Madrona Nutrition and Fitness: Recipe and Nutrition Guide

Madrona Nutrition and Fitness:
Guide to Wellness through Holistic Diet
and Lifestyle

Rachel Fiske
Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant,
Certified Personal Trainer

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Dessert Alternative: Cocoa Snowball Recipe

Looking for a healthy dessert alternative around the holiday season? Doing your best to avoid refined sugar and flour....try these yummy cocoa snowballs! If you like dark chocolate and you like coconut (and c'mon, who doesn't!?), you'll like these...

recipe courtesy of Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles


1 vanilla bean, about 7 inches long
1 cup unsweetened coconut, finely shredded
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup raw and unrefined coconut oil (melted)
3 (or less) tbsp raw honey
pinch of sea salt


Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seed paste with the tip of a knife. Put the vanilla, coconut, cacao, coconut oil, honey and sea salt in a bowl and stir well, making sure the vanilla bean paste and cacao powder are well mixed. The dough should be relatively stiff. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Then, simply chill the balls for about 4 hours to set, and store in a tightly sealed container for up to a month in the fridge! So easy!

For another recipe from this same fabulous book, see a previous post of mine for Mexican Dark Chocolate "fudge."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

As we find ourselves amidst the season of sugary treats, what better time to take a look a closer look at both sugar and artificial sweeteners. I recently gave a short talk on the effects of sugar (along with two other foods that are best avoided: gluten and commercial animal products), and thought I'd share some information with my readers, along with a handout I provide for my clients!

Here are a couple of important facts to remember about sugar and sweeteners. One, all sugar (both artificial and real) cause an insulin response in our body. As discussed in many previous articles, insulin is a storage hormone, escorting nutrients to our cells (particularly our fat cells). We always want to strive to regulate our insulin levels, therefore regulating our blood glucose levels, in turn regulating our sugar/carb cravings and energy dips and spikes. Secondly, remember that while we should minimize our exposure to all sugar and sweeteners, those actually coming from nature (not including High Fructose Corn Syrup, which manufacturers would argue does, in fact, come from nature) are better than those made in a lab. Remember, if we can't pronounce the name, most likely not a great choice...

Unfortunately, many people think that because artificial sweeteners are non-caloric, they are making the right choice by not contributing to weight gain. However, as mentioned above, even that sweet taste produces the same insulin reaction in our body, and can lead to a whole host of problems. Similarly to trans-fats, our body has no idea how to process these chemical sweeteners. In fact, a 2008 study by the National Institute of Diabetes found that artificial sweeteners were connected to a 2-fold increase in diabetes. Take a look at a list of symptoms caused by artificial sweeteners (and there are many more):

  • Hives/rashes
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of memory
  • Migraines
  • Joint Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

Before sharing my handout with you, I'd like to quickly address agave syrup, a hot topic today with its growing popularity in recent years. In her book Primal Body, Primal Mind, Nora Gedgaudas refers to agave as the "new 'yuppie' form of high fructose corn syrup, being sold as a natural, even exotic-sounding product." She goes on to inform us that "agave is actually much richer in damaging fructose and, as such, potentially much worse for you than industrial high fructose corn syrup (with the exception of the fact that industrial HFCS is made using synthetic chemicals and GMO's)...HFCS contains about 55% fructose content. Agave nectar, by contrast, contains anywhere from 70 to 97% pure fructose and Nutrasweet." What this means is that it puts a tremendous strain on our liver, as all fructose must be converted to glucose in the liver before being used for energy by our body.

Below is some information on which sweeteners to avoid completely and which may be used in moderation. Keep them in mind this holiday season, and beyond!



  • ALL sweeteners, caloric and non-caloric, can contribute to weight gain and/or weight loss resistance.
  • Sweeteners that come from nature are always better than those made in a factory or lab.
  • Regardless of source, it is crucial to minimize your exposure to sugar/sweeteners.


  • Any sweet sensation causes an insulin spike in our bodies, which promotes fat storage (especially around the mid-section).
  • Diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates negatively linked with heart health.
  • Artificial sweeteners can cause migraines/headaches, dizziness, seizures, nasea/vomiting, fatigue, change in mood, vision and heart rate, diarrhea, joint pain, memory loss, insomnia, hives, and more.


  • Aspartame (equal)
  • Saccharin (sweet n low)
  • Stevia that is white (truvia)
  • Sucralose (splenda)

OK TO USE IN MODERATION (organic whenever possible):

  • Raw honey
  • Grade by maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Date sugar
  • Fruit juice
  • Green leaf stevia (best choice, can help stabilize blood sugar)


  • Focus on carbohydrate and sugar grams; 4 grams sugar=1 tsp.
  • Look for ingredients ending in “ose” or “tol” (ex: sucralose, sucrose, fructose, sorbitol, xylitol)
  • Words such as sugar, nectar, syrup, crystals
  • 1st item in ingredient list exists in largest amount, and so on.

“Be wary of all the chemicals in your life” –Andrew Weil, M.D.