Whole Grains Burn Calories, Boost Metabolism

Looking for an easier way to to control your weight? Whole grains could be a game changer, according to findings from a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Simply swapping refined grains (white bread, white rice, and pretzels, etc.) for 100% whole grains encourages the body to burn calories and boost your metabolism. Jackpot!

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More Whole Grains: A Step in the Right Direction

Here’s what’s so exciting about this study.

The group of men and women in the study who replaced refined grains with whole grains took up fewer calories from the food they ate, and burned more calories without exercising more.  Those losses amounted to about 100 calories a day compared to the group who ate refined grains.

A consistent intake of whole grains could help head off unhealthy weight gain that tends to occur with age.  While weight control isn’t a precise science, swapping 100% whole grains for the refined kind could add up to a “savings” of 36,500 calories a year, or the equivalent of about 10 pounds – as long as you don’t increase calorie intake or decrease physical activity.  Balanced diets rich in whole grains also help reduce the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, too, which is nothing to sneeze at!

How to Get More Whole Grains 

Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice, contain the entire grain kernel. Whole grains are naturally high in fiber, phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) and other nutrients.

Experts suggest making half of the grains you eat whole grains, for a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily. A portion is 1-ounce slice of bread, 1/2 cup cooked grain, or about 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal.

OK, so you’re not totally on board with whole grains, but it may be easier, and more delicious, than you think to get the whole grains you need.  Here’s how to work more whole grains into your eating plan:

• Have oatmeal (I make oats with dairy milk for the calcium, vitamin D, and protein it provides) or a whole grain ready-to-eat cereal such as plain Cheerios or the store brand equivalent with milk and fruit for breakfast, or as a snack.

• Add 1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal to your favorite fruit smoothie recipe.

• Substitute 3/4 cup 100% whole wheat flour for all-purpose white flour in recipes for pancakes, muffins, and quick breads.

• Swap white bread for 100% whole grain bread.  Make sure you see the words whole wheat, oatmeal, or whole oats as one of the first terms in the ingredient list.

• Experiment with whole grains such as farro, freekeh, quinoa, millet, teff, and whole grain barley as side dishes.  Make extra whole grains and add to soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.

• Switch to whole grain cornmeal when making muffins, cornbread, and polenta.

• Make your own trail mix using 1/2 cup whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and nuts.

• Enjoy whole grain crackers instead of highly refined white versions, and whole wheat English muffins instead of a plain bagel.

• Munch on popcorn instead of pretzels or snack chips.  Popcorn is a whole grain!

snack-1284230_1280

• On pizza night, opt for prepared whole wheat crust or whole wheat pizza dough.

• For a sweet treat with a serving of whole grain in every portion, try these no-bake peanut butter cereal bars.

 

breads-1417868_1920

 

 

 

Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”

Eating a more plant-based diet doesn’t mean ditching dessert.  Indulge in this Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter “Ice Cream.” It’s satisfying, heart-healthy, vegan, and it’s even gluten-free!

Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream" with frozen bananas is vegan

Frozen bananas and peanut butter make this “ice cream” vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!

Is Ice Cream Bad for You?

I’m not a big believer in “good and bad foods” because it takes away from the importance of an overall healthy eating pattern.  Healthy eating patterns can include all types of foods.

I didn’t set out to make this ice cream vegan or gluten-free; it just happened that way! I just looking for a dessert that would satisfy me as much as real ice cream. While ice cream has more fat and added sugar than this homemade creamy chocolate peanut butter concoction, I still eat it. Choosing this vegan alternative provides a delicious way to include more plant foods.

How to Make Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Vegan Nice Cream

Bananas are the silent ingredient in this healthy frozen delight, and they make it unnecessary to add dairy products and sugary sweeteners. The ripest bananas are the sweetest and make the creamiest “nice cream.”

Bananas also offer fiber and potassium, and are responsible for the smooth, rich texture of this creamy chocolate peanut butter treat. One portion of “nice cream” also supplies a serving of fruit.

I keep chunks of frozen banana in the freezer to use on a moment’s notice. You can also freeze chopped bananas for at least two hours before making this, or other recipes, such as smoothies. You can also buy bags of sliced, frozen bananas to have on hand.

frozen sliced bananas in resealable plastic bag

Keep frozen bananas on hand to make “ice cream” fast.

The Health Benefits of Cocoa Powder

You’ve probably heard that dark chocolate is good for you.  Milk and dark chocolate are a mixture of ingredients, including sugar, and cocoa butter, the fat that is removed from cocoa beans during processing.  Cocoa powder is the dried solids that result from that processing and it is ground up, packaged, and found in grocery stores.

Unsweetened cocoa powder contains flavonoids, which are plant-based compounds. An eating plan rich in flavonoids is linked to  less inflammation in the body, proper blood flow, and reducing blood pressure. Cocoa powder that is not “Dutch-process” is richer in flavonoids.

I use unsweetened cocoa powder in my “ice cream” because it delivers deep chocolate flavor without any added sugar. You can also add cocoa powder to savory dishes, such as chili, to amp up flavor and nutrition.

 

Bowl of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder provides intense chocolate flavor without the fat.

 

Why Peanut Butter is Good For You

“Is peanut butter bad for you?” is a question that I get a lot. My answer: only if you are allergic to peanuts!

Peanut butter is a source of several nutrients, including protein, heart-healthy fats, and potassium. Just two tablespoons of peanut butter provides an excellent source of manganese (not to be confused with magnesium!).  Manganese is a mineral that your body needs to make energy, protect cells from damage, and support a healthy immune system, among other functions.

Natural peanut butter is often free of added sugar. If you’re want  to limit sugar, check the package to be sure the peanut butter doesn’t contain added sugars.  Learn how to make homemade peanut butter with no added sugar from Sally Kuzemchak over at Real Mom Nutrition. (Hint: It’s easy!)

creamy peanut butter adds healthy fats to vegan ice cream with frozen bananas

 

Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter "Ice Cream" (Vegan)

This dairy-free vegan "ice cream" is delicious and offers a serving of fruit, too!
Prep Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chocolatepeanutbutter, dairyfree, peanutbutterdessert, vegan, vegandessert, veganicecream
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 medium ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen (Freeze for at least 2 hours.)
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter (with no added sugar, if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts

Instructions

  • Place bananas in a large food processor. 
  • Add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  
  • Blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  • Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with peanuts. Serve immediately.

Notes

 
Per serving: 
252 calories; 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 132 milligrams sodium; 29 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 7 grams protein

bowl of creamy chocolate peanut butter vegan ice cream with no added sugar

How to Make Do in the Kitchen with Ingredient Substitutions

My mother taught me a lot about food, including how to work with what you have on hand to make nutritious meals. She lived through many years when money was tight, and her creativity, coupled with a refusal to waste food, served her well for feeding a family of five. My mom’s how-to-make-do in the kitchen attitude has stuck with me, shaping how I cook, which, of course, includes ingredient substitutions!

Vegetable quiche

Making quiche is a great way to use up vegetables, cheese, and eggs.

 

It’s easy and delicious to make ingredient swaps 

When I came across an Ellie Krieger recipe in the Washington Post for Roasted Salmon with Artichoke Topping, I wanted to make it for dinner. Problem was, I only had half of the ingredients in the house, and I wasn’t going to the store at 6 PM to get the rest. So, channeling my mother’s flexibility with food, I changed Ellie’s recipe by:

• Using canned, drained artichoke hearts instead of the frozen kind.

• Whipping cottage cheese in the food processor to stand in for ricotta cheese.

• Swapping in half as much dried parsley for fresh.

• Using sundried tomato pesto instead of plain sundried tomatoes.

• Substituting regular salt instead for sea salt.

• Relying on minced, prepared garlic instead of fresh

The result? Scrumptious! It goes to show that the best recipes, like Ellie’s, will turn out just fine, even when tweaked quite a bit.

 

salmon with artichoke topping on a plate

My version of Ellie Krieger’s Roasted Salmon with Artichoke Topping. Almost the same, but not quite.

You don’t always need a recipe to cook 

Improvisation in the kitchen comes naturally to me, but I have to admit that I had doubts about messing with Ellie’s recipe because I was sure that she had worked hard to get it just right. However, as Jacques Pepin explains in this video, even if I had used the same ingredients, my results could have turned out differently than Ellie’s.

Pepin says a recipe is merely a point of departure, and that ingredients and preparation can, and must, change to fit each particular situation.  As a recipe developer, that’s music to my ears.  I want my recipes to “work” so badly for my readers that I get panicky about home cooks getting the same results as I do, but I guess I shouldn’t worry so much.  Changing up ingredients offers the opportunity to make food that suits your tastes.

It seems as if my mother was on the same page as Pepin, in her everyday-cook sort of way.  As a mom with a full-time job, she managed to have a home cooked dinner on the table for us every week night. I’m not sure she thought too hard about how a recipe would turn out; she seemed to know that her results would be OK, even with alterations. And that’s all that matters.

Older woman smiling

My mother taught me a lot about making do in the kitchen.

Common ingredient substitutions to make do in the kitchen

Being willing to improvise, and knowing how, helps you to be a better, more efficient food manager (which saves money), and helps you get food on the table without fussing. These days, it’s likely you are improvising more than ever.


Out of yeast? Try my yeast-free pizza dough recipe. 


avocado, fresh asparagus, garlic, egg, tomato

Use what you have on hand to make delicious, easy meals.

Coming up short on ingredients shouldn’t deter you from making most recipes, especially baked goods. Here are the ingredient substitutions I use to make do in the kitchen, which also include healthy swaps and vegan ingredient substitutions.

• Baking powder: Here’s what to use in place of baking powder, and these are equal to a 1 teaspoon substitution: ¼ teaspoon baking soda mixed with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1/2 cup plain yogurt plus 1 teaspoon baking soda and reduce the liquid in what you’re baking by 1/2 cup.

• Bread: Tortillas, crackers, tortilla chips, lettuce leaves, English muffins, bagel

• Brown sugar (1 cup): 1 cup granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons molasses or dark corn syrup

• Butter: Use equal amounts of plain canned pumpkin; or make this butter to vegetable oil conversion by using ¾ as much vegetable oil, such as canola, as butter in the recipe.

• Buttermilk: (1 cup): Pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar in a cup measure and fill the rest of the cup with milk; or use 1 cup plain yogurt thinned out with 1 tablespoon milk.

• Cornstarch (1 tablespoon): 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• Chocolate (semi-sweet, 1 ounce): 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar

• Chocolate (unsweetened, 1 ounce): 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon butter

• Cream (for a creamy soup): Puree cooked garbanzo beans, lentils, or any cooked legume and add to soup; or add mashed potatoes to soup for extra creaminess.

• Dates: Try this easy recipe for raisin paste.

• Egg (1): These work best in recipes that don’t require eggs as a leavener: ½ medium mashed banana; or ½ cup applesauce as a replacement or other pureed fruit, such as prunes; or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water (allow to rest for at least 1 minute before using). See this post for other egg substitutes.


Learn how to use the fluid from canned garbanzo beans in place of eggs! 


•Flour, all-purpose (for thickening soups and sauces only, 1 tablespoon): 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

• Flour (all-purpose, 1 cup): Use 1 cup rolled oats or 1 ½ cups oat flour. To make oat flour, place uncooked oats in a food processor and process into a fine, flour-like texture.

• Honey: Equal amount of maple syrup; or 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar plus ¼ cup water; or molasses; or agave syrup.

• Lemon juice substitutions: Try lime, orange, or grapefruit juice, or plain or flavored vinegars, depending on the recipe.

• Mayonnaise: Equal amount of mashed ripe avocado or hummus. Plain Greek yogurt is also a healthy substitute for mayonnaise.

• Meat or poultry: Beans, lentils, edamame, textured vegetable protein, tofu, or tempeh. Use an equal amount of chopped, sautéed mushrooms or cooked beans, to extend meat or poultry in dishes such as chili, burgers, lasagna, and pizza.


Read all about how to make less meat feed more people! 


• Milk (1 cup): These milk substitutes can be used in baking: ½ cup evaporated milk plus ½ cup water; OR nonfat dry milk prepared according to package; OR an equal amount of plain yogurt or sour cream; OR 1 cup of water plus 1 ½ teaspoons melted butter.

• Nuts: Equal amount of dried fruit, such as raisins; or sunflower, chia, or hemp seeds.

• Pizza crust: Tortilla, English muffin, sandwich wrap, pita bread, Naan, bagel, deli flats.

• Riccotta cheese: Equal amount of pureed plain cottage cheese.

• Rice: Equal amount of farro, freekeh, barley, millet, quinoa, or oatmeal.

• Sour cream replacement in baking, dips, and side dishes: Equal amount of plain regular or plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt also makes a healthy substitute for mayonnaise.

• Sugar (granulated): ¾ cup honey for every cup of sugar in baked goods; mashed bananas, applesauce, and other fruit purees add natural sweetness to muffins, pancakes, and quick breads.

• Sugar (powdered): Place granulated sugar in a food processor and process until the sugar has a fine texture.

• Tomato sauce: Combine equal amounts of tomato paste and water.

• Chocolate hazelnut spread: Melt ½ cup dark chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl. Stir in 1 cup smooth peanut butter until well combined. Cool.

• Vegetable oil substitutes in baking: Use equal amounts of applesauce as a replacement, or plain canned pumpkin puree, or other pureed fruit; or 1¼ as much butter as called for in the recipe.

• Vinegar: Use equal amounts of lemon juice.


What are your favorite ingredient substitutions?


blueberry muffins cooling on a wire rack pin for how to make do in the kitchen

 

 

 

 

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

bowl of chili with beans, beef, yellow and red bell pepper

Using beans in chili cuts down on the meat in this hearty dish.

Chili is the perfect meal for cooler days, and you can put it together fast with canned goods, such as beans and tomatoes. Easy beef and bean chili is is lighter on beef than most recipes, packed with vegetables, and features a secret ingredient that boosts flavor and nutrition without overpowering the dish.

It’s a good idea to make a double batch of this easy, nutritious dish, especially when you have lots of mouths to feed. Freeze what you don’t use for later.

Why canned beans are good for you

Canned beans are a godsend. Beans supply protein, fiber, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals. And, as part of a balanced diet, beans can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood that lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.

In addition, beans are rich in prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits your health in several ways.  Most of your immune system is located in your gut, which is why it’s helpful to eat foods that promote the beneficial bacteria that help prevent you from getting sick.

two hands holding uncooked legumes (beans)

It’s OK to used canned beans, which are already cooked!

I choose canned beans for the sake of convenience and because I usually forget to buy dried beans and soak them! Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%.

How to make vegetarian chili 

This recipe is flexible.  Skip the meat and add more beans and tomatoes to make a vegetarian chili, or use different types of beans, such as white kidney beans and garbanzo beans.

Also, I’m a wimp, so I keep the heat to a minimum. You can add chili powder, jalapeño peppers, more cumin, or any other spice you like. It’s your choice!

bowl of cocoa powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder intensifies the flavors in chili and other savory dishes.

 

How to Use Cocoa Powder in Chili

You may be used to cocoa powder in brownies, cake, and smoothies. While cocoa powder is often associated with desserts, I also use it in this chili recipe. Unsweetened cocoa powder upgrades easy beef and bean chili by intensifying the flavor, and you won’t even know it’s there.

Cocoa powder is also good for you.

Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids. While it’s unclear exactly how flavonoids benefit health, they may help to lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and the brain.

Buy unsweetened cocoa powder that hasn’t been treated with alkaline, which reduces flavonoid content. Avoid Dutch-process cocoa, which has lower flavonoid levels.

Easy Beef and Bean Chili

Delicious and nutritious chili that's easy to make from pantry staples and is ready in about 30 minutes.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beans, chili, easydinnerrecipe, groundbeef
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained

Instructions

  • Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up into very small pieces.  
  • Season meat with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the oil to the saucepan and heat over medium heat.  
  • Add the onion and saute for two minutes or until soft. 
  • Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute.  
  • Add peppers, and continue to cook until peppers are soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes, cocoa powder, and meat to the pan. Combine thoroughly. 
  • Cover, and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes

Nutrition facts per serving: 291 calories, 21 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 9 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 586 milligrams sodium 

bowl of easy beef and bean chili pinterest

The Benefits of Exercise Buddies

women doing yoga outside

When your motivation to exercise is low, an exercise partner or an entire group of workout buddies has benefits. Research suggests the company you keep can help you stick with healthier habits.

Exercise Buddies Offer Motivation 

I wake up very early to attend kickboxing or weight training classes, and I often wonder why I do it, especially when it’s cold and dark outside.  While I would love another hour of sleep, the people I work out with motivate me first thing in the morning.  Some of my exercise mates are good friends, but most of them are acquaintances. Whether or not I know them well, they make my life better.


The health benefits of working out with a crowd


weights class with men and women

On days when my work outs are more solitary in the gym and there’s no hooting and hollering to energize me, I still feel supported because I am surrounded by people doing the same thing. I don’t always know the details of their lives, and they may not know much about me, but I feel like we are partners in crime, silently cheering each other on.

Exercising with Buddies Helps You Stick to It 

Life often gets in the way of my work outs, and I don’t always exercise as often as I should. Exercising with others helps me to stick to a schedule as much as possible. My buddies make it easier to get back into the swing of things when I’ve been away on business, or sick, and they never fail to make working out more fun!

man and woman exercising together


How exercise can help you make friends


 

No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread (gluten-free)

No added sugar fruit and nut bread

Baking without sugar and gluten

I love to bake, but the last thing I need is more sugar in my life. Sugary foods are my downfall, especially muffins, quick breads, and other baked goods that are often as sweet as cake! This no-added sugar fruit and nut bread satisfies my sweet tooth. What’s more, it’s perfect for nutritious meals and snacks, especially if you’re following a no added sugar diet.

Baking with ripe bananas is a great way to cut down on added sugar without sacrificing great taste. I use raisins to provide even more natural sweetness so there’s no need for sugar, honey, or other sweeteners. And, almonds and walnuts supply protein, heart-healthy fat, fiber, and some serious crunch!

I don’t have a problem with gluten, but I know others may. My healthy fruit bread recipe uses oat flour, which is really easy to make at home, instead of wheat flour. As a result, this moist and delicious gluten-free bread is packed with whole grain goodness.


Click on this link to find out why carbohydrates are important

 

How to Make Healthy No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread 

The beauty of this healthy bread recipe is that it’s flexible. You can mix and match the types of nuts and dried fruits in any combination. And, you can make 12 muffins out of the batter instead of a single loaf of bread.

There are so many ways to enjoy a slice of this tasty quick bread. For instance, top a slice with peanut butter, almond butter, or cottage cheese. Pair a slice with an egg or two or a carton of Greek yogurt for a quick meal or snack. Add a piece of fruit for a balanced meal or snack.

I hope you enjoy this bread as much as we do in our house. Here are a few notes before you begin:

• To make oat flour, place 2 cups of gluten-free one-minute or old fashioned oats in a food processor and process on high speed for about 1 minute or until oats achieve a powder-like consistency.

• The recipe calls for dried cranberries.  It’s worth noting that nearly all brands of dried cranberries contain added sugar, so use raisins if you want to limit added sugar.

• The riper the bananas, the sweeter the bread! 

No Added Sugar Fruit and Nut Bread

This gluten-free quick bread gets its sweetness from ripe bananas and dried fruit – no added sugar required! 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Resting Time15 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: banana, glutenfree, no added sugar, quickbread
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 253kcal
Author: ewardrd

Ingredients

  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups oat flour (See Recipe Notes about how to make oat flour.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dried apricots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries**

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • Coat a 1-quart loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until no longer chunky. Using a whisk, add the eggs and canola oil and combine well. Add the oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Add the almonds, walnuts, apricots, and raisins, and blend well.
  • Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning out on a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes before cutting.

Notes

Note: To make oat flour, place uncooked oats in a food processor and process into a fine, flour-like texture.
 
 
Calories: 253, Total fat: 14 grams, Saturated fat: 1 gram, Cholesterol: 35 milligrams, Sodium: 135 milligrams, Carbohydrate: 29 grams, Dietary fiber: 4 grams, Protein: 6 grams, Calcium: 64 milligrams, Iron: 2 milligrams

 

pinterest graphic and picture of no added sugar fruit and nut bread

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

These No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars are ready in less than 5 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars are easy to make and require no baking.

I love energy bars, but most store-bought varieties are too expensive for me, too sweet, or they leave an aftertaste. I thought I could do better, and I came up with these delicious no-bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars that are packed with protein and fiber.

No-Bake Healthy Snacks that are Budget-Friendly

These bars are delicious, and one of the best parts is that you don’t have to bake them!  Peanut butter and maple syrup (or honey) hold the bars together and makes them moist and chewy.

I wanted this recipe to be cost-effective and I chose peanut butter because it’s the least expensive type of nut butter.

Chunky peanut butter provides extra crunch in this recipe. If you don’t have chunky peanut butter, use creamy and add 1/3 cup chopped peanuts.


Honey is often less expensive than 100% pure maple syrup, but it’s not a vegan ingredient. Maple syrup works just as well as a sweetener and to hold the other ingredients together.

Raisins supply sweetness without added sugar, and they are likely to be the least costly dried fruit, and even less when you buy store brands.  (Learn how to cut back on sugar here.)

If you substitute a higher-fiber whole grain ready-to-eat cereal for Cheerios, the cost to make the peanut butter cereal bars may be higher, and the calorie count could increase.

How to Make Vegan Energy Bars

You have a choice to help hold these bars together: honey or maple syrup.  I don’t have a preference, but if you want a vegan version, use maple syrup.  Pure maple syrup can be pricey, and since you really don’t taste it in the recipe, use whatever brand you can afford.


Each bar supplies 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber! 

How to Make Nut-Free, Gluten-Free Energy Bars

Yes, the basis of these energy bars is peanut butter, but you can make them nut-free by using sunflower seed butter, soy nut butter, or sesame seed butter.

Cheerios are gluten-free.  Be sure to choose certified gluten-free oats to be sure that you are buying a gluten-free product.

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars have just five low-cost ingredients.

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars have just five relatively low-cost ingredients.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

These delicious bars supply 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, use 5 ingredients and take 5 minutes to put together! 
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time49 mins
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: peanut butter cereal bars
Servings: 12
Calories: 302kcal
Author: ewardrd

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter Use no added sugar peanut butter, if desired.
  • 1/2 cup California raisins
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 cups oats, uncooked
  • 2 cups plain Cheerios, or store-brand equivalent

Instructions

  • Coat a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Press the bar mixture evenly into the pan. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Cut into 12 squares. Keep refrigerated.

Notes

Nutrition Information: Per serving: 302 calories; 17 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 191 milligrams sodium; 31 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 10 grams protein.


Need a chocolate fix? Toss 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips into the bar mixture. Mini chips better distribute the chocolate flavor, so you use can use less of them! 

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cereal Bars can also be vegan.

Use maple syrup instead of honey to make these gluten-free Peanut Butter Cereal Bars vegan.

Serving suggestion: Pair with eight ounces of dairy milk or a carton of Greek yogurt and a banana. You’ll get a serving each of fruit, dairy, and whole grains, as well as at least 20 grams of protein, the minimum amount of protein you should have at every meal.

pin for Peanut Butter Cereal Bars no bake

 

8 Easy to Make, Better Than Store-bought Foods

There are a few everyday foods I don’t buy anymore, including cranberry sauce, salad dressing, and almond butter, because they are easy to make at home, and they taste better.  On the flip side, there are several so-called convenience foods I can’t do without. I asked a few of my foodie friends about what they absolutely must make from scratch, as well as their “processed food” picks that get healthy meals on the table fast, and they served up these eight easy to make, better than store-bought foods!

Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, Nutritioulicious

Must-have homemade food: Peanut sauce

Why: “Most packaged peanut sauces are really high in sodium and sugar, so I’d rather make my own using natural, unsweetened peanut butter and adding my own amount of sweetener. I also add other flavor boosters like freshly grated ginger and sriracha, which packaged peanut sauces don’t have. Give it a whirl in the blender or food processor and it’s easy as can be!”

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Favorite convenience food: Canned beans

Why: “I love adding beans to salads, pasta dishes, sauces, and grain side dishes, but I would not use them as frequently as I do if I had to soak and cook them on my own. Time is of the essence when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in my house! A lot of people are hesitant to buy canned beans because of the sodium content, so I recommend buying the no-salt-added canned beans if you can find them and always drain and rinse the beans before adding to a dish.”

Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, JaniceCooks

Must-have homemade food: Sweet and Hearty Beef Stew

Why: “It tastes better than the canned kind, and it’s better for you. My beef stew has half the sodium, twice the protein, and four times the fiber and vitamin A as the canned variety. It takes just minutes to toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and a hearty, tasty dinner is ready to serve a few hours later.”

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Favorite convenience food: Canned pumpkin.

Why: “I tried cooking and mashing fresh pumpkin once and decided that it would be the last time. Canned pure pumpkin is so convenient and nutritious that I stock up every fall to be sure I can use it year round. I use it in muffins, pancakes, smoothies, even chili  and enchiladas! ”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Nutrition Starring You

Must-have homemade food: Vegan ice cream

Why: “I don’t like the taste of store-bought vegan ice cream. It’s always high in added sugar and not nearly as high in protein as my version.”

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Favorite convenience food: Bagged salad.

Why: “I couldn’t live without pre-washed greens, especially the cabbage blends because they are super filling and don’t get soggy so you can enjoy them for several meals. (Close second: rotisserie chicken for fast, easy lunches and dinners.)”

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, Real Mom Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Salad dressing

Why: “Once I started making my own salad dressing, it was impossible to go back to the gloppy bottled kind–especially the ones with preservatives and artificial dyes.”

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Need more salad dressing ideas? Here’s 50 of them.

Favorite convenience food: Jarred pasta sauce

Why: “You can’t beat the convenience of it, and jarred sauce plus frozen ravioli is a last resort meal that saves us from ordering pizza or getting other take-out food. Pair that combination with prewashed greens and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!”

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, Amy Gorin Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites

Why: “Unlike a lot of store-bought versions of energy bites, balls, and bars, my recipe contains no added sugar. Plus, they’re delicious!”

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Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruit

Why: “Unsweetened frozen fruit is great for when I don’t have fresh in the house. It’s also sometimes preferable. When I use it in smoothies, I don’t need to add ice. And when I heat it up and use it as a topping for a bowl of oatmeal or French toast, it creates a nice liquid that can replace other toppings like syrup or brown sugar.”

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, Shaw’s Simple Swaps

Must-have homemade food: Jam

Why: “I love to make homemade jam not only because I can control the added sugar content, but also because I load it with wholesome, nutrient-rich ingredients, like omega-3 chia seeds, fiber-filled figs and other seasonal fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless!”

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Favorite convenience food: Whole grain bread

Why: “I can’t live without whole grain bread! Sure, I can make my own, but there’s nothing like a nice, fresh loaf of 100% whole grain bread with seeds from the store that you can simply take out of the bag and place in the toaster for a quick avocado toast lunch!”

Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Must-have homemade food: Chocolate syrup

Why: “This beautifully glossy chocolate syrup is a tasty alternative to what you’ll find in the supermarket, products that often have artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and mystery ingredients.”

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Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruits and vegetables (among so many others!).

Why: “A bag of frozen spinach within reach is a quick way to up the health benefits of everything from stews to smoothies, and frozen spinach is great in smoothies along with frozen fruit. The nutrient values of frozen fruits and vegetables stay largely intact when produce is put under the deep freeze.”

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN 

Must-have homemade food: Granola

Why: “Most store-bought granola is loaded with added sugar and fat. My version has sugar and fat, too, but the fat is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind from nuts, and I add just enough pure maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.

Allspice or Chinese five spice powder provides added sweetness without sugar. For variety, I add 1/4 cup dried wild blueberries or unsweetened coconut during the last few minutes of baking. Add whatever you like to make it your own recipe.”

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Kathleen Zelman’s Granola

3 ½ cups old fashioned oats
2 cups finely chopped nuts of your choice (I love to mix pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pure maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder

Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, stirring well to combine.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the granola to the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown. Higher heat burns the nuts.

Favorite convenience food: Canned petite diced tomatoes.

Why: “These little gems are the perfect addition to so many recipes. They add color, flavor, texture, fiber, and other nutrients. I put them in egg dishes, soups, sauces, stews, guacamole, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce and anything with a red sauce. You can purchase them fire-roasted, with herbs and spices, and with no added salt.”

8 Easy to Make, Better Than Store-Bought Foods pinterest image

Why You’re Exercising But Not Losing Weight

Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do not a punishment for what you ate. Does this sound familiar? You rely on regular exercise to torch the calories in that second margarita, the snack chips you nibble while watching TV, or the pint of ice cream you pick at while standing at the kitchen counter, but you haven’t shed a pound.  Here are some reasons why you’re exercising but not losing weight.


Read more about why all movement adds up to something good!


You give exercise too much credit for weight control 

Weight control is a balancing act, and exercise probably doesn’t burn as many calories as you think.

When you feel entitled to splurge because you’ve worked out, think about this: it can take less than a minute to eat back the calories burned on a 30-minute run or in a 45-minute exercise class.

According to the American Cancer Society’s Exercise Counts Calculator, a 150-pound person burns about 150 calories walking briskly for 30 minutes. That’s about the same number of calories found in:

• 6 ounces of white wine

• 5 chocolate creme sandwich cookies

• about 1/2 cup of soft serve vanilla frozen yogurt

I’m not a fan of the calories in vs. calories out approach to weight control for several reasons. It can make exercise seem like punishment for eating.

However, you could try cutting back on treats like sweets, chips, and alcohol for better balance. Research suggests that eating less probably has a greater effect than exercise alone on body weight.

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com


Exercise slows the effects of aging


You work out too hard.

When I was much younger, I ran a lot more than I do now, and I used exercise to justify my overeating. As a result, I was puzzled about why I didn’t weigh less (duh!).

Research suggests what I’ve learned through experience: intense exercise can overstimulate your appetite, and lead you to believe that you can reward yourself with extra food. In addition, you may move around less during after an intense workout, which decreases your daily overall calorie burn.

image of a woman in track suit ready to run a race.

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

 

The solution is to take it down a notch or two. Find activities that raise your heart rate but not your appetite, such as brisk walking, kickboxing, and shorter runs.

Include at least two weekly sessions of resistance training, such as weight lifting, to preserve and build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Generally speaking, moderate resistance training won’t make you ravenous.


Why walking is good exercise


Why exercise is so good for your body

Now you know why you’re exercising but not losing weight. However, don’t walk, run, or do yoga just for weight control.

Of all the lifestyle habits to develop and maintain, regular exercise is one of the best, if only because it reduces the risk for 13 types of cancer.

The real beauty of exercise is that everyone can benefit from it, no matter how much they weigh.

It’s never too late to benefit from adding exercise to your routine, and it may help you live longer, and better.


New study shows how exercise may alter gut health for the better


pinterest image of a woman in track suit ready to run a race.

3 Cringe-Worthy Nutrition Terms I Avoid

Warning: Rant ahead.  Anyone who knows me knows how salty my language can get, including my kids, who are old enough to hear bad language from their parents.  I may curse in front of my children without a second thought, but there are certain cringe-worthy nutrition terms I will not say. Here’s where I draw the line, and why.

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The F-Word

For me “fat” is a word to avoid unless it’s used to describe the nutrient itself or the cells that store energy in the body. Fat should never be used as an adjective to characterize someone’s appearance, including your own. Even if you don’t say “fat,” you may think it. That’s especially true when you complain or joke about your “thunder thighs” or your “muffin top” in front of your kids.

I avoid the F-word because I heard my mother refer to herself as fat one too many times during my childhood.  My mom struggled with her weight, and she was on and off diets for as long as I can remember. She got down on herself about putting on pounds, and was equally elated when she shed them on the latest low-calorie fad.

While my mom never commented on my weight, her dissatisfaction with her own rubbed off on me.  To make matters worse, I inherited a slower-than-molasses metabolism and my family loved to eat. I dieted plenty before deciding to be done with all that in my early twenties and to focus on eating healthier on a daily basis.

Skinny

This word really gets my goat. It’s often used as a compliment but it can also be used to shame someone who is on the thin side, especially by those who would like to weigh less. Some people are naturally slim because that’s their body type. While many people crave the label, “thin” people may find it insulting.

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I can’t even think of an instance where I would say the s-word, yet skinny has such appeal that it’s a part of book titles and names of web sites.  It really bothers me that skinny is used as an aspirational term, because going for “skinny” can be detrimental to a healthy body image. In addition, being waif-like in appearance doesn’t mean you’re in good health.

Clean Eating 

I ask my children to clean the kitchen, the bathroom, and their bedrooms, but there is no way that I would ever ask them to “eat clean.” I won’t even talk about clean eating unless pressed to describe what it is.

To be fair, the basic principles of clean eating are admirable: consume fewer processed foods and more whole foods and lightly processed ones.  But, as with most eating plans, many people have taken the concept of eating “clean” too far.

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Cookies are “dirty,” and I like them that way.

I can’t get past the notion that if you’re not eating “clean,” then you’re eating “dirty.” I also get the idea that some die-hard “clean” eaters look down on those who can’t, or don’t want to, eat the same way.  Eating clean can be costly, inconvenient, and uninteresting.

I want my children to see food as fuel to keep their body and brain strong and healthy. What words or terms do you avoid saying in front of young children and teens?

 

 

 

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