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This salad is chock full of great nutrition! Dark leafy greens, like arugula, are rich in antioxidants that improve brain health, help prevent memory loss when eaten almost daily and help prevent heart disease when eaten at least 3 times per week. Adding berries, increases the antioxidants even more, and studies show these antioxidants also help prevent memory loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. So many great reasons to enjoy this brain-boosting salad!

ARUGULA W. BERRIES & ALMONDS

Arugula Salad with Berries & Almonds

 Prep Time: 15 minutes; Total Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

 Ingredients:

·         2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

·         2 Tablespoons olive oil

·         ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

·         ¼ teaspoon honey

·         5 cups fresh arugula (or spinach if you’re not an arugula fan)

·         ½ cup sliced radishes

·         2 green onions, chopped

·         1 Persian cucumber, quartered and chopped

·         ½ cup raspberries

·         ½ cup blackberries

·         ¼ cup chopped almonds

·         Salt and pepper to taste

 Preparation:

1.      In a small container whisk together vinegar, oil, mustard and honey. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2.      In a large bowl combine arugula, radishes, green onions, cucumber and almonds. Toss with dressing. NOTE: add dressing one tablespoon at a time. Depending on whether you like a salad that’s more lightly dressed, you may not need all of the dressing

3.      Place salad mixture on plates and top with berries, then serve.

 Nutrition Information per serving:

140 Calories, 11g Total Fat, 1g Saturated Fat, 0mg Trans Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 130mg Sodium, 321mg Potassium, 8g Total Carbohydrate, 4g Sugar, 4g Dietary Fiber, 3g Protein

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Do you worry about memory loss when you can’t find your car keys?  Do you feel stressed and frustrated when you walk into a room and can’t remember why or what you needed?

 You’re not alone! Memory Loss is the #1 Fear of people over 55.

 I’ve been doing a deep dive into the research around how to prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. There’s a lot of research that’s been done over the last 15 years or so, and I’ll be sharing a lot more on the topic of maximizing memory over the next several months.

 As we age, the brain does change, but that doesn’t mean you’re destined for serious memory loss.There are many actions you can take now to keep your mind sharp and help prevent memory loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease! Here are 5 “Pillars” to maximizing memory:

 #1: Eat the Right Foods.

Although there isn’t an “Alzheimer’s Diet”, many recent studies have shown that people who eat the right types and amount of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats (while decreasing specific processed foods and saturated fats), are less likely to develop Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The key is getting the right amounts of brain-healthy foods and minimizing brain-harming foods. Choosing the right foods helps prevent amyloid plaques from forming in the brain. These amyloid plaques are a key problem in Alzheimer’s disease.

 #2: Improve Your Numbers.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes or diabetes, improving these numbers has a significant, positive impact on your brain health.  Having high blood pressure in midlife increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life. High levels of LDL-cholesterol and high blood sugar can also increase the chances of developing Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is, by improving your brain boosting diet, you’ll get triple the benefit-- lower numbers, along with keeping your heart, brain and memory healthy.

 #3: Exercise Your Body & Brain.

Yes, being active helps your brain too. Moving your muscles increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen to your brain, which is essential for mental clarity. Aerobic exercise is especially good for the brain and exercising in the morning has the added bonus of preparing the brain for learning and mental activity.

 Activities that use hand-eye coordination are especially good for keeping the brain nimble. Tennis, pickle ball, ping pong and golf are just a few to consider. Getting out in the fresh air for short walks also boosts mental clarity and creativity.

 Although more research is needed, some researchers report exercise reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50% -- Count me in for exercise! As mentioned in #2, exercise also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, and helps balance blood sugar.

 How do I exercise my brain?

The brain is no different than our muscles when it comes to using it. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” The brain needs stimulation to keep growing and improving. These mind games create new connections in the brain and help with “neuroplasticity” -- the brain’s ability to adapt and change. Here are a few examples:

●       reading

●       doing word puzzles or math problems

●       trying a new craft such as pottery, drawing, or painting

●       learning to play guitar

●       taking a dance class

●       trying a new sport

 #4: Maximize Sleep

Lack of sleep impairs problem-solving, critical thinking and memory. The best time to improve memory is during the deepest stages of sleep. So not just getting the recommended 7 ½ to 9 hours of sleep but making sure you get a solid sleep is critical. Making changes to your daytime routine and bedtime habits can significantly improve your mental clarity. Here are a few strategies to try:

·         Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed. That means turning of TV’s, computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets because the blue light triggers wakefulness and suppresses hormones that make you sleepy.

·         Establish a bedtime routine. Create a 20-minute routine that relaxes your mind and body. Examples include turning down the lights, drinking herbal tea, taking a warm bath, reading, doing stretching exercises or deep breathing exercises, and listening to relaxing music.

·         Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol. Caffeine affects people differently, but for most people it’s best to avoid caffeine after Noon. For others, they may need to avoid caffeine entirely because even that morning cup of coffee can interfere with sleep at night.  As for alcohol, too much or having a drink late in the evening can significantly disrupt sleep several hours later. You may fall asleep easily, but then be wide awake at 2am, disrupting the deep sleep your memory needs.

 #5: Minimize Stress

Although hard to measure, there is an association between high stress levels and high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high cortisol levels and Alzheimer’s disease. The stress hormone cortisol damages the cells in the memory center of the brain. A regular stress-relaxation practice is key to optimal mental performance, along with improving focus, attention and overall health.

Meditation is one example of a stress reducing technique. It’s is a great way to lower stress, and it doesn’t take a 30-minute session for it to be effective. Just a few minutes periodically throughout the day can have brain boosting benefits. A few ideas to try:

●       Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and sit quietly focusing on your breath, doing some deep breathing

●       Get out of your chair every hour and do some stretching exercises

●       Listen to 10 minutes of instrumental music as you start your day, at mid-day and before bed.

 If you want to learn more about the specifics to maximizing your memory, stay tuned for an online program I’m creating for you, along with more blogs and brain-boosting recipes!

 And of course, if you have questions, always feel free to reach out to me at jill@jillwestrd.com.

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Have you heard of Meatless Monday? It’s a campaign to encourage Americans to eat more plant-based meals while still enjoying animal protein. I love the concept because it’s so easy for me to remember on Monday to go “meatless”. Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more or want to find some meatless recipes to try. This recipe is my version of a recipe I received from the Meatless Monday folks. I hope it helps you get started with Meatless Monday (or any other favorite day of the week to go meatless).

A delicious, hearty soup that provides heart-healthy Mediterranean foods. The chickpeas, dark leafy greens and olive oil are 3 of the 10 dietary components recommended to help prevent cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In other words, this soup is excellent for keeping your brain healthy and sharp. In less than 30 minutes, you can enjoy this soup for lunch or dinner!


 Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

 ·         1 Tablespoon olive oil

·         1 medium red onion, chopped

·         1 clove garlic, minced

·         ½ fennel bulb, diced

·         Pinch of dried red pepper flakes

·         ½ cup red wine

·         2 cups canned stewed tomatoes, drained

·         4 (32 oz.) cups low sodium vegetable broth

·         1 (19oz.??) can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained

·         ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

·         ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

·         2 cups Swiss chard or spinach, chopped

·         Salt and pepper to taste

 Preparation:

1. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel and red pepper flakes. Sauté about 5 minutes or until almost translucent; add garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes.

2. Add wine and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add vegetable broth, chickpeas, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Increase heat if needed to bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat, add dark leafy greens and simmer about 5 minutes or until greens are soft and lightly cooked.

Makes 4 2-cup servings.

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KALE & BUTTERNUT SQUASH W. GOAT CHEESE

I always look for the quick and easy preparation method, so buying butternut squash already cubed is a winner for me! But if you prefer to start from scratch with a fresh butternut squash, this salad is a great way to eat left over squash the next day.

This salad is a favorite of mine because it provides 3 vibrant colors – dark green, orange and red – providing a wide variety of antioxidants. In one side dish you’ve gotten 3 of the 6 colors of the rainbow, which I encourage my clients to eat each day. Butternut squash is an excellent source of vitamins A & C, antioxidants and fiber, while kale provides an amazing amount of vitamins A, C & K. Last but not least, pumpkin seeds provide more protein than most other nuts and seeds and is an excellent source of 5 different minerals.  Enjoy great taste and loads of nutrition at the same time!

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 package pre-cubed butternut squash (16 oz.), fresh or frozen

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 large bunch Lacinato (Tuscan) kale, stemmed and thinly sliced

  • 3 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted

  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds

  • 3 Tablespoons goat cheese (optional)

Salad Dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided

  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place cubed butternut squash on baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the butternut squash with oil and spices. Spread butternut cubes evenly around pan and roast for 20-25 minutes until squash is fork tender.

  2. While the squash is roasting, toast pumpkin seeds l in a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are just golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Set aside.

  3. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and shallot until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Prepare the kale by removing stems and slicing into thin strips. Place in a large bowl and add 1-2 Tablespoons salad dressing, toss thoroughly and set aside.

  5. Add roasted squash, cranberries or pomegranate seeds; toss to combine. Add additional dressing as needed for taste preferences and store remainder in the refrigerator to use within 5 days. Transfer to salad bowls, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition per Serving:  180 calories, 7g total fat (1.5g saturated fat), 0g Trans-fat, 27g carbohydrate, 11g sugar, 4g fiber, 5g protein, 140mg sodium, 455mg potassium.

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This has to be one of my favorite desserts during apple season! The wonderful aroma of apples and cinnamon cooking is so comforting and delicious. This recipe is healthier than apple pie because there’s only one crust and even that is healthier with the oats and nuts. I’ve also made this without the brown sugar to reduce the sugar further, but either way, enjoy guilt-free!

Filling:                                                                       Topping:

6 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced              1 cup quick-cooking oats

3 Tablespoons orange juice                                   1 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons water                                              1 cup packed brown sugar

3 Tablespoons brown sugar                                   ¼ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour                                ¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon                                            1 teaspoon cinnamon

                                                                                1 cup walnuts, chopped

                                                                                ½ cup butter, melted

 Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Place apples in a 9 X 13-inch pan.

Mix brown sugar , flour and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over apples.

Combine orange juice and water, then pour over apples and stir until apples are well coated.

Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and walnuts.

Add melted butter and stir until crumbly.  Spread evenly over apples.

Bake at 350*F for about 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

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Spaghetti squash is a fabulous substitute for regular pasta because it’s full of vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. Instead of 200 calories per cup, spaghetti squash will only cost you around 45 calories per cup. my favorite way to prepare this squash is to roast it, but It can also be baked, boiled, steamed, or microwaved. Once cooked, the squash falls away like strands of spaghetti.

spaghetti squash w. meat sauce

Ingredients:

1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 lbs.)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms

1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey or beef

1 jar pasta sauce (my favorite is Whole Foods 365 portobello mushroom tomato sauce)

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional) – I like a bit of heat

½ teaspoon dried oregano

black pepper to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Fresh basil

 Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400*F.

Place squash on a baking tray and roast for about 45-60 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic red pepper flakes and dried oregano and sauté about 4 minutes or until tender.

Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink.

Add pasta sauce, stirring until thoroughly combined and bubbling.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside and keep warm.

When squash is done, remove seeds and then scrape the desired amount of spaghetti squash strands with a fork into a large bowl.

Add desired amount of meat sauce to squash and mix well.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh basil, then serve.

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I love the Fall season -- the air is crisp and the days get shorter, making it the perfect time to bring out Fall recipes that include pumpkin, apples and winter squash. These Fall foods are rich in many nutrients and add new seasonal variety as the summer fruits and vegetables disappear.

Apples --

When I was a kid, there were 3 varieties of apples available to me: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths. Today, there are so many varieties to choose from and in my opinion, they taste so much better! So I encourage you to be adventurous and choose a new variety at the store or farmer’s market that you haven’t tried before!

On the nutrition side, apples are a good source of Vitamins B and C, fiber and phytonutrients. The combination of vitamin C and phytonutrients help protect the body from free radicals associated with aging and also increase immunity to help fight off infections as we move into the winter months. Be sure to eat the skin on the apple because the phytonutrients are 3-4 times more concentrated in the peel.

On the food & eating side, eat an apple with string cheese or almond butter to boost your energy and prevent those afternoon sweets cravings. Don’t forget to add apples to yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast or add chopped apples to your salad at lunch or dinner.

Bonus: Try my Apple Crisp recipe this Fall or during the holidays for a healthier alternative to Apple Pie.

Pumpkin –

Pumpkin has many great health benefits, including being one of the best sources of beta-carotene -- an antioxidant that gives pumpkin its vibrant orange color, while helping to delay aging and reducing the risk of asthma, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Eating pumpkin is good for the heart and a great post-workout recovery food. Why? Because it’s high in potassium. Potassium is important for keeping blood pressure in check, helps restore much needed electrolytes after a heavy workout, helps prevent muscle cramping and muscle mass.

Pumpkin is also a good source of fiber. Most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber each day, so adding pumpkin to recipes you’re already making can boost the fiber content. For example, add chunks of pumpkin to soup or add a couple tablespoons of canned pumpkin to your morning oatmeal. You can also try this pasta recipe with pumpkin if you’re really adventurous!

Preparing pumpkin from scratch will provide the highest level of nutrients, but if you’re like me, I just don’t have the time to cook it and prepare it. The good news is, canned pumpkin delivers great nutrition too! Just be sure that the ingredient list is pumpkin or pumpkin and water, nothing else. Be careful because canned pumpkin pie filling looks pretty similar in the can, but doesn’t deliver the same nutrition and has lots of sugar. Make your pumpkin pie with canned pumpkin and add your own spices and sugar so you can control how much is added.

Winter Squash –

It’s recommended that we eat at least ½ cup of yellow/orange vegetables daily. Pumpkin can certainly help us reach that goal, but so can winter squash! The different varieties typically have a vivid orange or yellow flesh because of the concentration of caretonoids (antioxidants) that get converted into the active forms of vitamin A (retinoids). Only sweet potato, carrots and green leafy vegetables have more carotenoid content than winter squash.

Winter squash refers to a family of vegetables, including acorn, butternut, kabocha, buttercup, spaghetti, blue hubbard and delicata, to name a few. Each has a distinct texture and flavor, so I challenge you to try a different squash each week for 7 weeks, and you’ll have prepared each one of these. Let me know which varieties you like best and be sure to share your recipes! I’ll then share them with my friends and followers.

To help you get started, try this simple spaghetti squash recipe.

Cheers to Healthy Fall Foods!

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As I mentioned in my last post, I found several jars of pumpkin butter in the back of my cupboard when I was in the process of cleaning out before our move. I searched the internet for recipes to help me use up my pumpkin butter and with a few modifications created my own recipes.

Pumpkin Butter

 And the truth is, sweets are a real favorite of mine, and I’m a believer that all foods can be included, in moderation, in a healthy, balanced diet. So although I wouldn’t eat these bars every day, they’re a nice change from brownies, and a great dessert to bring to a get-together, especially in the Fall. I like making dessert when I can share it with others, taking away the temptation to eat them all myself.

 Ingredients

1 package white cake mix, divided

½ cup butter, melted

3 large eggs

1 (10oz.) jar pumpkin butter*

1 Tablespoon flour

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ cup pecans

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 X 13-inch baking pan.

2. Remove one cup of yellow cake mix and pour the remaining mix in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the melted butter and one egg. Press the mixture into the bottom of 9 X 13 baking pan.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin butter and 2 eggs. Pour pumpkin mixture over the cake mix.

4. Stir the reserved cup of cake mix with the flour, sugar, softened butter, cinnamon and pecans in a small bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over the pumpkin layer.

5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting into 2-inch squares.

Makes 16 servings

NOTE: I did not receive compensation in any form for products or ingredients mentioned in this blog.

 *Where to buy pumpkin butter? Trader Joe’s, Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma sell it in the Fall. There are also recipes online to make your own!

Nutrition Information per serving:

290 calories, 15g Total Fat, 7g Saturated Fat, 0mg Trans Fat, 55mg cholesterol,  34g Total Carbohydrate, 23g sugar, 0g Fiber, 3g protein, 190mg sodium, 22mg potassium

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When I was packing up for our big move, I found several jars of pumpkin butter in the back of a cupboard. I went searching for ways to use up the pumpkin butter because I hate to throw away food. If you find yourself needing to use up jars of pumpkin butter or would like to make a less traditional pumpkin recipe this Fall, give this granola recipe a try!

  Ingredients

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ cup pumpkin butter

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use instant oats)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

 Preparation:

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325*F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a small saucepan heat the butter over low-medium heat, whisking constantly. When it just starts to brown, remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl; whisk an additional 30 seconds.

3. Add the pumpkin butter, maple syrup and vanilla to the melted butter. Whisk to combine.

4. In a separate bowl, add oats, spices, pecans and pumpkin seeds. Stir until well combined.

5. Pour oat mixture into pumpkin mixture and stir until oats are well coated.

6.  Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (about 3/8 inch thick). Using a stiff spatula or wooden spoon, compress oat mixture until very compact.

7. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until golden and dry. Let cool completely, then  store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 3 ½ cups.

 Nutrition Information per ¼ cup serving:

160 calories, 9g Total Fat, 2g Saturated Fat, 5mg cholesterol, 19 g Total Carbohydrate, 8g sugar, 2g Fiber, 3g protein, 45mg sodium, 88mg potassium

Notes:

When you remove the granola from the oven it may be slightly chewy, but will harden as it cools.

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This recipe makes a perfect summer dinner. A simple marinade and quick cooking time makes this a great weekday meal. Double the recipe to create leftovers you can reheat for a Paleo lunch or dinner during the week.

 Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes (includes marinating time)

Ingredients:

·         1/3 cup red wine vinegar

·         ¼ cup olive oil

·         2 teaspoons maple syrup

·         1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

·         ½ teaspoon dried oregano

·         1 teaspoon dried basil

·         ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

·         ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

·         ¼ teaspoon salt

·         1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2 inch chunks

·         1 lb. zucchini or summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices

Preparation:

1.      In a measuring cup, combine vinegar and next 9 ingredients.

2.      Place chicken cubes in a gallon Ziploc bag or bowl and pour half of the marinade.

3.      Place the zucchini slices in a gallon Ziploc bag or bowl and pour remaining marinade.

4.      Let chicken and zucchini marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

5.      Meanwhile, soak wooden skewers in water for at least 20 minutes.

6.      Preheat grill to 400 degrees F., and assemble skewers, alternating chicken and zucchini. Discard remaining marinade.

7.      Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through.

8.      Season with salt and pepper as desired.

 Makes 4 servings

 Nutrition Information per serving:

230 Calories,  8g Total Fat,1 g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat,  65mg Cholesterol,  160mg Sodium,  7mg Potassium, 15g Total Carbohydrate,  3g Sugar,  3g Dietary Fiber,  27g Protein

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