National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
“Go Further with Food” is the theme for 2018. What does it mean to go “further with food” – whether it’s starting the day with breakfast or fueling up before your afternoon workout, the foods you choose can make a direct impact on your performance. Preparing your foods to go further, by planning meals and snacks in advance will also help to reduce food loss and waste. Go Further with Food encourages us to gain the benefits from eating healthy all while encouraging us to also find ways to cut back on food waste. That's the challenge, eating healthy all while managing our food resources.
I wrote about this in my last blog. Here’s the update after just three weeks. I am happy to report I have been saving money at the store as well as on eating out. Win win for all! Yes, I know it has only been three weeks, but it really was important for me to realize that I need to do better. I truly was testing/trialing so many recipes at a time that I started to waste more than I realized. Just this week alone I saved $35 on my grocery bill from re-using some frozen items for lunch as well as re-purposing some farro from last week (I froze the extra and will use it as a lunch a couple of days this week). It’s all about making something look new and not having to eat the same thing over and over. I love looking for new recipes and trying new recipes out – proud to say I rarely use the same recipe twice. So, this week while searching I started looking for recipes with farro since I knew I had some leftover to use up. I think that probably is the hardest part of it all – staying within my budget for food all while having a hobby that involves food as well. Yes, I still pass some food items on to others, but at the end of the day, I had to realize I am a single person household and I can’t cook as if there are 5 people in the house. I also allot a day here and there to eat out with friends. Food is social, it’s important here and there to have that connection. This allows me to try something new without breaking the bank. I was definitely eating out way too many times and often not enjoying it. It’s strange, but I’ve been making better choices (taste wise) when eating out these last few times. Smarter meal planning and less eating out has been helping me to go further with food.
In other news – Last weekend was the time change, when we all “spring forward”. Ultimately it is darker in the morning so that we “gain” extra daylight in the day. Normally I’m not too affected by the time change, but I am here to tell you the struggle was REAL this past week. Who knew that March 16, 2018 was World Sleep Day and that one of my nutrition magazines had a whole article just on sleep? Perfectly and purposefully timed. Here are a few suggestions if you were like me and had some problems adjusting to the time change. And even if these seem obvious, go through and simply do a checklist just to make sure you’re doing things right to help improve your quality of sleep:
Avoid caffeine. It can take up to eight hours to wear off. Some people think they’ll just have an extra cup or two and it won’t do any harm. Don’t fall into the trap of taking in more caffeine simply then to have to wean it away – I stuck to my 2 cups/day and didn’t falter. What I did adjust was the time that I was having my 2nd cup. I spaced the caffeine better (at least I think it was better) to avoid the temptation of having a 3rd cup. So far so good.
Limit alcohol at night. It’s tempting as it does help many people fall asleep faster. But what ends up happening is that alcohol cuts the time you spend dreaming and in deep sleep. Watch the alcohol not only for empty calories but also for your sleep hygiene!
Unplug. Seems obvious in this day and age – there are many bloggers writing about this and trying to disconnect from being on social media all day – but you do want to avoid bright lights, the phone, a computer or tablet, and the TV for an hour before bed. I just checked out a book from the library so I can get back into the habit of reading before bed.
Set bedroom boundaries – No eating, reading, or TV viewing - Again, seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people do have a TV in their bedrooms. This goes back to unplugging as well as the following tip.
Adopt a routine. A regular pre-bedtime routine helps the brain recognize that it’s time to go to sleep. This week I tried to read for a few minutes before bed as well as meditate for a few minutes. I’m not sure if it totally helped, but it seems like the suggestion says, simply adopt a routine and your brain will recognize it. Aiming for consistency with this in the weeks to come.
Reduce noise. Avoid falling asleep to music or the TV. If necessary, use a white noise machine or a fan for soothing sounds.
Stick to a schedule. Aim for a regular bedtime and rising time. Avoid naps after 3 pm. This was a tough one to stay consistent with this past week – I had a few night programs and getting home later ended up having me stay up later. My body did wake at its normal time. The problem was I had gone to bed so much later than normal. I’m working on having a better balance and adjusting my schedule for when I work a little later. It will all come down to consistency.
Try a hot bath before bed. Afterwards, your body temperature drops. That may trigger sleep. This isn’t always an easy one to do here in Miami. I can’t sleep when I’m hot and after taking a hot bath I tend to stay warm (even though it says my body temperature will drop). I’ll keep this in mind, but would be my last resort.
Keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to poor sleep, but there are also ways to fight back. Here’s hoping this next week I’m getting in a little more high-quality sleep.
And last but not least, a few recipes that I want to share with you. I’ve been to the store countless number of times trying to find what I would term a better “energy/granola/nut” bar if you will. (All food is energy, but for some reason they’re called energy bars in the store). So it led me to start trying a few recipes of homemade versions. I searched for ones that only used dates as the sweetener, because in my search that is what I would find, too much added sugar. In the bars defense I know the honey (or agave, or whatever sweetener is used) is partially used to help bind the ingredients all together, but truth be told they were too sweet for me. So here are two recipes for homemade bars if you’re wanting to lessen the amount of added sugars in your diet and have them still taste delicious.
Almost Raw Cherry Almond Butter Caramel Bars – Don’t be misled thinking that there is actual caramel in these bars. It’s simply the dates turned into caramel. The most unbelievable flavor you will ever taste! I have a 6-inch cake pan that I use to make this recipe (it makes two of them) and I normally keep one frozen and leave one in the refrigerator for the week. When cherries aren’t in season I use strawberries. Either way, it’s still delish.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Brownie Bars - Again, a little hard to believe there is no added sugar in this recipe, just wholesome goodness. Make these, you won’t regret it. And to be honest, I’ve made them with almond butter, mixed nut butter, and cashew butter – yes, this is a recipe I’ve repeated. But when it’s this good (for you and tasting) you know it’s a keeper!
When I bake desserts, I bake desserts. What do I mean by that? I use sugar and other sweeteners, butter and/or coconut oil if the recipe calls for it. I’m the dietitian who brings desserts to parties. Yes, me! Recently I was asked to look for recipes with little or no added sugar for a dessert/treat. That’s where I stumbled on those two “energy bar” recipes in all honesty. I felt like they were healthy yet kind of fit the bill for someone to be a dessert too. And truth bomb coming your way, if you’re taking sugar out of a recipe, odds are you have to increase the fat content. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. See what I did there? I love a good food pun too. Here are two recipes that are high in fat and have low or no added sugar for a dessert.
Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cakes - A cross between a soufflé like taste and/or a light and airy brownie. I used a raspberry preserves sweetened with actual raspberry juice, not added sugar. On her website the food blogger promotes a preserve that actually does use sugar to sweeten the preserves but says it doesn’t have added sugar. Just an FYI. It’s a popular promotion recently in social media to list something as “naturally sweetened” even when using something like maple syrup. Maple syrup is still added sugar even though it’s not actual white table sugar. Maybe I’ll have to do a whole blog on just this. But for now, just know this recipe is delish, has little to no added sugar, but definitely not low calorie due to all the fat it contains. It’s definitely dessert.
Chocolate Mousse - Didn’t even plan for it, but my other keeper recipe happens to come from the same food blogger. 1 tablespoon of maple syrup is all in this recipe. I was able to make almost 10 portions total – that’s what I would call minimal added sugar for dessert that tastes this good. It’s vegan as coconut milk is used. And I consider that hard to make a version of chocolate mousse vegan. I’ve tried using coconut cream and dark chocolate chips, but the variability of many coconut creams is unreal. It never turns out and then I’ve wasted way too much coconut cream (which isn’t cheap). This version has been the best. And no one will ever guess that it has cashews in it. Pinky swear.
"Going Further With Food" is the theme of this years National Nutrition Month®, but the truth is every day and every month we should be striving to go further with food. I eat healthy and I eat balanced. The challenge for me is making sure I'm wasting less food - which is huge considering there are so many new recipes I want to try! What's your challenge? Take time to consider what "Going Further With Food" means to you this National Nutrition Month®. And may the challenge be accepted! Happy National Nutrition Month®!