Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fall Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love fall.  It's a such a beautiful time of year with the leaves turning golden and red hues in Western PA.  From breaking out the jeans, sweaters and boots to the Friday night lights football games, sign me up!  I also love fall flavors like butternut squash and pumpkin.  I decided to try my hand at these pumpkin chocolate chip muffins made with whole wheat flour from Skinnytaste.   

The recipe didn't have too many ingredients which was a big draw for this busy girl! I whipped them up in no time flat and they were delicious!

 The only problem is I've been heating them up in the microwave and have almost eaten all of them in the last two days.  I think the secret is giving them away so next time prepare for muffin deliveries my friends!  The recipe makes twenty-eight smaller muffins or twelve to fourteen larger muffins.  I used Ultragrain White Whole Wheat Flour to add whole grains with white flour appeal. 

Muffins selfie in front of my fall wreath!

Enjoy this recipe adapted from the Skinny Taste website

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 1/2 cup Ultragrain white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cups Ultragrain all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 tbsp virgin canola oil
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • baking spray 
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners and lightly spray liners with oil for easy removal.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl mix pumpkin puree, oil, egg whites and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.
  • Add flour mixture to the wet mixture, then blend at low speed until combined; do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Pour batter into prepared muffin tin and bake on the center rack for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let them cool at least 15 minutes before serving.  Makes 28 mini muffins or 14 regular sized muffins.
 Disclosure: Ultragrain by Ardent Mills is one of my sponsors and supplied free product for this post. The opinions in this blog are my own. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Clean Label Food and Beverages: Going Greek

You hear the term “clean label” everywhere.  Good luck finding a widely accepted or definitive definition, other than on Wikipedia.  The good news, regardless of lack of exact definition, is that the food and beverage industry has undergone a shift in how they process and deliver products to the consumer.  The result, in many cases, is a shorter, simpler ingredient list with recognizable names.  The lack of formal definition is because there are no clear regulations or definitions for what it means to be “clean.”  Whole Foods has provided a list of ingredients that are often found in processed foods that they consider "unacceptable."  This list has been a starting place for many consumers and companies looking to make improvements.

Why the big focus on clean labeling?  The term “natural” is no longer deemed appropriate due to misuse and overuse, thus, began the search for another way to describe products that contained a short list of clear and concise ingredients with familiar names and without artificial ingredients.  

As a registered dietitian, I always encourage my clients to be their own best advocates and become as educated as possible when navigating food choices.  The grocery isle can be overwhelming, and it’s important to have some guidance as you make selections from the multiple options per category.   Transparency from companies is a good thing.  With the amount of information that can be provided on a company’s website, you can get a very good idea of where their ingredients come from and how each product is made.  I would consider transparency the hallmark of a clean-label product.  

One exciting development is that food companies are now allowing dietitians who have a vested interest in communicating safe and accurate science-based information to others to examine and comment on their practices. 

In July, I was invited to the Chobani plant in New York to see, firsthand, the level of quality and commitment to excellence in all areas of this company's Greek yogurt production. 

Some key observations I made while at Chobani were that their yogurt:
  • is made with milk from cows not treated with hormone rBST
  • contains no preservatives
  • contains no artificial flavors or sweeteners
In addition, there are many nutritional reasons to recommend Chobani Greek yogurt, including that:
  •  it contains 11-15 grams of protein per 5.3oz cup
  • it is a good source of calcium
  • it contains live and active cultures – at least three probiotics are present
  • it has less sugar than comparable brands

It was wonderful seeing the attention to detail at the farm where the cows are treated humanely and with care.  We also learned about their feed, milking cycle and how the byproducts  from the farm are managed in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment.

Cow Selfie

People often ask me about added sugar in the diet.  When I recommend Greek yogurt as an addition to breakfast or as a snack or side at dinner, they ask if I'm concerned about consuming sugar through yogurt and other dairy products.  My answer is simple, in terms of where we are getting our added sugar, dairy only makes up only about 4% of the total pie, while sweetened beverages remain closer to 47% (based on NHANES data, 2009-2010).  While it’s still important to check out labels and make sure sugar isn't the first ingredient on the yogurt label and within a total reasonable amount in grams (say less than 20), it should also be understood that the majority of the sugar in Greek yogurt comes from natural food sources such as milk and fruit.  As Americans, we typically under consume Vitamin A, D, E, C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber and potassium.  Low-fat dairy can help fill in the gap for these important vitamins, minerals and nutrients in a quick affordable manner, along with helping with weight management via satiety-producing protein. 

If you would like to see sugar content of some popular brands reviewed, this TV segment "What You Need to Know About Greek Yogurt" aired on Good Morning America about a month ago and it was interesting to see some numbers.  With that said, we are still not talking about a food group that doesn’t provide any other benefits.  If adding some a small amount of sugar gets kids or adults to consume more calcium, magnesium, probiotics and protein, guess what, I’m in (within their daily recommended servings of dairy per day).

I was also amazed to see how many healthy ways Greek yogurt could be added to main dishes and snacks to reduce the fat content and increase the moisture.  We were able to taste multiple recipes developed by the Chobani chefs that were simply delicious!  

They have some amazing recipes on their website that you can check out with nutrition information provided.  

Here's a great one for Almond Butter Blueberry Muffins from their website


  • 2 ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp light brown sugar, divided
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup Ultragrain whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup sliced almonds 


    Step 1

    Combine Chobani 0% Vanilla Greek yogurt, bananas, egg, vanilla, almond butter and brown sugar in a food processor and bend until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

    Step 2

    Add all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, blueberries, and almonds and mix to form batter.

    Step 3

    Scoop batter into pan sprayed muffin tins or paper liners. Batter should yield 12, 3” muffins. Sprinkle each muffin with some of the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar.

    Step 4

    Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Calories 190, Calories from Fat 50, Total Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 3g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 15mg, Sodium 230mg, Total Carbohydrate 30g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 16g, Protein 6g.*

 Disclosure: I was thrilled to be asked on an all expenses paid trip to Chobani's plant to learn about their products.  The opinions above are my own.