Chocolate do’s and don’ts for Valentine’s Day

Chocolate is one of my favorite foods (especially at 30 weeks pregnant!), but all chocolate is not created equal.  Keep these things in mind before you buy your sweetie some chocolate on Friday also known as Valentine’s Day… First lets look at the health benefits of chocolate – According to the Mayo clinic chocolate and its main ingredient, cocoa, appear to reduce risk factors for heart disease.  The flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects that reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease. Flavanols, which are more prevalent in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate or white chocolate — also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. In addition, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. One caveat: The evidence for the health benefits of chocolate comes mostly from short-term and uncontrolled studies. More research is needed for chocolate to be truly named a “health food.” Chocolate Survival Tips-

  • Know where to get your chocolate.  Typically better quality/ more healthy dark chocolates are found on the natural food isles of the grocery store or in healthy food stores.  Most commercial “mainstream brands” of chocolates have added fats and sugars that will actually contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes risk and high blood pressure.
  • Plain dark is always best.  Choose dark chocolate with cocoa content of 65 percent or higher (these chocolates are often found in the natural food isle of the grocery store, NOT THE MAINSTREAM CANDY ISLE).  Avoid the nugget or cream filled chocolates, these tend to be packed with preservatives.
  • Keep in mind moderation.  Limit yourself to around 1-3 ounces (85 grams) a day, which is the amount some studies have shown to be helpful.
  • Stay active.  Chocolate by no means is low calorie, 3 ounces can actually provide up to 450 calories, you may want to cut calories in other areas or step up the activity/exercise to compensate for additional calories consumed.
  • Keep plain cocoa powder in your pantry and add it to protein shakes or milk for a low sugar chocolate fix.  The sugar and fat that is added to packaged chocolate is the unhealthy part.  Plain cocoa powder is low in sugar and rich in antioxidants.

There are several Pinterest recipes out there that only call for cocoa powder and make delicious healthy sweet treats that are free of refined sugar or fats, BUT here is my favorite low sugar chocolate milk shake great for any chocolate craving-

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8-12 oz. unsweetened coconut or almond milk

1 tbs. plain cocoa powder

5 ice cubes Vanilla all natural protein powder (typically sweetened with all natural Stevia)

Optional 1 tbs. of all natural almond, sunflower or peanut butter

Caprese Skewers- easy and healthy snack option

Sometimes it’s nice to have a little something fancy in the fridge to munch on.  A great friend (and personal Chef to a client we share) made these skewers a couple of years back when we all went sailing on lake Lanier.  I had a craving for some Italian and this is much better then a gluten filled bowl of pasta and white sauce!

I made them in bulk and had them as a snack in the afternoon a few days this week.

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Ingredients:

fresh mozzarella cheese

fresh basil

cherry or grape tomatoes

balsamic vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place the cheese, tomato and basil on the skewers, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and SERVE!

Alternative to candy bars & Lifemoves Studio update

As Shelly (my dear friend and most recent business partner) and I are in a complete holding pattern, basically in the palm of Gwinnett County’s hand on permitting, inspections, etc. waiting for our Lifemoves Studio to open here in Buford GA during THE MOST PROFITABLE TIME OF THE YEAR FOR THE FITNESS INDUSTRY (I’m not bitter or angry lol- just ready to OPEN!) To make a long story short we have had a unexpected expense of installing a new bathroom into our Studio space to meet the county coding needs of our facility being a “assembly” rather then a “retail” space.  For those friends who run your own fitness studio or gym, holy heck, my hat is off to you for going through this whole process!  At least we are blessed with a great contractor who is moving as fast as he can. On my unpaid vacation to pass the time I have been cleaning my house (it’s what I do when I stress) and of course I am enjoying the extra time to play with Austin and Lily as well as giving some new healthy recipes a try.

This candy bar alternative was derived from Gweneth Paltrow’s “It all Good” cookbook.  I modified it based off the ingredients that I had in the kitchen.  I have to admit, your pregnant “eat for results” dietitian was a little naughty this holiday season, indulging in some treats that I normally don’t get my hands on outside of the holiday season (and not blogging, sorry about that!).  I am back on track but definitely fighting a new found sugar addiction.  These “candy bars” come in handy as a healthy dessert or to curb a sweet tooth craving.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c nuts of your choice (I used hazelnuts because I have had them in the freezer for longer then I like to admit)

1 1/2 c dates pitted and roughly chopped

1/2 c almond butter (I used crunchy peanut butter because a client accidentally bought it and does not like it, he knew that nothing goes to waste in my house, lol)

1/2 c honey (you can also use pure maple syrup)

1/2 c coconut flour

1/2 c unsweet shredded coconut

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond extract)

1 1/2 c dark chocolate chips

1-2 Tbs. coconut oil

Directions:

Grab your food processor or powerful blender and throw the nuts in a grind them to as fine of a powder as you can, then add all of the other ingredients EXCEPT THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND COCONUT OIL until you have a large ball of “cookie dough” Press the dough into a parchment paper lined baking sheet or pan and place in fridge to harden.  While dough is in fridge melt chocolate in double boiler or carefully in 30-45 sec. increments in the microwave.  Pull the dough back out of fridge and spread melted chocolate over the dough and let harden for at least an hour in fridge.

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After the chocolate has hardened flip onto cutting board and cut into candy bars.

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HOLY GOODNESS!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Side of brussel sprouts please!

You either love them or hate them, brussel sprouts can be a delicious side if prepared with love.  My husband would marry bacon if he could, so I tend to throw it into different dishes just to grab his attention.  Brussel sprouts…these tastely little cruciferous veggies were awesome and the health benefits are endless.  Cruciferous veggies, like brussel sprouts can help naturally detox hormones, and even can help prevent certain cancers.

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Ingredients

  • 1 Lb. Frozen or fresh brussel sprouts chopped into half or quarter
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 slices chopped bacon (uncooked)
  • pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • dash of salt

Directions

Toss all ingredients together and lay on aluminum foil over baking sheet.  Roast on 350-400 for 15-20 min. Should have a little brown to them when completely cooked.  Enjoy!

Granola

One of my ultimate favorite treats is a good handful (or two) of granola.  It is sweet, crunchy, and satisfying but there is a lot of hidden sugar in granola if you buy the store bought brands.  When in doubt make it yourself.  Just a little warning you may be hungry, the smell of the roasted oats, nuts, seeds and honey are amazing!

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Ingredients:

2 c gluten free plain oats

2 Tbsp. grape seed oil

1/4 c raw local honey

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4-1/2 c raw sunflower seeds

1/4-1/2 c raw pumpkin seeds

1/4-1/2 c chopped raw walnuts

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients together, then add honey and oil, spread on cookie sheet and bake on 350 for 15-20 minutes or until desired crunch!

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Store in airtight container, and enjoy!

 

Farm stays open despite the salmonella outbreak.

There was another salmonella outbreak this week and it has spread almost over the entire country, and the Foster Farm’s Chicken plant has remained open and chicken from the farm is still on the shelves, being pulled slowly by certain stores.  It is unfortunate due to the government shut down we are not able to see accurate tracking numbers for the outbreak because those who do the actual tracking are not working, they were actually called back into work to handle this, they should have been looking to prevent this! (I’ll stop there, that is for another topic and blog, haha).

 

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  • Salmonella symptoms include – fever, nausea, cramps or diarrhea (within 3 days after eating chicken), very dangerous for the young, elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Prevention- cook your chicken thoroughly and avoid cross contamination with other foods.  Do not let raw chicken touch your vegetables, or leave the residue from raw chicken on countertops, etc.
  • Beware and avoid any chicken from Foster Farms Chicken, it is distributed to Costco, Kroger, etc.

Here is some guidance when shopping for meats, poultry, and fish.  I always tell clients if you are on a tight budget and you want to prioritize which foods to buy organic/certified all natural start with meats and dairy.  With meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics are in the food and we cannot wash them off like we can with most produce, this is why I prioritize them over fruits and vegetables if you are sticking to a budget.

Here are some buzz words to look for when shopping especially for proteins and dairy.

Dairy (preferably organic and full fat)

I’m not a huge fan of dairy so trying dairy free alternatives is what I recommend.

  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Unsweetened coconut milk
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Dairy and soy free cheese

Proteins: (preferably organic/all natural)

  • Eggs: cage free/ organic
  • Fish & Seafood: better sources due to their low mercury content
    • Catfish (U.S. farmed)
    • Clams, mussels, & oysters
    • Halibut (Alaskan)
    • Herring (Atlantic)
    • Mackerel (Atlantic)
    • Salmon (Wild Alaskan)
    • Scallops & Shrimp
    • Tilapia (U.S.)
  • Chicken: certified all natural/organic; no antibiotics, hormones
  • Turkey: (no nitrite or nitrates) or certified all-Natural/organic
  • Beef: ideally grass fed (or hormone/antibiotic-free beef)
  • Lamb: New Zealand is best
  • Buffalo and Bison: very lean; usually grass fed
  • Pork: organic/ pasture raised
  • Protein powders (whey, egg, rice, and pea): whey is best option for maintain lean muscle benefits, but if you are intolerant to lactose go for a plant based protein (hemp, pea, or rice)

Shop smart, and stay healthy,

Dana

Pumpkin Spice Latte- Coffee Shop vs. Homemade

I love Fall, I love the weather, football, the start of the holiday season, the clothes, the decor and most of all I love the pumpkin!  You name the pumpkin food and I will eat it…

  • Pumpkin pancakes
  • Pumpkin cookies
  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Pumpkin protein shakes (yep, I will post recipe soon!)
  • ….and the famous “Pumpkin spice latte”
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Something about a chilly day and a pumpkin spice latte- it’s perfection and just a simple pleasure in life.  So here is the scary part, the nutrition breakdown of a coffee shop pumpkin spice latte is pretty horrific.  You will meet your daily sugar limit before you take your last sip!

Pumpkin Spice Latte- Grande with 2% milk and whip cream

Calories- 380

Fat- 13g (8g saturated)

Carbs- 51g

Protein – 14g

Sugar- 49g

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte – 16oz 

Ingredients-

1 c un-sweet almond milk

1 shot of espresso or 1 c bold coffee (if you don’t have espresso at the house)

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1-2 packets of stevia

Calories – 60

Total Fat- 2.5g

Total Carbs – 1g

Sugars- 0g

Protein – 1g

Clearly the better choice is homemade!  Enjoy!

If you need a sandwich then…

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I’m not a big fan of having sandwiches every day because even the highest quality bread and meat can still be high in sodium and low nutrient carbs. BUT if you have a craving for a good old sandwich follow these tips…
1. Only use one slice of bread to reduce carbs and try to make it gluten free
2. Get low sodium nitrate/nitrate free deli meat
3. Have it beside a cup of veggie soup or a big salad so you still meet your veggie serving goal for the day!