Better-for-You Chocolate Holiday Treats

I love combining chocolate with dried fruit, or nuts, or both! My friends and family seem to like the idea, too.  They’re always so appreciative when I present them with these super simple, better-for-you treats, which make great holiday gifts.

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How to make healthier holiday treats

There’s no formal recipe for my healthier holiday treats. For each batch, melt 10 ounces of dark chocolate (I use dark chocolate chips)  in a double boiler. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave. Use a large glass bowl to make room for other ingredients.

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When the chocolate has melted, add 2 cups whole or chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, or a combination directly to the double boiler, mix thoroughly, and drop by large tablespoons onto waxed paper.

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Top with festive sprinkles, if desired!

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My latest obsession is macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, and white chocolate. Yum!

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I prepare several batches of treats with a variety of ingredients.

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When I need to be mindful of nut allergy, I make the dried fruit treats first and package them up so that they don’t come into contact with nuts. These are a raisin and coconut combo:

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Dip the apricots halfway in the melted chocolate.

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Allow the treats to set for about 2 to 3 hours before packaging.

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Would it be better to forgo the chocolate and eat plain nuts and dried fruit? Yes, that would be perfect, but not nearly as much fun.  I think my friends and family would be disappointed, and so would I!

Happy holidays!

 

13 Holiday Survival Tips from Nutrition Pros

It’s baaaack! The holiday season is fun, but overeating, drinking too much, and skimping on sleep is draining.  I speak from experience, of course, as my own self-care often takes a backseat to entertaining, cleaning, and shopping for gifts.  If you’re in the same boat, read on for advice from my nutrition expert friends on how to stay energized until New Year’s Day.

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What to do when you struggle with the urge to splurge

Ellie Krieger, MS RDN, TV personality and award-winning cookbook author:

At a holiday buffet, before you dig in, scan and plan. Check out everything that is being served and decide which options look best to you and which to pass up. Grab a plate and fill it mostly with healthy options (vegetables like crudite and salads, and healthy proteins like shrimp cocktail or chicken skewers) plus small portions of one or two must-have indulgent dishes. This way you will leave the party satisfied, not overstuffed.

Lindsay Livingston, RD, blogger at www.theleangreenbean.com:

Don’t put holiday foods off limits. In my experience it only serves to make you want them more. Instead, focus on moderation, and when you do choose to indulge, make sure you’re not doing it mindlessly. Sit down, focus on what you’re eating, chew slowly and enjoy the treat! You may find you’ll be completely satisfied with just a small amount!

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Prep, Grab, and Go:

The holidays are filled with all kinds of delicious food. Instead of going to any extreme– whether it’s avoiding everything or indulging in it all — choose two or three high-calorie dishes that you really love and serve yourself two heaping tablespoons of each. This way you can enjoy the amazing holiday food without feeling guilty for going overboard.

Katie Morford, MS, RD, blogger at Mom’s Kitchen Handbook:

For me, overdoing it leads to less enjoyment, not more, since it inevitably ends with a belly ache or a hangover. Yuck. I definitely indulge in holiday treats, but I’m choosy about which ones, and I keep the portions moderate. I also keep tabs on the cocktails, because it’s easy to lose track. I sometimes try to kill two birds with one stone and combine my exercise with holiday socializing, such as taking a walk with family after a holiday brunch, going ice skating with the kids, or taking the sled out for a spin.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Superfood Swap:

I still enjoy my favorite holiday desserts on actual holidays, but for all the days in-between, I satisfy my sweet tooth with dessert flavored teas. They have no calories and come in all sorts of delish seasonal flavors. Right now I’m loving: Chocolate mint, apple cinnamon and gingerbread. Do they really taste like dessert? No. Do they help control my sweet tooth? Yes. Plus, dessert teas make a great host/hostess gift!\

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What to do when you need a break from the seasonal chaos

Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, LDN, Director of Nutrition, The Domar Center for Mind Body Health:

Don’t be afraid to say no. It’s not necessary to attend every holiday event you’re invited to, nor is it your responsibility to host a party if it’s too much for you. Saying no allows you more time to relax, sleep, exercise, and cook healthy foods, and to get other holiday tasks accomplished. Plus, when you avoid some seasonal parties, you’ll probably eat fewer higher-calorie foods during December.

Read this if you’re feeling sad during the holidays

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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MS, RD, owner, BetterThanDieting.com, and author of Read It Before You Eat It:

To beat stress I highly recommend taking a bath with a side of candles and music. When was the last time you took to the tub? We all lead such hectic lives that often include a quick dip in and out of the shower in the morning before moving on to a busy day. By taking the time to submerge in warm water, you’ll sooth sore muscles and relax your mind. You’re worth this indulgent break!

Janice Bissex, MS, RDN, Cookbook Author and Holistic Cannabis Consultant at JaniceCooks.com:

To reduce stress, get outside every day during the holidays for a brisk walk. Bundle up if you need to and get moving! I also suggest yoga, whether it’s power yoga or more of a meditative class.

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What to do when your eating is out control 

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, blogger at Real Mom Nutrition:

Make your home a safe haven. You can’t control what will be at parties, at your in-law’s house, or at the office. You know there will be dishes of candies and plates of cookies and buffets of rich foods and generally loads of goodies elsewhere. At home, make tempting healthy foods, like washed whole fruit, readily available–the fruit bowl on the counter is truly effective!

Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, Clinical Associate Professor, Boston University and author of Nutrition & You:

Move up the holiday dinners to earlier in the day. Having your bigger meal during the earlier part of the day can help you avoid becoming so ravenous at the end of the day that you end up eating anything that isn’t moving. Eating earlier means you can also go for a walk after the meal, and before the sun sets.

Elisa Zied, MS, CDN, author of Younger Next Week:

How I survive and thrive during the holidays is by trying to stick to my regular eating and fitness routine as often as possible. When I treat myself, I keep the portion of indulgences such as cookies, cake and chocolate small. I also keep guilt out of the equation, because it’s a useless emotion. I also make sure to exercise during the holidays—and try to engage family and friends in physical activities so we can stay fit together. I walk outside often, even if it’s chilly, and try to fit in things like stair climbing, jumping jacks, lunges, squats and crunches whenever I can. Staying active aids digestion, keeps me feeling energized and strong and keeps stress at bay. It also helps me feel more productive and stokes my creativity so I can write better.

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What to do when you want to drink less alcohol 

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Director of Nutrition, WebMD:

Nobody has to know what you’re drinking. Alternate every alcoholic drink with a mocktail, such as sparkling water with sliced lime. When a drink looks like a cocktail, no one notices, and at the end of the night you will have reduced your alcohol and calorie intake by half. The best part is that you wake up in the morning feeling terrific because you didn’t ‘tie one on,’ and looking good because you’re well-hydrated. It’s a win-win!

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Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN, HFS, author of  Body Kindness:

Forgive yourself! Just like every other human, you sometimes make mistakes. We tend to feel guilty over things we would tell our friends is no big deal. Let all the comfort, joy, and happiness in during the holidays; savor the moment and leave your calorie counters at home. Count hugs and special memories instead!

 

What to Do When You Fail at Meal Prep

Confession: My idea of meal prep is making a double batch of chili. I know that I should prepare more food on Saturdays and Sundays for the week ahead, but I can’t get myself to devote the time to that task, however worthy.  I am good at stocking my kitchen with nutritious foods and making healthy meals and snacks, so I figure I’m doing something right. Still, getting advice from a meal-prep pro couldn’t hurt.

 

Searching for Inspiration

In my quest to improve my meal prep skills, I headed for Toby Amidor’s latest creation, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Not only does this registered dietitian and working single mother of three prepare delicious and nutritious food ahead of time, she found the energy to write about so that we can, too.

According to Toby, you (and I) should invest in meal prep because it saves time and money; it’s easier to control portions, which helps promote weight control; and you’ll avoid take-out food and processed products to get a meal on the table fast.

If you’ve never prepped meals before or want to be better at it, you can’t go wrong with The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.  There are more than 100 recipes to choose from, designed with simple-to-find ingredients, including Apple Walnut Loaf, Slow-Cooker Three Bean Chili, Arugula Salad with Salmon, and Mason Jar Key Lime Parfaits.

Have I mentioned the two-week meal plans for those interested in Clean Eating, Weight Loss, and Muscle Building? You’ll have no excuse not to shop for nutritious foods when you see Toby’s detailed ingredient lists to make following these plans a breeze.

Check out Toby Amidor’s blog! 

Now, that’s some kind of meal prep! Doesn’t this look delicious? Photo courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz

 

Better, Not Perfect

Even if don’t completely embrace meal prep, nobody’s stopping you from enjoying Toby’s delicious recipes. That’s what I do! I’ve read The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook, nodding my head in agreement at what Toby recommends, but the fact remains that while I like the idea of having meals ready to eat at a moment’s notice, I prefer more flexibility at meal time. (Read: I am in no way as organized as Toby.)

I have been feeding a family of five for years, so I do have some kitchen skills, which I allude to at the beginning of this post. I mostly know what I’m making during the week, and I shop regularly for food so I always have nutritious ingredients on hand.

17 Meals in Under 15 Minutes

Here are some of my favorite “fast food” ideas.

Breakfast/Snack

• Top a 2-ounce whole-wheat bagel with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter. Serve with 8 ounces 1% low-fat milk or fortified soy milk, and fruit.

• Spread 2 slices whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, and top with 1 small banana, sliced, or 2 tablespoons raisins.

• Scramble 2 eggs and divide equally between a small whole-wheat pita pocket that’s been cut in half. Add salsa, a handful of spinach, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese, if desired. Pair with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk.

• Scramble 2 eggs with 1⁄4 cup diced mushrooms, and 1⁄4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with 2 slices whole-wheat toast, and fruit.

• Pair 1 hard-cooked egg with 8 ounces low-fat yogurt, 1 slice whole-grain toast, and fruit.

• Halve a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, remove the seeds, and fill with 1 cup cottage cheese or low-fat yogurt. Serve with a whole wheat roll.

 

Lunch/Dinner

• Microwave a medium white potato. Scoop out the insides and mix with 1 cup cottage cheese. Return the filling to the potato skins and warm in the microwave. Add a green salad.

• Top 1 whole-wheat pita round covered with tomato sauce with sliced part-skim mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve with 8 ounces 100% orange juice.

• Make a quick quesadilla using two whole-wheat 7-inch sandwich wraps, 2 ounces chopped leftover chicken, and 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese. Grill in a skillet. Enjoy with fruit.

• In a bowl, layer 1 cup cooked whole-grain couscous, 1 cup cooked vegetables, and 4 ounces cooked leftover salmon, or canned or pouched salmon.

• Arrange 4 ounces canned or pouched, drained tuna, 10 whole-grain crackers, and sliced red bell pepper, and enjoy.

My go-to fish meal: breaded haddock topped with a can of undrained chopped tomatoes and dried parsley with vegetables and whole grain bread. That’s dinner!

 

• Mix 1 cup canned reduced-sodium lentil soup and 1 cup cooked pasta or other leftover cooked grain such as farro, brown rice, freekeh, or quinoa. Serve with 8 ounces milk or fortified soy milk and fruit.

• Combine 1 cup canned white beans, drained, with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 4 ounces peeled and raw shrimp in a skillet. Cook until shrimp are pink. Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• Saute 1⁄2 pound 100% ground skinless turkey breast meat or 95% lean ground beef with chopped onions and 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin. Spoon cooked meat equally onto 2 whole-wheat tortillas along with chopped tomato, lettuce, and plain yogurt. (This dish serves two.) Serve with fruit or vegetables.

• Coat 4 ounces thinly sliced chicken breasts or tenders with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken for about two minutes on each side. Place chicken on a whole-wheat sandwich bun and garnish with tomato and lettuce, and avocado, if desired. Serve with 8 ounces milk and a piece of fruit.

• Quick fried rice: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium skillet. Add 1 cup cold cooked white or brown rice, 1⁄4 cup chopped onion, 1⁄4 cup cooked peas or diced carrots or both, and 2 beaten eggs. Toss the entire mixture until the egg is cooked. Season with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce. Serve with fresh fruit.

• Place 4 ounces cooked shrimp, canned or pouch tuna, cooked or pouch salmon, cottage cheese, or tofu, on top of 2 cups chopped leafy greens and 1⁄2 cup grape tomatoes. Top with a mixture of 2 teaspoons olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with  whole-grain bread or roll.

 

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

 

How to Shop for Must-Have Kitchen Staples 

Whether or not you plan your meals out to the last green bean, it’s a good idea to have nutritious foods on hand to rustle up healthy meals and snacks in minutes. Here’s a list that you can tailor to your needs.

A few must-have items from my refrigerator.

 

Refrigerator/Freezer Items

• Eggs

• Plain yogurt, Greek or regular

• Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• Grated hard cheese, such as cheddar and Monterey Jack

• 95% lean ground beef

• Ground 100% turkey breast meat

• Low-fat cottage cheese

• Milk

• Tofu

 

Frozen staples I keep on hand.

 

• Frozen fish fillets, frozen shrimp

• Frozen plain fruit and fruit canned in its own juice

• Frozen plain vegetables and no-salt added canned vegetables

 

How to take steps to get better at meal planning

 

Pantry Items

• Canned or pouched tuna or salmon

 

Recipe: Tuna Burgers with Smashed Avocado and Tomato are ready in 20 minutes!

 

• Canned beans, such as garbanzo, black beans, and cannelloni

• Whole grain cereal, bread (such as pita and Naan), and grains, such as pasta, quinoa, and freekeh

• Pasta (marinara) sauce and pizza sauce

• Peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews

 

Recipe: It takes just 5 minutes to make No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

 

• Dried fruit, such as California raisins

• Peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter

I couldn’t get by without foods from cans, jars, and pouches!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Chocolate: How Cocoa Flavanols Support Health

This was written as part of my paid role in partnership with CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement. All opinions expressed are my own.

You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate has potential health benefits, but chocolate itself is not a health food.

 

The perks of eating chocolate on a regular basis – besides it’s great taste – has less to do with the darkness of the chocolate and more to do with the level of cocoa flavanols it provides.

The what?

Cocoa flavanols are beneficial phytonutrients found only in plants. Cocoa contains a unique blend of flavanols that’s unmatched by any other food on the planet. Cocoa flavanols work with your body to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide, which helps maintain the flow of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body, supporting overall health.

So, if you’re eating chocolate to improve your well-being, what you’re really after is the cocoa flavanols in great enough amounts to produce results. But in traditional cocoa processing, which includes fermenting, drying and roasting of beans, many of the flavanols that are naturally present in the cocoa bean are destroyed.

I was a bit surprised to find out that unsweetened cocoa powder, which I have been adding to yogurt, smoothies, and oatmeal for years, actually has varying flavanol levels, and that flavanol levels are not listed on the food label so there is no guarantee that they are present in beneficial amounts.

How Many Flavanols For You?

The concentrated cocoa extract in CocoaVia® supplement is made using their patented Cocoapro® process, providing 375 milligrams of cocoa flavanols per serving, which is found in one CocoaVia® stick pack or three CocoaVia® capsules. CocoaVia® supplement supplies the greatest concentration of cocoa flavanols of any cocoa extract supplement today, and numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that these flavanols promote healthy blood flow from head to toe.*

CocoaVia® powdered stick packs can easily be added to milk, hot or cold coffee, juice, sports drinks, smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and iced tea, or used in a variety of recipes.

Right now, I am loving Chilled CocoaVia® Mocha!

Do you use CocoaVia® supplement? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts

I love coffee-shop donuts as much as the next guy, and maybe more. I don’t eat them often because while they taste good going down, donuts usually bother my stomach afterwards. When I crave a hunk of sugary fried dough, I turn to my Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts instead.  These baked treats offer way more – and far less – than typical coffee shop choices.

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Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts are baked, not fried, for less fat and fewer calories.

Donuts, including all the variations on pumpkin and maple that are populating coffee shops right now, offer little in the way of nutrition. Most store-bought donuts are fried, which jacks up the calorie and fat content.

Here’s how a Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donut stacks up to a glazed pumpkin donut from a national coffee shop chain. It has:

• 212 calories vs. 360 calories

• 1/3 the total fat, and only 1 gram saturated fat (vs. 10 grams of saturated fat found in the coffee shop donut)

• 3 times the dietary fiber, thanks to whole wheat flour and pumpkin puree

• 64% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, primarily from pumpkin. The commercial donut has just 2% of the DV for vitamin A, which tells me there is very little pumpkin puree in their recipe.

• Nearly 900 milligrams of potassium, about 20% of the DV, again, mostly from the pumpkin.

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Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts use whole wheat flour.

Maple Walnut Pumpkin Donuts*
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin puree (I used canned.)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat two standard donut pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, and add the pumpkin, 1/2 cup maple syrup, vanilla, yogurt, and oil. Mix until well combined.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t overmix.

Spoon the batter into the donut pans, filling to about 1/4″ shy of the rim, and making sure the center post is clear.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove donuts from oven and allow to cool, in the pan, for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan.

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Make the glaze. Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and the milk, and stir until smooth. Frost each donut and top with walnuts.

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Per donut: 212 calories; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 36 milligrams cholesterol; 220 milligrams sodium; 35 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 5 grams protein

*For less added sugar, omit the glaze, and add the walnuts to the batter. If desired, coat warm donuts in maple sugar or a sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Want more pumpkin? Try this Pumpkin Spice Smoothie!

 

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  It’s no wonder why there’s an entire 30 days devoted to encouraging families to eat together more often. Experts frequently tout the benefits of family meals, including better nutrition, and improved school performance and higher self-esteem in children. In a perfect world, spouses, partners, and kids would be home at the same time, nobody would be cranky, tired, or hormonal, and nobody would complain about the food.  I’m a big fan of family meals, but I also know that making them happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Here’s why you should try anyway.

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Why Family Meals Matter

As the mother of three, I think that sitting down together over a meal helps kids in a number of ways, no matter how often your three year-old wanders off in search of something more interesting, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

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Family meals help kids develop a sense of regularity and routine that could carry into later life. A study of college students suggests eating at the same time promotes better nutrition. And, eating together allows you to teach kids good table manners and expose them to new foods.

Yet, it may not be necessary to create a soothing, nurturing environment around the table on a daily basis. Some experts and others (including comedian Ana Gasteyer, a mother of two) think the benefits of family meals are exaggerated. Her post is hilarious!

If you can’t make family meals happen as often as you like, take comfort in this: A large study that examined the effects of family dinners on children found that spending time with your kids and taking an interest in their daily lives matters most for their well-being, whether that happens during at meal times, or not.

5 No-Fuss Dinners

Interested in more family meals with less stress?  I highly recommend lowering your standards.

Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home more often. Don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but try to make healthier choices.

Here are five healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:

  • Stir-fry 8 to 12 ounces of lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless, boneless turkey breast with a large chopped onion, cumin, and salt and ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup canned, drained black beans. Spoon the cooked meat/bean mixture onto 4 whole wheat tortillas. Top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato, lettuce, and low-fat sour cream. Or make this chili, and pair it with fruit.

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  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken; salad of prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives; quick-cooking grain such as whole wheat couscous, and milk.
  • Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup (beans are vegetables!); fruit, and a cup of yogurt.
  • Serve Brinner (breakfast for dinner): French toast made with whole grain bread, fruit, milk; pancakes made with whole wheat flour served with fruit and milk; or an omelet prepared with cheese and leftover vegetables, with fruit, milk, whole grain toast or roll.

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  • Pizza prepared with whole grain tortillas or whole wheat Naan bread and store-bought shredded cheddar cheese; green salad; fruit.

Here are some additional family-friendly meals:

 

 

Wild Blueberries: Small, But Fierce

Last week, I went wild. Really wild. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I’m talking about going to Maine and getting better acquainted with wild blueberries. I knew they were delicious, but I didn’t know just how special wild blueberries really were until I got to see for myself how they are grown, harvested, and packaged. Here’s what I learned, thanks to the Wild Blueberry Commission, who sponsored my trip, plus two easy recipes so you can go wild, too!

Wild Blueberry and Banana Oatmeal Cups

If wild blueberries had a theme song it would be “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. That’s not actually the name of the song, but you get the idea.

As plants go, wild blueberries are among the toughest on earth. Anything that’s been thriving for 10,000 years in a desolate location called The Barrens of Maine, and in Eastern Canada and Quebec, is hardy stock.  Wild blueberries actually love the thin, acidic soil found in this cold, harsh climate. Go figure!

Tough conditions make for delicious and nutritious wild blueberries! (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

Unlike the cultivated blueberries you buy fresh and frozen, it’s not possible to plant wild blueberries.  Wild blueberries spread naturally, and they have never been modified by man.

Wild blueberries are smaller than the cultivated kind, so you get more of the skin in a serving.  That’s good, because the skin is packed with plant compounds called phytonutrients. Eating foods rich in phytonutrients, such as wild blueberries, helps support brain health, and is linked to  a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions.

Wild blueberries ripe for harvesting. (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

Once they are picked, wild blueberries are frozen individually within about 24 hours of harvest, preserving taste and nutrition. Frozen wild blueberries are available year-round.

These frozen wild blueberries are ready to be packaged. (Photo courtesy of Wild Blueberry Commission.)

A cup of wild blueberries, which qualifies as a serving of fruit, supplies 20% of your daily need for fiber and is a good or excellent source of several minerals, including iron, all for just 80 calories.

I snack on plain wild blueberries topped with sliced almonds or a bit of granola to add some crunch, and I like to cook with them, too (if you can call making a smoothie cooking!)

These baked oatmeal goodies are a riff on my No Added Sugar Banana Raisin Oatmeal Cups.

Baked oatmeal cups brimming with wild blueberries and whole grain goodness.

Wild Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Cups

Makes 18 servings.

3 cups oats, uncooked

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

3 ripe medium bananas, mashed well

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups 1% low-fat milk

2 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined.  Whisk in the milk.

Pour the banana mixture into the oats mixture. Stir well to combine. Gently add the wild blueberries.  The batter may be a little soupy. That’s OK.

Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with batter (a scant 1/4-cup full).

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until set.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes, with the muffins still in the pan. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on the wire rack. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

 

The Wild Blueberry Commission challenged us to smoothie contest, and this was my entry.

Wild Blueberry, Bean, and Beets Smoothie

You’re probably wondering: beans in a smoothie? I wanted a smoothie that was different than what I usually make and was a mixture of wild blueberries and vegetables (beans are vegetables). You can leave the beans out if you think they are too weird, but you can’t taste them.

Beans, beets, and wild blueberries combine to make a delicious and nutritious drink.

I rimmed the glasses with a mixture of sugar and a teaspoon or so of beet juice. You don’t have to rim the glasses, but it makes the drink fancy, especially if you’re serving it as a mocktail.

Invert the glass into a thick mixture of sugar and beet juice and allow it to set for a few minutes.

 

Rimming the glasses with sugar and beet juice is simple and makes the drink fancy.

Wild Blueberry, Bean, and Beets Smoothie

Makes 1 serving.

2 tablespoons sugar

1 small cooked peeled packaged beet, plus 1-2 teaspoons beet juice from the package

1 cup frozen wild blueberries

1/4 cup white beans, drained if canned

1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Prepare the glass. Combine the sugar with the beet juice in a small bowl. Invert the rim of the glass into the sugar mixture, rotating to cover the rim. Shake off the excess sugar, and set aside.

Place the beet, wild blueberries, beans, yogurt, and maple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into prepared glass. Top with a few frozen wild blueberries and enjoy!

 

Nobody has to know there are beans in their wild blueberry smoothie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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