Category: "“Power Foods”"

How to Make Smart Smoothies

April 7th, 2014 | no comments

Smoothies are my all-time favorite way to pack tons of nutrition into one meal. Think about it– how likely are you to sit down with a fork and eat a breakfast of kale, carrots, blueberries and peanut butter and then wash it down with a glass of milk? That’s what I thought! If you’re like most human beings walking the planet, you are crazy-busy and barely have time to squeeze in a shower before running out of the house in the morning. Imagine blending nutritious and delicious foods together and drinking them on your way to work! That’s what I call the best of both worlds– nutrition and convenience wrapped up into one! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about the best ingredients for a healthy smoothie:

  1. Best liquid base: Milk or juice?
    I vote for milk! Whether it’s skim, soy or almond milk, you’re going to get a healthy dose of bone-building calcium and vitamin D– two nutrients often lacking in the typical American diet.
  2. Best protein source: Protein powder or yogurt?
    Protein powder– but ONLY if it contains no artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). My favorite brand of protein powder is RAW Protein. RAW offers up 17 grams of protein per scoop PLUS 100% of your vitamin D needs, 3 grams of dietary fiber and probiotics (“good bacteria” that keep your gastrointestinal tract nice and healthy). Can’t find a protein powder without artificial sweeteners? Use plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. A couple of heaping spoonfuls should do the trick!
  3. Best sweetener: Agave nectar, sugar, no-calorie sweetener, juice or frozen fruit?
    Go for the frozen fruit…especially berries! Not only does it make for a thicker smoothie, it also serves up a good dose of antioxidants– natural chemicals found in fruits and vegetables that help protect your body against diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  4. Best fiber source: Chia seeds, flaxseeds or oats?
    Ch Ch Ch Chia seeds win here. Per tablespoon, chia seeds have 5 grams of dietary fiber and contain a significant amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Enough said!
  5. True or False? Peanut butter has too many calories and fat grams and should not be added to your smoothie if you’re trying to watch your weight.
    That’s a big fat FALSE! Healthy dietary fat (found in nuts, nut butters, avocados and olive oil) serves a very important function– it helps to keep you full! Is it calorie-rich? Sure…but a small portion (1/2 tablespoon) is all you really need to reap the filling rewards. Trust me on this one! If I neglect to add peanut butter to my smoothie, my hunger most definitely returns much sooner…which means I’m usually digging around in the refrigerator for something else to eat! In the end you wind up eating less when you add small amounts of healthy fat to your meals.

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

A 2-Step Plan to Defeat Your 2:00 Slump!

March 7th, 2014 | no comments


It’s 2:00 in the afternoon, you’re sitting at your desk and it feels like someone just attached a vacuum hose to the top of your head and sucked the energy right out of your body. You still have three more hours until quitting time and you can’t seem to get with it! Coffee doesn’t work, neither does candy or soda. Does this sound familiar? It’s 2:00 slump time! Follow my simple two-step plan below and no longer will you be the victim of an unfocused brain, heavy eyes and slouched shoulders. Bring on the energy!

Step One:  Move Your Body

When you move your body, your heart pumps more blood more efficiently. One major function of your blood is to deliver oxygen to all parts of your body—most notably your brain! When your brain receives oxygen, you feel more awake, alert and energized! Who couldn’t use that at 2:00?

Try this experiment right before you experience your slump: Stand up, push your chair in and march in place to the count of 20. That’s it! This simple step will literally nourish your brain with oxygen! To experience real results, get in the habit of moving your body like this everyday and you will feel a noticeable spark in your energy level.

Step Two:  Feed Your Body

Be sure that your lunch is a well balanced one. One built upon carbohydrates alone will surely make you feel sleepy by 2:00. Although carbohydrates are a necessary piece of the balanced diet puzzle, they digest rather quickly. Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods include: whole grain bread, crackers and pasta, brown rice, popcorn, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and beans (black beans, pinto beans, lentils, etc.) Combining carbohydrate-rich foods with a little bit of lean protein and healthy fat will do wonders for your energy level.

Here’s a quick, healthy, energy-packed lunch that is sure to keep you on your toes until quitting time.

Red, White & Blue Spinach Salad:

3 cups fresh spinach (washed)
3 strawberries, sliced
¼ cup blueberries
¼ cup cannellini beans, drained
1 Tablespoon sliced almonds
¼ cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
3 ounces water-packed canned light tuna, drained
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
1 small whole wheat pita (4” diameter)

Toss spinach, strawberries, blueberries, beans, and almonds together. Top with mozzarella cheese and tuna. Drizzle salad dressing on top and serve with pita on the side.

Nutrition Facts:  Calories-475, Carbohydrates-41 grams, Protein-39 grams, Fat-18 grams, Fiber-10 grams

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

How Chia Seeds Can Benefit Your Health

February 7th, 2014 | no comments

Do you remember those silly commercials years ago featuring the chia pet? You know, those terracotta figurines in the shape of different animals that grew sprouts similar to alfalfa sprouts? Fast forward twenty years and it turns out those sprouted seeds—called none other than chia seeds—are actually little nutrition powerhouses!

One ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (an even better source of omega-3’s than flaxseeds). They have a mild, nutty flavor and can be added to beverages, mixed in hot cereal or cold cereal, stirred into yogurt or even added to vegetable or rice dishes.

How will eating chia seeds benefit you? Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a healthy brain and heart and fiber is essential for a healthy digestive track. Add to that the high antioxidant level of chia seeds, which can help protect you from certain cancers! Oh…one more thing– when added to liquid, the chia seed forms a high fiber gel that can help you feel full longer.

Pick up a bag of chia seeds at your local grocery store or whole foods store today and bring on the benefits!

Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars

Makes 8 bars
30 minutes or fewer
  • 1 ½ cups pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup raw unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole chia seeds, such as ReNew Life Ultimate ChiaLife
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract, optional
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract, optional
  • 1 cup raw slivered almonds or raw shelled pistachios
  • Oat flour for dusting, optional
  1. Place dates in bowl of food processor; purée until thick paste forms. Add cocoa powder, chia seeds, and vanilla and almond extracts, if using. Pulse until all ingredients are combined. Add almonds; pulse until nuts are finely chopped and well distributed through date mixture.
  2. Spread large sheet of wax paper on work surface, and dust with oat flour, if using. Transfer date mixture to wax paper, and use paper to press mixture into ½-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly, and chill overnight.
  3. Unwrap block, and cut into 8 bars. Dust edges and sides with oat flour, if using, to prevent sticking. Rewrap each bar in wax paper.

(Source: Vegetarian Times)

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

11 ways to fit more veggies into your diet

January 24th, 2014 | no comments

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), compared with people who consume a diet with small amount of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts reduce their risks of chronic diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The likelihood of having a stroke is also reduced. In most cases, cancer and heart disease are preventable, and eating your fruits and veggies is a small step you can take every day to protect yourself. Aim for three cups of vegetables each day. Try one of these ideas:

  1. Add one cup of baby carrots to your smoothie and blend!
  2. Add two handfuls of spinach or kale to your smoothie and blend!
  3. Toss some peppers, mushrooms and onions into your morning omelet
  4. Eat a side salad with your lunch
  5. Pile your sandwich with spinach, alfalfa sprouts, shaved carrots and tomato slices
  6. Fill half of your dinner plate with two cups of steamed broccoli
  7. Whip up some pureed cauliflower and serve as a side dish
  8. Add extra veggies (chopped green beans, carrots, potatoes) to your soup
  9. Snack on cherry tomatoes and cauliflower florets with hummus or peanut butter dip!
  10. Drink eight ounces of low-sodium V8 juice for a snack
  11. Puree a cooked medium sweet potato and mix into your mac-n-cheese! (I did this the other day for dinner using the recipe below!)

Click here for the Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese recipe!

Nutrition Bonus per serving of Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese: Vitamin A (218% daily value), Calcium (45% dv), Magnesium (31% dv), Vitamin C & Zinc (22% dv), Iron & Potassium (18% dv), Folate (16% dv), B12 (15% dv)


Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

Health benefits of cocoa

January 18th, 2014 | no comments

A couple of months ago I was preparing my morning smoothie and decided to get a little adventurous. As I looked through my refrigerator and pantry in search of another ingredient to add to my already-ten-ingredient shake, I came across an unopened container of unsweetened cocoa. So I dusted off the top, added a tablespoon to the mix, gave it a spin around the blender and voila…an 11-ingredient shake with more nutrition than even Richard Simmons could handle! Did I mention it was out-of-this-world delicious? What’s even more– I gained two grams of fiber and zero grams of sugar!

When I prepare a meal or snack, my number one priority is to get the most nutrition per bite (or sip)–which is why all of my meals contain at least two plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds or unprocessed whole grains like oats or brown rice). Plant based foods–or Earth Foods as I like to call them– contain natural chemicals called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals can protect you from disease, strengthen your immune system and keep your body working properly. And since cocoa comes from the cocoa (cacao) bean…drumroll please……it is technically a plant-based food! Now understand, I am talking about pure, unsweetened cocoa (such as Hershey’s or Ghirardelli), and NOT hot chocolate mix.

Take a gander at what Harvard researchers discovered during a 2011 study on the health benefits of cocoa consumption:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved blood vessel health
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Linked to reductions in risk factors for diabetes

In addition to cocoa powder, you can also receive the same health benefits by breaking off a piece of dark chocolate and savoring it as it melts in your mouth. When selecting dark chocolate, look at the label for the percent cacao. The higher the percentage, the richer and more intense the flavor and the higher the phytonutrient content. Keep in mind that because cocoa powder is made by grinding cocoa seeds and removing the cocoa butter, it does not contain any saturated fat. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, retains the cocoa butter and is high in saturated fat (for example, in Ghirardelli Intense Dark:  59% of the fat is saturated).

Chocolate Pudding
(Serves 4)

3 avocados
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sea salt

Puree avocados, cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth. Sprinkle pudding with salt before serving.

Recipe adapted from Whole Living.


Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

10 Healthy (and easy) things to do for your body

January 13th, 2014 | no comments

Right this very moment, you are sitting on a gold mine. It’s called opportunity. Each and every day you have a fresh 24-hours to make a difference in the health of your body. They don’t have to be a perfect 24 hours—in fact I highly discourage aiming for perfection (hint: there’s no such thing!)

All too often, we fail to see the big picture. We’re so busy chastising ourselves for eating that cookie or skipping our workout, that we become blind to the power of the itty-bitty healthy choices we are making. There is much momentum attached to doing something good for your body. It’s a sort of healthy “high” that leaves you wanting more.

Here is a list of ten healthy things you can do for your body today. Pick one or two and very simply, notice the lift in your self-esteem, mood and energy. It’s there…so pay attention!

  1. Shop from the perimeter! Fill 75% of your shopping cart with foods from the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where the produce, dairy, fresh meats/seafood are housed. TIP: Spend most of your time loading up on the fruits and vegetables.
  2. Use more spice. Whether it’s a dash of cinnamon in your coffee, a sprinkle of cumin mixed with brown rice or a pinch of basil in your pasta sauce, spices are loaded with antioxidants that help protect your body against disease. TIP: Choose salt-free spices for extra benefit!
  3. Drink a cup of green or black tea. Both can help prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing your LDL (bad) cholesterol and keeping your blood pressure in check! In fact, a 2004 study in Taiwan showed a 46% lower risk of developing high blood pressure in those who drank between 4-20 ounces of tea per day compared to those who didn’t drink it regularly. TIP: Sweeten with just a teaspoon of honey or a couple of sugar cubes. Squeeze in a little lemon for a real pick-me-up!
  4. Ditch any food in your kitchen with the words partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils, or shortening in the list of ingredients. They offer nothing but trouble for your heart and are found in mostly processed foods, such as: cookies, crackers, doughnuts, canned frosting, pastries, microwave popcorn, margarine, potato chips, snack mixes and coffee creamer.
  5. Make a BIG salad for dinner one night a week. Click here for ideas!
  6. Trade your regular pasta for whole grain. Or mix half and half until you get used to the texture.
  7. Eat a cruciferous vegetable! Packed with disease-fighting phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber, cruciferous veggies include:
    • Arugula
    • Bok choy
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage
    • Cauliflower
    • Collard greens
    • Horseradish
    • Kale
    • Radishes
    • Rutabaga
    • Turnips
    • Watercress
    • Wasabi
  8. Meditate. Stress is just as harmful to the body as a poor diet. Sit quietly on a soft cushion or chair for ten minutes every day and just breathe. TIP: Do this first thing in the morning, otherwise it’s easy to bail out.
  9. Keep a food journal. You don’t have to do this forever, just a few days. It’s amazing how the simple act of writing down everything you eat makes you aware of things you didn’t even realize you were doing.
  10. Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Maintaining adequate sleep duration and quality can reduce inflammation in your body. BONUS: Getting enough sleep may help reduce overeating!

Healthy habits breed more healthy habits. So stop focusing on what you THINK you’ve done wrong and give yourself the opportunity to do something right…then pat yourself on the back for doing it!

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

Increase fiber to decrease heart disease risk

December 23rd, 2013 | no comments

I am a big fan of fiber, and that’s a good thing because new research from the University of Leeds in the UK links greater fiber intake with lower risks of cardiovascular disease AND coronary heart disease. Researchers say that the risk lowers significantly with every additional 7 grams of fiber eaten each day.

How can YOU specifically protect your heart with more fiber? Start by meeting the recommendations— which are set at 25-35 grams per day! Sadly, most Americans don’t even come close to eating this amount (most only get about 10 grams of fiber…and that’s on a good day!)

When you break it down, 25-35 grams isn’t an unrealistic goal. Fiber is found in what I call “Earth Foods”—think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Are you eating some of these foods every day? If not, your fiber intake is likely well below the target.

The simplest way to pump up your fiber is by eating the following foods every day:

  • 3 cups of vegetables
  • 2 cups of fruit
  • 3 ounces of whole grains (oats, whole grain crackers and bread, brown rice, quinoa, barley, whole grain pasta, etc.); 1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked oats, pasta, quinoa, barley or rice; 1 slice of bread
  • 1 serving of beans and legumes (pinto, kidney, black, lentils, etc.); 1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked beans or lentils
  • 1-2 servings of nuts, seeds or nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter); 1 serving = 1/8 cup nuts or seeds; 1 tablespoon nut butter

This sounds like a lot of food doesn’t it? Not so! Take a look at how easy it is to make this happen:

16 ounces of
Breakfast Power Smoothie

Fiber: 14 grams
Counts as
: 2 cups of fruit + 2 cups of vegetables + 1 serving of nut butter (Note: Smoothie recipe makes 24 ounces- I drink 16 ounces for breakfast and 8 ounces for my mid-morning snack)

Mid-morning Snack:
8 ounces of Breakfast Power Smoothie

Szechuan Black Eyed Pea Salad (scroll to the bottom) served with 13 Blue Diamond Nut Thins Flax Seeds crackers and 1 sliced medium apple with skin

Fiber: 10 grams
Counts as: 1 serving beans + 1 ounce whole grain (Blue Diamond Flax Seeds crackers are a whole grain) + 1 cup fruit

Grilled salmon with 1 cup of steamed broccoli and Quinoa with Pistachios and Cranberries (scroll to bottom)

Fiber: 6 grams
Counts as: 1 cup of vegetables + 1 ounce whole grain (quinoa is a whole grain)

Evening snack:
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal drizzled with 1 teaspoon honey and a dash of cinnamon

Fiber: 2 grams
Counts as: 1 ounce whole grain

Daily Totals:
Fiber: 32 grams
Vegetables: 3 cups
Fruit: 3 cups
Whole grain: 3 ounces
Beans: 1 serving
Nuts/seeds: 1 serving

One word of caution—If you’re not used to eating this much fiber, it’s best to take it slow. Otherwise you’ll wind up being, well, a little socially unacceptable…if you know what I mean! A gut that hasn’t been properly introduced to fiber will “retaliate” with bloating and excess gas. Increase fiber by five gram-increments and you should be just fine. It’s also a good idea to increase the amount of water you drink to help move the fiber through your digestive tract. To find the fiber content of various foods, visit:

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

Power up with Pomegranate!

October 28th, 2013 | no comments

When I was little, my mom would occasionally bring home a pomegranate from the store, slice it open and put it in a bowl—always referring to it as a “Chinese apple.” I remember being intrigued by this rich magenta-colored fruit. I’d pop a few arils (pomegranate seeds) in my mouth, bite down to extract the deliciously tart juice and then spit the seeds out. Sure they were tasty, but it seemed like a lot of work just for a little juice! I would then inevitably leave the rest of the fruit on the table, where it would always end up in the trash because apparently my family felt the same way. Then I got older. Became a dietitian. Learned about the wonderful health benefits of pomegranates and most importantly discovered…YOU CAN EAT THE SEEDS! I am now an adorer of the pomegranate.

If you haven’t treated yourself to one in awhile (or if you’ve never had the opportunity to indulge) you’re in luck. They are currently in season (October through January) and can be spotted in your local grocery store today! If you’re not likely to toss one in your cart, drinking a bit of pomegranate juice can also offer health benefits. Just keep your portions small—about 4-8 ounces.

Pomegranates date back to 1500 BC:

They have been used for thousands of years to treat illness and can be found in Greek, Hebrew, Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian mythology and writings.

Health benefits of pomegranates:

  • They are a rich source of antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C.
  • Preliminary research suggests they may slow atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and fight cancer cells.
  • May lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
  • Early research suggests that drinking pomegranate juice might slow the progress of prostate cancer.

Pomegranate recipes!

One of my favorite ways to eat pomegranates is sprinkled on a salad. Adds a yummy contrast in flavor, color and texture! Click here for some delicious pomegranate recipes ranging from smoothies to main meals to desserts!

How to seed a pomegranate:

Click here to learn a 3-step, no mess method for seeding a pomegranate. Or you can always purchase ready-to-eat pomegranate arils, but honestly they are a bit pricey and quite frankly take out all of the fun!


Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

Nut-Nutrition 101

September 18th, 2013 | no comments

nutsAre you eating nuts every day? If not, why not? Of course nut allergies and certain digestive disorders prohibit some people from indulging in nuts, but if you don’t seem to have a problem, consider yourself lucky and… go nuts! I’m not suggesting you down an entire jar of nuts in one sitting like my father (sorry dad…when you make an example of yourself I have no other choice), in fact that’s a pretty bad idea! Even though packed full of nutrition, they are also calorie-rich—a one-ounce portion of nuts (the amount you can fit in one cupped hand) cashes in at around 200 calories.

Nuts are a good source of antioxidants, fiber, protein, vitamin E and healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Depending on the variety, they also offer a healthy dose of phosphorus, copper, manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, calcium and magnesium.

Because of their fat, fiber and protein content, eating a serving of nuts each day can also increase satiety and help with weight control.  A one-ounce portion equals:

  • Almonds: 23 nuts
  • Brazil nuts: 6 nuts
  • Cashews: 18 nuts
  • Hazelnuts: 21 nuts
  • Macadamias: 10-12 nuts
  • Peanuts: 28 nuts
  • Pecans: 19 halves
  • Pistachios: 49 nuts (BONUS: purchase in-shell…it forces you to slow down)
  • Walnuts: 14 halves

Here are 10 easy ways to fit more nuts into your daily routine:

  1. Stir a small handful of walnuts into your morning oatmeal
  2. Blend one tablespoon of natural peanut or almond butter into your smoothie
  3. Crush some cashews and mix into your yogurt
  4. Eat a serving of pistachios for a snack
  5. Toast some pecans and mix into your vegetable dish
  6. Toss some macadamia nuts into your salad
  7. For some extra crunch, roll up a sprinkle of sliced almonds in your sandwich wrap
  8. Mix a handful of nuts into your pasta for a different flavor
  9. Add a small amount of your favorite nut to your popcorn
  10. Bread your fish or chicken with finely chopped pecans

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!

Why eat fruit every day?

August 23rd, 2013 | no comments

fruitOK, before you say it—“Duh Melanie…this is a no-brainer”let me just say that knowing and doing are two totally different animals. I know you know fruit is good for you, but do you know exactly why? And more importantly, are you eating a couple of pieces every day? If yes…congratulations! If not, you’re missing out on some pretty powerful stuff here!

Fruit is rich in potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A). Vitamin C and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants, natural substances in foods that clean up free radicals in your body. We all have free radicals floating around inside our bodies. They are formed as a byproduct of reactions in your cells and also come from cigarette smoke, air pollution and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. In toxic amounts, they cause damage to your body, loss of brain function over time and are believed to be a main contributor to heart disease, certain cancers and Parkinson’s disease. So it’s important to get rid of as many of them as possible. Your body does a pretty good job, but it can’t remove them all. That’s why you need to eat fruits and vegetables every day. Berries have the highest antioxidant power of any fruit, so choose them whenever possible.

How much?

Two cups of fresh or frozen fruit each day is what you should be shooting for. Dried fruit is OK too, but keep in mind that the portion size is smaller due to its higher sugar content and extra calories. One half cup of dried fruit is equivalent to one cup of fresh or frozen.

BEWARE! Banana chips (although yummy indeed!) don’t count as a fruit serving. They are typically deep-fried and coated in sugar or honey, packing a whopping 10 grams of fat (9 saturated) per half-cup serving. Eat a regular banana instead for 0 grams of fat.

5 easy ways to get your fruit!

  1. Make your own trail mix with your favorite dried fruit, nuts and cereal. Figs, apricots, raisins and prunes have the most potassium. Just keep your portions small.
  2. Top your morning bowl of oatmeal with fresh blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or raspberries! Heck, if I have all four on hand, I add a spoonful of each to my oatmeal!
  3. Eat a small banana with a smear of peanut butter for a snack.
  4. Blend your favorite frozen fruit with some plain Greek yogurt and a splash of milk for a refreshing breakfast smoothie! I’ve been adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to mine for extra fiber and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
  5. Pack a container of no-sugar-added applesauce in your lunch!

Get FREE tips and tiny slices of motivation to help you live a healthier life...without giving up chocolate!