Raw "Chocolate" and "Candy-Cane" Xmas Patties!
Christmas is just around the corner!! For many of us, Christmas time can be a bit bitter sweet when it comes to our nutrition. While there's lots of buzzing excitement around upcoming baking of traditional and decadent Christmas treats, for many this often triggers some anxiety around the potential after affects of eating during the holidays, especially for those who have just started or have been on the path towards bettering their health and nutrition. Many hope to "enjoy" but not "overindulge" and it can be the negative self talk around our belief in our ability to have "will power" that in itself triggers overconsumption. While TONS of research proves that there are several physiological processes in the body that cause intense cravings to which completely throws out the concept of "will power", there are some simple strategies that you can use that can help to reduce anxiety, so that you can fully and compassionately enjoy your holiday traditions (including food!) this season. Here are some examples;
1. Become in tune with the critical thoughts that come onto you. Those conditioned beliefs of "I'm gonna blow it and not be able to control my eating", without addressing them can cause us to emotionally eat. So instead of ignoring them, each time these thoughts come up in your mind, have a little sit down with Mr. Negative and evaluate the efficacy of this thought. Surely there are times in the past where you were at an event and ate to satisfy or a time where you resisted overeating desserts. Empower yourself with the thought of previous successes and then tell that Mr. Negative voice to buzz off!!! You can even give it right back to him by using a mantra that connects with you, such as " I am worthy of compassion towards myself and I am giving myself the permission to enjoy my holiday season and the food I will be eating". Fully enjoying the food that you do eat, with compassion is then key. Fully taste and experience your food and you will find that you are more satisfied. Truly, the power of self talk cannot be underestimated.
2. Listen to the language of your body. Family gatherings can be triggering and can cause old stories, beliefs and emotions to surface. This tends to manifest in sensations of our bodies. The chest pain, the throat strain, the butterflies in the stomach. It is our signal that something or someone has triggered emotions within us that need to be validated. Awareness of being triggered allows us to step back and use self talk to work through these emotions. When we acknowledge our feelings and are compassionate to ourselves, we engage in less self sabotage and tend to reduce emotional eating patterns.
3. Come prepared! If you are aware that you are going into a situation that can trigger overindulgence, come prepared with healthy alternative treats that you know will satisfy you and will be available to draw on during a moment of intense craving. Find healthy alternatives to sweets (like my decadent healthy holiday treat recipe below) and bring these to holiday events. Come up with a game plan and use "I am" statements such as "I am going to eat healthy alternatives and I am going to give myself the permission to have a treat tonight." Research shows that the brain, in a state of stress, anxiety or "fight or flight", cannot register planned "I won't" statements such as "I won't have any sweets at this event". So when we set ourselves up with "I am" statements, we set realistic expectations, that reduce shame and prevent the cycle of guilt and indulgence.
The following recipe is full of amazing ingredients that also help to optimize and enhance our mood, so not only is it a perfect treat to prevent overindulgence and to help us to come prepared for holiday events, it also elevates the feel good pleasure centre of the brain, to help in reaching satiety! Indeed, cocoa, the main ingredient, has shown through research (such as a report conducted within the Journal of Psychopharmacology), to positively affect anxiety and enhance calmness due to compounds called polyphenols within cocoa. So FULLY and COMPASSIONATELY enjoy this amazing healthy "chocolate - candycane" alternative this holiday season!!!
· 1/4 cup melted cocoa butter
· 1 teaspoon stevia
· 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
· 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· Tiny pinch of Himalayan salt
"Candy Cane" Filling
· 1 cup shredded coconut
· 1 tablespoon of raw unpasteurized (ideally organic) honey
· 1 teaspoon vanilla
· 1 tablespoon peppermint extract/flavor (or more to your preference)
· 1 tablespoon cocoa butter (optional, but really worth the add)
· Cacao nibs (optional)
1. Melt the cocoa butter. (To keep it raw while melting: fill a small pot with water (half full) and place 1 glass cup in the water. Add the cocoa butter. Stir while it’s melting. Once melted, remove from the water.
2. Add in all the above "chocolate" shell ingredients to the melted cocoa butter. Stir until the raw cacao powder is mixed well.
3. Use a blender to emulsify the mixture (**no more than 10 seconds or it is destroyed). If you skip this blending step, the honey will sink to the bottom and won't be evenly distributed throughout the "chocolate".
4. Poor "chocolate" (as much or as little) into the bottom of a mold such as a cupcake holder. Place in the freeze for about 5 to 10 minutes to harden.
5. In a food processor make the filling. Add the 1 cup of shredded coconut and blend 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down sides as needed. Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until well mixed. If adding the cacao nibs, add last and pulse a few times to incorporate.
6. Remove the molds from freezer and (with your hands) add in the filling on the layer of chocolate, leaving enough room on all side for the top layer of chocolate to form around the filling and touch the bottom layer of chocolate.
7. Transfer to fridge or freeze to harden.
8. Makes 4 to 5 large peppermint patties. I pour any leftover chocolate into small silicone candy molds and refrigerate.
Hearty Tomato and Lentil Soup
I love this season of warming foods and today is a perfect day for it! This hearty Tomato and Lentil Soup is one of my favorites. It is super easy, quick to prepare and provides a nice punch of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an amazing antioxidant that fights off free radicals and helps to prevent and treat the common cold. Further research has shown new applications of Vitamin C in protecting us against endothelial dysfunction, high blood pressure, and the blood vessel changes that precede heart disease. Additional research is discovering that vitamin C can be helpful in supporting healthy blood sugar levels in diabetics, preventing asthma and protecting against cancer. Overall, Vitamin C levels in the blood is an excellent nutritional marker and a critical supplement in your program to improve cardiac health and avoid degenerative diseases. Although many think of Vitamin C as mainly from oranges, it can actually be found in often greater amounts in other natural whole foods (and with less fructose!) such as broccoli, red peppers (190 mg of Vitamin C per cup), Kale (80.4 mg of Vitamin C per cup) and chili peppers (107.8 mg of Vitamin C per half cup). With the addition of these ingredients, this Lentil soup is therefore not only packed with great sources of Vitamin C, but also contains substantial protein from the lentils, which is especially great for those who are vegetarians/vegans.
With the upcoming winter, protecting our immune system is critical. This is especially since at this time, many face increased stress due to "end of the year" work related demands, exams and assignments, school application deadlines and the reduction of sun exposure (where many face a drop in mood - often known as SAD or "Seasonal Affective Disorder"). Protecting yourself physically, can help build a foundation that then supports our mental health and vice versa. Indeed, stress is known to affect our immune system and physical health. Thus with Vitamin C`s blood sugar regulating and immune boosting properties, soups such as this can absolutely assist in the balancing of both our physical and mental wellbeing.
So this winter, eat lots of healthy, natural and nourishing foods, rich in immune boosting vitamins such as vitamin C (unless you have an autoimmune condition - then perhaps it would be beneficial to consult a physician or naturopathic doctor before adding immune boosters such as antioxidants into the diet).
1. Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline, slice the zucchinis into thin noodles
2. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small a food processor or blender and blend.
3. Sautee noodles until hot in a pan. 4. Place noodles on the plate and mix with the sauce thoroughly.
Chia Seed Meatballs:
Combine all ingredients except the coconut oil in a large bowl and stir well with a fork. Let rest for 5-10 minutes so the chia can bulk and absorb all liquids.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Scoop 8 balls and pat into a round shape. Cook meatballs thoroughly.
Add the chia meat balls to the zucchini dish and enjoy!!
As a runner, I have become addicted to the hydrating and nourishing benefits of incorporating Chia Seeds into my diet. Whether I toss them in my smoothies, in my water bottle, in my baking or cooking recipes, they always enhance the texture, taste and satiating effects of anything I eat.
Chia is also packed with Omega 3's which research demonstrates, significantly helps to elevate mood, especially for those suffering from mood disorders. For instance, in one study, a group of individuals struggling with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder provided evidence that omega-3 in chia seeds reduced their symptoms of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds, have been proven to increase brain function and helps keep you feeling full longer. Add in pumpkin which is very in season and nutrient dense, Pumpkin Spiced Chia Seed Pudding is a perfect tasty blood sugar balancing, mood enhancing breakfast or snack option for everyday nutrition! Here is the recipe. Enjoy!
(3) Ross, B. M., Seguin, J., & Sieswerda, L. E. (2007). Omega-3 fatty acids as treatments for mental illness: which disorder and which fatty acid? Lipids in Health & Disease, 621-39. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-6-21