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book review: Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet by Monica Reinagel, MS, LN, CNS (+ Fruit and Nut Bars)

I don't buy into fad diets or "eat this and you will be perfect in no time" claims...just so you know. Fortunately, Nutrition Diva's Secrets for a Healthy Diet by Monica Reinagel, MS, LN, CNS doesn't fit into either of those categories. Once a professional opera singer, Reinagel returned to school to earn a graduate degree in nutrition after doing freelance health writing and discovering the wealth of mis-information that is circulating in the numerous books, magazines, newspapers, and online sources. This book is part of her ongoing conversation and research on the constantly evolving world of nutrition. I enjoyed it because it was real. She is not offering a quick solution to your health problems...and she is not preachy in any way (which is good, because that's the fastest way to lose my interest). This is basically a guide to help you make healthier choices, prioritize, and develop eating habits that are healthy. And you know, it's all pretty much common sense, but I like having something to refer to should I have a question or need a resource (building up the arsenal). Some facts you may already know, but I'm a firm believer that you can always learn more and that there's something to be learned with every new experience (or book).

I think the way to best explain why this book may be right for you is by showing the way it is structured. Basically it is divided into two parts.

Part One: Guide to the Grocery Store
~Shop the Perimeter - (something I learned years ago and have always remembered) from the dairy case to fresh produce, eggs, meat, and fish
~Stocking the Pantry - grains, breads, cereal, flours, sweeteners, etc. (suggestions, tips, and "why")
~Packaged & Prepared Foods - quick meals, how-to use nutrition labels, and more

Part Two: The 24-Hour Diet Makeover 
(divided into segments and broken down further into portioning, eating out, treats, etc.)
~Breakfast of Divas
~Power Lunch
~Snacking Well
~Dinner Done Right
~Drinks & Desserts
~Curtain Calls - nutritional supplements, exercise, diet trends, etc.

Within each section are tucked some fun features such as: Let's Take a Closer Look (one closer look: Does Vinegar Burn Fat?), Kitchen Tip, What's the Plan, and The Quick and Dirty Secret ("Pair fruit with a small serving of nuts or cheese to avoid a sharp rise (and fall) in blood sugar").

Tucked comfortably into the back of the book are sample meal plans, a shopping guide, a serving size guide, cooking method guide, and even some of Nutrition Diva's recipes...such as these Fruit & Nut Bars that I tried. I love that you can vary what you put inside (change the nut butter if you like, switch up the dried fruits and the nuts and seeds), and they are very tasty and great for a mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
Best Fruit and Nut Bars
makes 12 bars

⅔ c. ground flax
½ c. peanut butter I used crunchy
⅓ c. honey
pinch salt (2 if peanut butter is unsalted)
⅓ c. water
⅔ c. dried fruits I used yellow raisins, cranberries, chopped pineapple & apricots, & broken, dried bananas
⅔ c. nuts or seeds I used pepitas, macadamias, cashews, & almonds

Preheat oven to 325° F. 

Combine flax, peanut butter, honey, salt, and water in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Add dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.  Batter will be stiff.  Spray 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray and divide batter evenly into cups, flattening tops with your fingers.  Bake 25-30 minutes until tops are dry and edges are a deep, toasty brown (bars will not rise).  Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Nutrition Information (per serving)*: Calories 200, Carbohydrates 19g, Sugar 13g (added sugar 9g), Protein 6g, Fat 12g
A few more of the recipes that I have marked to try are Curried Tuna Salad, Apple Pie Oatmeal, and Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Curry.  Yum!  The only con: no bright, color photos...but really, this is the type of book that doesn't call for them.  So, if you're looking for a resource on healthy eating, this book is worth checking out!

Visit Monica for more Quick and Dirty Tips (via newsletter or podcast) or find her on Twitter or Facebook.
*I received a free copy from the publisher to review, should I choose. All opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.  (Nutrition data as stated in book)

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