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Wow! It’s been awhile since I’ve updated this blog with an actual food-related post.
My favorite season (Fall) is almost here…and you know what that means…
Fall (Julia’s favorite season) = Julia baking a lot = more pictures = more blog posts. It will come! I promise!!! But for now, I thought I would share some things that I’ve been loving lately.

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One of the conflicts that I face as a nutrition major as well as someone who loves to bake is exactly that….I LOVE TO BAKE!! Although there are definitely “healthier” versions and modifications of your favorite baked goods (which I always opt for), the combination of flour + sugar + fats (oil, butter, etc) is never exactly “ideal”. After taking my food science course last year and learning all of the components of different ingredients, such as oil and sugar, and how they contribute to your resulting product, it’s becoming harder for me to seek out “sugar substitutes” and “fat substitutes” as replacements, because they don’t possess the same characteristics and qualities as that of straight up sugar and fat. And as a perfectionist in the kitchen, I want my products to be as perfect as possible in structure and mouthfeel. (Btw, if you would like a separate post of me talking about the characteristics of sugars and fats and how they are unique in baking and hard to mimic, then let me know). However, there are other options that can be considered to yield a “healthier” product. Three easy examples are to…

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1) USE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR WHEN YOU CAN.
When I make my banana muffins or banana bread, or really anything that uses a significantly sweet fruit, I will usually choose to opt for the whole wheat flour instead of your standard all-purpose flour. Personally, I am accustomed to the taste of wheat because any kind of bagels or bread that I buy in the market are almost always whole-wheat or whole-grain, but I can understand if the taste of wheat isn’t as desirable by some people. If you are one of those people, try making banana muffins with whole wheat flour! Or try mixing the wheat flour with all-purpose flour. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be able to taste the difference, because the texture and sweetness of the ripe bananas almost masks and enhances the wheat flour, in a way. In fact, last year in one of my food classes, a partner and I performed an experiment where we made two versions of banana bread – one made with whole wheat flour and one made with all-purpose flour. The participants almost unanimously voted for the wheat bread! There’s just something about bananas and wheat flour that really compliment each other.
Now, why is whole-wheat flour a healthier alternative to white flour? Well, for starters, the “brown” version of any food is almost always healthier than the “white” version – pasta, rice, grains, bread, etc. In general, whole-wheat flour is higher in nutrients because it is made with the whole kernel of the grain, rather than just the interior endosperm portion (this is also why the color is darker – because it hasn’t been stripped of its outer nutrients). However, the protein content in wheat flours are higher than white flours, so this may cause a problem for those who are gluten-free. But the most notable difference between the two flours is the fiber content – “brown” flours contain almost 4x as much fiber as “white” flours! And on average, women (and most men) don’t receive enough fiber in their diets to begin with, so this is definitely an easy way to implement some fiber into your diet if you’re like me and love to bake 🙂

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#2) USE GREEK YOGURT INSTEAD OF SOUR CREAM
Greek yogurt and sour cream are pretty similar in both texture and flavor (if you get the plain, tart flavor of yogurt). However, they are drastically different in nutrient content! To give you an idea, here is a comparison of the content in:
1 C of greek yogurt (nonfat): 130 calories per cup, no fat, 9 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar and 23 g protein
1 C of sour cream: 445 calories and 45 g of fat but just 5 g protein, 6.5 g carbohydrates and 8 g sugar

As you can see, greek yogurt contains almost 4x as much protein as sour cream, at about 1/4 of the calories! It is also lower in fat and cholesterol, which is always a good thing.
Sour cream is usually used in baking because it yields a dense and very, very moist product. This is typically desirable in certain cakes and cake-breads. But an easy healthier alternative would be to switch out your cup of sour cream for a cup of greek yogurt! It yields a product that is just as moist, at a far better nutrition standard.

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#3) USE DIFFERENT MILKS

I have never personally been a fan of cow milk. Before, I would try to drink enough 1% or 2% milk to fulfill my calcium requirements, but since I’m not fond of cow milk, it was pretty difficult to meet adequate calcium intake levels. But a couple of years ago, I discovered one of the greatest substitues – almond milk!! Almond milk is so great… (check out my post for a more in-depth description of why almond milk is better), and it can easily be used as a substitute for milk in baking products! There is no noticeable change in flavor, and you are receiving a much more nutrient-dense product 🙂

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Breville Juicer.
This juicer is da bombbbbb! It’s quite the powerful machine at 700watts and makes amazingly smooth juice (btw I will probably make a blog post soon about juicing and how great it is for you). Pretty expensive compared to its competitors (retails for $130) but definitely worth every penny. I am going to get back into my juicing habits soon! Wish fruits/vegetables weren’t so expensive…
Hamilton Beach Personal Blender.
I love this thing. I like to make smoothies for after I workout, or sometimes for breakfast if I have some extra time. This is great because the mug detaches from the base, so you can take it with you to class or work, and it functions as a travel mug. Love it! It has a pretty weak motor though, so that’s a downside. But for your everyday fruit smoothies, this is a great choice.
I LOVE GREEK YOGURT. Maybe even obsessed with it. I have gone through tubs and tubs of this Fage 2%, and I must say, Fage really is my favorite brand when it comes to Greek yogurt. I find that the consistency is so much better than Chobani, and the taste is more welcoming as well. I like to put this in my smoothies, stir it in my oatmeal, use it as a dip for fruits, or as a substitute for sour cream when I’m baking.
Greek yogurt is great because it contains about half the sugar of normal yogurts, and is PACKED with calcium and probiotics. What differentiates Greek yogurt from regular yogurt is that Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey, lactose and sugar, which contributes to its thick consistency. It is significantly thicker than normal yogurt, and it takes some time getting use to the flavor (taste a bit like sour cream.) Perhaps the most well-known fact about Greek yogurt is its protein content – a single serving size doubles the protein content of regular yogurts! In just one serving, you are receiving roughly 15-20 grams of protein – that is equivalent to about 3 ounces of lean meat (which is actually a serving size of meat). This should be extremely appealing to vegetarians, and women as well, who often do not receive the recommended protein intake.

Another thing that I love is peanut butter, but it’s no secret that peanut butter can be extremely fattening. This PB2 is one of my favorite food items ever. It has 85% LESS FAT AND CALORIES than regular peanut butter!!!!! Insane. This is actually a peanut butter powder, so you have to mix it with water to achieve the actual peanut butter, but the extra work is SO WORTH IT! Typically, regular peanut butter is about 210 calories and ~3g of saturated fat, and low-fat peanut butter is around 180 calories per serving size (2 tablespoons). BUT… this amazing pb2 is only….45 CALORIES PER SERVING SIZE!!!!!!  With 0g of saturated fat! Isn’t that crazy?! And you can even adjust the consistency to make the peanut butter as thick or creamy as you would like. I absolutely love, love, LOVE this product. The only downside is that it can be relatively difficult to find, and when you do, it is significantly more expensive than your traditional supermarket peanut butter. But…I love it and will continue to repurchase when I run out.

Bragg is one of the more well-known brands to health fanatics with their AMAZING apple cider vinegar and all the health benefits that it has (which I also keep in my pantry at all times). But another product of theirs that I love even more is their liquid aminos. It is used exactly like soy sauce; in fact, it is known to be a natural soy sauce alternative. It contains no added sodium or table salts, and has only naturally occurring sodium from soybeans. It contains 16 different amino acids, which are essentially the building blocks of organs, tissues, and protein. It’s also gluten-free, to those who are concerned about celiac disease. A downside to this product, however, is that it is pretttttty expensive for a seasoning…but a bottle should last you a good while.

Luna bars are great! I stock up on these pretty much every week. I’ve tried other energy and nutrition bars, but I just keep going back to Luna. Luna bars are known as “nutrition bars for women” because they focus mainly on four core nutrients – folic acid, iron, vitamin D, and calcium (which most women lack in). They are relatively low in calories for an energy bar, and offers additional nutrients, such as protein and fiber. Some days, I have class from 8am until 5:30pm, with very little time to eat lunch in between. So I’ll usually throw a Luna bar and an apple or some other fruit in my backpack for some healthy mid-day snacking. My favorite flavors are the Nutz Over Chocolate and Peanut Honey Pretzel.

Alright, honestly, I hate drinking milk. The only time I ever drink milk is when I’m eating cereal, or in my coffee. But, it’s no secret that women usually don’t receive enough calcium in their diets, and did you know that we only have until the age of 30 to store up calcium in our bodies? After that, we no longer have the ability to store up calcium, which is why many women suffer from weaker bones and osteoporosis as they get older. If you’re like me and you hate drinking milk, but you need to find a way to increase on your calcium intake, then give almond milk a shot. It contains half the calories as 2% milk, yet has twice the amount of calcium! And if you opt for the unsweetened vanilla flavor, it contains even less calories! (Roughly 30-40 calories a cup vs ~120 calories/cup in 2% milk). And, since it is dairy-free, it is a great alternative to those who are lactose intolerant or suffer from other dairy allergies. Another great thing about almond milk is how versatile it is, and how it functions much like regular milk in everything. I can’t even remember the last time I bought regular milk. I use almond milk for everything that I would use milk in – baking, cooking, coffee, etc. I usually switch between the original and the unsweetened vanilla varieties.

Alright. So, I’m pretty sure that anybody who knows me even the slightest bit can vouch for me when I say I have a bit of a drinking problem…
If I could have it my way, I would drink probably 8 or 10 cups of tea a day. I’m not even exaggerating. Tea is so soothing and relaxing, and on top of that, provides a TON of antioxidants and other nutritional benefits, depending on the kind of tea that you choose. I am a bit obsessed with my tea and always get carried away walking down the aisle at supermarkets. Sadly, I got Invisalign awhile back, which prevents me from drinking or eating anything unless I take out my teeth trays. And who wants to take out their trays and brush their teeth 10 times a day, right?

But. I still love my tea.

Here’s just some of my favorites:

This isn’t even all the tea I own……. I know, I know.. I clearly have a problem.

These “English style” teas are a great substitute for my morning coffee on days where I wake up too late to grind my coffee beans and brew a fresh pot. Earl grey and english breakfast are basically variations and blends of black tea and sometimes spices. They’re not as common in the States, since America is such a coffee-loving country, but in other countries, these teas have withstood their popularity and preference over the changing generations. Both are said to provide antioxidant properties, as well as aid in cardiovascular health.

My love. Green tea. Quite possibly one of the most underrated products ever, in my opinion. It’s no secret that green tea has a reputation as being a leading source of antioxidants. This means that it helps defend your body’s immune system from free radicals and disease-causing toxins. In other words, green tea helps your body “flush” out all of the bad things in your body’s system. Studies have also shown that consumption of green tea is correlated to a reduced risk in several kinds of cancers, including breast, skin, lung, and colon cancer. The list of benefits goes on and on, but just to name a few additional wonders it does for your body… it helps fight against the effects of aging, provides energy, assists in weight loss, and helps fight against cardiovascular diseases. Amazing, right?

Well, these are mostly for personal uses. For those of you who don’t know, I am pretty much classified as an insomniac. I literally average about 3.5 hours of sleep a day, so that’s why I’m in “zombie mode” most of the time you see me. But I’ve found that the “Sleepytime” line of teas from Celestial really does help give you peace before bed and relaxes and soothes your mind.

I’m getting pretty tired writing such a long post, so I’ll just add some of my seasonal favorites! Chai tea is…amazing. It has such a pleasant spicy and aromatic smell of a blend of spices and is commonly brewed with milk. Chai is traditionally considered to be an Indian tea, and the spices really compliment each other. This particular one that I found from Twinings is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!! Brew it with almond milk… and you’ll be asking yourself why you didn’t discover this earlier. This pumpkin spice chai tea is also the tea that I use to make my pumpkin spice chai tea muffins with.
The one on the right is a winter spice blend of white tea. I would say that its flavor really compliments this time of the year (winter, January-time), but it’s actually been really hot in Texas lately! But nevertheless, it is delicious and good for the soul 🙂