Nutrition Made Simple

Eat real food and good nutrition just happens naturally. Do you agree? That good nutrition can be that simple? Or are you feeling overwhelmed? Well, I’m here to tell you that it can be “made simple”. That’s why I chose Nutrition Made Simple as the name for my wellness coaching business.

Every where you read (look), there are articles (and news stories) telling you how to eat properly. Or, to try this diet or perhaps you should skip this list of foods. I’m here to tell you that it can be a simple subject. I admit that at one time (actually for quite a long time) I too was one trying all the diets to see which one fit me best. I researched the properties of food to no end. It was exhausting! I was frustrated. Perhaps this has been your experience too.

Well I’ve made it past all those difficulties. So, don’t worry. It can become simple for you too.

Listen to this: The only reason that nutrition has become such a difficult subject is that foods have been (and continue to be) introduced that don’t qualify as real foods. 

Just to explain what I’m saying and to get the message across, here is a sample list of foods that don’t qualify as real foods. (Sorry that I’m one of those people giving you another list. But stick with me, soon you won’t have to refer to any lists or any food or calorie counting charts.) The list:

  • margarine and hydrogenated oils
  • boxed cereals, chips, pastries (loaded with preservatives, sugar and unhealthy oils)
  • Soft drinks and soda (contain addictive preservatives and chemicals)
  • microwave “ready to eat” meals (such as pizza and even many “diet” offerings)
  • cured meat products (with added preservatives)
  • packaged breads, biscuits (with added dough conditioners, extra gluten, preservatives, unnatural yeasts)

I could have added more to the list, but I don’t want to lose you. Please continue reading this article. In no way am I suggesting that you cannot eat these foods. It’s just that there are better choices. Yes, much better choices!

Because, when we eat real foods we don’t have to think about nutrition. Good nutrition just happens naturally.

You are going to have to trust me on this one (and stick around for future articles). When we eat natural “real” foods our bodies will guide us as to what we should eat and we can even throw away the calorie counting and food rules for good.

There is only one simple rule. The only rule you should strive to follow is to eat real foods as close to their natural state as possible. (This will be defined for you later…or simple check out the recipes on this website for ideas.)

What about cravings? Most of our cravings are unnatural and are highly encouraged by the foods that we choose to eat. It’s the chemicals, flavor enhancers, etc. in unnatural foods that drive our appetite. They make us desire more fat or more salt or more sugar. Remember that famous slogan: “Bet you can’t eat just one”? (Mike drop.)

More so, these unnatural foods are are out of balance. They simply don’t contain the nutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals) and fiber we need. As a result, we become out of balance: our appetites don’t get satisfied and our bodies don’t receive the needed nutrients.

Here is the good news. We can train our bodies to crave natural “real” foods. How do we do this? By eating real foods and avoiding those that are unnatural. It’s just that simple. 

Here are some simple, natural “real” foods you can focus on to get you started:

  • smoothies
  • fresh pressed juices
  • salads (make as colorful as you can, avoiding heavy oils that just add calories)
  • whole cooked grains (brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa, millet)
  • soups (full of vegetables and legumes/beans)
  • fresh fruit
  • nuts, seeds
  • lightly steamed/baked vegetables – yes, even baked potatoes, but don’t load them with butter/cream…instead, try adding vegetables as toppings

So, is it time for you to make a change? Try a simple meal plan this week.

  • For breakfast eat cooked whole grain cereal such as oats.
  • At lunch have a large salad, loaded with leafy greens, colorful vegetables, nuts/seeds and a cooked grain to make it a meal.
  • Snack on fruit in between meals if you are hungry.
  • For dinner, I’m going to suggest more VEGETABLES. Cooked with a whole grain or baked potatoes. Beans and rice with a side salad. 

Did you notice I didn’t include meat? My purpose is to encourage you to eat all the other food groups! (If you eat meat, then I’m sure you don’t need any encouragement – other than…I think it’s important to choose wisely.) I’ve tried many “diets” and it just so happens that I feel best when I don’t eat meat. It’s been almost two years, but what I remember the most is that I would eat the meat and be done. I would be satisfied and skip all the vegetables and other foods I should have been eating. We miss out of many nutrients when we skip fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, legumes  and whole grains. Here is another nugget of truth: You can get all the protein and fat you need also by eating this way (without meat) and get a load of other important nutrients. So, for the purposes of these posts and recipes, they will all be WFPB (Whole Foods and Plant-Based).

Eating this way is low in calories, but high in fiber – which means you can easily get your “fill” of nutrients while keeping your calorie intake lower than eating the standard American diet. Yes, you might still crave the “other” foods, but if you think you are still hungry after a meal…just eat more! Eating more fiber to fill up your stomach will satisfy those cravings and they will soon dissipate. This is the truth and it’s truth worth savoring! I hope you learn to savor real foods and enjoy them to the fullest!

I know this has been quite a long article, so I’m going to bring this one to an end. Let me know what you think. Your feedback is most welcomed. Let me know if this is the beginning of a new lifestyle change for you. Yes, I call it a lifestyle change instead of using the word “diet” because we all know that diets don’t work. They are just too complicated! Just stick around and I will prove to you that nutrition can become a simple thing. 

I want to help you create a new lifestyle. Perhaps you are in need of healing from certain symptoms, want to lose weight, have more energy or even just continue on your current path of health and wellness. I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter so that you won’t miss any posts or recipes. 


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Grilled Eggplant and Hummus Stacks

Note: This grilled recipe was inspired by the grilled eggplant as described by https://minimalistbaker.com/smoky-grilled-eggplant/.

Serves 4.

Hummus Recipe:

Mix all of the following ingredients using a food processor.

  • 1 can of chickpeas (or 2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic (2 if you like it spicy!)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 TBS roasted red bell peppers (optional, but adds a nice flavor)
  • salt to taste

Here is the way I served it:

1. First lay a base of sauteed power greens

2. Then layer: (stacked at least twice)

    • Grilled Eggplant
    • Hummus 
    • Grilled Veggies: Onions, Red Bell Peppers, Mushrooms 

3. Serve with a side of quinoa ( or other grain).

Homemade Cough Syrup

Instant Pot Cough Syrup

Hello to all. I’m still dealing with this nasty ‘bug’ as I create this post. This must really be a BAD ONE y’all. I never get sick! My 4-year old dogs are looking at me as if to say, “What’s wrong mommy? We’ve never seen you like this.” Those little sweet things.

So here I am, trying my best to cope. It started with my husband and he agrees that it’s pretty BAD! (So I’m not just being a weenie-whiner because I haven’t seen sick in a long while.)

When my youngest was small, until we figured out her triggers, she would often come down with respiratory issues. This was my “go-to” recipe for her and even as a small kid she never had any complaints about taking this medicine.

Back then I didn’t have an InstantPot, so I would just put the onions in the honey and allow to soak overnight. Not sure if I ever thought about heating them on low on the stove-top to speed up the process until I found the recipe online today.

My idea is that by using an InstantPot, I could set it on low for an hour and not be concerned that they would burn and it WORKED!

Why onions? Onions are rich in antioxidants which make them anti-inflammmatory agents.

Why honey? Well, it’s sweet and makes it easy to tolerate the onions. Additionally, it has anti-bacterial properties – so it’s simply a good carrier for the other items in the syrup. Some say it allows the medicine to stick to the throat too.

Why rosemary? Science says it has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties.

Here is the recipe I used today:

BUT, I got to thinking….my original recipe (back-in-the-day) used all fresh ingredients. So I added more fresh rosemary and more fresh onions to the jar. I will let it sit overnight just as I used to do. I need the most potent recipe I can find!

NOW, about those leftover onions…

They remained chewy, as one might guess. I just take a few to munch on when I pass by them.

Another idea: I have also been using some unsulphured ginger candies as throat lozenges for night-time. I think I will try making my own by soaking in honey and then dehydrating.

Note: The links to the InstantPot store are links through which I receive a small commission should you decide to make a purchase. I use my InstantPot just about every day. In fact, I have two of them.

Red Curry Noodles and Tofu

This recipe is an adaptation of the recipe at  https://pinchofyum.com/red-curry-noodles.

Not-So Cheese Sauce

I have been sharing this cheese sauce for about 6 years now. I always make it when we are having Tex-Mex food or having a pot-luck type dinner with friends. Everyone is always amazed at how great it tastes. Pairs wonderfully with crunchy tortilla chips. I don’t miss cheese at all. (Side note: I quit cheese about 8 years ago and haven’t had a cold, the flu or even seasonal allergies ever since then. Loving it!)

The original recipe (and also, the name I believe) comes from Vitamix, but I’ve made a few adjustments. I have tried recipes that use steamed potatoes (in place of potato starch) and carrots and even onions, but this one is my favorite. Here is my go-to recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ TBS lemon juice
  • ¼ cup pimentos , canned or jar OR use 1 roasted red pepper, peeled
  • ½ cup raw cashews (or almonds)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 2 TBS potato starch (or tapioca starch) mixed with 1/4 cup cold water

Notes prior to getting started:

1 – I suggest soaking the cashews and definitely the almonds if you do not think that your blender can thoroughly blend the nuts without leaving crunchy bits in the mixture. I always remove the brown hull/skin when using almonds, or I buy them already removed (blanched almonds).

2 – As an alternative to raw cashews and raw almonds, you could try raw nut nutters. ( I haven’t personally tried this option, just a suggestion.

3 – I have been successful with substituting almond flour in place of using almonds and I was satisfied with the outcome.

4 – I sometimes substitute green chiles for pimentos. This allows the cheese sauce to appear more creamy white instead of being tinted red by the pimentos.

Vitamix Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients except for the boiling water and potato starch mixture into the Vitamix.
  2. Set machine to 1, turn on quickly increasing speed to 10, and then to High.
  3. Blend for 3 – 7 minutes until steam forms and you can see it coming from the lid’s vent.
  4. Meanwhile, boil water on the stove-top
  5. Reduce speed to 7, remove plastic plug from the lid and add boiling water and potato starch mixture.
  6. Continue to blend until thickened, usually no longer than 1 minute.

Blender Plus Stove-top Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients except for the boiling water and potato starch mixture into the blender.
  2. Meanwhile, boil water on the stove-top in a saucepan
  3. Once you have a well-blended “cheese” mixture, add it to the saucepan along with the boiling water, bring back to almost boiling temperature.
  4. Reduce the heat under the saucepan and slowly pour in the potato starch mixture while continuing to stir until thickened.

Polenta with vegetables

Polenta is a corn-meal porridge. You can top polenta with anything you like which makes it a delicious options for breakfast, lunch and even dinner.

Polenta is identified as a yellow corn-meal. The way it’s process produces a more whole form of what many know as grits and contains 6 g of fiber. ( The most popular form of grits only have .7 g – yet I believe there is a white corn that can be used to create white polenta “grits” which reserves the whole kernels.

If cooking on the stove-top it takes about 30 minutes. Use 1 cup of polenta to 6 cups of water.

But I prefer the much easier option of using an Instant Pot. This recipe makes 4 – 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 6 cups water or broth

Vegetable Toppings:  (in photo)

  • `1 bell pepper
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 8 ounces mushrooms
  • 4 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cups spinach
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (optional)

Directions: (for Instant Pot)

  1. Add polenta, water and sprinkle with a little salt (optional) into Instant Pot and stir.
  2. Cook for 10 minutes (manually set or use ‘Rice’ button).
  3. After time is up, Press ‘Cancel’ to switch to ‘Off’ and allow natural pressure release (usually 10/15 minutes).
  4. Stir to combine water and corn-meal. Using a whisk makes this easier.

Cooking Vegetables:

  1. Heat griddle or pan on stove-top.
  2. Add 1 tsp of oil and/or 2 TBS water to the pan.
  3. Add all vegetables except for spinach and stir-fry (stir-steam) until desired tenderness, sprinkle with seasonings of choice.
  4. Remove vegetables to a plate, turn off heat, add spinach and allow to wilt. (Adding a bit of water to create steam will help spinach wilt.)

Serve by adding polenta to a dish and topping with the vegetables.

Juicing FAQs

“The abundance of live, uncooked foods flushes your body of toxins, leaving you feeling refreshed, energized and relaxed all at the same time. The pure foods make your skin glow, your hair shine, your breath fresh [due to a cleaner digestive system]… Colds and flue become fewer and farther between; many people report that arthritic joins loosen with renewed flexibility; and gums and teeth become less pront to bleeding and cavities.” (The Juiceman’s Power of Juicing)

“Juicing vegetables renders their life-giving nutrients “body-active” in about 15 minutes. [Compare this to the 6 or more hours it takes to digest the typical American meal which reduces your energy due and leaves you feeling tired due to the energy needed for digesting the meal.] When the body does not have to work hard to digest, guess what? We have more energy. We feel more alive!” (Live Foods, Live Bodies).

I can attest to every benefit in the above quotes. I was first introduced to juicing almost 30 years ago, and I have been an avid juicer  (drinking juice almost daily) for the last 10 years.

Yet, I know many people have questions and concerns about juicing and I’d like to address the top three in this document. So let’s begin.

Can’t I make juice in my NutriBullet or blender?

Juice is the liquid nutrient form of fruits and vegetables without the fiber. Juicing requires the use of a special appliance called a juicer.  Appliances such as NutriBullets and blenders create smoothies. Of course, to be sure you are getting as many fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible, smoothies make a good addition to your diet just as much as adding juices.

The main difference is that juices contain more nutrients than smoothies when compared ounce for ounce. For instance, an 8 ounce of juice contains liquid nutrients extracted from 1  1/4 pound of fresh produce. Whereas, using 1 1/4 pounds of fresh produce to make a smoothie would result in way more than 8 ounces and way more fiber than one could probably drink due to the need to add enough liquid to create the smoothie when using so much produce.

Therefore, ounce for ounce, you get more vegetable nutrients in juices than in smoothies.

Juices don’t satisfy my hunger

The purpose of juices is to get more nutrients. It’s not to serve as a meal replacement unless you are juice fasting or on a specific diet to lose weight. Adding juices in these two situations can make sure that you are receiving the necessary nutrients to fuel your cells. Yet, juicing should be added to your regular meal plans.

What about fiber?

But the elimination of fiber from juices allows the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables to enter your body’s cells more rapidly, practically without digestion.

We need fiber, so it’s important that you are eating additional foods to meet your fiber requirements that are found in whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, fruits and plenty of vegetables.

To learn about “two more” concerns that people often express, learn juicing tips and the top three reasons why my favorite juice is carrot juice – watch this video.

Fermented jalapenos

Fermented jalapenos are my husband’s favorite. They taste just like what you typically find in the jar on the grocery store shelves, but are made without using distilled vinegar and have no preservatives.

These are easy to make. If you have never tried to ferment any food. This recipe would be a great place to begin, providing you like jalapenos. Just slice, add to a jar with salt water brine and leave on counter top for a couple of days.

Left (Ready to eat.) / Right (First day prep and using an airlock system.)

Ingredients: (This recipe will make a 16 ounce jar. The recipe can be doubled or increased as you wish. )

  • 4-6 large jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • sea salt water brine (2 TBS sea salt/32 ounces of filtered water)

Directions:

  1. Add sliced jalapeno peppers to a clean jar. (A Mason type jar with a plastic lid is recommended.)
  2. Fill jar with the sea salt water brine up to at minimum 1 inch from the top of the jar.
  3. Add cap and leave on counter top or place in a cabinet, out of direct sunlight, for at least two days. You may want to sit the jar inside of a bowl to catch any juices that may escape.

Notes:

  • Jalapeno peppers are ready when the color seems to have faded from deep green to a lighter shade
  • Leave (or take away) membranes and seeds to adjust the HOT level
  • Use a wide-mouth jar and glass weight to guarantee that peppers stay submerged underneath the salt water brine. Or, simply open the jar on day two/three and press jalapenos under the salt water brine.
  • Use an air-lock system to prevent air-bubbles (created during fermentation process) from pushing the juices out of the jar.

Purchase a Fermentation Kit to make fermenting easy!

Creamy Cumin Ranch Dressing

I finally got around to making this salad dressing and I’m happy that I did. I added to a Tex-Mex salad and…..YES! Yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (soak 1 – 2 hours if you do not have a high-speed blender)
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 TBS)
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp snipped chives (or the top green part of green onions)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender for a very smooth dressing.

Note: This recipe contains 50-70 calories per TBS. (50 calories if you only use 1/2 cup cashews)