Healthy Walnut Raisin Quick Bread

Loaf of healthy walnut raisin quick bread.

Healthy Walnut Raisin Quick Bread is delicious and good for you, too.

I love to bake, and this Healthy Walnut Raisin Quick Bread is a favorite of mine.

It took a lot of tries to get this recipe to work.  As a recipe developer, I’ve goofed by cutting back too much on one ingredient or another. You can benefit from my mistakes because I finally got it right this time!

Making Healthy Bread Without Yeast

When yeast is in short supply and when time is tight, quick breads, including muffins, scones, biscuits, and cornbread, are appealing to home bakers. Quick breads rise because they contain baking powder or baking soda (or both) and eggs.

As an impatient baker, I like to bake once, and eat twice.  Healthy Walnut Raisin Quick Bread makes two loaves (or 24 muffins), and freezes well if you don’t need all of it at once.

How to Reduce Added Sugar in Quick Breads

The problem with many quick bread recipes is that they are full of added sugar. I have a sweet tooth, and I can easily go overboard with granulated, and brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, and honey – all added sugars – but cutting back too much can be disastrous for baked goods.

This recipe is not free of added sugar. However, I’ve decreased the sugar content by using unsweetened applesauce, which also stands in for some of the oil, and raisins, which contribute natural sweetness. In addition to reducing added sugar levels, applesauce and raisins improve taste and texture, and add phytonutrients (protective plant compounds), potassium, and other nutrients.

Nuts Add Nutrition to Healthy Walnut Raisin Quick Bread 

I see a lot of quick bread recipes with chocolate chips, and, to tell the truth, my kids favor those! I’m not such a big fan, though. Even though I love chocolate, I substitute nuts.

I’m always looking for opportunities to improve nutrition without sacrificing taste. In this case, I’ve used walnuts, which supply protein, fiber, phytonutrients, and heart-healthy unsaturated fat. I love the crunch that they lend to the bread, too.

Also, to increase whole grain content, I swapped some whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, and I added oats.  You could use even more whole wheat flour, or make other substitutions. Here’s how.

Healthy walnut raisin quick bread made into muffins.

You can make this recipe as muffins, if you like.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much I do!

Healthy Walnut Raisin Bread

Try this healthier version of a delicious quick bread!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: quickbread, raisins, walnuts
Servings: 24

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats, uncooked
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Coat two loaf pans with cooking spray or line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, oatmeal, brown sugar, raisins, and walnuts. Stir until well combined.
  • Place the applesauce, canola oil, eggs, and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Blend on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. 
  • Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix. 
  • Fill the loaf pans with the batter, dividing it evenly between the 2 pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing. If you're making muffins, cook for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes

Per slice or muffin:
219 calories,
11 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat),
228 milligrams sodium,
29 grams carbohydrate, 
6 grams added sugars,
2 grams fiber,
4 grams protein

pin for healthy walnut raisin quick bread

How To Eat Less Sugar

sugar crystals falling into a pile

Are you concerned about the sugar in your diet? Here’s how to eat less sugar without feeling deprived of the sweet stuff.

Are added sugars the same as natural sugars? 

I like sweets as much as the next person, but I’m happy that experts suggest a daily limit on added sugar in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). That’s because excess intake is linked to several health problems.

But there’s no need for most people to go completely sugar-free, however.  

The DGA recommendation is for added sugar, not the natural type found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and plain dairy foods (which is called lactose). However, people with diabetes should monitor all types as part of a balanced eating plan. 

fresh fruits and vegetables

Sugar can be part of a healthy eating plan. But there’s more room for nutrient-rich choices when you limit added sugar. 

For example, sipping low-fat milk instead of regular soda helps to satisfy protein, calcium, and vitamin D needs. And, choosing fruit instead of cookies supplies more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are protective plant compounds.

How much added sugar can babies and toddlers have? 

A new scientific report suggests that children under the age of two have no added sugar. Here’s why: 

• The calories (energy) in added sugars is likely to displace energy from nutrient-rich foods. For example, milk and sugary soda both have sugar in them. The difference is that milk does not have added sugar and is a source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients. Sugary soda offers nothing but calories.

• Consuming foods with added sugars, such as granola bars, beverages, and cookies, is linked to an increased risk of becoming overweight in children. 
 
• Children develop food preferences early in life. The more added sugars they eat as babies and toddlers, the more likely they will prefer sweet foods. 
 
What about 100% fruit juice for babies? The report recommends no juice for kids under 12 months. Between the ages of one and three years of age, kids should drink no more than four ounces a day of 100% fruit juice according to the American Academy of Pediatrics
 

Read: Getting more sleep may curb your sweet tooth


How to eat the right amount of added sugar for your body

Suggested sugar limits are related to calorie intake. That’s why young children with lower calorie needs should have less added sugar than active teen boys, for example. (See Figuring Your Daily Sugar Allowance, below.)

First, find out how many calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight here. Then, do the math to figure your daily added sugar limit in grams. Many adults need about 2,000 calories a day.Here’s an example using a 2,000 calorie/day eating plan:

• Figure the number of sugar calories allowed: 2,000 calories daily multiplied by .10 (10%) of calories as sugar daily = 200 calories of sugar daily

• Find your sugar allowance in grams: 200 divided by 4 (there are 4 calories in each gram of sugar) equals 50 grams of sugar daily

50 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 12.5 level teaspoons of table sugar. That’s about the amount in 16-ounces of regular soda.

How to read food labels to eat less added sugar 

Knowing your sugar allowance in teaspoons and in grams is helpful for curbing intake. The revised Nutrition Facts panel on food labels lists the amount of added sugar in grams and as a %Daily Value (%DV).

2016 food label example

The %DV is a guide to the nutrients in a serving of food. For example, if the label lists 10 percent of the DV for a nutrient, it means that a single serving provides 10 percent of the daily allowance.

The %DV for nutrients is based on a 2,000-calorie eating plan for healthy adults, so your sugar “allowance” may differ. For example, a person who requires 2,600 calories to maintain a healthy weight can eat up to 65 grams of added sugar daily as part of a balanced diet.

Once you know your sugar limit in grams, it’s possible to tally the amount you get from packaged foods as well what you add to foods, such as coffee, tea, and cereal. For reference, one level teaspoon of sugar contains four grams.

tips for eating less added sugar pinterest graphic

Simple tips to eat less sugar 

I can’t say that I’ve completely tamed my sweet tooth, and that’s OK. Here are some simple tips I use for keeping sugar intake in check. 

• Avoid sugary drinks. Drink water, milk, or calorie-free beverages instead of regular soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages. 

• Minimize sweet treats. Enjoy smaller portions of cookies, candy, and other sweet treats, such as a mini cupcake or a fun-size candy bar. The first few bites of any food are the most pleasurable. 

• Don’t fool yourself. Honey, maple syrup, and molasses are all sources of added sugar. 

• Cut down on sugar in favorite foods. Mix your favorite sugary cereal with an unsweetened kind, like nutrition expert, mom, and blogger Sally Kuzemchak does. (See her post about 5 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Child’s Diet.)  Fill a tall glass with cold seltzer water and add just a splash of 100% fruit juice.  Sweeten plain yogurt with a teaspoon of sugar, honey, jam, or molasses. 

Bake with less. When baking muffins and other quick breads, cut the granulated or brown sugar by at least one-third.

• Rely on fruit. Swap syrup on pancakes and waffles for applesauce or other pureed fruit. Whip up a smoothie with ripe fruit and milk or Greek yogurt.  This Dried Fig, Goat Cheese, and Apple Galette gets most of its sweetness from fruit. 

• Compare packaged foods. Sugar is added to foods such as bread, granola, instant oatmeal, and pasta sauce. Compare brands and opt for the least amount of sugar per serving as seen on the Nutrient Facts panel.

 

 

 

Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?

scale-403585_1920

I’ve been on a lot of low-calorie diets, mostly as a teenager, and my dietary deprivation always involved frequent tracking of my “progress” on the bathroom scale.  I felt accomplished when I dropped a pound or two, and terrible when I didn’t.  As a registered dietitian counseling people about weight control, I made stepping on the scale optional, but should you weigh yourself every day?

Is it OK toWeigh Yourself Every Day?

In my personal and professional experience, the scale can leave emotional scars. That’s why I was a bit surprised by an article that suggests weighing yourself daily is helpful for losing weight and preventing weight gain.

That conclusion may be based on the results of several research studies, but it does not apply to everyone, and certainly not to children.


It was clear that my self-esteem was affected by the numbers on the scale, and I didn’t like the feeling.


How Weighing Yourself May be Harmful

As Laura Cipullo, RD, author of The Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, puts it in the article, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and start to identify your self-worth with what’s on the scale.

If you struggle with disordered eating, weighing yourself daily may not be a good idea. In fact, the studies mentioned in USA Today excluded people with a history of disordered eating, who may be more prone to obsessing about weight and respond to falling or rising numbers on the scale with extreme dieting or binging.

How to Make Peace with the Scale

I would like to think that I’ve made peace with the scale, even though I weigh myself more often now than in the past 20 or 30 years. I use the scale to confirm that I must get back on track before the pounds really add up, not to deride myself for veering off course.

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with weighing ourselves. Do you weigh yourself on a regular basis?

 

 

 

5 Nutrition Rules Debunked

Many nutrition rules that we take for granted are more hype than help. It may come as a relief that you can ignore some nutrition advice and still eat healthy!

Advice: Put only the most colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate.

Bottom line: This rule shortchanges white, brown, and tan produce, such as mushrooms, cauliflower, and bananas, which are just as nutrition-worthy as their brighter counterparts. Most of us fall far short of suggested fruit and vegetable servings, so concentrate on including the types you like, no matter how pale. And while we’re at it, let’s stop shaming starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and peas, as nutrition expert Janet Helm so aptly puts it.

Advice: You should eat breakfast every day to control your weight.

Bottom line: The research doesn’t support the claim that eating a balanced breakfast is necessary for weight control, but if it works for you, stay with it. Skipping breakfast probably won’t cause weight gain or prevent weight loss if you stick to your calorie budget throughout the day, but there’s more to breakfast than the number on the scale, including fuel and nutrients for body and brain.

Don’t like to eat when you get up? Divide a balanced breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and a whole grain roll into two morning snacks that you finish before lunch. If you’re not into “traditional” breakfast foods, munch on a slice of leftover thin-crust cheese pizza and fruit, or half a turkey and cheese sandwich and carrot sticks.

Advice: Shop only the perimeter of the grocery store.

Bottom line: Yes, the outer parts of the store have lots of nutritious foods, including the fish counter, produce section, and the dairy case, but the bakery is also located there. The aisles house healthy options including whole grain cereal and pasta, as well as canned seafood and beans, and jars of fruit packed in their own juice. Plan meals and snacks, and head to the grocery store with a list to make it easier to peruse the aisles for nutritious choices. Don’t shop when you’re hungry, or that bakery along the perimeter may be too tempting to walk past.

Advice: You must drink 64 ounces of plain water every day.

Bottom line: Probably not! Water is an essential nutrient, but most of us don’t need to down a half gallon of the stuff every day.  Men, and women who are not pregnant or nursing require between nine and 13 cups of fluid daily, about 72 to 104 ounces, respectively. (Physically active people may need more.) Plain water is preferable for meeting fluid needs, but the water in other drinks, such as milk, coffee and tea (even the caffeinated kinds) contributes fluid, so it’s easier than you think to meet your quota.

Advice: Eating at night leads to weight gain.

Bottom line: Only if you overdo it, which is often the case. If you’re extremely hungry (from under-eating during the day; see section on breakfast, above), stressed, or bored, and you reach for high-calorie foods such as cookies, chips, or candy, you may find it difficult to limit your calorie intake. It’s OK to eat at night as long as you’re mindful of your daily calorie needs. If you struggle to control calories after the sun goes down, read this by Yoni Freedhoff, M.D.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

pumpkin spice smoothie with whipped cream and garnished with nutmeg from betteristhenewperfect.com

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

 

I’m a pumpkin fanatic. I stock up on plain canned pumpkin puree the second it hits the shelves at the end of the summer because I use it year-round in these muffins, these donuts, and in this Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. To be honest, my children think I have a “pumpkin problem.” I wonder if that’s because I get nervous if I have any less than 10 cans in the house at a time? Oh well, I suppose I could have bigger things to worry about!


Did you know?

Technically, pumpkins are a fruit!


Health Benefits of Pumpkin Spice Smoothie 

I love the taste of pumpkin, but I also love the nutrition it offers, including the following:

  • Beta carotene, a plant compound that protects cells, gets converted to vitamin A in the body, and supports eye and skin health.

 

  • Potassium, a mineral that helps to keep blood pressure in check and regulate heart beat, among other functions. 

 

  • Fiber, which supports gut health and helps to stabilize blood glucose levels. You’d have to eat a entire cup of raw kale to get the fiber found in 1/2 cup of plain canned pumpkin puree, the amount used in Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. 

Pumpkin isn’t the only wonderful ingredient in this smoothie. When paired with milk, this delicious drink supplies 8 grams of protein, 4 grams fiber, vitamin D, and about one-third of the calcium you need in a day, and all for under 200 calories.


Did you know? 

Eating more fruits and veggies helps lower breast cancer risk


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Delicious and nutritious pumpkin spice smoothie with fewer than 200 calories!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pumpkinsmoothie, pumpkinspice, smoothie
Servings: 1

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup 1% low fat milk
  • 1/2 cup plain canned pumpkin
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch ground nutmeg, if desired
  • 4 teaspoons instant whipped cream, if desired

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients except the whipped cream in a blender and blend until smooth on high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Top with whipped cream and enjoy immediately.

Notes

Per serving (with whipped cream): 192 calories; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 8 grams protein; 21 milligrams cholesterol; 90 milligrams sodium; 30 milligrams carbohydrate; 9 grams added sugar; 4 grams fiber; 2.3 micrograms vitamin D (90 International Units); 283 milligrams calcium; 2 milligrams iron.  

pinterest graphic for pumpkin spice smoothie with whipped cream and garnished with nutmeg from betteristhenewperfect.com

 

 

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  I’m a big fan of eating together, but I also know that even the thought of making that happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s a good idea to have 5 stress-free family meals on repeat!

young boy eating spaghetti at a table

Why Family Meals Matter

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, 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. But we know that rarely happens.

Still, as the mother of three, it’s important to try.

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, your partner turns up late, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Do you really need to eat together as a family?

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.

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 at other times.


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


5 No-Fuss Family Dinners

Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home as often as you can, and don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but do 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.

Easy Beef and Bean Chili from www.betteristhenewperfect.com

  • 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.

Kids love breakfast for dinner like these pancakes with blueberries.

  • 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:

 

 

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