Healthy Back-To-School Fruit Snacks

Back to school...back to sugar? As a former junior high cheerleading coach, I've seen firsthand the multitude of sugary snacks teens choose for after school eating- and as a Registered Dietitian, I know we have lots of room to improve!  In fact, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee shared that nutrients including potassium, calcium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamin E are of concern for children (plus folate and iron for adolescent girls!). So, yes, LOTS of opportunity to improve!

But, common "fruit" snacks simply do not deliver on the important nutrition, unlike their name would have you believe.  In fact, from "fruit" rolls to "fruit" snacks, some food products hide behind the name of "fruit" and contain little to no fruit at all (like this Fruit Roll-Up, which was recently added to the Health Hall of Shame...its flavor may be "Strawberry Sensation" but it contains ZERO strawberries!)

Look, I get that if you want to enjoy sugar on occasion -- or even serve it to your children -- you can do so in a balanced fashion. But when a package would have you believe that you are getting fruit (or at least some fruit), but instead eating something far from it, that's just not right. 

So, when it comes to "fruit snacks" here are some of my top recommendations to help you stock your kitchen shelves...and their backpacks!


whole fruit for a healthy back-to-school fruit snack

CHOOSE WHOLE FRUIT MOST OFTEN FOR A HEALTHIER FRUIT SNACK

Simply put, when it comes to selecting the top choice for a healthy fruit snack, say YES to whole fruits more often! Whole fruits are portable and packable, full of good-for-you nutrition, and can be easily served alongside any meal or snack. Crowd favorites like apples and bananas pair wonderfully with nut butters (make mini peanut butter sandwiches with apple/pear slices, or dip banana coins into almond butter) and exciting additions - and certainly worthy mainstays - like kiwi and blackberries are great when served alone, with a handful of nuts/seeds, or as a topper on oatmeals, yogurts, and salads. For children: ask your child which fruit he likes best or use the "this or that" technique (say, "would you like strawberries or pineapple with lunch?") to decide which to pack in his lunchbox. For teens: have plenty of produce available for them to select.


Healthy Back To School Fruit Snacks - Smoothies

FREEZE A FRUIT SMOOTHIE AND PACK IT FOR SCHOOL

Make a fruit smoothies, store it in the freezer in a freezable jar (like these!), and pack in the lunchbox makes for a thawed smoothie by lunchtime. If your child likes fruit smoothies at home, certainly consider sweetly sippable smoothies for school time lunches or after school snacks!


TIPS FOR CANNED/JARRED FRUIT

healthy back-to-school fruit snacks - canned/jarred food tips

When it comes to selecting canned or jarred fruit, the better option with the least amount of added sugars are fruits packed in water followed by fruits packed within their own juices. If you see fruit packed in light or heavy syrup, it means that an added sugar is part of the mix. 


HEALTHY BACK TO SCHOOL FRUIT SNACKS

WHEN SELECTING FRUIT SNACKS, FRUIT STRIPS, FRUIT ROLLS, FRUIT TAPE AND OTHER PACKAGED FRUITS

Must your child have a "classic" fruit snack, fruit roll, fruit strips, or fruit tape? Check the ingredients label to see if 1) fruit is included (hint: it should be!) and if 2) fruit is the first ingredient (yep, you want this too!). Despite a multitude of fruit snacks whose first ingredient is some type of syrup or sugar, these from Stretch Island, Annie's Homegrown, and Simple Truth Organic are items to say YES to more often as compared to others!


What are your favorite back-to-school fruit snacks? Do your students love a certain type of fruit or food combination? As always, share your thoughts (or questions!) with me in the comments below! 

4 Delicious (& Healthy) Ways to Enjoy Dark Chocolate For Breakfast

Dark chocolate for breakfast? You don't have to ask me twice! That answer will almost always be "OF COURSE!"

Turns out, dark chocolate can actually be quite good for you. Its polyphenols may help boost endothelial function and support healthy blood pressure. In fact, chocolate may actually help reduce blood pressure in those with prehypertension! (Source)

And, compared with milk chocolate, dark chocolate may provide a greater satiety boost. (Source)  That means that, you'll likely feel satisfied for longer after indulging in that rich, decadent chocolate goodness.

But not all chocolate (and not all dark chocolate) is created equal. Yet, when products are made with "real" chocolate, you may believe otherwise....that's the tricky, confusing part about food marketing. Terms like "real," "pure," "natural," and "clean," are not regulated terms, which means they can be used to describe almost anything. Case in point: this Keebler Cereal which was recently added to the Health Hall of Shame

When selecting a dark chocolate, I recommend at minimum 68 or 70% cacao most of the time. At the farthest, darkest, most health-promoting end of the spectrum you get 100% cacao, found in cacao powder and cacao nibs. There's no added sugar, milk, or cocoa butter added here, and these two cacao foods can easily be added to oatmeal, DIY energy bars, over fruit, in trail mix, or in/on smoothie bowls. 

So when you want to enjoy chocolate (real chocolate!) for breakfast, here are my top 4 delicious -- and nutritious -- ideas for you to enjoy dark chocolate for breakfast.


Easy Breakfast Waffles

Ancient Grain Waffle with Peanut Butter, Cacao & Berries

Waffles with Berries and Cacao

On top of two toasted ancient grain, whole grain or gluten-free frozen waffles (I like these from Nature's Path), spread your favorite nut butter, slice and layer over 4-5 strawberries, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of cacao nibs. Delicious! 


On-The-Go Chocolate Breakfast Fix

Dark Chocolate Almond Perfect Bar

For those mornings you need to get out the door quick, grab-and-go options like a Dark Chocolate Almond Perfect Bar provide a nutrient-balanced way to enjoy a satisfying breakfast with the dark chocolatey flavor you crave.  Beyond the benefits of dark chocolate, each Perfect Bar is loaded with 20+ organic superfoods, like tomato, spinach, kale, and flax seed - but don't worry, you can't even taste them!

 


Dark Chocolate Smoothie Bowl

Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl or Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

Mix cacao powder into your smoothie or top your favorite smoothie with cacao nibs to get that chocolate taste, without the sugary syrup! This Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl (click to get the recipe!) is becoming a classic in my house, as is this Chocolate Cherry Smoothie.


DIY Energy Bites

Energy Balls with Cacao Nibs 

Energy Bites with Cacao

I like making a big batch of energy balls (like these Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Energy Bites from Ambitious Kitchen) and storing them in my refrigerator or freezer for easy options when I crave a chewy, sweet, chocolatey bite (or two) in the morning. 


Well, there you have it! 4 delicious (and healthy!) ways to enjoy dark chocolate for breakfast. 

Now tell me: what are your favorite ways to enjoy the foods you love, like dark chocolate, first thing in the morning? Share it with the world in the comments below so we can all get more of the healthy ideas we crave!

 

 

 

 

4 Satisfying Infused Waters & Ices For Summer

Summer is here, which means rising temps...and as the temperature rises, so too does the desire for cold beverages.

InfusedIce

If you're like many of my patients, it's likely that you want to enjoy summer and enjoy an icy treat...without wrecking your nutrition plans. 

To that end, I have just the solution for you! Infused waters and infused ices are bursting with flavor, free of non-nutritive ingredients like artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners, and they pack in a powerful antioxidant punch!

Here are 4 infused waters and 4 infused ice recipes that are perfect for better summer hydration. 

How to Make Infused Water and Infused Ice Cubes

4 Infused Waters + 4 Infused Ices 

Strawberry + Basil 

The Health Benefit: Strawberries are chock-full of vitamin C, while basil boasts anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties! 

Make Strawberry + Basil Infused Water: Wash berries and basil; halve berries. Add strawberry halves and whole basil leaves to water. Let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to infuse. 

Make Strawberry + Basil Infused Ice: Wash strawberries and basil. Mince berries into fine pieces; finely mince basil. Add berries and basil to the wells of an ice cube tray. Add water. Freeze. 


Parsley + Cucumber + Lime

The Health Benefit: Parsley is packed with vitamin K, vitamin C, and antioxidant nutrients like beta-carotene and luteolin. Cucumber and lemon provide an exciting nutrient profile, too. This blend packs in a flurry of flavor with just a tiny amount of produce. 

Make Parsley + Cucumber + Lime Infused Water: Wash parsley, cucumber, and lime. Chop cucumber into 1/4 inch slices. Add parsley and cucumber to water. Squeeze in lime juice, to taste. Let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to infuse. Because of the acidity, drink this combo through a straw!

Make Parsley + Cucumber + Lime Infused Ice: Wash parsley, cucumber, and lime. Finely mince parsley and cucumber. Add to the wells of an ice cube tray. Add lime zest to ice cube trays. Add water. Freeze. 


Blueberry + Sage

The Health Benefit: The calming, warm flavor of sage pairs perfectly with the mildly sweet blueberry, with plenty of nutrition, too. Sage is full of flavonoids and phenolic acids, including rosemarinic acid (also found in sage's sister herb, rosemary). Plus, blueberries bring plenty of anthocyanins to the table (or rather, the glass). 

Make Blueberry + Sage Infused Water: Wash blueberries and sage. Add blueberries and sage leaves to water. Let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to infuse. 

Make Blueberry + Sage Infused Ice: Wash blueberries and sage. Chop berries into fine pieces; finely mince sage. Add some chopped blueberries, some whole blueberries, and minced sage to the wells of an ice cube tray. Add water. Freeze. 


Mint + Lemon + Ginger

The Health Benefit: This infused combo is bold on flavor...and it may help belly blunders. From motion sickness to pregnancy induced nausea, mint and ginger have traditionally been used to soothe upset stomachs and indigestion.

Make Mint + Lemon + Ginger Infused Water: Wash mint leaves, lemon, and ginger. Add whole mint leaves and a knob of peeled ginger to water. Squeeze in lemon juice, to taste. Let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to infuse. Because of the acidity, drink this combo through a straw!

Make Mint + Lemon + Ginger Infused Ice: Wash mint leaves, lemon, and ginger.  Finely mince mint leaves and a knob of peeled ginger, and add to the well of an ice cube tray. Add lemon zest to ice cube trays. Add water. Freeze. 


Infused Water

Infused waters and ices make it easy for you to get your summer sip on, healthfully! 

So how can you enjoy infused waters and ices more often this summer? Here are my tips:  

  • Add produce/herbs to your water bottle. Some water bottles (like this one) are made especially for infusing! 
  • Make a large pitcher of infused water and sip on it throughout the day. Enjoy the infused waters plain, then eat the berries when finished with your sips or add them to your next smoothie.
  • Have ingredients on hand to make infused water for when you're craving something sweeter than plain water. 
  • Fill a large pitcher with water and fruit/herbs to serve at backyard BBQs this summer. 
  • When making infused ice, serve the infused ice over water or sparking water for a fancy flair. 
  • Serve infused ice with a 1/2 glass of white wine and a 1/2 glass of sparkling water for a light and fancy boozy beverage. 
  • Experiment with fun ice cube molds - some trays feature big ice cubes, some trays are for mini ice cubes, and some ice cube trays work better for putting ice inside a water bottle!

What will you sip on this summer? Share it with me in the comments below or over on Facebook! I love hearing what you have to say!

Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl with Peanut Butter and Coconut

Last night I was craaaaaaaving chocolate... that feeling that no salad can satisfy. The need for something dark and rich and melt-in-your-mouth tasty. 

Know the feeling?

Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl with Peanut Butter and Coconut Shreds

So instead of ignoring the chocolate feeling, I whipped up this triple chocolate smoothie bowl with peanut butter and coconut and all my dreams and wishes came true!! ✨✨✨

It was SO good - think chocolate ice cream sundae meets healthy protein shake - so I knew I had to share it with you! 

This chocolatey goodness takes less than 10 minutes to whip up and satisfies that chocolate craving with almost 20 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and vitamins & minerals, too! 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl | YES! Nutrition LLC - This smoothie bowl tastes like ice cream!

Triple Chocolate Smoothie Bowl with Peanut Butter and Coconut

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop of Vega choc-o-lot protein smoothie powder
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 4 frozen cauliflower florets
  • Ice

Toppings (Add Your Faves): 

  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon cacao nibs
  • 1 teaspoon dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened coconut shreds

Instructions:

  • Blend together the unsweetened vanilla almond milk, protein powder, banana, and frozen cauliflower florets in a high-speed blender (I used a Vitamix). Add enough ice to reach your desired consistency. 
  • Add in ice to thicken to your desired texture and blend again. Pour into a bowl. 
  • Melt peanut butter. Drizzle overtop the smoothie bowl. Sprinkle on your favorite toppings, like cacao nibs, dark chocolate chips, and/or unsweetened coconut shreds.