Eating healthier one day at a time

Posted Thursday, March 1st 2012 at 4:54pm

By Kelli Bamforth
Like millions of Americans, I started this year with a resolution to lose weight and lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Statistics show that by March, most people have fallen off the wagon or forgotten about their resolutions altogether – but I’m thrilled to say that this year, I’m not one of those people! I’m still trudging along, hitting the gym as often as I can and concentrating on the one thing that makes the greatest impact on an individual’s weight: diet.
My schedule is fairly busy with work, exercise, social commitments and maintaining my home all competing for attention on a daily basis. Eating right is an ongoing challenge due to these time constraints, and the fact that I don’t really know my way around the kitchen. I must admit a lot of my meals require the same ingredient: a microwave. But as anyone who’s tried to keep a healthy lifestyle knows, it’s harder to stay on track when what you’re eating isn’t exactly dazzling to your taste buds.
So in recent months I’ve started making more of an effort to actually cook. I find a majority of the recipes I try on websites like Skinnytaste and Hungry Girl, but I usually make some adjustments to suit both my naïveté in the kitchen and my particular tastes. My most recent attempt was Baked Ziti with Spinach and Turkey Sausage. This Skinnytaste recipe took an Italian favorite and lightened up the calories by using reduced-fat mozzarella and fat-free ricotta cheeses and adding a generous portion of spinach.
What I loved about this recipe is that the pasta, cheeses and meat helped tone down the taste of the spinach. I’m a fan of the vegetable, but if you’re not, this dish helps sneak in a serving or two in the least offensive way possible. I added the turkey sausage crumbles (pre-cooked and convenient!) to make the recipe more hearty; plus, pairing a carbohydrate such as pasta with a protein helps stabilize blood sugar levels and leave you feeling fuller longer. I also used a jar of prepared sauce rather than making one with crushed tomatoes, as I’m not a fan of chunky sauces.

The generous portions were more than enough for a meal when paired with a nice salad, and one of the best things is the recipe made enough for several days’ worth of leftovers. For a busy girl like me, that is a must. I do think the ziti could have used a little kick, so next time I might add some red pepper flakes to spice it up. But overall, it was a quick, easy and delicious meal.

Baked Ziti with Spinach and Turkey Sausage
1 lb high-fiber ziti or penne
Jar of prepared pasta sauce (I used Light Ragu tomato & basil)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz fat-free ricotta
1/4 cup parmesan
2 cups (8 oz) part skim mozzarella
One bag Jimmy Dean turkey sausage crumbles
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to instructions. Drain and return to pot. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add olive oil and minced garlic. Heat for about one minute, then add chopped spinach, turkey sausage and pasta sauce. Season with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. 

Add sauce to the pasta and combine the ziti. Add half of the mozzarella, parmesan cheese and ricotta. Mix well and transfer to the baking pan.

Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Top with the remaining mozzarella.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted and the edges are lightly browned. Makes eight servings.


denny's picture

Congrats for keeping your resolution, you're right, you're not part of most people here. Eating healthier should be a priority for all of us but you'd be amazed how very few people actually manage to reach this goal. I've had a resolution like that myself and I ended up opening a frozen yogurt business, things turned out ok for me.

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