high fiber

Black Bean Brownies

Dear Leah Renee, 

My husband and kids love when I bake, but I don’t like all the bad ingredients it takes to make them taste good!!!  When I look at ‘healthier’ versions it seems like there’s tons of dates in there somewhere or skimp on taste.  Do you have anything for us, that’s gluten free too?  Thanks Leah! ~Danica B., Pittsburgh, PA





It is hard to not compromise flavor and texture when switching up ingredients to make for a healthier sweet treat!  If you don’t have an earthy palate like many of us raw foodies or vegans, finding something the kids and husband will like (and you too!) can be difficult.  I find that substitutions using avocado’s, applesauce, coconut oil, dates, honey, maple syrup, agar agar, flax seeds, and mashed banana’s are just some items that can really contribute to a family friendly dessert in both the health and taste categories.

One substitute I didn’t mention: black beans.  Insert the black bean brownie.  You can insert a YUM in there too–because these are really good!  Adapted from My San Francisco Kitchen, the recipe below is simple to make and the only difficult part is allowing them to cool long enough so they don’t fall apart!  If you can keep your hands off until then, you’re good.  Then again, if these are for just you and the fam, who cares if they’re crumbly, right?!  Dig in!

Here’s what you need:


  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (15½ oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil *I used coconut oil*
  • ½ cup granulated sugar *I used brown sugar*
  • ¼ cup and 1 tbsp cocoa powder *I used unsweetened*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips for topping (optional) *I chopped up some 70% organic dark chocolate and used that as the topping*
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender (or the hand blender like I used) and blend on low until all ingredients are well blended (there should not be any whole black beans in the batter–it should be smooth)
  3. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish and pour batter inside (I spray coconut oil to grease).
  4. Top with chocolate chips or nuts if desired.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean after inserting in the center.
  6. Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving (otherwise they will fall apart).
Makes 9 brownies (I cut them smaller so there were about 14).  A batch of 12 will have (a piece) about 120 calories, 15g total carbs (includes fiber), 8g sugar, 4g protein, and 5g fat.  Not too shabby!!!
Enjoy!  See who notices a difference!

Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free Granola

Dear Leah Renee,

I love granola but not all the sugar that comes along with it.  Do you have a quick, easy recipe I could trust and make it at home?  Thanks!  –Alice, Tacoma WA

I could not agree more!  Store bought granola, and so many recipes out there, have so much sugar in them.  I feel like we should call it something other than granola since granola’s a word associated with something that’s healthy and nutritious.  It certainly can be, but it’s knowing what to look for on the label or what to do in the kitchen.  

If you are going to pick up some at the grocery store, I personally love KIND Healthy Grains.  They come in different varieties (my favorite is the peanut butter) and what I like about them  is the low sugar content, the simple ingredients, and the blend of gluten free grains used like amaranth and quinoa–not just oats.  I recommended a few other store bought brands on another post I did on granola a while back: “Granola–Healthy or Not?“.  

If you want a good recipe that is easy, refined sugar free, and quick, this one’s for you.  It’s adapted from Elizabeth Rider, a Board Certified Health Counselor (AADP) and wellness coach who I admire.  



Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 20 min
Serves 4-6 (about 1/2 cup is a serving)

Use raw, organic ingredients whenever possible. These measurements are flexible; don’t worry too much about being exact.  Play around with it–you don’t even have to add seeds if you choose not to.  I added slivered almonds to mine.


  • 2 cups raw, whole rolled oats (aka old fashion oats)
  • ½ cup raw nuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup raw seeds (I used sunflower & pepitas)
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit, chopped (optional–I used plump golden raisins)
  • 2-3 tablespoons grade-b maple syrup or raw honey (I used honey)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (aka coconut butter) 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1 large pinch fine sea salt

Recipe: Preheat the oven to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your clean hands to mix well and toss to coat; it will be sticky and messy but that’s the fun part. The coconut oil might be liquid or solid depending on the temperature of the room you are in (it has a melting point of about 75ºF.) Your hands will warm it up and melt it into the mixture if it’s solid, just be sure to mix it all through the other ingredients so there aren’t any chunks of oil left. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. (To make this recipe completely raw-friendly, dehydrate the mixture 5-6 hours at 115ºF in a food dehydrator instead.) Cool before serving or storing. This granola can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. 



Enjoy on top of yogurt, mixed with fresh fruit, or by itself! 🙂

Fill Up, Not Out

Dear Leah Renee, 

I’m finding that some foods fill me up for a while, but after some meals I feel hungry again soon after and  end up snacking too much between meals.  I don’t want to put on weight because I feel like I’m making good choices, but sometimes I get hungry too often.  Any suggestions?  –Elsie K., CA

When I was younger,  I remember my Step-Mom telling me there was only one way for her to grow now at this point in her life, and it wasn’t up.  I knew what she meant, but couldn’t relate yet.  I certainly can now!  I’m done growing, I’m sure you are too.  Well, we hope.  It was really exciting to stand against that wall–you know, the one you measured your height on and drew a new line admiring your new, greater height each school year?  A proud moment indeed when you realize you’re a bit ‘bigger’.  As we get older (when we no longer measure ourselves against that wall), getting bigger doesn’t have quite the same appeal.  Just like my Step-Mom said: there’s only one way to grow now, and at this point, it’s only out.

How do we make sure not to fill out?  Fill up!  On the right foods, that is.  You do that, right?  Maybe.  I’m sure you do it, but doing it properly with the right foods will maximize your health, emotions, wellness, and not your waistline.  The best way to achieve filling up, not out, is to load up with foods that are filling yet satisfying so there’s not much room for anything else.  It’s a lot easier to pass on unhealthy foods if you’ve already got a full stomach.  The other bonus to filling foods is how long they actually keep you full.

Eating foods that have the right amount in protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates allow us to achieve a balanced combination which will give our body the fuel and satiety it needs for many hours.  When we eat ’empty calories’, those items which are considered food yet do not contain much (if any) nutritional value, puts you right back into hunger mode within a couple hours.  Most of us do not have insulin levels that will remain constant and not spike and drop, leaving us running to the nearest snack we can find just to feel normal again.

Popular diets throughout history became, or even stayed, popular because they worked.  Many people don’t stay on these diets forever, nor do they want to go back to them again after feeling like it was too restrictive or too much work.  Atkins was popular because it contained a diet full of protein (which keeps you full for a long time), and low in sugar which your body cannot turn the unused/excess glucose into fat.  The Zone Diet was really popular because of the emphasis on moderation between carbs, protein, and fats (also known as 40/30/30 percent, respectively).  It proposed an easy way to measure out what you’re eating and making sure to get the right balance to, again, keep blood sugar levels constant and cravings at bay.

I’m not here to tell you to go on a diet of any specific kind other than one that makes you feel your best.  Only you know what that is.  I will however happily inform you of plenty of food options to choose from that should help you to achieve that, and incorporate into your diet the way you choose.

  • Beans & Legumes: Black, White, Pinto, Lentils, Edamame, Garbanzo, Peas, you name it.  Beans are full of fiber and contain protein.  Add these to any meal or click here for my recipe for dry roasted chickpeas as the perfect snack on the go!
  • Avocados: This is a great type of fat to consume and fibrous as well.  Half an avocado boasts 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat (only 2 grams saturated) and 9 grams of fiber!  Eat the right kind of fats, and you’ll lose fat the right way.  Add avocado to your salad, spread it on a piece of toast, use in place of mayonnaise, or add to your morning green smoothie for a nice, creamy texture.

  • Bran: Derived from grains, bran is a great source of fiber.  You can buy them separately in the form of bran, or it can be found in the whole grain itself.  Oat bran, rice bran, and wheat bran (if you can tolerate) will keep you feeling full longer since it takes longer to move through the digestive system.  A cup of oatmeal with some slivered almonds and dash of honey is a great way to start the day!  Or pick up some rice bran next time your at your natural foods grocer and add it to a smoothie or sprinkle on top of your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Berries: Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries are great sources of fiber and taste oh-so-good.  Eat them alone or put on top of some Greek yogurt and sprinkle some cinnamon on top!

  • Nuts: Nuts are a fab form of healthy fats with a good balance of carbs and fiber.  They’re The Zone on their own!  Watch your intake since they are high in calories and even good fat is only good in moderation.  Add to your breakfast, have a pre-workout snack, or keep some in your draw at work.  Pistachios, Almonds, and Walnuts, Cashews are great.  If you’re consuming in the form of nut butter–keep it simple.  Make sure the ingredients just contain the nut and maybe a little salt.  Ones loaded up with sugar and hydrogenated oils are no longer good for your health!
  • More Fruits and Veggies: Prunes, Apples, Dried Apricots, Figs, Artichokes, Spinach, and Broccoli all are good sources of fiber.

  • Eggs: High in protein and fat (if you have the yolk) and low in carbohydrates, this is a great food to keep you going for a long time.
  • Quinoa: A “complete protein” grain meaning it contains all the essential amino acids while providing a substantial amount of protein and slow releasing carbohydrates.  Another great food to fill up on.  Use it in place of rice as a side dish or make your own salad with it full of chopped veggies, edamame, and some raisins for added flavor!  Use chicken or vegetable broth in place of water to cook for a nice tasting outcome on its own.

Enjoy all these items as a healthy part of your diet.  You may already have lots of the items listed in your diet already, and maybe some of them you could add more.  The easiest way to feel your best and fill up, not out, is to use foods to your advantage.  They can help you or they can harm you.  You get to choose which ones you want to make into tasty meals and keep you feeling great throughout the day.  And maybe, just maybe, if  you want to use those oats to whip up a yummy batch of oatmeal cookies every once in a while, that’s OK too 🙂