Healthy Holiday Cookie Roundup

Holiday Cookies

Office party cookie exchange? Kids’ gingerbread decorating party? In-laws holiday dinner? Chances are you’re going to be making a batch of cookies at least once this season. Instead of dusting off The Joy of Baking Cookbook for a dated chocolate chip cookie recipe, why don’t you try one of these festive and healthy recipes?

We’ve pulled from our favorite bloggers and recipe creators for our top 15 healthy holiday cookie roundup.

Short on time? Here’s 5 easy, no bake options: 

  1. No Bake Pecan Snowballs (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): With only 7 whole food ingredients and 2 steps, these festive cookies make the top of our list.
  2. Dark Chocolate Truffles (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Roll these superfood packed bites into matcha powder and pulverised dehydrated raspberries for red and green truffles that no one will know are healthy.
  3. Gingerbread Bites (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Easy almond gingerbread bites were our holiday cookie feature last year. Check ’em out.
  4. Chocolate Bark (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Homemade chocolate made with just a few simple ingredients and topped with any toppings you like would make a great dinner party dessert or host gift.
  5. Raw Double Chocolate Macaroons (Paleo, Vegan, Raw): Shredded coconut sweetened with dates and dipped in homemade chocolate. Need we say more? (You could easily, skip the chocolate coating to save time and ingredients).

Looking for a healthy takes on holiday classics? Here you go:

  1.  Gingerbread Cookies (Vegan, Paleo): Using almond flour and maple syrup, these are a healthier alternative to the holiday classic (especially with this coconut sugar frosting).
  2. Sugar Cookies with Naturally Colored Frosting (Vegan): Subbing coconut oil for butter and dehydrated raspberries to make red frosting, make this recipe is a winner.
  3. Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies (Vegan, Paleo): Take the extra step to sub the filling with this 5 minute chia jam and you’ll wow all your friends.
  4. Magic Bars (Vegan, Paleo): A cookie exchange favorite with squeaky clean ingredients…these are a must.
  5. Peppermint Fudge (Vegan, Paleo): 4 ingredient peppermint fudge made with coconut butter. Check out the recipes link to easy DIY coconut butter.

Feel like trying something new? Check out these creative recipes:

  1. Eggnog Dark Chocolate Chunk Almond Meal Cookies (Vegan, Gluten Free): This recipe has us drooling by adding eggnog to the batter. And with only 1/4 cup sugar for the entire recipe, we can’t wait to try.
  2. Secret Ingredient Blondies (Vegan, Gluten Free): These are so good, we promise you’ll never notice the healthy secret ingredient.
  3. Peppermint Brownies (Vegan, Gluten Free): We couldn’t resist throwing in these peppermint black bean brownies too!
  4. Pistachio Crusted Chewy Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies (Vegan, Gluten Free): One of the prettiest and healthy recipes we could find!
  5. Cranberry Chocolate Chia Cookies (Vegan, Paleo): With an ingredient list that you could eat for breakfast, these holiday cookies are a great healthy alternative.

Portion Size Guide

Imagine you’re at the salad bar of your local grocery store. You’re serving yourself from the healthy variety of leafy greens, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.

But how do you know how much?

What’s “1 serving” of vegetables? How much protein should you be adding? What’s the right amount of olive oil to use?

For most of us,  measuring or counting our food is just not sustainable. But that doesn’t mean that being aware of your portions isn’t an important part of eating a complete and balanced diet.

There’s an easier way to estimate measurements and servings sizes.

Check out the guide below to see how you can use your hand to estimate proper serving sizes for each of your food groups.

A balanced meal should contain all the major food groups: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Follow these guidelines to build balanced and portioned meals every time.

Pssst…here’s why this method might actually be a better way to manage portion control than calorie counting.  

portion-size-guide-5

Chicken Zoodle Soup

lemony-chicken-soup-1

 

Comforting and healthy. Makeover your homemade chicken noodle soup recipe with these 3 simple swaps for an upgraded version of this classic, cozy meal.

  1. Swap zucchini noodles (a.k.a zoodles) for traditional pasta noodles. Replacing flour noodles with a vegetables makes a lower calorie, nutrient packed bowl of soup. We suggest this spiralizer to turn everything from zucchini to sweet potato into noodles. You could easily use parsnip or turnip noodles in this recipe too.
  2. Swap homemade bone broth for store bought.  Traditionally, chicken soup is made with bone broth. (Bone broth is made from simmering bones in water for a long period of time until a broth has formed). This broth is higher in protein, beneficial collagen and lower in sodium than any store bought variety. Read more about how bone broth has been shown to inhibit infection, promote strong bones and fight inflammation. If you’re new to making bone broth, try using a crock pot and following these tips from Bon Appetit. The easiest way to make homemade chicken broth is to use the leftovers from a whole roast chicken (that way you don’t have to pre roast the bones).
  3. Add herbs and aromatics. A squeeze of lemon or garnish of fresh basil can turn a simple recipe into a bright and flavorful soup. Most herbs, spices and aromatics are packed with vitamins and minerals. Adding them to your cooking improves both flavor and nutrition.

Ingredients
2 organic chicken breasts (or about 3 cups shredded chicken)
2 tablespoons organic butter (or sub olive oil)
1 tsp herbs de provence
1/2 onion
3 carrots
2 cloves garlic
4 cups homemade chicken bone broth
1 cup frozen peas
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 zucchini

Instructions
  1. Chop onions, carrots and garlic
  2. Heat pan and melt butter in large soup pot or dutch oven.
  3. Saute onions, carrots until onions are clear, then add garlic and herbs and sauté until fragrant (few minutes)
  4. Add broth and chicken and simmer until chicken is cooked through. (If using chicken that’s already cooked and shredded, add to pot and skip to step 6)
  5. Remove chicken and shred with a fork.
  6. Add peas. Simmer until soft (5 minutes)
  7. Meanwhile, use a spirlizer to make the zucchini noodles
  8. Add shredded chicken and zucchini noodles
  9. Let simmer for 10 more minutes
  10. Add lemon juice, zest
  11. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh herbs

Recipe and photo: momowellness.com

5 Tips for a Healthy Halloween

little-girl-holding-halloween-candle-holder-picjumbo-com

Whether you’re under 10 years old or over 30, Halloween = candy overload.

I mean, who can resist that pillowcase full of bite sized butterfingers?

Instead of  feeling like the holiday got the best of you, we’ve got some tips to help you (and your kids) avoid the Halloween sugar hangover.

  1. Make a festive meal: Instead of sweets being the center of attention, get festive with savory foods. A healthy meal before trick-or-treating can make a big difference in late night snacking. Here are some ideas:

2. Try a candy inspired smoothie: Blend up one of these nutrient packed smoothie for an afternoon snack. With recipes like peanut butter cup, caramel apple and almond joy, they’re sure to leave your cravings feeling satisfied.

3. Make a splurge plan: If you know the Reese’s will be calling your name, make an agreement with yourself to only have a set amount. Be specific. When you know you only get 1 or two, you’ll enjoy it more and set yourself up to avoid binging. Before Halloween night, it’s also smart to set up expectations with your kids too.

4. Try this sugar hangover meal: protein + healthy fat + probiotics + water. Excess sugar can throw off our hunger/fullness signals and we can often end up with intense cravings. Eat a balanced, protein rich meal with a healthy fat to get your metabolism back on track. Refined sugar can also mess with your gut bacteria, so including a probiotic rich food like kefir, yogurt  or sauerkraut is a bonus. Example breakfast post Halloween: egg and vegetable scramble with avocado and sauerkraut or Greek yogurt and berries.

5. Stock up on the health(ier) stuff. For kids, Thrive market is a great online resource for stocking up on additive-free candies and treats. For the adults, choose dark chocolate or these better choices when it comes to the sweet stuff.

Mix-N-Match Stuffed Roasted Squash

fn_vegan-wild-rice-stuffed-butternut-squash_s4x3-jpg-rend-sni18col

Are more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants cook?

Us too.

That’s why we love this mix-n-match guide for making stuffed winter squash.

A hearty and healthy meal you can adapt to whatever you have on hand.

Here’s how it works:

Base Ingredients

  • 1 squash (acorn, kabocha, butternut, delicata)
  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 cups of filling per squash (depending on size)

Filling

  • 1/2 – 1 cup protein – sausage, chicken, pork, tempeh, tofu or beans
  • 1/2 – 1 cup vegetables – onions, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, greens
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cooked grains – quinoa, rice, farro
  • Herbs and/or spices
  • Optional: nuts/seeds – walnuts, almonds
  • Optional: shredded cheese for topping
  1. Preheat: Oven to 375
  2. Prep the squash: Slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds
  3. Bake Squash: Place the squash halves cut-side-down in a baking dish and add about 1/4 inch water. Cover the dish with foil and bake until a knife easily slices through (anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes)
  4. Prep filling: While the squash is roasting, prepare any filling ingredients (cook meats or veggies fully) Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season with spices and herbs.
  5. Stuff the squash halves: Rub inside of cooked squash with a little olive oil and pack with stuffing ingredients. Top with shredded cheese if using.
  6. Bake again: Re-cover the pan with the foil and bake the halves for another 15 to 20 minutes until tops are crispy and/or cheese is melted.

Here are some ways you could mix-n-match:

  1. Sausage + mushrooms + onions + kale + farro + sage + walnuts
  2. Chicken + bell peppers + black beans + chili powder + pepper jack cheese
  3. Turkey + onions + thyme + dried cranberries + parmesan cheese
  4. Tofu + mushrooms + spinach + garlic + scallions

Not sold on the mix-n-match idea? Here are 5 recipes to get you inspired:

  1. Sausage Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash
  2. Chipotle Chicken Stuffed Acorn Squash
  3. Beef, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Butternut Squash  (paleo)
  4. Stuffed Butternut Squash with Quinoa (vegetarian)
  5. Wild Rice stuffed Butternut squash (vegan / vegetarian) *pictured above

This post was inspired by the Kitchn’s How to Make Stuffed Roasted Squash

Tough Workout? Try these snacks.

turmeric-cashews

We often talk about what to post workout in terms of macronutrients: how much protein? how many carbohydrates?, ect.  And we’ve talked about pre and post workout nutrition on the blog before.

But today we’re giving you 3 specific foods to start incorporating into your snacks to help you recover and replenish.

Try these nutritious snack ideas when you’re recovering from a particularly hard workout. (But we won’t tell if you have ’em anytime. They’re too good to save!)

  1. Ginger has been shown to reduce muscle pain post exercise. And if it’s your joints and ligaments that are feeling inflamed, ginger is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. To incorporate more (fresh) ginger into your diet, try sipping on ginger tea, grating fresh ginger into your salad dressings or adding a 1/2 inch peeled piece to your smoothies or juices.

For a perfect post workout snack make these: raw gingerbread bites

2. Turmeric, the bright yellow spice used in curry, is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Did you know that some inflammation is actually a good thing? The body’s inflammatory response is what enables our muscles and cardiovascular system to adapt after a tough workout. Without a little inflammation, we would never grow stronger. However, it’s important to keep inflammation in check by incorporating rest days and consuming plenty of anti inflammatory fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Enter turmeric. Add fresh grated turmeric (it looks like a small root similar to ginger) to soups, stews and sauces.

Try these turmeric roasted cashews with nori for salty, savory snack.

3. Ever drink a sports recovery drink or coconut water and wonder: what the heck is an electrolyte? Electrolytes are important micronutrients found within the body, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphate and chloride. All of which are lost in sweat. And since these electrolytes are what regulate your fluid levels and hydration, it’s important to keep them replenished. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you need. One easy way to add these nutrients is to swap table salt for sea salt or Himalayan salt (since they contain electrolytes). Another way is to eat more hydrating electrolyte rich foods such as cucumber, celery, watermelon, pineapple or coconut water.

These 3 ingredient coconut water popsicles are a fun, hydrating treat.

 

 

Image via 101 Cookbooks.

Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups

Larb

This quick and easy meal also goes by the name of Larb, a thai inspired minced meat salad. It couldn’t be a more simple and flavorful meal for weeknight dinners.

We love using ground chicken in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite ground meat. Vegetarian? Check out this tofu version here.

Thai Chicken Larb (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbd. ground chicken (can sub ground turkey, pork, beef, lamb)
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons chile sauce (like Sambal Oelek or Sriracha)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (whites and greens)
  • 1 Tbs. minced chili of choice (jalapeno, serrano)
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup minced mint leaves
  • salt
  • 1 head of butter lettuce or romaine to serve

Directions

  1. Whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, honey and chile sauce. Set aside.
  2. Heat large skillet on stove. Add a small amount of olive or coconut oil to bottom of pan. Once hot, add ground chicken and brown. As the chicken is cooking, stir occasionally to break up the meat.
  3. Once almost finished, add scallions and chili and cook 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and while meat mixture is still hot, mix with lime juice / fish sauce dressing.
  5. Mix in minced herbs.
  6. Salt to taste.
  7. Serve in lettuce cups.

Recipe adapted from epicurious. Photo from Bon Appetite.

Sugar Free September Challenge

JOIN US (1)

Join us for Sugar Free September! A nation wide challenge, where we’ll be saying no to refined sugars for an entire 30 days. This is Molly’s 3rd year doing Sugar Free September with her Gap 7am class, and this time we thought we’d ask you all to join.

Why?

According to data from the U.S. in 2008, people are consuming over 60 pounds of added sugar per year (and this does not include fruit juices) (1).  A more recent study, estimated over 130 pounds per year, per individual (2).

This comes out to about 22 tsp per day. This is far above the American Heart Association’s maximum of 9 tsp per day. Here are our top 5 reasons to cut back:

  1. Weight loss: The average person consumes 300 calories from added sugar every day (3). That’s 2,100 added calories per week!
  2. Heart health: Eating too much sugar can raise the level of triglycerides, or fats, in your blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Higher triglyceride levels may boost your risk of heart disease (4).
  3. Brain function: Research shows that eating too much sugar can cause impaired cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness (5).
  4. Break habits:  Eating sugar releases dopamine in the brain, which can be addicting (5). The more you eat, the more you crave. This challenge will help you break this cycle.
  5. Better energy: Dietary sugars can decrease the activity of orexin cells, the cells that “induce wakefulness, stoke the metabolism, and keep our system movin’ and groovin’”. This explains why we can feel like a nap after an afternoon sugar binge (5).

Regardless of if you consume more than 22 tsp per day or less than 9 tsp, we challenge you to take the month of September to cut back on the sweet stuff.   Over the course of the month you’ll be surprised to discover just how often sugar shows up in our daily foods.

If you need a little extra inspiration, cozy up with That Sugar Film (streaming on Netflix) this weekend.

How?

Avoid:

  • Refined sugar at home (sweets, baking, in coffee, in recipes)
  • Added sugar in food products. There are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. Look for words ending in -ose like sucrose and fructose. Other names include barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup.
  • Added sugar when eating out. Put some intention into ordering. Be aware of dressings and sauces. It can be hard to avoid sugar when eating out, even when you’re not ordering dessert. Just do the best you can and think of it as a lesson in how often we consume added sugars. We’re aiming for progress, not perfection here.
  • Honey, maple syrup, stevia and other alternative sweeteners

Go for it:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Dried fruits with no added sugar (i.e. Trader Joes’ Just Dried Mango)
  • Whole grains
  • Bread and pasta (Check labels! 90% of sandwich breads have added sugar. We like Ezekiel bread for a sugar free option)
  • Dairy (Natural dairy sugars are a-ok, just check ingredient lists for added sugar)
  • All vegetables, meats, nuts, seeds, beans and whole foods.

To join us, all you need to do is:

  1. Follow BootcampSF on Instagram and Facebook, where we’ll be posting weekly tips, recipes and inspiration to help guide you through this challenge. 
  2. Post a picture of your 1st sugar free meal or snack with the hashtag #bscfsugarfree to join the group and follow along

Get ready, we’re kicking off on September 1st and hope you join us!

 

 

 

  1. https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/
  2.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/08/30/how-much-sugar-are-americans-eating-infographic/#448eaa011f71
  3. http://www.prevention.com/health/what-happens-when-you-stop-eating-sugar
  4. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-lowering-sugar-intake-4563.html
  5. http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-surprising-benefits-of-cutting-back-on-sugar/

Salted Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Banana Ice Cream

Ice cream lovers, listen up! If you haven’t tried banana “nice cream” yet, get ready because your dessert world is about to be rocked.

By simply freezing bananas in small slices and blending, you get a rich, creamy and sweet mock “ice cream” made from only bananas. One try and you’ll be impressed with how similar the sweetness and texture are to real ice cream.

All you need is ripe bananas that you chop into small pieces and freeze and a powerful blender or food processor.

Try out our recipe for salted banana peanut butter with chocolate sauce or experiment with adding your own flavors. (Like mint, chocolate chips, strawberry or cocoa powder)

If you’re looking for a cold treat to quench your sweet tooth craving this summer, this healthy alternative will be your new favorite.

Salted Banana Peanut Butter with Chocolate Sauce (serves 2)

3 Ripe bananas frozen in very thin slices
2 Tbs. Organic unsalted peanut butter (no additives)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 Tbs. coconut oil
2oz. quality dark chocolate (70% or higher) Or 2 Tbs. Cocoa powder

Instructions
  1. Blend frozen banana slices and peanut butter in a blender or a food processor on lowest setting until creamy, adding salt to taste (if not blending well, wait a couple minutes to let them defrost a little and they will blend better. I like to leave a few chunks too. You could also add a Tbs. of non dairy milk.)
  2. In a double boiler (or carefully with a small pot or in micorwave) slowly melt coconut oil and chocolate
  3. Scoop ice cream into serving bowls and pour chocolate sauce on top
  4. Top with chopped nuts, extra chocolate, shredded coconut or toppings of choice

Six Best and Worst Protein Bars

What do you do when you’re in need of a quick snack on-the-go?

We all reach for protein bars as a quick and travel friendly snack. But, not all protein bars are created equal. So today, we’re taking a close up look at some of the most popular bars and why we do (or don’t) choose them for fueling our busy lives.

BEST

Rx Barscoffee-chocolate-rxbar

Pros: These whole food based bars use egg whites as the protein source. With few ingredients and 12g protein, these bars are as unprocessed as you’re going to find on the protein bar shelf. Also, unlike some other bars, they’re dense enough to keep you full until your next meal.

Cons: If you’re watching your sugar, there is about 12-15g sugar per bar which might be high for some folks. However, this sugar is balanced by the fat and protein from the nuts, making this bar comparable to a mini-meal.

Molly’s Thoughts: These bars are my new favorite (I love the coffee flavor). They now sell them at Trader Joes, Whole Foods or Online.

51SYqedI5qLEpic Bars
Pros: The EPIC bar is a 100% grass fed animal based protein bar with flavors like Bison Cranberry and Beef Habanero Chili. Think jerky meets a protein bar. These bars offer a nutritional bang (12g protein and about 150 calories) without using any protein powders or products.

Cons: For those watching their sodium intake, these can add up quick. They’re also pretty small for their price at about $3 per bar.

Molly’s Thoughts: If you’re a jerky fan, these will be right up your alley.

FAIR

kind-mad-vanilla-almondKind Bar
Pros: A simple and short ingredient list and low sugar (only 5g in some flavors) landed these bars in the healthy choice section for many of us. They also can be found everywhere from gas stations to Starbucks, making them a go-to when your choices are limited.

Cons: Some flavors have some red flag ingredients such as soy lecithin, whey isolate, palm kern oil and sugar.

Molly’s Thoughts: The packing on these bars can be deceiving “high protein” “low sugar” “non GMO” are all printed on the front. But when you take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition label, they’re not all they claim to be. However, they can be a lifesaver for road trips and traveling when they’re the best option around.

Lara Bar

Pros: Similar to Rx Bars, these have an ingredient list under 5 items and all whole foods like nuts and dried fruit. They also have great flavors and are a winner in the taste department.

Cons: They can be heavy in the dried fruit, resulting in up to 24g of sugar per bar.

Molly’s Thoughts: Without the protein or fat to balance that out, these bars are better as a dessert or pre/post workout snack.

WORST

 c26-B001N2GRX8-matrix-1Cliff Bars
Pros: One of the pioneering protein bars on the market, Cliff Bars can be found anywhere from convenience to grocery stores. They’re hearty enough to be a meal replacement and taste pretty good.

Cons: The first ingredient in these bars is “brown rice syrup”, a type of sweetener. And with over 22g sugar per bar, these resemble more of candy bar than a protein bar. They also use soy protein isolate, a “not so friendly” source of protein.

Molly’s Thoughts: I’d leave these bars for emergency only situations. Or for long hikes or backpacking when extra sugar and calories aren’t a factor.

think-thin-best-protein-bars-pg-fullThinkThin Bars
Pros: At a glance, these bars look high protein, low sugar and fewer calories. They usually contain 15-20g protein per bar, which could be enough to have as an on-the-go meal.

Cons: The protein in these bars comes from whey and soy protein isolate, the most processed and cheapest forms of protein powders. Add glycerin, maltitol (both alcohol sugars), canola oil and soy lecithin to the list and these bars have no real food ingredients to be found.

Molly’ Thoughts: With few (or no) real food ingredients, these bars are all claims and no nutrition. I’d leave these bars on the shelf.

It’s ok to feel like choosing a healthy snack is confusing. With all the options, packaging and nutrition claims, it can be! So as a general guideline, look for your snacks to have about 5-10g protein, less than 6g sugar (except for dairy products or fruit which have natural sugar) and about 100-300 calories (depending on your needs).

Now, we’d love to hear from you! What are your go-to protein bars and healthy snacks? Let us know, by commenting below or on Facebook.