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15 Healthy Snacks for Super Bowl Sunday


Speaking as a native San Franciscan, it's been a great year for professional sports! Between the Giant's World Series championship and the 49ers super bowl berth, our athletes have given us a lot to brag about. Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game (and the commercials) is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is "only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day." To combat this unfortunate fact, I’ve gathered our favorite healthy super bowl party food so you can celebrate without the super-high calories, fat, and sodium. Don't forget to get up at halftime and dance to the music or get outside to throw the ball with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. That way you can enjoy some great food and keep moving too. You know who I will be rooting for on the field ("Go 49ers!"), but I'm also rooting for all my fellow Sparkers out there to have a fun and healthy super bowl celebration. 
Posted 1/29/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 16 comments   121,437 views
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Breakfast in 15 Minutes or Less


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not only because that’s "what my Mom used to say," but because, as my kids will tell you, their Mommy (me) gets pretty grumpy when she doesn't have a good breakfast. In all seriousness, several studies point to the importance of breakfast for metabolism, mental acuity, as well as other key health and wellness factors. SparkPeople has made breakfast a key priority in its programs too.
 
At the same time, not everyone feels the same about breakfast. Too big a breakfast and my husband will feel ill. The wrong breakfast choices and my kids will stage an uprising, of which they’re usually on the verge anyway in the morning. To help other Sparkers who find breakfast challenging, I've gathered our best recipes that have a proper balance of complex carbs, proteins, and fats that are also quick, easy, and affordable to prepare. Start your day right with these breakfast gems. 
Posted 1/22/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 30 comments   85,620 views
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10 Recipes So Good You Won't Believe They're Good for You


When Chef Meg and I started planning the recipe list for "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," we had a few criteria in mind. They had to be healthy, since this would be a SparkPeople cookbook, and they had to be easy, since even Chef Meg doesn't spend hours in the kitchen when she's not teaching chefs how to cook. Most importantly they had to be delicious. We banned bland food and ditched the diet. Together we created 150 meals and recipes ready in 30 minutes or less that use real foods like butter, bacon, and chocolate (not all together!).

With this cookbook you can eat the foods you love while losing weight--and you don't have to deprive yourself! You can eat like a chef without spending hours in the kitchen. And you can learn how to get the entire family excited about eating right (there's even a section on getting kids in the kitchen and teaching them to cook).
Posted 1/17/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 15 comments   26,859 views
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13 Recipes High In Protein, Low In Fat


Are you tired of eating plain, boring chicken breast every night for dinner, or are you having a hard time eating enough protein to meet you daily needs? Studies suggest that eating protein helps you feel fuller for longer and keeps your body's systems function properly. At the same time, many high protein recipes are also loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol that work against your efforts to stay healthy. A health and balanced diet requires 10-35% protein. That's an average of 50-175 grams daily. To find the right balance of protein and fat follow these suggestions:
  • Grill, bake, poach or broil your food to limit fat.
  • Select nonfat or low fat dairy options.
  • Use egg whites in place of the whole egg.
  • Select lean meats and trim the fat and skin before cooking. 
Prepare these high protein, low fat recipes to help you stay on track and satisfied.

Posted 1/15/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 21 comments   341,028 views
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12 Ways to Top Your Tomato Soup


There's something so comforting about tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Today we're sharing with you a simple recipe for a homemade version of this comforting classic, plus ideas for how to top your soup--and easy ways to transform it into other meals.
 
Mmm, mmm, better! That's what you will be saying when you try my easy Creamy Tomato Soup.  It tastes so much better than the stand-by canned variety, which rely on salt for most of their taste.
 
The condensed tomato soup we grew up eating has 480 mg sodium (about 20% of the max you should consume in a day). The homemade version has less than 100 mg per serving.
 
Tomato soup is delightful on its own, but it also pairs well with all sorts of toppings. Try one of these flavorful toppings:
Posted 1/11/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 22 comments   24,866 views
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Make-Ahead Meals: How to Freeze and Reheat Full Dishes


Finding time to make a healthy dinner is a challenge for many of us. One of the best tips you'll hear is to freeze meals for busy nights to avoid the greasy drive-thru or pricey takeout traps. But how do you know if a meal will freeze well? How much time will it take to create a few make-ahead meals? And how in the world do you reheat and serve those frozen meals?
 
We've got you covered.

Before You Begin:
  1. Pick a day to plan meals.  Ask your kids, spouse, or friends for ideas.  Better yet, log onto SparkRecipes.com for easy, quick recipes.  Peruse grocery store ads, then make your final meal plan. 
  2. Write your grocery list--and take it with you when you shop.
  3. Once home, store recipe ingredients together in your pantry and refrigerator.
  4. Set aside a couple of hours to cook your freeze-for-later meals.  (Make sure you follow food safety guidelines for storage and reheating.)
Learn the Basics of Meal Planning
 
Before you head to the store, let's talk about which foods freeze well, and which don't:
Posted 1/7/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 28 comments   66,148 views
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7 Perfect Pork Chop Recipes


Pork Chops are not just the "Other White Meat," but a surprisingly versatile, affordable, and healthy meal plan option. A few simple changes are all that's required to bring this slice of Americana--pun intended--into the health-conscious 21st century. Try baking, slow-cooking, or grilling them, and then add your favorite fresh herbs to boost the chop's natural flavor structure. Opt for a more nutritious sauce or topping, like all natural apple sauce, spiced yogurt-based sauce, or home made chutney. Another benefit is that it doesn't take long to cook, nor are the ingredients very costly. Feed your family a healthy meal with these pork chop recipes. 
Posted 1/4/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 12 comments   18,674 views
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7 Easy Baked Pasta Dishes


Pasta is a crowd pleaser and doesn’t have to be hard to cook or unhealthy. Baked pasta is my go to meal when I need to prepare something ahead of time for dinner. With these simple modifications I've been able to take high-fat, high-calorie dishes and replaced them with highly nutritious ingredients. 
  • Use only half the amount of cheese.
  • Replace high-fat protein with lean protein.
  • Replace half the pasta with vegetables.
  • Try pasta made with rice, corn or quinoa flour for a gluten-free option. 
  • Use non-fat milk and Greek yogurt for a cream based sauce. 
These recipes are simple to prepare and taste great. Steam some broccoli or prepare a green salad and you have a well balanced meal that your family will love. 
Posted 12/18/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 2 comments   55,664 views
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13 Tips to Ensure Your Cookies Turn Out Perfectly


Thinking back to your childhood, what part of the holidays do you remember the most?  Seeing people kiss under the mistletoe, sipping hot chocolate after an afternoon of sledding, or opening presents under a real tree?  Heck no!  It’s the cookies your mom or grandmother made.  The baked treats were so much a part of the holiday that my siblings actually bickered over who would get my mom’s tins that she stored the baked goods in before the holiday.

Let’s face it. The winter holidays are so stressful and busy. If we make a commitment to bake cookies we want it to be fun, we need the recipes to be simple, and most importantly outcomes to be successful.  When you invest time and money into baking supplies for cookies, you want them to come out perfect, right? 

Stress no more. I've answered all your baking questions below, pondered all the "what-ifs" when it comes to making cookies, and even provided you with a brand-new, healthier, no-fail holiday cookie recipe, too!
Read This before You Bake:
Posted 12/3/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 10 comments   11,804 views
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40 Ways to Lighten Up a Holiday Party Menu


Wondering what to make for your upcoming parties and special occasions? Need a new brunch dish, a sweet treat for a cookie exchange, or something special for the holiday meal? Look no further than "The SparkPeople Cookbook"! With more than 160 mouth-watering recipes and hundreds of additional meal ideas, tips, and tricks for adding flavor while cutting fat, this book is a healthy hostess' best friend.

Today we're sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes from "The SparkPeople Cookbook." You can take a sneak peek at a few of them, but the rest are available exclusively in the cookbook. But because 'tis the season of giving, we've also rounded up Chef Meg's favorite seasonal appetizers (including a brand-new one), plus a money-saving entertaining tip!
Posted 11/30/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 11 comments   33,161 views
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7 Quick and Easy Salmon Recipes


When I was in high school, my parents made a big lifestyle change that included improved diet and exercise. One of our staples when eating out became salmon. Many years later, it's still my favorite fish, but now I enjoy it at home around our family dinner table too. The best thing about salmon is that you don't have to be a professional chef or require expensive ingredients. This fish is simple to prepare, cooks fast, and has high levels of omega-3 fats and protein, but is relatively low in calories. I prefer fresh wild salmon, but you can opt for farmed or canned salmon also. Whether you already love salmon, or if you're ready to try something new, try these simple and healthy recipes to acquaint yourself with this amazing fish. 
Posted 11/27/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 16 comments   62,652 views
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Is Your Kitchen Ready for Holiday Baking and Cooking?


Around the holidays, it seems like the stove and the oven are working overtime. We spend more time in the kitchen, sharing meals or prepping dishes for festive gatherings.  Make sure your kitchen is up for the task with these easy and quick kitchen tips. Consider it the wintertime equivalent of spring cleaning.

1. Take and inventory of your spice cabinet.  Check dates on spices and leavening ingredients, such as baking soda and baking powder.  Most spices don’t go bad but will lose some of their flavoring power.  (The exception: Poppy seeds and sesame seeds will go rancid. Open them up and if they smell oily or off, pitch. )  Incorporate any older spices into your menus over the next few weeks to use them up.  Leavening agents, however, lose their ability to leaven, or make baked goods rise.  If your baking soda has expired, use it to freshen your kitchen sink drain.  Pour the rest of the box into drain or disposal, add 1 cup white vinegar and let it do its stuff.  Rinse with warm water after 3 minutes.
Posted 11/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 11 comments   7,569 views
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12 Mashed Potato Makeovers


As you start to plan your Thanksgiving menu, think about this historical tidbit: Sarah Josepha Hale, an influential 19th-century editor who also wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb," is to thank for your traditional Thanksgiving meal. Not only did she pitch the idea of making Thanksgiving a national holiday to President Lincoln but she also suggested that home cooks make food that was popular at the time rather than what the Pilgrims and American Indians ate at their first feast.

While Hale's holiday stuck, her push for us to cook modern food faded. The roast poultry, stuffing/dressing, and yes mashed potatoes stuck around. Why? My guess is that it’s because we know what we like and most people, my dad especially do not like change.  I have news for my family (actually I may not tell them!) that I am taking a stand. I'm going to start with a mashed potato makeover.  I plan to swap out some of the traditional white potatoes with other tubers or vegetables that might boost fiber and add nutrients or flavor. 

Here's how you can make over your mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day or any other night they're on the menu.
Posted 11/19/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Meg Galvin : 17 comments   17,867 views
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7 Super Soups


As the weather turns cold, heat up your meal planning with cozy soup recipes.  Soup doesn't need to be boring, plain or unsubstantial. Add ingredients like beans, lean proteins and whole grains to turn it into a complete nutritious meal. Avoid high sodium broths. Instead use spices and seasonings to add flavor. Double the recipe and use the left over's for tomorrow's lunch or freeze it to enjoy another night. Curl up with a cup of soup this week by using these recipes and resources. 
Posted 11/16/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 15 comments   16,954 views
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Better Butternut Squash Recipes


Butternut squash is my favorite fall vegetable. I tell my kids that it's like vegetable candy, because roasting brings out its natural sweetness and reduces the need for sugar in our favorite fall deserts.
 
Consuming butternut squash adds fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and C to your diet. Here's an easy way to pick the perfect one at most stores. For maximum efficiency, roast extra squashes and freeze the extra flesh for later use. If you're short on time, just pick up some pre-cut Butternut Squash in the freezer section at your market. Another fun tip is to grind the seeds in a coffee or spice grinder and use as a natural thickening agent in soups and stews. 
 
Celebrate fall with these butternut squash recipes. 
Posted 11/13/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 13 comments   12,793 views
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