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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate National Take a Hike Day with me

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Take a hike. No really, do it! Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States once said, “Of all exercises walking is the best.” If the President of the United States said it, it must be true! (Take that with a grain of salt). It’s National Take a Hike Day so I’m telling you to go out and do it today! Or if you can’t today, at least do it sometime in the next few days.

Several trails in Upstate New York are groomed in the winter so that you can still enjoy hiking. I recently invested in snow shoes and that creates even more options!

Exercise is to me and how important it should be to you. The benefits of daily exercise are endless. I’ll touch on just a few of them today.

How much physical activity do you actually need? Though exercise is extremely important when it comes to weight loss, it’s also important for general health and wellbeing. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotions, it is recommended that the average adult get 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise over the course of a week. This is the recommended amount to reap substantial health benefits.

What exactly are these health benefits I’m talking about? First and foremost, exercise is GREAT for your heart. It helps keep your heart healthy and puts you at lower risk for heart disease and heart attack. In addition to heart health, exercise has been linked to dozens of other health benefits such as:

  • Improved sleep
  • More energy
  • Coping mechanism for depression and anxiety
  • Stress reduction
  • Better self image
  • General better sense of wellbeing

On top of these benefits, of course is that it can aid in weight loss and management. A proper diet and suitable exercise is the formula for weight loss. You can’t make it happen without one or the other.

So get out and take a hike today! Shave some time off that 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Burn some calories before Thanksgiving!

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!

 

 

Woohoo for Watermelon!

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Here in CNY, it may hit close to 100 degrees the next few days. What does that mean? Beat the heat by loading up on the watermelon. Here are five reasons I love watermelon and you should too.

Watermelon is hydrating

The heat increases your risk of becoming dehydrated and if you are like me, I can only drink so much water so I like to eat foods with a high content of water. Watermelon is comprised of 92 percent water, which makes it an ideal food to help prevent dehydration.

Watermelon can decease your risk of heart disease

Watermelon has a lot of lycopene, an amazing antioxidant that can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease. Watermelon also contains citrulline, an amino acid, which increases nitric oxide in your blood and nitric oxide helps your blood vessels expand, lowering blood pressure.

Watermelon is good for your eyes

Lycopene is the star again! Several studies have found that lycopene can help prevent macular degeneration, which is a common eye problem in older adults that at times can cause blindness.

Watermelon is good for your skin and hair

Obviously in the heat, sunscreen is important! You can also help counteract the damage the sun does to your skin and hair by eating watermelon! Watermelon is high in vitamin C and A. Vitamin C increases collagen, a protein that keeps your skin smooth and your hair strong. Vitamin A repairs skin cells, preventing dry, flaky skin.

Watermelon is a win with the kids

I have never met a kid who doesn’t love watermelon. This is one of the healthiest summer treats to bring to your next cookout or picnic and it will be a hit with all of the kiddos!

Woohoo for watermelon! Oh so sweet—oh so delicious—and oh so healthy!

 

 

Real Food First

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We live in a convenience society and because of this, we have turned to eating processed food and we are destroying our health in the process. This blog is all about choosing real food first! It may be a hard step to make at first, but once it becomes routine, it becomes second nature. You have to trust me here!

What do I mean by real food? I mean whole, single-ingredient food. Here are just some of the reasons why you should choose real food first.

Real food is loaded with important nutrients

Unprocessed animal and plant foods contain the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health. For instance, one cup (220 grams) of red bell peppers, broccoli or orange slices contains more than 100% of the RDI for vitamin C. Eggs and liver are especially high in choline, a nutrient that’s essential for proper brain function. And just a single Brazil nut provides all the selenium you need for an entire day.

Real food is heart-healthy

Real food is packed with antioxidants and nutrients that support heart health, including fiber, magnesium and healthy fats.

Real food is high in antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your body’s cells. They are found in all real foods, especially plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes

Real food is low in sugar

Some research suggests that eating sugary foods can increase your risk of obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and heart disease. Even though fruit contains sugar, it’s also high in water and fiber, so it’s much less concentrated than sugar in soda and processed foods.

Real food helps control blood sugar

Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and people who are at risk of developing the disease.

Real food is good for your gut

Eating real food may be beneficial for your gut microbiome, the bacteria that live in your digestive tract.

Real food promotes dental health

Sugar and refined carbs promote dental decay by providing food for the plaque-causing bacteria that live in your mouth.

Real food Is good for your skin

Eating real food nourishes and helps protect your skin from the inside out. Did you know that some foods are natural sunscreens too? Some examples are carrots, citrus fruits and strawberries.

Start thinking about healthy swaps you can make in favor of real food. Instead of candy, keep fruit on hand. Instead of sugary breakfast feel, have yogurt with nuts and fruit. Instead of granola bars with 25 ingredients in them, have a snack-size bad of raw nuts and dried fruit. There are so many ways to start transitioning to more real food. Be sure to keep some with you at all times so that you don’t need to turn to fast food or gas station snacks when you’re ravenous!

Get your heart healthy with a smoothie bowl for breakfast

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February is Heart Health Month and I’m going to tell you about how eating a smoothie bowl for breakfast can help reduce your risk of heart disease! Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women in the United States, so give this smoothie bowl a try!

Now, you may be wondering, what is a smoothie bowl? Aren’t smoothies supposed to be drunk from a glass? Smoothie bowls are simply smoothies you can eat with a spoon with lots of delicious toppings!

This smoothie was made with mixed berries, a frozen banana, plain Greek yogurt, and unsweetened cashew milk. It was topped with oranges, hemp seeds, and pomegranate!

Berries, oranges, and pomegranate are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, they are naturally low in calories and high in fiber and water! Fiber helps lower your cholesterol.

Bananas are a great source of potassium. Potassium can help manage high blood pressure by reducing the effects of excess sodium. When you eat more potassium, you lose more sodium in urine. Other foods rich in potassium are avocados, beans, potatoes, and more!

Greek yogurt and cashew milk are both fantastic sources of calcium. Calcium is a mineral that helps with muscle contraction!

And last but not least, hemp seeds are an excellent source of those healthy fats, omega-3 and rare omega-6 GLA. They are also packed with protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and riboflavin! It’s really important to limit saturated and trans fats as they can damage your arteries and lead to heart disease. Load up your diet with omega-3 rich foods like hemp seeds instead!

There are so many variations of smoothie bowls you can make, so I’m going to give you a base recipe and you can create your own!

Step 1: Choose your fruit. Frozen fruit works best in smoothies because it makes it nice and cold!

Step 2: Choose your yogurt. Any kind is fine, but if you want extra protein try Greek yogurt. Try to stay away from yogurts with a lot of added sugars to cut back on calories.

Step 3: Choose your milk. Any kind of milk is fine too! I always go for nut milk because it is a lot lower in calories. If you are trying nut milk, make sure it’s the unsweetened variety to decrease added sugars.

Step 4: Pick some optional add-ins: spinach, nuts, seeds, protein powders. Add-ins like spinach are very tasteless and give you an extra serving of vegetables!

Step 5: Pour into a bowl and load up with healthy toppings like sliced fruit, coconut flakes, granola, and extra dark chocolate!

Go to Kellyschoice.org to see this recipe and more that were created by Rosemary Squires.