Homemade Granola

Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oats

1 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup craisins

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/3 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • combine all dry ingredients
  • melt coconut oil and add to dry ingredients
  • warm honey ( for easier mixing) and add to mixture
  • add almond and vanilla extracts
  • spread on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper
  • bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown

Tip- If you prefer granola to be in chunks do not stir while baking.

To Sugar or Substitute?

Whenever anyone finds out I am a dietitian one of the first three questions they ask are something about artificial sweeteners. Do they cause cancer? Are they good/bad for you? What do you use?
The research on artificial sweeteners is inconclusive and controversial. Like most things nutrition- related moderation is key. So before you go put sugar or splenda in your coffee it is important to know what research has shown us.
 In 2011 both the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association stated that when used in moderation artificial sweeteners can in fact lead to weight loss and may even be beneficial to metabolism.  I think it is safe to say that most of us know that calorie reduction leads to weight loss. If you are drinking high sugar drinks like regular soda or juices chances are you are taking in both excessive calories and sugar.  A regular 12 ounce soda contains approximately 150 calories and 40g of carbohydrate/sugar, where as a diet coke contains 0 calories and 0 g carbohydrate/sugar. If you were to simply replace these beverages with their “diet” version you would automatically lose weight, right? Well like I said we know that calorie reduction leads to weight lost, but not so fast.
It is possible that artificial sweeteners may negatively affect the body’s ability to fully assess the amount of calories being consumed.   Artificial sweeteners and sugar are recognized differently by the brain.  Sweetness triggers the brain with signals to eat more. The sweetness from artificial sweeteners  comes with a lack of calories , which may actually cause a increased hunger for sweet foods and drinks, leading to more intake in the future and weight gain. Researchers have used MRI scans to monitor brain recognition of water that contained sugar or sucralose. Regions of the brain linked with food reward were activated by sugar, where as they were not with sucralose .  Artificial sweeteners may not fulfill a desire for caloric sweet intake.
So are artificial sweeteners safe? The answer is, yes. Artificial sweeteners are regulated and their manufacturing is monitored.  Each artificial sweetener is reviewed for what different foods it will be in, how much the average person will consume, what the safe amount for consumption is,  and if there are any potential hazards to human health. The American Academy of Nutrition and dietetic states “A 150-pound adult can safely consume 2.4 cans of 12-ounce soda or 8.6 packets of sweetener containing saccharin daily. Similarly, that same adult can safely consume 17 cans of 12-ounce soda or 97.4 packets of artificial sweetener containing aspartame daily and not be adversely affected. Meanwhile, the ADI for saccharin for a 50-pound child is .8 of a 12-ounce can of soda daily and 2.8 packets of sweetener, or 5.6 cans of soda and 32.4 packets of artificial sweetener containing aspartame.”
So, what artificial sweeteners are approved? saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. Stevia, a (more) natural sugar has also been approved.
Those with diabetes should always choose sugar substitutes. If you carry this serious health diagnosis using real sugar is detrimental to your health!
Personally, I don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners, at all. I used to be a splendaholic, but now I just find it foul. I put sugar in my coffee ( not that much), a small amount of honey in my tea, and I try to avoid added sugars.

Spring Clean Your Diet

Spring often inspires us to de-clutter and reorganize ourselves after the winter hibernation. Don’t just clean out your living space, give your nutrition some extra special attention. This is the perfect time to spring clean your diet. Take these 5 simple steps to revamp your diet and reset yourself nutritionally. After all spring means swim suit season is just around the corner!

Go Fresh: Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Find weekly nearby farmers markets to stock up on what you need.  You may even consider a CSA  (community supported agriculture). A CSA is an agreement between consumers and farmers. You pay a fee upfront, and in return you receive seasonal and fresh fruits and vegetables each week (during the growing season). Not only are you supporting local farmers this way, but it also allows you to try things you may not otherwise :).

Clean out your pantry and freezer: Take the foods you know you are just never going to eat and put them aside. While you are at it, take a look and see if you have  foods you shouldn’t be eating anyway, and have them join your pile. Please, don’t throw anything away if it can be donated to a local food pantry or shelter.

Decrease your sugar and salt intake: Going fresh and riding your pantry/freezer of undesirable foods will allow this to happen without even trying.

Drink more water: If you are drinking a lot of juice or soda, stop! These are empty calories, with zero nutritional value. If you don’t enjoy water stock up on some lemons or limes, and add a wedge to make it more exciting. I also really enjoy water infusers. You can add a variety of fruits and herbs to enhance the flavor of your h20!

Aim for color: The more colors you eat, the more nutrients you are consuming. Try to get two separate colors from fruits and veggies at each meal!

The Truth Behind Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has gained popularity over the last few years. It is widely advertised and you can’t escape it in the grocery store. The question is, it really worth all the hype?

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature because it has a high saturated fat content, just like butter or lard.  Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides, because of this some have argued that these saturated fats are less harmful than the ones found in animal products. This is true, MCT are digested different, and because of this the saturated fats in coconut oil may be better than their counter parts. This by no means makes coconut oil heart healthy. There hasn’t been an abundant amount of research done studying the digestion of coconut oil, so stay tuned.

Lets look at some of the health claims surrounding coconut oil. Coconut oil contains antioxidants. Well, personally I will take my antioxidants form blueberries, which contains other nutrients with much less calories. It does not contain cholesterol, true!  Some think it can help with weight loss because it is digested differently than other fats. Regardless, because coconut oil is high in fat, it is high in calories. The whole idea of coconut oil pulling…yeah, you’re going to have to ask your dentist about that one. Apparently it pulls the bacteria out of your mouth. My gut instinct is that this sounds to good to be true, but if anyone can provide me high powered research to back this I will gladly become a believer.

I enjoy coconut oil. It has a great flavor and is versatile.  I will continue to use it. With that said, I am certainly not going to start putting spoonfuls on everything I eat and I won’t be substituting it for my coffee creamer anytime soon. Yes, there is new evidence and we now know that everything we eat may not have a direct impact on our serum lipid profile (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.) but we still must make smart choices. Go ahead and try coconut oil in place of butter or other sources of saturated fats, since its digestion may be less harmful. However, I would still advise choosing  unsaturated fats more times than not. Along with that if you are currently using unsaturated fats I wouldn’t recommend replacing them with a source of saturated fat.  My findings  have been that there has not been extensive research done surrounding coconut oil, and more research is needed at this time!

 

 

Energy Bites

There are several versions of these around, but this is how I make my energy bites. They are a perfect snack- a healthy combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. They are also great for those of us who suffer from a serious sweet tooth.

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of nut butter, I used peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup of honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together, in a large bowl. Put the mixed ingredients in the fridge for 30-45 minutes just to allow them to harden. Take them out of the refrigerator, roll teaspoon sized balls, and viola!

 

Sausage, White Bean, and Veggie Soup

I found a similar recipe on Pinterest, the website were you can find the original is below. This soup is warm and delicious, and made enough for leftovers!  077

Ingredients

•1 tablespoon olive oil

•1 lb sausage

•1T minced garlic

•1 onion, diced

•3 carrots, peeled and diced

•2 stalks celery, diced

•2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained

•1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

•2 bay leaves

•4 cups chicken broth

•Ground black pepper, to taste

•3 cups baby spinach

 

Instructions

•Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook sausage until no longer pink.

•Place sausage, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, beans, oregano and bay leaves into slow cooker. Stir in chicken broth and 2 cups water, season with pepper.

•Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours. At the end, stir in spinach until wilted.

 

 

 

 

Recipe from: Check out the website for nutrition facts!

http://damndelicious.net/2015/03/21/slow-cooker-sausage-spinach-and-white-bean-soup/

Guinness Beef Stew

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There is nothing better than a recipe you can put in the crockpot and forget, is fairly easy, filled with veggies, and makes enough for left overs.  Generally speaking I don’t love beef stew, but the Guinness in this recipe really takes it up a notch!

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 carrots, chunked
  • 2 celery stalks, chunked
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 lbs of beef cubes
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp of minced garlic
  • 8 ounces portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 10 3/4 oz  low sodium beef broth
  • 1 pack lipton onion soup mix
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning ( can substitute 1/4 tsp chili powder)
  • 1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
  • 12 ounce Guinness beer
  1. Put potatoes, carrots & celery in the bottom of crockpot with 2 bay leaves
  2. Season flour with dash of salt and pepper & garlic powder. Coat beef with flour mixture in large skillet with olive oil and 1 bay leaf
  3. Sauté beef, then set aside
  4. Add onion and garlic to the same pain & sauté over medium heat for a few minutes- add half of the beef broth to deglaze
  5. Add meat and onions to crockpot & top with mushrooms
  6. Mix remaining broth with tomato sauce and onion soup. Mix in remaining seasonings & add to crockpot
  7. Add Guinness

Cook for 8 hours on low

Spicy Penne with Turkey Sausage, Asparagus, and Feta

My aunt gave me this recipe, and it has become one of my favorite go-tos. It is super easy and filled with protein, whole grains, and lots & lots of veggies! Depending on how many people you are feeding you should have leftovers for dinner another night or a lite lunch.

You will need:

  • 1 pound mini whole wheat penne
  • 1 pound turkey sausage, sliced
  • 1 pound asparagus spears
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms
  • 1 onion cut in half and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces of feta
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil

 

Boil pasta. Trim woody ends of asparagus leaving 3/4 stalk and cut into 2 inch pieces.  Saute vegetables and sausage pieces in olive oil. Add spices and pasta. Stir in feta and serve.

The Truth About Gluten-free

It seems like everywhere I turn I see a misconception surrounding gluten-free diets.It is essential that people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons. However, the idea that following a gluten-free diet will help you to lose weight  or get rid of your belly fat is inaccurate. I was recently watching tv and  someone referred to “getting skinny” by eating gluten free. The truth is a gluten-free diet is not going to get her the skinny she is looking for .

So, what is gluten anyways? It is a (binding) protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye. Think of it as a glue that holds food together. It is commonly found in  bread products, pasta, and other processed foods.

Gluten free foods lack what holds foods together; therefore, something else often needs to be added. Commonly, this is sugar, fat, or sodium. Which means following a gluten-free diet is not in fact a healthier. Studies have also shown that those who follow a gluten-free diet run the risk of consuming a diet low in fiber.

Now the reality is that some people may find that they are able to lose weight on a gluten free diet, but that can likely be attributed to eating less processed foods, making food choices that contain less calories like fruits and vegetables, and eating an overall healthy diet.

If you think you that you are struggling with celiac disease or gluten intolerance you should contact your doctor. Do not start following a gluten free diet without seeking medical attention. If you are already following a gluten free diet it can lead to incorrect testing results.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Breakfast Sandwich

Breakfast image

Try this delicious and easy to make breakfast sandwich to start your day off right.  Hearty and packed with protein you will be ready to take on the day!

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