A Chocolatey Treat

I’m a firm believer in listening to your body’s cravings and satisfying them with something healthy that will fulfill the craving.  Clients of mine are always asking for healthier chocolate options when their cravings hit.  Finding a natural, nutritious option is always a challenge.

Well, I’ve just come up with a great option for that sweet tooth.  The Jocolat Chocolate Hazelnut Bar by Larabar.  I have tried Jocolat bars in the past, and was never very impressed.  However, I decided to give this flavor a whirl, and guess what I LOVED it!

Source

The ingredients are: organic dates, organic hazelnuts, organic almonds, organic cocoa powder, and organic cocoa mass

The nutrition facts are: 190 calories, 10 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 26 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, and 4 grams protein.  Providing 10% vitamin E, 10% phosphorus, 15% magnesium, and 15% copper.

This bar provides stellar nutrition while yielding a fabulous taste.  A chocolate product with only 2 grams of saturated fat?  And a filling 5 grams of fiber?  Count me in!

Have you tried this product before?  Do you have a favorite nutritious chocolatey treat?

Please note: The Larabar company did not pay me to write this.

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What’s the deal with Flax?

You’ve probably heard of flax seeds by now.  They’re popping up in ingredient labels on cereal, granola bars and breads.  So why are food companies adding this seed to their product?

What are Flax Seeds?

  • Also called linseed
  • A brown or golden seed that comes from the fruit of the flax plant
  • Each seed is 4-7 mm long

What’s so great about Flax?

  • Heart Health: Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically ALA (Alpha-linolenic Acid).
  • Reducing Cancer Risk: They are rich in lignans.
  • GI motility: They are also rich in dietary fiber.

Nutrition Facts: 2 Tablespoon of Ground Flax Meal

  • 60 calories, 4.5 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated fat), 4 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber and 3 grams protein.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Flax seed oil does not contain dietary fiber or lignans.
  • Whole flax seed cannot be fully digested by our GI system, so it is preferable to consume it ground (called flax meal).
  • Whole flax seed can be stored in room temperature for up to one year.
  • Ground flax seed (flax meal) should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • It’s best to buy whole flax seed and grind it as needed in a coffee grinder or mini food processor.

Ways to Use Flax:

  • Sprinkle flaxseed on cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
  • Top salads with ground flaxseed.
  • Add to homemade baked goods.
  • Replace eggs in baking.  For 1 egg use 1 TB ground flax and 2-3 TB water.  Whisk and let sit until thickened.  This will not work for meringues or custard like preparations.

Do you use flax seed?  What’s your favorite way to consume it?

Fighting the Winter Cold with Soup

Temperatures are dropping and as a result we’re turning to warm, comforting foods.  Before you turn to foods loaded with cheese, pasta and high fat meats, you may want to think again.  These traditional comfort foods are loaded with calories, fat and refined carbohydrates.  Instead, why not try some soup?!  Soup is warm, filling and quite comforting.

Basic Soup Guidelines

  • Avoid any soups with cream, instead go with a broth-based soup
  • Choose vegetable, chicken or bean based soups rather than cheese or red meat (beef, meatball, pork, sausage) based soups
  • Limit sodium – choose low sodium whenever given an option
  • Read labels – watch out for monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Choose a soup with less saturated fat (if you avoid cream, milk and red meat this shouldn’t be hard!)

Some of my Favorites

Make your Own!

  • Soup is so easy to make, and freezes incredibly well.
  • I love using my immersion blender for pureed soups that seem creamy without any cream!  (ie: butternut squash, parsnip, asparagus, and leek).  You’d be surprised how many vegetables puree up into a beautiful bowl of soup.
  • You don’t need to follow a recipe; just sauté vegetables in a little olive oil (season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices) add low sodium vegetable or chicken broth.  You can add in beans, whole wheat pasta, chicken, whatever you have in your fridge or pantry!
  • Some of my favorite soups to make are lentil, butternut squash, vegetable, white bean and vegetarian chili.

Make it a Meal

  • If it’s a mostly vegetable soup you will want to add some sort of protein to it.  One of my favorite go to additions is a “healthy” grilled cheese.  Take 2 slices of whole wheat bread and add 1 or 2 slices of low-fat cheese, place on a skillet coated with cooking spray and you have a delicious warm and filling lunch.
  • If it’s a bean or chicken based soup then you most likely have enough protein.  You can a side salad and some whole grain crackers for crunch.
  • If you’re out to eat – pairing a cup of soup with a 1/2 sandwich is a great option too!

What is your favorite soup?

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Try this recipe tonight and I promise you will not be disappointed!  It has 5 ingredients and is quick to make.  My husband yummed throughout the meal and said “I would pay for this at a restaurant” – he’s a very tough critic so that meant a lot!

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 4- 4 ounce chicken breasts, thinly sliced (I buy the Murray’s thinly sliced one to minimize the work).
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained (you can use the dry ones but make sure to rehydrate with boiling water first)
  • 2 ounces herbed goat cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • salt & pepper to tast

Method

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare 2 ounces of goat cheese in one small bowl, set aside.
  3. Finely chop the sun dried tomatoes, combine with goat cheese, set aside.
  4. Crack egg, and place egg white in a small bowl, set aside.
  5. Place breadcrumbs in a small dish, set aside.
  6. Place the chicken breasts on your working surface, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  7. Add 1/4 of the tomato cheese mixture in the middle of each breast, then roll and secure with a toothpick (I didn’t have tooth picks so mine opened a bit).
  8. Dip each rolled chicken breast in egg whites and then breadcrumbs.
  9. Place on dish prepared with cooking spray.  Do not crowd the breasts, otherwise they will take longer to cook.
  10. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, check for doneness (oven temperatures and cooking times may vary).

Nutrition Information: (per breast, 4 servings)

  • 204 calories, 8 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 5 grams carbohydrate, 29 grams protein

I served mine with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower – yum!

An Easy Way to Save Fat Calories

I bought this oil mister at Williams Sonoma for $15 and it’s a great device to have in your kitchen for saving calories.  Basically you add your favorite oil plus herbs/spices and spray away!  Last night I used the oil on roasted cauliflower and roasted sweet potatoes.  It worked perfectly.  I find it’s easy to go overboard on the amount of oil used when cooking vegetables or making salad dressing, so now you can control it easily.

This would be a great stocking stuffer or holiday grab bag gift for someone who likes to eat healthy.

Nutrition Tidbit:

  • 1 Tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories.
  • Even though vegetable oil is healthy, the calories add up very quickly!
  • Try measuring your oil the next time you cook to see exactly how much you are using.  Then try cutting back to see if you notice a difference.

Is Chocolate Really Good for You?

You have probably heard chocolate listed as a superfood before due to its levels of antioxidants.  Is it really as good as it seems?  Let’s break it down:

What is chocolate made of?

  • The cacao tree is where chocolate comes from.  The beans are made into chocolate liquor which is then processed into cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
  • Pure, unsweetened chocolate is a combination of cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
  • Sweetened chocolate has sugar added to it in varying percentages.
  • Milk chocolate has sugar and milk added to it.
  • White chocolate is not chocolate at all – but rather cocoa butter with milk and sugar.

Why is chocolate considered healthy?

  • The cocoa solids contain flavonoids which are a type of phytochemical.
  • Flavonoids have been associated with reducing inflammation, blood clotting, and blood pressure as well as decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Flavonoids act as an antioxidant which help combat free radical damage, which has been associated with detoxification of certain carcinogens.

Bottom Line:

Antioxidants are found in many other foods besides chocolate – fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, soy, coffee – and the list goes on.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t be reaching for chocolate to get your antioxidants.  In addition to the antioxidants you are getting saturated fat and sugar.

Chocolate can be beneficial in small quantities if you choose high quality dark chocolate. But remember milk chocolate contains very small quantities of the antioxidants and white chocolate contains none at all!  This also doesn’t give you permission to eat large quantities of things like chocolate muffins, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, and chocolate ice cream.  These products will have small quantities of antioxidants (if any at all) and have a lot of saturated fat, sugar and calories.

Some people have great restraint when it comes to portion control with chocolate, others have a hard time.  If you find it hard to buy a large bar and savor it over several days, then I recommend buying individually wrapped pieces so you can control your portions!

Nutritional Comparison:

1 ounce dark chocolate (70-85%): 168 calories, 12 grams fat (7 grams saturated fat), and 7 grams sugar.

1 ounce dark chocolate (60-69%): 162 calories, 11 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat), and 10 grams sugar.

1 ounce dark chocolate (45-59%): 152 claroies, 9 grams fat (5 grams saturated fat), 13 grams sugar.

What’s your favorite type of chocolate?  Do you buy it pre-portioned or can you limit yourself around large quantities?

Personally, I like to keep the Ghirardelli Squares so I can limit myself to one square when I want a little chocolate fix.

What is a Healthy Body Weight?

Have you struggled to achieve your “ideal body weight?”  Where did you get this ideal number from in the first place?  Was it something you last achieved when you were in high school or college?  Is it a number you pulled out of thin air?  Did you look at BMI chart to determine it?  Did you pick it up from a magazine?

To help you figure out what your “Ideal” or “Healthy” body weight is, let’s address the question at hand: “What is a Healthy Body Weight?”

  • A weight that is right for your age
  • A weight that you can maintain without dieting
  • A weight that you are comfortable with
  • A weight that is right considering your body shape and size
  • A weight that you maintain while eating healthy foods
  • A weight that you maintain while engaging in regular physical activity
  • A weight that allows you to be free of weight related medical conditions

Guess what?  This number is different from everyone!

It’s possible that 2 women who are the same size and same age have different healthy body weights!

Forget the norms of the media, celebrities, and models.  Start thinking about what is right for you!  Stop dieting and start eating healthy.  Incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your day whenever you can.  Choose lean proteins over higher fat ones.  Add in whole grains, and limit your intake of white refined carbohydrates.  Cook with heart healthy fats, and limit your intake of saturated and trans fat.  If you eat this way the majority of time there’s room for your favorite indulgences in moderation.  For me it’s pizza, pasta, cheese and chocolate and I never feel guilty when I eat them!

If we all stopped dieting and tried to learn to eat in a healthy, balanced, moderate and varied way – we would achieve a weight that is healthy for us!

Now here’s where it gets tricky!

Since there is so much pressure in our society to be thin, a lot of people want to be a size that is unhealthy for them or requires constant dieting to achieve.  Is this healthy?   I challenge you to think to yourself:

  • Are those last 5 pounds really worth it?
  • Will I give up enjoying food to achieve those last few pounds?
  • Am I healthy at my current weight?
  • Will I feel deprived to get to that weight?
  • Why am I trying to achieve that weight?

Personally, I think food is a huge enjoyment in life and not worth sacrificing.  Dieting leads to deprivation, which leads to an unhealthy relationship with food.

Are you at a healthy, happy weight?   Is it different than what you once thought was ideal for you?  What are your favorite indulgences?   Do you feel guilty when eating them?