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Chocolate Almond Butter Energy Balls

On the go snacks are a must in my fridge, especially ones that are sweet.  These energy balls are packed with protein from the hemp, nut butter, and hemp, fiber-rich carbohydrates from the dates, healthy fats and yummy chocolate to nourish you and satisfy any sweet tooth!

Pop one (or two) on the go pre or post workout or smash into yogurt for a more complete breakfast or snack.  My biggest challenge: stopping at just one.

Recipe: Yields around 10 balls

Ingredients:

  • 10 pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup almond or peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup chocolate protein powder (I use Garden of Life Plant Protein, whey is good too)
  • 3 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (optional to roll)

Directions:

In a food processor, place all ingredients and mix on high power until completely mixed together.  Add additional water if needed for a sticky consistency.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop batter into hands and roll into a ball.  If using coconut, place the ball in a bowl with the shredded coconut and toss around until completely coated.  Place on a flat sheet and place in the fridge for about 1 hour.  Transfer to an airtight container.  Attempt to make them last a max of 4-5 days.

 

 

Recipe: Almond Butter Banana Muffins with Coconut and Blueberry

There are a few options to handle overly ripe bananas, but I find the best option is to bake with them.  These muffins are a healthy alternative to prepacked, sugar-packed goods with little nutritional value.  The base of banana, blueberry, and coconut flour add fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals missed in many traditionally baked goods.  Check out the recipe below and always if you try it, send me a pic, comment or tag them @nutritionbygabby.

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Almond Butter Banana Muffins with Coconut and Blueberry

Recipe Yield: 12 muffins

  • 3 bananas
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup blueberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, mash two bananas until smooth with a fork.  Stir in the almond butter with banana, next add the eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined.  To the mixture add in coconut flour, shredded coconut, baking soda and powder, stevia, and vanilla extract and combine.  Slice the last banana into half-moon pieces and fold into the batter with the blueberries.  Scoop batter using an ice cream scoop into a lined muffin tin and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe: Chipotle Spice Turkey Burgers

It’s almost grilling season, but you can definitely make these indoors.  These slightly spicy, super flavorful burgers are good enough to go bunless.  I served these with a homemade avocado cream (recipe coming soon, need to retest!), roasted sweet potatoes and greens.  Try with veggies or over a salad with hummus or avocado for a complete meal.IMG_0041

Makes 4, 4oz burgers

  • 1 pound ground turkey meat
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, thoroughly combine ground meat until spices are mixed in evenly.  Portion meat into four equal burgers and shape.  On a grill, grill pan or non-stick pan, heat on medium high and spray with non-stick spray of choice.  Add burgers to the pan and cook evenly on both sides until the inside of the burger reaches 165 F, measured using a meat thermometer.

Enjoy topped with your favorite toppings and sides!

Recipe: Almond Flour Pancakes

One of my favorite weekend activities is making pancakes.  It reminds me of childhood when life was simpler; sleeping in and waking to the sent of pancakes on the griddle.  Fast forward 20 something years, and that’s barely happening, so when it does I make sure it is extra special.IMG_0035 2.jpg

If you know me, these are not your typical pancakes.  They are loaded with nourishing ingredients, like almond flour and coconut flour, for a healthier twist.  These are suitable for a low carb lifestyle, or someone who just wants to find something to do with that almond and coconut flour that’s laying around.

I topped these with a berry and açaí “syrup” I made with a cup of frozen berries, a packet of açaí, stevia, and coconut oil.  I didn’t write out the specifics, but next time I will.  Enjoy the recipe below and if you make it tag me @nutritionbygabby.

Ingredients:

Yield: 8-10 pancakes

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp stevia or 2 tablespoons sugar or maple syrups
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 1/4 cup milk of choice

Instructions:

  1. Combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt.  Combine thoroughly.
  2. Add whisked eggs, oil, vanilla, milk in a bowl and whisk together.  Add to dry ingredients and mix together.
  3. Heat a griddle pan or non-stick pan over medium-high heat and coat with spray or coconut oil.  Using a 1/4 cup for a measure, add to pan and lower heat to medium heat.  Cook for ~2 min on each side.
  4. Top with: fruit, syrup, egg and avocado (my fav), yogurt, or nut butter.

 

Recipe: Peanut Butter Blondies

I currently have about 5 jars of peanut butter in my house and each serves a different purpose.  Three are flavored, one is crunchy and one is smooth.  There are two kinds of almond butter as well.  The obsession is clear and valid.

Below is a recipe for my peanut butter blondies, packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients from the chickpeas.  The chickpeas give them a chewy and soft texture, without the taste of chickpeas at all.  In fact, I’ve fooled some with these delicious treats.  The key is to put the food out there and when they ask just say they are peanut butter blondies, which is the truth.  It says it in the title, no mention of chickpeas.

The recipe is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free and high in fiber and protein.  It is very simple to make, requiring just the bowl of your food processor.  Try them out, and if you make them post them and tag @nutritionbygabby.

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Peanut Butter Blondies 

Yield: 12 blondies

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice blend (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (if peanut butter is unsalted only)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Set oven it 350 degrees and line or spray a muffin tin.
  2. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor and blend on high until smooth.
  3. Remove blade from the food processor and add in chocolate chips, folding in with a spatula.  You may find it easier to mix in a separate bowl.
  4. Using an ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup, fill the muffin tin with batter right below the top rim.
  5. Place in oven for about 15-18 minutes.  You want the outside to be slightly firm, and the middle to be soft.
  6. Let the muffins cool about 15 minutes before removing from the tin.  Enjoy with a glass of almond milk.

Boost Your Performance with Beetroot Juice

Whether you are an athlete, recreational runner or exercise enthusiast, performing your best is important to you.  Nutritionally improving your health and performance can be challenging to navigate given the vast amounts of products and their claims.  If you haven’t yet, you may want to consider adding beetroot juice to your diet.  A natural, vegetable-derived product, beetroot juice has built strong evidence for its efficacy.  Research has shown that supplementing with beetroot juice can increase blood flow, decrease oxygen needs at various intensities, and improve cardiorespiratory performance (1,2).

What is so special about beetroot juice?  It contains a high concentration of dietary nitrates, which are needed for the production of nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide is responsible for (1):

  • Regulating blood flow and oxygen consumption by the muscle
  • Promoting energy production in the mitochondria
  • Assists glucose uptake by the muscle
  • Enhances muscle contraction and relaxation

These actions involving nitric oxide enhance overall muscle function, leading to increased cardiovascular exercise performance (1).  Through these mechanisms, studies have shown that an acute supplementation 90 min-3 hours prior to exercise improved finish time, power output, oxygen usage, and time to fatigue (1).  Chronic usage, over the course of several days, can have an even greater effect on these acute outcomes as well as improved muscle contraction and mitochondria synthesis, improving energy production (2).

A recent study on soccer players has added to the growing evidence on the efficacy of beetroot juice supplementation for high-intensity activities.  The study, out of The Netherlands, compared the performance high-intensity exercise protocol on 32 male soccer players who supplemented with beetroot juice and those who did not (2).  The group that supplemented did so for 6 days, using a concentrated beetroot juice product (2).  Upon comparison, the supplementation group scored significantly higher on a high-intensity performance test and had higher levels of plasma and salivary nitrate (2).  This study utilized a strong design and protocol, strengthening these findings.

While more research is needed in order to determine distinct protocols for different populations, endurance and high-intensity cardiovascular exercise may benefit from supplementation.  The recommended protocols require products with a high concentration of nitrates such as concentrated juice products and powders (1,2) versus nitrates found in whole beetroots.  Since beetroot juice may not be the most pleasant tasting, concentrated shots or powders blended with juices or smoothies are better tolerated.

If you are looking to utilize beetroot juice for your next race or competition, here are some concluding recommendations:

  • Purchase a product from a reliable source.  Two products that are used in the industry are Beet-It Sports Shots and Humann SuperBeets.
  • Begin supplementation 6 or more days prior to your race or performance, scheduling intake preferably at the same time each day.
  • For acute usage or day of the performance, consume the supplement 90 minutes to 3 hours before.  Acute supplementation peaks at 2-3 hours, so time acutely for the length of your performance.
  • The general recommendation is 300 ml-500 ml of concentrated products, though some studies have used higher dosages especially with the concentrated shots.
  • GI discomfort has been reported.  Try different products and dosages to see what works best for you.

Good luck!  Let me know how it goes.

Sources

(1) Domínguez, R., Cuenca, E., Maté-Muñoz, J., García-Fernández, P., Serra-Paya, N., Estevan, M, Garnacho-Castaño, M. (2017). Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(12), 43. doi:10.3390/nu9010043

(2) Nyakayiru, J., Jonvik, K., Trommelen, J., Pinckaers, P., Senden, J., Loon, L. V., & Verdijk, L. (2017). Beetroot Juice Supplementation Improves High-Intensity Intermittent Type Exercise Performance in Trained Soccer Players. Nutrients, 9(12), 314. doi:10.3390/nu9030314

Kale Salad with Ginger Almond Butter Dressing

While kale salads are now commonplace, I am always looking for ways to refresh and renew my typical recipes.  My friend recently told me about this amazing almond butter dressing she had.  Whenever I hear something new to me, I want to take a stab at creating my own.

The ginger and lemon bring bright, fresh flavor to this hearty kale salad.  The sweet pomegranates and roasted squash make this salad complete.  I prefer my kale finely chopped, not only for the texture but also for easier digestibility.  As with most kale salads, it tastes best the next day.  If you plan on keeping this salad for a few days to eat throughout the week, I recommend dressing the kale and storing the toppings separately, adding just prior to eating.  For a complete meal, add chicken, tofu, tempeh, black beans or shrimp.

Enjoy!  As always, post if you make and tag me @nutritionbygabby on Instagram and @nutritiongabby on Twitter!

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 medium clove of garlic (or 2 small), chopped
  • ½ inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt

Salad

  • 5-6 cups finely chopped curly kale
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 ½ cups roasted butternut squash

Directions

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
  2. Toss dressing over the kale and mix until kale is coated evenly with the dressing.
  3. Top with pomegranate seeds and butternut squash.
  4. Store up to 4 days in an air tight container.

Managing the Microbiome

Deep within the body lives trillions of microscopic beings, protecting and serving your health daily, referred to as the microbiome. The microbiome is the healthy bacteria, fungi, and viruses that inhabit the gut. Don’t let those words scare you, their primary purpose is positive for health. The gut, while you may think of a protruding belly, is the term used to describe three main organs; the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. This is where we digest food, absorbs nutrients and produce waste. These three organs have a major role in our overall well-being, being the host this expansive microbiome.
By maintaining these microorganisms in balance, we can positively affect our health. This includes prevention of infectious diseases, metabolic issues, immune and neurological disorders as well as mental health (2). There is a strong line communication between the microbiome and our immune, metabolic and cognitive/emotional functions (1). Centering in the gut, the most influential factor on the microbiome is our diet, accounting for 57% of changes (3). The impact of diet on the microbiome and health share a close relationship. In a review study conducted by Singh et al (2017), the impact of different diet patterns on the microbiome provides insight on how to nurture a healthy gut.
When examining protein, high animal meat diets are correlated with an increase in bacteria associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory bowel disease (4). The popularity of high protein/low carbohydrate diets for weight loss, while it results in weight loss, can be detrimental to health and the microbiome, including increased bacteria associated with inflammatory bowel disease (4). On the other hand, a diet high in plant-based protein, such as soy, beans, and legumes, exhibit positive effects on the microbiome and health. Pea protein specifically may increase health-promoting bacteria and decrease pathogenic bacteria, having an anti-inflammatory effect (4). Although it is derived from an animal-based source, whey protein has similar effects (4).
Fibrous carbohydrates are non-digestible but are essential to provide nutrients for the microbiome (4). These include foods like whole grains, vegetables and legumes and can be commonly referred to as prebiotics. Consumption of prebiotic foods is associated with a positive shift in the microbiome (4). These foods are considered heart health and can also aid in decreased inflammation, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose (4). The popular probiotics are another set of foods that influence the microbiome. These foods contain health-promoting bacteria that manage intestinal health and aid in decreasing inflammation (4). These foods include fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, green olives, pickled ginger and vegetables, natto, and sourdough bread (2). Each food contains different strains of bacteria, therefore eating a variety of probiotic-rich foods is key. Diets high in these foods are associated with improved gastrointestinal health as well as markers of cardiovascular health such as cholesterol and triglycerides (4).
Without doing a complete diet overhaul, some small changes can make an impact on improving your microbiome and overall gut health. Modifications to existing meals with some simple swaps can bring on some benefits.
1) Go meatless once a week. A big meat eater? That’s okay, we know there are plenty of benefits to eating animal-based proteins, but cutting back can help your gut and health. A great way to accomplish this is by designating a day of the week to cut out meat. This is a great time to add in prebiotic foods like legumes, such as beans and lentils, or probiotic foods, like yogurt and tempeh, to get in needed protein. Fish is okay!
2) Change up your bread game. This one comes with two options: whole grain bread for increase fiber or sourdough bread for probiotic goodness. Either way, it’s a gut-healthy win.
3) Try something new. Unsure what kimchi is? Kimchi is a staple Korean food of fermented vegetables like, cabbage and radishes, and flavored with spices. You can find it in most grocery stores and can be enjoyed as a snack, with eggs, in tacos, or mixed into a stir fry for started.
4) Go for sushi. Make sure you start with a miso soup and eat the ginger. Miso and pickled ginger two of the probiotic-rich foods.  The ginger is also a delicious and a way to cleanse the palate between bites.

5) Throw some sauerkraut on it.  It isn’t just for hot dogs and sausages.  Sauerkraut can be tossed into salads, layered into a wrap or sandwich, the topping on your eggs or on your next avocado toast.

With the gut in the center of the body, it is an essential part of our overall health. By feeding our microbiome these essential foods, we can aid in a variety of health outcomes including gastrointestinal health, inflammation, cardiovascular health and managed blood glucose. Experiment with a variety of prebiotic and probiotic foods to get started on the path to a healthier gut, body, and mind.

Resources

(1) Quigley, E. M. M. (2013). Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease. Gastroenterology & Hepatology9(9), 560–569.

(2) Ellis, E. L. (2018, March). The Potential of Probiotics. Food and Nutrition, 19-21.

(3)Clark, Allison, and Núria Mach. “Exercise-Induced stress behavior, gut-Microbiota-Brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, vol. 13, no. 1, 2016, doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0155-6.

(4) Singh, R. K., Chang, H.-W., Yan, D., Lee, K. M., Ucmak, D., Wong, K., … Liao, W. (2017). Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medicine15, 73. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y

Recipe: Secret Ingredient Brownies

Brownies are a staple dessert on almost all occasions, especially in my family.  They are so delectable, we wish having them everything day could be a healthful option.  With this Secret Ingredient Brownie recipe, you most definitely can.

Black bean brownies are nothing new, but nailing down a quality recipe can be a challenge.  This recipe is a combination of about 5 different recipes that have been tweaked and pulled together and made about 8 times.  All 8 times have been made with my 2-year-old nephew and therefore they have all been vegan.  I solely chose to make them vegan not on a health or dietary concern, but for the sole purpose of him being able to lick the batter.  What is the point of baking if you can’t lick the batter?  I don’t know if he mom would be happy with him eating raw eggs, this isn’t my child.

This recipe is PACKED with nutrients you would not normally find in brownies.  These include:

  1. Fiber from the black beans and chia seeds.
  2. Healthy fats from the peanut butter and chia seeds.
  3. Protein from the black beans, chia, and peanut butter.

After writing that, I realized what a huge difference 3 main ingredients can make.  As always, bake and enjoy these in good health.  And yes, it is safe to eat the batter! 🙂

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoon chia seeds + 5 tablespoon water
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • ½ cup agave
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil a 9×9 circle pan.  In a small bowl, combine chia seeds with the 5 tablespoons of water and set on the side for 5 minutes until it turns in a gel.  After the chia sets, in a food processor combine black beans, cocoa powder, peanut butter, agave, salt, vanilla, and water.  Run on high until smooth, scraping sides to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Remove blade and stir in chocolate chips, reserving a small handful to sprinkle on top.  Transfer the batter to the circle pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle reserved chocolate chips on top.  Place the pan in the center of the rack and bake for 20-25 minutes.  The center will remain soft, so bake until the outside is firm.   

Recipe: Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Granola bars and snack bars are easy options for on-the-go fueling.  While there are a variety of healthful options in the supermarkets, reading labels to find wholesome options can be confusing and time-consuming. Surprisingly, you can make your own bars with ingredients you may already have in stock, taking less than a half hour of your time.  Not only are making your own bars cost effective, but you get to know what ingredients go into them.

IMG_0023While these bars are flavored with coconut, peanut butter, raisins and chocolate chips, you can personalize them to your preference.  Enjoy these on their own to fuel your run, for breakfast with some yogurt, to hold you over between lunch and dinner, or to satisfy your post-dinner sweet tooth.

Peanut Butter Coconut Granola Bars

Yield 8 Big Bars, 16 small squares

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips

Directions

First, heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Next, place oats on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  While oats are toasting, on medium-low heat melt peanut butter, honey and coconut oil in a small saucepan until smooth.  Remove oats from the oven and transfer to a bowl.  Next, combine toasted oats with the cinnamon, flax seeds, and coconut.  Pour peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Allow this to cool for about 10-15 minutes and then mix in the chocolate chips and raisins.  This will prevent the chocolate chips from melting. 

To create the bars, spray 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray and then line it with parchment paper.  Pour the mixture into the pan and press in until firm and evenly spaced in the dish.  The parchment paper will mold to the dish as you flatten out the mixture.

Place dish in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours to harden.  The longer it stays in the fridge, the better.  Remove when hardened and cut in half first and then into 4 equal bars.  Cut the bars in half for a smaller square sizedtreat.   

Where do you stand with you relationship with food and your body?

 

Evaluate your relationship today! 

Let's get stronger together.

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