Dark Chocolate Whatever you Want Bark

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Move over sugar-laden box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day!  I have a recipe that your sweetheart will swoon over! Dark Chocolate Whatever you Want Bark.

But first, let me tell you why you should fall in love with dark chocolate!

Did you know that chocolate actually comes from a plant? Crazy, right?! Chocolate is derived from that cacao plant. Cacao is rich in flavanols which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It’s also rich in antioxidants which helps the “bad” cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.

To receive these benefits, it’s best to get cacao in its purest form. This includes cacao powder or cacao nibs. Cacao powder can be mixed in to milk or with your oatmeal to get a rich chocolate flavor. If that doesn’t quite curb that chocolate craving, the next best thing is dark chocolate. When you’re reaching for a chocolate bar, opt for ones that are at least 70% cacao. If you’re sticking to the dark chocolate, studies have shown that daily consumption can reduce the chance for nonfatal heart attacks and strokes for people with a higher risk for these problems.

Milk chocolates and other candies are usually processed much more than dark chocolate and much of the nutrients are lost in this process. In addition, there’ are a lot of added sugars and other additives mixed in. Sugar (processed sugar) is evil; remember my blog entry last week where i go into detail about how too much sugar in your diet leads to an elevated risk for heart disease.

Say goodbye to added sugar and enjoy this recipe that is super easy and quick to make!

Dark Chocolate Whatever You Want Bark

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Whatever toppings you want…Suggestions:
    • Goji berries
    • Almond/ peanut butter
    • Pomegranate seeds
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Shredded coconut
    • Chopped nuts

Instructions:

  • Melt chocolate and coconut oil in microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring until completely melted
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Pour melted chocolate over sheet and spread to edges with a spatula
  • Add your toppings
  • Place in freezer for one hour
  • Take out and break into pieces

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beat the Candy Attack with Your Own Healthy Trail Mix

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It happens every year; your kids go trick or treating; your office mates’ kids go trick or treating and candy dishes abound everywhere! Your candy of choice calls out your name. For some its peanut butter cups, for others its Smarties or tootsie rolls. Whatever candy it is, it’s going to sabotage your nutrition goals! Fear not because I have a sweet, healthy and delicious solution for you! Make your own trail mix!

Common Components you can use in your Trail Mix:

Nuts:

These nutritional dynamos are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, and other essential vitamins and minerals. These should be the base of your trail mix.

Whether they’re raw or roasted, go for unsalted, unsweetened nuts to keep sugar and sodium under control.

Some of my favorites are: almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts.

Seeds:

For those with nut allergies (or just looking to mix things up), seeds provide many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts. Hemp seeds, and Chia seeds for example, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid, protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.

Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, or hemp seeds in trail mix for an extra boost of nutrients.

Grains:

Add some complex carbohydrates to your custom blend for extra fiber, which boosts overall energy and helps to keep you full .

Choose whole grains whenever possible and avoid highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium.

Shredded wheat cereal, pretzels, whole-grain cereals like cheerios or chex, bran flakes, whole-wheat crackers, granola, toasted oats, puffed rice cereal, and air-popped popcorn can all add a little bit of crunch.

Something Sweet:

Lastly, t’s totally acceptable to have a little something sweet in your trail mix. This will help deter you from the candy bowl.

Dried fruit can be a great source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Look for dried fruit options with as little added sugar and preservatives as possible.

Dried apples, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, raisins, banana chips, figs, pineapple chunks, mango, and dates.

Dark chocolate chips are a good source of antioxidants.

And once in a while, don’t fret adding a little bit of M&Ms.

Some of My Favorite Combos:

Hiking Power:

  • ALMONDS
  • WALNUTS
  • DRIED CRANBERRIES
  • ORGANIC TYPE OF CHERRIOS
  • CASHEWS
  • PECANS
  • RAISINS

Peanut Butter Lovers:

  • BANANA CHIPS
  • PEANUT BUTTER CHIPS
  • PEANUTS, ALMONDS
  • DARK CHOCOLATE CHIPS

Movie Night:

  • POPCORN
  • PEANUTS
  • M&MS
  • DRIED CRANBERRIES

Try some of these combos and make some unique signature recipes. You have so many options! It’s a great way to defeat the candy bowl and also the holiday sweets that are around the corner. I suggest making little baggies of them to bring to work, carry in your purse, etc. It is possible to overindulge so be careful not to do that. Depending on the ingredients< I recommend ½ cup to ¾ cup serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Stress-Defeating Food Choices

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Life sure can deliver us some stressful times. Sometimes you need a little pick-me-up and other times you need some massive comfort. Don’t turn to poor food choices during periods of stress, because, honestly, those foods will make you feel worse! There are dozens of foods out there that have been researched and found to be stress-beating and mood-boosting. Here are five of my favorites!

  • Avocados

We need B vitamins for healthy nerves and brain cells, and feelings of anxiety may be rooted in a B-vitamin deficiency. Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins. They’re also high in mono-unsaturated fat, which feeds the brain, and can help boost mood. So make up your best batch of guacamole, or simply have some sliced avocado on a salad or on a piece of whole-grain toast.

  • Blueberries, Raspberries and Strawberries

I know, I cheated, these are actually three separate foods, but they fight stress the same way! These little fruits are excellent choices because they are big on antioxidants that have stress-relieving properties.  Berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which can keep our cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in check

  • Pistachios

Pistachios are packed with amazing nutrients, such as B-complex, healthy mono-unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamin E, copper, potassium, and other minerals. All of these nutrients put together make for one amazing stress-busting team!

  • Oatmeal

Oatmeal doesn’t have to be a breakfast-only food choice; it’s a super healthy snack to have, especially during stressful times. Oatmeal helps get the calm-inducing hormone serotonin flowing. Go with thick-cut, old fashioned oats that require cooking instead of instant oatmeal. Why? Coarse oats are higher in fiber and so they take longer to digest (meaning their calming effect actually lasts longer).

  • Dark Chocolate

Last, but not least, grab a couple of squares of dark chocolate! Chocolate has an undeniable link to mood; we eat more chocolate if we are depressed to make ourselves feel better. And it works. Just be sure to stick with dark chocolate, which not only has healthy antioxidants, but can also lower blood pressure, making us feel calmer and more relaxed. Now who’s going to argue with that?

Next time you are feeling depressed or stressed, apply these nutritional food choices into your daily routine, and you will feel a whole lot better!

Protecting your sweet heart when dining out on V Day

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Valentine’s Day is next week! Quick, how can we be heart-healthy with the dining out indulgences that come with Valentine’s Day? From choosing what to drink to ordering dessert (yes, I said the “D’” word), I will share with you my favorite heart-healthy tips.

Making a healthy beverage choice

Red wine is a great heart-healthy choice; it contains a heart-healthy flavonoid called resveratrol. Drink a lot of water as well; not only will this help prevent you from overeating, but also, hydration is important for heart-protection. Dehydration actually makes your heart work harder. Results from a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that drinking five or more glasses of water a day was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease than those who drank less water.

Making a wise appetizer and entrée selection

The foods that will hurt your health are those that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar. The foods that your heart will love are those high in healthy fat, lean protein, and fiber.

It’s often hard to find a healthy appetizer. Avoid anything fried and dips as well. Some dips sound healthy (spinach artichoke for example), but they are loaded with saturated fat because of the high-fat cheese and cream used to prepare them. I tend to choose things like spring rolls (not fried) or guacamole, which is loaded with healthy fats and fiber.

For the entrée, fish is my first vote! Fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association (AHA) states, “Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers blood pressure.” The AHA recommends at least two servings of fish a week. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

If you are not a fan of fish, choose lean meats like chicken or turkey breast. Red meat is not a wise choice when trying to protect your heart; the saturated fat has long been linked to heart diseases.

Overall, if you see the words sautéed, pan-seared, crispy, scalloped, or pan-fried, dodge them! They are loaded with fat. Instead, choose foods that are steamed, broiled, grilled, poached, baked, or roasted.

Fill up on fiber. Research shows that fiber lowers cholesterol. Look to your side dishes for fiber. Some of the best choices include: broccoli, leafy greens, peas, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and any type of bean. Whole grains are also an incredible source of fiber (think quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, barley, etc.).

Another thing to keep in mind when dining out is portion control. Restaurant portions are often double the size we should be eating. Eat half and save the rest for the next day’s lunch. This will allow room for dessert!

Split dessert with your date. If there happens to be dark chocolate molten cake or mousse on the menu, go for it. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. It’s good for the heart and circulation. A recent study found that dark chocolate helps prevent your arteries from clogging.  It has also been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol. Any dish with fruit is also a smart move because like veggies, fruit is a fabulous source of fiber.

Dining out is an American way of life; enjoying quality food is your right. Stick to the heart-healthy tips I’ve shared and you can dine out without regret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Satisfying Snack to Help You Resist the Holiday Cookie Tray

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How are you doing resisting the high-sugar, high-in-fat and undeniably delicious holiday cookies and sweets lurking around? It’s so tough, right?! I have found my answer—Setton Farms’ Dark-Chocolate Pistachios. They are so scrumptious and essentially-guilt-free. Just combine the healthy properties of pistachios with the amazing health benefits of dark chocolate and you have one superbly healthy holiday snack that will capture your attention to the point where the unhealthy holiday candy and cookies will completely lose their appeal.

Here’s the lowdown:

Pistachios are packed with amazing nutrients, such as B-complex, healthy mono-unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamin E, copper, potassium, and other minerals. Studies show that daily consumption of nuts, like pistachios, may reduce the risk of heart disease and may lower blood pressure.

Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. It’s good for the heart and circulation. A recent study found that dark chocolate helps prevent your arteries from clogging.  It has also been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, also potentially lowering the risk of heart disease. Researchers in Finland have found that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke.

There’s more! The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage. The flavonols are also thought to reduce memory loss in older people, and the anti-inflammatory qualities of dark chocolate have been found to be beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion.

Lastly, I turn to dark chocolate for a mood boost, which is soooo necessary during the holidays. It instantly sparks my holiday spirit and not just because it tastes so good. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins.

To sum it up, pistachios and dark chocolate are such an amazing health-boosting combination. A serving of dark chocolate pistachios 2-3 times a week can help lower your blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Your mood will be cheery and don’t forget about the amazing effects that fiber-rich snacks like these have. You’ll feel satisfied with just a little. Fiber is a friend to anyone who wants to maintain a healthy weight.  You can obtain as much dietary fiber from a serving of pistachios as from a half- cup serving of cooked broccoli.

You definitely want to check out these tasty treats made by Setton Farms. They come in handy 5 oz. packages and can be found in major grocery chains across the country as well as Amazon.com and Puritan.com.