How to stay healthy while spending more time outside

Warmer weather is finally here in West Michigan! Many of us can’t wait to dust off those bicycles and spend more time outside.

As eager as we are to get a nice big ice cream cone from the local creamery, we do need to keep our health at the forefront.

Here are some easy ways to spend that time outside (and not in the kitchen!) without sacrificing your health:

Watch my WZZM 13 segment here!

Grill smarter! Grilling season is here! We all love a big, juicy burger off the grill to kick off warmer weather. Grilling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while cooking, but keep in mind grilling can have some potential health concerns, especially if you are only cooking high saturated fat foods, such as burgers or steak, and charring your meats at extremely high heat (>300 degrees). If grilling is your specialty, make an effort to include leaner meats, fruits, and vegetables. Grilled vegetable skewers offer a great punch of flavor and antioxidants that may help offset the potential carcinogenic HCAs from grilling meats at high heat.

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Throw a vegetarian bonfire party! Ok, so you probably don’t need to call it that when you invite friends over for a bonfire, but hey, using fun veggie or fruit-based recipes with campfire cast irons or roasting extension forks is a great way to spend time outside while eating healthy. S’mores and hot dogs will always be a staple, but spicing it up with new veggie-based recipes is a fun way to involve kids in cooking while promoting better consumption of fruits and vegetables. Try some of these recipe ideas using campfire cast irons:

  • Apple Cheddar Panini – whole grain bread, sliced Granny smith apples, part-skim Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard
  • Vegetable Pizza Calzone – whole grain bread, pizza sauce (low sodium if available), basil, light or part-skim mozzarella cheese, and choice of vegetables (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc.) IMG_1997
  • Apple Cinnamon Pie – whole grain cinnamon raisin bread, cinnamon, sliced apples, unsweetened cinnamon apple sauce
  • Banana Foster – whole grain cinnamon raisin bread (I used Aunt Millie’s), 1/2 banana (sliced lengthwise), cinnamon, rum or coconut extract, coconut or vanilla yogurt IMG_1999

Start a garden! Although this may seem labor-intensive initially, your hard work will equate to less time spent inside a grocery store later. There are many levels of gardening. If you are intimidated about how to get started, start small. Start with just herbs or 1-2 vegetables that you know you and your family eat on a regular basis. Avoid planting too much at one time. Still feeling nervous? Use pre-potted plants or herbs instead of growing from seeds. Flowerland is a great place to start and has a ton of options to choose from.

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Utilize one-sheet pan or 5-ingredient or less recipes! Sticking to one-sheet pan dinners or five ingredients or less is an easy way to avoid excess time in the kitchen. Cooking and eating healthy does not have to be complicated. Pinterest is my go-to for easy recipes by searching for 5 or 10-ingredient or less recipes.

Try these one-sheet or 5-ingredient or less healthy recipes to get you started:

Sheet-pan Chicken Fajitas (Eatingwell.com)

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Prep time: 20 mins, Total time: 40 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced red or yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed

Lime wedges, cilantro, sour cream, avocado and/or pico de gallo for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Cut chicken breasts in half horizontally, then slice crosswise into strips. Combine oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Add bell peppers and onion and stir to combine. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.
  3. Roast on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Leave the pan there and turn the broiler to high. Broil until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are browning in spots, about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven. Stir in lime juice.
  4. Serve the chicken and vegetables in warmed tortillas accompanied by lime wedges and topped with cilantro, sour cream, avocado and/or pico de gallo, if desired

Spinach, Hummus, and Bell Pepper Wraps (Cookinglight.com)

Total time: 10 mins

Servings: 2 wraps

Ingredients:

  • 2 (1.9-oz.) whole-grain flatbreads
  • 1/2 cup roasted garlic hummus
  • 1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup firmly packed baby spinach
  • 1 ounce crumbled tomato-and-basil feta cheese (about 1/4 cup)

Directions:

  1. Spread each flatbread with 1/4 cup hummus, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge.
  2. Divide the bell pepper evenly between the flatbreads; top each with 1/2 cup spinach and 2 tablespoons cheese. Starting from one short side, roll up the wraps. Cut each wrap in half, and secure with wooden picks.

Cheers to the warm weather and Michigan summer approaching!

-EAW