Food

We Can't Stop Making This Snack

I was thinking the other day about what the ratio is of Pinterest recipes I try to Pinterest recipes I like. And it's probably pretty low. So, when I find a winner I want to shout it from the rooftops. Which is kind of what this blog is--a virtual rooftop :-) These are crackers that Nikki makes a lot, and has brought in to share with me a couple of times. They are really good and they satisfy that need for something salty and crunchy in a way that's pretty darn healthy. The recipe is a slightly modified version of one from Nutritious.com.

 
Image Courtesy of Nutritious.com

Image Courtesy of Nutritious.com

 

Seed Crackers

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 cup Oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup Almond Flour
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Flaxseeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300-degrees.

Combine all ingredients and let them soak for at least 30-minutes.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment paper, then cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Smooth the mixture thin, using a rolling pin.

Bake for 1-hour or until golden and crisp.

 

 

Our Favorite Healthy Fast Foods

We always say healthy food should taste delicious, but have we mentioned it can also be really easy and convenient to eat healthily? In an ideal world would we all be cooking from scratch? Maybe. But how many of us exist in the world of ideal? The key is to recognize that ideal isn't always going to happen and to stock your kitchen accordingly. 

Here are a few of our favorite, convenient, packaged foods. You don't lose much, if any, in the way of nutrients with these.  Maybe you'll see some of your favorites here too...

Microwaveable Rice. Cooking rice from scratch isn't the most difficult thing in the world, but it does take time. And sometimes the 45-minutes to an hour is more time than I have, especially when I haven't given much thought to dinner. So, I usually have a box of microwaveable brown rice in the cupboard (I like Minute brand, which you can get at Target), and a box of jasmine rice from Trader Joe's in the freezer. When I need a whole grain, there they are.

Canned beans and pre-cooked lentils. It's cheaper to buy beans dry and then cook them. But again, time. So, I usually have a variety in the pantry in their canned form. The lentils I get from the produce section of Trader Joe's.

Rotisserie chicken. I mentioned this in another post recently, but Nikki swears by these. Probably more expensive than buying a fresh chicken and cooking it yourself, but way easier. If you take the time to break it down when you get it home, you can add chicken to salads, stir-fry's and burritos, among other things.

Frozen steel cut oats and Instant Cream of Wheat (whole grain version). These are great, quick breakfasts. I get my frozen steel cut oats from Trader Joe's and the Cream of Wheat you can find anywhere. Ready in minutes. 

Sweet potato spears. These are ready for a drizzle of olive oil, some seasonings and 30-minutes in the oven.

Nutter Puffs by PopChips. These are a great snack. Five grams of protein, less than 2-grams of sugar. 

Guacamole cups from Wholly Guacamole. I love guacamole, but I'm never going to make a batch just for myself. I get these from Costco, but they're probably available everywhere. I usually dip vegetables or whole grain tortilla chips in them. 

Fresh whole wheat pizza dough. I always have a ball of this in my fridge. I often make lentil calzones out of it, but you can throw vegetables and a little cheese and/or leftover meat inside too for a quick dinner. 

Jarred sauces. There is nothing like homemade marinara or pesto sauce. But there are some jarred versions that are good in a pinch too. I know I mention Trader Joe's a lot, but they really do a good job stocking pre-packaged food that's fairly healthy. Their roasted garlic marinara is especially good and I've had a pesto from there that's also delicious. Just check the sugar content on any jarred sauce you buy. Sometimes they sneak a lot of that stuff in there. But a little whole grain pasta and some jarred sauce is a quick weeknight dinner. 

Frozen vegetables. You really don't lose many of the nutrients of the fresh version when they're flash frozen. Heat them up with some rice, edamame or some chicken for a quick stir-fry.

There you have it. Some of our favorite ways to make eating healthy as easy as possible. Feel free to share your favorites below!

Recipes You Must Try!

Hi all! We've been cooking up a storm lately and have some new recipes to recommend. These are easy and delicious and healthy. Nope, those things aren't mutually exclusive, we swear :-) What follows is proof. 

These Berry Streusel Bars from Happy Go Lucky blog. As an aside, the berry topping on these would be really good on the Chocolate Fudge Avocado Cake we posted in our April Favorites post...

Egg Muffins from Two Peas and Their Pod. These are like omelets in a muffin tin. You can use any fillings you like. Nikki didn't use the exact ingredients in this recipe, but followed the cooking instructions. You can do the same.

Salsa Fresca Chicken from Easy Family Recipes. Nikki suggests salting your chicken the night before. It prevents it from drying out. 

Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes from Ambitious Kitchen. A quick note on these: check the labels on your Greek yogurt. Some are really low in protein and high in sugar. You want the reverse. We like the Fred Meyer brand, but I'm sure there are others that are good too.

Cauliflower Fried Rice from The Recipe Critic. You can save yourself some time on this one if you purchase already riced cauliflower. Trader Joe's sells it, so do many other stores. 

Seed Crackers from Quite Good Food. A really good substitute for chips when you need something salty and crunchy.

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam from the Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry. Super easy. No pectin or gelatin required. 

Coconut Rice with Pineapple and Cashews from Carlsbad Cravings. This one I made often a while back and then kind of rediscovered it recently. It's delicious. 

Chocolate Strawberry Oatmeal from Bakerita. 

Let us know if you try any of them and if you do, what you thought!

Cheat Days Don't Work for Me

Every Tuesday I go out to my brother's house for dinner. It started as Taco Tuesdays, but then morphed into Pizza Tuesdays. The appeal of this particular change was that throwing a take-and-bake pizza in the oven was way quicker and cheaper than putting together a full-on taco bar every week. 

At some point we decided it was silly not to have some dessert too, so it became pizza followed by ice cream sundaes. After dinner we streamed episodes of some of our favorite shows for a while, and usually felt the need for popcorn and candy at some point mid-stream. 

So, Taco Tuesdays became Pizza-Sundaes-Popcorn-Candy-and-Soda Tuesdays. My brother called it his "cheat" day. 

But one problem for me in thinking of it that way, was that it created a dynamic in which there were good foods and bad foods. One where my "diet"  became something to rebel against on that one day every week. And rebel I did. 

The other problem is that I never felt good after. I like eating pretty cleanly most of the time. So, having one day every week that was on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, left me feeling kind of hungover, for lack of a better description. Every Tuesday I shocked my system with a large quantity of food and chemicals it wasn't used to eating, and then on Wednesdays I'd essentially have to detox from it. I felt gross.

The "cheat" day paradigm just isn't my jam. Maybe there's a way people do it that doesn't feel as disordered. But physically, emotionally and mentally, it's just not healthy for me

Instead, I...

Focus on making my healthy, clean food taste amazing. I wrote a post last week about how healthy and delicious should not be mutually exclusive. Check it out here. There is absolutely no reason that eating nutritious food should feel like a punishment.

Remember that it's not all or nothing. Pizza Tuesdays are not over. But, if I have pizza I'm almost always going to bring a green salad and some fresh fruit too. I look for healthier dessert options (apple nachos and chickpea chocolate clusters are two of my current favorites) and mostly choose those when I want something sweet. If, on balance, my diet is 80-percent clean, whole foods and 20-percent not-so-clean and not-so-whole, than I'm happy with that. It's just that having that 20-percent spread out over seven days is a better approach for me than saving that 20-percent for one or two meals. And if I have a week or a day when that 80:20 ratio feels reversed (and I do), I just try to regain my balance the next day or the next week. 

Words matter, so I choose them carefully. Words are powerful. "Cheat" is not a good word for me to use when it comes to food. It drives me to behave in unhealthy and extreme ways with eating. I don't label foods as "good" or "bad" either, for the same reason. 

I wanted to write this post because sometimes we hear other people talk about food in ways that don't ring true for us. And when it's pervasive enough, we can start to feel like there's something wrong with us if we can't make that approach work. If a "cheat" day  knocks you off-kilter and you struggle the rest of the week to get back to a balanced place, then it probably isn't right for you. That's totally okay. We all just try different approaches until we find what works for us. 

Amazing (and Healthy!) Recipes You Need to Try

I LOVE food. And I get really excited about my meals. That goes for my healthy meals too, because I won't live in a world where I have to choose between something that tastes good and something that's good for me. I just won't. I try tons of recipes every month, and I'd say if three out of ten are good then it's a win. Here are some of my favorites from the past month.

Lemon-Asparagus Risotto from My Darling Vegan. I left out the peas because, fun fact, I find them revolting. I always have. To me, cooked peas are bitter and I can't understand how anyone can eat them. But if you love them, then toss them in like the recipe suggests. Because I don't eat meat or dairy as a general rule, I throw some roasted garbanzo beans in with the risotto to make it more of a complete meal. Here's my go-to recipe for that from the Oh She Glows blog.

Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower from The Fitchen. Vegetables are hard for me. I really have to either sneak them into my food in a way that I essentially can't taste them, or I have to find ways to cook them with enough flavor that I find them palatable. These are really, really good. 

Easy Lentil Bolognese Sauce from Pasta-Based. Great on pasta or spaghetti squash. Have you guys tried spaghetti squash yet? So good.

Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction. This one's from Damn Delicious blog. You pour reduced balsamic vinegar on anything and I'll probably eat it. This is so good and full of things that are good for you. And all on toasted sourdough bread. Yum.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Balsamic Reduction from Platings and Pairings. Again with the reduction, I know. But it really is magic. 

Chickpea and Chocolate Clusters from Nest & Glow. If you need a chocolate fix, there are way worse ways to get it than these. They are a combination of semi-sweet chocolate chips and roasted chickpeas. That's it. So, you get fiber and protein that you don't normally get from a chocolate bar with these things. Really nice snack or dessert when you just need something sweet. 

Frozen Snickers Bars and Bites from Feeding Your Beauty. Yep, I said "Snickers" in a post about healthy recipes. These are a little more work than the chocolate clusters above, but so worth it. 

Chipotle Lentil Soup from Platings and Pairings. This one wins because you just dump everything in a slow cooker and forget about it. I love recipes like that. Sometimes I do corn bread with this, and it's a nice combo. 

Okay, that's the best of the recipes for March! If you've got any you love, feel free to share the links below.

Dear Trader Joe's...

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I went about 28 years without Trader Joe's in my life. Somehow. But now I love it. I love the prices. I love that there's always something new to try. I love that they brought chocolate-covered frozen bananas into my life. I don't so much love the excessive packaging on some of their produce, or the tiny carts they allow kids to run through the aisles with. But I'll run that gauntlet in order to stock-up on some of my favorite things. Here's what has been finding a regular spot in my cart lately. They're things that are either, delicious or they make my life easier, meal prep faster, or, ideally, a combination of all of those things. 

Cooked Lentils. I know dried beans are cheaper than cooked. I totally get it. But...if the difference between dried and cooked is not eating super-healthy lentils and eating super-healthy lentils, I'm going to shell out the extra money for the cooked version. The cooked ones are convenient and a time-saver, so... I use these for lentil calzones; toss them into a bowl with roasted veggies, grains and some kind of sauce for a quick weeknight dinner; and mash them as the protein-base of my homemade veggie burgers.

Vanilla Pea Protein Powder. I referenced this in my breakfast smoothie post, but it's worth repeating. If any of you have looked for protein powder at the regular grocery store, you know they can run $40 for a tub of the stuff. This one is $13.99 at my TJ's.

Haricort Verts. I toss these in a little olive oil, some salt and garlic powder and roast them for 10-15 minutes at 425-degrees. 

Soy & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips and Pineapple Salsa. This is my afternoon snack of choice lately. A little salty and a little sweet.

Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread, Cinnamon Raisin. Oh, how I love this stuff toasted with some peanut butter. In addition to being delicious, it makes my kitchen smell amazing. Loaves of it are $5 or more at the regular grocery store. TJ's sells it for $2.99. I often eat it after a workout, toasted with pb and a sliced banana or some raspberries.

Island Soyaki. Okay, I won't argue whether or not this is healthy. I know it's got salt and sugar in it. But...eating veggies is a struggle for me. I just don't like that many of them, but I know I need to be eating them. Stir-fry's are one of the ways I get a lot of veggies all at once and this sauce is how I make them taste good. I also toss roasted Brussels sprouts in a bit of this stuff and let it caramelize. I figure the benefits of getting those vegetables into my system offsets any harm from the added salt and sugar.

Everything But The Bagel Seasoning Blend. I put this stuff on avocado toast and it's delicious.

Just Coconut Chunks. Find them in the frozen section. I drop them into smoothies, but I'm sure there are other things you could do with them and they'd be really good. Anyone used these before? How do you like them best?

Flavored Sparkling Waters. I love plain water, but I get sick of it by the end of the day. So, these flavored ones do the trick. My favorite is the Clementine-Cranberry, but all the ones I've tried have been really good. And I want to say they're something like 99-cents for a big bottle, so not a bad price at all.

Coconut-Sesame Seed Clusters. I love coconut, can you tell? These do have some sugar added, so they're more of a treat rather than a regular indulgence. But the ingredients are all recognizable as food, so that counts for something, right? Please say it does!

What are your go-to foods lately? Anything that's making food prep easier or better? Anything you particularly love? Doesn't have to be Trader Joe's :-) Share away below!

What's for Breakfast

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I tried a lot of different breakfasts before I found one that: 1. Tastes good. 2. Doesn't leave me hungry within an hour or two. 3. Doesn't take long to make. This is what I landed on, and I've been having it most mornings for the last few months. Here's what's in it...

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Oh yeah, and this too...

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It's one cup of Silk brand Protein Nut Milk. This stuff has 10-grams of protein per cup, which is a lot for nut milks. The almond milk I was using before had just 1-gram per cup. It's pea protein, in case you were wondering.

Then one scoop of the Trader Joe's brand Vanilla Pea Protein Powder. A serving is two scoops, which gives you 20-grams of protein. But it tasted really chalky with two, so I use one scoop of it and then with the protein nut milk it gets me to 20-grams of protein.

Then I add about a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa.

Next is a handful of spinach. You really can't taste it under the flavors of all of the other things in the smoothie, I promise! I buy the big Costco size tubs of fresh spinach and then freeze it in baggies without washing it. When I'm making a smoothie, I rinse what I want to use under some cool water. That way it thaws and gets a little cleaning at the same time :-). It's just an easy way to get a serving of veggies for breakfast without actually tasting them.

I usually add one dried date as well. It gives the smoothie a little sweetness, but unlike adding sugar, dates have fiber and calcium in them so they aren't empty calories. Win-win, right?

Then I add in about a cup of frozen strawberries and blend it all together.

 

At War With Vegetables

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I want to love vegetables. I really, really do. Fruit, I love. Fruit is, has been and will always be, my friend.

But vegetables?

Vegetables are a challenge. I'm better than I used to be, but it takes effort. Sometimes I have to puree them and sneak them into things that I actually like the taste of, in order to get them into my system. You know, like you'd do for a child.

Anyway, whether you're like me and have the vegetable leanings of a picky toddler, or whether you're like my  mother and grandmother who actually love the taste of them, you can get something from these tips. So, here we go...

Roast them. How you cook vegetables makes a huge difference in how they taste. Roasted tends to be my go-to method for cooking: asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and even radishes. Generally I toss them in a little olive oil, salt, pepper (and sometimes garlic powder) and roast them at 400 degrees. The amount of time varies depending on the density of the vegetable.

Add citrus. A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice goes a long way with roasted, sauteed or steamed vegetables. A good friend of mine who's been a vegan for 20+ years once told me that the key to cooking vegetables is you need some fat and some acid. I usually opt for lemon, but lime would work on some things and I often use balsamic vinegar on things like sauteed greens.

Sneak them into other food. I often do a smoothie in the morning, and it's really easy to throw in some fresh spinach, pureed pumpkin or cooked carrot without changing the flavor at all. Other things I've tossed pureed vegetables into include: brownies, muffins, veggie burgers and cookies. Pumpkin or other squashes are easily to blend into a puree and use in place of things like butter, oil, applesauce or yogurt in some baked goods. I also often blend them into soups. I make a really good tortilla soup and blend up tons of veggies into that that I wouldn't eat if they were in chunks, floating in broth. You can add veggies to spaghetti sauce, or meatloaf without too much trouble too.

Refer to vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. Because vegetables are often the stars of vegan and vegetarian meals, they treat them especially well. My favorite recipe for collard greens came from a vegan cookbook. Even if vegetables are going to remain a supporting player in your meals, you can learn techniques for making them taste delicious and special by looking to the people who eat them as a main dish.

Try as many vegetables as you can while they're in season. It matters where and how a vegetable was grown. The taste of a tomato from my garden is very different from the ones I can buy in the store. So, eat seasonally as much as you can. Try buying at least some of your produce from your local farmer's market. Try new ones, even if you aren't sure what to do with them. Ask the vendors at the market about their favorite ways to prepare the things you're buying. They very often have great recommendations. And remember that it can take several tries of a vegetable before you begin to like it. So, play around with different ways of preparing them before you decide you don't like a vegetable.

Grow your own. I find that if I grew something myself I'm way more likely to eat it. I think that's partly because they often taste better than the store-bought stuff, but it's probably also a mental thing. There's an investment of time and energy in the stuff I grew myself, so I take pride in it and want to enjoy it.

Anyone have any other tips for hitting your daily intake of vegetables? Please share in the Comments section!

Favorite Things: April

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New month, new list of favorite things from the Lean Body Lifestyles team! As always, none of the people or products below compensated us for singing their praises. Strictly things we've found that we love. A hot bath could have similar benefits to exercise. Not a reason to scrap working out, but good to know.

The Motiv Ring Activity, Heart Rate + Sleep Tracker. It's a FitBit in ring form!

These gingerbread muffins. I swapped out the coconut oil for canola, replaced the yogurt with pureed pumpkin and used nutmeg instead of cloves. I skipped the sugar on the top.

I held off on including this one until I'd been using it for a while and could attest to its effectiveness. I've tried every brand of "natural," aluminum and paraben-free deodorant but have never found one that actually worked for longer than a couple of days. Native deodorant is amazing. It smells great and I rarely have to re-apply. It's way better than the drugstore brands I've used. And their customer service is great.

Roasted brussels sprout chips. Roasting vegetables totally changes the flavor and makes them delicious. These are no exception. I break apart the sprouts into individual leaves; wash and dry them; toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper; then bake them at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes.

This list of 11 health-related documentaries on Netflix. I've seen numbers 1-6, and those were definitely worth watching. Can't speak to the others...

For any of you looking for some at-home strength training dvd ideas, this one, by Jessica Smith, was recommended to my mom by a nutritionist and is my current favorite. Good information, scale-able exercises and quite effective for building strength. At one point, Jessica's co-star (and mother) makes a comment about a particular exercise making her waist look smaller, and Jessica is quick to jump in and say that it's really about feeling strong in your body and getting and staying healthy. That focus on health and strength over getting skinny is often lacking in workout dvds, unfortunately.

I found the Minimalist Baker blog through Pinterest (I think...) Anyway, everything I've made has been easy and really tasty. The recipe's all have 10 ingredients or less and can be ready in under 30 minutes. This is definitely not the case with all food blogs! Oh yeah, and the recipes are plant-based and gluten free. But even if you aren't vegetarian/vegan/gluten-intolerant, you'll get great ideas for healthy recipes you can add to your repertoire.

Avocado toast. I probably have some form of it for lunch several times per week. My current favorite is super simple. Sourdough toast, mashed avocado on top, sprinkled with some sea salt and red pepper flakes. Yesterday I piled on some bruschetta we had leftover from a party. So good.

You know how I love Ulta, right? Well, my one complaint lately is that they stopped stocking Philosophy's lip shine product. It's the only thing that keeps my lips from drying out and cracking at night. It's a little too sticky for daytime use (at least it is for me), but I need it at night. So, I'm getting it from Amazon lately, but you can also get it straight from Philosophy's website. My favorite flavors are: Fresh Cream, Coconut Frosting and Vanilla Birthday Cake. Would you ever guess that I have a sweet tooth? Didn't think so :-)

Okay, that wraps up April's favorite things! See you here again in a couple of days.

Body Image Class is Open for Registration!

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Hello all! At long last we are accepting registrations for our first positive body image class and we are thrilled! Click here to register.

You may remember my interview with Nikki from earlier this year where she talked about why this class is so important to her. If you missed it click here to read it.

The class is called, Boost Your Body Image: Confidence at Any Size. Nikki is leading this 6-week course, held at our studio in Tacoma. The class will meet on Wednesday evenings, from 7:15pm-8pm, and will run from April 26th through May 31st.

During the course of the six-weeks of class, Nikki will walk you through proven strategies for re-booting and repairing your relationship with your body and cultivating a soul-deep appreciation for it.

It is possible to love your body, independent of how much you weigh, or what number appears on the labels of your clothing. You can look at your body, with all its curves, and its sharp angles, and its dimples, and its bits that jiggle, and appreciate it rather than catalog its imperfections. And you can have a relationship with food and movement that isn't about punishing your body for being too big, or too small.

Nikki's done it and she can show you how.

The cost for the class is $295. We expect the course to fill up quickly, and are limiting it to 10 students. So, you'll want to sign-up soon, if you think this class is for you.

Registration includes all six course sessions, a binder with printouts of all class materials and worksheets, and access to a private Facebook group for support and the exchange of ideas.

It's going to be challenging, and fun, and intense. So, come prepared to work hard and experience an amazing transformation in your relationship with your body.

Sign-up here!

 

Favorite Things

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It's time for our monthly list of things we love! We aren't paid for sharing these, but if that ever changes, I'll let you know :-) Okay, here we go... This list of reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with losing weight.

My best friend got me hooked on these face masks from Ulta.

The 10 Happiest Instagram Accounts to Follow.

I love this Pineapple-Coconut-Cashew Rice recipe. I use crushed pineapple instead of pineapple chunks, but other than that I've followed the recipe to the letter and it is amazing.

This teenage ballerina shattering the stereotypes about what a "dancer's body" looks like.

7 Unknown Spots to Score Affordable Gym Clothes. I'd add Kohl's to this list. I've gotten a ton of stuff there.

This concealer from IT Cosmetics. Anyone else deal with dark under-eye circles? I've tried every concealer, from cheap to very much not cheap, and this is by far the best. It's really thick and sticky, so you only need an amount about the size of the head of a pin.

Are you cleaning your yoga mat regularly? If not, you probably want to start. I've been using this homemade version for years, taken from one of my favorite blogs.

This mouthwash. You use it twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. No bad breath all day and no morning breath (well, very minimal). One of those rare things you hear advertised that actually works the way it says it will. Love this stuff.

Adding lemon juice to roasted veggies. Nikki told me about this and it totally transforms how they taste. My favorite vegetables to roast lately are brussels sprouts. I buy the shaved version from Trader Joes, toss them in some olive oil, salt and pepper and then cook them at 425 for about 10 minutes. When they come out of the oven, I hit them with a squeeze of lemon juice. So good. You can do it with any veggies. I swear it works on almost anything.

Hope you'll check them out!

 

Something Sweet

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*Update to this post: I added some photos to the recipe at the end of the post. Enjoy! I love sugar. I really do. And I appreciate it. I savor it.

I can pass up savory stuff all day long.

If there are chips in the cupboard I am fully capable of forgetting they're even there. Cheese, crackers, bread, pasta? No thanks. Not interested.

But dessert?

Oh, dessert. Now that's a totally different story.

If I know there are cookies, cupcakes, candy, ice cream or pastries in the house; forget it. I'm actually distracted by the knowledge that something so wonderful is so geographically close to me.

And the idea of having just one? Of only enjoying one bite of cake? Or one square of chocolate? Or one spoonful of ice cream?

An impossible task.

I remember a few years ago hearing then-First Lady Obama say something to the effect of "dessert is fine as an occasional treat--like once or twice a week."

More like once or twice a day in my world. And I thought that was showing remarkable restraint.

The Balance

While I agree that indulging in treats occasionally is totally fine for most of us, I have a hard time controlling my sugar intake once I get started. The thing about refined sugar is that it's addictive. The more you consume, the more you want to consume.

The fact that we reach for it when we need comfort, or when we're looking for a little joy at the end of the day is no accident. Our brains have reward centers and the key player in getting that feeling of pleasure is a chemical called dopamine. Drugs like heroin stimulate that reward center, by causing a flood of dopamine to be released into the brain. And while the surge isn't quite as high, consuming sugar causes a release of dopamine in the brain too. So you aren't imagining that sweets are making you feel happy. They are. It's just that it's temporary. Check out this NPR story for more info.

My Go-To Sweets

While I love the temporary sugar high, I don't love the other side effects of too much sugar on my body. So, I've had to come up with desserts that give me something sweet at the end of the day but don't require I take a scary ride on the sugar roller coaster.

Here's my current favorite. Maybe it'll become one of yours too!

(N)Ice Cream. If you spend any time at all on Pinterest, chances are you've seen a variation of the Banana Nice Cream recipe before. I've tried a bunch of them and the one I like best right now is this one.

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Place half of a frozen banana (cut into 1 inch pieces) and about a cup of chopped frozen strawberries into a food processor. Pulse until the pieces are small and crumbly. Like this.

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Stream in some non-dairy (or dairy if you prefer) milk until the frozen fruit starts to combine and smooth out. Let the food processor run for a few minutes until it's the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

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Add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of non-alcoholic vanilla and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and mix until combined.

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You can mix up the fruits involved. If you don't like bananas, frozen pineapple works well too. Peach is a great mix-in. I've also done just banana, peanut butter and cocoa powder. That's really good. You can play around with flavors until you find something you like.

The bananas give it a creamy consistency, but if you're worried about the carbs in the bananas, you could try canned coconut milk and berries or peaches. Haven't tried that yet, but it would probably work just fine. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

That's it from me today. Hope you have a sweet rest of your week!