The quest to eat well is one that often alludes people for a wealth of reasons. Whether a busy schedule is to blame or picky eaters at the dinner table tend to derail one’s best dinner efforts, the struggle to feed a family nutritious and delicious meals day in and day out can be a major challenge. Add to that the fact that so many products on supermarket shelves are designed to save individuals time, yet may include a range of preservatives and unhealthy ingredients hiding behind fancy labels, and it is nearly a recipe for disaster.
On its blog, USHEALTH Group asks, when it comes to creating a new mindset around healthy eating, how should one approach this task? Is cutting out all fun foods necessary to eat the most fruits and vegetables possible? Are “cheat meals” acceptable every so often, or is it more important to maintain a balance of healthy eating along with an active lifestyle for everyone in the family to achieve the best results? Knowing where to begin is often half the battle, but experts have been exploring these questions for quite a while and have come up with some interesting answers.
A study from individuals at Stanford University found that tackling both a healthy diet and exercise at once tends to bring about the most benefits, giving people hope that they can make several changes to their lifestyle at once and still see incredible results. While the exercises that one engages in will certainly vary based on specific health goals, the nutrition piece to the puzzle is a bit easier to handle. Involving the entire family in meal preparation can often make the task of cooking much easier and allows parents to instill the habits of healthy eating early in life. Even for those on a tight schedule, incorporating delicious and healthy food into one’s life can be a breeze with the five following recipes.
Making Dinner Easy
At the end of a long day at work, the last thing that people tend to be excited about is spending 30 to 60 minutes in the kitchen preparing a healthy meal. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study between 2013 and 2016 to explore the eating habits of adults across the United States. It found that 36 percent of those surveyed indulged in fast food on any given day. When it is easy to drive to the nearest burger place instead of following a recipe for a healthful meal, it is not hard to see why so many people struggle with their diets.
When time is in short supply, prepping a few simple ingredients in the morning and throwing them into a slow cooker can be one of the easiest ways to ensure that hot and nutritious food will be ready and waiting at the end of the day. A flavorful and simple option is to make a spicy turkey chili using black beans, whole peeled tomatoes, turkey thighs, and a range of spices. While many think of chili as a winter food only, this dish can be brightened up with a bit of Greek yogurt on top and enjoyed with a cold beverage during warmer weather.
This dish offers a kick of heat without being overwhelming thanks to serrano chilies, chili powder, and chipotle chili in adobo. If the thought of spice is a bit overwhelming, take into consideration some of the ways that these ingredients can promote a healthier lifestyle:
- Two different compounds in spicy foods, curcumin and capsaicin, have shown to be effective in cancer treatments. Curcumin both prevents and reduces the growth of such cells, and capsaicin killed cancer cells in mice during a laboratory study.
- Hot peppers can speed up one’s metabolism by up to 5 percent and aid in burning fat at a 16 percent faster rate than a diet filled with mild foods. Spicy foods may also curb food cravings, an obvious way to lose weight more quickly.
- A study of Chinese individuals noted an interesting correlation between spicy food and longevity, where those who ate spicy meals nearly every day of the week had a 14 percent lower risk of premature death. Other health conditions may also have been a factor, but this initial research is promising nonetheless.
- The spice in hot peppers can dilate blood vessels and ultimately aid in lowering blood pressure and, in some cases, may even prevent high cholesterol. Make sure not to overdo it, though, as eating spicy foods without paying attention to the other foods in one’s diet will not yield significant benefits on its own.
When you consider all the above benefits, this spicy turkey chili sounds even more appealing. Simply spend a handful of minutes preparing all the ingredients and place them in the slow cooker before heading off to work. When dinner time strikes, enjoy the spice and delicious flavor that this easy dish brings to the table.
Bring on the Pizza
Without any research or studies needed, it is a safe assumption to say that pizza is one of the most popular foods in the United States. However, this easy and delicious meal may not be as great as it seems, depending on where you purchase it. Most pizza from takeout establishments or even many of the frozen options at the grocery store may seem harmless, but in fact, they can be a huge detriment to one’s health.
Medical experts consider pizza incredibly unhealthy due to the level of refined carbohydrates present in the crust. This means that most of the nutrients and vitamins have been removed from the flour that is used to make the dough, leaving nothing but food that will go straight to the abdomen. While belly fat can be caused by several factors, these carbohydrates can lead to bloating and weight gain, so it is best to be aware of instances when opting for a whole wheat option could be a benefit.
A high fat content does not help either, as 28 percent of the recommended daily amount is found in one small five-ounce serving. Sodium levels are also incredibly high, with the same small serving making up almost 30 percent of the daily recommended value. Instead of eating a to-go option, making pizza at home still offers the same fix to one’s cravings without all the additional negative aspects.
Taken straight from the USHEALTH Group Living Good Health blog, this superhealthy pizza addresses many of the concerns that the traditional food entails and begins with making the crust from scratch using both white and whole wheat flour. Using canned tomatoes for the sauce tends to cut down on added sugar, and the versatility in adding a range of fresh vegetables on top helps make this a nutrient-packed meal. The ability to control how much cheese is on the dish is another huge plus to making pizza at home, as lower fat or even vegan options can be substituted with ease.
Making pizza at home does not have to be a huge chore, as toppings can be prepared ahead of time, and creating the crust from scratch can even be a fun activity for kids. Customize pizzas with a little bit of something for everyone and enjoy this classic American staple with a healthy twist. Leftovers can easily go in the freezer and can be defrosted on a night when no one has much time to cook.
Beating the Breakfast Blues
Eating before heading to work is a huge challenge for Americans, as 31 million people don’t consume breakfast regularly. Among this group, men between the ages of 18 and 34 have the highest rate of skipping this important meal. However, the rate of not eating first thing in the morning does drop down as age increases. Whether it is an instance of simply not being very hungry upon waking or not having the time to sit down and eat something nutritious, this habit is not one to overlook lightly.
However, other than potentially being hungry all of a sudden at 11 a.m., not eating breakfast does bring about some other significant health concerns. Those who avoid a morning meal could have a 27 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a higher propensity toward obesity. Not eating breakfast also alters one’s blood sugar levels and could lead to type 2 diabetes if other unhealthy habits are also present.
One’s metabolism, in general, can be affected by this sporadic eating schedule as well, and this can potentially contribute to difficulties when trying to lose weight. Children who skip breakfast are at risk too, as their brains are missing the much-needed nutrients necessary for them to develop. So how exactly are busy people supposed to find the time to eat something in the morning that is full of nutrients and ready to help them take on the day?
A crustless corn and pepper quiche is a great option if the morning is a bit more relaxed than normal, or it can even be prepared the night before and reheated on the way out the door for a quick boost of nutrients. This recipe features several servings of vegetables, including red bell pepper, poblano chile, corn, and green onion. Together with the protein power that eggs bring to the table, it is a meal that will leave individuals feeling full for hours.
There’s long been a standing debate over whether eggs are good for one’s health, and those who are hesitant to eat them may raise an eyebrow at this delicious breakfast idea. Concerns over cholesterol likely top the list when talking about these little packages of nutrients, but it turns out that what you eat with the eggs has a far greater impact than the egg itself. Consuming bacon with a scramble may not be wise, but the addition of vegetables to this baked quiche will likely bring nothing but benefits.
Skipping the Meat
Imagine that you are at a fancy bistro on a Saturday afternoon. The mood is relaxed, the air is warm, and everyone there is excited to eat the delicious food that is about to be served. The next healthy recipe idea would fit in perfectly in this scenario, as a veggie caprese with olive pesto almost seems too good to eat at home.
Before diving too deep into the specifics of this tasty dish, it is important to recognize that this meal option is missing one of the main ingredients that most sandwiches feature: meat. While some might balk at this lack of protein, those who have done their research know that this flavor-packed item brings a host of health benefits on its own. Studies have shown that eating less meat can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, and those who adhere to a strictly vegetarian diet often consume fewer calories and are less likely to be obese.
If meals without meat sound too difficult, this sandwich may help reframe the idea, as the ingredients will encourage satiation while tasting great. The star of the dish is an olive pesto that is made from green olives, chopped almonds, basil, lemon, and balsamic vinegar. You can add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat as well. The pesto nearly mimics having meat in a sense, as it is hearty and dense, and contrasts beautifully with the other ingredients in the dish. Creamy mozzarella adds much-needed fat while grilled vegetables offer a bit of crunch. Nearly any veggies can work here, including zucchini, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, and more.
Small additions, like arugula for a peppery note, make a huge difference in this sandwich. There is also the option of changing up the type of bread to create a more customized sandwich for the whole family. While this meal does seem like something to enjoy in the bistro scenario, it also makes a great weeknight dinner with friends. It is easy enough for kids to help assemble and can help people incorporate more than a handful of vegetables into their daily diets with ease.
Bring On Dessert
All too often, people can stay healthy throughout the daytime; they eat a balanced breakfast, make smart choices for lunch, and even prepare a healthy dinner with their families. But once nighttime strikes, they end up throwing all that hard work out the window as their sweet tooth kicks in. Suddenly, ice cream is the only thing that they can think about, and they cannot sleep until they curb that craving.
Sound familiar? Eating sweets can be one of the major things that keep people from achieving their health and diet goals, but with this recipe for chocolate peanut butter protein balls, every dessert lover’s dreams will be fulfilled. Remember, ingredients like chocolate are not necessarily the issue when it comes to sweet treats, as it is often the added sugars and high fructose corn syrup that can expand one’s waistline quickly.
Not only will these treats be great for an after-dinner indulgence, but they also make an ideal pick me up after an intense workout. The secret comes from the naturally protein-rich peanuts and the plant-based protein powder, but the ingredients do not stop there. These balls get their sweetness from chocolate chips, with the option for a dairy-free substitute if desired, as well as applesauce and medjool dates. Simply blending all ingredients together and rolling them into spheres is all the work required, and you can eat them right away or store them in the fridge for later.
Sticking to the Plan
When it comes down to it, there is no perfect meal plan or any one right way to eat, but what tends to be most important is the ability to evaluate one’s own goals and eat accordingly. Some people require a larger caloric intake than others, which may mean that the recipes above will work best as snacks throughout the day rather than full meals. Other individuals find that they are satiated more quickly and could easily make the quiche or pizza last for days on end by reheating leftovers when they are short on time.
Ultimately, no matter what the specifics of a healthy lifestyle look like, many recommend that adhering to smaller milestones can help individuals reach their ultimate health and wellness goals with greater success. Rather than aiming to lose 50 pounds in one specific effort, start with the goal of 10. After you have achieved that, make another goal of 10, and so on. Even when dealing with improving one’s eating habits, it is often easier to make small changes over a period rather than doing a complete diet overhaul.
Take some time to enjoy the five recipes above with friends and family. Make cooking a fun activity that everyone can enjoy, and be sure to change up the ingredients, particularly on the pizza and sandwich, to ensure that everyone can have something they love. After spending a bit of time in the kitchen, the reward of healthy and delicious food will make the effort well worth it.
About USHEALTH Group
USHEALTH Group (USHG) is a health coverage provider based in Fort Worth, Texas. For more than 50 years, it has served more than 15 million customers nationally. USHEALTH Group has accumulated many awards throughout the years as well, including Gold and Silver Stevie Awards in 2018 for sales and customer service.
But USHEALTH Group also remains a dedicated charitable organization as well. Through the H.O.P.E. program and independently contracted agents of USHEALTH Advisors, USHG encourages community engagement and a commitment to “Helping Other People Everyday,” which is where the H.O.P.E. program gets its name. USHG CEO Troy McQuagge started the program in 2011, and it has been going strong ever since.