A Look Inside Melanie Douglass’ Kitchen

But Studio 5 Health and Fitness Expert Melanie Douglass reveals some of her favorite recipes, foods that keep you healthy, and still get eaten.

1. Italian Chicken

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 packet dry Italian dressing mix

8 oz. fat-free (or low-fat) cream cheese

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Whole-wheat pasta (any kind is fine)

Place the chicken in a crock pot and sprinkle the dry Italian dressing mix over the top. Let the chicken cook in the crock pot on low until tender and cooked through (4 – 6 hours). About 35 minutes prior to serving, mix the cream cheese and soup together in a separate bowl, then heat in the microwave 2 – 3 minutes and stir until smooth. Pour the soup mixture over the chicken and let simmer in the crock pot for 30 more minutes. Serve over whole-wheat pasta.

Why I love this recipe: It’s easy, easy, easy to prepare; plus it’s delicious and healthy! The whole-wheat pasta adds much-needed dietary fiber; the chicken provides protein; and one hearty serving is only about 400 calories (leaving room for a steamed veggie, salad or some fruit – for a perfect 500-calorie meal).

2. Cheesy Rice

1 box Four Cheese Rice-a-roni

1 lb. 93% lean ground beef

Prepare the rice as directed on the box. Then brown the ground beef and toss it in, let simmer 5 more minutes.

Why I love this recipe: (if you can call it that!) Boxed meals are not something I recommend using everyday, but once in a while, we all need an old-reliable, quick-and-easy meal that we can fall back on on super busy nights — this 400-calorie meal is far better for our health than a 1,500-calorie, more-than-a-day’s-supply-of-sodium meal from a restaurant or fast-food outlet.

If you balance boxed foods with with low-sodium, high-fiber side dishes — like steamed broccoli and a bowl of sliced strawberries — then you’ve actually got a decent meal on the table… in minutes!

3. Sugar-free Maple Syrup

2 cups Splenda (or you can do “low-sugar syrup” with 1 cup Splenda and 1 cup real sugar)

1 cup boiling water

1/2 tsp. mapeline flavoring

Boil the water, then add Splenda/sugar and mapeline. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Why I love this: Because my kids love waffles, pancakes and french toast; and using a sugar-free (or half-the-sugar) homemade syrup keeps these meals in the healthy zone. Kids already eat too much sugar and don’t need to top hot breakfast foods with spoonful after spoonful of yet, more sugar! Splenda is safe; but as with everything, should be consumed in moderation. I only use Splenda in one thing: syrup! And it saves my kids from excess sugar every single week.

It’s worth it! Check out the calories & sugar per 1-oz serving*:

Regular maple syrup: 80 calories, 5 tsp. sugar
Homemade “low sugar”: 45 calories, 2.5 tsp sugar
Homemade “sugar free”: 0 calories, 0 sugar

(*usually enough to cover one pancake; we should aim to consume less than 10 tsp of added sugar each day)

Almond-Craisin Spinach Salad

Toss the following:

2 – 3 cups spinach

1/8 cup sliced almonds

1/8 cup craisins

1/2 cup matchstick carrots

2 Tbsp. light raspberry vinaigrette

Why I Love This: It’s made with 4 super-food ingredients (spinach, almonds, carrots, and olive oil dressing) and you can literally throw it together in less than 5 minutes! The nutty and sweet flavors are complimentary and make for a delicious healthy snack — or meal. With just 220 calories, this salad is one I use when I need to counterbalance a high-calorie meal. It’s the perfect way to save up for a soup-to-nuts dinner or to make up for an oversized, “shouldn’t have” lunch.

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