(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking
at Creators Syndicate
After the busy holiday season, many of us say, "Ho, ho, ho" not only since we were jolly during the festivities, but because we feel as permanently rotund as Santa from all that feasting. Even though it may seem like a Herculean task, weight loss does not have to be a time-consuming affair filled with sophisticated homemade or packaged food. In fact, the fresher and simpler the better, most nutritionists say.
Ten seconds, in fact, is all it takes to read each of the healthful recipes below that are almost that quick to prepare.
Full of antioxidants and fiber from fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, low on both fat and non-lean red meats, you and your family should feel full but far from bloated. Groundbreaking studies from experts like George Washington University School of Medicine Professor/President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Neal Barnard, M.D., have shown that just switching to ingredients like this - without even counting calories or changing fitness routines - has significant effects on weight and levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Cooking can be not only nutritious, but easy, inexpensive, fun - and fast - as these split-second family-friendly sensations prove. Since they take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare, the dishes are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family time around the kitchen table that goes along with it! Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since
there are no right or wrong amounts
. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you - or your kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" at the family dinner table.
Very Likeable Lettuce Cups
Thai is considered one of the healthiest cuisines on the planet. I both traveled Thailand with and cooked with famed PBS television series host Chef Tommy Tang. Exotically filled lettuce cups are a incredibly low-calorie, yet filling, staple in some regions there that even many inexpensive U.S. quick-serve chains sell (like a dynamite version from Pick Up Stix). Consider filling your own (use the plush leaves of butter lettuce) with a mixture of finely diced cooked chicken breast, minced lemongrass, minced shallot, minced scallions, chopped fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, dash of red pepper flakes, brown sugar, red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Angelic Deviled Eggs
Overall, experts call eggs one of the all-around most healthful foods, and part of that is because they are, of course, low calorie, low fat and good sources of protein. Hard-boil eggs. Let cool. Roll (which makes them easier to peel) and then peel. Cut in half, reserve intact egg whites, and mash yolks in a bowl with diced cooked ham, Gruyere or Swiss cheese, honey, spicy mustard, finely diced black olives, freshly ground black pepper and minced fresh thyme and add back into the reserved egg white "cups."
Umami is the word the Japanese use to refer to vegetarian ingredients with such full flavor that they can make non-meat dishes taste meaty. Every ingredient in this fast entree sandwich filling, as well as the bread spread, fits the bill and, therefore, should elicit rave reviews. Saute very thin slices of eggplant and mushrooms and caramelize very thin slices of onions, and stuff along with sun-dried tomatoes between two slices of toasted multigrain bread that have been spread with a paste you made from miso powder (available in the ethnic aisle of most supermarkets), very finely chopped walnuts, garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper.
Artful Artichoke Bottoms
Cook artichokes trimmed down to bottoms and add diced cooked shrimp and diced cooked mahimahi or cod (after cooking, seafood should have been marinated briefly in red wine vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, lite soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce). Sprinkle with whole wheat bread crumbs that have been mixed with chopped fresh or ground dry thyme. Heat, covered with aluminum foil, in oven set at low until fully heated through.
Whimsical Winter Wheat Berries
Winter wheat berries may be a fantastic grain (they're whole unprocessed kernels, and are excellent cooked as cereal, or in pilafs or breads) you've never tried that, if not at the supermarket, can be found at most natural foods markets. Mix cooked wheat berries with diced green beans, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, freshly ground black pepper, Dijon mustard and bottled low-fat vinaigrette dressing, and cook in microwave until completely heated through.
Spinach with the Strength of a Thousand Men - or Women!
Canned white beans (also known as navy, cannellini or Yankee) are nutritional powerhouses packed with fiber and protein. Add them to pine nuts, thinly sliced clove of garlic, fresh lime juice, olive oil, dash of salt, freshly ground black pepper and sautee, stirring frequently, until heated through. During about last 2 minutes of cooking, toss in fresh spinach and thinly sliced fresh basil and continue stirring frequently until spinach has wilted.
Very Cool Sugar-Free Hot Chocolate
Sugar-free hot chocolate mix can make a useful base for healthful desserts. For this one, prepare it according to package directions, add vanilla extract and a few shavings of dark chocolate (that is full of antioxidants), which will melt. Let cool. Place cooled hot chocolate, chunks of fresh banana and ice cubes in blender container and blend until creamy and like a milk shake.
Multipurpose Multigrain Dessert Waffles
Multigrain frozen waffles are low in calories and fat and a good source of whole-grain fiber. Prepare them according to package directions (usually takes just 5 minutes in a preheated oven!) Let cool. Leaving at least a quarter of an inch border, spread one waffle with peanut butter and no-sugar added all-fruit spread (available in the jam aisles of most supermarkets) and sprinkle with chopped peanuts and thinly sliced strawberries and top with a plain cooked waffle to make a "sandwich." Warm in microwave for a few seconds until heated through
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
To save time when it really counts, why not take advantage as the New Year begins of your calendar, Day Planner, iPhone menu organizing apps and the myriad other helpers at your fingertips: Plan the year's holiday meals now. Think about what will be your appetizer, entrees, sides and desserts for fun times ahead like Valentine's Day, Passover, Easter, even July Fourth and next fall's and winter's holiday feasts. Start preliminary shopping lists and guest lists as well as table decoration notes. Even take some spare time now to begin those related craft projects, like place cards and centerpieces. An inspiring new book on the subject: "Perfect Table Settings: Hundreds of Easy and Elegant Ideas for Napkin Folds and Table Arrangements" by Denise Vivaldo (Robert Rose, $29.95). An excellent one with recipes for events year-round: "Happy Holidays from the Diva of Do-Ahead" by Diane Phillips (Harvard Common Press, $14.95).
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling
The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and
Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission Granted for use on Dr.Laura.com.