Robin's Tips: How to Eat Better

By: Liz Gray

We chatted live with Robin Miller today on our Twitter page about quick, healthy meals, tasty ways to eat fruits and veggies and more. Missed the live chat? See the questions and Robin's answers here.

I'm 17 am trying to eat healthier this year, what foods should I make SURE are in my diet?

Whole grains, fruit, nuts -- way to go, so young and making changes! Don't forget low-fat dairy for still growing bones and nuts like peanuts and cashews for protein to keep you satisfied.

What are some of the best ways to cook vegetables to make them tastier?

I love roasting and caramelizing -- they both bring out the sweetness in vegetables. You can do a little bit of olive oil and a pinch of sugar to caramelize in a sauté pan. Or honey!

What are your five favorite ingredients to create healthy meals?

Whole-grain pastas, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, cured olives and super-flavorful cheese like feta, goat, blue and really good Parmesan.

Robin's, I'd love your ideas for my 8-year-old, who only wants to eat pizza, dessert and fruit. How to expand a healthy palate?

I have a 8-year-old! Pizza is a great canvas for new ingredients: Top the pizza with mushrooms, chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes, butternut squash or cherry tomoates. Fruit is awesome on pizza, too! And serve new foods with a favorite dip or dressing.

What's your go-to fast, healthy dinner?

Chicken smothered with salsa, black beans and corn, with shredded cheddar. Baked like that, until the chicken is cooked and the cheese melts. I pick up fresh salsa from my favorite Mexican restaurant every week so I always have it on hand.

What's your favorite thing to do for fitness?

I hike and speed walk. I look silly - my arms swing and people make fun of me -- but I like it.

What are your favorite frozen fruits and vegetables to keep on hand?

Strawberries, blueberries and peaches are always, always in my freezer. They're great for smoothies and savory sauces for pork and chicken. For Christmas, I made fruit empanadas for my neighbor with frozen fruit.

I'm tired of sandwiches! Do you have a quick, healthy lunch alternative?

Instead of sandwiches, try Asian noodles, pasta salad, soup, rice salad or cold rice pilaf or individual pizzas. These are all things you could make at home and eat cold or reheat at work.

What are the 5 spices you use most in your kitchen?

Oregano, thyme, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. For Italian sauces with oregano and thyme, Mexican sauces with the others. Savory sauces and sweet desserts with cinnamon.

What are your favorite on-the-go snacks?

Almonds, dried mango and apricot, popcorn, individually-sized peanut butters with pretzels, fruit leather. I also like those mini Baby Bell cheeses, and Gogurt.

Hey Robin, I don't eat much, if any dairy, how can I be sure I'm getting enough calcium?

For calcium, try canned salmon, canned beans, spinach and broccoli, or fortified cereals, bread, multivitamins. Also, try calcium-fortified soy products. Canned salmon is calcium rich because of the bones!

I eat a pretty strict vegan diet. What's your favorite healthy, vegan-friendly dish?

Whole-grain pasta with olive oil, garlic and pine nuts or almonds for protein. Fresh basil and fresh parsley. Also, crushed red pepper flakes. Also, I love to add olives. The nuts are for protein, but if you don't want nuts, black beans are great too.

Robin, what's your favorite healthy restaurant?

For kids, Red Robin has done a great job with their healthy menu. Also, PF Chang's has good steamed things, and lots of vegetables. For kids meals at restaurants, look for grilled or baked instead of fried. Side dishes like broccoli and fruit salad, and main dishes like fish. Some kids menus have salmon, and IHOP now has tilapia on their menu.

What are your favorite kitchen shortcuts for healthy cooking?

Using whole peeled garlic cloves and pre-roasted red peppers. I also pre-cook pasta 3 days in advance, and marinate 2 days in advance.

Have you tried gluten-free eating?

Yes, I've tried gluten-free meals. There are so many excellent choices on the market now. That's what turned me on to brown rice noodles -- they are awesome!

What healthy food trend do you foresee for 2011?

Back to basics -- Plain roasted chicken, or a grilled steak. Not fancy, but simple and delicious. Also, more international flavors are hitting store shelves: You can find curry paste in corner grocery stores.

Most options you've mentioned have been full of carbs. What about for diabetes patients?

I love roasted chicken, turkey tenderloin, pork tenderloin -- all of those with roasted root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, turnips, acorn squash.

Check back here every week for Robin's fresh take on healthy eating, see Robin on the Today Show Friday, February 18, and look for her new book, Robin Takes 5, in November.

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