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(Source: Jeanette’s health Living)

My guess is when you think of a fruit and yogurt parfait, your mind goes straight to the ones sold at McDonalds all day long.  It does come in a small portion, but that is all it has going for it it.  The trouble with it is the yogurt is sweetened, the fruit is far from fresh and comes in a syrupy sugary mash, not to mention the preservatives that go into keeping it from ‘freshly’ sellable for days at a time.  You lose vitamins and nutrients when food sits, not to mention when the fruit mash is pasteurized.  What you end up eating nothing more than caloric filler.

It is McDonald’s way of profiting on those working towards healthy lifestyles without actually being healthy.  Much like many fast food places started to offer ‘healthier’ alternatives like salads and apple slices in the last few years.  I once recall a fast food single salad which which was rated for 2 servings and containing more calories than a hamburger with all the fixings!

We go into these places out of convenience (or lack of choice) and they take advantage of that fact with foods that are cheaply filling, but ultimately harmful to our health.  But these chains shouldn’t be solely to blame.  We make the conscious decision to purchase their foods knowing it isn’t the best for our bodies.  A little here and there happens. Sometimes we have no choice when out with friends, short lunch breaks, etc.  For many unfortunately, it has become daily habit.  It is a regular addiction they can’t say no to and the consequences are riddled throughout their bodies as obesity, acid reflux, diabetes, cardio-vascular problems.  It may not be entirely visible, but their troubles are lurking beneath the surface, masked by medications and no one stepping in to provide an alternative.

In previous articles, I provided recipes for blue cheese and portebello grass-fed burgers, and baked sweet potato fries.  To make this fast food alternative meal complete, I’m posting the recipe for Blueberry & Mango Yogurt Parfaits.

Here’s the recipe:

2/3 cup pecan halves or pieces, whichever you prefer

2 ripe mangoes, Ataulfo variety if possible (see above photo)

1 pint of blueberries (substitute if strawberries don’t bother your stomach or use a half & half mixture of the two)

2 1/2 tablespoons demerara or turbindo sugar

1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt or drained goat’s milk yogurt

2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The prep work:

Preheat the oven for 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the pecans on a baking tray (baking sheet optional), placing in a middle rack.  Toast for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned.  It’s best if you keep an eye on them carefully as heat varies from oven to oven.  Not to mention each oven has a spot that’s warmer, which can result in burning.

A good way to test for this is with pieces of bread placed across the rack, toasting for 7-10 minutes.  Where you see browner spots (top and bottom) is where you’re getting more heat.

You can also microwave the pecans on a plate for 45-60 seconds.  Using a thick pan on the stove at medium heat would work as well, shaking every so often for 2-3 minutes.  The smell of the pecans will change, which is when you’ll know they’re done toasting.

Let the pecans cool and and chop into course pieces.

Peel the mangoes and slice the flesh off the pit.  A potato peeler works best.  Dice the mangoes into 1/2 inch cubes, place in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the blueberries, 1 tablespoon of sugar, all of the cinnamon, and all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of the pecans.

In another bowl, blend the yogurt, shredded coconut, the remaining sugar, and vanilla extract.

You’ll need 4 parfait glasses or wine glasses to layer the fruit and yogurt.  Short of those, champagne classes or even ramekins.  Start with a layer of yogurt and alternate with fruit.  A couple spoonfuls of each should do the trick!

Finish off each glass with the remaining toasted pecans. Voila!  A healthy dessert or snack if you halve the sugar, omit the vanilla, and add some toasted rolling oats.

A few additional notes I’d like to make:

The Fruit and nuts in this recipe are a great source of fiber as well as vitamins and antioxidents.  They compliment each other quite beautifully!  Yogurt is a probiotic, which means it contains good bacteria, which helps to aid in digestion.  Doctors will suggest eating yogurt after a course of antibiotics, which can wipe out the natural flora in your digestive tract.

To make the drained goat’s milk yogurt, place the yogurt in a coffee filter over a strainer for an hour or so.  What you will get will be a thicker, denser yogurt.  The remaining liquid, known as whey, can be discarded.  There is anecdotal evidence that whey can break down kidney stones.

Go with whatever mangoes you can find.  Most supermarkets will carry the Tommy Atkins mango, which is softball size, green with red/orange markings.  The Ataulfo (or manilla) mango I recommend is smaller, about the size of an avacado, all yellow or light yellow with a green tint. You can find these at Latino, Asian, and other ethnic market but their growing popularity is placing them in mainstream markets. When looking for a mango, you’ll want one that is firm, but not hard.  A bright vibrant color with a slight give means it’s ripe.  Soft or mushy means it’s overripe.

This recipe can easily be made with Tupperware for a snack at work and be made for a few days in advanced.

Palm sugar can be substituted for the above cane sugars.  It has a lower glycemic index than either sugar.