protein

Date & Cranberry Energy Bars (No Bake, Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Tired of paying high prices for processed granola bars?

Tired of snacking on food that taste like cardboard?

Do you have a desire to feed your family foods that are whole, full of nutrients, and life giving?

This energy bar recipe is for you. It does NOT require baking. It only requires a food processor, a baking sheet, and a freezer.  This energy bar has no added sugar, full of fiber, and is a good source of protein to power you through your important daily agenda!  Let's be intentional about our food choices!

Join NutriFocusRD in the movement to
#PLATEYOURINTENTIONS!
Granola Bar Group
Granola Bar Group

No Bake Date & Cranberry Energy Bars

Makes: 8 Bars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups pitted dates (soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, then drained)
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried cranberries (Can also use dried cherries, dried apricots, or dried blueberries)
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter (I prefer homemade peanut butter or Whole Foods Natural Peanut Butter. No added sugars or oils, ONLY peanuts)
  • ¼ cup whole raw almonds (Can also use macadamia nuts or cashews)
  • ½ cup instant plain oats (gluten free if you need!)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Soak the pitted dates in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain well.
  • Place soaked dates, dried cranberries (or fruit), raw almonds, natural peanut butter, and oats in food processor and blend until combined well. My dough usually forms a ball when its blended.
  • Scoop mixture into a square, 8x8 baking pan.
  • Press the dough firmly into an even layer.
  • Place the baking pan in the freezer for 30 – 45 minutes to allow time to set.
  • Cut into 8 rectangle bars. I like to wrap each bar in parchment paper to reduce sticking and make the bars portable and easy to pack.
  • Store in the freezer or fridge.
Recipe Inspired by Nutritionist in the Kitch

6 Tips for Grocery Shopping with PCOS

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Shopper

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) causes elevated insulin levels in the blood, resulting in difficulty maintaining a healthy weight due to the tendency of the body to store fat.  Did you know that if you lose 5-10% of your current body weight, you can help significantly reduce symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?  Don't start crash dieting to improve symptoms, but start shopping smarter!

Grocery shopping, in general, can be a big pain but if you are grocery shopping with PCOS, things can get a bit trickier. I am here with some tips to make things simpler.

  1. Fuel Up Before Shopping! This is a rule for everyone to live by: don’t shop when you are hungry. Those donut holes look a bit more tempting when you haven’t eaten lunch yet (public bulletin: there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a donut hole).
  2. Fortify Your Cart with Calcium & Vitamin D!  Calcium is an important mineral for women with PCOS since it is known to promote egg development and menstrual cycles. Almost more important than calcium, Vitamin D is key for calcium absorption, egg maturation, and insulin resistance. Some foods high in calcium and/or Vitamin D include: milk, eggs, salmon, tuna, cheese, and fortified cereals.
  3. Find The Farmer's Market.  Produce & meats pack the most nutrition when purchased local because the food items do not lose nutrition in the transportation of the food items to the grocery stores and on the grocery store shelves.  Check out your local farmer's market and research local farms near your home that sale grass-fed, hormone free meats!  Since its winter, what are the best items to look for to help fight PCOS? Kale and Turnip Greens!!!  Kale is great for any diet, but can be extremely beneficial for women with PCOS. Turnip Greens are low in oxalic acid so there won’t be any calcium absorption inhibition. Other vegetables high in calcium: broccoli, collard greens, arugula, and okra. One key tip: take advantage of all these beneficial greens and make some beautiful salads.
  4. Fight Oxidative Stress!! Eat a Variety of Colored Vegetables To Fight Oxidative Stress. Brightly colored vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants which fights oxidative stress. Women with PCOS have been found to have a higher rate of oxidative stress which leads to physiological stress.
  5. Fire Up The Grill!! Purchase Organic, Grass-Fed Meats. Grass-fed meat tends to be leaner and contain less hormones than standard meat. The livestock is also protected from genetically modified grains and pesticides which can negatively affect hormone balance and PCOS.  Lean protein sources also help maintain steady energy levels and curb cravings.  Some protein foods, like wild-caught fish, can get a bit pricey but some cheaper options include: beans, turkey, pastured eggs, organic yogurt, and  nuts/seeds. When deciding on which proteins to choose- it is better to choose protein with little to no saturated fats (items listed above, with exception of egg yolks, are great options)
  6. Figure Out Plan Ahead of Time!  There are many websites that compile a shopping list that you can print out and bring to the store and check off items you need to purchase. This makes things much simpler and prevents impulse purchases. I made one myself and I am attaching it here: Grocery List. My grocery list is based on what I usually purchase, there are modifications and write-ins that can be made to your liking! Try to make a weekly meal plan and only purchase what it planned for that week. With the shopping list printable comes a budgeting section. Prepare ahead and decide what you want to spend and try not to exceed that limit. If you find some huge deals and have leftover money, save it for a rainy day and after the end of the month see how much you saved!

Therese Bridges

5 Tips for Cuisine in College Campus Cafeterias

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Eating in the Cafeteria

Eating Utensils

I cannot stress enough how badly you need to take advantage of cafeterias on campus freshman year. There were a few on the Alabama campus and many of them would have fun deals certain nights of the week. My new freshman friends and I would get together on those nights and spend hours there thoroughly enjoying ourselves and getting to know each other. Our favorite was breakfast for dinner. The tricky part is when you have a student account, you do not know how much you are spending and can end up spending all your “dining dollars” within a month (may or may not be speaking from experience here).

  1. Take advantage of the fresh greens. Get a salad and fill your plate up with greens and a variety of nutrient dense salad toppings. Most school cafeterias have great salad bars similar to Ruby Tuesday's endless, create your own salad bar (aka the best type of food bar). Try to add some fresh vegetables like bell peppers or broccoli to your salad to achieve a high fiber dish. If you want to make a salad your whole meal, get some chicken from the home-cooking station, to add some filling protein on top. Get creative and add some colorful fruit like blueberries and strawberries for some potassium and vitamin C. And remember, you need carbohydrates to help fuel your active lifestyle so consider adding high fiber carbohydrates such as black beans, corn, or roasted sweet potatoes!
  2. Since most of you are living in dorms, walk to the cafeteria (not alone if late at night).  Most of my exercise freshman year was from walking around campus, to and from class. In this case the walk will be more enjoyable because it ends in a delicious meal rather than a boring class.
  3. If you have a sweet tooth, use cafeteria nights as a time to treat yourself! Unless times have changed, it does not cost extra to get a soft serve cone with your meal-- save your fro-yo money for a fun time out!
  4. Make it a game. Try out all the college cafeterias and find which ones best fit your palate. Many provide: Asian, pasta, pizza, home-cooking, and special breakfast nights! For the Asian station, fill your plate up with stir fry vegetables over a bed of rice and a side of chicken. This will provide the most bang for your buck with fiber rich grains, high protein in your chicken, and immune boosting vitamins and minerals in your stir fry veggies. If you are craving pizza, make it fun and add some other vegetable toppings to get creative with adding extra nutrients. And for those special breakfast nights, you have many options for whole grains and protein but as a delicious example: whole grain buttered toast and sausage links with a side of scrambled eggs and bowl of fresh fruit topped with a dollop of calcium rich yogurt! (or for my personal favorite breakfast treat, waffles topped with whipped cream... YUM).
  5. Don't waste your money elsewhere, if you already have money on a food account through the school, don't let it go to waste and eat sushi or delivery every night. I have used this word a few times but take advantage of this-- this money on a food account will not be coming back again!

Therese Bridges

Roasted Okra .... Your New Favorite Food

Wash & Pat Dry Okra. Toss with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil, Thyme, Garlic Powder, Sea Salt, and Freshly Ground Black Pepper.

Place on a Baking Sheet in a Single Layer

Roast for 15 minutes!

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ENJOY AS AN APPETIZER, SIDE DISH OR A NUTRIENT DENSE SUPERFOOD SUMMER SNACK!

Okra is high in antioxidants such as xanthin and lutein, Vit A & C & B, Calcium, Iron, and Fiber!

And the seeds are high in PROTEIN!

Eating for Performance - Protein Podcast

As we discuss continue focusing on Eating for Performance, I wanted to share a PodCast that I recently did for the YMCA of Greystone in Birmingham, AL. I hope you will find this educational and instrumental in improving your overall health!

http://ylifebirmingham.podbean.com/mf/web/fhazh3/LifeskillsSuzannePirkle-Protein.mp3

Running

Digging Dates

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Delicious, Portable Snack for Traveling (On your next road trip, pack dates and mixed nuts for a super snack combo!)

Satisfy a sweet tooth! (Try Date + Havarti Cheese + Walnut + Drizzle of Organic, Local Honey)

Good source of proteins and iron! (Dates are great addition to wraps, sandwiches, and burgers!)

Naturally Fat Free and Cholesterol Free! (Consider adding Puréed Dates as a Topping to Whole Wheat Bread, English Muffin or Bagel for a Sweet Surprise!!)

Packed with Fiber!! (Add Puréed Dates to your Morning Oatmeal!)

Cofactors in Dates protect my body from free radical damage!!

Enhance Your Health with Snacks!

Snacks can enhance, rather than hurt your diet, with proper portions and healthy food choices in place. A snack can be considered a "mini meal" that will help you have a healthy lifestyle!

Food fulfills three basic needs:

(1) To provide energy

(2) To support new tissue growth and tissue repair

(3) To help regulate metabolism

 

The Benefits of Snacking

  • Binge control. You have more control over your hunger cues when you add snacks into your daily intake.  By eating every 3-4 hours, you are preventing your hunger cue to move beyond your control.
  • Extra energy and nutrients. A grab-and-go snack can be the difference between some nourishment and lack of energy.
  • Control Hunger Pangs. Helps keep your hunger levels down to a minimum and avoid feeling deprived.
  • Control Insulin Levels. Helps keep you blood sugar levels even.
  • Maintains Increased Metabolism. Waiting too long in between meals may cause your metabolism to become sluggish

Choosing Healthy Snacks

  • Select foods that satisfy your hunger, supply your body with energy and provide important nutrients.
  • Even if your main meals are well balanced, it’s easy to put your total diet out of balance with a few poor choices or lack of choices in snacks.
  • The most important thing to be aware of is the type of foods you’re snacking on. It’s wise to allow no more than 10% of your total day’s calorie intake from saturated fat, or sugar items.
  • Remember, one or two well chosen snacks can actually help to improve your day’s total nutritional intake.
  • Opt for snacks of 200 – 250 calories to stay within meal plan goals.  Your caloric goal for snacks is dependent upon your activity level and current food routine. Great options for snacks usually come from these food groups:
  • Fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides a feeling of fullness.  Fruits and vegetables also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients. When paired with a protein, dairy, and/or fat source, it is a complete snack!
  • Whole grains. Whole-grain snacks are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which give you energy with staying power. Look for items such as whole-grain crackers, whole-grain pretzels and whole-grain crispbreads.
  • Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds provide protein, so you will feel fuller longer. They can be high in fat, but it's mostly monounsaturated, a healthy kind of fat.
  • Low-fat dairy products. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Dairy products can be high in saturated fat, so choose the low-fat versions.

RECIPE REVIEW: Edamame-Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

I try to keep lunches new and fresh as a way to avoid lunchbox boredom! Taking your lunch to work/school is a great way to keep your intake healthy and nutritious because it gives you more control over what is available to you during your busy day!  By bringing your lunch, you have the ability to save money, meet your daily needs for fruit and vegetables, increase your fiber intake, decrease your saturated fat intake, and practice portion control!  Although peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are easy, they can get old day in and day out, so I tried a new recipe to see if I could add some excitement back to my lunchbox.

I made Edamame-Orzo Salad with Feta Cheese which is altered version of a recipe by Cooking Light called Chicken-Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese. I made revisions simply because of the ingredients I already had in my kitchen!!  This salad made my lunchbox have some flavor and kept me fueled with fiber, protein, and whole grains!  And the best part… it was SO EASY & FAST to whip up!!

I started by cooking my orzo pasta according to the package directions, but without the salt and fat.  I was able to save a few pennies because I was fortunate to have a coupon from Whole Foods for $1.00 off pasta and the weekly special was BOGO for pasta! Always check Whole Foods website along with Southern Savers to learn the weekly specials at local stores to help cut the grocery budget!

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While the pasta was cooking, I chopped the tomatoes, boiled the edamame, chopped the red bell pepper, and red onion. I purchased all my produce from Whole Foods since the produce involved fall on the “dirty dozen” list of recommend produce to purchase organic!

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I purchased my edamame from Whole Foods as well because they have my favorite frozen, shelled edamame beans at a reasonable price!!

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Since I already had dried basil and oregano on hand, I used dried herbs instead of fresh, but I would recommend using fresh if available!  Before combining the ingredients, I roughly chopped the arugula into bite sizes.

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Next, I combined the pasta, edamame, and the next 6 ingredients through oregano in a large bowl and tossed well.

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And finally, I combined the red wine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper with a whisk  before I drizzled vinegar mixture over pasta mixture. The final step was sprinkling the pasta salad with cheese!

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Edamame-Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Recipe By: Cooking Light

Leftover salad is also good the next day for lunch; stir in a handful of arugula to add a fresh touch, if you have extra on hand. Serve with pita wedges. Yield:  6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups salad and 1 tablespoon cheese)

1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta) 3 cups Edamame Beans 1 1/2 cups trimmed arugula 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper 1/4 cup chopped red onion 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon black pepper 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

Combine pasta, edamame, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Why Whole Grains? Ask Bulgur!

Bulgur wheat are whole wheat kernals that have been soaked, boiled, dried, cracked into smaller pieces.  Bulgur wheat differs from most cracked wheat due to the fact that it is pre-cooked.  Bulgur typically comes in three forms: course grind which is similar to the consistency of rice, medium grind which is typically use in cereals or fillings, and fine grind which is typically used for tabbouleh.  Bulgur is a nutrition powerhouse and is a nutrient that I recommend you make a regular part of your intake.  Keep reading to learn about the wholesome source of nutrition you can gain from bulgur!

  • Bulgur helps prevent constipation, cancer and reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease
  • Bulgur contains ferulic acid which is a compound that can prevent nitrates and nitrites from converting into nitrosamines which have been linked to cancer! It is the perfect food to pair with a high nitrate food such as hot dogs!
  • Bulgur contains lignans which helps prevent cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls which reduces your risk for heart disease
  • Bulgur wheat can help you reach the recommended goal of 25 – 30 grams of dietary fiber!  The insoluble fiber found in this whole grain, helps eliminate waste from the body making it helpful in preventing and treatment constipation, hemorrhoids, intestinal polyps, colon cancer, and diverticular disease.
  • Bulgur contains the highest mineral content of any food!  It is rich in iron, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, and magnesium.
  • Bulgur is lower on the glycemic index than other grains so it helps stabilize insulin levels
  • Bulgur is a great way to increase protein intake! 1 cup of bulgur wheat provides approximately 6 grams of protein! It is also a great way for vegetarians to get vitamins and minerals they usually miss by not eating meat!  Bulgur provides B vitamins, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus which most people get when eating red meat!
  • Cooking bulgur wheat is easy and quick! To cook bulgur you can boil it in water for 8-10 minutes and it will be ready to serve. Be creative! Serve on salads, in soups, as a pilaf, or as filler in veggie burgers, pancake mix, waffle mix, muffins or other baked goods to add a nutty flavor.  Bulgur can be used as a main dish, side dish, mixed with vegetables, nuts or meat/fish!    Some grocers will stock the product in pre-packaged forms or in self-serve bins!

Greek Bulgur Salad with Chicken

Yield:  10 servings (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

Recipe By: Cooking Light 4 1/2 cups water 3 cups uncooked medium bulgur 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons), divided 2 teaspoons salt, divided 2 1/2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast 2 1/2 cups chopped peeled cucumber 2 cups halved grape tomatoes 1 cup chopped fresh parsley 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese 1/4 cup extravirgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 10 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

Combine water, bulgur, 1/2 cup juice, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Uncover and cool to room temperature.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup juice, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss to combine. Add cooled bulgur mixture; toss well to combine. Cover and chill.

"On The Go Snacking" Can Be Healthy!

A lot of clients ask my opinion on the numerous brands and types of protein/energy bars on the market.  I can easily see how consumers are confused when they are trying to make a decision in front of hundreds of bar choices!  It is important to keep energy/snack bars on hand for when your schedule prompts you to eat on the run!  Recently "Cooking Light" put together an article about their top energy bar choices. I agree with most of the information so I wanted to pass it along to my NutriFocus family!  Click the link below to be redirected to the article!

Top Energy Bar Choices