EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting, LLC

Enlightening You about Food and Nutrition


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Easy-Peasy Rhubarb & Strawberry Crunch

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A little piece of trivia – rhubarb is actually a vegetable. However, in the kitchen it is usually prepared as a fruit, and because of it’s tart flavor, rhubarb is often cooked with sugar and used in pies or other desserts.

Growing up in the Midwest, rhubarb (being a perennial), seemed to grow everywhere. We’d snap off a piece and enjoy the raw, tart, crisp stalks alone or dipped in a little sugar! Of course, there’s countless versions of recipes for rhubarb crisp, rhubarb and apple crumble, and my mom’s absolutely delicious recipe for rhubarb crunch (pictured below) that we enjoyed during those summer months!

rhubarb crunch

I just love these handwritten recipes – especially the ones from my mom!!

Recently, I was trying to find a “lower sugar” version of a rhubarb recipe, and everything I found just seemed a bit disappointing (in my opinion) – not something I’d feel proud serving for company, which is kind of a litmus test for me.

So I decided to do a little experimenting and came up with the following recipe. Since I typically don’t enjoy food substitutions or versions of dessert recipes that are tweaked to be “healthy” (they leave me a bit dissatisfied which is not the point of dessert), I was pleasantly surprised with how this turned out.

In some recipes, ingredients like sugar (or even salt) actually overpower the flavor of the food it’s added to. In fact, we’ve become a bit “used to” this level of sweetness or seasoning – and have come to expect it. As I’ve said before, we don’t need to “cut sugar out” of the diet, but we do need to recognize when we are missing out on the natural flavor of food because it’s masked or covered up by these highly palatable ingredients.

Therefore, preparing this recipe with less sugar seemingly highlights the deliciousness of the unique, tart flavor of the rhubarb and it doesn’t seem like a compromise on flavor. And…the crunch and light sweetness of the topping was accented with the addition of the walnuts. Absolutely delicious!

So, it passed my litmus test and I would definitely serve this for my guests!

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crunch

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Rhubarb is a nutritious addition to many recipes. Typically baked with a lot of sugar to balance its tartness, this rhubarb recipe has just the right amount of sweetness from the strawberries and honey, so it’s a delicious treat, but not too much so you can still enjoy the tang of the rhubarb!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb**
  • 1-pint strawberries hulled and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup flour (can substitute with whole wheat or almond flour)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup butter, softened

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries and honey. Transfer to a shallow baking dish, i.e. 8 x 8
  3. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Mix in butter with fork until crumbly and spread over top of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, until rhubarb is tender and the topping is toasted.

 Note: if using frozen rhubarb, thaw according to package directions. Consider adding about 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch to the rhubarb, honey and strawberry mixture.

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Shamrock Shake (that doesn’t taste like a shamrock!)

IMG_9595There are many recipes for “green smoothies”. However, it seems they are either loaded with extra calories and sugar (to sweeten them up) or they taste like, well you know, something green. An added bonus for athletes is this recipe features Tart Cherry Juice concentrate, known for its anti-inflammatory and melatonin properties.

Ingredients:

1 scoop (31 grams) vanilla protein powder or 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt   

1 cup milk (your choice…cow, soy, almond, coconut, etc.)

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

1 ounce Tart Cherry juice concentrate

1 cup chopped ice

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.

Enjoy!

* Note: Tart cherry juice is either available in a concentrate or 8 ounce “juice” serving. The juice is from a specific variety of sour cherries (prunus cerasus) and include the Montgomery or Morello Cherry. The tart cherry has received a lot of press over the past few years as a powerful anti-inflammatory and natural sleep aid.  


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What’s on Your “Day After” Thanksgiving Day Menu

The Thanksgiving Day feast is right around the corner! Just the thought of some of our favorite seasonal foods and heirloom recipes can make the mouth water. For some, the plan is to just throw caution to the wind and enjoy this ONE day of feasting. Not a bad idea. But, what about the next day? What about those leftovers?

Whether your plan is to practice some moderate restraint or throw caution to the wind at holiday meals or events, many people struggle to get back on track with their usual diet the day after the big meal.

Too often one day of indulgence seems to turn into a downward spiral of over-eating that culminates on January 2. My recommendation is to plan for the day after. What’s on your menu for the Friday after Thanksgiving or the big holiday party? Instead of diving into plates filled with leftovers of carb-laden goodness in the days that follow your holiday event, consider planning out your meals for the following week. Add plenty of wholesome fruits and veggies to your shopping list while being mindful of including a selection of some of your Thanksgiving day foods to your meals, such as adding leftover turkey to a colorful salad or paring leftover cranberry salad and green beans with grilled salmon.

The recipe that follows is a wonderful example of a flavorful and nutritious salad that you can “look forward to” even after the big feast!

Pomegranate, Pear and Walnut Salad

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This gorgeous salad is loaded with seasonal favorites – pomegranate seeds, pears and cranberries. Enjoy as a tasty side dish to any meal or add in some leftover Thanksgiving day turkey or roasted chicken for a great entree salad.

Main Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 1 pear, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 ounces goat or blue cheese, crumbled

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine greens in large bowl with other main ingredients.
  2. In small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend. Drizzle over salad, toss to combine.
  3. Optional: add chopped chicken breast or leftover turkey for a wonderful entree salad.

Yield: 6 servings


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Tips for Choosing a Nutrition Bar

Nutrition barsMost individuals are able to meet their nutrition needs with a balanced diet. However, the focus on athleticism and wellness along with the necessity of convenience has propelled nutrition or energy bars to be one of the fastest growing food categories in America. With hundreds of nutrition bars to choose from, promising everything from performance gains to optimal health, it’s no wonder that consumers are more confused than ever about which bar is right for them.

Nutrition bar basics. A nutrition or energy bar is a blend of simple and complex carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The size of each bar varies with brand and may contain anywhere from 100 to 300 calories. The primary source of protein usually comes from dairy, soy, or nuts. Fats may come from nuts, seeds, or coconut, but also less healthy sources such as hydrogenated fats and oils. Quality sources of carbohydrate in bars include fruit, oatmeal, rice, and other natural sugars (more on this later).

What type of bar do you need? To figure out which bar is best for you, it’s important to clarify what it is you’re hoping a nutrition bar will do for you.

Are you looking for an in-between meal snack? Choose a bar that provides around 150 to 200 calories and a balance of both protein (around 7 to 15 grams) and carbohydrate (15 to 30 grams). If your favorite bar is low in protein, consider adding a handful of almonds or glass of milk to promote satiety between meals.

For a post-workout recovery snack, look for a bar that provides around 20 grams of protein for repair and recovery of muscle tissue. Carbohydrate is also recommended for refueling glycogen stores with about 2 to 3 times as many grams of carbohydrates to protein, but will also depend on an individual’s overall energy and macronutrient needs.

When choosing a bar for fueling during exercise, easily digestible carbohydrates are needed to maintain energy and prevent fatigue. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of activity. However, the percentage of carbohydrate energy in the bar is also important depending on the duration of activity. For example, results from an Ohio State University study measuring the effect of two popular energy bars on blood glucose levels suggested that an energy bar with less protein and the majority of energy from carbohydrate (70% of calories) would be more beneficial for athletes involved in short-duration events who want a quick rise in blood glucose. Comparatively, a moderate amount of carbohydrate (40% of energy) was found more appropriate for athletes involved in longer duration events or for those individuals with diabetes.

What aspects of a bar are important to you? For example, do the ingredients need to be organic or free of certain allergens? Perhaps you are trying to avoid fructose or wheat-containing foods. For some individuals, such as a golfer or long-distance cyclist, it may be important that the bar is able to hold up in the heat.

“Food integrity” vs marketing claims. Marketers are well aware of trends and consumer demand for nutrition products that have attributes such as “no or reduced allergens”, “gluten free”, “low or no sugar”, “non-GMO”, and “all natural”. It is easy to make a nutrition label “look” a certain way, but what are you really consuming?

Check out the list of ingredients. Look for a short list of minimally processed ingredients. Some bars contain only a few items such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, or rice, while other products can have over 30 ingredients. If you have trouble pronouncing an ingredient or don’t recognize what it is, then it may be worth finding another or making your own.

What is the source of sweetener? A little bit of added sugar isn’t the end of the world, but some bars are so loaded with refined sugars and syrups that you might as well be eating a candy bar. On the other hand, many believe that a high protein, low-carbohydrate product is healthier. Nutrition products that claim “low or no sugar” will likely have artificial sweeteners and/or sugar alcohols added that can have a laxative affect and contribute to gastrointestinal problems. A few examples of sugar alcohols include sorbitol, erythritol, mannitol, and glycerine.  Glycerine or glycerol, for example, is a common ingredient added to protein bars that provides bulk and sweetness. Since it is not metabolized as sugar in the body, it is often not counted as part of the total carbohydrate calorie count (even though it contains slightly more calories than sugar) thus rendering the nutrition facts misleading.

Final point: There are many high quality nutrition bars to choose from, but as with any food, it’s always a good idea to consume in moderation. To achieve optimal nutrition, plan to include a variety of wholesome fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy and healthy fats in your snack and meal planning.

Make your own…

Nuts and Oats Energy Bar 

Nuts and Oats Energy Bar

Homemade Energy Bar

Ingredients:
1 ½ cup roasted mixed nuts (I used lightly salted)

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

¼ cup ground or whole flax seed (or you could substitute sesame, sunflower or chia seeds)

2/3 cup light brown sugar

½ cup honey

4 tbsp. butter

½ tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups rice krispie cereal or puffed brown rice cereal

½ cup dark chocolate chips (or dried raisins, cranberries or cherries)

Directions:

  1. Lightly chop mixed nuts. Combine nuts, oats and flax seed in large bowl.
  2. Line 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, extending the paper over the sides.
  3. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, butter and salt to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and a light brown caramel forms, about 5 minutes or until the “soft ball” stage, if you have a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Pour the caramel over the nut and oat mixture. Stir in the rice cereal and chocolate chips or dried fruit until evenly coated.
  5. Pour the cereal mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread out into an even layer. Press down evenly and let the mixture stand until cool.
  6. Use the “handles” of the parchment paper to remove the cereal square from the pan and cut into about 12 equal size bars.

Storage tip: Once bars are cooled and cut, wrap individually in plastic and keep in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.