Nutrition

My Thanksgiving Menu

The countdown has officially begun to Thanksgiving feast. So many are not only prepping to cook meals but also to gorge over 4,000 calories in one day. WHAT!? Crazy but true. But as someone who follows a gluten, dairy, and processed sugar free diet, I don’t let this holiday take over. Don’t get me wrong …I never skip a serving of my mom’s famous stuffing and a few slices (yes…a few!!) of pecan pie but like I always tell my clients “Everything in moderation!”

There are several ways to avoid binging and overeating on this special holiday. Start eating earlier in the day, have smaller portions throughout the day, exercise in between meals, etc. But what I like to do is bring a few healthful dishes so I can enjoy meals without the guilt including my mom’s stuffing and pie.

I’ve collected some great healthy recipes that are amazingly delicious to bring to the table. Check out what’s on my menu this Thanksgiving.

APPETIZERS / SIDES

SWEET POTATO & KALE FRITTERS by Yes, More Please: makes 18-20 mini patties
fritters
Ingredients:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes steamed and pureed 
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups kale finely chopped
2 eggs
½ cup panko or any kind of plain bread crumbs (I use almond meal or brown rice flour)
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 good pinch paprika or smoked paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4-6 tablespoons coconut oil
For Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
*In a small cup mix all ingredients and chill.
Instructions:
a. De-vein the kale, make it into a tight roll and chop chiffonade style.
b. In medium size bowl, mix all ingredients well.
c. In a medium size pan heat up about 4-6 tablespoons of coconut oil. Scoop small patties onto the pan and slightly flatten the tops. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
d. Cool on a rack and serve with a side of dipping sauce.

WALNUT PESTO DIP by The Couple’s Kitchen: Serves 10-12 ppl

pesto
Ingredients:
2 cups whole walnuts, lightly toasted
1 cup (heaping) sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, roughly chopped
2 small to medium-sized cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated (swap with manchego, nutritional yeast or skip cheese entirely)
Few twists freshly ground black pepper
Pinch kosher salt/sea salt
Good quality extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Instructions:

a. In the bowl of a food processor, add walnuts, sundried tomatoes, garlic, thyme, cheese, black pepper and salt. Pulse several times to combine. Stream in olive oil until the mixture comes together into a coarse, pebble-like texture. Avoid over mixing.
a. Serve with gluten free chips, crackers, or pita chips.


BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH GOGI BERRIES & SESAME SEEDS by Box of Spice
:
serves 4ppl

sprouts
Ingredients: 
250 grams brussel sprouts
2 medium onions, chopped
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
¼ cup goji berries
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:
a. Wash and half the brussels sprouts. Dry roast the sesame seeds in a non stick pan on medium high heat, for about 3-4 minutes. When you see them brown slightly, immediately remove and put in a bowl.
b. In a large pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and fry the onions, till golden brown and nicely caramelized (approx 5-7 min on high heat). Set aside.
c. In the same pan, add remaining olive oil and roast the brussels sprouts face down and then flip. Each side should take about 3-4 minutes on high heat.
d. Once all the brussels sprouts are done, add the onions back in. Add the toasted sesame seeds and add the goji berries last. Toss and stir!

MAIN DISHES:

CAULIFLOWER PESTO RISOTTO by Half Baked Harvest: serves 4
caulirissotto
Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/3 cup white wine
1 small bunch asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch sticks
1/2 cup veggie or chicken broth + more if needed
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
1/2-3/4 cup parmesan cheese (I use nutritional yeast)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Cilantro-Basil Hemp Seed Pesto
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
3/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup raw hemp seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)
crushed red pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:
Cilantro Basil Hemp Seed Pesto:
a. In a bowl, combine the cilantro, basil, hemp seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cheese or alternative, crushed red pepper and a pinch of both salt and pepper.
b. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Add water to thin the pesto if desired.
Risotto:

a. Heat a large, high sided skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Then add the cauliflower and the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 more minutes.
b. Deglaze the pan with white wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in the asparagus. Slowly pour in the veggie broth and coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
c. Cook until the cauliflower and asparagus are tender and “risotto” is nice and creamy, about 6 to 8 minutes.
d. Remove from heat, then add the lemon zest, cheese choice, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

VEGETABLE QUICHE from Gimme Some Oven: serves 8-12 servings
quicheveg
Ingredients:
1 gluten free pie crust
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 handfuls fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped if desired
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
5-10 asparagus spears, ends trimmed then chopped into 1 inch pieces
6 eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour (I used rice or almond flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/8 tsp black pepper

Instructions: 

a. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
b. Use a fork to poke a few holes in the bottom of the crust of unbaked pie crust, and bake it for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
c. Meanwhile heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, chopped red peppers, and asparagus, and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the asparagus is cooked. Remove from heat.
d. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, flour, baking powder, rice or almond milk, salt, paprika, thyme, chipotle powder, and black pepper. Stir in the sauteed vegetables and fresh spinach, and stir until well combined.
e. Pour the egg and vegetable mixture into the pie crust, and use a spoon to even out the top. Place in oven and cook for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Quiche will rise while baking, but should settle back down once you remove it from the oven.
f. Remove from the oven and allow the quiche to set for at least 5 minutes. Then slice and serve immediately.

DESSERT

AVOCADO CHOCOLATE MOUSSE by Heart & Bowl: serves 2

choc-mousse

Ingredients:
1 large ripe avocado (or 2 small)
30g raw, unsweetened cocoa powder
60ml coconut milk (or any nut milk of your choice)
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 chunk of bittersweet dark chocolate, grated
2 tsp cocoa nibs (optional)

Instructions: 
a. In a food processor, purée the avocado until smooth.
b. In a jug, combine the cocoa powder and milk until a smooth paste forms.
c. Add the cocoa and milk mixture to the avocado, along with the remaining ingredients.
d. Blend everything together until smooth and well combined.
e. Transfer the mixture into individual bowls and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
f. Top with grated bittersweet dark chocolate and sprinkle over cocoa nibs.

 

Feel free to follow the recipes as they are (recipe links in the title) but I made some modifications to fit my gluten/dairy -free diet. These are all delicious and easy recipes to try this holiday. They also make great dishes for every day meals, too. Enjoy your feast in moderation then get to the gym after. HAPPY & HEALTHY THANKSGIVING!! 

3 Healthier and Delicious Alternatives to Cheese

3-healthier-delicious-alternatives-to-cheese-featured

Inflammation is a natural response our body goes through to heal. However, when there is too much inflammation, our immune system fights too hard and the body becomes susceptible to damage and disease.

Alongside gluten, alcohol and sugar, dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our diet. It causes so much inflammation resulting in digestive issues such as bloating, gas, problematic bowls, and can lead to other symptoms such as acne, allergies, and behavioral reactions.

Read my full article featured on Zhou Nutrition!

Do You Take Your Chocolate…Dirty or Clean?

When I first started “clean” eating several years back, I learned the rule on reading the ingredients on packaged foods. If the ingredients contained more than 5, were tough to pronounce or ones that I didn’t recognize, I need not eat it. Sadly, lots of foods that I have been enjoying for most of my life was nixed off the list. Such foods like sugar/fat free sweets, whole wheat crackers/breads, frozen desserts, fruit-filled yogurts, and more!

But the one fave food of mine that shocked me the most was dark chocolate. Its supposed healthy benefits were clouded by a list of additives, preservatives, sweeteners, dairy and fillers. All making chocolate an unhealthy choice. However it was one treat that I wasn’t about to give up so easily. So I started exploring the world of chocolate and the most natural it had to offer.

Let’s start with the most common ingredients you’ll find in “dirty” dark chocolate.
– Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners: used to lighten the natural bitterness in cacao
– Milk Fat: used to plump up the chocolate and give it a rich, creamy texture
– Soy Lecithin: an emulsifier that helps to bind the ingredients
– Saturated Oils: vegetable, palm, and canola oils are most commonly used to give smooth texture
– Cacao: dried seeds found in the pod of the Theobroma cacao pod that provide the rich taste of chocolate
– Cocoa Butter: vegetable fat extracted from the cacao bean to give chocolate its flavor and aroma

These ingredients do play a major part in creating a scrumptious chocolate bar but are they necessary? Sure…some are, like the obvious cacao. But just like all packaged foods, most are not and are used mainly to preserve shelf life, for bulk manufacturing, to lower costs, and increase taste and texture.

Here are some ingredients you’ll find in “clean” dark chocolate.
– Naturally derived sugar: coconut sugar, stevia, inulin, and xylitol are all great substitutes to the commonly used white, brown, palm or cane sugars
– Liquid Sweetener: raw honey, real maple syrup, and molasses are all great natural sweeteners
– Coconut Oil: a good alternative to using cocoa butter but has a slight coconut taste and scent
– Raw Cacao: processed at lower temperatures to ensure highest nutritional value. Not usually treated with alkalizing agents or additives
– Nut butters: almond and cashew are most popular. Gives chocolate its sweet, rich, and creamy taste

Do we have to sacrifice clean eating so to enjoy foods that we love? HELL NO! With the “clean” eating rage, we have choices and don’t have to opt for “dirty” chocolate!

Here are some of my fave “clean” dark chocolates that make life worth living. 🙂

1. NOT YOUR SUGAR MAMA
LOVE! (1) they use raw cacao (2) has consistency and taste of fudge (YUM!) (3) they use essential oils for flavor

not your sugar mama

 

2. HU KITCHEN
LOVE!
 (1) they use coconut sugar (2) comes in delicious and unique flavors  (3) also an amazing Paleo restaurant

HuKitchen

 

3. ADDICTIVE WELLNESS
LOVE!
 (1) they only use raw cacao (2) no processed sugar EVER (3) they use Amazonian superfoods and Chinese herbs

Addicitive-Wellness-Front

4. SACRED CHOCOLATE
LOVE! (1) made in 100% renewable energy facility (2) use maple sugar or inulin (3) they too like Chinese herbs!

sacred chocolate

 

5. ORGANIC NECTARS
LOVE! (1) they use Madagascar Vanilla for a rich, creamy, mellow flavor and texture (2) they use coconut sugar as a sweetener (3) they use non-GMO sunflower lecithin

Organic Nectars

*These brands are found in Whole Foods, Fairway, Trader Joe’s, Health Nuts and smaller health food stores. 

Because of raw cacao and the natural ingredients used, you will find a slight more bitterness in “clean” chocolate. But explore both”dirty” and “clean“. I guarantee you will taste the difference. It’s all about what you want to put in your body. Going raw, macrobiotic, paleo, vegan, organic, clean (or whatever label you want to use) is not easy.  Sometimes you just want to enjoy a piece of “dirty” chocolate. But for those that don’t want to steer too far away from their cleaning eating habits, now they don’t have to. Having options is a GREAT thing.  YAY FOR CHOCOLATE!

So Fresh + So Clean!

Everywhere you look, someone or something is telling you that your body is toxic, filthy, dirty and you need to clean your gut and diet. Working out and eating right is just not enough. A crucial part of living a healthy and fit lifestyle now consists of blending, juicing and cleansing. Skeptics think cleansing is a fad and only out to make money. While others stand behind the benefits of cleansing. So what are these benefits?

Here are just a few:
#1 Get rid of the crap. We don’t eat healthy all the time. Years of drinking, fried foods, cheesy pizzas, and drowning brownie sundaes get stuck in our system, particularly in the lining of our intestines. Cleansing helps to clear out the pipes and flush out the crap so we can eat more and digest effectively.

#2 Make a healthy change. Doing a cleanse is a wedge between our old ways and a new way. Eating the same foods day in and day out puts the body in a slump (especially the wrong choices in foods). Daily habits can also become addictions (need for coffee, sugar, fried foods, etc). Deciding to make this change prompts other physical changes in the body such as improved skin, higher energy levels, stronger immune system, healthy and strong hair and nails, increased vitality and an overall improved sense of well being.

#3 Boost weight loss. Cleanses are great to help drop those few extra pounds. The shift in your usual eating habits and focus on eating clean or raw will help you lose that last bit of weight…plus more.
*I love MindBodyGreen’s article on more great benefits of cleansing.

Cleanses

The rage of cleansing has brought on numerous juice bars with their own line of cleanses and nutritionists/holistic doctors concocting their own program. Making the choice for the right cleanse to be very overwhelming. Here are a few cleanses I highly recommend and who they’re perfect for.

Be Well by Frank Lipman’s Cleanse and  Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean 
These two are my fave because you can actually eat on these cleanses. In order for me to function, I need to be able to put solid food in my mouth and chew. Both programs ask for clean eating supported by daily shakes and supplements. A week to 3 weeks long of dedication and commitment is necessary for completion.
Perfect for: (1) active people (2) those looking for a permanent and overall change in their diet and lifestyle

Organic Avenue’s Love Easy and Cooler’s Raw Cooler
These cleanses are short and sweet (offered in 3 or 5 day programs)! Both provide a one stop shop with juices and foods, although a bit pricey. But nonetheless their options are fresh, mainly plant based, gluten/dairy free, and most importantly delicious.
Perfect for: (1) those new to cleansing (2) those who don’t cook or are limited on time (prepared and ready to enjoy) (3) Looking for an easy transition cleanse that won’t take up too much time or energy

BluePrint and Suja’s Original Fresh Start
Purely juice based, these cleanses sound easy but can be pretty challenging. Although both programs are stocked with yummy fresh juices, relying on liquid alone is a tough feat especially for those new to cleansing or have had poor diets all their life.
Perfect for: (1) those that have cleansed before, have restricted diets and looking for a re-boost or reset (2) looking for quick results in short time (increased energy, weight loss) (3) not too serious about cleansing but are curious

~ Ejuva
This is for the no joke, “I’m super serious about my gut health”, and raw/vegan advocates that want to intensely clean out their guts.  Ejuva is an herbal body cleanse that eliminates and detoxifies from your throat to your bum. Designed in 4 phases, each step prepares you for a deeper detox into the next phase for an overall gradual cleansing that is easy on the body. This program takes you through all steps of cleansing: fasting to juicing to raw meals. Most have reported Mucoid Plaque as their end result.  The accumulation of partially digested and putrefying matter sits in the intestines and is extracted during this intense colon cleanse. Eeeekk…did I mention that this was a serious cleanse?
Perfect for: (1) those who have done cleanses and are really looking for a more substantial and intense cleaning (2) those with chronic ailments, allergies, digestion problems and have tried everything else.

Especially with Autumn underway, most are looking to cleanse for several reasons: post summer binge drinking, bored, needing a challenge, lose weight before they put it back on for the holidays, or taking their health and wellness to the next level. Whatever the reason is, be realistic and choose a cleanse that will best fit your lifestyle. Don’t set yourself up for failure only to feel worse in the end. If you’re not ready for the longer cleanses, start short and work your way up. Cleanses are here to stay and will be there when you’re ready. Happy Cleansing!

 

 

 

The Big 3! Healthy alternatives to your favorite foods.

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my weekly food intake so celebrating Thanksgiving definitely threw me off my eating routine filling it with what I call the Big 3 (Gluten – Dairy – Sugar). Unless you’re hosting the dinner yourself and cooking every dish with your dietary restrictions in mind, it’s hard to resist the gluten filled stuffing, the creamy green bean casserole, and the sugary pecan pie – all on the menu at my mom’s this weekend. Although I contributed to the meal with my Big 3-free brussel sprouts dish, I couldn’t avoid it altogether in the other dishes. Not a big deal as the holidays come once a year and eating the Big 3 in moderation is not the end of the world (depending on your health condition).  But as my sister-in-law called out the ingredients for her dish, all I heard was Gluten! Dairy! Sugar!

Gluten, dairy and sugar create inflammation in your digestive system. The more inflamed your system, the more susceptible you are to allergy, illness, chronic condition, and disease – not to mention a constant bloat in the belly and puffiness throughout your body. The conventional supermarket offer limited choices but little by little market shelves are stocking Big 3-Free items. However be aware of those that claim to be free of these ingredients as they will more than likely have filler ingredients that will replace one for the other.

Here are some great (and my favorite) healthy alternatives to the Big 3 that you will enjoy and won’t make you feel like you’re missing out.

1.Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Millet, and Brown Rice are all great alternatives to gluten (oats, wheat, barley, rye). All are gluten free so your body can easily digest without bloat or belly pain. Replace your gluten breads, pastas, granolas, and snacks with these options:
– Brown Rice Bread by Food for Life
– Millet and Flax pita chips by Sami’s Bakery
– Brown Rice Pasta by Lundberg or Tinkyada
– Granola by Purely Elizabeth
– Granola bars by Two Moms in the Raw
– Brown Rice Flour by Bob’s Red Mill

GlutenFree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.Almond, Rice, Coconut, Goat, or Sheep milks are other dairy options to enjoy if you want some creamy goodness. Goat and sheep milk manufacturing is not as processed and have slightly different variations in the amount of lactose and casein than cow milk, which help the gut to digest easier. Almond, coconut, and rice milks are derived from its original source containing no traces of casein or lactose sugar making it easily digestible as well. These are some of my favorite dairy go-to foods:

– Almond Milk by Pacific Foods
– Cashew Milk by OMilk
– Coconut ice cream by Coconut Bliss
– Goat cheese brie by Montchevre
– Goat yogurt by Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery

DairyFree 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.Raw honey, real maple syrup, and coconut sugar are great substitutes when you’ve got a sweet tooth. Sugar is by far the most complex of the 3. It’s hidden in everything you eat and often come in artificial forms. Even if the words don’t stand out on the label (sucrose, dextrin, rice syrup), there are so many derivatives of sugar that even complex carbs such as bagels, breads, pastas fall in the category of these refined sugars. Our bodies break them down just the same and can create serious health issues. I love these sweet indulgences that help me curb my cravings while steering clear of processed sugars:
– Dark chocolate from Not Your Sugar Mama
– Probiotic Chia Berry Yogurt from Organic Avenue
– Chocolate Mousse from Organic Avenue
– Protein Bar from 22 Days Nutrition

Sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in NYC has made having these diet restrictions an easier experience as both larger chains and smaller health food stores offer a variety of options. The key to finding the right foods (and not the fake foods) is to read the labels. If there are more than 5 ingredients and you’re unsure of what  most of them are, then it’s safe to assume that food is not the ideal choice. We all have our food vices but try exploring next time you’re at the store (Health Nuts is a great one!) and see if you can be Big 3-Free! 

*Most foods above can be found at Trader Joe’s, Fairway, Whole Foods, Organic Avenue, and Health Nuts. Sami’s Bakery and Not Your Sugar Mama can easily be ordered online and shipped to your home. Enjoy!