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)

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.

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

It’s not just kids who need snacks. We adults need them too. Today I'm sharing the perfect afternoon snack for us adults. Why? It takes approximately four hours to digest food and start getting hungry again. Planning a healthy snack between lunch and dinner can prevent that late afternoon hungry-angry feeling (commonly called ‘hangry’). ‘Hangry’ is created by low blood sugar. Your low blood sugar will also cause you to search out (i.e. crave) sugary, fatty, salty foods. It’s a natural reaction, not a lack of will power.

The secret to healthy eating is prevention. Prevent becoming ‘hangry’ (and heading straight to the convenience store for processed foods) by planning a healthy snack before you get to that point.

So what’s the perfect snack? In truth, there isn’t just one perfect snack – one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition. Here are the elements of three styles of snacks. One of which will likely be the perfect fit for you.

The Perfect Snack Option 1: Just Produce

This is best if you have a relatively short time between lunch and dinner. Or, if you are very sedentary and don’t need any more calories from a larger snack. A piece of fruit or some raw veggies may be just enough to tie you over for about an hour until dinner.

The Perfect Snack Option 2: Produce + Protein

This more substantial snack provides both some quicker energy from the fruit and veggies and some longer, slower burning energy to keep you going for a few hours. This is my personal mid-afternoon snack. Here are some fantastic combinations to use as inspiration:

  • Strawberries and edamame
  • Carrot sticks/ baby carrots and hummus
  • Apple slices spread with almond butter

The Perfect Snack Option 3: Produce + Protein + Whole Carbs

This option is so substantial that it’s practically a mini-meal. Most of us don’t need this much food at snack time. But if you’re very active and/or in your young 20’s, it might be a good fit for you. Some ideas for inspiration:

  • Smashed avocado on rye crackers with a handful of cashews
  • Natural peanut butter and banana sandwich made on sprouted grain bread.

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

Is Your Workplace Working Against Your Eating? #NutritionMonth

Is Your Workplace Working For or Against Your Eating Habits?

While I do believe in individual responsibility, we’re influenced by our surroundings. Most of us spend a lot of our time at work. If you want to eat healthy, it’s worth taking a look at whether your workplace is stacking the odds for or against you. And then doing something to change it. Because let’s face it, when we’re constantly in meetings with junky food, and everyone eats fast-food at their desks for lunch, It’s damn difficult to eat well. You and your salad in a jar stick out like a sore thumb.

I’ve influenced change in a number workplaces. I’ve learned how to make change without everyone hating you for being “the food police”. The best way that I’ve learned is to simply bring healthy, delicious food. As Ghandi so famously said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

What you want to stay away from is offering unsolicited feedback on what others are eating. Or, to ban unhealthy foods. My experience has been that people see this as an attack and they just dig in deeper into their unhealthy ways.

Here are some simple ways to change your work environment:

  • Bring healthy food to meetings and potlucks. My go-to foods are fresh fruit, raw veggies (maybe with dip), and raw nuts (if it’s not a nut-free workplace).
  • Bring home-grown fruits and veggies. Or, those from local farmers’ markets. People often get super-excited about these.
  • Have a bowl of fresh fruit on your desk instead of candies.
  • Start a b.y.o. lunch group. Gather in the lunchroom/ a meeting room to eat your lunches together. This will remove the temptation to mindlessly eat at your desk. And, it motivates you to pack a lunch (instead of hitting the fast-food joint).
  • Start a lunchtime walking group. Okay, this isn’t going to affect your eating habits. But getting some fresh air and movement in is healthy too.
  • If ordering food for long meetings, order a variety of herbal (non-caffeinated) teas. Place pitchers of water on the table, maybe even add some fruit or cucumber for flavor and visual interest.

I admit, when giant refined-flour muffins and those poor-quality squares are the office norm, I’ve been nervous to bring my healthy alternatives. But it never fails that people dig in to what I bring. And, almost always someone catches me later on and thanks me for bringing healthy alternatives.

People want to eat healthy. They just don’t want to do extra work, eat anything that tastes awful, or be scolded for their current eating habits.

Go ahead and start a mini food revolution :)