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A colorful, refreshing juice that is perfect for spring and packs an array of health benefits!

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Red beets: contain betacyanin – a powerful cancer-fighting agent, increases stamina, protects against heart disease, lessens inflammation, detoxifies. Vitamins and minerals including vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, fiber, folate and contains no cholesterol.

Apples: heart health, cancer protection, asthma/lung support, fiber, flavonoids, antioxidant nutrients, vitamin C.

Carrots: antioxidant, high in cartenoids – protects against heart disease and cancer, promotes good vision. Especially high in beta carotene (vitamin A), and vitamins C and K.

Ginger root: soothes intestinal tract, anti-inflammatory (reduces symptoms of arthritis), reduces nausea (helpful with morning sickness and flus), protection against cancer.

Limes: Rich in vitamin C, flavonoids that provide antioxidant, anti-cancer properties, and antibiotic effects.

Cilantro: stimulates digestion, detoxifying, vitamins A, C and E, calcium, iron and niacin.

Refreshing Red Beet Juice

Ingredients:

2 medium red beet roots, cut in half
2 small apples, cored and cut in half
2 carrots
1.5″ piece of fresh ginger root
2 limes, peeled
Generous handful of cilantro

Juice all ingredients together and enjoy fresh!

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Almond butter is very simple to make at home. The only requirements are a good food processor and a few minutes of your time.

Almonds are a great source of Vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, copper and riboflavin (vitamin B2). Ever so versatile, almond butter can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a number of foods for a quick snack or protein boost.

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Homemade Almond Butter

Ingredients:

2 cups raw, unsalted almonds*
1 tsp olive oil
sea salt (optional)

*You may also toast the almonds in your oven on a baking sheet at 350°F for 8-10 minutes, then allow to cool prior to processing if you want to enhance the flavor some more. I personally prefer the raw version.

Add raw almonds to food processor with metal S-blade attachment. Turn on high speed, scrape down sides of bowl as needed. During the beginning the almonds will be dry and coarse. About 5 minutes into processing, add olive oil and a few sprinkles of sea salt. Process for another 5 minutes until smooth and creamy in consistency.* It usually takes about 10 minutes to complete using my Cuisinart, but this may vary depending on your machine.

*If you prefer a more crunchy texture, add a handful of almonds to the smooth butter and pulse to desired consistency before transferring from food processor.

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Scrape out with spatula, transfer to glass jar and keep refrigerated.

Serving suggestions:

-Great as a spread on crackers or sandwiches.
-Use as a dip with sliced apples for a quick, healthy snack.
-Add a couple of teaspoons to smoothies for a protein boost.
-Kid-friendly: add with raisins on celery sticks for a new take on “ants on a log.”
-Substitute for peanut butter in baked goods.

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This muesli combines plenty of healthy ingredients without any of the processed sugar or additives that you would normally find in most store-bought brands. Serve on its own as an on-the-go snack or at breakfast with fresh berries, milk or yogurt. Enjoy!

Fruit & Nut Muesli

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots (or other dried fruit of your choice), chopped into smaller pieces

1/2 banana, mashed (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a square, approx. 8″ x 8″ baking dish – I used a bit of coconut oil. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, set aside. Add remaining wet ingredients (banana, olive oil, apple sauce) in a separate bowl, whisk together, then mix in with dry ingredients until well combined.

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Spread the mixture evenly into your prepared baking dish. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until top is lightly browned. Remove and let cool for 15-20 minutes. Keep unused portions stored in airtight bag/container and refrigerate.

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I used agave nectar on a few occasions in the past but I stopped purchasing it after reading several articles that made me question it’s touted low-glycemic index. The few times I did use it, I found it to be too sweet. I stay away from refined sugars or anything with too much added sugar to begin with (another reason to avoid packaged/highly processed foods).

If you use it, you may want to research the source and ingredients or consider one of the alternative sweeteners mentioned in this article just posted by health/nutrition guru David Wolfe. There is also more detailed information on agave here from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

I am not a big fan of soy-containing products to begin with. After reading the following article several months ago I became even more aware that my stance on not buying items such as veggie burgers, fake “meats,” and most energy bars is well-backed. You can read more about the dangers of soy protein isolate, which is in a lot of those products here.

Soy has become the go-to meat substitute for many vegans, vegetarians and health-minded consumers alike. I think that what a large portion of these consumers don’t understand is that soy should not become a regular ingredient in every dish that you prepare, and it is not healthy to rely on it as your sole protein source. Many people compare the health benefits of soy as positive, especially with many studies among Asian cultures who consume it and the longevity of their country’s populations. What they don’t understand is that those societies eat soy in moderation, and often in a more healthy, fermented state.

I am not a fan of packaged foods to begin with, let alone those whose ingredients list contain several unpronounceable additives. This goes back to my philosophy that you should eat food in it’s natural state whenever possible in order to receive the most nutritional value. Any time that a food has been processed, wrapped in plastic and put inside of a box for your chewing pleasure, that should be a red flag that you may be better off reading the ingredients before buying it. Mother Jones posted a report about the recent findings of a Cornucopia Institute investigation behind the dangers of hexane in soy products.

In it, they investigated several soy-based food manufacturers and their processing practices. The findings are, to say the least, troubling. Hexane is used in gasoline refining. Would you put something that is a by-product of what you fuel your car with into your body? I think not. Not only was this substance found in things like protein bars and veggie burgers, but also soy-based infant formulas. The evidence is disturbing and yet most consumers don’t think twice about it. I highly suggest that you read the report in full and then decide for yourself if the so-called benefits of soy are worth it.

Lastly, I would also recommend that any women reading this research the correlation between phytoestrogens found in soy and the link of consuming it regularly to the incidence of breast cancer. Research is still up in the air about this issue, but given all of the recent negative press I find it to be yet another solid reason to limit soy food intake.

For those of you that are vegan or vegetarian I would encourage you to consume more whole food based healthy protein from plant sources such as leafy greens, lentils, sprouts, raw nuts/seeds, hemp protein, spirulina/chlorella, and some grains such as quinoa. Foods such as these also have the added benefit of less or no packaging (especially if you buy them in bulk), which is kinder to the environment. If you do consume meat please try to buy organic and/or local raised, grass-fed whenever possible to limit the amount of environmental impact and toxins conventional raised meats produce.

Please research anything that you put into your body before choosing to buy it. Just because an item is certified organic or contains organic ingredients does not mean it is healthy. Many of those foods have added preservatives and sugars and are not much better than junk foods. I hope that this post encourages you to become more aware of your purchases during your next trip to the grocery store and to think twice before adding certain foods to your cart.

With spring in full season, I was craving something that would complement the sunny weather and remind me that summer is just around the corner. I came up with this very tropical themed raw pie recipe, playing off flavors of coconut and lime wrapped in a rich crust consisting of cashews, almonds and dates. The final result? A perfect combination of tart and sweet. Serve this chilled or slightly thawed, great for a summer picnic or a refreshing dessert!

Raw Coconut Lime Pie

Pie Crust:

1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup mature coconut meat chunks
3-4 pitted dates

Filling:

Juice of two small limes
1 avocado
1/2 cup pineapple chunks*
1/2 cup mango chunks*
1/2 cup coconut meat
1/4 cup coconut water

*I used frozen, fresh fruit might change the consistency just slightly.

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Start with draining the water from a mature coconut to reserve for the filling, set aside. Break open the coconut and cut into chunks.

In a food processor, add the cashews and almonds. Process briefly into a coarse, broken down texture. This shouldn’t take long; approximately a minute or so. Add in the coconut meat chunks and dates, process until well combined with the nuts. Remove from food processor bowl and set into a 9″ pie form. Alternatively, you could also make two smaller pies, or multiple tart size ones.

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Combine all filling ingredients in food processor, pulse into smooth consistency. If you want a more dense/thick filling, leave out the coconut water.

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With a spatula, smooth filling into pie crust.

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Chill in freezer for about 2 hours, until firm. It should come out looking something like this!:

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I ate it straight out of the freezer, unchilled – I couldn’t wait to taste it! Best served thawed at room temperature with your favorite toppings – I added fresh shredded coconut and blueberries, delicious!

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Doritos. Soda. Vending Machines. That questionable breaded meat patty on a plastic tray. These are the first images that come to mind of my high school lunch experience. I did not know any better. I’m sure that the schools, their employees in the kitchen, and our parents didn’t think about how unhealthy these now questionable choices offered really were.  Trans fats, preservatives, unpronounceable ingredients; none of those were of much concern back then. Drive thrus were more familiar to me at times than a seated meal at the family dining table. It was quick, easy and didn’t require any waiting. That was in the mid-1990s. Fast forward to today and sadly not much has changed. Except now there is the option to supersize your fast food. Yikes.

Enter Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, airing every Friday night on ABC. He is honest and passionate about truly wanting to make a change in these kids’ lives, one healthy meal at a time. I watched tonight’s episode where he moved from the elementary school lunchroom that he visited last week to the local high school. Of course, it was the same story as the elementary kids. The students wanted to load their trays with carbs instead of carrots. This time he had their fries taken away! What was great about this episode was that he encouraged a group of kids to help him with prepping and cooking a gourmet dinner for a fundraiser event to help pay for a more healthy school menu in their community.

They visited a farm to learn about the importance of local, fresh ingredients. It encouraged everyone to participate and learn, while at the same time promoting a healthy lifestyle. Many people continue to order their food at drive thru menu boards and eat their meals in a disconnected manner.   Jamie Oliver will be there to set the record straight, that this is not okay.  His food revolution begins with our children, who have often been misled by their own schools and families when it comes to nutrition.

I’m glad to see a show like this on network television and I hope that it makes an impact on those that might be otherwise misinformed as to what constitutes a healthy meal.  We should all research what we are putting into our bodies.   Understand food labels and please choose fresh over the overly processed and packaged foods.  A simple home cooked meal brings together friends, family and communities.

I am looking forward to next week’s episode. If you missed any of them or haven’t seen the show yet you can watch it here and he also references the show in this eye-opening TED Talk. His website also has plenty of information, recipes and an online petition you can sign to encourage the White House to improve school food in America.