I almost put the word "recipe" in quotes up top, because this is really more of an assemblage than a recipe! This is a favorite sweet snack of mine. The flavor and texture is reminiscent of a much more sugary treat- the richness of the chocolate, the creaminess of the peanut butter, the chewiness of the date. Four of these is usually just about right for a satisfying snack, which contains about 250 calories and 5 grams of fiber.Ingredients:
*I use Theo's 84% Dominican Republic Single Origin.Overly Fussy Instructions:Smear a little bit of peanut butter on each date. Break up chocolate pieces and stick on top, using peanut butter as an adhesive. Enjoy!
- 4 pitted deglet noor dates
- 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
- 1/2 ounce *dark chocolate
This is part 3 of an overly-long gluten discussion that started in the previous post. We're exploring the nature of gluten, why some people avoid it, and the nutritional properties of gluten-free products on the market. Gluten-free goods on the Market
For those who suffer from Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, the loss of familiar foods like bread and cereal can be a little depressing. Over the last few years, as food manufacturers became aware of the specialty market for those avoiding gluten, a multitude of gluten-free baked goods became available.
Gluten-free baked goods are great, because they can bring a lot of joy to people who thought they were never going to get to eat a dang piece of toast again without suffering serious side effects! But are they somehow healthier? In a word: no. A cookie is still a cookie, whether it’s made with wheat flour or sorghum. That means it’s still a source of added sugar, saturated fat, and excess calories. As with all foods, gluten-free baked goods should be eaten in moderation.
The downside to gluten-free baked goods is that they can have an incredibly high glycemic index. Eating large amounts of high glycemic index foods can wreak havoc on anybody’s blood sugar, but it’s especially a concern for those with diabetes (which means it’s a concern for a full third of the US population). Foods with a high glycemic index do not make for a very satisfying snack; they won’t keep you full for very long due to fast gastric emptying.
Am I saying that all gluten-free baked goods have a high glycemic index? No. While there’s no information on the glycemic index on a nutrition information panel, you can get an idea of how starchy a food is by looking closely at the label.
First, check out that ingredient list. It’s in order of decreasing quantity, so if something is listed in the first couple of ingredients you know it’s in that food in a high amount. Gluten-free baked goods often use starches to bind the structure of the food. An excessive quantity of these fast-dissolving carbohydrates result in a high glycemic index food. So if you see potato, tapioca, or corn starch within the first couple of ingredients- it’s not a good sign.
Another way to assess the blood sugar potential of a baked good is to check out the fiber content. The presence of fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate will slow down the gastric emptying rate and subsequently the release of glucose into the bloodstream. A good amount of fiber for a serving of food is 3 to 5 grams. A not-so-good amount is <1 gram.
Hopefully this gives you some clues on your next gluten-free shopping excursion. For further information on gluten-free resources, consult the Gluten Intolerance Group.
Nick and I went to Mighty-O Donuts last week, otherwise known as the home of “Food Network Challenge: Donut Champions” winner Sarah Beth Russert. For those of you who haven’t visited this vegan and organic donut shop, it’s a treat in more ways than one. Delectable fried dough in seasonal varieties (I miss the late summer peach fritter already) served with espresso from Stumptown Coffee, all nestled in a cozy shop in Tangletown. It’s a lovely place to warm up on a blustery autumn afternoon, so on one of the multiple blustery afternoons we had last week we did just that.
To say that Tangletown is a family-oriented neighborhood would be an understatement; it seems as though offspring are a prerequisite for signing a lease around there. So needless to say on a Saturday afternoon when we showed up the place was teeming with adorable tots. As we sat and enjoyed our pastries we also had the pleasure of being entertained by the sugar-fueled antics of said tots.
I was struck by the pure expressions of joy that occur when a child encounters a food that they love. I work with so many adults who struggle with feelings of guilt and anxiety when it comes to indulging in rich foods. I hear a lot of “I was so bad…” or “I felt so guilty…” from adults when they are describing a decadent food that they ate. It was refreshing to see these little humans show true excitement and unabashed satisfaction with their donut experience. They were totally wrapped up in the experience and in no hurry whatsoever; they were truly savoring the moment.
I saw one kid who had his head down, mouth clamped onto the donut he was cradling in both hands, who was clearly fully involved in his eating experience. He was almost nuzzling his donut, kind of swaying his head from side to side as if to say “Yes, this totally rules.” I saw a toddler in a high chair who had a cake donut with chocolate icing. She was working her way around the whole circumference of the donut, only taking bites out of the iced portion, smiling wide with a chocolate-stained face. These kids were enjoying their donut rapture, they were playing and interacting with each other in their donut wonderland, and it was awesome.
We could all take a cue from these kids when it comes to appreciating rich foods. The holidays are a time where we encounter all sorts of foods that perhaps aren’t the healthiest nutritionally-speaking. However health is a multi-faceted subject, and mental health is a large, perhaps the largest, piece of that healthy pie (mmm… pie).
The building blocks of a nourishing diet are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. High-sugar or high-saturated fat foods (think cakes, cookies, bacon cheeseburgers, and the like) are what I like to call “sometimes foods.” They are fine to enjoy sometimes, but you don’t want to base your diet around them.
When “sometimes” occasions arise: birthdays, anniversaries, parties and the like, make sure you have your cake and enjoy it too. There’s no need to feel guilty for having a reasonable portion of something in celebration of good times. And rather than scarfing it down and leaving yourself plenty of time to feel bad about it, give your "sometimes food" a little breathing room. Here are some quick guidelines for having a sane indulgent food experience:
Look at what you’re about to eat. What is it about the way it looks that makes you excited to eat it? Is it colorful? Does it have a beautiful texture?
Smell your food. Get right in there and take a big whiff. Does it smell like it tastes? Do you associate the smell with a happy memory?
When you do bite into it, Let the food melt on your tongue a little bit. I’ve got news for you: taste buds only exist in your mouth. They don’t continue down your esophagus so give your tongue some time with your treat. Let all the flavors sink in and resonate. Don’t stop with the first bite; examine the flavor with each successive bite that you take. Does the flavor change from the time you put it in your mouth to the time that you swallow? What kind of taste does it leave on your tongue once you have swallowed?
I hope this is helpful as you navigate your way through your next holiday event. This is a wonderful time of year with plenty of tasty treats and quality time with loved ones. Don’t waste your time feeling guilty about the fantastic foods you are lucky enough to enjoy!
By the way none of this applies unless you eat your veggies too. On a regular basis. Just had to make sure that was clear. Eat your darn veggies!
I recently did a presentation on the use and properties of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) for school. Naturally preparing for it involved slogging through oodles of documents from the Food and Drug Administration on labeling and safety requirements- oh goody! I won’t bore you with any details, but I did come across documentation of an interesting little battle that took place in 1997 between the Sugar Association, the National Soft Drink Association, and the FDA. Here is my recap in layman’s terms:
The Sugar Association filed a complaint with the FDA because they felt that soft drink labeling was dishonest. They found that soft drink companies were listing “sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup” in their ingredients, when in fact they were really only using HFCS to sweeten their stuff.
You may have seen an “and/or” ingredient on a nutrition label before. Check out that potato chip bag- it usually says something like “soybean and/or canola oil” in the ingredients. This is because the company may use either one, specifically whatever one is cheaper when they are making their chips. The FDA states that this can only be done with fats or oils, and only when they are not the predominant ingredient in the food. Since your potato chips are mostly potato, the FDA allows them to be non-specific with the oil used.
The Sugar Association got upset because (1) Sugar is not a fat or an oil, (2) Sweetener is the primary ingredient in soft drinks, and (3) The beverage industry had stopped buying their sugar but was still claiming to use it on their labels!
So what did the FDA have to say about it? Essentially that they knew it was happening but they didn’t have the time or money to deal with it:
“The Agency has not initiated enforcement actions… Because of limited agency resources and because this issue does not involve food safety, the agency will likely maintain this position.”
It’s important to remember that the FDA’s primary concern when it comes to label regulations is food safety. They are not omnipotent; they can’t make sure that every company is entirely honest all the time. When it comes to your food, asking questions and buying from manufacturers you trust is the best way to ensure clarity!
If you'd like to see the full report from the FDA you can read it here.
Halloween is hands-down my favorite holiday. I don’t need much of an excuse to dress up like an idiot, eat candy, and watch scary movies- but people look at me strangely when I do it all the other days of the year. On Halloween I get a chance to enjoy myself AND blend into a crowd, a rare opportunity for sure.
Costumes and movies aside, let’s examine the candy issue for a moment. Candy can be a wonderful thing, but huge amounts of excess sugar can wreak havoc on our health in ways too numerous to list here. Okay I’ll drop a couple scary possibilities: obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease- these are all disease states that could be associated with excessive sugar consumption. I wouldn’t wish those on anyone, especially not a kid!
Kids will get plenty of candy on Halloween and the days surrounding it, they don’t need to get it from your house. So what’s a trick-or-treating target to do? You don’t want to be the lame house that gives out pennies or toothbrushes. Here are some ideas for alternative Halloween treats that won’t give you a toothache- or Diabetes:
· Temporary Tattoos: I personally am a fan of real tattoos, but children seem to have a hard time committing to those for some reason. I found some Halloween-themed, individually wrapped temporary tattoos at Target for $4.00 (pronounced tar-jay, it’s very fancy).
· Mini Bubbles: Oriental Trading Company has mini bubble bottles in thrilling neon colors, 48 pieces for $4.99.
· Silly Bandz: Kids seem to really like these and I don’t quite understand why but they’re cheap and come in Halloween themes and colors. Back in my day we had slap bracelets that could easily cut your wrists- these kids just don’t know how good they’ve got it with these soft stretchy ones!
· Plastic Fangs: These are easily found in all sorts of varieties; metallic, brightly colored, glow in the dark. They’re probably not BPA-free. Just don’t microwave them before you use them, it’ll all be fine.
That’s all the Halloween bounty that I’ve acquired so far, but you get the general idea. There are oodles of cheap little toys and trinkets that are appropriate for all ages and won’t leave trick-or-treaters feeling disappointed.