Craving Wellness

Fitness, Nutrition, and Health Tips

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Veggie Quesadilla

So, quesadillas are one of my favorite foods. I love them so much, and it’s absolutely because I love cheese (pizza is another favorite of mine). Unfortunately, cheese is high in saturated fat and sodium, so I constructed one loaded with veggies and with less cheese than those you would find at a restaurant.

First, I thinly sliced zucchini and bell pepper, then heated it through on a dry pan. Meanwhile, I shredded some Tillamook cheddar cheese and spread it evenly on a whole wheat tortilla. I added the warm veggies to one-half of the tortilla and topped it with arugula. Next, the tortilla was placed on a pan over medium-high heat and heated until the cheese was melted and the bottom was golden-brown. I folded it in half, cut it and enjoyed with some chunky salsa!


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Fruit & Veggie Smoothie

I have often made smoothies with fruit, yogurt, juice and/or milk, but they usually turn out very sweet. I love sweet foods and drinks (who doesn’t?), but after cutting down on the amount I consume, I have found that I am satisfied by much less. I decided that adding vegetables would decrease the sweetness, but the idea of adding vegetables to a smoothie never appealed to me much as it made me think of tomato juice, and I have never cared for that.

Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

So, the obvious use of vegetables in a smoothie was to use those that don’t have a strong or bitter flavor. My choices were spinach, arugula, sweet bell peppers, and cucumber. I added these to some of my favorite fruits, including mango, pineapple, raspberries, blueberries, and pomegranate. I then added flax seed and equal parts almond milk and orange juice and blended to created a thin smoothie. This was one of my favorite smoothie creations, and the addition of the veggies was perfect!

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Orzo Pesto Pasta


One of my favorite pasta toppings is pesto! I’ve done some experimenting with recipes in the past and recently made a new one with almonds, spinach, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Yum! I have really only made basic pesto (basil, pine nuts, olive oil) a couple times because pine nuts are so spendy, but these ingredients are fairly inexpensive, especially if you get the almonds in bulk. You can also use a different oil if you are trying to save money, but the taste will be different than with olive oil.

In addition to the pesto, I added sliced sausage, peas, yellow onion, mushrooms, and green bell pepper to increase the nutrient content, my favorite thing to do when I cook!

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Local Strawberries!

Today I visited a local farm in Sherwood, Oregon and was totally excited by all of the fresh produce they had available. I’m leaving on a trip in a few days so I couldn’t buy everything available like I wanted to, so instead, I got half a flat of bright red, fresh strawberries!


These are by far the sweetest, most flavorful strawberries I have ever tried, and I will probably be gathering more of my produce locally now. I’m not sure why I never did much local produce shopping, but it’s truly worth any extra effort! Yummm!

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Oat, Almond, and Banana Pancakes

This morning, I was in the mood for something sweet and healthy… and well, I’ve always been a fan of pancakes. So, I decided to take a basic pancake recipe and transform it into something with more nutritional value! And honestly, I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious these healthier pancakes were, and I’m quite sure you will be, too!

banana pancakes

 Oat, Almond, and Banana Pancakes


-       1 ½ cups skim milk
–       2 eggs (or 3 egg whites)
–       ½ tsp vanilla extract
–       ¼ tsp almond extract (optional)
–       ¼ tsp lemon extract (optional)
–       ¼ cup canola/vegetable oil or melted margarine
–       1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
–       ½ tsp baking soda
–       ½ tsp baking powder
–       ½ tsp salt
–       1 tsp cinnamon
–       ½ cup oats (old-fashioned or quick)
–       ¼ cup wheat germ
–       ½ cup sliced almonds
–       1-2 bananas, sliced
–       Maple syrup (a light version will save some calories and sugar)


  1. Heat a skillet on medium and coat with cooking spray or a little oil.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, all extracts, and oil or butter.
  3. In a larger bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix in oats and wheat germ.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and stir until incorporated. Add in almond slices.
  5. Pour ¼ to 1/3 cup batter onto skillet for each pancake. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until bubbles begin to form on the top. Flip and cook for 1-2 more minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Top with banana slices and syrup, if desired. Enjoy!

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Choosing Whole Foods Over Processed Foods

Convenience foods have increasingly become more popular over the last 30 years due to the time- and labor-saving benefits that they provide. The value of cooking has also decreased so people are less likely to plan out an entire meal ahead of time that requires the preparation of ingredients and the use of more than two or three utensils, pots, and pans. As a result, processed foods have become a major part of many consumers’ diets, and negative health consequences are becoming more prevalent. Consequences directly reflecting poor diet include many weight-related issues, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Processed convenience foods often contain added sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats. These additional fats and sugar add calories to a product, which can contribute to weight gain. In addition, consuming too much sodium (in the form of salt or not) can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. The main ways to prevent these health problems are by:

  • Eating less processed foods
  • Eating more fresh, canned, and frozen vegetables
  • Choosing low-sodium foods
  • Rinsing canned vegetables and beans well to remove as much sodium as possible

In order to replace processed foods and to include more fruits and vegetables, whole foods should be the main focus in any diet.Whole foods have endless health benefits and can reduce the risk of many diseases. Whole foods usually don’t contain added sugar, salt, or fat and are processed and refined as little as possible or not at all. These include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, meats, and fish. Some general qualities of whole foods are a low glycemic index, which helps to maintain blood sugar and insulin at steady levels; fiber, which can aid in preventing weight gain by increasing satiety and, therefore, reducing the number of calories consumed; and antioxidants, which help heal and protect the body from chronic illnesses. The main difference between whole foods and processed foods is nutrient density. Whole foods are more nutrient dense than processed foods, meaning that for a certain number of calories, they have a greater amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.). This also means that foods that are more nutrient dense will have fewer calories and more nutrients than the same quantity of a processed food.

Here is an example of nutrient density:

All measurements are in 100 grams, which is roughly equivalent to ½ cup, but it varies. Percentages of vitamin C is a Percent Daily Value and is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.



Sugar (g)

Fiber (g)

Vitamin C





10 %





4 %

100% Apple Juice




0 %

Table 1. Nutrient comparison of apple products

As seen in Table 1, raw apples are more nutrient dense than applesauce because they have fewer calories and more fiber and vitamin C. While 100% apple juice may contain fewer calories, the only nutrient it contains is sugar, so it lacks the satiety factor of fiber and the disease prevention of vitamin C.

Other whole foods considered nutrient dense are all fruits and vegetables; whole grains, such as quinoa, wheat, oats, barley, and rye; legumes, such as black beans, soy beans, chickpeas, and lentils; and nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

While it may not always be convenient to eat and cook with whole foods all the time, it can greatly improve your health and reduce the risk of multiple diseases and conditions. When whole foods aren’t an easy option, choose foods that:

  • Contain less than 150 mg sodium per serving
  • Are low in unhealthy saturated and trans fats (10% or less of saturated and no trans fats)
  • Contain less than 5 grams of sugar per serving
  • Contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving
  • Have 5 ingredients or fewer

Following all or the majority of these guidelines will insure that the foods you are eating are as nutrient dense as possible and contain few added ingredients.

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Blueberry Muffins

These blueberry muffins are super simple and have fewer calories and fat than than your regular muffin, while still packing that sweet blueberry yumminess. I used whole wheat pastry flour to keep the lightness of all purpose flour while adding some protein, fiber, and whole grains.

Makes 24 muffins.

4 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp baking powder
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup sweetened applesauce
1 cup skim milk
4 cups blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, applesauce, egg, and milk together; add to the flour mixture, and stir. Fold in the blueberries.
3. Fill the muffin cups to the top, and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick; it will come out clean when the muffins are cooked through. Take the muffins out of the cups when they are cool enough to touch to prevent overcooking.


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