Tag Archives: dark chocolate

12 Naughty Holiday Foods

holidays-holiday-foods-fullThe holidays mean parties and family gatherings. And it means a buffet of delicious holiday treats. Lots of holiday foods are healthy – filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. However, they can also be loaded up with calories.

Don’t assume that foods are healthy just because they are normally low in calories. Many dishes have been modified with additional ingredients, such as added sugar and fats, to create a fun and festive treat. That also means additional calories.

Here are 12 foods that are on the holiday naughty list and healthier options you can enjoy instead:

Turkey Skin
The skin of turkey and chicken is loaded with saturated fat. Dark meat also have more fat per bite than white meat. Serve yourself turkey or other white meat without the skin.

Stuffing
Stuffing is filled with butter and high-fat meats like sausage. A single scoop of stuffing may have 550 calories. Use low-sodium chicken broth instead of butter, and try low-fat chicken or fruit instead of fatty meats. Or, you can even make stuffing with wild rice instead.

Green Bean Casserole
While green beans are a vegetable rich in vitamins and fiber, the casserole doesn’t offer as many health benefits. The onion toppings, butter and cream that are used to create the dish can contain over 750 calories and over 4,000 milligrams of salt. Stick with plain green beans and skip the rest.

Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Homemade mashed potatoes often contain whole milk, butter and salt. Instead, mash the potatoes with low-fat milk or low sodium, fat-free chicken stock. Then, skip the butter and salt.

Swedish Meatballs
Meatballs may be high in protein, but each meatball can have as many as 400 calories with eggs, bread and cream added to make them. Beef broth can also add up to 50% of your daily recommended allowance of sodium. Choose lean meats without the added fattening ingredients.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries may be a super fruit, filled with antioxidants and fiber, however a serving of cranberry sauce contains around 200 calories and twice as much sugar as homemade pumpkin pie. Stick with the pumpkin pie!

Pecan Pie
Although pecans are packed with healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, pecan pie is filled with sugar and calories. A slice of pecan pie can have more than 500 calories. Try nibbling on a bowl of mixed nuts or a small slice of pumpkin pie instead.

Carmel Popcorn
You may receive a gift of a large tin of carmel popcorn. While popcorn on its own is a healthy, whole-grain snack, adding sugary carmel only packs on calories. Try plain popcorn instead – it’s just as satisfying without the extra fat.

Cakes and Cookies
You may crave carbohydrates in the fall and winter. You want to avoid sweets, but you also know that carbs taste so good and make you feel good. Snack on whole-grain cereals and crackers to satisfy your carb cravings.

Eggnog
Mix together alcohol, heavy cream, eggs and sugar, and you’ve got a recipe with about 340 calories and 19 grams of fat. Make a low calorie eggnog with skim milk, egg substitutes and artificial sweeteners. Or skip the eggnog and have a cup of green tea.

Mixed Drinks
Cocktails can also be surprisingly high in calories. Mix up a wine spritzer by adding a splash of wine and sparkling water to pomegranate or cranberry juice. You cut calories and include fruit in your diet.

Chocolate
Milk chocolate is high in fat and low in nutrients. Go for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa, but still eat it in moderation. Even better, choose dark chocolate with heart-healthy nuts.

‘Tis the season for tasty foods. If you know which foods are naughty versus healthy, you can make good choices and enjoy yourself during the holidays!

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14 Healthier Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 10.22.24 AMI love dessert. And I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. I like it all – pies, cakes, cobblers, ice cream, cookies, brownies, chocolate – anything that’s sweet and decadent.

However, it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits when you love all things dessert. And, basically anything that will satisfy your sweet tooth is most likely going to sabotage your healthy diet.

We have blogged about the dangers and health risks of eating too much sugar in the past. The average American eats and drinks 22 teaspoons – or almost half a cup – of added sugar each day. The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only 6 teaspoons per day and 9 teaspoons a day for men.

Here are 14 ways you can satisfy your need for something sweet and stick to your healthy habits:

Dark chocolate
Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate (1.4 ounces) can improve your mood and reduce stress levels. So, you can enjoy a small bit of chocolatey goodness without the guilt.

Frozen yogurt
If you’re having a craving for ice cream, substitute frozen yogurt as a good alternative. It’s the same consistency as regular ice cream and it tastes almost as sweet.

Yogurt with toppings
Top a cup of plain Greek yogurt with your favorite treats – crumbled graham crackers, granola, nuts or fruit. You can even add some shaved dark chocolate. You get a decadent dessert without all the added calories.

Jell-O brand cups
Jell-O has single serving cups in many varieties and flavors. You can get pudding cups that have the same creamy flavor as cheesecake but with much less fat and calories. You can even make your own pudding from a powdered mix, using skim milk to keep it healthy. Add your own toppings for more flavor and fun.

Fresh fruit
Any piece of fresh fruit will offer enough natural sugar to fill your sweet tooth craving. It’s also an extremely healthy choice for added nutrients and fiber. Mix up your fruit and create tasty fruit salads.

Dried fruit
Dried fruit is handy to pack on the go as a quick snack and is a great way to have a sweet treat. Make sure if you’re buying packaged dried fruit that you check for no added sugar.

Fudge popsicle
With a fudge popsicle, you can get an ice cream fix along with the great taste of chocolate. It has fewer calories than regular ice cream or even slow-churned ice cream.

Nutella popcorn
You can make another chocolatey treat with Nutella and popcorn. Pop a small bag of natural popcorn and top it with 1 tablespoon of melted Nutella. It’s crunchy along with the perfect amount of sweetness!

Chocolate Nutty Pretzels
A salty and sweet combo may also help you with those sugary cravings. Microwave one square of dark chocolate and one teaspoon of natural peanut butter until both are melted. Then dip pretzels or pretzels rods for a great snack.

Sorbet
Keeping a pint of healthy sorbet on hand is a great option for filling a dessert craving without resorting to ice cream. You can even make your own sorbet if you’re feeling adventurous!

Frozen grapes
Put a bag or container of grapes in the freezer for a few hours, and you’ll have a long-lasting, sweet treat with antioxidants and other nutrients. Grapes also contain resveratrol, which may help lower bad cholesterol levels and be good for your heart.

Trail mix
You can make your own trail mix. Simply combine a healthy mix of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or pistachios, with dried cranberries, cherries or raisins. You can also add in a few dark chocolate pieces for a great snack with good nutrition, too.

Animal crackers
A good-sized handful of animal crackers has just 120 calories and about 7 grams of sugar. While kids like to snack on them, adults can enjoy them, too!

Chocolate milk
Need a sweet treat during your day? Chocolate milk is good for you and boosts calcium and vitamin D, which research shows is important for preserving cartilage and joint health. Chocolate low-fat milk has also been shown to replenish stores of energy and nutrition after a vigorous workout or activity.

Now I want to eat something sweet, and you probably do, too! A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods and eating them all in moderation. Just be sure to watch portion sizes and treat yourself to these healthy dessert options.

11 Foods to Boost Your Mood

fresh-vegetables-3-1432292-mI have been focused on my mood lately. Your mood, mindset and outlook on life can have a big impact on bringing all the elements of your life into balance. It can be difficult to exercise, eat right and get enough sleep when you’re in a bad mood. Your disposition can affect your relationships, stress level and even your spiritual well-being.

We recently wrote a blog that presented 9 Truths About Your Mood. We also talked about the 10 Health Benefits of Smiling and how putting on a happy face can lift your spirits and change your outlook.

As we head into the fall season, here are more ideas for boosting your mood. You may not realize that the foods you eat can help put you in a good mood.

Here are 11 foods to boost your mood:

Leafy greens
When you’re feeling grouchy, go for a spinach salad instead of a sweet snack. Dark, leafy greens like those found in spinach, asparagus and Brussel sprouts are packed with folic acid, or folate. Folate is a B vitamin that helps the brain synthesize mood chemicals, such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. You can also get folate from potatoes, fortified breads and cereals, beans, peas and mushrooms.

Fruits and veggies (or whole foods)
You already know you need to eat your fruits and vegetables every day. Here’s another reason to eat these whole foods. A diet rich in fruits and veggies provides antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals that can boost your overall health. In fact, those who eat more whole foods and less fatty, processed and sugar-laden foods are at a lower risk of depression.

Dark chocolate
While most of us already know that chocolate improves our mood based on personal experience, science shows that chocolate does in fact make you happy. Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate (1.4 ounces) every day for two weeks has been shown to reduce stress hormones like cortisol.

Bananas
Bananas contain dopamine, which is a natural chemical that boosts your mood. Bananas also provide B vitamins and magnesium – both nutrients aid in creating a positive mood.

Protein
If you start to feel tired and moody, grab a snack made of high-quality protein. For instance, a scrambled egg, handful of almonds, or a few cubes of cheese.

Purple berries
Blueberries and blackberries get their deep purple color from a pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment is an antioxidant that allows your brain to produce dopamine, which helps improve your mood, memory function and coordination.

Omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in your emotional well-being. They may also protect against depression. You can find Omega-3 fats in salmon and other fatty fish, flaxseed and walnuts.

Saffron
Saffron, a spice that is popular in Middle Eastern, Indian and Spanish foods, is made from the dried stigmas of crocus plants. Saffron has been used in Eastern cultures for healing and for nerve-calming purposes. Researchers believe the spice has the same affect as Prozac by making serotonin more available to the brain.

Smart carbs
The link between carbohydrates and your mood has to do with tryptophan. It’s an amino acid that helps your brain produce more serotonin and improve your mood. Be sure to make smart carb choices, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. You’ll get good carbs as well as other important nutrients and fiber.

Green Tea
If you’re feeling anxious or unable to concentrate, drinking a cup of green tea can help calm you down and give you more focus. Green tea contains theanine and is gentler on your body than coffee. In addition, tea has less caffeine than coffee, so it won’t give you the jitters or set you on edge.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body process all of these mood boosting vitamins and nutrients. It also increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. As we head into fall and have less sun exposure, be sure to get as much vitamin D as you can each day from the foods you eat.

Your mood and outlook have a huge impact on your ability to keep all aspects of your life in balance. Good wholesome foods are a foundation for good health and overall well-being. Do you have certain foods that help you focus, tackle your day and boost your mood?