Quick bread makes a festive, fun, and sweet treat to bring to the holiday party, a gift to your loved ones, or something to enjoy with your family. This recipe features nutritious sweet potato, fresh cranberries, rosemary, and toasted pecans to give it a nice flavor. Why not make this sweet treat this holiday season?
Fancy Sweet Potato Bread
Christy Quirk, MS, RD, LDN
This quick sweet potato bread makes a festive treat to bring to a holiday party or give as a gift. It features sweet potato and fresh cranberries, as well as candied rosemary and toasted pecans to add a lovely pop of flavor. Share it with family and friends!
Roast sweet potato at 400 degrees F, until tender. Cool, peel and set aside.
Place fresh rosemary sprigs, in simple syrup, for at least 10 minutes or overnight. Remove sprigs from syrup, coat in granulated sugar and dry for at least 10 minutes. *Dry these in your pre-heated oven and they’ll break up nicely as you prepare the pans of batter.
4 sprigs rosemary
Lightly toast the pecans and set aside.
Mash the sweet potato in a large bowl, then add kosher salt, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, baking soda, baking powder, canola oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar and eggs. Whisk till well combined.
1 tsp kosher salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, 1 cup canola oil, 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed, 3 large eggs
Gently stir in the flour, then 3 oz of the pecans and the fresh cranberries.
1 2/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pour batter into greased loaf pans, then top with the remaining pecans and the candied rosemary (strip the stems and discard these).
Bake at 350 degrees F. ~35 minutes for mini loaves and ~1h5m for 8×4 loaves.
As the autumn season rolls in with its warm golden glow and fresh fall air, one cannot help but get excited for vibrant colors on treetops and succulent seasonal flavors. At Well Balanced, we welcome the changing of seasons with open arms as they bring fresh, delicious seasonal foods. To celebrate this transition into the last few months of the year and pay homage to the diverse nutrients this season provides, we’re dedicating October to Mother Earth and focusing on all the ways we can keep her thriving.
Although there are numerous ways to help keep the planet safe and healthy, we are going to focus on what we love most: food. That’s right, food and the environment are closely related. There is even a fun term for people that eat foods close to home. According to the Oxford Languages online dictionary, a locavore is a person whose diet consists only or primarily of locally grown or produced food.
What are the benefits of being a locavore?
It fosters a healthy environment. Local foods found at farmer’s markets, produce stands, or in the local food section of your grocery store do not have to travel long distances, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints.
It contributes to and supports the local economy. This, in turn, helps support local farmers and agriculture. This has never been more important, as the 2022 Farm Sector Income report forecasted a $20 billion increase in farm production costs and a $15.5 billion decrease in government subsidies.
Local foods may have higher nutrient content, as local produce has a shorter time between harvest and when it is consumed. Foods that travel longer distances may lose some of their nutritional value during long periods of transportation through their aging process.
Local foods are seasonal foods. Eating seasonally benefits the environment by promoting more sustainable agriculture and consumption patterns.
If you’ve followed along this year, you probably noticed we have some recurring themes with our cooking demonstrations. We love plant-forward meals that are easy to prepare and, of course, friendly on the budget.
Today I want to tie in eco-friendly or sustainable. You may think, hey, we’re already in that neighborhood, but we want to take that one step further. We’ve encouraged
in season foods
In addition, there are more specific food choices we can make, like, lentils, which belong to the pulse family. They are nitrogen fixers.
So not only are they easy, tasty protein, but they improve the soil in which they’re grown. Another choice is mushrooms; these can grow on logs, and they can grow on compost. They require very little water and very little space. So not only are they tasty, but they give us lots of vitamins and minerals. There are others on this list of eco-friendly foods, but we’ll focus today on those two. They are the stars of this burger.
You may notice that the recipe tells you to portion these burgers and bake them in the oven, but I like a little extra texture, so I’ve chosen to sear them on the cast iron skillet and then cook them until they’re the right firm.
Part of the frustration around nutrition is that we read the ideas and theories of so many different influencers, bloggers, physicians, and nutritionists on every corner of the web. In addition, we see catchy and misleading advertisements trying to get our attention and money. And to top it all off, the news headlines tend to share just a snippet of the latest research studies in a way that can have us questioning what we once knew to be true. This all makes it seem like nutrition science is useless and nobody is right!
Before you throw your hands in the air and give up, listen to what Dr. Chaney has to say. Dr. Chaney is a retired professor of human metabolism who knows a thing or two about the scientific method. He is passionate about helping consumers think more like scientists so we can make sense of the latest news in nutrition and spot the hype.
In his book, Slaying the Food Myths, he writes in detail about how to do this, but I’d like to share some highlights with you here.
How to think like a scientist
First, look at the totality of available research.
You can find a study or two that proves just about anything. This makes it easy for people to cherry-pick one or two research studies that support their theory and disregard the other studies that may disprove it. A good scientist will look at all the research and consider what the majority of high-quality studies show. Never base your opinion on a single study, rather look at the “weight of available evidence.”
Secondly, know that all studies have flaws.
No study is perfect. Some are better than others, but they all will have limitations. Sometimes the study is too short. Sometimes it has confounding variables (unexpected things that influence the outcome.) Sometimes the sample size is too small or not a good representative of the entire population. Because of this, there is no none perfect clinical study that proves or disproves a hypothesis. That’s why it is essential to look at several studies and understand what types of studies are available.
Understand the different types and phases of scientific research.
Third – The art of scientific discovery has different phases; first, we test a theory in the lab. If it shows promising results, then we try the theory on animals. Lastly, we see if it relates to humans. Many new and exciting research that makes the news headlines are done on animals. That is a factor we need to consider when hearing new research snippets. Unfortunately, only 1/10 of animal studies work out to also be accurate/helpful for humans.
Much of what we know about diets and health is from association studies. While these have provided many valuable insights, they have significant weaknesses. Association studies can’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship. They also can’t indeed account for all the possible unintended associations that may have influenced the outcome. For example, if you look at diet soda intake and weight, you may find that those who drink diet sodas are overweight. Is there a positive association because diet sodas cause weight gain, or is it because those who are overweight tend to drink more diet sodas to lose weight or control calorie intake?
The gold standard for research is a double-blind intervention study, where participants are randomized into a control and intervention group without the researchers or the participants knowing which group they are in. But unfortunately, this type of research is nearly impossible to conduct when the intervention is diet. So we must understand the limitations of what we know from association studies around diets.
Take into consideration individual variability.
Lastly, although we can gain a lot of good information from research studies, we must remember that we are all different, and dietary results may vary vastly. Research studies report the average response to a particular diet or food. However, if you look at each individual in studies, you’ll see that a specific food or diet works well for some study participants and doesn’t work at all for others. Consider this your reminder to pay attention to how your body responds to foods and dietary patterns and trust what it tells you.
Save some time
If you rather save time and find a trusted resource: check out Dr. Chaney’s books and his blog. You can also check out the conversations between the Health Geeks and Dr. Chaney on the podcast. Lastly, your friendly dietitians can help you make sense of the hype and point you in the right direction to meet your health and wellness goals. Book a free clarity call today.
Whether you’re getting readjusted to having your kiddos back in school, feeling the demands of those extracurriculars, starting classes, or getting back into the swing of things as the school year ramps up, it can feel like a juggling act to stick to your nutrition or wellness goals.
The start of this new season is the best time to revisit and renew your health and wellness goals! Below you’ll find plenty of simple and time-saving ways to ensure your nutrition gets an A+.
Nutrition Tips for Meal Planning
Recipe note cards. It’s an oldie but a goodie (or new to you!), write down a few family favorite recipes on note cards and keep them somewhere accessible. When it comes time to plan out the week’s meals and create the grocery list, you’ll already have a stash of recipes you know everyone enjoys.
Opt for frozen produce. These days numerous different items are equally convenient and nutritious. Most grocery stores sell frozen bags of veggies that can easily be popped into the microwave. This is an excellent option for lunches when there is not enough time to cook ahead. The steamed veggies can easily be paired with leftovers or a protein of your choice. (Tip: top the veggies with your favorite dressing or sauce to add some extra flavor)
Make a little extra. If time allows, when preparing dinner, cook an extra chicken breast or serving of that meal, that way, you’ll have something already made to eat with the steamed veggies. This cuts back on cooking time the next day and provides an easy meal without the stress.
One pot meals. If you have a slow cooker or instant pot, one-pot meals such as chili or stew can make dinner less of a hassle. The slow cooker can also be used to cook a side dish ahead of time, such as cabbage, carrots, or potatoes. It can be as easy as throwing the ingredients in and letting them cook while you tackle the to-do list. For some one-pot slow cooker recipes, click here.
Nutrition Tips if You are On the Go
Keep snacks in the car. There is no shame in the car snack game! If you are spending hours driving each day, keep some items like trail mix, protein bars, jerky, or whole grain crackers in your car.
Pack breakfast AND lunch ahead of time. Not only having your lunch packed and ready to go, but also your breakfast, can set you up for success–especially if you find yourself rushing out the door. Skipping breakfast can often lead to cravings and poor food choices throughout the day. Opt for options like overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, smoothies, or egg bites that can be made the night before and are easy to grab on the way out. Another option is to have things like trail mix, protein bars, protein shakes, and fruit like bananas, apples, or oranges around that way, you can grab a few items and skip the meal prep.
Plan ahead. If your day is booked back to back with meetings or classes, then scheduling in time for mealtime may be helpful. Some of the brilliant members of the Well Balanced Tribe have voiced how putting lunch on their schedule helped them take the time to stop working or studying to eat. Simply looking at the day or week ahead can help you get an idea of when and where you might be able to eat.
Some days (or weeks or months) are just too crazy to spend hours in the kitchen each week. That’s why at Well Balanced we are always looking for simple meals that are just as quick as they are nutritious. Our newest recipe is brought to you by Coach Bella’s favorite store, Trader Joe’s. It calls for a few frozen items, some seasoning, and some tofu. The best part it is it requires minimal cooking. Just a few minutes in the microwave, a little sauté action, and BOOM- a fast, delicious, and well balanced meal (or meals) is ready to be enjoyed.
Well Balanced Tip: if you use more than one package of the frozen rice and channa masala (like the recipe calls for), then you are likely to have enough food for a few people or few meals worth, However, if you are only in need of one meal then use half a bag of rice, 1/4-1/2 of a block of tofu, and one channa masala.
For those that track: if you follow the recipe, the macro breakdown per serving is:
14.5 g fat
2.75 g saturated fat
58 g carbohydrates
5.5 g fiber
18.5 g protein
Trader Joe's Tofu and Chickpea Curry on Rice
Need a delicious, plant-based meal in a flash? Try this quick and easy recipe the next time you need something simple yet nutritious without racing against the clock.
The nervous system is at the heart of our daily experience and works in the background outside of our conscience awareness. It can shape the way we experience the world, including how we think and feel about food and our bodies. It also can affect our digestion, heart rate, and immune system.
You’ve likely heard of the gut-brain connection. Part of that connection includes thevagus nerve, which carries an extensive range of signals from the digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa.
Did you know there are 3 modes that your nervous system supports and will switch between throughout the day? According to the polyvagal theory, they are:
Safe and Social mode – feeling comfortable, connected, and safe in our environment
Fear or Flight mode – feeling anxious, threatened, fearful, or wary of surroundings
Shut Down mode – feeling dissociated, numb, disconnected, tired, shameful
All modes are helpful in some way for our survival, but as you can probably guess we feel and function our best in that safe and social mode.
A high level of stress/anxiety or unresolved trauma can make it hard to stay or get in the safe and social mode. This can make eating mindfully and being in tune with your body quite challenging.
That is one reason why your Well Balanced dietitians encourage you to build up your self-care toolbox. These activities often build resilience and support a calmer nervous system. It’s part of the mind-body connection that can improve your well-being, support a healthy digestive system, and make it easier to build healthier eating habits.
4 ways you can support your nervous system.
Listen to your favorite music while paying close attention to the lyrics and instrumentals.
Breathe in slowly to the count of four and release to the count of seven. Do this for 5 minutes.
Do some gentle stretching, even if it’s for just a couple of minutes.
Watch something funny.
Hungry for more info about your nervous system?
Listen to this episode of the Health Geeks Book Club Podcast.
Are grocery prices making meal planning more difficult?
As if meal planning wasn’t hard enough, the ever-rising food and gas prices can make it feel not only timely but costly. Meal planning, grocery shopping, and prepping feel more stressful than ever these days. That’s why I (Coach Bella) decided to go on a mission to create a simple, affordable, and quick recipe that won’t break the bank or your back!
Bean, Rice, and Veggie Bowl
Cooking plant-based can actually be quite affordable, especially when opting for nutritious staples like rice and beans. For this recipe, I got my ingredients from Trader Joe’s and even opted for organic versions of a few ingredients (spinach, zucchini, kidney beans, and chickpeas). The prices are listed beside the ingredients. The grand total, with tax, was $12.18. However, this is meant to provide about 3 meals if eaten alone, or 5 meals if something is added to it like eggs, chicken/turkey, more veggies, or a side salad. That’s only $4.06/meal for 3 meals or $2.44/meal for 5 meals (with the additional cost of whatever else you add)!
1 bag of spinach ($2.29)
1/2 bag of rice– jasmine, brown, white ($2.99)
1 onion ($0.99)
2 zucchinis ($3.69)
1 can of chickpeas ($0.99)
1 can of beans- kidney, black, northern, or your fav ($0.99)
Chop the zucchini and onion
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and beans
Cook the rice
As you can see I had some brown rice to use up so I mixed the jasmine and brown rice together.
Sauté the zucchini and onions
I used olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season
Add the spinach to the pan with the onions and zucchini. Cook until spinach is wilted or cooked to your liking. (Option to leave spinach raw and have it as a base to the dish.)
Add the beans to the pan as well to lightly cook.
I added more seasoning once the beans were in the pan.
Salsa, shredded lettuce, and Mexican cheese
Green goddess dressing
I used kidney beans + chickpeas. Two cans of beans could be used as opposed to chickpeas and beans.
Vegetarian Bean and Rice Bowl
There are few recipes simpler than rice and beans. However, this bowl has a world of possibilities depending on the veggies and toppings you choose to add. Please play around with the ingredients and use this as a guide to create a yummy bowl!
Snacks are so fun, aren’t they!? The best snacks are balanced, containing a carbohydrate plus some protein and/or fat. Snacks can also be a strategic way to get in more fruits and vegetables. Make these muffins as a delicious mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up. You’ll be satisfying your sweet tooth and nourishing yourself with a healthy, balanced snack. If you want to hear more about the Well Balanced Way to snack, check out our workshop on Balanced Snack Secrets.
Cooking with Chef Christy
In this episode of cooking with Chef Christy, I bake a delicious muffin that works as a wonderful, balanced snack. While it is not your normal super light and fluffy muffin, it IS very nutritious and fun!
Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Well Balanced Nutrition
These muffins make the best Well Balanced Snack! They contain carbs, fat, protein, fruits and veggies. making them balanced, nutritous and delicious. It's a great way to use fresh zucchini and strawberries which are abundant in the summer months.
Entertaining this summer? Make some crowd-pleasing dips. They are a convenient and delicious way to consume a wide variety of anti-inflammatory vegetables, spices, and healthy fats. While we love the convenience of purchased dips like packaged hummus, some brands may contain unnecessary levels of fat, sugar, salt, preservatives, and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Making dips yourself allows you to control the flavor and quality – and it’s easy!
The best dips begin with a creamy base made from foods such as beans, lentils, avocados, edamame, and roasted vegetables [eggplant, carrots, squash, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower] that are blended with oil or another liquid. Add flavor boosters such as tahini, garlic, hot sauce, nut butters, nuts and seeds, lemon or lime juice, and zest to add dimension. Finish by seasoning with fresh and dried herbs, spices, salt, and pepper, and your dip is complete. Here are some of our favorite combinations with healthy vehicles ideas:
Ingredient and flavor combinations
Chickpea hummus [and other beans] – The classic chickpea base is very versatile and can be made with any bean. Add tahini, garlic, lemon, and cumin to chickpeas for a traditional version. Variations include [but are not limited to] roasted red pepper, lemon kale, Moroccan carrot, roasted zucchini, kalamata olive, spicy sriracha, and creamy pesto. Try this crowd-pleasing version for Lemon Dill Hummus.
Avocado, AKA guacamole! We love the healthy fats in avocado, but the calories can be intimidating. Cut the amount of avocado in half by adding defrosted edamame beans – you will decrease the calories and increase the protein. Win, win. Add some greens to keep your dip bright and fresh. Our Kale and Edamame Guacamole is a team favorite.
Roasted vegetables – Baba ganoush is the ultimate example here – a combination of roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, and garlic. Other roasted vegetables that work well in dips are butternut squash, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, and peppers. Roasting them allows you to process vegetables until creamy. Start with store-bought for this nutrient-dense and super flavorful Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Dip.
Carrot chips or sticks – You can purchase prepared crinkle-cut carrot chips or slice carrots on an angle. Baby carrots work too.
Cucumber chips – Slice cucumbers on an angle to maximize surface area for scooping.
Broccoli or cauliflower – Lightly steam these vegetables to bring out their sweetness – you want them to still have the firmness necessary to dip.
Green beans – Remove stems, rinse, and dip. If you prefer, you can lightly steam these as well.
Endive – This nutrient-dense vegetable is the ultimate chip – perfect shape, size, and sturdiness.
Peppers – Red, yellow, and orange peppers provide a variety of phytonutrients and are milder than green peppers.
Celery sticks – Firm and crisp, celery is a go-to vehicle.
Snap peas – These can be consumed raw or lightly steamed.
Cherry tomatoes – We love using grape tomatoes on our crudités platters, but dipping them can be tricky. Using toothpicks can help keep your fingers free of dip.
If you are interested in more Well Balanced snack options and new recipes, join us for our monthly webinar.