Showing posts with label low-sugar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label low-sugar. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Dip - Shhhh! It's healthy!

I firmly believe that healthy food and delicious food are NOT mutually exclusive - fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, prepared well, are wonderfully filling and satisfying. That's not to say that I don't have a sweet tooth though; we're all programmed to love sweet things!

In the US, we are paying a lot more attention to our food and nutrition, and that is great news because our obesity epidemic is out of control. We need to work on more fruits and vegetables and more fiber. Having fresh produce with a tasty dip means we usually eat more of the fruits and vegetables, but most dips aren't adding much to the nutrition equation - they're loaded with calories and have the less-healthy fats from butter and cream cheese.

Here is a delicious dip that has a cameo star to replace the usual butter and cream cheese in party dips...garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)! The beans are packed with fiber and protein and are low calorie. Can you believe it? Give it a try and I think you'll be surprised at how smooth and velvety it is, and how well it pairs with sliced apples. I even spread it on a whole grain waffle to have a high fiber and protein packed breakfast.

Yes, the dip does have sugar in it, but much less than a traditional dessert. I am not a huge fan of artificial sweeteners, so I'd rather use the real thing, just less. The fat is heart healthy - almonds - and if you're choosing fruit to dip, they're really achieving the goal; a healthy dessert that tastes great.

Cinnamon Roll Dip
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup water (more or less, depending on how thick you like your dip)
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk powder (optional)
  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas well and add to blender container of your food processor - unless you have a very powerful blender, you need to have a food processor for this recipe
  2. Add cinnamon, vanilla, almost butter, sweetened condensed milk and 2 tablespoons of water and buttermilk, if using. Blend for a full 2-3 minutes or until very very smooth. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until your desired consistency is reached; I used 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) total.
  3. Scoop into your serving bowl, garnish with cinnamon and a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk and serve with sliced fruit and pretzel sticks. 

Beans for breakfast? How about a butterfly!

Reader poll: What's your favorite dessert? I'll try to make it into a healthy dip flavor :)

Did you try the dip? I'd love your feedback and comments!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Have a happy, healthy day! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sparsely sweet: lowering added sugars

Use fresh fruit in place of jam
Sugars are certainly on the national radar - NY passed a ban on over sized sodas - and the chopping block - schools are banning bake sales and the vending machines are getting the boot.

While added sugars are not helping the obesity epidemic we face in this country and around the world, I wouldn't advocate for a sugar free eating pattern. Why not? Sugars are naturally packaged with some  healthful foods - milk and fruit. If you tried to follow a sugar free diet, you'd be missing out on those two nutritional power houses.

What is sugar? Sugars are six-carbon molecules that usually occur as a pair (aka disaccharides) in certain foods, like lactose in milk and fructose in fruit, or as much longer molecules to form starches, fibers and the kinds of carbohydrates we find in white bread, wheat bread, rice, quinoa and potatoes. Yes, white bread "breaks down to sugar", but so too does any other starch. Sugar isn't the culperit, the problem is what the sugar is packaged with (or without).

Food is a mixed bag of many things; the calories come from whatever fats, proteins and carbohydrates are in the food. You also find vitamins, minerals, water, phytochemicals, and alcohols may be present too. There is also the possibility of added colors, preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, "good" bacteria (i.e. probiotics - yogurt) and "bad" bacteria (i.e. food poisoning) and even yeast (bread and beer) and fungi (mushrooms - yum, or spoiled food - yuck).

While we're most comfortable with a food being labeled as "good" or "bad", most things with nutrtion are more gray; the poision is in the dose (thank you Paracelsus). Some foods containing sugars are healthy, like fruit and milk, but these days we are seeing too many added sugars.  While they're the same molecule, adding sugar doesn't increase the nutritional value of the food - it just adds extra calories.

If you look at a food label, how do you know? Unfortunately, you don't. Sugar is usually listed as a portion of the total carbohydrates, but from that information alone you don't know if it was a part of the food originally, or added somewhere down the processing line. What you need to browse is the ingredient list; if sugar was added, and you know what the key words are, you'll find them!

Besides "sugar", here are some other sneaky ways to mean sugar:
Hint: most sugars end in -ose

· Agave Nectar
· Barley Malt Syrup
· Brown rice syrup
· Brown sugar
· Corn sweetener
· Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
· Dehydrated Cane Juice
· Dextrin
· Dextrose
· Fructose
· Fruit juice concentrate
· Glucose
· High-fructose corn syrup
· Honey
· Invert sugar

· Lactose
· Maltodextrin
· Malt syrup
· Maltose
· Maple syrup
· Molasses
· Raw sugar
· Rice Syrup
· Saccharose
· Sorghum or sorghum syrup
· Sucrose
· Syrup
· Treacle
· Turbinado Sugar
· Xylose

Some foods contain only naturally occurring sugar (apples or milk), other contain only added sugars (sweet tea, chocolate chip cookies, pancake syrup) and some contain both (sweetened apple sauce, fruit flavored yogurt, chocolate milk, raisin granola). The best advice is to minimize added sugars in you daily routine and to enjoy them as treats once in a while. If you practice eating mindfully, you'll enjoy that treat for longer.

How to do this? Get started with these delicious recipes:
  • Use fresh or dried fruit in place of jam
  • Instead of sugary store bought cake, try these less-intensly sweetened Chocolate zucchini cupcakes
  • Instead of syrup on your pancakes and waffles, try my berry-ful fruit compote.
  • In place of calorie-laden peanut butter cookies, try the nutrient-packed energy bites . Not low-calorie, but loaded with healthy nutrition to keep you moving!
  • Replace your sugar-drenched "fruit" yogurt with a delicous fruit parfait.
  • Flavor your morning coffee with spices intead of sugar.
  • Instead of hitting the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry's, try my strawberry banana"ice-cream"
  • Remake old favorites - most banana bread recipes are really just cake by another name. Try this (best) banana bread recipe and enjoy actually tasting the banana!
What is the sweet summary? Sugar, when found naturally in foods like fruit and milk, is a healthy part of a balanced eating plan. Too many added sugars, usually founds in sweet drinks and treats, should be kept to a minimum.

Reader poll:  Are you checking food packages for the ingredient list? Did anything surprise you?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Naturally sweet: berry compote

Fruit compote was originally a dessert; warmed fruit in a sweet syrup, served warm or cold. These days, fruit compote is more often used as a sauce and I love it on pancakes. Some recipes are loaded with added sugars, but with mine, we let the natural sweetness and flavor of the fruits shine through.

Don't forget about the naturally occurring sugars in the fruits however; this dish is not sugar free. What makes this dish better than candy or soda is the good nutrition packaged with the fruit; vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. This is the good stuff!

You can easily scale this recipe down to one serving for you, or make a big pot for a crowd for brunch. For this reason, I don't have concrete measurement for you. If you like thicker sauce, add the higher range of cornstarch, if you like the sauce thinner, use less. Don't be scared, you can do it! This sauce looks very impressive to serve for a party, but honestly whips up in a snap!

Berry Compote

  • Fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries all work well)
  • 1-2 teaspoons cornstarch per cup of fruit
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar per cup of fruit
  • 1-2 teaspoons of water per cup of fruit
  • Cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, or brandy if you wish
  1. Place your berries in a saucepan; no need to thaw
  2. Before turning on heat, add your sugar and cornstarch and coat the berries - this prevents lumps from forming. Add water, stir well and turn heat to medium. 
  3. As the berries thaw and then cook, the mixture will turn cloudy as the starch molecules hydrate. You know that your compote is ready when it is thickened and clear.I like to smash the fruit using a potato masher, some people like the leave the fruit whole. Up to you!
  4. Use this jeweled sauce to top pancakes, waffles, scones, yogurt or ice-cream.
For most of the year, frozen berries cost way less then fresh and are just as nutritious
Coat the berries with corn starch and a touch of sugar
Part way through cooking: the starch is opaque
Bring on the pancakes!
I just tried this whole grain pancake mix and really liked it. Have you ever tried buckwheat? Despite having wheat in the name, it isn't actually a grain, it is a seed and by itself is gluten free (this mix contains wheat). Buckwheat is jam packed with good nutrition and has a great nutty flavor. Excellent for pancakes and waffles!

Quinoa is another pseudo-cereal; it tastes and cooks like a grain, but botanically isn't. It is delicious in this curried quinoa pilaf.

I used a potato masher to smash the fruit in this recipe as well as for my curried chickpea sandwich filling. This is a great multitasking tool!

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Fruit "Ice-Creams" more delicious treats

Strawberry-Banana "Ice-cream"

This is such a cool trick! Using frozen fruit and your food processor, we make a ice-cream-like treat that satisfies your sweet tooth without ruining your healthy eating plans!

Low-cal Sundae!
This is a follow up to the original recipe that used only banana; most taste testers loved it, but my dad thought it was too "banana-y", which isn't surprising as it was the only ingredient! For this version, I made two batches; one with half strawberries and half banana, one with banana flavored with cocoa powder and vanilla. I scooped both flavors in a cute dish and topped it like a sundae with sliced strawberries and mini chocolate chips. Delish!

Simply freeze fruit of choice; bananas work well, but so do strawberries, mangoes, peaches and more!

Place fruit in food processor (most blenders won't cut it for this recipe) and puree until smooth and creamy. Some fruits might need a splash of milk, but plain bananas will not. Add flavors if you wish, such as cocoa powder, peanut butter, vanilla extract or cinnamon.

Scoop into your dish and add toppings if you like, or enjoy plain!

Freeze fruit
Half-way there!

Creamy and delicious "ice-cream"; thick enough to scoop!

Do you have a food processor in your kitchen? They're such a great tool to have and last for years. This one is well rated on amazon and is Amazon Prime eligible.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We be jammin: Basil Blackberry Jam

We be jammin: Basil Blackberry Jam

Fresh blackberry basil jam on crisp bread with brie. Heaven!
I recently spend a lovely (albeit humid) morning picking fresh blackberries at a local u-pick orchard called Butlers Orchard. It was a fun morning spent chatting with my friend, sampling the berries and eavesdropping on the families in the surrounding rows. I quickly accumulated several pounds of the plump fruit amongst the chatter of children ("I'm a princess") and their parents ("more picking, less talking!"). Picking my own fruit was fun, and significantly less expensive than picking up fruit from the local grocery store ($2.50 vs. $12.03/pound).

 Making jam has become an annual tradition. I used my mom's equipment when I was in Ohio and when I moved to DC, I managed to get the enormous pot home on my bicycle. Yes, I got some weird looks.

Canning aligns with my values of supporting local farmers and preserving food for when the growing season is over. And while jars of jam probably aren't going to save me during the zombie apocalypse, nor are they a dietitian's first choice for healthy eats, it is immensely rewarding to see the jewel colored jars in my cupboard.

Canning has gained loads of popularity. Driven by the economy, interest in where our foods come from, seeking "real" food and in being more self-sufficient. I also like the flexibility to use lower-sugar recipes so that the fruit remains the star of the show.

There are many excellent guides available; the most important thing is to keep your preserved food safe. Follow directions carefully to prevent food spoilage or contamination. One great place to start is Pick Your Own or purchasing your own guide. Feel free to use my recipe, but be sure to follow canning directions for safe processing.

Basil Blackberry Jam
Makes 4 pints

5 1/3 cups crushed blackberries
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons low-sugar pectin (made from apples)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced

  1. Set your Pandora station to Bob Marley.
  2. Very carefully wash jar funnel, jars, new lids (do not reuse lids) and rings in scalding hot water or sanitize using your dishwasher.
  3. Fill canning pot with water and bring to boil; the goal is to have the water just cover the jars once they're placed in the canner. I like to estimate how much water I'll need in the canner and also fill a teapot and bring both to a boil. Once I get the jars in the canner, I can add extra boiling water as needed.  
  4. Pick over fresh fruit to remove any debris and rinse off under running cool water
  5. Place fruit into large liquid measuring cup and crush using a potato masher, spoon or bottom of a water glass
  6. Pour fruit into large sauce pan.
  7. In a small bowl, mix pectin powder with a small amount of your granulated sugar; add this to sauce pan.
  8. Over medium-high heat while stirring frequently, bring fruit to a rapid boil. Try not to be lulled into a fruity daydream by the heavenly smell.
  9. Once fruit has reached a rapid boil that cannot be stirred away, add fresh basil, lemon juice and rest of sugar. Boil for one full minute and remove from heat.
  10. Check for flavor and gel thickness. If your jelly meets your rigorous standards, it is time to quickly fill your jars; using a ladle and the canning funnel, fill your jars to within 1/2 of an inch of the top. Wipe rim with a clean washcloth. Place new clean lid and loosely close with ring.
  11. Using jar lifter (looks like something from Star Wars), place filled jars into boiling water. 
  12. Once all jars are filled and are in canner, start timer. My pint jars needed five minutes, but follow package directions. If you have a partially filled jar, don't can it; jars must be full for safe canning. Pop left overs into the fridge.
  13. Carefully remove jars from water bath canner and place on towel away from drafts; you know your jars have sealed when you hear that magical 'pop' sound. Don't touch, budge or bother your jam for for 24 hours. 
  14. The next day, check the jars for a seal; if the lid doesn't give when you push on it, you have done it! The jars are sealed! Label your jars with the date and contents and store in a cool, dark place.   
Fresh blackberries; beautiful!

Clean jars kept upside down to prevent dust or germs getting in

Crush fruit with potato masher and measure carefully

Mix pectin with small amound of sugar before adding to fruit; this helps prevent clumps
Add pectin to fruit

Fresh sweet and purple basil from my garden

Sitrring in the fresh basil, sugar and lemon juice

The rack helps prevent the jars from cracking by bouncing on the bottom of the pot

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Breakfast of champions: awesome greek yogurt parfait

Breakfast of champions: awesome greek yogurt parfait

Breakfast really is an important part of having a healthy day and the name comes from the original intention; breaking the fast from your night of slumber. It is important to jump start your metabolism so that your body is ready to use the nutrients and calories provided rather than trying to store them (ie build fat). 

Yogurt is a great choice as it is a rich source of protein and if you choose one with live and active cultures, you're also getting a nice dose of healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics, to keep your immune system strong and your gut happy. Greek yogurt is also a great choice because it is strained and therefore has a higher amount of protein per serving. 

The trouble is, most fruit flavored yogurts are LOADED with sugar. While some sugar is naturally occurring from both the milk and the fruit, labeling doesn't differentiate between that and what is added. Plain yougurt is lower in sugar, but in my opinion, a bit dull (and I'm a dietitian!).

Enter the parfait!

This is a great option because you can prepare your breakfast the night before; in a bowl if you're going to eat at home or in a glass jar if you're going to hit the road and take breakfast with you.

Greek yogurt parfait:

  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 - 1 cup berries, fresh or frozen (raspberries are the highest in fiber)
  • flavorings such as cinnamon, vanilla extract or nutmeg
  • 1-2 tablespoons slivered almonds

  1. Scoop your yogurt into desired bowl or jar. Add seasonings to taste and mix it up!
  2. Pour fresh or frozen fruit on top
  3. Top with almonds
  4. In the morning, the fruit will have gotten juicy and when you stir up the parfait, the ruby red color is lovely (although perhaps defeating the purpose of layering the parfait...)

Plain yogurt spiced up with cinnamon and vanilla

Frozen fruit is often less expensive than fresh (but is just as nutritious)

Ready for the fridge!

Breakfast of champions!

In terms of minding your wallet, I also love getting the large containers of yogurt as they're usually less expensive per serving. This is also lighter on the planet because I reuse those containers. Other than starting seeds, I don't have much use for those individual yogurt cups and you can't always recycle them either.

Added bonus of the spices? Beyond excellent flavor, they're also loaded with antioxidants! You can also add them to your coffee grounds before brewing your morning Joe. Double dose of antioxidants in the morning? Double win!

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