Five A Day The Make-Ahead Way

I am excited to announce our guest post today is from Devon, the founder of Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas.  Devon is a mom who works full-time and needed a way to prepare healthy meals for

her family even on those busy weeknights. She started Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas, a group of moms who get together once a month to prepare make-ahead meals in “swap” style for their families.  She also runs the Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas Blog, where she shares recipes, tips, and tricks for preparing healthy, time-saving, make-ahead meals.  Follow her on Twitter at @MamasMakeAhead. Visit the Eastside Make-Ahead Mamas Blog for more great make-ahead recipes and tips!

As a reader of Five a Day the Fun Way, there’s no doubt you already know the benefits of eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  But let’s face it: while the theory is sound, the concept often fails in the execution stages.  If you’re like me, you’ve discovered that providing fresh fruit and veggies for your family often means going to the grocery store more than once each week, planning and organizing meals and snacks ahead of time (and before the grocery store trip!), and then taking time to prepare all of those fresh foods can be a challenge. Here are just a few ways that you can use make-ahead cooking techniques to work more fruits and veggies into you and your family’s everyday meals.

Breakfast. The smartest meal of the day!  Here are a few ways to make it even smarter:

  • Dice onions and bell peppers of all flavors. Pack (densely) into an ice cube tray, and top off with chicken broth.   Sautee one “veggie cube” in your omelet or breakfast burrito each morning.
  • Chop and then “flash freeze” fruit by arranging it on a cookie sheet in the freezer, all in one layer.  Leave for a few hours, and once hard (but not necessarily frozen through), divide into individual portions in freezer bags.  Pull them out to top your cereal or oatmeal, or simply eat as finger food during the commute.


Morning Snack. This meal was a hurdle for me, as my default for years was a sugar-packed latte.  Now, I skip the latte and opt for one of these:

  • Try a fresh fruit smoothie. Puree one cup frozen fruit in a blender with some agave nectar or fruit juice for sweetener.  Add milk for some protein.
  • Pack some fruit on a stick; because everything is better on a stick!


Lunch. Making your lunch ahead is a great way to save time in your morning routine!

  • If you have access to a microwave at work, re-heating leftovers from your favorite veggie-packed make-ahead dinners is a great start to eating a healthy lunch.
  • Most kids at school don’t have access to a microwave, so we pack cold lunches for them.  Check out these five tips for a nutritious make-ahead lunch from Five A Day the Fun Way.
  • Add guacamole (a fruit!) to your child’s sandwich instead of mayonnaise.  To keep it healthy, don’t mix in sour cream or mayo to make your guac; avocados and a few spices are all it takes

Afternoon Snack. A carb-rich afternoon snack can exacerbate most people’s natural tendency to get sleepy in the afternoons.  These protein-packed veggies can help boost your energy during that afternoon slump:

  • A handful of peanuts, tree nuts, or sunflower seeds.  (Vacuum seal them, such as with a FoodSaver – they’ll keep for months or more on your shelf!)
  • Corn tortilla chips with hummus.  (Yes, you can freeze hummus and guacamole.  They will just need a good stir once they thaw.)
  • Cold quinoa salad, topped with diced red bell peppers and black beans.



Dinner. I never miss this opportunity to load up on the veggies.  Here are some ways to make sure you never miss them in your dinner, even when you miss your trip to the store:

  • Keep an extra bag of frozen southwest vegetable blend or mixed vegetables in your freezer.  Mix them in with your starch (such as rice, quinoa, or even pasta or mashed potatoes).  When it comes to simple veggies for dinner, bags of frozen veggies can’t be beat.
  • Make ahead one-pot meals.  These not only minimize the dishes that need to be cleaned at the end of the meal, but they also are a great way to sneak vegetables (and colors!) into your meals.
  • Skip buttering your bread, and roast garlic instead!  It spreads on just like butter, but provides numerous health benefits; and yes, it’s a vegetable!

Dessert. Don’t think dessert is a great opportunity to get your five a day?  Think again!

  • Again, commercially frozen bags are your friend.  Peaches, strawberries, tropical blend; you name it, you can keep it ready and on-hand!
  • Thaw frozen fruit and serve alone.  Add a tablespoon of agave nectar for an extra sweet treat.
  • Remember the fruit puree for smoothies above?  Freeze it on a stick, and you have homemade popsicles

There’s no limit to the ways you can make-ahead fruits and vegetables to work in your five a day, even on a busy schedule.  For more healthy make-ahead ideas for getting in your five a day, visit Devon’s blog, the Eastside Make Ahead Mamas Blog.  How do you make ahead your five a day?  Let us know!

Cookbook Giveaway!

Contest time! Who wants to win the amazing cookbook, Fruit, by Kathryn Hawkins ($15.95 on Amazon)? This cookbook is filled with fresh, delicious recipes featuring summer’s bountiful produce.

How can you win?

It’s super easy! I’m offering seven ways to enter your name into the drawing for the cookbook and YES, you can receive one entry for each item!

Here is how you can enter:

Important: Please leave individual comments on this blog post for each of the following ways you entered so I can enter your name the correct number of times in my randomizer to win!

  1. Become a fan of Five a Day the Fun Way on Facebook.
  2. Enter your email address to subscribe to my blog (listed in right column of my blog)
  3. Subscribe to my feed in a reader (listed in the right column of my blog)
  4. Post a link to this contest on your Facebook page and tag @Five a Day the Fun Way
  5. Share this contest on your blog, linking back to this post
  6. Follow me on Twitter @Fiveadayfun
  7. Tweet about this contest and then leave a comment with your Twitter name

Make sure to leave a comment for each of the ways you entered the contest. For example, if Sally Smith became a fan on facebook, subscribed to my feed and shared this contest on facebook, she would post three comments on this feed and would receive three entries in the contest. Make sense? Contact me at with any questions.

Winner will be randomly drawn on June 30th and will be notified by email.

Good Luck!


Healthy Lunch Series: Tip #1: Everything tastes better on a stick

As I mentioned last week in my post about the Lunchables, my kids are in summer camp which means that I have to pack a healthy lunch every day that is:

  • Nutritious
  • Peanut-free
  • Affordable
  • Quick
  • Something my kids will actually eat and enjoy


  • Provides my kids with the energy they need for an action-packed camp
  • Can sustain long periods without refrigeration
  • Doesn’t require a microwave


You know what a challenge this can be.

My kids quite enjoyed their Lunchable filled week, but I set out to improve the nutrition and quality of their lunches.

I talked with other moms and conducted some research on how to make a nutritious lunch that meets all of my above critieria. I have so many great tips to share that I’m going to make this topic a series, so look for daily tips and recipes over the ten days as I countdown my top ten healthy lunch tips. In the meantime, today’s post is focused on tip #1: Everything tastes better on a stick.

I love kabob’s. Place boring ham, cheese, fruit and veggies on a stick and instantly you transform a ho-hum lunch into something kids will actually eat.

Today I made fruit kabobs with watermelon, cantaloupe and grapes. I simply used a melon baller to scoop out watermelon and cantaloupe balls, then I alternated them on a wooden skewer. This simple technique makes eating fruit fun!

Skewer possibilities are endless. Try sandwich kabobs, which have bread chunks, cheese, cubes of turkey and cherry tomatoes. Another family favorite is chicken kabobs. I use leftover homemade chicken breast nuggets, cut into cubes, with mozzarella cheese, grapes and zucchini. For additional healthy lunch and snack ideas visit What is your favorite kabob recipe? Please share!

Why should you pick-your-own?

This weekend I took my kids to Springs Farm to pick our own strawberries. This has been our tradition each spring since we’ve lived in Fort Mill. Why would we go out into the hot sun, spend hours plucking strawberries off of the vine, getting dirty in the process when we can go to the grocery store and easily pick up a pint?

Here are the top five benefits to picking your own produce:

  1. Instill Healthy Habits – Research show that when children are involved in food preparation, including growing, picking, preparing and cooking, they are more likely to eat healthier foods. A study published in ScienceDaily found that children who grew up eating fresh-from-the-garden produce were more likely to prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Burn Calories – The process of picking your own berries is great exercise! We spent an hour combing the fields finding the biggest, juiciest, brightest berries. We burned approximately 270 calories in the process, which earned us our bowl of strawberry ice cream made with the fresh berries! Check out this article on Livestrong about the calories burned through gardening.
  3. Science Lesson – Harvesting fruit teaches children that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, restaurant or fast food window. Picking your own produce sets the stage for having a conversation about how food grows and is a wonderful science lesson.
  4. Save Money – We paid only $9.00 for an entire gallon of pick-your-own strawberries. The same farm sold pre-picked berries for $15 and buying just a small container in the grocery store costs $4 for a small pint! By cutting out the middle man and going straight to the source, budget conscious families can save money.

  5. Memories
    – Spending quality time with your children, doing an activity you both love, will create loving, fond memories for years to come. Even if they complain about it or fight the entire time now (your kids are probably better behaved then mine. Mine decided to have a throw down in the middle of our beautiful day of picking strawberries. Check out the picture of my daughter hitting my son with the fruit basket. I took this picture so they can see how ridiculous they look when they fight) they will look back at these moments fondly……and the years pass too quickly.


There are so many ways to enjoy strawberries, including just straight from the vine, but I thought I would share a savory strawberry recipe with you today for Spinach Strawberry Salad. Spinach and strawberries go hand-in-hand. You’ll be surprised that kids actually like the mild taste of spinach and this antioxidant filled salad is a great way for kids to get their fruit, veggies and healthy fats all in one!


Strawberry Spinach Salad


  • 1 bag of baby spinach (10 oz)
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Black is the new brown

Black is the new brown. That is what I hear from all of the latest health research that shows that foods that are naturally black, dark blue and purple are full of antioxidants and are linked to a host of health benefits, from lowering cancer and heart disease risk to reducing inflammation.

Black rice, blackberries and black beans are just a few of these antioxidant rich foods that you can add to your diet.

Why are black foods so good for you? Because the same substance that gives these foods their dark hue, anthocyanins, also serves a critical role in preventing multiple health conditions.

The bran from black rice contains higher levels of vitamin E, which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Black rice is not commonly found, but you can find it in natural grocery stores, such as Earth Fare and Whole Foods.

Black beans contain bioflavonoids, which are potent in fighting cancer. They are also full of fiber, folate and iron.

Blackberries, which are coming into season right now, contain polyphenols which scrub cells that harm brain function. Blackberries are rich in vitamin C and manganese, which strengthens the immune system. Blackberries are also chockfull of fiber and low in calories. One cup of blackberries has only 75 calories, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat and 7.6 grams of fiber!

This weekend I decided to make a big pancake breakfast with my kids at the cooking helm. We made whole wheat pancakes with blackberries and bananas. I made their initials with the pancake batter and even made a few butterflies, teddy bears and Mickey Mouse. We made them on Sunday before church and it took so long to make them that we were running late, so we threw them in a ziplock bag and ate them as a picnic brunch at Riverwalk. Nothing says summer picnic like blackberry pancakes, right?

Try out the recipe and let me know what you think:

Whole-Wheat Blackberry Pancakes

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ½ cup Trader Joes strawberry keifer
  • 1 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 sliced banana


Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add wet ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix well with a spoon until there are no more dry spots.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Spray non-fat cooking spray to lightly coat. Make the pancakes into letter shapes (spell backwards so it comes out correctly,) animals or other fun shapes. Drop the blackberries and/or banana slices on the pancakes while they are setting up. When the bubbles settle and the edges begin to set, flip the pancakes.


Healthy Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

This weekend my home town, Fort Mill, celebrated with their 2nd annual strawberry festival. My son sang with the school choir at the festival (well, actually he lip synched because he felt embarrassed) and my daughter had her picture in The Herald while petting a sheep at the petting zoo.

Between the strawberry recipe contest and the fresh strawberries sold on site, the focus of the event is all about the strawberries. Fort Mill is home to Springs Farm, which has the BEST strawberries. I feel so lucky that we have a strawberry field right across the street from our neighborhood. This weekend we plan to “pick-our-own” strawberries, and I will blog about the experience, but today I wanted to provide you guys with an amazing homemade strawberry ice cream recipe.

We picked up a gallon of freshly picked strawberries and set out to make our own homemade ice cream. I love ice cream, but most store-bought ice cream is either full of fat, calories or chemicals. They get their flavor from extracts rather than fresh fruit, so their nutritional value is minimal.

My homemade strawberry ice cream recipe is extremely simple with only four ingredients and the focus is on the fruit

And when you hear the health benefits of strawberries, you will want the focus to be on the fruit. Strawberries have the 3rd highest level of antioxidants among all U.S. foods, including spices, fruits and vegetables (based on common serving sizes.)  The polyphenols in strawberries also play a major role in regulating blood sugar. Strawberries also have anti-inflammatory properties, which contributes towards their role in lowering one’s risk of developing heart disease and cancer. One cup of strawberries has only 43 calories, 136% of daily value for vitamin C and 3 grams of fiber. Give this delicious recipe and try and let me know what you think.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract


Freeze the ice cream canister for several hours prior to preparing the ice cream. Hull the strawberries and puree with a hand blender. Combine milks, strawberry puree and vanilla extract. Pour into ice cream canister and prepare according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

Make your own Mango BBQ Sauce

Last week I blogged about the top sneaky sugar foods. Topping that list was my favorite barbecue sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s. I was quite shocked to learn that it not only has 15 grams of sugar per serving, but also has five different types of sugar, including high fructose corn syrup (which is the first ingredient.)

If I’m going to eat sugar, I want a brownie or ice cream…not barbecue sauce! I tossed my store-bought barecue sauce in the trash and set out to make my own. I had never made my own barbeque sauce before and honestly, I was a little intimidated, but I found a healthy, clean and easy recipe in the May 2011 edition of Oxygen magazine for Mango Barbecue Sauce.

It was simple to whip up this barbecue sauce and my entire family loves it. I have already used it as a dipping sauce for homemade chicken nuggets, marinade and sauté. This versatile sauce is low in calories and sugar  – only 20 calories and 3 grams of sugar per serving vs. 70 calories and 15 grams of sugar for the commercially made stuff!

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think:

Mango BBQ Sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
1Cup Water
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1/2 Cup maple syrup
1/2 Cup molasses
1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar
2 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

1) Heat olive oil in a skillet on med/high heat

2) Add onions, garlic and mango. Saute until soft, about 3 min

3) Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. bring to a boil on med/high heat. reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 30min.

4) Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least one hour.

5) Use a hand blender to puree to liquify ingredients

6. Use a funnel to transfer the barbeque sauce from the pan to sterilized mason jars.

Serving size: 2 Tbsp.: Calories: 20, Sodium: 45mg, Total Carbs: 5g, Sugars: 3g

Save time and calories – Healthy Slow Cooker Carrot Cake

I know, I know, slow cooker carrot cake doesn’t exactly sound mouth-watering, but trust me, this cake is one of the most delicious, moist, decadent cakes I’ve had in a long time. The best part – it’s healthy, low in calories & take mere minutes to make. 

This clean eating approved carrot cake is a great way to sneak vegetables into your kid’s diet. The typical store-bought carrot cake is NOT a good source of vegetables, vitamins or minerals. Rather they are filled with sugar, dehydrated carrot pieces (in very small amounts), trans fat and refined flour. This cleaned up version has one cup of freshly grated carrots, sugar-free applesauce, flaxseed and spelt flour. Parents can quickly throw these ingredients in the morning and have a delicious, hot cake waiting for them after dinner. 

Whenever I create healthy breads, cakes or treats, I use buttermilk, kefir, sugar-free applesauce or Greek yogurt to replace the fat. I also like to add flaxseed for added fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. 

Healthy Slow Cooker Carrot Cake 


  • 1 cup freshly shredded carrot
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 ¼ cups spelt flour
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup raw organic honey
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup strawberry kefir
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt 

Topping Ingredients

  • Non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • Honey 


  1. Spray a small crock-pot with non-fat cooking spray
  2. Mix flour, coconut, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, & salt in a bowl.
  3. Combine egg white, flaxseed mixed with water – Mix well.
  4. Add raw honey, applesauce, kefir and vanilla and stir until blended.
  5. Combine flour mixture and applesauce mixture, fold in carrots and raisins. Add pecans.
  6. Pour mixture into slow cooker and cover with four squares of paper towels, Bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours on low.
  7. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey

Birthday Cake Smack down

Yesterday was my birthday and I wanted to make my favorite cake: Coconut Cake. I’ve been dying to try out Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating “healthy” birthday cake recipe, but I also wanted to try out this great recipe I saw in Southern Living magazine for a Sour Cream cake with coconut frosting. What’s a girl to do? Hmmm…time for a birthday cake smackdown. Healthy/Clean-Eating Cupcakes vs. Decadent Sour Cream Cake. Who will win?

The Clean Eating cupcake used whole wheat flour, agave nectar, lemon zest, and, get this – cooked pureed carrots. The Southern Living version used a Duncan Hines white cake mix with sour cream in the mixture.

The winner is….

Clean-Eating Coconut Cupcake

Surprised? I was too! I actually cut a generous slice of the Southern Living Coconut Cake for myself and had a cupcake (hey, it’s my birthday, OK?) and I was fully expecting the Southern Living Coconut Cake to blow the Clean-Eating cupcakes out of the water. But, using a side-by-side comparison, the cake had a chemical after-taste and was too sweet. The clean-eating cupcake had a wonderful hint of lemon flavor and the carrots actually provided a delicious sweetness and texture.

In full disclosure the frosting that I used for both was not exactly “clean” BUT it was definitely healthier than the typical buttercream.  Try out the recipes and let me know what YOU think.

Clean Eating Cupcake


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup cooked pureed sweet carrot
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder  


  • Preheat oven to 350°F Line a muffin tin with liners
  • In a large bowl combine egg whites, sea salt and lemon juice
  • Beat on high for 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form
  • Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Add egg white mixture and fold in
  • Bake for 15 minutes

Southern Living Sour Cream Cake


  • 1 box white cake mix
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups water


  • Prepare as directed on the back of the box, except add sour cream instead of oil.
  • Pour into two cake pans and bake 10 minutes less than the directions call for (due to lack of fat,  you do not want to over bake.)

Coconut Frosting


  • 1 container light sour cream
  • 1 7 oz. bag coconut
  • ½ container fat-free cool whip
  • 1 ½ cups sugar


  • Mix sour cream, sugar and coconut together until blended well. Fold in the cool whip until combined. Refrigerate for 1 ½ hours.