Feb 29, 2012

Chocolate Mug Cake + A New Product Trial!

It's hard for me to accurately describe how much non-cooking I did this week. I have to say, it was a nice change of pace. Of course this only comes because my husband was out of town, leaving me and the 2 year old to our own devices. Translation: lots of park playdates and peanut butter sandwiches. 

Real life dinner. So random. 

Towards the end of the week, I decided it was time to hunker down and cook. Well to be accurate, bake. And much to my delight I was able to use a new product I was sent to try. It's called Fibrelle. It's a fiber-rich, low calorie sweetener that you can substitute for equal parts sugar. 

The product claims it provides better texture and flavor than other sugar-free sweeteners, while still reducing calories in baked products. Not to mention it provides 7g of fiber per tablespoon, which can help increase the feeling of fullness. Sounds pretty good, right?

So I tried it on a recipe that was calling my name: Chocolate Mug Cake. I know, I know. I just got done a few weeks ago telling you how I'm not a big fan of sugar-free cakes blah blah blah. But I made an exception for this one because Fibrelle sweetener is actually made from multiple sweeteners so it tastes better than traditional sugar-free products. While my version of the mug cake is by no means "healthy", it certainly is lower in calories than the original recipe. And for an occasional treat, that works for me!!

The mug cake isn't winning any beauty awards. But it's a CAKE! With CHOCOLATE!

I'm not sure if it was just me, but I definitely felt full after eating only a small amount of the cake. Maybe it was the fiber? Or maybe it was pregnant belly saying "I have no more room for food....there's a baby in here for crying out loud!!".
 I will say the taste was pretty good. Not completely like sugar, but much closer than other sugar free products I've tried.

So that's my story this week. I'm sure next week will involve much more actual cooking. Promise.

Feb 24, 2012

It Finally Happened....

This post has nothing to do with food. No recipes. No nutrition talk. Today I'm talking real-life parenting.

Real life like insisting on doing a puzzle while wearing an animal cracker container as a hat. Seriously.

You know that moment when you're completely overwhelmed with handling tantrums, whining and complete and utter very public parent-embarrassment? Yeah, it happened to me...it finally happened. I'm not talking mom just feels a little impatient. I'm talking mom full-on gives it up and cries. In a parking lot. At the library. No joke. I can't make this stuff up.

Of course it comes during the week that my husband was out of town. At first I felt like it would be totally fine. The 2 year old and I would just hang out while dad's away, right? Wrong. All of the sudden, the dreaded "terrible 2's" started manifesting and I was clearly at a loss. Add to that pregnancy hormones? Score looks something like "Terrible 2's: 1, Mom: 0". Face palm.

I share my grief not to whine, but to encourage other mom's and dad's that it happens to all of us and it's okay. That's what my wonderful friend told me (thank you again!) and that's what I'm sharing with you. As much as we do to "prepare" for parenthood (all the books, DVD's and parenting website blah blah blah), in reality it's a learn-as-you-go endeavor. One that includes lot's of smiles and definitely a few tears.

If you have your own story to add, please share. What's a blog without some real-life chat?

Feb 17, 2012

Banana Walnut Bread + Honey vs. Sugar Talk

I'm sort of a purist when it comes to sweet things. I don't put broccoli in fruit smoothies. I'm not much for sugar-free cakes. And I certainly don't like beans in brownies. Nope. To me, if something is meant to be sweet, let it be. Don't try to make it healthy. That's for the rest of my diet to deal with.

But this recipe changed my perspective - a little bit. I saw it on pinterest and thought a healthy banana bread recipe was worth a try. Sweetened with only applesauce and honey? I could do that.

Then I got to reading the actual ingredients and it called for 3/4 cup honey and 1/2 cup applesauce for sweetener. Okay, the applesauce is cool. But 3/4 cup of honey? That's a lot of honey. Which got me thinking whether this "healthy" recipe was all that healthy? It also reminded me about the common misconception that honey is healthier than white sugar. Sure, honey is made naturally by bee's. Go bee's. Yes, the packaging on most honey products often seems to suggest it's healthy. But the real truth is that honey is sugar and sugar is honey. Our bodies process both foods in nearly the exact same way, so there's no reason to use honey thinking it's a healthier alternative to sugar. Not to mention honey is a pretty pricey item.

The principle I follow regarding sugar is to use as little as possible (unless we're talking about brownies!). Long story short, that's just what I did with this recipe. I increased the unsweetened applesauce and subbed the honey for a very small amount of white sugar. Now heads up, this recipe calls for whole wheat flour, which makes the bread a bit denser than if you use white flour. If you'd rather have a more "light and fluffy" banana bread, try subbing 1 cup white flour for whole wheat.

Prep time.

Plus a little snack for me.

And voila.

I adapted the recipe mentioned above and here's what I came up with:

Banana Walnut Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix applesauce, bananas, beaten eggs and vanilla. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour mixture into lightly greased pan and bake for 45 min.

Feb 14, 2012

Adventures in Parenting

I don't know about you, but being a mom has totally changed my life. Like, forever. 

Gone are the days of impromptu vacations, dual incomes, and doing whatever you want on Saturdays. Now, my days are spent reading curious george, changing diapers, playing cars, building train tracks and trying to assemble quick, healthy meals. Keeping the house clean is a bonus. 

Suffice to say, motherhood is different than I expected, especially when it comes to getting a toddler to eat healthy. And it's not always pretty....

When I was in undergrad studying nutrition, we talked about strategies to help kids eat healthy. I thought it sounded pretty simple: 1.) offer a variety of healthy foods, 2.) be patient and if they refuse healthy foods, 3.) continue offering in a gentle, encouraging way. Easy, right? Yeah, at least to a 21 year old college student that sounded easy as pie. 

Then reality set it when Will came along. I realized I was dealing with a little human who has his own agenda, his own preferences and his own mind. I still use the same strategies I learned in college, but now I understand that parenting is an adventure....a very unpredictable adventure. One that textbooks don't cover.

Thankfully, with a lot of patience (all credit to God) and practice, Will eats pretty healthy. I saw a special on TV about this new book Bringin Up Bebe and despite having not yet read it, what the author said resonated with me. She said that mothers should feed their children what the adults eat. Of course this assumes that your baby/toddler is old enough to tolerate a wide range of textures and doesn't have any specific allergies. This approach, combined with the 3 strategies mentioned above, has been the key to getting Will to eat healthy foods (and preserving mommy's sanity).

Now I want to hear from YOU. What are your strategies for getting the kiddo-s to eat healthy?

Feb 10, 2012

A Happy (and Healthy?) Valentines

I love holidays. I know, I know....it's Valentine's Day. I'm not completely sold on it being a totally legit holiday. But regardless, for me it's the perfect excuse to spend time with family and loved ones. Oh yeah, and eat some good food!

I'm not going to lie. I've been known to eat cookies and cupcakes on such holidays. And I'll be honest about something else too. I totally went to Starbucks this morning specifically for their cute Valentine's Day cups.....

I am happy to say there is no reason to fear indulgent food as long as you know how to enjoy it. Here are a few tips:
  • Think positive. Try to focus on foods that you can eat, rather than those you can't. Filling your plate with nutrient-dense foods like lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables doesn't have to be a chore. Find some yummy recipes that incorporate these ingredients. Check out my Pinterest page for ideas.
  • Be mindful of portions. Enjoy the food you eat, but remember to pay attention to the signals your body sends when you're full. To stay in tune to these cues, eat slowly and enjoy every bite. That's not so hard, right? This way, you're more likely to stop when your full or go back for seconds only if you're actually hungry.
For our Valentines Day celebration, I usually make a nice meal at home for my husband and I after the little one is in bed. This year, I plan to do the same and am excited to try some super-yummy looking recipes. Here's the menu:

Skirt Steak with Lemon and Chili-Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (I plan on using turkey bacon instead of regular bacon)

For dessert, Chocolate Covered Strawberries

What's on your Valentine's Day menu?

Feb 7, 2012

Q & A with the Dietitian: Healthy Diet for Lowering Triglycerides

I am thankful.

Thankful that my son no longer has attachment anxiety - took about 12 months but it's FINALLY over. Thankful for rainy days like today. And thankful for wonderful friends who ask great questions.

This week, the topic is lowering your triglycerides. High triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other health problems, making it super important to take steps when your younger to prevent the condition. The only way you can know your triglyceride level is through lab tests, so it's beneficial for adults to get them checked annually.

No surprises, the basics of prevention include a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, lean meats and low-fat dairy.


Anonymous writes: "My uncle needs something to be done. He's too heavy with a fused spine and his triglyceride levels are like 400 when it needs to be half and all docs wanna do is up dosage of meds so I recommended a protein supplement to him cause my buddy has had great results (400 down to 270) while using it. What do you think?"


Thanks for your question!

There are so many supplement lines, it's hard to keep track. Supplements are not regulated by any governing body (like the FDA), so it's hard to know for sure if their health claims are true and even whether the ingredients listed are actually in the product.

In general, I recommend "food first". Rarely is there a need for a supplement unless someone has a specific medical condition and it is recommended by a doctor or dietitian. I've found that most people use to supplements to help gain muscle or lose fat, but both can be done just as easily (and much cheaper!) through healthy foods and regular exercise. That's my professional and personal experience :)

While I don't know much about your uncle or other potential medical conditions he has, I would recommend the basics of lowering your triglycerides -- lose weight if needed by eating fewer calories, increase fiber intake through whole grains, fruits and veggies and eat a low-fat diet (especially limiting saturated fats and avoiding trans fats), and regular exercise. Ceasing smoking and limiting alcohol intake also helps.

I've seen this work for people I've counseled and I'm confident it will help your uncle as well. 

Feb 3, 2012

(Best Ever) Whole Wheat Pancakes

The weekend is almost here and it makes me think of one thing: pancakes. In our house, pancakes are enjoyed every Saturday morning like clockwork. It's been that way ever since my husband and I got married, so about 6 years of dedicated pancake making. Initially, I started using the box mixes until I realized just how EASY they are to make from scratch. And like most foods made from scratch, they're WAY yummier. I was also bummed to see a lot of box mixes contain trans fat, so in an effort to keep my kitchen heart-friendly, I started making my own.

I definitely had to experiment - not all recipes are created equal! But I've found a winner. And best of all, it's healthy!

A few weekends ago, I experimented using whole wheat flour and vanilla almond milk (instead of regular low-fat milk). The result was simply amazing. Subtle sweetness, delicate texture and enough flavor to make you forget they're whole wheat. If you don't have almond milk, you can totally sub it for regular milk. They'll still taste awesome.

Like any food, portion control is still important even when you're eating healthy. I stick to 2 pancakes (about 4-5 inch diameter) and usually don't add syrup or butter spread. If you can't live without those toppings, don't worry, a little portion control with those goes a long way too!

Here's the recipe I used:

Whole Wheat Pancakes

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups vanilla almond milk (sweetened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg and then add canola oil, vanilla and almond milk. If you like your pancakes a little thicker, add less milk. If you like them on the thinner side, add a little more milk. Once wet ingredients are well combined, mix them with the dry ingredients. The key is to mix as little as possible, so stir just until ingredients are incorporated.  Spread dallops onto pre-heated griddle pan (greased with a little Pam) and cook on medium heat. Once one side is golden brown, flip to cook the other side.

Enjoy with a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tea, some fresh fruit and good company. Happy weekend everyone!