Tag Archives: Cherries

Coconut Date Zucchini Balls

Most desserts have very little to offer nutritionally, save for the strawberry garnish on the giant slice of chocolate cake or pistachio pieces on your cheesecake. But when a food can satisfy a sweet tooth and offer nutrients, it’s the ultimate win-win: you get dessert and you get to top off your diet with even more nutrients!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
½ cup shredded zucchini
½ cup chopped dried cherries
½ cup flaked dried coconut, plus extra for rolling
1 cup almonds
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1 T hemp seeds
1 T chia seeds

Note: Amount of ingredients may vary; you may need to add more dates or cherries if the mixture is too crumbly or doesn’t hold together.

Method:

1. Put the almonds in a food processor; process until chopped into small bits.
2. Add dates, vanilla extract, cinnamon, hemp seeds, and chia seeds; process until well blended.
3. Remove from food processor; in a bowl, add chopped cherries, zucchini, and flaked coconut. Mix with a spoon (or your hands) until ingredients are incorporated.
4. Roll mixture into golf-ball sized balls. Roll balls in coconut to cover.
5. Place on a baking sheet; freeze for a few hours.

Why Should You Eat This?

Most desserts either leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed (and on a mission to eat only vegetables and raw fish the next day) or still hungry and craving more dessert. That’s because typical desserts — cookies, ice cream, cake, pie — are filled with sugar, mostly unhealthy fats, and lots of refined carbs. Consuming large amounts of refined carbs and sugar causes blood glucose levels to spike, followed by a quick spike in insulin. When the insulin clears out the glucose (from the excess sugars), you’re left in a state of low-blood sugar, which results in hunger and more cravings for high-sugar foods.

While dates are high in sugar, they’re paired with almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds — as well as the fiber in zucchini — to reduce their glycemic index. Healthy fats and fiber reduce the glycemic load of a meal, thereby decreasing their spiking effect on your blood sugar — and post-dessert cravings. In a study published in the journal Metabolism, researchers found that the blood sugars of participants who consumed almonds with white bread (a high GI-food) rose almost less than half of those who ate only white bread.

(While we’re on the topic, you can apply this piece of information to snacking and eating in general: pair high carbohydrate or high-sugar foods (crackers, rice cakes, apples) with high-fat or high-fiber foods (like almonds, peanut butter, or hummus) to keep blood sugar levels — as well as energy and mood — stable!)

This dessert is far from an empty-calorie dessert. Hemp seeds are high in protein, and both hemp seeds and chia seeds are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Dried cherries and coconut are healthy picks for an athlete: cherries contain anthocyanins that reduce post-exercise inflammation and soreness, and coconuts boast medium chain triglycerides that have been shown to boost endurance and athletic performance. Because of this dessert’s relative low calorie count and high protein, fiber, and healthy fats, this recipe is also suitable for a between-meal or pre-exercise snack.

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Chocolate Chip Cherry Coconut Cookies

These whole wheat cookies are packed with cherries, chocolate chips, and coconut, making them a healthier variation of the traditional and much-loved chocolate chip cookie. Ingredients like whole wheat flour, honey, and applesauce displace some of the cookie’s less healthy ingredients without compromising flavor. Dried cherries, dark chocolate, and flaked coconut give the standard cookie a more complex flavor profile and decrease the amount of sugar necessary. I like my cookies chewy; if you like yours crispier, bake for an extra 3-4 minutes.

Ingredients
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 T honey
⅛ cup butter, softened
⅛ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup dried cherries, chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut, flaked (note flaked, not shredded; bigger pieces of coconut give better flavor and crunch)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. On baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, spread flaked coconut and bake for 5 mintues (watch carefully so it doesn’t burn).
3. Add sugar, honey, butter, and applesauce in a large bowl; beat until blended.
4. Add vanilla and egg; beat.
5. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; add to large bowl and mix at low speed.
6. Add chocolate chips, dried cherries and coconut until just combined.
7. Scoop onto greased cookie pan.
8. Bake for 9 minutes.

Makes about 15 cookies.

Nutritional Information: per cookie: 166 calories, 7 g fat (4 g saturated), 23 g carbs, 2.3 g fiber, 2 g protein, 18 g sugar


Why you should eat these:
The average chocolate chip cookie has about 200 calories, but restaurant and deli options can easily pack in 500 or more! And because cookies are essentially empty calories, it’s best if they have as little a caloric impact as possible. These cookies manage to come in under 200 calories, even though they’re packed with chocolate chunks, cherries, and coconut. Another bonus: these same delicious ingredients give the cookie some nutritional redemption. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonols and antioxidants that help lower blood pressure, protect against cardiovascular disease, improves mood, protects skin, and, as new research shows, may help individuals maintain a healthy weight. Cherries are an athlete’s superfood: due to their anti-inflammatory properties, they help reduce muscle soreness following intense exercise. And coconut, made of healthier medium chain fatty acids, may boost metabolism and the immune system. While I wouldn’t recommend depending on dessert for a nutrient and antioxidant boost, it’s certainly an added bonus to a great-tasting cookie.