INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS THE HYPE WARRANTED AND IS IT FOR YOU?

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INTERMITTENT FASTING: IS THE HYPE WARRANTED AND IS IT FOR YOU?

Intermittent fasting is the hot new diet on the wellness circuit, and I’ve already received a lot of inquiries about it. So I figured I’d write down my thoughts to share with you all.

For those who are not familiar, there are several types of intermittent fasting, two of which are most popular.

  • One version restricts eating to an 8 hour window of your day. (So if you eat breakfast at 8am, you should be done with all of your meals and snacks by 4pm.) With this version, you are not necessarily told what or how much to eat, just when.

  • The other version is known as the 5:2. This allows normal eating 5 days a week and severely restricts caloric intake during the other 2. (Severe calorie restriction is 25% of normal intake, which they say comes to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.)

Now why is this diet getting so much attention? Let’s see what all the fuss is about…

Proponents of intermittent fasting claim that it can do the following:

1. Improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.

In a typical feeding state, our bodies turn food into glucose (AKA sugar). That glucose gets absorbed into the blood. Insulin is then released to help cells take in glucose where it is used for energy.

But when our bodies are in a prolonged feeding state (read: overloaded with food), the body can’t keep up with all the glucose in the blood. It tries to pump insulin out to help the cells absorb it, but at a certain point, the body just stops responding. This is known as “insulin resistance.”

If we become insulin resistant, when we eat, our blood sugar rises and we have a hard time bringing it back down. This often causes pre-diabetes, and if not resolved, can eventually turn into Type 2 Diabetes.

Enter intermittent fasting. By restricting food intake for extended periods of time, the body gets a reprieve from constantly digesting food and having to figure out how to deal with all the glucose in the blood. This allows us to recalibrate our bodies’ sensitivity to insulin and regain control of our blood glucose levels.

2. Increase longevity.

We are familiar with mental and emotional stress, which can take a toll on the mind. But there is also physical stress, which can wreak havoc on the body. Toxins in the atmosphere, carcinogens, and even the byproducts of certain bodily functions put stress on our bodies. The cumulation of these stressors can cause our bodies to breakdown or malfunction. And the prevention of these stressors can potentially help us live longer.

It may come as a surprise, but food digestion produces byproducts that cause physical stress on the body. It is a necessary evil. We need food to survive, and yet digesting that food produces harmful materials. It is possible that because of this, certain intermittent fasting has been shown to help reduce the amount of stress on our cells and may therefore help us live longer.

However, this is more likely due to the reduction in overall food intake than it is due to the timing of the food intake. So if the intermittent fasting does not actually reduce the amount of food your body needs to digest, it may not make a difference at all to longevity.

3. Protect the brain.

By restricting food intake for an extended period of time, our bodies run out of glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. When that happens, we start to use fat as fuel, producing ketones as a byproduct. (Yes, the same ketones they’re all talking about in the Ketogenic Diet.) And ketones have been shown to have certain neurological benefits, specifically with seizure control for those suffering from epilepsy.

4. Help with weight loss.

Because intermittent fasting restricts when you can eat, it is often correlated with calorie restriction and can often result in weight loss. However, if the intermittent fasting does not actually reduce the amount of calories you are consuming, it will likely not make a difference to the scale.

5. Boost metabolism.

By containing your eating hours to the first part of the day, you are aligning your intake with your circadian rhythm. When we wake up and haven’t eaten for a while, our bodies are better equipped to respond to food, break it down, and use it for energy. This can help optimize metabolism. However, if you choose to contain your eating to the later hours of the day, you may actually be hurting your metabolism.

Now it’s time for the caveat.

The research out there is very limited. Most of the studies that have been done are smaller scale studies spanning shorter periods of time, so the strength of the evidence is lacking. Furthermore, most of the studies do not involve humans, so it is difficult to apply those findings to the human species with total conviction. Once more research is done, we will have a better sense of whether intermittent fasting is in fact the better way to eat.

But let’s say you still wanted to try it. As a dietitian, here are my precautions...

1. Do not expect to lose weight if you are not cutting back on your total intake.

Having unrealistic expectations for a diet can lead to feelings of defeat and self-doubt. Therefore, it is important to recognize that while there may be health benefits to intermittent fasting aside from weight loss, you should not expect to lose weight if you are simply condensing your normal diet into an 8 hour window. It has nothing to do with you. It is just plain science and math.

2. Avoid binge-eating.

Oftentimes going longer periods without food can lead to food fantasies and an urge to ultimately eat more than you normally would once you start eating again. Binge eating is never healthy and can even lead to weight gain, so if that becomes a by-product of intermittent fasting, then intermittent fasting is definitely not for you.

3. Do not reserve your eating hours to night-time.

As I mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting can be good for your metabolism when your eating hours are earlier in the day. However, reserving your intake for later in the day can actually be detrimental to your circadian rhythm and metabolism. During sleep, our bodies are in rest and recovery mode, so loading our intake on the back-end of the day can disrupt that.

4. Intermittent fasting can be dangerous for certain populations.

  • Diabetics on insulin.

While intermittent fasting may help a pre-diabetic or a diabetic who is not insulin-dependent by restoring insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels, it can be very dangerous for diabetics who rely on insulin injections to control their blood sugar. This is because insulin doses are often aligned with typical eating habits. If you are on insulin and suddenly drastically change your eating habits without changing your insulin accordingly, it can cause Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which when left untreated can be fatal.

  • Pregnant women.

When you are pregnant, you are not only eating for yourself, you are eating for the growing baby inside you. As such, adopting new drastic eating behaviors can be a bad idea during pregnancy.

  • People taking certain medications.

Some medications must be taken with food. If you are on a regimen that requires you to eat when taking your medications, it is important to follow your regimen and not compromise your health by fasting.

  • People with a history of eating disorders.

Because intermittent fasting promotes rigidity and going a long time without eating, these can be triggers for people who are recovering from an eating disorder.

The bottom line:

Ultimately, I think having a finite “stop time” to our eating can be helpful as we tend to do more of our mindless snacking and/or less inhibited eating at night; however as with any “diet” there are usually pitfalls to watch out for. Defining your wellness goals; identifying healthy, realistic, and concrete steps to make those goals a reality; and regularly monitoring your progress is truly the best way to create lasting change. And having a dietitian to help along the way doesn’t hurt either!

 

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HOW TO TAKE A VACATION WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HEALTH BEHIND

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HOW TO TAKE A VACATION WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR HEALTH BEHIND

Who doesn’t love going on vacation? Escaping the daily grind is important for our mental health. But what about our physical health? Coming home after a marathon of indulgent eating and a sabbatical from the gym can often lead to guilt, regret, and the daunting task of "getting back on track."

But it doesn't have to be that way.

The fact of the matter is, vacation shouldn't mean leaving your wellness goals behind. And here’s the thing: you can eat everything you want, leave your workout routine at home, and still stay on that wellness journey.

Here’s how:

Plan out your meals.

Not every meal needs to be indulgent. For example, if you know you’re going to have a particularly decadent dinner, try making healthier choices at breakfast and lunch. This will help keep your daily intake in check. Notice: I did not say skip breakfast or lunch. Skipping meals is rarely a good idea. However, balancing out indulgent meals with lighter ones is.

Share your food.

The issue with traveling and wanting to taste everything is that there are only so many opportunities to taste it all. Trying to fit multiple “must try” dishes into one meal can definitely lead to excess. The answer? Share your food! By ordering multiple dishes for the table, you get to taste everything without feeling like you’re going to roll out of the restaurant when the meal is over.

BYOF. Bring your own fiber.

One of the biggest complaints I get from clients is that they become less "regular" any time they travel. And let's just say, I can relate. That's why I always bring my high fiber cereal and high fiber crackers everywhere I go. I like to eat them during breakfast so that I'm guaranteed to get my fiber quota for the day. I'll either pair the cereal with some fresh fruit and plain yogurt or if I'm in the mood for something savory I'll get eggs or smoked salmon and eat them along with the crackers. It's such a simple move and it makes the world of a difference!

Once is enough.

Eating the same indulgent thing over and over again may be fun, but if we're being honest with ourselves, it isn't necessary. For example, while Italy may be known for its gelato, that doesn’t mean you need to have gelato every day of your two-week trip. It may seem like a “vacation” thing to do, but it is also something that will pack on those “vacation” pounds. The thing to remember about food is: taste is fleeting, but the memory of the taste will last forever. So rather than eating the gelato every day to repeat the experience, have it once and be mindful. That way, you can bring that memory home with you, minus all the extra pounds.

Walk it out.

We often think that being physically active means sticking to our rigid schedule of intense spin classes, rigorous HIIT routines, and burning pilates sessions. We feel a need to compensate for our sedentary lives of sitting at a desk all day. But when we’re on vacation, we don't have to sit at a desk all day. We can simply stay active by walking around. Going for a daily stroll on the beach or spending a day walking a new city can keep your physical fitness in check without ever stepping foot into a gym.

Now that you have all these tips in the bag, just make sure your passport isn't expired, and you're good to go!

 

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CURRY QUINOA CONFETTI

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CURRY QUINOA CONFETTI

Now this dish a real crowd pleaser! Literally every single person who has ever tried it has fallen in love with it. So when I'm having a lot of people over, this is one of those go-to recipes. It looks pretty and I know everyone will be happy. It's also super easy to scale up for large groups so whether I'm having four or fourteen people, it basically takes the same amount of time to make. And, if I have leftovers, I ain't mad about it! In fact, I actually think that the longer this salad sits in the fridge, the better it tastes.

Like all of my recipes, this one is totally doable for any home cook. There may be a long list of ingredients, but please don't get intimidated! There are only two cooked components (two!), and everything else can be mixed right in. 

So do yourself a favor, just screen shot this recipe so that the next time you do a grocery run you can pick up the ingredients and you'l be halfway there. The point is not to overthink it, just do it! You and your guests will thank me later. ;)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup zante currants
  • 1 15.5 oz can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • 1 cup chopped fire roasted red peppers or sweet piquante peppers
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pour olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add in onion, curry, and turmeric. Sauté onions until tender and coated in spices.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and sautéed onion.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Refrigerate and serve!

A few notes about this recipe:

  1. Didn't I say the directions were easy? I'd never lie to you!
  2. Zante currants are smaller and tarter than raisins. You can use raisins, but I particularly like the currants in this dish. They don't get soggy and they add a great punch of flavor to every bite!
  3. Similarly, you can opt to use regular roasted red peppers instead of the fire roasted peppers or sweet piquante peppers. However, I really like the spicy kick from the fire roasted peppers and sweet piquante peppers. 
  4. Finally, you can likely substitute apple cider vinegar for the regular distilled white vinegar, but I've just always made it this way. I also think that with so much going on elsewhere in this dish, the neutral acidity of the white vinegar works well.
  5. Bottom line, you do you!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: TURKEY TACOS WITH TOMATO MANGO SALSA

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: TURKEY TACOS WITH TOMATO MANGO SALSA

I love Mexican food, and for some reason it has a bad reputation for being heavy and unhealthy. Of course, loading up on chips and empanadas can be a bit much, but it is very possible to enjoy Mexican flavors and still keep things light. The truth is, at its core, Mexican cuisine is dependent on fruit, vegetables, spices, and herbs, which are all full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

In my opinion, Mexican flavors are so bold, you don’t even need the deep fried chips and empanadas to be satisfied. Deep frying food is an easy trick to making something taste good. Our brains are wired to enjoy the crunch and salt, which is what makes those foods so mindlessly addicting. But layering flavor with intention will get your taste buds excited and will keep you truly satisfied.

So without further ado, I present to you my Turkey Tacos with Tomato Mango Salsa, which are so easy to make and so full of flavor.

Just a few notes about this recipe before you begin:

  • When I say “spicy” I mean it, so if you’re someone who stays away from the heat, I’d recommend you cut the amount of adobo sauce and chili powder in half. On the other hand, if you like things to really burn, feel free to amp up the heat as much as you'd like!
  • This recipe calls for kosher turkey, which is generally saltier than non-kosher turkey, so feel free to add salt to taste.
  • For the tacos, I use romaine lettuce cups, but feel free to use a tortilla if you prefer. I just enjoy the fresh crunch and the added health benefits from the lettuce.
  • Disclaimer: I happen to be one of those people who doesn't like cilantro (I know - it breaks my heart to say it!), so this recipe doesn't call for any cilantro. However, feel free to add it in anywhere you please! I'm sure it would be great in the turkey mixture, the salsa, or just as a garnish on top!

INGREDIENTS: (makes 12-15 tacos; 3-4 tacos/person)

Mexican Ground Turkey:

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo, chopped 
  • 4 tsp adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 15oz can low sodium black beans
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 lb ground turkey

Tomato Mango Salsa:

  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1.5 mango, diced
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped jalapeño
  • 1.5 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

For assembly:

  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 12-15 romaine lettuce cups, washed and dried

DIRECTIONS:

Mexican Ground Turkey:

  1. In a large rondeau on medium-high, sauté red onion, and garlic in olive oil. 
  2. Once onions are tender, add in bell pepper.
  3. When the pepper starts to soften, add in chipotle pepper, 2 tsp adobo sauce, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1 tsp coriander. Stir to ensure that the dry spices bloom in the oil (this allows their flavor to deepen) and that the onion and peppers get coated.
  4. Add the can of black beans, including the liquid, into the rondeau. 
  5. Sprinkle mixture with salt and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Once liquid has mostly evaporated, add in ground turkey, breaking it up into smaller pieces and mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients.
  7. Mix in the rest of the adobo sauce, chili powder, and coriander.
  8. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the turkey has cooked through.

Tomato Mango Salsa:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. 
  2. Keep in fridge until use. 

Assembly:

  1. Allow Mexican Ground Turkey to cool slightly* so that it doesn't wilt the lettuce.
  2. Scoop a spoonful of the turkey onto the center of a lettuce cup.
  3. Add a spoonful of the Tomato Mango Salsa onto the turkey.
  4. Top with a slice or two of avocado.
  5. Repeat for all tacos, and devour!

*But never allow meat to stay out for more than 4 hours as that will allow unwanted bacteria to grow. 

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: SWEET POTATO TAHINI COOKIES

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: SWEET POTATO TAHINI COOKIES

I’m so excited about these cookies because for one, they're delicious. But that's a given. I also love them because I find that tahini rarely gets a chance to shine when it comes to desserts, and I just I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves. There are tons of recipes with peanut butter, almond butter, and even sunflower butter, but a sweet dessert with tahini is hard to come by. Behold: these sweet potato tahini cookies!

The great thing about tahini is that while it provides the amazing texture of other nut and seed butters, it has a very mild flavor so it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the ingredients. In fact, it’s got a subtle bitter flavor that pairs really nicely with the sweetness of the sweet potato, banana, and maple syrup. But if you’re still skeptical, you can totally substitute the tahini with any nut/seed butter, and I’m sure it would still be delicious.

Now aside from how good they taste, the texture is HEAVENLY! They are so fluffy and yet so moist you would never be able to tell that there was zero butter or oil in this recipe. To be honest, their texture is more cake-like than cookie, but I shaped them like cookies, and it just worked so I went with it. And, it totally helps with portion control, which is always a plus! (Trust me, you're gonna need it with these!)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup of steamed skinless sweet potato
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ½ cup oat flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

DIRECTIONS: (makes 22-25 cookies)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Mash banana in a bowl.
  3. Add sweet potato, vanilla, maple syrup, and tahini to the banana and mix until mixture is mostly homogenous, with as few clumps as possible.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. In thirds, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring each time the dry ingredients are added, and making sure that ingredients are fully combined.
  6. Scoop out mixture (either using a spoon or a cookie scoop) and form into balls on a lined and greased cookie sheet, flattening the balls slightly.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through, but still moist.

**These cookies are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free!**

 

 

 

                         

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CARROT CAKE OATS

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CARROT CAKE OATS

My new oatmeal obsession: Carrot Cake Oats! Let's be real, this is more of a winter morning kinda dish, but I finally got around to making it and it was delicious! As you may remember from my Carrot Cake Energy Bites, carrot cake is pretty much a top 5 dessert in my book, so when I found a way to integrate it into my morning routine, I was beyond thrilled. I may or may not be contemplating making a zucchini bread version, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here's the full recipe. Enjoy my dears!

INGREDIENTS: (1 serving)

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 cup packed finely grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup egg whites or 2 egg whites
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cardamom
  • pinch nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a covered pot, bring almond milk to a boil.
  2. Add in oats, reduce to simmer, and let oats cook uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  3. After about 7 minutes, add carrots. Continue to stir occasionally.
  4. In the meantime, whisk egg whites, vanilla, maca, coconut flour, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in a separate bowl.
  5. When another 7 minutes have passed, or when most of the milk has been absorbed and the oats are tender, turn flame to low and add in egg white mixture very slowly, stirring oats the entire time. This will keep the egg whites from coagulating in clumps and will distribute them evenly to create a smooth and creamy consistency.
  6. Continue pouring and stirring until all of the egg white mixture has been mixed into the oats.
  7. Pour oat mixture into a bowl and top with anything you’d like! I like to top mine with raw walnuts, coconut, and a peanut butter drizzle, but hemp seeds and cacao nibs are also great additions!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: STRAWBERRIES N CREAM MORNING OATS

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: STRAWBERRIES N CREAM MORNING OATS

While I don’t like to choose favorites, (because, let's face it, I love all food!) breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. I’ve always made time for breakfast -- even in high school when I was commuting at 6:30 in the morning, even when I have to catch a ridiculously early flight, even when I have the craziest day ahead.

Let’s just say that when I go to sleep, I’m often contemplating what I’m going to wake up and eat. You may or may not call it an obsession.

It’s not just that I love breakfast foods, it’s that breakfast is what fuels me for my day. If I miss it, I spend the rest of the day ravenous and never fully satisfied.

This is why I was super excited when I started making my oatmeal with egg whites. For me, oatmeal was always a top 5 breakfast food, but my biggest issue with it was that I knew it wasn’t giving me the protein that I really needed. Then, I started adding in egg whites, and everything changed! It was magical! Not only do the egg whites add 7 grams of protein to my breakfast, but they also make the oats SO creamy! It’s a total win-win!

This version is inspired by the Strawberries N Cream sugary oatmeal I used to have as a kid. It was my favorite flavor because I loved getting the chunks of cooked strawberry in every bite. I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure this rendition is even better. The bonus? Mine has no added sugar, no refined carbs, lots of fiber and a healthy dose of protein to help you start your day! :)

INGREDIENTS: (1 serving)

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 medium strawberries, sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup egg whites or 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp coconut flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a covered pot, bring almond milk to a boil.
  2. Add in oats, reduce to simmer, and let oats cook uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  3. After about 7 minutes, add strawberries. Continue to stir occasionally.
  4. In the meantime, whisk egg whites, maca, coconut flour, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
  5. When another 7 minutes have passed, or when most of the milk has been absorbed and the oats are tender, turn flame to low and add in egg white mixture very slowly, stirring oats the entire time. This will keep the egg whites from coagulating in clumps and will distribute them evenly to create a smooth and creamy consistency.
  6. Continue pouring and stirring until all of the egg white mixture has been mixed into the oats.
  7. Pour oat mixture into a bowl and top with anything you’d like! I like to top mine with fresh strawberries and coconut, but hemp seeds, nuts, and cacao nibs are also great additions!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: BUCKWHEAT ENERGY BITES

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: BUCKWHEAT ENERGY BITES

I took a bit of a hiatus from my energy bites, but the other day I came across a buckwheat bar and it totally inspired me to use buckwheat as a base for my next rendition. So I was super excited to get back in the kitchen and experiment.

Buckwheat is a great ingredient because it's toothsome, so it gives each bite that extra bit of texture. It also doesn't have an overwhelming flavor so it goes well with almost any mix-in, but it's also slightly nutty in flavor so it adds a little more dimension.

I particularly love the mix-ins in this recipe because they keep every bite interesting and exciting. The best part of all though, is that this is a one pot recipe, so clean up is a breeze!

And while I love to eat these just as a snack all on their own, adding them to a bowl of plain yogurt makes a deliciously filling breakfast! Try it out for yourself!

INGREDIENTS: (makes 30 balls)

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 3/4 cup sunflower butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup zante currants
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/3 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a pot, bring water to a boil.
  2. Once water has boiled, add in buckwheat, reduce to simmer, and cover. Cook buckwheat for 20 minutes, or until water has been absorbed and buckwheat is tender.
  3. Add in sunflower butter and mix until combined throughout.
  4. Mix in rest of ingredients until evenly distributed.
  5. With a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls.
  6. Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for ultimate freshness.

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LEMON TAHINI DRESSING, CURRANTS, AND PINE NUTS

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH LEMON TAHINI DRESSING, CURRANTS, AND PINE NUTS

There are some foods that can transport you to a different time and place. It's actually one of the things I love most about food. If you think about it, the actual taste of food is fleeting, but memory of that taste can last forever. And while I know that sounds cheesy, it's actually scientifically legit. That's because our sense of taste and smell are processed in the same part of the brain that processes memory. (The amygdala, for those science nerds out there.) Point being, it's no surprise that food has the power to send us across the globe and back in time.

For me, this dish always takes me back to summer nights in Tel Aviv. In short, Tel Aviv is basically like Miami, but in the Middle East. City life and beach life coexist, and the food scene there is amazing. Every time I go, I'm discover something new. This roasted cauliflower with Lemon Tahini is an ode to summer nights in Tel Aviv spent sitting at a cafe, drinking a glass of wine, and letting the warm breeze pass over me.

But let's get to the food, because after all, that's why you're probably reading this. ;) So let me walk you through it. The cauliflower works as a canvas for all the spices and flavors that are going on. The cumin and coriander give it an earthy Mediterranean flavor, while the lemon tahini brightens it right back up. You could honestly stop right there, and that would be perfectly delicious. But to make it more of a composed dish, I added the currants for sweetness, pine nuts for crunch, and parsley for freshness. It's basically perfection on a plate. ;) Read on for the full recipe, and enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 medium cauliflower heads, cut into florets
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup zante currants
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup parsley

Lemon Tahini Dressing:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Coat cauliflower in oil, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper.
  3. Roast cauliflower in oven for 40 minutes, or until slightly browned.
  4. In the meantime, blend dressing ingredients in a food processor.
  5. When the cauliflower is ready, remove from oven. Dress in enough tahini dressing to coat, leaving the rest of the dressing on the side.
  6. Mix in currants and pine nuts.
  7. Garnish with parsley.  

 

A few notes about this recipe:

  1. I would have ideally made this recipe with zataar, but I didn't have any on hand and I figured you might not either. Zataar is a Middle Eastern mixture of herbs and spices. If you haven't ever tried it, I'd highly recommend it. The flavor is fantastic. In this dish, I would recommend 1 tsp/head of cauliflower.
  2. Instead of the zante currants, feel free to use raisins or even finely chopped dates.
  3. You can also substitute the pine nuts with another kind of nut. In fact, I think pistachios would work really well here!
  4. If you want to get fancy you can roast the cauliflower head whole or slice it into "steaks" and drizzle everything on top. Your guests will be totally impressed!

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LISTS TO LIVE BY: 8 TIPS TO GETTING A DELICIOUS AND HEALTHY WEEKNIGHT DINNER ON THE TABLE

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LISTS TO LIVE BY: 8 TIPS TO GETTING A DELICIOUS AND HEALTHY WEEKNIGHT DINNER ON THE TABLE

You know that feeling when you're starving, open your fridge, and wish it looked like a Sweetgreen salad bar? Let's get real for a moment: the temptation to just order in food and sit on the couch is very, very real. But the fact of the matter is, cooking at home is better for your health, and better for your wallet.

Unfortunately, there are obstacles when it comes to cooking at home.

  • For starters, there’s the time element. We all lead busy lives, so let's be honest, spending an hour making dinner is the last thing you want to be doing when you get home.
  • Then there’s the boredom factor. Making one big batch of chili for the week may ensure that you have food, but by Wednesday you’ll be eating the same chili for the fourth night in a row. No thank you!
  • Finally there’s the issue of food waste. Going to the grocery store with grand ambitions to cook is great, but if you don’t have a strategy, you might find yourself throwing half of your food out a week later because it all went bad. That's just an unnecessary dent on your wallet and on the environment. 

If you strategize well, cooking at home can mean that you have a variety of healthy, delicious food available anytime you want it! Here’s how it's done...  

1. Batch cook. (Yes, "duh" I know, but the devil is in the detail.)

Obviously the way to prep for the week is to cook in quantity. But rather than thinking in terms of a single composed dish that you’d find in a cookbook or on a restaurant menu, think in terms of individual foods that you can mix and match to create different delicious meals. For example, if you make three vegetable sides, two cooked grains, and three proteins, you’re guaranteed at least 18 different possible meal combinations. This will keep you from getting bored of the same exact meal day in and day out.

Keep in mind, you only need to prep the foods that take a while to cook and/or stay well in the fridge. Think: roasted vegetables, cooked grains, and cooked proteins. In fact, try to stay away from making foods that are really only good when served fresh, like guacamole, which browns, or sautéed spinach, which gets soggy.

2. The freezer is your friend! 

Freezing leftovers in small individual containers can make putting together a gourmet meal extremely easy. For example, if you have a pint of homemade Bolognese sauce just sitting in your freezer, pull it out and serve it with the spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash you have pre-roasted in your fridge and you have yourself a perfectly balanced, delicious meal!

3. Dressings, spreads, and dips are the key to variety.

Having multiple dressings and spreads on hand can help keep your meals interesting. For example, say you have a bowl with greens, faro, roasted cauliflower and grilled chicken. Simply add guacamole and salsa and you have a dish full of Mexican flare. The next day, take the same base but mix in a dollop of hummus and lemon tahini dressing, and that dish gets a total transformation. Boredom averted! 

4. Stock your pantry smartly.

Having to run to the grocery store is one of the biggest obstacles to getting homemade food on the table, so a well-stocked pantry can make all the difference. Keep whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, and faro on hand to round out your meals. Canned beans, tuna and salmon are perfectly legitimate sources of protein to top a salad or grain bowl. Raw nuts and seeds are also a great addition to a salad or bowl and provide nutritional benefits of healthy fat and fiber. Finally, invest in your spice rack. Simply adding a teaspoon of turmeric, curry, and cumin, can make an ordinary dish seem, well...less ordinary!

5. Raw food is nature's fast food.

Raw produce, like lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes are a great way to freshen up and fill out a dish with pre-cooked ingredients. The best part? They take zero cook-time!

6. FIFO: First in, first out.

This is a rule that all efficient restaurants use, and is something that households should try and adopt as well. By using produce as you buy it, you decrease the chances of having to throw out moldy food. The trick to this is to stock your fridge from front to back, with the newer food at the back and the older food at the front. This way, you know which foods to use up first. The result? Less food wasted, which means less money wasted! Its a win-win!

7. Allocate time that works for you.

Usually, people like to do their cooking over the weekend because that’s when they have the most free time. Setting aside 2 hours to clean, prep, and cook your food is a good idea, but if you don’t have that much consecutive time, you can definitely do it in increments. For example, spend 30 minutes cleaning and prepping your groceries so that when you have an hour free later on, all you have to do is cook! Bottom line is, do what works best for you.

8. Don’t try and be perfect!

For someone who doesn’t regularly cook, starting to make home-cooked meals is already a big enough endeavor.  Don’t try and put out 5-star chef quality food...at least not in the beginning. Cooking is a process of trial and error. You may burn things, you may undercook things – but you will get the hang of it and learn along the way.  The trick is not to be afraid! And definitely don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors, ingredients, and spices – you never know what deliciousness you might discover!

 

 

 

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CREAMY BLUEBERRY OATS

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: CREAMY BLUEBERRY OATS

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don't, you should totally get on that!) then you'd know I'm obsessed with this breakfast. So I'm finally posting the full recipe here so you can make it yourself at home! 

This is a breakfast I go to sleep dreaming about at night. And it's one I'm excited to wake up for in the morning. I swear, it is so easy to make, and it never disappoints. It's warm and comforting, creamy and delicious, and keeps me full and energized to take on the day ahead.

So if you're looking for something to add to your breakfast routine, give this one a try!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp coconut flour

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a covered pot on the stove, bring almond milk to a boil.
  2. When the milk has come to a boil, uncover, reduce heat to simmer, and add in the rest of the ingredients. Mix well to ensure the maca powder and coconut flour do not clump. 
  3. Let oats cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, mixing every few minutes.
  4. When oats are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid, they are done.
  5. I like to top mine with a whole assortment of goods! Coconut flakes, hemp seeds, raw nuts, berries, sliced banana, and even a drizzle of nut butter – all are fair game!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: SPAGHETTI ALFREDO...THE HEALTHY WAY!

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KITCHEN CURATIONS: SPAGHETTI ALFREDO...THE HEALTHY WAY!

This recipe comes with a short little story. It's short, I swear! But if you're in a rush you can totally just scroll down for the recipe...I won't be offended. I also won't even know. ;)

Okay, story time:

If you've read my bio, then you know that my road to becoming a nutritionist started with me being an overweight child. My mom claims to this day that I was cute, but she's my mom and has to say that. The fact of the matter is, had I continued on the path that I was paving, I would have likely ended up an obese adult. Anywhere I went, I would inevitably order something indulgent. If we were at a diner, it would be mozzarella sticks and grilled cheese. If we were ordering Chinese, it would be sesame chicken and dumplings. And if we went for Italian, it would be spaghetti Alfredo. Needless to say, when I decided to take control of my diet there were lots of changes that I had to make. Cutting out spaghetti Alfredo was one of them. (For those who aren't familiar, Alfredo sauce has essentially 3 ingredients: butter, cream, and cheese. Need I say more?)

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about a mindful treat and don't believe in "never" foods. But to be honest, spaghetti Alfredo just never made the cut of what I wanted to indulge on. I'd much prefer pizza or ice cream. In fact, I never really thought about it until a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a healthy recipe for Alfredo sauce. This of course sparked my culinary curiosity and I was determined to try and come up with a recipe of my own.

Truth be told, I didn't have much faith in myself, but I was totally impressed by the result! Not only is the sauce creamy and delicious, but it actually adds nutritional value to your meal. It's a total win-win!

The recipe below has the sauce as part of a composed dish, but you can obviously just make the sauce on it's own. I have additional serving suggestions following the recipe. As always, you do you!

INGREDIENTS: (makes 20 servings)

Roasted Broccoli:

  • 5 cups broccoli, florets and stems
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Roasted Spaghetti Squash:

  • 1 very large or 2 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt 
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper pepper

Vegan Alfredo Sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 2 cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp dried mushroom, chopped
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, to taste

Toppings:

DIRECTIONS:

Roasted Broccoli:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Place broccoli in a steamer and steam for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly tender.
  3. When the broccoli is done steaming, place on a baking sheet and coat in olive oil, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes, or until edges are starting to get crispy. 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash:

  1. Cut spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.
  2. Place on a baking sheet, skin side down and put olive oil, salt, and pepper on the flesh.
  3. Roast in the oven for an hour, or until flesh is tender.
  4. When squash is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool.
  5. When squash has cooled, remove flesh with a fork so that it forms its signature spaghetti strands. There should be about 5 cups worth.

Vegan Alfredo Sauce:

  1. In a pan, sauté the garlic in olive oil until garlic is tender, but not burnt. 
  2. While the garlic is sautéing put almond milk, broth, cauliflower, and dried mushrooms into a big pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.
  3. When garlic is ready, add it to the pot along with the nutritional yeast, onion powder, and garlic powder. 
  4. After 40 minutes, or when cauliflower is tender, turn off heat and let mixture cool. 
  5. Once mixture has cooled, pour the contents of the pot into a high speed blender.
  6. Add in lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and blend until mixture is smooth.

To assemble:

  1. Combine spaghetti squash and broccoli in a bowl.
  2. Pour 2 cups of the Alfredo sauce over the top. (Keep the rest in the fridge for future use. I promise, it won't go to waste!)
  3. Mix until everything is coated in sauce.
  4. Toast almonds in a dry sauté pan or in the oven on high heat until slightly toasted. (Don't walk away because these burn quickly!)
  5. Sprinkle nutritional yeast, almonds, and parsley on top of spaghetti, and serve!

A few notes about this recipe:

  1. If you want your sauce to be even thicker, once you blend it you can put it back in the pot on the stove and let it simmer with the top off until it reaches the desired consistency. 
  2. I opted to use spaghetti squash as my base, but feel free to sub in real pasta (I recommend whole wheat), legume pasta (love the Tolerant brand), or spiralized veggies (like squash or zucchini).
  3. I usually don't like to denote food as being kid-friendly because I want to be open to the idea that kids might like all kinds of foods, this sauce has the potential to be be a real child-pleaser!

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