Make Yourself (and Your Health) a Top Priority this Mother’s Day

TW Family cooking kitchen

By: Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian

Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” Robert Browning

As mothers, it’s so important to us that our children get enough sleep, eat well-balanced meals, and express themselves, by playing, exploring, learning, growing, and laughing. Yet, as adults, it’s not uncommon to put the needs of our children before our own. We may often forget to play, let alone take the time to sit down and enjoy well-balanced meals throughout the day. While it’s true that your children’s well-being and happiness is essential to your own, it’s important to keep in mind that children learn by example. And taking care of your own health ensures that you’ll have the energy to keep up with your kids during their summertime activities, as well as demonstrate to them the importance of making health a top priority. Yet, with our revved-up lifestyles, sneaking in three balanced meals and wholesome snacks each day—in between work, school, soccer practice, homework, and bedtime rituals—is no easy task. What it really boils down to is planning ahead and focusing on specific nutrient-rich foods, that give you the most bang for your buck from a nutritional standpoint, such as tomato products. Painting your plate red with tomato products is one easy way to boost your meals with health. When tomatoes are cooked, the lycopene—a powerful, health-promoting antioxidant in tomatoes—becomes even more available to your body. Scientists have linked eating more tomato products to heart health, lowered inflammation, improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels, bone health, and even better skin! Here are 5 easy tomato-filled ways you can be good to yourself this May, during the month of Mother’s Day.

  1. Set yourself up for success. Pack your pantry with tomato products, such as salsa, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Tomato products can turn any boring and bland meal into a masterpiece. For example, simply pile pre-cooked polenta with vegetables and tomato sauce, and sprinkle with cheese (plant-based cheese works for non-dairy eaters) and cook in the oven at 350 for an easy meal in 20 minutes.

Veg Lasagna Photo courtesy of my friends, McKenzie & Lisa of Nourish RDs

  1. Do the dips right. There’s something about dips that always makes eating more enjoyable. And since this is National Picnic Month, as well as National Salsa Month, dips are a guaranteed must-have component in your picnic basket. To add additional nutrition to your favorite dips and spreads, stir in salsa! Once you stir salsa into your guacamole, hummus, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese, you may never want to have it plain again. This leads me to the next tip…
  2. Pack a wholesome Mother’s Day picnic.  Canned tomatoes are a sweet addition to fresh salads, sandwiches, and wraps. And they add a nice change of pace from your typical turkey or veggie sandwich.
  3. Stick to what you love. America’s favorite non-potato vegetable just so happens to be the humble tomato. So go ahead and add a side of ketchup to your sweet potato fries, double the amount of tomato sauce in your homemade pizza, or sip on tomato juice with breakfast. In doing so, you’ll be one step closer to meeting your fruit and veggie goal for the day.
  4. Make once, eat twice. I’m a big advocate of easy wholesome cooking—it doesn’t have to be laborious. That’s why I love preparing a big batch of a tomato-based casserole or stew at the beginning of the week. It makes for delicious leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. My new recipe for Smoky Lentil Chili is my new go-to Meatless Monday recipe, and it makes a whopping 10 servings.

Happy Mother’s Day! Sharon Palmer, RD, The Plant-Powered Dietitian Smoky Lentil Chili smoky lentil Here’s a perfect easy dish for your next Meatless Monday!  Lentils require no soaking and cook up faster than beans, so you can whip up this dish in an hour.  You can also throw all of these ingredients into a slow cooker and a savory, fragrant meal will great you when you come home at the end of the day.  Serve it with a handful of fresh cilantro and green onions.  Or, let your guests sprinkle with cheese (plant-based or dairy, depending on your preference) and tortilla strips for a hearty dish.    1 pound small green lentils 4 cups vegetable broth 1 cup water 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid 1 6-ounce can tomato paste 1 onion, diced 1 green bell pepper, diced 3 stalks celery, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon liquid smoke 1 Tbsp chili powder ½ tsp crushed red pepper 1 tsp oregano ½ tsp smoked paprika 1 tsp dried parsley flakes ½ tsp dried mustard ½ tsp celery salt Kosher salt, to taste ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro ½ cup chopped green onions

  1. Place lentils, broth, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, bell pepper, celery garlic, liquid smoke, chili powder, crushed red pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, parsley flakes, mustard, celery salt in a large pot.  Stir well, cover and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about one hour.  May place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.
  2. When thick and tender, serve into bowls.  Garnish each bowl with fresh cilantro and green onions

Makes 10 servings.

SP   Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Her second book, Plant-Powered For Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipeswill be in stores summer of 2014.