We all seem to be a little more environmentally-conscious these days. Even if we aren’t really doing anything to improve our carbon footprints, we at least know what one is.

We’ve heard reports about ice caps melting, we’ve seen crazy weather patterns dumping feet of snow in certain areas of the country (sorry Boston), and we’ve been told that our habits are going to lead to the eventual doom of our planet.

In our day-to-day lives though, it can seem that the problem is too large to solve with a simple switch from paper towels to a cloth towel on your kitchen counter. And while turning off the water when you brush your teeth might help reduce your water bill and help you feel better about yourself, there is one real solution that few people are talking about but could be the key to substantial change.


I’m talking about eating less meat.


Let me be clear, I am not a vegetarian and I am not asking you to be one either. To me a life without cheese isn’t worth living.

So if you don’t go cold-turkey(less) entirely, will the occasional meatless meal really make a difference? You might be surprised!

Eating meatless just one day a week has a greater impact than eating 100% locally-sourced foods. It is the equivalent to driving 1,000 fewer miles per year. And for those diving in “whole-hog”, going vegan has a greater impact than trading your gas guzzling SUV for a Prius.

Why pick on meat? Meat consumption accounts for 18% of total world-wide greenhouse gas emissions. Producing that steak on your plate takes more land, water, and energy resources than a plant-based protein entrée would. And per calorie, red meat ranks higher than chicken, eggs or fish in its impact on the Earth.


All of this mentions nothing about the proven health benefit of a plant-based diet. We know that half of our plate volume should come from vegetables and fruits, but imagine the impact of your health by rounding out that meal with whole grains and plant-based proteins like beans, lentils or nuts. You’d be saving the Earth and rocking your figure at the same time! Go, you!

This approach of not really being a vegetarian but just trying to eat meat less often actually has an official name – it’s called being a Flexitarian. I love this term because it seems so forgiving. You aren’t forced into an all-or-nothing lifestyle to be healthy and make a difference.
You can still have the occasional burger and save the planet too. Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger.com explains his Weekday Vegetarian approach quite beautifully in his TED talk – which happens to be one of my favorite TED talks. If you are still on the fence, check it out.

How does this translate into your daily choices?

Here are some very concrete ways to get started eating in a more flexitarian, Earth-friendly way.

• Make Meatless Mondays a routine in your household
• Consider being a 2-day Veg(itarian) or a Weekday Vegetarian like Graham Hill
• Limit red meat to no more than once a week and opt for pasture-fed or “free range” beef when you eat red meat
• Eat sustainably farmed seafood at least twice a week
• Increase the number of “go to” recipes you have for lentil, high-protein grain, bean and nut-based entrées.
• Start a small garden to promote eating more plants. I built my own and love that my kids think cherry tomatoes are tempting enough to eat straight from the vine as they walk by. You can get my simple construction plan here.
• Eat plants that are in season from your local Farmers’ Market since they are often more flavorful and nutritious when fresh and in season. When produce has to be flown in from half-way around the world, it is often bland and has lost nutrients – not to mention the increased cost!

So challenge yourself to be an Earth Day Flexitarian. Saving the planet one plate at a time shouldn’t feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders. Taking a more flexitarian approach is about making slow, mindful improvements on how and what you eat. The impact on your budget and your waistline are often equally as rewarding.


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Photo credit: Creative Commons Cows Grazing author Frank Vincentz

Earth Day Flexitarian pin

Gassiness, bloating, and craziness in the bathroom…it is an embarrassing reality for many people. But you don’t have to suffer in silence.


Even if your symptoms seem mild in comparison, that annoying feeling of a Monday morning muffin top preventing you from buttoning your favorite pair of pants might be just enough to push you to find a solution.

With the multitude of gluten-free, wheat-free, and dairy-free diet books out there, how are you supposed to know which one is legit? Which one is worth the time and energy of putting your whole household through another diet plan?

Let me break it down for you…



This diet plan has certainly topped the popularity charts in the last couple of years. Gluten is a protein that found in certain grains – wheat, barley and rye – and for those with Celiac Disease, it can cause extreme irritation of the intestinal lining, malabsorption of nutrients, gassiness, bloating, diarrhea and weight loss. Yes…I said weight LOSS. Some people actually lose weight when eating gluten because of an allergic-type reaction to it. Not the way you’d want to lose weight!

There are medical tests that can confirm whether you have Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, for which a strict gluten-free diet brings welcomed relief. However, I find that many people gravitate toward this trend because they are hoping to lose weight as a result of avoiding these grain-based foods. By following this diet plan many people report feeling better simply because they swap breads for more vegetables. And you know more veggies are always better.

If you feel more bloated when eating highly-processed snack foods or too much pizza, it may have little to do with the gluten. However, if following this plan helps you to make smarter food choices – go for it. Just know that buying super expensive gluten-free rice crackers isn’t going to be the answer to dropping that last 15 pounds.



Similar to gluten-free eating, wheat-free diet plans tend to promote a swap of grain-based products for more vegetables and fruits. Again, that’s an awesome idea any day of the week! Think about the health benefit of swapping the flour tortilla in your next fajita for a lettuce leaf. Of course that is a smart choice and helps you feel better, but is it all about the wheat?

There are again, certainly a group of people that have an allergy or sensitivity to wheat and the myriad of wheat products on store shelves. And since so many food products contain highly-processed grains (look for “enriched flour” in the ingredient list to know if it’s highly-processed), making a swap to reduce or eliminate those items will almost certainly make your gut happy. However, unless you are truly allergic to wheat, eating whole grains related to wheat like Freekeh and other ancient grains can actually be an awesome part of your diet. Don’t forget that high fiber grains help you feel satisfied while trying to keep calories in check and they are full of other great vitamins and minerals too. …which is always a plus.


Dairy-free (and alternative milks)

Aside from the calcium debate (that’s a whole other post!), there are some people who suffer from a lactose or milk protein intolerance. You will know if this is an issue for you because you will experience a very clear stomach and gut upset that comes from not being able to digest the sugar or the casein and whey proteins in milk, ice cream, and soft cheeses. Also, many people with Celiac disease or even a gluten intolerance can find they are also sensitive to lactose.

This intolerance is not to be confused with a milk allergy that can cause a life-threatening reaction shortly after consuming milk. Hives or difficulty breathing are cause for real concern – think peanut allergy – and seek medical attention right away.

While there are some lactose-free cow’s milk products available now in grocery stores, many people turn to alternatives to cow’s milk – including soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk and a variety of nut milks. Unfortunately, in the processing to make these milks tasty and have the right mouthfeel, there is often a lot of sugar added as well as thickeners which can cause gas and bloating all on their own.

Even the added soy and milk proteins that can be found in everything from energy bars to breakfast cereals trying to increase sales by advertising more protein, can cause stress to your gut. You have to read labels if you want to avoid all of these by-products too.



Now here is a diet plan I bet you’ve never heard of before. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols. Huh??? No wonder you haven’t heard of this one before! Those ridiculously-complex words are carbohydrates or sugars found in a variety of foods. These carbohydrates are purposely picked on because they tend to draw water into the intestines – often leading to that bloating, uncomfortable feeling and the resulting sprint to the restroom…if you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, the plan for this diet is as complex as the name. Essentially, it encompasses some of the traits of the previous diet plans – avoiding gluten, wheat and dairy, but goes further to limit some fruit, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, beans, lentils and soybeans. While it seems that there would be nothing left to eat, there are amazingly many other foods that remain. Since this one is complex, you would benefit from working with a Registered Dietitian (like myself) or your health professional to give this one a go. Yet since it has shown such promise in helping people, especially those with IBS, I wanted you to know about it.

Tweet: What is often more important than what you cut out of your diet
is what you choose to replace it with.


Bottom Line Recommendations

Whew! I know this is overwhelming so here is the bottom line to help you know what to do for YOU. Each person and certainly each gut is unique. Only you can determine which foods make you feel good and which foods have you running for the restroom. Undoubtedly, greasy, high-sodium and high-sugar foods wreak havoc on your digestive system – and your whole body. Caffeine, alcohol and {sadly} chocolate can also cause your digestion to ramp up in a negative way.

Yet, the effect of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy or other food components are going to be dependent on many individual factors. The best advice I can give to you is to be your own detective. Start by keeping a food record and making note about the effects on your digestion and energy. Only make one change or choose to eliminate one thing at a time (for example dairy or wheat but not both at the same time) and go cold-turkey for 3 days to 2 weeks. Notice how you feel. Write it all down. Then, add that food back into your daily eating and again take note.

If you need a little help figuring it all out, just ask. I have a minimal number of coaching slots available so if you want to claim a spot or just learn more about what my coaching services are all about – contact me for a free consultation. We can talk about your concerns, how I can help, and see if we are a good match. No obligation or hurt feelings either way.


What about Stress?

Keeping track of your body’s reaction to certain foods is essential in pinpointing what foods are best for you. However, I wouldn’t be giving you the whole picture if I didn’t mention stress. There is a HUGE mind-body connection and an even more apparent mind-gut connection that is proven through loads of research. While we all face the reality of stress on a regular basis, common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, upset stomach and gassiness can be directly linked to the amount of worry in our individual worlds. It is essential to find methods of de-stressing to soothe your gut.

Here are 3 simple ways to start cultivating a routine that helps you manage stress.

  1. Practice deep breathing when in a difficult situation
  2. Create a daily practice of meditation – even if for just 10 minutes
  3. Get in the habit of journaling to get worries out of your head and on paper

Practicing these techniques regularly – when you are not stressed – is the best way to build the habit of using them when stressful situations arise.

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Photo credit: Toilet paper roll Creative Common author Elya

Happy Nutrition Month

Ah…March. For some people March is all about St. Patty’s Day green, libations (yep – I actually used that word) and celebrations. For others March is about spring break or clocks springing forward for more time in the sunshine.


For Dietitians however, March is all about National Nutrition Month®.


Every year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the originators of this monthly observance – introduce a new tag line intended to steer the educational messaging for the month. While my all-time favorite tag line remains “All Foods Can Fit”, I have to admit that this year’s theme “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle” has the same compassionate flair.


I know that the constant back and forth of nutrition science and nutrition trends can be exhausting. So it’s nice to hear that a healthy lifestyle can actually be achieved one bite at a time…baby steps.


And, it’s always a good reminder that healthy eating really can taste good too. That’s not just something the skinny people tell themselves so they’ll choose carrots over candy bars. It’s all about playing with flavors beyond fat, sugar and salt.


And a secret that most people miss in this year’s tagline that ties back to the “big picture wellness” I’m always referring to is that nutrition is part of a healthy lifestyle. To truly live healthfully, you have to balance eating well with being active while not getting so stressed out about every single calorie that you drive yourself crazy. Food is meant to be enjoyed within a healthy lifestyle.

Big Picture Eating quote

So how do you know which diet or way of eating is really best? Fortunately, a team of crazy smart people scour a whole ocean of nutrition research to come up with guidelines that are the best for most people (ages 2 and up)… and the result is the Dietary Guidelines.


As sterile as the Dietary Guidelines seem, they are the basis of many of the popular diet plans, programs, and recommendations out there. The guidelines are updated every 5 years and the next update is on the verge of release. In anticipation of the release, the advisory committee recently produced a preliminary report – a sneak peek into this gold standard that will become official in a few short months. While the entire 571-page report is a bit dry, the message is oh so juicy.


Like many of you, I live a busy life. So I always appreciate a bulleted list, chart or 140-character summary to serve as a modern day Cliff Notes of what I need to know.


So to give you the gift of time, I’ve summarized the key points of the report in this fancy infographic. Pin it, add it to your Facebook feed or send it to your friends but CERTAINLY leave me a comment to let me know if this was a helpful way of simplifying the update. I’d also LOVE to hear what one action you plan to take as a result of reading this. Seriously…doesn’t this simplify things a bit?


Dietary Guidelines Infographic


If you need a little more information for eating right, join my email subscribers list! You’ll get even more bonus material that I only send to my V.I.Peeps. 

And if you really need some hand-holding… I got you. Sign up for some one-on-one coaching with yours truly. I’ve helped hundreds of others – I can help you too.

Principles to Practice - thanksgiving slider

So often we hear recommendations for healthy living – drink 8 8-oz. glasses of water each day, eat in moderation, exercise for 150 minutes each week, get in 8 hours of sleep…and it goes on and on.

Unfortunately it can be hard to determine how to follow these recommendations in the midst of our busy, real lives.

Helping you take those principles and see how to realistically put them into practice is what this is all about. The nice thing about “practice” is that it means we don’t have to be perfect. In reality, we won’t all get in exactly 25 grams of fiber each day, stand and move around at least 1 minute every hour, or stay mindful each time we eat…and that is ok. Fortunately, our bodies don’t require perfection to be healthy, fit and energetic. Whew! That’s a relief!

Principles to Practice header

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I want to take the opportunity to use the coveted (and feared) Thanksgiving meal as a prime example of how Principles to Practice works. We have all seen the MyPlate visual of how a healthy plate should look. Essentially, the point is that half of the plate is full with fruits and vegetables. The other half is shared by a reasonable portion of protein – which could be meat or a vegetarian option like beans – and grains.

My Plate with Principle Highlights

Now, for all of you gluten-free’ers out there, this can certainly be your place for quinoa or other gluten-free grain. For all of you anti-carb’ers out there, you can add on more veggies if you like but the point is not to fill half your plate with meat.


Using those same general principles, which really are based on a lot of research and sound science, this is how you can apply it to Thanksgiving. And look…this plate is still really full with many of your holiday favorites. They might be in a different proportion to what you were used to serving yourself, but that’s the point of the visual!

My Plate Thanksgiving example with highlights

Certainly, you can maximize on other tips such as choosing a smaller plate, eating slowly, and not showing up to the meal starving – a classic mistake!  If you want to enjoy Thanksgiving without being worried about what the meal will mean to your waistline, remember these simple tips for plating a healthy Thanksgiving dinner.

If you found this helpful and think others might too, I’d be so grateful if you’d share the infographic below. Just pin it and let the Thanksgiving begin!

PtoP Thanksgiving infographic long



Minestrone soup is unaffectionaly sometimes referred to as the kitchen sink soup…meaning you can put just about anything in it! To me, it’s a God-send for staying within a food budget AND eating healthy. That combination isn’t something you come across every day.

Minestrone soup is essentially a broth-based soup with lots of veggies. You can add just about any vegetables you have on hand, or even better, use all of those veggies in the produce drawer that are on the verge of going bad. You can also make this soup on the fly, since frozen veggies work great too. For a little added protein, beans are a common ingredient, but I also added some leftover cooked chicken for this round. Leftover rotissere chicken or that half serving that won’t be enough for a complete meal are easy add-ins for this dollar-saver.

As with so many soups, you start with sauteeing the standard trio – diced onion, celery, and carrots. Feel free to add garlic to this combo too.  Once soft, it’s down to adding broth (vegetable or chicken work well), your veggies and protein. Canned tomatoes are another common go-to for this soup. I prefer diced tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano, but fire-roasted can be awesome too. Sprinkle in any spices at this point. I prefer oregano or a bay leaf, but let your tastebuds guide you. Bring all of this to a simmer for at least 30 minutes so the flavors can marry – a fancy way of saying “makes it yummy”.

While there are many variations to this soup, here is the general recipe I use.

Easy Minestrone Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

3 carrots, diced

2 gloves garlic, chopped

1 32 oz. container low-sodium chicken broth (can substitute vegetable for vegetarian option)

2-3 cups of vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces (Examples: zucchini, green beans, squash, broccoli, fresh spinach, mushrooms)

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic

1 15 oz. can canellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded (optional)

Season to taste – salt, pepper, oregano

Warm oil over medium to medium high heat in a stock pot. Add onion, celery, and carrots and sautee until slightly softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broth. Then add vegetables, tomatoes, beans, chicken and seasoning. Stir to combine. Cover pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.

Serve with a salad, whole grain crackers, cheese toast or all on it’s own. Enjoy!

Quest for the Best: Granola (part 1 - store bought)



I just love granola. And not because I now live in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, I know the stereotypical visions of people eating a snack with all of the flavor of cardboard as a survival tactic while on long hikes, stopping only to hug a tree or two along the way, right? Far from it!

For me, granola conjures up the comfort of a warm bowl of oatmeal in my grandma’s kitchen, the sweetness of dried fruit that I loved snacking on as a kid and the surprise of various spices that keeps my adult palate intrigued. It is filling without being fussy.

As a Dietitian, I find the idea of mixing whole grains with fruit and nuts or seeds as pure genius. Essentially, granola is a rare food that can combine sweet, savory, and crunchy while supporting the plant-based way of eating that is undeniably proven to promote health.

Yogurt parfait

So yeah, I’m a fan. What’s even better is the many forms and flavors that granola can take on.  That’s why I’m on a quest to find the best!

Today, I’m taking on granola in its pure form – loose, like a cereal. While I love combining the individual raw ingredients and custom making a granola to suit my mood for the day, there are times when I have to get real. I (and you) don’t always have time to make things from scratch. So, I wanted to test some of the pre-made granolas on the market.

Granola in bowls

Fortunately, I had this idea formulating when I was sent a free sample of Ladera Granola (no, they didn’t pay me to write a review, only to enjoy a free sample their product – no strings attached). To be fair, I added a few other granolas to the taste test – one that is a local granola from my closest farmer’s market, and two others that you can find on many store shelves nation-wide.

Sotre-bought granola brands

Along with a discerning taste panel (my kids), we had a blind taste test – well, not blind to me, but my kids had no clue which brand was in each bowl. While all of the granola samples were tasty enough, we found a clear winner. Here’s what our taste buds thought and how we chose to rank the four brands.

Number 4Bear Naked – I’ve long been a fan of this company and their granola, but I have to admit that this particular flavor ranked lowest. The granola had a very plain flavor punctuated with sweetness from cranberries. Bear Naked has recently introduced this higher protein line, which derives its extra protein from soy protein isolate – not the natural source I would have liked to see in a granola. Because of this and it’s lackluster flavor, it gets the lowest rank. This variety contributes 140 calories per 1/4 cup with only 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of sugar. I have seen this brand available in most major grocery stores, even Target, at a range of price points. This 11-ounce bag was priced at $4.88 (that’s $0.44 per ounce, which is the cheapest of the sampled granolas).

Number 3Hammer and Tuffy’s – This is a farmer’s market favorite for me. But before you start to leave a comment in vain, you can order this granola online too. I added it to the taste panel because I wanted to compare the flavor and texture of commercial granolas made in large-scale processing plants versus a small-scale variety like this one; the kind you would envision made with the attention to quality that you might think the big name guys wouldn’t be able to have. Surprisingly, the difference wasn’t as significant as I would have thought. Of course, I like the idea of supporting the local guy who supports my farmer’s market too. The Red Tractor Blend flavor is $9.95 for an 16-ounce bag (that’s $0.62 per ounce) and  runs 130 calories for 1/4 cup with 3 grams of protein and 7 grams of sugar. It has an added benefit of using gluten-free oats, if that’s your thing, and some organic ingredients. The flavor is slightly nutty with a hint of salt. Overall, a really nice balance of wholesome goodness.

Number 2Kind – I’m a big proponent of Kind granola bars, not just for their yummy taste, but mostly because they have limited ingredients, all of which are pronounceable real food items. The granola we sampled was their Oats and Honey Clusters variety and it was most noticeable that this granola was definitely in bigger “cluster” pieces and super crunchy, making it a much easier snacking option than the rest. It seemed to have a real nutty, almost peanut butter flavor, which is something I liked. This brand is also very easy to find at major retailers with a variety of pricing as low as $5.99 for the 11-ounce bag (that’s $0.54 per ounce). While the nutrition facts label reflects a 1/3 cup serving size, I’ll keep the comparisons the same by giving you the stats based on a 1/4 cup serving – which would be 98 calories, 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar – impressively light compared to the rest.

Number 1Ladera – I have to say that I was surprised. I’m not easily swayed by the samples that I often receive on my doorstep, however this surpassed many homemade granolas I’ve tasted in the past. In fact, that was my comment after my first bite – that it tasted so fresh and homemade. This granola was distinctly loose, making it suitable for topping on yogurt or eating as a cereal, but a little messier to snack on…although I wasn’t afraid to try! The flavor profile was more complex than some of the other granolas, showcasing the natural goodness of the oats with a perfectly paired cinnamon finish, not to mention the caramelized almonds and pecans. With slight embarrassment, I had to admit that this granola was better than some of the home-made versions my kitchen has produced in the past. I haven’t gone so far to caramelize nuts in my own granola recipes, but after tasting this granola, I’m thinking it might be worth it! My son even said “kids don’t always like oats, but this will make them like it.” Since this is a relatively new brand, it might be a little harder to find. Of course, you can order directly from their website and if you are lucky enough to live in California, you can check out the store finder on their website to see which stores near you carry the granola. It costs $8.99 for a 12-ounce bag (that’s $0.75 per ounce; note online orders require a min of 4 bags per order) and weighs in a 150 calories for 1/4 cup serving with 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of sugar. Delicious!

If there is a brand that you have found in your own quest, I’d love to hear about it. If you are still on the hunt, I encourage you to try one of the brands listed above. I think you’ll be happy you did!

As for the homemade variety, I’m excitedly testing some recipes now. If you’ve got a recipe that you think is among the best (loose granola, bar or ball), let me know. Even if it isn’t featured in the my Granola Part 2 post- all about homemade granola, I’d be happy to add any (healthy) recipes to my Granola Pinterest board.

Creamy Squash and Carrot Ribbons


Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent which is the 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter.  Lent is supposed to be a time of reflection and preparation for Catholics, but for my entire life it has always meant answering the dreaded question “what are you giving up?”

While I prefer the idea of doing something good in preparation of Easter, and that is still something I promote with my children, my Catholic guilt always brings me back to picking some kind of sacrifice.

So, my dear readers, I’ve picked something this year that I think might benefit you in the long run. I’ve decided to give up meat. Yes, that’s right, I will avoid eating all beef, pork, chicken and turkey…although I will be able to eat fish. And since I’m not going vegan, I can still eat eggs and dairy products. I also will allow beef broth for soups, etc. because I think this is going to be change enough and I don’t need to be a purist to feel the challenge.

Now, some of you who are vegetarian might think this is no big deal. But I also cook for a family who is not taking on this same challenge, so I say “oh yeah, this is a sacrifice.”

On the upside, I’ll be sharing some of my meatless meals with you. Even if you have no interest in ever giving up meat, going meatless two or three days a week can not only be healthy, but it can be less expensive and kinder to the environment.

One of my favorite TED talks is Graham Hill’s speech about becoming a 2-day Veg(etarian). Even Meatless Mondays have become a trend that some families adopt as a way of easing into the notion of serving a meal without the need for meat.

And most recently, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a vegetarian diet is beneficial at reducing blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease. With the anticipated rise in meat prices predicted this summer, this might be the perfect opportunity to keep your grocery bill in line while improving your heart health.

So join me, or experiment with going vegetarian just one or two days this week. Either way, I’ve got some yummy recipes to share that will keep you satisfied and not missing the meat at all.


Creamy Squash and Carrot Ribbons

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ medium onion, chopped

4 large carrots, cut into ribbons using a mandolin

2 summer squash (can substitute zucchini), cut into ribbons using a mandolin

Salt and Pepper

Pinch dried basil

3 ounces neuftal cheese (light cream cheese)

3 tablespoons vegetable broth (more if you prefer a thinner sauce)

¼ cup pine nuts


Carefully cut the squash and carrot ribbons using a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, thin slices work fine too.

Squash and Cucumber ribbons

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened. Add squash and carrot ribbons, salt and pepper, and bail; sauté until softened.

Saute vegetable ribbons


Remove the squash and carrots from pan. Add the cream cheese and broth to the pan, stirring to help the cream cheese melt. Add more broth if needed.

Melt cream cheese


Once the cream cheese has softened, add pine nuts to the pan. Heat for a minute, then return carrots and squash.

Add pine nuts


Fold to coat the vegetables in the cream sauce. Serve immediately.


7 Fresh Takes on the Typical Side Salad

I know many of you are trying to eat a little healthier than you did throughout the holidays, but it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet when the monotony of grilled chicken, baked fish, and salad after salad after salad sets in.

Have no fear (da-da-da…you should hear superhero music in your head); I’ve come to show you seven different salads that are much more flavorful and exciting than your standard side salad. I want you to see that you can eat a completely different salad every day and not feel as though you’re living in a state of déjà vu. From savory to sweet, side dish to the main course, salads can be as individual and interesting as you are if you take a whole new approach. Of course, you don’t have to eat salads to be healthy, but these salads are so yummy(and easy to make) that you will want to!

  1. Panzanella Salad – Who knew that a salad could have bread as an ingredient? Yes, Ma’am! And the best part is that you can use almost any kind of vegetable you have on hand. This recipe is more of a traditional version, but try this salad using fresh green beans, summer squash, or broccoli. Seriously, any fresh veggie combination you like, works here.
    Panzanella Salad
  2. Grilled Lettuce Salad – The sheer notion of putting lettuce on a grill is crazy enough that you have to try this one. Don’t let bad weather stop you. This recipe is beautifully made on an indoor grill pan too.Grilled Lettuce Salad
  3. Beet, Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad – This plentiful salad is amazingly satisfying while packing very few calories. Use my cheater’s method of buying the prepared beets from Trader Joe’s or your local grocery (tip: use rubber gloves to keep from staining your fingers while you handle the beets) and this salad comes together in a few minutes.
    Beet, Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad
  4. Chickpea, Bell Pepper and Avocado Salad – No lettuce? As a bean-based side dish, this salad is packed with protein, healthy fats and vitamin C. If you are feeling bad for the lettuce, you can certainly serve this mixture over a bed of your favorite greens. With leftover chicken, this salad becomes hearty enough to be the main course.
    Chickpea, Bell Pepper and Avocado Salad
  5. Broccoli Slaw with Edamame and Ginger Dressing – Crazy healthy, crazy filling and super transportable is the story of this salad. It’s one of those recipes that gets better when made ahead of time and left to marinate in your fridge. High in fiber and protein, it is a perfect pairing with fish, soup, or all on it’s own.
    Broccoli Slaw with Edamame and Ginger Dressing
  6. Pesto Quinoa and Tomato Salad – Served warm or cold, this salad is a smart way to use leftover quinoa for an easy-to-assemble lunch. Top with chicken or shrimp and call this one a meal!
    Pesto Quinoa and  Tomato Salad
  7. Citrus Spinach and Walnut Salad – More along the traditional note, I love this one for it’s sweetness. Fruit on a salad is the perfect antidote for a boring salad binge. The crunchiness and healthy fats in the walnuts makes the salad complete. For a surprising twist, the dressing is thickened with an unexpected protein bonus of Greek yogurt.

Citrus Spinach and Walnut Salad


I can’t wait to hear which one you’ll try! Don’t be shy…leave me a comment. Tell me about your favorite salad. Do you usually eat them at lunch or dinner? Which one is more your style?

How to Slim Down Your Super Bowl


Super Bowl is the second largest food event next to Thanksgiving, which can mean big time penalties when it comes to your diet.

Superbowl statistic

Yikes!  To make sure your pursuit of health isn’t sidelined by meaningless munchies, I have a few suggestions that will help you enjoy the big game without making a big mistake.

1. Eat off a plate



It might sound obvious, but the mindless eating we do while watching the game can mean major calories without you even realizing it. Eating out of a package or constantly picking at a buffet of appetizers means you have no concept of the amount of food you’ve consumed. Mindfully portioning food on a plate at least gives you a reasonable stopping point, if satiety isn’t registering.


2. Keep the main dishes in the kitchen



I know no one wants to miss a key play or a hilarious commercial, but the act of getting up to refill a plate will make you think about what you are doing before you go for seconds or thirds. Keep lighter options like that veggie tray that never gets finished, soy nuts or a bowl of popcorn in the TV room if you feel the need to have munchies available for your guests.


3. Think twice about your beverages



If you are drinking beer or other libations throughout the game, you can easily tack on hundreds of calories that will go straight to storage (your waist, hips, thighs…you get the point!). Choose to drink flavored water, dilute alcoholic drinks with sparkling water, or alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic calorie-free options.


4. Learn to pace or chew gum



When the score is close, the sheer suspense of who will win can lead to anxious eating. Instead, chew a piece of gum or pace – but don’t feed your face as a way of staying calm. It won’t help your team or your waistline.


5. Bring a lightened dish



If you are going to a Super Bowl party, offer to bring a dish to share. You don’t have to bring salad or Brussels sprouts. But you can swap traditional ingredients for lighter choices and no one will know the difference. This way, you have something you know you can eat. Here’s a great slow cooker recipe that is a real fan favorite. Serve with veggies to make it even healthier and to help cut the sodium. I have several other recipes that perfect for any football party, in case you are the host. Either way, be in control so you can enjoy the game and time with your friends.

 Spinach Artichoke Dip

Slow Cooker Light Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, chopped and drained

1 teaspoon (2 cloves) garlic, minced

1 8-ounce block Neufchatel cheese (or reduced fat cream cheese)

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups shredded low fat mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

2-4 tablespoons water (based on how thin you like your dip)



1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker and place on high for 1 ½ hours.

Slow Cooker Ingredients


2. Stir well and keep on high for 30 minutes more before serving. Serve with homemade tortilla wedges or store bought tortilla chips and veggies for dipping.

Slow Cooker after cooking

Serves:  8

Nutrition Facts per Serving (for dip only):

Calories: 175 calories

Fat: 10 g (Saturated 6 g)

Protein: 1.25 g

Carbohydrate: 7 g

Fiber: 1.5 g

Sodium:  415 mg


Nutrient Analysis based on USDA database
photo credit: dharmabumx via photopin cc

The Key to Health and Wellness is Simplicity

This is the time of year that every television network features their wrap up shows of 2013; a recap of news-making events, famous people who have passed on, and inventions/discoveries that will change our future. It is also the time that people predict trends for the upcoming year.

Well, here is my prediction for 2014. I believe that 2014 will be the year of Simplicity or getting back to basics.

Over the past year, more and more people have begun to question where their food is grown, what it is really made of, and how certain ingredients affect our health long term. Food companies are beginning to take note, advertising a return to simplified ingredient lists. Commonly used ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and GMO’s are beginning to be voluntarily removed by companies due to the pressure from consumers. Remember, you vote with your dollar every time you shop!

Non-food companies have taken a cue from the simplicity movement too. A perfect example is the FDA’s recent inquiry over the benefit and long-term effect of antibacterial soap. Do the added ingredients really work better than good old soap and hot water at killing germs and what is the long-term effect of having SO many antibacterial products in our world?

Whether it is soap or food, we are starting to wake up to the notion that the things we use and ingest everyday need more thought. It is easy to look for the convenience of products, the “quick fix” that items promise and the solutions we’ve been sold.

To be sure, life will not become simplified overnight. We will still have more emails than we can comfortably read and respond to in a day, more things on the to-do list than we will likely accomplish and no matter what goals we are aspiring to, there will likely be an app for that; but there are certain areas of life for which we are stopping to take a long, hard look and choosing to simplify.

I personally am THRILLED about this trend. I have always said that the key to wellness is simplicity. Not to say that achieving wellness is easy, but that living well is about simple things – eating whole foods with limited ingredients, limited processing and less additives; and finding ways to be more active throughout our entire day. It’s about drinking water. It’s about balancing work and play, including rest and relaxation. It’s about restoring basic sleeping routines and rhythms to rise with the sun and not fall asleep with electronics. It’s about connecting with people in real conversation, not just through posts and tweets. It’s about paying attention to what gives us energy and happiness and what drains us.

That is the secret to wellness and I’m excited that 2014 gives hope for a return to simplicity.

If you need help finding wellness and restoring simplicity in your life, I’m here to help. Sometimes the only thing standing in your way of true success is finding someone who believes in you and can show you the steps to make wellness real in your life. Don’t let 2014 be another year of missed opportunity. If you are ready to simplify, find sustainable energy and realistic balance, sign up for my personal health coaching. To find out more, click here.
photo credit: Claudio.Ar via photopin cc

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