Smoothie Bowl (Banana Free) & Why Make Sugar Free Smoothies?

smoothie bowl, banana free smoothie bowl, smoothie bowl no banana, acai smoothie bowl

The question of whether or not to eat sugar comes up a lot for many of our clients, especially when it comes to cancer prevention.  This can be a challenge when it comes to making smoothies and clients ask us if it’s okay to put sweet fruit in them.

In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this October, we are going to be sharing some blog posts with important information for women...and the question about sugar is one of the things we’ll look at.   

If you don’t like bananas it can be tough to find a good smoothie.  We admit it, even we resort to using bananas as a key ingredients in smoothies most of the time.  But, we don’t all love bananas and we get bored of their strong, overpowering flavour that seems to take over the entire smoothie no matter what other delicious ingredients we add.  

Besides the flavour, there are a lot of reasons why many of our clients limit or avoid their intake of bananas.  It’s not that they aren’t healthy, in fact bananas are actually technically a low glycemic fruit.  On the Glycemic Index scale they are rated at 51, and foods below 55 are considered low glycemic (meaning, they won’t release carbohydrates rapidly and spike your blood sugar as quickly as high glycemic foods immediately after eating). Bananas are also infamously known for their high potassium content, which is an important mineral needed for electrolyte balance.  

 

So, why would you stop eating bananas?

Bananas are still sweet and contain sugar, just as all fruit does.  However, if you are managing or recovering from a health issue, limiting sugar intake is helpful for many reasons.  Whether you are dealing with blood sugar management, hormonal imbalance, digestive imbalance, or cancer, reducing your sugar intake supports the balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract.  Too many sweet foods fuel overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast in the gut.  This in turn not only interferes with proper digestion and removal of waste, but can weaken the immune system.  70% of your immune system is found in the lining of the intestinal tract.  When the good bacteria is out of balance here, your body’s first line of defence is weakened.  

If you are dealing with insulin resistance or want to prevent that from happening, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of sweet foods (especially refined carbs like sugar, white flour, and processed foods). These foods trigger your pancreas to release insulin to help shuttle the carbohydrates into your cells.   However, if lots of sweets and simple carbohydrates are consumed the pancreas becomes taxed with producing so much insulin. And, your body’s cells can eventually stop responding to insulin (insulin resistance), which leaves glucose circulating in the blood stream. This elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance is linked with inflammation, which increases cancer risk.

 

What to do?

This doesn’t mean you have to stop eating fruit or whole grains and starchy vegetables.  Sweet potatoes and other root veggies, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains, and so many fruits are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  It just means that you want to eat these things as part of a balanced diet with lots of leafy greens, a rainbow of colourful veggies, clean proteins (beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, or organic animal protein if you’re omnivore), and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and omega-3 rich flax oil.  And, limit your intake of sweet foods and avoid refined products like white flour and sugar.

 

The Alternative to Banana in Smoothies

So, whether you are limiting your intake of sugar or just don’t like the taste of bananas, here’s what you can use instead to make a smoothie.  

Option 1: Pear
Pears are a bit lower on the glycemic index than bananas and taste less sweet. Add pear into your smoothies instead of bananas.  You can replace banana with the same amount of pear for a similar consistency.

Option 2: Avocado
If you’re  going completely sugar free, then avocado will provide the perfect creamy texture to your smoothie that banana normally does.  But, then you might be dealing with a smoothie that’s not sweet enough.  Berries are your best friend here.  They are low glycemic and the lowest sugar fruits. If you still need more sweet taste, then we recommend adding a few drops of stevia to the avocado based smoothie. Many healthy vegan protein powders are already sweetened with stevia, so if you add a scoop of that into the smoothie it can provide some sweetness.

 

Smoothie Bowl (Banana Free)

1 pear, chopped roughly
1 cup blueberries (or you can use raspberries and/or strawberries instead)
1 acai smoothie pack (we’ve been using this Acai Roots brand)
2 to 3 Tbsp hempseeds or protein powder of choice
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice)

Toppings:
Shredded coconut
Caco nibs
Mulberries (or goji berries)
Strawberries
Raspberries

Directions:

  1. Place the pear, blueberries, and hempseeds (or protein powder) in the blender.

  2. Break the acai smoothie pack into a few smaller pieces and add to the blender.

  3. Add a little bit of the milk and blend everything together.  Add the milk gradually, as needed to get everything blending.  The smoothie bowl with be thicker with less liquid added.

  4. Once everything is creamy and smooth pour into a bowl.

  5. Top with your toppings of choice!

 

References:

Ben-Shmuel S, et.al. “Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cancer: Epidemiology and Potential Mechanisms.” Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, April, 2015.

Brown, Kirsty, et al. “Diet-Induced Dysbiosis of the Intestinal Microbiota and the Effects on Immunity and Disease.” Nutrients, vol. 4, no. 8, 2012 Aug: pp. 1095–1119

Sears, Barry, and Mary Perry. “The Role of Fatty Acids in Insulin Resistance.” Lipids in Health and Disease 14 (2015): 121.

Simopoulos, Artemis P. “An Increase in the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio Increases the Risk for Obesity.” Nutrients 8.3 (2016): 128. PMC. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.

Vighi, G et al. “Allergy and the Gastrointestinal System.” Clinical and Experimental Immunology 153.Suppl 1 (2008): 3–6. PMC.


Wellen, Kathryn E., and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil. “Inflammation, Stress, and Diabetes.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 115.5 (2005): 1111–1119. PMC. Web. 27 Sept. 2017.

Homemade Gluten Free Poptarts

gluten free poptarts, homemade poptarts

Slow mornings are always the best for making something special for breakfast.  A few weeks ago, on one of these types of slow mornings, we had a craving for poptarts.  Not the gross, sugary, refined flour poptarts, topped off with bright pink icing glaze though.  But, for some reason the thought of homemade flaky poptarts, filled with real fruit just sounded so good.  

So, after some trial and error, we came up with this recipe.  It is gluten free and can also be made completely vegan as well (instead of using real butter, just substitute in a healthy vegan butter).  Working with this crust can be a little tricky sometimes.  You want it to be chilled just enough so that it sticks together, but not too cold that it's not malleable.  Another variation that you could do is substitute in spelt flour if you can eat other grains and aren't avoiding gluten.  Spelt flour would definitely be easier to work with and would ensure the dough rolls out nicely. 

The best part about this recipe is that the filling is made with real fruit.  And, you don't even need to sweeten it.  We use chia seeds to create a "jam" and this provides soluble fiber in an easy to eat treat.  This recipe is especially good for kids, as they won't even know the fibrous chia seeds are mixed in with the berries.

homemade poptarts, homemade gluten free poptarts

 

Homemade Gluten Free Poptarts

2 ¼ cups gluten free flour blend (such as Bob’s Red Mill or Pamela’s)
¼ cup coconut sugar
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup butter (or dairy free vegan butter)
⅓ cup apple sauce
pinch of sea salt

Chia Seed Berry "Jam" Filling:
1 cup frozen raspberries
½ cup frozen blueberries
2 tsp chia seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, sea salt and coconut sugar in the food processor.

  2. Add in the coconut oil and butter, pulsing in the food processor to cut into the dry ingredients.  Pulse until a crumbly mixture is formed.

  3. Add in the apple sauce and pulse until dough forms.  You might need to add a spoonful or two of cold water, if the dough is too dry.  You’ll know that it’s working when the dough turns into a ball.

  4. Form dough in a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Put in fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the jam! See directions below.

  5. Then place the ball between two sheets of parchment paper and  roll out dough into ¼ inch thickness sheet.

  6. Cut out equal sized rectangular pieces for the poptarts to make 12 rectangles.

  7. Then place 6 of the rectangles on a parchment lined baking sheet.

  8. Place 2 to 3 tsp of jam in the center of each rectangle.

  9. Place a dough rectangle on top of each one and then seal the edges with a fork, pressing down to leave indents from the fork prongs.

  10. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

  11. Allow to cool.

 

Directions for the Chia Seed Berry Jam:

  1. Place the berries in a small pot and heat on low heat.  

  2. Once they start to heat up, stir and mush them together.  After 5 to 10 minutes the berries will be soft and mushy.  

  3. Stir in the chia seeds and let side for 10 minutes.  

  4. The mixture will be thick like jam.

  5. If you prefer sweetening the jam, you can stir in maple syrup.

homemade poptarts, homemade gluten free poptarts

Breakfast Cookies (grain free, gluten free, refined sugar free)

breakfast cookies, gluten free, grain free, vegetarian, recipe

We used to be skeptical of breakfast cookies.  Can a cookie really be healthy enough to serve for breakfast?  Thankfully we discovered that using seed or nut butter as the main ingredient for a cookie, creates a high protein and nutrient dense cookie that is healthy enough for breakfast.  Instead of using oats, which are very common in breakfast cookie and granola bar recipes, we wanted a recipe that would work for all of our clients, including the ones that can’t eat grains or gluten. You’ll find that this recipe is still filled with seeds, coconut, and dried fruit - the usual suspects in granola bar recipes (plus we added in cacao nibs for even more flavour and crunch).

These breakfast cookies are based on a recipe that one of our private chefs, Lara Rae, shared with us.  Lara has been a part of our team for over a year, and prepares delicious food for our clients in their homes.

We hope you love this recipe as much we do!  We'd love to see photos if you make this recipe at home.  Share your photo and tag us (@livingkitchenco) on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

breakfast cookies, grain free, gluten free, recipe

Breakfast Cookies

grain free, gluten free, refined sugar free

1 cup tahini (you could use almond butter or peanut butter instead)
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
½ cup dried cranberries, fruit juice sweetened
¼ cup goji berries
½ cup cacao nibs
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup maple syrup
1 egg
½ tsp baking soda
pinch sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. Mix together ingredients.

  3. Form into small cookies.  We usually make around 14 to 16 cookies.  

  4. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just lightly browned on top.

breakfast cookies, grain free, gluten free, recipe

End of Summer Salad with Corn, Red Pepper, and Avocado

summer salad, corn, red pepper, cucumber, avocado salad recipe

There’s something so special about fresh, sweet, locally grown corn at the end of summer.  At any other point during the year, we rarely even think about eating corn or using it in recipes.  And, in fact, some of our clients have dietary sensitivities and feel better when they don’t eat corn.   Similar to soy and wheat, corn has been grown in massive quantities and is used in large scale production for many types of processed foods that use poor quality corn flour, corn starch or even corn syrup.  This isn’t the type of corn that we are talking about eating.

Fresh corn on the cob is actually full of nutrients, especially B vitamins and, of course, a lot of insoluble and some soluble fiber (the insoluble fiber is what some people find irritates their digestion). It’s important to buy organic corn to ensure that you are eating a high quality, nutrient dense variety of corn.  When grown organically, corn is also rich in phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties that protect your cells from damage.

This time of year, as the summer is slowly turning into fall, there are so many delicious vegetables harvested in abundance.  We love combining these veggies together in salads with simple, flavourful dressings for a delicious lunch or pairing with some sort of heartier option like chickpeas, kidney beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fish or grilled chicken.  

Another delicious modification that you can make to this recipe is to grill the red peppers and corn before chopping and adding into the salad.

 

End of Summer Salad

2 ears of organic corn
1 red pepper, diced
1 medium cucumber, sliced in thin circles or half moons
1 bunch of romaine or red leaf lettuce, rinsed off and dried well
1 avocado, sliced

Other optional veggies to add in:
Roasted or grilled zucchini, diced
Fresh peaches or nectarines, sliced
Cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes, diced

Optional herbs to add in:
Cilantro
Basil
Parsley
Mint

Additional toppings:
Hempseeds
Other nuts and seeds that you like


Dressing:
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ up extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
Sea salt to taste


Directions:

  1. Rinse off the lettuce, dry well and chop roughly into smaller pieces.

  2. Steam the corn for a few minutes until crisp.  Then cut the kernels off the cob.

  3. Chop the pepper and cucumber.

  4. Prepare any other veggies or herbs that you’d like to add into the salad.

  5. Mix the veggies all together, except for the avocado.

  6. Make dressing ingredients together and toss with the salad when ready to serve.

  7. Slice the avocado and add on top of the salad before serving.  You can also add hempseeds, fresh herbs an

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Pudding (peanut-free version too)

chocolate peanut butter chia pudding, vegan, dairy free, recipe

Chia pudding is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you eat a filling breakfast and have something prepped to start the day off.  If you haven't had chia pudding before, it's a bit different than normal pudding but still tastes delicious (and is so much healthier).  Chia seeds are high in soluble fiber and thicken liquids when mixed together because they absorb liquid and expand, becoming softer and more plump.  This is good for 2 reasons:

1. Chia seeds naturally create a pudding like texture when mixed with coconut milk, almond milk or other dairy free milk.  This is quite filling and can keep you satiated in the morning.  All without the use of thickeners, starches or flours.

2. The high soluble fiber content of chia seeds is good for your digestive system and helps your body remove toxins and waste properly in the bowel.  You can think of chia seeds as lending a helping hand in soaking up the toxins. 

This recipe adds in peanut butter for protein and fat to keep you fueled for longer.  We use cacao powder instead of regular cocoa powder because it is rich in minerals, such as iron and magnesium.  You can add maple syrup to your taste preference.  Or, if you are sugar free, you can actually use some stevia to sweeten this pudding instead.  And, if you can't eat peanuts than you can replace the peanut butter with almond butter (or any other type of nut/seed butter that you love).

chocolate peanut butter chia pudding, vegan, dairy free, recipe

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia Pudding

1 1/4 cups coconut beverage (or use almond milk or other non dairy milk)
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 Tbsp organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
2 Tbsp cacao powder
Maple syrup to taste

Directions:
1. Mix all of the ingredients together until smooth.
2. Store in a mason jar or other container in the fridge overnight.
3. In the morning you can serve in bowls.  Top with berries of choice, some cacao nibs and any other toppings that you like!

peanut butter chocolate chia pudding, non dairy, vegan, dairy free, recipe

How to Make an Iced Matcha Coconut Latte 2 Ways!

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We have a thing for matcha lattes over here.  And it seems that a lot of other people do too, seeing that matcha lattes are appearing on menus at so many different coffee shops and cafes.  The thing is that buying matcha lattes can get quite expensive and often have added ingredients, like sugar, that we don't love.  So, making matcha lattes at home is a great way to not only save money but also ensure that you know exactly what ingredients are used.

Matcha is made from high quality green tea leaves that are turned into powder.  This means that matcha is much richer in flavour than a normal green tea as well as going to give you a mega dose of antioxidants, including EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), the famous component in green tea that's linked with preventing free radical damage and cancer.

We have many different ways of preparing matcha lattes at home and during the winter we love to sip on a hot cup of steaming non-dairy milk frothed together with matcha.  However, in the summer, we need icy, refreshing beverages. The most exciting part about this is that we can use coconut water in our matcha lattes (we wouldn't recommend heating up coconut water- not only would it destroy the nutrients in it, but it just wouldn't taste good).  Coconut water is a wonderful source of naturally occurring  electrolytes, including magnesium and potassium.  It also naturally has a sweet taste to it.  When you buy coconut water, check the label and make sure that you get a brand that doesn't have any added sweeteners.  

Here are two different recipes for a refreshing, iced matcha latte.  The first recipe is super duper easy and only requires two ingredients.  Using coconut water means that you can avoid using other sweeteners, like sugar, because it will naturally sweeten the matcha. The second recipe is a little bit more complex and rich, but still super easy to whip up, and a great choice if you want something creamy but dairy-free (it's almost like a matcha smoothie).  The second recipe also contains some protein and anti-inflammatory fats from hempseeds, which is a great option if you want something more filling. 

 

Iced Matcha Coconut Latte Version 1

2 cups coconut water
1/2 tsp matcha green tea

Directions:
1. Simply combine the coconut water and matcha in the blender.
2. Blend for 30 seconds or until creamy and smooth.
3. Pour over ice and serve.

 

Iced Matcha Coconut Latte Version 2

1/2 cup coconut water
1 cup coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk, unsweetened)
1/2 tsp matcha green tea
1 Medjool date
2 Tbsp hempseeds

Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients in the blender.
2. Blend for 1 minutes o until creamy and smooth.
3. Pour over ice and serve.

 

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