Are Fast Food Salads Really Healthy for You?

Fast Food Salads

In our busy lives where we may or may not have the time to cook healthy and fresh food, fast food offers a good option of grab-and-go meals. But we all know that fast food is generally considered unhealthy because of too many calories and little nutritional content. So what do you do? You come up with a smart idea- or so you think. Eating salad is always healthy, right? So for every visit to a fast food restaurant you stick with one of their salad offerings, avoiding the greasy burgers, fries, nuggets or other unhealthy stuff. You think you are eating healthy by ordering a salad, but odds are you aren’t. Especially if it is a salad from a fast food chain, it can be quite unhealthy for you.

Low Nutritional Value

Many fast food salad offerings fall short of what you would expect in a healthy salad- baby spinach or spring mix, broccoli, carrots, onions, snap peas, and a lean protein such as egg whites, chicken, or tuna. You can also add chickpeas, kidney beans, or other legumes. But many fast food restaurants offer supposedly “healthy” salads such as a BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad (with chicken breast, grapes, bacon bits, iceberg lettuce, and cheese all laden with preservatives, coloring agents, and additives, and with 440calories and 24 grams of fat) or a Chicken BLT Salad (with deep fried chicken, strips of bacon, and cheddar cheese that comes to 790 calories and 67 grams of total fat). While some or many of the ingredients in such salads may seem healthy and fresh, unfortunately they can have more calories than a Big Mac or a side of fries. They include minimal amounts of fiber and lean proteins.

Choose Wisely

The sad reality is that many fast food salads are saturated with fats and sodium. The good news is that not all fast food salads are laden with mind-boggling amounts of calories. Some restaurants do offer healthy salad options, and if you switch to a fat-free dressing and take a pass on heavier ingredients such as bacon bits and croutons, you will make the calorie count go down even further. So the important thing to remember is to see the ingredients carefully and find out the total fats and calories in the salad. Go for a salad that contains ingredients with more nutritional value. Iceberg or romaine lettuce, for instance, have very few nutrients, while their greener counterparts such as kale, spinach, or arugula pack more of a nutritional punch. Look for nutrition information on the menu or restaurant website. Once you know that what you are getting from the drive-thru window is actually good for you, it will be easy to make it a regular part of your diet.

So as you can see, all fast food salads are not healthy for you, but by arming yourself with information about the ingredients, you can pick the healthy ones and avoid those that lead to a diet disaster.

Sadly, fast food salads can be unhealthy for you. Look for healthy ingredients and a low calorie count. Salads with spinach, lean proteins, and legumes are healthier and have higher nutritional value.

 

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Quick Snacks

Homemade Popsicles

Quick Snacks for on the Go Families

It can be challenging to eat healthy when on the go. As a busy family, you're probably consumed with running around for sports and dance practices, school, work and entertainment with hardly any time to prepare a healthy meal. Forget the drive-thrus and prepare an easy frozen snack that you can make ahead of time. If you have a couple of go-to recipes you can fall back on when preparing frozen snacks ahead of time, you're all set. All you have to do as you head out the door is microwave these treats or just eat them as is. If you plan ahead, you can leave them out on the counter for a bit to thaw.

Veggie Muffins

OK, you may want to change the name so your kids will actually eat them, but these to-die-for baked goods are perfect for grabbing on the way to school. They're single serve, too, so take one, or take a bunch. Kids can toss a frozen one into their lunch bags and it's thawed by morning snack. These muffins are packed with vegetables as well as applesauce and orange juice for a kick of sweetness.

You'll need an egg, 3/4 cups OJ, 1/2 cup applesauce, just a 1/4 cup sugar (sweet!), one cup each of white flour and whole wheat flour, one tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt to taste, one tsp. cinnamon, one cup each of shredded carrot and zucchini, and 1/2 cup raisins. Simply beat the egg in a bowl, add the juice, applesauce and sugar, followed by the blended dry ingredients and the fruit. Mix until moist, then fill cupcake pans 2/3 full. Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Freeze individually, and thaw as needed.

Peanut Butter Pizzazz

For a healthy frozen snack you can make ahead, go for peanut butter for a punch of protein and fiber. Mix peanut butter with your kid's favorite yogurt, add some raspberries and place in pop-shaped plastic containers to store in the freezer. Need a quick snack? Grab a pop and go. Protein, calcium and fruit all in one!

When incorporating frozen snacks into your daily routine, keep in mind that organizing and labeling is key. Mark the date on the frozen treats you make to ensure their utmost freshness. Stack neatly in the freezer or throw them in the ice bin, depending on the size and space. You won't mind when your kids help themselves to these snacks!

Vegetarian Lasagna

vegetarian lasagna with vegetables and cheese

This vegetarian lasagna is healthy and delicious. The recipe allows you to make ahead an extra one to freeze. Feel free to add any other favorite veggies you like.

Healthy Alfredo Cauliflower Sauce

Ingredients

• 10 large minced garlic cloves
• 2 Tablespoons butter
• 10 cups cauliflower florets
• 13 cups water or vegetable broth
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• 1 cup milk
• Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Directions

Saute garlic and butter on low heat until soft. Boil cauliflower in broth until tender; seven minutes. Do not drain. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and place in a blender. Add one cup broth, garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and milk. Blend until smooth.

Make Ahead Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients

• 2 packages frozen spinach, chopped (20 ounces)
• Alfredo cauliflower sauce (recipe above)
• 1 cup skim milk
• 2 packages of lasagna noodles (16 ounces)
• 2 pints cauliflower puree
• 2 eggs
• 16 ounces shredded carrots
• 16 ounces fresh sliced zucchini
• 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions

1. Spray two 10 x 15 inch pans with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Put spinach in large bowl. Microwave on high for four minutes uncovered. Mix in the cauliflower puree. Beat the eggs with whisk and then add. Stir until well blended.

3. Combine Alfredo Cauliflower Sauce with milk in separate bowl. Mix well.

4. Spread ½ cup of Cauliflower Sauce mixture on the bottom of each pan. Place three uncooked noodles over sauce. Spread ¼ of the spinach mixture over each pan. Sprinkle each with ¼ of the carrots and ¼ of the zucchini. Place three more noodles on top of each. Cover both with more sauce. Divide the remaining spinach mixture between the two pans and spread evenly. Do the same with the remaining carrots and zucchini. Add three more noodles to each. Reserve a small amount of sauce and divide the remaining between the two lasagnas and spread evenly over the top. Sprinkle both dishes with mozzarella cheese. Spray two sheets of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Place one sheet over each pan with the sprayed side down. Tightly cover.

5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Uncover and spread the last of the sauce over exposed top noodles. With the oven off, return the lasagnas to the warm oven uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve one vegetarian lasagna for dinner (allow to set up 30 minutes) and freeze the other for another evening. All left overs can also be frozen for later.

 

Chicken Stew

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Winter can be an especially brutal time of year. The days are short on sunlight and long on cold. Deep into the cold winter, a beautiful and hearty soup or stew seems to be just what is needed. Plus, a large batch of soup or stew can be made once, frozen and reheated as needed to be enjoyed throughout the rest of the month.

Unlike in summer, there may not be the rich array of fresh, healthy foods easily available. However, that does not mean that one has to serve up a bland or unhealthy dish. In cold winter days, a hearty and healthy chicken stew can be just the thing and can incorporate the flavors of the season.

One such recipe for a chicken stew that is both hearty and healthy and makes 12 servings is:

8 cups cooked chicken breast meat cubed
10 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked barley
3 cups chopped parsnips
6 cups cooked, diced sweet potatoes
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion, sauteed in olive oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

Start by cooking the chicken breasts in your preferred manner. Cook barley according to package instructions. Saute onion in olive oil. Cook and dice the sweet potatoes.

In a large saucepan, combine the vegetable broth, barley, parsnips and celery. Cook at a simmer over a medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until ingredients have reached the desired level of softness.

Add the cubed chicken, barley, onions and sweet potatoes to the mixture. Cook this mixture for an addition 10-15 minutes. Stir in flour to thicken the sauce. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

For a variation on this, replace the cooked barley with cooked brown rice. Instead of vegetable broth, chicken or beef stock may be substituted. Scallions may be substituted for the onion, or they may be used in addition to the onion. You can also puree a few veggies to thicken the stew, such as cauliflower or carrots, or even 1-2 potatoes.

This hearty chicken stew can be dressed up by sprinkling it with a bit of fresh parsley. Alternatively, this dish may be spiced up with the addition of a bit of crushed red pepper or pepper flakes. You can also add frozen veggies, of course.

This healthy and hearty chicken stew may easily be cooked, frozen and reheated for later dinners as needed throughout the month. This is a wonderful stew for cold winter days, and it is something that the entire family can enjoy.

 

Hearty, Healthy Hash

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One of the most delicious and easily prepared dishes for a busy lifestyle is a hearty, healthy hash. The best thing about hash is that you can make it ahead of time and then freeze it in individual packages. To make your hash browns both hearty and healthy, use vegetables instead of meat.

You will need the following ingredients:
– 5 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes
– 3 average-sized zucchinis
– 1 large onion
– 3 red bell peppers
– 1 pound of white bell mushrooms
– 3 stalks of celery
– 4 cups of chopped spinach
– 1/2 cup of olive oil
– 1/2 cup of butter
– Salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley, to taste

Cut the potatoes up into bite-sized pieces, put them in a large pot of water, and bring them to a boil. Let the potatoes boil only for about five minutes, then remove them from the heat and drain. Next cut up the zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and dice the onion and the celery up into very small pieces. Mix all the vegetables together in a large bowl to even distribute everything. Of course, you can substitute other veggies, such as cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

In a large frying pan, heat up the olive oil and the butter. (If you do not have a frying pan large enough to cook everything at once, this can be done in multiple batches, just make sure to split the olive oil and butter up accordingly.) Once it is hot, pour all of the vegetables into the frying pan, mixing them around as you do so to evenly coat everything with the oil. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley. Allow this to cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes. About three minutes before you remove it from the heat, add the chopped spinach and stir it around. You do not want to overcook anything you make ahead to freeze, so remove it from the heat before the potatoes start to brown. Let it sit in the pan until it is cool.

This will make enough for eight meals serving four people, so have eight freezer-proof plastic containers ready. Evenly distribute the hash browns into the containers and seal them tightly before placing them into the freezer. When you are ready to use them, simply take one out and let it thaw on the counter for several hours, then heat up a frying pan and cook it until the potatoes are brown. Serve it as-is or with a sprinkling of cheese.