Finding Your Peaceful Plate

Published on: 04/20/2023
Peaceful beach scene
I recently completed a small research activity of my own (nothing official 😊), but super helpful insights from some of you (thank you again and again💜!). One of my greatest discoveries is how we are all searching for peace with our food, our food choices, our weight, and our minds. This includes removing the immense amount of ongoing confusion out there. As much as I try to simplify topics, there could be TikToks, Instagram posts, products, etc, all saying something different. Something new and exciting, usually more enticing than real science. My goal has always been and will always be, to share the real science behind food and nutrition. The definition of science, Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence. We tell our kids not to believe everything they hear, and when it comes to nutrition, it could not be more truthful! 

So let’s dig into a couple of topics that have been present on social media recently, and what the science is behind the actual facts:
Topic #1: Sucralose
Sucralose, brand name Splenda, is an artificial sweetener usually in a yellow packet, hanging out with the other blue, pink, and white packets. Is the yellow packet the best one to grab? The difference between Splenda and “the others”, like aspartame (Equal) and saccharin (Sweet’N Low), is that Sucralose is created from real sugar. This provides you with a less artificial taste than the other sweeteners, but it is not exactly natural. As research continues to evolve, we need to approach artificial sweeteners with caution.

Sucralose is chemically altered (shall we say enhanced😳?) so it is 600 times sweeter than real sugar, yet with almost no calories. Talk about all the benefits without the cost! To top it off, the yellow packet does not leave anything behind, so no unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth. 

As far as digestion goes, sucralose is also chemically changed so that most of it passes through your body instead of being stored like other excess calories. This chemical changeup takes specific parts of the sugar molecule, called hydroxyl, and swaps them out for chlorine. So not a “natural” choice, but it is calorie-free with no additional ingredients.

Does this sound too good to be true? Well, there are rumors (okay, some studies but more research is needed) out there that sucralose may stimulate your appetite, may reduce your GI system’s good bacteria in half, and lastly, increase inflammation in your body, possibly lead to obesity and diabetes…even though your reason for consuming Splenda is to avoid or manage all of that in the first place. Whether it is healthy or not remains to be a mystery. As we continue to remain cautious with our use of artificial sweeteners, pure stevia extract is safe to include in a balanced diet that includes whole, natural foods, as part of your healthy lifestyle.

Topic #2: Fiber
Fiber is incredibly beneficial to your body, for the following reasons:
*Contributes to lower cholesterol levels
*Contributes to lower blood sugar levels
*Helps you feel full so that you can avoid overeating
*Keeps food moving along in the intestines, which helps to keep your bowel habits more regular
So how much fiber is recommended? 28 grams per day of fiber is recommended by the FDA, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. If you eat less than 2,000 calories per day, then you need less fiber and a bit more for more calories consumed per day. What you do NOT need is 50-60 grams of fiber per day, which was a huge and dangerous recommendation from a diet known as the F-Factor Diet

Some tips on how to increase your fiber intake include consuming high-fiber veggies like Brussels sprouts, kale, peas, broccoli, artichoke hearts, and avocados. Also, pulses, like lentils, black beans, and garbanzo beans, are 5 grams of fiber per serving, another quality source of fiber. If you are working on adding fiber to your diet, be sure to consume even more water than your usual intake. Increasing your water intake helps your body adequately process your increased fiber intake.

Let’s continue to work together to find ✌️peace✌️ in our food choices and our bodies and minds. Celebrating life together provides us with the sweetness and fullness we all crave. These recipes are meant for those moments. 💜💜💜

MEDITERRANEAN DIPPING PIE
This is a fun, easy, and tasty way to get the happy hour going this summer! This blend of Mediterranean yum and produce is a crunchy and satisfying appetizer. Feel free to get creative with it and make any preferential changes :). Serve with fresh veggies and whole wheat pita. Enjoy with a refreshing cocktail, mocktail, or your favorite summer-quenching beverage. 

INGREDIENTS
17 ounces hummus (family size or 2 8-10 ounce containers)
½ cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled, and divided
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, and diced
½ cup kalamata olives, chopped into quarters, plus extra for garnish
2 Tablespoons red onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

PREPARATION
In a ceramic pie dish (not one where the bottom drops out😉), spread the hummus evenly on the bottom. Sprinkle evenly on top of the hummus: ¼ cup of feta cheese, cucumber, bell pepper, olives, and red onion. Pour olive oil all around on top. Sprinkle parsley and oregano on top. Garnish with ¼ cup feta cheese and a few more olives. Dig in with your fresh veggies and whole wheat pita. Makes 10-12 appetizer servings.

LEMON GARLIC VEGETABLE ROAST
I wanted to make the miso vegetable dish I had created in August of 2020, but this was for Passover. Miso is made from soybean, which some Jews do not include during Passover (There are many rules that some follow and some do not follow for Passover, for many different reasons 🙂! If you are curious, here is part of the reason why.). I decided to give a lemon vinaigrette of sorts a try. Though I still love the miso vegetable creation, this one turned out to be a delightful lemony way to celebrate the fresh and bright vegetables of spring. A great dish for company, or cut the recipe in half for fewer people. The extra vinaigrette could be used as a salad dressing or marinade. 

INGREDIENTS
For the vegetables:
2 medium eggplants, washed and sliced into thin rounds, placed into a medium bowl
3 large zucchinis, washed and sliced into thin rounds, placed into a separate medium bowl
1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced into thin rounds, placed into a small bowl
1 pound small portobello mushrooms, cleaned, destemmed, sliced into medium pieces, placed into a separate small bowl
3 bell peppers, yellow and red, washed, cored, and sliced into thin rings, placed into a large bowl
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme, plus extra for garnish
Olive oil cooking spray

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

Prepare all of the vegetables according to the directions listed above, placing each veggie into its’ own bowl. 

Add the vinaigrette dressing ingredients, lemon juice through thyme, into a small blender. Blend until smooth. 

Pour vinaigrette into each vegetable bowl, making sure to have enough for all veggies. Toss each vegetable well with the vinaigrette. 

Spray two rimmed roasting pans with olive oil spray.  Layer all the vegetables, keeping them somewhat separate for easy preparation after the cooking, onto prepared roasting pans. Roast for about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a large, round casserole dish, layer one slice of the eggplant, zucchini, and onion, repeating in a circle around the perimeter of the dish. Toss peppers together and place in the middle of the dish. Add mushrooms in a circle between the peppers and other veggies. Sprinkle with thyme. This can be served immediately at room temperature or stored in the refrigerator for a few days and brought to room temperature. Makes 20 ½-cup servings.
BANANA PROTEIN MUFFINS
A muffin for breakfast or a snack can be a tasty treat, but even better when it is a balanced treat. These muffins are made with both Greek yogurt and more egg whites than the average muffin, to help you meet your protein needs, with 5 grams of protein per muffin. They will satisfy your sweet tooth, and provide fiber, potassium, vitamins, and other nutrients, helping keep you satisfied for longer between meals or snacks.

INGREDIENTS
3 overripe bananas, peeled
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
4 egg whites
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain
1 cup whole wheat flour
⅓ cup white flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup mini chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate pieces
Nonstick cooking spray

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray the muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Add applesauce, egg whites, and yogurt, and stir well. 

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt, and mix well. Add mixture to the large mixing bowl and stir to blend, but do not overmix. Mix in chocolate chips. 

Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into each muffin cup. Note: You will need to do a second batch for two more muffins. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean from the center of a muffin. Cool for 10 minutes in the muffin tin. Remove and continue to cool on track. Makes 14 muffins. Serve warm and enjoy! Muffins will keep in a container for up to a week, or 1 month in the freezer. To reheat from room temperature: microwave for 12 seconds. To reheat from frozen, microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until warm. 
Nutrition Facts (per muffin): 
Calories: 110; Total fat: 2 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Sodium: 279 mg; Cholesterol: 1 mg; Total carbs: 19 g; Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 5 g

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall the level of your systems.

~James Clear, Atomic Habits

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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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