spoonfuls of the mixture onto the wrap, sitting on a flat surface. Then add as much diced tomato and spinach as you would like.

Just give it a little love.

Veggie goodness.

Finally, wrap it up! I like to fold the right and left sides in, then kind of roll it so nothing falls out. It just takes a few times to practice, and you’ll be a pro. Last week I had toothpicks to hold the wrap together while it was in the bag waiting to be eaten. I forgot to buy more, however, so I broke a plastic knife in half and used that. I was a Girl Scout for ten years… we learned to be resourceful…

MacGyver ain't got nuthin on me.

Utilizing wraps is great, because you can put real cooked meat in there and not just lunchmeat. I mean, I don’t mind lunchmeat, but it’s certainly not as healthy… and has so much sodium! You can obviously load whatever other veggies you like as well, those are just the ones I thought would go best.

To top our lunch off, I added some part-skim string cheese, apples, and bags of shark crackers. We’ve been drinking water with our lunches—myself because I’m trying to drink more water and less sugar, and the boy because I forgot to buy lunchboxes this week. I was obviously a bit scatterbrained while grocery shopping this time around.


Wraps can also be great at any meal. A breakfast wrap could include scrambled eggs, veggies, diced ham, salsa, and sour cream. I’ve done Greek Chicken wraps, Thai Chicken wraps, and everything in between. Tomorrow we’re having Philly Cheesesteak wraps (not so healthy, but oh-so-delicious) for dinner.

The possibilities are endless! Cheers, everyone!



The Breakfast Makeover

29 09 2010

I tend to pay attention to my breakfast. Not only is it generally considered the most important meal of the day, but it’s oftentimes the easiest to switch up when you’re trying to make small changes. Today, I decided to explain to you a recent makeover in my breakfasting habits.

For the longest time, my breakfast consisted of a bagel with cream cheese, and a cup of coffee heavy on the flavored creamer. It was for the most part filling. Bagels are a big favorite of mine, and I have a real soft spot for the Thomas’ Everything Bagels. I also have a big soft spot for Dunkin Donuts coffee… but by the time I’m done adding my creamer, it tastes more like coffee-flavored cinnamon than the other way around.

Now, I don’t generally count calories… I tend to just stick with fresher, healthier ingredients and let the chips fall where they may. For the sake of the exercise, however, I will include the numbers to show how they compare by the books. I calculated the nutrition totals for this breakfast, and they look like this:

  • 1 Thomas’ Everything Bagel: 300 cal, 4g fat, 7g sugar, and 12 g protein.
  • 1 oz (and I probably use more) Philadelphia Cream Cheese: 100 cal, 9g fat, 1g sugar, and 2 g protein.
  • 2 Tbsp International Delight Caribbean Cinnamon Crème Coffee Creamer: 90 cal, 4g fat, 12g sugar, and 0g protein.

This all totals out to 490 cal, 17g fat, 20g sugar, and 14g protein. Some would say that’s not that bad… but we’ll look at my made-over breakfast:

Raspberry-Peach Breakfast Parfait

  • 1 c. Fat-Free Vanilla Yogurt
  • 1/2c. Raspberries (I thaw frozen ones in the microwave to make it cheaper)
  • ½ of 1 large peach (or perhaps one whole small one)
  • 1/3 c. Millvale Fiber Cereal (purchased at Aldi)
  • One bag of delicious Egyptian Licorice Yogi Tea
  • Approx. ½ tbsp of Agave Nectar (for the tea)

The parfait is incredibly simple to assemble. From my photo, you can see I tried to get all fancy with it—making it pretty and all. One half of the yogurt, then add fruit, then other half of yogurt, and top off with the cereal. You can really just throw it all into a bowl—it’s going to taste the same no matter what. You can also play with the ratios a bit. I found that one whole cup of that yogurt was a lot for me, I could have opted for more cereal. But regardless, the main ingredients are where it counts—and watching portions. I tend not to measure always, but in the beginnings of a diet plan to get a better idea of portions, I will.

So how do the nutrition facts balance out here?

  • ½ c. raspberries: 30 cal, 0g fat, 3.5g sugar, and 1g protein.
  • 1 c. yogurt: 140 cal, 0g fat, 18g sugar, and 8g protein.
  • ½ large peach: 30.5 cal, 0.25g fat, 6.6g sugar, and 0.7g protein.
  • 1/3 c. cereal: 63.3 cal, 0.5 g fat, 1 g sugar, and 6.5g protein.
  • ½ tbsp. Agave Nectar: 30 cal, 0 g fat, 7.5g sugar, and 0g protein.

It all balances out to 294 calories, 0.75g fat, 36.6g sugar, and 16.2 g protein.

So by the numbers, the parfait has less calories, much less fat, a bit more sugar, and a bit more protein. The thing is, though, that the numbers aren’t the only factors to take into consideration. While the sugar content is higher in the parfait, that sugar is coming from fruit sources—which is far better than the refined sugar derived from the coffee creamer. Certainly the yogurt has some refined sugar (and plain non-fat yogurt would be even better here, but it’ll also be a bit blander). The Agave nectar contributes sugar, but it is lower on the glycemic index than refined sugar as well—and I don’t have to use as much sweetener in my tea as I do my coffee.

Beyond the sugar, the parfait offers a great boost in dietary fiber (from the cereal), antioxidants (from the raspberries), less empty carbs (from the bagel), and a greater amount of protein. I would also say that it’s more filling than the bagel. The tea was herbal, so I don’t get the caffeine fix that I would get from the coffee, but I actually have become less dependent on the coffee—because my breakfast is more energizing. Aside from cutting up the peach, there is no real prep work involved, and it’s delicious.

Expensive? Not even. I purchased the majority of the ingredients at Aldi—the most expensive being the frozen raspberries for $2.89/bag. That bag will last me a minimum of 2 weeks.

I think the craziest thing is that I saved so many calories, fat, and sugar just from switching from coffee to tea every morning. Not to say I never have coffee anymore (that would be a travesty)—but I only indulge once or twice a week. By switching the other five days, I save 300 calories, 20g fat, and 22.5g sugar per week. You know, sometimes it’s about the little things…

Happy Breakfasting!

Never Underestimate the Power of Tupperware

26 09 2010

When I was in grade school, you were always classified as either a “buyer” or a “packer.” The buyers ate the school lunches, which even by government standards seemed to be greasy and appetizing for most children (particularly those that would trade portions of their lunches). The packers ate the sandwiches, snack cakes, and applesauce packed by dutiful mothers or fathers that found this option perhaps a bit cheaper and healthier.

Years later, I find myself a college student that is still in fact a packer. On days that I am stuck on campus all day, I make it a point to pack a nutritious lunch (for me and the lucky boy I live with) so that I don’t go to the Sbarro-like place on campus and eat my day’s worth of calories in the form of one calzone… or those delicious and addictive cookies at Subway. I also do this because it saves me a ton of money in the process.

Many say that eating healthy can be incredibly expensive. While it may be cheaper to purchase a box of ho-ho’s than a bag of organic avocados, I would suggest that it is far cheaper to purchase healthy groceries than it is to eat fast food or restaurant fare on a daily basis—and certainly much healthier.

Many people think drudgery at eating the same packed lunch over and over again. I’m right there with them. However, I certainly do not eat a sandwich every single time I pack a lunch. Absolutely not. Why? Because I own Tupperware. Well, it’s usually knock-off Tupperware, but they are transportable containers nonetheless! Stocking these containers not only opens up the potential for different lunch entrees, but is great for the environment, too!

What does one pack other than sandwiches and fruit, you say? Here are a few things I’ve thrown in containers and enjoyed for lunch:

  • Salads of all kinds
  • Sushi
  • Leftovers
  • Pizza
  • Cottage Cheese and Fruit

Here’s a quick recipe I have for a delicious, healthy salad—as well as a clever way to pack it so that all ingredients stay fresh until lunchtime…

Mexi Spinach Salad

  • Black Beans (1/2 can-ish)
  • Corn (1/2 can-ish)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ Haas Avocado, diced
  • Whatever other veggies you wanna throw in there (I love zucchini and green peppers, but whatever you enjoy)
  • Throw some diced fresh mango if you’re feeling frisky
  • Fresh Spinach
  • About 2 tablespoons of your favorite tomato salsa
  • About 1 tablespoon of low-fat sour cream

Take a sizeable Tupperware container and fill the bottom with fresh spinach. Then (here’s the trick), you need to put plastic wrap over the spinach and over the sides of the container to make a division. This will keep your spinach from getting soggy and wilted, and can be easily pulled off and disposed of.

Mix the black beans, corn, tomato, avocado, and veggies together. Mix the salsa and sour cream together, then mix with the veggie mixture. This will keep the avocado from turning brown, and eliminate the need to put the dressing in a separate little container (less dishes, yes!). The salsa/sour cream mixture is a great salad dressing for any Mexican-inspired dish, and is really quite healthy.

Once it’s all mixed, put it on top of the plastic wrap, and put a lid on it!

Now you have a lunch that is chocked full ‘o veggies, and is certainly not the same old sandwich. Top it off with a piece of fruit, or a handful of nuts, and you’ll be good to go. Just don’t forget a fork… this is a rather unfortunate situation (I know from experience).



Photo by Clare and James

Leftovers for Breakfast

22 09 2010

Though my poor boyfriend can’t stomach the thought of eating anything that isn’t chocked full of sugar for breakfast, I can’t find any excuse not to eat my leftovers… particularly when they’re heavy on delicious and healthy veggies.

Today, as it is the first post here at Akron Healthy Living, you get a two-fer. I will release to you the recipe for my delicious impromtu ragout (ooo! A rhyme!), as well as the delicious breakfast I concocted from the leftovers.

Impromptu Ragout

  • One rather large tomato (mine from a friend’s garden. Mmm)
  • One small zuchinni and one small summer squash
  • A small green pepper
  • A handful of chickpeas (1/3 can-ish?)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic (of course)
  • Herbs in gratuitous quantities (I used tarragon, parsley, and thyme)

I’m lazy, so when ideally you’re supposed to blanch tomatoes and cut skin off and all that, I don’t. I don’t think it makes enough difference for the work. That being said, you just chop the tomato up, and throw it in a pan with a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Then add a nice heaping teaspoon of garlic. In my world, there is no such thing as too much garlic. Blasphemy, I say to those nay-sayers.

Once that tomato is nice and stew-like, add in your other veggies. I used zucchini, summer squash, and green bell pepper, but you ideally could use whatever veg strikes your fancy. Coat all that goodness in a lot of herbs, and let it simmer until the other veggies are at a softness level that agrees with your palate. The chickpeas are there for texture and protein. Don’t leave them out (or replace them with another lean protein source).

Then… voila! Gobble it up. Add a bit of Parmesan to the mix if you’re feeling frisky.

Leftover Time!

So I took that ragout out of the fridge, threw it in a bowl and shoved that sucker in the microwave. In the meantime, I poached an egg. That’s right, I poached an egg. It’s something I’ve only done a few times in my life, but each time I remember how much I love this preparation of the egg, and vow to do it more often.

You basically bring water to almost boiling, then very carefully drop an egg you just cracked into the water. Mine gets really cloudy, and is by no means perfect… but when I scooped that baby out of the water, it looked pretty darn good. I very carefully patted it dry with a paper towel, dropped it on top of my ragout, made a piece of whole wheat toast with butter (gasp), and that was breakfeast. Hot diggity.

I can tell you that there’s nothing more satisfying than poking into that yolk only to have it run all over those veggies. Delightful.

All topped off with my delicious Egyptian Licorice Yogi Tea with agave nectar. Who said healthy eating had to be bland? Best part? It only took me about 15 mintues to make. Mmm.