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CAT | Diet and Nutrition

When it comes to weight loss success, experts now agree that the quality of the calories you consume is as important as the quantity of calories. Simply put, eating the right foods for a balanced gut (meaning the right amount of good or neutral vs. harmful bacteria) is a key factor in whether or not you gain or lose weight.

By eating foods that nourish the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract—such as foods high in prebiotic fiber and those foods that contain beneficial bacteria, like living and fermented foods—your body will absorb fewer calories from food, experience fewer cravings, and store less fat. But what about those moments of weakness when you crave something sweet? Here are three delicious yet gut-healthy recipes you can feel good about:

choc-mousse

Cacao, Avocado& Chia Mousse
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
1 avocado
¼ cup cacao powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds

Directions: Place avocado, vanilla, and almond milk in food processor and process until smooth; stir in chia seeds. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; refrigerate 1 hour. Scoop into individual bowls and serve chilled.

Lemon Bliss
Serves: 1
Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
12 drops vanilla stevia
1 tsp. lemon extract

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chill 2 hours. Serve cold.

Nut Butter Cups
Serving Size: 2 Serves: 16
Ingredients:
5 tbsp. coconut cream concentrate (coconut butter)
5 tbsp. coconut oil (best if in liquid form)
6 tbsp. cacao powder (see Note)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lo han (monk fruit) sweetener
3 tbsp. nut butter of choice (cashew, sunflower, almond)

Directions: Mix all ingredients except nut butter in a medium bowl. Place ½ tsp. of mixture into each cup of a mini muffin pan. Freeze about 10 minutes. Set remaining mixture aside. Add ¼ tsp. nut butter atop each frozen “cup.” Add another ½ tsp. of the cacao mixture on top of the nut butter; freeze again about 15 minutes (to harden). Note: Cacao powder is a less processed version of cocoa powder and is available at health food stores.

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children-runningWith the rise of electronic media, U.S. kids are spending more time glued to a screen and less time engaged in physical activity—a trend that could have far-reaching implications when it comes to their overall health. But adding just an hour of exercise each day can make a big difference, and not just for a healthy body but for a healthy mind.

In a recent study funded in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers from the University of Illinois followed more than 220 schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 9, half of whom were enrolled in an after-school program with a high level of physical activity while the others remained on a wait list. The 2-hour program included about 70 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, which researchers say resulted in big “brain gains” for those enrolled.

The kids who attended the weekday program showed significant improvement in a range of cognitive skills: memory, concentration, the ability to focus and ignore distractions, and multi-tasking (being able to switch back and forth from one task to the next). These so-called “executive functions” have been linked to fewer conduct problems and less risky behavior in the adolescent and teenage years.

“I think these are the hardest evidence we have available that time spent in physical activities, which would include physical education and recess, not only doesn’t detract from academic goals, but it might enhance academic performance,” said lead researcher Charles Hillman. He and his colleagues encourage schools to consider providing more opportunities for physical activity and parents to encourage regular exercise. According to the study results, the children in the after-school program also had smaller gains in body mass index (BMI).

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