What's The Healthiest Vegetable?

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I’m often asked my opinion about what vegetable is the healthiest. I also hear the “best-Mommy” contest that happens on the playground where each parent tries to one-up each other bragging about what weird & healthy veggie their child loves. It goes something like this:

“My Johnny loves carrots.”

“MY Suzie loves broccoli.”

“WELL, MY Nicolas loves kale.”

“Guess what. MY Olivia loves Brussels sprouts. Eats them like candy. Can’t get enough of them.”

You get the picture.

I understand why people ask me about veggies. And why parents feel pressured. The amazing powers of specific vegetables often are the subjects of headlines. It makes a great sound-bite. It’s a great way to sell newspapers & magazines.

But as is often the case, that which makes a great sound-bite isn’t always what’s true. Because it’s been pulled out of context, the sound-bite ends up being only partly-true.

Science’s understanding of exactly what it is in veggies that’s so good for us is crude. We’re constantly learning of new healthy nutrients. For example, when I was studying human nutrition as an undergraduate in the late 1990’s, I was taught that white veggies didn’t have any healthful substances. They may provide flavor and crunch, but they were nutritional zeros. However, we now know that onions, garlic, and their other cousins such as leeks, have healthful nutrients like antioxidants.

While science is constantly discovering new nutrients, what’s found again and again (and again) is that the people who eat the most veggies are the healthiest. Period.

I also like to balance current science with the tried-and-true. And, when I look at traditional diets around the world, I see that human beings have survived and thrived eating all sorts of plant foods.

Let me be clear. I’m not denying that dark green veggies (like kale) and brightly-coloured veggies (like carrots and purple cabbage) are really healthy. They’re fantastic choices! What I’m saying is to not consider veggies such as cucumber and celery as empty junk. While they’re today’s zeros, who knows if they will be tomorrow’s super-stars. And, they’re healthier than most processed foods which kids typically eat if they’re not eating veggies.

So don’t stress if your picky eater doesn’t like today’s super-star veggies.

When it comes to veggies, it’s about quantity. And, variety.

Instead of relying on the magic of any one vegetable (and trying to force your picky eater to eat it), enjoy a wide variety of veggies. Introduce your little one to many different veggies (and repeat those introductions, and repeat, and repeat…). Be a veggie variety role model yourself. Encourage your little one to enjoy the wide, wide world of veggies in all colours of the rainbow. Together explore all the different tastes and textures.

And celebrate when your little one eats ANY veggies - whether it’s kale chips or that French Breakfast radish that the Farmer convinced him to try at Saturday’s Farmers Market, or…

So, what’s my answer when I’m asked what’s the healthiest vegetable? Answer: The one that you’ll eat (because it doesn’t matter how healthy any veggie is – if you won’t eat it – it can’t do you any good).

Get more successful picky eater tips. Sign-up for my e-newsletter today HERE.

Photo credit: Keenan Loo on Unsplash

Pumpkin Mousse

healthy-pumpkin-mousse-recipe

Love the flavour of pumpkin spice and pumpkin pie? But looking for a healthy way to enjoy it? Look no further. This mousse is seriously delicious.

I admit that I'm lazy so I make it without the crust. And it's still fantastic! I find that the pumpkin mousse tastes best when refrigerated overnight.

This recipe is a great way to include some more veggies (for picky kids and us adults who can use to eat more veggies too). Pumpkin rocks the vitamin A and has good fibre too.

Baby Food Version: Make this recipe without the crust and omit the maple syrup.


Healthy Pumpkin Mousse Ingredients:

1 cup of full fat coconut milk (put in fridge overnight)

1 can of pumpkin puree

1/4 cup of black chia seeds

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

“Bottom crust”

  • 3 dates
  • 1 cup of raw nuts (e.g. walnuts and pecans)
  • 1/4 cup of oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Healthy Pumpkin Mousse Directions:

  1. In a food processor, mixer or blender, add all the ingredients. Start with low speed and work your way up to high speed.
  2. Once all the coconut chunks are pureed set aside in a bowl.
  3. For the “crust”, mix together dates, raw nuts, cinnamon, oats, and nutmeg in a food processor until the dates have broken down.
  4. Take a spoonful of the “crust” into a parfait cup and add the pumpkin mousse.
  5. Enjoy!

Get more recipes on my recipe page HERE.

Photo and recipe credit: Amazing student Hanna Kim (Thanks Hanna!)

Lentil Coconut Energy Bites

lentil-coconut-energy-bites

Looking for a healthy snack?
Need something kid-friendly?

This recipe is nut-free, dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, and no-sugar-added.
It contains fibre-packed, protein-packed lentils and pumpkin seeds.
Oh, and it's delicious!

They're perfect for packed-lunches for kids. And, as an afternoon snack for us adults too.

Need a finger-food version for your baby? Simply cut them into smaller pieces. Easy.

Enjoy!


Lentil Coconut Energy Bites Ingredients:

  • ½ cup cooked green lentils (or lentils from a can)
  • ½ cup of pureed pumpkin seeds
  • ⅓ cup of dry oats
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 dates
  • ¼ cup of chocolate chips (optional)
  • ¼ cup of coconut flakes unsweetened (to roll in)

Lentil Coconut Energy Bites Steps:

  1. Cook the lentils in a pot with water for ~25-30 minutes on medium heat
  2. In the meantime, puree ½ cup of pumpkin seeds in a food processor until smooth
  3. Add in fresh dates and continue to puree
  4. Once you reach a paste-like consistency, add in dry oats, cinnamon, vanilla extract and cooked lentils.
  5. Transfer into a bowl and add chocolate chips
  6. Roll into small balls (should make about 9-10)
  7. On some parchment paper, sprinkle ¼ cup of coconut flakes and roll in the lentil coconut bites
  8. Enjoy!

Looking for more healthy, kid-friendly snack ideas? Check out our most popular recipe ever - banana lentil muffins

Recipe and photo by Hanna Kim, student (Thanks Hanna!)

Are Food Dyes Safe for Kids?

Are-artificial-food-dyes-safe-for-kids

Each year, UBC dietetics students have a class project where they practice writing nutrition articles for the public. This year, I asked students Mei Ho and May Hasegawa to research are food dyes safe for kids. Here's what they found ~ Kristen

When you are shopping for snacks for your child, do the bright colours make you think twice about about adding it to your basket? Many foods we come across in our everyday lives have colour added in order to make it appear more appetizing. It is very common to see vivid colours in foods and beverages marketed towards children, such as candies, desserts and chewing gums. Foods can be coloured by natural food dyes like caramel colouring, or artificial food dyes, which are colours made from petroleum1. Today we will be looking at food dyes in the context of artificial food dyes, which have been used more commonly in foods in recent years.

Are Artificial Food Dyes Safe for Kids?

As early as the 80’s, researchers began to study the effects of artificial food dyes on children’s health. The results of their studies have been controversial, and has stirred concern amongst consumers. Some have suggested a possible link between artificial food dyes and hypersensitivity in children3. Others have researched possible risks of organ damage, cancer, birth defects and allergic reactions1. While no study findings have been conclusive, countries in Europe such as the U.K. have banned artificial food dyes altogether for safety measures1.

What Are the Safety Regulations of Food Dyes in Canada?

Regulations in North America state that there is not enough scientific evidence to say artificial food dyes cause negative effects on children’s health3. Canada permits the use of food dyes in everyday foods from bread, butter, milk to cheese. All food dyes must first be approved by our federal regulatory body, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). At this time, Canada has approved ten dye colours for use in food and beverages.

However, it has not been ruled out that food dyes may affect children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and behavioural problems differently3. Researchers agree that more research on artificial food dyes is required.

Food Dyes Across the Globe

In 2009, the U.K. imposed strict regulations to remove certain food dyes from foods and beverages. This prompts us to think, why hasn’t North America followed along? It is interesting to note the different approaches used by North America and the U.K. when it comes to ensuring public safety through foods.4

  • North America: tries to find the strongest evidence available before implementing new regulations.
  • UK: uses a more precautionary approach, meaning that it will take action to protect the public even if the evidence is not entirely conclusive.

Moving Forward: What Can You Do?

With all this information, it can be confusing to decide whether you want your children to be consuming artificial food dyes. It may first be helpful to understand how to identify whether something contains artificial food dyes. By law, companies are required to list the name of the dye on the ingredient label. It may be tricky for shoppers to recognize the commercial names of artificial food dyes. Here are the names of 10 common artificial food dyes in Canada:5

  • Allura red
  • Brilliant blue FCF
  • Citrus Red No.2
  • Sunset yellow FCF
  • Tartrazine
  • Fast green FCF
  • Indigotine
  • Erythrosine Red
  • Amaranth Red
  • Ponceau SX

There are also ways to add colour into your cooking at home without using food dyes! Kids are drawn to bright colours, and baking at home can be more fun if your child has the chance to make their own colours. This can be done by boiling, blending, and/or pureeing vegetables or fruits for their natural colours.6

Ideas include:

  • Raspberries, pomegranate and beets - pink/purple
  • Carrots – orange
  • Turmeric powder – yellow
  • Blueberry – blue
  • Spinach – green
  • Red cabbage – purple and blue
    • For purple, boil cabbage in hot water until water is dark purple colour
    • For blue, slowly add some baking soda to purple water

Are Food Dyes Safe for Kids - May’s Opinion:

While there is not enough evidence to conclude that artificial food dyes are harmful to our body, I feel that more research is needed to fully understand their effects on our health. I like to refrain from using artificial food colouring in my own baking, and opt for more natural options like using juice from fruits or vegetables.

Are Food Dyes Safe for Kids - Mei’s Opinion:

As the research is inconclusive, it is ultimately up to the consumers to make an informed decision. New food labelling requirements in Canada will now include the commercial names of synthetic food dyes in the ingredient list, but it is questionable whether or not consumers will recognize these names or be able to associate them with food dyes.

Are Food Dyes Safe for Kids - Kristen's Opinion:

Call me conservative, but I am suspicious of foods that are highly processed. My motto is "foods closest to the way nature made them are the healthiest choice". Artificial food dyes are about as far from nature-made as you can get. So, I would recommend steering clear of artificial food dyes for day-to-day eating. But I'm also practical. Our bodies are amazingly adaptive. Eating foods with artificial dyes once in a while is likely not going to cause harm. So if your child is invited to a birthday party where they serve cake with bright green icing, let your child enjoy the cake right along with the other kiddos.

If your child has behaviour concerns, such as ADD/ ADHD, I think it's worth doing a food trial where you eliminate all food dyes and see how your child's behaviour responds. There may be no effect. Or, your child may be a member of the sub-set of kids who have a link between behaviour and food dyes.

Want more science-based nutrition tips for kids? Sign-up today for my e-newsletter.

Sources:

1Kobylewski, Sarah, et al. “Food Dyes a Rainbow of Risks”. Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2010.

2Stevenson J, Sonuga-Barke E, McCann D, et al. “The Role of Histamine Degradation Gene Polymorphisms in Moderating the Effects of Food Additives on Children's ADHD Symptoms.” American Journal of Psychiatry. 2010; 167:1108-1115.

3 “FDA panel concludes food coloring isn't associated with hyperactivity in children.” Nutrition Today. 2011; 46:104.

4Banned in Europe, Safe in the U.S. http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/banned-europe-safe-us/

5Food Colours - Permitted Synthetic Colours in Canada and Corresponding United States and European Names.

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/list-of-ingredients-and-allergens/food-colours/eng/1348150903240/1348150959157

68 Ways to Make Organic DIY Food Colouring. http://www.networx.com/article/8-ways-to-make-organic-diy-food-coloring

Banana Lentil Muffins

lentil-banana-muffins

Banana lentil muffins. Yes, you read that right - banana LENTIL muffins. Lentils can be used in baking.

Including lentils in baking is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of refined flour we eat and get more iron, fibre, and protein. Take note parents of picky eater kiddos who don't like most protein or iron-rich foods. Tip: Serve the muffins with a source of vitamin C (such as berries) to maximize absorption of that iron.

We made this recipe for mini muffins, so that they're a good size for little hands (and tummies). Us big kids can choose to eat 2 - 3 of them in the place of a regular-size muffin. Or bake yours in a regular-size muffin tray and adjust the baking time. We didn't test the baking time for regular-size muffins so I don't have a time to give you (sorry). Keep a close eye on them and use the ever-trusty toothpick-in-the-centre test.

Enjoy!


Banana Lentil Muffins Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ripe bananas (or 2 ripe medium bananas)
  • 1 cup red or green lentil puree (1 cup of lentils boiled in water for 40-45 minutes, drained then pureed)
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ cup of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of oat flour (blended old fashioned oats)
  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable, avocado, canola or olive)
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of crushed walnuts (optional)

Banana Lentil Muffins Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients (egg, oil, maple syrup, bananas, lentil purée and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, walnuts and chocolate chips).
  4. Stir into the egg mixture until mixed.
  5. Grease the muffin tins with oil.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Chocolate Chia Pudding

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All I can say is chocolate chia pudding ... yum!

Healthy eating is all about eating good fuel for your body AND eating for pleasure. This delicious treat fits both categories. It's chocolatey goodness that's made with chia seeds. Chia seeds are rich in protein, iron and fibre. The result is a gelatinous or pudding-like consistency similar to tapioca pudding. It's also quite low in sugar.

Feel free to play with the recipe. The richest version is made with the canned coconut milk (coconut and chocolate - awesome!). I love orange chocolate and mint chocolate so sometimes I add a drop or two of mint extract or orange blossom water.


Chocolate Chia Pudding Ingredients

3 TBSP           chia seeds

1 cup              milk (dairy, plant-based alternative, canned coconut milk is especially delicious)

1 TBSP           cocoa powder

1.5 tsp             sugar


Chocolate Chia Pudding Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a container with a lid.
  2. Stir well to thoroughly combine.
  3. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow gel to start.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Enjoy!

Healthier Chocolate Nut Spread

chocolate hazelnut spread

You asked for a healthier alternative to the famous (and delicious) chocolate hazelnut spread (you know which one). Today I'm sharing not just one, but 4 alternatives. All are much lower in sugar and have no palm oil. Just in time for back-to-school. I mention back-to-school because you'll not only be looking for packed lunch ideas, but also breakfast ideas for rushed mornings and quick after school snack ideas.

All of these contain nuts or seeds. That's the foundation of this foodstuff afterall. Some preschools and schools are nut and seed-free, some are nut-free (i.e. seeds are okay), and some are peanut-free (i.e. nuts and seeds are okay). Always check with your individual facility to find out exactly what is and what isn't allowed.

An important note, especially if you are introducing these to picky eaters who already are familiar with the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, none of these taste exactly the same. So, don't try to pull a fast one on your little one and swap one for the other. They'll notice the difference - kids have keen observation skills with their food. Call this spread by a different name. This way they will be expecting something different.

A huge THANK YOU to student volunteer Carla for her help with these recipes!

Enjoy!

nutfree chocolate spread

Healthy Nut-Free Chocolate Spread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, toast the sunflower seeds until light brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using a food processor, process the sunflower seeds until powdery. Scrape the sides.
  3. Add the cocoa powder, icing sugar, milk (optional), and canola oil. Blend until smooth.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • ½ cup milk (optional)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ to ½ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, toast the whole hazelnuts with their peels on for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once the whole hazelnuts are cool, rub them in between a kitchen towel to loosen and remove the skin.
chocolate spreads_medmed

Habibi's Chocolate Tahini and Powerplant's Chocolate Sprouted Seed Spread

(Note: In the spirit of being fully transparent, both of these were given to me for free. I did not receive payment to review either. I'm super picky about what foods I'll share with you in my reviews.)

I brought both of these to my co-working space last week so that everyone could try them. Yes, there are perks to having dietitians as friends and co-workers! Both received very positive reviews. Some people preferred one and an equal number preferred the other. Both products have a short ingredient list with only recognizable foods. They're made with nuts or seeds, providing healthy fats (and no palm oil). Each has just a touch of sugar/sweetener. Check each product's websites for a listing of what stores you can find them in.

Powerplant's spread has an intense chocolate taste for you dark chocolate lovers. It has a chunkier texture but smooth mouthfeel. So it's perfect for spreading on a cracker but not on soft bread. It totally screams to be included in your next smoothie.

Habibi's Chocolate Tahini has a milder chocolate taste. A few people found the tahini and chocolate flavours fought eath other. Most of us thought it was delicious (me included). This spread is the more classically kid-friendly of the two.

Looking for more healthy, kid-friendly recipes? Check out my recipe page.

5th Annual Homemade Ice Pop Recipes

spinach-kiwi ice pop

It's back, my annual home-made ice pop recipe collection. Some may call these homemade popsicles or paletas. Or, frozen smoothies. Whatever you call them they're a delicious summer treat. I want to give a big shout out to Carla, the dietetic student who is volunteering with me for creating these recipes. My directions for her: the recipes need to be simple, include no added sugar, include fruit and even veggies, and only include easy-to-find ingredients. Oh, and of course, that they needed to be delicious. She sure delivered.

The directions for each recipe are the same:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into molds.
  4. Freeze.

Enjoy her work!

Kristen

P.S. For more delicious, healthy frozen recipes, check out these links:

Spinach Kiwi

Inspired by: http://www.kiipfit.com/spinach-kiwi-popsicles/

Packed with fruit and leafy greens, the vibrant green color of these popsicles comes from blending both kiwi and spinach.

  • 1/3 cup spinach
  • 1  kiwi
  • 2 drops lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water

Mango Lassi

mango lassi ice pop

Inspired by: http://revisfoodography.com/2015/04/mango-lassi/

Inspired from a classic Indian cold drink, mango lassi is a blend of yogurt, fruit and spice. Not a fan of cardamom? Simply omit the spice and you can still enjoy it as a mango-yogurt blend.

  • 1 mango
  • 160 ml greek yogurt
  • 1 small pinch cardamom (to taste)

Cantaloupe

cantaloupe ice pop

This very simple and refreshing recipe allows you to use ripe or extra ripe cantaloupes. No added sugar necessary.

  • ¾ cup cantaloupe
  • ¼ cup water

Get more healthy home-made ice pop recipes here:

5th Annual Healthy Home-Made Popsicles (ice pops, paletas)

4th Annual Healthy Home-Made Popsicles (ice pops, paletas)

My Least Popular (But Very Effective) Picky Eater Tip

picky-eater-tip

I’ve been doing workshops for parents on picky eating for 8 years now. At every single picky eater seminar there is one strategy that always causes resistance with the parents in the audience. I continue to share it because it’s a very powerful strategy for minimizing picky eating. Yet I can almost hear the thud it makes when I describe it and it lands on the floor. The problem for which it’s a solution? How to get kids (particularly toddlers and preschoolers) to stay at the table for meals. It’s the solution for meals that go on and on forever because your child sits down, takes one bite, then pops up from the table to do something terribly important, then returns to the table, takes another bite, pops up from the table (and so on and so on).

So, what’s this successful, but unpopular strategy? Create a rule that all meals and snacks are eaten when sitting down. In other words: Stop. Eat. Then Continue On. Yes, I do mean snacks too. You may wonder why I continue to share this strategy knowing that it’ll be so unpopular. I share it because it really is successful for supporting kids to do a good job of eating. If we allow the common practice of letting kids eat snacks “on the run”, i.e. while in the car, in the stroller, you chasing them around the house spooning bite after bite into their mouths, we’re teaching kids that there is an alternative to sitting still at a table to eat. As seen through a toddler’s or preschooler’s eyes:

Why is it that sometimes can I eat while playing. But other times I’m told that I have to stop playing and sit at a table to eat (which is bo-ring).”

Create the expectation that all meals and snacks are eaten sitting down. In families who set this expectation, kids come to the table when called. They eat. Then, they continue on with their day (i.e. go back to playing). Meals and snack go much more smoothly and are less stressful because the kids aren’t constantly getting up from the table.

I understand the initial resistance that you may have to this strategy. In our super busy lives, how are we supposed to carve out time to stop and eat snacks? And it seems like I’m saying that you can never leave the house again, because you always need to be home to give snacks. Not true. Let me clarify.

Does this mean that you never get to leave the house again? No. In the summer this is especially easy. Stop at the park bench, picnic table, or spread out a blanket and enjoy a snack. Use similar ingenuity at indoor locations. For example, you can stop at the bench in the recreation centre foyer or use a table at the food court at the mall.

The important point is to stop. Don’t feed your child in the stroller, car seat, etc. And, don’t hand out a snack while your child continues playing. I know that it’s tempting to do so in our busy lives. But, it sets you up for more battles at meals and snacks. What seems like an efficient use of time in the immediate, actually costs you more time in the long run. In families who establish the stop-to-eat expectation, meals and snacks are very quick. And, they are much more pleasant. When it’s meal and snack time the kids simply get down to the business of eating.

Simply put: Stop. Eat. Then, continue on.

Get more successful picky eater tips. Sign-up for my e-newsletter today.

Peanut Banana Chocolate Ganache Bites

Decadent peanut banana chocolate ganache bites plate

YAY! It's my annual chocolate recipe. Perfectly timed for Valentine's Day.

If you're new to following me you might wonder why a dietitian is sharing a chocolate recipe. Quite simply, because food is more than just fuel for our bodies. Food feeds our minds and soul too. Denying ourselves the pleasure of food isn't healthy.

This recipe is super simple to make. And WOW is it decadent. Like the middle of a truffle without that pesky shell. I first made experimented by making this in regular-sized muffin tins and it was simply too much (and believe you me, it takes a lot of rich chocolate to make me come to that conclusion!). Mini muffin tins make the perfect size. Just like those 2 bite brownies, but healthier for you and more decadently delicious.

These really are for dark chocolate lovers. So they may be more of an adult treat. But you never know. Make them with your kids and see what their verdict is.

The inspiration for this recipe was from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

If you follow these lifestyles, you'll be happy to know that these heavenly bites are vegan, paleo, gluten-free and have no added sugar.

You can easily make them peanut-free by omitting the peanuts. Go completely nut-free (note: they do contain coconut) or substitute pistachios, chopped almond, or hazelnuts for the topping.

Peanut Banana Chocolate Ganache Bites Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP coconut butter (Note: This isn't the same as coconut oil. Also, if your jar of coconut butter has separated, scrape off the oil and use the lower level - the coconut butter)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 3 small pinches salt
  • 4 TBSP unsalted peanuts

Peanut Banana Chocolate Ganache Bites Directions

This recipe happens really quickly so you'll want to prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking.

  1. On a small plate, mash the banana really well.
  2. Chop peanuts.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut butter, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the mashed banana. Stir constantly until completely combined.
  5. Lower heat. Add cocoa powder and 1 pinch of salt. Mix well and remove from the heat.
  6. Moving quickly, spoon into a mini muffin tin. Be careful, the mixture is very hot.
  7. Top with chopped peanuts and sprinkle with salt.
  8. Freeze for 1 hour.
  9. Enjoy!

Note: The ganache bites are at the absolute perfect texture when eaten after freezing for 1 hour. If you make them ahead of time and freeze for longer, remove them from the freezer and warm them to room temperature for at least 30 minutes (otherwise they'll be rock hard).

Check out these other healthy chocolate recipes:

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chocolate Nut Spread

Mint Chocolate Whip

Roasted Chickpeas - 4 Ways

roasted-chickpeas-4-ways

It's official - 2016 is the year of the pulse! Pulses, such as chickpeas, are high in vegan-source protein, high in fibre, low-glyemic carbs, and contain lot of other nutrients. Did you know that we grow lots of them in Canada? Roasted chickpeas are a delicious way to eat more pulses. My friend Margie Barnard, a fantastic cook (we're talking Four Seasons Hotel), and I developed these recipes. We each had our favourites, so I’m sharing all four. The steps are the same for all of them.

Whole chickpeas are a choking hazard for little ones, so this is a good snack idea for kids 3 years and up (and us kids at heart).

Roasted Chickpeas Directions

  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. Pat dry the chickpeas until well dried (otherwise they’ll be mushy).
  3. Combine all the other ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
  4. Toss the chickpeas into the mixture. Coating the chickpeas well.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the coated chickpeas onto the parchment paper-lined sheet.
  6. We played around with the oven temperatures while they were cooking so I’m afraid that I don’t have exact temperatures and times for you. We started at 400 degrees for the first while, then stirred the chickpeas and reduced the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Keep a close eye on them while they bake. You’re looking for them to turn a golden brown colour. And, when you taste them, they have a crunchy shell and are soft in the middle. The recipes containing honey turned the darkest colour, the fastest.
  7. Allow to cool, then ENJOY!

Savoury Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

Garam Masala Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

Honey Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Sweet & Salty Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp canola oil

1/4 tsp salt

See more healthy, delicious recipes.

Nutrition Game Changer: Eating Protein at Afternoon Snack

protein at afternoon snack

Something that I recommend for almost all of the women whom I’ve worked with is eating protein at afternoon snack. Why is this a nutrition game changer? Because in my experience, it helps with a lot of the problems that women come to me for help with regarding their eating in the afternoon and evening. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • Cravings for junk food in the late afternoon.
  • Energy crashing at about 4pm.
  • Constant nibbling while you’re cooking.
  • Getting too hungry to last until you can actually make dinner so instead you pick up take out/ go through a drive-through/ eat out.

If so, then eating protein at an afternoon snack is worth trying. Here’s why:

Human beings digest a meal and get hungry again in about 4 hours. As our blood sugar drops, our body sends signals to us that we’re hungry. If we don’t respond by eating something that subsequently raises our blood sugar, our bodies send more and more urgent messages. Messages that drive us towards the high sugar, fat, salt, very tasty foods. It’s what the feeling of ‘hangry’ is all about.

Assuming that you’ve eaten lunch at about noon, it’s natural that you start to feel hungry again at about 4pm. The food choices that you make at lunch will impact how long you last before you start to get hungry. Some choices will mean that you will feel hungry again in less than 4 hours. But that’s the topic of a whole different blog post J

The longer that you wait until you eat again, the more your body will drive you towards those high sugar, fat, salt, very tasty foods. It’s a physiological drive, not a lack of will power, that causes you to eat those foods before dinner.

The secret to making healthy food choices in the afternoon and evening is to prevent ‘hangry’ by having an afternoon snack. Including protein at your afternoon snack can help your body digest your snack more slowly, thus causing more even blood sugar and fewer cravings for junk foods.

Pair your protein food with some veggies and/or fruits for a perfect combination of nutrients. Examples include:

  • A piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts.
  • Raw veggies with white bean dip.
  • Chia coconut pudding topped with fruit.
  • Collard leaf wrapped around sliced hard boiled egg and bell peppers.
  • Plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh or dried fruit.
  • Apple slices or a banana dipped in nut butter (e.g. peanut butter, almond butter).
  • Protein powder smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit and leafy greens (e.g. spinach).

Eat protein at your afternoon snack. It’s a nutrition game changer for preventing craving junk food in the late afternoon. And, it’ll help buy you enough time to make a healthy dinner before ‘hangry’ hits.

What's your favourite afternoon snack that includes protein? Share it in a comment below!

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Healthy Kids Snack - Banana Roll Ups

healthy kids snack banana roll ups

Sometimes the classics are a classic for a reason. Bananas and peanut butter simply taste great together. Here's a fun way to bring this classic duo together in a healthy kids snack. I'm choosing to share it today because it's easy for young hands to manage. Perfect if you're gearing up to pack snacks or a lunch for little ones with back-to-school next week. This works well with peanut butter, other nut butters (e.g. almond butter) and the non-nut butters if your child attends a nut-free facility.

Hey, it's also a delicious idea for those of us who are young at heart :)

Banana Roll-Ups Ingredients 2 small tortilla wraps, whole wheat ¾ medium banana 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, nut butter or non-nut butter ½ tsp honey (optional) 1 dash cinnamon, ground

Banana Roll-Ups Directions

  1. Slice banana.
  2. Spread nut butter or non-nut butter on wraps.
  3. Top with bananas.
  4. Drizzle honey and add a dash of cinnamon.
  5. Roll (pack in lunch boxes) and enjoy.

Get more healthy, simple, kid-friendly recipes.

Peaceful Fruits: A Healthy Snack Food that also Does Good

Peaceful fruits

A new feature that I'll be doing on occasion is reviewing food items. Why? Because I know that sometimes you just want to know what the heck to put in your grocery cart. 

Any foods that I share with you will be healthy choices that are also either good for the Earth and/or socially responsible. 

I believe in being transparent so I'll always share with you if I've been paid to promote a food or given a free sample.

The first food that I'm sharing is Peaceful Fruits Fruit Leathers. Evan, Peaceful Fruit's creator (that's him in the photo), asked me if I'd share them with you. He sent me samples of Wild Acai + Pineapple and Wild Acai + Apple. They are delicious and a nice (not too big) size. Currently they're only available for purchase online. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for their arrival in our local grocery stores.

I asked Evan to share his story with you. Here's what he wrote: 

Is it too much to ask for a snack to be delicious, healthy, and environmentally responsible? It shouldn’t be! I’d like to share with you the 4 things that I look for in a snack. These are what I was thinking about when, about a year ago, I launched my social good snack food startup – Peaceful Fruits. Our mission is to support sustainable development in the Amazon Rainforest while creating delicious snack foods people can enjoy with peace of mind!

1) Simple

No additives (preservatives, extra sweeteners, coloring, whatever). Really, the fewer ingredients the better. And not just the listed ingredients but what is INSIDE those ingredients. So I want to know it’s 100% organic, GMO free, etc.

That’s why, when I started making dried fruit strips, I decided there would be nothing besides fruit in them! Call me crazy, but it just makes sense!

2) Super

Personally, if I pick up a packaged food I want it to have something extra to offer me. As I said I like to keep things simple, so why should I reach for something besides an apple and/or a handful of nuts?

My answer was to make wild-harvested açaí the main ingredient in everything I produce. I love being able to add this exotic fruit to my diet!

3) Sustainable

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I think about this a lot – how do the products I enjoy impact the environment and the people who are part of making them?

Sustainability is built into every aspect of Peaceful Fruits. That means big stuff like our açaí is sourced in partnership with local Amazon communities, offering them an opportunity to generate needed income without sacrificing their way of life or their rainforest. And also little stuff – our “plastic” packaging is actually compostable!

 4) Delicious

We all know that, too often, taste can be sacrificed to “healthy” or “local.” But we also know it doesn’t have to be! Food should taste good. Period.

I look for fun flavour combinations (like açaí + pineapple) that create something that you can really enjoy – while still being confident you are doing something good for your body and the world at the same time!

The bottom line:

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice convenience or flavor to eat something good. If you agree with me about that, I hope you’ll think twice about this important, between-meals part of your day! And please check out Peaceful Fruits on Facebook and Twitter  so you can be part of our story!

Of course, tasting is a great way to be part of the story too! If you’d like to buy our snacks, the best way for now is online - for example on FarmtoPeople.com

Thanks to Kristen for letting me tell a part of my story!

Nutrition Game Changer: Hemp Hearts

hemp hearts

Recently I had a client who asked me for my nutrition game changers. She was looking for foods or habits that have made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase.What a cool concept. Thank you Alison for asking me the question! I liked Alison’s idea so much that I’ve decided to share these ideas with you too. Starting today, once a month, I’ll be sharing with you my nutrition game changers. It might be a food (like today) or it might be a simple habit that can make a big impact in your health. I hope that you enjoy this new idea! It was easy to decide what my first nutrition game changer would be. I first started eating hemp seeds (a.k.a. hemp hearts) myself. Loving them, I’ve now introduced them to almost every client whom I work with.

Hemp Hearts: Why Do I Love Them?

Hemp hearts are a great source of plant-based protein and healthy omega-3 fat. Their mild taste, tiny size, and softer texture mean that they are less noticeable than other nuts when you add them to dishes, lending themselves well to many uses.

And, they’re grown in the Canadian prairies. So, they’re a more local choice than many nuts and seeds.

Help Hearts: How to Eat Them

These are the two most common ways that I recommend including hemp hearts:

  1. Hemp seeds are a great way to include protein at breakfast. As you can see in the picture, I add them to my overnight oats. Sprinkle them on your cereal or blend them into smoothies. Do you head out the door without eating breakfast? How about wolfing down 1 – 2 TBSP of these and a piece of fruit? It’s a healthy breakfast without taking the time to prepare anything.
  1. Add them to plain yogurt and fruit as a protein boost to your afternoon snack. Their healthy fats will also help keep your blood sugar stable and likely keep you full longer (and less likely to hit up the vending machine for junk foods).

Extra Tips:

Want to give them a try without committing to a big bag? Keep an eye open for the individual serving packages (like the ones I have in the picture). Or, browse the bulk food section at your local grocery or health food store.

Store your hemp seeds in the fridge. Like all nuts and seeds, this will keep the fats fresh and they’ll taste better.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Banana Ice Cream (Dairy and Sugar Free)

banana ice cream

I wish that I had discovered this recipe earlier in my life. It’s creamy, smooth and delicious – just like ice cream! Banana ice cream.

While it’s vegan and sugar-free, the best thing about this recipe (besides the taste) is that it only includes 1 or 2 ingredients. How great is that!

The secret is very ripe bananas. Buy them when you see them in the store. Slice and freeze them. Then you’re ready to make ice cream anytime you wish.

Blending the bananas does take a little while. At first they will break into a chunky slurry and you will likely think that this “ice cream” idea doesn’t work. Be patient. Next it will form one big ball. Then, suddenly, it will become a beautiful, smooth, whipped texture – just like ice cream. If you haven’t added any strongly coloured flavourings, the colour of your bananas will also suddenly lighten considerably to a creamy off-white. That’s what you’re looking for – your “ice cream” is ready!

There are likely hundreds of flavor combinations. I’m sharing the plain version (so you know the base recipe) along with 3 flavour ideas. My favourite is the cinnamon.

Banana Ice Cream Directions

  1. Peel and slice bananas. Freeze.
  2. Place frozen sliced bananas in a blender. Add flavouring ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Banana Ice Cream Ingredients

Plain

1 cup              sliced bananas

Cinnamon

1 cup              sliced bananas

¼ tsp              cinnamon

Chocolate

1 cup              sliced bananas

½ - 1 tsp        cocoa

Half a teaspoon of cocoa results in a banana ice cream with just a hint of chocolate. One teaspoon gives a full chocolate flavour. Choose a level that you enjoy.

Strawberry

2/3 cup          sliced bananas

1/3 cup          strawberries

This combination works best if you partially blend the bananas first until they are just about to start creaming. Then add the strawberries. The result will be a creamy ice cream with strawberry flavour. Adding the strawberries at the same time as the bananas results in a more icy rather than creamy texture (more sorbet-like rather than ice cream-like).

Check out more healthy recipes.

Fresh Fruit Granitas

Fresh Fruit Granitas

Similar to a slushie but made with real fruit, granitas are super refreshing in the summer heat.

They’re easy to prepare. The only tricky thing is to plan ahead so that you’re home and you remember to break up the ice crystals every hour (I set the alarm on my phone to remind me).

Kids can help measure ingredients, push the buttons on the blender, and scrape the ice crystals.

The fruit flavor is strong in granitas. The recipes here are listed from the most mild to the strongest. If your little ones prefer mild flavours, stick to the melon granitas. The kiwi granita is so strong that it almost made my eyes water (which I enjoyed on a hot afternoon).

Fresh Fruit Granitas - Directions

The steps are the same for all the recipes:

  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar and water.
  2. Bring sugar water to a boil until the sugar is well dissolved.
  3. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. In a blender, combine the fruit (removed from it’s peel and pits), fruit juice (or other liquid), and sugar water.
  5. Pour into a non-metal baking dish, such as a glass lasagna pan.
  6. Place in the freezer. Freeze for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the freezer and scrape thoroughly with a fork, breaking up the ice crystals.
  8. Return to the freezer for 1 hour. Again, remove from the freezer and break up the ice crystals with a fork. Repeat at least 2 more times.

Fresh Fruit Granitas - Recipes

Cantaloupe

Adapted from: http://www.whiskaffair.com/2013/03/cantaloupe-lemon-and-mint-granita.html

1                      cantaloupe

1/4 cup          sugar

¼ cup             water

4 TBSP            fresh lemon juice

Raspberry-Watermelon

Adapted from: http://whipperberry.com/2013/06/raspberry-watermelon-granita.html

5 cups             cubed, de-seeded watermelon

2.5 cups          raspberries

½ cup             sugar

½ cup             cran-raspberry juice cocktail

(Combine sugar and cran-raspberry juice cocktail in saucepan.)

Pineapple-Mango

Adapted from: http://www.muybuenocookbook.com/2013/03/pineapple-and-mango-granita-blendtec-giveaway/

Juice from 2 limes

1/3 cup          sugar

1                      pineapple, peeled, cored and diced

2                      mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced

(There’s no heating the sugar in this recipe. Simply combine all ingredients in a blender.)

Kiwi

Adapted from: http://dhaleb.com/2010/03/

5                    kiwis

½ cup           sugar

½ cup           water

1 cup              club soda

2 teaspoons   lime juice

See more delicious, healthy recipes here.

Nuts: Why You Want More Than Just Almonds

Nuts: Why You Want More Than Just Almonds

Have you taken the healthy step of including nuts in your daily eating habits? Perhaps you’re eating nuts because of their healthy fats. Or, because you’re eating a more clean, plant-based diet. Or, because they make a great protein-rich snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Whatever your reason, nuts certainly are a healthy food to include regularly. When I work with clients, I look to have them eat nuts and seeds frequently. The good news is that word about how healthy nuts are seems to be getting out to people. Most clients I see are eating nuts several times a week. However for a large number of clients, eating nuts equals almonds. Only almonds. It may be whole almonds, almond butter and/or almond milk, but the only nut or seed that they’re eating is almonds. This is a problem.

If almonds are the only nuts that you eat, now’s the time to expand your repertoire to include different nuts and seeds. Here’s why:

Variety is Better Than Any 1 Food: We humans are omnivores. Your body is designed to eat a wide variety of foods. Yet, so many people eat the same few foods over and over again. Nuts and seeds are all different. Some have more healthy fats, some have more protein, and they vary in the amount of minerals and other nutrients. By sticking to only one or two nuts/seeds you are missing out on many of the benefits of different nuts/ seeds. And, when you eat a lot of only a few foods, you can get too much of some nutrients.

California Drought: Most of our almonds come from California. Did you know that California has been experiencing a drought for years? And, that their ground water is decreasing fast. Did you also know that almonds trees take a large amount of water? It’s not a good combination.

Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater (I hate that saying, do you know of a less violent one that expresses the same meaning?), please note that I’m not saying to never eat almonds again. What I’m saying is that considering that eating a variety of foods is a healthier choice, now’s a good time to take the pressure off of California water sources by expanding your nut and seed repertoire. Enjoy almonds amongst a wide variety of nuts and seeds.

There’s a whole world of nuts and seeds out there. Explore it. I do - half a shelf of my fridge is taken up with nuts and seeds. And yes, you want to store them in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

Here’s some ideas of nut and seeds to check out. Alternatively a trip to your local bulk food section can inspire you.

  • Macadamias
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts (Get these while you can. There’s a blight wiping out all the trees in North America).
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Chestnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame seeds/ tahini
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds/ hearts
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds/ pepitas

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.