It’s all about the Balance

Control hunger and kick cravings with healthy recipes from nutrition coach Valerie Cogswell.

By Maria Allen | Photography by Jack Foley 

Many people resort to extreme diet trends in order to lose weight. But Valerie Cogswell, a certified nutrition coach and chef, will tell you that the secret to looking and feeling healthy is not deprivation, but properly fueling the body. The Weymouth resident, who spends much of her time cooking up delicious recipe ideas in her home kitchen, doesn’t like “diet” food. Instead, she specializes in creating all-natural, restaurant-quality dishes that deliver the perfect combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Eating this way balances blood sugar levels, which in turn helps burn fat, build lean muscle and boost metabolism and energy.

Educated at Johnson and Wales University, Cogswell spent many years designing customized nutrition plans for clients. She now works as a professional recipe developer and her culinary creations have been showcased on such websites as, and Her cooking videos have also appeared on and HLN News.

When conceptualizing her recipes, Cogswell likes to cook with ingredients that pack a powerful nutrition punch

Whether preparing hearty Super Bowl snacks or a fresh spring vegetable dish, Cogswell aims to make food that is both tasty and nutritious.

“In general, you want to build every meal or snack around protein, like chicken, fish or low-fat Greek yogurt,” says Cogswell. “Then add a fiber-rich carb like fruit, vegetables, oatmeal or brown rice. And if you’re going to eat bread, choose whole grain.” A certain amount of natural “good” fats are also allowed.

How much and how often a person eats is also relevant to balancing blood sugar. “I recommend eating one hour after waking and then every three hours, on average, until you go to sleep,” says Cogswell. “Whenever you go too long without eating, your blood sugar levels drops and you start craving carbohydrates. When you’re at that point, your body can actually start burning muscle.” When it comes to portion size, Cogswell advises that people stop eating when they’re satisfied, not when they feel full.

When conceptualizing her recipes, Cogswell likes to cook with ingredients that pack a powerful nutrition punch, like chia seeds, which are high in fiber and protein but low in calories. She also makes a point to incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables into the mix. She tests and retests her recipes and keeps the instructions simple so everyday people can replicate them at home. The following are a few of Cogswell’s fresh and healthy recipes, perfect for the arrival of spring.

For more of Valerie Cogswell’s restaurant-style recipes and nutrition and fitness tips, visit Her recipes are also featured in the New York Times bestseller, “Body Confidence,” and the soon-to-be-released book, “Why Kids Make You Fat and How to Get Your Body Back.”

Mango Chia Pudding

FOL_1288-editIn need of a simple breakfast on a busy morning? Prepare Mango Chia Pudding at night for a grab-and-go breakfast the following day. Plain Greek yogurt serves as the base of this dish. It has 20 grams of muscle-building protein per cup and lacks the sugar of traditional yogurt. Chia seeds are nutritional powerhouses, known for their versatility and their ability to swell when immersed in liquids to form a tapioca-like consistency. Chia also adds a powerful boost of protein, fiber, calcium, vitamins, minerals and Omega 3 heart-healthy fats. The mango in the recipe adds fiber and vitamins A and C to help to boost your immune system and fight off disease. The combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat in this pudding will stabilize your blood sugar and help you burn fat naturally and boost your metabolism and energy levels. Enjoy this easy and decadent pudding for breakfast or dessert.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes 1 serving

Nutritional Breakdown (per serving)
Serving size: 2 cups
Calories: 313
Total fat: 9.25g
Saturated fat: 2.85g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Sodium: 120 mg
Total carbohydrate: 33.78g
Dietary fiber: 5.58g
Sugars: 27.61g
Protein: 25.92g

1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon agave nectar
2 dashes of nutmeg
2/3 heaping cup chopped mango (divided)
1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds

Combine Greek yogurt, almond milk, vanilla, agave nectar, nutmeg and about half a cup of the mango in a blender. Stir in the chia seeds (don’t blend) and refrigerate overnight. Right before serving, pour pudding into a bowl or Mason jar for a convenient grab-and-go snack. Stir in a touch more agave nectar, if needed, and top with remaining chopped mango. Enjoy!

Spring Market Meatloaf

FOL_1339Meatloaf takes on a whole new meaning when it’s full of vitamin-rich spring vegetables. This recipe is made with lean ground turkey, sharp cheddar and fresh garlic and herbs. The meatloaf has an ideal balance of lean protein, fat and carbohydrates to stabilize your blood sugar levels and naturally help you burn fat and increase your energy and metabolism. Simply double the recipe and make these mini meatloaves in bulk for nutritious grab-and-go meals. Serve with your favorite spring vegetable like asparagus or spinach, on the side.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 to 25 minutes

Nutritional Breakdown (per serving)
Serving size: 1 loaf (6 loaves total)
Calories: 252
Calories from fat: 107.7
Total fat: 11.97g
Saturated fat: 4.93g
Cholesterol: 76.67mg
Sodium: 546.46mg
Total carbohydrate: 12.34g
Dietary fiber: 1.67g
Sugars: 4.18g
Protein: 23.35g

Cooking spray
1/2 large leek, chopped small
1 large carrot, peeled and grated on a cheese grater
6 mushrooms (I used baby bella mushrooms), chopped very small
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1/2 heaping teaspoon sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping tablespoon all natural tomato paste
93% fat-free ground turkey
2 egg whites
1 heaping cup of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
3/4cup instant oats (can use gluten free if desired)
1 big handful kale, rough chopped
Ketchup (I use all natural)
Chopped fresh chives for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. Spray pan generously with cooking spray.
2. Once pan is hot, add leeks, carrots and fresh thyme. Sauté for approximately 4 minutes or until softened. Lower heat to medium, add mushrooms and sauté another 3 minutes or so until softened. Add salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper (we’re over seasoning a bit to flavor the turkey too). Add garlic and sauté for two minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste until combined. Scrape the veggie mixture into a large bowl and let cool until room temperature. In the meantime, spray a large sheet pan with cooking spray.
3. Once veggie mixture is cooled, add turkey, egg whites, cheddar cheese, oats and kale into the veggie bowl and mix gently with hands until just combined (don’t overmix). Shape into 6 oval patties and arrange on sheet pan.
4. Spread about 2 teaspoons of ketchup on each meatloaf. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or so until cooked throughout. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh chives. Enjoy!

Strawberry Mango & Pistachio Crumble

FOL_1403Though dessert is always an indulgence, I think it’s an ideal time to pack in good-for-you ingredients. Strawberry, mango and pistachio crumble will satisfy your sweet tooth while providing a big helping of anti-aging, immune-boosting vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats! Mangos and strawberries are the stars of this dish and loaded with Vitamin C and fiber. Pistachios contain Vitamin B6, and are a great source of unsaturated, heart-healthy fat. And while most desserts call for nutritionally void white flour and sugar, this dessert uses fiber-rich oats and a touch of agave nectar for sweetness. Using very ripe mangos and the natural juice from frozen strawberries is also a great way to add natural sweetness. Find shelled pistachios in the bulk section at your local market. To help keep blood sugar in check, enjoy this dessert following a light dinner of lean protein like grilled chicken or fish and a carbohydrate, like a side of steamed veggies.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Makes 6 servings

Nutritional Breakdown (per serving)
Calories: 286
Calories from fat: 93.5
Total fat: 10.39g
Saturated fat: 5.09g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 100.42mg
Total carbohydrate: 42.67g
Dietary fiber: 5.08g
Sugars: 20.57g
Protein: 5.1g

Cooking spray
2 large, very ripe mangos, peeled and chopped into bite-size chunks
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen unsweetened strawberries, defrosted and drained well (juice reserved)
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 heaping cup agave nectar
Pinch sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla
4 dashes of nutmeg
3 pinches cinnamon

3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour (can use regular oat flour if you’d prefer)
4 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped small
4 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup gluten-free old fashioned oats (can use regular old fashioned oats if you’d prefer)

All-natural light whipped cream (optional)

1. Defrost the strawberries. Drain well and reserve the juice. Slice any large strawberries in half.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of a medium size casserole or glass baking dish with cooking spray.
3. Place mangos and strawberries in a large bowl.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, agave nectar, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and about 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid from strawberries until combined. Drizzle over mango and cherry mix and toss gently just until combined.

Chef’s tip: save remaining liquid from strawberries for a smoothie later on.

5. Pour mango strawberry mixture into the casserole dish.
6. In a food processor pulse the oat flour, dates, and butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand (if not using a food processor, combine the oat flour and butter in a small bowl with a pastry cutter until it comes together. Mince dates with a knife and add to bowl.) Add the whole oats and pistachios and pulse until just combined (you want to leave the whole oats intact as much as possible).
7. Crumble the topping evenly over the top of the mango strawberry mixture, using your hands to gently shape some of the crumble topping into larger chunks.
8. Bake for 40 to 45 more minutes. The top should be lightly golden brown and the filling should be bubbling. Keep an eye on it to prevent the top from burning.
9. Allow to cool and set for 15 minutes before serving.
10. Serve warm or cold with all-natural light whipped cream, if desired.

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