No-Bake Granola Bars (gluten-free, low sugar)

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Wow. Let me just start by saying, it’s been a while. This summer has been absolutely insane, but in a good way! I’m working full time at two different locations (both of which I love), beginning my career as a therapist intern, and still conducting personal research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health. Speaking of which, if you haven’t had a chance to “like” becauseitsgoodforyou’s page on Facebook, you may have missed the link to the article I wrote regarding the relationship between food sensitivities and Autism Spectrum Disorder that was published on Psychologytoday.com. I was working with a mentor for several months to  perfect the article and I must say, I am pretty satisfied with the way it turned out. I also hope I am able to provide a little extra help and insight to those who read the article and are dealing with ASD.

Anyway, on to the good stuff.

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Although I may not have physically been on becauseitsgoodforyou.com, my heart has still been here and I definitely haven’t stopped experimenting in the kitchen. Some recipes have turned out amazing and some were, well, not so amazing. I’ll try to keep up with posting some of the better ones that I happened to snap pictures of before serving to friends (or devouring myself). The no-bake granola bars you see on this post are somewhat similar to my granola nut cookies that I posted back in April although these are actual granola, as they contain oats, and are slightly healthier in my opinion. The core of this recipe stemmed from another blogger’s granola bars  (see: Coco and Tea) and was adjusted to fit my needs. I’ve been on this low sugar kick for the past month so I opted against adding any additional sugar aside from the natural sweetness of nuts, fruit, and a little bit of honey and vanilla flavoring. The first batch turned out way too crumbly and would fall apart after taking one bite. This batch however, turned out just right! I think the almond butter is the secret to binding everything together in this recipe.

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1 cup raw mixed nuts (Brazil, pecan, almond, peanut, macadamia, etc)
• 1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used raisins and apricots)
• 1 cup ground seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower, etc)
• ½ cup raw, creamy almond butter
• ¼ cup sunbutter
• ¼ cup raw honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• dash of salt
• coconut oil cooking spray
• Optional: Chia seeds and/or coconut flakes and/or protein powder

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Pour oats, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and ground seeds to a large bowl. Toss well.
• Mix sunbutter, almond butter, coconut oil, salt, honey, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat on low, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until mixture is well combined.
• Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until the dry mixture is completely covered.
• Lightly spray your hands with coconut oil cooking spray.
• Press mixture firmly into a small baking pan (using your hands is the best and easiest way, hence the coconut oil spray)
• Option: Top with chia seeds, coconut flakes, or sprinkle protein powder for added nutrients
• Place pan in freezer for 20 minutes or until granola hardens
• Cut into rectangles and serve

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Grinding these seeds beforehand and keeping the granola bars un-baked were two very important factors when creating this recipe, as it optimizes the amount of healthy, Omega-3 fatty acids your body can absorb from the seeds. Omega-3’s help control the amount of inflammation in our body, lessening the risk of arthritis, diabetes, asthma, and even cancer.  Incorporating a small handful of nuts every day into your diet can help with weight loss, stress-reduction, reduce the risk of lung cancer, lower cholesterol, assist in healthy heart health, and prevent cognitive decline. A study performed by UCLA even showed that a small handful of walnuts per day could assist with men’s reproductive health. In addition, nuts are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and B-vitamins.

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Technically to call a food item granola, you need oats – And these cookies definitely don’t have oats. However, granola is typically a breakfast item and these cookies are perfect to eat for breakfast! They’re sweet but not too rich, filling but not too heavy, and the mixed nuts add a nice little crunch. They’re also great as a snack or even a light dessert. I could go on and on about these addicting little treats, but instead I’m going to jump right into the recipe so you can try them out and see for yourself how delicious they are!

Bonus- These are gluten-free, grain free, and dairy free, so they work for just about any dietary restriction!

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 cups mixed nuts and/or seeds (think: Brazilian, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
• 2 cups coconut flour
• ½ cup coconut oil, melted
• 4 tbsp raw, organic honey, melted
• 2 tsp allspice
• 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• 2 cups organic apple sauce
• 2 tsp almond extract
• 1 cup raisins

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Preheat oven to 350°
• Add mixed nuts to food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds.
• Add allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and raisins to processor. Pulse for 10 more seconds.
• In a separate mixing bowl, combine coconut flour, applesauce, coconut oil, and honey. Mix well. Add nut and raisin mixture and mix well to combine.
• Using an ice cream scooper or a spoon, scoop “dough” into small rounds and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
• Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cookies begin to turn golden around the edges.
• Remove from oven. Let cool. Eat and enjoy!

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats and help maintain the structure of every cell in our body. They control inflammation, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Raw honey is honey that is unpasteurized, unheated, and unprocessed in any way. It is known to be an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal food. It strengthens the immune system and can even be used on the skin to help heal cuts and wounds. Raw honey is known to be a natural remedy for a variety of conditions such as allergies, acne, skin burns, and rashes. Coconut flour is a great alternative to baking flour. Not only is it gluten free, but also high in fiber and high in protein. Also- a little bit goes a long way, so one package will last for many recipes.

Broccoli and Toasted Almond Salad

If you have read my previous posts, you know I’m all about quick and easy recipes. I also eat salads pretty regularly – I pack one up for lunch and bring it to work every day. Usually I use spinach as the base and add various toppings like carrots, cucumbers, fennel, beets, etc., and top it off with some fig balsamic, pomegranate vinegar, or coconut aminos for the dressing. But sometimes I want a salad that has something besides a spinach base, which is why I fell in love with this simple broccoli salad. The only real work associated with making this is toasting the almonds and chopping up some veggies. It can be made in under 10 minutes and is easily transportable. Not to mention, it’s vegan, (almost) raw, paleo, and all that other good stuff. The toasted almonds are definitely the star of this show, so make sure not to skip out on those. This salad is even tastier when you add a little avocado and lemon on top. Also, if you don’t have red wine vinegar, you need to find some. Using RWV for the dressing goes especially well with this dish, although you would be fine using a standard oil/balsamic mix too.

Broccoli Salad Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• ½ Red onion, sliced thinly with a knife or mandoline
• 1 bag broccoli florets, chopped
• ¼ cup sliced almonds
• Red wine vinegar, or other dressing of your choice
• 1 Avocado (optional)
• 1 tbsp Grapeseed oil
• salt and pepper to taste

Broccoli Salad Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Pour grapeseed oil into a frying pan on medium heat
• Add toasted almonds to frying pan and toss with oil
• Add salt and pepper while constantly mixing the almonds around the pan. Once they start to darken, take them off the heat and let them cool on a paper towel. Be careful because they will burn quickly!
• Add broccoli, onion, and almonds to a large bowl. Toss with red wine vinegar and top with avocado (optional)

Pretty simple, but oh so delicious!

Broccoli Salad Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU 

Broccoli, in addition to being a great anti-inflammatory food, plays a role in our bodies ability to detox and rid itself of unwanted contaminants. It also contains a strong dose of vitamins A and K, two nutrients that help keep our vitamin D levels balanced. Almonds and other nuts may contain a decent amount of fat, but don’t worry, it’s the good kind. They’re high in monosaturated fats, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease. Magnesium is also abundant in almonds and helps improve the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the body.

Paleo Style Avocado and Key Lime Pie

A couple of weeks ago my laptop took a turn for the worse. My photos wouldn’t upload, programs would randomly close, and the screen would black out at the worst possible moments. Fortunately, the good people of Apple were able to fix my Macbook and return it to me as good as new! Unfortunately, this little electronic hiccup has prevented me from posting. But while my laptop was in the shop I was busy in the kitchen, and now I’m back with a handful of healthy recipes to share. If you read my last post, you know that I promised to share some Paleo-friendly meals, so I did some research and a little experimenting and came up with a few recipes that I am pretty excited about. Another bonus- Most of these recipes are not only Paleo, but also vegan/vegetarian. The next few posts will be dedicated solely to food, so make sure you’re checking back often for new meal ideas! Now, without further ado….

AVOCADO AND KEY LIME PIE (Paleo/Vegan/Raw) – This is an interesting take on a traditional key lime pie because the “frosting” is made of avocado and coconut oil, the crust is gluten-free, and it’s raw. These little bites are great as an appetizer, dessert, or even as a breakfast snack. Don’t let the green tops fool you, these guys have a little sweetness and a lot of deliciousness!

Paleo Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 Avocados
• Juice from 1 lime
• ½ cup coconut oil
• 3 tbsp raw honey
• ½ cup coconut flour
• ½ cup dates, pitted
• pinch of salt

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

*before beginning this recipe I like to prep the honey and coconut oil by mixing them up a bit in small bowls and letting them sit to help soften. You can also throw them over the stove for a few seconds.

• Add avocado, lime, coconut oil, and 2 tbsp honey to a bowl. Blend well (this is the filling)
• In a food processor, mix together dates, coconut flour, salt, and 1 tbsp honey (this is the crust)
• Press crust mixture into lined or greased muffin pan
• Spoon in filling mixture on top of crust
• Freeze for 1 hour
• Remove pies from muffin pan and serve!

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.comAvocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Coconut flour is a great gluten-free, grain-free substitute for baking. It’s packed full of fiber, helps improve digestive regularity, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It also contains the same healthy fats that are in coconut oil / coconuts and has been shown to boost metabolism. Avocados are another source of healthy fat and fiber. In addition, they contain a third of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C and half the recommended dose of vitamin K.

There’s plenty more where this came from. I’ll be posting more Paleo recipes every couple of days. Stay tuned!

Going Paleo

Most of the recipes I post on this site are either vegan or pesco-vegan friendly, but in all honesty, I follow a mostly Paleo diet. About a year and a half ago, after watching all the plant-based diet documentaries, I decided to cut back on my meat consumption. I went from eating meat twice a week, to once a week, to none at all. Then I began cutting out other things like cheese and cream. I switched to using almond milk in my cereal and tea rather than skim milk or vanilla creamer. Eventually I grew into what I liked to call a pseudo-vegan (I was still eating fish) and began increasing my intake of soy rich foods, rice, legumes, and grains.

Paleo Diet Becauseitsgoodforyou.comIt was fine for a little while, but then I started experiencing some strange symptoms: dizziness, fatigue, mental fog, skin allergies, etc. and I knew something wasn’t right. After sharing these issues with my Naturopathic Doctor, she decided to run a food allergy panel to see if I was allergic to any of the foods I was eating. I also began keeping a food diary and taking note of how I felt, physically and emotionally, after each meal. The food allergy panel came back showing I was in fact showing some allergic reactions toward many of the food items I was consuming on a regular basis. By keeping a food diary, I noticed that many of my physical and mental symptoms I was experiencing resulted after eating a dish with tofu, wheat, rice, or soy. Through drawing my blood, I also learned that I had an O blood type – the most primitive blood type and the type most associated with individuals who thrive off a Paleolithic diet.

According to Dr. D’Adamo, author of “Eat Right for Your Type,” our blood type can help determine what type of foods we should or should not be eating. But he’s not the only one who believes this theory. In Japan, asking someone their blood type is similar to asking someone what their astrological sign is. They believe it not only shows what type of diet you should be on, but it is also an indicator of certain personality traits. For example, an A blood type is said to be creative and analytical, B blood types are known as easygoing and flexible, O’s are objective and practical, and AB’s are intuitive and spiritual. His theory may also explain why many individuals have altered their diet – to either plant-based, lean meat-based, gluten-free, or the like – and seen their medical issues completely reverse. It just goes to show that everyone is unique and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another (you can read how I discovered this notion for myself here).

Robb Wolf is a huge advocate for the Paleo diet. He was a research biochemist who traded in his lab coat to write “The Paleo Solution,” a book that made the New York Times Bestseller’s list. He’s also a strength and conditioning coach, a blogger, public speaker, and has a podcast, all devoted to living a Paleo life. He describes the Paleo diet as the healthiest way we can eat- because it’s the way that our ancestors ate. The Paleo diet is sometimes called the Paleolithic diet, the Caveman diet, Hunter-Gatherer diet, or the Stone Age diet. It’s derived from the principle of consuming an ancient diet of wild plants and animals that hominid species consumed nearly 10,000 years ago, before the agricultural revolution and the production of man-made grains. The basics of it are as follows:

Paleo Diet Becauseitsgoodforyou.comFoods to Eat: Lean proteins such as beef, chicken, duck, lamb, turkey, organ meats, elk, eggs (all must be organic/antibiotic free, grass-fed, and free-range), fish that is low in mercury and caught in the wild or from a company that uses sustainable farming methods, plenty of vegetables, most fruits (low glycemic is best), nuts (except peanuts), seeds, and healthy fats (avocado, coconut).

Foods to Avoid: Dairy, grains, processed foods and oils, sugars, starches, legumes, and alcohol.

The trick to this diet is knowing what to use as a substitute. Coconut milk is a great substitute for dairy products and is a good source of healthy fat. Almond milk also works well as a “creamer” for coffee or tea. Coconut flour and almond meal can be used for baking or “breading.” Extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil is encouraged over vegetable oils or seed oils (corn, canola, safflower). Once you get the hang of it, eating Paleo is pretty easy. For those of you who are interested in switching to a Paleo lifestyle, stay tuned! I’ll be sharing recipes in my next post to help get you started on your journey.

The Paleo diet also contains many positive anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that an anti-inflammatory diet has helped many individuals suffering from a variety of health issues including asthma, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders. Inflammatory foods not only affect the body, but also affect the brain. Inflammatory responses have even been linked to symptoms of Asperger’s and Autism. For further information on the role of inflammation in the body, you can check out this post here.

Now that you know the ins and outs of going Paleo, do you think you’ll try to make the switch? Or have you tried living Paleo before and found that maybe it wasn’t the right fit for your blood or body type? I would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to check back for my future post with some tasty Paleo recipes!

Green Coconut Smoothie

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Todays post is going to be short and sweet (literally).  If you read my previous post you know that I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with coconut lately, and I’m so excited to share this amazing coconut smoothie recipe that I finally feel like I’ve perfected. I’ve made many a’ coconut smoothie in my day – coconut milk, kale, and blueberries; coconut milk, peaches, and spinach; coconut milk, blueberries and spinach (you get the idea) – but none of them were anything to write home over. The great thing about this recipe is that it has coconut meat in it, which is the best part of the coconut for you. I guess it was about time to overcome my fear of cracking open an actual coconut, because it was the secret to this drinks delicious success!

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 Young Thai Coconut
• 1.5 cups coconut milk
• 1 tbsp organic raw honey
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• 1 large handful spinach/kale/baby kale

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

Serving size: 2 full pint glasses

Crack open coconut with a sharp knife by “hammering” on all sides and twisting to pop open (be careful!). Drain water from coconut into blender. Scoop out coconut meat with a spoon and place into blender. Add honey, coconut oil, and greens. Blend well.

And that’s it! This smoothie is so good you’ll be craving it every morning (I know I do)!

Enjoy!

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Young Thai Coconut meat contains only 65 calories and is a good source of manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Coconut water contains electrolyte levels similar to those in our blood and was even used for blood transfusions during WWII – It was known as the “fluid of life” among soldiers and medical staff. In addition, it’s also packed with B vitamins as well as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Simple Tips for Building (and keeping) Strong Relationships

Tips for Building Strong Relationships Becauseitsgoodforyou.comIn honor of Valentine’s day I opted to put on my therapist hat, pull out my couples therapy handbook, and jot down some quick tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship. We all know that this holiday is a day of love and appreciation; A day where you can forget all the arguments and troubles of the past and focus on the moment. You dress up. You plan ahead. You buy gifts for one another and open them during dinner at a nice restaurant that required a reservation weeks in advance.  It’s a day solely designed for focussing attention toward your significant other and letting them know how much they mean to you. The question is – why do people need a holiday to provoke these kinds of actions? Why is it so difficult to remember to show our love year round?

All relationships take work. Whether it’s a new relationship or one that’s been around for 50 years, you need to feel confident that your choice to be with this one particular person is for a good reason (and the other person should be reminded of why you chose to be with them too!). If you’re having difficulty keeping that spark alive outside of Valentine’s Day, it may be time to work on building a sturdier support system for your relationship. Here are some tips that may help you and your significant other re-ignite that fire:

Discover Your Strengths. What makes you strong as a couple? Maybe you travel well together, or you are both clean and organized. Do you share similar hobbies? Do you both like to cook or play tennis? Are you the couple that other couples invite over for game night because they know everyone will have a good time? Are you skilled at balancing your daily activities together? Do you communicate well? Try and find at least 5 strengths and write them down on a piece of paper. Keep it in a safe place and refer to it when you need a reminder of why you two mesh so well together.

Go On Dates. Real Ones. Even if you have been with your partner for 20 years, dates are still extremely important to maintaining a healthy relationship. If you haven’t been on a date in forever, then start small. Plan an outing for 2 nights a month just as a couple. Then bump it up to once a week. Assign one person to plan the first date and try to keep it a surprise. The next time, the other person can plan the date. Try not to plan something last minute because it takes away from the anticipation of the date. Set a day and time that works with both of your schedules so you don’t feel stressed or rushed. And don’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money by going out to an expensive dinner every single time. Plan a picnic in the park or take a couples cooking class. Be creative! A good friend of mine planned a “wine tasting night” at her and her husband’s house. They bought a few bottles of wine, placed them on their kitchen table, stuck white paper over the labels, and numbered each of them. Then, they poured a little of each wine into glasses to taste, talked about the different flavors and decided on what wine was their favorite before removing the white paper. She said even though they had been married for a few years, it was one of the most fun nights they had ever shared together.

Use “I” Statements. If you have ever taken a communications course, you know the importance of using “I” statements when conversing over a heated topic. Saying “I feel” rather than “you always” can make a huge difference in settling an argument. It helps make the argument more constructive and less criticizing. Even if you are in the heat of the moment and are tempted to throw some harsh insults at your partner – don’t. Words can leave a lasting scar and creep back up when you least expect it. Also, stay away from saying absolutes. I guarantee your partner doesn’t “always” leave the toilet seat up or “never” take out the trash. Try to stick to things that are true and don’t bring up certain instances just to prove a point. The goal of arguing is to come to a mutual agreement. Relationships require a lot of compromise and both members need to be willing to give a little sometimes in order to keep things peaceful and healthy.

Simple Tips for Building and Keeping Strong Relationships Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Try Something New. What have you both been wanting to do but never have? Maybe it was your dream to go on an African safari or backpack through Europe. Maybe you want to learn another language or run a marathon. If you want to skydive and your partner wants to learn to sail a boat, make an agreement to try out both- together. Or find a new event or hobby that you both can agree on. It’s important to maintain your own interests and hobbies aside from your significant other, but trying new things as a couple can help keep things fresh and exciting. Another couple I know created a bucket list for the year of activities they wanted to complete together. In January, they made an agreement that every few weekends they would set out to cross an activity off the bucket list. If you are looking for a way to stay in the “honeymoon” phase of your relationship all year round, this is it!

Do Something Thoughtful. Remember when you first started dating and you were surprised with a freshly picked rose on your car window? Or you received a funny email from your partner who was trying to cheer you up when you had a rough day at work? Try to bring those activities back. Leave a little love note somewhere unexpected for your partner to find. In conversation, bring up a memorable moment from when you two first met. These little cues will send reminders to your brain of how much you value your partner. When life becomes chaotic, we need reminders to keep our minds focussed on the positive things in our life because these are the things that help keep us going.

Moral of the story (or post): Simple activities can go a long way in helping maintain healthy relationships. And remember – showing love and appreciation for your partner is not something that should only occur on one day per year (we all know that Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday anyway, right?). Real relationships need to be nurtured and cared for just like anything else. A plant will never grow if you don’t water it and give it a little sunshine. So now that you have the tools, get out there and show some love!

Is there anything unique that you and your partner do to keep your relationship alive? Any fun or interesting date ideas? Post in the comment section below!