Making the Most of Your Food Budget with Beef

I will be blogging this month about how you can incorporate beef into your healthy diet. These posts are sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative and the Pennsylvania Beef Council, but are expressions of my own.

The great thing about heart-healthy cuts of beef, is that they are also economical. Cuts such as round steak or lean ground beef can work nicely into your food budget. While cuts such as sirloin and tenderloin may cost a bit more, they can stretch a long way with the right recipe.

Ground Beef: Economical and Nutritious

Ground beef is so versatile in the kitchen. It’s certainly a family pleaser, and with it you can create all sorts of healthy, quick meals. Choose lean beef (90-95% lean) when possible. If you are using a higher fat ground beef, brown the meat, and drain off fat, before adding to the recipe. Here are just a few ideas for quick and healthy dinners using ground beef:

  • Chili. A hearty beef chili is versatile and an excellent opportunity to add healthy beans to your diet (beans like kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans), as well as lycopene-rich tomatoes, and vitamin-C and potassium-rich bell peppers.

    This ground beef is 90% lean. Since the Nutrition Facts reflect a 4-ounce portion, that has 11 grams of fat per 4 ounce serving, only 4.5 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol, it fits the “lean” definition.

  • Stuffed zucchini squash “boats”. Squash is full of vitamins and fiber, and is low in calories. Make a meal out of it by cutting 4 medium zucchini or yellow squash, or one acorn or spaghetti squash in half, scooping out seeds (with summer squash, just spoon out enough squash to make a “bowl”, cook scooped squash with peppers). Saute minced onion, bell peppers, and squash in hot oil, then remove from pan. Season lean ground beef with turmeric, ground pepper, and chili powder. Add beef to pan, and brown. Add pepper mixture back to pan with beef, and mix. Mix the beef mixture with 1 cup cooked brown rice, then fill each squash half with it. Top with 2-3 TB of shredded cheese and bake on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until squash is tender. 
  • Beef tacos or wraps. These are kid-friendly and you can really be creative with toppings. If you have a picky eater in the house, try linking favorite ingredients into new meals. Have you even tried peanut butter and jelly in your beef wrap? Try it!
  • Skillet meals. Beefy pasta or Beef with Barley are not only easy to make, but easy to clean up since they use only one pan. By adding high fiber barley, and your favorite vegetables to cooked ground beef, you’ll have a quick, well-balanced, and satisfying family meal. 
  • Classic Meatloaf. This comfort meal is always welcome at the dinner table. Balance out this delicious meatloaf with a side of green beans and mashed potatoes.
  • Enjoy burger night at home. Not only will you control the fat and sodium in your burger when you grill it at home, but you can also get fancy with the toppings. Instead of shredded iceburg lettuce, go for shredded cabbage or baby spinach. Try avocado slices or alfalfa sprouts with sliced tomato. Dice some peppers and onions to make a quick relish of your own by adding flavored vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of salt, then refrigerating for an hour or more.

Get through the week with these ideas for quick family meals

The classic question: What’s for dinner?, is solved with these easy recipes and ideas. There are so many ways to create quick meals with beef.

  • Leftover Mondays: You don’t have to use sirloin steak to create this steak salad. You can use Sunday’s leftover pot roast and create a new meal with it on Monday night.
  • Taco Tuesday: Add chopped romaine, finely chopped tomatoes, black olives, and bell peppers to your tacos. Pair tacos with a side of red beans and rice (fun fact: crispy taco shells are lower in calories than most soft tortillas). Or make a Taco Salad with lots of leafy greens and veggies.
  • Bow Tie Wednesday: Pasta is so quick and delicious! Add lean beef and asparagus and you have a one dish meal. 
  • Pita Salad Thursday: This recipe is a Greek-inspired version of an open face taco using pita bread.
  • Fajita Fridays: Create a “Make Your Own Fajita Bar” at home. Saute the beef, then set up a buffet with soft whole wheat tortillas along with peppers, and onions low fat sour cream and salsa or homemade Pico de Gallo. Add a mixed fruit bowl as a side dish.

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Bold and Beefy

I will be blogging this month about how you can incorporate beef into your healthy diet. These posts are sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative and the Pennsylvania Beef Council, but are expressions of my own.

While the DASH Diet is heavy on plants (fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds) it also includes dairy products and allows for lean meats. Our Bold and Beefy Slow-Cooker Stew from DASH Diet For Dummies® is a perfect example of how you can incorporate lean beef into your DASH Diet.

This video shows you how simple it is to put this meal together. You can have everything chopped and ready the night before, store in the refrigerator. Then in the morning, it only takes five minutes to put it into your slow cooker, and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours (you can shorten cooking time to 5-6 hours, with the setting on high).


Herbs and Spices and Everything Nice

Herbs and spices add flavor to foods, and are often a great way to reduce the salt you use in cooking. However, some spices may also provide additional benefits to your health. Many contain “phytochemicals”, potentially having some added health benefits.

Last year, General Mills sent me some samples of their new cereals that use natural ingredients and spices to provide color (in place of artificial colors). Turmeric is one of the ingredients they are using to provide an orange color to foods, naturally. They sent me a jar of the spice and I’ve been looking for new ways to use it ever since. I’ve added it to chicken dishes, and soups and stews. But today I thought I’d add some to a smoothie!

Turmeric comes from the turmeric plant, and is often used in Asian cooking (curry). It has a bright orange color and may have beneficial properties that can help ease an irritable bowel, reduce inflammation, or tame a headache. It seems to be trending, and since I had a jar in my pantry, I figured I’d add some to a smoothie.

Inulinwhich is sourced from chicory root, is a functional prebiotic fiber, that may also help support gut health It’s sometimes used as a fat replacer, in foods such as yogurt or pudding. This allows for a lower calorie product (great for middle aged women and men), that also has the benefit of additional fiber.

This smoothie recipe includes both turmeric, and Dannon Triple Zero® yogurt (which contains chicory root fiber). And of course, I wouldn’t share it if is wasn’t delicious! Not to mention that it’s filling, and only 160 calories!

Easy Overnight French Toast

Death by pancake, waffle, or French toast?

There is so much news out there about how you’re supposed to eat right? It’s mind boggling at times. You don’t have to be a perfect eater to be a healthy eater. And not everyone is gluten intolerant.

Set the table and simply strive to choose a variety of foods. Eat your fruits and veggies, and take time to make eating a social, nurturing activity. If you have children, eating together as a family is always a good idea – not just for the nutrition, but also for the important bonding that can occur at the table.

For instance, putting together a quick Sunday brunch can help create some special family time on the weekend. It doesn’t have to be complicated – it can be easy! Like this French Toast recipe. All you have to do is assemble it the night before, then bake it on Saturday or Sunday morning for your weekend brunch. Add some sliced fresh fruit – whatever is handy and in season (I enjoy apple and pear slices now, along with peeled clementines or oranges), a pitcher of milk, a carafe of coffee or pot of tea – and BOOM! You have a balanced family brunch.

The Power of Protein

I will be blogging this month about how you can incorporate beef into a healthy diet. These posts are sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative and the Pennsylvania Beef Council, but are expressions of my own.

A balanced diet supports health.

While everyone has a different opinion about exactly which foods to eat, most people who are striving to eat a healthy diet will agree with that statement. I’m pretty sure that if we just get back to basics, we’d be in pretty good shape.

A healthy diet is created based on a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats (macronutrients, or “macros” for short). These three macronutrients provide the calories (or energy) we need every day. To maintain a healthy weight, you’ll want to be consuming just enough calories for your activity (when you consume more than your body burns, you gain weight). Your goal is to include nutrient dense foods so that your diet also includes all of the vitamins and minerals you need.

Beef is a nutrient dense food. It provides vitamin B12, B6, zinc, niacin, selenium, iron, phosphorus, choline, and riboflavin. Of course beef is an excellent source of protein too. Protein helps maintain muscle, supporting strong, lean bodies. If you are working out regularly with both weights and cardio, consuming adequate protein is important for both repair (the small tears that can occur with use) and maintenance of muscle tissue. 

Weight Control

Research has shown that consuming protein in equal increments is more effective than consuming larger amounts at one sitting. Therefore, it’s optimal to include about 15-25 grams of protein at each meal (your protein needs may vary based on age, gender, and activity). Adding  a small portion of a high protein food to each meal also helps with satiety (you’ll feel more full, longer). This can be an effective strategy for weight control.

While I recommend that you eat a variety of foods, keep in mind that lean beef provides a great source of protein at a low calorie cost. This is something to consider, especially if you are a middle aged woman (like me). You want the most bang for your buck, so to speak. For instance, 3 ounces of lean beef provides 25 grams of protein at only 154 calories, but 3 ounces of salmon only provides 17 grams of protein, and 3 ounces of cheese would provide you 22 grams of protein but at a cost of over 300 calories. So include variety, but be aware of calories too.

Heart Health

You know I support DASH Diet research, but there’s another interesting study called BOLD. The “Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet” (BOLD) study, showed that consuming lean beef daily as part of a heart-healthy diet, can reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol by 10 percent. The BOLD and DASH diets are very similar, but the BOLD study specifically looked at how adding lean cuts of beef would impact LDL levels.

Check out the section “Beefing up Your Plate, Not Your Waistline” of Chapter 17 in Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies® for more information about including beef in your heart healthy diet (click on “Look Inside” the book, for a sneak peak).

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Roasted Cauliflower & Chick Peas with Chard & Feta

Since it’s National Nutrition Month®, I’ve decided to upgrade my blog by creating better recipe posts for you, that will include a print function.

I will be repurposing a few older posts so that you will have this improved recipe display. This is one of my favorite nutrient-packed side dishes. It does use Feta cheese, which is high in sodium, but it’s used in small amounts. My theory is this – make vegetables taste really good and you’ll eat more of them. The benefit of the swiss chard and chick peas outweighs the bit of extra sodium. Enjoy.

You’ll begin with washing and prepping the veggies, breaking cauliflower into flowerettes, and rinsing chick peas.

These will be roasted in the oven for about 20 minutes, at which point you’ll add the chopped Swiss chard.

Roast for another 10-15 minutes.

Then toss together in a casserole dish, adding feta and panko. Return to oven for another 15 minutes.

Beef: Know Your Cut

I will be blogging this month about how you can incorporate beef into your healthy diet. These posts are sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative and the Pennsylvania Beef Council, but are expressions of my own.

My goal is to help you enjoy eating for better health. This sure doesn’t mean giving up the foods you love. My regular readers know I subscribe to a philosophy of “everything in moderation”. Yet many consumers are still confused about how “red meat” can fit into a healthy diet.

As co-author of two books that discuss diet and cardiovascular (heart) disease, I am well aware of the importance of a balanced diet. While I’m always striving to encourage you to add more fruits and vegetables, lean meats fit onto the plate too. It’s all about balance. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s DASH Diet guidelines recommend that 27% of your calories come from fat, with only 6% of those calories as saturated fat.

Low in saturated fat, a 3 ounce portion of lean beef provides only 17-19% of your daily fat allowance, so it can easily fit into that guideline. It’s important to know your cuts of beef, and incorporate lean cuts into your diet most often.

Improvements to Nutrition Profile

According to the beef checkoff, the past four decades have seen an estimated 44% reduction in available total fat, and a 29% reduction in saturated fat per capita, contributed by beef. This was a result of the changes in cattle breeding and management, and trimming practices, by processors, retailers and foodservice operators.

As part of my National Nutrition Month® blogging this month, I am going to share some facts with you each week about today’s beef so that you can “Put Your Best Fork Forward®”!

Labeling Lingo

When grocery shopping, it’s always a good idea to check labels and the Nutrition Facts panel. 

Here are a few terms to look for when shopping for beef:

  • Lean beef is less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol, per 3.5 ounces.
  • Extra Lean Beef is less than 5 grams total fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 ounces.

Look for these cuts:

  • Extra Lean ground beef (96%, 4%)
  • Bottom Round Steak (select grade)
  • Sirloin Steak
  • Sirloin Tip (select grade)
  • Top Sirloin Petite Roast Boneless (select grade)
  • Top Sirloin Steak, boneless center cut

I realize however, that budgets are important too. Don’t fret if you pick up a package of beef that is a bit higher in fat. You can make adjustments in the way you cook it, and in the portion, as well as how you balance out the whole meal with vegetables and grains. Or, perhaps your family really enjoys a chuck roast or a T-bone steak? Enjoy those for special occasions, and use the lean cuts guide to gauge weekly shopping choices.

Going Against the Grain

Some leaner cuts of beef may be tough if you don’t prepare them properly. Cuts such as bottom round steak or sirloin tip, can be marinated to improve tenderness. How you cut the steak or roast can also impact tenderness. You may have heard the advice to “cut against the grain”. What does that mean? Well, the “grain” refers to the bundles of long muscle fibers that are parallel to one another. When you slice these steaks, you want to slice perpendicular to those grain lines (not parallel with them). This cuts through the muscle fibers, and offers you much more tender, delicious bites.

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought about choosing healthy beef cuts. Next week, I’ll cover the protein power of beef.

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5 Simple Steps to March into Better Habits

Wow. It’s March already. And you know what that means? Registered Dietitians are all hopped up on nutrition tips, now more than ever!

It’s National Nutrition Month®!


Every year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics uses the month of March as an additional platform to encourage everyone to eat a healthier diet.

“The theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, which acts as a reminder that each bite counts. Making just small shifts in our food choices, can add up over time.”

There is so much conflicting information out there about nutrition. What should I eat? Does all of my food have to be “natural”? Should I avoid dairy or wheat? What’s the difference between organic versus other vegetables? 

The bottom line is this: Make small changes every day that will improve your diet. Everyone has different food preferences, and one person may be intolerant to different foods or ingredients, while another is not. So don’t think “Oh, I have to stop drinking milk because Gwyneth Paltrow says it’s bad for the environment”. Many people have no issues with dairy, and benefit from it’s fantastic nutrition profile (and ask a farmer, or follow a dietitian for nutrition advice, not Gwyneth or any other celebrity).

Here are my five simple tips to help you kick off the month of March:

1. Eat more vegetables.

Yes, vegetables can take a bit of work to include into your diet, but it’s time well spent. You must consider food prep time as a valued investment in your health! Keep raw veggies cut in the refrigerator so you have easy access to them for a snack. I keep canned and frozen vegetables on hand as quick options too. Cook fresh veggies differently – Roasting or grilling vegetables makes them more tasty. Add spinach or kale to your sandwiches or scrambled eggs. Try a vegetarian dish once a week for lunch or dinner. There are so many resources for vegetarian meals that are just an Internet search away. It could be vegan, or incorporate dairy and eggs (lacto-ovo). Look for recipes that include vegetables you already like.

2. Eat more fresh fruit.

Shop for sales and BOGO (buy one, get one free). Enjoy a piece of fruit every morning and afternoon as a snack. Enjoy fresh, or canned (packed in its own juice without sugar added). Pack fruit in both your lunch, and your child’s lunchbox.

3. Enjoy smaller portions of lean beef, pork, and poultry.

Meat lovers don’t have to sulk. These foods provide protein, iron, zinc and other important minerals, but strive to make half of your plate vegetables and whole grains. It’s okay to enjoy a delicious steak, just balance it with a nice vegetable side dish and salad (I’ll be blogging this month for the Northeast Beef Initiative).

4. Eat less sweets.

Pastry is my weakness. One of my favorite things is a hot cup of coffee and a really good pastry. But pastries, desserts, cookies, and coffee cakes are calorie dense. As you age, it’s pretty hard to fit them in on a regular basis without weight gain. Consider limiting sweets to home-baked, and choose daily options such as flavored Greek yogurt and fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet craving.

5. Work on Behaviors

Don’t be surprised if it takes a few days, or up to a week, to break a bad habit and start a healthier one. Sometimes your routine becomes so engrained, that you aren’t even sure why you are eating something. Your environment impacts your behaviors too.

  • If sweets are an issue at home or work, remove the candy dish, or other temptation from sight.
  • Have you gotten into the habit of eating on the couch, at your desk, or in the car? Make an effort to eat at the kitchen breakfast counter or table, or at a table in your break room at lunch.
  • Put a fresh fruit bowl on the counter in your kitchen, or at work.
  • Prepping your fruits and vegetables ahead (washed and cut) makes eating them easier to grab from the refrigerator.
  • Portion out “smoothie bags” (sandwich bag filled with berries, cut melon, chopped spinach) and store in the refrigerator so you can quickly grab them, dump into blender, add yogurt and ice, and whip something healthy up for breakfast or a snack on the run.

Change it up, and one day at a time, you’ll get used to your new food choice or daily habit.


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Spring Break: Keep Your Belly Happy

Spring is around the corner. I love how these tips really fit my life. As a Regular Girl affiliate, I couldn’t wait to share them with you, too. For many in the blustery Northeast, a nice trip south may be on your calendar. Keep your belly happy along the way and back. Now’s a great time to try Regular Girl®.

This post was posted by Regular Girl on March 30, 2016 in Fiber Basics, Travel
Springtime tummy troubles can dampen your fun. Whether you’re heading to the beach or just chilling with friends on the patio, take precautions to avoid occasional constipation, diarrhea or other digestive distress. You worked hard to get that swimsuit-ready body. Don’t let bloating steal the show. Here’s how to keep your belly happy this spring:


A trouble-free belly at home starts with a healthy diet

  • If warm weather means firing up the grill, be sure to pair your steaks and burgers with a skin-on baked potato and a salad. You may suffer digestive distress if you’re not getting enough fiber. Adults should consume 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. If half of your plate isn’t fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, consider a supplement such as Regular Girl. One scoop of this soluble fiber supplement provides five grams of fiber.\
  • If a sudsy cold beer or dirty martini accompanies your dinner, follow it up with a big glass of water. Alcohol consumption can cause dehydration which may lead to constipation.
  • Your springtime allergies may also be causing your bathroom woes. Some over-the-counter antihistamines often list constipation as a side effect. Consult with your doctor if this is an issue for you.

Planning may help you stay healthy away from home

Eating new foods while on vacation may upset your digestive balance. Supporting your gut’s beneficial bacteria before and during a trip with probiotics may help maintain your intestinal health. Regular Girl contains an active count of eight billion clinically proven Bifidobacterium lactis. Its prebiotic fiber helps keep all your good bacteria happy.

If you swap your high-fiber cereal for a glazed donut when traveling, your belly may revolt. Pack high-fiber snacks such as pears, nuts and whole-grain crackers. And, mix a scoop of Sunfiber into your water bottle to get an additional tummy-pleasing fiber boost without any unpleasant side effects.

Keep your bathroom routine consistent when you are away from home. Not listening to your body – either because you don’t want to stop the fun or you just don’t like the facilities – may lead to uncomfortable constipation.

This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.

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