Produce of the Day: Mushrooms

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Mushrooms

Do you want to live forever?  Are you looking for a powerful aphrodisiac?  Or are you hoping to develop superhuman strength?  If you lived in any number of ancient civilizations – Egypt, Rome, China – you might have turned to mushrooms in the hopes of meeting these goals.

Unfortunately, it seems that there is no secret elixir to immortality, BUT adding mushrooms to your diet can help improve your health and just might make your life a little longer.  And with all the wonderful varieties of mushrooms available at most grocery stores, it’s fun and easy to eat more mushrooms.

In the past, mushrooms were deemed healthy because of what they don’t contain: lots of calories or fat.  But today we know that mushrooms are also rich in many nutrients that help us stay healthy and strong.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps build strong bones, supports our immune systems, and may help prevent cancer.  It’s estimated that 1 billion people in the world are deficient in Vitamin D, and it’s one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the US.

Mushrooms are one of the only produce sources of Vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Mushrooms are one of the only plant-based sources of Vitamin B12 (along with quinoa), so these little guys are especially great for anyone who doesn’t eat meat or other animal products.   They add an unbeatable rich “umami” (savory) flavor and richness to food – another perk of that rich umami flavor is that it means mushrooms need very little salt for a whole lot of flavor.


As with so many fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are rich in antioxidants.  Mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, which research suggests is linked to fighting cancer and inflammation.  Additionally, mushrooms contain Ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect the body’s cells.

As a dietitian, it’s no secret that I love the wonderful nutrient profile of mushrooms, but another thing I love is their versatility.  Throwing some mushrooms into any meal is a great way to get half that plate full of produce.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:


The trend is to blend!  Blend finely chopped mushrooms into any of your favorite ground meat dishes, like meatballs or meatloaf (I like to do about 50% meat 50% mushrooms).  You’ll increase the amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals in your meal while decreasing fat and calories.  The finely chopped mushrooms blend so well with the ground meat that you’ll barely notice the difference. Plus, substituting mushrooms for meat is a smart choice for your wallet, too!

Try these mushroom meatballs – I serve them with fresh marinara, pasta, and a big green salad on the side.  It’s comfort food gone veggie.

The Mushroom Channel has a great resource, The Blendability Calculator, that will show you the nutritional difference and money saved when you blend mushrooms with your meat.


Use mushrooms to replace meat in any recipe.  I love grilled portabella caps – just drizzle them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw them on the grill.  I also like to use mushrooms in eggs, pasta, and tacos.  These flavorful Chipotle Mushroom Tacos make a great quick weeknight meal.

Let Mushrooms Be the Star

Often mushrooms are added as an afterthought (picture a few paltry slices on  a pizza) which is a shame, because they can be real showstoppers.  I like to keep it simple and sautee a bunch of shrooms with olive oil and then add fresh parsley/thyme and a little lemon juice.  Mushrooms also roast beautifully in a hot pan or oven.   Serve them alongside a piece of chicken and green veggies and you have a balanced meal with half a plate of produce.

Hungry for More Mushrooms?

If you want more tips about how to incorporate more mushrooms into your meals check out The Mushroom Channel website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave creative ways to add mushrooms into your diet? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Fasting for Weight Loss is NOT the Answer

I was recently on WJLA ABC 7 to discuss the fasting craze that’s become a popular method for weight loss for many people. Unfortunately, most of what I discussed about it in the segment ended up on the cutting room floor. (I’m used to that expected consequences of editing stories). I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some things that weren’t covered. I felt that the segment makes it appear that fasting may look like a good idea, and I don’t think it’s fair that the last word should look come across in that way.

You can watch the full video here — but read on below for some additional points that didn’t make the final cut.

Honor hunger — don’t hide from it

The key point that I made in this interview is that we need to honor hunger, not avoid it. Think about this — would you ever tell your child or best friend “sorry, it’s breakfast and you are hungry, you need to skip and wait until 12 p.m. to eat.” It’s irrational to ignore your biological signs. You can’t just manipulate when you will be hungry…and actually through fasting you could end up feeling ravenous and then end up overeating.

Operating on an empty stomach? No way!

Think about this…do you want to be on the road with someone who is driving you around while fasting? Or, would you want a doctor operating on you when they are fasting? I don’t know about you, but I know that I wouldn’t! Anyone who’s skipped lunch knows that at some point your brains stops functioning properly, and it impairs your ability to think clearly. Anything that does that to us can’t possibly be good for our bodies.

How do you honestly think you will do when you need energy for work, family, and exercise without nourishment?

Some fasts are more biologically concerning to me than others. For example, ones where you have days of eating 500 calories, give or take, is not enough for your brain to function even lying down all day.

Fasting and a social life do not mix

During the interview, I also talked about how fasting can get in the way of social occasions. The next time a friend asks you to meet them out for a meal, are you really going to say “sorry guys, I can only attend the brunch if it is after 1 p.m.” Or “I can’t go on Sundays because that’s my 500 calorie day. Can you do Saturday? I can eat whatever I want that day.” Oh and heaven forbid when it’s a birthday – YOURS??? And you find yourself feeling guilty for cake and ice cream.

Fasting is just not smart, rational, realistic or sustainable.

What’s the bottom line?

Fasting is a diet — and a dangerous one at that. The large body of science on diets (NOT just one or two studies) show that diets fail, and that 95% of people regain any weight lost. Many even end up gaining MORE weight than before they started. It’s like a doctor telling you, “take this pill, I guarantee you it won’t work long term.” You would not take that pill, would you?

Finally, fasting is disordered eating. It is a slippery slope between someone developing disordered eating habits and a clinical eating disorder. If your goal is health, you should not fast. You should work on behaviors you can do realistically for the rest of your life. The people in this segment were already exercising (a health move everyone should do) and they say they “fill their plates with protein, veggies and healthy fats, they feel satiated”. You can and SHOULD do that without having to fast and fight hunger.

Biologically fasting leads to increased risk of overeating so their claims that they avoid overeating, seem in contrast to what we know about human biology.  Again, you CAN and SHOULD avoid overeating without having to follow a fast and ignore normal hunger cues.

They say they maintain “a balanced diet” — yet they don’t mention carbohydrates, beans, or whole grains. I don’t know if it was an error or if they avoid those foods intentionally. I have shocking news: Carbohydrates are not the devil and they are needed to TRULY be balanced in your eating.

In addition, you can eat balanced without eating perfectly. You mean to tell me nobody who does this fast ever has a cookie, or ice cream — ever? Sounds too perfect to me, and perfect is the enemy of life long success.

If you want to get healthy, eat better, and exercise more, you should do it. But you don’t need a fast to get healthy. You need a food and nutrition expert – a dietitian who is actually trained to help you work with your body and become your best you! If you want to lose weight, make it permanent and that means working WITH your body, not against it. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, or would not wholeheartedly recommend it to family and friends, stay away.

Produce of the Day: Blueberries – So Much More Than Just Muffins

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Feature Produce of the Day: Blueberries

Did you know that blueberries are one of the few fruits actually native to North America?  Most of the other fruits grown in the US were imported from overseas at some point, but blueberries have been here since before the pilgrims landed.

In earlier times people had to wait until late summer to enjoy blueberries, but today we can eat them whenever we want.  Fresh blueberries are now available year-round, as are frozen and dried ones.  And it’s a good thing because people are eating more and more of these little berries each year.  In fact, blueberries are one of the most popular berries in the US (second only to strawberries).

Blueberries were one of the first foods to earn the title, “superfruit”, and for good reason.  These little guys pack a mighty punch – they’re brimming with nutrients and they taste great too. So what is it that makes blueberries so good for you?


Blueberries are phytonutrient powerhouses (it’s no wonder the Blueberry Council calls them “Little Blue Dynamos”)!  These small fruits are jam-packed with antioxidants called Anthocyanins that help protect our cells from damaging free radicals and inflammation.  Many chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, are linked to oxidative stress which caused by free radicals and inflammation – blueberries can help us fight both!  


Just 1 cup of blueberries has almost 4 grams of filling fiber.  In addition to helping us feel full longer, fiber helps lower blood cholesterol and keeps the digestive system regular.  Fiber has also been linked to cancer prevention.

Vitamin C

Blueberries provide 25% of the daily requirement for Vitamin C in 1 cup.  Vitamin C aids in collagen production, which supports all of our body tissue and contributes elasticity to our skin to help prevent wrinkles. Vitamin C is also crucial to keeping our teeth and gums healthy and strengthening our immune systems.


Manganese is an important mineral for bone development and energy metabolism.  One serving of blueberries will give you 25% of your daily requirement.  

Blueberries are incredibly versatile, which makes them a great option to help make half your plate produce.  I like to get creative with them.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

Add Blueberries to Breakfast

Blueberries and breakfast are a perfect pairing – and it goes way beyond the traditional muffin.  Add a cup of blueberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal to get that bowl half full of produce!  You can also toss them in a smoothie with Greek yogurt, a touch of honey, and a handful of spinach for a quick and easy breakfast.  Smoothies are also great pre- or post-workout fuel because they have the right balance of carbs and protein to help you stay strong.

Combine Sweet and Savory

I love the combination of sweet and savory, and adding some fruit to an entrée is a nutritious way to get that perfect mix of flavors.  This salmon salad offers all the benefits of blueberries plus healthy fats and protein from salmon – serving the protein with fruit over a bed of greens is an easy way to fill half your plate with produce.    

Toss Them in a Grain Salad

Quinoa, couscous, brown rice – you name it, they all make wonderful salads.  The one thing that I find is that recipes for this type of salad often need a little help from the produce department.  To up the produce content of any grain salad, add a few cups of blueberries.  I really like this couscous blueberry salad with butternut squash. One serving of this will have you well on your way to meeting your daily fruit and veggie requirements.

Get Your Fill Of Blueberries

Want more helpful facts and info about blueberries? Check out the US Blueberry Council Website and follow them on Twitter @Blueberry411, Facebook, and Pinterest

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add blueberries into your diet? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

Salmon Salad Recipe: Quick, Convenient, and Healthy

If you’re like me you love all kinds of salads. Not just greens (which are FAB) but also tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad and the like.  That’s why I can’t believe it took me so long to add salmon salad to the mix!

Make Ahead Meals Save Time and Energy

I love meals you can make once and eat 3-4 times, especially for lunches which tend to be “all business” for me. I want it to be super easy and delicious, but during the week, I don’t have time! I know you don’t either.

This recipe is my healthy take on salmon salad. I use hummus to add another interesting layer of flavor plus nutrients like vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber. Chick peas have one of the highest soluble fiber content of beans.

Canned salmon is a time saving choice and just as nutritious as fresh and frozen. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is an essential fat for everyone, vital for immunity, reducing inflammation and brain and heart health. In addition, if you happen to be pregnant at some point in your life (ahem, me… now!) Salmon is also a good source of vitamin B6 which has been shown to help reduce pregnancy-related nausea and those omega 3′s are vital to the development of baby-to be’s brain and nervous system.


Image reprinted with permission from and

Salmon Salad with Hummus

Makes 8 servings


2 7 oz cans salmon, drained

½ C tomatoes, chopped

½ C celery, chopped (about 2 stalks)

½ C spinach, chopped

½ C avocado, chopped (about ½ large avocado)

¾ C roasted garlic hummus

½ lemon, juiced

2 Tbsp capers

pepper to taste

Serve with:

whole wheat pita bread, ½ per person

romaine lettuce


Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Stir to combine.  Scoop into pitas with romaine lettuce, if desired.

Nutrition Information per serving:

Calories: 170

Fat: 8g

Saturated Fat: 1g

Cholesterol: 65mg

Sodium: 411mg

Carbohydrate: 6g

Fiber: 3g

Sugar: 0.5g

Protein: 21g

Calcium: 234mg

Note:  Nutritional analysis is for salmon salad alone and does not include whole wheat pita bread or other whole grain bread you may use to eat it.


Recipe provided courtesy of Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, @ScritchfieldRD

Heart Smart Your Menu with Tasty Comfort Foods

Think “heart healthy eating” is bland and boring? Think again.  February is “Heart Health” awareness month. With heart disease being the leading cause of death for both men and women, eating well is one of the best ways you can protect your heart.  I know most people aren’t going to eat salads all the time, which is why I want to share my “heart smart” take on  some of my comfort favorites, chili and pizza. Using healthy swaps like veggies and spices in place of salt, choosing whole grains and cooking with heart healthy corn oil, people can still enjoy these delicious and easy favorites without compromising on flavor.

This past week I tried something new on my appearance on WBAL NBC TV 11 Let’s Talk Live – I actually cooked the food on set! Check out the full video below or keep reading to learn about my “heart smart” recipes.

Heart Smart Chili 

A well-stocked pantry – your “Cantry” – helps you make hearty, flavorful, nutritious meals you can feel good about, anytime. I used canned chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes in this dish to help make my meal prep easy, affordable and nutritious. Check out the recipe I made on air.

Some people associate canned foods as being lower quality than fresh, but that’s a myth. There are lots of nutritious foods available in cans. Many fruits and vegetables are actually picked at their peak freshness and sealed in the can within hours locking in freshness, flavor and nutrition naturally. Some canned foods have actually been shown to have more nutrients than their fresh or frozen counter parts (check out the video to learn a few examples). You can feel good about using canned foods in your recipes. Visit Cans Get You Cooking on Facebook and Pinterest for more meal ideas.

I cut back on the meat, but did not eliminate it entirely (although you could make this vegan if you wanted). I used ground turkey breast, but only a half pound for 8 people, compared to 1-2 pounds in other recipes, and my “secret weapon”, mushrooms, which are a superfood!  Using a 50/50 blend of finely chopped mushrooms and ground turkey breast, this simple technique called blendability adds a savory and hearty taste thanks to mushroom’s “umami” flavor. Adding mushrooms also adds vegetable servings to the dish, which helps increase the nutritional value of the dish. Learn more about blendability at

Wheat Foods for Whole Grains

A heart healthy meal is not complete without a serving of whole grains. Eating at least 3 servings of whole grains, such as whole grain foods, like wheat foods, can reduce your risk of heart disease by 25%! I love serving whole grain wheat rolls with my chili because they’re packed with nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, slow-burning carbs, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which help to reduce chronic levels of inflammation that lead to disease, lower “bad” cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Get more recipes for wheat foods at the Wheat Foods Council website.

Chicken a la Pizza

chicken a la pizzaWhile traditional pizza is delicious, it is also one of the top sources of sodium in American’s diets (the top 3 are breads, pizza, and cold cuts according to the National Cancer Institute).

This delicious Mediterranean take on pizza was created by celebrity chef, Ingrid Hoffman and provides many of your favorite pizza flavors served on top of marinated and grilled chicken breasts. The marinade for the chicken contains Mazola corn oil – a heart smart choice. Many people don’t know that corn oil has more cholesterol blocking plant sterols than ANY other cooking oil. And a recent study showed that it lowers cholesterol MORE than Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Serve your Chicken a la Pizza with a fresh salad and enjoy!

What are some of your heart healthy favorites? Leave a comment below to share your favorite “heart smart” comfort food recipes.

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time to work with the Mushroom Council, Cans Get You Cooking, Wheat Foods Council, and Mazola for the TV segment, but I was not compensated for writing this blog post. 

Meatless Monday Recipe: Broccoli Basil Mac and Cheese

Another Happy Meatless Monday!

Today I wanted to share an incredibly gorgeous and modern take on a family friendly comfort food classic: Broccoli Basil Mac and Cheese. This cozy, yet waistline friendly, casserole is the perfect winter meal for the adults and children in your home, loaded with creamy and melty cheese as well as nutrient packed fresh squash, basil, broccoli and tomatoes. Feel free to get creative with the vegetables and cheeses so suite your family’s preferences. Because there are a number of steps involved, this dish is best made during the weekend and served throughout your busy week (and there should be more than enough for amazing leftovers!). 

Photo from:

Photo from:

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Kale, White Bean & Sweet Potato Korma

Happy Meatless Monday and happy February!

Today I wanted to share another recipe from my intern Alexandra’s plant based nutrition and recipe website (and one of her absolute favorite meals): Kale, White Bean & Sweet Potato Korma. Her curry is not only packed with warming and nourishing spices and  vegetables, but belly filling protein and fiber to leave you feeling satisfied. This simple recipe only requires about 10 minutes of active cooking time and will simmer to perfection without tying you to the kitchen. Feel free to add any seasonal vegetables you have laying around, don’t feel constrained by the listed ingredients!

This recipe should make more than enough curry for 6 hungry eaters. I love to serve mine over quinoa or brown basmati rice with thick sliced avocado on top for additional protein. Leftovers are even better the second day (Meatless Tuesday) and also freeze and defrost easily.

Vegan Kale, White Bean & Sweet Potato Korma

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Roasted Carrot & Turmeric Soup

Happy Meatless Monday!

I can’t believe how quickly December (and this year!) have flown by! I wanted to end this incredible year by sharing with you one of my favorite insanely nutritious and delicious vegan soup recipes: Roasted Carrot & Turmeric Soup. I love cozying up in the winter with a huge bowl of nourishing soup or stew and basking in it’s warmth, especially as the day’s continue to shorten. This vibrant soup is loaded with warming and healing spices that will make even the darkest nights glow and excite everyone at your table. Who wouldn’t love a golden orange soup with a good piece of toasted crusty bread!

I hope you all have a healthful, happy, and wonderful New Years Eve!

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Poblano and Portobello Fajitas

Another happy Meatless Monday!

Today I wanted to share a fresh, savory and interactive meal the entire family will love: Poblano Pepper and Portobello Mushroom Fajitas. These simple and vibrant fajitas will be on the table in minutes and provide your family with a nutritious, customizable, and fun evening together without spending too much time in the kitchen prepping or cleaning afterwards. These fajitas can be made spicy (by including the jalapeño and poblano peppers) or mild by leaving them out. Try incorporating sautéed corn and different colored bell peppers as well as experimenting with the various varieties of mushrooms at your market. I love to top mine with fresh guacamole and salsa!

To hear me talk about the health benefits of mushrooms and exciting ways to incorporate them into your everyday meals on Let’s Talk Live, click: HERE

Photo From:

Photo From:

Poblano and Portobello Fajitas
Makes 6 Servings


  • 2 poblano pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 4 bell peppers, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeño, seeds removed and thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into thin rounds
  • 4 large or 8 baby Portobello mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon each: Sea salt, cumin & garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. A1 steak sauce (for mushrooms, optional)
  • 12 small flour or corn tortillas
  • Optional: fresh red onion, hot sauce, cilantro, salsa


  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add a dash of olive or coconut oil then the onion and peppers. Season generously with salt, cumin and garlic powder.
  • Cook until softened and slightly caramelized, stirring often. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
  •  Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, then add the mushrooms. Season with a bit of salt and once softened and brown add a dash of A1. Remove from heat, set aside and cover.
  • Prepare guacamole by adding avocados to a bowl then adding the lime juice and a generous pinch of salt. Fresh cilantro and onion is optional.
  • Warm tortillas in the microwave or oven and you’re ready to go. Serve tortillas with peppers and onions, mushrooms, guacamole and any other toppings you desire such as salsa, hot sauce, and cheese or sour cream (for non-vegan).

Nutritional Information per serving:

Calories: 345
Fat: 12.4 g
Saturated Fat: 2.2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 566 mg
Carbohydrate: 51.7 g
Fiber: 9.6 g
Sugar: 11.5 g
Protein: 9 g
Calcium: 105.3 mg

Meatless Monday Recipe: Whole Wheat Banana, Pumpkin & Flax Pancakes

Happy Meatless Monday!

This week I wanted to share a decadent, delicious and healthful recipe from my intern Alexandra’s blog for make-ahead whole wheat banana, pumpkin & flax pancakes. YUM. These pancakes are packed with fiber, protein and fluffy pumpkinny deliciousness, and the best part is you don’t have to wake up early on a Monday morning to enjoy them.

There is nothing better than sleeping in on the weekend and starting the day with something a little decadent. You and your family can savor that feeling every day of the week with this quick recipe that can be made ahead in one large batch, popped in the freezer, and then popped right into the toaster at your convenience to reheat.

These pancakes are incredibly customizable; feel free to substitute pumpkin with blueberries, raspberries and even a few chocolate chips. Serve them with sliced banana, coconut yogurt, or pure maple syrup.

whole wheat vegan panana pumpkin flax pancakes

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Whole Wheat Banana, Pumpkin & Flax Pancakes
recipe from:, Alexandra Dawson 
makes 12 pancakes


  • 1/4 C golden flax, ground
  • 3/4 C water
  • 1 C whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 C Almond Milk or nondairy milk of choice
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons coconut oil, divided


  • In a small bowl, combine flax and water. Stir to combine then place in fridge for 15 minutes or until a gel consistency is achieved. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients [except coconut oil!] until thoroughly combined. Fold in flax gel.
  • Heat a medium skillet or flat top griddle over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil, then 3 tablespoons pancake mixture. Mixture will begin to bubble. After about 30 seconds-1 minute the bubbles will become hollow and it is time to flip your pancake. Allow the other side to cook for 1 minute, then remove pancake from heat.
  • Add another 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil and repeat process for remaining pancakes. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information per pancake

Calories: 72
Fat: 1.3 g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0g
Sodium: 10 mg
Carbohydrate: 14 g
Fiber: 3.2 g
Sugar: 2.8 g
Protein: 2.7 g
Calcium: 2.5 mg


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