What Goes Well With Strawberries?

As I mentioned in my previous post about leaning into vegetarianism, I’ve been taking advantage of the many delicious and healthy foods that are abundant this summer season.

Along with other summer staples like avocados, tomatoes, watermelon and corn, I’ve been serving my family a lot of strawberries lately.

Here are some of my favorite pairings with strawberries:

  • Chocolate
  • Nutella
  • Bananas
  • Cream
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Pancakes/Waffles
  • Cheesecake
  • Lemonade
  • Balsamic Vinegar

For a quick non-dairy and sugar-free healthy snack for your family, enjoy my quick, inexpensive and super easy Strawberry Banana Smoothie recipe:

1 cup of ripe bananas

1 cup of ripe strawberries

2 cups of unsweetened almond milk

Handful of ice cubes

Blend ingredients on high until smooth and creamy.

Read more about the wonderful benefits of strawberries here.

Browse through the most popular strawberry recipes here.

DISCUSSION:

  • What are your favorite pairings with strawberries?
  • What are your favorite strawberry recipes?

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I Want To Become A Vegetarian

I’ve been flirting with the idea of becoming a vegetarian. Having a meatless diet has never been an attractive option to me before, but for some reason recently, my body has been yearning for more natural and plant-based foods. I’ve also developed an aversion to meat lately. No, I’m not pregnant by the way. I’m just curious about transitioning into a vegetarian-focused diet.

I’ve been studying the benefits of having a vegetarian lifestyle. One of the most helpful articles I read listed the following as some of the many benefits of being a vegetarian:

1. Lower risk of lung and colorectal cancer. A diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and fiber can help reduce the risk of lung disease and related illnesses.

2. Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is becoming more common with the rise of obesity around the world, and vegetarian diets may even prevent this disease by including complex carbohydrates and fiber that help the body manage insulin more efficiently.

3. Healthy skin. Diets rich in water-based and plant foods are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins-ideal for healthier skin every season.

4. Chemical-free food. Meat-based diets take in animal cells and fats, along with chemicals and byproducts used on the animals during processing. This can include chemicals sprayed on the dead animal, preservatives, and other unnatural ingredients used for packaging and mass distribution.

5. Hormone-free eating. Unlike many meats we buy at the grocery store, fruits, vegetables, and soy products are not injected with growth hormones and “fillers” that may harm the human body.

6. Increased energy. With the body spending less time digesting animal protein, an energy boost is a nice side effect.

7. Lower blood pressure. Vegan and vegetarian diets can be naturally low in fat and sodium, helping reduce blood pressure and improve circulation instead.

8. Improved digestion. Plant-based foods and fresh fruits are rich in fiber, improving the digestion and elimination process.

9. Lower risk of Diabetes. Steady blood sugar is easily achieved with a nutritious vegetarian diet. The cycle of blood sugar peaks and crashes is almost eliminated without the meat and unhealthy carb combinations.

10. Lower grocery shopping bills. By shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and stocking up on high-fiber, highly nutritious food, vegetarians can eliminate almost 25% of their food budgets without pounds of meat on the bill. In some cases this balances out if the vegetarian shopper chooses to buy premium vegetable brands and gourmet ingredients, but average costs do tend to be much lower per trip.

11. Toxin-free food. Some studies suggest that when animals experience fear, the adrenaline rush causes a release of epinephrine, steroids, and other stress hormones into the bloodstream. These are then ingested by the meat eater, presenting a range of toxins that can accumulate in the blood.

12. Healthy amino acids. Plant-based proteins (e.g. soy) can be an excellent source of amino acids that help with protein assimilation and metabolism.

13. Low or no saturated fat. Vegetarian menus typically use all-natural oils and cooking methods to enhance flavor. This is free of unhealthy saturated fat which can lead to a variety of heart problems and cardiovascular disease.

14. Increased life span. With the body in harmony and free of harmful toxins and chemical buildup, vegetarians may live longer than their fellow meat eaters.

15. Appreciation for simple flavors. After eliminating meat from the diet, it becomes much easier to differentiate flavors and get a real taste for fruits and vegetables. Palettes can become much more sensitive to different flavors, textures, and combinations.

16. Healthy cholesterol levels. Without unhealthy meat and fat sources in the diet, cholesterol levels of vegetarians can be considerably lower and easily fall into a healthy range.

17. Lower risk of cancer. With a diet rich in antioxidants, phytochemical, and vitamins, vegetarians naturally lower their risk of cancer and other diseases. Meat eaters, especially those that indulge in fatty meats are at a much higher risk of cancer.

Impressive right?!?

Just reading this list once makes me even more convinced and inspired to learn how to become a vegetarian!

To explore this new chapter of my life, I will be entering several posts in the future about how I’m learning to become a vegetarian. Here are some of the questions I will examine:

  • How do I become a vegetarian?
  • Should I gradually lean into becoming a vegetarian? Or just give up meat all at once?
  • Once I’ve eliminated meat from my diet, will my body experience withdrawals?
  • What does a vegetarian grocery list look like?
  • Will my vegetarian meals still be satisfying?
  • How do I supplement protein and iron in my diet?
  • Should I also only feed my toddler vegetarian meals? How will having a vegetarian lifestyle affect my child?
  • What are the good “starter” vegetarian recipes I should try first?
  • What if I only eat lean meat like turkey, chicken breast and fish? Will this be a more satisfying alternative to being a complete vegetarian? In other words, instead of converting to a meatless diet, is having a “less meat” diet just as healthy?
  • Or does eliminating meat completely from my diet really that much healthier?
  • What about becoming a vegan?
  • What are the added benefits of having a non-dairy diet in conjunction with vegetarianism? Should I consider having a non-dairy diet in addition to a vegetarian diet to really optimize my health?
  • What are the most helpful books, websites and magazines for vegetarians?
  • Can I really make the commitment to becoming a vegetarian?

I look forward to learning all the answers to my very curious questions about vegetarianism.

I’m not quite sure (yet) how to become a vegetarian, how to maintain a being a vegetarian, or if I will even like the vegetarian lifestyle.

What I do know for sure is that I want to live a long and healthy life so I can grow old and gracefully with my husband but also more importantly, so I can be an example of healthy and abundant living for our son. For these profound reasons, vegetarianism is certainly worth exploring.

Please come back regularly as I share with you my journey to becoming a vegetarian!

DISCUSSION:

  • How did you transition towards a vegetarian lifestyle?

Share your story, your story matters.

Converting To Greek Yogurt

Have you noticed that Greek yogurts are so heavily advertised nowadays? I don’t recall Greek yogurts ever being so prevalent as they have been recently. There’s a variety of brands available now: Oikos, Chobani, Fage. Surely you’ve seen the several Greek yogurt commercials on TV (my favorite is the one with Uncle Jesse aka John Stamos). Even the more popular yogurt brands like Dannon and Yoplait have released their own Greek yogurt versions.

I sampled all the Greek yogurt brands I mentioned above, but I found that most were too tart for my liking.

After trying several brands, the kind I really enjoyed the most was Yoplait’s Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt. It’s unexpectedly so good!

I’m definitely converted! So here’s why: Unlike the other Greek yogurt brands which left me feeling like I was eating a bowl of heavy sour cream, Yoplait’s Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt is slightly tart, but the faint sweetness from the honey cuts right through the tartness. The vanilla flavor is actually quite pronounced in this yogurt which is great for a vanilla lover like me. What I also like is that Yoplait’s Greek Yogurt is thick and hearty and made me feel fuller longer.

As you can tell, my son is also a fan : )

According to a U.S. News Health online article, here are the main benefits of Greek yogurt:

  • Protein. Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps promote fullness. That makes it particularly appealing to vegetarians, who sometimes struggle to get enough of the nutrient.
  • Carbohydrates. Going Greek is a smart choice for low-carb dieters. It contains roughly half the carbs as the regular kind of yogurt. Plus, the straining process removes some of the milk sugar, lactose, making Greek yogurt less likely to upset the lactose-intolerant.
  • Fat. Whether it’s Greek or regular yogurt, stick to low-fat and fat-free versions.
  • Sodium. A serving of Greek yogurt averages 50 milligrams of sodium – about half the amount in most brands of regular yogurt.
  • Calcium. Greek yogurt loses some of its calcium through the straining process, but still packs a wallop. A 6-ounce cup typically supplies about 20 percent of the daily recommendation.

I compared the nutrition facts between Yoplait’s Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Yoplait’s Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt (what I usually eat every day). Check out these numbers! The Greek yogurt version is so much healthier!

Yoplait’s Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt (6 ounces) Nutrition Facts

  • Calories:100
  • Calories from Fat: 0
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 5mg
  • Sodium: 80mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 16g
  • Sugars: 12g
  • Protein: 8g

Yoplait’s Strawberry Low Fat Yogurt (6 ounces) Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 170
  • Calories from Fat: 15
  • Total fat: 1.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Trans fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 10mg
  • Sodium: 85mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Sugars: 26g
  • Protein: 5g

As you can see, Yoplait’s Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt, has no fat, is low in sodium, low in carbs and sugar, but high in protein. Plus the flavor is perfectly sweet and very satisfying!

Yoplait’s Honey Vanilla Greek Yogurt has become my absolute favorite because the flavors are just as appealing as its health benefits! Its tartness is not as strong as the other Greek yogurts out there.

If you’ve been thinking about trying Greek yogurts, this is definitely the best version to start with.

Let me know what you think once you try it! Maybe you’ll be converted like me and my toddler : )

Evan couldn’t get enough!

DISCUSSION

  • Does your family enjoy Greek yogurt?
  • What are your favorite Greek yogurt brands and flavors?

Share your story, your story matters.

Crispy Grilled Avo-Cheesy Sandwich

When I want to make something special for my husband Randy, I make him my Crispy Grilled Avo-Cheesy Sandwich. Randy says he gets sad every time he gets down to the last two bites because he doesn’t want the sandwich to end!

Try my delicious version of this classic comfort food that’s both satisfying and nutritious.

INGREDIENTS

4 slices of Oroweat Oatnut Bread

1 to 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread

2 thick slices of lean honey ham or oven-roasted turkey

4 slices of 2% White American Cheese Singles

1 large ripe avocado, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon of good quality olive oil

PREPARATION

  1. Place a non-stick skillet (lightly coated with olive oil) on medium heat for 1 minute.
  2. Place the ham or turkey slices on the warm skillet until lightly brown on both sides. Set aside.
  3. Smear one side of each bread slice with the buttery spread. Make sure to cover the edges of the bread! This makes for a crispy sandwich!
  4. Build your sandwich. I like the sandwich in this order:
    • Bread (buttered side facing out)
    • Cheese
    • Ham or Turkey
    • Avocado
    • Cheese
    • Bread (buttered side facing out)
  5. Place your sandwich on a hot non-stick skillet.
  6. Flip the sandwich with a large spatula until both sides are browned to your liking.

NOTES

I use Oroweat’s Oatnut Bread because it has no trans fat and I like the bread’s texture from the hazelnuts. You can also use 7 Grain or 12 Grain bread.

I am so happy to have found Earth Balance products! I really love their Original Buttery Spread. It’s non-dairy, lactose-free and gluten free but it’s still creamy with that rich buttery taste and also very easy to spread.

Spend the extra couple of bucks on freshly sliced ham or turkey from your supermarket’s deli. You can certainly taste the difference in quality!

I prefer using 2% White American Cheese because it melts so nicely. It’s perfect if you want that soft velvety texture on your grilled cheese sandwich!

Learn how to safely cut, peel and slice an avocado here.

DISCUSSION:

  • What are your favorite variations of the classic grilled cheese sandwich?
  • What dishes do you make that your family just can’t get enough of?

Share your story, your story matters.

Glowing Green Slushie

I’m thrilled that so many of you have enjoyed my Glowing Green Smoothie recipe.

My family and I continue to enjoy this drink everyday, it’s just so darn good.

I recently found another way of preparing the smoothie – as a dessert : )

Place the smoothie in the freezer for a couple of hours and enjoy it as a SLUSHIE!

Once the smoothie is frozen, it gets this soft and creamy slushie consistency. Yummy!

I also place my favorite nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachio, even granola!) in the smoothie mixture itself (before blending) for added protein. Then after freezing it, I top my slushie with even more nuts for that extra crrrunch!

What a refreshing frozen treat on a hot day! I know the green color looks weird, but I promise you, you’ll enjoy it.

This Glowing Green Slushie is a healthy and delicious alternative to those fattening pints of ice cream!

Try it, you’ll love it! Even my son can’t get enough of it :  )

Toddler tested and approved : )

Glowing Green Smoothie

Do you want a great smoothie recipe that even the pickiest eaters in your family will enjoy? Well, I am so excited to share with you all my Glowing Green Smoothie recipe. It’s shockingly delicious! This smoothie is dairy free, full of nutrients, satiating and a great way to start (or end) your day. Everyone who I’ve made this smoothie for have been amazed at how delicious it tastes, considering how much spinach I add! Don’t be dissuaded by how bright green the smoothie looks – that’s what makes it such a healthy smoothie! Not only is this smoothie good for your body, it tastes really good too!

Try it, I’m SURE you will LOVE it!

My family (including our 20 month old toddler) drinks this smoothie every morning and it has done WONDERS for our skin. We are glowing : )

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup of diced and frozen RIPE banana

1/2 cup of diced and frozen unpeeled pear

1/2 cup of diced and frozen mango

1/2 cup of light vanilla soymilk

1/2 cup of cold water

2 cubes of ice

2 LARGE handfuls of organic baby spinach

PREPARATION

1. Take out the diced and frozen fruits from the freezer and thaw for about 1 minute. Then place the diced and frozen fruits and the ice cubes in a blender.

2. Add the vanilla soymilk and water. Make sure there is enough liquid to match the volume of the fruits to ensure proper blending.

3. Blend on high for 1 minute, or until the fruits and liquid are incorporated evenly.

4. Take 2 LARGE handfuls of spinach and place in the blender.

5. Blend again on high for 1 minute, or until the spinach is completely blended smoothly.

6. Place the smoothie in a clear glass with a straw. Sip and enjoy!

GLOWING GREEN SMOOTHIE TIPS:

  • Prepare ahead: Cut up the fruits in small pieces and place in large Ziploc bags to store in the freezer. With our busy schedules, it helps to have the fruits readily available and already prepared. Pineapples and mangoes are not always in season, not to mention time consuming to peel and cut, so I get my frozen mango and pineapple chunks from Target.
  • The fruits I prefer to use are the light-colored fruits because they aid in giving the smoothie that gorgeous and vibrant green color. These are the fruits that I always have on hand in my freezer: pineapple, mango, peaches, bananas, pear, kiwi and seedless green grapes. The two must have fruits for me that I always use in my smoothies are the pears (high in fiber) and bananas, which make the smoothie creamy and thick without using dairy products.
  • You can substitute the vanilla soymilk with almond milk or rice milk.
  • For extra creaminess, add 1/2 cup of Vanilla Kefir or Silk Vanilla Soy Yogurt.
  • I avoid using any dairy products such as milk or yogurt in my smoothies because I’ve found that dairy products can hinder the spinach and fruits from being digested properly.
  • You can store your smoothie in the refrigerator overnight, but no longer than 24 hours.
  • Need help with convincing the kids to try it? I tell my nephews that it’s The Incredible Hulk’s Power Juice or The Ninja Turtles’ Awesome Green Smoothie! For my nieces, I tell them that it’s Princess Fiona’s and Shrek’s Shake. You can also try associating the smoothie as the favorite drink of other green characters like Kermit the Frog, Frankenstein, Yoda or The Green Goblin. But once they taste how yummy it is though, they won’t need much convincing!
  • Come back soon for my product review of the blender I used for this smoothie, the Hamilton Beach Wave Maker Blender 56221. You’ll find that this latest and affordable Hamilton Beach blender is just what you need for your daily green smoothie routine to get that gorgeous glow!

DISCUSSION

  • Which fruit combination did you like on your Glowing Green Smoothie?
  • Did your children enjoy the smoothie too? (My son loves this smoothie so much, he doesn’t want to share with us!)
  • What are the healthy and delicious snacks that you and your family (even the picky eaters) enjoy?

Let me know how you and your family like it Mama Bears!

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