6 Sweet Nighttime Protein Treats

Make sure your last meal of the day is a tasty, muscle-building one with these sweet recipes.

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How to Be Optimistic About Everything

When challenges come our way, it may be easy to succumb to negative thoughts. But look on the bright side—optimistic thinking isn’t just in our heads. Thinking positively can also boost our physical and mental health.1

The Power of Positive: The Need-to-Know

Optimistic thinkers tend to anticipate the best possible outcome in any situation. (For instance: “I may have totaled my car, but thank goodness for insurance!”) And research suggests seeing the glass half-full is good for our health, career, and love life. Studies have found self-reported optimism predicts lower rates of mortality and cancer, and better cardiovascular health and immune function.23 Other research has found the benefits of positive thinking are especially pronounced in low-income countries.4 One study even suggests optimism helps women battle breast cancer.5And elderly people who hold positive stereotypes about old age generally recover better from disability than those who think negatively.6

Some psychologists think optimists tend to be healthier because they cope better when they can’t meet their goals.1It’s also possible that people who think positively attribute less significance to stressful events.7

But the benefits of optimism go beyond a clean bill of health. Forget the raving resume—there may be a connection between positive thinking and landing a stellar job. Optimists also have a better chance of securing a stable, loving relationship.8 Still, thinking positively may be easier said than done.

Man Climbing Mountain Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be All Right: Your Action Plan

While some psychologists think we can learn to be optimists, other experts believe optimism is a personality trait we’re born with. And other factors, like socioeconomic status and cultural background, may have a role in our ability to think positively. Several studies have found a relationship between pessimism and lower economic status—though it’s unclear whether low socioeconomic status causes people to be more pessimistic or it’s other way around.910 Cultural differences may also come into play. Studies suggest Western cultures tend to anticipate more positive events than Eastern cultures do. Some psychologists suggest that’s because Westerners focus more on self-enhancement and see themselves more positively than Easterners.11

But before becoming Mr. or Ms. “Everything-Is-Awesome,” know that being too optimistic can have a downside.12 Expecting the best in every situation may lead to failed expectations. Some experts argue defensive pessimism—”hope for the best, prepare for the worst”—helps people respond to certain threats and may even reduce anxiety.13

Here are some quick tips on how to start seeing the glass half-full:

  • Find the good. Even in less-than-great situations, there’s a way to find something positive. It may be hard to see at first, but try looking closer! (For instance: “I may be completely lost, but the view from here sure is pretty.”)
  • Write it down. At the end of the day, write down a few good things that happened, like finishing a big report at work or getting an email from an old friend. The habit makes it easier to appreciate the positive parts of life.
  • Speak with success. Sometimes it’s not the specific situation that determines a good or bad mood, but how we talk about it. (For example: “The exam may have been super hard, but telling friends we tried our best may cheer us up.”)
  • Forget the green-eyed monster. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others and become envious of what you don’t have. Instead, try to appreciate the good qualities and remember what you’re grateful for.
  • Take control: Science has shown people feel more optimistic about situations they can control.14 So take a seat behind the driver’s wheel and remember choices like working out more and eating healthfully are (almost always) yours!
  • Smile! Grin at this: In one study, participants who held a pen in their mouth (causing them to use their smiling muscles) perceived cartoons to be funnier than those without the pen.15 So not only are smiles contagious, they may actually make situations seem better.16
  • Stay balanced. Life isn’t all good, all the time, so don’t worry if those positive thoughts don’t flow freely. Staying realistic is also important to help manage anxiety and boost productivity.

Originally published in September 2013. Updated June 2015.

Works Cited

  1. Personality and quality of life: the importance of optimism and goal adjustment. Wrosch C, Scheier MF. Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation, 2003, Jul.;12 Suppl 1():0962-9343.
  2. Optimism and physical health: a meta-analytic review. Rasmussen HN, Scheier MF, Greenhouse JB. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2009, Aug.;37(3):1532-4796.
  3. Optimism-pessimism assessed in the 1960s and self-reported health status 30 years later. Maruta T, Colligan RC, Malinchoc M. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 2002, Aug.;77(8):0025-6196.
  4. Is the emotion-health connection a “first-world problem”? Pressman SD, Gallagher MW, Lopez SJ. Psychological science, 2013, Feb.;24(4):1467-9280.
  5. Breast cancer, psychological distress and life events among young women. Peled R, Carmil D, Siboni-Samocha O. BMC cancer, 2008, Aug.;8():1471-2407.
  6. Association between positive age stereotypes and recovery from disability in older persons. Levy BR, Slade MD, Murphy TE. JAMA, 2012, Nov.;308(19):1538-3598.
  7. Can positive thinking help? Positive automatic thoughts as moderators of the stress-meaning relationship. Boyraz G, Lightsey OR. The American journal of orthopsychiatry, 2012, Aug.;82(2):1939-0025.
  8. Optimism: an enduring resource for romantic relationships. Assad KK, Donnellan MB, Conger RD. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2007, Oct.;93(2):0022-3514.
  9. Socioeconomic disparities in optimism and pessimism. Robb KA, Simon AE, Wardle J. International journal of behavioral medicine, 2010, Mar.;16(4):1532-7558.
  10. Socioeconomic status in childhood and adulthood: associations with dispositional optimism and pessimism over a 21-year follow-up. Heinonen K, Räikkönen K, Matthews KA. Journal of personality, 2006, Dec.;74(4):0022-3506.
  11. Cultural variations on optimistic and pessimistic bias for self versus a sibling: is there evidence for self-enhancement in the west and for self-criticism in the east when the referent group is specified? Chang EC, Asakawa K. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2003, Jul.;84(3):0022-3514.
  12. The costs of optimism and the benefits of pessimism. Sweeny K, Shepperd JA. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 2011, Feb.;10(5):1931-1516.
  13. A two-factor model of defensive pessimism and its relations with achievement motives. Lim L. The Journal of psychology, 2009, Jul.;143(3):0022-3980.
  14. Is optimistic bias influenced by control or delay? Kos JM, Clarke VA. Health education research, 2001, Dec.;16(5):0268-1153.
  15. Duchenne smile, emotional experience, and autonomic reactivity: a test of the facial feedback hypothesis. Soussignan R. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 2003, Oct.;2(1):1528-3542.
  16. Why are smiles contagious? An fMRI study of the interaction between perception of facial affect and facial movements. Wild B, Erb M, Eyb M. Psychiatry research, 2003, Oct.;123(1):0165-1781.

Greatist Workout of the Day: Wednesday, June 24th

This series of GWODs was designed exclusively for Greatist by Bodeefit. For more information about the exercises in this workout, or to see video demos of each movement, follow the links below the graphic. Be sure to note the results of your workout so you can track your progress as you go.

Before you tackle this workout, try this quick and effective full-body warm-up. It’s just five simple moves but hits every major muscle group and gets your heart pumping.


Greatist Workout of the Day


Squat, Sit, Dip

Complete 8 rounds of the following as fast as safely possible.

15 Air Squats

10 Bicycle Sit-Ups (per side)

5 Dips

Want to kick up the intensity? Hold a light kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest during the air squats. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow for a totally new (but equally awesome) GWOD!

31 Easy Meatball Recipes for Quick-Fix Meals

Much as we love them on top of spaghetti (all covered with cheese), we tend to make meatballs the same way, every time. And that’s a shame because one quick Google search, and we discovered endless ways to mix up the flavor, top, and serve these little bites. You don’t even need meat!

Check out our favorites below. Enjoyed with noodles, stuffed into a sandwich, or passed as appetizers, trust us: You’ll have a (meat)ball discovering how versatile the humble food can be.

Beef

Vietnamese Beef Meatballs

Photo: Three Beans on a String

Lemongrass and mint take these meatballs on a culinary jaunt through Southeast Asia—plus, the herbs are known to have antibacterial properties for gastrointestinal health Comparison of the antibacterial activity of essential oils and extracts of medicinal and culinary herbs to investigate potential new treatments for irritable bowel syndrome. Thompson A, Meah D, Ahmed N. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 2013, Nov.;13():1472-6882.
. Adding a further twist to tradition, fish sauce and honey act as the binding agents here in place of breadcrumbs, making these both Paleo and gluten-free.

This recipe had us at “stuffed.” Better yet, the filling it’s referring to isn’t of the predictable cheesy variety—it’s heart-healthy avocado! A cube hides at the center of each meatball like an adorable jade-green treasure; bursting with vitamins E and B6 for blood and skin health, it upgrades each little sphere from standard to superfood status.

With no pasta or other grain to hog the spotlight, meatballs go from supporting role to star in this dish. Using little more than beef, an egg, and breadcrumbs, they’re as straightforward as meatballs can get—and aren’t those recipes often the most satisfying? Bake with veggies, then top with feta for a complete meal.

With high-fiber coconut flour standing in for the breadcrumbs and coconut aminos replacing the soy sauce, these beef meatballs fit nicely into a Paleo plan—but try them out even if you aren’t adhering to the “caveman diet.” Not only are they easy to make, but the sweet and sour sauce is positively addicting.

Can’t do without meat but hate how traditional recipes seem to forget that vegetables exist? This one gives you the best of both worlds, packing an entire cup and a half of shredded squash and carrots into the beef, which helps keep the meat moist. Here’s to extra natural color and fiber!

The ingredient list for these no-egg meatballs is not only reassuringly short, it’s also nutritionally efficient. Each of the eight ingredients lends a unique flavor and health benefits, whether it’s the vitamin A from the spinach, the iron from the beef, or antioxidants from the dried oregano Antioxidant capacity and phytochemical content of herbs and spices in dry, fresh and blended herb paste form. Henning SM, Zhang Y, Seeram NP. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 2010, Dec.;62(3):1465-3478.
. Blitz them away in a food processor and bake—that’s all there is to it!

Beef teriyaki is a natural choice at Japanese restaurants, so why not turn it into a meatball? These aren’t just a bite-sized spin on the restaurant staple: With a fraction of the sugar and sodium of bottled teriyaki sauce, this recipe gives your blood pressure a break too.

Chicken and Turkey

Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs

Photo: Domesticate Me

Famous for its ability to add much-needed moisture to lower-fat baked goods, zucchini works its magic to keep these turkey-based meatballs from drying out too. And we love the secret ingredient to bind everything together: chia seeds! Served with a basil-infused dipping sauce, the only thing rock-solid about these is how reliable the recipe is.

Channel the traditional izakaya (Japanese tapas bars) with these chicken-based meatballs. Brushed with traditional ingredients like sake, mirin (rice vinegar, easily available at most grocery stores), and miso, they’ve got a sweet and savory element that will have you hooked. And they’re served up on bamboo skewers, which makes them taste that much more authentic!

Ground turkey can seem so boring, but not these meatballs, seasoned generously with Thai curry paste, basil, and ginger. The morsels are topped off with a creamy coconut sauce that’s laced with lime for added zing. Best of all, they’re super, super easy to make, so you have time to toss together a salad to serve with your protein.

The best thing about orange chicken is the finger-licking sauce, but most are so sugary they could be dessert. This recipe uses orange marmalade but no other added sweetener, so it has all the flavor and isn’t as bad for you. (Use all-fruit marmalade for an even healthier version.)

OK, so these aren’t exactly like the breaded, fried appetizer, but you’ll love the flavor anyway thanks to cheddar cheese, cream cheese, cilantro, and cumin. Serve with a smoky salsa-like sauce atop zucchini noodles, or fold them into tortillas for a new twist on Taco Tuesday.

It’s often the funkiest-sounding combinations that work best. That’s definitely the case with these meatballs, which successfully combine fresh blueberries, ground chicken, and basil (scoring major points in the creativity, antioxidant level, and yumminess departments). A sweet and tangy white balsamic reduction takes the whole thing over the top.

With plenty of butter, egg yolks, and uninhibited pours of heavy cream, traditional Swedish meatball recipes can easily go overboard on the fat. This alternate version uses only two tablespoons of light cream cheese for the sauce and lean ground turkey instead of beef or veal, dramatically cutting down on the cholesterol that’s in original.

Pork, Lamb, and Fish

Baked Salmon Meatballs With Creamy Avocado Sauce

Photo: Cookin' Canuck

Of course you can make meatballs with fish! This recipe, featuring the nutritional king of seafood, salmon, proves it can be done and done well. The omega-3 oils in the fish keep the meatballs nice and juicy, while the avocado-based sauce they’re served with makes the meal a super way to get in your healthy fat fix for the day.



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With quinoa joining the popular pork and cabbage combo, this might be what a typical meatball dish would look like if the Incas and the Irish had hung out more. Used as a gluten-free replacement for breadcrumbs, the ancient Peruvian seed adds a nutty bite, fiber, and tissue-repairing amino acids to the meal.

While lamb stands at the center of these meatballs, it’s really the herbs and spices that accompany the protein that steal the show. Mint and cilantro are joined by paprika and even pumpkin pie spice to jazz up not only the dish’s flavors but its antioxidant load too.

Applesauce and pork chops are a classic duo, so throwing chopped apples into the ground pork mixture for meatballs makes total (and delicious!) sense. This Paleo-friendly recipe makes a big batch, so stick whatever you don’t use in the freezer for a convenient meal when you’re pressed for time in the future.

Now that we’ve gotten you thinking about using fish for meatballs, give this tuna variety a go too. Don’t be too concerned about using canned fish—it’s totally safe in moderation, and you can use the light variety for less mercury. Serve it up with your favorite sauce and a vegetable and carb on the side, and dinner’s on the table in just minutes.

A tasty meal doesn’t need a lot of ingredients. Here six of them (including salt and pepper) combine to create a zesty appetizer. Lemon zest gives these lamb meatballs a vibrant punch of freshness plus a burst of vitamin C. Stick in toothpicks, and be prepared for these to go faster than even the chips and guac!

Pineapples and tomato paste give this meatball dish a distinctive tang plus a good dose of lycopene from the latter, which contains nearly three times as much of the cancer-fighting carotenoid as fresh tomatoes. Both the meatballs and the sauce are made by simply combining everything. Who said cooking was hard?

Meatless

Sweet Potato and Kale Balls

Photo: Neurotic Mommy

Two of our favorite veggies also happen to be soulmates: kale and sweet potatoes. The color contrast, textures, and flavors are made for each other. So why not turn them into balls, with coconut milk for a hint of sweet and garlic, parsley, and oregano to make it all pop. Top with hemp seeds for a little crunch too. Serve them as a side or pop ’em for a handheld baked potato meal.

Including chickpeas, parsley, and lemon, these Middle Eastern-inspired meatballs are reminiscent of their cousin the falafel. Crumbled feta cheese does double duty here, keeping the meatballs soft on the inside along with pumping up their protein count (and tasting incredible, obviously). It’s so simple yet so tasty, plus the recipe serves two, making it perfect for those who don’t want a ton of leftovers.

A nut-free alternative to the traditional vegan “loaf,” these meatballs get their hearty texture and tons of fiber from oats and mushrooms along with the lentils. Using the brown variety of these powerhouse legumes also makes this recipe super budget-friendly. Just be sure to under-cook them so your dinner doesn’t wind up mushy.

A whopping 3 1/2 cups of shredded beets not only make these beetballs a funky, almost psychedelic-pink, but the pigment responsible for their color, betalains, are anti-inflammatory and may help stave off cancer Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of betalain extracts from intact plants and hairy root cultures of the red beetroot Beta vulgaris cv. Detroit dark red. Georgiev VG, Weber J, Kneschke EM. Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 2010, Dec.;65(2):1573-9104.
. Pump them up with aromatic spices like cumin and garlic powder to give them an un-beet-able taste. (Yup, we went there.)

Known for being flavor sponges, low-fat ricotta and tofu make up the perfect protein-rich base for these vegetarian balls, which then soak up the aromatic saffron-infused sauce they’re submerged in. The meatballs, already straightforward with less than 10 ingredients, make life even easier with the genius idea of baking them in muffin tins for size consistency, which means everything cooks evenly.

Tofu’s meatier, more textured, fermented cousin tempeh gets a major seasoning boost from a handful of spices and a hefty five cloves of garlic here. With the steaming, food processing, and sautéing, they may take a bit of extra effort, but it’s really not that much. Plus they’re still less messy than deep-frying—and much better for you.

Even if you’ve tried carrot noodles, carrot meatballs probably sound crazy. But when you combine the veggie with cashews, sunflower seeds, whole-wheat breadcrumbs, and Asian flavorings, you get crazy delicious vegan meatballs. With a silky coconut milk-based sauce spiked with ginger to go over top, this screams to be served atop brown rice.

For such a light vegetable, eggplant dishes can often be annoyingly heavy, with their tendency to soak up gobs of oil. These meatballs make the most of the aubergine’s anti-aging, cancer-fighting benefits while satisfying a comfort food craving and sneaking in an additional serving of produce to your meal. Held together by breadcrumbs and white beans, they also prove that it’s possible to have a dairy-, egg-, and soy-free Italian meal.

Is there anything quinoa can’t do? This recipe proves the seed’s versatility yet again using them as the base for lightly cheesy, garlicky meatballs. Cooking them on the skillet makes sure they remain fluffy on the inside while perfectly browned and crispy on the outside.

Don’t let the ingredients list here turn you away—most of the items are pantry staples! Brimming with walnuts, oats, and kidney beans, these fiber-rich meatballs are super filling, so an accompaniment lighter than pasta, like spaghetti squash, makes for a perfect pairing. There’s so much flavor from all the herbs and spices, a simple tomato sauce is all you need to complete your dinner.