Recipes

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

If you’ve followed my blog for some time now, you would know that I’m not one to make a lot of sweet dessert type recipes. It’s not something I intentionally do, but it has more to do with the fact that I am not the biggest fans of sweets. I know, call me crazy, but since I was a little kid I have never been a huge fan of anything sweet. I wasn’t that kid that loved Halloween candy, desserts, or pastries that much. I enjoyed them if they were there but they were never something I was willing to go out of my way for. With that being said, today is an exception because I am sharing with you a recipe I have had in my head for about 2 years but I was never sure how it would come out that is until today. Today I got to work to make my vision come to life to transform the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate into a chewy cookie version. This cookie recipe embodies the flavors of the cult-favorite Abuelita Hot Chocolate with the cocoa and the cinnamon perfectly blended together. As I was making this recipe, I failed and forgot to stop to take photos step by step. However, the process is so easy that I don’t know how helpful those step by step pictures would have been. I will post below the Instagram Reel I created that does break down the process step-by-step for those of you who are more visual learners. One thing I want to mention about this recipe is that is not a cookie that is trying to be anything but a cookie. This recipe uses butter and sugar and it is incredibly delicious. I don’t have to justify why I am posting this recipe because food doesn’t need to be justified. I have said it once before and I will say it again,

The key to a healthy lifestyle is to maintain a balance between the foods that are nourishing to our bodies and those that are nourishing to our soul.

So with that being said, enjoy your holidays, eat the foods that make you happy, and be kind to yourself since we all know this year hasn’t been very kind to us. Now let’s get into what you will need for this recipe.

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Soy & Honey Halibut

Recently, my parents came back from about a week long trip to Alaska where they spent the majority of the trip on a boat fishing and enjoying all the natural beauty Mother Nature has to offer. One of those days spent on the boat was spent fishing for halibut and after a very successful catch, they ended up freezing and transporting 15 pounds worth of wild caught Alaskan Halibut! Me being the foodie that I am couldn’t have been more excited to get my hands on the fish and right away I made my Crispy Fish Tacos with the fillets. Safe to say they were the best fish tacos I have ever had in my life and I do not mean that as an exaggeration. I have never had fresher more tender fish and now I don’t know that I can ever go back to conventional frozen seafood. But for now that I am being spoiled with the fresh fish, I decided to come up with some other yummy recipes. Last week I was looking through my fridge and pantry and noticed I was starting to run low on quite a bit of my staple items. Instead of making a run to the grocery store, decided to make due with what I had and with that this recipe was born. I started by defrosting the fish about 30 minutes ahead and started working on the marinade. After throwing some ingredients to a bowl and whisking it together this soy and honey marinade was born and let me just say that this recipe was a huge hit in my household. Adrian, my boyfriend, is not the biggest fan of fish but he devoured this meal and kept praising me for how good this was. I decided to serve the fish alongside some zucchini and shredded carrots that I tossed in a small amount of soy sauce, garlic powder, and sriracha all atop some white rice. This recipe is incredibly simple and can be used on just about any protein source but I find it goes really well with fish. Fish is a great lean protein source that is also abundant in omega-3 fatty acids which is particularly important for cardiovascular health. With the weather being so dreadful and many of us wanting to spend as little time a possible in the kitchen, this recipe is ideal because dinner can be on the table in no time if you prep the marinade in advance. All you need is 30 minutes to marinate and about 6-7 minutes to cook. Now let’s get into the details of what you will need for this recipe.

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Green Enchiladas + Chile Verde Recipe

If I had to pick one of my favorite Mexican dishes, it would have to be enchiladas without a doubt. While I will never pass up a good taco or chile rellenos, I think enchiladas are usually my go-to dish. My mom makes the absolute best red enchiladas I’ve ever had in my life and since I already recreated that recipe here, I decided to take a whack at the green enchildas. When I was a little girl, I actually did not like green enchiladas and it wasn’t because of the taste or anything, but just because they were green and at that an odd shade of green. Well, fast forward to now and I can’t get enough of them and here I am all these years later making a recipe for them. Who would have thought? One of the reasons I made these was because of the abundance of tomatillos I have growing in my garden along with the poblanos I have coming in. I have started to plant vegetables and fruits that I utilize quite a bit so I can save myself some money and so far it definitely has. Anyways, back to these delicious enchiladas. Before we get into the ingredients, let’s talk about the nutritional benefits of tomatillos–the star of the recipe.

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Peach Tea

As a kid, I was never really into drinking sodas or very sugary drinks. I was that strange little kid that preferred juice or water over soda and would choose a Snapple peach tea any day over a coke or sprite. I used to love Snapple peach tea as a kid and even into my early adulthood and the only thing that made me ease up on it was learning about how much extra sugar was in it. Recently with the weather being so hot, I decided I would try to recreate that much loved Snapple peach tea on my own while also taking advantage of the fresh peaches in season. After several attempts, I finally landed on this one which I can happily say is just as delicious if not better than the Snapple version. Although I did utilize sugar in this recipe, most of it comes from the peaches themselves. By blending the peaches and keeping the skin on, I was able to preserve some of the fiber as well. This recipe is entirely customizable and you can add as much or as little of the peach simple syrup as you like. Although, I would highly recommend you serve it as I have outlined because I know for a fact that as is it is a winner. Over the last few days I have made this 3 or 4 times because we have been going through it that fast. Whether you’re tired of just drinking water or looking for ways to utilize those delicious summer recipes, I think you will find that this recipe will exceed your expectations. Feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page for the nutrition breakdown.

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Baked Zucchini Fries

This season our garden has given us more zucchini than we know what to do with. Every week we harvest AT LEAST 2-3 large zucchinis and when I say large, I mean the equivalent of 2-3 store bought zucchinis in just one. I have been loving picking my produce from my own backyard but with so much of the same vegetable, I’ve had to think up some creative ways to use it without boring myself. One of the first things I thought to make was zucchini fries. If we’re using the word “fries” in the title, I 1000% expect it to be crispy and to live up to the glory that is potato based french fries. I knew it would take some time to perfect the recipe, but this last batch I made was about as perfect as it could get. Coated in fresh parmesan cheese, crispy panko breadcrumbs, and seasoned with Italian seasonings, these are out of this world incredible. This recipe is very straight-forward and although I am trying to create recipes right now that will allow you to avoid heating up your house with the use of your oven, let me just say that these zucchini fries are worth heating the house up. My last batch was gone in under 15 minutes and that was just between Adrian and myself. Now before we get into the recipe, let’s talk about the nutritional value of our star vegetable–zucchini.

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Crispy Tofu

It’s safe to say that the words delicious or yummy are not usually associated with tofu but today’s recipe should change your mind. Tofu has a negative reputation because most people assume you eat it as is and in its natural state is less than desirable. Tofu is a block of compressed soy beans that have been blended to various textures depending on the type of tofu purchased. Tofu comes in soft (best for smoothies or sauces), firm, or extra firm both of which are ideal for use in stir fries or for replicating a typical animal based protein like chicken. Just like traditional animal proteins, tofu needs to be well seasoned and prepared in order to have a satisfactory end result. Luckily it is easier than you may think to yield a delicious product. Without rambling on too much, I will be showing you today my simple recipe for a delicious and crispy tofu that can be tossed in a stir-fry, substituted in sushi, or simply served alongside some rice and veggies. Before we get into the details of what you will need for this simple recipe, let’s quickly review the nutritional advantages of consuming tofu.

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Chorizo Egg Skillet

A few weeks ago, I was looking for some new brunch ideas to change up the routine. I came across a recipe for shakshuka and decided to give it a try. As I was making it, I kept thinking to myself of ways I could modify it to give it more of a Mexican flare. Shortly after I made shakshuka, I decided to get back into the kitchen to try to recreate what I had in my head. To start with, I decided to add in some soy chorizo for some extra protein and also an extra kick. From there I decided what if I placed the filling over a bed of a corn tortillas to mimic huevos rancheros and then I added some cheese over that. Well, to say the least I ended up completely transforming the “shakshuka” but let me tell you that it may be one of my favorite things I have made to date. I made this for brunch on a day I had one of my friends coming over and it did not disappoint. It’s simpler than you may think so let’s dive into what you will need for this recipe.

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Easy Roasted Potatoes

One of my favorite foods to have for breakfast is potatoes. I’m not talking about the sweet kind either, I’m talking about the good ol’ golden Yukon potato. For whatever reason, potatoes have gotten a bad reputation over the last decade but I am here to tell you that in this household potatoes are an absolute must and household staple. Russet potatoes, golden Yukon, and red potatoes have just as much nutritional value as sweet potatoes do the only difference being the amount of minerals varies by each variety. Each potato has its appropriate use and for the purpose of roasting at a higher heat, I have found that golden potatoes yield the best results. I am working on a comprehensive blog post to outline each use of different types of potatoes but for now, i’m letting you know that golden yukon and/or red potatoes are the best types for roasting in the oven.

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Spinach & Artichoke Dip

One of my boyfriend’s favorite snacks is spinach and artichoke dip. Anytime it is offered as an appetizer we usually order it. I have to admit, it is also one of my favorite dips as well and I can usually kill half if not all of the dip by myself. A couple months ago, I was playing around with recipes for this to make it healthier since the traditional recipe for spinach and artichoke dip involves using multiple cups of cheese in addition to mayonnaise. I started by swapping the mayonnaise out for a leaner and much lighter Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is high in protein and lower in fat than mayonnaise and also contains probiotics which is beneficial for our digestive health. From there, I decided to also reduce the amount of cheese used by substituting nutritional yeast in for about half of the cheese. Nutritional yeast is rich in B vitamins and is significantly lower in sodium and contains no saturated fat or cholesterol in comparison to traditional cheese. Nutritional yeast still gives a cheesy flavor to any dish so you won’t even notice that this recipe has less cheese than usual. The few times I have made this dip, it has not made it past the 6 hour mark. The entire bowl is always left completely clean and no one even knows that it’s a healthier version of the traditional spinach and artichoke dip. Now that we’ve gotten all the info out of the way, let’s dive into what you need for this recipe.

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Peppermint Mocha Tart

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not just because it’s the holidays but mostly because school is finally coming to an end! With just a few days of the semester left, I felt inspired to make a little dessert for the holidays. After giving it lots of thought, I decided to turn a classic holiday drink into a yummy treat you can easily make for a holiday party or to enjoy at home! This peppermint mocha tart is decadent and perfect for the holidays. It’s so incredibly easy to make and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Whether you are a fan of peppermint or not, I am sure you will love this one. Not only is this tart easy but it’s also gluten-free, and vegan! Instead of using heavy cream like so many recipes during the holidays do, I used coconut milk to yield a creamy filling. Rather than using a graham cracker crust, I utilized nutrient dense walnuts that are packed with essential fatty acids, fiber, and a great source of protein.

Although I always aim to make recipes that are healthy, I do want to make a point that sometimes, the calories, sugar, or fat content are unimportant. The holidays should be about spending time with family while enjoying delicious food. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of the foods you want to eat during a holiday party because they don’t fit into your lifestyle. As I have said before, there is a time and a place for fun foods and rather than stressing out about your food choices, enjoy whatever makes you feel good and happy. Anyways, enough with the ranting for this simple and delicious recipe, let’s get into the details of what you will need to make it happen.


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Pumpkin Spiced Waffles

Fall has officially arrived and although the weather here in Southern California has been a little on the warm side, that hasn’t stopped me from working on meals that are perfect for the chillier days. I have to admit, not too long ago I actually did not particularly care for pumpkin spice as I typically do not enjoy the flavor of very heavy spices like cinnamon. However, more recently I have started to come around to these flavors and have taken some time to play around with the m in different ways. One of the first recipes I ventured out to make was pumpkin spice pancakes which turned out okay but not great. After making them I created a poll on my Instagram asking if you prefer waffles or pancakes. The answer came back with over 50% voting for waffles so we are starting with that! I really wanted to make these waffles gluten-free since it’s been a while that I made a gluten-free option and also because waffles are typically more on the indulgent side. Although these waffles are superior in their nutrient content than traditional waffles, they still taste very decadent and like a treat.

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Pea Pesto Pasta

Today is such an exciting day for me as I have been patiently waiting to share this recipe with you! After so much trial & error I finally came up with a recipe I am proud to call my own. I will be sharing with you my recipe for the perfect pesto pasta that is not only delicious but loaded with a variety of nutrients. Pesto is one of those foods that I know so many people love but it can typically be pretty price to make at home all because of the very pricey pine nuts. Not only is pesto a little pricey to make at home but it is also not the healthiest. Pesto is is typically loaded with olive oil & Parmesan cheese which contributes quite a bit of calories in just a small amount. In order to make this pesto healthier & more cost-effective I made a few changes.

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The BEST Red Salsa

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Today was a very exciting day as I finally got to harvest the peppers I have been growing in my little garden. I have spent so much time & effort into growing my garden because what’s better than homegrown food? The answer to that is absolutely nothing because right away I ran to my kitchen to get to work on a new & improved salsa recipe. I decided to utilize the Anaheim chiles I picked because they were the largest & I know my mom swears by these chiles & her salsa is some of the best I have ever had in my life (I’m not just saying that either mom).  After whipping up the batch today, I will never go back to a salsa where I don’t include the Anaheim chiles. These peppers while mild provide SO much flavor that it tastes like it took hours instead of minutes. The Anaheim chiles add a depth of flavor that according to my boyfriend, is the best salsa I have ever made, I can’t argue with that. There are a few things I did differently this time that made the world of a difference and I am going to share them with you so you can boost your salsa game.

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Stuffed Zucchini (Two ways)

Zucchini boats (two ways)

In the last few weeks, I have spent so much time working on various recipes but sometimes they take longer to develop than others. The process of running a food blog is that of trial and error. I would say most of the time, the process of creating recipes is fairly straight forward but that’s not always the case. The last few recipes I have tried to nail have been an absolute headache, but I wanted to put out something I knew would be easy and delicious and that is how these zucchini boats came to be. Now, I personally tend to eat more vegetarian style on a day-to-day basis but I wanted to give you a healthier option that also contained leaner sources of protein because I realize not everyone centers their meals around veggies. So with that being said, I have provided a recipe with both a vegetarian option and a ground turkey version so that way no matter how you eat, you can find something that works for you and your lifestyle. In addition, these are also great if you are being mindful of your carb intake which can be important if you are prediabetic or full-onset diabetic. However, even if you’re like me and obsessed with everything carbs, you will love these because they are absolutely delicious and definitely do not taste “healthy”.

These zucchini boats are so incredibly easy and more importantly packed with tons of flavor. They come together in 30-40 minutes and are perfect to prep in advance for a busy week ahead. I packed them to take to work a few days in a row just because they were so easy, filling, & nutritious.  I didn’t bake the zucchini for too long because I wanted them to maintain their shape so you could eat it like a taco if you want.  That’s how I ate them and I basically shoveled them into my mouth one after another because they’re that good.  I definitely think they’re worth a try and keep in mind like all my other recipes, you can sub whatever veggies you have on hand. Now that I’ve rambled on long enough, let’s get into what you will need to make the 2 variations of these zucchini boats.

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Soy & Lime Veggie Skewers

Veggie Skewers

Since the weather has warmed up, I have been taking advantage of the relatively nice weather and grilling outside. During the warmer months, I prefer to grill because it helps to avoid heating up the house by using the oven. Also, the fact that it gives food a perfectly smokey & delicious char is an added bonus.  Adrian & I have been on a grilled corn kick and the other day when we were waiting for it to finish up, I started thinking about how good skewers would be charred on the grill.  I feel like skewers or kabobs scream summer and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show you yet another way to incorporate more veggies into your diet in a non-boring way.  Since these skewers do not have meat, I knew that meant I needed to do something to these veggies to make them burst with flavor so that is when I started playing around with marinade ideas. I wasn’t really sure what kind of flavor I wanted them to have, but I just started combining flavors I knew would be delicious. First, I added soy sauce for that umami/salty flavor and then proceeded to add in minced garlic because I can’t think of a time where garlic & soy sauce ever tasted bad. To cut the saltiness a bit, I added in some lime juice for some acidity and lastly included some organic raw honey for sweetness. As I whisked away I continued to taste it to make sure everything was balanced and before I knew it, I had created the perfect balance of sweet & savory. This marinade can really be used for anything but I highly recommend you try marinating mushrooms for these skewers because it will change your life! Since mushrooms are so porous and spongelike, they absorb the marinade very well and pack a lot of flavor into each mushroom.  The longer you marinate these for the better they taste so I would recommend leaving them for as long as you possibly can to maximize the flavor. Now with all that being said, let’s get into the details of this recipe.

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Healthier Hashbrowns

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A few weeks ago, I woke up in the mood for some crispy hashbrowns but decided to try a new method since all my previous attempts have been a failure. In the past, I have attempted to make hashbrowns in the skillet but it usually results in using more oil than is healthy and not the right level of crispiness.  So instead, I decided to try it in the waffle maker because if you think about it both sides are being pressed together which helps to keep them together and to get a crisp outside and soft inside. I gave it a try and it was hands down the best decision I have ever made. The result was perfectly crispy hashbrowns that were still nice and fluffy on the inside. The best part about these hashbrowns is that it uses very little oil and also contains carrots which help to lower the starch content of the potatoes while also contributing vitamin C. These have very quickly become a household favorite and one of my go-to breakfasts.  The carrots help to add a slight sweetness as they become crispy and takes these hashbrowns to another level.  They can be made in advance and stored in the freezer and when you’re ready to eat them you can heat them on the skillet for a quick breakfast. Now that you know why these are a better choice, let’s get into what you will need to make them yourself.

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Chilaquiles

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One of my all-time favorite brunch items is chilaquiles because for one it’s an excuse to have tortilla chips for breakfast, and two they are so easy & almost effortless to make. Today I will FINALLY be sharing with you my recipe for the most delicious chilaquiles you have ever tasted. It’s taken me some time to get around to posting this but only because I was finishing up the last of my spring semester. I am happy to say that I completed the final 2 courses I needed in order to apply for my masters! It feels so good to finally say that as I honestly didn’t think I would survive this last semester. Now that I am done with school, for now, I will finally be able to get back to what I love and give Life at the Mesa my full attention. In my absence, I have been working on various recipes so as the weeks go on I have many new exciting recipes to share with you. Anyways, if you made it this far then I’m sure you just want the deets on these amazing chilaquiles so let’s go ahead and jump straight into the recipe.

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Double Chocolate Muffins

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Almost immediately after I posted the recipe for my orange-chia & chocolate chip muffins I started thinking about trying to make double chocolate muffins. A few days after I posted that recipe I got to work on developing this recipe and very rarely does it happen that after the first batch it’s perfect but this recipe was. The first time that I made it, it was an absolute hit from the get-go. I tried this recipe out on members of my study group for Ochem, my friend’s parents/sibling, and of course my loyal guinea pig Adrian who is the greatest partner a girl could ask for. After so much ranting and raving I decided to make another batch just to be sure of the quality and OH MY GOSH. This recipe is incredibly moist, filling, and decadent. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you would know that there is always a catch with my recipes. I always strive to create healthier versions of classic recipes and this one, in particular, is completely free of refined sugar just as all my recipes on here typically are. As usual, I substituted refined sugar for wholesome and delicious dates. But this recipe is so special because I utilized dates from the community I grew up in. I grew up in a very small agricultural town called Brawley and in making your way to Brawley, there is an even smaller town called Westmorland. It is quite possibly the smallest town in California, but they are well known for their delicious dates. The particular shop I adore is called the Westmorland Date Shake and obviously based on the name, they are known for their amazing date shakes. However, I recently learned that they are now selling their delicious dates online that you can order which is why I am mentioning them for the first time in this blog. Their dates are superior BY FAR to those that can be found in the produce section of the grocery store and can now be conveniently ordered to your home! I mention this because I truly think the quality of their products made all the difference in this recipe. One of the greatest compliments I received for this recipe was “you don’t even need milk” and that is one of the greatest things a baker can be told. So if you’re not already intrigued to try this recipe then let’s discuss the nutritional value of it.

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Falafel + Yogurt Sauce Recipe

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Happy Sunday!

I hope you have all had a wonderful and refreshing weekend after what I’m sure has been a busy week for everyone. I myself have had quite the last two weeks so I made sure to spend some time pampering myself this weekend. One of my favorite things to help me decompress is to develop new recipes. When I’m in the kitchen it’s like all of my sources of stress disappear and I find myself to be calm, cool and collected.  This weekend I had a flood of recipe ideas that I can’t wait to share with you because you are going to LOVE them! For today, I will be sharing with you one of the recipes I finally perfected after much time and that is my beloved falafel recipe. The first time I had falafel was in a local Greek restaurant in the form of a pita sandwich. I loved how filling and fresh it was and couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while. I decided to give making them at home a shot with one major modification– I would avoid deep frying them in oil. One of the best parts about falafel is the crispiness of the falafel itself, but I figured I could make them just as delicious by simply pan-frying them instead. After making a few tweaks to the recipe I finally landed on a winner and today I get to share it with you. These falafels can be used to make lettuce wraps, pita sandwiches, salads, and so much more as they are extremely versatile. They provide a healthy serving of fiber and plant-based protein along with an abundance of vitamins and minerals. These falafels require very minimal heating which makes them great as we dive deeper into the warm weather season!  I especially like to make these at the beginning of the week to keep them in the fridge so I can quickly make a meal. The necessary ingredients are very minimal which also makes this recipe incredibly budget-friendly! Let’s get started by getting into what you will need to make this recipe.

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Orange-Chia & Dark Chocolate Muffins

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Happy Saturday!

I usually don’t post recipes on the weekends because typically they are my only days off from work and school but this week has already been so unlike my typical week I figured why not. I have spent the last week studying EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for all the exams I have coming my way. With that being said, I have been attempting to develop recipes MORE because for me cooking is a way to decompress and to relieve some tension. Nothing makes me happier than experimenting in the kitchen and boy was this recipe an experiment. The inspiration for this recipe started about 3 weeks ago when I was thinking about a cake my mom used to make because it was my grandma’s favorite. The cake is called Williamsburg cake and essentially it is a vanilla cake with orange zest, walnuts, and cream cheese frosting. It is absolutely incredible and one of my all time favorite cakes. Anyways, as I was thinking about it I thought what if I could make that into muffin form and of course without using refined sugar because that’s what I like to do. I love to healthify some of my favorite recipes and while I did that, I also made some tweaks and ended up coming up with a muffin recipe that isn’t exactly similar to my grandma’s favorite cake but they are SOOOO good.

After playing around with different variations I ultimately decided to swap out the walnuts for the more affordable chia seeds. Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, protein, and a variety of micronutrients (ex. magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and manganese). On top of swapping out the nuts, I decided to switch out the all-purpose flour for some whole-wheat flour which adds in the B-vitamins which play a role in the health of our hair, skin, and nails. Last but not least, I decided to throw in some dark chocolate chips because who doesn’t love chocolate and more importantly because dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants which help to fight signs of aging. With all that said, I have to tell you that this recipe is the product of lots of trial and error and about 3 “bad” batches. I spent hours in the kitchen trying to get it right and after the 4th or 5th time I finally got it right. So often prepackaged muffins are loaded with refined sugar which is not horrible from time to time but I wanted to provide you with a recipe that you could have for breakfast, as a snack or even as a dessert that would contribute more than a spike in your blood sugar. The orange packs a punch while the chia seeds give a slight crunch and the dark chocolate is unbelievable in combination with both. All in all these muffins are incredibly moist and will blow your mind. Get ready for the best muffin recipe you’ll ever try, I know that’s a bold statement but that’s how good these muffins are.

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Lentil Sloppy Joes

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With the semester in full swing, I’m on the hunt for recipes that are both nutritious and quick. After a long day at school, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. With that being said, today I will be sharing with you one of my favorite recipes that is packed with plant-based protein and comes together in under 30 minutes- lentil sloppy joes. Growing up, I remember my mom making sloppy joes during a busy weekday as it was quick, delicious, and sure to fill us up. When I was playing around with some dinner ideas, I immediately thought back to that recipe and decided to replicate it but to substitute lentils in place of the ground beef. As I’ve mentioned before, I personally enjoy eating mostly plant-based as I find that is what keeps me feeling the most energized and focused throughout the day. Additionally, lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and are loaded with fiber and iron as well. Lentils are one of those foods that I feel are completely underrated as they are loaded with nutrients but also make a great substitute in many recipes that call for ground beef. I always have lentils on hand and typically try to eat them in some form or another at least once a week. Before  I ramble on for too long I’ll cut it short and simply say that whether or not you are a vegetarian I am certain you will enjoy this recipe. My boyfriend who is incredibly picky couldn’t get enough of this and enjoyed the leftovers the following days which is huge because he is not a fan of leftovers. Now, let’s get into what you will need to make these delicious lentil sloppy joes.

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My Journey to Becoming an RD

Hi guys!

I hope you are having a wonderful week! I mentioned about a week ago on my Instagram that I wanted to start being more personal on here and share more of my experiences to give you a better sense of the person behind the blog. So I figured I would talk about how and why I decided to pursue a career in the field of nutrition and dietetics. The road that has led me to the career path of a registered dietitian has not been linear, to say the least. Just like every other first-time college student, I was overwhelmed by all the potential career choices I had right in front of me and at the age of 18, I could not pinpoint what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I always knew that whatever career path I chose had to deal with helping people because that has always brought me such joy and fulfillment. However, with so many careers that do just that, I was lost as to where to begin. I knew I was fascinated with the human body & all of its complex processes as I had taken an Anatomy & Physiology class right before graduating from high school but I didn’t know how that was going to translate into a career. I knew I was not interested in becoming a nurse because for one I am super squeamish with needles/ blood and two I am way too emotional to be a nurse. When the time came to put in my college applications, I decided to go with the major of Biology since I figured that could translate to just about any career within the healthcare field.

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5 Minute Peanut Butter & Chocolate “Cookie Dough” Bites

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When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle one of the most important factors is preparation. Preparation is key to making sure you set yourself up for success as it can mean the difference between having healthy snacks at your disposal or buying on a whim snacks high in sugar or sodium. By keeping healthy snacks on hand, not only do you manage to save yourself some extra money, but you can also save yourself some extra calories by being sure of what is in your food. The recipe I will be sharing with you today is made up of simple ingredients most of which you probably already have on hand, and when put together yield a nutrient-rich snack that will be sure to hold you over in between meals. These 5-minute “cookie dough” bites are high in fiber, protein, and B vitamins which will help to keep you energized throughout the day.  You can add in nuts, dried fruit or really anything else to change up the flavors and to keep things interesting.  I encourage you to get creative in your combinations so that you don’t get bored and aren’t tempted to spend money on the overly processed choices at the store. Now let’s get into the recipe!

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Flatbread Two Ways

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Superbowl Sunday is fast approaching and if you’re hosting the party, chances are you’re looking for ideas on what to feed your hungry guests. Well in combination with my panko crusted cauliflower wings,  I think these flatbreads will be the perfect appetizers to serve your guests. Not only are they vegetarian-friendly, but they are also packed with flavor so that even your picky eaters will never notice the difference. Flatbread has been a recipe that I have been playing around with for such a long time and after going back and forth between using whole-wheat flour & regular flour, I ultimately decided to stick with all-purpose because nothing else compares.

Now, as much as I talk about making healthy choices and their importance of contributing to a long and healthy life, I also want to be sure to share with you the importance of balance. I’m someone who does not restrict and if I feel like having a piece of cake or a cookie, I let myself have it. Why? Because when you allow yourself to have little indulgences here and there, it helps to prevent you from going overboard. So for that exact reason, I don’t feel bad about sharing with you this delicious recipe for flatbread that is not whole-grain but sure does make you feel good inside.

Just because I decided to stick with traditional white flour for this recipe, that does not mean that this recipe is not healthier than flatbread you would get at a restaurant. Instead of focusing on making a completely nutrient dense crust that would have probably tasted very similar to cardboard, I decided to deduct some extra calories by being more mindful of the amount of cheese and oil I used as well as by using my own marinara sauce. By making your own flatbread at home, you are able to control the amount of cheese and oil you put into it because it is your own version. I am so excited to share these with you as they were definitely a crowd pleaser! Now let’s talk ingredients.

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Gluten-Free Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

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In about 2 weeks, I will be heading back to school to complete the last few classes I need to apply for my master’s program. As time is of the essence, I’m on the hunt for recipes that are quick, easy, and nutrient dense. If you can relate, then I think you will appreciate this recipe because it takes under 30 minutes to make, is loaded with a variety of nutrients, and won’t break the bank. The recipe I will be sharing with you is my gluten-free lemon basil pasta salad.

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Marinara Sauce

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Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your weekend! Today I wanted to share with you a quick & easy marinara recipe that was a result of not having gone to the grocery store to pick up my usual premade sauce. About 2 weeks ago, I was in the mood for pasta but realized I had no sauce on hand. Usually I would have gone to the store but I have made it a goal of mine this year to avoid going to the store for just 1 item. As I rummaged through my pantry I found some fresh Roma tomatoes, garlic, tomato sauce &  few other spices and figured I would give it a shot at making my own sauce! That was hands down one of the best decisions I could have made because it was well worth it. This sauce tasted so much better than any store bought variety I had tried & was so cheap to make. You can use this sauce for pasta, pizza, meatball subs or really just about anything your heart desires! Now without further ado let’s get into the recipe!

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Stuffed Bell Peppers


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Hi guys!

Welcome back to Life at the Mesa, it sure feels good to be back with another recipe after taking some MUCH needed time off. After taking a break for a while I feel so inspired and have so many new recipes in mind as we move forward. One thing about me that should be pretty apparent by now is that I am a creature of habit. When I come up with a recipe, I like to figure out how many different ways I can make it work so that way I don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen and so that I don’t get bored with my meals. Today’s recipe is no different as it will be featuring one of my all-time favorite recipes and that is my Mexican Quinoa. Quinoa is so incredibly diverse and also incredibly healthy for you. It is hands down my favorite grain because as I have mentioned previously, it is one of the few plant-based options that is considered a complete protein. For more info on protein click here to read more about the different types and sources of protein.

This recipe was created last week when I was in a hurry to make dinner but was craving something really hearty and satisfying. As I was looking through my pantry thinking of what I could make the first thing that came to mind was my Mexican quinoa as I also had the necessary pato sauce on hand. As much as I love the Mexican quinoa just as is, I wanted to make something different so then I came across some bell peppers in the fridge that I needed to use along with some zucchini and then this creation was born. These stuffed bell peppers are out of this world delicious and so incredibly easy to make. From start to finish it can be done in under 30 minutes and the toppings are endless. It’s a really great recipe to throw in any veggies you may have lying around that you need to use. Not only is it insanely good but of course it is loaded with a variety of nutrients but the most notable being protein, fiber, and vitamin C. Now, without further delay, let’s go ahead and jump into all the items you will need to make these delicious stuffed bell peppers!


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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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September has officially arrived and I am so excited because fall is my favorite time of year! Even though here in southern California we don’t get much of a fall, I still look forward to having weather below 100°.  With cooler weather comes warm drinks and hearty, comforting meals and today I’ll be kicking off our fall-inspired meals with my lentil shepherds pie. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made using ground beef, a variation of veggies, and topped with creamy mashed potatoes. This recipe is only different in a few of the ingredients but all the flavors come together to produce an incredibly satisfying & hearty meal. It sounds so much fancier than it actually is because all of the ingredients are very humble and easily accessible to everyone.

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Watermelon & Lime Water

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A few weeks ago when I was doing my grocery shopping, I came across a product in the juice section that caught my attention. The product is called Watermelon Wtr and it is a cold-pressed of watermelon juice that contains the natural electrolyte potassium which plays an important role in fluid balance.  I was intrigued to buy it but then I looked at the price and quickly walked away. At my local Ralph’s a 12 oz bottle cost about $3.50 which is pretty steep for such a small amount. After scanning the nutrition label and researching the product, I realized that with a few tools some watermelon, and some extra flavors you could essentially get the same product at home for a MUCH more affordable price. Ever since I first started playing around this recipe, I have been obsessed with it and have made it almost every single week. It is so refreshing and the perfect alternative to store-bought juices and sodas as it completely free of added sugar. The key to this drink coming out so delicious is all about choosing your watermelon.  I found a great article to help you pick the sweetest watermelon which will be linked here. The riper your watermelon is, the better your watermelon water will taste so be sure to take your time choosing the perfect watermelon.  Before I get into the few ingredients you will need, let’s first talk about what makes watermelon such an awesome fruit!

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Sweet & Savory Granola Bars

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Back to school season has officially arrived and I myself am getting ready to go back in the next 2 weeks. As I mentally prepare to take on organic chemistry and microbiology this coming fall, I have also been preparing some new snack and meal ideas that are convenient and delicious to grab and go.  As much as I enjoy cooking, when school time comes around, I find myself being so exhausted that the last thing I want to do is spend any extra time in the kitchen. Between work, school, and just life, in general, I try to make it as easy and painless as possible to create healthy options that can be put together in no time at all.  I find that preparing in advance helps me to prevent from spending more money than I usually would and make healthier choices because let’s be honest, on-campus options are not typically what I would call healthy.

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Chickpea Salad

 

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I think it’s safe to say, we all are on the hunt for quick, easy, and healthy recipes that are great to make in advance and keep on hand whenever. All of us lead busy lives so I get that you really don’t want to spend that much time putting anything together. That’s exactly why you need to make this chickpea salad sandwich a part of your usual menu. It started out as an attempt to make vegetarian “fish cakes” but as I tasted the mixture I found myself wanting to eat it then and there as is. That’s when I figured it would be perfect to use anywhere you would normally use tuna salad. Add it to a green salad, a wrap, or as a simple sandwich and I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised just how good chickpeas can be. The ingredients are simple and I’m sure you have about 95% of the ingredients in your kitchen as we speak. It takes almost no time to prepare and is even better the next day once the flavors have had a chance to marinate together. Before we get into the specifics of the recipe, let’s talk a little bit about the star of the show, chickpeas.

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Mexican Rice Inspired Quinoa

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Growing up in a Hispanic household Mexican rice was always a staple side dish for just about every meal. My mom would serve it alongside enchiladas, tacos, sopes or really just about anything. There’s no doubt that it’s a tasty dish, but the thing about traditional Mexican rice is that it requires frying in oil. Although the browning of the rice helps to develop a delicious dish, it is not the most healthy method. While I definitely enjoy it from time to time,  I find myself turning to this recipe that I will be sharing with you today more often. I wholeheartedly believe that eating healthy should taste just as amazing as it makes you feel, so I attempt to recreate some of my favorite foods using healthier more nutrient-rich foods. Today I will be sharing with you one of my favorite ways to enjoy quinoa that mimics the flavors in Mexican rice.

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Quick & Easy Smoothie Bowls

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Hi guys!

As you requested, I put together a couple of smoothie bowl ideas and today I wanted to share them with you. Just in the nick of time for summer, these smoothie bowls are refreshing and sure to keep you cool even on the hottest of days. Not only do they taste amazing, but they are also jam-packed with nutrients that make you feel amazing.   Typical smoothie bowls are usually loaded with added sugar but these are not. Just like in my last recipe, all the sources of sugar in these bowls are naturally derived from the fruits themselves, and a very small amount of Medjool dates. As I’ve previously mentioned, an excessive amount of sugar is never good for you as it will give you a burst of energy and leave you crashing later on. So for that reason, we’ve made our own that includes healthy fats, plenty of antioxidants, and some protein to help fill you up. 

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Healthy Banana Bars

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School is finally over and I cannot tell you how relieved I am. After a difficult semester, the first thing I wanted to do was get back into the kitchen to test out some new recipes! This is one of the many to come and let me just tell you, I cannot stop eating it. Guys, these banana bars are so addictive and have been approved by some of my toughest critics (thanks Adriana & Dan). Not only are these banana bars delicious but they are also surprisingly nutritious! Free of refined sugar and loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, this bar will make you think twice about healthy eating.

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My Go-To Groceries

If you’ve recently decided to change the way you fuel your body then I’m sure  you’ve already asked yourself, “what should I buy when I go to the grocery store?” The truth is, your first trip to the grocery store following your decision to change your lifestyle may be a little bit intimidating because of the abundance of product choices. There are hundreds of thousands of products that use the word “natural” which may confuse you as to whether or not it is a good choice. The true nutritional value of any product can be discovered by familiarizing yourself with the nutrition label (to learn more about how to read the nutrition label, click here).

Now, for those of you who are still a little bit stumped as to what you should add to your grocery list, don’t worry because I’ve got you covered. Today I’ll be sharing with you an example of what a typical trip to the grocery store looks like for me. I’ll share some of my favorite things to keep in stock and explain why they are a great choice to help keep you full and satisfied.


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Fact or Fiction: Is eating late at night unhealthy?

You have probably heard about the importance of eating three meals per day as a part of a healthy diet. Now-a-days, the meaning of a healthy diet varies from person to person. For many people eating three meals a day may not be realistic. Things like culture, work, school, and religion all affect how often we eat. Since the way we eat has changed, there is new research on the most healthful eating habits. A new topic of research is focused on what time you eat instead of how often. This new area of research has left many people wondering what the best time to eat is. This also brings up the question, is eating late at night unhealthy? To answer this question, we will explore the current research to understand how late-night eating affects our health, if at all.

What is “Late-Night” Eating?

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Before we get into the research, I think it is important to explain what is considered “late- night”. “Late-night” eating is any eating that happens during or after the body’s biological “nighttime”. The body’s biological “nighttime” is when our eyes detect the sun going down and signals the release of the hormone melatonin.1 Melatonin is important for the body’s sleep-wake cycle that is a part of what is known as the circadian system. The circadian system is your body’s version of an alarm clock that tells you when to wake up and when to sleep.

The Body’s Internal Clock

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The circadian system is made up of two major “clocks”. The first is the central clock that is found in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The second are the peripheral clocks found throughout the body. 2 Together, these “clocks” make up the circadian system. The circadian system is in charge of our sleep-wake cycle, release of hormones, heart health, blood sugar levels, body temperature, and metabolism.2 One of the main roles of the central clock is to detect changes in light which leads to a release of hormones.  On the other hand, the peripheral clocks have specific jobs based on their location. The best way to think of the peripheral clocks is to imagine the different time zones around the world. Each part of the world has its own time zone. The peripheral clocks are the same because each clock is in different organs or tissues in the body. For example, the peripheral clocks found in muscle, fat, and the liver all work to control the body’s ability to lower blood sugar levels by releasing the hormone, insulin. 3 While the central clock is set by light, the peripheral clocks can be reset by food. 4 Any changes to our internal clocks can change the way our circadian system works.  These changes can lead to potential problems in our body. 

Effects of Late-Night Eating

  1. Increased Risk of Obesity

In 2017, a study was done on college students to understand the relationship between the timing of meals and body fat.  For a week, the students were asked to track their meals on an app. The app tracked the time of their meals and measured their portion sizes before and after eating. The students also wore a wristband that tracked their usual schedule. To measure their biological “nighttime”, the students were taken to the lab for a 16-hours. The melatonin in their saliva was checked every hour and when the level stayed above 5pg/ml it was marked as the beginning of their biological “nighttime”. The results found that students with high body fat and a high BMI (body-mass index) ate most of their calories about 1.1 hours closer to their biological “nighttime” than the lean students.5

Another study found that higher intake of calories at least two hours before bed increased the likelihood of being obese by five times. 1

2. Decreased Glucose Tolerance

Recent research has found that both our circadian system and timing of meals influence our body’s ability to release the hormone insulin during high blood sugar levels.6 In 2014, healthy US adults sleep, and wake cycles were monitored for two 8-day periods. During the first three days, the participants were told to sleep from 11pm-7am.  On day four, their sleep schedules were shifted by 12 hours to see how changes to the circadian system would affect glucose tolerance. The results showed that on day one of the study, during the body’s biological “nighttime”, glucose tolerance was 17% lower than during the day.6 Similarly, the study found that the participant’s blood sugar levels two hours after a meal was 8% higher at dinner (at 8pm) than at breakfast (at 8am).6 This suggests that blood sugar control is lower both at night and at biological “nighttime”. One thing to keep in mind is that this study only had 11 participants so more research is needed in this area.

3. Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Another area of research is the association of late-night eating on the risk for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is used to describe diseases that affect both the heart and blood vessels. 7 There are many factors that can increase the risk of heart disease including obesity, saturated fat intake, and cholesterol levels.7 The type of cholesterol that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease is LDL cholesterol which is the “bad” cholesterol. In a study on healthy Taiwanese adults over the age of 19, participant’s timing of food was studied to understand their impact on blood cholesterol levels. The results of the study found that eating 100 calories more at night was associated with a higher risk of higher LDL cholesterol by 0.94mg/dL. 8 Another key finding of the study was that high fat intake at night was associated with a higher value of LDL cholesterol by 2.98mg/dL.8 This study considered night to be anytime between the hours of 8:30pm and 4:59am.

Final Verdict

Now that you know the facts, you may still be wondering, “should I eat at night?” The answer to that question is complicated and depends on a few different things. The frequency, calorie distribution, and quality of food choices related to late-night eating can make the difference to whether it is healthy or unhealthy.  

Frequency

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “how often do I eat at night?” If you usually eat late at night, it might be worth exploring if there are any changes you can make to eat your last meal earlier.  

Calorie Distribution

Another thing to consider is the size of your meals at night. The more calories you eat closer to bedtime, the less time you have to use it in the  form of energy.  This can increase the amount of food that is converted and stored as fat.  Therefore, eating most of your calories earlier in the day can help to prevent this from happening. 

Quality of Food Choices

You should also take some time to think about what kinds of foods you eat before bed. Most of the time when we roam into the kitchen late at night, we are after foods that are sweet, salty, or maybe both. Large meals that contain a large amount of carbohydrate can give you a boost of energy that can make it hard to fall asleep. Similarly, foods that are high in added sugar can give you a “sugar” rush that can leave you tossing and turning all night. Thinking about the food you usually eat late at night may help to give you a better idea of whether your late-night eating habits are healthy or not.

Regardless of the time of day, poor food choices are still poor food choices.

Depending on your usual habits, eating late at night can either be healthy or unhealthy.  Keep in mind that nutrition is not a one size fits all. Things like genetics, environment, age, race/ethnicity can make a difference in our risk for certain conditions/diseases. While some of the research suggests that regular late-night eating may increase the risk of obesity, poor blood sugar control, and cardiovascular disease more research is needed.  

For now, all you need to know is that the choices you make matter day or night.

Tips for Late-Night Eating

1. Choose foods that are high in fiber

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To avoid eating large portions before bed, choose foods like fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber but low in calories. The fiber will help to fill you up without overdoing it on the portion sizes.

2. Pair your carbohydrates with a source of fat

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Another way to fill up without eating large portions is to pair a source of carbohydrates like fruits or vegetables with a source of fat like peanut butter. Fat just like fiber works to fill you up with less. By pairing the two together, you can have a satisfying meal or snack that will keep you from eating larger portions.

3. Drink some water before bed

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The part of our brain that signals hunger is the same part that signals thirst. The hypothalamus controls both hunger and thirst so it is common to confuse the two.  Before you make your way to the kitchen for a snack or meal, try drinking some water first. You might find that is what you really needed.

4. Avoid processed foods

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Many of the studies that mentioned negative effects of eating late at night also mentioned eating high calorie foods late at night. The most common sources of high calories are processed and refined foods like desserts, pastries, and frozen meals. Instead of these foods choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein.

References:

1. Lopez-Minguez J, Gómez-Abellán P, Garaulet M. Timing of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Effects on Obesity and Metabolic Risk. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2624. Published 2019 Nov 1. doi:10.3390/nu11112624

2. Serin Y, Acar Tek N. Effect of Circadian Rhythm on Metabolic Processes and the Regulation of Energy Balance. Ann Nutr Metab. 2019;74(4):322-330. doi:10.1159/000500071

3. Stenvers DJ, Scheer FAJL, Schrauwen P, la Fleur SE, Kalsbeek A. Circadian clocks and insulin resistance. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2019;15(2):75-89. doi:10.1038/s41574-018-0122-1

4. Challet E. The circadian regulation of food intake. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2019;15(7):393-405. doi:10.1038/s41574-019-0210-x

5. McHill AW, Phillips AJ, Czeisler CA, et al. Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fat. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(5):1213-1219. doi:10.3945/ajcn.117.161588

6. Morris CJ, Yang JN, Garcia JI, et al. Endogenous circadian system and circadian misalignment impact glucose tolerance via separate mechanisms in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(17):E2225-E2234. doi:10.1073/pnas.1418955112

7. St-Onge MP, Ard J, Baskin ML, et al. Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135(9):e96-e121. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000476

8. Chen HJ, Chuang SY, Chang HY, Pan WH. Energy intake at different times of the day: Its association with elevated total and LDL cholesterol levels. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2019;29(4):390-397. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2019.01.003