Creating New Healthy Habits, Part 2

Change? Who has time for change?


Now that we’re exiting February and approaching March, I have to ask, “how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along?” I’m sorry. I’m only half kidding…

We all have the best intentions when we create those resolutions, don’t we? Exercise more, eat less, sleep more, spend less, and the list goes on and on. The fact of the matter is that we are all want to do better! But so many of us just can’t seem to find the time or don’t know how to get started. (hint, the goals are way too unrealistic for your brain to go along for the ride).

So if you bagged on your resolutions already, that’s alright. You’re like the other 65% of Americans (probably higher than that). Now you are ready for the real change. Putting effort into habits that will stick with you.

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about a podcast in which Dr. Christine Carter discusses eight steps to building healthy habits. If you haven’t read it yet, go back and read it. Do it now. I’ll wait.

In that blog, I covered Dr. Carter’s first four steps of her change process and also included a link to her second podcast, which includes the last four steps.

The more and more I thought about, though, I felt that just didn’t do the last four steps enough justice. So I’m going to discuss her last four steps here in more detail. Yeah, it’s THAT important!

So here they are: the last four steps in Part II of the podcast, Getting in Good Habits.

How to Change Your Habits (part 2)

 (5) Pick a super-easy first step. Now we aren’t talking about a goal like, “exercise more.” Because that is not only non-specific,  but it also can be super intimidating. So Dr. Carter suggests picking a teeny tiny first step, something that will literally take less than 30 seconds. And even if you’re tempted to jump to the next step immediately after this one, don’t!  Trust me – if you do this step over and over again, your brain will eventually recognize it as a new habit.

You can do it challenge: Decide what that “teeny tiny” first step will be. (and let me know about it in the comments) I challenge you to think what is the LEAST you can do to change the habit and work with that first then move on. 

For example, if you tend to eat when you aren’t hungry. Many of my clients deal with eating when bored, stressed, or feeling emotional on some level. Your first step should not be “stop emotional eating” (LOL!) If you knew how to do it, you would already be there. But the first step may be. Spend 30 seconds thinking about the choice, asking if I am hungry, bored, or just interested in eating. Asking would I eat this at a table with no TV or other distractions. Then, decide. Taking that crucial “pause” can be short – just 30 seconds – and even if you still want to eat something, maybe you do and maybe you don’t. But the point is, you started asking question. See what I mean?

(6)  Anchor your first step. Instead of creating a whole new schedule for your first step, try anchoring that step into an existing routine. Dr. Carter uses the example of flossing. If you’re already in the habit of brushing your teeth, maybe that teeny tiny first step is getting the floss out with your toothpaste.

I love that idea… again with the emotional eating example, you could start brushing your teeth immediately after dinner and getting water or herbal tea to give your hands something to do while you watch TV – and hey, it’s hydrating! Two-for-one. Another idea is to anchor getting a drink to walking into the kitchen and then taking your 30 second pause to figure out why you are there — physical hunger or emotional hunger?

(7) Visualize success. This might sound unnecessary, but believe me…it’s critical; the whole point of these steps is to rewire your brain into recognizing a new habit. So spend just a few minutes actually thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’ll feel once you reach your goal. It’s okay, you can revel a bit. :)

Also important in this step is thinking about what some potential obstacles are and how you’ll overcome them if they actually happen. For example, let’s say your goal is meditation. What will you do if the phone rings in the middle of your meditation time?

Obstacles are a big thing with emotional eating, I suggest anticipating the types of obstacles you face and plan a healthy and sustainable work around. (If you need help, see a therapist or RD like me who specializes in Intuitive Eating and/or disordered eating patterns.)

(8) Celebrate! Every single time you do this super-easy first step, it’s time to celebrate! You don’t literally need to throw yourself a party everyday, but giving yourself a mental high-five is a good practice to have; it reinforces your habit and goshdarnit, it feels good.

You can do it challenge: Decide what that teeny tiny first step will be. (and let me know about it in the comments)

So, it’s cold. You hate the gym. You’re busy. But you want to incorporate exercise into your life. Somehow. How do you get started? Well, what’s the tiniest step you can think of? Maybe that step is putting sneakers by the front door with your work shoes. Or maybe on your walk to lunch you add another 30 seconds by taking a slightly different route. Or maybe instead of changing into the usual casual outfit after work, you change into workout clothes instead. Or maybe it’s something else. But whatever it is, make sure it’s small, easily achievable, and something you can celebrate once it’s done (because let’s be honest, you’ve got this!).

Anyone can do something for 30 seconds, right? So, let’s start there. The only thing you have to remember is to start small and practice that ridiculously small step over and over again. After all, practice makes…perfect-ly healthy habits. :) If you follow these steps mindfully, your brain will join you in partnership…I promise!

You can do this!

What’s your habit goal and first step? Tell me in the comments below.


Recipes to Love Yourself on Valentine’s Day and All Month Long

(Disclosure: Post Shredded Wheat, Cans Get You Cooking, Mazola Corn Oil, Sabra, Wonderful Sweet Scarlett’s, KIND Snacks, Genova, and American Pistachios are TV clients of mine. I was not compensated to write this blog posts.) 

Give a piece of your heart this holiday season.

Give a piece of your heart through joyful eating.

Love is in the air! We’ve got Valentine’s Day coming up soon. It’s also national Heart Health Month, Canned Foods Month and Grapefruit Month (seriously!)

I’ve got some fabulous ideas that celebrate all February has to offer through food. You can crunch, munch, and sip your way to a healthier heart without wasting hours in the kitchen.

If fries, pizza, and soup sound like your top heart healthy menu…. come on over to my place! (I’m kidding!) You’re in luck… because I have baked zucchini fries, hummus pizza, and pasta e fagioli you can make in 20 minutes and much more!

Check out my recent segment on Let’s Talk Live D.C. in the video clip below and read on to hear what I’m loving and why. Plus, get the recipes you need to fill your belly with deliciousness.

Post Shredded Wheat, Recommended by Doctors

A national survey showed 9 of 10 doctors would recommend Post Shredded Wheat as part of a healthy eating plan to help prevent heart disease. Whole grains, fiber, no cholesterol or sodium.imagegen

Now, let’s talk taste. I love warming mine up with milk, cinnamon, and fruit in the chill of February. You can do lots with Post Shredded Wheat besides the cereal bowl, like DIY trail mix and in recipes where you need “crunch”.

Cans Get You Cooking All Week Long

Kelsey Nixon's Pasta e fagioli (for Cans Get You Cooking)

Kelsey Nixon’s Pasta e fagioli (for Cans Get You Cooking)

You know that feeling when you are short on menu ideas, you’re hungry and tired after a long day. You need to eat, you’d like it to be pretty healthy and easy. Take out would be easy… but you don’t have to if you have a well-stocked pantry (aka “cantry”) filled with canned foods you can use to make healthy homemade meals easy. Try this pasta e fagioli recipe with cannelini beans, fire roasted tomatoes, and chicken broth.

It’s national canned foods month – a great time to stock up on your favorites and pick up something new. I’ve been buying canned artichokes to go in pasta dishes and sauteed with chicken, spinach, and feta cheese. The can locks in flavor, freshness, and nutrition naturally when fruits and veggies are at their peak.

Baked Zucchini Fries and Lemon Pepper Chickpea Salad with Mazola Corn Oil

Big news, corn oil (like Mazola) was shown to help the body lower cholesterol better than extra virgin olive oil, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Lipidemiology. (that’s a tongue twister!) Here’s the gist, corn oil has naturally occurring compounds called plant sterols – more than any other oil – 40% more than canola oil and 4x’s more plant sterols than olive oil. These guys help block cholesterol absorption.

Lemon pepper chickpea salad

Lemon pepper chickpea salad courtesy of Mazola

You can use Mazola corn oil in baking, like these zucchini fries with a panko parmesan crust I made for Mazola.  A little creamy yogurt dip (or marinara) and you won’t believe vegetables could taste this good. I get no complaints when I serve these up.

Also try Mazola in a marinade like in this lemon pepper chickpea salad. Make it ahead and use it in recipes throughout the week.

Pizza Niiiiight – with Sabra Hummus

Yes, I’m serious… and don’t call me Shirley. Sabra makes the #1 selling hummus. It’s great as a dip and spread. But most people don’t know you can cook with Sabra hummus too.

Flatbread pizza with Sabra hummus

Flatbread pizza with Sabra hummus.

Enter “pizza night” reinvented for a love-your-heart twist. You will love how easy and delicious this is. Simply pick up some flatbread, smear it with Sabra hummus and lightly sauteed veggies (leftovers are great too! We had some grilled veggies from the weekend kabobs. I chopped up mushrooms, onions, and red and green peppers for mine.) I also used just a bit of feta cheese.

If you’re cooking for a clan, go ahead and do some with red pizza sauce ones too. Sabra also makes salsa and guacamole. Try mexican pizza with refried beans, salsa, veggies, and cheese, topped with guac before serving. This is an easy one to involve with kids. See what toppings they would like to have. They can help you with the cooking and hey, why not get them to help with clean up!

Wonderful Sweet Scarletts – The Sweetest Red Grapefruit Around

Grapefruit are in season (of course it is also national grapefruit month) and why not think outside the half grapefruit at breakfast box and do something unexpected like broil it. Yep, I said it. Broil that bad boy for a yummy caramelization that will make your salads pop with flavor.

Scarletts_8lb_box_hr_highresTry Wonderful Sweet Scarletts – the Texas Red Grapefruit – with 100% vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene – a powerful antioxidant you can only find in the red variety.

After broiling for about 8 minutes with just a touch of sugar on top, you can add it to yogurt, oatmeal, or salads – just toss and dress with your favorite veggies and salad mix-ins.

I like to juice grapefruit and use it in marinades and very simple salad dressings. If you want to spruce up your water try some freshly squeezed juice with fizzy water for a refreshing drink.

Spread KINDness to Your Valentine

KIND snacks have the February heart health, Valentine’s Day, and happiness trifecta. They have nuts as a main ingredient, they have dark chocolate varieties (for your sweetie) and you can feel good about all the KINDness going around through #KINDawesome cards and KIND causes. kind_bar_darkchocolatecinnamonpecan_2

Allow me to explain: KIND will donate $10/month to the most popular cause at – and all you have to do is vote! You can get a natural feel good vibe off of a small act on your part to help those around you.

Getting a little more personal, get yourself a #KINDawesome card and give it away to someone you spot giving an act of KINDness. Then they can redeem the card for a KIND bar sample box with another #KINDawesome card. It’s like paying it forward over and over again.

Upgrade the Taste of Your Tuna with Genova

Chilled grilled vegetables with Genova tuna.

Chilled grilled vegetables with Genova tuna.

Genova is premium quality seafood with three simple ingredients – wild-caught Yellowfin tuna fillets, a touch of salt and just enough olive oil– simple ingredients that make Genova uniquely satisfying. Genova takes tuna to a whole new level of luxury.

Try chilled grilled vegetables with tuna or tuna with black lentils. These dishes are easy to prepare and offer rich, savory flavors you’ll crave.

American Pistachios Make a Smart Snack

American pistachios have the perfect heart health formula: Plant protein, mono and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Plus they have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show they may support heart health by reducing oxidative damage and improving cholesterol levels. You get 49 kernels, 160 calories and 1.5 grams saturated fat per serving. For recipes and tips visit

(Disclosure: Post Shredded Wheat, Cans Get You Cooking, Mazola Corn Oil, Sabra, Wonderful Sweet Scarlett’s, KIND Snacks, Genova, and American Pistachios are TV clients of mine. I was not compensated to write this blog posts.) 

Being OK with Being Imperfect

Perfection. It’s elusive. It’s enticing. And your quest for it just might be standing in the way of being your happiest, healthiest self.


Being perfect sounds, well, perfect, right?  Who wouldn’t want to put their “best” foot forward? Second place is the first loser. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all… RIGHT??? Wrong. Heeeeeelllll no.

You can do it challenge:  Work on being a little less perfect. 

I’m Human, You’re Human

The problem with striving for perfection is that, as perfectly imperfect humans, we often fall short of the ideal “expectation.”  And that’s where the trouble really starts.  While the initial drive may stem from a desire for self-improvement, we often end up judging ourselves, feeling guilty, and likely to hinder our own growth.

There Are No Special Rules For You

You know it’s impossible for other women to work out perfectly, eat a perfect diet, get perfect grades, and be a perfect wife and mom. But you… YOU CAN DO IT! You have some sort of genetic gift that allows you to create time, energy, desire, and willpower to do it all and nothing ever gets in your way. (Are you picking up what I’m putting down?) There are no special rules just for you that you would not expect of all women.

What “special rules” do you have that only seem to apply to you?

Try Rational Imperfection

If you have a “perfect” workout planned, and something comes up at home or work, what do you do?  Do you modify original plan for something shorter and less intense? Or would you rather do nothing at all than not exercise “perfectly” (if there even is such a thing)?

How about if you have a slice of pizza when you’re trying to “eat clean” (once again, if there even is such a thing…If there is, then I prefer to “eat dirty”) Do you say “screw it, since I’m breaking my rule, might as well go crazy” and just eat the whole thing?

This is exactly how perfectionism gets in the way of being happy and healthy.

Instead, what’s wrong with “good enough” or lowering the bar even further. I call it “what’s the LEAST effort I can put into this?” Be rationally imperfect. Tolerate the fact that you want to be doing more, but what you can do, you will do and that’s good enough for right now.

I kid you not, I have done 5 minute workouts and called that a success. When I eat pizza, I understand that I love it and I’m not going to eat on slice. I don’t need to binge on it. I could savor it. I could eat vegetables with it.

Perfectionists Never Reach Their Goal

Does it sound like a good time to have a destination in mind, but the directions keep you lost and you’re running in circles? That’s perfectionism. You’ll never get to where you want to go. Ever. Ever ever.

What are you really doing when you’re reaching for unattainable perfection? How is perfectionism getting in your way of living a full, happy life?  Is there a repetitive voice in your head telling you there’s no such thing as good enough?  Is it a judgmental voice (YOU SUCK!) or a gentle observation (I WISH I DID YOGA TODAY, BUT THE WALK WAS NICE AND IT FIT MY SCHEDULE).   If your thoughts make you feel inadequate, it’s not actually helping you.

Instead, engage with thought and see reality for what it is. Just because a workout is short, it doesn’t mean it’s not effective or somehow you are a “bad/unhealthy/lazy” person.  Think about how your actions really are beneficial to your health and well-being.  When all you have to offer is just a little bit, that’s still light-years better than nothing. Lots of “littles” add up. I feel like a broken record saying this, but it’s true! I’ll say it a million more times if that is what it takes.

Getting Vulnerable to Put Down the “Shield”

Brene Brown calls perfectionism a, “20-ton Shield” that we use to minimize our potential of being hurt. She says that perfectionism is always driven by shame and fear in the areas of our lives where we feel the most vulnerable.  We think that if we’re perfect, others won’t judge us.  And we use that perfectionism as a way to establish our own self-worth.

Sound familiar?  That description absolutely hits home for me.  Learn more about Brene Brown’s take on perfectionism here – it’s an excellent article and absolutely worth the read.

You can do it challenge:  Work on being a little less perfect. 

Take baby steps.  When you hear that internal voice saying you aren’t doing something well enough, challenge it. Here are more questions you can ask:

  • Is this really self-improvement driven or do I have rigid expectations?
  • Is this expectation making me happier or healthier?
  • Is this something I would teach my children or my best friend, or is it just my own emotional baggage?

Let yourself make mistakes.  And know that every once and a while, it’s actually OK to half-ass it. I put in 50% effort on a regular basis. And I’m less stressed, more positive, and happier person for it.

What about you? What’s your story of perfectionism?

Creating New Healthy Habits (With all the spare time you have)

“I’ll take time for myself… As soon as I finish my endless list of other To Dos.”

dali-clockSound like you? Well, it sure sounds like me and pretty much all of my clients! We have all the right intentions to make healthy change in our lives, but feel we just don’t have the time to do it. I wanted to figure out how we can “crack the code” on what it takes to build a healthy habit and if there was any way to make it feel effortless (or at least not difficult) in as little time as possible. Five minutes is a good place to start, I thought.

As it turns out, habits are really subconsciously controlled by your brain so they really are effortless once they are true habits. Until then, you have to think about it.

Getting in Good Habits

I found this podcast with Rona Renner, R.N. and Dr. Christine Carter discuss the benefits of taking just five minutes of time for yourself – whether it be for making a healthy meal, stretching, meditation, getting a glass of water or another healthy activity you can do in 5 minutes.

In it, they share eight steps to make healthy activities, habits. Here are the first four steps found in Part I of the podcast, Getting in Good Habits.

(1)  Contemplation. Think about what you want to change. It sounds simple enough, but not enough of us take the time to think about what will truly make a healthy difference in our lives.

(2)  Do your homework. How are you going to do this? Do you need new supplies to do this change. Taking time to prepare yourself for change. If you take a little bit of time to research what it takes to actually make this change, you’ll be more prepared to make long-lasting change. Make a list of all the things that will get in your way.

(3)  Set your goal, and make it public. No one can make real change alone; everyone needs some sort of support, right? So tell your spouse, children, friends, and coworkers. Not only will it hold you more accountable to yourself, but you’ll also get the added benefit of having a support system all along the way.

(4)  Make a list of what will help you succeed. By breaking down your change into small steps, you’ll increase your odds of success. Start small, and build up, as they say. So if you have a goal of taking time for yourself for meditation, maybe start with 30 seconds to a minute.

You can do it challenge: Start today. Pick just one thing that you want to change to make your life healthier and happier. (and let me know about it in the comments)

Remember, change starts in tiny, tiny steps. Imagine the absolute LEAST you can do. That’s your starting point. Anyone can make a small change for the better. Even those of us who put our pants on inside out, skip flossing most days, and can’t seem to get laundry done. (I know I’m not alone in this.) dead_last_not_start

Just with any skill, forming habits takes practice.  No one wakes up, decides they want to run a marathon for the first time, and goes outside and does it. My first race was a 5K, not a marathon. That race started with a work “bootcamp” class with some jogging thrown in.

Your exercise starting point might be walking – even if “just” around the block. Then you might run around the block.  You’ll continue to move towards your goal in achievable, realistic steps until you’re comfortable with the idea of running an entire marathon…and then one day, you’ll do it!

This habit is just like any other one you want to change in your life. Start small…teeny tiny, in fact! Then make those small changes habit by practicing them over and over again. And then move to the next small change.

Let’s Do This!!!!

Want to listen to the whole podcast and get all eight steps? Here it is: Getting in Good Habits Part One, Part Two

Let’s Go “Fad Free” in 2015: Healthy, Enjoyable Meals You’ll Love

Disclosure: I worked with Post, Cans Get You Cooking, BodyArmor, Wonderful Pistachios, and U.S. Potato Board on the TV segment, but I was not compensated to write this blog post. 

Fad Free is for Me!

keepcalmnodietOn average, a woman will try – and quit – 9 diets in her life. I’ve tried at least that many back in my heyday of “empty promise plans.” Don’t waste your time. If you’re feeling the need for a reset, try some of these reliable healthy habits I recently shared on ABC Newschannel 8 Let’s Talk Live and NBC WBAL TV 11.

Take Post Great Grains Fad Free Pledge

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 1.16.38 PMPost Great Grains is encouraging wholesome, healthy foods that don’t deprive you. Now through February 1st, go to and pledge to go “FAD Free”. Post will donate $3 for each pledge to, a campaign to provide locally grown fresh fruits and veggies those in need.

Great Grains provide hearty whole grains, nuts, fruits, and quality ingredients. Start your day with one of the Great Grains cereals or try some of their new offerings.

The new Great Grains granolas come in delicious flavors like Super Nutty and Blueberry Flax. Make a yummy yogurt parfait – try creamy whole milk yogurt with your favorite fruit.

For energy between meals, try Bar Undone snack mix, in Cranberry, Nuts & Seeds or Dark Chocolate Nut.

Cans Get You Cooking

Cantry 1-3Cans seal in nutrition, freshness and flavor – naturally. Fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested at their peak of ripeness and canned within hours, locking in nutrients.

It’s January and we’re not in peach season, but I love the fact that I can have peaches whenever I want. They are a delicious snack, dessert, and ingredient in meals.

I have a “cantry” stocked full of go-to fruits, vegetables, and proteins to help me make “homemade” easy. When it’s cold weather like this and a busy weeknight, I can pull together pasta – a family favorite – with canned tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and chicken in less than 15 minutes.

I like to mix canned tuna with cannellini beans and canned artichoke hearts. Just warm it up in a sautee pan, add fresh arugula or baby spinach (or any sauteed green vegetable). Season with fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil salt and pepper.

Check out for recipes and links to Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Slip into Dips with Sabra

I love dips because they can add lots of flavor to fresh cut vegetables for smarter snacking. Sabra makes the nation’s #1 selling hummus, and they offer delicious Greek yogurt dips like this Crisp Bell Pepper and Mediteranean herb, plus salsa and guacamole in many flavor varieties. IMG_0975

Sabra is the official dip sponsor of the NFL and you can win prizes like a trip to the 2016 Pro Bowl in Hawaii at If you’re tailgating or hosting a party, try serving a dip station with your favorite flavor Sabra guacamole, salsa, and Greek yogurt dips. Include plenty of veggie choices scattered with some tortilla chips.

All these dips are delicious with any vegetables. You’re getting nutrients in the dips themselves and in the veggies you use to scoop up the dip.

Upgrade Your Workout and Sports Drink with BodyArmor

It’s not just food, but we need exercise to be healthy (that’s one thing that is not a “fad” – exercise is a lifelong commitment). We need to stay hydrated throughout the day with water. If you are an athlete or have a very active child, you might benefit from more than just plain water during activity, especially if it’s over 60 minutes. BA_lineup2013_A2R

Parents will often ask me, what’s the best sports drink for my active child and I recommend BodyArmor because it has no artificial ingredients and is low in sodium – unlike other sports drinks. BodyArmor has more potassium-packed electrolytes and vitamins that any other sports drink, and it’s made with coconut water.

Try 5 great tasting flavors like fruit punch, orange mango, and strawberry banana. Pick it up at Target stores near you or find a retailer at

If your workouts need a boost, my best tip is to find the FUN in FITNESS. The best workout is the one you do and if it’s not fun, you aren’t likely to do it.

Get Crackin’ on New Years Snackin’

pistachiosBecome a Health Nut in 2015 with Wonderful Pistachios. In-shell pistachios may help slow consumption and curb overindulging because the shells act as a visual cue to how much you’ve eaten. That’s a simple mindful eating concept called the Pistachio Principle.

You get protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals in a huge 49-kernel serving, the largest of any other nut.

Wonderful Pistachios, available in roasted and salted, salt and pepper (my fave), sweet chili, lightly salted, no salt added – there’s something for everybody.

Check out the single serve packaging as well for the super busy grab and go snack that loves you back.

Put Potatoes on Your Plate

Balance your plate without eliminating foods you love, including potatoes. Make about half your plate vegetables and try this roasted potato fries with avocado aioli recipe These fingerlings have a bit of olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 1.26.44 PM

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrates that people can eat potatoes even if they are trying to lose weight.

Potatoes are packed with nutrition. One medium-size skin-on potato contains just 110 calories per serving, boasts more potassium than a banana, and provides almost half the daily value of vitamin C (45 percent), and potatoes contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol.

Disclosure: I worked with Post, Cans Get You Cooking, BodyArmor, Wonderful Pistachios, and U.S. Potato Board on the TV segment, but I was not compensated to write this blog post.