Balsamic Tomato, Chicken & Avocado Salad

This week I wanted to share with you a quick and simple recipe that I created and enjoyed last weekend.  It is a recipe that was inspired by a favorite restaurant dish of mine and a result of me craving this restaurant dish and, at the same time, craving cooking in my own kitchen (as I have done very little of this recently and saw very little of this happening later in the week).  After giving it a good amount of thought, I decided, "Why not compromise and bring a spin on the dish to my very own kitchen?!"  Done and done.

This is a very simple recipe, but with its warm baked chicken, thick sliced tomatoes, chunks of fresh avocado and crumbles of feta, it is one that is satisfying and delicious.  I don't know about you but when the days get longer and the weather is warm and sunny I want to stay out and about as long as possible and I start to crave those fresh and fueling spring and summer dishes.  Just thinking about it is getting me excited for all of the summer fruits and vegetables to come, eek!  This dish was the perfect fresh and filling dinner for a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon.  I texted a picture to my fiancé later (b/c of course I took a picture) and he said to add it to our go-to list of dinners :)  Fiance approved!

Here is the recipe for my Balsamic Tomato, Chicken & Avocado Salad.  It is a perfect dinner for one, for two, for three, or even more!  It can be thrown together after a big day of running around or playing outside with the family when you want something filling and fueling but not hot and heavy on a warm sunny day.  It pairs well with warm crusty bread, warm oven-baked pita and hummus, or oven-baked tortilla chips and your favorite salsa.  If I were serving this outside for friends and family, I would also serve it with a fun sparkling water with hints of lime and mint and / or cucumber.  Or for the adults, I would serve it with a cool and crisp margarita or refreshing basil - lime cocktail.  I have made this a go-to recipe and I hope this recipe also gives you another quick and simple dish to add to your everyday dinners and your moments-notice dinner party ideas.  Enjoy!

Balsamic Tomato, Chicken & Avocado Salad

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • Two 6- 8 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 2 vine tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons crumbed feta
  • 1 avocado, diced into medium dices
  • 4 tablespoons good Balsamic vinegar (plus more to taste if desired)
  • 4 hearts of palm, each chopped into about 6 dices
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed greens

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  3. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons olive oil over each chicken breast, turning the chicken to ensure each one is evenly coated in olive oil.
  4. Season each chicken breast with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  5. Place chicken in preheated oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until internal temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit (using a meat thermometer) and the juices run clear.  Cook time may vary depending on your oven and the thickness of the chicken breasts.
  6. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to rest about 5 to 10 minutes.  Then slice each chicken breast into about 1/2 - inch thick slices..
  7. To plate the dish:
    1. Place about 4 or 5 tomato slices on each dinner plate as the base of the dish (overlapping the tomatoes a little).
    2. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over each plate of tomatoes.
    3. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of crumbled feta over each plate of balsamic & tomatoes.
    4. Top each plate of tomatoes with the sliced chicken (creating sort of a second layer).  I would do about 3 - 4 ounces of chicken per plate, which means you will probably have leftover chicken for lunches later in the week!
    5. Divide the chopped avocado evenly between the two plates, toping the chicken and tomato (1/2 avocado for each dish).
    6. Sprinkle the top of each dish with 1 more tablespoon of crumbled feta (using your remaining 2 tablespoons of feta).
    7. Divide the diced hearts of palm evenly between both plates, topping the dish and placing around the sides of the tomatoes.
    8. Drizzle each dish with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (using remaining 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar).
    9. Divide the mixed greens evenly between both plates, serve and enjoy!

Serve It Again!   The great thing about this dish is that any leftover ingredients can be incorporated into a variety of dishes later in the week.  One of my favorites is to turn a salad into a bowl, adding quinoa as the base, or creating a stuffed pita or wrap.  To create the stuffed pita or wrap, simply take all of these ingredients, chopping the tomatoes, and roll them into a whole wheat wrap or tortilla and pair with fruit, crackers, a small cup of soup, and / or veggies and hummus for a quick and simple weekday lunch. 

Cinnamon Apple Nut Butter Toast

I can't quite remember how I came up with this recipe.  I'm pretty sure I was sitting at the office, working on a meal plan for someone, trying to incorporate foods that they enjoy into their plan when apples came into the picture.  Knowing me, that train of thought probably went something like....  (1) I love apples, especially in the fall (2)  I wonder how they would taste sautéed or roasted? (3) Oooo, what is something different that I could do with roasted apples?  (4) I need more breakfast ideas for my clients (5) Hmm, how could I add them to breakfast?? (6) Oh!  I'll top them on my peanut butter toast!  (7)  And THEN, I can save the leftovers and warm them up in my oatmeal the NEXT morning! (8)  Yes.  Done.

Yep - that was probably my thought process, seemingly scattered yet conclusive all at the same time.  And the good thing is that all of these ingredients are staples in my pantry and, therefore, no grocery store trip needed!  Win!  So, the next morning, after the above mentioned brainstorming session, I gave this recipe a try.  Everything was pretty quick except for cooking the apples.  It took a bit of time to get those soft and warmed through and sweetened, but I just used that time to clean up the kitchen!  And when I sat down and took my first bite, it certainly seemed worth the wait.  As I took my last bite I stated wishing that I made 2 slices instead of just one.

With this dish you get the classic apple and peanut butter combo, but with a hint of cinnamon and honey.  It's like putting apple jam on your toast, except So. Much. Better.  You get the opposing textures of the crunchy toast with the soft apples along with the pop of the sweet from the cinnamon that enhances the drizzle of honey.  All senses combine here for a great spin on your standard apple and peanut butter snack and your morning peanut butter toast.  A very compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning and a great way to start the day if you ask me.  And the good thing is that it's really pretty simple!  Plus, if you go ahead and cook a bunch of apples (more than what is needed for the recipe), you can store them in the fridge and heat up the following morning or later that week to top more toast, heat up in you morning oatmeal, or to top waffles or pancakes!

Here you go - a recipe for Cinnamon Apple Nut Butter Toast...

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

CINNAMON APPLE NUT BUTTER TOAST

Serves 1; Makes 1 slice

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 teaspoon butter (or canola oil for a healthier fat option)
  • 1 slice hearty whole grain bread
  • 1 apple, diced into small dices (about 2 cups diced) -  I recommend a sweeter variety vs. tart (also - you are only going to use about 1/4 cup of the cooked cinnamon apples for 1 slice of toast, but go ahead and cook all in case you want another slice or want to use later in the week!)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon your favorite nut or seed butter (peanut, almond, sunflower, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon local honey

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Toast your bread in a toaster, OR .... 
  2. .... Melt about 1/4 teaspoon of butter in a skillet on medium heat and then toast your bread in the skillet, toasting it about 4 minutes per side.  Watch carefully so that it does not burn!  Once bread is browned and toasted on both sides, remove from skillet and set on your serving plate.
  3. In a small mixing bowl combine the diced apples, cinnamon, lemon juice & 1/2 teaspoon honey and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula until the apple dices are coated.             
  4. Using the same skillet, melt the remaining 1/4 teaspoon butter (or canola oil) on medium heat. 
  5. Add the apple mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and warm, about 15 - 20 minutes and then cover and cook about 4 - 5 minutes more (the smaller dices you make your apples, the faster they will cook).
  6.  Top toasted bread with 1 tablespoon nut or seed butter.
  7. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon honey over nut/seed butter (spread with knife if desired).
  8. Top toast with about 1/4 cup cooked cinnamon apples.
  9. Serve & enjoy!
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Taylored Pantry Top 10: FRUITS

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Hello again!  It's another week and so another look into my pantry staples.  Today I'm giving you insight into one of my faaaavorite go-to's - fruits!  I seriously love fruit.  I have to give myself a limit before walking into the store or else I will get over zealous and buy too much!  I think most of my friends out there can attest to how much I am a fan.  Growing up I always had fruit in my lunches and mom would always slice fresh fruit and leave it on the counter for me and my friends.  During college it was always present in the fridge, whether dorm life or our super fun house.  Today I always have two or three varieties in my fridge, freezer or on the counter ready to throw into dishes when cooking or to grab as a snack as I head out the door.

Now, I know why I have fruits in MY kitchen- but why should YOU have fruits in yours?  What can you do with them? When pressed for time, which ones can you quickly grab and know that, while you don't have a plan in mind yet, the fruits you choose will still get used at some point that week?

There are many ways you can think through this, but I thought I would start off with a little insight into my thinking and how I come up with my list for the week.

 MY PLAN...

First I do a quick survey of my week, asking myself a number of questions...

  1. What will my schedule be like this week?
  2. How many days will I need to bring a lunch?
  3. How many nights will I be cooking my own dinner?
  4. Do I have any breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings?
  5. What, if any, fruits do I already have in my pantry / fridge / freezer?

Then, once I have determined the answers to those, I ask...

  1. What do I have in my pantry for breakfast?  Will I want to pair fruit with it?
  2. Is there any meal I want to make this week that includes fruit in it (for example, my cherry nut butter bars, a turkey, pear, and brie panini, a salad with sweet juicy sliced strawberries, or a chicken salad that incorporates plump red seedless grapes)?
  3. How many lunches will I be bringing this week?  I always like including a fruit with lunch.

And when answering these questions I also keep the current season in mind.  Is it June at a time when those summer berries are at their sweetest and juciest?  Or is it November when those fall fruits like apples and pears are at their prime?

These are questions that can be asked as you sit and create your grocery list or as you're walking into the store.  Whether I have had some time to meal plan or I'm simply maximizing the 20 minutes I have between meetings, errands, planning, and, of course, fun things one or more of the following fruits usually makes it into my grocery cart.

SO, here is this week's Taylored Pantry Top 10 - FRUITS.   I hope it gives you info and ideas to simplify your shopping this coming week and this year!

Oh - and please leave a comment if you have great ideas using any of these or other fruits.  I would love to hear about them and am always looking for new ideas!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

TAYLORED PANTRY TOP TEN:  FRUITS

Benefits of Fruits:  Fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, many of these acting as antioxidants.  Fruits are typically high in vitamin C, can be great sources of carotenoids like beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene (help support healthy eyes and vision and can be converted to vitamin A in the body), and potassium just to name a few fantastic nutritional benefits.  PLUS, did you realize that fruits are another way we can increase our fluid intake?!  Fruits are about 90% water and so can add to our hydration plan - definitely something to consider for athletes out there who have trouble getting enough fluids throughout the day.  

  1. BANANAS
    • Uses: snacks on their own | top cold or hot cereal or yogurt | slice onto peanut butter toast | use in breads when baking to add moisture when removing butter and high fat ingredients | spread with nut or seed butter for a simple snack | create a sweet snack by topping a vanilla wafer with peanut butter and a banana slice | freeze and use later for smoothies | great nutritious way to thicken smoothies & desserts.
    • To Know: High in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber | potassium can help manage blood pressure and proper nerve & muscle communication.  It can also reduce the risk of bone loss as we age | vitamin C promotes healthy joints, skin, hair & a healthy immune system by helping the body build collagen & protecting against infection & cell damage | vitamin B6 helps the body maintain a steady metabolism, produce energy, and fight disease & infection.
  2. GRAPES
    • Uses:  snacks on their own | cheese & grape skewers | add to spinach salads | add to chicken salads | roast them | freeze them for frozen bite - size treats.
    • To Know: high in fiber, water & anthocyanins | anthocyanins are compounds with antioxidant properties that may help reduce one's risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive decline (find more info on anthocyanins in Today's Dietitian: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030314p20.shtml).
  3. FROZEN BLUEBERRIES
    • Uses: Topping to ice cream or frozen yogurt add to baked crumbles | mix into warm oatmeal topped with cinnamon and a dab of honey | mix into plain or vanilla yogurt & top with granola for a breakfast parfait (the blueberries melt into the yogurt & disperse the blueberry juice goodness throughout the yogurt, mmm) | throw into pancake or waffle batter for Saturday blueberry pancakes or waffles | throw into breakfast breads and muffins | throw into a smoothie.
    • To Know:  excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium & folate | fiber helps keep you full, promotes a healthy GI system and can help lower cholesterol | vitamin A helps build a strong immune system, is critical to good vision, and is important for healthy functioning organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys | folate is important for cell division, the assembly of DNA and other genetic material and it helps prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy.
  4. APPLES
    • Uses: Snack on their own | slice and dip in peanut butter or serve with cheese slices | slice and top salads | dice & incorporate into chicken salads | cut in half, peel & core, fill with cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar and a smidgen of butter and bake in the oven for a heavenly dessert | add to rolled oats when cooking oatmeal over the stove and let simmer with the oats as they cook | sauté in the skillet with some cinnamon & lemon juice and top peanut butter toast (my own recipe coming soon!).
    • To Know: great sources of vitamin C and fiber.  
  5. PEARS OR PEACHES
    • Uses:  Eat on their own | top salads (grilled or fresh) | top cold or hot cereal | blend pears into a delicious salad dressing (another recipe coming to the blog soon!), bake or caramelize in a skillet and top with ice cream or frozen yogurt | add sliced pears to sandwiches and grilled paninis.
    • To Know:  I say "or" here because pears are a fall / winter fruit and peaches are a summer fruit.  Therefore, peaches are my go - to's in the summer months while pears are my go-to's in the fall and winter months | Pears are good sources of fluid, fiber, vitamin C, and contain some potassium!
  6. GRAPE TOMATOES
    • Uses: serve with hummus or other dip for a simple snack | roast in the oven for about 8 minutes until bursting and add to pastas, stir fries, pizzas, toast, you name it!  I will roast these at the beginning of the week and use them in anything I can throughout the week!  | add to cottage cheese for a protein and nutrient - packed snack | slice and combine with cubed fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and drizzles of good extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar for a wonderful Caprese salad | Add to salads & sandwiches.
    • To Know:  The lycopene content of tomatoes becomes more available to the body when cooked!  So go ahead and roast those tomatoes!  Ellie Krieger (one of my FAVORITE RD's and chefs) has an interesting article on tomato facts that you can find here .
  7. DRIED FIGS OR APPLE RINGS
    • Uses:  one of my go-to pre-run or pre-workout snacks b/c such a quick source of energy | great for car & plane snacks when traveling (no apple core to throw our or juice dripping everywhere!).
    • To Know: figs are a great travel snack and a quick source of carbohydrate plus fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, & vitamin K. | iron plays a key role in oxygen transport, enabling our red blood cells to transport oxygen to all of our tissues (such as skin & muscles) | vitamin K plays an important factor in helping our blood clot.
  8. DRIED CHERRIES, CRANBERRIES OR RAISINS
    • Uses: quick snacks before a workout | top salads | add to warm oatmeal | add to homemade granola bar mixes | throw in a baggie with cereal and some nuts for a touch of sweetness in a trail mix.
    • To Know: Cherries are a great source of fiber, carbohydrate, potassium & vitamin A.  On a bit of a different note, recent studies are also finding that tart cherry juice may have benefits on heart health, fighting inflammation from disease, and aiding in post - exercise recovery.  
  9. LEMONS
    • Uses: add to homemade salad dressings | add to salads and sauces | flavor beverages | squeeze a little on diced fruit to keep from turing brown as quickly incorporate into vegetable dishes (for example: squeezing over broccoli or asparagus after cooked) | squeeze over baked or grilled salmon or other fish zest some of the peel into cookies, cakes or breads.
    • To Know: citrus fruit full of vitamin C!
  10. LIMES
    • Uses: flavor beverages | squeeze a little juice over diced avocado to keep it from turning brown | squeeze into soups like Chicken Tortilla for an added element - it's delicious!
    • To Know:  citrus fruit full of vitamin C!

 

 

Movie Star Moments & the Beginning of the Blog...

It was a "blah" Tuesday morning and I was home recovering from being sick.  I was in that state where you're now functioning but you're not well enough to return to work or be out of the house, which for all of us Type A Achievers out there, is borderline TORTURE (although my roommate told me the floorboards in our apartment had never been cleaner - so I guess there's a win there?).

I turned on a morning news and talk show while eating my slice of Whole Foods Seeduction bread (yummy) with peanut butter & banana slices and saw that a famous actress, who was actually one of my favorites, was up to be interviewed next.  "Oh fun!" I thought.  "So this is what comes on TV during the workday while I'm at the office."  However, as the topic of her interview was announced I felt a surge of angst.  She would be discussing a new health and nutrition book she had written... hmmmmm.  At the time I was a practicing dietitian with about 5 years of clinical and wellness experience, not including my 6 years of school and 16-month dietetic internship, with a surfacing passion for nutrition writing and education.

Wanting to write but knowing nothing about website design or blogging and only a snippet about marketing, I had been stuck in a state of limbo for some time, staring apprehensively at the mountain of learning that would lie ahead of me.  Well, apparently this is what I needed to light the fire and get me to start tackling that mountain.  I was stuck at home, unable to get out, nothing to work on, and a growing sense of unease building within me.  I sat there and, as I watched an actress with no scientific clinical nutrition background (although I'm sure she had ghostwriters of some sort) promote the "nutrition book" she had just published, which was probably going to be uber successful, I said out loud, "This is crazy."  As I continued to listen, I thought, "THIS is why I need to write." While she may have had reputable experts ghostwriting for her it was not clear, and it still reminded me of the hundreds and hundreds of people writing, speaking, or teaching about nutrition without any solid nutrition and scientific background.  It struck a major chord and I decided, "If she is doing it, I'M doing it!"

With that, I pulled out my laptop, turned off the TV, googled "how to begin a blog", and thus began the adventures of The Dining Dietitian.

I hope that my posts so far and all of those to come are interesting, informative and give you a bit more insight into the exciting but sometimes confusing world of food and nutrition! 

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Taylored Pantry Top 10: GRAINS

This year I will be doing different segments on the blog.  There will be various recipes, which I will label as my "Kitchen Concoctions", both those that are crazy simple and those that are a bit more in depth, there will be nutrition information in my "Fun Food Facts" segments and there will be what I will call "Quick Picks", which will range from restaurant finds to grocery list picks.

TODAY, to kick things off, I'm going to introduce my first segment of Quick Picks that I'll be doing to kick of 2017, which I'm calling my Taylored Pantry Top 10's.  In 2016 one of my most frequent requests from clients, friends and busy moms and dads was, "Can you just send me a list of the things I should grab at the store to whip up something quick and healthy?".  Some people simply needed to know what to buy and then they could take it from there.  I realized that, for some, the thought alone of entering the grocery store was overwhelming and so was their biggest obstacle to getting healthy food choices in the home (and thus into work and school lunches).   So, I will be sharing with you a different Top 10 list each week for the next 4 to 5 weeks.  My hope is that it gives you ideas, information and understanding as you enter into this new year and makes it so that on days you are pressed for time, you can run into the store and quickly pick out items to get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table or in the lunchbox that week!  

I will start my Taylored Pantry Top 10's with GRAINS These are the grains that I typically have on-hand in my pantry to help throw together a quick and healthier breakfast, lunch or dinner any day of the week.  I do not always have all 10 but I usually have about 4 or 5 and I switch it up to keep meals from getting monotonous.  These typically keep pretty well so that I can use them right away for a planned recipe or I can store them and pull them out when in a bind.  Also, please note, I am not working with any of the following brands; these are strictly my preferences based off of experience and label and ingredient reviews.  Other dietitians may have a different Top 10, but here is what has and continues to work for me and for clients that I have worked with in the past.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

Taylored Pantry Top 10:  GRAINS  

Benefits of Grains:  Whole grains are a must for my pantry.  They add fiber, a little protein and complex carbohydrate, along with iron, folate, magnesium and a myriad of other nutrients.  They help keep me fueled for long days, help me recover after intense workouts, and keep me full for days I'm just feeling extra hungry.  Grab some grains and make them a part of your pantry....

  1. OLD FASHIONED ROLLED OATS
    •  Uses:  Oatmeal for breakfast or a snacks | include it in homemade granola bars | include it in homemade cookies | add to casseroles.       
    • My Picks:  I usually grab my oats from the bulk bin at the grocery store.  You can get as much or as little as you want and it is SUPER friendly on the wallet.
  2. WHOLE GRAIN CEREAL (maybe 2 varieties - 1 natural & 1 regular)      
    • Uses:  Easy breakfast served with low-fat milk or yogurt | throw it in a baggie for a snacks on the go | include it in a homemade trail mix.          
    • My Picks:  Barbara's brand Morning Oat Crunch (Original variety) & Spoonfuls (fiber + protein + lower sugar content = winning combo!).  I also love basic plain Cheerios and Quaker Oatmeal Squares (again, fiber + protein + lower in sugar)               
    • To Know:  Many times "Natural" cereals are low in iron because nothing is added to them / they are not fortified during processing (Example:  Quaker Oatmeal Squares contains about 90% daily iron needs while Barbara's Morning Oat Crunch only contains about 10%).  If iron is a concern for you, and your favorite cereals are labeled "natural" (which, be careful - that does NOT mean healthier), you may want to alternate between your favorite "natural" cereal and a regular cereal, mix the two, or switch over completely.  And don't forget to include a source of vitamin C with it (orange juice, strawberries, etc.) for optimal iron absorption!                                                                          
  3. WHOLE GRAIN BREAD    
    • Uses:  Toast in the morning | avocado toast any time :) | sandwiches for lunch or dinner | egg breakfast sandwiches | croutons for salads (once it is a little stale) | French toast | freeze it for later use!
    • My Picks:  I love the whole grain bread by Dave's Killer bread and Central Market's Chia & Flax Seed bread.  The hearty quality and all of the seeds in the bread give it a deep, hearty, nutty flavor when toasted, mmmmmm.     
    • To Know:  Make sure the first ingredient in the Ingredient List says "whole wheat" or "whole grain".  Don't just go off of what it says on the front of the package.                                                                 
  4. WHOLE WHEAT PITA OR FLATBREAD  
    • Uses:  So many possibilities!  Stuff the pita with your favorite sandwich fixings and wrap up for lunch at school, work or on the go | eat it cold or grill it in a panini press for a quick hot dinner sandwich | stuff with scrambled eggs & cheese for a quick breakfast on the go | cut into triangles, drizzle with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes for your own baked pita chips | use a whole pita as a pizza crust for individual pizzas and top with marinara and fun toppings before baking in the oven!                              
    • My Picks:  I really don't have a "go-to" for pita bread.  As long as "whole - wheat flour" is that first ingredient, I am good.  Regarding flatbreads & wraps I tend to like the Flat-out flatbread products.  They have a good texture, good flavor and they work well as wraps and flatbread (I use them for my turkey lime avocado wrap - recipe coming soon to the blog).
  5. QUINOA / BULGUR / BARLEY
    • Uses:  Morning hot cereal (quinoa) | the base of a cold lunch salad bowl | a complement to dinner (add in various ingredients like pine nuts, spinach & feta or sun dried tomatoes) | an ingredient in soups & stews.     
    • My Picks:  I also like to get these from the bulk bins at the grocery store.  I can get just what I need and it is usually more budget friendly.                                                                                                                    
  6. WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS       
    • Uses: An easy snack | pair with peanut butter, hummus, or cheese | serve with soup | eat them on their own.    
    • My Picks:  I usually go for Kashi's 7 Grain crackers but I also like Crunchmaster's original crackers (which are gluten - free for those with a gluten allergy or sensitivity) and Mary's Gone Crackers.
  7. WHOLE WHEAT PENNE     
    • Uses:  An easy pasta night (play with the ingredients like marinara sauce or fresh roasted tomatoes & basil or a little lemon, olive oil and capers, yum!) | incorporate into macaroni & cheese | create a cold pasta salad.    
    • To Know:  Whole - wheat pasta can be tougher than white refined pasta.  Try to cook your whole - wheat pasta a bit longer to better reach your desired texture.
  8. POPCORN
    • Uses:  Great snack any time | buy it plain and add your own flavors like grated Parmesan, cinnamon, chili powder, etc. | 3 cups = 1 serving so you get a lot more per serving than a snack of potato chips!
  9. LOWER SUGAR GRANOLA CERAL 
    • Uses:  Easy topping for yogurt in the morning or afternoon snack | topping for ice cream or frozen yogurt (yep, I said ice cream!) | add into unsweetened cereal for a little bite of sweetness.
    • My Picks:  My favorite store-bought is KIND Cinnamon Oat Clusters with Flax Seed and I also love making my own when I have time either using the recipe a friend of mine gave me or using the Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte
    • To Know:  a lot of granolas are higher in sugar and are more calorie dense.  I found this one to be a good compromise between nutrition and taste.  But as with all granolas, remember to watch your portions.  Serving sizes are typically smaller for granola than the average dry cereal.
  10. WHOLE GRAIN FROZEN WAFFLES            
    •  Uses:  Fun breakfast for kids ( and adults), you can top with nut butter, fruit, yogurt, or honey.  In a youth (grades K - 5) nutrition & fitness program I have been involved in over the last 3 to 4 years, one of the recipes the kids make is called a "wafflewich".  It is a regular whole - wheat waffle topped with vanilla yogurt, fresh fruit, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and then topped with another waffle (if desired) to create a waffle sandwich.  The kids love it - it has been a hit every year!