March is an exciting time of year for nutrition professionals. First of all, it’s National Nutrition Month, and second, today is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! For those who don’t know, a registered dietitian (RD) has a degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field, has completed an internship, and has passed a registration exam. The path to becoming a RD isn’t a walk in the park – the required coursework is grueling, the selection criteria for internships is extensive, and the competition is fierce. Then, after completing the internship (which varies in length from about 9 months up to 2 years+) there’s a big exam to study for! I am very proud to say that the hard work has paid off and I love what I do each day as a RD. So, in the spirit of celebrating all of the RDs out there, here is a delicious toast…
Coconut Almond Toast
- 1 slice whole wheat toast
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
- 1/2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
Toss the whole wheat bread in the toaster, then slather the almond butter on top. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, dark chocolate chips and enjoy!
Coconut Almond Toast: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! Just
this month I discovered how delicious toasted coconut is. I used Bob’s Red Mill Unsweetened Coconut Flakes and placed about 2 cups on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I placed the baking sheet in the oven (preheated to 375 degrees F) and baked the flakes for about 3-5 minutes. They became fragrant and a beautiful golden brown color very quickly – be careful not to burn! My mouth started to water as I thought of this toast idea and it did not disappoint. A perfectly healthy and sweet treat to celebrate National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day!
I was excited to try this flavored water the other morning before my workout. Avitae is a 0 calorie, naturally caffeinated water; perfect for those mornings when you need a little boost- without cream, sugar, chemicals, or calories!
Avitae: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! This is a great alternative to a morning cup of coffee or a pre-workout energy drink laden with sugar. I like Avitae because it is simple and the flavored varieties are subtle, but have just enough flavor to tickle your tastebuds. Plus the amount of caffeine is comparable to one cup of coffee. I finished my bottle of strawberry-guava during my workout and made it through a busy day at work without an afternoon slump. Have you tried Avitae? What is your favorite energizing beverage?
I timed my Whole30 program just right so that I would be finished up by the Super Bowl – a friend- and food-filled day for most. Once you finish the Whole30 program, you are supposed to add certain foods back into your diet gradually, adding only one category (i.e. dairy) for one day, going back to Whole30 eating for two days, then reintroducing something else (i.e. gluten-free grains) on the next day. This process is designed to help you identify how your body reacts to certain foods and how they make you feel. My gluten-free grains day landed on Super Bowl Sunday so I decided to make a chex mix that was sure to be a safe play for the big game.
Sweet & Salty Gluten-Free Chex Mix
- 4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
- 4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
- 1 1/2 cups Multigrain Cheerios
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups gluten-free pretzels
- 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup coconut oil or ghee, melted
- 1 tbsp seasoned salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Mix the cereal and nuts on a large baking sheet or roasting pan. Combine the worcestershire sauce, coconut oil, seasoned salt, and garlic powder and mix well. Pour the seasoning mixture over the cereal and nuts and toss to coat. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes. Remove the mix from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes before adding the dried cranberries and pretzels. Makes about 30 servings (about 1/2 cup each) << that’s a ballpark estimate.
Nutrition Information: 1 serving – Calories: 148 cal Total fat: 8g Saturated fat: 3g Sodium: 134mg Carbohydrates: 16g Dietary fiber: 2g Sugar: 4g Protein: 2g
Sweet & Salty Gluten-Free Chex Mix: Tara Tested, Tara, friends, and family approved! This sweet and salty snack mix was a winner! The only thing missing from this batch that could have made it better (in someone special’s opinion) would be those round little rye crisps. The addition of dried cranberries added just enough sweetness to balance the saltiness of the seasoning, while the nuts added that hearty crunch. My friends and family enjoyed the mix before, during, and after the game – it was difficult to stick to just one serving! I was happy to have contributed something that I knew was compliant with my Whole30 reintroduction plan, but also something that everyone could enjoy. (Pssst, I didn’t only eat gluten-free things all night…but I made a valiant effort and paid close attention to how I felt the next day…bloated).
It’s done, I’ve finished my first (maybe not my last) Whole30! If you aren’t familiar with the Whole30, it is a program designed to reset your nutrition, stop unhealthy cravings, restore a healthy metabolism, promote healing of your digestive tract, and a slew of other things – in short, it’s designed to change your life. The program works by eliminating certain foods and food groups for 30 days. After this time you can then begin adding foods back into you diet slowly to learn how certain foods may have been affecting you.
I had heard about Whole30 a little over a year ago from my aunt and thought “no grains for a month, with the running I do…no way!” I continued to hear about the program from my clients, friends, or on social media and became more and more curious. As a registered dietitian, I find it helpful to try certain diets so that I am better able to speak to their benefits/drawbacks with my clients – and also share some personal tips that worked for me! So now that my 30 days is said and done (Day 30 was 2/1) here are a few things that worked for me:
- Prepare meals ahead of time: It definitely pays to be prepared. My go-to breakfast were mini egg quiches prepared in muffin tins. I often made a dozen of these on Sunday or Monday and had them throughout the week. My typical breakfast was 2 of the egg quiches with an apple and almond butter. I had fun experimenting with different mix-ins and my favorite combination was peppers, onions, and bacon. I also made a few crock pot meals in advance so I was sure to have compliant foods for lunch and dinner during the week. It is easy to stay on the program when you have meals/snacks prepared.
- Sparkling water: One of the hardest parts of this program was remaining compliant in social settings. Social gatherings are almost always centered around eating or drinking, and it can be tough to resist joining the group. I stuck to fun-flavored LaCroix and Sprindrift sparkling waters (and willpower) when there was alcohol around. It helps when you’re friends are supportive too!
- Have a buddy: With that being said, it is very helpful if you can recruit a friend or family member to join you on this 30 day journey. A couple of friends did the program at the same time as me and it was helpful to be able to text them and share experiences, temptations, or successes. There were some times I was really tempted to cheat, but a quick text to Holly (my no. 1) kept me on track! Thanks girl.
- Larabars and RXBARs: These bars came in handy when I was in a bind! I often kept a stash in my office, car, or gym bag in case of an “emergency”. There are few bars on the market that comply with the program, and these were my favorite. I typically had them before or after a workout, or sometimes for breakfast on the go.
Whole30: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! Even though it was challenging, I am really happy that I decided to do the Whole30 and proud that I completed it successfully. Over the past 30 days I felt like I had more energy, definitely slept better (so many dreams!), and although it’s not the point of the program, lost a few pounds! My intention for doing the Whole30 was to clean up my eating/drinking habits and start the year off fresh – I can confidently say that this program helped me do that. I am motivated to continue eating this way, but now that I’m a few days out from day 30, I’ve started to add some things back into my diet and am really paying attention to how they make me feel. More on that later…along with a recipe for gluten-free chex mix. Have you tried Whole30? What was your experience like?
Sometimes you just need a little fresh salsa in your life! I threw this recipe together on a busy Monday night and it couldn’t have been easier. Another bonus: you can eat this with just about anything. I first served this fresh goodness on top of a grilled steak and then the next morning over my egg frittata. Yum!
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
- 1/2 shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit for several minutes before serving so the flavors blend and get happy! Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Simple Salsa: Tara Tested, Tara and family approved! I love making my own salsa. You can’t mess it up! This is a very basic recipe which is nice because you can use it as a base and add as many other ingredients as you like – sweet peppers, black beans, mango, or pineapple! Salsa is also a low-calorie and nutritious snack option (just be careful of what you choose to eat it with)! How do you like to make your own salsa?
I had a very fun end to 2016 – a trip to New Orleans (despite a dislocated shoulder), cruise to the Bahamas, and holiday celebrations with friends and family. All of this fun (and physical therapy) however, meant that I lost sight of my healthy eating and exercise habits. Like most of us, I decided that the New Year would bring about a reset to my habits and it just so happens that this reset is in the form of the Whole30. (Look out for a Whole30 recap in about…you guessed it – 30 days)
I did my research and planned to prepare a few recipes in advance for the week (definitely the way to go if you decide to do this plan). I perused the Whole30 book and found this recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 3 cups butternut squash (I used packages of cubed squash)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
Melt the coconut oil in a large pot, when the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the squash, garlic, and ginger and stir for another minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil the squash until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender (or transfer the soup in batches to a traditional blender) until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot and heat over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Butternut Squash Soup: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! I was excited to try out my new blender with this soup and I was very happy with the results. The recipe listed above serves 2, so I doubled everything to increase the number of servings (and even had extra to freeze). The soup was deliciously creamy and flavorful, but not too rich. I would suggest substituting coconut milk for some of the chicken broth if you like a richer, thicker consistency. To make this soup a complete meal, I added diced cooked chicken and on a separate occasion added chicken apple sausage (my favorite combo). I even ate a bowl of this soup for breakfast one morning with my eggs! I’m excited to use my immersion blender for some other recipes – what are some of your favorites?
I recently tried Kodiak Cakes pancake mix (Power Cakes, Protein Packed) and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I’ll make pancakes for breakfast once in a blue moon, but this mix boasts 14g of protein for 3, 4-inch pancakes…so I wanted to give it a try. I prepared the batter with milk (which brought the protein up to about 18 g) and a little cinnamon and they came out great! A healthier alternative if you enjoy a classic pancake breakfast every once and a while.
I decided to make muffins using what was left of the pancake mix and added my own fall flare to the recipe listed on the box. Here’s my recipe:
Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins
- 1 1/2 cups Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes flapjack mix
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
- 1 cup non-fat or 1% milk (I used 0% fat fairlife milk)
- 1/4 cup butter, softened (not melted)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Grease muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way full with muffin batter. Bake for about 14-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.
Nutrition Information: 1 muffin – Calories: 139 cal Total fat: 5g Saturated fat: 3g Sodium: 148mg Carbohydrates: 19g Dietary fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Protein: 6g – calculated via MyFitnessPal
Pumpkin Power Cake Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara, family, and friends approved! At the request of a colleague of mine, I made these muffins without banana and used pumpkin instead. The flavor worked well with the cinnamon and created a moist texture in the muffin. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of the Power Cake mix, but I was running low and decided to use old fashioned oats to make up the difference. If you are after a lighter, more airy muffin, you might want to use regular or whole grain flour. I am happy with how these came out and look forward to experimenting with different variations and recipes! Dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and peanut butter anyone??