Thursday, January 27, 2011

What is Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced ˈkiːnwɑ) is a seed. You may have heard about it in biggest loser or read about it in clean eating literature. I love quinoa! I like the texture better than I like the texture of rice. I also like the taste of it plain. It has a slight nutty flavor. It is super easy to cook and it is a complete protein all by itself meaning it has the complete set of amino acids. Rice and beans both contain amino acids but they need to be together to form a complete protein

One disadvantage is the calories. You need to be careful. I felt very proud of myself the first time I bought quinoa. I went to the whole food store and asked for it in my perfect pronunciation "Where is the 'ki:nwa?" At the check stand two other ladies commented on it and asked me about it. I felt healthier by just buying it. I got home and made a beautiful meal with it incorporated. I then smugly sat down to log in the calories on It came up as 600 calories a cup!!!! Gasp! After that I let it sit on my shelf for a while until I started thinking more clearly. Was it really 600 calories? Why is it promoted so highly in clean eating and other diet books, I know it has protein but still, I did more research and found 4 or 5 different sites all with different numbers of calories. In the end, I discovered that you must use a uncooked amount as measurement for calories. The volume cooked changes with the amount of water lost in cooking. And with quinoa a little goes a long way.

So it's true calorie count for 1/4 cup uncooked is about 160 calories. 1/4 cup per person is more than enough and roughly will become about a cup cooked.

My favorite dish so far is a lemon stirfry with quinoa. I use about 1/2 -1 cup cooked quinoa on the side of the stirfry.

Soak quinoa for 15 min before cooking to remove a bitter coating. Drain water using a fine strainer and refill pan
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
  1. Place quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Makes 3 cups.
Cook's Note: Quinoa is done when the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated.
Lemon Chicken Stir Fry –

1 lemon
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound boneless,
skinless chicken breasts
trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
10 ounces mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 cup diagonally sliced carrots , (1/4 inch thick)
2 cups snow peas , (6 ounces), stems and strings removed
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces, white and green parts divided
1 tablespoon chopped garlic.

Directions: Grate 1 teaspoon lemon zest and set aside. Juice the lemon and whisk 3 tablespoons of the juice with broth, soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with tongs. Add mushrooms and carrots to the pan and cook until the carrots are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add snow peas, scallion whites, garlic and the reserved lemon zest. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Whisk the broth mixture and add to the pan; cook, stirring, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add scallion greens and the chicken and any accumulated juices; cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. 4 servings 11/2 cup each Per serving without quinoa: Total calories per serving 225 calories adapted from

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lean Body, Fat Wallet

Here are a few ideas on how to get lean and eat healthy on a budget.

Meal Planning- Meal planning is the first defense and will save money and calories. This one act, if you are not currently doing it, will probably save hundreds of dollars a month on groceries. If you don't think you can do it read this.
Use coupons-
People tend to shun the word coupon like they do the word Meal Plan. They have tried it before and did a lot of work and felt like it really didn't save much money. Well I bet they did it the wrong way the first time, I know because I did the same thing a few times over! The key is to get a lot of coupons and wait until the item goes on sale then stock up. There have been many times when I paid hardly anything and I walked away with bags and bags of groceries. You think I am exaggerating? Not even close in fact those diehard coupon ladies will confess that stores end up practically paying them money in the end. There is a science to couponing the right way. (See the links below).

At one point I decided to stop using coupons because I was too tempted to buy unhealthy food. You can get junk food for almost free with coupons. Seriously, hamburger helper for 10 cents, chips, cereal, cookies all for pennies. Manufactures know this, in fact, they are banking on it. This is why coupons exist, to get those who watch for coupons to buy something that they would not buy anyway. It is possible, however, to use coupons and eat healthy but it does take practice. First of all coupons are not just for food. I still have a years supply of shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and razors that I got for nearly free. You can stock up on nonfood items and leave room in the grocery budget for good, fresh foods. By the way, did you know that studies show that most people that use coupons are well educated and wealthier than those who don't? You can read about it here.

Here are some coupon links -

Store Food when you can: Since I am a Mormon I am a believer in food storage. When I started focusing on clean eating and weight loss I began to be extra lazy about keeping a good storage of food. I was suddenly trying to avoid all whites (flour, sugar, rice) and canned foods so I stopped focusing on buying extras of these items. But then we hit a financial crisis, a bad one. One that I had never known. There was no money left for a time - at all. We had to live out of the cupboard. Boy was I ever grateful for what I had and wished that I had not lost that focus. I have sworn since to NEVER let my storage go down so far again. For me I believe it is much better for my family to have a storage of items on hand and use them in our meals. There is much security in this and if they are mixed just right with fresh foods they can help save money with out denting the nutritional intake of the family. My neighbor taught me something so simple but helpful. At every meal they have one fruit and one veggie. One is canned and one is fresh. That way they get their fresh foods and use their canned foods as well.

Grow a Garden: I know this seems like a given for some while others are completely baffled by the idea and its possibility. We have had a beautiful garden the last couple of years and I am completely garden illiterate so it is possible to learn how to do. There is nothing better than going to the garden and picking ripe tomatoes for dinner or green peppers for fajitas. It takes time and a little tender loving care but can save money in the end if done right. There is also a therapeutic aspect to gardening that I didn't expect.

Buy in Bulk: When possible buy items that you know you will use in bulk. Bulk items are usually much less expensive. Resist buying foods and items in bulk that you don't need. Enter Sam's club and Coscto with caution, telling your self at every corner to buy only the things that you need.

Stay away from extremes:
If you are tight on money it is probably not the time to buy all organic, or go buy the latest and greatest supplements for body building. Those things take money. All in order and good planning. One month when I focused on all the most "healthy" options for food our grocery spending was DOUBLE what it usually is. Whoaa! I had to resort my priorities.

Watch calories
- Counting calories is also like budgeting, in fact the two are so similar that it is scary. If a person is watching calories chances are they will start dumping expensive snack foods too which will help their waistlines shrink and their wallets grow.

Ban Fast Food- I challenge all readers to look at their fast food transactions for last month and see if they could have bought a cruise (around $300) for what they paid in fast food. Sad to say most Americans can. Fast food adds up not only in dollars but in calories. I can't tell you how many times someone has said to me, "I don't know why I am overweight, I only eat once or twice a day, it may be fast food but still I don't eat anything else." Last time I went to McDonalds I added up the calories to my measly meal. 1600 calories! Chicken sandwich, small fry, Rootbeer. 1600 calories! That is an entire day of calories. 2 times of that a day would be 3200 calories. I can't even imagine what some of the other fastfood options would be calorie wise especially with what super-sizes were. It adds up quickly.

Might I add that I am FAR from perfect here. I know that there are abundant experts on this subject and I am sadly not one of them. I am trying to learn. The great thing about having a blog is that it is like writing research papers for something that you are passionate about. I would LOVE any addition comments or ideas on this from readers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Diet trumps exercise for weight loss even in marathon training.

Here is a clip from "Marathon Challenge" a documentary made to follow several unhealthy people who trained for and ran the Boston marathon.

Many people start their weight loss journey with only exercise. It is a very common mistake. Without knowing they often compensate for their calories expended and they don't see the hoped loss so they quit and feel like they are the exception to the science involved with weight loss.

A person can easily cancel out the calories expended in a long run with just one snack. If the diet is started first and one masters their calorie counts then they become the captain of their weight loss journey.

Be assured however, that exercise also can play a vital role in weight loss as a partner to healthy eating. It is also essential for weight maintenance and overall fitness. With just one workout your body begins to change and become for efficient down to a cellular level.
If the clip doesn't work click here to watch it.

Microwave Corn Chips

Somethings are discovered by pure genius, some are discovered by the opposite. I would say this discovery is the later.

I put some corn tortillas in the microwave to warm them up and mindlessly set the time too high and walked away. When I realized a couple of minutes later that the microwave was still going I tried to rescue the crisp tortillas. Frustrated and still not willing to throw food away I set them aside. Walking back by a few minutes later I sampled one of tortillas and it was the perfect consistency and crunch for a home made tortilla chip. I have transformed corn tortillas to chips in the oven before but never imagined that they would turn out so great in the microwave.

These microwave chips are much easier than the oven chips and I like the consistancy better.

These are also a much less expensive and lower calorie option compared to store bought chips and are perfect for dipping in salsa. guacamole or hummus.

Here is the recipe

Take 2 corn tortillas and lay flat on a large glass plate (do not stack). Using a pizza cutter cut them into strips. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Take it out of microwave and flip pieces over to other side. Microwave again for 1 minute. Remove and salt to taste then let them sit for 2-5 minutes to harden (this is key) then serve. Super easy!

Store bought Corn chips 2 oz Calories: 300 Fat: 8 grams Cost: dollars
Microwave Corn chips 2 oz Calories: 90 Fat: 1 grams Cost: pennies

Happy Healthy Eating!
- Susan

To get my free meal plan at once and to enjoy all the other benefits of clean eating simply sign up here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Basic Grilled Chicken With Sweet Potato Meal (335 calories)


3 oz grilled chicken cooked (120 calories)

Serve medium sweet potato (boiled until done) 100 cal,

steamed green veggies (around 50 calories)

sliced apples or other fruit (65 calories)


Remove all visible fat off of chicken. Grill chicken on George Forman grill with seasoning salt sprinkled on top or cook on grill or in oven. Sweet potato is boiled can add fat free sour cream if needed.

Total calories: 335 calories

This is basic but I swear I found this exact meal on almost every personal training/weightloss blog out there. We repeat it often because it is so simple, lean but nutritious and filling. Omit the seasoning salt for an even cleaner meal.

Low Calorie Hummus


15-oz. can garbanzo beans drained, liquid reserved,

2 garlic cloves minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. black pepper


Combine garbanzo beans, garlic, cumin and salt in a food processor. Blend on low speed, gradually adding reserved garbanzo bean liquid, until desired consistency is achieved. Servings 6 (3 TBS). 76 calories each

Any raw veggies, to dip

6 servings serving size 3 Tablespoons
(76 calories each)

Lime chicken with rice and beans lunch (226 calories)

Simple, nutritious and satisfying.

2 oz cooked chicken breast
½ cup cooked brown rice
¼ cup black beans
½ lime
salt to taste.

Remember to Soak brown rice for 8 hours before cooking. This makes it more nutritious and much softer almost as good as white rice. Cook in rice cooker if you have one. Mix ingredients, squeeze lime on top and salt. This one is perfect for bulk prep (that is if you don't mind eating the same thing every day you can make seven meals of it in one fail swoop)

You can also top with salsa and Greek yogurt. 

Lean Habits Taco Salad (under 273 calories)

Tostitos bite size chips
one can kidney beans drained
protein ranch dressing
cut lettuce
shredded cheddar cheese (omit for
extra lean ground turkey
taco seasoning
sunflower seeds
(Read below for amounts)


The reason why I don't list the amounts above is because in our family those who are watching calories use a different method than those who do not.
For those who are watching calories place 14 Tostitos baked scoops chips on a plate (120 cal), cover with ¼ cup of red kidney beans (55 calories), 1/4 cup lean 95/5 cooked turkey hamburger (61 calories), lots of romaine lettuce on top, 1/4 cup diced tomatoes (13 calories), up to 1/4 cup protein ranch (25 calories). don't drench it but you can literally use that much. Sprinkle taco seasoning over the top (1/4 package). “(Total 273 cal)

For everyone else mix beans, ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, ranch, ½ cup of cooked extra lean turkey meat, ¼ cup sunflower seeds, chopped lettuce and again sprinkle taco seasoning on top, 1/4 cup protein ranch. Toss and serve. Add salsa if desired on individual plates. Add a fruit salad – cut strawberries, grapes and bananas.
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