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.

Easy Almond Gingerbread Bites

Looking for an easy treat for your holiday potlucks and parties? Feel like making a festive dessert, but know that those christmas cookies leave you feeling overdosed on sugar?

Today’s recipe has got you covered.

If you like the sweet, spicy holiday flavors of gingerbread, you’ll love this recipe.

Gingerbread Bites

These little gingerbread bites contain NO sugar or refined sweeteners, flour or dairy. They’re so healthy you could even have them as a pre or post workout bite.

The best part?

They don’t require any baking or complicated ingredients.

Simple, easy and nutrient dense, these will become your new favorite holiday treat.

Ingredients (makes about 18)
2 Cups raw mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, brazil)
6 Soft medjool dates, roughly chopped
2 Tbs unsulphered blackstrap molasses
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Ground nutmeg and cloves to taste (a dash or two)
Dash Himalayan or sea salt
Shredded coconut for rolling

Directions
Pulse nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped (should resemble gravel)
Add all other ingredients, except coconut and process until smooth dough forms
Scooping out into 1 inch balls, roll in shredded coconut
Store in fridge (will last 7-10 days)
Recipes like these are a great healthy swap for flour and sugar filled treats.  Try making them for your office party, holiday dinner or cookie exchange. They’ll such a hit that no one will even notice they’re healthy.

Happy Holidays!

(photo via momowellness.com)

4 Tips To Improve Digestion And Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s 6pm after Thanksgiving dinner…how do you feel?

Stuffed? Bloated? Uncomfortable? Sick?

It’s all too common to eat too much, too quickly on this much anticipated meal. The result is that infamous Thanksgiving “food coma” that we all blame on the rich food.

But is it really the food itself, or is it how we eat it?

So much of how we feel after a meal has to do with what happens after we eat.

With these tips,  you’ll be able to walk away from Thanksgiving dinner feeling comfortable and satisfied.

Here are Molly’s 4 top tips to improve your digestion to enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.


Tip #1: Chew Your Food. We know this sounds silly as you’re probably thinking “well, of course I chew my food”. But we mean REALLY chew your food. Ideally, your food should be almost liquid before swallowing.

Why it works: The first step of digestion is in your mouth. Not only do you physically break down your food by chewing, but the digestive enzymes in your saliva begin to chemically break down carbohydrates and proteins. The more you chew, the more you mix these enzymes with your food and kick start the digestive process.


Tip #2: Put your fork down between bites. Similar to tip #1, the idea is to slow down. While we all know that slowing down to eat is a good habit, it can be hard to put into practice (especially when we’re hungry or it’s a special meal like Thanksgiving) Getting into the habit of putting down your fork in between bites and allowing yourself to chew and swallow before picking up the fork again will help you eat slower and more mindfully.

Why it works: According the psychology of eating, slower eating means a faster metabolism. When we eat too fast, the body isn’t able to fire up digestion, absorb nutrients or correctly moderate hunger hormones to signal fullness.


Tip #3: Start with something sour or bitter. If there is any food that is naturally sour or bitter (think citrus vinaigrette, bitter greens like arugula or vegetable stalks) eat those first. Alternatively, you can create the same effect by taking 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar before eating.

Why it works: The human digestive system is triggered by sour and bitter flavors. This is because we evolved eating the bitter flavors found in nature, such as greens, barks and herbs. However, the standard palette of sweet and salty can leave the digestive system behind. Jump starting your digestive enzymes (from the stomach, pancreas and gallbladder) to help increase the effectiveness and comfort of your digestion.


Tip #4: Move a little. While you don’t want to go for a run or even a walk right after eating, a leisurely walk 30-60 minutes after a big meal has been shown to improve digestion.

Why it Works: When we eat, our blood sugar increases. This spike in blood sugar is taxing on the body’s systems. In other words, the body doesn’t like high blood sugar and has to work hard to bring it back down. One way to help use the excess blood sugars is by moving. This will allow the body to spend it’s energy on other tasks, like digesting your food.


Pick one or more of these tips to practice at your Thanksgiving table and see how much it improves your digestion during and after your meal.  Which one will you be trying? We’d love to hear! Share by making a comment in the section below.

Guide To Sweeteners

brownsugar

Remember when agave syrup was all the rage? Today, you might be hearing more and more about coconut sugar.  But are these alternatives really healthy choices?  It can be confusing, especially when it comes to baking and cooking at home.

So whether you’re baking a dish for a potluck or your favorite holiday recipe, we’ve listed the pro’s and con’s of common sweeteners. From sweeteners to avoid to the more nutritional choices, we’ll show you how to substitute each of these alternatives in your go-to recipes.

Reduce List: Sucrose / high fructose sweeteners
Refined white sugar: Conventional table sugar, or sucrose, is derived from sugarcane or sugar beet and processed through heat, chemical purification, and bleaching. This type of sugar is highly processed, high glycemic and no nutrients.

Brown sugar: White sugar plus molasses. (We know! We were shocked too.)

Organic sugar: The same as table sugar, but derived from non-GMO beets or sugarcane. While avoiding GMO’s is a plus, organic sugar is nutritionally the same as table sugar.

Agave syrup: Despite it’s claims as healthy alternative to sweeteners due to it’s low glycemic index, agave is on our avoid list. It’s a refined and processed syrup made from cactus with a molecular structure similar to high fructose corn syrup (90% fructose). Cheaper brands and quality may even contain high fructose corn syrup.

Better list: Low / no fructose
Coconut (Palm) sugar: Low on the glycemic index, minimally processed and still contains some nutrients. However, still high in fructose (up to 50%). This is the easiest alternative to white sugar as it doesn’t change the recipes.
-Use  1:1 in recipes that call for regular sugar.

Brown rice syrup: Made by breaking down and cooking rice until it becomes syrup leaving complex carbohydrates, maltose and a small amount of glucose. This makes brown rice syrup popular a low/no fructose option. Although it can be hard to find good quality brands.
-Use 1-1 1/4 cups in place of sugar in recipes and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup.

Honey: Therapeutically used for allergies, honey contains many healing minerals and qualities. Quality is the factor that determines if this sweetener is “healthy” or not. Pure, raw and organic darker honeys have great antioxidant content. Good to sweeten beverages and drizzle onto snacks. But when using for baking, can lose most of it’s nutrients. However, honey is still high fructose at 40%.
-Use 1/2 the amount of honey to sugar in recipes, add 1/2 tsp of baking soda per cup of honey and reduce baking temperature by 25 degrees F.

Maple Syrup: Like honey, this sweetener is high fructose (40%) but it can be argued that it contains a good amount of some vitamins and minerals. Grade B and C contain more nutrients than the more processed and cheaper Grade A. Unless it’s labeled “pure” it may be mixed with corn syrup or other sweeteners. Maple syrup is a good sweetener choice for baking and heating.
– Use 1/2 to 2/3 cups maple syrup for each cup of sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup.

Stevia: Derived from the stevia plant, stevia powder has low/no effect on blood sugar and also no calories making it a good option for those watching their glycemic index or caloric intake. However, like honey, quality is what determines the health factor. Look for pure and organic. Stevia has a distinct taste and is hard to use in baked goods since it’s  300x sweeter than sugar. However, it can be a good tool for those transitioning off of sugar and sweets.
– 1 tsp of finely ground stevia is about equal to 1 cup of sugar. However, stevia isn’t recommended to be subbed for sugar in recipes that don’t call for stevia as the sweetener already.

Best Choice List: Sweet Whole Foods
Bananas /Dates / Fruit: There are many recipes for cookies, brownies, and cakes  that use unrefined whole foods as the main sweetener. While bananas and dates are high in fructose they contain the fiber that slows down the glycemic response, unlike the above condensed sweeteners. They also contain enough nutrients to support their metabolism. Berries are the lowest fructose fruit.

Spices: Sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves can help give the illusion of sweet. Try adding cinnamon to coffee or tea instead of sugars.

Coconut: Coconut has a naturally sweet and nutty taste that can help satisfy a sweet tooth. Try using shredded coconut on top of oatmeal or using coconut oil saute banana slices for a caramelized treat.

Save this guide for the next time you’ll be baking your favorite cookie or dessert. Or even better, try bringing a no sugar option like a berry crisp or fruit salad to your next potluck or party.

How To Eat Healthy When Eating Out

We live in one of the best cities….

from our stunning views and parks that make for amazing workouts to …

… our food!  

In fact, San Francisco has officially been called “obsessed” with food.

Unfortunately, eating at food trucks, restaurants and cafes all the time can take a toll on our waistline, fitness goals and general health.

We’ve all been there: restaurant overkill. Maybe you have family or friends visiting and want to show them of your favorite restaurants. Or it’s a busy week at work, so you lean on your comfort takeout a little too much. It doesn’t take long to start to feel the effects.

So what’s a San Francisco foodie to do?

Here’s how to enjoy our city’s’ culinary scene and keep yourself feeling healthy:

Eat takeout and restaurant food in moderation. Make a goal to reduce the number of meals you eat out on a weekly basis. For example, if you often buy lunch out, try to save restaurants for the weekends only. Or if you always pick up breakfast at the cafe, try a 5 day challenge of home-made breakfasts. If you’re looking for easy ideas to cook, try this or this for breakfast or this for dinner.   

At BootCampSF, we don’t do short term diets or harsh restrictions. It really is about what you eat most of the time. So if you can truly minimize your indulgent meals to 1-2 times per week, then you can fully enjoy that Friday Delfina Pizzeria date or Sunday Aziza brunch. 

However, if you’re finding yourself traveling or work or social engagements require you to make dining out more than an occasional treat, here are some tips on how to make the best of it:

1. Start with something green. Ok, this might be old news, but we could all use the reminder. Starting with the salad or vegetable appetizer is always a good idea.

2. Order the simplest dish.  It can be hard to tell what the best choice is…the chicken or the fish dish? Here’s how to choose: pick the dish with the least amount of added ingredients. Anything that’s a protein and couple sides will be a better choice than the chicken or pasta in a 10 ingredient sauce. 

3. Pick your battles: booze vs. dessert. Alcohol and desserts are the two quickest ways to pack on the extra sugar and calories. If you think you’re going to order that second glass of wine, skip the dessert. Or if that chocolate pot de creme is calling your name, share it with a friend and skip the second drink.

Try these three, simple tips next time you’re dining out to help you feel healthy and enjoy your meal.

In the meantime, we challenge you to set a goal to reduce the number of meals you eat out. Set a goal, write it down and hold yourself accountable by telling us in the comments below!

Kale Corn Salad: 2 Ways

I’d like to introduce you to the perfect summer salad.


Really, it’s perfect.

I made this salad 1 year ago for a potluck and my friends are STILL asking me about it.

Great for potlucks, as a side dish to your BBQ, or on top of tacos, this dish also makes great leftovers (perfect for adding eggs to in the morning!)

Originally this recipe (adapted from the Healthy Happy Vegan Cookbook author) is dressed with the sweet miso dressing which compliments the crunchy salad perfectly.  (If you’ve never had miso, it’s a paste made from fermented soybeans. And if you’re thinking “ewwww”,  it’s a traditional Japanese seasoning with a tangy, salty taste and tons of flavor. It’s also quite nutritious!)

However, since not everyone has miso hanging around their fridge, the second way to serve this salad is with the garlicky lemon dressing. Also, a delicious compliment to the sweet corn and vegetables.

Nutritionist’s tip: Bring a salad to the party. Summers are full of parties, BBQ’s and lot’s of social engagements. This means lot’s of eating! If you bring a salad or vegetable as your contribution to the party, you’ll always have a tasty and healthy option to fill your plate. 

Recipe modified from: Healthy Happy Life

Salad Ingredients
2 ears of summer corn, shucked and kernels removed from cob
4-6 cups kale, washed and finely chopped (remove thick stems)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 small white or sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red cabbage

Sweet Miso Dressing
2 Tbs white or yellow miso paste
1 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs Soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos or Tamari
4 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs rice vinegar
Black pepper

Garlicky Lemon Dressing
4 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:
1. Prep veggies
2. Mix in a large bowl
3. Whisk all dressing ingredients
4 Stir dressing into salad and let sit in refrigerator for 1-2 hours before serving.

Notes:
If you prefer cooked corn to raw, then boil corn before shucking. However, most sweet corn is delicious as is!

A Healthy 4th of July Menu: 3 recipes to makeover your BBQ

Nothing says 4th of July like a summer BBQ, right?

Whether you’re hosting your own or bringing a dish to a friends’, we want to send you off with some healthy recipes to impress. So we gathered our favorite mouthwateringsummer recipes for you below:

Basil Guacamole….
Spicy Pineapple Chicken Kabobs…
Coconut Cream and Strawberries

Drooling yet?

These recipes are filled with the flavors of summer, but are much healthier than traditional BBQ fare. (Your friends won’t even notice the whole menu is sugar and gluten free!)

Basil Guacamole
(recipe via Food52)
The addition of basil gives rich guacamole a refreshing summery twist.
Ingredients
1 small shallot or 1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely diced
2 large avocados
2 cups basil leaves, stems removed and finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Cumin and salt to taste

Directions
Use a fork to mash avocados and mix in remaining ingredients (or use a food processor)
Serve with low salt tortilla chips and fresh vegetables

Spicy Pineapple Kabobs
(recipe adapted from The Gunny Sack)
If you haven’t already tried grilling summer fruit, trust us when we say it’s a crowd pleaser. These sweet chicken kabobs are a much healthier option than burgers and just as delicious.

Kabob Ingredients
1 pound organic chicken breast dices into 1′ thick pieces
6 red bell peppers dices into squares
1 can diced pineapple (save the juice)
1 red onion, diced into large pieces

Marinade Ingredients
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or olive oil)

Directions
Mix together marinade ingredients
Cover chicken with marinade in glass pan and let sit in fridge for 4-6 hours

Assemble chicken and other kabob ingredients on pre soaked skewers
Grill turning regularly for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through

Coconut Cream and Strawberries
(step by step tutorial here)

While most BBQ’s opt for ice cream or cake for dessert, impress with this healthy take on berries and cream. Canned coconut cream separates when refrigerated, and when whipped creates a sweet and rich whipped cream with a slight coconut taste perfect for dipping strawberries.

Ingredients
1 can full fat (NOT light!) coconut cream (make sure there are no other additives as this can affect how well it whips. Trader Joe’s makes a great one)

Directions
Refrigerate can overnight
Remove from fridge and flip upside down so that the liquid will be on top and the cream on the bottom
Open can and pour the liquid off (save for smoothies or other uses)
Scoop hardened cream into bowl and whip with a hand blender until fluffy
(Optional to add a sweetener like powdered or regular sugar, but we think it’s sweet enough as is)

Serve with fresh strawberries

 

Which recipe will you try? Make sure you tell us by leaving a comment!

Start Your Holiday Season with a Plan! (Holiday Tips Series #1)

We all know that even the best-laid plans fail. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, right? Right. So we suggest you start this holiday season with a self-care plan that should include your fitness, eating and other items like sleep, social life, meditation and a stretching/mobility/yoga routine: if this sounds like a lot, don’t worry: remember it’s your plan, you get to decide what it includes and we’re here to help and advise with anything you’re struggling with.

1. Fitness. Most of you reading this are already doing this. You’re coming to BCSF classes. You’re running. You’re doing hot yoga. You’re working out on your own at the gym. Here’s the thing: don’t stop now. Let us say that again: now is not the time to stop. Keep on making it a priority. Remember that your workout is always a non-negotiable in your schedule – it’s an important meeting with yourself (and your workout buddies!). It can often be the first thing that you skip when things get busy, but once you decide that it’s a priority and you honor the commitment it’s easier to skip that last beer, it’s easier to say no to happy hour if you had an evening workout planed, it’s easier to go to bed an hour earlier. Often it’s the commitment that makes it’s easier to say no and easier to just show up.

2. Eating. Look, it’s the holidays. Food is a major part of the holiday season. We get it. We’re not going to tell you to not eat your Aunt Marge’s pecan pie. But this is what we will tell you:

Plan: you know that you’re heading to a holiday potluck with friends. DO be the friend that brings the healthy dish. DO be the person that drinks one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. DO decide what your strategy is beforehand – i.e. know that you will stop at two drinks, know that you are going to have one treat followed with a huge salad of leafy greens. DO eat before events; if you think it’s a good idea to fast prior to a Thanksgiving feast, think again – you might be setting yourself up to fail and eat more of that cheese plate than you would naturally. So have that oatmeal in the morning, grab an apple mid-morning and you won’t find yourself crankily hungry come 2pm when that turkey is behind schedule.

Prioritize: Aunt Marge’s pecan is worth it. We agree. So eat it, but maybe skip the sweet potato laden with marshmallows and brown sugar. Moral: decide which splurges are worth it and learn to recognize when you are eating just to eat. Enjoy each bite, relish it and skip the rest of the filler.

Give Yourself a Break: You went big on Thanksgiving. Okay. You’re human and you had a great time with your peeps. You aren’t ruined. You just get up on Friday morning and move on. Beating yourself up isn’t going to get you any further and it isn’t allowed, okay? So get back to your plan. Which means that Friday you’re going to get a workout in. You’re going to eat leftovers…mindfully. Let’s be honest – how much gravy does a turkey sandwich actually need? You’re going to have at least one meal that is bountifully full of veggies, a salad perhaps. And come Monday nothing has changed: you’re sticking to your plan and not wasting your energy on beating yourself up over the amazing Thanksgiving you just had.

3. Social Life/Commitments/Obligations. This is tough. You love your friends and family. And while having a positive social life is something that will contribute to a healthy, stress-free you, there can be a tipping point for most of us when we are simply attending out of obligation and are running on fumes. Again, this where you need to decide where your priorities lie. It’s true that the holidays only come once a year and sometimes it’s worth it to go big. But remember that your friends and family will still love you if you need to take a night off and prioritize some of your other self-care things (i.e. sleep!).

4. Sleep. ‘Nuff said. You need sleep to be healthy. This is not something to sacrifice to make others happy.

5. Foam Rolling, Massage therapy, Yoga, Meditation. What do you need to do to feel balanced? Are you recovering from an injury (or are you concerned about injury prevention)? Beyond the physical benefits, doing these things will likely take a bit of the stress of the season away. It will be another chance to connect with yourself in the midst of so much social connection. And if you are on a treatment plan for an injury, this is not the time to skimp. No one wants to start January with an injury that is worse-off. If you aren’t doing any of these things, choose one that interests and maybe explore it (e.g. check out a gentle or restorative yoga class on a Sunday evening to clear your head), just be careful of biting off more than you can chew in an already busy season.

Need help with your Holiday Season plan? Give us a shout and we can help advise you on some healthy options for whatever it is you’re struggling with. And keep following us here, we have 5 more blog posts in this series to go before the end of the holiday season!