Food & Drink

Improve your mood, your health and your energy level by changing what you eat in 2014

Tilapia tacos with avocado are one of the 300-calorie (or less) comfort food recipes by Betty Crocker.
Tilapia tacos with avocado are one of the 300-calorie (or less) comfort food recipes by Betty Crocker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

As we move into 2014, many of us are looking for new ways to lose weight, find happiness, relax and/or have more energy.

A series of books from Hamlyn publishing offers solutions through the power of food. The Eat Yourself... books claim that certain foods will help you lose weight, lift your mood, de-stress and give you stamina.

Eat Yourself Thin: Superfoods & Recipes to Boost Metabolism & Burn Fat states that once you start focusing on foods that make your digestive, hormonal and cardiovascular systems work at optimum level, you can lose weight.

Superfoods that encourage the burning of fat cells and boost the performance of every system in your body include blueberries, green tea, cider vinegar, soy products, parsnips, carrots, apples, cinnamon, almonds, eggs, lentils, grapefruit, black beans, tuna, turmeric, dates and coconut.

Eat Yourself Happy: Ingredients & Recipes for a Good Mood, Every Day, focuses on eating foods that have been proven to increase the feeling of well being in our minds and bodies. Happy superfoods include turkey, sunflower seeds, mackerel, avocado, kale and peanuts.

Eat Yourself Calm: Ingredients & Recipes to Reduce the Stress in Your Life shows that dark chocolate, mangoes, salmon, ginger and oats are just some of the superfoods that positively support the body's systems during periods of stress.

Eat Yourself to Energy: Ingredients & Recipes to Power Through the Day recommends choosing foods that keep blood sugar levels steady rather than caffeine or sugary "energy" drinks and bars. Blackberries, walnuts, quinoa, pomegranate, butternut squash, and flaxseed will lift your mood.

The Eat Yourself... books are $9.99 each. Here's a recipe from Eat Yourself Thin. Black beans are incredibly nutritious, providing a host of the B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber to balance blood sugar.

Black bean soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2½ cups vegetable stock

2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained

Sea salt and black pepper

Handful fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

¼ cup low-fat crème fraîche or plain yogurt, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the cumin seeds and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, and tomato and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato begins to break down. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, stock, and half the beans and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste, put into a blender or food processor, in batches if necessary, and blend until smooth. Return to the pan, stir in the remaining beans and heat through. Transfer to warm bowls and serve with a swirl of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

This recipe from Eat Yourself to Energy is rich in fiber, aiding digestion and balancing blood sugar, and the B vitamins support the nervous system.

Lemon, pistachio and date squares

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

3 dried dates, chopped

½ cup unsalted pistachios, chopped

¾ cup slivered almonds, chopped

½ cup light brown sugar

4 cups millet flakes

¾ cup oat flakes

1 can (15 ounces) condensed milk

3 tablespoons mixed seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower

Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix until well combined. Spoon into an 11- by 7-inch baking pan lined with nonstick parchment paper and place in a preheated oven, at 350 degrees, for 20 minutes. Let cool in pan, then mark into 15 to 20 squares and chill in the refrigerator until firm. Makes 15 to 20 squares.

For those who prefer a low-carb diet, Colette Heimowitz makes the Atkins plan faster and simpler in The New Atkins Made Easy (Touchstone, $16.99). Heimowitz is vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. She plans meals around more protein — chicken, fish, shellfish, pork, beef, and tofu; more olive oil, butter, avocado, and leafy greens and vegetables. On the Atkins plan, you initially hold off on higher carbohydrate vegetables, as well as fruit and whole grains, and omit starchy, sugary carbohydrate foods low in nutrients such as bagels and sweetened breakfast cereals.

Heimowitz recommends a good supply of Atkins bars, shakes, low-carb foods, and frozen meals to aid in the weight-loss journey.

When we are dieting, we can eat only so many bananas and cups of yogurt until we get bored. We often need something more substantial and the Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Comfort Food cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99) offers recipes for pork chops, ravioli, burgundy stew, lasagna, and chicken pot pie — each containing 300 calories or less per serving.

This recipe from the book, tilapia tacos, takes 20 minutes to prepare and has 220 calories per 2 tacos.

Tilapia tacos

1 box (8.8 ounces) taco shells that stand on their own dinner kit

1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ½ cups coleslaw mix (from 16-ounce bag)

¼ cup coleslaw dressing

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

Lime wedges, if desired

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray. In large resealable food-storage plastic bag, place seasoning mix from dinner kit, and fish pieces. Seal bag; shake to coat fish with seasoning. Place fish on one half of cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. For last 4 minutes of bake time, place taco shells on other half of cookie sheet.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, toss coleslaw mix with dressing. Divide coleslaw evenly among warmed taco shells. Top each with fish, avocado and 2 teaspoons taco sauce (from dinner kit). Serve with lime wedges.

Nutrition information per 2 tacos: 220 calories, 11 g. fat, 50 mg. cholesterol, 350 mg. sodium, 11 g. carbohydrate, 3 g. dietary fiber, 18 g. protein.

A new book from Better Homes and Gardens, Eat Well Lose Weight, $29.99, is packed with information on portion control, selecting healthier fats, and how to add more whole grains and vegetables to your diet. The 500 recipes cover breakfast, lunch, appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, slow cooker foods, snacks, and desserts.

The restaurant remakes section recreates at home restaurant favorites like kung pao chicken, chicken-fried steak, and four-cheese macaroni and cheese. Recipes include peppered pork burgers, saucy meatball sandwiches, salmon and roasted tomatoes, and beef tenderloin with Mediterranean relish.

This recipe from the book takes 30 minutes to prep, and 45 minutes to bake.

Oven-fried chicken with Parmesan

Nonstick cooking spray

2 eggs, beaten, or 1/2 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed

1/4 cup fat-free milk

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

5 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned

1/4 cup butter, melted

Snipped fresh oregano (optional)

Lemon wedges (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat two large shallow baking pans with cooking spray; set aside. In a small bowl combine eggs and milk. In a shallow dish stir together Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, oregano, paprika, and pepper.

Dip chicken pieces in egg mixture, turning to coat. Dip pieces in crumb mixture, turning to coat. Arrange chicken pieces in the prepared baking pans, making sure pieces do not touch. Drizzle chicken pieces with melted butter.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degrees for breasts; 180 degrees for thighs and drumsticks). Do not turn chicken pieces during baking. If desired, sprinkle with fresh oregano and serve with lemon wedges. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 257 calories, 13 g. fat, 122 mg. cholesterol, 243 mg. sodium, 6 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. fiber, and 29 g. protein.

We can always count on Weight Watchers to bring us recipes that are suitable for any diet, whether counting points on the Weight Watchers program, or simply choosing to eat healthier foods.

Weight Watchers Ultimate Chicken Cookbook was released in September and Weight Watchers What to Cook Now came off the presses last month.

If chicken is part of your weight-loss plan, you'll find more than 200 recipes, from skewers to quesadillas, in the Ultimate Chicken cookbook, which sells for $29.99.

The addition to the 2014 Weight Watchers program is Simple Start, which means eating from a list of PowerFoods found at the grocery store for two weeks to jump start your diet.

The new Weight Watchers What to Cook Now ($29.99) has more than 50 recipes that follow Simple Start. The 250 other recipes include classics as well as new ones.

This recipe for chicken meatloaf is from Ultimate Chicken Cookbook.

Chicken meat loaf

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and finely chopped

1½ pounds ground skinless chicken breast

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons honey mustard

Spray a medium nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the apples, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples are quite soft, the onion is golden, and the mixture is very fragrant, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 5- by 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Add the chicken, egg whites, bread crumbs, dill, lemon zest, nutmeg, and pepper to the onion mixture; mix until well combined. Spoon into the loaf pan and pack down. Spread the mustard over the top.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf register 165 degrees, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then unmold and cut into slices.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 203 calories, 4 g. fat, 68 mg. cholesterol, 351 mg. sodium, 13 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 27 g. protein, 33 mg. calcium. PointsPlus value: 5.