Welcome to the Live Well Furman blog!  This blog is designed to help support healthy behaviors in the Furman community and beyond.  Be sure to sign up for our email subscription to have the latest campus wellness offerings, wellness news briefs, healthy meal ideas, and exercise tips delivered straight to your inbox each week!

Freezable FUEL Soups– cook once, eat for weeks

I have a confession.  I REALLY dread cooking during the work week.  By the time I finish my work, squeeze in a workout, pick the kids up from school, and head home I am just way too tired to cook.

I am sure that you can relate.

So how do we get a comforting, home cooked meal on the dinner table without cooking every night?

My solution?  I stock my freezer with one-pot soups and stews.  Cook once— eat for weeks.

I choose recipes that follow the FUEL guidelines.  They are loaded with vegetables, contain a lean source of protein (e.g., beans, chicken, turkey, shrimp, fish, canned clams), and contain a source of whole grain (e.g., brown rice, barley) or potatoes.

I will usually spend about four hours on a weekend making 6-8 soups and then I freeze them in shallow containers.  Throughout the week, I’ll transfer a container or two from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw.  Then we can warm them up on the stove top or in the microwave at dinner time.  They make terrific brown bag lunches also.

Here are a few of my favorites below. Click on the link in the title for a full recipe with nutrition analysis, shopping list, and tips :

White Bean and Chicken Chili with Lime

Simmer chicken with onion, carrots, celery, cannelini beans, corn, green chilies, cumin, and chili powder.  Serve with a lime wedge and garnish wish freshly chopped parsley.  Serve with Whole Grain Country Corn Bread.

Shrimp Gumbo with Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes over Brown Rice

This simple recipe combines frozen chopped okra, corn, fire-roasted canned tomatoes, shrimp, low sodium tomato juice, and Old Bay seasoning.  Serve it over brown rice that can also be cooked ahead and frozen separately.

Sausage, Kale, Potatoes, and Carrot Soup

This is one of my favorite winter soups with low sodium chicken broth, onions, potatoes, kale, carrots, and Maple Apple Chicken Sausage from Trader Joe’s.  Saute onions and carrots in a little bit of oil in a pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are softened.  Add chopped lean chicken or turkey sausage and saute for another minute.  Add low-sodium chicken broth, chopped peeled potatoes, chopped fresh kale (thick stems removed), and a pinch of salt to taste; simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Bean and Barley Soup

My wallet loves this soup as much as my heart and taste buds do.  Beans and barley are very inexpensive.  Plus they both contain significant amounts of cholesterol-lowering soluble fibers.

Bean and Barley Soup can be made with Quaker Quick-Cooking Oats (usually found by the dry beans or brown rice in the regular grocery store).

It can also be made with Trader Joe’s Quick Cooking Barley (shown in middle below):

This version below also has some chopped smoked sun-dried tomatoes which added an amazing flavor to the soup.

Brunswick Stew with Chicken, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, and Lima Beans

Brunswick Stew is a Southern Favorite.  It usually contains meat, potatoes, corn, and lima beans but other variations exist.  The origins are debated but it may have originated in Brunswick County, Virginia or Brunswick Georgia.  It has a splash of Worcestershire and dried thyme that add to the depth of flavor.

Tomato Basil Soup

Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup on a chilly day?  Simply saute chopped onion and garlic in a little bit of oil over medium heat until translucent.  Then add a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and big one cup handful of freshly torn basil leaves.  You can keep it thick or add some vegetable broth to thin it out.  Simmer for about 10 minutes and let cool slightly.  Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.  I freeze this in small containers and serve it with a whole grain grilled cheese sandwich with light cheese and a side of steamed broccoli or green beans.

 Split Pea Soup with Whole Grain Crackers

This soup will never win any beauty contests but boy, is it tasty.  I love it because it allows me to use up any extra carrots, celery, and onions from my other recipes.  Plus a package of dried split peas costs less than $2.  It has a little bit of turkey bacon or diced turkey ham (found at Whole Foods) to deepen the flavor and feeling of decadence.  Serve with whole grain crackers such as Triscuits or Triscuits Thin Crisps.

 Black Bean and Zucchini Chili with Avocado and Lime

This is a really hearty meatless meal.  Simmer onion, carrots, zucchini, canned tomatoes, and black beans with cumin and chili powder.  Serve with chopped avocado, a lime wedge, and a dollop of sour cream.  Enjoy it with a Whole Grain Country Cornbread muffin.

 Clam Chowder

Canned clams make and easy freezer soup also.  Saute onion, garlic, carrot, and celery in a little bit of oil over medium heat until softened.  Add peeled and chopped potato, a few cans of chopped canned clams, vegetable broth, frozen peas, and Old Bay seasoning; simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Hearty Lentil Vegetable Stew with Brown Rice

 This soup becomes more flavorful after the flavors have a chance to mingle overnight.  It contains onion, carrots, mushrooms, canned tomatoes, dried lentils, brown rice, collards, dried rosemary, and oregano.  Serve with an Orange, Walnut, and Feta Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.

Whole Grain Country Corn Bread

Many other soups can fit the FUEL guidelines if you round them out with a salad and a baked sweet potato or whole grain roll.

These delicious corn bread muffins use whole grain cornmeal and a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour.  I have also used King Arthur 100% White Wheat Flour which has a milder flavor than the darker 100% whole wheat flours.  Plain yogurt cuts back on the amount of oil in this recipe significantly.  For a treat, I like to serve them with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter or Cranberry Apple Butter.  The cornbread muffins can be made ahead and frozen.

Alexia also has a delicious frozen whole grain roll.  When you are ready for dinner, simply bake them in the oven for 10 minutes.


Guide to Heart Health

Did you know that atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) is actually a pediatric disease?

Plaque build-up usually begins during childhood as a fatty streak.  It is caused by some initial injury to the inside of the blood vessel wall.  Over time, the fatty streak develops into a complex collection of cells called “plaque” that can rupture and block blood flow through the artery.  Autopsies of young U.S. service members who died during combat have identified severe atherosclerosis (>50% blockage in at least one blood vessel) in men as young as their twenties and thirties (1).

So if you think that this doesn’t apply to you, I encourage you to think again.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for all American men and women today.  If you haven’t personally dealt with it, chances are that you know someone who has.

Optimal prevention of heart disease begins early in life.

So, let’s take a look inside the arteries and see how to keep them functioning at their best.

The Anatomy of an Artery

Your arteries transport blood from your heart to all of the cells of your body.  They deliver oxygen and nutrients that are necessary to keep you alive.  The arteries have a layer of smooth muscle that helps them to open (dilate) and close (constrict).  The inside of the arteries are lined with a delicate layer of endothelial cells– collectively called the endothelium.

The damage occurs

The problem arises when there is an initial injury to the endothelium.  For example, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol (oxidized LDL), and tobacco can lead to inflammation and endothelial cell damage.

Plaque develops

Over time, other cells and substances collect at the site of injury, such as macrophages, LDL cholesterol, white blood cells, fibrinogen, smooth muscle cells, scar tissue, and calcium.  A low-level systemic inflammation causes both plaque formation and progression.  The body perceives an attack and is desperately trying to defend itself.

Plaque accumulates and blocks blood flow

Initially, plaque may push the wall of the artery outward.  This makes it very difficult to detect and may not cause symptoms for many years.  Eventually the plaque grows inward and restricts blood flow through the artery.

Plaque build up can lead to heart attack or stroke

If a coronary artery that supplies the heart with blood becomes obstructed, then a heart attack occurs.  It may cause chest discomfort or pain that radiates down one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.  Shortness of breath, nausea, and lightheadedness may also occur.

 If a carotid or cerebral artery that supplies the brain with blood becomes obstructed, then a stroke occurs.  Symptoms may include facial drooping,  arm weakness, and speech difficulty.

When these signs and symptoms are present, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately so blood can be restored to the affected area.

For more information about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, click here.

Peripheral Artery Disease occurs when blood vessels in the legs (e.g., femoral or popliteal arteries) become blocked with plaque build up.  This restricts blood flow to the calf muscles and can cause pain in the lower legs, particularly during exercise.

Other blood vessel disorders

There are various types of blood vessel disorders that can occur.  A thrombus is a stationary clot.  An embolism is a floating clot that may get caught and obstruct blood flow.  An aneurysm is a ballooned outward section of a blood vessel wall that may eventually hemorrhage (break).

Younger plaques are more likely to rupture

A common misconception is that heart attacks only occur when the plaque builds up enough to completely block blood flow.  The truth is that newer, younger plaques are most likely to rupture.  These young plaques are only covered by a thin fibrous cap.  When the plaque ruptures, various cells immediately rush to the site of injury and form a clot than can quickly block blood flow.

Almost 75% of plaque ruptures occur in arteries than are less than 50% blocked.  They may have previously gone undetected because they never caused any symptoms.

Older plaques are still problematic, but they tend to have thicker fibrous caps that are less prone to rupture.

The Good News:  You Can Make a Difference 

At this point, you are probably wondering if this detrimental process can be reversed.  Thankfully, the answer (and entire purpose of this article) is YES!  Arterial plaque is constantly progressing and regressing based on the conditions within the blood vessel.  When we make unhealthy food choices, remain sedentary, and smoke,  plaque progresses.

Moderate lifestyle changes can halt plaque progression.  Intensive lifestyle changes can help to reverse it.

For example, every single bout of exercise causes your body to produce and secrete specialized cells called Endothelial Progenitor Cells (EPCs).  These EPCs circulate through your blood vessels, attach to the sites of injury and begin the repair process.  Regular exercise is like a constant dose of healing medicine.

Notice in the graphic below that plaque can progress or regress based on the choices that we make every day.

Smith, Steven R. MD.  “Clinical Implications of Basic Research.  A Look at the Low-Carbohydrate Diet.”  N Engl J Med  361(23):2286-88, December 23, 2009

In 1990, cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish published his classic Lifestyle Heart Trial.  He treated patients with Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply the heart with blood) with an intensive lifestyle change program. The patients began to walk for exercise, chose a healthful plant-based diet, quit smoking, learned how to manage stress, and received weekly social support.  After one year, without any medication or surgery, they experienced regression of plaque build-up (2).  Yes, you can heal your heart through lifestyle changes.

To reduce the risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines:

 1)  Participate in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes most, if not all, days of the week.  

2)  Eat a variety of nutritious foods from many food groups.  Emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.  Limit red meat.

3) Eat less of the nutrient poor foods.  This includes foods such as refined grains, many processed foods, and sugary foods and beverages.  Also limit saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.

4) Don’t use any form of tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke exposure.  Smoking can lead to high blood pressure, blood clots, endothelial cell damage, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.

Cigna Lifestyle Management Programs


Are you looking for assistance to manage your stress, manage your weight, or quit smoking?

Furman employees and spouses who are covered under Cigna’s Health Insurance plan may partake in free, one-on-one wellness coaching online or over the phone.  Cigna’s wellness coaches offer convenient evening and weekend hours.   They will provide you with resources and support to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle.

For more information, please visit www.mycigna.com.


FUEL Furman: Students receive funding for campus improvements

Attention All Furman Students!

Do you have an idea to improve the Furman campus or that would benefit the Furman community?

The Furman Student Government Association is accepting applications for a new program called FUEL Furman (not to be confused with my FUEL healthy eating program).

This student-led  FUEL Furman program is designed to provide funding for campus improvement projects.  For example, one student submitted an application for outdoor bicycle shelters.  This would enable campus bicyclists to store bicycles outdoors and protect them from rain and rust.

Five student projects will be chosen by the Office of Annual Giving and SGA to receive an initial jump-start on their projects and the opportunity to connect with the Furman alumni network for further funding.  Through FUEL Furman, students discover the power of the Furman alumni network and donors see the tangible difference their gifts make.

Click on the link below to submit your application.  Big and small projects are welcome.  Applications are due November 14th.


For more information, contact Lee Bolton, Executive Secretary of Student Government Association.

Health Science Major Breakfast

Attention Health Science Majors!

Please join your Health Science Faculty and Staff for a free breakfast on Friday, November 7 on the PAC Porch.

Drop in between 7:30 a.m.- 9 a.m.

Hope to see you there!

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: How to Find Winter Fruit for Breakfast

Many of our FUEL participants strive to make 1/2 of their breakfast fruit, 1/2 of their lunch vegetables, and 1/2 of their dinner vegetables.

The problem is that common fruits like berries, peaches, and melon, are out of season during the winter months.  This means that they are pretty expensive and not very tasty.

So how can you focus on fruit during the winter months?

Sound like another mission impossible?

Check out these easy ideas:

1)  Fruit Bowl.  Fill up your fruit bowl with seasonal fall and winter fruits such as different varieties of apples, pears, oranges, tangerines, clementines, grapefruits, bananas, and pomegranates .

2) Clementines and pomegranates.  Make a simple salad of clementine segments and pomegranate seeds. Clementines are great because they are easy to peel and have few or no seeds.  Never used a pomegranate before?  Simply cut it in half  and submerge it into a medium size bowl of water.  Use your fingers to scrape all of the edible seeds away from the non-edible flesh.  Then strain the bowl and reserve the edible seeds.  They are filled with pomegranate juice and burst in your mouth when you eat them.  Add them to fruit salads or green salads.

3) Fresh orange segments.  I rarely have time to peel an pith an orange in the morning.  So I cut up several thin skinned oranges and keep them in the refrigerator for a quick breakfast or snack.  Simply cut the orange in half crosswise.  Cut each half crosswise again. Then slice the quarters crosswise into little 1/2 inch wedges.  Easy to eat.  Very little mess.

4) Stock your freezer.  Keep a wide variety of frozen fruits in your freezer such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, peaches, pineapple, banana slices, and cherries.  Choose varieties that have no added sugar.  Frozen fruits retain most or all of the vitamins and minerals found in their fresh counterparts.  Thaw frozen fruit and add it to yogurt or smoothies. You can also microwave it in your morning oatmeal bowl.

5) Pineapple Mango Banana Fruit Salad with Coconut.  Pour frozen mango chunks and frozen pineapple chunks into a container with a lid.  Place it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours to thaw.  When you are ready to serve it, top it with a little bit of sliced banana and shredded coconut for a tropical fruit salad.

6) Cherry Yogurt.  Place frozen cherries in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours to thaw.  Spoon a hearty portion into a bowl and top with a little bit of plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt.  Plain yogurt does not have any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.  If desired, drizzle with a little bit of honey, maple syrup, or agave.  Or for a sweet treat, top it with a little bit of dark chocolate granola.

7) Baked Blueberry Banana Oatmeal.  Do you want to fill your kitchen with a delicious aroma?  Try baking banana slices.  They smell like warm banana bread.  Spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and layer banana slices across the bottom of it.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for about 15 minutes to slightly soften.  Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle a bag of frozen blueberries over the banana slices.  Drizzle 1 Tbsp of brown sugar and 2 cups of uncooked old fashioned oats on top.  Pour in 1-1/2 cups of 1% or skim milk and press the oats down so they are submerged in the liquid.  Bake for another 15 minutes until the oats and blueberries are cooked through.  Sprinkle with some chopped almonds if desired.  This is the perfect dish to make at night so you can reheat the leftovers in the microwave on busy mornings.

8)  Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa with Pecans.  Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.  In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of apple cider to a simmer over medium high heat.  Add quinoa and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add 4 unpeeled chopped apples, 1 Tbsp. of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and a little bit of brown sugar if desired.  Simmer for another 10 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked through.  If the mixture becomes too dry, add a little bit of milk or extra cider.  Serve with skim milk, 1% milk, or soymilk to round out your meal.  This is a another great dish that can be made once and the leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.

9)  Green Monster Smoothies.  I promise.  You will not taste the greens.  Blend 2 ripe bananas, 1/2 bag of frozen pineapple or mango, 1 cup of orange juice, and 4 cups of fresh spinach or kale (thick stems removed).

10) Strawberry Banana Smoothies.  Blend frozen strawberries with a ripe banana and a little bit of orange or pineapple juice.

Breast Cancer: A Survivor’s Perspective

Alpha Kappa Alpha will be hosting a Breast Cancer Lecture this week featuring leading oncologists and a breast cancer survivor.  Dr. Brian McKinley, Surgical Oncologist from Greenville Health System and Dr. Shirnett Matthews, Radiation Oncologist from Greenville Health System will provide an overview of breast cancer, how to reduce risk, and the importance of early detection.

Mrs. Georgette Boulware, mother of Furman student Jocelyn Boulware, will speak about her experience as a breast cancer survivor.

Wednesday, October 29, 6 PM

Patrick Lecture Hall in Plyler Hall

Furman Culinary Club Samples Flavors from the Mediterranean

 This Sunday, the Furman Culinary Club hosted their first workshop for the school year featuring flavors from the Mediterranean. Special thanks to the workshop host Avery Hudson and Furman Culinary Club president Yolanda Jiang for coordinating such a fun event!

Avery (on the left in the photo below) was excited to share some of her favorite recipes from a recent trip to Greece:

Everyone was excited to get cooking:

And check out the feast!  We served pita and fresh vegetables with hummus and baba ganoush.  Baba ganoush is a delicious spread that combines roasted eggplant with hummus.

Tabouli salad typically contains a delicious blend of whole grain bulgur, fresh parsley and mint with tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives.  Our store was out of bulgur so we substituted whole grain couscous:

Chicken Soulvaki is lean chicken breast marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs such as oregano:


And what Mediterranean workshop would be complete without an authentic chopped Greek Salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, olives, feta?:

Tzatziki sauce combines low-fat Greek yogurt with lemon, dill, and finely chopped cucumbers.  We served it with baked Falafel (chickpea patties) that were scarfed down so quickly that I didn’t get a picture of them:

Grape leaves are common in Mediterranean cuisine.  We decided to buy this rice-filled version pre-made so everyone could have a sample:

Spanakopita is a flavorful mixture of wilted spinach, herbs, and feta that is layered in between phyllo dough and baked.  This is one of my favorites:

And finally, we topped off the meal with a little bit of baklava– a sweet dessert with honey and walnuts that are layered between phyllo dough.

To see a more of these Mediterranean inspired recipes, check out our Pinterest board.

Mark your calendars for our next workshop tentatively scheduled for Sunday, November 23, 4-6 p.m. led by senior Emily Zizzi featuring Mexican (Tex-Mex) Cuisine!

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: A week’s worth of healthful convenience foods


No time to cook?  Not a problem.

My mission this week was to feed my family of four without cooking from a recipe or resorting to restaurant food.

I was on the hunt for healthful convenience foods that wouldn’t break my budget…and they had to please my husband and two kids ages 6 and 9.

Sound like a mission impossible?

Let’s see if it can be done.


#1  The meals have to be healthy.

Each meal should follow the FUEL guidelines and consist of:  1/2 vegetables and/or fruits, 1/4 whole grains or potatoes, and 1/4 lean protein source.  I was looking for real foods that were minimally processed and didn’t have a laundry list of hard-to-pronounce food additives.

#2 The meals have to be quick.

I wanted dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes with minimal to no chopping.

#3 The foods have to be cheap.

Obviously you pay a little extra for foods that are already prepared.  I aimed for $10-12 per meal for a family of four.

I did most of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.  They have a nice selection of healthful convenience foods that are reasonably priced.  But you can put together meals like these from any grocery store.


Steel Cut Oats with Fruit and Nuts

These steel cut oats are cooked, lightly sweetened and then frozen into individual portions.  Place a block of steel cut oats or steel cut oats with quinoa in a microwavable bowl.  Microwave for about 2 minutes.  Add a hearty portion of frozen berries like the Very Cherry Mixture below; cook for another 1-2 minutes until cooked through.  Top with some sliced almonds and serve with a side of skim or 1% milk or soymilk.

($9/ 4 servings)


Whole Grain Vegetable Lasagna, Edamame, Apple slices

This delicious 4-serving lasagna layers whole grain noodles with vegetables and a little bit of cheese.  Microwave it for 18 minutes and dinner is done.  Because it is a vegetable lasagna, I served it with edamame to boost the protein content of the meal.  Edamame are young green soybeans. They are high in protein and fiber and mighty tasty.  The variety pictured below is precooked so just thaw them out and serve.  Enjoy with apple slices.

($10/ 4 servings)

BBQ Chicken with Brown Rice and Vegetables

This one is really simple.  Cook the package of BBQ Chicken Teriyaki on the stovetop according to package directions.  To cut back a little on the salt and sugar, I only used one of the two sauce packets that were provided.  While the chicken cooks, microwave two packages of frozen vegetables.  Then microwave one package of frozen brown rice (there are three in the box shown).   Toss everything together and serve.  Leftovers are great for lunch.

($9/ 4 servings)


 Beans and Grains

Here is an easy meatless meal.  The Multigrain blend with vegetables is already lightly seasoned and just needs to be warmed up.  Bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook the fava beans and green beans according to package directions.  Then toss the beans with a little bit of vinaigrette (I used Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette) and serve.

($8/ 4 servings)


Baked Cod with Quinoa and Green Bean Medley

We try to eat fish for dinner twice per week.  In the morning, place the frozen fish in the refrigerator to thaw.  If you forget, just place the frozen package in a sinkful of water when you are ready to make dinner.  Then pop it in the oven with a little salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees until cooked through.  While the fish cooks, warm up the Beans So Green and Quinoa Sweet Potato Duo on the stove top.

($12/ 4 servings)

Whole grain pita pizzas

To give the kids a break from sandwiches, we made little whole grain pita pizzas for school lunches.  Top mini whole grain pitas with some pizza sauce and a little part-skim mozzarella and bake in the oven until the cheese melts.  We served them with leftover vegetables and cucumber sticks.


 Whole Grain Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs and Salad

I have posted this before and it continues to be a favorite with the kids.  In a large pot, boil about 8 ounces of pasta according to package directions (1/2 of the package shown below).  Meanwhile, in a medium size pot, bring Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce to a simmer until the meatballs are cooked through.  Combine the sauce and pasta.  Serve with a lightly dressed salad.  We used a blend of salad greens with baby kale.

($12/ 4 servings)

 Taco Salad

This is reminiscent of my favorite salad from Chipotle.  Just microwave one package of frozen brown rice (there are three in the package below).  Season the brown rice with chili powder, cumin, and a pinch of salt.  Spoon seasoned brown rice, black beans, corn, salsa, and a little cheese over salad greens.  I used spring mix but romaine lettuce would be great also.

($8/ 4 servings)

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts, Balsamic Vegetables, and Sweet Potatoes

I was so proud of my recipe-free week that I decided to splurge for this meal.  Brussels Sprouts with Turkey Bacon are my daughter’s favorite vegetable of all time.  I sauteed a bag of shaved Brussels Sprouts with some turkey bacon and seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Microwave a few sweet potatoes.  Warm up the Fire Roasted Vegetables on the stove top for a few minutes.  Thaw out the pre-cooked Grilled Chicken Strips.  They are lightly seasoned and would be great to add to sandwiches or salads for other meals.

($12/ 4 servings)

Channa Masala

This microwavable frozen meal is another option that I keep on hand from time to time.  It is chickpeas simmered in a sauce with Indian spices.  I serve it with a little piece of Trader Joe’s whole wheat naan (Indian bread) and some steamed vegetables.  Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Lentil and Beet Salad with Feta and Walnuts

These refrigerated lentils and baby beets are ready to eat.  I usually toss them with a little bit of olive oil, feta, and walnuts.  But this week I had to improvise and used gorgonzola cheese and sliced almonds.  Serve it over salad greens with a microwaved sweet potato.


Need more inspiration?  Check out these Meals in Minutes.



What’s in your coffee? How to spot hidden trans fats in food

Pop quiz… this coffee creamer label states that a one tablespoon serving contains “0 grams of trans fat”.

So does that mean that it actually contains “0 grams of trans fat?”

Answer:  Nope.

Since 2006, the Food and Drug Administration has required food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats on food labels. However, anything less than 0.49 grams may be rounded down to zero.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, some coffee creamers like the one shown above may have up to 0.46 grams of trans fats per serving even though the label lists “0 grams of trans fat.”

So, what’s the big deal?

Trans fats can increase your LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and decrease your HDL (“good cholesterol”).  They promote systemic inflammation, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (1).

While some trans fats do occur naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products, the largest source of trans fats in the American diet is partially hydrogenated oils.  The food industry uses partially hydrogenated oils because they are inexpensive and tend to have a longer shelf life.  They provide the creamy consistency of margarine and the higher smoke point that is desirable when frying foods.  Partially hydrogenated oils can be found in foods such as margarine, fried foods, and baked goods (chocolate chip cookies, biscuits, cinnamon rolls).

Trans fats have such a deleterious effect on your health that they should be consumed extremely sparingly, if at all.  Some researchers have recommended limiting trans fats to no more than 1% of your total calorie intake (e.g., no more than 2 grams of trans fats per day).

The problem is that trans fat intake can add up quickly.

One tablespoon of coffee creamer (with 0.46 grams of trans fat) is not likely to have a significant impact on your health. But you can quickly exceed the recommended 2 gram limit per day if you use more than that.  For example, 5 cups of coffee with 2 tablespoons of creamer in each cup contain 4.6 grams of trans fat… more than double the recommended daily maximum.

Before you reach for your next mug, be sure to check the label.  Look for creamer that has “0 grams of trans fat” and no “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient list.  Try half and half, skim or 1% milk, soy-based creamer, or a “natural” variety without partially hydrogenated oils.  Be wary of other foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list also.  Apparently “0 grams of trans fat” doesn’t always mean zero.