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DIY Nut Milk

For the past few weeks I have been blogging about nuts. In case you missed it, here are my posts on the nutrition of nuts and DIY Nut Butters. Another great way to utilize nuts is to make your own Nut Milk.

Over the past few years, Nut Milks have become very popular and readily available on grocery store shelves. If in a pinch, I will buy almond milk from the grocery store but it is seriously so easy to make at home. Just a few benefits of making your own Nut Milks are knowing where your ingredients come from, no added preservatives, and control over how much and which kind of sugar is added to it.

I first learned to make Almond Milk from a video Kelly Brozyna of www. thespunkycoconut.com made a few years ago and have used that as my base recipe ever since. Click here to view video.

Now that I have gotten more comfortable with making Nut Milks, I like to make a variety; my favorites being hazelnut, macadamia nut, and cashew nut.

Here is my recipe for Hazelnut Milk, which is excellent in a cup of coffee:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Soak hazelnuts in water overnight or for at least 6 hours. Rinse several times with clean water.
  2. Pour hazelnuts into blender.
  3. Add the cold filtered water and blend until smooth.

    Gently squeezing Hazelnut Milk through Cheese Cloth

  4. Pour through a nut bag or cheese cloth over a large bowl and gently squeeze the Nut Milk out.
  5. Add the cinnamon and vanilla bean powder and stir.
  6. Pour into desired pitcher.

Additional ingredients to add to your Nut Milk:

  • 1-2 Dates
  • Raw Honey or Coconut Nectar
  • Liquid Stevia-get creative with flavors like Vanilla Crème, Toffee, Chocolate Raspberry, etc.
  • To make Strawberry Nut Milk, pour blended Nut Milk back into blender with 3-4 large strawberries, blend and strain again to sift out the seeds. Add a few drops of Vanilla Crème Liquid Stevia.
  • To make Chocolate Nut Milk, pour blended Nut Milk back into blender with 1-2 Tbsp. raw cocoa, a few drops of Chocolate Liquid Stevia, and blend.
  • To make a thicker Nut Milk to use in place of Half & Half, blend 1 cup raw cashew nuts with 1.5-2 cups filtered water. No straining is necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Nut Butter

I can always tell how often clients really look at food labels based on the type of Nut Butter they have in their pantry. If I find a container of Jif Peanut Butter sitting on a kitchen shelf, I know we have some work to do.

The only ingredients store bought Nut Butters require are nuts and maybe sea salt. That is it. Here is what the Simply Jif Creamy Peanut Butter ingredients list looks like: “MADE FROM ROASTED PEANUTS, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, SUGAR, SALT”.

There are some really great Nut Butters in stores as well but they can be quite expensive. If you own a good quality food processor, making your own Nut Butter is easy and much more affordable.

DIY Nut Butter

Ingredients:

  • Raw Nuts (Almonds, Macadamia Nuts, Hazelnuts, Pecans, etc.)

Optional:

  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla Bean Powder (A little goes a long way and it is to die for!)
  • Raw Cocoa
  • Raw Coconut Nectar, Raw Honey, or Maple Syrup

Directions:

  1. Blend 1-3 cups of any raw nut or combination of nuts you want in the food processor. Some nuts take longer than others to breakdown into a smooth paste but expect it to take between 12-18 minutes on average. Scrape the sides of the food processor a few times if necessary.
  2. Once your nuts have become nut butter, add optional ingredients to taste.
  3. Store in refrigerator for up to a month.

That’s all there is to it, people! The food processor does all the work for you.

Tips:

  • If your nuts are not turning into a creamy texture, add a teaspoon of melted coconut oil at a time to get desired consistency
  • I have tried making Raw Walnut Butter and it turned out quite bitter. If you want to experiment using Walnuts, try adding them in with other nuts
  • If you want ‘crunchy’ Nut Butter, just throw in a few tablespoons of crushed nuts after your Nut Butter is smooth and creamy
  • Using raw nuts will make your Nut Butter much more nutritious, click here for more info
  • I use this Cuisinart Food Processor and it does an excellent job

 

Know Your Nuts

Nuts are an excellent source of essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They tend to get a bad rap because of their high caloric content and the misunderstanding that consuming fat will make you fat, but studies have been able to prove that people who eat the most nuts are the least obese. Just a handful of nuts produce a sense of satiety that keeps you full and satisfied. Other benefits include lower risk of heart disease and protection against type 2 diabetes.

Each nut differs in the nutrition it provides, so listed below are the more popular nuts and their nutritional content:

Almonds: This nutrition packed nut is a great source of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, antioxidant flavonoids, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E. One ounce of almonds contains 160 calories, 14g fat, 6g carbs, and 6g protein.

Brazil Nuts: Along with being rich in healthy polyunsaturated fats, this nut is the most reliable food source of selenium, which has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as reduce inflammation and allergies. It just takes one Brazil nut to reach the daily recommended value of selenium. One ounce of Brazil nuts is 190 calories, 19g fat, 4g carbs, and 4g protein.

Cashews: This kidney shaped nut is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, and provides minerals such as magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, and zinc. Cashews are higher in protein and carbohydrates and lower in fat compared to most other nuts. One ounce of Cashew nuts is 157 calories, 12g fat, 9g carbs, and 5g protein.

Hazelnuts (Filberts): This nut provides a great dose of monounsaturated fat as well as vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. Hazelnut oil has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels by reducing levels of oxidized lipids, LDL (bad cholesterol), and VLDL (really bad cholesterol). Just one ounce of hazelnuts contains your daily recommended intake of copper and provides 178 calories, 17g fat, 5g carbs, and 4g protein.

Macadamia Nuts: This nut is high in monounsaturated fat as well as natural antioxidants and provides a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and vitamin E. One ounce of macadamia nuts is 204 calories, 21g fat, 4g carbs, and 2g protein. The high fat content provides a lot of flavor as well as quick satiety with just a few nuts.

Peanuts: This nut is actually a legume but since it is the most popular ‘nut’ in the United States, I threw it in with the others.  Peanuts are high in protein and monounsaturated fat and are a good source of folic acid, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. Studies have shown that peanuts lower heart disease as well as protect the heart and blood vessels. One ounce of peanuts is 161 calories, 14g fat, 5g carbs, and 7g protein.

Pecans: This nut has a high amount of monounsaturated oleic acid, cholesterol lowering plant sterols, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron, and calcium. Studies show that pecans significantly lower LDL cholesterol in healthy people with normal lipid levels. One ounce of pecans is 190 calories, 19g fat, 4g carbs, and 3g protein.

Pistachio Nuts: This nut not only contains a healthy dose of heart healthy monounsaturated fat but is also a great source of protein and fiber. Pistachio nuts provide many beneficial minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and calcium. They are also the richest source of potassium of all nuts, just an ounce contains as much potassium as an orange. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this nut because one ounce of pistachio nuts equals about 49 nuts and provides 158 calories, 13g fat, 8g carbs, and 6g protein.

Walnuts: This nutrient dense nut is very beneficial for brain health and provide antioxidants, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, and monounsaturated fats. They are high in protein and fiber and contain omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid; one of the few non-fish food sources to do so.  One ounce of walnuts is 185 calories, 18g fat, 4g carbs, and 4g protein.

To obtain the nutrients of these nuts, they need to be raw. Once nuts go through the roasting process, the oils and fats go rancid and their nutritional value diminishes. Because it can be so easy to over-eat nuts, I recommend that you weigh and store your nuts in individual ½-1 ounce portions. Stay tuned for all the different ways to utilize these nuts in my upcoming blogs.

Why You Should Consume Coconut Oil Everyday

Last week I blogged about cooking with oils and it raised a few questions about coconut oil. I had mentioned that coconut oil is the best oil to use for cooking on high heat but there are many other benefits besides its high tolerance to heat that should be explained.

Coconut oil has gotten a bad reputation because it was (mistakenly) accused of contributing to cardiovascular disease in the 1950’s. We have been taught that this saturated fat is an artery clogging, cholesterol raising fat that should be avoided for a healthy lifestyle. When using raw, virgin coconut oil, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Benefits of Coconut Oil (Preferably Organic, Raw, Extra Virgin):

  • Protects against heart disease
  • Increases levels of beneficial HDL Cholesterol
  • Is used as immediate energy for the body
  • Speeds up your metabolism
  • Builds up the immune system
  • Is rich in lauric acid which is known for its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties

I use coconut oil on a daily basis, typically 2-3 tablespoons. I consider the calories in coconut oil to be free because the body does not store coconut oil as fat but rather uses it immediately as energy, which burns fat and promotes healthy weight-loss.

Although I tend to use coconut oil for baking and cooking, it can also be consumed raw. If I could only recommend one must-have product for your health, this would be it. It is gaining its popularity back and becoming more readily available than it was just a few years ago. You can get it from Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s just started selling it, and I was shocked to find it at a Food Lion when I visited my family in North Carolina a few months ago.

If you can’t find it at a store near you then find it online at www.tropicaltraditions.com, www.iherb.com or  www.amazon.com. Make sure to read the label carefully to ensure it is for consumption and that it is not hydrogenated.

 

 

 

Is Your Cooking Oil Hazardous to Your Health?

If you have ever walked down the grocery store aisle for cooking oil, you know there are several to choose from. What you might not know is which ones to avoid, which ones to use raw, and which ones to cook with. It is very important to educate yourself on how to properly utilize your cooking oils to benefit your health.

Let’s begin with the oils you should avoid as much as possible:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Canola/Rapeseed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Peanut Oil

These oils are highly processed, both chemically and mechanically, to remove the oil from their seeds. The result is nutritionally void and very fragile unsaturated fats. They are too unstable to cook with and easily become rancid. Your body cannot identify these rancid oils and therefore treats them as toxins. These toxins get stored in your fat cells and cause inflammatory problems that lead to joint pain, weight gain, weight-loss resistance, fatigue, etc.

Limit consumption of these oils as much as you can. By making more of your own food and checking food labels carefully, removing these oils from everyday cooking is possible.  It is nearly impossible to avoid them altogether because these oils are what most restaurants and stores use to cook and prepare their foods with. Even Whole Foods throws Canola Oil into most dishes they create (quite a pet-peeve of mine!).

Then there are oils that are incredibly healthy when consumed raw but should not be used with heat:

  • Olive Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Nut Oil (e.g., Walnut, Macadamia)
  • Sesame Oil

These oils, especially extra virgin and cold pressed, have wonderful health benefits that are best obtained when raw. When these oils come in contact with anything more than a few minutes of low heat, the nutrients are destroyed, the oil becomes rancid, and free radicals are released in the smoke which are not only hazardous to your health but also accelerate the aging process. Use these oils to drizzle on your food after it has been cooked.

So what oils should you use for cooking? You want to use fats and oils that are saturated. Saturated fats can withstand high temperatures and remain stable throughout the cooking process. You never want to let the oil reach its smoking point, which is the temperature that causes the oil to smoke and discolor. If you are using high heat, unrefined coconut oil is the best oil to use. If you are cooking on medium-medium high heat, coconut oil, butter (preferably raw) or ghee should be used.

It is difficult to achieve a healthy lifestyle if you are preparing your healthy ingredients and nourishing foods in toxic oils. Look through your most recent food journals or be especially observant this week about the oils you use and at what temperature you use them so that you can achieve optimal health.

 

 

 

 

 

Does Eating Fat Make You Fat?

Before I started educating myself about nutrition, I was under the impression that fat was a bad thing. Everything in my kitchen had a ‘No-Fat’, ‘Low-Fat’, or ‘Reduced-Fat’ label on it and I avoided egg yolks, avocados, real butter and oil like they were all deadly foods. Sound familiar?

We live in a society where there is a major misconception that fat will make you fat. What most people don’t realize is that it’s the ingredients in low-fat foods that are making you fat. When companies remove fat from their food products, they use sugar, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners to keep the taste and texture similar to the original product. That sugar not only throws off your blood sugar levels but also increases your hunger and cravings for sweet foods.  Low-fat diets are also linked to vitamin deficiencies, memory loss, hypoglycemia, diabetes and depression.

Healthy fat not only adds flavor and texture to a meal but it also keeps you full and satisfied for a longer period of time. Adding fats into your daily diet also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, absorb nutrients, control weight, and improve mental clarity and focus.

What fats are considered ‘healthy’?

  • Olives and Olive oil
  • Flax Seeds and Flax oil
  • Raw Nuts and Nut Butters (hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
  • Coconut (meat, milk, oil)
  • Avocados
  • Butter (raw, organic, grass-fed most beneficial)
  • Fish and Fish oil
  • Pasture Raised Eggs
  • Organic Full-Fat Dairy

To reap the benefits of healthy fats, try to have 2-3 servings a day. It can be as easy as eggs in the morning, an ounce of raw nuts as a snack, ½ an avocado as part of your lunch, and a tablespoon or two of coconut oil to cook with at dinner.

While you add these healthy fats into your diet, be sure to rid your diet of the unhealthy fats. Many processed foods have trans-fatty acids or ‘trans fats’ often listed as hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils on their label. They are used to increase product shelf life and your body treats these fats as toxins because it cannot recognize them as a natural fat.

Foods that often contain trans fats:

  • Margarines, Spray Butters, Spreads
  • Salad Dressings
  • Cereals
  • Granola Bars
  • Chips/Crackers
  • Pre-made Baked Goods
  • Frozen Foods
  • Non-Dairy Creamers
  • Canned Soups
  • Flavored Coffee Syrup
  • Fast Food

If you are trying to transition into whole foods and a healthy lifestyle, go through your kitchen and throw out any foods that contain trans fats. Better yet, just throw out all your processed foods and start clean by buying and eating only real foods that don’t require an ingredients list to begin with.

Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe

As you indulge in your holiday traditions and treats, doesn’t a cup of hot chocolate sound like the perfect addition to the season?

Hot Chocolate has always been a favorite drink of mine. It is the perfect hot beverage for kids of all ages and can really satisfy your sugar cravings. I used to buy the packets of pre-made hot chocolate all the time and have that as an after dinner treat. Once I started eating whole foods, I realized I needed to find a healthier version and I set out to do just that.

Healthy Hot Chocolate

Individual Serving:

1 Tbsp. Raw Cacao Powder 

1 tsp. Steviva  Blend

4 drops liquid Vanilla Crème Stevia  drops

¼ tsp. Cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt

¼ cup coconut milk (whole not lite)

¾ cup hot water

Directions:

Put all ingredients into your mug, mix, and enjoy!

Most people drink hot chocolate because they like the taste but if you make it with raw cacao powder; you also get the health benefits of antioxidants, dietary fiber, magnesium and iron.

 

Healthy Holiday Cookie Roundup

With Christmas right around the corner, those oh-so-popular cookie exchanges are in full bloom. Whether you need to make dozens of cookies or just enough for a family function, here are some healthified versions of the classics for you try.

Grain Free, Dairy Free Gingerbread Cookies

Paleo Macaroons

Gingersnaps

Chocolate Pomegranate Clusters

Thumbprint Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Butter cookies

Star Cookies

Cocoa Jingle Balls

Nutty Molasses Cookies

Black Bean Chocolate Chili Cherry Cookie

Snickerdoodle Cookies (and a few candy recipes within the same blog!) Also check out Hallie’s post on holiday cookies

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Toffee

Sugar Cookies

All of these modified cookie recipes are as good if not better than the refined, processed cookies you are used to baking or buying. Enjoy your holiday treats and feel good about the ingredients you put into your body.

 

Recovering from Overeating

If you are one of the many people who indulged a little too much on Thanksgiving Day (and perhaps the days after due to leftovers) follow the steps below to get yourself back to eating healthy and losing the excess weight you gained over the holiday weekend.

I recommend following these steps for no less than 3-5 days to get maximum results.

  • Start Your Morning with a Detox Drink- Upon rising, mix together 8 oz. of water with 1 tbsp.  fresh lemon juice and 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar and consume prior to any other food or drink intake. This tonic just helps flush out the toxins in your body as well as reduce water retention.

 

  • Hydrate with Water Only- No juice, soda, sport or energy drinks. Drink only water for the next few days to help flush out all that excess sodium you consumed over the holiday. You may have one cup of coffee in the morning but see the bullet on dairy if you typically add creamer to it.

 

  • No Processed Foods- Keep all those store bought, pre-made meals that are frozen or in a box where they are. For the next few days you should prepare and eat real, whole foods. Processed foods wreak havoc on your digestive system on a good day, if you are recovering from over-eating, it will only increase bloating, water retention, and digestive troubles. Not sure what ‘processed’ really means? Look at the ingredients label, if you see a list of ingredients, it is processed. The longer the list, the more processed it is.

 

  • No Wheat- Wheat does more harm than good for the majority of people and unfortunately, it is in almost all processed foods. Since you should be avoiding processed foods for the next few days, avoiding wheat should not be an issue. This does include bread, pasta, and cereal. Removing wheat for even a few days will improve digestion and energy while beating bloat and water retention.

 

  • No Dairy- Dairy is similar to wheat in that it does more harm than good.  If you typically use dairy milk or creamer in your coffee, try coconut milk or nut milk as an alternative option. Most people have an inflammatory reaction to dairy, causing a distended stomach. Removing dairy after over-eating will help you get back to your pre-Thanksgiving weight before you know it.

 

Sample Recovery Menu:

Upon waking drink detox drink

Breakfast:

Eggs with bell peppers, onion, tomato and avocado

1 cup of berries

Mid-Morning Snack:

1 small green apple

2 tbsp. raw almond butter

1 tsp. cinnamon

Lunch:

Large romaine lettuce salad with cucumbers, carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, olives

Grilled chicken breast

2 tsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

 Mid-Afternoon Snack:

Hummus dip

Celery and carrot sticks

Dinner:

Baked Salmon

Steamed Broccoli

Small Sweet Potato

2-3 tsp. of coconut or olive oil

 

Eating clean isn’t always easy, especially if you are new at it. Although many holistic foodies eat like this on a daily basis, you just have to remember this is for as little as 3 days. What do you have to lose…besides that extra Thanksgiving Day weight?

Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving

Ahh Thanksgiving. A joyous holiday where friends and family unite to give thanks by eating copious amounts of food all day long. Why we feel the need to eat so much on Thanksgiving Day, I truly don’t know, but it is a fact that most Americans consume an average of 5,000 calories on this day.

For those of you who are worried about how to survive this holiday without completely sabotaging your weight loss success, here are a few tips to help you:

 
Eat a Protein Packed Breakfast - Don’t try to save your calories for the big Thanksgiving meal by not eating or eating very little until the festivities begin. Instead, eat a protein based breakfast like eggs and chicken sausage with some sautéed spinach and an apple. This will help prevent overeating later in the day.

Drink Plenty of Water - Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day to keep those hunger pains at bay. Drinking a large glass of water just before a meal has been shown to curb your appetite and help you feel full faster.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake - Not only does alcohol add empty calories to your day but it also tends to increase your cravings for carbohydrates, which may lead to overeating at the big meal. Also, the body stops burning fat when you drink because the liver has to focus on processing the alcohol.

Contribute a Healthy Dish - If you are the one making Thanksgiving dinner then you have control over how healthy your dishes are. Click here for my blog about healthy Thanksgiving recipes if you need some suggestions. If you are a guest, come to the host’s house with a healthy dish like roasted vegetables or salad to share with everyone.

Choose Your Appetizers Wisely - If you are snacking prior to dinner, be mindful about it. Avoid the fried foods and the cream based dips. Opt for the raw vegetables, salsas, and shrimp cocktail. If you aren’t sure healthy options will be available, consider making your contribution dish a vegetable platter with black bean dip or hummus.

Be Mindful of Your Plate - Plates have gotten larger and larger in size over the years. If you are presented with one of those large buffet dinner plates, swap it with a dessert plate to prevent yourself from piling on large portions of food.

Select Your Dinner Sides Carefully - Before putting food onto your plate, take a moment to see everything being offered. If you decide you have to have a little of everything, then make sure the portions of each dish you put on your plate are smaller. Otherwise, after piling up on the turkey, select two to three sides that look most appealing to you and skip the rest.

Don’t Feel the Need to Join the ‘Clean Plate’ Club - There is no need to eat every single bite of food on your plate. Eat until you are full then put your utensils down. If you are truly hungry enough to eat everything off of your plate that is one thing. It’s another just to eat the food because it is there. Be mindful of which it really is.

Avoid Going Back for Second Helpings - To be blunt, you all know the reason you are getting up for seconds is because you want them, not because you need them. If you are trying to keep your weight in check, just walk away.

Drink Hot Herbal Tea Once you are Done Eating - While everyone else is chowing down on a second round of food, go make yourself some hot tea. Hot herbal teas will help curb cravings for seconds, cravings for sugars and will keep you feeling full.

 
For those of you who plan on trying out a few of these tips, I hope they help you achieve a healthy and happy holiday. For the others who plan on tossing this blog post aside, stay tuned for next week’s blog about how to recover from your feast. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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