Aquafaba is a miraculous ingredient. The liquid from a can of chickpeas that you normally dump down the drain can be whipped into meringues, baked into cookies, and frozen into ice cream.
What’s normally thought of a waste product is actually one of the greatest egg substitutes that’s ever been discovered and it seems that there is almost no limit to what it can do. (Well, don’t try to make an angel food cake with it, but that’s another story.)
At only 5 calories per teaspoon, with a touch of carbs and protein and almost no fat, it makes the lightest, creamiest, and impossibly delicious ice cream! And, no, it does not taste like chickpeas at all.
Each enormous serving has less than 100 calories!
Even if you are not vegan, you’ll want to try this just for the sheer magic of it. It really is that amazing.
And no ice cream maker required!
I love mangos and when they are on sale, I like to grab a big box of them. And they make perfect ice cream.
But you can substitute any fruit you like with this recipe. It really is that simple.
Just 5 ingredients (or fewer if you omit the lime and salt) and four hours in the freezer and you’ll have your own delicious treat that hits the spot after a hot summer run!
I swear, this recipe is so good, even my non-vegan husband loves it.
As much as I would love to believe that people come to my site to read my sage training advice and chuckle at my endless witticisms, I (sadly) know that’s not the main draw.
People want the recipes!
By far the most popular thing I have ever posted is my recipe for DIY Generation UCAN, a sugar-free race fuel made with slow-release carbohydrates that you can mix up in you kitchen for pennies.
So when a reader recently asked if I had a version of the Chocolate Protein UCAN, I decided to rise to the challenge. I’ve already posted my chocolate version, but it’s naturally low in protein by design.
Of course, my version will not contain whey powder (obviously not vegan, but even if I weren’t plant-based, I wouldn’t recommend it, and here’s a few reasons why) xanthan gum (I’m okay with this ingredient, but I don’t like thick drinks), or sucralose (an artificial sweetener that definitely should be avoided) like the original contains.
PB Fit does contain a little sugar, so if you are looking to make this sugar-free, use a defatted peanut butter powder or flour that is sugar-free.
One scoop of UCAN’s protein version contains 110 calories for a 30 gram scoop, 18 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat.
My version is 122 calories, 19.6 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat. Mine also includes 354mg sodium, 87.5mg potassium, 4.7% of the RDA of calcium, 5.3% RDA of iron, and a touch of magnesium.
Now I’m not going to lie and tell you this tastes like drinking a luscious chocolate peanut butter milkshake. But it’s still pretty good.
And let’s be real: not even the pricey commercial version can claim that that people are ending their meals with UCAN milkshakes for dessert simply for the scrumptious flavor.
This is performance fuel, not dessert, and it works!
For me, this is far superior to any gel or other race fuel that I have ever tried and keeps me going without the crash!
Liquid starch-based fuel that is an alternative to gels or chews.
My version is 122 calories, 19.6 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat. Also includes 354mg sodium, 87.5mg potassium, 4.7% of the RDA of calcium, 5.3% RDA of iron, and a touch of magnesium.
Along with the beets, a key ingredient in my version is walnuts. Walnuts contain an essential fat called alpha-linolenic acid (usually abbreviated as ALA), or omega-3 fat. It’s only found in just a handful of plant foods (ground flaxseed and chia are two more) so it’s important to try to eat a good source of omega-3s each day.
What’s great about these is that you can swap out the beans and/or the grains (yes, quinoa is technically a seed) for whatever you have on hand and they’ll still turn out great. No quinoa? Sub brown rice. Don’t like pintos? Go for black beans. You really can’t mess up here.
And while I’m not a huge fan of fake meat substitutes, it’s almost scary how much these look like beef while you are making them. But after they are cooked, they are a brilliant magenta pink, guaranteed to catch everyone’s attention at the table!
This is a great reason to make a few extra cups of beans or rice whenever you are cooking them for something else to tuck away in the freezer. That way, awesome veggie burgers come together in just a few minutes.
I like to make huge batches of these because beets can be a little messy to work with. I’d rather only clean up once and have a nice stash of homemade burgers in the freezer for a quick lazy meal.
These patties can be a little delicate, so be careful with them on the grill. I like to play it safe and dry fry them or use a pan on the grill and cook them until they start to get just a few slightly charred spots.
Nooooo!! Not again. Another damn nutrition article ruins the fun.
What’s the villain in our diets this time? One of the usual suspects: salt.
But not for the reason you might think.
According to an article published in the New York Times, researchers have discovered that salty diets can dramatically increase hunger and lead to overeating. And not just a few extra snacks. A whopping 25% more calories.
That’s like eating an extra meal a day.
The researchers fed cosmonauts living in isolation to mimic space travel a salty diet and despite conventional wisdom, the cosmonauts actually drank less fluid than on a lower sodium diet. And here’s the bad news: their levels of hunger dramatically rose, even though they were eating the same amount of calories.
Hmmm…so maybe it’s not the extra carbs that cause some marathoners to gain weight in training despite running more miles.
It’s the extra salt driving us to eat more.
Salt has always been the one thing as a runner that I have felt pretty good about indulging in. After all, sodium is an essential electrolyte that is lost in sweat and is critical for life.
At my house, we can go through a bottle of (low-sodium) soy sauce in a week. I grind pink Himalayan salt over roasted veggies and sprinkle a few shakes on my oatmeal.
Salt makes food taste better, plain and simple. (Remember the watermelon post last week?) But when food tastes good, we are more tempted to overeat.
And it’s not just the salty deliciousness of the bag of Sea Salt Waffle Chips that makes us want to eat more, it’s the body crying out to eat more to make up for the extra calories it burns creating extra fluid to dilute the sodium.
It’s a double whammy.
Strangely, instead of continuing to signal your thirst to bring on more fluid to dilute the salt, your body will create its own. Just like a camel breaks down the fat in its hump to unlock the stored water, our bodies do the same thing cannibalizing your own fat and muscles.
This process burns calories, of course, which should mean we’d lose weight on a salty diet. But we don’t, because our brain ramps up the hunger cues, leading us to eat more (salty) food.
Athletes seem to be given a free pass, when it comes to sodium. After all, nearly every sports drink on the planet contains salt. Marathons offer water and salty Gatorade at every mile.
Runners even take salt tabs, especially during hot races, believing that it will prevent cramping. (Probably not.)
Athletes need more salt than non-athletes, right? Salt stings our eyes in the summer and leaves chalky stains on our t-shirts. Of course we need to replace it!
Yes, but it’s not that simple. Hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, is a real issue in long distance events, but what about our daily lives?
It seems like scientists might know a lot less about salt’s role in the body than we thought.
We know that water, sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes work in a delicate balance in the body. If you take on too much water, you have to pee. If you eat something salty, you drink, which is why smart restaurant owners provide those salty bar snacks.
Now it seems that the salty pub mix not only increases drink sales, but it probably also increases food sales too.
So what does this mean for an endurance athlete?
Sodium is still a critical element in our diets, but we should probably be careful about our consumption, just like the rest of the population. Many exercise scientists, most notably Tim Noakes, believe that runners’ deaths from hyponatremia come from over-hydration, not from under-consuming sodium.
What’s the bottom line, then? How much salt do athletes need? There is no clear answer. Some say that excreting excess salt in our diets is one of the best benefits to exercise because we consume too much.
There’s something about its weirdly sweet flavor which is just, well, so watery.
But my kids love it. They beg for it. They would eat nothing but watermelon for dinner if I let them.
So every summer, I buy watermelon, cut it up for the kids and I eat none of it.
Then the other day, I got the latest copy of Nutrition Action, an awesome monthly publication created by the dedicated people at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
You know, the food lobbyists for the people, yo!
CSPI created scores for fruit by calculating the percentage of the recommended daily intake of seven major nutrients plus fiber and carotenoids.
What are carotenoids? you might ask. Carotenoids are phytonutrients that give fruits and veggies their bright colors. They act as antioxidants in the body fighting inflammation and protecting against disease. Well-known carotenoids are lycopene, beta carotene, and lutein.
Watermelon was scored second highest on the Nutrition Action list, right behind guava (which amazingly was twice as high). Two cups of watermelon has a score of 302, while an apple only weighs in at 34 with a difference of only 10 calories.
The publication makes it clear that all fruits are good for you so it isn’t necessary to only eat guava and watermelon while shunning apples, but adding a few more fruits that are higher on the list is probably a good idea.
Watermelon, in all its watery voluminousness, is also great for helping you feel full without costing a lot of calories.
But I don’t like watermelon!
So maybe I’ll try to find a guava.
Okay, I didn’t try too hard to find that guava, because I came home with a watermelon.
Later that night, my husband cut it up for the kids as usual and I decided to figure out a way to like watermelon.
At a dinner party years ago, some friends served mango for dessert dressed with a little lime juice and salt. It was a delicious combination so I thought I’d try it with the watermelon cubes.
The salt cut the sickly sweet taste of the watermelon and it became fresh and tart with the lime juice. I ate my 2 cup serving and then went back for seconds!
It’s the perfect combo to eat cold out of the fridge after a hot, sweaty run. Two cups of watermelon provides 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, and almost no fat.
But the vitamin and mineral content is where watermelon is a superstar for runners. It provides 34% of your RDA of vitamin A, 42% of vitamin C, plus calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. And when you sprinkle a little salt on top, you are helping to replace the sodium you just lost in your sweat.
Natural glycogen and electrolyte replacement at its finest!
The carotenoid content of watermelon is also quite high, providing more than 20% of what you need in a day for optimal health. So it’s not just great after a run, but any time of the day.
One thing to remember is that carotenoids are fat-soluble, so sprinkling some sesame, hemp, or sunflower seeds on your frosty, limey, salty cubes is a great addition to make sure that all of those micro-nutrients are being absorbed well in your body. It’s also a good idea to get some protein with your carbs post-run, so those seed sprinkles are doing double-duty!
So often we runners like to over-analyze and over-complicate things. We buy gels and powders and goos and gadgets that are supposed to make every facet of our fitness optimized to the nth degree.
Yet sometimes, we just need to take a step back and look for the simple choice right in front of us: whole, unprocessed food straight from nature.
Let me say that again: your metabolism is fixed and running more won’t make you lose more weight.
The scientists measured the calorie burn of the highly active hunter-gatherer Hadza tribe in rural Tanzania who hunt all day long in hopes of killing their food, only to discover that they burn roughly the same amount of calories as their sedentary Western counterparts.
Just reading that seems ridiculous. How in the world can an active person burn the same amount of calories as a couch potato?
Well, moderately active people do burn more than those glued to the desk and the couch, but bumping your mileage up from moderate to high in the name of losing weight won’t provide the same returns it once did when you first started.
In a study of over 300 Westerners, the researchers discovered that “energy expenditure plateaued at higher activity levels: people with the most intensely active daily lives burned the same number of calories each day as those with moderately active lives. The same phenomenon keeping Hadza energy expenditure in line with that of other populations was evident among individuals in the study.”
Lovely. I’m burning the same amount of calories sitting at my desk typing this as the Hadza woman gathering wild berries and digging tubers out of the hard ground with a stick.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how it works, but they theorize that as your body becomes fitter and healthier, it spends less time “housekeeping,” like rebuilding damaged cells or fighting inflammation.
In other words, your body becomes more efficient and will run on less.
But wait. If you go out on a 20 mile run, the average person is burning about 2000 calories, depending on weight. Therefore, she should be able to eat 2000 additional calories worth of food to maintain her weight. It’s a simple equation, isn’t it?
Ah, just like just about everything in the human body, it isn’t that simple.
What happens when the Hadza tribesmen don’t catch the giraffe after spending the entire day hunting? That’s a big, expensive caloric gamble that they sometimes lose. Why don’t they starve?
The answer is fat. Even the leanest humans, like the Hadza, carry about twice as much fat as other primates. We are built to store fat to feed our big brains when we don’t catch the giraffe.
This is not really news, of course. Everyone’s heard the phrases “abs are made in the kitchen” and “you can’t outrun a bad diet.” We all know it’s a lot easier to eat 100 calories of peanut butter in one swallow than it is to burn it off running a mile.
I know this is true first hand because I ran more miles than ever last year and still gained weight!
The fact that our metabolism is fixed is a little disheartening, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run or even that you shouldn’t run a lot. If my only reason to run were that it kept my weight in check, I’d run a whole lot less, but that’s only a small part of why I run at this point.
The way I’m choosing to look at this is that it means that nutrition matters more than how much you run. Exercise is still essential, but the returns from a metabolic standpoint plateau and may even diminish as the miles pile up.
Eating whole, nutritious foods that satisfy without being too calorically dense is the key to fueling your body with exactly what it needs, without allowing it to store the excess as fat.
Forcing your body to work harder to get the nutrients out of your food could help a bit too. That means salads instead of smoothies and nuts instead of nut butters. The more chopping, blending, and processing that you do to your food outside of your body, the easier it is for your body digest and use (good things!) but also store as fat (bleh).
The fact is that our brains were developed to obsessively search for food and our bodies were designed to greedily hoard fat no matter what the caloric cost.
But the Scientific American piece did end on an upbeat note. It mentioned another evolutionary development that is essential to human survival: cooperation.
Other apes do not share food, but we do. The Hadza men work together as a group to hunt the giraffe, but if they are not successful, they come back to their camp to share in the food that the women have gathered.
Because they share in the hunting, the gathering, and the food, they do not starve.
Crispy yet crumbly falafels with a tangy cucumber yogurt sauce is so simple, healthy, and easy to make restaurant-quality at home.
Easy and simple does not always mean quick, however. The secret to the very best falafel is skipping the cans of chickpeas and using dried beans that are soaked overnight. This creates a crumbly yet cohesive texture that you just will not get from canned or cooked beans.
If you are in a hurry, canned or cooked will work, but you will be missing out.
The only thing I do differently is skip the frying and bake the falafels instead at 400 degrees F for 20-22 minutes, turning once in the middle of baking.
For the tzatziki sauce, I use this recipe, subbing my non-dairy soy yogurt for the Greek yogurt. I like to squeeze out some of the water from my yogurt in a thin cloth for a few minutes to get a nice, thick texture.
It tastes even better if you allow it to chill in the fridge a few hours before serving.
For the salad, I had to find a Greek dressing recipe and I used this easy-to-whip up recipe from the Detoxinista. I like to limit oil as much as possible, so I just used a splash instead of the quarter cup.
For dinner, we rolled everything up into a tortilla, piled on more tzatziki and had the most delicious wraps. My husband said it was as good as anything we could order in our local Greek restaurant.
You might want to go ahead and double the recipes, because you will be definitely wanting more soon!
Strolling past the dairy section of any grocery store, you’ll see row after row of different kinds of yogurt. Greek, fat free, almond, coconut, soy, “lite”, fruit flavored, plain…it’s seemingly endless.
I’m glad that the non-dairy yogurt selection is getting better lately, but if you flip over to the ingredients list, the majority of yogurts (both dairy and non-dairy) are full of sugar and additives.
Might as well buy ice cream instead!
Even if you are lucky enough to find plain soy yogurt, it’s typically thickened with gels and gums and will set you back at least $6 a pint.
All I want is thick, protein-rich, non-dairy yogurt teeming with healthy active cultures that will make my gut happy.
Is that so hard?
Actually, no it’s not. It’s stupidly easy.
You can make yogurt at home in with about 10 minutes of active time without any special equipment other than a thermometer. Four hours later and your fridge is stocked for the week for pennies.
All it takes is the milk of your choice and some pro-biotic bacteria.
Yogurt made from almond, rice, or cashew milk is delicious, but it will not be super thick or have much protein if that’s what you are after. Without adding a thickener like cornstarch, you will get more of a kefir-like drink, perfect for adding to smoothies for a tangy kick.
Coconut milk yogurt can easily be made to be as thick as Greek yogurt, but it still lacks the protein and has a much higher fat content if you use canned coconut milk.
I typically make soy milk because it’s the only type of non-dairy milk that has a decent amount of protein. To stay away from gels and gums and whatever else they put in it refrigerated soy milk, I choose the shelf-stable soy milk that contains nothing but water and organic soybeans (EdenSoy is a good example).
But after a while, using carton after carton of soy milk felt wasteful to me. That’s when I discovered you can buy powdered organic soy milk! Less packaging and a better value. Perfect!
The only trick to using powdered is that you need to make sure that you bring the water and powder to boiling to make sure that the powder is fully dissolved. This keeps it from separating while it’s fermenting.
So how do I make yogurt without a yogurt maker? I use a cooler! I happen to have a lunch-sized insulated cooler that was designed to hold a six-pack of beer and not much else. It fits six one-cup mason jars perfectly and allows me to make 5 cups of yogurt at a time.
Why not six?
Because one of those spots is reserved for a mason jar filled with boiling water which keeps the inside of the cooler at the perfect temperature.
Low tech yogurt maker with nothing extra to buy or plug in!
The cheapskate minimalist in me practically sings with joy at this discovery.
So where does the yogurt bacteria come from? You can get it one of two ways: buy some yogurt of your choice and mix a couple tablespoons into your warm milk or use pro-biotic capsules.
I prefer to use the capsules because I get more consistent results, but I also like to add in a tablespoon of the last batch I’ve made, just to be sure it works. Choose a brand that contains at least 50 billion active cultures for best results. I use this brand.
So here’s how you do it in a nutshell: bring 4 cups of milk just to boiling, let it cool to 110 degrees F, mix in your pro-biotic, pour into your clean containers, put into your cooler along with a jar of boiling water, and around four hours later, you have yogurt!
You can even leave it overnight and wake up to fresh, tangy yogurt for breakfast. Four hours is about the minimum and if you leave it for 12, it will be noticeably tangier.
Tangy, unflavored soy yogurt tastes very similar to dairy sour cream so that’s another great use for it.
Now, if you follow these instructions and try it, it might not work perfectly the first time or every single time. Pro-biotics are living beings and like all living beings, they sometimes do things we don’t want them to do.
Here are a few tips:
If you wake up in the morning and the yogurt is still the same consistency of milk, there are only three possibilities of what happened: the bacteria didn’t stay warm enough long enough, they got too hot and died (or were dead to begin with), or there weren’t enough of them happy and active.
I have found that if I start a new batch from scratch without adding a spoonful of already made yogurt, that it doesn’t always set.
To fix this, you can simply pour the mixture back in the saucepan, carefully bring it back up to 110 degrees (no warmer) and add another dose of 50 billion cultures. Pour back into the jars and snuggle them next to the jar of boiling water and let them be for another 4 hours.
Sometimes at the two-hour point, I take a peek and warm up the water again. I don’t know if this really makes a difference, but it’s a little insurance that everyone’s staying nice and toasty.
Keep your jar of pro-biotics in the fridge to help keep them fresh.
My favorite way to use yogurt is in overnight oats. It adds a nice tang and thickens up the oatmeal perfectly.
I also use it to make frozen yogurt, add it to smoothies, or mix it up with fresh fruit, cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple syrup.
probiotic capsules containing at least 50 billion active cultures (try 100 billion for the first batch) that include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarious, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus or more.
Mix water and soy powder in a saucepan that holds at least 8 cups. (If you are not careful, this mixture can boil over so you want to use a larger pot than might seem necessary.)
Bring to just boiling and whisk.
Allow milk to cool to 110 degrees F (takes 20-30 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen)
Whisk in pro-biotics and/or a tablespoon of already-made yogurt.
Pour into five small mason jars and close lids.
Place jars in a small cooler along with a mason jar of boiling water.
Close cooler and check yogurt after 3-4 hours.
If not set yet, refresh boiling water and check again in a couple hours.
Whole wheat bread is supposed to be tough, grainy, and perhaps a little dry. Kids turn their noses up at the thought of whole wheat and reach for the white. It’s an acquired taste that you get used to when trying to eat a healthy diet with more whole grains.
Bread is normally full of carbohydrates and usually a bit skimpy on protein. And the good stuff made with only whole ingredients costs upwards of $5 a loaf in the store.
So what if I told you I created a recipe for whole wheat bread that is not only healthy, but soft, delicious, full of protein and about $1 a loaf to make?
The secret is vital wheat gluten. Now before you crinkle your eyebrows at what has become almost an evil word these days, remember that gluten is the protein that makes stretchy wheat bread possible. It traps the air inside the loaf creating the webbing of air pockets that is essential to the delicious texture of bread. If you are lucky enough to be gluten tolerant (the vast majority of us are), then it can become an important part of a healthy diet, especially for vegans.
The reason that white bread is so soft is because the bran from the wheat has been stripped away, leaving more gluten in the flour per cup. If you try to make a loaf of whole wheat bread without adding vital wheat gluten, it will be dense and heavy simply because by volume there is a lot less protein creating the air pockets.
By replacing about a quarter of the whole wheat flour in my normal recipe with VWG, I created billowy loaves that have more than 10 grams of protein in each 129 calorie serving! Just amazing.
I like to use long, skinny silicone loaf pans to get small sandwich slices. I get about 20 slices per loaf and each serving is two slices.
My favorite method of baking bread is to create a sponge. This simply means a wet flour mix with yeast and/or sourdough that is allowed to develop before adding the rest of the dry ingredients. You mix up the sponge, let it sit for an hour (or overnight with all sourdough) then work in the second half of the flour and the salt. I prefer this method because there is no double-rising of the dough and it seems to take less time.
I prefer to weigh my ingredients in grams so that I can get exact measurements each time. Once you get used to weighing, you’ll never go back to using volume again.
This has become my absolute favorite loaf of bread. I typically sneak a little sourdough starter in with the sponge to get all that fermented goodness, but I still rely on some yeast because I get impatient. The recipe below skips the sourdough.