Whole30: A Wholly Misguided Approach to Healthy Eating

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Veggies

As enlightened eaters begin to question the healthfulness of highly processed and fast food, many are turning to the Whole30 Diet as a way to cleanse themselves of the junk. Whole30 is being embraced with a frenzy of fad-like enthusiasm (warning bell!), so several close friends have asked for my opinion.

At first glance, this approach seems to be an exciting way to cut the junk and focus on whole foods. After all, the first rule of the Whole30 Diet is the Pollan-esque mantra “Eat real food.” However, if you dig a little deeper into the rules of Whole30, and you’ll find that much of the “real food” as we know it is expressly forbidden on this diet. Don’t believe me? Here is why the Whole30 Diet is a misguided approach to healthy eating.

Whole30 eliminates all grains: Building on the gluten-free fear mongering of other pop-science books (I’m pointing at you, Wheat Belly), Whole30 eliminates all grains, including healthy whole grains, because of their “problematic proteins,” like gluten.Parboiled brown rice for Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

This in itself is a misguided interpretation of science. Indeed, in people with Celiac Disease and some gluten sensitivities, the body perceives gluten as an enemy, and produces an inflammatory immune response. But for the vast majority of the population without gluten disorders, that’s not what happens. In fact, eating whole grains, is associated with decreased inflammation. In a recent clinical trial, researchers found that eating a cup of whole grain barley or brown rice (or a combination of the two) for as little as four weeks can increase the “good” bacteria in your gut that fight inflammation.

A diet without grains but with unlimited red meat is basically just an Atkins diet. There is no reason for this to be disguised as a “whole foods” eating pattern, when entire groups of whole foods are eliminated. Any diet that bans nutritious whole grains like quinoa and millet, but allows you to survive exclusively off of bacon and Larabars, should make you question the legitimacy of its health claims.

Whole30 eliminates all legumes: Another healthy food group, axed from the menu! The creators of Whole30 warn that legumes (like chickpeas, black beans, or lentils) have high levels of phytates, which can block the uptake of certain nutrients by our bodies. While this might sound alarming, what Whole30 enthusiasts fail to understand is that SO many factors affect our uptake of nutrients (how a food is stored, processed, and cooked, what else is eaten with it, etc) and that the reductionist approach of analyzing foods by the milligrams of nutrients that you may or may not be fully absorbing is an entirely fruitless pursuit.

Pike PlaceAdditionally, these “nutrition experts” (those are sarcastic quotes) fail to understand that ALL plant foods contain varying level of phytates, and that many of the foods promoted by Whole30 (such as kale) have even more phytates than legumes. Phytates are also found in pasture raised and wild meat, based on which plants animals ate during their lifetime. And on top of everything, phytates (natural plant defenses) are not necessarily a bad thing! These bioactive compounds act as antioxidants in the body, and have been linked to anticancer activity, as well as cholesterol lowering effects. (This should not be surprising – we all know that beans are healthy.) The only way to avoid all phytates is to eat highly processed and synthetic foods – which basically defeats the entire philosophy of Whole30.

Whole30 eliminates all dairy. Plant-based diets that eliminate animal products, including dairy, can certainly be extremely healthy. Indeed, T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and the Harvard School of Public Health bring up excellent points that are leading nutrition researchers to revisit the connection between dairy and bone health (it’s not as straightforward as we once thought).

That being said, fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, and some raw milk cheeses, are great ways to stimulate beneficial gut bacteria. Everyday new research is uncovering the importance of the microbiome. Already, we are finding that a wide variety of healthy gut bacteria are thought to be linked with everything from infections, to obesity, to allergies. Additionally, if dairy is banned in addition to grains and legumes, there really isn’t much left to eat! What kind of healthy diet eliminates half of the food pyramid?

Whole30 eliminates “psychologically unhealthy foods”: The creators of Whole30 claim that smoothies, healthy baked goods, and basically any recipe resembling something that you might actually want to eat is “psychologically unhealthy,” because it is too similar to the standard American diet. Because, you know, Americans became obese from drinking too many kale smoothies and making too many loaves of naturally sweetened, whole grain banana bread (ahem, not!).Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Broccoli, Chickpeas, Feta, and Olive Oil

Judging by the no-apologies way that the rules are written up (and by the rules themselves), Whole30 seems to be designed to take the pleasure out of eating. This is a terrible idea. The last thing people need is another fad diet that they stick to for 30 days and then drop. I truly believe that healthy eating is not a punishment – if done right, it can be joyful, delicious, and a lifelong habit. But Whole30 is not healthy eating done right. It is restrictive, antagonistic, and completely misguided.

Additionally, while Whole30 gurus may be opposed to “psychologically unhealthy” foods, they seem to have no problem with physiologically unhealthy foods – in other words, an eating pattern guaranteed to make you feel like crap. While adjusting to a higher fiber diet can take some time (the key to avoid intestinal discomfort is to add fiber slowly over time, and drink LOTS of water!), no “healthy” diet should EVER make you feel “hungover” or like you want to “kill all the things,” which the creators of Whole30 brush off as perfectly normal (it’s not!).

Despite these shortcomings, there are some important lessons to be learned from the program:
At the heart of it, the elimination of highly processed foods is what makes the Whole 30 diet seem so appealing. Americans (and increasingly, folks in other nations as well) are hooked on snack foods—packaged ‘Frankenfoods’ formulated from the same handful of highly processed ingredients. In contrast, healthy diets should be based on a wide variety of minimally processed plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and fish. While Whole30 creators seem to be confused about what a whole foods diet is, their heart seems to be in the right place (maybe).

Nutrient Synergy: Why Whole Foods and Traditional Cuisines MatterThe Whole30 regimen also asks participants to abstain from added sugars for 30 days. While a few teaspoons a day isn’t going to kill you, most people could definitely use a break from this over consumed food. After all, the World Health Organization recommends that adults cut back to only 6 teaspoons a day. Additionally, Whole30 urges participants to abstain from alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption–especially red wine–is shown to have numerous health benefits. But judging from the number of drunken people I’ve seen on the T around Saint Patrick’s Day (or on 6th Street, in college), I’m sure there are plenty of folks that could benefit from a month without alcohol. Bottom Line: If you want to purge your diet of everything remotely impure for 30 days, do just that! But don’t exclude wholesome plant foods, like whole grains or beans.

You wouldn’t get open-heart surgery from an auto mechanic, so why would you follow nutrition advice from someone with zero education or training? While one of the Whole30 cofounders might be a “sports nutritionist,” all that’s required for that designation is to pass one test. No nutrition degree (or even nutrition classes), no supervised practice, and no accredited internship required. The startling nutrition deficiencies in this program are all the more reason to seek nutrition advice from a trained nutrition professional, like a registered dietitian.

– Kelly

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Desktop Wallpapers to Inspire Healthy Living

Pike Place Market

^^ This photo that I took at Pike Place Market in 2013 has been my long-time desktop background

The home should be a sanctuary that inspires healthy living, and screens (computer + phone) are no exception to that. Other than my own personal collection of farmers market photos (I know, I am such a cliche), there are two sites that I like to browse for free desktop wallpaper backgrounds: Design*Sponge and Nutrition Stripped. Design*Sponge is one of my favorite design and lifestyle sites, which features home tours, city guides, entrepreneurship stories, and the occasional downloadable wallpaper. Nutrition Stripped is a nutrition blog, run by Nashville-based dietitian McKel Hill. She introduces a new downloadable wallpaper on the First Friday of every month for a “Style Your Screen” series. Here are some of my favorite designs from these two sites:

Alexia Toussaint for DesignSponge - free desktop background

Alea Toussaint for Design*Sponge // Available for both desktop and cell phone backgrounds. Click here to download

Julie Lee for Design Sponge

Julie Lee for Design*Sponge // This is my current desktop background at work. Click desired size to download: 1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200, 2560 x 1440, iPhone option A, iPhone option B

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped // Click here to download.

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped

Eat Healthy Designs for Nutrition Stripped // Reminds me of my favorite shirtClick here to download.

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped // Click here to download.

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped

DBuerli for Nutrition Stripped // Click here to download.

Maria Schoettler for Design Sponge

Maria Schoettler for Design*Sponge // Click desired size to download: 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1200iPhoneAndroid

Maria Schoettler for Design Sponge

Maria Schoettler for Design*Sponge // Click desired size to download: 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1200iPhone, Android

Nutrition Stripped style your screen

Nutrition Stripped // A great reminder to give your body what it needs! Click here to download.

Helen Dealtry for Design Sponge

Helen Dealtry for Design*Sponge // Not directly healthy living related, but a fun and colorful way to be reminded of nature! Click desired size to download: 1024 x 768, 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1200cell phone

What’s on your desktop right now?

– Kelly

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Lightly Sweetened Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

One of my recent work projects has involved gathering healthy dessert recipes, so I’ve been immersed in a world of cookbooks that feature fruits, nuts, and whole grains in any manner of clever combinations. (Tough job, but somebody has to do it ;)) While combing through these creations, I was inspired to get a little more creative with dessert than my ritual dark chocolate squares, and try my hand at a healthy, protein-packed cheesecake.

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt!

Greek yogurt cheesecake might seem like a contemporary twist, but this dessert is actually adapted from a recipe that is over 40 years old. Indeed, one of my heroes (and former employers), Frances Moore Lappé, published her recipe for “The Thinking Person’s Cheesecake” in her seminal 1971 classic, Diet for a Small Planet (albeit, with regular yogurt, not Greek). My version stays pretty true to the original, resulting in a treat that’s both delectable and refreshing.

A stark contrast to the rich, cumbrous cheesecakes served at chain restaurants across the nation, the texture of this confection is airy and light (a good indicator of how you’re going to feel afterwards). But do be warned… when I say “lightly sweetened,” I mean it! Unlike the granola-laced crust, the sweetening in the actual cheesecake is very subtle (teetering towards undetectable), letting the fresh fruit topping shine against the creamy, tangy backdrop. That being said, for those looking to loosen their dependency on added sugars, I highly recommend that you give the recipe a try as written. Organic blueberries were on sale when I made this, but any fruit will do. And don’t hesitate to load it on – the fruit contributes a welcome, sugary zing.

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

Lightly Sweetened Greek Yogurt Cheesecake (adapted from Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet)

Serves 8

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup granola (I look for granola with less than 10g sugar per 50-56g serving)
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3-4 tablespoons water

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta (about 13 oz)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used nonfat organic)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 oz blueberries (1 small carton, about 1 1/4 cups)

 Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Add granola, walnuts, and ginger to food processor, and pulse into crumbs. Then add the water, and continue pulsing, until ingredients are combined.
  3. Evenly press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan to form a crust, and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. While crust is pre-baking, prepare the filling. Add all filling ingredients except blueberries to a large bowl, and mix until combined.
  5. When crust is done pre-baking, remove from oven and evenly pour the filling into the crust.
  6. Put the cheesecake in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until center is firm.
  7. Immediately after removing the cheesecake from the oven, top the cheesecake with blueberries, pressing them gently onto the top of the cake.
  8. Let cake chill in refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight) before serving. (Store covered in refrigerator.)

Healthy Cheesecake Made with Greek Yogurt

Nutrition per serving: 310 calories, 16g fat (4g saturated fat), 26g carbohydrates (3g fiber, 15g sugar*), 15g protein, 16g cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 9% Iron, 19% Calcium, 4% Vitamin A, 11% Vitamin C

*About 10g added sugars (from honey and granola)

A note on nutrition: I based the nutrition data on 8 standard-sized slices, because I know very few people that would only eat 1/12 of a cheesecake this size. For fewer calories, feel free to serve the cheesecake in smaller portions. For example, if the pie was cut into 10 slices, (instead of 8), each slice would have about 240 calories. If cut into 12 slices, each slice would only have about 200 calories.

– Kelly

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Basil Smoothie

Basil Smoothie

My basil smoothie post on Instagram last week prompted several inquiries, so today I’m sharing a full recipe post. Since I’m now the proud owner of an organic basil plant (thanks, Ashley!), this smoothie has been on heavy rotation during the beautiful, 80 degree days we’ve been blessed with in Boston lately. The Sweet Basil Smoothie recipe from my Giada at Home cookbook inspired this recipe, but to add creaminess (and cut the added sugars), I omitted the sugary simple syrup in favor of a frozen banana. Sophisticated, yet unfussy, this 3-ingredient masterpiece is the ultimate warm weather refresher!

Basil Smoothie

Basil Smoothie (inspired by Giada de Laurentiis)

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana, frozen in chunks
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Method: Add all ingredients to blender and blend until combined.

Nutrition per serving: 180 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated fat), 32g carbohydrates (3g fiber, 19g sugar*), 14g protein, 50mg sodium, 8% Vitamin A, 19% Vitamin C, 16% Calcium, 3% Iron

*All sugars are natural. None are the dangerous added sugars. 

– Kelly

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Fashion Friday: Commuter Shoes

I still consider myself a fair weather exerciser, so the main component of my active lifestyle is walking around the city (including to and from work). Unfortunately, although many of my dress shoes are quite comfortable, they just can’t take five miles a day on the Boston sidewalks. Thus, I’ve finally resorted to wearing commuter shoes. This puts less wear and tear on my fancy footwear. Plus, I’m motivated to get more steps in, since tennies are so darn walkable!

Commuter Shoes

L to R: Caradona, Memorandum, Hello Fashion, Atlantic-Pacific (for more sneaker styling, see here)

New Balance for J CrewLuckily, sneakers don’t have to scream goofy American tourist. In fact, when done right (see photos above) they can actually look quite chic. My trusty mint green Keds are filthy beyond repair (note to self: Scotchguard the next pair), so I splurged this red pair of New Balance kicks from J. Crew to achieve that urban-chic/woman-on-the-go look captured in the photos above.

If you’re in the market for new commuter shoes, check out a dozen of my favorites below. They’re perfect for springtime strolls!

Best Commuter Shoes

1. Keds (sale $24.95)

2. Bergdorf Goodman ($195)

3. Anthropologie (sale $69.95)

4. Finish Line ($69.98)

5. Keds (sale $34.95)

6. Anthropologie ($109.95)

7. Keds (sale $24.95)

8. Bergdorf Goodman ($195)

9. Keds ($50)

10. Keds ($50)

11. Zappos ($50)

12. Finish Line ($79.99)

Which pair is your favorite?

– Kelly

P.S. I love my Toms, but they’re just not a practical option for walking around the city, as I tend to bust through the heel after less than ten wears.

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Ingredient to Master: Radishes

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.01.04 PM

^^ Goal: To be drawn to radishes for reasons other than the vibrant pink color

I make a serious effort to try foods that I’m not really crazy about, because I know that it can take multiple exposures to a new food before one begins to acquire a taste for it. And life is just so more enjoyable when you aren’t picking around your plate, and can appreciate the subtle complexities of a varied diet. The current ingredient that I’m learning to love like tolerate is radishes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.02.24 PM

^^ First attempt: Radishes + Buttered Toast (when in doubt, start with butter)

Apparently, I have overestimated the rapid malleability of my taste buds. Because despite my numerous attempts to appreciate the distinctly peppery bite of this gorgeous, spring hued vegetable, I can’t seem to get past a meager acceptance of the flavor.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.00.04 PM

^^ Second attempt: Radishes + PB (because PB improves everything)

It’s time to change my approach. Rather than letting the radishes steal the show, I’m seeking out recipes where radishes play more of a supporting role, or have their sharp flavor mellowed through the oven. Below I’ve rounded up a few recipes from across the web (thank you, Pinterest) that look like a good place to start…

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.38.00 PM

Spring Rotisserie Sandwiches with Radishes, Avocado, and Buttermilk Dressing from Whole Foods Market

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.39.13 PM

Lentil Tacos with Tomato Radish Salsa from Chez Us

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.38.55 PM

Watermelon Radish, Cara Cara Orange, and Goat Cheese Salad from Alexandra’s Kitchen

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.38.36 PM

Radish Toasts with Edamame Spread from Vanilla & Spice

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 7.38.19 PM

Roasted Radishes with Rosemary from Olive and Herb

What is your favorite way to enjoy radishes?

– Kelly

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Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Parmesan

Simple Spinach Salad

(pictured with a sweet potato and blue cheese frittata)

Simple Spinach Salad

Everyone has a go-to, simple salad that they love to throw together, and this one is brought to you courtesy of Ashley Higgs. Last month Ashley had some guests over for a pasta-making party, and she served this exquisite, unfussy salad on the side.

Since this is a simple dish, a high quality cheese goes a long way. In other words, this would not be the time to pull out the green shaker of grated parm (not that there ever is). Additionally, I highly recommend a good balsamic vinegar (made with grape must), rather than a cheap, imitation variety. At home, I paired this leafy masterpiece with a sweet potato and blue cheese frittata, but the mellow flavors of the salad compliment just about any dish.

Simple Spinach Salad

Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Parmesan (Recipe by Ashley Higgs)

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 2 green apples (I used Granny Smith), chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Method: Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl, and toss until mixed. Serves 4 as a generous side salad.

Nutrition per serving: 140 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 14g carbohyrates (3g fiber, 10g sugar), 3g protein, 110mg sodium, 68% Vitamin A, 24% Vitamin C, 10% Calcium, 6% Iron

– Kelly

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Apps I Love: Map My Run

Best Running App - Map My Run

The long awaited signs of spring (blossoming magnolia trees in Back Bay, sailboats on the Charles, pleasantly cool temps) ignite an uncharacteristic urge to lace up my Nikes and soak up the sunshine on a scenic jog. With the Boston marathon in town this week (yesterday, actually!), running seems to be contagious throughout the city, inspiring me to kick up my mileage and pace. With these goals in mind, I’ve been especially happy with a new app I just downloaded: Map My Run (the #1 running app).

Simply press start when you begin running (and stop when you finish), and the app will map your route, keep your time, and calculate your pace, along with a host of other features and statistics. It’s an excellent tool to monitor the progress of your workouts, especially if you’re training for a race. 

I’m fairly certain I’ve used a primitive, web-based edition of Map My Run a few years ago, slowly plotting my route on a computer to track my mileage, but this weekend was my first experience with the app, and I absolutely love it! In fact, I just might be inspired enough to make this running thing a habit. No promises, though ;)

– Kelly

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The Best TED Talks on Food Systems, Nutrition, and Public Health

Surely a sign of progress, there are now an abundance of TED talks that explore food, nutrition, and public health. Below are my very favorites — a collection of videos that I consider informative, important, and incredibly fascinating! If you have a favorite TED talk that’s not listed here, send me a link in the comments below.

PART I: PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTHY FOOD ENVIRONMENTS

How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds (Mick Cornett)

I just got back from OKC this week after visiting a college roommate, so this Midwestern town is fresh on my mind. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever been to the Sooner state, you’ll definitely be inspired by this talk from current mayor Mick Cornett. Equal parts entertaining and inspiring, this story highlights how city planners and public health professionals can play an important role in fighting the obesity epidemic, and shows how important a walkable environment is in promoting health.

Teach Every Child about Food (Jamie Oliver)

Oliver has gained a well-deserved reputation as a tireless advocate for childhood obesity prevention. In this talk, Oliver explains just how important improving nutrition is to our children, and just how serious of a problem the American food environment has become. Our kids deserve better than this, and Oliver explains why.

How We Can Eat Our Landscapes (Pam Warhurst)

In this delightful and motivational story, Warhurst describes how a grassroots volunteer gardening movement is creating a supportive framework for the local food economy. Her talk celebrates the small actions of the community, and highlights the importance of edible landscapes.

PART II: WHY ORGANICS ARE IMPORTANT

From Fabels to Labels (Urvashi Rangan)

Identifying healthy products at the supermarket can be a challenge, especially when packages tout a variety of health claims and nutrition buzzwords. In this talk, Rangan explains which food claims and labels are more credible than others, and also makes an excellent case for supporting organics.

Why is Organic Food so *#@! Expensive? (Ali Partovi)

If the previous talk didn’t convince you of the importance of organic farming systems, this one surely will. Tech giant Partovi dispels a lot of myths surrounding organic food and industrial agriculture. This talk is a must for anyone that thinks that organic farming is expensive and inefficient, and that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world.

PART III: SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS AND FOOD POLICY

How I Fell in Love with a Fish (Dan Barber)

Sustainable food enthusiasts and seafood lovers alike will enjoy this engaging talk from Chef Dan Barber, which explores the sustainability of farmed fish. If you enjoyed Barber, be sure to check out his other TED talk about ethical foi gras. Or, if you’d like to learn more about sustainable seafood, be sure to check out this TED talk from chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver.

Turning the Farm Bill into a Food Bill (Ken Cook)

A new farm bill has passed since this 2011 talk first aired, but many of the points remain relevant. Cook explains how, despite the growing demand for responsibly produced food, government programs and legislation still favor industrial agriculture and the profits of a few food giants over family farms and public health.

Hungry for more? Check out the line-up from the TedxManhattan conferences (here are 2015 and 2014 to get you started) which are focused on “Changing the Way We Eat,” and are the sources of many of the videos above. The TED website also has a “What’s Wrong with What We Eat?” video playlist, a “Talks for Foodies” video playlist, and a “Plantastic!” video playlist. Additionally, Netflix offers a bundle of food related TED talks, in a collection called “Chew on This.”

– Kelly

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Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

One-pot meals (like soups or stews) have long been favored recipes in my kitchen, but lately I’ve been experimenting with a global twist on this genre: peanut soups. This West African culinary tradition has yet to reach mainstream food culture in the US, but it’s only a matter of time. After all, Americans are always looking for a new delivery vehicle for jelly’s better half.

Hearty butternut squash soup serves as the perfect base for the classic, nutty spread, while the pureed chickpeas add a velvety texture, and a familiar, satisfying flavor (think hummus – another snack dip obsession). If you enjoyed my white bean soup, then you’ll love this creamy, earthy creation, inspired by a recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too cookbook.

 Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Spicy Peanut-Squash Soup

Serves 8 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (or one 15 oz can)
  • 1 ½ pounds chopped butternut squash, fresh or frozen (I used frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (double if you prefer a spicier soup)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (add more if you prefer a thinner texture)
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (no added oils or sugars)
  • Optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, green onions, roasted peanuts, lime wedges

Method:

  1. If using dried chickpeas, put them in a large bowl, cover with water, and let them soak overnight. Then, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas to a pot of fresh water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours. When chickpeas are tender, remove from heat, drain, and rinse. If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally for one minute. Then add the butternut squash, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, water, and drained chickpeas and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the peanut butter. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
  5. Using an immersion or handheld blender, blend the soup into a pureed texture. If the soup seems too thick, feel free to add more water.
  6. Ladle about 1 1/3 cups of soup into serving bowls, and add garnishes (like peanuts, cilantro, lime wedges, and/or green onions), if using.

Vegan Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup with Chickpeas

Nutrition per serving: 320 calories, 19g fat (2g saturated fat), 31g carbohydrates (8g fiber, 6g sugar), 13g protein, 345mg sodium, 195% Vitamin A, 34% Vitamin C, 9% Calcium, 15% Iron

Nutrition analysis does not include optional garnishes

– Kelly

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