As blueberries are currently in season, I wanted to share my recipe for healthy blueberry pancakes. Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They are a very versatile ingredient that I love to incorporate into breakfasts, desserts, and baked goods. Today, I’ll be sharing my recipe for healthy blueberry pancakes that are packed with fiber and healthy fats. Enjoy!
Ingredients (Serves: 4)
- 1 cup almond flour
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ cup plant-based milk of your choice
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup fresh blueberries
- Optional: ¼ cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans
- In a large bowl, mix together the flours and the baking powder until evenly combined.
- In a separate bowl, miix together the milk, eggs, olive oil, and vanilla extract until evenly combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Stir in the blueberries and optional chopped nuts.
- Lightly grease a pan with olive oil or coconut oil and turn the stove to medium heat. Pour a spoonful of batter into the pan to create your desired size pancake.
- When you start to see small bubbles forming on the top of the pancake, you can flip it. Cook both sides until golden brown.
- Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and more fresh blueberries if desired.
Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats
With Spring upon us, I wanted to dedicate this month’s recipe to one of my favorite fruits, strawberries. Berries come into season in the Spring, so now is a great time to purchase them and experiment with different recipes! I like strawberries for their slightly tart flavor and floral, distinct aroma. Strawberries are a great source of Vitamin C and K, folate, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They are low in calories and rich in fiber, and are also a great source of polyphenols and antioxidants, which can lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This month, I’m sharing my recipe for Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats; overnight oats are a convenient, affordable, and wholesome breakfast option for those who need a quick but filling breakfast (that can be eaten cold if you prefer, or easily heated in the microwave or on the stovetop)! The sharper flavor and fragrance of the strawberries serves as a wonderful complement to the mild flavor of the oatmeal. Strawberry cheesecake is one of my favorite dessert flavors, and I’ve experimented to find a way to replicate its creamy, decadent flavor with whole, nutritious ingredients. Hope you enjoy!
Ingredients (Serves: 1):
- ½ cup oats (Use old-fashioned rolled oats for a chewier and coarser texture, or quick oats for a smoother texture)
- ⅓ cup fresh strawberries
- ½ cup regular or plant-based milk
- 2 tbsp almond butter or tahini/sesame butter (I do not recommend peanut butter for this recipe because it has a stronger flavor)
- 1tbsp ground flax or chia seeds (this helps thicken the oatmeal)
- 1tbsp maple syrup or honey
- ¼ cup plain or vanilla greek yogurt (this adds creaminess to the oatmeal and helps replicate the flavor of cheesecake in this recipe)
- Optional Ingredients for garnish:
- Sliced strawberries
- Chopped almonds, walnuts, or cashews
- Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
- Roughly chop the strawberries into small pieces, place in a small bowl and mix with a spoonful of yogurt. Set aside.
- In a larger bowl, combine the oats, milk, nut butter, flax seeds, and natural sweetener of your choice. Mix completely.
- In a mason jar or air tight container, place the chopped strawberry and yogurt mixture at the bottom. Spoon the oat mixture on top.
- Seal the jar and place in the refrigerator to sit overnight.
- The next morning, your oats are ready to eat! Mix everything together and top it with the yogurt and optional garnish, and enjoy! (Optional: The morning of, you could also heat the oats in the microwave or on the stovetop prior to topping with the yogurt and garnishes, if you prefer to eat it warm.)
Kimbap (or Gimbap) are korean seaweed rice rolls, commonly eaten as a snack or as an on-the-go meal. It is convenient to store and can be quickly assembled with foods that you may already have in your kitchen. This month, I wanted to focus on carrots, which are a common ingredient in kimbap. Carrots are a wonderful source of beta-carotene (helps to reduce the oxidative stress that light puts on our eyes), Vitamin K1, Potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. Although most commonly found in an orange color at most grocery stores, carrots also come in purple, yellow, and white varieties, which are great in salads, and in any dish where you want a pop of color. Carrots can be quite fibrous and difficult to chew when raw, and I found that steaming or heating them on a pan for a few minutes can really help soften their texture and enhance their flavor.
With spring around the corner, I wanted to share my recipe for carrot kimbap, and I hope that you might give this a try! It is great for a snack for hiking or even a picnic.
1. Cook 3 cups of sushi rice on the stove or in a rice cooker while you prep the rest of the filling. Once the rice is done cooking, allow to cool slightly. Mix in the 2tbs sesame oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tbs sesame seeds. Divide the rice into four even portions.
2. Beat the eggs and pour onto a heated pan. Swirl the eggs around the pan and allow to sit until the egg has just set on top. Flip and cook the other side. Transfer onto a cutting board and cut into 1/4 inch wide strips, with the length being the same as the sheets of seaweed you are using. Set aside.
3. Julienne the carrot and heat on a pan until slightly softened. Place in a bowl and set aside.
4. Slice the cucumber into the same size strips and set aside.
5. Wilt the spinach on a pan on medium-high heat and set aside.
6. Place one sheet of seaweed on the rolling mat. Evenly spread one portion of the rice onto the sheet.
7. Arrange your fillings across the center of the rice.
8. Roll the mat up and away from you, applying pressure so that the filling is tightly rolled.
9. Repeat for the remaining sheets. Optional: brush the finished rolls with sesame oil.
10. Slice the rolls into even-sized pieces, approximately 1/2 inch thick.
Easy Banana Bars
This year, I wanted to dedicate each month to a different fruit or vegetable and to share one of my favorite recipes using that fruit or vegetable. For this month I decided to start with bananas, one of my favorite fruits because of their accessibility and versatility. They are usually found at the grocery store all year around unlike more seasonal fruits, they are relatively affordable, easily stored, and don’t require any washing or prepping prior to consumption. As you may already know, bananas are high in potassium, which can help to manage your blood pressure. Bananas are also less acidic than many other fruits, which makes them a good option for those with acid reflux. Their high fiber content helps strengthen the GI system and promotes movement of bowels.
Today I’ll be sharing my recipe for easy banana bars, a great snack option for those who want something filling, convenient, and easy to make. They are similar in flavor to banana bread, but have a chewier and denser texture. I also like to add dark chocolate chips and chopped nuts for extra crunch. These bars store well in the refrigerator, for up to ~5 days.
Ingredients (Makes 20 small bars)
- 1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 5 or 6 ripe bananas, depending on size
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup plant-based milk
- ¼ cup oil (I recommend coconut oil or corn oil)
- ¾ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup of your choice of nuts, chopped (I recommend using walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
- ½ cup dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Any standard size baking dish works for this recipe.
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Mash the bananas and mix with all of the wet ingredients.
- Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until combined.
- Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
- Line the baking dish with parchment paper so that the sides are also covered, to prevent sticking. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and place in the oven.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes. This may vary depending on your oven. Allow to cool and then cut into your desired size bars.
Five Ideas for Healthy Changes to Make in 2021
2020 was a crazy and unpredictable year, to say the least. With the new year upon us, I am hopeful for better things to come. Every December, I reflect on what I did throughout the past few months, and I brainstorm small changes that I can make (or continue) in the new year. I wanted to share with you the changes that I’ve thought of, in hopes of inspiring some ideas of positive, healthy changes that you could make in your own life. Happy New Year!
This past year, I’ve been making an effort to find healthy substitutions for everyday things. For example, soymilk is an excellent replacement for cream in coffee; it is dense and creamy, and I’ve personally found it to be a more satisfying substitution compared to other plant-based milks. I also found that replacing white flour with almond, coconut, or whole wheat flour has also been an easy and nearly unnoticeable change. You may have heard of zoodles, or zucchini noodles. They are made using a spiralizer, which is easily found on Amazon or any kitchen appliance store, and is quite affordable. I’ve found zoodles to be a simple and easy substitution for regular noodles when I’m looking for a lower calorie alternative. I also highly recommend switching to plain non-fat greek yogurt, and adding your own toppings and/or sweetener, as opposed to purchasing pre-sweetened and pre-flavored yogurts, to avoid intaking excess added sugars and processed ingredients and additives. I plan to continue to find healthy substitutions this year.
2. Standing when you can:
I purchased a standing desk this past year, and I’ve been doing my best to use it whenever I can- for studying, eating, reading, etc. I’ve noticed a change in not only my energy levels throughout the day, but also my posture. Often, when I sit while studying, I can start to hunch over my computer. Standing has helped prevent this. I recommend everyone to stand whenever they can throughout the day. It can help with several things, including but not limited to posture, circulation, and calorie burning.
3. Eating only when you are hungry, and snacking mindfully:
Mindful eating habits are something that I think everyone should try to adopt. Having control over when, what, and how we eat is essential to maintaining a balanced diet and having a healthy relationship with food. Throughout the past year, I’ve worked on finding some more snacks that were delicious, made of whole ingredients, and satisfied me until my next meal. Some of my favorite store-bought snacks that I discovered are the dried white peaches, chevre (which is great on its own), and roasted nuts. Some home-made snacks I’ve been loving are baked sweet potatoes and plain greek yogurt with maple syrup or honey.
4. Changing up your workout routine:
This is something new that I tried this past year, and plan to continue into 2021. I think that many of us struggle with the repetitiveness of a daily workout routine, so I tried experimenting with changing up my routine from day to day, with each day targeting a different part of my body- I focused on making it fun and enjoyable for myself, in addition to maximizing time that I spent exercising outdoors. Not only did this dramatically affect the results that I saw, I also was able to work different muscle groups, which has helped significantly reduce my soreness. Having a varied, enjoyable, and well-rounded workout routine is essential; whether you target different parts of your body within a daily workout routine, or vary it from day to day, it is important to take the time to find what works best for you and your lifestyle.
5. Experimenting in your own kitchen:
I’ve spent more time with my family in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes and testing new combinations of ingredients for our favorite recipes. Spending more time cooking and taking the time to enjoy the process of buying ingredients, preparing them, and putting them together to create something delicious has really taught me to appreciate the simple things that are often overlooked or rushed in everyday life. It has reminded me of how much joy food brings to people, and how important it is to slow down and enjoy not only your food itself, but the process of making it. Although having a meal out at a restaurant with your friends or family is definitely enjoyable and fun, I think it can be even better if you can make and enjoy the same dish at home with your loved ones.
Brownie in a Mug with Coconut Whipped Cream
This month, I wanted to share my recipe for a super quick, easy, and healthy microwaveable brownie recipe. If you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert or snack during the holiday season, I would highly recommend you give this a try. It would also be a wonderful dessert that you could make with the entire family. The light and fluffy coconut whipped cream is the perfect complement to the fudgy, decadent brownie. The best part of the recipe is that it requires no butter, without compromising taste or texture. My dad, who is not usually a fan of “healthy” sweets, is a big fan of this recipe. Hope you enjoy!
Total time: 10 minutes
Ingredients to make 1 mug brownie:
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp ground oats or oat flour (the easiest way to make this is to take rolled or instant oats and blend them in a blender or food processor until it has the consistency of flour)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 4 tbsp milk or your choice of plant-based milk
- 1 tbsp dark chocolate chips
Ingredients for the coconut whipped cream: (I like to make a big batch of this to store in my fridge, so that I don’t have to make this every time I make a brownie. These ingredients would serve 6).
- 1 cup of coconut cream (This usually comes in a can. A trick I like to use is to refrigerate the can for a couple hours so that the solids and liquids can separate. You will need the solid part for this recipe)
- 3 tbsp dark chocolate chips (feel free to omit if you prefer)
- ½ cup unsweetened greek yogurt
- ¼ cup maple syrup or honey
Directions for the brownie:
- Mix the ground oats and the cocoa powder in a microwaveable mug.
- Add the milk, syrup or honey, and chocolate chips and mix until smooth.
- Microwave: Microwave time may vary depending on your specific microwave, but I recommend ~1 minute for a fudgier texture, and ~1 minute 30 seconds for a fluffier, cakier texture.
Directions for the chocolate coconut whipped cream:
- Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, being careful not to burn them. (Omit if you prefer)
- Remove the coconut cream solids from the can and place into a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Whip with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add in the syrup or honey, greek yogurt, and melted chocolate, and continue whipping until it becomes similar to whipped cream consistency.
- Top your finished brownie with a couple scoops of the coconut whipped cream and enjoy!
Healthy and Easy Thanksgiving Side
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I wanted to share one of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving sides. It is quick and easy, and the whole family can help make it. If anyone has any special recipe requests with the holidays around the corner, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to help provide some inspiration/ideas! Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!
- 1.25 cup vegetable, chicken, or bone broth
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup dried cranberries (try to find the kind without added sugars)
- 1/2 stalk of chopped green onion (optional, I like adding this for flavor)
- salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the salad dressing:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup pecans (walnuts would also work great!)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or corn oil
- 2 tsp brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
6. Place quinoa in the fridge to cool.
7. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside.
8. Chop pecans into bite-sized pieces. Heat a pan and add coconut or corn oil. Add in pecans, honey, and sugar.
9. After making sure that each piece of pecan is coated evenly, pour the mixture over parchment paper, and allow to cool. If the pecans become stuck together, simply break apart with your hands.
10. Remove quinoa salad from the fridge. Add the dressing and candied pecans, and toss evenly.
Easy Cinnamon Baked Apples
With apple season upon us, I wanted to share an easy recipe that everyone can try. This is one of my family’s favorite side dishes to enjoy in the fall. It also makes for a great dessert, without any added sugars. Enjoy!
Ingredients (4 servings):
- 5 medium apples (I prefer gala for its natural sweetness, but any variety works)
- 2 tbs coconut oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Optional: 3/4 cup raw pecans or walnuts (a good source of unsaturated fats!)
1. Peel and dice the apples.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and mix it with the cinnamon.
4. Place the apples into a baking dish and pour the oil/cinammon mixture over the apples, making sure each piece is coated evenly. Toss in the pecans and walnuts.
5. Bake for ~25 minutes or until the apples are soft.
6. Enjoy! Try topping with some greek yogurt if having it for dessert.
Refreshing Summer Smoothie
Total time: 5 min
- 1 ripe banana (if you dislike the flavor of banana, use one without spots)
- 1 large carrot (peeled and diced)
- 1/2 cup of your choice of frozen fruit: my favorites are frozen blueberries, diced frozen strawberries, diced frozen cherries, or frozen raspberries
- 3 heaping tablespoons of plain greek yogurt (I find that unsweetened greek yogurt works the best in terms of flavor)
- optional, depending on how thick you like your smoothies: 1/4 cup of milk or plant-based milk
- Adding carrot provides beta-carotene which is amazing for eye-health, and also adds sweetness in addition to the banana, so you don’t need any added sweetener!
Honey Iced Tea
With the seasons starting to change, causing many people to get sick, I wanted to share a healthy iced tea recipe that is also immune boosting. I personally prefer hot teas unsweetened, but I love a sweetened iced tea. The difficult part about making iced tea is figuring out how to add sweetness without compromising the benefits of the tea by adding too many “added sugars,” or bad sugars. In this recipe I use honey, a natural sweetener, which has antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, and can help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Ingredients (Serves 8):
- 5 green tea bags of your choice, strings and tags removed (I prefer Lipton)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 4 cups boiling water
- 4 cups ice water
- 1/8 tsp baking soda (this helps to cut the bitterness of the tea, which will reduce the amount of sweetener needed)
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
2. Add the tea bags and baking soda, and stir. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the tea bags, pour into a pitcher, add the honey, and stir.
4. Add the ice water and stir. Refrigerate.
When serving, add ice cubes and garnish with lemon slices if desired. Enjoy!
My New Years Resolutions
This year I wanted to come up with just a few achievable resolutions that I could see myself maintaining in the long run. Specifically, I wanted to have more control over the times when I was eating, and what I was putting into my body. I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own New Years resolutions! Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
1. Implement Intermittent Fasting Cycles: Our bodies do not constantly need food, and it is actually beneficial to let our digestive systems rest for longer periods of time. Intermittent fasting has been incredibly helpful in my weight maintenance, and I plan to continue this into the new year as a way of having more control over the times when I’m eating. The cycle that I am currently following consists of a 12 hour fast during the first night of the cycle, a 14 hour fast the next night, and a 16 hour fast for the last night. As an example, the first night I might stop eating at 8pm, and the next morning I could have breakfast anytime after 8am. That night, if I stopped eating at 10pm, I would wait until noon the next day to have breakfast/lunch. I find it is much easier for me to fast at night as opposed to during the day, since I am asleep anyways.
2. Limit myself to one “cheat” food per day: Instead of having one cheat day per week, I am going to try this method of allowing myself one cheat food per day, so that I do not find myself having the urge to binge every week. Everything in moderation!
Eggnog is one of my favorite drinks to enjoy around Christmas time, but I’ve always felt that the store-bought version is a bit too heavy and calorie-dense, so I set out to create a lighter version that is also kid-friendly. Enjoy!
- 6 large eggs (yolk only)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 3 cups non-fat milk or plant-based milk of your choice
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Favorite Fall Beverages
Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 4 cups boiling water
- 6 bags chamomile tea
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 4 slices lemon
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp rosemary (or 2 sprigs)
2. My take on the PSL
Ingredients (Serves 1):
- 1 cup unsweetened nut or soy milk
- 3 tbs pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 shot espresso or concentrated instant coffee
Apple-Themed Recipes to Try This Fall
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year because apples come into season, as well as everything apple-themed. Here are some of my favorite apple recipes definitely worth trying out!
– Baked Apples with Cinnamon:
This is great as a dessert or breakfast- it’s tangy-but-sweet and very filling. Try this with fuji apples which have higher sugar content, so you won’t even have to add sugar.
Ingredients (Yields 4 servings):
- 4 apples
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 dash nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and cut the apples each into 8 slices and gently mix all ingredients together. Place in a casserole dish, cover with tin foil, and bake for 45 minutes, flipping halfway.
– Steamed Apples with Natural Crystallized Sugar:
This works nearly every time in curing colds, and is simple and easy to make.
Ingredients (Yields 2 servings):
- 2 apples
- 2 tablespoons of natural crystallized sugar
(this can be found at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods)
- Optional dash of cinnamon
If you don’t have a vegetable steamer, simply fill a medium pot an inch deep with water, place a mug upside down in the center of the pot and place a plate on top of that. Place on the stove and wait for the water to reach a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the apples by coring them and cutting off the top so that they look like small cups. Place 1 tablespoon of the sugar inside each apple and place the tops back on. Place each in a small bowl and place on top of the plate in the pot. Set the timer for 20 minutes, and turn the heat down to medium. Enjoy while warm.
– Apple Sauce Muffins:
I love making a big batch of these and freezing them, so when I’m hungry after work or school I can just take one out and microwave it for a quick and healthy snack.
Ingredients (Yields 2 dozen muffins):
- ½ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup honey
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups applesauce
- 4 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- ½ tsp dried clove
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 325F. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Fold in the nuts. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown.
Three Foods to Eat for an Energy Boost
Sometimes when I’m feeling the mid-afternoon slump I need a quick pick-me-up to boost my energy levels and keep me going until dinner.
Here are some of my favorite energy boosting snacks that fight fatigue. Enjoy!
1. Oats: these are packed full of fiber that will slow down your digestion and provide sustaining energy for several hours. Try adding a couple pieces of dark chocolate to your oatmeal or a banana with some peanut butter.
2. Greek yogurt: extremely high in lean protein, this is a great substitute for sour cream in dips and tacos, or you could simply add some honey and some fruit for a quick and easy snack.
3. Nuts or nut butter: these are packed full of healthy fats that provide lasting energy. Add some nuts to your salad or yogurt, or grab a handful of whole wheat crackers and dip them in some peanut or almond butter.
Four Foods to Eat for a Good Night’s Sleep
1. Whole Grains: For your bedtime snack, swap out cake or other baked
goods for popcorn, oatmeal, or whole wheat crackers with hummus or nut butter.
2. Almonds and Walnuts: These are not only a good source of healthy fats,
they are a plentiful source of melatonin,which helps to regulate your sleep/wake cycle.
I like to add a handful of these to my salad or yogurt.
3. Cottage cheese: This contains high levels of tryptophan, which has been shown to
increase the body’s serotonin levels. Try this for desert with some raspberries or strawberries.
4. Fruit: Some other effective bedtime snacks include kiwis, cherries, plums, and berries. Make a fruit salad or simply add some to your bedtime tea for a fruity flavor.
Some of my New Favorite Healthy Snacks
Having grown bored of my usual almonds, apples, and bananas that I normally eat for a snack, I decided to test out some new snacks that have recently caught my eye at the grocery store. I’ve found some new favorites and I wanted to share them with you, in hopes that they would help give you a couple more snacking ideas! Enjoy!
Beet Chips: To be honest, I was suspicious of how these would taste at first, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that they taste slightly sweet, kind of like apple chips, with no weird aftertaste at all. A good option if you want to incorporate some more fiber into your diet! (I like the Bare brand, which is found at most grocery stores including Target and Walmart.)
Kale Chips: These are extremely crispy, low in calorie, packed full of vitamins K, C, and A, Calcium, Potassium, and have anti-inflammatory benefits. A must-try for sure! (Most grocery stores carry multiple flavors of these chips- my favorite is sea salt.)
Roasted seaweed snacks: This might not be for everyone, but definitely worth trying in my opinion. It is light, crispy, and doesn’t have any fishy aftertaste. (Found at most grocery stores!)
Dried Apricots: I’m honestly not sure how I overlooked these for all of my life- these are now hands down my favorite dried fruit. They’re chewy, refreshing, and will definitely satisfy any sweet tooth. Opt for brands with no added sugars to reduce calorie and carbohydrate intake. (Trader joe’s carries amazing dried Turkish apricots.)
Dried Mangos: These are also amazingly chewy and sweet. I prefer the brands without added sugars because mangoes have enough natural sweetness on their own. (Trader joe’s also carries amazing “Just Mango Slices” with no additives.)
Spring Garden Vegetable Soup
Every time Spring comes around, I love to make vegetable soups using fresh local ingredients. Here is one of my favorite recipes.
Ingredients (6 servings):
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 tbs olive oil
- ½ large onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, diced or sliced thinly
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp sage leaves, chopped (or ½ tsp dried)
- 32 oz chicken, vegetable, or bone broth (I like the Bonafide brand bone broth, found in the frozen section at most grocery stores)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper. Cook ~5 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add the chickpeas and spinach leaves and cook just until the spinach is wilted (~3 minutes).
- Serve and enjoy.
Valentine’s Day Gift Idea: Guilt-Free Dark Chocolate Orange Truffles
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I wanted to share one of my favorite truffle recipes, which would make a perfect gift for your loved one, or simply as a dessert to enjoy all to yourself (which is arguably even better!). These truffles are rich, decadent, and made of only 4 ingredients. Enjoy! 🙂
Ingredients (Makes 16 truffles) Adapted from Amy’s Healthy Baking:
- 1 cup raw cocao powder
- 1/2 cup raw cocao powder (set aside for dusting)
- 1.5 tsp orange zest
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- Optional: 1 handful cocao nibs or dark chocolate chips
- Stir together the cocao powder and orange zest in a medium bowl.
- Make a well in the center, pour in the orange juice and maple syrup, and stir well until smooth.
- Stir in the optional cocao nibs or dark chocolate chips.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the chocolate mixture from the refrigerator and roll into 16 small balls.
- Use a sifter to sift a light dusting of cocao powder over each truffle to ensure they do not stick.
- Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week. Alternatively, for gifting, place each truffle in a mini cupcake liner and store in a gift box.
4 Simple and Achievable New Years Resolutions:
With the New Year upon us, I thought it would be a good idea to share some New Years resolutions that I am making for myself, with the goal of improving my overall health and well-being. I hope that they will be useful to you all. Enjoy!
1. Go for a morning walk or jog immediately after waking up.
I’ve begun adopting this habit this winter, and it has been making a noticeable impact on my mood and energy levels for the rest of the day. Even if this is not possible for you to accomplish every day, try doing this on the weekends. I guarantee you will also feel the effects!
2. Drink a glass of warm water after waking up.
I’ve actually been practicing this habit for a couple years now, and I have to admit it has made a substantial difference in my digestion and the amount of time it takes me to wake up in the morning. Swallowing helps initiate GI tract contraction, or peristalsis, which improves gut motility and speeds up digestion of any food you consume afterwards. Warm, as opposed to cold, water helps to increase the efficiency of absorption by your intestinal cells.
3. Replace ordinary grains with lower carbohydrate alternatives.
I’ve recently discovered the brand Banza, which makes amazing pastas out of chickpeas – in my opinion, they have the perfect al dente texture, and I only needed to prepare half as much of this pasta compared to normal pastas to keep me full till the next meal. I’ve also found that a great substitution for ordinary sandwich bread (which can get dull sometimes) is mini yellow corn tortillas. I love using these for lettuce, avocado, and tomato wraps.
4. Incorporate kefir, kim-chi, and other probiotic-rich foods into your diet.
For all of my life I have had digestive issues, causing frequent bloating and discomfort. This past semester, I learned in my Nutrition and Disease class that these symptoms can be caused by antibiotics. Our digestive tracts are home to an array of bacteria, called the gut microbiome, that are essential to proper digestion of our food, and when they become disrupted the result is indigestion. I decided that I would need to eat more foods that are high in probiotics. I’ve been enjoying Kefir, which is similar to yogurt but higher in protein and beneficial bacteria, and kim-chi, which is the Korean version of sauerkraut. Both are easy to incorporate into the diet: I usually have kefir with some granola or in place of my daily glass of milk, and I like to sprinkle some kim-chi on my salads or wraps.
With the holidays just around the corner, I wanted to share one of my favorite hearty, and most importantly, secretly healthy, cookie recipes.
These are definitely worth giving a try for any upcoming holiday parties or simply to share with your family. Enjoy!
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies *adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe
These are definitely high up on my list of the most addicting cookies, haha.
Be prepared to make more than one batch! Recipe makes a dozen cookies.
- 1/3 cup of oat flour
(Blend rolled oats using a blender or food processor until fine)
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar (Much healthier alternative to granulated sugar)
- 3 tbs vegan cream cheese
(I like the brand Tofutti, which can be found at Walmart)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbs melted coconut oil (Use triple filtered coconut oil for less coconut flavor)
- Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, and all wet ingredients in another.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until it forms into a ball.
- Pour in the chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
- Divide the mixture into 12 equal parts and roll into balls.
- Place onto a place and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the frozen balls on the sheet, and press down slightly.
- Bake for 8 minutes, remove, and let sit until they are completely cooled so that they can firm up. Enjoy!
Note: For a Paleo version of this recipe, substitute the 1/3 cup oat flour with 1/6 cup of almond flour and 1/6 cup of coconut flour, both which can be found at Walmart or any health food store.
Cozy Fall Beverages
Fall is upon us! With the weather getting chillier, and Halloween and Thanksgiving just around the corner,
here are some of my favorite hot fall-themed beverages to try this season!
My (Vegan) take on the Pumpkin Spice Latte
If you’re looking for a quick and healthy take on this classic fall drink, I highly recommend giving this a try. It’s packed full of good fats and beneficial ingredients without compromising any satisfaction.
Ingredients (Prep time: 5 minutes, Servings: 1):
- 1 cup almond, soy, or cashew milk
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee
- 2 tablespoon pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Optional: ½ can coconut milk (refrigerated)
Combine all ingredients in a blender, or alternatively whisk in a large mug. Top with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.
Optional: Use a hand mixer to whip the coconut milk solids into whipped cream. Whip until soft peaks form. Use as optional topper!
My (Vegan) take on the Chai Latte
Even if traditional chai tea isn’t your favorite, I think this recipe is worth giving a shot. It’s so warming, refreshing, and definitely helps soothe a cold!
Ingredients (Prep time: 5 minutes, Servings: 1 – Adjust seasonings to taste:
- 1 cup almond, soy, or cashew milk
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Dash of ground ginger
- Dash of ground cloves
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat thoroughly,
pour into a mug, and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Here are three variations of this light and refreshing dinner option! It’s very low in calories but high in fiber, keeping you full and satisfied for longer. Preparation time: 15 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
For each of these variations, first thaw half a bag of frozen small, peeled, deveined shrimp. (This should be about 1 cup). Mix together all ingredients, incorporate the shrimp, and place in the fridge for at least 5 minutes to marinate. Then sauté on high heat until fully cooked.
- Sweet Peanut Shrimp
- 2 tbs peanut butter
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 2 tbs honey
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Savory Shrimp
- 2 tbs honey mustard
- 1 tbs mayonnaise
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- A dash of oregano, paprika, pepper, basil, and parsley
- Spicy Shrimp
- 5 tbs olive oil
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Baby spinach
- Kale: to prepare, massage a large bowl of kale in a tablespoon of olive oil and a tsp of salt. The kale will soften and shrink, becoming much easier to chew and digest. The flavor actually compliments all three variations of shrimp surprisingly well.
My Favorite Toppings:
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 cup diced cucumbers
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Squeeze of lime juice
- My version of an enhanced “Sour Cream”: ½ cup plain Greek yogurt + ¼ cup parsley + 1 tablespoon lime juice. It seriously tastes so much better than real sour cream!!
To assemble tacos: Heat up some yellow corn tortillas on the stove, flipping constantly to avoid burning. First put your choice of base, then shrimp, and toppings. Enjoy!!
The Best Plant-Based Sources of Protein
Recently, more people have become more aware of the negative health effects of consuming excess red meats with high levels of saturated fats (animal fats), and efforts have been made to search for alternative sources of protein. Here are my findings on the best sources of meatless protein to aim to incorporate into your diet:
Quinoa: Packed with important vitamins and minerals, quinoa is also a “complete protein”- something that is rare for plant foods. This means it contains all 9 essential amino acids, and you do not need to supplement it with other plant proteins. Contains 8g protein/cup.
Edamame: In addition to packing tons of protein into each cup, Edamame also contains as much fiber as 4 slices of whole wheat bread. Steam, cook in stir fries, or add to soups. Contains 16g protein/cup.
Chia Seeds: These tiny seeds have a huge amount of protein for their size, in addition to containing omega 3 fatty acids and high fiber content. Blend into smoothies, stir into jams and jellies, or simply soak in water or plant-milk overnight to make chia pudding. Contains 9g protein/2tbs.
Lentils: They are also an excellent source of Vit B, folate, and fiber (1 cup accounts for more than your daily needs!) Substitute this for rice, or incorporate into chili’s or soups. Contains 18g protein/cup.
Greek Yogurt: This, among all yogurts, is the highest in protein, in addition to being low in calories, and extra creamy. Swap it for high-calorie condiments like mayo, sour cream, and use it as a base for your homemade ranch dressing. Contains 29g protein/cup.
Tempeh: This soybean-based food is even firmer than extra-firm tofu, so it can be easily incorporated into traditional meat dishes like burgers, stir-fries, and sandwiches. Contains 31g protein/cup.
Peanut Butter: Versatile, full of protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats (which reduce your cholesterol levels), peanut butter should remain a pantry staple! Contains 32.5g protein/cup.
Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans: These are extremely high in both protein and fiber. Research has shown that consuming 1 cup of these daily can significantly reduce your cholesterol levels.
Bake until crispy (see my previous articles), incorporate into chili’s or soups, or mash it to create a creamy spread for your sandwiches. Contains 14g protein/cup.
Eggs: When eaten in moderation, eggs are totally okay to eat. They are cheap, rich in protein, low in calories, and contain high levels of brain-boosting Choline. Contains 7g protein /egg.
The Most Prevalent Types of Diets in 2018
In the recent years, as people have become more health conscious, in all aspects of their lives, including fitness, diet, and mental health, I find that many individuals are especially curious about the different kinds of diets are becoming more prevalent today as compared to even a decade ago. Here is an overview of the different kinds of diets that are starting to become more recognized by the medical community.
With approval from her physician, my mother has been on the paleo diet since 2010 and has observed significant improvements in her skin, energy levels, and physical endurance. I hope this article can help out anyone who is curious about what diet would best suit you; I would recommend consulting a physician before starting a chosen diet, just to confirm that it is fitting for your personal case and to avoid putting yourself at risk of any nutritional deficiencies.
Oftentimes, you do not necessarily have to follow your chosen diet strictly every single day; there are days when my mother consumes a small amount of grain, especially when we are travelling and there are limited options outside of grains. However, on average, she follows the Paleo diet 5 out of 7 days of the week. The most important factor in producing visible results is consistency.
The Paleo Diet
This is essentially the “Cave Man Diet.” It stays away from all processed foods, non-natural sugars (the only sugar consumed is from fruit), ALL grains, and diary. The reason for these stipulations is to decrease the amount of glucose in your body, causing it to use fat as its fuel source. This has been associated with maintenance of healthy body weight in individuals, as well as a healthy amount of weight loss in those who aim to slightly lower their body weight to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A simpler way to think of the Paleo diet is: vegan diet + eggs + meats. Examples of foods that can be eaten: vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy oils, potatoes, eggs, fish, fowl, and grass-fed meats.
The Blood Type Diet
This has been a current area of research for some doctors who aim to match people with their common dietary needs based on their blood type. Please consult your physician before starting this diet, if you wish to do so.
As an example, individuals with type O blood are recommended to eat foods high in protein, and those with type A are recommended to avoid meat and emphasize tofu and fruit.
The Vegan Diet
This is becoming more and more prevalent as individuals become more knowledgeable about the negative effects of red-meats on human health. The vegan diet completely eliminates meats and all animal products (including dairy and leather products), while the vegetarian diet allows eggs and dairy. The main benefit of the vegan diet is that it minimizes the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, which come only from animal sources, and are the primary cause of high blood pressure and chronic cardiovascular diseases. Contrary to popular belief, the main area that vegans must be careful about is not protein (there so many plant-based sources of protein like lentils, beans, tofu, edamame, etc.), but actually vitamin B-12, which is found in red meat. Many vegans take B-12 supplements to compensate for this.
The South Beach Diet
This diet aims to develop a healthy way of eating that is sustainable for the rest of your life. It says that its balance of good carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats makes it a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich diet. It uses the glycemic index of different foods to tell you which foods to avoid. Overall, it is a healthy way of eating whether you would like to lose weight or not.
The Mediterranean Diet
This is vegetable-heavy but does not eliminate meat altogether. It has been proven to help with depression, blood sugar levels, and weight management. It recommends the use of healthy unsaturated oils like olive, sesame, avocado, soybean oil, as much as possible and as replacements for unhealthy saturated oils like butter. It also favors fish over fowl and red-meat. The focus is on whole grains, nuts (unsaturated fats), and herbs.
The Raw Food Diet
This diet is probably the most stringent, because it eliminates all cooked and processed foods, in addition to those that have been pasteurized or produced with additives. The diet aims to increase your energy levels and to decrease inflammation and carcinogens. Foods that can be consumed include fresh fruits, vegetables, raw seeds and nuts, and raw yogurt.
The Keto Diet
This diet is 80% fat and barely any carbohydrates. Staples are: fish, meat, eggs, dairy, oils, and green vegetables. Grains and fruits are eliminated. The reason for this is that Keto aims to put the body in a state of ketosis, where fat is turned into ketones (the body’s back-up energy source), as opposed to using carbohydrates as an immediate source. Please ask your physician if you would like to start this diet.
As a Nutrition student, one of my biggest hobbies is creating and sharing healthy recipes. I especially love creating healthy, but still delicious, alternatives to unhealthy foods. I’ve decided to focus some of my articles on my recipes, as well as to explain the nutritional benefits of each ingredient of my recipes. I hope this is helpful! (Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any suggestions or questions about my recipes.)
Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate Pudding with Coconut Whipped Cream
You’ll never guess the hidden ingredient in this pudding- silken tofu! Not only used in stir-fries, soups, and egg-less scrambled eggs, tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient that can be easily incorporated into vegan desserts. This dessert is perfect for those who are looking for a guiltless, sweet dessert to round off your day. An added benefit is that it has a much higher level of protein compared to ordinary puddings, which will help satisfy you faster. My dad is a very picky eater when it comes to desserts, and he had absolutely no idea that the base of this pudding was tofu! As usual, this recipe is dairy-free, vegan, and gluten- free.
Crunchy Chickpea Snacks
These are my go-to replacement for pretzels, crackers, chips, and other calorically-dense snacks that we all find ourselves reaching for when we just want something crunchy and yummy to satisfy our late afternoon cravings. Chickpeas help to keep us full for much longer and contain much higher levels of nutrients than traditional snacks we can buy from the grocery store. Here are two recipes which are also vegan and gluten free!
Diet and Cancer: Is There a Link?
Cancer. It is undoubtedly one of the most mysterious diseases that inflict humans. To many, the link between diet and cancer itself is likely just as perplexing.
Once believed to be almost purely influenced by genetics, cancer has recently been discovered to be 70% influenced by controllable factors-one of those being diet. In other words, only 30% of one’s lifetime risk of cancer is out of one’s control. The remaining 70% is within our power to change.
This may come as a shock to many. It hardly seems plausible. How could we possibly have so much power over our lifetime risk of cancer? I hope, though, that after reading this article, this fact will come as a consolation rather than a worry.
Even though research has shown a definite correlation between lifestyle (a large part of which is nutrition) and cancer risk, research has not pointed to a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. In other words, poor dietary choices do not guarantee an increased risk of cancer, and healthy choices do not guarantee a decreased risk. A prime example is that of my close family friend, who maintained a healthy dietary and exercise routine, but was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer at a young age. In some cases, the risk of cancer already implanted in our genes is high enough that not much we do will drastically decrease those chances; all we should do is maintain good health for as long as we can.
It has been discovered that certain dietary habits have a weightier influence on cancer risk than others. The areas I will touch on in this article include:
Red and Processed Meats, Antioxidants, and Weight.
Red and processed meats have become so ingrained in American culture that it can be difficult to give them up. But even a slight decrease in our daily consumption of these meats will reduce the risk of several types of cancer, notably colorectal cancer. Examples of types of meat to limit include any meats that have been smoked or include nitrates (e.g. beef, veal, pork, sausage, ham, beef jerky, canned meat).
Antioxidants are central to cancer prevention because of their role in neutralizing free radicals
that damage normal cells. The most effective method with regards to antioxidant intake is to aim for a diet that contains a variety of foods with high levels of antioxidants, rather than taking specific antioxidant supplements. This is true for vitamins as well. Consuming vitamin or antioxidant supplements is never as effective as consuming foods containing those vitamins or antioxidants, because foods containing them also offer other benefits, including enhanced cardiovascular and digestive health. Foods to eat more of include: dark green, orange, purple, and red fruits and vegetables.
Weight management is one of the most underrated and easiest ways to engage in cancer prevention. Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), or weight to height ratio, is essential to curbing our growing risk for cancer as we age. The reason is that increased lipid cells produce hormones that can promote tumor growth. A great way to monitor your weight is to step on a scale every morning right after you roll out of bed, to ensure consistent conditions.
In conclusion, the simplest, most impactful, and most practical way in which everyone has the greatest chance of reducing his or her risk of cancer is to consume a good, varied diet combined with other healthy lifestyle habits (i.e. regular exercise, sufficient rest, moderate intake of alcohol, and avoidance of smoking). If maintained over a long period of time, we can be assured that we are doing what is in our power to combat this mysterious disease.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Harvard Health Publishing
The National Cancer Institute
The American Institute for Cancer Research
About Maya Zhou: I am a Nutritional Sciences student with a passion for holistic nutrition, yoga, and cooking. As someone who has had personal experience with cancer, I am dedicated to spreading my knowledge about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing the risk of cancer. I am so excited to be a volunteer writer for the CRC Newsletter! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or suggestions for future article topics.