Welcome to 2012! Holiday indulgences are in 2011 - a whole *year* ago...now it's time to focus on powering up for a healthy 2012. Toss this salad in your tupperware for a satisfying lunch that's loaded with health-promoting foods.
What's in this salad that's so good for you?
Red Quinoa: Whole grains don't have to be boring brown. These little red pods are a complete protein. Proteins are made of amino acids, which are like charms on a bracelet. You attach specific charms to the bracelet in a certain order, and that bracelet becomes a protein. Your body can make a lot of charms itself, but it needs you to supply nine of them through your diet. A complete protein contains all of the charms that your body can't make. The bottom line? Quinoa is a great source of protein. It's also high in fiber, which slows digestion, curbs blood sugar spikes, and can help you lose weight.
Pomegranate Seeds: As long as you don't eat a pomegranate seed in Hades, you can sprinkle these on almost any meal, any time for a delicious burst of flavor.
In Greek Mythology, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, was dragged into the underworld and crowned Queen of the Dead (lovely, I know). She was eventually freed and allowed to return topside, but since she had eaten a pomegranate seed while down under, she was forced to return to the land of the dead for half the year...forever. When Persephone was up on earth, her mother Demeter was thrilled, and made plants grow (our Summer and Spring), and when Persephone went back down to Hades, Demeter wept, and caused leaves to fall and the earth to become barren (our Fall and Winter). (Disclaimer: I was president of the Greek club in high school for two years, and studied Ancient Greek for 6 years...so that's why you were forced to read that).
And now, back to why pom seeds are so "wonderful." They've got those powerful antioxidants we're always hearing about - the chemicals naturally found in foods that keep our blood vessels smooth, plaque-free, and chugging along. Many stores sell the seeds in the refrigerated section, so they're ready to sprinkle on breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Avocado: Startling but true, and maybe worth saying outloud, all fat is not bad. All fat is not created equal. We've got trans fat and saturated fat on the "naughty" list (but honestly, there's some research going on that these aren't even so cut and dry), and then unsaturated fats on the "nice" list. Unsaturated fats don't raise cholesterol, and may even help lower blood cholesterol, according to The Color Code, by Drs. James Joseph and Daniel Nadeau, and Anne Underwood (2002). If you're looking for phytochemicals that fight cancer, antioxidants that support heart health, and vitamins and minerals, you've also come to the right fruit.
Don't go ava-crazy though - moderation counts here. One half of an avocado (one serving) has about 150 calories, so watch your portion size and don't add them to your diet, but substitute them for something that's less healthy like croutons, which are calorie-full and don't have all these health benefits.
Also...Chicken (protein!), Lettuce (water that fills you up with very few calories), Beets (possible heart-helper and cancer-fighter) and Goat Cheese (deliciousness, calcium, optional).
Red Quinoa, Chicken, & Goat Cheese Power Salad
Grilled Chicken, sliced
Beets, cooked & sliced
Red Quinoa, cooked
Avocado, cut into chunks
Lettuce or Spinach (your favorite - this salad would be great with any)
Combine ingredients and toss with your favorite low-cal dressing (or just squeeze fresh lemon juice on top).
Q. How do I cook the chicken?
A: Check out a ton of different methods from boiling to baking in parchment paper here . For safety, make sure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Q: How do I cook beets?
A: Take the short cut and buy them whole, pre-cooked, and refrigerated like I did at Trader Joes. You can also find them in the can or jar (just make sure there's no added salt). You can also roast them yourself by following these directions.
Q: Where can I find red quinoa?
A: On the shelf at Trader Joes or at Whole Foods for sure. Amazon.com sells it, and you can check your local health foods store. If you find it somewhere else, please let me know so I can post it!
Q: How do I get pomegranate seeds out of a pomegranate?
A: Once again, I got them at Trader Joes in the refrigerated section. However, you can certainly buy pomegranates and do it yourself. Instructions here from Gourmet.com.