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Lighter Drinks, Dips and Treats for New Year’s Eve

This time of the year can be really fun for indulging, but there comes a point when you just need a break (hello, January 1st!). If you find yourself hitting that point when you still have some more festivities to attend (I’m looking at you, New Year’s Eve), then these lightened up drinks, dips and treats are for you.

Skinnier Sips
Alcohol is high in calories. Cutting down how much you drink in any given night is smart for a number of reasons, including your waistline. Try alternating between a drink and a glass of sparkling water to slow your drinking pace. And keep in mind that mixed drinks can often deliver lots of extra calories. A glass of wine is usually around 120 calories; beer can range upwards of 250 calories for higher-alcohol brews. Here are a few lower-calorie alternatives:

Spritzers (pictured above): Spritzers are a great way to curb the alcohol per drink.

Bellinis: They have more calories than spritzers, but like spritzers, they help you to drink less actual alcohol.

Alcohol-free wines have half the calories of regular vinos and they’re surprisingly delicious.

Desserts

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Lighter Appetizers for New Year’s Eve

Who says appetizers have to be ultra-rich to be a hit? These lightened-up appetizers use healthy whole foods to make small bites that taste as good as they are good for you. Most of them are a cinch to make, too, so you can cut down on the stress as well as the calories.

Pecorino and Honey Dip (pictured above): This simple combination of pecorino and spiced honey hits the sweet, salty and spicy flavor points.

Spicy Roasted Olives: Give heart-healthy olives an update.

Roasted Chestnuts: A holiday classic studded with vitamin C and manganese

Porcini Bruschette with Nipitella: Mushrooms and fresh herbs top this quick and easy bruschetta.

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The 6 Healthiest Nuts

Time to get cracking — nuts, that is. Nuts are a superfood. They give you fiber, healthy fats and protein — three main things that help you to feel satisfied. Whether you’re adding them to a quick bread, sprinkling them over a salad or quick bread, or eating them out of your hand, they’re a healthy addition to your diet.

The one thing to keep in mind is portion size. Nuts are really calorie-dense, so by eating just a few more, you can easily consume an extra 100 calories. I’ve noted the portion size (how many nuts per ounce) and major nutrition information for a variety of nuts here, as well as some notable nutrients found in different kinds of nuts.

Walnuts (14 halves): Calories: 185; Fat: 18 g; Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 4 g
Walnuts are one of the few plant foods that have Omega-3 fatty acids, the kind that are linked to heart health. They also have a smattering of B vitamins, a bunch of copper (which helps make energy) and manganese (needed for bone formation and metabolism), as well as a good amount of magnesium and phosphorous — both important in bone health, among other functions.

Hazelnuts (21 nuts): Calories: 177; Fat: 17 g; Fiber: 3 g; Protein: 4 g
Hazelnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E — an antioxidant that can help protect against heart disease — as well as manganese and copper. The primary fat in hazelnuts is monounsaturated fat, which helps you get healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Pistachios (49 nuts): Calories: 157; Fat: 13 g; Fiber: 3 g; Protein: 6 g
Pistachios are the best choice if you don’t want to concentrate too hard on portion size. Because you need to shell them (and because a serving is 49 nuts!), it’s harder to go overboard on pistachios. They also are an excellent source of vitamin B6 (which your body needs to create new cells), and a good source of manganese and copper. Pistachios also deliver phytosterols — compounds that can help lower your cholesterol levels.

Almonds (23 nuts): Calories: 162; Fat: 14 g; Fiber: 3 g; Protein: 6 g
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E and manganese, and they are a good source of riboflavin. Also, the fat is mostly from monounsaturated fat.

Brazil nuts (6 nuts): Calories: 185; Fat: 19 g; Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 4 g
These earthy nuts are notable for their super-high amount of selenium (delivering 774 percent of the daily value per serving). Like many of the other nuts, Brazil nuts are also an excellent source of magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and copper.

Cashews (18 nuts): Calories: 155; Fat: 12 g; Fiber: 1 g; Protein: 5 g
Buttery cashews are a good source of vitamin K (the vitamin that helps your blood coagulate), phosphorous and zinc (needed for immune function). They are also an excellent source of manganese, copper and magnesium.

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

Healthiest Halloween Treats

Not to spook you, but Halloween can be a diet and health disaster if you don’t keep your wits about you. The hallmark of the holiday is artificial dye- and sweetner-filled candy, and a lot of it. If you’d like to escape the season without a sugar high — and some extra pounds under your belt — stick to one or two fun-sized candies from the office bowl. Then, if you’re hosting a Halloween party or just want to have healthier treats around, consider these festive items:

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Health Benefits of Pumpkin

You carve them into jack-o’-lanterns, bake them into muffins and let them flavor your lattes. Yes, pumpkins are everyone’s favorite orange squash. And, drumroll, please: They’re good for you! (Except when it comes to the pumpkin spice lattes. There’s no real pumpkin in there — just sugar, and you know that’s not good.)

What exactly are pumpkins?
First things first; Pumpkins are a type of winter squash, a class of vegetables related to cucumbers and melons. You can bake or steam sliced or cubed pumpkin, or you can use unsalted canned pumpkin in recipes — an easy way to get this nutritious veggie into your diet.

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Healthiest Apple Recipes

Bye-bye, berries. Hello, apples! Apple trees across the country are churning out a bounty of the crunchy, sweet and tart fruits — and it is time to get cooking. But cooking with apples doesn’t need to mean an overdose of sugar and butter. Here at Cooking Channel, you can find lots of apple recipes that are as healthy as they are delicious.

Heart-Healthy
Apple Muffins (pictured): Whole-wheat pastry flour, applesauce, pecans and fresh apples combine in this heart-healthy muffin recipe from dietitian and Chef Ellie Krieger. (These are also a low-cal option.)

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What Are the Saltiest Cheeses?

A few weeks ago I asked people on Facebook what nutrition questions they want answered. This time, I got a question that surprised me: “What cheeses are the saltiest?” Random, I thought! Yet once I dived into writing this post, I realized it’s a really good question; Americans eat way too much sodium, and cheese is a high-sodium culprit. If you’re trying to lower the amount of sodium in your diet, knowing which cheeses are less salty than others could help you out. More generally, you can minimize the sodium load of your diet by cutting down on restaurant meals and processed foods — the two biggest sources of sodium in our diets — and cooking more meals at home using fresh, whole ingredients.

Here are some of your favorite cheeses ranked from most to least salty. To put these numbers in perspective, a teaspoon of salt is 2,400 mg of sodium, and the recommended daily limit of sodium for most people is 2,300 mg/day.

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Best Foods for a Road Trip

Chances are you’re spending some time on the road this summer. And chances are you’re going to get hungry on your road trip. It happens to me almost every time I take a trip, and despite being a nutritionist, I’m usually not prepared. So as a summer resolution, I’m going to take some time to figure out what types of food I should pack for trips and share with you what things I get at gas stations and rest stops when I’m stuck with an empty belly.

What to Pack
My primary rule is that it should include something you’re excited about and also include something healthy. It should also store relatively well. Cucumbers, sugar snap peas or green beans are good veggies to pack since they’re crunchy and fun to eat. Plums, nectarines, grapes and apples all travel relatively well if you’re looking for something fruity. In terms of excitement, I like to pack some dark chocolate-covered almonds or popcorn. Single-serving cheeses (like string cheese) or mixed nuts or trail mix are also good items to round out the fruit or vegetables you’re packing.

What to Pick Up at the Gas Station

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Quick & Healthy Breakfasts

The healthiest breakfasts are ones you make yourself with an eye toward fiber, lean protein and healthy fats. This combination keeps you running all morning long. You can get fiber through heart-healthy whole grains and/or fruits or vegetables. Low-fat dairy, eggs and nuts are good sources of protein. For healthy fats, think about avocado, egg yolk, olive oil or nuts. Here are some quick and healthy breakfast ideas that will power you through the day.

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Health Benefits of Red, White and Blue Foods

It’s that time of the year when recipes show up that are patriotically red, white and blue — like this Red, White and Blue Smoothie, which you should definitely make. Showing your stripes in the colors you eat is also good for your health (I’m talking about plant-based foods here — not red, white and blue cheesecake!).

Plant-based foods get their colors from phytochemicals — various compounds linked to a raft of health benefits. So I’m going to tell you about the phytochemical cocktail that adds color and nutrition to red, white and blue foods.

Red

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