Food and fun should go hand in hand right? Why is food on skewer sticks, toothpicks and popsicle sticks so fun to eat?
I really don’t know why food on a stick is more playful, but I do know that I love it! I also really like the portion control aspect. It’s pretty easy to portion out a serving of veggies, meat or even dessert on a skewer.
Whether you’re looking for seekh kebab, veggie skewers or fruit popsicles, my round-up of food-on-a-stick from amazing food bloggers and recipe developers (many of whom are fellow Dietitians) has you covered!
Finals and test-taking time are STRESSFUL!! Especially if your study habits aren’t top notch!
Would you agree??
There are so many easy steps you can do for your mental, emotional and physical health to keep you healthy during finals time and fuel your brain so you are in the best position to rock those tests! Good study habits not only include the actual studying part, but it also includes how you treat your body!
When I’m not developing recipes and creating content for TastyBalance, I’m working at my day job, which is on a college campus as the Dining RD for the University of Southern California. Since I am immersed in the world of Residential Dining every day, I am always around students, particularly freshman. I see and hear the frustrations of college life and it can take a toll on a students’ ability to perform at his/her best.
Studying for exams is stressful and time-consuming. I get it. It’s just so much easier and comforting to order pizza and reach for fast food and sweets. But, will those foods give you the energy you need to get through finals and thrive? Absolutely not. Poor diet, stress and lack of sleep WILL negatively affect your academic performance. Consider your body, health, and emotions when thinking about study habits. You are an academic athlete that needs to be fueled properly in order to operate at peak capacity!
11 HEALTHY STUDY HABITS TO FUEL YOUR BRAIN
1. Keep your dorm/apartment and backpack stocked with healthy and delicious snacks
Examples of on-the-go snacks are nuts, hummus and baby carrots, berries, beef jerky, KIND bars, whole grain cereal, and roasted chickpeas. If you have a cooler bag, hard boiled eggs and greek yogurt can be a great option too! Check out my other posts for lots of healthy snack ideas: HERE and HERE.
2. Meal prep the day before you start studying
This can really help you avoid spending money on ordering unhealthy food from restaurants. Cook a few things ahead of time such as grains, pasta, chicken, beans, and veggies. You can use those basic ingredients throughout the week to throw together quick meals! Check out some more meal planning and prepping tips HERE.
For the meal in the picture below, I meal prepped a bunch of baked sweet potatoes and cooked off some chicken. A few days later I topped the sweet potato with the chicken, cilantro, pickled red onions and rinsed and drained canned black beans. It was so easy because I had meal prepped the 2 main items ahead of time.
3. Be sure to eat balanced meals with protein, healthy carbs and fat
Balancing your meals will keep you fuller longer, more satisfied and less likely to reach for sugary snacks. For example, if you’re having an apple for a snack, add some nut butter or a string cheese stick for satiety staying power. When eating meals, use the plate method which consists of a plate 1/2 full of vegetables, 1/4 grain (preferably whole grain) or starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes, and 1/4 protein.
During this stressful time, please don’t forget to eat your fruits and veggies!!
4. Fuel yourself with good mood foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
Examples include salmon, nuts, berries, whole grains, leafy greens, beans and even dark chocolate! You can read more about some of my top EVERYDAY SUPER FOODS in a blog post I wrote for USC Hospitality.
5. Don’t skip meals and stay on a regular eating schedule
Don’t succumb to a cranky mood and lack of concentration from blood sugar highs and lows. Eating regular, balanced meals will help you to avoid this!
6. Stay hydrated!
I cannot stress this point enough. When you feel that afternoon sleepy time slump, sometimes accompanied by a headache and grumpiness, there’s a good chance you may be dehydrated. Skip the soda and opt for water. Add a few slices of citrus or fresh mint sprigs for extra flavor.
7. Avoid sugar crashes and swap super sugary, highly processed carbs like cookies and donuts with better for you treats.
8. A moderate amount of caffeine can be helpful, but too much can cause adverse effects
The suggested upper limit for caffeine is around 400mg. To give you an idea of what the looks like, a tall Starbucks Pike Place Roast drip coffee has 235mg, a grande has 310mg and a venti has 410mg. Listen to your body. More caffeine isn’t necessarily going to perk you up. You may end up jittery and anxious instead.
9. Get enough sleep!
Easy to say, but sometimes hard to do! I just overheard a student say that he didn’t sleep last night because he was too busy. Another student just said she only got 1 hour of sleep last night. Lack of sleep will not only affect your hunger hormones negatively, but it will affect you cognitively. A sleep study out of UCLA showed that sleep deprivation is similar to being drunk! I can’t imagine studying or taking a test while drunk would be very effective! Try not to drink caffeine after lunchtime. If you have a hard time falling asleep, try listening to calming music, guided meditations, or nature sounds. Apps such as Calm and Headspace are helpful!
10. Take exercise breaks, even if it’s just a power walk around campus
Every little bit helps! Not only is regular exercise good for cognitive function, but it’s a great way to relieve stress. Grab your roomie and get outside or head to the gym!
Sauces are such a flavorful way to add variety, especially when you’re the type of person who often eats the same proteins and veggies. If you’re trying to add some variety to your meal prepping routine, are bored of eating the same ‘ol stir fry or baked chicken breast, or are on a medically necessitated elimination diet such as FODMAPS or LEAP, sauces can really make food more exciting!
Personally, I love mixing my protein with a really chunky “sauce” full of texture, veggies and herbs. More roughage to chew on means more fiber and combined with protein and healthy fats, you have a great equation for satiety satisfaction that won’t leave you hungry an hour later.
Having different types of sauces and toppings on-hand is actually considered meal prep in my opinion. For example, I can make my basil pesto on sunday and use it throughout the week on pasta, as a topping for chicken, or even stirred into sauteed shrimp or tofu.
Some of my favorite sauce/toppings/mix-ins for proteins are:
Chermoula has one of my favorite flavor profiles and I absolutely love it. This North African condiment can actually act as a marinade as well and lends spice, acid and herbal freshness to meats, seafood and even veggies, beans and tofu.
Typically you’ll see spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika along with the fresh herbs parsley and cilantro. Of course, you must add plenty of lemon, garlic and olive oil. Some recipes add preserved lemon along with saffron, and/or cayenne for a spicy kick.
There are so many versions of chermoula, but the basic flavors are the same. Some chermoulas are very herb forward and green in color, while others may be a reddish hue due to the addition of more paprika.
My Chermoula Spiced Shrimp with Leeks and Red Peppers originally came about as a clean-out-the-fridge meal. Those always seem to be my best tasting meals! The ingredients added to the shrimp aren’t a traditional sauce like texture, yet take the traditional flavors of a chermoula to create a more chunky, textural backdrop. I could actually put all of the ingredients, minus the shrimp of course, into the food processor or blender to make a smooth sauce.
Rather than traditional sweet paprika, I used smoked paprika to add an additional dimension of flavor. Plus, I just really love smoked paprika and will pretty much put it on everything. In addition to the shrimp, I added sauteed red pepper and leeks to pump up the volume even more with flavor, antioxidants and fiber.
Leeks are part of the onion family, but have a much milder flavor. If you’re feeling a litte lazy (like I usually am), Trader Joe’s sells them already trimmed and cleaned! I still give them a rinse. If you buy them from the supermarket, you’ll need to wash them thoroughly to make sure all of the fine dirt particles are gone. You’ll also need to trim off the tough green leaves. An easy way to remove all of the dirt from your leeks is to slice them and place them in a bowl of water. The dirt will sink to the bottom and you can lift the clean sliced leeks out of the water.
In the recipe, I mention blotting the peeled and deveined shrimp with a towel or paper towel. The reason for doing this is to remove excess moisture. Adding wet shrimp to the hot pan will create a steaming effect rather than a nice sear on the shrimp.
Serve the shrimp alone or with a nice green salad and you’ll have an easy low carb meal. If you’re looking to add some whole grains to your diet, the shrimp pair really well with a hearty ancient grain such as spelt or kamut.
Originally a clean-out-the-fridge meal, these Chermoula Spiced Shrimp have quickly become a favorite in my household! Fresh, vibrant and full of flavor, I'm confident they will be a favorite of yours too.
6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/4" thick half moons (white and light green part only) (should be approx 1 cup)
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (3 small cloves)
1 cup small dice (1/4") red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (1 small bunch)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (1/2 small bunch)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp (20/25 per lb)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the sliced leeks and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the chopped peppers and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chopped cilantro and parsley and cook for 1 more minute. Remove mixture from pan and place in a bowl.
Mix the cumin, coriander and smoked paprika in a small bowl and mix to combine.
Blot the shrimp with a towel or paper towel to remove excess moisture.
Add 2 teaspoons of oil to the same pan you cooked the leeks in, increasing heat to medium high.
Add the shrimp in 1 layer, sprinkle spices over the shrimp and cook until shrimp are done on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip shrimp over and cook for 1 more minute.
Add leek and herb mixture, stir and cook for 1 more minute to heat through.
Turn off heat and add 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 Tablespoon lemon juice.
Stir to combine and scrape any flavorful bits off bottom of pan.
Serve alone with a salad or add a whole grain backdrop such as farro, spelt, kamut, quinoa or rice.
Would you agree that there are just too many health trends to keep track of these days?
Sorry, folks. The number of trends didn’t go down this year, but I’m here to give you the Cliff Notes version of what I saw in the natural food space at Expo West.
Natural Products Expo West is the world’s largest trade show highlighting the latest products in the natural and organic foods space, in addition to supplements and lifestyle categories. The expo is massive, overwhelming, and mind-boggling, but also a lot of fun and a great way to see what products are currently trending.
2019 Expo West Trends
The following trends and products are in no particular order and I was not compensated to mention any of them.
Collagen has been trending for a couple of years now, but it seemed to be in even more everyday food products this year rather than just in powdered supplement form. From bars, to beverages, “beauty balls” and beyond, many companies seemed to be marketing these products from a beauty standpoint.
Matcha and tea
Tea is exploding this year! In addition to traditional black and green teas, matcha is staying strong in addition to standing alongside teas that are classified as herbal supplements. Traditional Medicinals had a large selection of these teas featuring ingredients such as red clover, turmeric, nettle leaf, and dandelion.
Protein balls and bites
I always expect to see many, many protein bars, but this year, manufacturers seemed to transition to bite-size balls and pieces. Same products, just different shapes. Perfect Bar showcased a resealable container of bites for those that want to eat some now and save some for later.
Tonics with function
Those little bottles that usually hold energy drinks now hold tonics that serve functional purposes for your mind, belly, immunity, inflammatory state, sleep, and sanity. Many of these tonics tasted strongly of non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia, but Numi Organics debuted some that tasted quite good.
CBD in everything
Holy moly. CBD is now in everything from gummy bears, to capsules, tonics, topical creams, roll-ons, beverages and more. Certain manufacturers combined CBD with melatonin for night time and caffeine for the morning, or even other herbs for PMS symptoms. Who knows how much CBD I actually consumed at Expo West between drink samples, anti-anxiety gummies and an entire CBD watermelon water later that evening, but I slept a whopping 13 hours that night and felt super groggy the next day! Oops!
How do you feel about cabbage? I feel like this is one of those veggies that people either love or love to hate. It was a risk making this new dish, Roasted Red Cabbage and Shallots with Apple Cider Glaze, for a group of people with whom I had no idea whether they liked cabbage or not. Let me put it to you this way. That platter was clean and dry at the end of dinner, which unfortunately for me meant no leftovers to take home! But, I’m glad everyone gobbled up this amazingly healthy cruciferous vegetable.
All veggies have amazing health benefits, but red cabbage comes in towards the top!
That bright and deep purplish pink hue that red cabbage has comes from anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid polyphenol, which is a type of antioxidant. You find them in purple, blue and red fruits and veggies, including red cabbage, eggplant, berries, cranberries, plums, prunes, red skinned potatoes, red onions, and red radish.
And what do these anthocyanins do? Plenty! They fight free radicals and lessen oxidative stress in our cells (hello anti-aging!) and even positively affect the microflora in our gut. They may provide protection against a whole host of problems such as inflammation, cognitive decline, heart disease, cancer and more.
When you hear the words “cruciferous veggies”, cancer prevention may come to mind.
Cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates. Wonder where the smell of cabbage comes from? It’s from this sulfur containing compound. While the smell may be a bit funky, just know that it’s coming from a good place! Through chewing and digestion, those compounds get broken down into a number of active compounds including indole-3-carbonol and sulphurophane. These are 2 substances often studied for anti-cancer effects.
So far, we’ve got red cabbage containing powerful antioxidants and cancer fighting substances, but that’s not it! We’re also looking at vitamin C, iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, folate, and of course, my favorite “F” word, fiber. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both substances that are crucial for eye health, so definitely eat up!
All of the nutrients above have many functions, but they also play a role in mood, cognition and overall brain health.
I want to highlight two vitamins as they pertain to brain health because they don’t get much publicity: vitamin C and vitamin K. Red cabbage contains a whopping 85% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) for vitamin K and 54% for vitamin C. Those are pretty big numbers!
Vitamin K is usually discussed in terms of it’s blood clotting functions, but it plays a number of roles in the brain. It play a protective role against inflammation and oxidative stress, in addition to assisting in the growth of brain lipids called sphingolipids, which are important in proper brain function. Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin, so the olive oil in this roasted cabbage recipe will help with the absorption of the vitamin.
We generally think of vitamin C beefing up the immune system, but it is also a powerful antioxidant the protects against inflammation. Our brains actually have a greater concentration of vitamin C than the rest of the body does. It plays a role in the growth and protection of neurons and plays multiples roles in the creation and release of neurotransmitters. Vitamin C is even needed in the conversion process of dopamine to serotonin, which of course is probably the most well known feel-good chemical in the body
You may be more familiar with traditional braised red cabbage, perhaps even with apples. I really like the roasted cabbage version better because I love the crispiness that you get with some of the ends and smaller pieces. The sweetness of the apple cider glaze also really stands out against the savory cabbage and shallots. If you want to get really fancy for your dinner, you can even top the dish with thin slices of oven dried green apples.
This is one of those dishes where when I made it for the first time, I stood in the kitchen eating from the sheet pan. The next day, I nibbled at the cold leftovers, not bothering to heat them up because they were still so tasty cold!
If you think you’re not a cabbage person, you have to try it roasted. The roasting process brings out the natural sugars in the veggies. Tender cabbage with crispy ends and sweet, caramelized shallots makes for some truly happy eating. While the apple cider glaze adds a really special touch to the dish, you don’t have to use it. The roasted shallots and cabbage are delicious on their own!
Roasted Red Cabbage and Shallots with Hard Apple Cider Glaze
Roasting is definitely my preferred method of cooking cabbage! When slicing the cabbage, don't worry if pieces come apart. You'll just end up with some tasty crispy smaller pieces. This side dish is delicious even if you don't use the hard apple cider glaze, but it does add an extra dimension of flavor.
1 small head of red cabbage (about 2 pounds), cored and sliced in 1/2" thick slices
9 ounces shallots, peeled and trimmed and roughly cut into 1" chunks
5-1/2 teaspoons avocado oil divided (or other oil such as olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 12-ounce bottle hard apple cider
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 425 degree F
Place silicone baking sheets or parchment paper over 2 half size (18"x13") sheet pans. Rub 1/2 teaspoon oil over each of the sheet pans.
Divide the cabbage pieces between the 2 sheet pans.
Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the oil over each sheet pan of cabbage.
Toss 1/2 teaspoon oil with the shallots in a small mixing bowl and divide between the sheet pans, finding room in between the cabbage. Sprinkle the salt over the veggies on each sheet pan.
Place pans in the oven. Check the cabbage and shallots after 20 minutes. If you see any extra crispy pieces, remove them from oven. Flip pieces of shallots over. Continue roasting for about 10 more minutes.
While veggies roast, place cider in a saucepan over high heat. Allow to boil down until only about 2 Tablespoons are left. This should take somewhere around 17 minutes, depending on your stove and type of pan you are using. Once you get to 15 minutes, watch the pan closely.
Turn stove top off and swirl the butter into the reduced cider.
Remove veggies from oven and toss with cider glaze in a large bowl.
The cabbage is also delicious cold or at room temperature!