Oatmeal muffins were first introduced in American cookbooks in the mid-1800s. They are similar in size and shape to a cupcake, but can be healthier for you if you include the right ingredients! Check out a list of the different types of oats, their benefits, plus a recipe for easy blueberry oatmeal muffins below!

What are the different types of oats available?

There are 5 main types of oats. They include:

  • Instant oats: oats that have been steamed and flaked.
  • Rolled oats (also called regular or old-fashioned oats): oats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): you get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
  • Scottish oats: these are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
  • Oat groats: this is the whole oat kernel — no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

What are the benefits of oats?

Benefits of oats range from lowering cholesterol to protecting us against free radicals.

  • Oats contain beta-glucan fiber. This particular fiber can aid in lowering cholesterol and can strengthen your immune system.
  • Oats also have polyphenol compounds that have antioxidant properties that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

What are some healthier oatmeal toppings?

Healthier additives to incorporate into your oatmeal muffin (or just oatmeal!) recipes include:

  • Nuts such as walnuts or nut butter such as almond butter or peanut butter
  • Blueberries, bananas, unsweetened applesauce or other fruit
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice etc.

Bonus: instead of white flour (which has little to no nutritional value) put rolled oats in a blender to make your own oat flour!

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 17 minutes
  • Total Time: about 22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray large muffin tin with non-stick spray.
  • Mash banana until smooth.
  • Add banana, oats, beaten egg, baking powder and vanilla to a bowl.
  • Stir until just combined.
  • Stir in blueberries.
  • Using a large spring-release scoop, fill muffin tins with batter. (I usually fill to the top; these muffins don’t rise very much.)
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking for 12 more minutes.
  • Allow muffins to cool slightly in the muffin tin for a few minutes. Removing them while hot will likely cause the muffins to break apart, as they are very moist.

Original recipe written by Paula Jones – you can find it here: www.callmepmc.com.

For more information on how to incorporate healthy foods into your daily lifestyle please reach out to FFC Park Ridge’s registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, at ahuggler@ffc.com

Post written by FFC Park Ridge registered dietitian Alicia Huggler.

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), “Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food.” It’s important to know that foodborne illness is the most common during the months of November and December. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take, like considering food safety temperatures and other basics, to keep you and your loved ones well this holiday season!

Preparing Food

First, it’s important to know the basics of food safety. Following these steps every time you prepare food will help prevent foodborne illness.

1. CLEAN: Take the time to wash your hands, clean your kitchen cooking surfaces and utensils, and wash your produce before you use it. Do you know how long you are supposed to wash your hands for in order to effectively clean them? It’s about 20 seconds or the length of time to sing happy birthday to yourself. It’s important that all kitchen surfaces and utensils are clean prior to cooking, as well as right after cooking so as to prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce your chances of bringing pests, such as mice or ants, into your house.

Produce must be cleaned before eating or cooking because it may also be harboring bacteria or other pathogens from the grocery store or from the ground it was growing in. I like to wash my produce in a nice clean sink filled with water with a splash of white vinegar added to it. I let the dirt fall to the bottom of the sink as the produce soaks in the water, then I take it out and rinse it well and allow it to air dry.

2. SEPARATE: Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from fresh produce on surfaces and in the fridge. This is an important one. Raw meat is especially prone to containing bacteria and other pathogens and must be kept separate from ready to eat foods. The best way to thaw meat is in a shallow dish with a lid in the refrigerator overnight and up to 2 days. This is to ensure that that the meat or fish stays at a safe temperature throughout the entire thawing process.

It also ensures that no drippings or juices from the thawed meat accidentally touch other foods in the fridge. Always use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling raw meat and produce. Clean the area that was used to cut or handle raw meat with a disinfecting cleaning solution before placing other foods or produce in that area.

Cooking Food

3. COOK: Use a cooking thermometer to consider food safety temperatures in order to tell when all the bacteria has been killed during cooking. This is the only way to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature. According to the Food Safety Inspection Service, hot food must be kept hot at a temperature above 140 F. Leftovers must be reheated to 165 F. It is recommended to cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F before removing the meat from the heat source.

For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Poultry should register 165 °F to be considered safe to eat.

Related: with little to no calories, spices pack a surprisingly interesting and powerful punch. Check out these 6 to always have on hand!

4. CHILL: Never let perishable food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. I often see this at parties and gatherings. Dips, catered food, appetizers, and main courses are typically left to sit out for hours for guests to nibble on, but the longer a food sits out at room temperature, the more opportunity it has to harbor pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Make note of how long the food has been sitting out for and store it into Tupperware containers in the fridge or freezer before two hours. Otherwise, you’ll have to throw it away.

Remember, your freezer is your best friend when it comes to storing food you’ve prepared and saving it for another day. This can save you time in the long run, but a good tip is to put a label on the container of food you put in your freezer and keep tabs of what you have stored away. Freezing food will keep bacteria at bay, but the quality of the food may not be as good after a year of being in the freezer. For best quality use frozen foods within 6 months. Check to make sure your freezer and fridge are at the correct temperatures. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below.

Following the food safety basics are the main ways to prevent foodborne illness all year round and can make the difference in saving you a trip to the hospital or emergency room. Many people may have been in contact with food that has been contaminated with harmful pathogens, but fortunately their immune systems have been strong enough to fight it off. Those who are more prone to developing foodborne illness are children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems due to medical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and HIV/AIDS; or to receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Emily Marshall.

 

With the weather getting colder, it’s getting easier and easier to stay inside – so much so that you might start to feel a little cabin feverish! Don’t worry – the global flavors of these easy lettuce wraps (that are also vegan AND gluten-free) are a light, delicious way to elicit the wonders of the world – without stepping foot into the ever-dipping wind chill. These Egyptian spiced avocado corn radicchio lettuce cups are packed with delicious, healthy flavor and work for more than just dinner. Serve them as a light appetizer at a party or serve them to your kids for a fun hands-on dining experience. Crunchy, creamy, and refreshing – these lettuce cups are satisfying any time!

Easy lettuce wraps recipe for vegan Egyptian Spiced Avocado Corn Radish Salad

Level: easy
Servings: 6
Ready in: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 head radicchio lettuce *
  • 4 ears corn
  • 6 small radishes, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds**
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon each: paprika, coriander, turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh cilantro, to garnish

Easy lettuce wraps: Egyptian Spiced Avocado Corn Salad recipeDirections

To prepare the radicchio: use a small paring knife to cut a circle around the core of the lettuce.  Remove the core. Gently peel off the radicchio leaves, one at a time, until you have reached the small heart of the lettuce. Wash and rinse the radicchio leaves. Set aside to let dry.

To make the Egyptian spiced avocado corn filling: husk and wash the corn. Cut off the kernels from the cob. Place into a medium bowl. Trim and dice the radishes. Halve the grape tomatoes.  Pit and dice the avocado. Add these to the bowl with the corn. Add the sunflower seeds, cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning.

To make the radicchio cups:  Fill each radicchio cup with about ½ cup of the avocado corn filling.  Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

* Radicchio lettuce tip: radicchio is a bitter salad green, adding an interesting flavor to balance the sweetness of the corn and the richness of the avocado. If you don’t enjoy the bitter flavor (or if making this for kids and picky eaters), swap out the radicchio for bibb or even romaine lettuce.

** Chef’s calorie tip:  If you want to reduce the amount of calories in this recipe, swap out the sunflower seeds for a can of chickpeas or a cup of raw, sprouted beans. The chickpeas and beans will be lower in fat, while adding extra fiber and protein.

Yield: 12-16 lettuce cups (5-6 cups of just the filling).

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (about 2 or 3 lettuce cups).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 262.38
  • Calories From Fat (57%) 148.42

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 17.74g 27%
  • Saturated Fat 1.9g 10%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 219.74mg 9%
  • Potassium 679.02mg 19%
  • Total Carbohydrates 23.82g 8%
  • Fiber 6.31g 25%
  • Sugar 6.85g
  • Protein 8.53g 17%
  • Calcium 16.78mg 2%
  • Iron 42.75mg 238%
  • Vitamin A 519.82IU 10%
  • Vitamin C 9.92mg 17%

 

For Your Pinterest: Easy Lettuce Wraps: Egyptian Spiced Salad Lettuce Cups

Easy plant-based Egyptian spiced salad lettuce cups

Whether resolving to spend less on eating out, trying to keep up with a busy day (which doesn’t leave much time to escape the office) or simply because you want to improve your diet, bringing your lunch to work has a ton of different benefits. Read on to learn the necessary components in a quality, balanced lunch for adults and kids alike, plus some easy, healthy lunch ideas for work (or any other time you need convenience!).

Healthy Lunch Component #1: Lean Protein Source

When it comes to healthy lunch ideas for work, one of the singular most important components to consider is a lean protein source. By starting with a lean protein source, you’ll ensure the lunch is filling and helps you stay focused for the rest of the afternoon.

  • Chicken or turkey breast, shredded or chopped
  • Canned tuna or salmon, no salt added
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • 3-bean salad
  • Babybel cheese
  • Turkey burger or Beyond Burger

Healthy Lunch Component #2: Complex Carbohydrates

Make sure you round out the protein with a complex carbohydrate to add fiber, natural energy, and satisfaction. [Remember, growing kids and those looking to maintain weight and/or build muscle need more of these than those looking to lose weight.]

  • Baked potato
  • Whole fruit or mixed cut-up fruit
  • Triscuits
  • Whole or sprouted grain wrap or bread
  • Corn, cut it off the cob for easy eating
  • Whole grain pasta salad
  • Brown rice

Healthy Lunch Component #3: Healthy Fats

A little goes a long way in this section! Add a bit of healthy fats for awesome flavor and to control cravings later in the day.

  • Peanut or almond butter
  • Handful of mixed nuts
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole or sliced avocado
  • Olives

Related: this healthy “New-Tella” recipe uses different kinds of nuts plus dates and cocoa to cure that sweet craving, without going overboard!

Healthy Lunch Component #4: Non-Starchy Vegetables

Once you have the proper portions of each of the sections above, pile on the non-starchy vegetables. These provide more filling fiber and less calories, allowing you to keep on eating! This list could go on forever, but here are a few that are lunchbox-friendly.

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Bell peppers
  • Spinach salad
  • Homemade zucchini chips
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Leftover stir fry, roasted, or grilled veggies

Putting It All Together: Healthy Lunch Ideas for Work

Bento is a word mostly encompassing Japanese culture, with Chinese origin, meaning “useful thing” and “convenient”. A “bento” box is a great way to combine the components above into a satisfying and easy healthy lunch for work! Here are a few combinations to consider for your next meal!

  • Stir fry with chicken or beans, veggies, and brown rice.
  • Tuna or salmon packets on top of greens with roasted chickpeas or quinoa and balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Cabbage, carrots and bell peppers mixed with quinoa and shrimp, topped with peanut dressing.
  • Sandwich on sprouted grain bread with chicken breast and hummus, side of raw veggies with more hummus!
  • Corn tortillas with veggies, beans, or leftover meat. Top with greens and guacamole.
  • Hard boiled eggs, mashed with avocado on top of brown rice cakes. Leftover roasted veggies on the side.
  • Tuna or chicken salad (try plain Greek yogurt in place of mayo) in lettuce wraps, fruit on the side.

How would you combine these groups into a delicious lunch? Let us know in the comments! Want more information on nutrition programs or to set up a free consultation? Email Amy at asilver@ffc.com!

Post written by FFC registered dietitian & nutrition coordinator Amy Silver.

 

 

For Your Pinterest

Bring Your Own healthy lunch ideas for work or any time you need a convenient meal

My friends and coworkers often ask me about weekly meal prep. I am very passionate about healthy eating. In multiple conversations with friends and coworkers, I have noticed most people want to do it, but find it difficult to justify the time and question the cost savings. As someone who has prepped meals for years, I am a firm believer that it saves time, money, and provides many health benefits.

Here are the common questions people ask me about meal prep:

  • What do you make during meal prep?
  • How long does it take to cook?
  • Does your food taste good at the end of the week?
  • Is it cheaper than eating out?

As a member of corporate America, I find myself constantly influenced by the dark side of donuts, candy, and/or some sort of processed food. In the beautiful city of Chicago, it’s even more difficult, having restaurant upon restaurant within blocks of my apartment calling my name with cuisine from around the world. I believe that life is short and you should enable your body to experience these great restaurants.

Notice that I used the word “enable” versus “treat myself.” What I mean by this is that I believe there’s always a balance between treating yourself and eating too much of the wrong stuff. With that said, I feel that one meal we can take control of and help us throughout our day is lunch. Lunch is the meal that creates the break in our work day. Regardless if you’re in corporate, hospitality, or health care, you need to eat lunch. It is far too easy to go with what everyone else is having (hamburger, processed sandwich, etc) and let this meal get away from us.

This is where meal prep comes into play and making a healthy choice can really be easy with weekly meal prep. Meal prep enables your body to truly enjoy cheat meals (I’ll explain that later) without the guilt. The purpose of this message is to not only answer the questions above but outline them in a way that logically proves that meal prep is worth your time and money.

Though you can meal prep for any time of day, I will keep this overview to lunch – as it’s the most common meal everyone asks about. Lets get started!

What do you make?

The answer to this questions depends on the type of food you eat. Personally, I prefer the Paleo lifestyle and my food choices are limited to lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and healthy fats. I look for a balanced portion of a protein, greens, and carbohydrates for lunch. This allows me to have my break during the day and be able to get back to work without the afternoon dip.

Here’s what a typical lunch may look like:

Meal prep tips

How long does it take to cook?

I start with skinning the sweet potatoes and throw them into the oven since they take the longest. I time the broccoli start time to end the same time as the sweet potatoes. Once those two are complete, I move onto the chicken and grill it outside, which takes roughly 30 minutes. The food prep and cooking time will take you roughly 1.5 hours in total.

Related: check out even MORE food prep tips for various steps in the process to help make this easy time, money and progress saver a regular part of your routine.

Meal Prep = Time Saver

I always like to compare this to the alternative. Let’s look at both scenarios of going to get food and bringing it back to your desk versus eating there. I did time trials by walking with coworkers to grab their lunch and I found that the average time was roughly 15 minutes to go there and back. Total time throughout the week is an hour and 15 minutes. Ok, we’ve saved some time!

In a different situation, let’s look at how much time is saved in comparison to when you eat at a restaurant. I began timing this trial from the time we sat down and began to eat. I excluded any sit down restaurants that included a server since the lead times varied by person and restaurant. I came to the conclusion of an average 15 minute eating time. Combining that with travel time, you’re looking at 2 hours and 30 minutes saved per week.

Does your food taste good at the end of the week?

This one intrigued me for a while as I did notice that my chicken would become rubbery or not taste as good toward the end of the week. A trick you can use to help your food last and taste better longer is with your freezer. I do my meal prep on Sundays and put Monday and Tuesday’s meals in the refrigerator. The rest goes into the freezer and I pull out one meal each day throughout the week. Monday, I pull out Wednesday, etc.

Is it cheaper than eating out?

Yes, meal preparation will save you money. Below is an outline of the cost comparison between purchasing groceries vs. eating out. Please note, I am measuring groceries for a single person, using the chicken/broccoli/sweet potato meal outlined above.

If you go out to eat each day, lunch costs anywhere from $6 (typical fast food options) to $10 (Chipotle, Panera, etc.) depending on where you go. Add a sugary Coke, that’s another $2.00. The numbers speak for themselves.

Final Thoughts on Meal Prep

Regardless if you’re training for a race, show, or looking for ways to be healthier, I am a firm believer that meal preparation can bring value to your day and life. You will not have to worry about answering the question, “What should I eat for lunch?” You have the opportunity to learn to cook new meals and try something new every week. Not only will meal prep save you money on a weekly basis, but you’ll get more out of your day. We can’t get more time in a day, but we can make the most of it.

For more about meal preparation and fitness, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Post written by FFC Union Station member Omar R. 

 

Herbed cauliflower and potato mash - try this healthy recipe!With all its versatility and nutritional benefit, it’s easy to see why cauliflower has become such a popular ingredient in some of our favorite comfort foods. It’s become the go-to substitute for cutting calories in everything from rice to pizza, even! If you haven’t hopped on the cauliflower train yet, I suggest you start with this easy cauliflower mash recipe.

This is a nearly fool-proof way to introduce more healthy veggies into your diet using a classic comfort-food recipe (mashed potatoes) that you already love. Cauliflower is rich in healthy fiber, vitamin C and powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants.

No special equipment is required – just a pot of boiling water and a potato masher! A few key ingredients (almond milk and nutritional yeast) keep this 100% vegan. You can also swap out for a traditional dairy milk and even parmesan cheese – especially if you’re still trying to win over finicky eaters.

Use it as the perfect complement to grilled veggies or chicken, or as a heartier option to balance out warm weather salads and other dishes!

 

Related: speaking of substitutions in things we love, have you see this ‘New-tella’ recipe with dates?

Herb Cauliflower Mash with Yukon Potatoes

Level: easy
Servings: 8

Potato and cauliflower mash - perfect for your next party or picnic!Ingredients

  • 1 big head cauliflower (about 3-4 cups florets)
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Instructions

To cook potatoes and cauliflower:

  • Clean the cauliflower and scrub the potatoes.
  • Trim the cauliflower.
  • Cut both the cauliflower and potato into large pieces.
  • Place in a large pot and cover with water.
  • Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Potatoes are ready when a knife can easily be inserted and the potato slides off.

To make mash:

  • Chop the parsley.
  • When potatoes are done, drain the potatoes and cauliflower.
  • Immediately return the potatoes and cauliflower to the same hot pot and let any excess water steam off.
  • Add the remaining ingredients: milk of choice, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and parsley.
  • Use a potato masher and mash away. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

If you prefer a creamier potato, use a hand mixer.

Chef’s tip: Yukon Gold potatoes are a thin-skinned potato, which means you don’t have to peel them. You can also use butterball potatoes, or, for a little color, red-skinned potatoes.

Yield: 7-8 cups

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

 

It’s FINALLY that time of year… warm weather is here! With this transition, we all begin to crave more sunshine, pool time, and of course, refreshing meals and sweet treats. Summer is also the time where we want to feel and look our best, but how does one go about that when the calories seem to creep up at our fun BBQs and outdoor events? Try a healthy ice cream recipe!

With these 5 recipes, you can have your cake (or ice cream) and eat it too – indulge your sweet tooth without feeling the added guilt. Whether grilling out with friends, picnicking at the park, or relaxing at the beach, a healthy ice cream recipe like one of these 5 will keep you satisfied while also helping you to feel and look great for the summer. Get the scoop below and enjoy!

Protein Berry Ice Cream

  • (Makes 2 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup frozen berries

Instructions

  • Place both ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Serve with additional berries on top and a sprig of mint if desired.
  • Enjoy!

*Adapted from Abbey’s Kitchen

Nice Cream Snicker Bars

  • (Makes 12 servings)

Ingredients

  • 12 large pitted dates
  • 2-4 tbsp. warm water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 ripe frozen bananas (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (look for PB that is made with just peanuts, or peanuts and salt)
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup peanuts, halved
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

Special Equipment

  • Ice cube tray

Instructions

  • Add dates to warm water and soak for 10 minutes.
  • Drain dates and add to food processor or blender. Pulse until a paste is made. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add frozen banana to food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract and pulse a few times to mix.
  • Assemble bars by placing a teaspoon of date into the bottom of an ice cube mold. Top with a thin layer of peanuts and fill the remainder of each mold with banana mixture.
  • Place ice cube tray in the freezer and freeze 4-6 hours or overnight.
  • Once frozen, prepare the chocolate coating. Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler or a bowl over pan of hot water. Stir until smooth.
  • Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Line a plate with wax paper. Working quickly, remove each bar from the ice cube tray and fully dip in the chocolate to coat. Place on wax paper. Return to freezer to harden for at least 30 minutes.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*Adapted from Byte Sized Nutrition

Mini Frozen Raspberry Cheesecake Bites

  • (Makes 20 bites)

Ingredients

  • 1 + ¼ cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. maple syrup, divided
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp. coconut oil, divided and melted
  • 2 cups cashews
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • ¼ cup plain Kefir
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 can chilled coconut milk, just the cream

Special Equipment

  • Mini muffin/cupcake pan

Instructions

  • Before making this, be sure to pop a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.
  • Pour cashews into a bowl.
  • Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat for 30 seconds. Pour over the cashews. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, mix the almond meal, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, and 2 tbsp. of coconut oil together to make the crust.
  • Press the crust mixture evenly into 20 mini muffin tins. Tip- you may use muffin/cupcake liners for easier removal of the cheesecake.
  • For the filling, add the cashews, remaining maple syrup, remaining coconut oil, raspberries, kefir, lemon juice, and just the solid cream part of the coconut milk can to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Fill the cups with the cheesecake filling and top with raspberries.
  • Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*Adapted from Miss Allie’s Kitchen

Related: sweets don’t always have to have a bad rap – check out this delicious “new-tella” recipe when you’re craving something chocolatey! 

Blueberry Yogurt Swirl Popsicles

  • (Makes 6 servings)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Special Equipment

  • Popsicle mold

Instructions

  • Blend blueberries in a blender until nearly liquified. Pour into a large bowl.
  • Stir in honey. Add the yogurt very gently until everything is mixed together.
  • Pour mixture evenly into mold. If your mold has slots for sticks, insert them before freezing. If not, freeze for two hours, then put a wooden stick in the middle. Continue to freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight.
  • Run popsicle molds under warm water to easily remove. Enjoy!

*Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

  • (Makes 8 servings)

Ingredients

Brownie layer:

  • 1 cup raw nuts (ex. walnuts and almonds)
  • 8 pitted dates
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Water, as needed

Peanut butter layer:

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (look for PB that is made with just peanuts, or peanuts and salt)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Water, as needed

Banana layer:

  • 2 large frozen bananas (peeled and sliced)

Chocolate layer:

  • 1 ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil

Instructions

  • In a food processor or blender add all the ingredients for the brownie layer and mix until dough forms. Add in water as needed to combine. It should be wet, but not too thin.
  • In an 8×8 baking pan lined with parchment paper, press the brownie mixture evenly into bottom of the pan.
  • In food processor or blender add the ingredients for the peanut butter layer and process until smooth. Add water until texture is like caramel.
  • Top brownie layer with peanut butter and spread evenly.
  • In food processor or blender add in frozen bananas and process until thick and smooth. Spread over the peanut butter layer. Put in the freezer to set.
  • Meanwhile, in a double boiler or a bowl over pan of hot water melt the chocolate chips, almond milk, and coconut oil until smooth.
  • Pour the chocolate over the banana and spread out evenly over the top.
  • Put cake in the freezer for about 2 hours.
  • Cut into squares. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*Adapted from The Organic Dietitian

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice. 

 

While some flavors and spices seem to transport us directly to the holidays, the truth is that the benefits we can reap from spices are so valuable, we shouldn’t just assign them to one season. Not only do spices provide great health benefits, but the enhancements they bring to food make them a no-brainer cooking addition (with almost zero additional calories!). Think about what completes the smell and taste of a dish – it wouldn’t be the same without the flavors that help make that final dish taste so delightful. Check out these 6 spices to have on hand that will improve your health!

Cinnamon

Out of all the spices to have on hand, cinnamon is one of the most widely used. Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, which helps protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It can also improve some key risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

Studies have shown that cinnamon can even dramatically reduce fasting blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. It not only tastes great, but also provides manganese, iron, and calcium. Many think of cinnamon in baked goods, but you can also branch out with some new sweet and savory ideas!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Make a salty/sweet treat by adding cinnamon to popcorn.
  • Flavor plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and top with nuts/seeds.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon in your coffee or tea to add extra spice and flavor – or even your yogurt, like this recipe!

Ginger

Ginger is best known for its ability to ease nausea, motion sickness, and indigestion. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have benefits for not only your body, but your brain as well. It is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. All these things mean it is one of the most versatile spices to have on hand.

It has also been shown to be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain due to those anti-inflammatory properties. It may not have an immediate impact, but studies show it can be effective at reducing the day-to-day progression of muscle pain. It is a very common ingredient in recipes and cosmetics. Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Cut up fresh ginger and add to boiling water with a little honey and lemon to make a soothing tea.
  • Add minced garlic to stir-fries for an extra kick.
  • Add to baked goods, such as the pumpkin gingerbread muffin recipe at the bottom of this post.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg contains phytonutrients including beta-carotene and beta-crypotxanthin. These can improve blood circulation to the brain and enhance sleep. The flavor and therapeutic actions are believed to be due to the oil it contains.

Because of its antibacterial properties, nutmeg can also effectively treat bad breath, gum problems, and toothaches – therefore, nutmeg is a common ingredient in many brands of toothpastes. It is also a spice that is used in many sweet recipes, but nutmeg can be used in a variety of other ways!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle in milk in the evening to help achieve relaxation and induce sleep.
  • Add nutmeg to roasted carrots or winter squash for a unique savory side dish.
  • Mix with nuts, such as pecans, and roast in the oven for a tasty snack.

Related: using spices can drastically elevate your meal prep too. Need more tips on making sure meal prep is a part of your life? Check out this post!

Rosemary

The active components in rosemary are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic in nature. These powerful compounds include rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, betulic acid, and carnosol, which can boost immunity and fight bacterial infections.

Rosemary also may help ease indigestion and improve blood flow due to its stimulant effects. The aroma of rosemary alone has been linked to improving mood, clearing the mind, and relieving stress in those with chronic anxiety. Many use rosemary as a garnish, but there are a variety of other ways to use it.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Chop fresh rosemary and use in a variety of broth based-soups.
  • Sprinkle rosemary on bread dough before placing it in the oven to add extra flavor.
  • Flavor olive oil with dried or fresh rosemary for zestier salad dressings.

Sage

Sage is a member of the mint family and is also known for many antioxidant properties – which makes it one of the top spices to have on hand. Tea and essential oils derived from the leaves have been used to treat digestive and circulation problems, but it has also been used to increase concentration.

Sage contains vitamin K, an essential vitamin for the body that isn’t found in many common foods. Vitamin K is key in developing bone density and ensuring the integrity of our bones as we age. It is traditionally used in savory dishes, due to its peppery flavor, but see below for alternative uses.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle in an omelet with vegetables for a new breakfast.
  • Add to pesto with other herbs for a great flavor addition.
  • Top sage leaves on meats such as chicken, pork, or lamb.

Turmeric

Turmeric is popular worldwide, although until recently has not been commonly used in the U.S. It contains Curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian dishes, although you can find new twists on ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily lifestyle below!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle onto rice to bring out a wonderful color and flavor to an originally bland side dish.
  • Simmer turmeric with coconut milk and honey to make a comforting beverage.
  • Add fresh or ground turmeric to smoothies – the pungent flavor is usually well-masked but you’ll reap all the benefits!

Try This Recipe: Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup pure raw honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a muffin tin with liners and set aside.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients – be sure to not over-mix.
  • Scoop batter into muffin pan and distribute evenly.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes and until tops are golden brown.
  • Yields 12 muffins – store at room temperature for 3 days or refrigerate for 7 days.

Post written by FFC Gold Coast Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice.

 

 

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What is a resting metabolic rate? Resting metabolic rate, or RMR, measures how many calories you burn at a state of rest (as if you were sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show all day).

Scientifically speaking, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the closely related basal metabolic rate (BMR) measure the amount of daily energy expended by humans. The utilization of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of vital organs like the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, etc.

So Why Is Your Resting Metabolic Rate Important?

Why is your RMR so important? Knowing your RMR can help you understand how many calories you need to function, plus what you need to intake (or not intake) to reach your health and wellness goals. Having a higher RMR means you will burn more calories at a state of rest (yep – just for doing nothing more than simply existing!) which will also allow you to increase the amount of calories you can consume in one day to reach your goals.

How do you increase your RMR? A good fitness regimen that includes weight training is the only way to do it. You have to build your lean muscle mass. Here are 3 quick steps:

  1. Add weight training in 3-5 times a week
  2. Add cardio in 3-5 times a week for 15-30 minutes to help stay lean
  3. Eat frequent meals – about every 3 hours

Don’t worry ladies, this is not going to make you bulky; your bodies do not produce enough testosterone to have that look. If you are going for a very muscular look, however, it is possible, but it takes a lot of work, a proper weight lifting regimen and eating habits to get there.

Benefits of Increasing Your RMR

  • Burn more calories at rest, even while sleeping
  • Burn more calories during exercise and throughout the day
  • Higher RMR = higher amount of calories you can eat in a day to achieve your goals
  • Have more lean muscle on your body which will result in: lower body fat percentage, lower risk of heart attack/heart disease, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of hypertension, and an increase your internal age.

Causes of Low RMR

What lowers your resting metabolic rate and how will it affect you? There are some factors you can control, and some you can’t – including the following:

  • Age: research shows that starting as early as your 20s your body starts losing 2-3% of lean muscle mass each decade. This is why a weight lifting program is so important to help fight the natural loss of lean muscle mass over that time period.
  • Hormones: generally, for most women, the thyroid and hormone production will slow down after the age of 40, which have an affect on your RMR.

Regarding what you CAN control, one of the biggest factors is exercise. You can control how much or how little you exercise. Exercise less, and you’ll end up with less lean muscle mass and a higher percentage of body fat. Not only will this result in a decrease of RMR (and our clothes not fitting the way we want them to), but more seriously, it can lead to adverse health problems such as:

  • Increase risk of heart disease and stroke – the 1st and 3rd leading causes of death, respectively, in the US
  • Increase risk of diabetes – the 7th leading cause of death in the US
  • Increase risk of hypertension
  • Increase of overall medical bills
  • Increase of sick days from work

Related: More metabolic myths… busted. Check out this post for 5 main myths about the metabolism and the truth behind them.

Is There a Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator?

There are many resting metabolic rate calculators out there on the internet that will give you estimates of what you roughly burn doing nothing. Some take more factors into consideration than others. For example, while some calculators may measure age, height and weight, some may measure those factors plus the type of work and activities you do. The more information that you can put in the more accurate it is going to be for your body type without actually going in and having an actual test done.

While these tests can be helpful, it is important to remember to consider what information you are receiving. As an example, I used this calculator (based on the the Mifflin St Jeor equation) but changed my activity level from very active to moderately active. If I wanted to lose a healthy 2 lbs per week, it drops me below 1700 calories to 1282 per day – which, for females and the healthy functioning of their internal organs, is way too low. Be careful what information you get and always consult with a registered dietitian before setting an exercise or nutrition program.

FFC has the proper equipment and can help you test for a more accurate RMR and BMR. You can actually set up an RMR appointment just by emailing metabolictesting@ffc.com. You can also click here to learn more information about the tests.

And why would accuracy be important? Let’s say your RMR is 1400, but based on a calculation you found online (not taking into consideration your fitness levels) told you your RMR is 1550. In reality you could be consuming an extra 150 calories a day because the results were based on the general population and not according to your own personal needs. Knowing your RMR/BMR can be very important to reaching your goals.

Of course, while all of this is important, the most important thing is to focus on eating healthy, keeping your portions in control, getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest.

Post written by FFC contributor.

 

I recently was listening to a podcast with Oprah and Geneen Roth, an expert on body acceptance and reducing compulsive eating. One concept they discussed that struck me was that your relationship with food is a microcosm of your relationship with yourself and your broader life.

It’s never just about the food – which suggests we can look to other aspects of our lives to see what seems to be missing or incomplete, or out of alignment. Once those areas become more in balance, we can relax around food; it holds less power over us and becomes a little less interesting or important.

Related: do you have a “fear of missing out on food”? Here’s how to eat more mindfully.

Think of Food as Two Separate Categories

I learned something similar when I studied to become a health coach (before I became a dietitian) at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition: thinking of “food” as two separate categories, primary food and secondary food.

Secondary food is literal food, like fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, bread and pasta, animal protein, oils, sweets, even junk and processed foods. But primary food encompasses everything that “feeds” us in addition to actual food, like spiritual satisfaction, feeling fulfilled with your work and extracurricular activities, robust relationships, and ample exercise.

The reason these are labeled as primary food is because they can be considered in some ways to be even more important than the secondary food. Why? They nurture and nourish us in ways fat, protein and carbohydrates simply cannot. When our primary needs are well taken care of, our need for secondary food decreases, and we certainly depend on it less for happiness and fulfillment, and instead use it for its ideal purpose, which is strength and sustenance.

Your Relationship with Food

Think back to a time when you were depressed or anxious. You might have gained or lost weight, ate fast food or lots of sugary desserts, using food in a dysfunctional way to somehow feel better. But if you think back to your childhood or of a time when things seemed to have fallen into an easy rhythm, you might have eaten more lightly, focusing on other things and viewing food more as an afterthought.

Take some time to think or even jot some notes down about these four areas of your life currently: career, spirituality, relationships and exercise. Where could you put some more attention? Notice how bolstering these areas of your life affects your hunger for food.

Post written by FFC Boystown and East Lakeview Registered Dietitian Cindy Klinger. 

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