“It’s the new year, and I’m already ready to break my resolution to get healthy and shed a couple pounds! I can’t afford a nutritionist, but I need help with meal planning. I thought you might know an expert that can help with some healthy meal pointers!” –Elisa
I immediately contacted Cooper Clinic. From the brain of resident dietician Cynthanne Duryea, RD, LD, to your plate, here is a list of delicious healthy meal and snack suggestions worth their weight in chocolate, er, gold.
Ditch the rumored “rules.” Instead, work with Cynthanne’s three important strategies:
1. Every meal should be PCF balanced. (That is, protein, carbohydrate, and fat.) Check your plate for fiber-rich carbs, heart healthy fats, and lean meats for protein.
2. Go for three meals and two snacks each day. Snacks offer another opportunity to fuel your body wisely. See examples of great snacks below.
3. Consider this question: Why do we eat? The answer is to fuel and nourish our bodies. Before you put something in your mouth ask yourself, “what can this food do for me?” Concentrate on purposeful eating.
Now, welcome to a day of eating in Cynthanne Duryea’s life. Below are some meal ideas that she frequently uses, as well as some go-to snack ideas that she finds to be remarkably satisfying and keeps her fueled throughout the day.
-Uncle Sam Cereal (toasted whole-wheat flakes and Flaxseed- a 100% whole grain cereal)
-1 cup skim milk (used on cereal and to “cream” coffee)
-1 banana sliced on cereal
(Note: This fiber rich breakfast contains 15 grams of protein, giving real staying power throughout the morning.)
-Quaker Oats Old Fashioned rolled oats cooked with pears, apples, dried apricots and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
-½ cup of Vanilla Strained Low-Fat Greek yogurt, scooped on top of oatmeal
-½ ounce almonds (11 almonds to be exact!)
(Note: I prefer to batch cook this hot breakfast on the weekends, when I have more time. I start with 2.25 cups of dry rolled oats which will yield 3 heart-healthy portions of oatmeal. There are 3 grams of soluble fiber in each of the heart-healthy portions, which is an amount that can effectively lower LDL cholesterol, as part of a diet low in saturated fat. I add 1 apple (chopped), 1 pear (chopped) and about 9 apricots (cut into quarters) and about ¼ tsp. cinnamon to add a nice flavor to the cooked fruit and oats. The Vanilla Low-fat Greek strained yogurt I add lends about 11 grams of protein, giving a lot of bang for the 80-calorie buck. The almonds that top this delicious breakfast add heart healthy fat and a lot of satiety.)
-Kashi TLC Bar- The Honey Almond Flax is a personal favorite!
(Note: What a tasty and convenient way to enjoy 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, in a whole grain source that only has 140 calories.)
-Mozzarella String Cheese stick
(Note: The clementine is the perfect portable fruit: it is easy to carry to work and peels effortlessly, unlike a thick skinned orange. Combining it with the string cheese adds about 6 grams of protein to this snack, making it more complete. The flavor and texture combination of these two simple items is quite nice.)
A lunch that I have at the office has to be quick and easy, as I typically work through my lunch. Therefore, I gravitate towards a healthier version frozen meal:
-Either a Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, Kashi or an Amy’s Organic frozen meal
-Piece of fruit
(Note: Many of the patients I see believe that the sodium content of these meals is extremely high. However, when I compare the sodium content of these above frozen meals to the sodium content of their usual sandwich ordered at their local sandwich shop, they are shocked to learn that a 6” sub sandwich is about double to triple the sodium content of any of these frozen meals, with just the bread, lunch meat and cheese….and any pickles or dressings would add much more sodium.)
If lunch is at home, I love to throw together a salad, using washed and trimmed baby spinach, the kind in the bag that is ready to go. Components that would go into the salad would be:
-2-3 ounces of left over turkey, pork tenderloin or extra lean ground beef (often leftovers from taco night!)
-1 Roma tomato, diced
-½ cup black beans
-bell pepper strips
-shredded carrots or whatever colorful vegetable I may have in the refrigerator to add nutrients and color to this salad.
-¼ cup shredded cheese – for a heart healthier choice I aim for a 2% milk-fat cheese or a shredded partially skimmed mozzarella
(Note: The salad is quick and easy because there is very little preparation needed. Also, I find that the avocado adds enough creaminess to the salad, I often do not even add a salad dressing.)
-Chobani Greek Non-fat yogurt – I love the fruit varieties! The 14 grams of protein in an individual 6 ounce container really has staying power. I have found that purchasing them by the dozen at Sam’s Club is a smart economical way to buy them!
If I have a sweet tooth in the afternoon, I have two favorites that I alternate and enjoy with a glass of skim milk:
-Either a Corazonas Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Square (It’s pluses are its 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and it contains plant sterols in a daily amount that can effectively reduce cholesterol….it does have 190 calories, which may be a little high in calories for some women though.)
-Or a Kashi TLC Soft-Baked Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip cookie
(Note: both of the above snack ideas are great whole grain sources, and they truly fulfill a sweet craving. By washing either one down with an 8 ounce glass of skim milk, you get an additional 8 grams of protein and 300 mg of calcium.)
Dinner often consists of
-A lean meat prepared in the crock pot cooked on low, while I am away from home during the day- examples would be pork tenderloin, lean center cut pork chops, or chicken pieces without skin….even flank steak can be prepared in the crock pot with a marinade, to make fajitas or to be used on top of a salad.
-Frozen vegetables are a constant “go-to” to assure that a colorful vegetable is included at this meal.
-Almost always there is a salad made with the washed and trimmed salad mixes that are “ready to go.” I dice up tomatoes and whatever raw vegetable I might have in the refrigerator. Olive oil based vinaigrettes are most commonly used for these.
-One fiber rich starch food completes the meal. Examples are brown rice; fresh corn; quinoa; a bean variation like pinto, black, or lima; a sweet potato or red skin new potato; or a piece of Ezekiel bread, which is especially good toasted.
-If my time and energy allow, I will cut up fruit and make a quick fruit salad. If I am more pressed for time, I will literally bring the fruit bowl to the table, and set out a piece of fruit for each family member, to encourage its consumption.
An easy dinner that feels “gourmet” is:
-I steam a white fish like tilapia in an old electric rice and vegetable steamer (I was given a Black and Decker electric steamer as a wedding gift 22 years ago….and it is still going strong. To steam 4 fillets takes only about 20 minutes)
-As the fish fillets are steaming, I heat slivered almonds in a non-stick skillet, until just lightly golden, to lend a slightly toasted flavor to the almonds. Then I remove the almonds from the pan and set aside.
-In the same non-stick skillet that I used for the slivered almonds, I heat 1.5 tbsp. olive oil. Then I add washed and trimmed baby spinach (about a 2 pound bag) adding small amounts at a time, until it wilts and decreases in volume, and I continue to add until it is all wilted and fits within the pan. Then I add sliced mushrooms and allow the spinach and mushrooms to sauté together until heated and the mushrooms become tender. I may splash just a bit of soy sauce to add some flavor to the sautéed spinach and mushrooms.
-After the fish is done, I plate the steamed fillets on the plate, and then I cover each fillet with the sautéed spinach and mushrooms, and then I sprinkle the toasted slivered almonds on top.
-Wild Rice is served with this meal as the starch component.
-Adding a yellow/orange vegetable such as steamed carrots or sliced yellow squash, adds nice color and more nutrients.
(Note: this meal feels gourmet somehow- although it is incredibly easy and simple. It is especially nice to have a glass of Pinot Grigio with it.)
Beverages that are nice alternatives to just water:
Le Croix Carbonated Fruit flavored beverages- these give you the kick of a carbonated soda, but without sugar or artificial sweetener…just a nice clean fruit taste with bubbles.
Celestial de-caffeinated herbal teas- on cold winter days these are a great comfort beverage.
Adding 2 Tbsp. POM (pomegranate juice) to 12 ounces of ice water. In the summer, I often have this as a dinner beverage. The concentrated juice lends a lot of flavor to the water, in just a small amount.
Cynthanne has worked in the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Department since 1998 and specializes in preventive health, cardiovascular nutrition, weight management and women’s health. Personally committed to exercise and fitness, she especially enjoys helping others with wellness and sports nutrition. Cynthanne is the lead dietitian for recipe analysis, working with restaurants, food companies and individuals. She received a Bachelor of Science in food and nutrition from Texas Tech University and interned at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Contact her.