Food trends: What is teff?

Have you heard of teff before? Do you know the nutritional punch that this tiny grain provides? Today, we are back with another installment of ‘Food Trends’ to talk about teff. We previously looked at Pulses, Monkfruit and Sprouted Grains. You may be seeing this grain even more over the next few years, if you have not already. In fact, next time you are in the gluten free, grain or flour area of your grocery store, look for this product. Bob’s Red Mill carries their own version of the grain and flour, among other brands.


What is Teff?

Teff is a tiny seed originating from Ethiopia. In fact, Ethiopians have been eating this grain for thousands of years. This grain has a nutty flavor with crunchy texture, is about the size of a poppy seed and is generally cooked in a similar fashion to quinoa. Teff can also be prepared by grinding it into a flour or combined with water to make a porridge type consistency.  So why the sudden popularity? Teff is gathering attention around the world because of its nutritional makeup, and the fact it is naturally gluten free. For those that follow a gluten free diet, teff provides many nutrients that other gluten free grains and flours that are refined may lack.


What are the nutritional benefits?

In addition to being gluten free, teff is a great source of protein with 7 grams of protein provided in each 1/4 cup (uncooked). In regards to fiber, each 1/4 cup uncooked portion (or ~3/4 cup cooked portion) provides 4 grams. Teff is low in saturated fat and sodium but is a high source of a variety of essential nutrients like Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Manganese and Zinc.


Talk to us! Have you ever tried teff or used it in a recipe? Personally, I can’t wait to give this one a try! I’m always looking for ways to mix up the grains I consume, especially ones that pack as much nutrition in as teff does!

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Homemade Cinnamon Spice Apple Chips

With school back in session for many of us, the anticipation of the fall is evident. My Pinterest feed is already filled with pumpkin spice treats, cute sweaters and fun fall “Must-do” lists. Though I love pumpkin spice everything, fresh apples are another of my favorite fall flavors that often gets overlooked.


Apples are so versatile for fall baking and pack a serious nutritional punch! They’re rich in fiber and vitamin C, and low in calories, making them a nutrient dense food. They are perfect paired with peanut butter, microwaved with some cinnamon, or tossed into a crumble for a slightly healthier dessert.

I love dried fruit- any type- but it is hard to find in the store without a lot of added sugar. Not to mention, dried fruit (with the exception of cranberries) isn’t cheap. One night after spiralizing some zucchini for dinner, i got the idea to spiralize an apple. I set out to make apple chips- and the result was a perfectly sweet, crunchy, and nutritious snack.

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These apple chips would be perfect on top of a salad, dipped in some peanut butter for a satisfying snack, or just plain for a quick and healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Check out the recipe below and let us know what you think!

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Homemade Cinnamon Spice Apple Chips
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2 cups
  • 4 Apples- i used Gala, but any type would do
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  2. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.
  3. Spiralize apples using the "ribbon noodle" attachment
  4. Place spiralized apples onto paper towels, being careful not to overlap any of the slices (they will not dry out fully if they overlap each other)
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  6. Bake for 2.5-3.5 hours or until all apples are crispy.


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Like it, Love it, Avoid it: Salad dressings

Happy Thursday everyone! The type of salad dressing to use with salads is one of the most frequent questions I get as a dietitian! On Tuesday, we talked about making healthier choices at a salad bar, so I thought I would continue our theme of salads and talk about our picks for the best grocery store salad dressings.

As you probably know, if you can make a dressing at home, it’s a healthier alternative than most store bought salad dressings – mostly because you can control exactly what ingredients go into your dressing. However, it is nice to have some ready made options available to use at home. Salads can either be a healthy option or be just as detrimental to our healthy lifestyles as a cheeseburger and french fries! And, the type of dressing you use definitely plays a role.

Love It


One of the most simple salad dressings available (and likely ingredients that we all keep in our pantry) is the mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. By drizzling these two items on a salad, you are adding flavor without saturated fat, excess sodium and sugar which are some of the biggest contributors to unhealthy salad dressing options on the market. Fortunately, most salad bars and buffets (including Sweet Tomatoes) provide olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing option — just be cautious of your portion size when pouring them out, especially the olive oil.

Like It


If creamy salad dressings are your downfall, you are in luck! Some of my favorite dressing options are the yogurt based salad dressings available on the market. In fact, many of the common types of dressings you would find on an aisle in the middle of the grocery store have yogurt based flavor equivalents. I have taste tested many of these dressings and have found the taste to be just as flavorful as the regular dressings! In fact, I may {wink, wink} have done a blind taste test on my husband to see if he noticed a difference between the two. He had no idea I was giving him a yogurt based one.

The nutritional makeup is noticeable when comparing yogurt based dressings to regular dressings. For instance, Bolthouse Farms’ Creamy Ranch dressing provides 45 calories per serving (2 Tbsp), 3 gm total fat, 0.5 gm saturated fat compared to Hidden Valley Ranch dressing: 140 calories per serving (2 Tbsp), 14 gm total fat, 2.5 gm saturated fat. Bolthouse Farms is probably the most famous brand of yogurt based dressings on the market, although there are other options available. You will find these yogurt based dressings on refrigerated shelves next to the salad lettuce.

Avoid It


When possible, avoid dressings from the middle of the grocery store. Many of them either provide too much fat or too much sugar that can be detrimental to our diets. If you must choose a dressing from the aisle, choose an oil based dressing versus cream based. Those dressings typically provide less total fat grams and sugar than the oil based. However, to be sure, always check your nutrition facts label. Also, be weary of light or fat free dressings. Where fat is removed, flavor is usually made up for with {most of the time} sugar. For instance, you might be shocked to look further at Ken’s Steak House brand Fat free Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette. A 2 Tbsp serving provides 70 calories, but also provides 12 grams sugar with the first ingredient being high fructose corn syrup. That’s almost as much as sugar as what is in 2 fun size Snickers bars!

Talk to us! Have you tried yogurt based salad dressings before? Let us know what you think!


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Making Healthy Choices at a Salad Bar + Sweet Tomatoes Review

Salad bars and buffets are a healthy alternative to a traditional restaurant, right? Not always. Making healthy choices, even at a salad bar, can be tricky. Many times salads served at restaurants are not too far off in calorie and fat content from a burger and fry entree or a creamy pasta dish. Take for example the Oriental Grilled Chicken salad from Applebees- it contains a whopping 1280 calories and 760 calories from fat (Source). On the contrary, the American standard burger contains 1030 calories and 640 calories from fat (Source). Shocking, right?! Moral of the story: just because it is a salad, does not mean it is healthy.

Some tips for staying healthy at the salad bar or buffet:

  • Fill your plate with veggies and lean protein
  • Keep the dressing on the side and dip your fork in to give a little flavor to each bite
  • Avoid high calorie toppings like cheese, fried onions, crispy chicken, tortilla strips etc
  • Avoid pasta salads, broccoli salads and other mayo contained prepared salads
  • Drink a lot of water!
  • Don’t show up starving- its ok to be hungry, but that feeling of overwhelming hunger can cause you to load up on not so healthy items

One of my favorite salad bars is Sweet Tomatoes. Fresh salads, homemade soups,  pasta, cheesy bread and of course soft serve ice cream with all the toppings! Though I love all of the yummy sides, making healthy choices can become difficult.

Sweet Tomatoes has recently started offering protein options on their salad bar and we were given the chance to try them out!


The protein offerings are at the end of the salad bar and are served by a Sweet Tomatoes team member. The servings are very generous and are the perfect way to make your salad a fulfilling meal.


Filling up on the veggies and protein is the key to staying on track at a buffet like Sweet Tomatoes. Protein helps to keep you feeling full without a ton of additional calories. We both went back for a little taste of cheesy bread, but we agreed that the addition of the protein to our salads helped us to feel more satisfied and less likely to continue eating at the buffet.


Laura tried the pesto chicken and it was moist, flavorful and the perfect compliment to her salad.


To change things up, I tried the steak. It had good flavor and was a relatively lean cut of meat. I only needed a few slices to feel satisfied and as you can see it was a fairly large portion of meat.

Overall we were pleased with the new protein offerings and hope Sweet Tomatoes keeps them on the menu (they are currently trialling these items in select markets). With the variety of proteins (steak, chicken, shrimp), you’re bound to find one that compliments the salad you have created!

Thanks to Kim for giving us the opportunity to try them out!


Our meals were complimentary, but all opinions are our own. 

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Kale and Spicy Turkey Sausage Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells were somewhat of a staple growing up. My dad would often make them when my mom went out of town and I always loved them. Im not sure why I have never attempted them myself, or what prompted me to attempt now, but I decided to wing it with this recipe- I just used what I thought would taste good. When my husband said, “These are the best stuffed shells I have ever had”, I knew I had a winner!


Stuffed shells are traditionally very rich- loaded with various types of cheeses and meats, they have the tendency to be high fat and high calorie. I subbed low fat ricotta for higher fat cheeses and used turkey sausage instead of traditional pork sausage for a leaner and healthier meat. I also used an entire bunch of kale, which when sautéed, turns out to not be too much. I also chose to skip out on topping them with shredded cheese, saving some additional calories there! Between the low fat cheese, kale and turkey sausage, these are a healthier version of the traditional version of stuffed shells!

First, boil water to cook the shells. Cook according to package instructions.

While the shells are cooking, sauté the spicy turkey sausage until it is fully cooked and set it aside. Without washing the pan, sauté the kale until it was limp. Next, add the eggs, ricotta, salt, pepper, garlic, parmesan cheese, kale and sausage together and mix to combine.

Now you are ready to stuff the shells.


Fill each shell with ~1/2 cup kale/sausage mixture. Place into greased 9×13 dish. Fill shells until all the filling is used (I had leftover shells once the filling was gone). Top with marinara sauce liberally.


Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!



Kale and Spicy Turkey Sausage Stuffed Shells
  • 1 package jumbo stuffed shells
  • 12-16 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 1 lb spicy turkey sausage- removed from casing and crumbled
  • 2 oz low fat ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large bunch of kale- ribs removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook shells according to package instructions.
  3. While shells are cooking, sauté sausage until fully cooked. Set aside.
  4. Saute kale in same pan as sausage. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine kale, sausage, salt, pepper, garlic, ricotta, parmesan and eggs. Mix to combine.
  6. Pour thin layer of marinara around bottom of 9x13 to coat the pan.
  7. Fill shells with ~1/3-1/2 cup filling. Use all the filling, you may have leftover shells.
  8. Top with marinara sauce liberally.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.




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