• Lindsey, EDRD

If you can't already tell, I thoroughly enjoy all things Valentine's Day.

The daily love-fest isn't just for Sabrina, as I love all my kids, but I have to share Annika's reaction to my attempt at matching her:

I *also* like the festive-but-healthy treat, like this strawberry cheesecake shake.

I used protein-rich cottage cheese instead of actual cream cheese to give it that cheese element, plus plenty of strawberries. A splash of vanilla and a touch of honey gives just the right boost of flavor. The crowning touch is crushed graham cracker. You can't have a cheesecake-esque drink without the graham cracker!

My kids clearly LOVED this. I like making shakes because they're such an easy snack- toss the ingredients in a blender, pour, and go.

It also doesn't hurt that these are a pretty pink, perfect for calling a Valentine's snack.

Strawberry Cheesecake Shake

1 cup lowfat cottage cheese

1 cup frozen strawberries

1-1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (depends on your preferred consistency)

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 graham cracker, crushed

Blend cottage cheese, berries, almond milk, honey, and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Add more milk if needed. Pour into glasses and top with a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs. Serve immediately.

Makes four small shakes or two large shakes. Per small shake: 75 calories, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, 7 grams protein, 300 mg sodium. Per large shake: 150 calories, 18 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat, 14 grams protein, 600 mg sodium

  • Lindsey, EDRD

One of the perks of having kids is I can now pretend that all the holiday decorations I put up are for them, but reeeeeally it's 'cause *I* like them. Valentines Day is no exception. The hearts! The flowers! Red + Pink 4Ever!

How cute is this decoration from Dollar Tree?

(I may like decorations but I'll always be budget-friendly!)

Do you like to celebrate big or small? My husband and I go all-out with a meal at home. Even pre-pandemic, we prefer to put together a steak & seafood meal and dessert rather than go to a restaurant. Nothing more romantic than putting on your stretchy pants in anticipation of a big meal in the comfort of your own home!

Er, wait...

In any case, I made these crab cakes as a V-Day contender. This recipe might be polarizing, because, well, said budget had me buying imitation crab meat instead of the real thing. You know what? These were totally bomb even with the affordable pick. I used shredded zucchini in these, which not only adds some nutrition, but allows these to be good-sized without excess calories. I should mention that the crab alternative that I did use (from Aldi) was a mix of pollock and true crab meat. What that ratio truly might be is a mystery, but again- bomb! I ended up making my own tartar sauce too, since I had the ingredients on-hand.

We're also baking these instead of frying, but just to be fun, I still added some brushed-on melted butter. It gives all the flavor, but still allows the calories to be reigned in.

Zucchini Crab Cakes

-1 large zucchini or 2 medium zucchini, shredded (about 2 cups)

-16 oz crab meat (either imitation or true crab meat)

-2 eggs

-1/2 cup mayo (go for the regular ol' mayo here)

-1/3 cup panko

-1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (my grocery store was all out, so I used my own blend of celery salt, pepper, and onion powder)

-1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

-1 teaspoon dried parsley (if you have fresh, great!)

-Dash of Worcestershire sauce

-2 tablespoons butter, melted

-Lemon, for garnish

Tartar Sauce

-1/2 cup mayonnaise

-1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

-2 tablespoons sweet relish

-1 teaspoon lemon juice

-Dash of hot sauce

-Pinch each of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Using a kitchen towel, gently press down on your shredded zucchini to absorb as much moisture as you can. In a large bowl combine zucchini, crab, eggs, mayo, panko, Old Bay, garlic, parsley, and Worcestershire. If the mixture seems too wet, add a little bit more panko.

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with a nonstick cooking mat or aluminum foil (if using foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray). Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out 12 cakes. Gently press down on them to form patties. Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush melted butter on the tops, then switch the positions they were on- the sheet that was on the top rack now goes on the bottom, and vice versa. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and carefully flip over the patties. Bake for ~5 more minutes. Both sides should be deep golden brown.

To make tartar sauce, combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

To serve, place 2 crab cakes on a plate. Squeeze with a wedge of lemon juice if desired. Dip into some tartar sauce and enjoy!

Makes six servings. Per serving: 483 calories, 24 grams carbohydrates, 33 grams fat, 22 grams protein, 791 mg sodium. This is a bit higher in calories and fat grams than what I typically post, but I do believe in having occasional splurges! Plus compare these nutrition stats with a typical restaurant crab cake serving: 1080 calories and 82 grams of fat.

Don't worry- even though this is a lightened-up recipe, it's still plenty okay to wear your comfy stretchy pants.

  • Lindsey, EDRD

Remember when you used to pass through the lunch line in elementary school? There was a big cooler filled with those cute little pints of milk. Pink skim, blue 2%, red whole, and of course brown chocolate.

Now if you pass through the dairy section, you'll notice that so much of the milk isn't dairy at all. Why do we now have so many alternative milks? And more importantly- is it beneficial to drink them?

Dairy, specifically milk, has had a major reputation change since the mustache "Got Milk" campaigns of the 90s. I remember seeing JTT (squeeee!) in my YM Magazine (I am OLD) casually touting milk. Fast forward to now, where there's been bits of research that hint at milk being a pro-inflammatory in the body and causing potential harm.

If we look at the whole width of current research, which, ahem, is my job to do as a dietitian, the reality is that dairy is overall *not* going to cause harm. The exception of course is the population with true milk allergies. Rather milk shows anti-inflammatory properties in humans. Milk is very nutrient-dense, by which I mean you get a lot of protein and calcium for the calories.

So why then have all these alternatives sprung up? Lactose intolerance is a real thing, as an estimated 50 million Americans have it. Lactose is the naturally-occurring sugar found in milk, and our small intestines secrete the enzyme lactase to break it down. As we age, many of us have slowed down production of lactase. Some populations, especially Asians, have extremely minimal lactase production, hence the general cultural avoidance of dairy.

Signs of lactose intolerance can be mild to severe and include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea. Milk has a higher amount of lactose. Cheese and yogurt have less, so even if someone has mild lactose intolerance, they can often tolerate regular amounts of those foods. There is no specific medical test- it's just "if it bothers you, don't consume it."

Back to the alternatives: While at Aldi last week, I again was a creeper- this time snapping pics of coconut milk, soy milk, cow's milk, almond milk, and oat milk.

Let's take a look at how they compare.

(I should add that my 6 year old just asked me what I was working on. When I told him, he said "be sure to say that boobie milk is the healthiest!")

Calorie content ranges quite a bit, from 30-120. That might not seem like much of a difference, but I think of total consumption. If you were to drink a cup each day, in a month that's a difference of 2700 calories. Added sugars jump out at me as well- call me a party pooper, but there is no reason to be drinking a milk product with added sugar.

In total, cow's milk is the most nutrient-dense. For 90 calories you get 9 grams of protein, zero grams of saturated fat, and zero grams of added sugar (lactose is naturally there, yes), plus calcium and vitamin D. Unsweetened almond milk is recommended as well- fewer nutrients like protein, but it is very low calorie while still providing comparable vitamin D and calcium. I personally use unsweetened almond milk. I don't have a lactose intolerance, but I like it in my coffee and my smoothies (plus it lasts a long time in the fridge!).

Ultimately it is a personal choice, of course. If you hate the taste of any of these milks, well, don't drink them! Know that if you are a cow's milk drinker, the research is on your side for it being beneficial. If you prefer the alternatives, try to choose a type with little to no added sugar.

Oh, and...

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  • The Everyday Dietitian

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