Product Review: Almond Milk with Added Protein

Ran into this Almond Plus single-serve almond milk by So Delicious at Whole Foods the other day and couldn’t resist the spontaneous purchase. Most non-dairy milks–except soymilk and to some degree oat milk–are devoid of protein, making them simply a great calcium and Vitamin D source, but a less-balanced addition to a meal. Ta da! So Delicious Inc. rocks the boat! Their new “Almond Plus” comes in Unsweetened (40 calories, 1 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein/ cup), Original (70 calories, 8 g carbs, 5 g protein), and Vanilla (70 calories, 8 g carbs, 5 g protein). Get it in the half-gallon or get the single-serve vanilla for lunches. The Vanilla is as you would expect: SO Delicious. And for the carb-conscious, it’s lower carb than skim milk and tastes like a milkshake. Magic! And btw, it has pea protein. That can only be good.

Look for it at your local Whole Foods Market or health food store. Bottom’s up!


As a child, 1982 was the year I yearned for a Chia Pet. I wanted the ram. I didn’t even know what a ram was, but I wanted it. It was the commercial that won my heart, with it’s catchy tune and fancy time-lapsed photography. Who knew that 30 years later, Dr. Oz’s team and even (one of my favorites) would be all over their nutritional benefits.

Chia seeds (‘chia’ is actually Mayan for “strength”)–which were used widely by the Mayans and Aztecs as early as 3500 BC to increase stamina and energy–are a SUPER superfood because they have a crazy high amount of nutrients for a crazy low amount of calories. And unlike chia’s friend the flax seed (also a Super), they don’t have to be ground to reap the benefits.

Chia seeds are high in:

  • Soluble fiber: the one responsible for lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, filling you up, and keeping you full for a scarily long amount of time. It absorbs 12 times its own weight in 5 minutes. Take THAT, “Grow Your Own Boyfriend“!
  • Calcium: 16% of your daily requirement per ounce (2 tablespoons), which is 3 times the amount you’ll get from dairy foods
  • Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s: Chia is a more concentrated source of skin- and heart-healthy essential fatty acids than salmon
  • Protein: 6 grams per ounce (2 tablespoons)–that’s similar to meat, but it’s a seed!

So how do you eat them? How DON’T you eat them is more the question! You can literally toss a tablespoon or two into anything. They’re tasteless and simply contribute a fun, crunchy texture to your food. Here, I added them to a dessert and a pina-colada-type smoothie with only positive feedback. Here are 40 more ideas. Chia Cheers!

Chia Blondie Ingredients

Chia Blondies
Makes 16 small squares or 9 large squares

1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 flaxseed meal
1/2 cup filtered water
1 15.5-ounce Trader Joe’s Blondie Bar Baking Mix (or other blondie or brownie mix that bakes in a 9″ X 9″ pan)
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance margarine
1 medium zucchini squash (green or yellow), shredded
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soak chia seeds and flaxseed meal in water in a medium bowl for 5 minutes, until a thick gel forms.

Stir remaining ingredients into chia flax mixture until well mixed.

Spread mixture into a lightly greased 8- or 9-inch square or round baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Feel your cholesterol dissolving, one bite at a time.

Chia Blondies, made with green zucchini

Nutrition Info Per Small Square (1/16th of recipe): 178 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 232 mg sodium, 39 mg potassium, 22.5 g carbohydrate, 3.2 g fiber, 13.3 g sugar, 2 g protein, 5% vitamin A, 1% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 6% iron.

Nutrition Info Per Large Square (1/9th of recipe): 317 calories, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 412 mg sodium, 68 mg potassium, 40 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 23.5 g sugar, 4 g protein, 10% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 10% iron.

What the critics said:
Bitchin’ Husband: “If I have a second, will my hair grow green?” (Ha ha, Funnyman)
6-Year-Old Daughter: “Two more please!”
4-Year-Old Son: “Mom! You never gave me dessert!” (Trying to get another)
2-Year-Old Son: “I not like this.” Two minutes later: “Why you eat my dessert?!?!”

Chia Colada

Chia Colada
Makes 3 1-cup servings

Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, & help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, & promote heart health. Salud!

¼ cup chia seeds soaked in ½ cup filtered water for 5 minutes
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 banana
2 cups refrigerated coconut milk
(or 1 cup canned coconut milk plus 1 cup water)

Blend and do the hat dance.

Nutrition Info Per 1-cup Serving: 202 calories, 10 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 8 g protein, 11% vitamin A, 52% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 34% iron.

Easy-as-Pie Low Sugar Monkey Cake

Light, Fluffy, Rich, Lower Sugar!

Looking for a sweet dessert without the chemicals, weird artificial flavor taste, and without added sugar? Impossible! Forget it! Oh wait. Enter: Monkey Cake.

Sugar–with it’s highly inflammatory, blood sugar-spiking, acne-growing, and teeth-rotting attributes, combined with the fact that it doesn’t even do your laundry–has sent me on a dessert mission. A mission to create a lower sugar baked good that’s not only highly tolerable, but bordering on cravable. This one does it, especially if you’re part monkey. The sweetness comes from bananas and a touch of Truvia, a natural calorie-free sweetener from the stevia plant. The coconut oil–gaining new health praise–adds a subtle tropical kick. Give it a whirl–it’s easy as pie!

Money Cake (Low Sugar)
Makes 12 hunks
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

2 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup filtered water
3 Tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend (or other stevia leaf extract for baking)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, or vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (like Bob’s), or 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour (like Bob’s)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mash banana, water, and stevia together, and stir in oil and vanilla until well-mixed.

Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl. Combine flour mixture and cinnamon with wet mixture by stirring in gradually.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″ x 9″ square or 9″ round baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until top is golden brown. Let the cake cool before cutting.

Nutrition Info Per Hunk: 150 calories, 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 202 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 3 g protein, 7% Iron.

The trick with using stevia baking blend in recipes is to substitute it at a 1:2 ratio for sugar. The stevia is sweeter and has a nasty aftertaste if overdone. The original version of this recipe called for 1/2 cup sugar (8 Tablespoons), and 3 Tablespoons of stevia baking blend does the trick without any nasty.

Even a Dietitian’s Child Gets Diabetes

Jake in the ER, Chowing down after his first insulin shot

Health Champs and Nutrition Superheroes,

My post today is a personal one. This past week, we found out that my 2 year-old son has type 1 diabetes (the need-insulin-shots-for-the-rest-of-his-life kind). Despite our uber healthy diet topping the charts with veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains, an autoimmune response to a virus or reason unknown caused my littlest dude’s immune system to attack the insulin-producing cells of his pancreas. When this happens, insulin (which is like the key that unlocks cells’ doors to allow glucose to get in and do its job) can no longer be produced, leaving excessive glucose floating around the bloodstream. A normal body’s pancreas produces just enough insulin to deal with whatever carbohydrate is or isn’t eaten–no thought, shot, or pill needed. The glucose gets into the cells, blood sugars are stable, and none of it requires any extra effort.

As type 1 diabetes is hitting, however, and the insulin-producing cells are being destroyed, the body panics with the extra glucose floating around the bloodstream and reacts by pulling fluid from every store to try and eliminate the glucose through the urine. Dehydration and extreme thirst result. Those are the first signs. The next are usually lethargy and vomiting.

About 5 days before we discovered Jake’s diabetes, he had been asking for more water and urinating more. Not crazy amounts, we just had to change his diaper more often. He was getting over a cold, so of course he was thirstier. He even had a fever one night and I took him to the pediatrician first thing the following morning suspecting an ear infection. But nothing was wrong. Well, once Day 5 hit and he was still asking for “wa wa please” every several minutes (and his grandma also noticed he was cold and his skin looked a little thin), I asked the nurses at my work if they thought anything of his excessive thirst, and asked if I might borrow a glucometer to test his blood sugar levels, just to rule out diabetes. They had seen this before and were worried. They encouraged me to postpone my patients for the day and go home to test his blood sugar, and then I could return if all was well.

His blood sugar level was 560 and then retested at 549. Normal is 100-200 for a 2 year-old. Obviously, it was a faulty machine. I tested MY levels: 73. Crap. Fast-forward past the ER at Children’s hospital, IV fluids to rehydrate him, the official diabetes diagnosis, and a daylong diabetes bootcamp with a diabetes educator to learn how to test blood sugars (I was very awkward in testing his levels at home!), give insulin shots, and manage his meals. All I kept thinking was thank gosh I have the nutrition stuff down because the insulin and blood sugar monitoring was about all the new learning our brains could take!

So, here we are now on Day 3 at home and are getting used to our new ways. We’ve only now realized how much more alive Jake is compared to last week. His body is happy, he laughs and jokes constantly, he’s gained nearly 3 lbs since getting insulin shots because his cells are finally getting the glucose they need, and he’s even telling us which finger to prick for each of his glucose checks. Our days consist of 4 insulin shots, several blood sugar checks to help detect low blood sugar levels (which can be serious)–including 2 while he’s sleeping. My husband and I sneak in there like a diabetes SWAT team with our headlamps and blood sugar checking gear. Most of the time, he sleeps right through! Blood sugar checks also determine what kind of snack he can have: low-carb if his blood sugars are within the normal range, and carby if his blood sugars are low. Our days no longer include enticing desserts to encourage veggie consumption at mealtime, and there are no more meals on the run. Meals MUST be balanced: moderate carbohydrates (about 30-40 grams per meal), protein, and fat. Carbohydrates turn into glucose in the bloodstream immediately, 40% of protein turns into glucose 1-2 hours after consumption, and 10% of fat turns into glucose about 4 hours after consumption. A balanced meal means blood glucose levels are less likely to drop too low between meals. We can do this!

Thanks to our previously healthy habits, the nutrition part of diabetes management is pretty much the same, and any changes have been for the better (we WERE probably getting a little too crazy with the desserts…). Today for lunch, we all had hummus (some carb, some protein, some fat), broccoli (a “free” and healthy food), whole wheat crackers (only a few, so Jake also had a banana to meet his carbohydrate needs), avocado slices (fat), and ice water. The morning snack which would have been pretzels, became a naturally low-carb peanut butter spoon, one of Jake’s all-time favorite treats. We’re all having to change some–We, and my other 2 kids can’t be chowing on foods that Jake can’t have (like pretzels at snacktime) until Jake understands what’s going on. But we’re realizing that his diet is actually just a balanced one that leaves the junk behind. We’ll all be even healthier now!

Obviously, this new life is no walk in the park, and my anti-carb-counting and anti-low-carb days are over. I appreciate both now. But, we are so blessed to have this super cool kid, who can still be a kid and live a healthy, normal life. We’re finding that type 1 diabetes isn’t hard, it’s just more. More to watch and do. So we’ll probably just put off getting that puppy for now… 🙂

Even a dietitian’s child gets diabetes, and even a dietitian’s family can improve their eating habits. Stay tuned for a new tab: Bitchin’ Diabetes! And please share stories and tips.

Peace and balance,


Soda (Part Deux): Diet vs. Regular

Izze Soda

Guest Post by Daniela Baker

If you’re addicted to drinking soda, you’re certainly not alone. Soda cans and bottles hold more than twice as much as they did in 1950, and that extra soda really adds up. With the average American drinking more than fifty gallons of soda, energy drinks, and fruity drinks a year, it’s no wonder we struggle to figure out which is the better choice.

Unfortunately, we all know that drinking soda–whether diet or regular–isn’t the greatest choice for our health. But sometimes you may feel like you need a Coke or a Pepsi to get you through the day. In times of weakness, which is the better choice: diet or regular?

Your health

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the a single can of regular soda can run you up about 150 calories, mostly from the high fructose corn syrup used to sweeten it. Drinking just one can like this a day could help you pack on fifteen pounds over the course of a year. FIFTEEN POUNDS! Regular soda consumption boosts rates of obesity and diabetes, and regular consumption of regular soda is often a risk factor for heart disease. In Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study, women who drank two or more servings a day of sweet drinks had about a 40% increase in their risk for heart disease related death and heart attacks.

So what about diet soda?

In the short term, the Harvard School of Public Health says that switching from regular to diet soda can help with weight loss, since diet soda doesn’t influence blood sugar levels or come with lots of added calories. However, studies have shown that consuming artificial sugars can actually cause you to consume more overall calories compared to diets that contain regular sugar and no artificial sweeteners. This is because our brains are meant to link sweet tastes and calories, and they’ll help our bodies automatically adjust intake for caloric needs. When the link between sweetness and calories is cut, though, it seems that the hormones and chemicals in the brain that tell us when to stop eating can go haywire. And don’t forget the recent study linking diet soda consumption to heart problems. Crud!

Okay, so neither regular soda nor diet soda is good for your health. But as an occasional treat, neither one of them is going to harm you too much, either. If you’re really concerned about making healthy choices, though, which one should you choose to have as a treat once in a while?

The verdict

An occasional diet soda is OK, and if you absolutely have to choose between diet and regular (meaning you’re actually going to die without one or the other, and the only options around are in a vending machine), then diet is *probably* better (Harvard says diet is better on occasion, and on account of the obesity epidemic).

HOWEVER, try to avoid getting in the “diet or regular” situation. Keep a stockpile of Izze sodas (made from sparkling juice, containing no refined sugars, preservatives, caffeine, or artificial anything) and seltzer water on hand to satisfy your bubbly needs. Or, mix seltzer with fruit wedges or fruit juice for a refreshing and actually nutritious beverage. All of these healthy options can help you wean yourself off of regular soda, and don’t add up to too many extra calories in your day. Look into the SodaStream for seltzering water at home. Save bottles, $$, and impress your friends! It costs about $100 plus the $15 carbon dioxide cartridge every 60 to 130 liters.

Daniela Baker is a health- and fitness-conscious mother of two who is passionate about overthrowing the standard American diet by teaching others how to cook healthy, home-cooked meals and trade their couch potato lifestyles for more active ones. She loves spending time outdoors with her crazy canine and two very active kids, and works hard to set a good example for her family by making healthy food and lifestyle choices. 

Vitamin D DanDy

Photo by: Barry Bridges

Are you feeling unexcited about your recent lottery win, or less energized about the energizing aspects of your life? If so, it may be time to load up on vitamin D. New stats show that 70% of Europeans have low Vitamin D levels, and I was reminded of this potential as I gazed out my window this morning at a snow-covered yard and a sun-deficient sky. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike your skin. It’s found naturally in very few foods, added to some foods, and also available as a supplement.

SPF 8 and glass windows block vitamin D’s synthesis, darker skin produces less vitamin D with sunlight exposure, and cloud cover and shade reduce UV rays by about half, which is why it’s no surprise that many, many “I used to have energy” folks are coming up short this time of year. If you live at 42 degrees north latitude (I’m talking to you, northern Cali to Boston!), UV energy is insufficient from November through February. Once summer hits, it’s crucial to soak up a little bit of sun to refuel your tank.

How much do you need?
Just 5-30 minutes of summer sun from 10 AM – 3 PM twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen will do the trick. You make about 20,000 International Units (IU’s) with just 20 minutes of summer sun. If you go the supplement route—necessary in winter months—the recommended intake is 400-1000 IU’s per day. However, some doctors and researchers recommend 2,000-4,000 IU’s daily for people with normal levels, and 5,000-10,000 IU’s daily for people with below normal levels. Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol, a synthetic form of D) is less bioavailable than Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol, animal-derived, and the kind that the sun makes in your skin), which means you need more D2 than D3 to increase your blood levels of Vitamin D when sunshine isn’t around.

Why is D so essential?
Bones need it for calcium absorption, and it’s also critical for neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation, and may be helpful in preventing cancer of the breast, ovary, colon, and prostate, and improving mood, depression, and energy levels especially during winter-time months. Plus, vitamin D research is getting close to proving it’s key role in preventing and treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions.

Anything else?
A brand spankin’ new study just found that adequate Vitamin D could reduce inflammation and aging of the eyes as it improves retina health. Plus, previous studies have found Vitamin D deficiency to be a complication with liver disease and linked with increased risk of asthma among African American kids. Adequate Vitamin D levels are crucial for cancer prevention and survival, and are even pointing to increased survival among elderly women. For more info on D facts and figures, check here.

Where to Get It in the Winter
Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and say so on the label: Super sources are non-dairy milks including Earth Balance Soymilk which contains more Vitamin D than other non-dairy milks (120 IU’s per cup compared to 100 IU’s per cup). Non-dairy milks are also fortified with Calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12.

So where do you get your D? Time for a sunny vacation perhaps?