Gluten-FreeRecipesSaladsSauces and DressingsSides

Simple Garden Chopped Salad with Semi-homemade Ranch Dressing

heartysmarty

The best salads have various textures, flavors and colors and this one fits the bill. This garden chopped salad is as simple as it gets, and the flavor is amazing. (The secret is the green onions and semi-homemade dressing.) Even my picky eaters will eat a good serving of this one at the dinner table. It pairs well with everything–chicken, casseroles, Mexican, Italian–you name it.

This is another great option to add to a list of easy weeknight meals for my 14 days of CUSTOM Family Meal plans Giveaway. Have you entered yet? I’m going to personally consult with you on your family’s dietary needs and preferences and you will walk away with 14 days of simple, make-ahead meals with grocery lists to get you through this craziest month of May. Enter HERE.

Garden Vegetable Chopped Salad with Semi-Homemade Ranch Dressing

A simple yet healthy and refreshing vegetable salad that pairs with everything.

Servings 6 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

  • 5 Cups Romaine Lettuce chopped
  • 1 large Sweet Bell Pepper, sliced Red, orange, or yellow
  • 1 large Avocado sliced
  • 1 medium Tomato, vine-ripened chopped
  • 1 medium Cucumber peeled and sliced
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas thawed
  • 2 Tablespoons Green Onion minced

Semi-Homemade Ranch Dressing

  • 1 Cup Plain Milk Kefir or buttermilk
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise Original
  • 3 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Dry Mix 1 packet

Instructions

  1. In a mason jar, combine dressing ingredients. Screw on a tight-fitting lid, and shake until well mixed.

  2. Mix 1/4 Cup Ranch dressing with romaine lettuce until well combined. Top with remaining ingredients and drizzle with 2 tablespoons more dressing.

  3. Serve immediately. 

Recipe Notes

Calories for this salad will be overestimated since the entire recipe for dressing is included. You will only use about 1/8 of the dressing made. 

Featured Product

(Includes Affiliate Link)

Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Dip and Salad Dressing Mix

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Gluten-FreeRecipesSlow Cooker and Instant PotSoupsVeggie-Lover Dinners

Instant Pot Bean and Bacon Soup

heartysmarty

Even though it is the first of May, soup season is still going strong at our house. In fact, it never really ends, because soup is so versatile and can be made ahead or frozen and reheated so flawlessly. I made this Bean and Bacon soup in the Instant Pot when we had leftover Easter ham a couple weeks ago. It turned out just as delicious as my stove-top version and everyone (except my one bean-loathing child) loved it. With a square or two of my Hearty Corn Bread, it makes for a really well-rounded, healthy weeknight meal. I hope your family enjoys this one, too!

P.S. Have you entered my 14 Days of Custom, Make-Ahead Dinner Meal Plans and Grocery Lists Giveaway yet? Get your fingers on all the details HERE. This recipe would be a really great option to add to the list!

Instant Pot Bean and Bacon Soup

A delicious 30-minute bean soup for the Instant Pot.

Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword Bean and bacon soup, Instant Pot
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. Dry Pinto Beans sorted and rinsed
  • 6 Cups Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Chicken Soup Base
  • 2 Cups Carrots diced
  • 15 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes not drained
  • 1 Large Onion diced 1 Cup
  • 2 Garlic Cloves Minced
  • 1 teaspoon Rosemary dried
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 Cup Bacon or Ham cooked and chopped

Instructions

  1. Remove and discard stones from pinto beans and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Add all ingredients except for the Bacon, to the Instant pot. Secure the lid and switch the valve to the ‘sealing’ position. Set the beans to cook on the [Bean/Chili] setting of the Instant Pot for 30 minutes.
  3. Manually release the pressure by turning the valve to the venting position. You can either do this step outside or with a rag placed over the ventilation so the steam doesn’t peel the finish off of your cupboards.
  4. Remove a ladle of beans and mash in a separate bowl. Add back into the soup for a thicker, creamier consistency. Add bacon or ham and let it warm through for about 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Just a note on the bacon– I like to use Hormel Real Bacon Pieces because they save me time and I don’t have to smell up my kitchen cooking bacon. However, if we have leftover ham, I use that. Pair the soup with a serving of Hearty Corn Bread topped with butter and honey.

Featured Product

(Includes Affiliate Link)

Instant Pot

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Meal Plans

Giveaway: 14 Days of CUSTOM, Make-Ahead Dinner Meal Plans and Grocery Lists!

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Yes, friends. It is high time I offer a free giveaway for you sweet people who entrust me with your time and attention in this space. I sure hope the content here is providing value to you. To thank you, I am hosting a giveaway over on my Instagram Account.

Just in time for the crazy days of May, I am giving away a CUSTOM 14-Day Healthy and Simple Make-Ahead Dinner Meal Plan with a grocery list. I am also throwing in 14 days of kids’ school lunch meal plans with grocery lists. (So, basically this is a private consultation where you walk away with two weeks of meals and grocery lists that you know your family will love.)

I understand as well as anyone how hard it is to get dinner on the table during this last month of school. Our evenings are jam-packed with soccer practice, piano lessons, dance rehearsals, church activities, Spring lawn and garden work, weddings, homework, Cub Scouts, end-of-year projects (I’m lookin’ at you ya procrastinated 3rd grade biography report…) and the list just goes on. Waiting to start on dinner at the 5:00 hour is no longer a possibility in May. We hardly have a window of time to sit down and eat, let alone prepare a meal. Thus, meal prep has to be done in the early hours of the day, ahead of time in order for us to have a winning chance at a decent dinner at night.

Wouldn’t it be so nice to have somebody PERSONALLY consult with you to make a bunch of simple, make-ahead meals, customized to your family’s preferences, with detailed grocery lists so you don’t have to make space in your already overloaded brain to do one more thing this month?! I got you.

Here’s how you can enter to win:

1. Follow me on Instagram @heartysmartynutrition⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

2. Tag at least 3 friends in the comments who could use some meal-planning help as well.

3. Earn an additional TEN ENTRIES by signing up for my monthly newsletter and/or post alerts. (Look for the box on the sidebar or bottom of my homepage.)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Winner will be announced by 1 PM on Wednesday, May 8.⠀⠀⠀⠀

Good luck, friends!⠀⠀

This contest is in not sponsored or endorsed by Instagram.

Since 2009, Megan has used her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Brigham Young University to help people develop healthy food relationships. She combines evidence-based science, a dash of alternative medicine, and a large dose of practical food preparation to teach individuals how to feed themselves and their families nourishing meals with common ingredients. As a busy Mom of 5, she believes food should be simple, intentional, and HEARTY!

⠀⠀⠀⠀

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Appetizers/ DipsRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Barbecue Chicken Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

heartysmarty1 comment

Every Friday night is Pizza Night at the Andersen household. Through the years we have become quite creative with our toppings. While this one is not totally out-of-the-box, it is not made with the traditional red sauce, and therefore, it’s unique. My husband and boys particularly love barbecue chicken pizza, and it is safe to say that we have mastered this deliciously sweet and savory pizza. The game-changer lies in the pizza crust, so follow my instructions on how to make the best whole wheat pizza crust. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Barbecue Chicken Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

The most delicious (healthy) barbecue chicken pizza that you will ever eat.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword Barbecue, pizza
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

  • 12 inch Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
  • 1/2 Cup Barbecue Sauce, divided I like Kraft Original
  • 1 Cup Cooked Chicken shredded
  • 1/2 large Red Bell Pepper chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Red Onion minced
  • 3/4 Cup Canned Pineapple Tidbits optional
  • 1 1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese shredded

Instructions

  1. Follow instructions for making my whole wheat pizza crust. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1/4 Cup Barbecue sauce evenly over pre-baked crust. Set aside.

  2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together shredded chicken, bell peppers, onions, pineapple and remaining barbecue sauce until well-mixed.

  3. Spread chicken mixture over the barbecue crust. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is golden and the bottom of the crust is lightly browned.

  4. Cut into 8 slices and serve warm.

Recipe Notes

I always have cooked rotisserie chicken frozen into 1-cup portions in my freezer. This is what I use for the cooked chicken in this recipe.

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Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

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I made it through one of the busy weeks of Spring last week, and now I am ready to take on a new one. Tournament time begins for Soccer on Wednesday. The girls are one month away from their dance recital. And we have just one week left with Dad at home before he leaves for Asia for the month of May.

Those of you following me on Instagram and Facebook know I am going to change things up on here a bit during the month of May. Instead of a nutrition/wellness theme for the month, I am going to share with you some comic relief from some of the crazy days I have been having his Spring. I hope it will provide some stress-relief for you as I share my bloopers and follies of life as a Mom of five. You can also look forward to a GIVEAWAY this month on my Instagram account, so stay tuned for that!

Here is the plan for dinners this week:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App on your desktop, tablet, or phone and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

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Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

heartysmarty

It’s been such a refreshing Easter weekend full of family and inspiring reminders of the Plan of Happiness that our Savior has in store for us. Now, we get back to the grind, and this week is going to be a doozy. Now begins the craziness of end-of-school-year activities. We have three soccer games, two dance rehearsals, two field trips, scouts, Thanksgiving Point’s Tulip Festival, Piano lessons, work travel (meaning, I am going solo one night), a wedding dinner, a Church gardening activity, school projects due for the kids, a graduation ceremony for Neil (even though he isn’t actually graduated yet) followed by more school this weekend for Neil (which means I am going solo for soccer games this weekend as well).

That run-on sentence is enough to give anyone a good bout of anxiety! I’m going to take it easy on myself in the dinner department tonight and keep the meals pretty basic. We will eat some leftover ham in tonight’s casserole and Tuesday’s Bean with Bacon Soup. Feel free to adopt my meal plan as your own this week if you are trying to keep your sanity in the kitchen as well. Wish me luck this week!

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App on your desktop, tablet, or phone and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Serve with Cheesy Garlic Toast

Friday

Dine out to celebrate Neil’s (almost) graduation!

Saturday

Sunday

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Appetizers/ DipsGluten-FreeRecipesTreats

Easy (and SO ADDICTING) Homemade Kettle Corn in the Whirly Pop®

heartysmarty

This was one of the most difficult food photos I have ever taken. The sweet and salty combo of this kettle corn is SO ADDICTING I had a hard time pulling myself away long enough to snap a photo! This is the perfect treat to whip up while you play a game of cards or sit down to a good movie. It has just FOUR INGREDIENTS and takes all of FIVE minutes to cook up, so you don’t have to wait too long before you can start munching.

For the last several years, I have opted to fill my kids’ Easter Eggs with kettle corn instead of chocolates and candies. (It doesn’t make sense to pump them full of sugar on Easter Morning right before we go to our Sunday worship services.) This year, instead of buying a bag, I am using this recipe to make my own!

Another awesome benefit of this sweet and savory snack is it’s gluten-free! Everyone can enjoy kettle corn with no allergy worries!

Easy (and so addicting) Homemade Kettle Corn for the Whirly Pop®

Simple, four-ingredient homemade kettle corn made in the Whirly Pop®

Course Appetizer, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword homemade kettle corn, whirly pop
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

  • 1/3 Cup White Corn kernels
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Over medium-high heat, add olive oil and sugar to the bottom of the Whirly Pop®. Crank the handle to stir the mixture, about 60 seconds.

  2. Add the Corn Kernels and close the lid. Turn the crank handle for about 3 minutes until the corn starts to pop.

  3. Continue to crank the handle until you hear the popping stop. Turn the handle just 5 times more to let the sugar finish caramelizing.

  4. Immediately dump into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt before it cools. Stir with a long spoon to coat each kernel.

  5. Serve immediately or let cool and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Featured Product

(Includes Affiliate Links)

Wabash Valley Farms Whirly Pop Popcorn Popper

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FeaturedMeal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

heartysmarty

Boy, howdy! Am I looking forward to a new week or what?! Last week was pretty nuts. Complete with two blow-out diapers, three wetting through clothes, three soccer games, three dance rehearsals, two school projects, about 15 loads of laundry, and one very rainy day. Phew! It is a new week with a fresh new meal plan to fuel our adventures–planned and unplanned.

This is Holy Week where our family will celebrate the days leading up to Easter Sunday. Our traditions are pretty simple with a short devotional each morning, a special meal on Passover Friday, and a big feast to celebrate Easter Sunday. As always, I hope you find something here that you and your family will enjoy. Here goes:

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App on your desktop, tablet, or phone and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

Monday

(Served with Cheesy Garlic Toast)

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Passover Friday

Saturday

Easter Sunday

With our Easter Ham:

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Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Dinners

heartysmarty

We’re back to the grind this week after Spring Break, and our schedule is full of soccer, school, and dance. We will need balanced, nutritious meals to fuel all that activity, so I have a hearty meal plan laid out for the week. As Always, you can access all my recipes and meal plans on Prepear and also receive a custom grocery list for your shopping convenience.

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App on your desktop, tablet, or phone and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

Here’s what’s on tap for this week:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

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Nutrition Education

Are Fitness Trackers Harmful or Helpful to Your Wellness Goals?

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Which camp are you in?

About a year ago, my Fitbit One® took its last spin through the washing machine inside my jean pockets, and it never recovered. This was the second device I had done that to, and this time I decided not to replace it. I realized it was causing more harm than good for me. When I told my husband I was going to write this article, he chimed, “Well, you better tell your friends why I still like to wear mine!” He’s right. Some people really do benefit from wearing fitness trackers like the Fitbit, Garmin, VivoFit, Apple Watch, etc. Herein begins a friendly debate: Fitness trackers are harmful vs. Fitness Trackers are helpful. Which camp are you in? You can decide in a minute.

Fitness Trackers are Harmful

1. Feeds perfectionism and accomplishment addiction.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression related to perfectionism and accomplishment addiction. My Fitbit® was feeding those issues and making the problem worse. On the days when I accomplished my goal for steps and stairs taken, I would feel fit and positive about myself. However, on the days when I did not reach my goal, I would beat myself up and entertain negative self-talk.

2. Injury from overworking in an unnatural way.

To accomplish my steps goals, I would find myself moving in unnatural ways. While folding laundry, I always marched in place, barefoot on my tiled floor. Not only did it take twice as long to fold the laundry, but I developed plantar fasciitis from overworking my lower legs without proper footgear. (Insert forehead slap here.)

My friend gave me her permission to share a similar story:

3. Encourages steps more than full body exercises.

We need variety in exercise in order to reduce risk of injury and care for our whole body. As a busy Mom chasing toddlers and tweens, I need weight training just as much as walks and jogs. Using a Fitbit® encouraged me to run/walk instead of circuit training, because when steps are all that matter, lifting weights doesn’t count as much. My Fitbit® was teaching me to ignore my body’s natural cues for the type of movement I actually needed.

“While wearing a FitBit may feel motivating for some, for others it can become a barrier to respecting what their body is communicating to them. Someone prone to obsession with food and body image can easily feel triggered by numbers for tracking exercise or calories. Wearing a FitBit can be a slippery slope into disordered eating and excessive exercise, so wearing one should be used with caution.”


Emily Fonnesbeck, Registered Dietitian Nutrition Therapist
Photo Credit Elegant Images

Fitness Trackers are Helpful

1. Motivating data-driven people

My husband is a data analyst. He lives and breathes data like I live and breathe peanut butter and dark chocolate! Each morning he weighs himself on the scale and each night he checks his steps for the day. As he tracks those numbers he determines his physical productivity for the day. When his steps for the day are low, he is motivated to get up the next morning and make sure he increases that number in the next 24 hours. When his step count is high, it is motivating for him to keep the trend going.

2. Reminders for people with desk jobs

In his tech-based work, my husband has a sedentary job, sitting at a desk.  It’s innovative and exciting work for him, so he could easily work a 10-hour day and never take a break to eat or get up and move. He depends on his Fitbit® alerts to remind him to take a walk around the office. In turn, this ends up clearing his mind as his blood gets pumping for a moment, and it helps him perform even better at work.

3. Tool for fitness competitions

Like most men, my husband is competitive. Whether it’s a game of Yatzee or a church basketball tournament, my husband takes games seriously. His favorite quote is from the 2006 film Nacho Libre, (cue bad stache and stretchy pants) “I want to wiiin!” Competitions are motivating, and once he puts his mind to accept a challenge, he can’t be stopped. Fitness challenges at work or against his brothers are the top incentives for him to exercise consistently. During fitness competitions he sleeps better, eats better, and uses his overall time better. Fitness challenges involve data from his fitness tracker to determine whether goals were met and which tier of prizes he qualifies for. When a season pass for a nearby ski resort is on the line, he will go to great lengths to get as many steps in the day as possible for a chance to wiiin!

Just as with anything health or wellness related, we have to look at this from an individual-based perspective. That balance of helpful vs. harmful is going to look very different for every person. For someone who is training for something specific – a race of some sort – a fitness tracker is extremely helpful and useful for tracking mileage. I used my watch every time I went out running as I trained for my last half marathon to gauge my distance. Some would say they find a fitness device largely increases their steps each day or basic activity and is helping them improve their health. But just like anything in the health and wellness realm, something that’s “helpful” can easily become something “harmful” if we become obsessive about it or let it rule our intuition.

Meg Miles, momstrongutah.com

What Science Says about Fitness Trackers

All personal opinions aside, what does evidence-based science say about the usefulness of wearing fitness tracking devices?

  • In a randomized clinical trial, wearing technology for tracking physical activity was less effective for weight loss than standard intervention (low-calorie diet, exercise requirements, group meetings and counseling). Those studied actually lost less weight wearing a fitness tracker than those who did not wear one.
  • When it comes to weight loss programs, although the science is showing that more weight is lost with standard intervention, a significant amount of weight is also lost when replacing group meetings and calorie monitoring with the use of a fitness tracker. The advantage of using a fitness tracker in weight loss programs is that it costs much less money in this self-help method rather than in-person monitoring.
  • There also seems to be a significant amount of variance in the accuracy of different models of fitness trackers. The FitBit One®, worn on the hip, is more accurate at measuring steps and calories burned than the FitBit Zip®, worn on the wrist. The accuracy of steps for trackers worn on the hip was within 1 step of 100% accuracy. Those worn on the wrist were off by 11 steps per minute. When measuring calories burned, trackers on the hip underestimated by 6% and those worn on the wrist OVERestimated by 21%. Read the full author manuscript here. One thing that’s certain is it’s important to make sure you do your homework before deciding which model to purchase.

So, which camp are you in? Are fitness trackers harmful or helpful for you? Do you move your body for the pure enjoyment of it? Or do you prefer to receive credit for each of the steps you take throughout the day? There’s no right or wrong answer. Let’s continue this friendly debate in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time,

Since 2009, Megan has used her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Brigham Young University to help people develop healthy food relationships. She combines evidence-based science, a dash of alternative medicine, and a large dose of practical food preparation to teach individuals how to feed themselves and their families nourishing meals with common ingredients. As a busy Mom of 5, she believes food should be simple, intentional, and HEARTY!

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