Typically the first thing you may think about when you hear the word ‘coconut’ is a tropical island or beach somewhere far far away. Well, the reality is that coconuts are within reach at your local supermarket and also one of the most amazing plant-based superfoods on the planet. I was lucky enough to come across a wonderful book by Megan Roosevelt, ‘Superfoods for life, Coconut’. This book has officially changed my perspective not only on the fruit itself but the possibilities of adding coconut into my daily meals.

9781592335862Megan, also known as the ‘Healthy Grocery Girl’, includes all of the natural benefits of the coconut in her book such as heart health, digestion, energy, and weight loss, along with many great recipes to try this superfood out on your own. As a registered dietitian and nutrition expert, she founded Healthy Grocery Girl, an online resource, as a way to help others live out an authentic and healthy lifestyle. I was able to catch up with her and find out what inspired her to write this book as well as tips on eating healthy while on the go.Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 9.48.05 AM

What inspired you to write a book about coconuts?

Coconut is a misunderstood superfood, due to the fact that it does contain a good amount of fat. However, the type of fat found in coconut, known as Medium Chain Triglycerides, digests and benefits our body differently than Long Chain Fatty Acids which is the type of saturated fat found in animal sources such as cheese, dairy and meat. Knowing that the saturated fat in coconut is not health inhibiting, rather has many health benefits, such as containing the immune boosting nutrient, Lauric Acid, helps us see coconut in a different light. If you like to really learn and understand nutrition, my book dives deep into explaining why coconut is truly a healthy superfood.

So, back to your question, I chose to write about coconut because I want to help people understand the true health benefits, and to not be afraid of healthy fat. Coconut is also so versatile. It has become such a staple in my life from cooking to a natural beauty product. There is an entire chapter devoted to coconut for beauty!

Having a busy schedule myself, how do you manage eating healthy while on the go?

Being healthy is really a lifestyle, and for me it’s easy to maintain healthy eating because I have established the habits to do so. Habits are hard to break, bad or good! I also think ahead a lot. If i’m traveling out of town I will bring nut bars or nutrition bars with me. I never leave the house without taking along a healthy snack and water. Making healthy eating easy is also important. You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to cook up a healthy meal or snack. For example, take a brown rice tortilla, scoop some avocado on there, roll it up, and walla you have a quick snack! Keeping good food in the house makes it easier to eat good for too. The website happycow.net is also a guide that helps you find healthy eats in your area. Try it next time your looking to dine out and still eat healthy!

What is your philosophy when putting together a grocery list? Any foods to place as priority? Foods to re-think?

It’s important to always choose real ingredients and whole foods. You can still buy packaged or convenience foods like nutrition bars and pasta, just read the ingredient list and make sure the ingredients are real, no chemicals, no artificial ingredients, and no genetically modified ingredients. In short, I always recommend to shop for USDA Organic certified foods as much as you can, do your best to stay local & seasonal for produce, and when choosing packaged foods, make sure it’s made with real ingredients too.

A food to re-think is cutting out animal based foods such as yogurt, cheese, milk, meat, poultry and fish. These are some of the most expensive organic items in the grocery store. They also promote a more acidic and pro-inflammatory environment within the body, as appose to plant-based foods which support a more alkaline or anti-inflammatory environment within the body. An alkaline environment in the body is best for preventing disease as well as slowing the aging process. Although meat and dairy do contain protein and calcium, you can also get these nutrients from plant-based foods. There are a few recipes in the book that include animal protein, however you’ll notice most of the recipes are plant-based.

If you are trying to eat healthier and have it be affordable, I recommend to not always make meat the main course. Beef up your plate with lots of produce and plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. There is an amazing Tropical Black Bean Burger in my book, page 70, which goes really well with the sweet potato fry recipe, page 45. This meal is completely plant-based and tastes so good!

How do you avoid convenience foods and cravings throughout the day? 

It’s important to make meals balanced in nutrition. By balanced I mean, having a good combination of energizing carbohydrates, satisfying protein and healthy fats will help regulate energy and blood sugar levels, to better manage appetite all day. I always say, “Extreme hunger leads to extreme eating”. So if we can be mindful to eat balanced meals, and not skip any meals, it will be easier to choose good choices for snacks and at our next meal.

Convenience foods are not always a bad choice. You can grab quick foods like fresh fruit, nuts, nut butter, snack bars and even nutrition bars as long as the ingredients are real and they contain no artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives.

What benefits come to eating a healthy diet?

Short term: improved energy levels, better skin, better digestion, less bloating, regular bowel movements, better sleep, and better mental clarity and focus, to name a few benefits!

Long term healthy eating can help us achieve and maintain a healthy weight as well as potentially preventing, managing and even reversing diet-related diseases. A healthy lifestyle can overall even save you money. It may seem more expensive short term, however the cost of being sick, is really expensive.

 What is your favorite coconut recipe from your book? 

I’ve been saying my Sweet Potato Fry recipe is my favorite because it’s so simple and picky-eater approved! It’s hard to not like a french fry dipped in ketchup! I also really love the coconut cacao truffles. These truffles are so simple and easy to make and they taste decadent even though they are good for you!

 I love all of the benefits of coconuts, what benefit(s) do you use coconut for? 

For me, organic unrefined coconut oil has really helped improve my skin. It hydrates and nourishes my face and body and is naturally toxic-free. I also have found coconut to help me maintain a healthy weight, in addition to eating a plant-based diet and being active. Being that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America, I also know that choosing a heart healthy oil like coconut is a great way to help prevent heart disease, again in conjunction with overall healthy lifestyle habits.

Where do you find your favorite healthy recipes? What resources could we use?

My husband is actually a fantastic and creative cook, so I find many of my health recipes through experiments made in the kitchen with him!My website healthygrocerygirl.com is also a great resource for recipes, and if you prefer to watch recipes being prepared, I share free weekly online nutrition videos on my YouTube channel. Pinterest is also a great place to find inspiration for recipes.

 Chocolate, Coconut, & Chia Pudding

Chocolate, Coconut & Chia Pudding

This dessert is sweet and full of texture and healthy nutrients. From our beloved superfood coconut to the chia seeds, maple syrup, and raw cacao powder, it’s a powerhouse of a pudding! You may substitute unsweetened natural cocoa powder, if necessary.

 2 tablespoons (28 ml) pure maple syrup

1 to 2 teaspoons water

1 cup (235 ml) canned coconut milk

1 cup (235 ml) unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk

¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon (15 g) unsweetened raw cacao powder

¼  cup (50 g) chia seeds

 Add the maple syrup and 1 teaspoon water to a medium-size bowl and whisk together to form a thin syrup. Add up to 1 additional teaspoon water, if necessary.

Add the coconut milk, almond milk, and cinnamon, and whisk together.

Add the cacao powder to the mixture and whisk together.

Last, add the chia seeds and whisk them into the pudding mixture.

Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours prior to serving to allow the pudding consistency to develop. Serve chilled.

Yield: Serves 2