In my opinion, the key to eating healthfully (and for less money!) is to plan and to make your own meals and snacks. Just think, how many times have you been caught—at work, on your commute, while travelling—with only drive-thrus and vending machines to choose from? Suddenly, a Starbuck’s scone (or worse) is the only thing standing between you and a hunger-fueled meltdown. Friends and family members will confirm (eyes rolling) that I’ve always got snacks on me. Weddings, the airport, the mall, Costco . . . wherever I am, I’ve likely stashed an energy bar, a Vitamuffin knock-off, an apple or a “pookie,” a.k.a. protein cookie, in my purse. Preventive measures, people!
Are my pookies on par with grandma’s oatmeal cookies? Hell, no. But they’re pretty tasty, packed with protein, fibre and omega 3s, and easy to make. Although using protein powder, particularly whey isolates, in baking typically yields dry, hockey puck-like goods, these are fairly moist (do not omit the oil, however!). Though you can make smaller pookies, I prefer giant pookies—the larger size is perfect to wrap and grab on the go. Plus, each boasts 11 grams of protein, 3 grams of fibre and only 175 calories and 4 grams of (naturally occurring) sugars, making them ideal for breakfast (pair a couple pookies with iced coffee for a speedy, satiating meal) or after a workout.
Meg’s Pookies (a.k.a. Protein Cookies)
- 2 cups oat flour*
- 1 cup vanilla whey protein powder (I like IsaLean Shake in Creamy Vanilla or IsaPro in Vanilla)
- ½ cup ground flaxseed (use golden flax–not dark brown–for a lighter taste)
- 6 packets stevia blend (equivalent to 4 Tbs sugar)
- 1 Tbs cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ cup mashed ripe banana (1 medium banana)
- 1 Tbs vanilla
- 4 Tbs vegetable oil (e.g., olive, walnut, coconut)
- ½ cup water or milk
- 1/3 cup raisins or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk flour, protein powder, flax, stevia, cinnamon and baking soda. Add banana, vanilla, oil, water and currants; stir to combine. Place six 1/3-½ cup mounds of batter on each baking sheet, spacing each at least an inch apart. Use wet fingers to flatten and shape. Bake 8 minutes (do not overbake!). Let cool; store in an airtight container (or in plastic wrap) in the fridge. Makes 12 BIG pookies.
Per pookie: 175 calories, 8g fat (1g sat, 0g trans), 119mg sodium, 3g fibre, 4g sugar, 11g protein
Tips & Variations:
- *To make oat flour, grind oats in a blender or food processor to a flour-like consistency.
- Don’t do dairy? Use rice protein powder (or other type), but you may need to use more or less liquid (banana, oil, water, etc.), depending on your powder.
- Substitute canned pumpkin or unsweetened applesauce for banana (you may need to increase the amount of sweetener to ½ cup).
- Use different extracts, such as almond or coconut.
- Substitute chopped nuts, seeds, chocolate chips or other dried fruit for raisins.
Bonus: Meg’s Protein Pancake Baking Mix
Check out my protein baking mix to make delicious pancakes (or muffins) in a flash!
It’s hardly gourmet fare, but this soup is perfect for cold, snowy (or rainy, in Vancouver’s case) winter nights. Besides, why resort to (preservative- and sodium-laden) storebought soup when you can make a tastier, healthier version in minutes?!
Bonus: Studies show that eating canned tomatoes may protect skin from UV damage, thanks to a high concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. In fact, cooked and canned tomatoes (e.g., tomato paste, tomato sauce) contain more lycopene than fresh.
- 1 32-oz. carton (4 cups) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (regular or with basil; salt-free variety preferred)
- 1 cup low-fat milk or unsweetened non-dairy beverage
- 1 19-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 Tbs basil pesto or fresh, slivered basil, optional
In a large pot, bring broth and tomatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; stir in milk and chickpeas; simmer over low heat 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle soup into bowls; stir 1 tsp pesto into each or garnish with slivered basil. Serves 6.
Per serving: 202 calories, 3g fat (0g sat, 0g trans), 431mg sodium, 9g fibre, 6g sugar, 10g protein
These easy, tasty burgers combine some of my favourite foods: salmon, squash, oats and mustard (mustard is a food in my book). Ultra low in calories and carbs, they’re packed with fat-burning protein and omega-3s; heck, you could eat the batch in one sitting if you like. They may even rival my favourite Costco find: Trident Seafoods wild salmon burgers. P.S. I haven’t yet made these with canned tuna, but I plan to, as I bet they’d taste great. For a vegan option, sub mashed cannellini beans for salmon.
- 1 213-g can wild salmon (no-salt variety preferred, e.g., Goldseal No-Salt Pacific Pink Salmon)
- 1/2 cup cooked, mashed butternut squash or sweet potato
- 1 Tbs whole grain mustard
- 3 Tbs oat bran (or oats or bread crumbs)
- 2 Tbs fresh chopped parsley, if you have it
- Pepper and/or no-salt seasoning blend, to taste (e.g., Spike Salt-Free Magic)
Preheat oven to 400F. In a bowl, combine ingredients. Shape into 4 patties and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes; flip; bake 10 minutes more. Alternatively, cook over medium heat in a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, about 3 minutes per side. Serve over shredded cabbage, rainbow coleslaw or salad greens; top with salsa, avocado or guacamole, hummus or more mustard!
Per burger: 99 calories, 4g fat (1g sat, 0g trans), 84mg sodium, 1g fibre, 0g sugar, 12g protein
Black bean brownie recipes have been floating around the Web for a while, but I’d never tried them till recently. Based on my other dessert-type “experiments” with beans (such as my banana chickpea bars—fail), I’d figured they’d taste, well, like beans! But, and I kid you not, these brownies, which were inspired by this recipe, are moist and delicious and have no “bean-y” taste. And they take mere minutes to whip together. Gluten-, dairy- and totally guilt-free, they’re high in protein and fibre and low in carbs and sugar. If your New Year’s resolution is to eat better (and whose isn’t?), these are perfect. Try them!
- 1 398-mL can black beans (1½ cups), well rinsed and drained
- 2 eggs
- ¼cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 Tbs vegetable oil (e.g., olive, canola or walnut oil)
- 1 Tbs vanilla
- 6 Tbs cocoa powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 15 packets stevia (equivalent to ½ cup + 2 Tbs sugar) OR ½ cup + 2 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder (*Adding baking powder yields a more “cake-y” brownie; omit for more “fudge-y” brownies.)
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray). Blend beans, eggs, applesauce, oil, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, stevia (or sugar) and baking powder in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer batter to prepared dish. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over batter. Bake 25 minutes. Let cool, then slice into 16 squares. Keep refrigerated.
Per square (using stevia): 65 calories, 3 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g trans), 19 mg sodium, 2 g fibre, 2 g sugar, 3 g protein
If you know me, you know I am frugal (which means using coupons at Whole Foods, so it’s all relative) and I hate spending money on things I could easily make myself, such as protein bars. As such, I almost never buy coffee drinks, but I am, unashamedly, a coffee addict. I got into drinking iced coffee last summer, when I got my teeth whitened (coffee, black tea and other acidic drinks can weaken and stain enamel, so my hygienist advised sipping coffee through a straw), and now I prefer it to hot coffee, even as temperatures plummet. Though coffee has bonafide health benefits (studies show caffeine may protect against stroke, some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease), to sleep easy, I drink one (huge) glass in the morning, then switch to decaf green and herbal teas.
Making your own coffee drinks is super easy and will save you buckets of cash and calories. Exhibit A: A 16 oz. Starbucks frappuccino (no whipped cream) can pack 300 calories and 60 grams of sugar—14 teaspoons worth!
Meg’s Skinny Iced Vanilla Almond Coffee
- 1½ cups cold brewed coffee*
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk) (I prefer Almond Fresh; the Almond Breeze brand tends to curdle in drinks.)
- ¼ tsp vanilla or other extract (try peppermint or almond)
- 1 packet stevia, or to taste (I like Sugaresque—it tastes and mixes like sugar and has no aftertaste)
- few shakes cinnamon, optional
- coffee ice cubes*
In a shaker bottle or jar, add coffee, milk, vanilla, stevia and cinnamon. Shake! Pour into a tall glass over ice. Enjoy with my 2-Minute Banana Bread or Pumpkin Spice Pancakes for a better-than-Starbucks breakfast! Serves 1.
Per serving: 25 calories, 2 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g trans), 97 mg sodium, 1 g fibre, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein
Tips & Variations:
- Keep a pitcher of brewed coffee in the fridge. I use 1 heaping tablespoon dark roast ground coffee to 1 cup water.
- Fill ice cube trays with cold coffee and freeze. This way you won’t dilute the coffee.
- Mocha version: Use chocolate almond milk or add 1-2 teaspoons cocoa powder before blending; sweeten to taste.
- For a pumped-up shake, add ½ scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder before blending.
- Like it hot? Whisk hot coffee, steamed almond milk (heat in microwave) and desired extras.
I created this recipe for an article I wrote on healthy breakfasts, and it was a hit dish in my kids’ cooking classes. Full of fibre, protein and omega-3 fats, with no added sugar, it also makes a great snack or dessert. (I
always sometimes add a few chocolate chips to the batter when making this for dessert. Banana chocolate chip bread, anyone?)
- 4 Tbs quick oats
- 2 Tbs ground flaxseed (use golden flax—not dark brown—for a lighter taste)
- ½- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 2 egg whites (4 Tbs liquid egg whites) or 1 egg
- ¼ cup mashed ripe banana (½ medium banana)
- ¼ tsp vanilla or almond extract, optional
Spray a microwave-safe ramekin, small dish or coffee mug with cooking spray. Add ingredients; mix thoroughly. Microwave on high 90 seconds. To remove bread, invert dish/mug over a plate. Enjoy plain, or slice in half and spread with nut butter or cream cheese. Serves 1.
Per serving: 232 calories, 8 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g trans), 107 mg sodium, 8 g fibre, 8 g sugar, 13 g protein
- Substitute unsweetened applesauce or canned pumpkin for banana; add stevia to taste.
- For a chocolate version, add 1 Tbs cocoa or carob powder and omit 1 Tbs flaxseed.
- Add a few chopped walnuts or raisins to batter.
- Substitute 2 Tbs oats, oat bran or wheat bran for flaxseed.
- You can also bake this in a regular oven (about 15 minutes at 350F).
My cheesy tuna bake is a great go-to dish: easy, quick, economical and delicious. Plus, each serving boasts 36 grams of protein, 5 grams of fibre, over 30 per cent of the daily value for calcium and almost a quarter of the daily value for iron. I usually make it in a casserole dish (or halve the recipe and bake in large ramekins), but you can also bake the mixture in bell peppers or use the unbaked filling as a sandwich/wrap spread.
My favourite canned tuna is Raincoast Trading No-Salt Albacore Tuna; find it in health food stores or supermarkets’ natural foods section. This brand tastes great and uses sustainable farming practices. Albacore tuna, fresh or canned, is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are king among unsaturated fats; studies show regular omega-3 intake may alleviate arthritis, reduce heart disease risk, relieve dry, itchy skin . . . and more!
Meg’s Low-Carb Cheesy Tuna Bake
- 1 cup 1% or 2% cottage cheese
- 1 tsp dried basil and/or no-salt seasoning blend
- 2 300-gram packages frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
- 2 large cans (120-150-grams each) solid white albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
- ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or substitute ¼ cup tomato paste)
- ¾ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease an 8-inch (2-quart) baking dish; set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine cottage cheese, seasoning, spinach, tuna and sun-dried tomatoes.
- Transfer to prepared baking dish, smoothing top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted. Serves 4.
Per serving: 225 calories, 5 g fat (2 g sat, 0 g trans), 570 mg sodium*, 5 g fibre, 4 g sugar, 36 g protein (*To lower the sodium content, use low-sodium varieties of cottage cheese and canned tuna.)
Stuffed Peppers Variation:
- Slice tops off 8 bell peppers; remove ribs and seeds from each pepper. If pepper bottom is uneven, slice a little off the bottom so it’s level.
- Fill peppers with tuna mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Place peppers upright in a lightly greased 8-inch (2-quart) baking dish; bake as directed above. Serves 4 (2 peppers each).
- Spread the unbaked mixture on whole grain bread, wraps or crackers.