Tag Archives: fiber

A day's work for an RD

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

Today, my mission was to rework an oatmeal cookie recipe to be more heart-healthy and vegan. Oats are already a heart-healthy food so I didn’t have much work to do there; but I have not done much vegan baking. This was going to be a challenge! I ended up making two batches of oatmeal cookies. One is low-fat and the other is vegan. You decide which one fits into your healthy eating goals better.

I started with a basic oatmeal cookie recipe and focused on the ingredients that needed to be swapped out.

Ready to make oatmeal cookies!
Ready to make oatmeal cookies!

First up, vegetable shortening. Great for flakiness and flavor in baking; but it contains trans fat which is about as far away from heart-heatlhy as you can go. For the low-fat recipe, I swapped 3/4 cup vegetable shortening with 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup mashed banana to retain moistness and flavor. In my experience, when I replace more than half the fat in a recipe with a fruit puree, the final product loses some “yummy.” This wouldn’t do for the vegan version however since butter is a dairy/animal product, so I chose refined coconut oil. The refining removes some of the coconut flavor and leaves you with a solid fat that is good for baking. This swap removes the trans fat; but it adds some saturated fat. I think I could find a better option; but this is at least a baby-step towards heart-healthier.

Next replacement was the egg for the vegan version. Mixing 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water makes for a nice egg replacement. If you buy flaxseed from the bulk bins, it is much cheaper! I was about to spend $4 for a bag of ground flaxseed and ended up spending $0.65 on a small amount of seeds from the bulk bin. Shop smart!

Flaxseed - before and after grinding
Flaxseed – before and after grinding
Ground flaxseed mixed with water is a great egg replacer
Ground flaxseed mixed with water is a great egg replacer

Finally, I wanted to add more fiber. I swapped half the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour and called it a day.

Rolled oats coated with all-purpose and whole wheat flour and baking soda
Rolled oats coated with all-purpose and whole wheat flour and baking soda

There was a difference in the batters as well as the final cookies when they came out of the oven. The vegan batter was drier than the low-fat batter. If I were to recreate the vegan recipe, I would add more water for a more moist batter and cookie.

Vegan Batter
Vegan Batter
Low-fat Batter
Low-fat Batter

Into the over for a quick 14 minutes and both cookies spread a little while baking. I didn’t adjust cooking times at all from the original recipe.

Vegan Cookie
Vegan Cookie
Low-fat Cookie
Low-fat Cookie

I was a little disappointed in the nutritional changes. The low-fat and vegan cookies both had fewer calories than the original and no trans fat. These are both heart-healthy changes. The vegan cookies had the same about of total fat and a more saturated fat that the origial due to the coconut oil. I still think that’s more heart-healthy than having a cookie with trans fat. The catch is not to eat so many cookies that the fat starts adding up! Finally, the fiber content didn’t increase as much as I’d hoped.

 Per 1 cookie Original Low-Fat Vegan
Calories 70 60 50
Fat 2.6 1.5 2.5
Saturated Fat 0.6 0.5 2
Trans Fat 0.3 0 0
Cholesterol 2.6 4.5 0
Sodium 11 11 8
Carbohydrate 11 11 8.5
Fiber 0.7 1 1
Protein 1.4 1.5 1

The important thing is how they tasted, right? I preferred the vegan cookies because they had a sweet brown sugar flavor, are more oat-ey, and have a nice crispness. The low-fat cookies are softer and moister; but they had a bit of a banana flavor. I don’t know about you; but I’m not looking for banana in my oatmeal cookies! In the future, I’d consider adding dark chocolate chips or walnuts to boost the heart-healthy properties of these cookies.

Whichever cookie you prefer, I hope you now have some strategies for adjusting recipes when baking and that you will enjoy that occasional cookie, even on your heart-healthy diet!

A day's work for an RD
A day’s work for an RD





Make your own pizza!

Skinny Pizza? Go For Homemade!

A new product, The Skinny Pizza, was announced in the latest issue of Food and Nutrition magazine. The information provided states this is a small thin crust margarita pizza with only 390 calories. Since it was listed in the “new products” section of a US-wide publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I assumed it was a new packaged food that would be available to most consumers.

I decided to blog about the nutrition content of this new product and to suggest alternatives for a whole food, non-packaged, homemade, low-calorie pizza because I know from experience that it’s fairly easy to make a mean homemade pizza!

It turns out this is not a packaged food. This is a menu selection from a pizza chain that has 25 locations. Only 18 of these locations are in the United States and 11 of them are in South Florida. Now, this called into question for me why this was listed as a new product in a magazine for dietitians with a demographic that covers the entire United States… But this is a topic for another day.

Let’s talk about “nutrition made easy” with a healthier homemade pizza!

Start by toasting either an English muffin, a pita, or this dietitian’s favorite, a Flat Out or other flat bread. You just want this to get a little bit crispy or the sauce will make the pizza soggy.

Once crispy, top with a little low-sodium tomato or marinara sauce, and by a little I mean a lot less than you think you need even if you like your pizza saucy like I do! If you want to keep it even more “clean,” then saute some chopped plum tomatoes in a little olive oil, garlic, and onion, mashing the tomatoes as they cook to make a bruschetta-like sauce.

Top with some shredded cheese, lean proteins, and as many vegetables or fruits as your pizza will hold and throw it back in the oven or toaster oven to warm the ingredients and melt the cheese. You may want to also saute the vegetables if you prefer a softer, cooked texture over a crunchy texture.

One of the favorite combinations in this household is chicken breast, BBQ sauce, red onions, mushrooms, a Mexican cheese blend, oregano, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes or Hot Shot! Another favorite is pineapple chunks and mushrooms.

The sky is the limit with combinations for this pizza and every person can get their own favorite combination! By limiting the portions, the amount of cheese used, and focusing on lean meats, vegetables, and fruits as toppings, you can keep this pizza low calorie, fiber- and nutrient-rich, and most importantly delicious!

I’m always looking for new flavor combinations and ideas so let me know what you put on your homemade pizza.


Pizza Rustica Launches Skinny Pizza. Available at: http://www.food-business-review.com/news/pizza-rustica-launches-skinny-pizza-081112. Accessed January 27, 2013.

Pizza Rustica Locations. Available at: http://www.pizza-rustica.com/locations. Accessed January 27, 2013.

Image from: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/.

healthy bread on table

Macronutrients – Those Confusing Carbs!



Carbohydrates come from plant and animal sources. The food groups that contain carbohydrates include grains, fruits, dairy, and vegetables.

There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates (sugar) and complex carbohydrates (starch and fiber).


There are two types of sugars that people typically think of when talking about sugar in the diet. One type is the natural sugars that are found in foods in their natural and whole state. Examples are fructose and sucrose (in fruits) and lactose (in milk). The other type of sugar is the added sugars that are added to foods during processing or created from refining natural foods, Examples are high fructose corn syrup (in many products) or sucrose (refined into table sugar).


Starches are long chains of sugars. Our bodies break down these long chains into simple sugars that our body can absorb to provide us with energy. Many foods that are starchy need to be cooked in order for our bodies to be able to digest them. Examples are potatoes, corn, and grain products such as bread, pasta, and rice.


Fiber is the indigestible part of the plant. Fibers are also long chains of sugars; but the way the chains are held together prevent our bodies from being able to digest them for energy. Fiber is important for health for many reasons. Fiber can be fermented by the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract which promotes colon health. Insoluble fiber helps promote regularity and prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber includes whole grains (the outer bran layer) and the strings in celery. Soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol and regular blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber includes oats, beans, and citrus fruits.


The functions of carbohydrate include:

– Energy! Carbohydrates currently have a bad reputation; but they are the main and preferred source of energy for the body. Our bodies need carbohydrates to be at our best health.

– Help to lower cholesterol and regulate blood glucose levels (soluble fiber)

– Maintain digestive tract health (fiber)


For a generally healthy adult, the range for carbohydrate intake is set between 45% and 65% of daily calories. A person consuming a 2,000 calorie diet would have a range of 900 – 1,300 calories. Since 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories, this is a range of 225- 325 grams of carbohydrate per day. The minimum number of carbohydrate grams per day is 130 grams to promote good brain function.

Those trying to build muscle should be sure to consume enough carbohydrates to “spare protein” to be used for muscle growth.

Many people restrict carbohydrates due to the belief that “carbs make you fat.” In healthy individuals, carbohydrates trigger insulin and insulin lets the sugar into our body and cells. People mistakenly believe that this always means weight and fat gain. This is not true!

When we eat the appropriate amount of carbohydrates for our bodies, the sugar is used as a fuel source and burned. It is only when we overeat carbohydrates that weight gain results. Carbohydrates do not make you fat. Carbohydrates are an important part of the diet. Without carbohydrates, the body begins to break down fat storage and then body proteins. In extreme cases, metabolism slows drastically and both health and life can be jeopardized.

People with specific health conditions or concerns may need a different amount of carbohydrate in their daily diet or to time the consumption of carbohydrates throughout their day.

Other guidelines:

Whole grains: Consume whole-grain carbohydrates whenever you can. Recommendations are to make half of your grains whole. Read the food label and be sure the first ingredient is listed as a “whole” grain (example: whole wheat, not wheat flour).

Fiber: For those between 19 and 51 years old, females should consume 25 grams and men should consume 38 grams of fiber a day. Those over 51 should consume 21 grams (women) or 30 grams (men) per day. If you are increasing your fiber intake, do it slowly and drink lots of water or you may end up with a bout of constipation!

Added sugar: Limit the amount of added sugar in your diet. Many health risks are associated with added sugars and in general, Americans consume too much added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories (women) or 150 calories (men) of added sugars per day. Most natural sugars are generally not associated with health risks as these are consumed along with fiber which slows down the absorption of sugar and other vitamins, mineral, and phytochemicals which promote optimal health.

Original publication date: October 1, 2012 at http://newmotivationcoaching.blogspot.com.

Reference: Nutrition Concepts and Controveries, 12th ed. by Sizer and Whitney, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1-1133-62818-7.

A Healthy Plate from ChooseMyPlate.gov

Fill Your Plate with Color for National Nutrition Month

A Healthy Plate from ChooseMyPlate.gov
A Healthy Plate from ChooseMyPlate.gov

March is National Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than with a plateful of colors?

The Academy of Nurtition and Dietetics’s (formerly theAmerican Dietetic Association) theme for the 2011 National Nutrition Month is “eat right with color” to emphasize the importance of choosing a variety of foods to promote optimal health. Since different colors of food contain different types of nutrients, incorporating a variety colors provides a wide range of nutrients that our bodies need to function at their best.

Other guidelines for healthy eating include:

Enjoy 2-3 servings of fruit every day. These provide many vitamins and minerals in the form of phytochemicals along with fiber. Eat the skins when you can! Fresh fruits make a great snack food, frozen fruits add thickness to homemade smoothies, and fruits can be pureed to use in place of fats in baking.

Sneak in 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. It’s important to eat vegetables from all five categories – dark green, orange/deep yellow, starchy, legumes (peas and beans), and others such as onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and cucumbers. Vegetables provide many nutrients and fiber. Pile vegetables on sandwiches, add to sauces and frozen entrees, and puree to add to soups. Just be sure to not add on calorie-laden sauces!

Aim for making half of your grain selections whole. Whole grains provide fiber and carbohydrates necessary for energy and brain power. Replace processed, refined, white products with whole grain products when choosing rice, pasta, and bread. Not all brands taste the same, so don’t give up if you don’t like the first one you try.

Lean meats and dairy are good choices for protein. Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies; they are the basis for our enzymes and hormones and build muscle that enables us to move. Proteins are typically high in fat. The healthiest options are to choose lean cuts of meat, to remove visible fat and grease when cooking, and to look for low-fat or non-fat dairy products.

Last but not least are the fats. Fats are a major component of our cell membranes, they provide padding for our internal organs, and they help with absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins. Just be sure to choose the healthier mono- and poly-unsaturated fats found in avocado, almonds, walnuts, fatty fish, and canola, safflower, or olive oils.

Fill your plate with a variety of colors while following the above guidelines and you are taking a big step towards good health.

By the way… March 9th is Registered Dietitian Day. Have you hugged your RD lately?

Original publication date: March 2, 2011 at http://newmotivationcoaching.blogspot.com.

Image from: Choosemyplate.gov.