The Best Healthy Stuffed Peppers

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The Best Healthy Stuffed Peppers

Makes about 4-6 halved peppers


Ingredients

  • 3 large bell peppers (preferably red)

  • 1 lb organic ground turkey

  • 2 zuchinni, diced

  • 1/2 small white onion, diced

  • 1 cup portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped

  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained

  • 1 cup cooked complex carbohydrate of choice (sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, etc. - frozen/instant brown rice is an easy choice!)

  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • Optional: fresh basil + cheese for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Halve bell peppers lengthwise and scoop out the insides/any seeds.

  3. Place bell peppers face down on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes. Pre-roasting them helps them to soften up and makes for a much better stuffed pepper!

  4. While the bell peppers are roasting, saute onion and zuchinni in 1 tsp olive oil for about 3 minutes.

  5. Add mushrooms and season well with salt and pepper. Saute for another 3-4 minutes until the veggies soften. Remove veggies from the pan and set aside.

  6. Saute the ground turkey in 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Season well with salt & pepper. Continually break up the ground turkey with a wooden spoon while it’s cooking to break it up into small crumbles/pieces.

  7. Add veggies back into the pan along with drained fire roasted tomatoes, cooked complex carbohydrate, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Stir to combine.

  8. Remove tray of peppers from the oven.

  9. Stuff each pepper halve with the turkey/veggie filling and broil for 3-4 minutes until they start to brown a little bit.

  10. Top with fresh basil and cheese if desired and enjoy!

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Gut Health 101 + Homemade Vanilla Cashew Yogurt

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This post was written in partnership with GoLive. All opinions are my own.

Gut health is a hot and trendy topic right now. With new research constantly evolving and trendy food products + supplements on the market targeting gut health, it can feel a little bit overwhelming. Let’s break down the basics.

Gut Health 101:

The term “gut” refers to the gastrointestinal tract which consists of a long tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The gut microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract including bacteria, fungi and viruses. The human gut microbiome primarily consists of bacteria that reside in the large intestine.

Research on the gut microbiome and it’s role in health and disease is booming as researchers have discovered that the bacteria in the gut play a major role in the digestion and absorption of food, immune function, the regulation of inflammation, the production of important vitamins, hormonal balance, insulin sensitivity and mental health (1,2).

There is a lot that that we still do not understand about the gut microbiome, but research has shown that imbalances in gut bacteria (particularly low bacterial diversity) is associated with conditions such as irritable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, inflammatory skin conditions and more (1). This tells us that a species-rich gut microbe community is beneficial.

Probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host” as defined by the World Health Organization. Probiotic organisms are super important for maintaining the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut (3). Probiotics can be found in certain foods and supplements — more on this in a minute!

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for the beneficial bacteria living in the gut and promote healthy microbe growth (1,4). Prebiotics can be found naturally in many foods.

Diet & lifestyle factors that may negatively impact gut microbial diversity include inadequate fiber intake, restrictive diets, high consumption of processed foods and simple sugars, stress, inadequate exercise, overuse of antibiotics, poor sleep, alcohol and smoking (1,5).

The bottom line is that the bacteria in the intestine play a major role in health & disease, and there are some key ways that we can support gut health and microbial diversity on a daily basis to promote overall health.

What can you do to support gut health and microbial diversity?

Eat more whole foods

The standard American diet -- high in refined carbohydrates, food additives, and saturated fat and low in fiber is associated with low levels of good bacteria in the gut and has been linked to an increased risk for developing functional digestive disorders. Research has shown that limiting processed foods and eating a diet based on whole foods can actually be protective against digestive issues and promote microbial diversity (6). Aim to include more vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean protein and whole grains.

Incorporate stress management practices daily

Stress can exacerbate digestive issues and has been associated with diarrhea, constipation and IBS. Chronic stress can cause changes in your gut microbiome, cause the gut to become more permeable, and impact gut sensitivity and motility (7). Find ways to incorporate stress reduction activities into your daily life whether it be walking your dog, meditating, journaling, or reading – do what works for you and make it a daily ritual! Yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy and acupuncture have also been shown to help.

Include more prebiotic rich foods

Prebiotics are resistant to digestive enzymes and are not absorbed in the small intestine. They are able to make their way to the colon where they stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria (4). Foods rich in prebiotics include garlic, onion, artichoke, under-ripe bananas and whole grains (oats, barley, rye, etc).

Include more probiotic rich fermented foods

Fermented foods add live cultures to the digestive tract which support the function of good bacteria in the gut, improve the digestibility of foods, and activate/support antioxidant pathways (8). Fermented foods include traditional whole milk yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh.

Incorporate a good quality probiotic supplement

The environment that we live in and the modernization of our food supply has negatively impacted our consumption of beneficial bacteria. A probiotic supplement is an important way that you can introduce new beneficial bacteria into the gut. It’s important to note that not all probiotic products are created equal. Many common probiotic supplements do not ensure survivability of the strains. In order to be effective, the bacteria needs to remain alive as it makes it’s way to the intestine. It is also important to make sure that you are choosing well-researched strains that support human health.

I’m a huge fan of GoLive probiotic products, particularly their unflavored probiotic packets that I can mix in with anything (they also make amazing flavored ones for on-the-go). Their probiotic packets all contain 15 clinically tested, human commensurate probiotic strains. GoLive is unique because their products also include 3 different prebiotic fibers to help the microorganisms grow and colonize more effectively, and L-glutamine which has been shown to help repair and maintain gut barrier function. The probiotics are freeze dried and sealed in foil lined packaging which puts them in a dormant state until you a ready to use them. This ensures that when you open the packet, you are truly getting “live” cultures. I love mixing the powder into smoothies, chia pudding and even in water!

Below is my new favorite recipe for a simple homemade probiotic vanilla cashew yogurt featuring GoLive’s unflavored probiotic supplement. This is a super fun and nutritious way to introduce more LIVE cultures into your diet.

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Vanilla Cashew Yogurt


Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Soak cashews in a small bowl with just enough water to cover them for 2 hours. This is not required, but it makes for a smoother consistency and I highly recommend!

  2. Drain the cashews and place them into a blender with 1 cup filtered water and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Blend on high until consistency is smooth and creamy.

  3. Add probiotics and blend again for another few second or stir in by hand until they dissolve. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

* Because this yogurt is made from cashews, it is higher in fat and likely more filling than your typical plant based yogurt. I recommend using about 1/4 cup as a serving.


This is a reminder that the tips above are general, and are not substitute for personalized nutrition and health advice. If you’re interested in learning more or setting up an appointment for 1:1 nutrition counseling and personalized support, you can set up a free introductory call here.


references

  1. Valdes Ana M, Walter Jens, Segal Eran, Spector Tim D. (2018). Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health

  2. Bull MJ, Plummer NT. (2014). Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease. 

  3. Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. (2017). Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. 

  4. Slavin J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. 

  5. Conlon MA, Bird AR. (2014). The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. 

  6. Viladomiu, M., Hontecillas, R., Yuan, L., Lu, P., & Bassaganya-Riera, J. (2013). Nutritional protective mechanisms against gut inflammation. 

  7. Qin, H.-Y., Cheng, C.-W., Tang, X.-D., & Bian, Z.-X. (2014). Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome. 

  8. Rezac S, Kok CR, Heermann M, Hutkins R. (2018). Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. 



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What Your Sugar Cravings are Trying to Tell You

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One of the most common complaints I get from clients is “I crave sugar all the time”. I’m super excited to (finally) address the topic of sugar and sugar cravings with you all.

I want to pre-face this post by saying that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with enjoying sweets. Nothing. I strongly believe that enjoying sweets without guilt or restriction is part of a healthy dietary pattern. For some people this might be here and there, and for other people it might be everyday. Neither are wrong! We are all different. Sugar is not the devil that the media makes it out to be and I think that it’s important to make sure we are looking at the overall dietary pattern, and not zooming in on one day, one holiday, or one vacation.

We do know that consuming excessive amounts of refined sugars along with other dietary and lifestyle factors can have a negative impact on our health. Too much sugar in someone’s diet may contribute to an increased risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, decreased insulin sensitivity and blood sugar abnormalities, and weight gain from excess caloric intake (particularly sugar sweetened beverages). We also know that big spikes and dips in blood sugar from excess refined sugar consumption can negatively impact mood, cognition and energy levels. Research has also shown that eating foods high in sugar can decrease blood levels of antioxidants.

Below are some of the primary reasons that I see people craving sugar or eating sugar in excess:

Overly restricting or avoiding sugar

Yup. This is one of the number one reasons I see people overeating sweets! When we tell ourselves that we can’t or shouldn’t have something, we tend to want it even more. When we finally let ourselves have whatever that food is, we usually overeat it. What’s the best way to break this cycle might you ask? Allow yourself to eat and enjoy sweets mindfully! Incorporate them into your weekly meal planning and enjoy them amongst a variety of other foods.

Undereating carbohydrates

We live in a very carb-phobic society. The reality is that your body needs carbohydrates for energy. If you are overly restricting carbohydrates at meals and snacks, sugar cravings are your body’s way of saying that it is being under-fueled (it sees sugar as a quick source of energy). Instead of avoiding carbs and then overcompensating with excessive refined sugar intake, try including nutrient rich carbohydrates at meals amongst protein, fats and lots of veggies. Some of my favorites are potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice & oats.

Inadequate fat intake

Fats are your friend! Fats including avocado, nuts, nut butter, seeds and olive take longer for your body to digest. Including fat at meals and snacks helps to stable blood sugar, promote satiety and slow down the digestion and absorption of sugars. I recommend 1-2 servings of fat at meals and snacks for most people.

Stress

If you are someone that turns to sweets when you’re stressed, you’re not alone! I like to call this “reactive eating”. Reactive eating is impulsive. This generally happens when we are looking for a distraction from something we might be feeling like stress. This is very different than grabbing a cookie that someone brought into work because it looks great and will provide you with a lot of joy. If you find yourself continually turning to sweets in reaction to stress or other emotions, it might be time to pause and explore other coping mechanisms. Some of my favorite ways to manage stress include guided mediation, pleasure reading, spending time with my boyfriend and pup, walking to a podcast and deep breathing.

High consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners

Non-nutritive sweeteners are found in things like Splenda, sweetnlow, equal, diet beverages, and sugar-free desserts. Non-nutritive sweeteners can be up to 700 times sweeter than regular table sugar. The intensity of sweetness in these products can distort your natural sense of taste, making it difficult to appreciate and detect the natural sweetness of other foods like fruit. New research is also finding that non-nutritive sweeteners may have a negative impact on gut microbial activity. I recommend mindfully including real sweeteners including honey, maple syrup, and brown sugar.

Inadequate sleep

A lack of sleep impacts the expression of our body’s hunger and satiety hormones, resulting in increased hunger. Remember – your body sees sugar as a source of quick energy which is why you may also gravitate towards these foods when your body feels like it needs a boost of energy. Inadequate sleep can also result in elevated levels of cortisol (your body’s stress hormone), which can disturb blood sugar resulting in sugar cravings. Sleep is the cornerstone of good health. I recommended aiming for 7-9 hours per night.

I want to reiterate again that sugar alone is not the devil and there are so many diet and lifestyle factors that play a role in health and disease. However, sugar in the amount that Americans are generally consuming it can have a negative impact on health. Sugar is in our yogurt, nut milks, granola bars, pasta sauce, peanut butter, salad dressing (you get the picture). When it comes to sugar, my biggest thought is that you don’t want to be getting sugar in your diet without even knowing. You want to eat and enjoy it mindfully as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern. It’s all about awareness.

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Vegan Curried Chickpea Salad

This vegan curried chickpea salad is not your average salad! It’s loaded with crunchy veggies, creamy tahini, fresh cilantro and a little sweetness from red grapes. This makes for a super easy and budget friendly meal option.

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vegan curried chickpea salad

serves 4-6


Salad Ingredients

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinse

  • 2 large carrots, diced

  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced

  • 1 head of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • 2 cups red grapes, quartered (golden raisins work great too)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • Juice of 1 large lemon

  • 1 tablespoon curry powder

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

  • 1-2 shakes of cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like spice)

  • 1 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup

  • Water to thin out to desired consistency (I used about 1/3 cup)

  • A generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix together salad ingredients in a large bowl.

  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and add more liquid as needed.

  3. Mix everything together well. Serve with crackers, over greens or eat alone!

Notes:

  • You can easily use chicken or tuna if you prefer over chickpeas

  • If you don’t like tahini, you can use great yogurt for a non-vegan version

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Greek Chopped Chickpea Salad

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Easy lunch alert! Whipped up this Greek chickpea salad with crunchy veggies & avocado for lunch the other day and paired it with AngelicBakehouse 7-Sprouted Whole Grains Vibrant Beet Wraps. You guys know I'm a fan of these wraps for a number of reasons. They taste great & they're a fun + nutritious addition to meals. I also love that they are made with simple ingredients and high quality, non-GMO sprouted grains. Let’s look at some of the potential benefits of sprouted grains:

  • Sprouted grains have a lower glycemic index than their traditional counterparts. Glycemic index measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar.

  • The process of sprouting grains may increase the nutrient content including fiber, protein, folate antioxidants.

  • Sprouting grains decreases the antinutrient content of grains. Antinutrients are compounds naturally found in plants that may inhibit the absorption of some nutrients. The process of sprouting reduces the antinutrient content, which may make the nutrients in grains more available for absorption.

  • Sprouted grains may be easier for some people to digest since the starch is partially digested/broken down in the sprouting process.

  • Sprouting reduces the gluten content of gluten containing grains. This may be helpful for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Sprouted grains still contain some gluten, so they are not safe for consumption if you have Celiac Disease.


Greek Chopped Chickpea Salad

Makes 2-3 servings


Ingredients

  • 1 - 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinse

  • 1 yellow pepper, diced

  • 1 orange pepper, diced

  • 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes

  • 1 medium english cucumber, sliced and quartered

  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

  • Optional add-ins: kalamata olives, feta

Directions

  1. Mixed all ingredients together in a large bowl.

  2. Enjoy in a wrap, over salad, or buy itself! Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

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The Best Greek Chopped Salad

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The Best Greek Chopped Salad


Salad Ingredients

*Feel free to use any combination of vegetables and protein that you enjoy!

  • Mixed greens or chopped romaine

  • Diced tomatoes

  • Diced cucumber

  • Diced red onion

  • Kalamata olives

  • Diced chicken

  • Crumbled feta cheese

  • Chickpeas (optional)

Dressing Ingredients

*Feel free to use a store bought Greek dressing with simple ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard

  • juice of 1/2 large lemon

  • 1 large tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whisk together salad dressing ingredients and set aside.

  2. Assemble Greek salad bowls

  3. Enjoy!

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Raspberry Coconut Chia Seed Baked Oatmeal

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Say helloooo to your favorite new snack! This Raspberry Coconut Chia Seed Baked Oatmeal has been happening on repeat over there. They’re just the right amount of sweetness combined with fat and fiber for the perfect satiating snack combination. You could even eat these for breakfast crumbled over some greek yogurt or drizzled with nut butter (K. Now I’m hungry). I’ve been pairing one of these bars with coffee in the afternoon and I’m totally hooked.

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The best part about this baked oatmeal is that you probably already have most of the ingredients on hand to make it! This recipe is adapted from my favorite blueberry banana baked oatmeal recipe.


Raspberry Coconut Chia Seed Baked Oatmeal


Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 + 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

  • 1/3 cup chia seeds

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 large mashed bananas

  • 1/4 cup honey (maple syrup works great too)

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 heaping cup fresh or frozen raspberries (do not mix in until the end)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8inch square baking dish with coconut oil or olive oil.

  2. In a large mixing bowl - combine dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl - combine wet ingredients EXCEPT for the raspberries and whisk until well combined.

  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to combine. Fold in the raspberries gently.

  5. Pour into the baking pan and spread out evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes.

  6. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes before cutting into squares.

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Italian Tuna Salad

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Italian Tuna Salad

Serves about 4


Ingredients

  • 2 cans of tuna packed in water, drained

  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped

  • 1 jar of sundried tomatoes, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped

  • 4 tbsp capers

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • Salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste

Directions

  1. Mix ingredients together in a large bowl & enjoy! Halve this recipe if you only want to make 1-2 servings.

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How to Build Healthy and Satisfying Salads

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Salads are one of those meals that have gotten a bad reputation as being a “diet” food – aka food that is low calorie, doesn’t taste great, and isn’t very filling. I am here to stop that way of thinking!

I love salads because they’re generally easy to make, they allow me to get creative with all sorts of fun flavors, and they have the ability to be super nutritious and satisfying when done right. 

Below is my formula for making nutritious + satisfying salads!


Step one: Choose a Base

Arugula

Romaine

Kale

Spinach

Spring mix

Shredded brussels

Butter lettuce

Shredded cabbage


Step two: Choose your veggies (2-4)

Cucumber

Tomato

Onion

Bell pepper

Broccoli

Carrots

Artichokes

Beets

Radish

Roasted cauliflower


Step three: Choose a carbohydrate

Roasted sweet potato

Roasted butternut squash

Brown rice

Quinoa

Chickpeas or lentils


Step four: Choose a protein

Boiled eggs

Chicken or turkey

Lean beef

Salmon

Shrimp

Jalapeno cilantro turkey meatballs

Tempeh or tofu


Step five: Add a fat

Sliced avocado

Cashews

Walnuts

Sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Olives

Crumbled goat cheese

Crumbled feta

Step 6: Dress it up!


Olive oil + balsamic vinegar

Pesto

Tahini + lemon + honey

Jalapeno Cilantro Lime dressing

Spicy Peanut Sauce

Mustard Balsamic Dressing


Optional Flavor Boosters

Fresh herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley, mint, dill

Fruit like citrus slices, apple, pears, peaches, berries, pomegranate seeds


What are some of your favorite salad toppings? Let me know in the comments below!

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Sesame Soba Noodle Salad

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Cold Sesame Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 4-5


For the salad:

  • 8 ounces soba noodles

  • 12 ounce bag of broccoli slaw or shredded cabbage

  • 1 english cucumber, diced

  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

  • 2-3 cups frozen, shelled edamame

For the dressing:

  • ½ cup rice vinegar

  • 4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tbsp grated/minced ginger

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions

1. Cook soba noodles according to package instruction.

2. While the noodles are cooking, mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Once the noodles are cooked, strain them and place them in a large bowl.

4. Add sauce, shredded cabbage/broccoli, cucumber, green onion and mix well. Eat right away or let cool in the fridge!

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