Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Healthy Solutions for Pregnancy

Staying healthy during pregnancy - or any time in life - can be challenging when you're juggling work, family, social obligations, housework, and (gasp) down time.  Pregnancy is an especially important time during which health and self care are imperative, but it also tends to be one of the most difficult times to stay well.  Pregnant women are usually tired, sore, and may suffer from swelling, varicose veins, digestive issues, and allergies, all of which make them feel less than top notch.

Now that I'm 36 weeks pregnant and counting down the days until we meet our little girl, I wanted to share some tips and techniques that have helped me stay healthy during the last 9 months.  I tried to avoid medications (a wicked sinus infection in October resulted in antibiotics, however), and we're hoping for as few interventions as possible in labor and delivery.   However, it would have been impossible to feel as good as I have without these lifesavers!  (Of course, for anything listed below, make sure to talk to your practitioner first.  Every woman - and every pregnancy - is different.)

Check out these older posts to find out more about pregnancy, including making healthy choices and choosing supplements:

Prepping for Pregnancy
Nutrition in the First Trimester
Food Diary of a Pregnant Dietitian

Here I was a few days ago at 36 weeks along:

1. Neti Pot.

Sinusitis and rhinitis of pregnancy are no joke, especially in Arizona.  I have always had allergies that I could manage using a fantastic natural antihistamine called Antronex, but I really struggled with allergy issues during pregnancy.  One thing that really helped was regular use of a neti pot, which allows you to irrigate your nasal passages using a special solution of water.  Take 1 cup of lukewarm filtered water (either distilled or reverse osmosis - I heat mine up in a glass measuring cup in the microwave) and add 1/4 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt and 1-2 drops of tea tree oil, a natural antimicrobial.  Don't mess around with regular tap water; you don't want to introduce any bacteria or other teeny critters to your sinus cavities.

Tilt your head to the side and touch the spout to one nostril to allow the solution to pour through.  The water will pour out the other nostril (yes, gross but effective).  Lean forward far enough over a sink for the solution to go through your sinus passages, not down your throat, and if it burns, stop - either the temperature or the solution is not correct.  It should feel soothing, not torturous.  After the entire cup of solution has passed through, I recommend staying tilted to the side for about 30 seconds to make sure that all the fluid comes out of your sinus cavity.

If you have allergies or finding yourself coming down with a cold, give the neti pot a try.  You might feel like a complete weirdo, but it can be very effective.

2. Exercise, especially Karve.

Pre-pregnancy I was training to be  a Karve instructor and thus took 5-6 classes on top of 4 hours of training per week.  I also walked 50-60 minutes per day with my dogs.  Pregnancy has certainly slowed me down.  My daily walks are between 30 and 40 minutes with no jogging intervals, and I take Karve about twice a week and teach twice a week.  At this point, I can only stay for about half of class, but I feel that it's important to keep my upper body and legs as strong as possible.  (For  more information about Karve during pregnancy, check out this page.)

It's amazing how much exercise in general has helped me maintain flexibility, strength, and general mobility.  Karve has been especially beneficial.  It's safe for all levels of fitness and is low impact while being challenging enough for even the most experienced exerciser.  Even better, my doc has given the green light for beginning just weeks after birth (barring any complications) because it is so safe.  If you don't have Karve in your area (mainly, Arizona and Utah), check out other barre classes such as Bar Method, Pure Barre, and Dailey Method.  Prenatal yoga, swimming, and cardio machines and classes are also great options.

Many women are fearful of exercise during pregnancy or see these critical nine months as a time to just relax and stop moving their body.  Unless you have particular restrictions, however, exercise is even more important during pregnancy than ever before.  If you're thinking about kids in the next few years, try to solidify a workout routine now so you have healthy habits in place by the time you want to be a mom.  It will make exercise during pregnancy much easier and safer.  Plus, it will help you gain weight healthfully and regain your physique after baby.

3. Prenatal (or regular) massage.

Massage Envy and other chains make regular massage an affordable reality, but massage is much different during pregnancy.  After the first trimester, laying on your stomach during a massage is not recommended, and a lot of therapists are extremely cautious about using any pressure.  Before I found my favorite prenatal therapist at Massage Envy in North Scottsdale, Ashley, I felt as if I was being pet like a puppy dog.  Now that I have found my go-to girl, massage is just as enjoyable, if not more, than it was pre-baby.  I lay on my side with supportive pillows and drift into a relaxed, blissful state.  It's glorious.  Plus, it helps with sore muscles, bachaches, and general stress.

If you are wary of massage chains or prenatal massage, I would recommend asking other clients or talking to management at your facility.  I had to experience a few less than wonderful therapists before finding my wonderful Ashley, and now I will never look back!  Plus, at $39 for an hour, a price I locked in four years ago, it's insanely affordable. 

4. Healthy solutions for cravings.

Pregnancy cravings can be pretty strong, especially if you're not able to fulfill the cravings.  I still really, REALLY want a dirty martini and a plate of sashimi.  However, it's imperative to try to find healthy (and less dangerous) options to satisfy what you want.   I'll select cooked fish rolls like shrimp and unagi if we go out for sushi, and I'll ask for a small plate of olives or pickles if I can't squash my hankering for that dirty martini.

While healthy eating is important, listening to your body and honoring what you're really craving is critical.  If you really, really want a cookie but choose an apple or a few pretzels, you may feel so deprived that you eventually eat 3 or 4 cookies after all.  I have been known to bake an entire batch of gluten free peanut butter cookies just so I can have one or two - that's how serious a craving can be.  (My coworkers have really enjoyed my pregnancy cravings as well).  When you eat anything, especially something as delicious and rich as a really good dessert, make sure to slow down and savor each bite.  It will taste even better, and you fill find that satisfaction factor more quickly.

Sometimes cravings aren't as specific to a particular food as they are to a general flavor.  I have been a big fan of anything chocolate during this pregnancy.  That's why I make sure to have 70% + dark chocolate bars at home and at work in case I need a square (or more).  Every week or two I make a healthier chocolate dessert like my healthy fudge, cashew butter cups, or no bake bars

5. Coconut oil and Thorne Manuka Therapy Hand Cream.

My skin is usually dry during the winter months, and it has been especially dry (and itchy!) this last trimester.  I lathered up with plain ol' coconut oil (the dogs were thrilled) for a few days and the itching has disappeared.  This may not work for everyone, but it was a simple and inexpensive solution for me.

Since the beginning of my pregnancy I have used Thorne Manuka Therapy Hand Cream on my stomach and other stretch mark-prone areas.  It's organic and doesn't contain parabens, endocrine disruptors, or allergens, and it's much cheaper than tummy butters on the market.  So far, so good - not a stretch mark in sight!
6. Back roller.

I have had upper back tightness and pain for years.  When it was really bad, I would also have heart burn.  My chiropractor recommended this wooden back roller that hits pressure points along the spine.  I started using it daily about 4 months ago, and my upper back pain has vanished.  When I first started using it, I could feel it work out some tightness in the muscles along my spine, and it was slightly uncomfortable.  Now I can feel that my spine is relaxed and the muscles are loose, and I use the roller a few times a week for maintenance. 

To use it most effectively, place the roller on carpet and lay down so that your spine is in the center groove.  Prop yourself up on your elbows and roll up and down over the roller.  You can use it from your neck to your low back, but I mainly focus on my mid- to upper-back.

7. Boppy Prenatal Total Body Pillow.

My wonderful mama friend Mary told me about her Boppy brand Prenatal Total Body Pillow before I got pregnant.  She promised it would be one of the best purchases I could make; she was right.  I bought one at around 8 weeks and use it every night.  It helps me stay sleeping on my side comfortably.  Put the lower half between your legs, and the upper half can be used to support your tummy and head.  My dogs even like it, and I'll find Greg sleeping on it "inadvertently" as well.

This is me with my Boppy pillow in the first trimester.  I was so nauesous that I took it out of the bag and laid down on the floor.  I may be smiling, but I wasn't feeling too happy at this point...

8. Early bedtime. 

I am and have always been a morning person.  I teach Karve at 6 am, so it was not unusual for me to wake up at 4:15 to squeeze in a walk before my class.  As pregnancy progressed, I pushed back my wake-up time to 5 am on days I taught and 6 am when I didn't.  However, the most important change has been going to bed early.  I aim for 8 to 8 1/2 hours per night, meaning that sometimes I'm in bed around 8:30 or 9 pm.  I fall asleep instantly, so I know that my body needs the rest.  It's another way in which your body tells you what it needs as you're making another human.

Ample sleep has helped me fight off colds and have energy to stay active and maintain my normal routine.  I figure I won't be getting much sleep for many years to come, so I might as well enjoy it while I can.  Fortunately it still is easy for me to sleep soundly with my growing belly - I'm wondering when or if that will change. 

9. Soap Creek Company Lip Mend.

Sometimes I receive free products from health and nutrition companies.  A few weeks ago I found Soap Creek Company's Lip Mend in Moist Mint in my mailbox.  It's made of only moisturizing oils like coconut and jojoba, along with beeswax and vitamin E, and it works wonders on chapped winter lips. I think I'm addicted to it already.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

The "World's Best Chicken"

I love Pinterest recipe inspirations, especially those that are relatively healthy and easy to make.  This chicken dish, named the "World's Best Chicken" and highly rated by those who have pinned and repinned it, was a hit at our house.  In fact, I have already made it a few times.  Since the ingredients are minimal, it's a great go-to dish to have on standby.

Maple syrup is one of my preferred sweeteners, since it is high in manganese and zinc, two crucial minerals that are important cofactors in a variety of physiologic reactions.  It may also be helpful for your immune system and good for male reproductive health.  When choosing sweeteners, I try to stick to those that are minimally processed and exist in nature, preferably honey, maple syrup, stevia, sugar in the raw, and small amounts of agave nectar.

World's Best Chicken


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs (use organic)
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together mustard, syrup, and vinegar.  Note: I doubled the recipe.

Place chicken breasts into 9×13 greased baking dish. Season with salt & pepper.  

Pour mustard mixture over chicken. Make sure each breast is coated.  No need to marinate.

Bake for about 35-50 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.  Err on the longer side if you want it a little more baked in. There will be extra sauce in the pan, which you can elect to toss out or use for extra flavoring.  Season with rosemary.

Serve with some roasted veggies and in our case, some sweet potato soup, for a well-rounded and warming meal.



Monday, November 12, 2012

Pinterest Crockpot Pizza Casserole - Healthified

I have been seeing this pin float around Pinterest for a few weeks now, and I wanted to give it a try.  It's made with pretty basic ingredients that were easy to make healthier, and since I just threw everything in the crockpot and let it cook on its own, there was minimal prep.  The end result was so great.  Greg and I absolutely loved it, and we have tons of leftovers.  Below is the recipe I created, adapted from the original.  I omitted the pepperoni (you really don't need it) and used organic ingredients.  I also swapped out whole wheat pasta for the white pasta in the recipe.  Next time I'll try quinoa or brown rice pasta to mix it up.  When it comes to the cheese, use the real deal (even raw if that's your thing) and enjoy every last satisfying bite - no fat-free cheese around here!

When it comes to purchasing pasta or marinara sauce, make sure to check the label and ingredient list.  These kitchen staples tend to be made with hidden ingredients that you might not want to eat (or give to your family).  I look for three things:

1. Organic - conventional tomatoes are heavily sprayed with pesticides.

2. No high fructose corn syrup - many sauces are sweetened with the HFCS instead of sugar.  Look for sauces that have no sugar added, but if they do, make sure they're sweetened with sugar.  You won't be able to tell the added sugar content from the label, since it includes the sugar inherent in the ingredients (cooked tomatoes, onions, etc.) as well.  If the sugar is high up on the ingredient list (top 3-4 ingredients), you know your sauce is made with a decent amount of the sweet stuff.

3. Soy oil - I try avoiding highly inflammatory (and usually genetically modified) soy oil as much as possible, but it seems to be in everything.  Many marinara sauces are made without any oils, so they can be a good bet (especially if you use olive oil in the recipe).  Otherwise, try to pick one with olive oil only.

I recently found "Organic Marinara Sauce" from Trader Joe's in a clear glass jar with a yellow label and used it in this recipe.  It is sweetened with a bit of sugar and doesn't contain any oil.  There is enough fat in the rest of the recipe that it wasn't missed.

Healthified Crockpot Pizza Casserole


16 ounces whole wheat spiral pasta, uncooked (but rinsed)
1 lb. organic grass-fed ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 organic green bell peppers
32 ounces pasta sauce (see above)
1 cup water
1 cup organic shredded mozzarella cheese


In a skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef, onion, bell pepper, and garlic until cooked through. 

Rinse pasta and place it in the crockpot with the ground meat mixture.  Stir to combine.  

Pour pasta sauce and 1 cup water over noodle mix.  Top with shredded mozzarella.

Place on the crockpot and cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Look what I got to come home to!

I made this the night before, placed the crockpot in the fridge, and then set it on the heating element at lunch today to cook for about 6 hours.  It was divine and so nice to come home to!  Served with a big green salad or some hearty roasted vegetables for a well-rounded and fall-friendly dinner.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

Raw Kale Salad - Whole Foods Inspired

Of all the pre-made items at Whole Foods, my favorite go-to is their raw kale salad.  Full of wonderfully healthy tomatoes, pine nuts and cranberries, it has a tangy-sweet flavor but is packed with vitamin A, vitamin K, lycopene (anti-oxidant), flavonoids (anti-inflammatory), and isothyocyanates (cancer-preventive).  Plus, with a bag of pre-chopped organic kale, it's super easy and quick to make.

Even though the kale is completely raw, in this recipe it is softened and has a very palatable texture.  What's the secret, you ask?  Adding lemon juice and "massaging" it into the kale softens this sometimes bitter member of the cabbage family and imparts a fresh flavor.  I found this recipe on WeGottaEat and adapted it slightly for my liking.  I also added tomato so it's just like the kind I purchase at my local WF.  The pictures are of this recipe, doubled.  It keeps really well in the refrigerator for a few days and is great topped with sliced chicken or wild salmon for a more complete meal.


3 cups organic raw kale, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cranberries 
1 organic tomato, chopped
Juice of 2-3 whole lemons
2 T cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
pinch sea salt
pinch pepper


Sprinkle lemon juice on kale and work into the leaves.

I basically used clean hands to cover each leaf with a little juice.  You could use even more lemon juice if you like an extra "lemon-y" flavor.

Add chopped tomatoes:

Add cranberries.  I was running low so didn't add as many as the recipe calls for.

Add pine nuts.

Top with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate.  Serve cold after a few hours so that the flavors can set and the kale can soften even more.

Save yourself some money at Whole Foods and give your body an amazing nutrient boost!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Food Diary of a Pregnant Dietitian

A lot of people have asked me if my eating habits have changed since becoming pregnant.  In general, I'd say they're relatively the same, but I'm certainly hungrier for more food than I used to be!

The whole "eating for two" statement is really a fallacy.  Starting in the second trimester and in addition to greater vitamin/mineral requirements, pregnant women need only 300 extra calories per day to support a growing fetus.  That equates to half a sandwich, an apple with 2 T peanut butter, or a large cookie.  Some of these extra calories should contain protein, since protein needs are also increased.

Does this mean I count out 300 calories and make sure to scarf them down?  Nope.  I don't count calories at all, just like before I was pregnant.  I just listen to my body and monitor my weight gain with my doc to make sure I'm getting enough.  My activity levels have decreased a bit since pre-pregnancy and some days the baby seems to be growing more rapidly than others, so it's really hard - and not necessary - to focus on numbers while eating.  I am aware of my hunger and fullness and make sure to have plenty of snacks nearby for when hunger strikes.  Some days I'm ravenous, while other days it seems like there's just not quite enough room in my abdomen to fit much food (which may be true).

By the way, recommended pregnancy weight gain ranges from 25-35 lb.  I will likely gain around 30ish pounds if I gain at the same rate I'm going, but I absolutely don't obsess about it.  Pre-pregnancy I rarely weighed myself, but now I hop on once a week to make sure I'm gaining enough and to check that I haven't gained a really big amount - such as 5 pounds in a week - because that can indicate that the body is retaining too much fluid and preeclampsia may be setting in.

Generally, physicians want pregnant women want to gain 2-5 pounds in the first trimester and about a pound a week thereafter. That doesn't mean that every person will follow this pattern.  I gained 6 pounds in the first trimester and then stayed there for about 4 weeks despite having an increased appetite.  After that, my weight gain pretty much increased by 0.5 - 1.5 lb per week.

What if you gain more in pregnancy?  While there are some potential risks to you and your baby if you gain a significant amount of weight, what I usually advise clients to do is listen to their bodies and not just eat "because they can."  In fact, if you have an intuitive eating mindset, you always "can" eat anything; pregnancy is no different.  Nutrition is perhaps the most critical during this imperative developmental stage, so focusing on nutrient dense foods and hunger/fullness - not necessarily weight gain - is the most important thing.  Some women will just naturally gain more or less weight than is recommended, and as long as your doctor is OK with it then don't stress.

I wanted to share three days of eating with you all so you could check out what it's really like to be a dietitian while pregnant.  I absolutely like sweets and comfort foods just like the rest of us, and I honor my cravings and only eat foods I really like.  As you will see, I still eat a lot of veggies and fruits while making sure to get protein, fat, and fiber in the form of whole grains and beans.  For more info on the supplements I'm taking, check out this post on first trimester nutrition or this post about pre-conception nutrition.  The prenatal vitamin I'm taking is divided into 3 doses per day to spread out the nutrients and not provide so much iron to the system at one time.  I take one with each meal.

For the record, my major pregnancy cravings have been the following:
- Chocolate - any kind, must have some daily
- Salads
- Turkey burgers from Red Robin
- Asian food
- Avocados
- Beans (any kind)
- Any sort of egg (although I make sure they're fully cooked)

Aversions (mainly during first trimester):
- Mushrooms
- Onions
- Peanut sauce on Picazzo's baked chicken wings (my sister and I used to get these all the time, but no more)
- Frozen yogurt (bad experience)

Note: I drink 2-3 cups of herbal ginger tea and 10-12 cups of water each day.  I don't necessarily eat everything on my plate; it just depends on how hungry I am.  When my body says it is full, I stop.

Day 1:

I was really hungry today!  Thank goodness I brought plenty of snacks to work. 

6 am - 45 minute walk with dogs

7 am - Breakfast
Ezekiel English muffin with almond butter topped with sliced banana
Prenatal vitamin, fish oil, probiotic, B complex, and Dr. Ben Kim's Greens

10 am - Snack
Tangerine chickpea and kale salad and an orange
2 calcium/magnesium/zinc + vitamin D (500 mg calcium total)

12 pm - Lunch
Romaine salad with tomatoes and avocado
Figg brand split pea soup topped with crumbled feta
Piece of dark chocolate
Prenatal vitamin

2:15 pm - Snack
Lara bar
2 calcium/magnesium/zinc + vitamin D

4:00 pm - Snack
Brussel sprout and beet salad

5:45 pm - few bites of chicken

6:00 pm - Karve class

7:15 pm - Dinner
Pomegranate chicken on top of quinoa
Salad made with romaine, apples, avocado, feta and homemade vinaigrette
1/2 piece of homemade GF bread with pasture butter
2 Hail Merry macaroons
1 Prenatal vitamin

Day 2:

Officially 27 weeks today!

6 am - 45 minute walk with dogs
7 am - Breakfast
Ezekiel English muffin topped with avocado, sliced tomato and 2 organic eggs cooked in pasture butter
Prenatal vitamin, fish oil, probiotic, B complex, and Dr. Ben Kim's Greens

10 am - Snack
Organic string cheese stick and a pear

12 pm - Lunch
Picazzo's Organic Italian Kitchen! Gluten-free slice of the day (pesto with ricotta and organic Italian sausage dipped in marinara sauce) and Berry Licious Salad (spinach, strawberries, feta cheese, walnuts, orange segments)
1 Dove dark chocolate Promise
Prenatal vitamin

2:30 pm - Snack
Lara bar

4:00 pm - Snack
Baby carrots dipped in garlic hummus

7:00 pm - Dinner
Cheesecake Factory!  Greg and I ordered off the "Skinny" menu because he's going for lighter fare these days
1/2 piece of "brown" bread with butter
1 Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Roll dipped in sauce (cold, wrapped in rice paper)
1 Mexican Chicken Lettuce Wrap
1/4 Skinny Turkey Burger and a few bites of side salad (ordered with regular vinaigrette instead of "Skinny")
Prenatal vitamin

Day 3:

OB appointment today with the lovely glucose drink (test for gestational diabetes):
6:00 am - 40 minute walk with dogs

7:00 am - Breakfast - had to be low-carb prior to test!
3 pasture eggs cooked in 1 tsp. pasture butter
1/4 avocado, sliced
4 slices tomato
Sprinkles of feta cheese 
Prenatal vitamin, fish oil, probiotic, B complex

7:20 am - Yummy (terrible) "Fruit Punch" glucose drink

9:00 am - Decaf latte from Starbucks (2% milk, added stevia and cinnamon)

11:30 am - Lunch
Salad with romaine, cucumber, avocado and hummus
Leftover chicken and a little quinoa
Piece of dark chocolate
Prenatal vitamin

2:30 pm - Snack
Lara bar
2 calcium/mag/zinc + vitamin D supplements

4:00 pm - Snack
Carrots and hummus
Organic string cheese

6:00 pm - Karve class

7:15 pm - Dinner
AJ's salmon, veggies and a few bites of mac & cheese (so heavy it hurt my tummy!)
Piece of healthy fudge 
Prenatal vitamin

So there you have it!  Each day I am for variety as much as possible, and I only eat foods I really love while getting in as much produce as possible.  I have been cooking less lately due to a very busy schedule, so there is less homemade food here than normal.  Sometimes I finish my plate, but most of the time my fullness tells me to stop.  That's the wonderful thing about our bodies - even when pregnant, we can listen to the signals our bodies give us to know when we have had enough.  And you know what?  If we really, really want something but we are full, we can save it for the next meal (or snack!).


Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Bake Dark Chocolate PB Oatmeal Bars

I did it!  I developed my own recipe!  (OK, I usually tweak any recipe I use to make it more Meg-a-fied, but this time I developed it on my own!)  I wanted to make a healthier no-bake cookie or bar that could also sub as a pre- or post-workout snack and had the two flavors I love the most: chocolate and peanut butter.  The result?  These fun little oatmeal bars that are great as a dessert, sweet snack, or even breakfast on the go.  Chocolate for breakfast, you ask?  Better (and more satisfying) than a chocolate doughnut!

This recipe is made up of some of my favorite nutrient-rich foods:

Cocoa powder and dark chocolate - full of phytochemicals (flavonoids, theobromine) that are cardio-protective and lower blood pressure.  Most of us love chocolate, and combining cocoa powder with coconut oil and a bit of stevia forms a nice chocolate "sauce" that's also super healthy.

Coconut oil - this once demonized oil has been heavily researched in the past decade and is now understood to be quite health-promoting.  We now know that it is beneficial to your heart and thyroid, and it may boost your metabolic rate and immune system strength.  Coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides, which are preferentially metabolized and used for fuel by the liver.  (Polyunsaturated fats are made of long-chain fatty acids, which are harder to metabolize and are preferentially stored for fuel.)  Much of the research vilifying coconut oil was performed on oil that was partially hydrogenated; virgin coconut oil is what you want to reach for.  It is solid at room temperature but melts easily, especially if kept in an Arizona kitchen (mine is usually liquid after a few days in my pantry).

Peanut butter - great source of protein, adds satiety to meal, and thought to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  Plus, it's just plain awesome.

Oatmeal - full of soluble fiber, which is thought to bind to LDL cholesterol and "sweep" it away from arteries.  This makes oatmeal heart healthy and a good whole grain option, if you eat grains.  Oats are naturally gluten-free, but many crops are cross-contaminated with wheat, rye or barley, or they're processed in facilities that also process gluten.  If you are gluten intolerant, opt for gluten-free brands like Bob's Red Mill, Holly's Oatmeal, or GF Harvest.  The less processed the oats, the more slowly they will be digested, so opt for traditional oatmeal or steel cooked oats whenever possible.  You can make oatmeal overnight in the crockpot to save time.  I used old fashioned oats for this recipe.  

Honey/stevia - I only used a small amount of honey, which has antimicrobial properties and is high in B vitamins, in this recipe, but I recommend it (and stevia) over other sweeteners because of its health benefits and minimal processing.  Plus, if you buy honey made in your local region, it may help you manage seasonal allergies a bit better.

This recipe is pretty dense and "oat-y" but has a strong chocolate peanut butter flavor.  If you don't like oats as much, you can reduce the quantity.  You can also make this lower in carbohydrates by reducing the honey (increasing stevia), eliminating the chopped dark chocolate, and swapping out 1 - 1 1/2 cups dried coconut for the oats.


1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
Few dashes of stevia (to taste)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
3-4 ounces dark chocolate chopped (optional; about 1 bar)


Add 1/3 cup coconut oil, honey, stevia, and cocoa powder to a small saucepan and heat until gently boiling.  

Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla extract and peanut butter until well combined.  

Fold in oatmeal and chopped dark chocolate.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon coconut oil to help bind the mixture.  

Spread evenly into an 8x8" baking dish and refrigerate to set.  

Cut into 12-16 squares and served once set.  Look how dense and yummy these are!  

I am considering freezing a few pieces to see how that goes, too!  Greg and I love having these in the fridge to satisfy our sweet tooth without a ton of sugar.  Let me know how you like them!