Current Obsessions

Ever wonder what makes a registered dietitian’s world go round? Here are five things I can’t get enough of lately.

Date Paste

Date Paste

Yes, I am fresh off watching Fed Up and reading Year of No Sugar. But the fact remains- Americans are eating much more than the 6-9 teaspoons/day (women vs. men) recommended by the American Heart Association. I have blogged about date paste before, but basically you just soak dates overnight, then blend them with a bit of the soaking water to create a honey-like liquid sweetener that is full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. I like to stir it into my morning oatmeal instead of brown sugar, but you can also substitute it for some of the refined sugar in baked goods.

This Sandwich

Sandwich

Image via America’s Better Sandwich

I recently had the opportunity to sample the winning recipe of America’s Better Sandwich Contest. The prizewinning dish, “Fast ‘N’ Fresh Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich,” is a light, yet flavorful take on traditional chicken salad, subbing Greek yogurt for mayo, and adding curry and golden raisins. This sweet, punchy mixture is then layered between two slices of Oroweat 100% whole grain bread, along with fresh spinach and thinly sliced apples. SO. GOOD. In fact, I may or may not have tracked down an empty tupperware so that I could stuff it with an obnoxious amount of curried chicken salad to take back to my office. I might have also swiped a leftover loaf of 100% whole grain bread. Let’s just say that my lunches were good this week.

Sparkling Water

Sparkling Water

Image via Drinking Water Fountains

I first tried sparkling water in college. My initial reaction was something along the lines of “Ewww, something is really wrong with this Sprite!” Flash forward a few years. At my new job, the water dispenser has sparkling water, so I’ve given this calorie-free bubbly beverage another try. And I’m hooked. Looking for a way to add some pep to your hydration routine, and help aid digestion? Look no further!

Larabars

Larabars

When someone asks for my recommendation on the healthiest snack bars, it takes an awful lot of willpower not to roll my eyes and say “Why are you eating bars? Why aren’t you snacking on real food, like fruit or nuts?” But I’ve got to give it to Larabar– they kind of are real food. In fact, they’re made with mostly (you guessed it!) fruit and nuts, and have no added oil or sugar (except in the flavors with chocolate chips). For example, the ingredients list for the peanut butter cookie bar, pictured above, reads “peanuts, dates, sea salt.” Talk about #dietitianapproved! For now, the flavors pictured above are my favorite. But I’m dying to try the new holiday flavors, such as snickerdoodle, pumpkin pie, and gingerbread.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers

Burts Bees Lip Shimmer

After a long discussion about how to pull off red lipstick, a friend introduced me to Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers ($5). While the name suggests otherwise, not all shades are shimmery. In fact, some are downright classy. They feel just like chapstick, but offer the pop of color that you expect from a lipstick. I love that the peppermint oil leaves your lips feeling cool and minty, but I especially love that the ingredients are simple and natural. My favorite shades are raisin, cherry, and apricot. Burt’s Bees also makes a Tinted Lip Balm ($7) that I’m dying to try.

What are some of your current obsessions?

– Kelly

Homemade Date Paste: A Healthy, Natural Fruit Sweetener

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As a dietitian, I try to keep my consumption of added sugars as low as possible. And I’m not just talking about table sugar here. I’m talking about brown sugar, agave, maple syrup, and yes, even honey. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars a day for adult women, and no more than 9 teaspoons for adult men. If you are looking to keep added sugars to a minimum, dates and mashed bananas become your best friend.

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First, a little primer on dates. Dates are kind of like giant raisins, but much more sticky and much more sweet. They are about 20 calories each. I usually buy pitted medjool dates in the bulk section at whole foods (surprise, surprise). However, on a particularly desperate grocery outing,  I was able to find dates at the little international market next to my apartment building. Score!

Some of my favorite recipes call for chopped dates as a sweetener, but because the dates are chopped, I find that the sweetness doesn’t distribute evenly throughout the final product. This leaves me with unsweetened food with chunks of date… not quite what I was looking for. Plus, who wants to meticulously chop up a sticky fruit every morning? Not me! Which brings me to date paste.

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Date paste is a simple idea really. Just soak dates overnight, blend the softened dates (I used a knock off Magic Bullet) with a bit of the soaking water, and voila… you have a sweetener that distributes much more evenly throughout. (For a more descriptive recipe, see here).

I usually substitute 1 tablespoon of date paste for every teaspoon of table sugar that I would have used. I mostly only use date paste in my morning oatmeal, but it also works great to sweeten muffins and other treats. 1 tablespoon of date paste has approximately 25 calories, 6g sugar, and 0.5g fiber. Compare that to the 16 calories, 4g of sugar, and 0g fiber in only 1 teaspoon of table sugar. Not bad!

Have you made date paste? What are your favorite healthy sweeteners?

– Kelly