Spoonable Vegan Caramel (a recipe you’ll want to save)

As a Functional Nutritionist, you may be wondering why I’m sharing a recipe for sweets… for an amazing spoonable vegan caramel, in fact!

Everyday, I work with people who are trying to figure out what foods they can eat to support their health. What foods trigger symptoms? Which ones enhance energy and reduce pain? The relationship with food becomes challenging. It becomes confusing.

When you follow an anti-inflammatory diet or most any dietary approach, you may come to categorize foods as good and bad. The “food as fuel” mentality may feel like a mantra. Being mindful of what you eat is good practice, but there is always room for balance. Food is social. It is comfort and pleasure. Eating is sensual and tactile. Fuel alone, it is not… and buying into that is buying into imbalance and denying yourself the primal human experience and relationship with food. With the holiday season upon us and New Year’s a breath away, remember that it is normal to enjoy food. Even on the strictest diet, pleasure can be part of the plan.

This spoonable vegan caramel is a recipe you’ll want to save. It keeps in the fridge and freezes well so you can make a batch and enjoy it when you desire something sweet.

 

Spoonable Vegan Caramel

⅓ cup coconut sugar (light brown sugar can be substituted but is more processed)
½ cup pitted dates
½ cup unsweetened plain non-dairy creamer
¼ cup vegan butter (Forager is my favorite brand)*
¾ teaspoon salt

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, creamer, and butter. Whisk until combined and bring the mixture to a boil. Once sugar dissolves, reduce the heat to medium.

2. Simmer mixture for 7 minutes, whisk every 2 minutes. Once caramel is bubbling, check temperature with candy thermometer until it reaches between 225 to 230 degrees. Add salt.

3. Carefully transfer the sauce to a food processor or high-powered blender. Add the pitted dates one at a time and blend until smooth with desired consistency. You may not need all of the dates.

4. Scrape into a pyrex container or freezer safe mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.

*Alternative – substitute the vegan butter with sunflower seed butter, cashew butter or macadamia nut butter

 

5 Ways to Enjoy Your Caramel

There are a million ways to use this caramel sauce, but here are some of my favorites:

  1. Dip slices on fresh apple.
  2. Drizzle it over thick yogurt and granola.
  3. Stir a spoonful into a latte (Coffee, Dandy Blend and Chaga lattes all feel more decadent with this addition)!
  4. Mix equal portions caramel and unsweetened nut butter. Use this as a dip for fruit. The fat from the nut butter helps lower the glycemic impact.
  5. Use as a topping for raw vegan cheesecake filling. Make my favorite raw cheesecake by soaking 1 cup of raw cashews in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain the cashews and blend them with ¼ cup water, ¼ cup plain unsweetened vegan yogurt, 10 drops plain liquid stevia, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Pour into cups or ramekins and chill in fridge or freezer for 30 minutes to firm up. Top with caramel and dust with cocoa powder or graham cracker crumbs (use gluten free vegan ones if you are gluten free!)

These Two Sexy Low-Sugar Smoothies Are Your New Secret Weapon

Low Sugar Smoothie Ideas  

Smoothies are a filling and nutrient-dense, but I can’t tell you how many of my clients come in wondering why their weight loss has stalled or why they are breaking out when everything seems to be on point… smoothies included.

The problem with many smoothies is that they are loaded with high glycemic fruits which spike blood sugar and can trigger hormone imbalance and a host of other health issues.

Don’t ditch your blender just yet, though!

Healthy smoothies are not only possible, but they’re easy and delicious! 

The keys to making smoothies that will be your new secret weapon on the journey to health:

  1. Take a break from sugar-laden fruits like bananas, mango, and papaya.
  2. Opt for fiber, fat, and protein from flaxseeds, hemp seeds, dark leafy greens, and avocados.  Believe it or not, cauliflower is another great substitute for banana when it comes to creaminess and neutral flavor!

Your body will get the nutrients it needs to remove toxins, boost weight loss, and help to strengthen your immune system, minus the blood sugar spike from traditional smoothie recipes.  

I love drinking a green smoothie first thing in the morning to get my day started.

The Green Magic Smoothie (see below) is my favorite energy booster.  If you’re struggling with extra stress, try the additional cacao or maca for magnesium and minerals known to help keep stress levels in check. 

Green Magic Smoothie  

  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk or water 
  • 2 cups baby spinach 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil 
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder or 1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)

  

Wellness 101 Smoothie  

  • 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk or water 
  • 2 cups baby spinach 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ½ orange, peeled 
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds 
  • Dash of cinnamon 

For both smoothies, simply add all ingredients to your high powered blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You can add ice if you prefer a colder drink.  Do try to drink your smoothie right away as these are best fresh. 

Tip: If 2 cups of spinach grosses you out, start with 1/2 cup and work your way up.  Baby stepping is a-ok when it comes to shifting into healthier habits!

 

Your Action Steps:

  1. Comment below and share your favorite low-glycemic smoothie combo.
  2. Post a pic of your secret-weapon smoothie on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @yourholistichealthcoach and hashtag #smoothieswsarah 
  3. Join me over on Facebook and on Instagram (Like and Follow so you don’t miss a thing!)
  4. Check out my new partnership with Soul Path Wellness — we are offering off a FREE 7-Day Sugar Challenge October 20-26. Don’t miss out on this goodness — trust me!  Get all the details here! 

 

Cheers,

Sarah

 

The Low Down on Protein and How Much You Really Need

As a plant-based eater, one of the things I hear all the time is “Where do you get your protein?”  People want the low down on protein and how much you really need! With high protein dietary approaches like Paleo and Keto in the limelight, I also see a huge emphasis on protein intake: shakes and bars especially.  By the end of this article, you will understand

  1. What protein is
  2. Why it is important for your good health
  3. How much you need
  4. Where you can get it

What is Protein?

  • an essential nutrient, which means that without it, you can’t survive.
  • contained in every part of your body: bones, muscles, skin, hair, fingernails, blood, organs, eyes and is second in volume in your body only to water.  

Why do I need it?

It’s a simple but critical reason: the body requires protein in the same way it requires carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.  Because protein is a major component in bones, nerves and other organs it makes sense that we need it for the physical structure of our body.  However, protein is involved in many body processes as well — enzyme production, cellular repair, cellular growth, hormone production, general energy requirements.  When we lack adequate protein, our growth is affected as well as our bone structure and bone density, muscle strength and stature, brain health and general body chemistry.  This is important stuff, so let me fill you in on the science and then we’ll talk about how to get enough protein for optimal health.

 

Understanding Protein

Protein is made up of amino acids.

There are 20 different amino acids:

  • 10 can be manufactured in the body so we don’t need to get them from food
  • 10 cannot and must be obtained from food sources — these are the ones called “Essential” amino acids because it is essential that we get these from food sources.

The University of Arizona’s Biology Project gives the following summary:

“The 10 amino acids that we can produce are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.

The essential amino acids (that we cannot produce internally) are arginine (required for the young, but not for adults), histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids are required in the diet.

Plants, of course, must be able to make all the amino acids. Humans, on the other hand, do not have all the enzymes required for the biosynthesis of all of the amino acids.”

Enough of the right stuff

The failure to obtain enough of even 1 of the 10 essential amino acids has serious health implications and can result in degradation of the body’s proteins. Muscle and other protein structures may be dismantled to obtain the one amino acid that is needed. “Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use the amino acids must be in the food every day.”(Biology Project)

So, we can make certain amino acids and not others.  The ones we can’t make MUST be consumed from dietary sources or the body WILL BREAK DOWN its own protein sources to get what it needs.  This is one reason why people can lose muscle when on very restrictive diets or when they are sick and cannot eat.  The body breaks down muscle to get the supply of amino acids needed for critical functioning.

 

You Complete Me

Now, you may have heard the term “Complete Protein.” These are made from all 10 Essential Aminos (the ones that your body cannot make on its own) and are most commonly found in animal foods, like meats, eggs, and fish, but there are plant sources too.  We will get to sources in just a minute but it’s good to know that you have options and a variety of sources.

The main take away from this lesson is that Amino Acids are the building block of proteins.  There are 10 aminos that we absolutely need to get from foods.  Aminos are crucial to the regulation and maintenance of the body because the body not only uses them for critical functions but is also structurally comprised of protein.

How Much do I Need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is calculated by age and weight; gender can be a factor during the teen years and during pregnancy and lactation.  I created the chart below to make it easy to see where your needs fall.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) based on body weight, include age-related adjustments for the extra protein needed for growth
(USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine)

For adults, the basic calculation for daily protein requirement in grams is
Body weight in pounds x .36 = grams needed per day 

Got Super Powers?  You know who I’m talking about… all the pregnant ladies, breastfeeding moms and athletes?  Well, then the numbers adjust!  People who call upon their bodies to do Super things require approximately double the amount of protein that the rest of us do.  The great thing is that caloric needs increase for these bodies as well.  Focusing on eating a variety of whole foods will ensure that you get the increased calories as well as fats, carbs, and proteins.  When we get down to the sample menu, you’ll see how very easy it is to meet your needs as calories increase.

Am I getting enough?

The money question!  Thankfully, it’s easy to answer and really simple. Regardless of whether you eat meat or don’t, getting enough protein usually isn’t an issue.  The issue becomes the quality of the protein and making sure that you don’t get TOO MUCH. 

  • Meat eaters typically consume SIGNIFICANTLY more protein than is required. 
  • Plant-based eaters, even strict raw vegans can consume more than enough protein daily. 

Am I getting too much?

What’s the problem with too much protein?  Well, there are a couple of things. 

  1. The first is that excess protein puts a strain on your kidneys. 
  2. The second is that if more protein is consumed than the body needs for building, maintaining and repairing tissue it will either be converted for use as an immediate energy source if there is not enough glucose(from carbohydrates) or it will be stored as fat. 

We don’t want either of those things… we want balance! 

When looking at dietary approaches like Keto, Atkins, and Paleo, consider what the extra protein load can do in your body and whether a protein heavy approach feels right for your body.   For balance, the key is to choose your protein sources wisely.  Clean, lean proteins are best.  Plant-based proteins provide the added benefits of significant fiber, micronutrients and complex carbohydrates (all of which are necessary for overall balanced health).

What are the best sources of protein?

Animal

The most common sources of complete balanced protein, as mentioned earlier, are animal foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.  These sources come with a cholesterol load as well as any environmental toxins that the animal consumed — so things like hormones, pesticides, systemic illness suffered by the animal all become a factor. 

Plant

Most plant proteins are missing one or more of the essential amino acids, but that doesn’t cause problems unless you are only eating one vegetable all the time and nothing else.  Because we naturally have meals with multiple elements where one item is deficient another will have the missing piece, so eating a variety throughout the day will ensure that you get what you need.  Plant sources can come with pesticide loads if they’re not organic and the level of nutrients may vary depending on the growing season.  

The idea of “complete protein” needing to come from single food sources or needing to be specifically combined in plant-based meals is no longer regarded as true.  Though there are a few superstars in the plant world that are complete BALANCED proteins: Quinoa, Hemp, and Soy.  These are foods that contain fairly equal levels of the 10 essential amino acids.  Other plants still contain the 10 essential amino acids, but not in balance like quinoa, hemp, and soy.

It’s not like this is a secret; this data has been publicly available from the USDA for decades, and now the USDA’s database is even online.*

Amino acid need from the World Health Organization, food composition from the USDA nutrient database.
The analysis is for each individual food all supplying calorie needs (closest to the “low active” category for a 5’11” 181lb. 25BMI male, as per the FDA).

What to Eat In a Day

Here is a sample daily menu that easily provides 82 grams of protein.  Protein values are approximate, but you will get the idea.

What to Eat Grams of Protein Added Benefits
Green juice    or smoothie 2+ grams of  protein Lots of   micronutrients
1 cup quinoa   + 1 Tbsp nuts 13 grams of protein Manganese,   magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats
Apple or   Celery   + almond   butter 8 grams of protein
(1 gram from apple or celery, 7 from nut butter)
Flavonoids,   polyphenols and fiber to help regulate blood sugar, pectin, vitamin C, micronutrients//vitamin   K and calcium, B vitamins in celery; healthy fats, vitamin E, B2, magnesium,   potassium, copper
Salad with   ½ cup black   beans, ¼ cup hemp seeds 19 grams of protein
(1 from 2 cups of romaine and spinach greens, 7 from beans, 11 from hemp)
Vitamins   A, K, C, Calcium, fiber, healthy fats, omega 3, folate, molybdenum
Veggies +   ¼ cup hummus 12 grams of protein Micronutrients,   fiber
Broccoli   stir fry + 4 oz tempeh   + ½ cup brown   rice 28 grams of protein
(6 from 2 cups broccoli, 20 g in 4 oz tempeh, 2.5 g in 1/2 cup brown rice)
Isothiocyanates   (cancer-fighting compound), Calcium, vitamin C, K, A, fiber, zinc, probiotics

As you can see, it’s not hard to rack up the protein using plant sources.  If you choose to use animal proteins, know that a little goes a long way:

What to Eat Grams of Protein Added Benefits
1 cup   milk 8 grams of protein calcium
3 oz   meat 21 grams of protein  
8 oz yogurt 11 grams of protein Calcium,   probiotics

 

The Bottom Line

You can easily get enough protein by consuming a variety of real whole foods in the form of fruits, vegetables.  Not 100% veg?  Lean meats, dairy, and fish are all sources of complete protein but they are concentrated and present added cholesterol into the diet as well as the possibilities of contamination from ingested hormones and antibiotics.

Commercially hyped protein powders, shakes, and bars… likely won’t hurt you, but also likely won’t help you.  If you are very active or need an occasional meal replacement, then consider a product that is as close to whole food as possible and one that does not contain genetically modified soy.

Ultimately, eating a balanced diet full of greens, beans, fruits, and veggies is a healthy way to go because you will be fueling your body with nutrient dense, low calorie, high fiber foods that are rich in amino acids.  According to nutrition and health expert, Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his groundbreaking book Eat to Live, “almost any assortment of plant foods contain about 30-40 grams of protein per 1,000 calories.  When your caloric needs are met, your protein needs are met automatically.  Focus on eating healthy, natural foods; forget about trying to get enough protein.”  Eat well, eat real, eat a variety of rainbow-colored natural foods… Whatever you choose, choose smart for a healthy body.

 

Want to learn more?  Check out these resources:

  • references for protein in vegetables chart
    Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition (PDF), World Health Organization (2002). Recommendations on p. 126. Recommendations are an “average requirement” of 0.66 g of protein per kg of ideal body weight, and a “safe level” of 0.86 g/kg.
    USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (accessed August to December 2009)
    FRUIT: Average of Apples, Pears, Grapes, Bananas, Plums, Oranges, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Strawberries, Peaches, Nectarines, Cantaloupe.
    VEGETABLES: Average of Broccoli 27.2%, Carrots 8.7%, Celery 17.3%, Corn 13.4%, Cucumber 17.3%, Green Beans 21.6%, Lettuce icberg 25.7%, Mushrooms white 31%, Onions 12.4%, Peas 28.8%, Potato 10.8%, Spinach 49.7%, Tomato 19.6% (accessed December 2009)

What To Drink When You Drank Too Much… or just need a pick me up!

‘Tis the season for a little indulgence.  Whether it happens at the holiday parties, dinners out, or just cozied up by the fire, here is my go-to sipping solution to fix what ails ya! 

Drrrrrruuuuummmmmm rrrrooooolllll please…

It’s a simple, nourishing Potassium broth… truly, my what to eat when you (eh-hem) overindulged or just need a bit of a pick me up this is a sip of perfection!

This broth is also perfect for cold weather support in general.  It’s also not unusual when seasons change to feel the impact of a congested liver. I have had many clients email about this — feeling drained, with lower than normal energy, even lower back pain. If you’re in this camp, you’re not alone and this broth can help.  It is easy to digest and has vitamins and minerals that your body can use to help you feel better faster.  It’s essentially a detox drink that tastes great and nourishes!

Make yourself some of this goodness and let me know what you think!

To your health. 

xo, Coach Sarah

The Recipe

  • 6 medium Russet Potatoes
  • 6 celery stalks
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 beets
  • 1 bunch dark leafy greens (kale, collards, chard)
  • 3 one-inch slices of ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  1. Put 10 cups of water into a pot, cover and bring to a boil. 
  2. Gently wash your produce, but don’t scrub too hard. 
  3. Slice the peel off the potatoes at about 1/8 inch depth. We are using the peel for this broth, so set the potato insides aside for another use. 
  4. Roughly chop remaining vegetables. 
  5. When water is boiling put in everything except the ginger. The water should cover the vegetables with an inch or two to spare on top. 
  6. Return to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. 
  7. Cook covered for 1.5 hours. 
  8. Add the ginger and continue simmering with the lid on for 30 minutes. 
  9. Turn off the heat and gently mash the veggies, then strain the broth.

Sip this throughout the day or use some as a base for a light soup.

Pin It on Pinterest