10 Healthy Graduation Party Food Ideas

Graduation season is upon us. Whether you are celebrating a graduation yourself or are hosting a graduation party for a loved one, this week’s post will feature healthy recipes for you to enjoy as a part of this year’s graduation festivities.

Graduations are often pivotal moments of accomplishment that are celebrated in the company of friends and family. If you’d like to stay on track with your healthy eating, you can bring along or serve some healthier dishes at the graduation parties you have to either attend or host this year. For some fresh ideas, check out some of the recipes below:

Middle Eastern Tahini and Yogurt Appetizer

Spinach Artichoke Strata

Edamame and Shrimp Bruschetta

Mini Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

*Try this recipe with mini whole wheat or whole corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas for a healthier whole grain option*

Sheet Pan White Pizza with Salami and Peppers

Parm-Style Chicken Sliders

Watermelon Arugula and Feta Salad

Skinny Baked Mozzarella Sticks

Rainbow Fruit Skewers with Yogurt Dip

Skinny Cake Pops

I hope you find some delicious yet healthier recipes to try. Comment and share which recipes you enjoy the most.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Homemade Blueberry Pancakes

If you’re looking for a healthier pancake recipe, this one is a win. It was a hit with my 2 year old who couldn’t stop asking for more.

This Skinnytaste recipe is simple to make and can allow you to satisfy that pancake craving without feeling like you just ate dessert for breakfast. The recipe uses white whole wheat flour, which gives you more fiber and fullness with your breakfast. The recipe itself calls for one hundred percent white whole wheat flour, but I used half all purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour. I feel like it gave the pancakes the perfect balance between a whole grain taste and your traditional buttermilk pancake taste (especially if your’e not accustomed to the taste of whole wheat pancakes).

Pre-packaged pancake mixes, like most processed foods, tend to have additives, preservatives, and extra sweeteners. Making your pancakes from scratch is a great way to avoid all these additives and go for something more natural.

The pancake recipe itself does not call for blueberries, but I love fresh blueberry pancakes, so I added them into mine. You can add fresh fruit into your pancake batter (once mixed), or just add the fresh fruit on top depending on your preference.

Whole Wheat Pancake Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour that I purchased at Target)
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sugar (I added a little honey instead of sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp fat free milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix well with a spoon until all the dry spots are gone; be careful not to over mix.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly spray oil to coat and pour 1/4 cup of pancake batter. Once the pancake begins to bubble and the edges start to set, flip the pancake. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.

If you are diabetic, include some protein with breakfast (for example eggs, cottage cheese, or peanut butter) and use sugar free pancake syrup for the best blood sugar control.

Hope you enjoy this week’s healthy recipe. Let me know what you think by liking and commenting below.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

The 50 Percent Rule: An Easy Way to Make Every Meal Healthier

There are many great tools available that make healthy eating and weight loss more manageable. Calorie counting apps, measuring cups, and activity trackers are some great examples. While each tool or method may not be a perfect fit for everyone, there is one simple strategy that you can use anyplace anytime. The 50 percent rule is where you aim to fill up half of your plate with veggies.

The 50 percent rule is easier than counting calories, because you don’t have to worry about the exact number of calories or macro nutrients you’re consuming. Instead you bring more balance to your meals by upping your intake of healthier, more nutrient dense foods.

Most people know or believe that vegetables are good for you. There are many health benefits that go along with eating a diet rich in veggies. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Dietary fiber can help with lowering cholesterol and is linked to lower rates of obesity and heart disease. Fiber can also give you more fullness (satiety) with your meals which can be helpful with portion control and overeating. Studies have also found that higher intake of dark leafy green vegetables lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet for cancer protection. Not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are the two most important things you can do to lower your risk of cancer and eating more vegetables in your diet is a great way to help maintain a healthy weight.

Not all vegetables are created equal. They each provide different nutrients, so variety is key. Aim to fill up half of your plate with non starchy vegetables. Grains or starchier vegetables like corn, potatoes, and peas should instead comprise a smaller portion of your plate, just 25%, while the remaining 25% of your plate should be protein.

Non starchy vegetables

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chayote
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts

This week I challenge you to put the 50% rule to practice. All you need to do is literally eyeball your plate and make sure that half of it is covered with non starchy veggies. If you don’t eat a lot of vegetables normally, you can ease your way in by just applying the 50% rule to one meal a day. Be bold and adventurous by trying new vegetables and recipes that you haven’t before. Until next time.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

8 Ideas for a Healthier Easter Basket

Easter is just around the corner, and this week’s post is going to help you build a healthier Easter basket this year. As a major chocolate lover, don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you have to eliminate the candy all together. Instead, take some of these suggestions to help build a basket with more balance to show your kids that healthy foods can also be a fun part of the holidays and your lifestyle.

In addition to including yours (or your kid’s) favorite candy, consider adding some of the suggested items below:

Dried Fruit with No Added Sugar

Dried fruit can be a good option, and even something that you can fit inside your plastic Easter eggs. Just be sure to look for dried fruit that has no added sugar because a lot of the dried fruit out there has as much added sugar as a candy bar. See a few examples below.

Annie’s Cheddar Bunny Crackers

My toddler loves these organic cheddar crackers. Their bunny shape will tie perfectly into the Easter theme of your basket. The crackers are made with real cheese and have all natural flavors and colors.

Natural Lollipops with No Added Sugar

We recently bought these for my daughter to enjoy during her first international flight. They look just like regular suckers without all of the added sugar and artificial colors. My husband even thought they tasted good, and he’s definitely a tougher critic on healthy foods than me lol.

Inedible Gift Basket Ideas

I know Easter baskets are typically overflowing with candy, but there are also some great non edible gift basket items you can include.

Books

For my two year old, Easter themed books are a great option. Aim to get a book that will be age appropriate. Any book that you think your little one will enjoy reading will be perfect. Encouraging more reading can be a great educational way to decrease screen time (time on the phone, computer, TV or playing video games) for your little one.

Activity Book or Coloring Book

Another great option to include in your Easter basket is an age suitable coloring book or activity book for your child.

Games

Including a new game that your family can enjoy playing together is another great candy free Easter gift option (Bananagrams  game pictured below as an example).

Music

Consider adding the CD of your child’s favorite musical artist or singer. Or if you have a younger kid, look for a CD with fun children sing along songs to listen to in the car. If all else fails, you can always just keep things simple with an Itunes gift card.

Tickets

Give your Easter basket a little something special by including tickets for a fun family outing or activity. You can do something as simple as movie tickets, or even get a little more creative with tickets to the trampoline park, zoo, or aquarium.

I hope this week’s post gave you some new and healthy ideas for your family’s Easter baskets this year. Let me know which options you incorporate and  enjoy the most. Wishing you a happy and healthy Easter.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

6 Tips to Increase Your Water Intake

Water is the best way to quench your thirst without consuming an excess intake of sugar and added calories from popular sugary beverage choices like soda, juice, sweetened teas, sports drinks, aguas frescas, and vitamin water (to name a few). Sugar sweetened beverages are actually the leading source of added sugar in the American diet.

Many research studies have linked sugar sweetened beverages to obesity in both children and adults. Regularly drinking sugar sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, as well as tooth decay and cavities according to the CDC.

Bumping up your water intake and cutting back on sugary drinks can have many positive results including: saving money, lowering extra calorie intake from added sugars, promoting a healthier weight, and helping your muscles and brain stay hydrated for the best mental and physical performance.

Keeping all of that in mind, here are some helpful tips to increase your water intake.

6 Tips to Help Increase Your Water Intake

  1. When you are thirsty, try to drink water. It is the best way to quench your thirst.
  2. Serve water with meals instead of soft drinks.
  3. Cut down your intake of soda, juice, or other sugary drinks. Limit juice to no more than 4 to 6 oz a day.
  4. Fill your water bottle and keep it with you throughout the day.
  5. Use a water tracker app on your smart phone to track your daily water intake and set reminders to reach your water intake goals.
  6. Try infusing your water with lemon, lime, cucumbers, mint leaves, basil, or fresh berries for a little extra flavor.

I hope this week’s post motivates you to cut back on sugary drinks and fall back in love with the simplicity of water. In the words of W.H. Auden, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Tasty Snack Ideas

I’m hoping you enjoyed last week’s healthy snack recipe: BBQ Roasted Chickpeas. This week, I wanted to continue with the same theme and provide some additional healthy snack options for you to try.

My biggest tip for choosing healthy snacks is to think of snacks as mini meals and focus on choosing foods rich in nutrition.

The table below lists a table of different snack options. The snacks are broken down into three categories: fruit, veggies, and grains, depending on which food group you are wanting to emphasize.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Fruits

Veggies

Grains

String cheese and 1 small fruit

Tomatoes, bell peppers, and snap peas with hummus

Slice of whole grain toast with spread avocado

Apple and peanut butter

“Ants on a log”- celery with peanut butter and raisins

Mini quesadilla: 6 inch whole corn tortilla, low fat cheese, and salsa

Cottage cheese and fresh berries

Carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower with Ranch dressing

½ Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with spinach and tomato

Low fat yogurt with fruit and low fat granola

Whole wheat tortilla melt with low fat cheese and veggies

1 ounce of low fat cheese with whole grain crackers

Fruit smoothie made with frozen berries, low fat milk, and ice

1 Cup of low sodium vegetable or tomato soup with whole grain crackers

Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, whole grain pretzels, and low sugar dry cereal

½ Banana with peanut butter

Microwave a small baked potato and top with low fat cheese and salsa

1/2 Peanut butter or nut butter sandwich

 

Fresh fruit kebabs

Mini “pizza”: ½ Whole wheat English muffin topped  marinara sauce, low fat cheese, and veggies

1 Cup of low fat popcorn sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese

½ Whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese and strawberry slices

Mini whole wheat pita bread spread with hummus and topped with your choice of vegetables

Pita chips and hummus

If you’re like me and have a sweet tooth every once and a while, below are a couple of healthier “sweet treats” you can try.

  • Rocky road: Break up a graham cracker and add to low fat chocolate pudding, top with a few mini marshmallows
  • Fill a waffle cone with cut up fruit and low fat vanilla yogurt

I hope I’ve given you a few new healthy snacks to try over the upcoming weekend. Let me know which healthy snacks you enjoy the most by commenting and liking below.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Healthy Snack Recipe: BBQ Roasted Chickpeas

What comes to mind when you think of the word snack? Is it a bag of flaming hot Cheetos? Or a pack of Oreos? Or fresh veggies with hummus dip? Snacks are not by themselves a bad or unhealthy thing to indulge in, but like with your daily meals, the types of food you’re choosing to eat matter.

Snacks have for years had a notoriously bad reputation because they are more commonly associated with unhealthy foods. This week I’d like to share an easy, healthy snack that you can prepare and enjoy guilt free.

Chickpeas are featured in this week’s recipe. They are a good plant based source of protein and are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, chickpeas have been found in some emerging research to play a beneficial role in weight management and glucose and insulin regulation. As you can see, there are many health related reasons to give this week’s recipe a try.

BBQ Roasted Chickpeas

BBQ Roasted ChickpeasIngredients

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and lay out on a baking tray. I used parchment paper to save time on cleaning up.
  2. Mix in the smoked paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper and salt directly on the tray.

3. Put in the oven at 400°F for about 30-35 mins (I roasted mine for 30 minutes).

4. Remove from the oven when they are golden.

5. If you want them crispy they will need closer to 35 mins, but keep a close eye on them because they can go from very crispy to burnt in a matter of minutes.

This recipe is so simple taking only 1-2 minutes to prepare and 30-35 minutes to bake. Let me know how you like the BBQ roasted chickpeas by commenting and liking below. I hope this week’s post gives you a new healthy snack that you love.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

The Health Benefits of Hiking

This weekend my family and I went on a day hike in Joshua Tree National Park. There’s something so serene about hiking in the outdoors and taking in the beauty of God’s natural landscape.

One of the most important recommendations I make to my clients about incorporating and maintaining exercise as a part of their lifestyle is to find an exercise they love to do. If you start going to the gym solely with the goal to lose weight but don’t enjoy your time there and have to talk yourself into going each and every time, eventually you’re going to stop going. On the flip side if you find an activity that not only brings you health and weight management benefits, but you really enjoy the activity, you’re more likely to make time for it in your day to day living.

Find an exercise or activity that you love and that feeds your soul

Whether you’ve never tried hiking before or it’s been a while since your last hike, I’d recommend to give it a try. If you prefer to exercise outdoors, hiking may be a good fit for you. A leisurely hike can burn anywhere between 300-600 calories per hour. Your total number of calories burned is affected by your weight, the terrain, the distance and speed of your hike, and the weight of any backpack you carry.

Hiking has several health benefits to offer. Engaging in regular exercise such as hiking can help lower your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Regular physical activity can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce the pain of arthritis, facilitate a healthy weight, and can contribute to healthy bones, muscles, and joints.

To find hiking trails near you, check out The Hiking Project. If it’s your first time hiking you can also check out this helpful information with hiking for beginners. Don’t worry, regardless of your fitness level, there are suitable hiking trails for everyone.

Joshua Tree National Park

There you have it. All the information you need to give hiking a try. If you have kids you can even make a family outing out of your hiking experience and encourage your kids to be active as well. My daughter is almost two, and though she spent most of the hike on my husband’s back, she enjoyed taking in all of the beautiful scenery.

If you enjoyed this week’s blog post, comment and like below and feel free to share some of the things that you enjoy most about hiking.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Valentine’s Day Recipe Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Valentine’s Day is just a few days away and is a great time to surprise the ones you love (or even just yourself) with a special treat. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative than your typical cookies, cupcakes, or candy……this week’s post has just what you’re looking for.

This tasty recipe from Skinnytaste has a few healthy components. First off, you’re actually including a veggie in your muffin, but don’t worry with these muffins it won’t even taste like you’re eating vegetables. The zucchini has a very neutral flavor and blends in very nicely with the rest of the muffin. My toddler helped me eat these zucchini chocolate chip muffins, and she couldn’t stop asking me for more bites. Needless to say these zucchini muffins are even kid friendly 😉

Another perk of this recipe is that it is partly whole grain because it uses white whole wheat flour. It is also lower in fat than your typical muffin recipe using applesauce in substitution for some of the butter. This helps cut down on fat and makes the muffins more moist. The final perk of this recipe is that is has a lot less sugar than most store bought muffins. Check out the recipe below.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 16 to 18 minutes

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1-1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded zucchini (not packed)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin liners and spray with oil.Muffin Liners
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. Add chocolate chips and gently mix to combine.Dry Ingredients
  4. In a medium bowl, mix egg, vanilla, melted butter, apple sauce and zucchini. Wet Ingredients
  5. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just blended.Mixed Ingredients
  6. Spoon the batter into lined muffin tins about 3/4 filled.Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins Oven Ready
  7. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool before eating.Valentine's Day - Edited

Comment and like below, and be sure to let me know how you enjoy this recipe. Skinnytaste recipes are some of my favorite because they taste great but have a healthier spin to them. Until next week.

Royally yours,

The Diet Duchess

Keto Craze: 5 Things You Should Know About The Popular Ketogenic Diet

Would you like to be able to lose weight and still be able to eat things like butter, bacon, meat, cheese, and heavy cream? It may sound crazy, but there is actually a diet out there where you can freely eat those foods and still lose weight. The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is one of the most currently talked about diets.This weeks post will give you a little insight into this diet to help you decide whether or not it is the right fit for you.  

 

1. The keto diet has been around for almost a century

Many of you have probably heard about the ketogenic diet as a popular new approach for weight loss. Even though this diet has grown in trendiness and buzz over the past few years, the ketogenic diet has actually been around for decades, initially being introduced back in 1920.

2. The keto diet is used for the management of epilepsy

One of the medical applications of the ketogenic diet is as nutrition therapy for the management of epilepsy. Seizure control has been shown to improve after 2 to 3 days of fasting and the ketogenic diet offers an approach that yields the effects of starvation in the body without causing malnutrition.

3.  On the keto diet your body burns fat for energy

Carbohydrates traditionally function as the body’s main source of energy. On the ketogenic diet however because your intake of carbohydrates is so low (typically less than 20 grams per day) your body is forced to use fat instead (in the form of ketone bodies) as its main energy source. The keto diet typically aims to provide anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of total calories from fat, 6 to 15 percent from protein, and 2 to 10 percent from carbohydrate depending on which  ketogenic diet ratio is being followed (for example, 4 grams of calories from fat to every 1 gram of calories from carbohydrate and protein combined (4:1 ratio), versus the 3:1 and 2:1 ratios).

Ketogenic Diet

Starchy vegetables and sweeter vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas, and carrots (to name a few), are not allowed on the diet in order to successfully keep the carbohydrate intake low enough to induce ketosis. You can also say goodbye to other tasty carbohydrate rich foods like pasta, bread, fruit, cereal, rice, ice cream, and chocolate. One of the drawbacks of restrictive diets that cut out entire food groups, is that when you cut out those specific groups of foods, you’re also losing out on the healthy nutrients they provide. Fruits and whole grains for example, which are not allowed on the keto diet, are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients.

 

4. The keto diet is high in saturated fat

One of the primary concerns of dietitians, nutritionists, and other health professionals when it comes to the keto diet is whether or not the higher intake of fat will negatively affect cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. Saturated and trans fats are known to increase your bad cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol) which can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Saturated fats are primarily found in meats and high fat animal and dairy products, which as we discussed earlier many of those foods can be eaten in large quantities on the keto diet.

After looking into some of the research on the ketogenic diet’s effect on cholesterol levels I found mixed reviews.  If you decide to give the keto diet a try, my personal recommendation would be to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels, especially if you already have a history of hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). Also aim to choose more heart healthy unsaturated sources of fat, such as avocados, walnuts, almonds, and olive oil.

5. The Ketogenic diet can help suppress your appetite

One of the positive side effects of the keto diet, is having a decreased appetite which can be a helpful factor in weight loss success. Lower appetite is achieved with the higher fat and moderate protein content of the keto diet which offers more satiety (fullness) with meals. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when the body was in ketosis, there was a decrease in the body’s hunger hormone ghrelin and an increase in the hormone leptin which tells our bodies when we are full. These hormonal changes can make it easier for you to avoid overeating and promote weight loss.

Is it possible to lose weight on the keto diet? Yes it is. Research shows it is possible, and I personally know people who have. I think the real question is, will the keto diet be a practical longer term solution for you? Will you be able to cut out major carbohydrate players like fruit, bread, pasta, rice, cereal, ice cream, and chocolate? If like me, your answer to this is no, then this diet is probably not a practical long term approach for you and could potentially just lead you back on the path of yo-yo dieting.

It is always important to consult your physician prior to beginning any new diet or exercise program and it’s wise to remember that we all have different medical histories to consider when determining which diet and lifestyle approach is best for you. I hope this week’s post gave you a little more understanding of the ketogenic diet. Stay tuned for next week’s post with more diet and fitness tips to help you Royally Rock Your Diet.

Royally yours, 

The Diet Duchess