What foods do you know aren't good for you but you crave them anyway?
You may have thought of a dessert, carb-heavy pasta noodles, or potentially nothing at all (oh c'mon now, honesty never hurt anyone). Chances are, although we know certain things are unhealthy we still reach for them from time to time, simply because we want that taste badly enough to sacrifice a little bit.
However, there are healthier alternatives to these foods that have a very similar taste but with less of the processed carbs, more vitamins and nutrients, and/or less of the calories. Below are some of the best substitutions I've discovered, featuring explorations of the health benefits and marketing tactics the companies that sell some of these products use to emphasize that idea of "healthier."
Any other suggestions? Share in the comments!
Trader Joe's Watermelon Jerky -- Alternative to Fruity Candies
Marketing analysis: At first thought, the term "watermelon jerky" may throw you off, and possibly even gross you out. Though, the soft watermelon-themed colors of the packaging and immediate clarification as "dried watermelon" reassure you this food is nothing to be intimidated by. In big letters as the first word most eyes would land upon also is the great big buzzword "organic". In just the simplistic front display, it's clear the packaging does all it can to ease your hesitation and lure you in.
Benefits analysis: This snack is sugary sweet to a point where it's surprising that the sole ingredient is watermelon and no sugar is added. With one ingredient and all natural sugar, watermelon jerky is therefore very healthy, and because it tastes just like candy I find it perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth who's looking to cut down on processed food and calories. In fact, one of these medium-sized packages (which I've found can definitely be eaten in several sittings) is only 210 calories.
Cacao Nibs -- Alternative to Chocolate Chips
Benefits analysis: As the rawest form of chocolate without the added milk, cream, and sugar, this is the best way to get the antioxidants and natural acids and fats that cacao beans offer. I recommend getting the kind with 1g of sugar per serving, or else eating a plain handful quite honestly tastes disgusting, but cacao nibs are bitter and nutty and a perfect substitution for chocolate chips when baking or needing something to sprinkle onto smoothie bowls that has some crunch. Look for a brand that has 25 calories per teaspoon serving.
See here for some more benefits of cacao nibs according to Web MD.
Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi -- Alternative to Traditional Gnocchi Pasta
Marketing analysis: The giant, mouthwatering image displayed across the front of the package is sure to draw pasta-loving consumers in. In fact, there's not much else to look at other than a piping hot bowl of gnocchi. There doesn't seem, however, to be much else in terms of marketing strategy at play on this front side, though it's important to note the light green color of the top and bottom borders may serve a role in linking the idea of natural food to this item.
Benefits analysis: This gnocchi alternative tastes SO good and just like it would if cauliflower were not used instead of the higher-carb potato.
Frozen Grapes with Lemon Juice -- Alternative to Fruity Candies
Benefits analysis: With the steps of putting washed grapes in a plastic bag, shaking lemon juice into the bag, and freezing it for at least three hours, making this snack could not be any simpler! I'd even go so far as to say it tastes like a sweeter, better Sour Patch candy, and it's literally only fruit. While some advance anticipation of this craving is required due to the long freezing process, there aren't enough good things to say about how tasty yet healthy it is. In fact if I were you, I'd start making some right now.
Mini Skinny Cow Ice Cream Cones -- Alternative to Ice Cream
Marketing analysis: The colors and fonts used on the box appear more feminine, and it's perhaps a good decision that the old image of a cow with a tape measure around its small waist is a thing of past designs. It's clear the wording is also used to persuade, as it uses elegant descriptive words such as "light," "topped," and "rich" as well as some humor in what the company calls the flavor, "not fudging around chocolate fudge." The box has some personality to it, which is definitely part of the appeal.
Benefits analysis: Mini Skinny Cow ice cream cones feature the same taste you know and probably love with a lot fewer calories. I actually find them more fun than a simple bowl of ice cream since there's a drizzle of sauce and a waffle cone with chocolate at the bottom. I'd call them healthier rather than healthy, but this is a great way to spoil your sweet tooth for only 100 calories.
Miracle Noodles -- Alternative to Traditional Pasta Noodles
Marketing analysis: The first thing that jumps out from the packaging in solid, bold letters is a laundry list of health benefits. The label certainly points out why this product is called "miracle" noodles! It's healthy and restriction-friendly and wants people to know it. The cover is clean, simple, and uses the same strategy as the cauliflower gnocchi by using green as a nod to nature and convey a natural feel to this product.
Benefits analysis: One thing's for sure -- these noodles really are miraculous. Gluten free? Cholesterol free? Zero calories? If you're worried about feeling full, there's natural plant fiber that will still leave you feeling like you ate a meal. From experience, they lack flavor and so should be paired with a flavorful sauce, spices, and/or vegetables, but this is an excellent pasta substitute. If you think about it, the only calories in the dish you make with them comes from what you put in, which is pretty cool.
Kale Chips -- Alternative to Chips
Benefits analysis: Kale is a true superfood - low in calories and dense in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C... the list goes on. I know these aren't actually chips, but they pack the crunch and can seriously kick a craving, plus the steps to make them couldn't be easier (you can buy them packaged at the store too, but they're better homemade). Simply wash your kale, get rid of the stems, rip into pieces, mix in apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. They're delicious and so good for you!
Brilliant Banana Breakfasts
Beneficial for digestion, nutrition, weight loss, and your heart, bananas have numerous health benefits. They're rich in potassium, vitamins C and B6, and nutrients that are critical to body function such as copper, magnesium, and manganese. Not to mention, bananas have almost no fat, and contain a little protein and fiber to keep you full.
They're extremely versatile as well. Bananas can be found as an ingredient in smoothies, baked treats, pies, s'mores, and can be enjoyed alone with some peanut butter. The possibilities and benefits to our health are endless, so why not find creative ways to incorporate more banana into our diets?
I've discovered some delicious recipes that feature banana without it having an overpowering flavor. Most of them can be prepared in under ten minutes, and will provide a happy and healthy start to your day! They've truly become a staple in my house because of how easy and delicious they are, so I strongly encourage that you check them out below.
Read more about all the health benefits of bananas here: www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-bananas#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3
1. Banana slices with peanut butter and granola
Desired amount of peanut butter
Desired amount of granola
This is perfect in a pinch, and chances are you already have the ingredients lying around your house.
The directions couldn't be more straightforward - slice a banana, dip the slices in some peanut butter, then roll them around in the granola of your choosing. This recipe is filling, filled with potassium and good fats, and a great thing to make when you're rushing to go somewhere in 10 minutes but need a quick breakfast first.
2. Baked oatmeal
1/2 cup oats
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup milk
2/3 tsp baking powder
Pour all of the above ingredients into a blender and blend them until the oats are finely chopped. Put the mixture into a bowl, and you can then flavor the dish with the crumbs of any dried fruit (though I think dried strawberry and raspberry work best) by sprinkling them on top. Microwave for 1-3 minutes, and voilà!
3. Sweet breakfast quesadillas
One low-carb tortilla (I use Mission brand tortillas)
Any flavor yogurt (strawberry is recommended)
Featuring the viral tortilla-slit hack! First, make a slit in the tortilla starting in the middle and cutting all the way straight to the edge that's towards you (see pictures). Visualize the circular tortilla in 4 quadrants. Then, spread some peanut butter on the lower left, place banana slices on the upper left, and place strawberry slices on the upper right quadrant. Fold the peanut butter area on top of the banana one, and cover the upper left area with yogurt and a few chocolate chips. Next, fold that into the upper right strawberry quadrant, and cover the lower right area with more yogurt and chocolate chips. Fold the that lower right area into the rest of the wrap above, and cook face down in a pan. Flip once the tortilla turns golden brown, and it's ready when the second side is golden brown as well! An important tip is to not "overfill" the inside of the wrap or the contents will spill out when you cook it in the pan. You may also drizzle honey on top for a touch of extra sweetness instead of adding the chocolate chips to make it healthier. This is a delicious, balanced breakfast that I hope you enjoy!
4. Easy breakfast cookies (recipe courtesy of frommybowl.com)
1 ripe banana
1 1/2 cups oats
2 tbsp applesauce
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
optional: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
These are simple, healthy, and delicious! First, preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mash the peeled banana with a fork until a smooth paste. With a blender, chop 1/2 cup of the oats until a fine flour forms. Into the bowl with the mashed banana, add the oat flour, remaining oats, applesauce, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and maple syrup/honey. Fully mix the ingredients together, fold in the chopped walnuts until incorporated, then form 6 cookies on the baking sheet. Each should need about 3 tablespoons of the batter. The cookies will not rise or spread out in the oven, so press them onto the sheet to get the desired thickness. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes, then remove them from the oven and cool.
Bonus - yogurt pops
These don't have to include banana, but they're such a creative and easy breakfast idea. The night before you plan to have one (or a few!) for breakfast, simply remove the lid of any flavor yogurt container and stick a popsicle stick in the middle of the yogurt. Freeze overnight, and after you remove the popsicle from the container it's ready to enjoy!
Tasty Jelly Bean "Recipes"
For many years, I've been passionate about flavors and how they interact with each other. This inspired my latest venture of cracking open a bag of jelly beans with one of my best friends and experimenting with different jelly bean combinations to create an entirely different flavor, something we often did when we were younger. While we initially tasted combinations found on the Jelly Belly website, we soon found ourselves thinking beyond the list and coming up with our own creative delectable creations.
I've compiled lists of the best tried and true flavor combinations we've found, separated into categories: fruity drinks, coffee, and dessert. Try these at home, or invent your own inspired concoctions, and let me know what you think in the comments below!
note: ** denotes a combination that we created, all others can be found on the Jelly Belly website, linked here
FRUITY DRINKS SERIES
cotton candy + lemon = pink lemonade
strawberry jam + lemon = strawberry lemonade
raspberry + lemon = raspberry lemonade
blueberry + watermelon + strawberry jam + orange juice = fruit punch
**raspberry + crushed pineapple + peach + juicy pear + coconut = tropical fruit juice
kiwi + strawberry daquiri = strawberry-kiwi refresher
strawberry daquiri + raspberry + blueberry = berry smoothie
**kiwi + juicy pear + green apple + crushed pineapple = green smoothie
cappuccino + chocolate pudding = mocha
cappuccino + french vanilla = vanilla latte
**cappuccino + french vanilla + caramel corn = caramel latte
cappuccino + buttered popcorn + french vanilla = coffee cake
blueberry + blueberry + buttered popcorn = blueberry muffin
root beer + root beer + cream soda + french vanilla = root beer float
**lemon + lemon + caramel corn = lemon bar
**lime + lemon lime + french vanilla + toasted marshmallow = key lime pie
**caramel corn + french vanilla = birthday cake
french vanilla + coconut + coconut + buttered popcorn + toasted marshmallow + toasted marshmallow = tres leche cake
cappuccino + cappuccino + cream soda + chocolate pudding = tiramisu
caramel corn + toasted marshmallow + toasted marshmallow + chocolate pudding = s'mores
raspberry + lemon lime + orange sherbet = rainbow sherbet ice cream
**french vanilla + french vanilla + buttered popcorn + orange = cannoli
top banana + chocolate pudding + crushed pineapple + strawberry jam + very cherry + french vanilla = banana split
**chocolate pudding + caramel corn + french vanilla + toasted marshmallow + toasted marshmallow = chocolate chip pancakes
**peanut butter + strawberry jam = peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Improving Concentration - How to Build Better Exercise, Nutrition, and Sleep Habits
As 2020 draws to a close, most people have now spent three-quarters of a year learning and working through a screen. In this new era of technological dependence, it’s more important than ever to discover strategies to maximize concentration and productivity when working online. Understanding how physical aspects such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep play a role in our attentive abilities is critical to improving concentration and overall stress level.
The endorphins produced during exercise play a major role in boosting happiness and relieving stress. Not to mention, regular exercise can more permanently lift your mood as it provides an escape from outside pressures. Distracting yourself by setting goals and working to achieve them is a great source of feelings of purpose and self-satisfaction according to Paula Kooperman of https://www.psk4life.com/, fitness instructor and founder of the virtual exercise program PSK4LIFE. “Whether your exercise of choice is yoga, or cycle, or running, whatever it is, I think tuning out the world and tuning into trying to make yourself feel better really seems to do wonders,” she says. “It’s about getting stronger and feeling strong.”
As for how to get this mood-boosting and therefore concentration-boosting exercise, she suggests experimenting with trying new things, reconsidering the word “exercise” as “physical activity”, and sticking to what you love. “Find something you like to do because if you like it, you’ll continue to do it,” she recommends. In fact, according to Kooperman, the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the need for at-home workouts is that people have the flexibility to customize their routines to work for them. “Not everyone has equipment, so grab water bottles. Grab soup cans. Grab two containers of barbecue sauce. It doesn’t really matter, you’re just being creative with it and trying to do something new… We’ve all learned to adapt and get creative.”
Even brief breaks from work can be the perfect time to use physical activity for a mental reset. Kooperman proposes meditation or anything to get your heart rate up and body moving, such as going for a walk and getting some fresh air, completing a 15-minute exercise class, or even stepping outside for a short run around the block. This provides an opportunity to readjust your focus by eliminating distractions and improving your mood and level of energy.
As for nutritional strategies, Paula Kooperman’s husband, Dr. Steven Kooperman, an OB/GYN, suggests avoiding sugar and highly processed foods. Since these cause an energy and concentration crash, it’s far better to fill up on a plant-based diet that includes protein and carbohydrates in their natural forms as often as possible. Caffeine, too, in moderation can be a major contributor to a focused and productive state. Although caffeine is proven to increase concentration, Dr. Kooperman also warns that consuming caffeine in high doses every day will likely lead to addiction and a dependence on it to function.
Dr. Kooperman further emphasizes the importance of quality sleep in the ability to properly focus on tasks. In his opinion, “No you shouldn’t be high before going to bed, no you shouldn’t be drinking before going to bed… you get lousy sleep cycles and lousy sleep, then you get lousy immunity and you get lousy concentration.” For teenagers, 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep is highly recommended, while this number falls closer to 7-9 hours of sleep for adults.
In order to be as focused and productive as possible, maximizing energy through staying active and proper sleep and nutrition is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic, despite its drawbacks, has given us much more time to take care of ourselves physically. Utilizing the above strategies to ensure physical wellness can have a profound impact on the ability to concentrate. In conclusion, the endorphins, stress-relief, and sense of purpose and accomplishment that exercise produce on top of the energy that a proper diet and sleep schedule provides is likely to enhance mental acuity and establish smarter, more efficient learning habits.
The pandemic's restrictions on social activities coupled with the cold weather ahead will make for a very long winter. However, this often snowy season doesn't have to be boring! A hot cocoa bar could be the perfect thing to indulge in and spread some joy. It's fun, delicious, and socially-distanced-gathering-friendly! The customizability of choosing between various ingredients to add to a mug of hot chocolate, a winter favorite, is sure to be a hit with your guests or make for a delicious night in.
HOT COCOA BAR INGREDIENT IDEAS
A Guide to Homemade Sushi
Along with pasta, pizza, and salad, sushi is definitely among the most versatile foods in existence. Whether you love or hate fish, the options are endless. There's even such thing as fruit sushi! But, as incredible as it is, sushi can be pretty expensive from a restaurant, and doesn't usually taste too fresh when it's store-bought.
With a newfound abundance of time on my hands in March, I took it upon myself to master the craft of making homemade sushi from scratch. A daunting task at first, after a little practice I developed tips and tricks to make homemade sushi-making as easy for beginners as possible. Depending on how many rolls you assemble, this process could be very time consuming, but the end result is well worth it!
Below I've shared my sushi wisdom in the form of how to make a basic vegetarian sushi roll. I've also detailed an adaptable menu that I like to offer my family whenever I prepare sushi. After all, why not give your guests options to authenticate the dining experience? Follow this extensive how-to guide and you will be a homemade sushi connoisseur in no time at all!
VEGGIE SUSHI GROCERY LIST (makes 2 rolls)
- 1 bamboo mat
- 2 nori sheets
- Enough uncooked white rice to make 2 cups, cooked
- 1/2 cup sushi vinegar (or, you can make your own)
- 8oz cucumber
- 5 baby carrots
- 1 avocado
1. Soak the uncooked rice in water for 15 minutes.
2. Cook the rice according to the directions on the packaging.
3. Once all the water is absorbed, turn off the heat and mix in the sushi vinegar.
4. Cut the carrots and cucumber (omitting seeds) into long matchsticks, and the avocado into long, thin slices.
5. Cover the mat in plastic wrap. Then, place a nori sheet, rough side up, on the mat.
6. Spread 1 cup of sushi rice evenly on the nori, leaving a 1-inch thick strip at the top clear of any rice.
7. Spread 1/2 of the veggies horizontally across the bottom of the sheet. Make sure the types of vegetable are evenly distributed throughout.
8. Leading with the bamboo mat, start rolling, lengthening the tail end of the mat as you go. Every so often, squeeze the roll in place.
9. Apply water to the 1-inch strip of the nori that's clear of rice at the top, and roll and squeeze one last time.
10. Cut the roll into pieces with a WET KNIFE (this makes for easier, cleaner cuts), then repeat for the second roll. Enjoy!
Bagel roll - lox, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber
Breakfast roll - lox, egg, cream cheese, avocado
Deluxe ocean roll - salmon, tuna, lox, avocado
Ocean roll - salmon, tuna, avocado, carrot
Philadelphia roll - salmon, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber
Salmon roll - salmon, carrot, avocado, cucumber
Shrimp roll - shrimp, carrot, avocado, cucumber
Smoked salmon roll - lox, carrot, avocado, cucumber
Tuna roll - tuna, carrot, avocado, cucumber
Under the sea roll - salmon, tuna, lox, shrimp
Vegetarian roll - carrot, avocado, cucumber, egg
Innovative 10-Minute Snacks
Stop - before you reach for the bag of chips in the pantry that is calling your name, take a second to think about why. Is it convenient? Or, are you just craving a salty treat? You probably know that these packaged morsels of food, however delicious, probably aren't very healthy for you, but sometimes convenience and taste override a desire to eat well.
The pandemic has caused me to have a lot more time to experiment with snacks in my kitchen. In the process, I've discovered several snacks that are quick to make, delicious, and are ALSO healthy. Triple threats!
So, next time you want to reach for that bag of chips or everyday comfort food, consider making one of these snacks instead. They are fun, unique, and tasty, and won't take much more time than pouring yourself a bowl of pretzels! Happy snacking :)
1. Quick Apple Crumble Bowl
Bored of my normal yogurt, fruit, peanuts, and honey bowls (which I do recommend!), I discovered this dish while playing around in the kitchen one morning, and WOW was it revolutionary. Seriously, it tastes just like a traditional apple crumble, but it's much healthier and is made in a fraction of the time. What more could you ask for?
- 1 finely chopped apple (the smaller the pieces are the smoother it is!)
- 1/4 cup Nature Valley Oats and Honey granola (this is the BEST granola for it, and it's critical to the authentic apple crumble taste. I've experimented with other brands and flavors of granola and they don't taste the same, but it's up to you.)
Mash up the granola into small crumbles, then pour the apple and granola into a microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle some honey and sprinkle some cinnamon on top, then use a spoon to mix those in with the apple and granola. Microwave the apples and granola for 40 seconds. Enjoy your warm, simple apple crumble!
You may have seen this item on restaurant breakfast/brunch menus before, and here is how to make them from home! They're actually pretty easy to make, and nearly everyone likes eggs and toast, so why not eat them together?
Bonus topping ideas: avocado spread (mashed avocado with a dash of lime juice), red pepper spread, or Everything Bagel seasoning (can be found at Trader Joe's, or find a homemade recipe here: https://www.theedgyveg.com/2020/04/07/everything-but-the-bagel-seasoning-recipe/)
- 1 slice of preferred choice of bread (rye works well with this)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tbsp butter (healthier choice: I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, a 0-calorie butter spray that tastes JUST like butter)
1. Cut and remove a 2-inch circle of bread from the center of the slice.
2. Apply cooking spray to a medium saucepan, then either melt the 1/2 tbsp of butter in the pan or cover both sides of the slice of bread with the zero-calorie butter spray.
3. Veggie Sushi Bites
As someone who often enjoys making my own sushi, it is time consuming, and, not to mention, hard. And even if you buy sushi from the store, it's often very pricey. Never fear, because these are a great way to get your sushi fix quickly, inexpensively, and easily.
- 1 empty ice cube tray
- Cooked sushi rice (recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/99211/perfect-sushi-rice/)
- Shredded nori (can also rip up those packaged seaweed sheets into small pieces) (CRITICAL to authentic sushi taste!)
1. Prepare the filler ingredients. Peel the carrot, then use the peeler to make thin ribbons of carrot. Cut these ribbons into smaller pieces, whatever will fit in each space of the ice cube tray. Peel the cucumber and cut it into small matchsticks. Next, cut the avocado into small cubes.
2. Assembly is super easy! Spread some sushi rice across the bottoms of each space of the ice cube tray, and make sure to get some rice on the sides as well. Arrange the vegetables and nori in the middle of each space, then top each with another layer of sushi rice. You can refrigerate the bites if you'd like them to be more likely to stick together nicely, or enjoy right away! They should look like balls of rice stuffed with sushi ingredients.
4. Reese's Popcorn
This is a FANTASTIC dessert or snack for when you're craving something that tastes unhealthy that you won't later regret eating. It's only comprised of three ingredients, and tastes INCREDIBLE and just like Reese's, even without adding chocolate!
- Microwave popcorn
- Smooth peanut butter (NOT the chunky kind)
1. Start by microwaving the popcorn kernels according to the directions on the package. To prevent burning, I suggest flipping the bag upside down halfway through, and taking them out of the microwave when there are multiple seconds between when you hear pops.
2. While the popcorn is cooking, mix together a sauce of equal parts smooth peanut butter and honey. Prepare whatever amount of Reese's sauce is appropriate for how much popcorn you're eating. And, that's it! You can drizzle the Reese's sauce on top of the popcorn, or for a less messy experience I suggest putting the sauce in a bowl and dipping each piece of popcorn into it.
Simple Summer Staples
It's the last few weeks of summer, and it's time to pull out all the culinary stops. Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that most people are entertaining guests outside much more often. Check out the recipes below to learn how to cook some summer staples that everyone will love. And, as always, all of these recipes are simple, healthy (ish), and include ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen. Enjoy!
Golden Bruschetta - serves 4 (credit: Martha Stewart)
- 4 slices brioche bread, 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 pound pear tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup basil
- 1/4 cup herbs of choice (recommended: thyme, dill, chives)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and ground black pepper
(1) Toast the slices of bread until golden brown, then set aside.
(2) Next, put the tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and herbs of choice in a small bowl and toss. Divide the mixture among the 4 brioche slices. Sprinkle with another dash of salt, and enjoy!
Colorful Summer Sandwich - makes 4 (credit: Martha Stewart)
- 8 slices of black or 7-grain bread
- 1/2 cup red pepper spread (can use hummus as substitute)
- 1 cup sprouts (alfalfa or radish recommended)
- 2 large tomatoes, cut into 12 total slices
- 1 medium-sized ripe avocado, cut into several 1/4 inch slices
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- sesame seeds (optional)
(1) Spread 1 tbsp of the red pepper spread on each slice of bread. Set 4 slices of bread aside. Split the sprouts between the remaining slices of bread, and place on top. On each slice of bread with sprouts and red pepper spread, place 2 onion, 3 tomato, then 2 avocado slivers on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. Arrange the plain bread slices you set aside earlier on top to make 4 sandwiches. Bon appetit!
Portobello Pizzas - makes 8 (credit: Martha Stewart)
- 8 Portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- Parmesan shavings
- 4 tsp fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp roasted garlic (optional)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and ground black pepper
(1) Brush the tops and bottoms of the mushrooms with half the olive oil, salt, and pepper, then grill until tender. This should take up to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the tomatoes, remaining olive oil, and roasted garlic in a small bowl, and chiffenade the basil leaves on the side (to make matters easiest, you can just stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them up, and cut it into small strips with scissors).
(2) Arrange the grilled mushrooms flat side down and spoon some of the tomato mixture on top of each one. Top with the Parmesan shavings and chopped basil. Perfection!
Kiwi-Pineapple Yogurt Cones - makes 4 (credit: Martha Stewart)
- 2 kiwis, sliced crosswise (opposite of lengthwise)
- 8oz pineapple, cubed
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt
- 4 waffle cones
(1) Cut each kiwi slice into quarters, then toss in a small bowl with the lime juice to coat.
(2) Spoon 1/2 cup of yogurt into each waffle cone, then top with the kiwi pieces and pineapple cubes. Voilà!
Dried Fruit with Chocolate Dipping Sauce - serves 4 (credit: Martha Stewart)
- 2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup nonfat sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 - 3/4 pound dried fruit (suggested: apricot, mango, papaya, banana, pineapple)
(1) In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cocoa, and water until smooth. Combine this mixture with the condensed milk in a saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until mixture is brought to a boil, which should take up to 2 minutes.
(2) Pour the sauce into a bowl, and serve with the dried fruit.
Myth-Busters: Food Edition
Did you know that eating carrots actually doesn't improve eyesight? There are a shocking number of food myths that people still believe, and you may be shocked to find out how many of these major falsehoods you were unaware of. Ready to discover if carbs are bad for you, or if low-fat foods are healthier? Find out below!
If there are any food myths you would like me to confirm or bust, comment them below! Maybe I'll do a part two. :)
Myth #1: Our tongues have zones for every taste
Many of us may remember learning in school that we can only taste bitter things on the back of our tongues, and sweet things on the tips of our tongues. However, there are no such things as "taste zones". We actually have taste receptors for sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami sensations everywhere on our tongues. Comment below if you believed in "taste zones"!
Myth #2: Celery is "negative" calories
A lot of us have fallen prey to this claim that celery is negative calories, meaning it has less calories than the calories we burn chewing and digesting it. However, there are no scientific studies that have successfully proven this.
Myth #3: Carbs are unhealthy
Eating excessive carbs is unhealthy, but the right carbs in moderation are actually good for you. Simple carbohydrates, which can be found in whole grains, fruit, and vegetables are easy to digest and can lower your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, make sure to stay away from complex sugars that are in candy, sugary beverages, and refined grains. They aren't filling, and are linked to weight gain.
Myth #4: Low-fat and fat-free foods are always better for you
While this is true of meat and some dairy items, low-fat processed foods are actually often worse for your health than full-fat foods. Some companies that manufacture these packaged processed foods may make these low-fat claims to make their products appear healthier so more consumers feel comfortable purchasing them. However, they often add in extra sugar in order to preserve a taste that people will still enjoy. Whenever possible, opt for naturally fat-free foods instead!
Myth #5: Carrots improve eyesight
This one was surprising. Many of us have heard this myth before, and some of us (like me) actually believed it. However, there is no evidence linking eating carrots with improved eyesight. Check out this link to see how this fascinating myth got its start.
The Science of Hunger
Hunger is a daily part of all of our lives, and it seems to have a frustratingly high amount of control over our eating habits. In fact, curiously enough, according to livestrong.com, "Americans spend more money in dieting, dieting products and weight loss surgery than any other people in the world." Yet, according to the CDC, 62% of American adults are overweight or obese.
There are many perspectives as to why we feel hungry and how hunger impacts what we eat and how much of it. It is critical to know where our drive to eat comes from and how it functions, as this is the first step in understanding how to lead healthy lives. Below are three of the most widely accepted theories that explain where hunger comes from and what impacts someone's level of hunger.
Why we feel hungry--3 theories
1. Drive-reduction theory
This theory states that our biological need for food leads to a psychological drive (hunger), which leads to a drive-reducing behavior (eating). Basically, we are hungry because our body needs food, and we eat to satisfy that discomfort and maintain homeostasis.
Homeostasis describes how our bodies are constantly trying to remain internally stable. When it comes to hunger, this comes in the form of set points. For instance, less food intake leads to less glucose in the body, and in an attempt to compensate, drive-reduction theory states that we feel hungry so that our body eats and our glucose level increases. This glucose level that our body is naturally pushing us to return to is called our glucose set point, and it differs for everyone. We also have a body fat set point, and if our fat stores drop too low, in order to decrease our energy output our metabolism slows and we feel more driven to consume food, which increases our body fat. This explains why it can be really hard to lose weight and maintain the results over a long period of time! More on hunger and weight later. : )
So what does this theory say about how our body creates our hunger drive? Well, our glucose level is monitored by receptors in our digestive system, and these receptors send chemical messages to the hypothalamus, a region of the brain responsible for appetite regulation, releasing hormones, and much more. When our glucose level is lower than normal, the hypothalamus is signaled to release hormones that stimulate appetite, such as the hormone orexin. When we eat a large meal and our glucose level rises to above normal, the hypothalamus is signaled to release hormones that curb our appetite so that we stop eating. Other hormones that are involved in appetite regulation include leptin, PYY, insulin, and ghrelin.
2. Instinct theory
This theory describes how our interactions with food are the result of genetics and human evolution. It claims that genetics dictate weight change patterns and appetite size.
Instinct theory also explains how humans' taste preferences are comparable based on genetics. Basically, across the globe, all humans are hard-wired to prefer foods that are sweet and salty. Everyone also may be genetically predisposed to dislike food that is new and unfamiliar, and develop revulsion to food that has made them sick in the past.
Although all people have 99.9% shared DNA, there are some genetic differences that affect how we perceive food. Not everyone has them, but some people have inherited special supertaster or nontaster genes that developed throughout human evolution because they increased survival in unsafe and safe environments, respectively. Supertasters perceive certain flavors as stronger than normal people do, while nontasters cannot taste the chemical phenylthiocarbamide, which tastes bitter to people without the nontaster gene. (To find out if you're a supertaster, nontaster, or medium-taster, visit this link!)
3. Incentive theory
The incentive theory claims that hunger is a learned response. According to this theory, if we follow an eating schedule we feel hungry accordingly. For example, if we normally eat breakfast at 9am, we get hungry if we don't eat at 9am because our body has been conditioned to expect the food at that time.
Additionally, the incentive theory claims that some people are motivated to eat when there is more food out in front of them. Just the sight of the food and the knowledge that it is available can cause people to eat more than they otherwise would. This is why people eat so much more at all-you-can-eat buffets! And, even after a full meal, it may be why you notice you can't resist grabbing more snacks out of the snack bowls on the table.
Other influences on how much we eat include the size of the serving we are given, and the presence of others. When there are more people around versus when we are eating solo, we don't necessarily eat more or less food, but our eating habits are accentuated.
FUN FACT: We crave carbs because they temporarily raise our level of serotonin, a mood-boosting neurotransmitter. This can reduce depression and stress!
A high schooler with a love of food. See the My Story page to find out more.
"Time to eat smart."