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.

Nutrition Game Changer: Overnight Steel Cut Oats

overnight steel cut oats

Discovering overnight oats, particularly when made with steel cut oats, has literally changed my mornings. I was always a breakfast eater. Usually toast. Then by 10:30am I was always hungry again. Not just a general hunger, I craved baked goods – donuts, muffins, anything sweet and baked. When I tried overnight oats made with steel cut oats, I no longer craved baking mid-morning. In fact, I wasn’t hungry at all until noon. I’ve recommended overnight steel cut oats for many clients and all have had the same improvement in their mid-morning hunger and/or cravings.

I shared the recipe for overnight oats last year - you can get that simple, delicious recipe HERE.

The recipe works with both rolled oats and steel cut oats. Today I want to talk specifically about steel cut oats. They’re even less processed than rolled oats – think of them as not-yet-rolled. As such, we digest them even more slowly. The more slowly we digest foods, the longer it takes before we get hungry again. Also, slow digestion prevents a blood sugar spike. Blood sugar spikes result in a crash and then craving more sweets.

Steel cut oats take a lot more chewing than rolled oats. And, they’re higher in fibre. Specifically, the “bulk-forming” kind of fibre (I’ll let you imagine why). Expect significant changes when you go to the bathroom. Because this kind of fibre helps our bodies get rid of bile and toxins, it’s fantastically healthy from a heart health and diabetes point of view.

One word of caution: be sure that you drink lots of water when you try steel cut oats. Otherwise you risk constipation.

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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.

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.

Are You Eating the Right Breakfast?

Are-you-eating-the-right-breakfast

I don’t know if the old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is true. It may not be the most important meal. But it certainly is an important one. Starting off with the right breakfast raises your blood sugar gradually and keeps you full for hours. It’s like armor protecting you from the tempting, junky foods that surround us all day. In other words, eating the right breakfast can help with healthy weight loss. Are you eating the right breakfast?

The Right Breakfast

The great news is that there isn’t just one perfect breakfast. Many foods can make up the “right” breakfast. Here are the 4 important characteristics of the “right” breakfast (and some food ideas):

  1. Produce. I highly doubt that you’re surprised that I ‘m recommending that you include fruit or vegetables in your breakfast. Most of us could use to eat more and so why not get a serving or two in at the start of the day? Eat a piece of fruit, top your oatmeal with berries, add some spinach in your omelet, or warm up last night’s stir-fry leftovers.
  1. Protein. Here’s something that toast or cereal eaters often miss. Including protein will help your blood sugars be stable for longer, which means no mid-morning crashes and cravings for donuts. Sprinkle hemp hearts or chia seeds on your cereal, spread nut butter on your toast, or enjoy a couple of eggs.
  1. Real whole grains. This one is optional. You may just want to include protein and produce and you’ll be doing great. Others (me included) do better with some real whole grains at breakfast. What do I mean by “real” whole grains? I mean minimally processed grains. Something that you really have to chew. There’s a lot of highly processed breakfast foods that claim to be whole grain and/or high fibre. I recommend avoiding anything that’s super light-weight, like a lot of breads and puffed cereals. They digest really fast and your blood sugar starts to drop quickly. Instead look for something that needs a lot of chewing, like steel-cut oats and is heavy to hold, like many sprouted grain breads.
  1. Sugar. Again no surprises here (except where it can be hidden). Have as little added sugar as you can (ideally none). Watch out for it in “healthy” cereals, take-out smoothies made with fruit drink concentrates, and in “fruit”-on-the-bottom yogurt.

Here's a recipe for Overnight Oats - a fantastic example of the right breakfast. Try it tomorrow morning and see how great you can feel!

Overnight Oatmeal

Do you find that weekday mornings are rushed?

If so, you're not alone. Most families I work with name this (and weeknight evenings) as the most harried times of the week.

Usually I share recipe ideas that can help with weeknights.

But I've recently given overnight oatmeal a try and I'm loving this! I've totally jumped on the bandwagon. And I'm sharing the recipe with you so you can jump aboard too.

Prepared the night before, and with no cooking required, overnight oats are fantastic!

Made with rolled oats, it's a minimally processed, whole food way to start the day. Much healthier than most boxed cereals and those instant oatmeal packets.

And it travels well. Which is perfect if you find that you can get your kids fed in the morning but you struggle to get something into yourself. I know that many people rely on smoothies in this situation. But I've always found that I'm hungry again by about 10am when I've had a smoothie for breakfast. Not so with overnight oats - I'm full until noon (or later)!

This recipe is really more of a technique. Mix and match proteins and fruits for variety and to find your favourite combination.

Overnight Oatmeal Directions:

Oats:

  • Combine equal parts rolled oats with yogurt and milk in a bowl or the container that you'll take this in to go (I carried mine with me in the mason jar). A generous adult serving is 1/3c up oats, 1/3 cup yogurt, 1/3 cup milk. For kids, start with 1/4 cup of each ingredient and adjust from there depending on your child's appetite.

Protein:

  • Choose a protein that you like. Examples include hemp hearts (my personal favourite), chia seeds, chopped or sliced nuts, nut butter, pumpkin seeds. Add it to the oat mixture.

Fruit:

  • Choose a fruit that you like. Examples include: applesauce (my personal favourite), berries, pomegranate, pumpkin puree. Add it to the oat mixture.

As the name of this dish suggests, prepare everything the night before. Place it in the fridge. The next morning, give it a stir and enjoy!

Get more healthy recipes here.