Make: Toasted Pita and Tomato Salad with Chicken and Feta

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

I’m always on the look out for creative salad ideas because, in my opinion, there’s no tastier way to get your day’s requirement of veggies. I’ve eaten fattoush before, which is essentially the Lebanese cousin of the Italian panzanella. It’s a tomato and vegetable salad that contains a crunchy, bready ingredient.

Our featured recipe this week is a healthier play on fattoush; you get what you expect from the pita and feta cheese, but the mixed greens, light dressing and protein-packed chicken turns this salad into a healthy, happy and, most important, easy weeknight dinner. Enjoy!

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Make: Low-Cal Lemon Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

I eat a lot of salad. I eat a lot of almonds. I eat probably too much fruit. I don’t, however, eat a lot of cake, and I’m betting you probably don’t either. Let me be clear: It’s not because we’re healthy eaters who consistently make the “right” diet choices; it’s simply because, outside of the occasional birthday party, we aren’t offered cake very often. Let’s remedy this crisis, shall we?

Today, I have for you a cake that’s 100 percent whole grain, made with natural sweeteners and topped with fresh fruit. Best part: It clocks in at around 250 calories a serving.

Since angel food cake is virtually free of fat, adding a moderate amount of freshly whipped cream is pretty much a given. (Aside: You can also make coconut milk whipped cream, which is to die for.) It’s cake–real cake!–minus the guilt.

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Make: 20-Minute Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

Are you in a healthy dinner rut? I’m talking the same old dinner of grilled chicken breast, salad and brown rice night after night? If the answer is yes, it’s time for a change: These lettuce wraps are fun to eat, and they are just about as light as you can get when it comes to dinner. I often order lettuce wraps at restaurants when I’m looking for a light dinner option but truthfully, if you don’t make it yourself, you never really know how “light” a dish actually is. These wraps taste just as good as any restaurant’s version, but here, you control the oil, sugar, and ingredient list.

Plus, these wraps are snazzy enough for company and—I promise you on this one—they actually take just 20 minutes to put together.

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Make: Mayo-Less Potato Salad with Fresh Herbs and Arugula

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Mayonnaise: A creamy concoction of eggs and oil and a critical, albeit small, component of a spicy tuna roll. Add a cup of it to starchy pasta or potatoes and you’ve got yourself an iconic summer BBQ side dish that’s best left off the healthy eater’s plate. But here’s the question: Can we lose the white stuff and still whip up a BBQ classic?

Bring this recipe to your next BBQ, and you’ll see the answer is yes. Bursting with fresh flavor and loaded with healthy fats, this salad hits the spot. And considering the potato is nothing to be afraid of (it has more potassium than a banana!), it’s a seemingly indulgent way to get more vegetables on your plate. Plus, this dish can sit at room temperature for a few hours—another win over the typical mayo-slicked salad.

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Make: Buttery Bulgur with Corn, Tomatoes and Fried Eggs

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Let’s talk food trends. As I’m sure you’ve sussed out, the food world has trend cycles just the fashion and pop culture worlds. One example, of course, is kale. I’d be willing to bet the word “kale” is googled at least a bazillion more times than, say, escarole. They’ve got a similar nutritional make-up, but one is clearly enjoying a moment in the sun.

Quinoa is another example. I taught my high school students about quinoa more than five years ago, but now I find I’m ready to mix things up. This is where bulgur comes in.

I know, I know, it’s a weird-sounding food (Does anyone else think “bulgur” sounds like some kind of bodily growth? Ew.), but it’s worth trying. My latest recipe uses the less popular bulgur wheat—nutty, slightly sweet and perfectly chewy as well as lower in calories and higher in fiber than brown rice—along with familiar veggies like bell peppers, corn and tomatoes.

Served with a fried egg on top, you’ve got a breakfast-for-dinner-type option that, assuming you’re not cooking for eight, will provide you with healthy lunchtime leftovers. Enjoy!

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Make: Lightened-Up Mushroom, Arugula and Parmesan Crostini

crostini

Photo by Becca Boyd

I find that appetizers tend to fall in one of two camps. On the one side, there are the myriad mayonnaise- and cheese-loaded dips that taste delicious but leave you with the sinking suspicion that you just ate a day’s worth of calories. On the other side, you have to healthy choices like crudités with yogurt dip—definitely lower in calories but also lower in fun.

Like everything in life, I find the middle ground to be the happiest place. I want to be drawn to that appetizer table and itch to go back for seconds while knowing that not only will my mouth be pleased, but my body will benefit. This crostini is heavy on the veg but with the crisp, garlicky toast and the bit of sharp melted cheese, it feels indulgent. Bring this to your next soiree and you’ll steal the show.

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Make: The Low-Cal, Four-Ingredient Dessert You’ll Absolutely Love

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

Guys, I’m not going to lie: Baking can be hard. It’s like one big chemistry experiment that can go horribly awry if you mis-measure an ingredient by just thiiiis much. It’s why I get phone calls from my friends all the time, who ask me why their cookies got so thin, why their bread didn’t rise, why their cake was dry. And etc.

So today I’m going to introduce you to a dessert that you seriously couldn’t screw up if you tried. Here’s what it involves: melting chocolate, spreading it on a sheet, and topping it with whatever you want. Easy as pie (except this recipe is actually easy, whereas pie is not). What I’m talking about is bark, thin chocolate bites you can customize to your liking. And it’s totally diet-friendly, too: The thinner you spread it, the fewer calories you’ll take in. This is a treat that I can, with complete sincerity, describe as healthy.

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Make: Cream-less Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Croutons

Photo by Becca Boyd

Photo by Becca Boyd

You’re probably wondering why I’m posting a soup recipe on a day when temperatures are poised to reach nearly 80 degrees. Here’s why: I eat soup throughout the year—it’s easy to make in big batches, wonderfully freezable, and perfect for grab-and-go lunches—so I don’t let the thermometer determine my soup habits. If you’re a cold-weather soup eater only, save this recipe for Wednesday, when we’re back in the 50s.

This soup is one of my sneakiest recipes to date—sneaky because it tastes so creamy you’ll think it’s loaded with fat and calories, but in fact it’s just the opposite. The low-fat sour cream and buttermilk are the cream-makers here, and they work their magic for a fraction of the bad stuff.

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Make: 100-Calorie Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

I’ve read before that having something sweet with your healthy breakfast helps with cravings and weight loss. That’s why I’ve made a habit of eating a small handful of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips with my coffee, and I munch happily every morning knowing that science backs me up.

Now I’m on a mission to get you to embrace the dessert-for-breakfast concept. Hence: the chocolate chip breakfast cookie. It’s portable, pre-portioned and enough of a treat that you’ll find yourself looking forward to it (which is a boon for you breakfast skippers—yes, I’m judging). It’s perfect for early morning runners or those who like to hit snooze too many times; just freeze the cookies in bags of two and pull a bag out the night before to thaw.

This cookie is totally customizable, too, so if you want to swap the mix-ins, have at it. Just keep the ratios roughly the same.

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Make: Grilled Romaine Hearts and Flank Steak Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing

Photograph by Becca Boyd

Photograph by Becca Boyd

I know some of you might disagree with me, but I personally believe that red meat has its place in a healthy diet if you enjoy it and it makes you feel well; it provides nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, and iron, not to mention a boatload of protein. If your budget allows, choose grass-fed, locally raised meat, as it’s better for the environment and your body.

This salad provides everything a good dinner should involve: variety in temperature, color, texture, and nutrients. A feast for your eyes as well as your mouth, it come together quickly for a perfect weeknight dinner.

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