Monthly Archives: April 2014

Mixed Berry Yogurt with Almonds

This is a fast and easy breakfast, snack, or dessert that is high in protein.  I typically use a blend of frozen mixed berries, but fresh berries would be an excellent choice as well.  You can prepare this ahead of time so breakfast is waiting for you when you open the fridge. For breakfast on the go,  layer it in a small mason jar with a lid.

Why Protein in the Morning? Although most people tend to consume enough total protein in a day, the way they distribute their protein intake isn’t optimal for muscle repair. Your body needs about 20 to 30 grams of protein at a time for muscle building processes: most people don’t consume this amount in the morning, but eat two to three times the amount they need at dinner (and more protein doesn’t build or repair more muscle).

READ  How Much Protein Do You Need?


  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (plain – I use nonfat, but other varieties will work)
  • 1 cup mixed berries (thawed if from frozen)
  • Whole almonds (about 10)
  • 1/4 cup oats, granola, or other whole grain cereal

Makes ONE Serving.


You can put this together a variety of ways. It looks great layered in a glass cup or bowl.


  • This breakfast lends itself to endless variations. If this is for dessert and you want something more decadent, use a creamier vanilla yogurt or layer in a bit of maple syrup on top of the yogurt.
  • Any kind of nut will do. Toast them for maximum crunch and flavor.
  • If you don’t have berries on hand, this works well with just about any fruit.
READ  6 Healthy Morning Meals: The Science Behind Breakfast

Nutrition Notes

  • Greek yogurt is exceptionally rich in protein and calcium, so a great way to start the day (most people don’t eat enough protein in the morning).  High yogurt consumption (> 7 servings/week) is linked to lower weight (especially in people who eat more fruit), and lower risk of diabetes.
  • blueberries_MSBerries are one of the most nutritious fruit: they are rich in vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium. They also rank higher in antioxidant power than most fruits and vegetables. Berries also contain anthocyanin, a phytochemical that helps fight oxidative cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • almond_fotoliaAlmonds are a great source of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, Vitamin E and important minerals (notably magnesium). Like other nuts, they can lowers LDL (“bad” cholesterol), and increase HDL (“good” cholesterol), and help lower blood pressure. A recent study suggests eating nuts daily might help you live longer and improve your health. Regular almond consumption can improve blood flow, increase blood levels of antioxidants, and lower blood pressure. Like other nuts, almonds are high in calories (50 g of almonds have about 290 calories), but that might not be a great concern for those who don’t need the extra calories: another just-published study  showed that eating almonds as snacks for 1 month suppressed hunger and desire to eat sensations and didn’t affect body weight.  Read about the latest studies on almonds and health (Experimental Biology, April 2014here.

Nutrition Per Serving

  • 350 calories
  • 29 g protein
  • 7 g fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 42 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g fiber
  • 120 mg sodium
  • 200 mg potassium
  • Iron: 12 % Daily Value
  • Calcium: 30 % Daily Value

Watch me make the berry parfait and talk about recipes for runners on CTV Morning Live.

Sheila_CTV Live1

More Breakfast Recipes

You’ll find more healthy recipes here.


Reviewed and updated July 7, 2014

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This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about inspiration for older athletes, myths of modern day dieting, and the lack of nutrition education in medical schools.

Meb_Keflezighi_in_2014_Boston_Marathon (1)Inspiration for older athletes.  This year’s Boston Marathon was won by Meb Keflezighi, just shy of his 39th birthday. Remarkably, this is the fastest marathon Keflezighi has ever ran.  Like some others, Meb is redifining what “old’ means for athletes. If you’re interested in the amazing feats of other aging athletes, the benefits of staying active throughout life, or curious about strategies to maintain your peak fitness at despite your age, check out my information page for Masters athletes. 

Myths of modern day dieting. Yoni Freedhoff, Medical director at Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute, and author of the popular blog Weighty Matters, has been posting some great short videos debunking the myths of modern-day dieting.  The myths are featured in his recent book, The Diet Fix, which is a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of fad diet books. Freedhoff lets you know that there are no quick fixes to losing weight, and focuses his book on helping you develop the skills you need to help support permanent behavior change. The book is practical, showcases Freedhoff’s vast-experience as a weight-loss specialist, and is routed in evidence-based behavior change and weight loss strategies.

The Neglect of Nutrition in Medical Education. You may find it surprising (and discouraging!) to learn that most medical students receive very little, if any, nutrition education.  In this article, a 2nd year medical student at Harvard Medical School reports on the his mere 9 hours of nutrition education, which is similar (or even better) to other schools.  Given that heart disease, diabetes, other chronic diseases, and obesity are leading health problems with recognized dietary causes, it seems that there is much room for improvement in the medical school curriculum. Marion Nestle’s accompanying editorial is also worth reading. Hopefully change is imminent: this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also highlights the problem with a supplement devoted to the topic.(JAMA Intern Med.  April 14, 2014.)

Photo credit: By Gr5 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

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Healthy Banana Bread with Chocolate Swirl

Fill your house with the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked banana bread! This bread not only looks and tastes great,  it is much healthier than traditional banana breads.  Made with whole wheat flour, less fat, and less sugar, a slice of this bread has less than half the calories of most banana breads (and surprisingly, half the calories of Starbuck’s Banana Nut Loaf).  I guarantee you, it also tastes much better than the Starbuck’s bread.


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used nonfat)
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil, melted butter, or transfat-free margarine
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 medium bananas, mashed (about 1.5 cups mashed banana)
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Chocolate Swirl

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup milk (whatever you have on hand, I used 1 percent)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 8½ x 4½ x 2½-inch pan.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl or food processor, whisk together eggs, sugar, yogurt, and oil.  Stir in mashed banana and vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add banana mixture to flour mixture, and stir to combine.
  5. FOR CHOCOLATE SWIRL:  Place chocolate chips and milk in 2 or 4-cup measure, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on HIGH for 30-50 seconds (until chocolate just starts to melt). Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.
  6. Add 1 cup of batter to chocolate mixture, and stir until combined.  Place alternating spoonfuls of chocolate and plain batters into the loaf pan. With a knife, swirl batters together.
  7. Bake bread until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean (about 1 hour).  Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Makes 12 Slices

banana breadBanana Bread Tips and Variations:

This is a terrific basic recipe that lends to plenty of delicious variations. Here are a few . . .

  • Add walnuts for extra nutrition, healthy Omega-3 fats, and crunch (toast them first for maximum flavor)
  • Skip the chocolate swirl part if you’re busy or want a simple loaf – if you still want chocolate without the fuss, add chocolate chips to the batter
  • Add orange zest
  • Choose very ripe bananas, since they have the most sweetness, best flavor, and are easiest to mash (and they probably aren’t at their prime for eating!). No ripe bananas on hand, but you want to make banana bread? Check out this Epicurious article (How to Make Bananas Ripen Exactly When You Want Them To)

Nutrition Per Slice

  • 185 calories
  • 4 g protein
  • 5 g fat (1 g sat)
  • 30 mg cholesterol
  • 33 g carbohydrate
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 18 g sugars
  • 250 mg sodium
  • 200 mg potassium
  • Iron: 5% Daily Value
  • Calcium: 5% Daily Value
You might be interested in these recipes:

You’ll find more healthy recipes here.

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This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read a great review of the book Grain Brain, how vitamins C and E can hurt endurance performance, how food size can affect calorie intake, how exercising can lead to younger looking skin, and how Monday’s are a popular day to look for health information.

Foods high in carbohydrateWondering if grains are bad for your brain? Wonder no more. Dietitian Diana Chard does a nice job dissecting the popular diet book “Grain Brain” which joins “Wheat Belly” in claiming grains are causing almost all that ails us. As I mention in my review of questionable diets, there is no good evidence that wheat causes disease or weight gain, but actually very good evidence that WHOLE grains are health promoting.  Some of the claims in these books are borderline ridiculous (Grain Brain links grains to various conditions including depression, autism, tourette’s, and ADHD, while Wheat Belly links wheat to just about any ailment you can imagine).

Get your vitamins /antioxidants from food, not supplements.   This week yet another study added to the growing body of evidence showing that we shouldn’t be relying on vitamins and supplements to improve our health or athletic performance.  Norwegian researchers used a rigorous study design (double blind randomized controlled trial) to investigate the effects of Vitamins C & E on endurance training in healthy men and women. They found that vitamin C and E supplements blunted cellular processes that improve muscular endurance (increase of mitochondrial proteins-COX4. (J Physiol, 592, 1887-1901).

Smaller food pieces could make you increase portions and calories. Researcher Barbara Rolls of Penn State University is an expert in how different properties of food (e.g., calorie density, fat content, portion size) affect how much people eat.  In this study, she found that people served themselves larger portions of cereal when the flakes were crushed to a smaller size.  (J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 ). I’ve written more about how cues that aren’t related to hunger influence our eating habits here.

In case you need more motivation to exercise, it might keep your skin younger looking! Researchers at McMaster University have been conducting a series of studies on how exercise affects skin. Studies in mice showed that exercising mice retained young looking fur (that never turned gray) compared to their sedentary counterparts.  To investigate this protective effect in humans, they compared the skin of regular exercisers to sedentary men and women, and found that exercisers over 40 had skin similar to 20- to- 30-year olds. To rule out lifestyle factors like diet, they conducted another study where they randomly assigned 65+ year-olds to an exercise group or a sedentary group. After 3 months, the skin of the exercising group looked much younger.

Of course, it is well-established that sun exposure ages skin (researchers were examining buttock skin).  So if you’re looking for the protective effects of exercise, don’t forget your hat or sunscreen if you’re heading outside!

Looking for health . . . on a Monday. New Year’s Day is a popular time for individuals to make health resolutions, but a new study lends support to earlier research showing that many people seek to make health changes on Mondays. Researchers from San Diego State University, Santa Fe Institute, and Johns Hopkins monitored health-related Google Searches for 8 years (2004-2012), and found that the beginning of the week was the most popular for Google health searches.  Health promotion experts have recognized the opportunity in Mondays with The Monday Campaigns.   (American Journal of Preventive Medicine). 

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