Fruit & Nut Snack Bars

Finding a snack bar that doesn't have a bunch of unrecognizable ingredients, added sugar, or a soy extract of sorts is near impossible. And when you do find something... they're expensive! With a simple recipe, you can make easy, no bake snack bars right at home and save money, too. 

This recipe uses Medjool Dates as the base. These dates originate from the Middle East and North Africa, a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, and are known for being plump and moist. They provide a natural sweetness and hold the other ingredients together without any syrups.

If you plan on making lots of these bars, I highly recommend buying your dates from other Costco or other bulk retailer!

The basic recipe goes like this:

  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 cup fruit

And then, you can add extra goodies: ground flax seed, chia, coconut, unsweetened cocoa powder, peanut butter and much more!

 

Today I made two recipes to share with you, but the combinations are endless!

CHOCOLATE-Blueberry-Cashew

  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened blueberries
  • 1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Cherry-Almond-Coconut

  • 1 and 1/4 cups pitted Medjool dates (a few extra dates to compensate for the coconut)
  • 1 cup unsweeted dried cherries
  • 1 cup slices almonds
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (omit if coconut is not for you!)

Utensils:

  • Food processor
  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking pan
  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment or wax paper

Directions:

  1. Put dates into the food processor and blend until they form a sticky ball
  2. Move dates into mixing bowl and add additional ingredients
  3. Knead mixture with your hands until completely mixed. This takes some bit of work, but with a little patience, the dates should be able to bind all the ingredients together. Note: I like the crunch of the coarsely chopped nuts. However, if you like the nuts more blended you can add them in with the dates in the beginning and make a creamy, nutty paste.
  4. Line a baking sheet with the parchment or wax paper and tear off another piece about the same size.
  5. Place the stick nut-fruit-date ball and place it on the baking sheet. Place the sheet of parchment or wax paper on top of the ball and start to flatten it.
  6. Then, using your rolling pin, roll out the ball into a 1/2 inch thick slab. I like the form the slab as I go to create a rectangle... roll a little, shape a little, roll a little, and so on.

 

7. Put the baking sheet in the freeze for 10-15 minutes to harden the slab.

8. Remove from freezer and cut into 6 bars.

9. The bars can either be stored in Tupperware with a piece of wax paper in between each bar, or wrapped individual (for easy, on-the-go access).

ENJOY!!

XO,

Kate


Measurements in the Palm of Your Hand!

Those of you savvy at reading food labels know that when it comes to serving sizes, there is very little consistency. From 1 oz to 2 tablespoons to ½ cup, it can be very confusing to know how much of a food you should eat in order to be healthy. But don’t worry, you don’t need to start carrying around measuring cups. It’s much simpler than you think; portion sizes don’t have to be measured out with cups, tablespoons, and scales. Healthy portion sizes can be estimated using your very own hands as a guide!

Photo Courtesy of Gold's Gym

For example, the palm of your hand can represent approximately 3-4 ounces of a protein, while your finger tip can represent the amount of butter you should put on a piece of bread or toast. Veggies? Aim for 1-2 fistfuls on your plate. It’s that easy! In the diagram to the left you can see all the appropriate portion size measurements when using your hand.

With this measurement system and knowing appropriate servings for eat food group, you will then have the tools for success in planning any meal!

Andrea Knott, Nutrition Intern

Bridgewater State University

Portioning your Holiday Season

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Thanksgiving and the winter holidays are right around the corner, and also around the corner are the festivities that you share with family, friends and loved ones in your life. In our culture it is common for food to be associated with the holidays ahead; Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham, as well as the countless side dishes and desserts that follow. It all seems intimidating, especially if you're trying to stick to eating healthy. So how do you indulge in the holiday favorites while still being mindful of healthy eating?

The answer is simple, portion control! It is an easy way to make sure you're keeping within your limits, not over eating, and still enjoying all the foods on the table.

We like to use Harvard University's School of Public Health's "Healthy Eating Plate" to help us portion our meals. This plate provide healthy guidelines for portioning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy protein, healthy oils, and water. We consider dairy in combination with healthy proteins because dairy is a great source of protein. When using this method to build your holiday plate, you can set yourself up for success for big holiday meals ahead!

Here are 2 great example plates to help you be set for success during the holiday season ahead!

Example 2

  • Whole Grain: Whole Grain Dinner Roll (1 roll)
  • Healthy Protein: Ham (3 oz)
  • Vegetables: Squash ( 1-2 cups)
  • Fruit: Winter Fruit Salad (1 cup)
  • Healthy Oils: Butter/Margarine for roll (1 tsp)
  • Water: 1 glass (8 oz)

Example 1

  • Whole Grain: Potatoes (1/2 cup)
  • Healthy Protein: Skinless Turkey Light/Dark Meat (3 oz)
  • Vegetables: Salad (1-2 cups)
  • Fruits: Cranberry Sauce (1/2 cup)
  • Healthy Oils: Light Salad Dressing (2 tbsp)
  • Water: 1 glass (8 oz)

I hope you all have a happy thanksgiving, and wish you all success in the holiday season, hoping you enjoy time with family and friends!

Andrea Knott, Nutrition Intern

Bridgewater State University, Health Studies

Cheerios with Protein... Another Advertising Scam?!

During a recent visit, when discussing the importance of protein (protein power!) at breakfast, one of my clients informed me that Cheerios® now have an "added protein" version. Eh? Upon further investigation I found that General Mills® has in fact add a new line of their Cheerios® brand called Cheerios® Protein, and along with it, they've stirred up quite the controversy. 

I'm never one to recommend "fortified" foods in replacement of the real nutrients from whole foods, so upon first look at the new Cheerios® box I already wasn't impressed - where's the almond slices or walnut clusters? Where is this protein coming from? Nope, no real protein here. Just "oats & honey" which I can't imagine will boost the protein content of this cereal.

Then we turn to the ever-telling Nutrition Facts Label. There are 4 major factors we are looking at here:

  1. Serving size
  2. Total Carbohydrates, including Sugar
  3. Protein
  4. Ingredients

The original Cheerios®, as touted, are 100% Whole Grain and follow the standard guidelines for a serving of a Whole Grain: a 28 gram equivalent (looking at the serving size), approximately 90-100 calories, 15-20 grams of carbohydrate with only 1 gram of sugar, and 2-3 grams of protein. If you look in the ingredients list, you see recognizable words: oats, corn, a little sugar and some vitamins. Sounds good to me!

Then we compare the "new and improved" Cheerios® with PROTEIN!

First, the serving size is slightly bigger... 1 and 1/4 cups compared to the 1 cup serving of regular Cheerios®. Suspicious, but not terrible. But then we look to the dry weight - yikes! It's nearly double that of the regular Cheerios®: 55 grams of Cheerios® Protein compared to 28 grams of the original and and extra 100 calories to prove it. A serving of Cheerios® Protein, without milk, is 210 calories while a serving of regular Cheerios is 100 calories.

So let's even the playing field to make sure we're not trying to compare apples and oranges here. In order to do this, we must reduce the portion size of  Cheerios® Protein by half, to equalize the dry weight and calories of our original Cheerios®.

Cheerios® Protein

*2/3 cup*

28 grams

105 calories

20 grams carbohydrate

*9 grams sugar*

3.5 grams protein

Cheerios® (Regular)

*1 cup*

28 grams

100 calories

20 grams carbohydrate

*1 gram sugar*

3 grams protein

 

Do you see what I see? With the Cheerios® Protein, you actually get a smaller bowl of cereal, with the SAME AMOUNT OF PROTEIN and with and an extra 8 grams or 2 teaspoons of sugar! Blasphemy!

 
 

This ridiculousness is only confirmed when we compare our Ingredients Lists. Remember that regular old "Sugar" listed in our original Cheerios®? In our Cheerios® Protein we have now added:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Caramel
  • Corn Syrup Solids

The moral of this story? Get your nutrients from, real, whole foods. If you would like to boost your protein intake at breakfast, add one of these whole food sources of protein:

  • 1 hard boiled egg (6 g protein)
  • 1 slice low-fat cheese (6 g protein)
  • 1 cup 1% milk (6 g protein)
  • 1 container low-fat yogurt (6 g protein) or Greek yogurt (12 g protein)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (14 g protein)
  • 2 oz smoked salmon (10 g protein)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter (4 g protein)
  • 2 lean turkey breakfast sausage (12 g protein)
 
 
 
 

Food Group Spotlight: Vegetables

Finding a way to make vegetables a star on the dinner table is no easy task, when feeding kids it makes this challenge even harder. The challenge may make you wonder "why do we need vegetables"? How do they help our bodies? What can we do to get kids to want to eat them?

Vegetables are one of the 5 major food groups and how many servings we need in a day can be determined by factors such as age and gender.

There are many kinds of vegetables and can be categorized into 5 subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. 

These subgroups are determined by the nutrient contents of specific vegetables and each provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It is important to eat a variety of different vegetables to ensure that your body is getting all the different kinds of nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy.

  • Dark-Green Vegetables: Fiber, folate, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and calcium (Examples: arugula, spinach, kale, leaf lettuce, collard greens, romaine lettuce, chicory, swiss chard)
  • Starchy Vegetables: Fiber, calcium, iron, and B vitamins (Examples: parsnip, plaintain, potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, corn)
  • Red and Organe Vegetables: Vitamin A, citamin c, vitamin k, and potassium (Examples: acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes)
  • Beans and Peas: Iron, zinc, folate, potassium (Examples: kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, split peas, lentils)
  • Other Vegetables: Contain a variety of nutrients mentioned in the previous subgroups (Examples: asparagus, avocado, beets, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, yellow peppers, zucchini)

As you can see, vegetables provide a number of nutrients to the body, but just what do these nutrients do?

  • Fiber, provides a feeling of fullness with fewer calories, it also helps reduce blood cholesterol levels
  • Folate, used to make DNA another other genetic material, it is needed for the body's cells to divide
  • Carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that can help prevent disease
  • Vitamin C, aids in growth and repairs tissue in all parts of the body
  • Vitamin K, allows blood to clot
  • Iron, an important component of hemoglobin which is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs and transports it throughout the body.
  • Calcium, necessary for contracting muscles, forming and strengthening bones/teeth, conductive nerve impulses, clotting blood, and maintaining a normal heartbeat
  • B Vitamins, essential for bodily functions such as energy production to making red blood cells
  • Potassium, an important electrolyte that helps keep a normal water balance between cells and body fluids. It also aids in nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
  • Zinc, helps the body to stay healthy and is found in cells throughout the body, helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses, it also helps make proteins and DNA
fruits-and-vegetables-arranged-in-heart-shape.jpg

It's clear to see that vegetables are equally as important, if not the most important food group that needs to be represented on the dinner table and of every persons' plate. Veggies are difficult to serve on their own and have them be received well, but with proper seasoning and a little creativity, they can be fun and easy to eat for people of all ages!

Check out these great recipes to get vegetables on your dinner table!

Zucchini Casserole

Sweet Potato Fries

Post by Andrea Knott, Nutrition Intern

Bridgewater State University, Health Studies

Reviewed by Kate Thomas, MS, RD, LDN

New Brand, New Website!

I am so excited to launch not only my new brand, but a website to match. I worked with Becky, owner of RP Design, who came up with a completely custom brand that made visual a concept and feel that only ever lived in my head. Thank you, Becky!

And with a new website, a new blog! I will be using this space to share nutrition information, healthy recipes and hot topics.

STAY TUNED!!