J-Fitness experts offer tips, recipes for a healthy new year

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Hello 2022! To help you with your new year’s resolutions, Jewish Rhode Island asked the folks at J-Fitness, at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence, to share tips for better health and wellness and eating more healthfully. And we asked them to throw in a healthy recipe as well.

Always interested in promoting health and fitness, Rob Castellucci, Allie Tetreault and Nikki Long were happy to give advice to help you on your health and fitness journey.

Castellucci, director of Personal Training and Recreational Sports, offers this advice for healthy eating: “The three big things I always think of that help me stay balanced and on a healthy path with my nutrition are to eat as many whole foods as possible, limit snacking and focus on portion size or overall moderation.”

He went on to explain that whole foods are unprocessed foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

“Staying away from processed foods is probably the biggest key to healthy nutritional habits,” Castellucci said. “I keep mostly healthy snacks in the house, like nuts, fruits, almond/peanut butter, etc. I always say, ‘you can’t eat it if you don’t have it.’ ”

Castellucci said he also focuses on portion size, especially at dinner, and limiting treats.

“We want to enjoy what we eat and have some treats here and there, but staying focused on some of these aspects of our diets can really make a big difference in the long run,” he said.

Tetreault, director of Wellness & Member Experience, and Long, director of Group Exercise & Fitness Center Operations, both gave tips for better health and wellness and healthier eating in the new year. In their emails, they start with the same advice: Eat mindfully.

“With the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, eating can become almost an after-thought. Try to slow down, set aside quiet time for eating, and really enjoy your food,” Long wrote.

“Chew slowly and focus on the experience. As a result, you’ll eat less food overall and have fewer stomachaches from overconsumption,” Tetreault wrote. “It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.”

Their other tips include drinking water, focusing on fruits and vegetables, using smaller plates and watching your weight and exercising.

Tetreault says being active is a “secret weapon.”

“Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a meal, or exercising here at the J! Consuming more calories than you’re burning will lead to storage of energy as body fat. So the other side of energy balance – physical activity – needs to be on the list,” she says.

If you take the time to listen to your body, you can learn your hunger and fullness cues, Long said.

“By getting in tune with your body, you will be able to fuel your body properly without overeating or undereating,” she says.

Tetreault is an advocate of using smaller plates for portion control, especially at a buffet, which she called “a recipe for overindulgence.”

“And smaller portions means you’re more likely to finish what’s on your plate, which means less food waste,” she said.

Finally, the J-Fitness experts said to plan your meals in advance. That way, Long said, “You’ll always have healthy options available, you’ll save money by not grabbing fast food, and you’ll feel better too.”

FRAN OSTENDORF (fostendorf@jewishallianceri.org) is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.

Rob’s sausage and peppers

One of Castellucci’s favorite recipes:

Ingredients

2 packages turkey/chicken sausage of choice (I always use sweet Italian turkey sausage)

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 bags frozen sweet pepper strips, with or without onions (I usually grab the bag with the chopped onions included)

Olive oil

Generous dash of salt, garlic powder

Small dash of pepper, onion powder

Small chunked potatoes, optional

Directions

Chop the turkey sausage into bite-sized pieces. If you want to, brown the sausage in a pan with olive oil, but browning is not necessary. Put everything into a slow cooker.

Cook on high for 3-5 hours or low for 5-7 hours (decrease time by at least an hour if you have browned the sausage first). Enjoy!

Creamy coconut and red lentil curry

Recipe from frommybowl.com — Provided by Nikki Long

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, finely minced

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped; stems and leaves divided

1 tablespoon salt-free curry powder

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 1/2 cups (309g) dry red lentils

1 13.5 ounce (398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk

2 cups (470 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth + 2 cups water

Serving suggestions: cooked basmati or jasmine rice, naan or roti

Directions

Bring a large saucepan to medium heat and add a splash of vegetable broth or neutral cooking oil. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes

Add the garlic, ginger, and chopped cilantro stems to the pan and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, then stir in the curry powder and cayenne pepper, if using, and cook for an additional minute. Rinse the lentils briefly, then add them to the saucepan with the coconut milk and vegetable broth and water, and stir to combine.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking and flavor distribution. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.

Serve warm with rice, or as desired; leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or can be frozen for up to one month.

Instant Pot Instructions: select the “Sauté” setting on your pressure cooker and follow steps 1-2 as written. After you add the lentils and liquids, press “Cancel” to stop sautéing, and seal the Instant Pot with the lid. Cook on manual high-pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes before covering the vent with a kitchen towel and manually releasing the remaining pressure.

Add-ins and Variations: this recipe is a great “base” for a lot of add-ins, like spicy peppers, carrots, potatoes, spinach, and mustard greens.
I recommend adding the veggies along with the garlic and ginger, and stirring in any fresh greens just before the curry finishes simmering.

Mediterranean bean, quinoa and kale stew

(pictured)

Recipe from PKNewby.com (Dr. PK Newby) — Offered by Allie Tetreault

Ingredients

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces chopped cremini mushrooms

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup white wine

1 (14 ounces) can diced tomatoes

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup quinoa

1 (14 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

5 cups torn kale leaves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup parsley

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt; heat 6 minutes or until onion is soft and darkened. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots and garlic to pan; heat 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, dried thyme, chili flakes and black pepper; heat 30 seconds.

Pour wine in pan, raise heat to medium-high and simmer for 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes and quinoa to pan. Return to a boil, lower heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in beans, kale and red wine vinegar; heat 1 minute. Ladle stew into serving bowls and serve garnished with parsley.