Crackers make a handy snack to pair with fresh vegetables or protein-rich hummus, but many store-bought options are loaded with sodium and refined grains. Making crackers at home is as simple as baking a batch of cookies. The result is a whole grain snack that you can feel better about eating.
Yield: 60 crackers
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup brown rice flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine ground sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
4 tsp olive oil
½ cup + 3 tbsp warm water
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, sea salt, and black pepper.
Stir in the olive oil. Add the water and continue to stir the dough until all ingredients come together. Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured surface and knead a few times until it can be formed into a ball. Place the dough ball back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the dough back on a lightly-floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll to 1/16-inch thickness (about the thickness of a penny). Use a cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the dough into 60 2-inch crackers.
Place the crackers on a baking sheet covered in a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are crisp and browned. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Nutrition information for 4 crackers: Calories 69; Total Fat 1.5 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 93 mg; Carbohydrate 12.6 g; Fiber 1.5 g; Sugar 0 g; Protein 2 g
A whole food is a food in its natural, unprocessed form. For example, a fresh apple instead of apple juice or an apple-flavored snack. The phrase is also used when referring to unrefined whole grains, as well as beans and legumes. There are many reasons whole foods have gained a reputation for being an important part of a healthy eating plan.
Whole foods contain many unique nutrients that may not be present in the food once it’s processed. When edible skins are stripped away, the nutrients in those skins are also removed. Heat and other processing methods can also reduce antioxidants (like vitamin C) in fruits and vegetables.
For example, oranges are known for containing plant nutrients called citrus flavanones. Initial animal studies have shown that one of these compounds, called herperidin, may reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol. This flavanone is found in the peel of the orange and the white pulp within the orange, not in the juicy portion of the fruit. As a result, it may be lost when an orange is made into juice. By eating a whole orange and consuming some of the pulp, you may increase your intake of this potentially beneficial nutrient.
More Natural Dietary Fiber
When you eat a whole food, like a fresh berry or a grape, you consume more dietary fiber than if you drink the fruit as a juice or eat a yogurt with the fruit flavoring. The edible skins, seeds, and flesh of fruits and vegetables provide valuable dietary fiber that can improve heart health and digestion.
Mindful eating helps you become more aware of your eating. This allows you to recognize your hunger and fullness signals and truly enjoy your food. Mindful eating can be achieved in a number of ways, but most are associated with simply slowing down. Whole foods help slow your meal. When you have to peel a banana or remove a nut from its shell, you are prevented from eating quickly and mindlessly. More mindful eating has also been associated with weight loss.
Restaurants have come a long way in offering healthier options, but dining out when you are trying to lose weight can still be challenging. Sometimes the problem isn't a lack of healthy options but the temptation to stray from your plan due to the environment and your peers.
Do your research.
You know how it goes when you dine out with others. People arrive and the conversations begin, leaving you little time to closely review the menu. The need to make a quick choice puts you at risk for ordering an unhealthy option, especially if others at the table are doing so. Most restaurant menus can now be found online, so take the time to research before you sit down at the table. Have an idea of 3 or 4 healthy options before you arrive. Then, if you are put in a position to make a quick decision, you can make a smart choice.
Don’t skip the appetizer.
A major goal while dining out should be to avoid eating excess food, but that doesn’t mean you should skip a course to do it. If you show up hungry and everyone else orders an appetizer, you will have to sit and wait while they begin eating. You will likely be offered a bite, and there is a good chance it won’t be a healthy choice. Satisfy your hunger and resist giving in to unhealthy choices by ordering a nutritious option like a house salad or a cup of broth-based soup. You will feel less deprived and in better control of your food choices for the entire meal.
Read the menu description.
Some menu options look healthy at first glance until you read the full description. Buzzwords, like vegetarian, gluten-free, or light, don’t automatically mean a food is more nutritious or lower in calories. Instead, look for healthy keywords like broiled, baked, and steamed. Keep an eye out for heavy sauces and excess dressing. Ask how foods are prepared. Don’t be afraid to request less butter or ask for sauces on the side. Many times, chefs are willing to accommodate. Servers can also make suggestions that fit your dietary needs better.
Much like ordering an appetizer, it can be difficult to watch everyone else eat a dessert. If you’ve saved a few calories to enjoy something sweet, split a dessert with a friend and eat a few bites, just until your sweet tooth is satisfied. If you want to steer clear of dessert altogether, turn to the drink section. A decaf espresso or hot tea will allow you to have something to enjoy so that you don’t feel completely left out of the final course.
Potatoes aren’t the only option when you want a mashed side dish for your meal. Mashed beans pair well with a main course like grilled fish or chicken, and they provide extra protein and fiber. These mashed white beans are flavored with fresh herbs and smoked paprika.
Yield: 6 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
½ tbsp olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (15 oz.) cans low-sodium white beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup low-sodium vegetable stock or broth
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
¼ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp fine ground sea salt
Warm the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook for 1 more minute.
Pour in the vegetable stock and let simmer for 3 minutes, stirring the beans occasionally.
Remove the beans from the heat and add the chives, rosemary, lemon zest, smoked paprika, and salt. Use a potato masher to mash and stir the beans until almost smooth, but still slightly chunky.
Return to low heat and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mash thickens and is heated through. Serve warm.
Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 132; Total Fat 1.1 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 211 mg; Carbohydrate 23.4 g; Fiber 7.2 g; Sugar 0.5 g; Protein 8.3 g
Health experts recommend that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Adults should aim for at least 35 minutes of moderate-intensity activity daily for weight loss. This need for regular exercise provides an opportunity for families to be active together. Instead of simply exercising alone, make exercise a priority and create a family activity calendar.
Make it big and bold.
Create your calendar on a dry erase board or poster board, and place it in a prominent place in the house. For each day, list the activity you will do as a family. Making the calendar visible to everyone will help the family make exercise a top priority.
Allow everyone to choose activities.
Give everyone in the family a chance to add his or her favorite activities to the calendar. When everyone is invested in the process, the willingness to participate increases. Every month, encourage each family member to come up with at least one new activity they want to try together. The more variety there is, the more excitement there will be about being active as a family.
Think outside the box.
Your active time does not have to be reserved for structured exercise like walks or bike rides. Dance competitions, scavenger hunts, and backyard circuit workouts will get your heart rate up, and you’ll be surprised how quickly an hour will fly by. Take advantage of local trails with a nature hike, sign up to walk or run a 5K as a family, or create games for the pool. Grab the soccer ball or basketball and head to the park for a family game. The goal is to make exercise fun for everyone.
Sticking to an activity schedule is an accomplishment that should be celebrated and rewarded. An afternoon movie, a healthy cooking class for kids, new books, puzzles, educational games, and new sports gear are all rewards that support a balanced, healthy lifestyle.