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Healthy Cooking and Homemade Meals

Posted Mar 19 2009 5:01am
My last dietetic professional is my friend Laura Rellihan. I listed her bio at the end of the article so you can read all about her experiences in the dietetic world. I knew Laura and I were meant to be friends when she showed up to Master swimming in a bathing suit with a healthy food print. Seeing that I have swept her under my wings and shared all of my experiences with triathlons, we have lots of fun together (usually chatting in the pool for kick sets) when we talk about anything from her first triathlon (St.A's) to healthy cooking.
I think this article is just what everyone needs to get going on eating right (the motto of National Nutrition Month). She could not sum it up more perfectly of the importance of making your own meals and enjoying what you put in your mouth.
Enjoy!

Healthy Cooking and Homemade Meals
Laura Rellihan RD, LD/N

For some of us, even the idea of cooking stresses us out, not to mention all the slicing, dicing, and sautéing. Fortunately, the idea that we don’t have the time in our busy lives to cook a healthy meal, and the need to be a chef or culinary expert to produce a quality meal using quality ingredients from scratch are simply myths, typically beaten into our brains over time by the food industry. Can healthy cooking really be easy and exciting for some people? Take Rachel Ray, a modern entrepreneur in the world of cooking. She takes a variety of ingredients, making well balanced meals, not always low in fat or calories, but low in preservatives, full of nutrients, and shows us how cooking can be fun, easy, and only "30 minutes". As a registered dietitian, I not only love to teach good nutrition, but the vital role cooking plays, in the world of nutrition, I hope that this article will inspire you to cook healthy meals.

In my childhood years, I used to take pictures of the meals I prepared. I found it exciting that there were so many colors on my plate and the beauty it displayed. Then to find out later that the colors resembled something: vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Now as a registered dietitian, I get to preach the good news about fruits and vegetables and the benefits they have on our health. Fruits and vegetables provide vital nutrients for your health and the maintenance of your body. They can also lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, the number one killer of women today!

It is especially important to include 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. One serving is equal to one cup raw or cooked fruit or vegetable, one cup of fruit or vegetable juice, or two cups raw leafy greens. I encourage my clients to try and make their plate as colorful as they can and challenge them to fill half of their plate with vegetables. I also encourage them to pick out a fruit or vegetable that they have never had and learn about the vitamins and minerals it provides and the benefits they provide on our health.

Take this yummy chicken, carrot, cucumber salad, seen below, for example. It can be used as a snack or a meal with a piece of fruit and is a great source of protein for the training triathlete and for some triathletes constipation may also be a problem, this recipe is also a good source of fiber. Let’s break down some of the ingredients. Carrots are considered what some people would call a super food: foods that contain vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. Vitamins contain antioxidants that help fight free radicals-preventing disease and cancer. Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body created by normal metabolism and by environmental stresses such as cigarette smoke, pollution, and charred meats. They can also lead to disease and aging by changing the structure of the body's cell walls, DNA, and protein, disrupting their important functions.

Well balanced, homemade meals can help us all get the nutrients and antioxidants we need, not to mention giving us more control over what we consume, and even save us money in the long run.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates.

Chicken, Carrot, and Cucumber Salad
Makes 4 servings:

• 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1 pound) (may use Tofu in place of chicken if vegetarian)
• 1 1/4 cups chopped seeded cucumber
• 1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
• 1/2 cup sliced radishes
• 1/3 cup chopped green onions
• 1/4 cup light mayonnaise or plain yogurt
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
• 4 green leaf lettuce leaves
• 4 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, each cut into 8 wedges
To prepare:
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add mayonnaise mixture to chicken mixture; stir until combined.
Place 1 lettuce leaf on each of 4 plates; top each leaf with about 1 cup chicken mixture. Place 8 pita wedges on each serving.
Nutrition Information:
Calories: 382 (25% from fat)
Fat: 10.4g (sat 2.1g,mono 2.7g,poly 4.3g)
Protein: 40.7g
Carbohydrate: 31.4g
Fiber: 5.1g
Cholesterol: 102mg


Laura is licensed registered dietitian currently working at St. Luke’s hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. She is a proud Gator and graduate of the University of Florida. After graduating with a bachelor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, she went to work for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), in Jacksonville and Bay Pines VA Health Care System in St. Petersburg, Florida. Upon moving to Virginia, she worked with Inova Health System in Fairfax, VA for several years. During that time she initiated the nutrition program at Ida Lee Recreational Center in Leesburg, VA, which consisted of various nutrition classes, personal counseling, and the FitKids Nutricamp. She is also an active member of the American Dietetic Association. In addition to working in clinical nutrition, and teaching about nutrition, she is also very passionate about fitness and the role it plays on health. Laura enjoys swimming, cycling, and running and is currently training for the St. Anthony’s Triathlon.
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