What is stress eating?

It’s one of the biggest topics I face as a coach.

Eating to fill a void other than hunger.

Often we have been eating to fill that void for years and never even realized it.

Bringing it into awareness is the first step toward overcoming the habit and beginning to practice daily mindfulness to overcome it.

I am again excited to bring a friend, colleague and all around awesome lady as a guest writer on the blog again this week.

Jamie (MC, LPC) is the Owner and Clinical Director of Elevate Counseling, a counseling private practice.  Her specialties include research-based interventions to address stress and anxiety, trauma, self-esteem, eating issues and the struggles of the gifted and high-achieving population.

Take it away Jaime…

What Is Stress Eating?

Stress eating or “emotional eating” is eating in an attempt to make yourself feel better.  In other words, to feed a psychological need rather than a grumbling stomach. Too often we feed our bodies when it’s our souls that are starving.

If this is you, don’t beat yourself up.  Biologically, stress eating makes sense and it works in the very short-term. Think about those foods that you grab when you are feeling overwhelmed.  Maybe it’s your favorite bag of chips, your family’s homemade chocolate cookie recipe or a quick drive to that hamburger joint with the amazing milkshakes.  These are high-fat, high-sugar, calorie-laden comfort foods that stimulate the reward centers of our brains. They release feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin.

Are YOU A Stress Eater?

Wondering if you are eating due to stress? Consider the following questions:

Do you eat when you are not hungry and/or eat past the point of fullness?

When you finish eating, do you find yourself experiencing a barrage of negative self-judgment based on your food choices?

Do you intentionally eat alone so others don’t see what you’re eating?

Does eating temporarily relieve or distract you from the feelings prior to the eating episode?

Do you eat based on a primary (positive, negative, or neutral) emotion? (By “neutral”, I mean the feeling of boredom)

Do you crave specific foods when you are upset?

All of us will answer “yes” to these questions occasionally.  And, as with most behaviors, “it’s not a problem until it’s a problem.” However, if your “yes” answers pertain to more than a few times a week, it’s time to change the pattern.

How To Stop Stress Eating

Using these strategies below you can begin to curb your stress eating habits.

Identify the source of stress

Looking into the reasons for your eating patterns is the first step to making changes. Maybe you’ve been arguing with a friend or loved one.  Or your new boss has increased work demands. Sometimes the source of stress stems from internal negative thoughts. In that case, you could be your own worst enemy.

Read About How To Stomp Out ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) here

Before you can devise healthier solutions to emotionally feed yourself, it is necessary to identify the reason for your stress eating habits.

Most stresses fall into one of the following categories:

Physical: You’re too tired, worn down, or exhausted.  You aren’t sleeping well at night, which causes an imbalance in hormones, contributing to increased food cravings.

Mental: You may be mentally overloaded with work and life demands.

Spiritual: A crisis of faith or a shift in how you see your place in this world often creates feelings of distress.  This often happens during life transitions (early adulthood, midlife crisis, retirement). If you are questioning your place in this world and what your impact means, this can create feelings of cognitive dissonance (where old thoughts or beliefs are challenged by new views or information).

Social: We are social creatures by nature.  If something isn’t sitting right in one of your primary relationships, changes in eating patterns often develop.

Psychological: A traumatic event, even something seemingly “small” or from a relatively long time ago can shift the way that you see and interact with the world in ways that we are often unaware of.  Look at your thoughts and behaviors surrounding food choices and needs to explore if this may be affecting you.

Feed yourself what you need

Now that you know where the stress eating is coming from, you are in a better position to make positive change.  Look at the category contributing to the stress eating and find a different way to meet that need.

Physical:  Find ways to build in breaks throughout your day so that you aren’t over-tired.  Improve your sleep habits so that you aren’t a walking zombie. Get off the couch. Research shows that exercise improves emotional balance.

Mental: Allow moments to check out or relax.  A daily dose of meditation or diaphragmatic breathing will reduce not only stress eating but other anxiety-related symptoms as well. Read more about diaphragmatic breathing here.

Spiritual: Explore and reflect on your life’s ambitions and goals.  While our core personalities and global beliefs often remain the same, our outlook on life and the importance of goals often shift over time.  Most people see this as a good thing. In fact, people generally report that they are happier as they age into their twilight years. To get to a less conflicting mental space, you may need to acknowledge a shifting of views and adjust your life accordingly.

Social: Practice good boundary setting and kind but direct communication with the people in your life.  If a relationship is unhealthy, you may need to distance yourself or change the way that you interact with that person.  You deserve to have the same support that you give.

Psychological: Explore the thoughts that you tell yourself. Oftentimes, we are so busy getting through something that we don’t have a moment to reflect upon the impact that it’s had on us until further down the road. Journal your thoughts, share with a friend, or buy a self-help workbook related to your personal challenge for assisted guidance.

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

 

 

What is Abundance?

I recently traveled across the globe on a vacation with five other couples.

That’s twelve people traveling together, staying in a house for seven nights in a foreign country.

I’ve never even vacationed with two other couples, let alone an entire dozen under one roof.

To say this was a new experience for me was an understatement.

I was hesitant and filled with self-doubt. Yet I was excited, ready, and open.

The trip was filled with new experiences, a ton of laughs, and moments of truly intimate conversation.

Born from one of those conversations, over sushi and a glass of wine, came the motivation to share something I had been struggling with for years.

what is abundance

Scarcity sucks

I’ve been competitive my entire life.  In sports, academics, friendships, business, and yep, pretty much everything. Competition can be healthy, but not when you are competing with the intention to beat out others rather than improving yourself.

I’ve realized in the last few years that much of my competition was rooted in scarcity.

Scarcity is a relatively new term for me (I am totally late to the party).

In case you are too, scarcity means that you live in the belief that there is not enough. Not enough time, not enough business, and not enough love.

I am embarrassed to admit that this is new for me after 36 years of living. But perhaps it came into my life exactly when I needed it.

I was finally ready.

Limited self-beliefs

There have been so many times in my life where I’ve felt like an outcast. The awkward girl standing at the party, surrounded by so many people, yet feeling alone like I didn’t belong.

I bounced from friendship to friendship because I always questioned my actions and their reactions to me.  

Was I good enough?  

What if I say the wrong thing?

Do they even like me?

I was a grown A$$ woman and still struggling to feel confident in my friendships.

The reality though is that nobody made me feel like I didn’t belong. I told MYSELF I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t worthy of certain friendships, that I was lesser-than.

I’d continue to open myself up to more social situations in hopes that they would be different. But they all ended the same way.

These were my self-limiting beliefs, stories I’d told myself for so long, that I had no awareness of them even being told.

Until now.

I’ve lived with that self-limiting belief for long enough. I guarded my heart for fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of let down. By bringing this into awareness, the tides began to change.

Scarcity stunts growth

Self-limiting behaviors prevent you from being who you really are. You are so afraid that there isn’t enough that you have to pretend sometimes in order to be the winner.

If you want to evolve as a person, it requires practice to move from scarcity to abundance. When we think with limits, we see the glass as constantly half empty.  In the words of Ed Mylett, abundant thinkers believe, “that life is happening for them, and not to them.”

I refuse to let history repeat itself anymore

My former beliefs are no different than the ones I find my clients holding. They’ve told themselves for years that they don’t have time for themselves, that they aren’t worthy of self-love and confidence, and that they don’t deserve the investment of health.

But what it takes is one person, one incident, one conversation to help unearth that limiting belief and bring it into consciousness.

Once it comes into awareness, you can start to tear down those walls and work toward creating habits that break down those beliefs. What emerges is the realization that the investment should have been made years ago.

When we start on a journey of growth, no matter our age, it is a commitment to never going back to where we were. It honors the experiences we’ve had but it’s also a guarantee that those negative ones won’t be repeated.

What is abundance? (and how to live abundantly)

Just as the sun needs the moon, peanut butter needs jelly, and hate needs love, you must experience scarcity to begin to live in abundance.

Duality is a reality.

And that sounds really woo-woo coming from me.  But it’s true (and I kinda like it).

Rock bottom, the lows, and the struggles reveal the highs.

I realized I was living in a space that was deeply rooted in my ego, not in love. I believe it was the finding of my passion and the birth of my business that began to expose this ugly side of me.

And I am forever grateful.

It forced me into a path of shifting my thinking from struggle to opportunity. I began to realize that if I wanted to think bigger and get rid of judgment and truly answer up to what I felt in my heart, I had to change too.

I had to create an abundant mindset.

In the words of a great mentor of mine, Lesia Peterson from www.wealthclinic.com:

“To feel abundant means knowing in the moment that you are enough — that you are whole and complete, regardless of what you have or don’t have, are doing or not doing.  An awareness of abundance allows you to recognize how every living thing is complete and whole by design including you.  If you want to feel more abundant, learn how to allow and accept your own wholeness.  If you want to feel abundance all the time, learn how to extend this awareness from moment to moment until all your days are filled with these moments. “

What does an abundant mindset look like?

Abundance is not a place, but a journey. In all honesty, scarcity challenges abundance daily just as it’s supposed to. It ain’t always pretty or adorned glitter and rainbows. Sometimes it sucks you in and you have to claw your way out of it.

Abundant minds know that there are plenty of fish in the sea. They think big instead of small. They are willing to admit fault and take responsibility for their actions. They are willing to say they don’t know and be a beginner. Abundant thinkers celebrate the success of others and know their worth isn’t less because of another person’s success. They also feel they are designing their own life every single day.

Health and abundance

How are health and abundance connected? I believe they go hand in hand.

When a client reaches out to me, they themselves have already identified their need for change.

Change happens faster and is much greater when we abandon the “poor me” scarcity mindset and embrace abundant thinking.

The road to paving a healthy lifestyle is much deeper than food.

It’s about learning about self, learning how you respond to change, and learning to think BIG. So big that you realize that your body is a temple and to be abundant in all areas of life, it must come first.

If I can help a client make that one connection in our work together then I have walked away with a big old WIN.

You must practice

Creating an abundant mindset is just like creating healthy eating habits, they both require practice. The habit of planning a weekly menu, grocery shopping, and meal prepping takes practice. Once you bring the awareness into your consciousness that these are habits that you need to work on, repetition begins to develop the habit.

Abundant thinking is no different. That positive thinking drives the desire to want better for yourself in all areas of life, including your health, fitness, and relationships.

Surround yourself with people who make you better

One of the biggest struggles I often hear from clients on their journey to healthy living is that they are lonely because they aren’t surrounded with like-minded souls.  

I too have discovered the importance of this in my life.

It is impossible to grow with individuals in your life who don’t support your desire to get better and level up. If you find yourself trying to justify why you are eating a chicken breast over pizza, this just might be you.

It’s time to invite them along in your journey to healthy living and abundant thinking too. Fair warning though, they may not be ready and that’s okay. You do you boo, and they will eventually see the value of what is waiting for them too.

Vacation vibes

Abundant thinking has shown me that there is enough. By changing my mind I am changing my life. In my work, in my relationships, and in my health.

I’ve recently been reading Lori Harder’s “A Tribe Called Bliss”, which pretty much speaks to my season of life (you can shop for it HERE on Amazon).

She writes, “And suddenly she realized she didn’t need an eraser for her past, but a pen to a beautiful ending.”

My scarcity mentality is a part of how I arrived here today and will give me the experiences to create what happens moving ahead.

No matter how imperfect I am or how much I may struggle, the more I follow my heart and drown out the noise, the happier I become.

If you want better, you must seek it. You have to put in the work and life will begin to shift.

One simple dinnertime conversation on a vacation that took me so much bravery to attend brought me full circle.

Our worth is our own. It is in our hands to choose abundance and surround ourselves with others who chose it too.

Are you ready to choose abundance?

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

Learning to Bounce Back

8 tips to bounce back

Not too long ago, we went to Sunday Brunch with friends.

There was bottomless champagne on the menu.

I love champagne.  

So, I did what any budget-minded person would do and did the quick math to realize the more glasses I had the cheaper it became.

The pores were heavy and the meal turned into an entire DAY of friends and families together eating, drinking, and thoroughly being present in the moment. It was almost a welcoming of summer with open arms.

But, I drank too much champagne.  

No, I didn’t have to visit the porcelain throne. But all day I was struggling with the inner voice that said “Drink up sister!” and the other one saying, ”Respect your body, Amanda you’ve had enough.”

I woke up Monday, a little sick to my stomach, foggy, and with a few extra visits to the restroom (sorry if that is T.M.I.).  

But do you know what else I woke up with?

Having lived a FULL life on Sunday.  

I maintained food awareness while I enjoyed some additional adult beverages I hadn’t planned for.

Having no shame about my choice, my body, and having ZERO food guilt.

I woke up not caring about the scale, still confident in my skin, feeling strong and with my soul a bit more renewed from friendship, laughs, and family time.

Most of all, I woke up with the ability to bounce back. I have worked hard to create habits that allow me to overcome failure as a learning experience and come right back to my routine as a grounding place for my health and well being.

However, it hasn’t always been this way. There have been times when a day like that left me with a tremendous amount of food guilt and body shame. There were times when a day of drinking too much alcohol sent me into a tailspin of overeating because I had an “all or nothing mentality.” I used to think “Well crap, I already ruined the day with too much alcohol, I might as well have Taco Bell”.

Which then gave way to a day of restriction in an attempt to offset “Sunday Funday,” and then a week of struggling to get back on the wagon.

This all or nothing mentality is one of a few eating patterns I see when clients begin their work with me. It’s their laser focus on the need to be perfect which then often paralyzes their ability to bounce back.

This paralysis is one of the GREATEST challenges I see as a coach. Clients start a week or a plan with great intentions. In fact, they are great at starting. But they struggle with how to maintain consistency and bounce back when things don’t go as planned, when routine fades and when motivation dwindles.

It’s those times where we must have strategies to help ourselves come back to the routine that we were thriving in. The real truth is that it isn’t easy and it comes with practice and more practice.

If you find yourself struggling, here are 8 tips to bounce back and getting back on track.

Accept that done is better than perfect

It’s time to let go of the “all or nothing” mentality.  Life just doesn’t present you with the perfect time to start changing your life. Learning to see that the mere act of doing is far more valuable to your success than having unrealistic expectations of perfection is life-changing.  

If you just try, just do, you are one step ahead of the game. From there you will get better and better with practice and time. More reps lead to more experience and progress.

You can read more about why the plan is never perfect HERE.

Schedule it in

Yep…schedule that $h!^ on your calendar now. Treat your goals and your health as an appointment to yourself.

Schedule in time to meal plan, grocery shop, meal prep and move your body. Put it in your Google Calendar or write it in your planner. When you see it come up as an appointment for yourself, you are reminded of your worth and the commitment you’ve made to yourself to get better.

Sticky note the crap out of it

This is my favorite of the 8 tips to bounce back. Until things become habit, you must remind yourself of the habits you hope to create. I am a huge fan of placing sticky notes as reminders to encourage habit formation.

Place sticky notes in places that are already a habit: on the coffee pot, on the medicine cabinet, near your toothbrush. Use these sticky notes to remind yourself to defrost your dinner protein, grab your lunch for work, or to meal plan on Sundays.

When you are struggling to regain routine, these notes will remind you of the habits you are working to create.

You can grab my Meal Prep Guide HERE.

Find your accountability partner

Sometimes, self-motivation dwindles. When you are really in the trenches and trying to climb out, having a partner to push you can make or break your progress.

Create a relationship with someone, a friend, a coach, or even a fitness tracker, that can help you be accountable for your goals when your routine has slipped away. It’s okay to reach out to them and say, “I need you right now.”

Rekindle your why

You began the journey to better your health for a reason. Whether it’s to lose weight, gain energy, sleep better or be able to play with your kids or grandkids, only you know the real, deep reason.

Sustainable change is slow and steady and when we remind ourselves of why we began in the first place it creates motivation to bounce back.

Create an environment for success

Look around you and see what is causing your struggles. Is it the Oreos in the pantry, the leftover ice cream in the freezer, or is it unsupportive friends or family?

Time to do the dirty work of purging those things in your environment that are causing you to take a detour from your path.

You must eliminate the triggers bringing back old habits in order to bounce back. Throw out the junk food until you learn how to moderate it and you must talk to those friends and let them know how important it is to change your life.

You can click here to read more about how to create a physical environment for success here.

Creating both a physical and emotional environment for your success eliminates any barriers and allows the habits you are trying to create to grow more organically.

Work with what you have right NOW

When we think too far into the future, we overlook the progress that is happening RIGHT NOW. You may want to be able to run a 5K down the road or deadlift your bodyweight. But don’t forget to celebrate that you are actually moving your body consistently 3-4 times a week from doing nothing a few months ago.

Remind yourself of where you’ve come from and what resources you have at your fingertips right now to create your success. Progress is an extreme motivation to bouncing back.

Positive mind, positive outcome

Don’t have a pity party for yourself and tell yourself the same story that you don’t have time or life is hard. It hasn’t gotten you anywhere so it is time to leave the negativity behind.

The benefits of positive self-talk are HUGE and include shifts in thinking, energy, and overall, more happy juice.

If you want life-long change you must learn to talk nicely to yourself and try to see the positive in each moment even when you feel like your mind is fighting it. Practice consistency above all. Perfection is overrated and consistency is where true progress is.

The ability to overcome one “bad meal” or one-off day is far more important when it comes to the real deal of lasting results.  

Developing that skill to bounce back takes constant practice.

It’s also one of the hardest skills to develop and is what I constantly hold my clients accountable to it.

Learning to bounce back during times where you weren’t perfect and give yourself the grace to put it behind you paves the foundation for lasting success.

I want you to learn how to enjoy life, to discover the balance you’ve been chasing for far too long and create a lasting ability to bounce back in times you would normally throw in the towel.

I have, and I know how good it feels. And I’ve led so many others to that place too.

Now, my friend, it is your turn.

How will you bounce back?

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

The Difference Between Beans And Lentils

I was 9 or so when we took a trip to my Grandma’s house and we arrived at dinner time. I was starving, like eat an entire grocery store hungry.

We dropped our stuff quickly and sat down to commence ravenous eating at the dinner table when a bowl of soup was set in front of me.

Soup isn’t my favorite food to eat when I am in HANGRY beast mode. I noticed strange discs inside that were unfamiliar…and I was afraid. I quietly whispered to my mom, “What is it?”

She whispered back, “Bean and Lentil soup.”

GROSS, I thought.  I reluctantly dug in and was pleasantly surprised by what ensued. It would soon become the first of many lentil and bean meals.  

Beans and lentils have been a great source of plant-based protein since the beginning of time.  Many people lump both beans and lentils into one category.

You are probably asking yourself “Is one better or are they just the same thing? Which one is right for me?”. To answer your question, let’s dive into these nutrient-packed powerhouses.

What Are Beans And Lentils?

A legume is the fruit or seed of plants found in a pod or shed and is used for food.  The list of legumes is long (who knew?) and the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council can provide you with a complete list here.  

Some of the most common legumes you might be familiar with are:

Peanuts

Peas

Soybeans

Alfalfa

Lentils

Beans

how many carbs in lentils

Why Should I Eat Legumes?

Legumes are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are higher in protein than most plant-based foods. This is why many plant-based eaters rely on legumes for much of their protein needs.  

According to the USDA, a fourth cup of dry red lentils contain 12 grams of plant-based protein. Both beans and lentils are a very cost-effective way to get in your protein. They are inexpensive and readily available.    

Most are low in fat and have quality energy-giving carbohydrates while being low in the glycemic index. They are filled with nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Not to mention, they’re also a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber which according to the Harvard School of Public Health has its own long list of benefits. One cup of cooked black beans contains 15 grams of filling fiber which is 60% of your daily recommended allowance. And of course, legumes are gluten-free.

Let’s Start With Some Background

The harvest and origin of lentils are impressive. Lentils are one of the oldest pulse crops grown and date all the way back to 11,000 BC in Greece. In the US, most lentils are grown in Idaho and eastern Washington State.  They are also grown in Canada, India, and Australia. The plants have pods that contain the seeds known as lentils. A combination of gravity, screens and air flow help sort and clean the lentils getting them ready to be sold.  

Dried beans are grown just like fresh beans, however, harvested a little later. The difference is dried beans are harvested when they are completely brown and the pods are beginning to crack. 90% of the leaves on the plants are dead when it is time to harvest.  

Many beans are grown in the United States as well as other parts of the world like China and Mexico. They were originally domesticated 7000 years ago in Central and South America.  Today, most harvesting is done with machines specially manufactured to be gentle enough to keep the beans whole and avoid damage.   

Is There a Difference?

The biggest difference between beans and lentils is the cook time. Lentils are much smaller and can cook more quickly. They do not require pre-soaking so you can bring them home, rinse them off and start cooking. Lentils usually take about 15-20 minutes on the stove.

If you have trouble digesting lentils, you can sprout them prior to cooking which will help cut down on the phytic acid which can be difficult to digest. This will add to the prep time and is not a necessary step for everyone. Another thing to keep in mind with both beans and lentils is to make sure you rinse and sort them before cooking. There can be small stones or debris that may have wound up mixed in.  

Beans are best when soaked overnight before cooking. This cuts down on the cooking time and also helps remove some of the indigestible sugars that have potential to cause flatulence. The childhood mantra of “Bean, Beans, the magical fruit” is actually well warranted.

You can also use the quick soak method which requires you to bring the beans to a boil, turn off the heat, and let the beans stand for an hour. Either way, there is a lot more prep time involved when it comes to beans. Once you have soaked the beans they can take anywhere from one to three hours to fully cook.

Fiber Differences

The other main difference is fiber content.  A fourth cup of dry lentils contains a whopping 13 grams of fiber. Red lentils come in even higher at 15 grams of filling fiber. A fourth cup of kidney beans comes in at about half that with 7 grams of fiber and garbanzo beans only have 6 grams of fiber.

Besides cook time and fiber, beans and lentils are very similar so now we can focus on the different varieties.

Beans vs Lentils Nutritional Information per 1/4 cup (Source: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list)
Type (1/4 cup)CaloriesCarbohydrates (g)Protein (g)Fat (g)Fiber (g)Sugar (g)
Brown Lentils16027121130
Red Lentils18030131151
Black Beans1653010.517.51
Kidney Beans1552810.4171
Garbanzo Beans1893210.2365

Lots of Lentils

Most people are familiar with brown lentils. Those are the flat brown discs you see in most grocery stores. When cooked they usually turn a darker brown and hold their shape nicely, depending on how long you cook them. Cooking time varies from 20-30 minutes.  

Brown Lentils

They have a mild flavor and are very versatile. Brown lentils make a great side dish or addition to salads. They can also be used in place of meat for dishes like tacos or chili. Because they hold up well, brown lentils can also be used to make delicious veggie burgers.

Lentil Sweet Potato Kale Soup

Classic Lentil Burgers

Red Lentils

Another common lentil you have probably seen are red lentils. These are smaller than green lentils and are a bright orange color. These lentils are the sweetest variety and have a bit of a nutty flavor. They take about 20 minutes or less to cook and get mushy easily. Red lentils are often used for curries in Indian dishes. The nice thing about red lentils is they take on the flavor of whatever you cook them with, so they make a nice addition for thickening soups and chili.

One Pot Red Lentil Chili

Lentil Bolognese

Brown and red lentils are two of the most common types. If you are feeling daring and want to expand on your lentil experience, there are other types out there including black lentils and french lentils. They may not be as easy to track down but are just as tasty and full of nutrition.

Balsamic Kale and Black Lentils

French Lentils with Garlic and Thyme

All The Beans

There are many different types of beans out there. They too are nutrient powerhouses. With such a huge variety of beans, let’s focus on a few common varieties that are easy to find in your local grocery stores. Just keep in mind when you are planning to cook beans that they need to be either soaked overnight or have a quick soak (which is still at least an hour) before you can prepare.  

If you don’t have the time, canned beans are another great option, but just be mindful that the sodium levels in canned beans can be high. Giving them a good rinse and drain can help lower the sodium content a bit, or look for low sodium or no salt added canned beans.

Black Beans

Black beans are a very common type of bean that have been used in many different cultures for hundreds of years. You can find both dried and canned black beans at most grocery stores.  They are colored a shiny black just like the name and have a dense, almost meaty, texture. They have a very mild almost sweet flavor. When combined with brown rice, black beans create a complete protein which is why you see black beans and brown rice as a diet staple. Also, cooked black beans mash well into an almost creamy consistency and are often used to make dips.  

30 Minute Black Beans and Lime Rice

The Best Black Bean Dip

Kidney Beans

Next up are kidney beans. There are two different colors of kidney beans. White kidney beans — also known as cannellini beans and red kidney beans, which are a dark red in color. Both are shaped like little kidneys and have similar nutrient content. They are easy to find and a great meal staple to keep on hand. Red kidney beans hold their shape well and are best for dishes that require longer cooking times. White kidney beans have a thinner skin and cook faster so are better for dishes with less cook time.  

Mediterranean Style Kidney Bean Salad

White Bean Hummus with Roasted Garlic

Garbanzo Beans

Perhaps my favorite bean is the garbanzo bean, also known as a chickpea. The most common type of chickpea is round and beige. You can find them both canned and dried in most grocery stores. There are other less common colors of chickpeas including black, green and red.  

They have a bit of a nutty taste and a very fluffy texture once cooked.  When blended, chickpeas get a very smooth texture which makes them great for dips. They are the main ingredients in traditional hummus, and can also be roasted for a great protein-packed snack or addition to a salad. Once roasted they become light and crunchy.  

Vegan Kale Caesar Salad with Garlic Roast Chickpeas

Favorite Homemade Hummus with Spiced Pita Chips

Sweet Cocoa Hummus (this is delicious and so easy)

I often see beans and lentils as an untapped treasure of potential for clients. Unless you live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, both beans and lentils are often of little exposure.  

When talking about nutrition, we spend so much time talking about what foods to exclude that we forgot the potential of so many other amazing foods out there. When we work on being inclusive and exposing ourselves to new foods, we find it much easier to incorporate diversity and motivation into our lifestyle. Beans and lentils can be a simple, cost-effective, and yummy addition to your diet.

Do you cook beans and lentils often?  I’d love to hear about your favorite and why!

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

How many carbs in coconut flour

Admittedly, I do not know how to pick out makeup.

I recently went into a local beauty store on a mission for mascara.

My stress level increased, my heart raced, and I had no freakin’ clue which one I should buy?

My inner brain said:

“It’s mascara Amanda, for goodness sake, it’s a $6 mascara. Pick one out and move on.”

I immediately text friends to help bail me out and give me direction.

It’s funny how we each have our thing. Our zone of genius and comfort.

Makeup is not mine.

Food is.

The perfect healthy cupcake (is there such a thing?)

What I realized is that grocery shopping isn’t really any different.

How often have you been on a mission for a special ingredient only to face analysis paralysis by so many choices?

There are usually over twenty, each with their own unique features and and benefits.

It’s kind of like when you are in the baking aisle to pick out the perfect healthy flour to make an awesome treat for a friend’s birthday.

You take a look at Pinterest and it is brimming with alternate flour treat ideas;  cupcakes, decadent cakes, donuts, pies…the list goes on.

But where do you start and which flour is truly best for YOU?

Which ones are low carb, low fat, gluten-free? And most important how do they taste?  What’s it like to cook and bake with them? What brand is best and where can you get them?

Have no fear. This alternate flour guide will touch on several different types of flours. You will find out how to use them, their differences and I am even going to share some of my favorite recipes for each flour type. Most importantly, you will learn which ones meet your nutritional goals.

Types of Flours

This guide is here to help you navigate the many alternative flours out there and make a decision on which is the best one for you. You can jump to each flour section by clicking below.

Coconut (go to coconut flour)

Almond (go to almond flour)

Oat (go to oat flour)

Rice (go to rice flour)

Coffee (go to coffee flour)

Cricket (go to cricket flour)

How many carbs in coconut flour?

Macronutrient Values of Alternative Flours per 1/4 Cup
Type of Flour per 1/4 CupCarbohydrate (g)Fat (g)Protein (g)Fiber (g)Sugar (g)
White230300
Whole Wheat211441
Coconut164451
Almond614631
Oat202530
Brown Rice301320
Cricket382020
Coffee2815240

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour options are popping up everywhere and for a good reason. Coconuts are a good source of quality saturated fats which can have many benefits. They lower your risk of heart disease by lowering your good to bad cholesterol ratio. Coconut flour is easy to digest and gluten-free. It is full of filling fiber, protein and is low in sugar.

So how many carbs are in coconut flour? A fourth cup of coconut flour has 16 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein, plus an impressive 5 grams of filling fiber. It has been shown to have a low glycemic index which means it does not spike your blood sugar as quickly as grain-based flours.

Coconut flour has a very slight sweet taste despite having little to no sugar.  It can be a wonderful addition to both savory or sweet dishes.

How is coconut flour made?

Coconut flour is actually a byproduct of making coconut milk. To make coconut milk you soak coconut meat. The liquid is drained off and the meat is dried then ground into a powder. So this flour helps utilize all parts of the coconut so there is no waste and you are doing your part to help the environment.

How do I use coconut flour?

Working with coconut flour can be a bit tricky at first because it tends to be on the dryer side.

I suggest finding specific coconut flour recipes to try first. Once you get comfortable with coconut flour then you can begin to experiment on your own. It is very high in fiber, therefore, needs a lot more moisture than regular flour.

It is incredibly absorbent and generally baked goods require a lot more eggs. Sifting the flour will also help smooth out the coconut flour because it does have a tendency to be lumpy.

Where can I find coconut flour?

You can find coconut flour at most conventional grocery stores these days.  Below is a link to a few of my favorite brands:

Nutiva Coconut Flour

Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour

My favorite coconut flour recipes

Here are a few yummy coconut flour recipes that you might want to give a go:

Coconut Flour Blueberry Protein Muffins

Banana Coconut Flour Waffles

Healthy No Bake Chocolate Chip Blondies

Super Easy Coconut Flour Pizza Crust

Almond Flour: A Lower Carb Option

If coconut is not your thing or if you’re looking for an even lower carb flour option, try almond flour.

A fourth cup of this flour only has 6 grams of carbohydrates. However, it is a bit higher in the fat department with 14 grams of fat. But it also contains 6 grams of filling protein.

Almond flour is another delicious option when looking for a low carb, gluten-free flour option that is full of nutrition.  Almonds contain healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium and vitamin E.

Almonds have been shown to lower blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.  Almond flour is higher in fat but quite a bit lower in carbs than coconut flour yet will still keep you satisfied. Like coconut flour, it has a slightly sweet taste even though a fourth cup only contains 1 gram of sugar.

What is almond flour?

You may have seen both almond flour and almond meal in the store, as the names can be used interchangeably. Both are ground up almonds. Generally, almond flour has been ground a lot finer and is more uniform.

What you need to pay attention to is blanched versus unblanched. Blanched means the skins have been removed. This usually results in a lighter product both in color and texture. Blanched almond flour is best used for cookies, treats, and most baking.  Unblanched means the skins have been ground up into the flour. This generally results in a darker flour with a heartier texture. You would use this for a more hearty baked good such as a breakfast cookie or dense bread.

Where do I get almond flour?

The great news is almond flour is also becoming readily available in most grocery stores, including budget-friendly options in bulk sections. This would be a great way to purchase a small amount and see if you like it. You can also purchase almond flour on-line by ordering below from Amazon (cause Amazon Prime is LIFE).

Bob’s Almond Flour

Now That I Have Some, What Can I Make?

Once you purchase your almond flour you can get cooking. One thing to keep in mind is that once opened you must keep almond flour in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Because of its higher oil content, it can become rancid quickly if not kept cold. Here are some great recipes to try:

Healthy Paleo Pancakes

Blueberry Almond Oat Bars

Low Carb Turkey Meatballs

Vegan Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oat Flour: A Lower Fat Option

If you want to stay away from fat you can grab yourself a bag of oat flour. Or better yet, just grind your own in a food processor or blender.  Oat flour is basically just ground up oatmeal. About 1 and ¼ cup oats make one cup of oat flour. It can be a very cost-effective flour that tastes great!  Oat flour is higher in carbohydrates than coconut or almond. It contains 20 grams of carbohydrates per fourth cup. However, a fourth cup contains only 2 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein.

Don’t forget oat flour also contains 3 grams of filling soluble fiber comprised of indigestible sugars called beta-glucans. They have been shown to lower risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Beta-glucans have also been shown to enhance the immune response to infection, have anti-tumor properties and stabilize blood sugar.  The fiber also helps with satiety. If you have ever had a bowl of oatmeal you know how well it fills you up. Baking with oat flour could potentially make a filling treat that leaves your full and content.

Where can I buy oat flour?

A simple way to get out flour is to #diy. You can make your own flour at home by putting oats in your favorite food processor and grinding it until a fine flour is created.

If you want to make this flour gluten-free make sure you use certified gluten-free oats if you make your own, or make sure the already ground oat flour is certified gluten-free. Not all oats are gluten free due to cross contamination so be sure to read the label if this is a necessity for you.

As with almond and coconut flour, oat flour can be found in many grocery stores. You can also purchase it online.

Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour (can you tell I love this brand?)

What can I make with oat flour?

Oat flour has somewhat of a chewy crumbly texture when used for baking. It is a bit heartier and has a slightly sweet taste to it compared to wheat flour. Oat flour is great for making cookies and breakfast items like waffles and pancakes due to its higher moisture content. It also is best used for items that don’t need to rise, such as quick bread and muffins.

So Simple Oat Flour Pancakes

Gluten-Free Banana Oat Muffins (Vegan)

Better than Restaurant Falafel (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

Easy Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Rice Flour

If you are looking for another low-fat alternative flour, you can also use rice flour (also known as rice powder). The three types of rice flours are brown rice flour, white rice flour, and sweet rice flour. For this purpose, we will focus on brown rice flour. Brown rice flour keeps the husk intact and therefore contains more fiber and nutritional value.

Many find that brown rice flour is easy to digest and has a very mild nutty flavor. It is gluten-free and contains B vitamins, calcium, and zinc. Brown rice flour only contains 1 gram of fat per fourth cup. It is higher in carbohydrates with 30 grams per fourth cup. Brown rice flour works well in baked goods such as crackers and muffins.

This would be a great flour to use when making a snack that you want to be a bit higher in carbs, like a pre or post-workout treat.  Brown rice flour is also great as a gluten-free thickening agent in soups, sauces or gravies.

Where do I get rice flour?

The great thing about rice flour is you can purchase it at the store or you can make your own. It is made by grinding rice into a powder using your high powered blender. If you prefer to purchase it, you can find rice flour in most groceries stores. You can also purchase it online.

Bob’s Red Mill White Rice Flour

Rice flour Recipes

Like all of these flours, I suggest starting with a recipe that is made to use rice flour.  Once you get comfortable with rice flour you can begin to play around with it. Here are a few ideas:

Rice Flour Blueberry Muffins

Brown Rice Crackers

Simple Gluten Free Rice Flour Pizza

Brown Rice Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Coffee Flour

One type of flour gaining popularity is coffee flour.

How is coffee flour made?

Contrary to what the name implies, coffee flour is not actually made from the coffee bean itself. The coffee plant itself produces a fruit, the cherry. Inside those cherries is the coffee bean that is used for your morning brew.

The leftover part of the fruit is then dried, ground to a pulp and used to make coffee flour. This a double win for coffee growers and for agriculture as the entire part of the plant is used leaving nothing for waste.

Benefits of coffee flour

Some alternative flours are packed with fat. Coffee flour is a lower fat alternative with only 1 gram of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams of protein per ¼ cup.

Coffee flour is high in fiber and potassium, two key variables needed for overall health.

It also falls in line with the categories of vegan, kosher, gluten-free and Paleo.

Cons of coffee flour

But beware, this flour is caffeinated. It might be a fun addition to your pantry but it isn’t likely to cycle into the rotation regularly.

Coffee is also constantly under fire for being highly constrained by chemical exposure.  This same issue extends to the fruit itself.

Coffee flour Recipes

Check out the original coffee flour site for recipes HERE. And you can find coffee flour on Amazon HERE.

Cricket Flour

Still looking for more protein? If you really want to step out of your comfort zone you can try cricket flour.

Did you know there are over 1000 different species of edible insects?

Believe it or not, crickets have been a source of food around the world for a long time, but the cricket trend is just now catching on in the United States. According to a study by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, crickets could be a sustainable protein source for our ever-growing global population. It contains a whopping 20 grams of protein per fourth cup and only 3 grams of carbohydrates. Each fourth cup contains 8 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber. It is also high in calcium, vitamin B, amino acids, and iron. Another bonus is this flour is gluten-free.

What is cricket flour?

Cricket flour is simply whole crickets ground up into a flour or powder. It’s that simple. It has a slightly grayish color and has a very earthy smell. Since it is ground up insects it has a bit more moisture than your typical flour. However, you must keep in mind that if you have a shellfish allergy you could also react to cricket flour. Crickets are arthropods just like shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. Cricket flour should be kept in the refrigerator to stop it from going bad.

How does cricket flour taste?

Cricket flour has been described as having a slightly nutty flavor similar to buckwheat. The nice thing is it has a very subtle flavor so it does not change the flavor of what it’s added to. This makes it a nice addition to smoothies as well as used in baking. It can make baked goods have a slightly grainy texture but not enough to make anyone notice.

Are you daring enough to get some?

You can purchase cricket flour easily online. When purchasing, it is probably best to make sure your cricket flour is organic and high quality without additives. Please also ensure it is gluten free if that is what you are after. Like with the rest of the options, flour companies can add things to their product and you want to be aware of what you are purchasing.

Click here to check out cricket flour

I’ve also tried these Bars made with cricket flour. Once you get over the mental struggle of protein origin, they actually are quite nice!

Bought some cricket flour?

Here are just a few recipes using cricket flour. There are so many great recipes out there that it may surprise you. If this trend continues to grow, so will the many recipes you can make using cricket flour.

Pancakes With Cricket Flours

Cricket Flour Onion Rings

Spicy Cricket Fritters

High Protein Cricket Flour Cookies

Now you are armed with information about several alternative flours, including coconut flour, almond flour, and even cricket flour. These flours continue to grow in popularity and with that, so do the recipes to utilize them. So whether you are gluten free, low carb, high protein, or low fat, there is an option out there for you. Give them a try and see if you can create some delicious homemade food that fits your needs.

Which one are you going to try? Share your experience with these flours. Can’t wait to see how it goes!

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

 

Nutella vs Peanut Butter

I was 19 when I traveled to Europe for the first time. We visited England, France, Holland, and Belgium. The cuisine was the highlight of the experience (aside from quality time with family).

Each place offered diverse food, rich in flavor and experience. But none of the food left quite an impression on me like the divine taste of…Nutella.

Yep, out of everything I had on that trip my life was changed by a chocolatey, creamy, hazelnut spread.

Who knew?

In 2001, Nutella had yet to be a household American request. So I came home with a suitcase full of Nutella dreams that ended months later. Well, until it became a staple on U.S. grocery shelves in 2013 and has been invading ever since.

Well done Nutella, well done. But for real though, how does Nutella stack up against the O.G. of morning nut spreads, peanut butter?

Let’s dive in and find out who wins the health battle of Nutella vs peanut butter.

History of Nutella

Because I was curious, I wanted to know how Nutella came to be Nutella. Nutella’s creator, Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker from Piedmont in Italy, created Nutella because of a shortage of cocoa. He combined a “sweet paste made from hazelnuts, sugar and just a little of the rare cocoa” to create what would come to be known as Nutella today.

What began as a simple intent to create a yummy treat has led to a gigantic branding mission to find its way to the breakfast table. Interestingly enough, in 2012 the Ferrero group, the U.S. makers of Nutella, had to cough up a whopping 3 million dollars in a class action lawsuit where a mother claimed their advertisement of the product touting its health benefits were false.

The history of Peanut Butter

When did peanut butter begin to show up in our food history?   In an article by National Geographic, John Harvey Kellogg May have been the first to use a peanut spread in his health clinic to treat patients.

The beginning of peanut butter is unclear, and still to this day so much controversy over the health benefits of peanut butter exist.

Is it good or bad for you?

Well, it can be both.  Peanut butter contains both healthy fats (omega-3 fats) and unhealthy fats (0mega-6 fats).  However, with more omega-6 fats than omega-3, peanut butter creates a potentially higher risk of inflammation.

The standard American diet is high in omega-6 fats which are linked to increase in obesity and weight gain.

Just like most foods, moderation is key when consuming peanut butter.  By buying a high quality brand and making sure you are focusing on amn overall nutrient dense intake, peanut butter can be worked into your diet in a healthy way.

Not all peanut butter is created equal

One look at the peanut butter aisle in the grocery store and you can see that not all peanut butter is created equal.

Looking through the glass jar, some are clearly creamy, oil-less and often light in color.

Others are dark in color, oily and liquidy in sound.

Often times manufacturers put added ingredients, like soy lecithin, in peanut butter to make them easy to spread, last longer and sweeter in taste. My suggestion, pass on those peanut butters.

A great example of such a peanut butter is Jif. Its ingredients are listed as such:

Roasted Peanuts and Sugar, Contains 2% Or Less Of Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed And Soybean), Mono And Diglycerides, Salt (per their website).

Fooducate gives it a “C” rating due to its inclusion of hydrogenated oils and highly processed nature.  Anything with hydrogenated oils should be a major avoid to your health.

Because of tricky advertising that states a product is “natural” the requirements for use of the words like “natural” and “organic” are loose. Your best bet is to always read the ingredient label first.

Pick peanut butter that has two to three ingredients and requires a good messy stir before the first spread. That is the type of peanut butter you should have in your house.

An example of such is the generic Santa Cruz, Costco, Nutiva and many more.

Ingredients

If you are new to nutritional label reading, the first label listed on a label is the one that is present in the largest amount by weight.

On the Nutella label, the first ingredient listed is sugar. This is followed by palm oil, hazelnuts, skim milk powder, cocoa, lecithin (an emulsifier that helps the butter to blend together) and vanilla. That means the ingredient present in the largest quantity in Nutella is sugar.

You can read more about food awareness here by clicking on my post that gives you 5 tips to increase your food awareness.

In a brand of peanut butter, Santa Cruz, found at many grocery stores locally, there are only two ingredients: dry roasted organic peanuts and sea salt.

No sugar is listed at all. So when it comes to the ingredients in Nutella vs peanut butter, peanut butter wins with less sugar.

Beware of sugar

The average child consumes 13% of their daily calorie intake from sugar.

Why is sugar bad? Or is it?

On average children consume 11g of sugar at breakfast (nearly half the recommended daily limit) mostly via sugary breakfast drinks, cereals, and spreads.

In 2017, Nutella fans experienced an even bigger sugar high when Nutella increase the sugar content of the produce and likely decreased the cocoa content. This left the product under even further scrutiny and many health-conscious fans were outraged.

One serving of Nutella between two pieces of highly processed white bread could easily reach a child’s recommended daily sugar intake…before lunch.

Many studies prove the link between sugar intake and disease exist among many other consequences including energy levels, ability to focus and mental fog.

These conclusions only reiterate the importance of being mindful of sugar in our daily diet, especially for our children headed off to school.

It’s not about sugar alone, but rather the totality of awareness of how much sugar is in a person’s daily intake that is really the cause for thought.  Especially, when it comes to the little people we are responsibly for modeling healthy habits to.

Nutritional profile

In 2 tablespoon of peanut butter (32 grams) (using the Santa Cruz brand featured below) on average, there are 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein for a total of 200 calories. Less than 1% of that intake comes from sugar and only 10% is from saturated fat (you can read more about types of fat here).

One serving of Nutella also contains 200 calories but the macro and micronutrient profile are wildly different. In one serving of Nutella, there are 10 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of protein.

The big difference is that all 19 grams of carbohydrates come from added sugar. This is equivalent to just over 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Peanut butter is lower in carbohydrates because it contains less sugar. It also contains more protein compared to Nutella’s  2 grams per serving.

Taste

The taste of each spread is different.  Nutella is sweet in taste, like a rich, creamy custard.

Peanut butter, of course, has a dense nutty taste and grainy texture.

The two provide totally different palate experiences because of the high sugar content in Nutella.

Why size matters

The food industry is a battleground for consumer attention and loyalty.  There is so much going on behind the scenes when it comes to product labeling that we as consumers have no idea.

Serving size listed on packaged foods is based on what the average American would consume in one sitting.

Umm..that makes about zero sense.

We the consumers are dictating serving size?

Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) are the standards that determine servings sizes we consume.  RACCs are set from information gathered by the department of Agr Dilute from the 1990s which now truly shows us that Americans are eating more.

The controversy over some foods come from what category they are often lumped into.

Nutella currently falls under the dessert toppings category. Under this category, the RACC is two tablespoons in one serving.  Why is this important? Because this is the same RACC for other nut butter spreads, like peanut and almond butter.

When a consumer is comparing the nutritional information on both products this allows a level playing field.

In 2017, the Ferrero group, requested that Nutella be re-categorized to “marmalade” (jams) or into its own class, in order to reduce the serving size to 1 tablespoon.  This would provide an advantage to unique spreads like Nutella because the nutrition labeling would appear to have the upper hand over counterparts like peanut and almond butter

Product knowledge is power

The average consumer is not educated regarding product labeling.  A quick glance at the label would then give an appearance that Nutella nutrition is superior to spreads like peanut and almond butter.  This would muddy the waters even more in product labeling.

The reality is that products are in the market for sales.  Companies like Ferrero want to beef up sales. They have clearly demonstrated that as Nutella sales in the U.S. are up almost 40% over the last 5 years according to an article by the Washington Post.

This nutrition label struggle only further demonstrates the need for individuals to understand what the products they are purchasing have inside them.

This is a basic habit I try to teach and share to all my clients. Knowledge is power. If you can understand what is inside your food you can make more empowered decisions to support your health.

It isn’t saying a big fat NO to Nutella, but rather understanding the reward and consequence of your choices and learning how to work them into your life to achieve balance.  It should be the mission of the FDA to protect average consumers who are learning how to better understanding food awareness.

Nutella vs Peanut Butter Recommendation

A small child can tell you that Nutella is a “treat.” It should be eaten in moderation accordingly and not served as a breakfast staple atop a slice of bread.

If you or your family are looking for a healthy alternative there are many. My favorite is my very own recipe, Cashew Pecan Butter. The combination of these two nuts and two other ingredients creates a nut butter that tastes sweet and creamy.  You can read the recipe for Cashew Pecan Butter here.

Another favorite alternative to traditional peanut butter is Sunflower butter. This is also a great option for those with nut allergies.  This is my son’s favorite “butter” spread option even without allergies. Click here to see his favorite.

And lastly, almond butter is a great go-to as well.  Click here to see my favorite almond butter spread too.

Nutella alternative brands

If it is the chocolate hazelnut spread you are after, other companies have followed suit and have created a chocolatey morning spread experience with improved nutrition.

Justin’s hazelnut spread is one alternative option.  Justin’s uses some organic products to create their hazelnut spread and contains 50% less sugar than Nutella.

Click here to buy Justin’s spread.

Nutiva’s hazelnut spread takes it a step further with certified organic ingredients, fair trade cocoa and all around improved ingredient quality.  It also contains almost 50% less sugar than Nutella.

Click here to buy Nutiva’s spread.

Both still contain sugar, although organic, as one of the first ingredients listed.  By no means do these brands deserve a regular appearance in the diet. Instead, just like Nutella, they are a treat with higher quality ingredients and less sugar.

Talk about it

I have gained wisdom over the years and have overcome my Nutella obsession. My kids, though, I teach them moderation of course. There is no regular place for Nutella at the breakfast table in our house but learning how to enjoy treats like Nutella help them (and big kids too) develop a healthy relationship with food.

Approaching the discussion of nutrition with children is all about teaching them food awareness and mindfulness. We must teach them what is inside their food, how food makes them feel and that correlation between taste and health does not always exist.

We want them to understand how whole foods versus a “sweet treats” like Nutella feels in their body.

Those little munchkins are smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for.

When prepping your morning breakfast, reach for a spread that helps support your health and not your sweet tooth.

So in the competition of Nutella vs peanut butter, I would choose peanut butter.

Do you love Nutella?  Do you think you do a good job of regulating your daily sugar intake?

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

,

Coconut Sugar versus Brown Sugar

Coconut Sugar verses Brown Sugar

Every Thanksgiving I make my own version of the infamous “Ruth Chris Sweet Potato Casserole”. If you’ve never had the real deal…holy heck, it’s amazing (and loaded with calories). I had it once and from then on out was determined from then to recreate in my own fashion.

So I do…one time a year.

Everyone at Thanksgiving dinner swoons over the dish and it is devoured.

What they don’t know is that each year I make the recipe with coconut sugar instead of the brown sugar the recipe calls for. Are you probably saying to yourself “sugar is sugar” and isn’t all sugar bad for you?

Is coconut sugar a better option? What’s the big deal on coconut sugar versus brown sugar?

In this post, I will share more about the differences between coconut sugar versus brown sugar including the nutritional benefits, uses, and recipe swaps.

Sugars By Name

As if the health factor of sugars isn’t hard enough to weed through, sugars have multiple names.

Brown sugar can go by many different names including light or dark brown sugar, demerara sugar, muscovado sugar, turbinado sugar and free-flowing brown sugar.

Coconut sugar can also be known as coco sugar, coconut palm sugar, coco sap sugar and coconut blossom sugar. Coconut sugar can come in a granular form or is also available in a liquid form similar to agave syrup, honey or maple syrup.

Where Do They Come From?

Perhaps one of the biggest differences in brown sugar versus coconut sugar is the origin. Your run of the mill conventional brown sugar you purchase at the grocery store is actually just refined white sugar with sugarcane molasses added in (shocking, right?!).

That is what gives it the brown color. White sugar is highly refined and is made from sugarcane and sugar beets. Refined means that it has gone through a chemical process that removed impurities and can possibly remove beneficial nutrients.

Brown sugar can contain up to 10% molasses. 4.5% molasses is considered light brown sugar and 6.5% plus is considered dark brown sugar. Processing sugar increases chemical additives and dyes to change the consistency and appearance.

Coconut Sugar Verses Brown Sugar

Coconut Sugar Creation

Coconut sugar is made by a two-step process and can come in crystal or granule form, block or liquid. It is made by cutting the flower of a coconut palm and collecting the liquid sap. The sap is placed in large woks over moderate heat until most of the water is evaporated. The brown color is mostly due to caramelization.

Coconut sugar can also be considered a more sustainable product, therefore, it is considered better for the earth. Due to the minimal processing, coconut sugar uses less water and fuel when it’s being made.

When purchasing coconut sugar, make sure to check the ingredient labels to ensure you are getting a pure product and that it doesn’t contain cane sugar to help reduce the overall cost of the product.

Learning to read ingredient labels to confirm what additives are in your favorite brands helps increase food awareness and forces you to steer towards an organic brand which may be of higher quality.

Coconut Sugar Versus Brown Sugar Nutritional Comparison

When you compare the nutritional facts of one tablespoon of coconut sugar versus brown sugar, they both have about 4 grams of carbohydrates in the form of sugars. That is about 16 calories per tablespoon.

But if you dive a little deeper into nutrition you will see that due to the added molasses, brown sugar contains calcium, iron, copper, potassium phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium.

Coconut sugar naturally contains vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper. Coconut sugar also contains inulin which is a type of dietary fiber.  Inulin acts as a prebiotic which nourishes the good bacteria already in your gut.

What Are They Made Of?

Generally, brown sugar is made of 95% sucrose and 5% molasses.  Sucrose (white table sugar) is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Coconut sugar is 70% sucrose and the rest is made up of individual molecules of fructose and glucose. So basically they are made up of the same molecules. Both are sugar.

How Does That Affect My Body?

In a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute aiming to assess the glycemic index of sugar, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than brown sugar. This means coconut sugar increases blood glucose levels at a slower rate. This can be especially important to monitor if you have diabetes.

However, these findings have been inconclusive. According to the American Diabetes Association, the glycemic index can be a helpful tool when managing blood sugar. Keep in mind the glycemic index can vary from person to person depending on different food combinations, how the food was produced and personally how your body responds.

Like most foods, it’s not the product that you consume that impacts health.  Rather it is the amount of the product that impacts your health. By overeating junk food you can gain fat just as you can by eating healthy foods.

Taste and Texture

If potential differences in health value of brown and coconut sugar do exist, how does that translate to cooking in your own kitchen with regard to taste, texture and swapping one for the other?

Let’s start with conventional brown sugar. It is slightly moister due to the addition of molasses.  Because it originates as white table sugar the granules are fine and uniform in size.

The sugar dissolves well in liquids and incorporates into solids used in baking such as butter. Brown sugar has an almost caramel-like flavor to it which blends well in baked goods. Depending on the amount of molasses added the caramel flavor and color can vary.

Coconut sugar, contradictory to what the name implies, does not taste like coconut! Like brown sugar, coconut sugar has a slight caramel flavor. Both sugars have a very similar taste. It’s the texture that sets them apart.

Coconut sugar has much larger granules because it is made by dehydrating sap. It is less processed than brown sugar and is in a more natural state. Due to less processing, coconut sugar can be a less informed in taste and granule size, mostly unnoticeable to you and I.

Coconut sugar does not blend as well with items such as butter and can leave baked goods spotted or grainy if they normally call for brown sugar. However, these days there are many baked goods recipes that call for coconut sugar and it works great. (See below for some amazing health inspired recipes to give it a go.) Coconut sugar does dissolve in liquids quite nicely and can be a nice addition to your morning coffee or tea.

You Decide

Brown sugar and coconut sugar contain very similar macronutrient profiles. Coconut sugar edges out brown sugar slightly as far as micronutrients are concerned. It also contains inulin which can be beneficial for gut health.

 

In both cases, quality trumps it all. Be sure to read ingredients labels thoroughly to look for added sugars, chemical additives and anything that looks and feels like it doesn’t belong in a PURE sugar product!

Where do I buy coconut sugar?

Coconut sugar can be found in any local grocer.

BUT, my favorite place to buy it is from the comfort of my own home, on the couch and in my pajamas.  Because this mama LOVES efficiency and does not like shopping.

Here are a few brands I love that can be found by clicking on the name and shopping on Amazon.

Big Tree Farms Organic Brown Coconut Sugar

Nutiva Organic Coconut Sugar

Wholesome  Organic Coconut Palm Sugar

Better Body Foods Organic Coconut Sugar

Thrive Market

If you haven’t heard about Thrive market you are missing out! Think of Thrive as Costco meets Whole Foods all via a virtual store. Essentially you pay an annual membership to get amazing prices on high-quality products including food, supplements, toiletries and home essentials.

The awesome part is shipping is FREE on orders over $49!

You can shop for specific products via their online catalog, with all prices typically 25-30% below retail value.  Some of my favorite foodie products are hard to find and I don’t live near a retailer that carries them.

Thrive comes in handy because I can order whatever I want and have it delivered to my doorstep. They also carry a few things that I have yet to find in my local grocer.

Thrive’s yearly membership cost is $60 (that breaks down to $5 a month) and is an awesome price point for a gift. When I got married we got a Costco membership and it was the best ever.

Thrive would have been even better! Click on the link below to start your 30-day FREE trial at Thrive and get FREE shipping.

Thrive Membership

Now What?

Understanding their potential differences may increase your willingness to try new recipes. There are many sweet treats that can be made with coconut sugar. It can also be used in savory dishes as well. Coconut sugar can add a little extra kick to your dinner plate for that combo sweet and savory finish.

Recipes To Try

Check out the links below to try a few healthy recipes that require coconut sugar in the ingredient list.

Paleo Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies

Paleo Sweetened Condensed Milk

Coconut Sugar Sriracha Shrimp

Slow Cooker Refined Sugar-Free Pulled Pork

Peanut Butter Blondies

Soft and Chewy Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cookies

Peanut Butter Blondies

Coconut Sugar Lemon Almonds

Roasted Apples and Pears With Coconut Sugar

At the end of the day, coconut sugar is still sugar and should not be over consumed. Just because it contains some additional nutrition does not mean it’s a free for all. Sugar is still a “treat.”

Using food awareness and nutrition label assessment is the key to choosing the highest quality option for you.

Do you use coconut sugar?

Do you have a favorite dish to use it for?

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

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Healthy Chicken Nuggets

If I were to say chicken nuggets, what would you start thinking about?

You may have slight nostalgia, remembering the good old days when you’d dunk those bad boys in a variety of sauces (or just one if you were super picky).

It may have been the only food you liked to eat.

It may even be your kids’ favorite food (if you have kids that is).

For many of us, chicken nuggets are a comfort food, something we eat when we want something familiar. They are a kid staple and a parent go-to.

BUT, most chicken nuggets leave little to be desired when it comes to nutritional value. Instead, they are high in saturated fat (the unhealthy kind), contain a measly amount of protein (which is a shock for chicken!) and virtually no micronutrients.

A four-piece Chicken McNugget from Mcdonalds contains 11 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrate and 10 grams of protein. If you pair them with a small order of fries, you’ll have almost enough calories from one meal to make up a small child’s total calorie demands for just one day. Shocker right?

Being unhappy with chicken nuggets led me on a mom mission to create my own healthy chicken nuggets. I wanted to create them so my kids would be able to remember their chicken nugget experience as a comfort food that mom made at home when they become parents themselves.

My biggest goals were to increase the protein and bring down the saturated fat. But as a bonus, these healthy chicken nuggets are also gluten-free! You read that right. They have no outer breading, and they will still rock your sock off.

 

Want to know some alarming information?

The ingredients for a very popular brand of chicken nuggets is listed first as “Chicken”.

At first, you would think, yes, that’s good isn’t it Amanda?

Well, not always.

Not when it is an unspecified source.

When the source is not listed that means the chicken can come from anywhere on the bird, like anywhere.

EEEwwww.

And chicken nuggets are a staple of many kids’ dinners and are such an easy go-to for busy parents.

 

And they aren’t just for kids.  Parents and non-parents alike can jump on the chicken nugget wagon because this recipe requires whole ground chicken breast, an egg and a few seasonings and one MAGIC ingredient and can be made in under 15 minutes.

These healthy chicken nuggets are made from just a few simple ingredients. No junky oils were used in the making of this recipe, and they still taste amazing. What really up levels their taste is the finishing touch in the GoWise Air Fryer if you have one. If not, I’ve left you a simple stovetop method that works well too!

If you haven’t bought into the air fryer craze, this recipe may change your mind. You can check out my review of the GoWise Air Fryer HERE. I break down the review in real-world circumstances in a kitchen where I cook all the time with small children around.

You can also check out the GoWise Air Fryer review because I share my experience with twenty-five days of air frying (basically anything I could) along with ten recipes that I fell in love with along the way.

At the end of the day, the Air Fryer produces what many people are after. A quicker, more convenient way to cook food. I am constantly helping clients find ways to bring more real-food options into their diet in a way that is simple, and convenient. Any tool, including an air fryer, that increases the willingness and likeliness to eat more real food is a WIN in my book.

With that said, let’s get to the recipe!

5 from 1 vote
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Healthy Chicken Nuggets

Turn this childhood staple into a healthy option your family will love.  Make them in the Air Fryer or stovetop for a quick and fun weeknight go-to.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 21 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 2 Pounds Ground chicken breast
  • 1 Egg
  • 4 Tbsp Bragg's Nutritional Yeast

Instructions

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 370 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Pour the ground chicken into large, clean bowl.

  3. Mix in one egg, nutritional yeast, and seasonings until well blended.

  4. Lay parchment paper on the bottom of the air fryer’s fryer basket, spray with a light coat of olive oil.

  5. Using a cookie scoop (or round spoon) place a level scoop of the ground chicken mixture onto the parchment paper.

  6. Repeat this process as many times as space will allow, leaving ½ inch in between chicken scoops for cooking.

  7. Turn the air fryer on. Select the “chicken” setting (if your fryer allows it) and allow to cook for 6 minutes.

  8. At 6 minutes, turn the nuggets over to allow a crisp layer to form around the entire nugget.  * Note: If you don’t have a chicken setting, continue to cook at 370 degrees fahrenheit until cooked through (10-15 minutes, flipping once).

  9. Pull the nuggets out at a total time of 12 minutes.

  10. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.

Stove Top Method

  1. Pre-heat a medium or large skillet over medium heat.

  2. Spray lightly with olive or avocado oil to lightly coat the pan

  3. Pour the ground chicken into a large, clean bowl.

  4. Mix in one egg, nutritional yeast and seasonings until well blended.

  5. Using a cookie scooper (like this ONE) scoop the mixture into rounded ball shapes and add to the hot pan.

  6. Allow the underside to cook from roughly 1 minute to 90 seconds. It should start firming up and losing the pink color.

  7. Using a spatula, turn each nugget over and then press the ground mixture into the pan (raw side down) into nugget shapes.

  8. Allow each nugget to cook for 2-3 minutes. Then turn them back over to cook for an additional minute on the initial side.

  9. Be sure that each nugget is cooked thoroughly throughout. There should be no pink, and if you were to use a thermometer, it should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

  10. Remove nuggets from the pan and serve with your favorite dipping sauces.

This recipe for healthy chicken nuggets is guaranteed to be a family favorite. Another bonus is that these healthy chicken nuggets can be “double prepped” (read my post on meal prep here to find out what I mean by double prep) so that you have enough to pack in the kids’ lunches the next day too.

I have a thermos trick to keep them warm too. You can view those in my IG story highlights under “Lunchbox Ideas HERE. All you do is bring a cup of water to boil, pour the hot water into a thermos, and allow it to stand for 5 minutes to heat the thermos.

While the thermos heats, reheat nuggets in the microwave for 90 seconds. Dump the water from the thermos out and dry it quickly. Place the nuggets inside and they will stay warm until lunch time. #winning

I hope this recipe helps you add another healthy option to your weekly menu that maintains quality, is super simple and will be a crowd favorite.

I’d love to hear from you:

What recipe would you love for me to create a simple and healthy version for you to add to your weekly menu?

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

GoWise AirFryer Review

I was completely reluctant to add yet another kitchen gadget to my arsenal. I had heard mixed reviews for air fryers and I wasn’t ready to create my list of pros and cons to convince my husband we needed another kitchen appliance quite yet.

When the AirFryer arrived my kids and I were so dang excited. They follow in my footsteps when it comes to being in the kitchen and loving food. They have had their hands in the kitchen since they were toddlers, curiously chopping away.

I immediately washed it and began reading the manual. I was ready to DIG in. Being totally transparent, I haven’t even looked for a place to put it in a cabinet since I’ve received it, because I’ve used it that often.

Size

My biggest concern was size. My kitchen does not have a ton of storage space and I had no idea how frequently I would use the air fryer. It sits nicely on the counter without being too much of an eyesore. The GoWISE 8-in-1 Air Fryer (model…) is 3.7 quarts of kitchen convenience and for the volume of food it prepares, the size is a bonus.

User-friendly

The controls of the GoWISE Air Fryer are digital and it has a simple to use touchscreen.  Although straightforward, it will take some time to understand how to use the controls for proficiency (just like any new kitchen device).

The pre-set buttons are AWESOME and have not led me astray. The options you’ll have are warm, chips, chicken, steak, shrimp, pork, cake, and fish. There are also additional buttons to adjust the time and temperature up and down.

Shop for the Go Wise Air Fyer HERE.

How It Works

My first big curiosity was how does the GoWISE Air Fryer actually work? Air Fryers cook food by circulating hot air around the entire surface of the food, called Rapid Air Technology.

A heating element at the top creates heat that is then circulated throughout the appliance using a small fan. The outcome produces a food that looks, feels and even tastes “fried” by only using a small amount of oil or none at all.

Everything I have cooked up to date has actually only been with a light spray of olive, avocado or coconut oil. It produces that unhealthy fried food, soul-filling finish in a much healthier way.

In addition, it allows you to reheat food, bake it or even cook frozen foods, which is super convenient. In fact, I’ve found cooking frozen vegetables or sides in the air fryer is even better than in the microwave because it doesn’t create that mushy texture.

Eating at restaurants exposes you to extra hidden macronutrients. Foods are often fried or sauteed in unhealthy fats. Fat provides cushion and protection to the body at a cellular level. Fats are also crucial to hormone regulation and absorption of micronutrients.

Fats come in two forms: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat, often deemed the “bad” fat, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Examples of saturated fat include fat from animal products, dairy, butter, and coconut (coconut oil).

Unsaturated fat is often labeled as the “good” fat as it can reduce cholesterol levels when replacing saturated fat in the diet. Samples of unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds, and avocado.

Learn the Value of Food

Quick and convenient foods often provide a calorie dense, but a nutrient-poor option. When we measure up fast-food options or pre-packaged options against real food, they often leave little to be desired.

Take a look at the picture below. The meal on the right is a fast-food restaurant’s chicken nugget meal (4 nuggets and a small order of french fries) compared to my homemade version of chicken nuggets, curly sweet potato fries, and cauliflower “wings”, all cooked in the GoWISE Air Fryer. Both contain the same calorie content. However, there is clearly much more bang for your buck when you chose the real-food option.

Although these foods contain the same calorie content, their macronutrient profiles are different.  The fast-food meal has nearly 25 grams of fat and only 6 grams of protein. My homemade meal has nearly 40 grams of protein and only 8 grams of fat.  Point being, when you create your own meals at home it offers much great support for a healthy lifestyle.

What can I cook?

Anything. Pretty much anything.

Look below and you will see my first twenty-five days of cooking with the air fryer in an attempt to try and cook a variety of things to test its effectiveness.

I was somewhat concerned initially that everything had to be spread perfectly without touching in the air fryer to actually cook. However, after continuous use, I’ve realized I can throw it in (bonus for a busy mom) and interrupt cooking time with a quick shake or toss to expose other cooking surfaces on the item.

By far the biggest game-changer for us has been sweet potato fries and sweet potato buns.  We love sweet potatoes and I cook them often. One of our favorites is Sweet Potato Sliders (you can view my recipe here).  In the Air Fryer, their taste and texture are elevated and give a truer crispy finish then preparing in the oven.

Shop for the Go Wise Air Fyer HERE.

How do I cook in it?

Let’s just say that there isn’t an easier way to cook. You open the pan by pulling on the handle.  The pan will slide out exposing the basket. Lay all of the ingredients in the basket and return the pan inside the appliance.

Next, push power and adjust your time and temperature settings to the appropriate level. You will then hear the fan begin to run as the heating element clicks to begin circulating the air.

The buttons will flash to let you know it is heating and will stop flashing once the Air Fryer has reached the desired temperature.

Once cooking time is over, the alarm will sound to indicate it’s finished. One tip is to interrupt cooking at some points to shake up ingredients and expose new surfaces to the hot air.

You can then pull the basket out. The inside of the pan and basket will be hot but the outer parts will not. (This is why it’s a great learning tool for my children who are six and eight at the time of this blog post).

Budget Worthy

The GoWise Air Fryer ranges in price from $90 all the way to $300 for models that have a plethora of features.  The model featured in the post retails for less than $80.00. You can buy it on Amazon by clicking the link below.

This size is perfect for our family of four.  It is very versatile so it makes it a great “bang for your buck” purchase if you are looking to add a kitchen appliance to your arsenal.

Easy Clean-Up

The GoWise Air Fryer has very few parts, just a basket and under pan. One necessity I have for a kitchen gadget is simple clean up. If I have to take every little piece apart and hand wash it, then it is a deal breaker. That is the exact reason the juicer I got for our wedding 12 years ago still sits under the counter.

Mama ain’t got time for that.

The air fryer basket pops right out of the pan with a click of a button. Both pieces are easy to hand wash and dry quickly. Both are also dishwasher safe. I am not sure if this breaks air fryer rules or not, but sometimes there is no real need to even wash the parts because of little to no mess. After a few uses, I always go back and wash to make sure there isn’t any unnecessary build up.

I find myself using it to cook small side dishes mostly and leaving more delicate foods for oven roasting or grilling. What I love is adding one more way to multi-task for meal prep or “Double Prep” (you can learn more about that here in my meal prep post). The air fryer offers this subtle, crispy finish that other preparation methods don’t match, in my opinion.

A super bonus is that my kids are totally excited about being able to feel comfortable using it.  It is a great stepping stone to teaching and understanding hot/cold in the kitchen, cook times and being confident in beginning to learn food prep and handling.  Getting the kiddos involved is an extremely important skill for their long-term health success.

Highlights:

  • Temperature controls from 170-400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cook time up to 30 minutes
  • Pre-set settings for some of the most commonly cooked foods
  • Adjustable time and temperature settings
  • Removable basket with release button for easy clean-up
  • The basket is dishwasher safe
  • 1 year limited warranty

Comparing Other Models

GoWise offers models ranging in price from $100-$300.  At the base is a 2.75-quart fryer with multiple styles and settings. Next is the 3.7-quart fryer with a few model options. The largest air fryer is the 8-in-1 XL at 5.8 quarts. You can visit GoWise HERE to see all of the models and their unique features.

Shop for the Go Wise Air Fyer HERE.

Twenty-five days of Air Frying

I then turned to a thirty-day mission to make something in the air fryer every day for the next month to really test is variability, convenience, and durability.

Here is what I made:

Day 1: French toast sticks

Day 2: Fried eggs

Day 3: Egg in a hole (from the GoWise recipe book)

Day 4: Sweet potato fries

Day 5: Kale chips

Day 6: Green beans

Day 7: Baked apples for breakfast covered in coconut sugar, flaxseed, and cinnamon.

Day 8: Firehouse tacos

Day 9: Buffalo cauliflower wings

Day 10: Curly fries

Day 11: Chicken nuggets (my own recipe)

Day 12: “Simply Potaotes” hash browns

Day 13: Baby creamer potatoes

Day 14: Chicken Tenders

Day 15: Turkey Bacon

Day 16: Broccoli

Day 17: Zucchini chips

Day 18: Smores banana boat

Day 19: Fried cauliflower rice

Day 20: Ranch chickpeas

Day 21: Salmon and potatoes

Day 22: Berry cobbler

Day 23: Baked potato

Day 24: Tortilla Chips

Day 25: Sweet Potato Toast

Maybe you’re ready to invest in an air fryer or maybe you already have one and feel re-inspired.  Either way, you need ideas! I searched and tested many recipes and found a few unique, healthy, and pretty awesome ones to share to get you started.

Check out these 10 air fryer recipes that are musts in your life.  By the way…they are simple and quick too!

  1. Baked sweet potato from Courtneyssweets.com
  2. Berry cobbler from Healthyslowcooking.com
  3. Banana smores from Meredithlauranece.com
  4. Ranch flavored chickpeas from glueandglitter.com
  5. Salt and vinegar zucchini chips from sugarfreemom.com
  6. Sockeye salmon and potatoes from meredithlaurence.com
  7. Cauliflower tater tots from meredithlaurence.com
  8. Fried cauliflower rice from glueandglitter.com
  9. Curly fries (recipe coming soon to the blog)
  10. Healthy chicken nuggets

At the end of the day, the air fryer produces what many people are after. A quicker and more convenient way to cook food. I am constantly helping clients find ways to bring more real-food options into their diet in a way that is simple, and convenient.

Shop for the Go Wise Air Fyer HERE.

Any tool, including an air fryer, that increases the willingness and likeliness to eat more real food is a WIN in my book.

 

Do you have an Air Fryer?

What is your favorite thing to cook in it?

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

 

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