Foodist Approved: Strawberry Rhubarb Sesame Crumble

by | May 28, 2014
Strawberry Rhubarb Sesame Crumble

Strawberry Rhubarb Sesame Crumble

Say you’re suffering from a serious sweet-treat craving, but are nowhere close to getting your 8+ servings of fruits and vegetables for the day. Fear not. Here’s a recipe for a radiant dessert that sneaks in a serving of each. Yes to desserts that hide veggies!

Seeing fresh strawberries and rhubarb together at the market couldn’t have made me happier. The two combine effortlessly, and together they promise summer is around the corner. But the problem with most desserts made with rhubarb is that they’re overloaded with sugar to compensate for rhubarb’s tartness. Why we like to mask rhubarb’s splendor I will never understand. When you’re using farm-fresh strawberries, there’s no need for added sugar.

I can’t think of a dessert more nutritious than this strawberry rhubarb crumble. It’s low on the glycemic index and free of refined sugars, and the fruit, veggies, oats and sesame seeds in it make it high in fiber, the coconut oil makes it high in healthy fatty acids, and the fruit and seeds make it rich in vitamins and minerals. Only thing better would maybe be a kale pie, but I think I’ll pass on that.

This recipe can easily be made gluten-free by substituting out the whole-wheat pastry flour for almond meal.
Read the rest of this post »

Tags:

Foodist Approved: Gluten-Free PB&J Cookie Bites

by | Apr 2, 2014
PBJ Cookie Bites

PB&J Cookie Bites

Friends keep asking me to share stories about crazy pregnancy cravings. I hate to disappoint—I haven’t experienced any middle of the night I-need-to-eat-a-pickle-right-this-moment cravings. But since month one, I have had this strong desire to eat childhood favorites. One of those has been good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Of course, nobody needs a recipe for PB&J. So, instead, I’ve put a healthy and decadent twist on this classic lunchbox staple. This recipe combines my renewed love affair with PB&J with my always-present appreciation for homemade cookies.

“Healthy and decadent.” It might sound contradictory, but these cookies are truly just that. Thanks to the coconut oil and peanut butter, they are satisfyingly rich and flaky, and on the healthy spectrum, these PB&J Cookie Bites are free of refined sugars and high in protein. Another bonus—they’re also free of common allergens including gluten, dairy and eggs.

Unlike many gluten-free recipes that require three different kinds of flour, this recipe is super easy to master. Since only minimal ingredients are needed, you won’t be tempted to pick up a package of overly sweet store-bought cookies instead of baking your own.

Tip: Invest in a small ice cream scooper. It’s the easiest way to make perfect little round cookies that don’t fall apart the second you try to remove them from the pan.

Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , ,

Foodist Approved: Maple Coconut Macaroons

by | Dec 18, 2013
Foodist Approved: Maple Coconut Macaroons

Foodist Approved: Maple Coconut Macaroons

As I wrote in my previous post, the holidays are a time to indulge a little. So I asked Darya what she thought about mixing things up from our usual recipes packed with green veggies.

Darya’s response?

It’s a freaking treat and it’s the holidays, enjoy it already.”

Love it! So in honor of that, get excited! We’re about to make some very beautiful coconut macaroons, one of my favorite sweet indulgences. These macaroons (with chocolate drizzled on top) remind me so much of Samoas Girl Scout cookies, did you ever eat those as a kid? They were my favorite.

But, of course, seeing that this is Summer Tomato, these aren’t your typical store-bought coconut macaroons loaded with a pound of white sugar. I just couldn’t go that low.

My macaroons are made with real maple syrup and are free of refined sugar. And I promise you they’re not just as good as your usual macaroons, but better!

I love macaroons because they’re small and satisfying. And if you want, you can drizzle them in chocolate and sprinkle with crushed pistachios to make an extra fancy treat, one perfect for impressing your holiday guests.

And just in case you need one more excuse to indulge, did you know coconut is high in fiber, healthy fat, vitamins and minerals?

P.S. My macaroons are also gluten-free. Just make sure you’re buying gluten-free chocolate chips if you have an intolerance.
Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , , , ,

Is Healthy Dessert Even Possible?

by | May 15, 2013

Photo by roygbivibgyor

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the dangers of sugar, and one reader asked:

So if you bake things from scratch with things like unsweetened apple sauce instead of sugar and whole grains and seeds etc… can they still be considered healthy? Like are healthy muffins or banana breads possible?

The reason this is hard to answer is because “healthy” is not a black and white word. Instead it is a fuzzy word with many shades of gray. That is because health is not made or broken by any single food, it reflects your daily choices and habits. Health is a pattern, not an event.

Adding less sugar or more nutritious ingredients may indeed move an item a few degrees in the healthy direction, but it won’t change the fact that a muffin is a muffin and will always contain some sugar and flour, and never be an example of healthy eating.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat a muffin and continue to be healthy.

The problem with a “healthier” muffin is a philosophical one, because the reality is we do not eat muffins for health. We eat them for enjoyment, which is arguably as important as health when considering your quality of life.

So is it worth sacrificing the pleasure you get from eating a muffin to make it slightly closer to something it will never be?

Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , , , ,

6 Ways Eating Out Causes Overeating (And How To Stop It)

by | Apr 22, 2013

Photo by Sebastian Fritzon

Among my health conscious friends, we unanimously agree that eating out is the biggest barrier to weight loss.

San Francisco residents are fortunate that local, high-quality ingredients are the standard in almost every dining establishment (same is true for NYC, LA and other US foodie cities). We have gastropubs serving up grass-fed beef burgers, street carts offering sustainable fish tacos and small neighborhood spots dishing up heirloom vegetables and artisan ingredients.

I know, we’re spoiled rotten. But there’s a downside to all these wonderful options.

Ironically, the problem is that everything tastes amazing and is relatively healthy. Also, the menus tend to change regularly (often daily) depending on what is in season. So there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever be able to enjoy a particular dish more than once.

These things make it really easy to justify overeating.

There are many factors that cause us to overeat when we’re out. Here are the most common, and what to do about them.
Read the rest of this post »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

6 Tips To Make Dessert Worth It

by | Dec 12, 2012

Photo by http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2248/2149319173_8bcab71ba4_z.jpg

Never trust anyone who believes dessert isn’t an essential part of life.

There may be some small, joyless percentage of the population who can live indefinitely without sugar, but in my experience those who attempt it are kidding themselves and will inevitably fail.

Sugar is wonderful sometimes, and in general it is easier to find a way to live with it than without it.

But I’m not here to propagate any illusions either. The scientific literature makes it is pretty clear that sugars, specifically sucrose (table sugar) and fructose (the sweet stuff in fruit and corn syrup), are some of the worst foods you can eat and should generally be considered dangerous.

Sugars promote aging, weight gain and most chronic diseases. Sugar is also regarded as addictive by many in the field of obesity and weight loss.

So how should you deal with it?

Keeping desserts in perspective goes a long way to helping you make smart choices.

Keep these tips in mind to make sure the desserts you choose are worth it.

6 Tips To Optimize Your Dessert Choices

1. Make it formal

Self-control is not the easiest thing to practice when dessert is involved. You probably know this from experience.

Make a rule for yourself to not eat dessert in an informal setting. That is, do not eat sweets between meals and always sit down and be fully present when you eat treats.

Resist the piles of cookies, brownies and candies set out around the house. If you do choose to eat one, do not make light of it. Sit down with a chair, table and napkin and enjoy every bite.

Try to wait until after a meal so you are eating for indulgence and not to satisfy your hunger. Trying to feel full from dessert is a losing battle (see tip #4).

2. Size matters

Dessert has an obscene amount of calories. I know this is not fun to think about, but you should be aware that if you are eating something with sugar and fat there is an excellent chance you are putting down 50-100 calories PER BITE.

A single Godiva or See’s truffle runs at about 100 calories. A slice of Oreo cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory has 600-800 calories. It is hard to overemphasize how huge this really is. If you eat a reasonably healthy diet, this is likely more calories than you consume in an entire meal.

When you do sit down and eat dessert, remember that you do not have to eat everything that is put in front of you. The first two bites are always the most satisfying. There is no need to test the hypothesis that the 12th bite doesn’t live up to them.

3. Make an allowance

You should keep tabs on how often you eat dessert, and one or two per week is a reasonable goal for someone looking to maintain their weight. Zero to one serving is best for someone trying to lose weight.

For most people, weekly allowances are easier to manage than daily or monthly allowances.

Rules likes this help you make smarter choices. Do you really want to waste your only treat this week on a cookie from a box or a cake from Costco?

If you are ever going to be a picky eater, dessert is the best place to turn up your nose.

4. Don’t treat yourself when hungry

Sugar does not satisfy hunger. In fact, repeated sugar exposure creates spikes and dips in blood sugar that make you feel hungry again sooner than you should.

For this reason, sugary foods should never be substituted for real food and you should not rely on them to satisfy your hunger. Not only is this ineffective, it also makes it more likely you will overeat. Remember tips #1 and #2 and eat your small desserts after a real meal.

5. Eat healthy meals

Having an overall healthy, balanced diet is another effective way to avoid dessert binges. If you already feel satisfied with what you have eaten, dessert will truly be a treat and not an overcompensation for poor nutrition.

Healthy meals can also go far to prevent emotional eating, since they help create a feeling of fulfillment, comfort and satisfaction.

6. Stay on the bandwagon

Slip-ups happen with dessert, and it is not the end of the world.

Remember point #2, that size matters.

Just as 5 bites of dessert is much, much better than 10 bites of dessert, one slip-up is better than 3-4 slip-ups. Don’t let one holiday uh-oh send you into a week of unbridled gluttony.

When it comes to sugar, less is always better. Avoid the temptation to throw in the towel.

Are your desserts worth it?

Originally published December 21, 2009.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Healthy Dessert Recipe: Sautéed Bosc Pears With Toasted Walnuts & Balsamic Reduction

by | Oct 31, 2012
Bosc Pear With Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Reduction

Bosc Pear With Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Reduction

“Darya, my biggest problem is…I have a sweet tooth. Are there any recipes or desserts you suggest?”

One of the hardest things about transitioning to a healthy diet is cutting down on sugar. I definitely remember this from my own experience.

Luckily this difficulty is temporary.

The longer you go without sugar, the less you want it. In fact it has taken me awhile to reply to this question because I have not been motivated to make dessert in such a long time.

I eat sweets on occasion, but almost always these situations are circumstantial: a friend’s birthday, a favorite restaurant or other special occasion. And I am only excited about the experience if the dessert in question is profoundly exquisite. (In San Francisco, this is way more common than it is in most places.)

What this all means is I rarely find reason to seek out and/or make dessert.

But after creating this recipe, I may reconsider. This dessert is incredibly delicious, and not unhealthy at all. I thinly sliced some bosc pears and briefly sautéed them in butter with cinnamon. I reduced some balsamic vinegar for a semi-sweet topping, but otherwise did not add any sugar. I garnished the pears with toasted walnuts and shredded basil.

This recipe also works with other firm fruits such as apples, peaches and strawberries, all of which are available this time of year at the farmers market.

Sauteed Bosc Pears With Toasted Walnuts, Balsamic Reduction and Basil

Ingredients:

Bosc Pear

Bosc Pear

  • One bosc pear, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1/4 c. walnuts
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 5 basil leaves, chiffonade into strips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, core and cut bosc pear into 1/4 inch slices.

Place balsamic vinegar in small sauce pan and gently heat until simmering. Allow to reduce, swirling occasionally until reduced to 25-30% volume, about 10 minutes. Reduction should be dark and thickened. Test by seeing if it coats the back of a spoon (and tastes good). Do not over reduce.

While vinegar is reducing, place walnuts on a cookie sheet and put in oven. Toast walnuts, turning once or twice for 6-7 minutes. Do yourself a favor and set a timer. It is very easy to burn toasting nuts. I set the time for 3 minutes, toss the nuts, then reset for another 3 minutes. Remove nuts from oven, allow to cool, then coarsely chop.

Heat butter in a pan on medium heat until it begins to foam. Add pear slices and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook gently until slightly tender, about 3 minutes on each side. Turn with a thin spatula.

Place pears on a plate and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Sprinkle on chopped walnuts and basil. I didn’t try it, but I bet this would be awesome with gorgonzola and port (or other dessert wine).

Try it and let me know what you think!

Do you ever cook fruits for dessert?

Originally published October 12, 2009.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty

by | Sep 17, 2012

Photo by Aldo Fonticiella

Sometimes foods are super unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them.

In my opinion, the purpose of food should be to optimize quality of life. Food is delicious, it makes you healthy and brings you closer to friends and loved ones. At any given meal, I try my best to maximize each of these goals. And if it falls short in one, I try to make it up in another.

Inevitably there are situations where the best option is not particularly obvious. For example, how important is it to eat healthy when you’re on vacation?

Consider dessert. By no stretch of the imagination do you need dessert to live, and if we are being honest with ourselves most of the time we probably shouldn’t eat it. But sometimes (err, often) we want to anyway.

Ideally you should get your healthstyle to a place where you can occasionally go a little wild without it having a significant impact on your health goals. But getting there takes practice and a healthy dose of self awareness.

Here are 5 questions to help you make the right decision before letting loose.

5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty

1. What else have you eaten today? This week?

To be able to indulge occasionally, you need to understand what “occasionally” really means. Depending on your body size and activity levels, you can get away with maybe one or two treats a week. If you find yourself giving in once or more a day, it may be time to reevaluate your definition of special occasion.

2. Have you been to the gym?

Using the gym to justify a bad diet is a losing battle. But if you do eat a few too many quickly digesting calories, it’s much better that they go to fuel your muscles rather than your waistline. I’ve found that some of my best runs at the gym are on birthday cake days at the office.

3. Will you be drinking later?

Alcohol fuels weight gain in a number of ways. Sugary drinks add hundreds of calories to your day and should be considered an indulgence in their own right. Alcohol also has a way of convincing you to opt for late night burrito runs or greasy morning brunches. If you’re heading out with friends later, you might want to skip the after dinner cheesecake.

4. Are you trying to lose weight?

Believe it or not, asking yourself your health goals before you eat something can really help you make better decisions. I don’t recommend strict diets when you’re finding your healthstyle, but if you still have weight to lose desserts and heavy meals won’t make your life any easier. If you’d still like to drop some pounds, it pays to be picky with your indulgences.

5. Is it worth it? Really?

One of the best things about avoiding diets is you have the freedom to fit your favorite foods into your life. But one of the down sides is that you need to be able to make good choices for yourself, which isn’t always easy. It can be very tempting to consider every cupcake that is brought to the office a special occasion and lose track of the truly valuable indulgences that actually make your life better. Birthdays, anniversaries and great restaurants are things you will remember for your entire life. Junk food at the office is rarely more than an excuse to avoid work for another half hour. Be honest with yourself about the true value of a food before inviting it into your life.

What helps you make quality food choices?

Originally published September 20, 2010.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

by | Aug 1, 2012

Photo by basheertome

I pity the fool who puts health over pleasure every time they enter a restaurant, but if you eat out often all those French fries could get the better of you.

When nothing on the menu perfectly fits my preferences (particularly at low to mid-range places more tailored to the Standard American Diet crowd), I don’t hesitate to swap out whatever I don’t want with something better.

Whether it’s to avoid processed foods or simply add vibrance and color to my plate, here are 10 simple swaps to make the most of your restaurant meals.

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

1. Mixed greens instead of ice burg or romaine lettuce

I enjoy cobb salads, but for some reason they’re usually served with boring industrial lettuce. Most places these days carry mixed greens or spinach as well, and are usually happy to make the switch.

2. Fruit instead of toast

I’m not sure why breakfast spots think you need two giant pieces of toast on top of your potatoes, eggs and pancakes, but if you don’t want it they’ll often offer you fruit instead. This is one of the best upgrades you can get away with.

3. Salad instead of potatoes

Speaking of potatoes, while they are real food and have their place in a healthy diet, they’re so often fried in rancid industrial oils that it’s best to skip them. Swapping them out for salad or cooked greens is rarely a problem.

4. Avocado instead of mayo

Real mayonnaise, the kind made from egg yolks and olive oil is perfectly healthy (and delicious). Unfortunately that isn’t what most places are putting on your sandwich. Instead commercial mayos are typically made with soybean or canola oils, AKA hyper-processed industrial oils. It may cost a little extra, but avocado is a fantastic alternative to gooey up your lunch.

5. Cheese plate instead of dessert

One of the things I love about France is that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cheese after dinner instead of sugar. If everyone is ordering crème brûlée and you don’t want to be a party pooper, get the cheese plate instead. Good cheese is healthy.

6. Brown rice instead of white

I don’t mind white rice in small quantities, but if I’m stuck eating somewhere I know the food isn’t very healthy I swap out my white rice for brown (and order as many vegetables as possible) if the option is available.

7. Drink wine instead of cocktails

Dinner often starts with a drink selection. While wine certainly has calories, cocktails usually have hundreds more thanks to the liqueurs and syrups typically used. Mixed drinks have their place, but if you’ll also be eating  a few hundred calories then wine is a better choice.

8. Beans instead of rice

If I see beans or lentils anywhere on the menu I’ll often ask if the kitchen can use them instead of one of the faster digesting starches on my plate. Your waiter may be confused, but he’ll usually do it if you ask.

9. Olive oil and vinegar instead of sugary dressing

At some point in the past 20 years salad dressings started being made with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt, probably to cover up the completely flavorless vegetables from the industrial food chain. Good ol’ fashioned olive oil and vinegar is a better choice, and most kitchens have them.

10. Anything instead of American cheese

Have you ever looked at the ingredients for American cheese? Besides water, the first ingredient is usually trans fat. The second is cornstarch. All the way at the bottom it says, “Contains: Milk.” Replacing it with real cheddar, gruyere, provolone, or even nothing would be healthier.

What are your favorite restaurant substitution tricks?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Tips For Not Regretting Your 4th of July BBQ

by | Jun 27, 2012
Blueberries & Raspberries

Blueberries & Raspberries

Holidays are for celebrating and are meant to be enjoyed, but you don’t have to sacrifice your health or beach body every time you attend a BBQ. These 6 BBQ survival tips can save you hundreds of calories you won’t even miss, and keep your health and fitness goals on track.

6 Healthy Eating Tips For Your 4th of July BBQ

1. Use small plates

Research clearly shows that people who choose smaller plates and utensils eat less without even noticing it. The difference can be as substantial as 50% fewer calories consumed, yet everyone reports the same level of fullness and satisfaction. Try borrowing a plate from the kids table or the dessert tray.

2. Eat slowly and mindfully

People who eat more slowly eat fewer calories over the course of a meal. BBQs are a perfect opportunity to pace yourself as you mix and mingle with friends and family. The more you’re chatting, the less you’re eating.

3. Eat healthiest foods first

If you are eating slowly and off small plates, you may as well fill up on the healthiest stuff first. Salads are a great place to start because watery vegetables slow digestion and have very few calories. Try to choose something with oil and protein as well, because these will help you feel full sooner.

4. Skip the chips, crackers and bread

Refined carbohydrates are the worst things you can eat because they offer little satisfaction, loads of calories and dangerous insulin spikes. BBQs are filled with wonderful food, so do yourself a favor and save your calories for the really good stuff.

You don’t have to eat your burger without a bun, but pass on the pointless chips and other snacks that lure you when you’re not thinking. If you’re feeling bored, grab a Frisbee instead.

5. Keep dessert small

The difference between a large slice of cake and a smaller slice of cake can literally be hundreds of calories. And to reiterate, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the most dangerous foods. You don’t have to pass on dessert completely, but keep your portion sizes in check for this course.

6. Think before you drink

There is a place for alcohol in a healthy lifestyle, but making smart choices can be the difference between losing or gaining weight (not to mention your self-control). One sugary margarita can have 600-800 calories. That means 3 margaritas is more food than you should be consuming in an entire day. Is that really worth it? Stick with wine or beer, drink plenty of water and remember to pace yourself.

Small tricks can save you hundreds and potentially thousands of wasted calories that you will never notice or miss. Why sacrifice a good time when you can just upgrade your healthstyle?


What are your favorite tips to eat healthy at a BBQ?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,