Many of us are addicted to sugar, salt, and toxic fat tastes and the transition to healthier eating can often feel like utter deprivation. Taste buds need to acclimate to lower sugar and salt levels. For some this is best achieved by going “cold turkey” but for many, the leap is too great and a gradual reduction is often more successful. This is especially true in families with children, whose taste buds naturally crave sugar and who, in this processed food climate, have acclimated to frighteningly high levels of sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
This is where transition foods can be helpful. Transition foods are those that are lighter in sugar, salt, and unhealthful fats, but still taste good and remind us of those unhealthy foods we have become used to. When I make transition foods I always add whole vegetables, fruit and whole grains in order to bring in the moderating effect of fiber and micronutrients. Here are just a few of my favorite transition foods and meals.
- Macaroni and cheese with butternut squash cheese sauce with brocccoli
- Lower sugar avocado chocolate mousse
- Instant blender ice cream made only with whole fruit and coconut milk
- Lower sugar muffins with flaxmeal and nuts
- Plain unsweetened yogurt with pureed fresh fruit
- Homemade baked sweet potato chips
- Pancakes made only with banana and egg
- Spaghetti sauce sweetened only with pureed zucchini and carrots
Even if your taste buds have already adapted to healthier levels of sugar and salt, transition foods can also be used when you simply want a treat but wish to avoid the worst food choices.
This month I thought I would share a fun transition food recipe for homemade “Pop Tarts” that are significantly lower in sugar than processed versions and contain whole fruit and whole grain flour. They are still high in fat, although if made with pastured butter, offer a much better choice than trans fats or industrial seed oils. If calories are a concern I would consider sharing one or making smaller tartlets.
Low Sugar Blueberry “Pop Tarts”
– 3 cups frozen blueberries
– 1/3 cup water
– 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
– 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
– 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– 1 tablespoon unrefined coconut sugar
– 3/4 cup unsalted butter, preferably grass fed
– 1 large egg, preferably organic or pastured, lightly beaten
– 2-4 tablespoon 2% organic milk
– Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on tops of tarts, or other coarse sugar sprinkles
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375℉.
- For jam: Place blueberries, water, 2 tablespoons coconut sugar, and vanilla in a small saucepan and place on medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, using a wooden spoon to mash up blueberries, for 20-30 minutes or until mixture is thick like jam. Stir in lemon juice. Allow to cool.
- For tart dough: In a large bowl, stir together both flours, coconut sugar, and salt. Cut butter into 1/2” pieces and using a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Using a fork, stir in egg and mix it in evenly. Drizzle 1 tablespoon milk over mixture and mix in well with fork. Try to press mixture together. If it holds together well it is done. If it is still too dry to come together, add another tablespoon of milk. Knead dough until it comes completely together and roll into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Take each half and roll into a 3-inch log. Place each log on a piece of plastic wrap and gently press down to flatten it a bit. Wrap each dough piece completely in the plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.
- To make “Pop Tarts”: Place one piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 12 X 8” rectangle. Cut rectangle lengthwise into two equal pieces. Cut each piece crosswise into 4 pieces. You will have 8 – 4 X 3” rectangles of dough. Place 1 heaping tablespoon jam into center of 4 dough pieces and spread, leaving a 1/4” border. Brush edges of other dough pieces with milk and carefully place, milk side down, on top of jam covered pieces, gently pressing on the edges to seal. Using a fork, dock edges to seal and decorate. Brush tops with milk, then prick a couple of places with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle lightly with Turbinado sugar. Using a thin spatula, transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with second piece of dough in plastic wrap.
- Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 17-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Julie Wern is a psychologist turned stay-at-home-mom turned health coach and cooking instructor. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the author of Holcomb Farm CSA’s Simply Fresh blog (http://holcombfarm.org/blog), as well as her new food and lifestyle blog, The Wholesome Gourmande (http://www.thewholesomegourmande.com). It is Julie’s passion to help individuals find their unique path to health without sacrificing joy and pleasure in food. You can find Julie at: http://www.thewholesomegourmande.com or: firstname.lastname@example.org for comments and inquiries.