Spring into Health

Now that spring is in the air it’s time to turn over a new leaf and shake off those winter blues! Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with CNN’s Karin Caifa to share my ideas on how to make some healthier switches as spring approaches – switches that won’t be too drastic, dramatic or too easy to abandon! Watch the clip below or read on to learn about my tips.

The key to succeeding when making a change is to start small and start simple. The most important thing is being consistent. The more you are consistent these new behaviors they will eventually become habits (good ones). Here are a few tips to help freshen up your eating this spring.

  • Add any fresh produce to your menu. You can’t mess it up. Spring is a great time of year for fresh apricots, cherries, kiwi, grapefruit, swiss chard, green beans and all types of lettuces.
  • Add herbs and spices to help make healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains more flavorful without adding salt, sugar, or fat.
  • As the weather gets warmer, eat more cold foods like salads with fresh fruits, lean meats or tofu, and beans. Make your own dressing with herbs and spices, olive oil, and vinegar.
  • It’s not too early to fire up your grill for a flavor boost without added salt and fat. Grill vegetables and lean meats like fish, chicken, or beef seasoned with herbs and spices. Check out these delicious grilling recipes: Asian Turkey Burgers or Grilled Tofu with Ratatouille Vegetables 

Don’t forget about Spring Cleaning!

  • The first thing you should do to eat healthier is “spring clean your kitchen” to make cooking easier.
  • Make room in your refrigerator for new fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods you can make ahead of time.
  • Refresh your pantry by stocking up on herbs and spices that will allow you to flavor your foods without adding extra salt, sugar, and fat.
  • Add some nutritious canned foods like beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, and canned tuna and salmon to help you get healthy meals on the table quickly.
  • Simplify cooking. You don’t need to prepare a 3 course meal every night! Try this easy and healthy Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli as a delicious side dish.

What should we spring clean out of our diets?

  •  Reduce your intake of “empty calorie” foods and beverages, such as desserts, sugary drinks, and alcoholic beverages.
  •  Swap fresh fruits like citrus and berries, which are in season for desserts. I love freezing sliced bananas or a handful of grapes for a sorbet or ice cream substitute.
  • Drink water or sparkling water infused with mint, fresh cucumber, or lemon instead of caloric beverages.
  • Cut back on sodium by preparing your meal at home and checking food labels for hidden sources of salt.
  • Sauces, seasonings, and marinades can be high in sodium. Try making your own with herbs, spices, citrus, vinegar, and healthy oils.
  • Avoid higher calorie fried foods and rich foods, which tend to be difficult to digest and make you feel sluggish. Instead, grill your vegetables and lean proteins, which will add flavor.

What are some of your favorite spring time foods and activities?

Leave a comment below and share your spring time tips with us! Happy Spring!



Produce of the Day: Citrus

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: Citrus

Nothing brightens up a dreary March day like a pop of vibrant citrus – its bright color and fresh flavor help remedy most cases of late-winter funk.  One bite of a juicy tangerine immediately gets me dreaming of sunshine and citrus groves, which is just what I need when there is still snow on the ground!

Image Source: White on Rice

Image Source: whiteonricecouple.com

One of the things that I love about citrus is that there are so many varieties – each one has its own unique flavor and appearance.  What they do have in common is their nutritional profile; citrus is a healthy choice no matter which variety you pick.

Here are some health benefits associated with all citrus fruits:

Vitamin C

Image Source: http://www.thejournal.ie

Image Source: thejournal.ie

We all know that oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, but what does that really mean?  Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, so it helps protect our cells from damaging free radicals.  Free radicals can alter our cells’ structure and even their DNA, which could lead to inflammation or cancer.  Protecting our cells with antioxidants like Vitamin C is key in keeping them healthy.

Vitamin C also contributes to a healthy immune system and strong bones and muscles.  Additionally, Vitamin C can improve iron absorption, so it’s vital for anyone with an iron deficiency.  One serving of citrus provides at least 100% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C.

Heart Health

A diet rich in citrus fruits has been shown to offer protection against cardiovascular disease.  Citrus contains:

  • Folate, a B Vitamin found lower risk of heart disease.
  • Potassium, which lowers blood pressure and helps prevent stroke.
  • Flavonoids and carotenes, phytonutrients shown to improve cardiovascular health
  • Fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol

Citrus has also been linked to the prevention of arthritis, improved blood glucose control, reduced risk of kidney stones, and many other positive health benefits.

Source: www.eatingwell.com

Source: eatingwell.com

With so many citrus fruits available, you’ll never get bored!  Here’s low down on a few options and a few tips to use them to make half your plate produce:


Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the world.  They’re great fresh out of hand, added to salads, or as part of a fresh salsa. You can also:

  • Snack on them after a workout  to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes (anyone remember orange slices after soccer practice?)
  • Try orange segments instead of juice with breakfast; when you juice you lose all the heart-healthy fiber and some nutrients.
  • Serve these Snow Peas with Orange and Jicama as a side dish with your favorite protein.


Grapefruit’s Latin name is Citrus paradisi, a fitting name given that its taste, aroma, and gem-like fruit conjure pictures of paradise.  Red and pink grapefruits are rich in lycopene, a phytonutrient that is shown to protect against the formation of tumors.

Grapefruit “brulee” makes a fabulous dessert or breakfast.  To make, just slice in half and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Let the sugar caramelize under the broiler for a seemingly decadent treat.


I love how portable tangerines are; they come in their own natural wrapper!  I like to keep some handy in my purse in case my one-year old or I get hungry while we’re on-the-go.  They have a looser peel than most other citrus, so they’re ideal in a pinch.

Tangerines are also great in recipes. I like this Warm Chicken Salad with Tangerine, Tarragon, and Arugula for lunch or a light supper.

Image Source: www.sunkist.com

Image Source: Sunkist.com


These bright yellow fruits add loads of tangy flavor with very few calories.  I recommend that my clients try seasoning with lemons instead of salt to reduce their sodium intakes.

Add their zest to steamed veggies, use their juice in salad dressing, or even just throw them in your water to give it some zing.  Meyer lemons are an interesting variety of lemon with beautiful floral undertones that are wonderful in desserts.


You know the term, “limey”?  It actually comes from British sailors in the 1800s who added lime juice to their rum while they were at sea to prevent scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency).

I like to add lime juice to marinades, guacamole, and dressings. It also adds zippy flavor to roasted veggies – just roast them in the oven and add fresh lime juice and zest.  Makes a great side dish or salad addition.


These little guys are known as the, “little gold gems” of the citrus family.  What make them so interesting is that, unlike most citrus, their rinds are sweet while the flesh is very tart.  Slice them up (skin and all) and toss them in a salad or try them in this Citrus Habenero Salsa with fish or chicken.

Image Source: http://blog.needsupply.com

Image Source: blog.needsupply.com

Learn More about Citrus

If you want more citrus info, Sunkist is a great resource. Check out their website and follow them on 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 ways to add citrus into your diet? Did I miss any of your favorite varieties? 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.)

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.)

Meatless Monday Recipe: Black Bean and Quinoa Soup

Another Happy Meatless Monday!

Today I wanted to share a very quick, simple, and deliciously hearty vegan soup recipe: Black Bean and Quinoa Soup. This chili like recipe is not only packed with plant based fiber and protein, but spices, flavor, and texture, making it an instant family favorite. There is nothing better on a chilly winter evening than cozying up with a big bowl of nourishing soup; I promise this recipe won’t disappoint (especially with a few thick slices of creamy ripe avocado on top!). And the best part is, it comes together in under 30 minutes, leaving you with an entire afternoon or evening to focus on you!

This recipe should make more than enough soup for 6 hungry eaters. Leftovers are even better the second day one the flavors have really melded (Meatless Tuesday) and also freeze and defrost easily. Enjoy!

Photo From: theppk.com

Photo From: theppk.com

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Another Happy Meatless Monday!

I wanted to share another incredibly flavorful and healthful soup I am confident everyone at your table will go crazy for: Coconut Red Lentil Soup. This warming and nourishing soup is  protein and fiber packed, making it an ideal main course, and only requires a few minutes of active cooking time, leaving you untied to the kitchen. This is the perfect make-ahead soup and can be kept in the freezer and reheated at a moment’s notice.

I like to serve my soup over quinoa, brown rice, or a good piece of crusty bread!

Photo From: 101cookbooks.com

Photo From: 101cookbooks.com

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Roasted Pumpkin & Wild Rice Salad

Another happy Meatless Monday!

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite hearty, nutritious, and GORGEOUS salads that is not only so simple to prepare, but a great make-ahead meal to have for lunch throughout the week: Roasted Pumpkin & Wild Rice Salad. This untraditional and warm grain salad is packed with the comforting seasonal flavors we crave without the ‘comfort food calories’ and can be easily made and assembled over the weekend, and then dressed with the bright cilantro and olive oil dressing on-the-go. Feel free to serve yours with a few slices of ripe avocado or crushed walnuts for some extra protein punch. Enjoy!

Photo From: 101cookbooks.com

Photo From: 101cookbooks.com

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Garlicky Kale with White Beans & Tomato




Happy Meatless Monday and Merry Christmas!

Today I wanted to share a delicious and vibrant side dish I am confident you’ll want to have make an appearance at your holiday table: Garlicky Kale with White Beans & Tomato. This beautiful vegan side is not only loaded with healthful fiber, nutrients, and comforting flavor, but it’s red and greens from the fresh kale and tomato are sure to get everyone into the Christmas spirit.

This recipe should make more than enough for 4 hungry eaters, but if you’re having more people at your table it can be easily doubled or tripled. This dish makes for delicious leftovers that you can enjoy once your guests have departed that can be bulked up for a more complete meal with lightly sautéed tofu or sliced avocado.

Have a healthful, merry, and bright holiday!

Photo From: lindawagner.net

Photo From: lindawagner.net

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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 inmybowl.com 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

Photo From: inmybowl.com

Whole Wheat Banana, Pumpkin & Flax Pancakes
recipe from: http://inmybowl.com, 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

The Case for Eradicating ‘Kid’ Food

Well said, Dr. Katz!  We Must Be Kidding! The Case for Eradicating ‘Kid’ Food encourages parents to resume control of what their children are eating, not to cave in to begging kids on the grocery aisles, relentless advertising, or convenience.

Imagine if baby whales, weaned from milk, didn’t learn to eat krill; they were indulged with sugar-frosted flukes or some such thing. Imagine the fussy eaters among the lion cubs who turned up their noses at wildebeest and held out for mac and cheese. Imagine mama and papa dolphin talking themselves into the need to indulge junior’s apparent aversion to fish. Crackers shaped like fish –fine, but actual fish? Fuhgeddaboudit!

read the full article

I have never understood “kid food” anyway. Shouldn’t kids eat what adults eat? I remember when I was visiting family in California and we asked the little boy what he was in the mood for — he said sushi! How awesome is that? We got sushi and he crushed it!

Feeding Kids What You Eat from the Start

As a new mom myself, I am dedicated to helping my daughter develop her food preferences. In that vein, I have decided to skip the whole “food stages” and spoon feeding purees in favor of providing her with the food I eat when I eat it and allowing her to regulate how much she eats and whether or not she eats, vis a vie Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility”

So far I can say it is going well after I got over my own “mom fears,” which I fully intend to write about soon. Suffice it to say, it takes some chillin’ out and rollin’ with it. F-L-E-X-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y.

Check her out! She’s only 7 months and she can pack down tomato, sweet potato, and even a lamb slider!


What Parents Can Do Anytime

One of the easiest ways to “eradicate” kid food is to choose quality foods that come into the house in the first place. Three simple grocery shopping tips:

  1. Fill the cart with a variety of unprocessed and minimally processed foods –  fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds.  You can turn just about any fruit into a delicious snack or sweet dessert.
  2. Check the ingredients label of packaged foods. Can you pronounce them? Even something like potato chips can have few ingredients. However, lots of foods marketed as “kid friendly” or healthy in some way can have lots of colors, flavors, additives, or just hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
  3. Balanced house for balanced plates. After the abundance of fruits and veggies (half plate) and lean proteins (1/4 plate) and whole grains (1/4 plate), of course, there will likely be some dessert or snack foods that don’t get the A+ in nutrition. Pick one or two items to have around and offer them as part of meals.

These simple suggestions can help wipe out ‘kid’ food and pave the way for a healthier tomorrow.

Above all else, be a role model by eating healthy yourself.  Children tend to mimic the people they see daily, so be sure to send them the right message. Eat balanced and eat with them! I’ll be writing about the value of the family meal coming up!

Personalized Nutrition – Making Food Choices that Work for You

As March marches on, I’m still finding ways to celebrate National Nutrition Month’s theme of “Eat Right, Your Way”.

I was on WBAL (watch the full WBAL clip here) and Let’s Talk Live DC recently and shared some ideas to make eating healthier work for you. It’s all about personalized nutrition. My view: Not everything has to be absolutely perfect all of the time. I wrote about that in my blog for US News Health. Instead of thinking “all or nothing,” make choices that work for you and help you enjoy your meals.

We know that eating wholesome foods delivers nutrients. The “My Plate” guidance of half plate fruits and veggies, getting whole grains on your plate, and eating fish at least twice a week is simple and practical advice.

In this post, I offer some of my ideas to help you get more whole grains, fruits and veggies and fish.

 Whole_WheatThomas’ 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins

Everybody loves bagels for breakfast, but not everyone needs those big deli-size bagels all the time. Thomas’s Bagels Thins might be a better size for you! They have only 110 calories, and the 100% Whole Wheat variety has 21 grams of whole grain and 5 grams of fiber, which makes them good for your heart. Try them with  peanut butter and sliced fruit, hummus and avocado, or make your own breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs and sautéed veggies. They’re also available in Cinnamon Raisin, Everything and Plain varieties.

Avocados From Mexico

avocado imageMany people don’t know this, but avocados are actually a FRUIT. They’re nutritious and delicious, and are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are the “good fats.” Avocados from Mexico are available year round, so you can enjoy them any time of year. They’re extremely versatile, beyond just guacamole. Use them in breakfast burritos, over your morning eggs, or topping your lunch sandwiches. Heck, I’ve been known to literally eat a ripe avocado with nothing but a spoon! This smoothie I made, is full of pineapple, avocado, and lime juice — so refreshing! You can find this recipe and more at www.theamazingavocado.com.


Know any “chip lovers”? I get it. Sometimes nothing beats the crunch of a snack chip. How can you make it “work” for you? The USDA recommends consuming 48 grams of whole grains a day, and these crunchy SunChips multigrain snacks have 18 grams in a 1 oz serving – about 15 chips. (And I do recommend you stick to portion sizes to keep it balanced.) Pair multigrain Sunchips with your whole grain sandwich and you are almost at your daily whole grain recommendation at just one meal. The new flavor, Sweet & Spicy BBQ SunChips, is packed with flavor, like hints of chipotle and smoked pork. They are really delicious, and satisfy that “crunch craving”.


The USDA recommends at least two servings of fish per week because it may help prevent heart disease. I love all types of seafood. When it’s flavorful and easy to prepare, I’m even happier.  Gorton’s offers delicious seafood options that are 200 calories or less per serving skilletcrisp_classicseasoningsincluding Skillet Crisp Tilapia, Simply Bake Tilapia or Shrimp Scampi. They’re so convenient and easy to prepare as a main entrée (paired with a fresh salad), or as part of a recipe or a substitution for a dish that typically calls for chicken or beef – like fish tacos. Keep them on hand for busy weeknights and you’ll have a balanced dinner ready in minutes.

Vita Coco Coconut WaterVita Coco

Of course eating more fruits and veggies is smart. But what about “drinking” them? Why not? Everyone loves smoothies, especially when you make them taste good. This spinach coconut pineapple smoothie is made with fruits, veggies, and hydrating Vita Coco coconut water. Vita CoCo coconut water contains only 45-60 calories/serving and has key electrolytes and nutrients like potassium (more than a banana!), magnesium, calcium, and vitamin C. To make the smoothie, just combine 1 cup coconut water, 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup pineapple, 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt and a little ice. Blend, and enjoy!

Pirates BootyPirates Booty

This may be my husband’s favorite crunchy snack. Just please don’t tell him it’s baked and not fried. He has no idea. If you have never had Pirate’s Booty – check it out. It’s a great choice to have around at a party or add one of the single serve bags to your “lunchbox.” They’ve got great taste and crunch but, they’re baked, all-natural and have half the fat and fewer calories than regular fried chips. They’re also safe for people with common food allergies, like gluten, peanut and tree nuts.

What do you think? How do you get veggies, fruits, fish, and whole grains?


Disclosure: I was compensated by brands mentioned above for my TV appearances, but I was not compensated for writing this blog post.


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