Healthy Rice Crispy Treats?

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Yes! You read that title right. In my last blog entry, I wrote about how healthy dates are.  And this week in my kitchen I was experimenting and found a way to use them to make healthy rice crispy treats! These tasty little treats are free of refined sugar (yep, no marshmallows-dates instead!).and they’re loaded with fiber–thanks to the dates and almond butter! This recipe requires only five ingredients and you can make them in just 15 minutes. The best part about them is they are kid-approved!

Here’s the recipe! Give it a try!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of packed pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups of rice crispies

Directions:

  1. Process the first four ingredients in a food processor until it forms a paste (don’t worry-it’s not too sticky)
  2. Move the paste into a bowl and pour 2 cups of rice crispies into the bowl and knead with your hands until well combined.
  3. Add the other two cups and do the same thing.
  4. Mold the mixture into an 8 by 8 pan lined with parchment and pat down.
  5. Cut into squares and your’re done!
  6. You can store these at room temperature in an air-tight container for one week.

 

Why I’m Bananas over Dates

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Yes, dating your loved one is healthy for your health, but I am talking about the wrinkly little dried fruit that is oh so sweet! We’re right smack in the middle of the holiday season and this is the time of year that people are hooked on sugar and it’s so hard to get off it once you’re on it! I use dates to satisfy my sweet tooth in a healthy way.

Dates come from the date palm plant. In our country, they are primarily grown in California and Florida. There is also a destination in Arizona where they are grown, appropriately named Dateland!

Here are some of the amazing health benefits of dates:

Phenomenal Fiber

Do you know that you are supposed to get at least 30 grams of fiber today?! It’s likely that you do not consume enough because the latest research shows that only 10 percent of American get enough fiber! Dates are one way that you can up your fiber intake! One serving of dates has a whopping 7 grams of fiber!

Fiber can help your digestion and helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking!

Packed with Phenolic Acid

Phenolic acid is an antioxidant that has amazing anti-inflammatory properties, which can help protect you against almost any disease, including heart disease and cancer!

High in Minerals

Dates are high in potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and even have a decent amount of iron. These minerals help promote bone health. Potassium is excellent for heart health as well. And iron is important for carrying oxygen to your muscles and your brain!

Are you going to join me in eating dates this month?! Here’s a recipe to start you off! And because I want to help you defeat the sugar temptation this month, I promise to post a new date recipe each week in December!

Bananas over Dates Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas chopped
  • ½ cup dates
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground gloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

 

 

 

 

 

Sensational Autumn Parfait

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Yes, it is still autumn amidst these snow flurries!

Parfait in French means “perfect.” It’s quite fitting because a parfait can be a perfect meal!

A parfait is simple, light, and delicious. You can have it for breakfast, a snack, or even dessert. It can be pretty much anything you want, but usually consists of yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola.

This is a meal I often have for breakfast because it’s quick and easy! It’s also satiating, which can help you deny those holiday treats that are flooding into your office this time of year!

I like to use Greek yogurt in my parfaits because it packs a ton of protein: about 20 grams per cup, as opposed to the 8 grams you get from a cup of milk.

To assemble your parfait, all you need are the three ingredients I listed above. You can use any kind of fruit and any type of granola, though I do recommend using a granola with a lower sugar content as many granola may seem healthy, but when you check the nutrition label they can be packed with sugar. Find a granola with less than 8 grams of sugar per serving! A great brand I use is Barley+ granola. It provides a high fiber content with low amounts of sugar per serving.

Try out this fall parfait for a yummy treat:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sweetener (maple syrup or honey)
  • ¼ cup pumpkin purée
  • ¼ cup  granola
  • 1 apple cut into small chunks

Directions:

  1. Combine yogurt, sweetener, pumpkin, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Spoon a few tablespoons of yogurt into you bowl or cup.
  3. Then add a layer of granola, followed by apples.
  4. Complete this until you’ve finished your supply of ingredients and enjoy!

 

Peanut Butter Cup Oat Squares

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Did you know that October 29 was National Oatmeal Day? IT’s not too late to celebrate!

There isn’t one bad thing I can say about oatmeal. Oats are a cereal whole grain that are harvested for their seed. A typical serving of oats (½ cup) contains 150 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates (of which 5 grams are fiber), 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat.

You often see oats labeled as “heart healthy.” The consumption of oats has been linked to lower cholesterol levels. Oat bran, the outer coating of the oat, is packed with soluble fiber which aids is lowering LDL and overall cholesterol in general, which reduced the risk of heart disease.

Also found in the bran of the oat are Beta-glucans. These help to regulate blood-sugar levels. While some foods cause blood sugars to spike, eating oats can help prevent that. Studies have shown that consuming oats on a regular basis will provide this benefit.

Considering the holiday season, here’s a yummy treat you can try with oats to curb your sweet tooth! Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cup Oat Squares

  • 3 cups of oats
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 cup peanut butter (+1 tbsp for drizzle)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips (+2 tbsp for drizzle)
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp of milk

Instructions:

  1. Grease an 9×6 pan with parchment paper. (variously sized pans will work)
  2. Combine peanut butter and honey or maple syrup in a bowl and heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring until combined.
  3. Add in oats, cocoa powder, and flaxseeds. Stir to combine. (Add in 1-2 tbsp of milk here if mixture is too dry)
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Add mixture to pan.
  6. Melt coconut oil and additional chocolate chips in a bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring until melted.
  7. Drizzle melted chocolate and peanut butter over top.
  8. Place in fridge for 2 hours to harden, then remove the parchment paper with the bars from the pan, cut into squares, and enjoy!

 

 

Celebrate National Peanut Day with Peanut Butter Energy Balls

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Today is National Peanut Day and this food is definitely deserving of a day for itself! Peanuts aren’t actually a nut, they’re a legume. They flower above ground but grow below ground.

Peanuts have fat and fat is bad. WHAT?! If someone ever tells you this, tell them they’re WRONG! Not all fats are created equal. Peanuts are filled with brain-boosting, heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not lead to weight gain! In fact, the fiber, healthy fat, and protein combination found in peanuts can be part of a weight-loss diet, if eaten in moderation. You don’t need much…a quarter cup of peanuts or a couple Tablespoons of peanut butter can curb hunger for a few hours!

The unsaturated fat in peanuts is mostly monounsaturated fat, which is associated with lower cardiovascular issues. Monounsaturated fats assist in keeping your arteries clear, which allows blood to flow freely. This decreases your risk of heart attack or stroke. These fats also help to lower your LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels and raise your HDL or “good cholesterol” levels.

You want to choose “natural” when it comes to peanut butter. If you check the nutrition label and there are more ingredients than just peanuts and salt, then it’s not natural. In many brands, sugars and unnecessary ingredients are added in.

Another thing to watch out for is the “reduced fat” label on peanut butters. Like I said before, fat is not the enemy! When something like peanut butter is made to contain less fat, other ingredients have to be added, usually sugars, to fill the place of the fat. Just go for the natural peanut butters for the best and cleanest type!

Hear me out on this…my favorite way to enjoy peanut butter is on a sandwich with cucumbers. Don’t knock it until you try it! The cucumbers add a freshness and crunch that can’t be beat. If that’s not your favorite, give these Peanut Butter Energy balls a try! They’re perfect for a mid-day snack or for when that sweet tooth craving hits!

Peanut Butter Energy Balls Recipe:

  • ⅔ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup oats
  • ½ cup ground flaxseeds
  • ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and roll into balls. Keep them in a closed container for up to a week or in the freezer for however long you want!

Enjoy!!!

 

 

Totally obsessed with tomatoes

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I have been “big” on tomatoes the past month; every day someone I know brings me freshly harvested tomatoes! Whether you grow your own or pick up some at a local farm stand, tomatoes are an amazingly nutritious food choice. And when you choose fresh, seasonal produce, you get a higher dose of nutrients that the fruit or veggie supplies.

Why Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a major source of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that has been proven to boost your immune system and helps prevent cancer and heart disease. Lycopene also protects your eyes—studies suggest that it may prevent or delay cataracts. Additionally, lycopene has been shown to help prevent cognitive decline and protect your bones. Pretty amazing, right?

And that’s not all, lycopene can also help protect you against sunburns!

Tomatoes are also loaded with vitamin C, also an antioxidant. Tomatoes have potassium too, which is perfect for helping to keep your blood pressure in check.

Try Heirloom Tomatoes

Step out of your comfort zone and give heirloom tomatoes a try. Several farms in the CNY area grow heirloom tomatoes. Sun golds are my favorite—they are small like grape tomatoes except they are a golden orange color; they are juicy and sweeter than traditional tomatoes. Keep in mind that the pigment of a vegetable is associated with the nutrients it contains. Eat as many colors as you can when it comes to fruits and veggies. The more colors you consume, the more nutrients you get!

I use tomatoes in every meal. Chop them up and add them into your breakfast omelets. Add them to your sandwiches at lunch. I love a good tuna fish sandwich on whole grain bread with a couple slices of fresh local tomato, and romaine lettuce. Of course, you can add them to any salad! Below is a recipe for a salad where the tomato is the super star! And it’s a quick and easy side choice.

Fall is on it’s way so I am going to try canning some of these tomatoes so I can preserve these amazing fresh, local tomatoes all yearlong!

 

Celebrate National Cheese Pizza Day

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Can you guess my favorite food? Hint: it’s not avocados, chia seeds, oatmeal or kefir. It’s PIZZA!!! There is really nothing better, in my opinion than a nice hot, crisp, and cheesy slice of pizza. This Wednesday, September 5th is National Cheese Pizza day so I will definitely be celebrating with my favorite food.

This may come as a surprise to many of you. As a nutritionist, I promote eating real food and healthy food. But many of my clients will tell you that I promote a balanced way of eating. I’m certainly not saying pizza should be an everyday food but having a slice of pizza every now and then won’t kill you or screw up your healthy lifestyle!

Our bodies recognize food for what it’s made of. When you eat a slice of pizza, your body recognizes the fat, protein, and energy content. Although many pizzas fall on the high end of fats, there is still an amount of protein that comes from your slice. Mozzarella cheese is, in fact, a source of protein, so while it’s not as good for you as a piece of chicken breast, there is still some nutritional value to it. The crust also provides you with a carb source. Your body will recognize this as a means of energy. So while pizza may not be the best choice always, it’s important to understand that it still is food that is able to be used by your body.

If you’re like me and really have that craving for pizza more often than not, I recommend finding some healthier ways of eating it. Try adding pizza toppings on a Portobello mushroom cap. You can also find cauliflower crusts at most grocery stores.

Feel free to top your pizza with whatever you like. Here you can also opt for a part skim mozzarella. If you really like the whole milk mozzarella, do a mix of the two and you won’t even notice the difference! Topping your pizza with your favorite roasted veggies also adds nutritious value and flavor to your pizza.

Hopefully these tips are helpful for all my fellow pizza lovers out there! But make sure you go out and celebrate National Cheese Pizza Day with your favorite slice!

Back to School Blog # 2: Getting creative with trail mixes

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Looking for a healthy snack for your child in this busy back-to-school season. Trail mixes are your answer. Below are some great mixes that your child will love. Simply choose the recipe you think your kiddos will like best. Fill up a gallon-size Ziploc bag with the ingredients and shake. You can then divvy up the mix into the small snack-size Ziplocs. These are way healthier than most snack packs you would find at the grocery store and you still have the convenience of trail mix snack packs that you can stock in your pantry!

Cranberry and White Chocolate Trail Mix

  • 1 cup Roasted Almonds
  • 1 Cup Roasted Cashews
  • ¼ cup Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • ½ Cup White Chocolate Chips
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Peanut Butter Cup Crunch

  • 1 cup Peanuts
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup peanut butter chips

Superfood Plus

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup coconut shreds
  • ⅓ cut gogi berries

Autumn Mix

  • 1 cup sweet potato chips
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

I hope your kids enjoy these as much as my girls do!

Celebrate National Watermelon Day with Watermelon Pizza Cake

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Today is National Watermelon Day! I wrote earlier this summer about the many benefits of watermelon. Click here to read that blog. Made of almost 92% water, the fruit is full of Vitamins A, C, and antioxidants. In honor of this August 3 holiday, Kelly’s Choice intern Celina Rescott came up with this recipe. We’re calling it pizza cake because some of us liked eating it the way you would eat a slice of pizza and some of us used a fork, the way you would eat a piece of cake. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

WATERMELON PIZZA CAKE

SERVING SIZE: 1 slice
SERVINGS PER RECIPE: 6-8

INGREDIENTS

1                              Watermelon

1/2 cup                   Low Fat Greek Yogurt

1 tsp                       Vanilla

1 tbsp.                    Honey or Maple Syrup

¼ cup                     Strawberries sliced in half

¼ cup                     Blueberries

2 tbsp                     Granola of choice*

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut a slice of watermelon right out of the middle about 2-3 inches thick
  2. In a medium bowl combine Low-Fat Greek Yogurt, Vanilla, and Honey or Maple Syrup. Mix until well combined.
  3. Using a spatula, spread yogurt mixture on top of watermelon
  4. Arrange strawberries, blueberries, and granola over top the yogurt.
  5. Cut into 6-8 slices to serve cold!

 

*Choose a low sugar granola with minimal ingredients for the healthiest option!

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Chipolte Maple Hummus with budget in mind

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IMG_1763Editor’s Note: This blog is written by Kelly’s Choice intern Celina Rescott.

I’m a college student. I’m here to tell you today that it is possible to eat healthy but cheaply in college (or for anyone who needs to live on a budget). I’ve lived it. I’ve breathed it. I’ve figured it out (or so I think).

When you can get a Triple Cheeseburger from McDonald’s for three dollars, but a market salad from Wegmans costs eight dollars, and you just dropped hundreds of dollars on textbooks last week, which one do you think the poor college student is going to opt for?

Cooking for yourself is the answer!

Today I’m going to give you a cheap and easy-to-make snack that’s also delicious and good for you. What more could you ask for?

The recipe starts with a can of chickpeas-generally around 65 cents! A half cup of chickpeas gives you 6 grams of protein. Less than a dollar for 4 servings of plant based protein sounds perfect for my poor self!

I’ve made swaps for ingredients in traditional hummus recipe that help you save money and make the taste even better! Typically, hummus is made with tahini. But tahini can run very expensive. So I’ve done two things in place of that. The tahini works to water down the hummus in a sense and give it that creamy texture.

So you’ll notice that the recipe calls for aquafab water. It’s just a fancy way of calling what the chickpeas are soaked in. So be sure when you drain your chickpeas, you keep that water to help thin out your mixture. Bonus: the chickpea water is calorie free!

The second thing I did was add in a little bit of peanut butter to the mixture. This gives the hummus this delightful nutty flavor without being too overpowering. DO NOT SKIP THIS INGREDIENT. Trust me.

So there you have it: my first recipe, developed all by myself! I’ve won over everyone I’ve made it for and it’s my favorite snack now! Pair it with some chopped vegetable, crackers, put it on a salad, or just eat a spoonful of it (guilty). I hope you guys make this recipe and love it as much as I do! Let me know what you think in the comments!

SPICY CHIPOTLE MAPLE HUMMUS    

SERVING SIZE: 1/8 recipe

SERVINGS PER RECIPE: 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 oz can             Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
  • ¼ tsp.                    Garlic Powder
  • ¼ tsp.                    Onion Powder
  • ¼ tsp.                    Red Pepper (Cayenne)
  • ¼ tsp.                    Salt
  • ¼ tsp.                    Ground Black Pepper
  • ¾ tsp.                    Cumin
  • 1 tsp.                     McCormick’s Grill Mates Seasonings: Chipotle and Roasted Garlic
  • 1 tsp.                     Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp.                     Paprika
  • 1 tsp.                     Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp.                     Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp.                     Siracha Sauce
  • 1 tbsp.                  All-natural Peanut Butter
  • 1- 1½ tbsp.          Pure Maple Syrup*
  • 4-5 tbsp.              Aquafaba (Chickpea water)

*see recipe notes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add all ingredients to a high powered blender or food processor and blend until completely combined
  2. Start with 4 tablespoons of the Aquafaba and add more as needed until desired consistency has been reached
  3. Adjust salt and sweetness to taste
  4. Serve cold with fresh vegetables, crackers, or chips
  5. Can stay fresh in covered container for up to a week in the refrigerator

* Adjust the sweetness to your liking. I tend to add a little more than a tablespoon but you might just like it with one!

* Honey can also be used as a substitute and it tastes equally as good!