The SMART Way to Setting Health Goals

Happy 2023! I don’t know about you, but it took me a few weeks to embrace the new year and think about habits, intentions, and goals to set for the year ahead. To move the needle forward, I revisited the S.M.A.R.T. method to develop a plan for setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely resolutions. Regarding overall health and well-being, SMART goals can help us stay on track and focus on improving our overall lifestyle. Whether it’s about eating better, exercising more, or reducing stress, SMART goals are important for our mental and physical well-being.

Be Specific

When setting smart health goals, it’s important to be specific and set achievable goals. Instead of setting a goal like “I want to be healthy,” you should aim for something more concrete like “I want to walk 30 minutes every day” or “I will choose a few dinner recipes and shop for the ingredients on Sunday.” Being specific about your goals helps to give direction and focus on the outcome. This step is your action statement for the goal itself: what are you trying to accomplish and why.


How will you know when you’ve met your goal? You can break down your health goals into smaller achievable pieces or milestones that you can work towards to measure progress. This could be tracking the number of steps you take each day or meal-prepping on the weekend, so you are equipped to cook most meals at home, saving time, money, and calories!


Make sure your goals are achievable and realistic considering what you want to accomplish. Try not to aim too high or too low. Instead, think about things you can do to complete these goals and they are practical. Figure out if there are resources you can access to make it easier. Like many people, taking a month off from drinking alcohol is popular in January. For me, I do take on a dry-ish January to make small steps in reducing my alcohol intake for a long-term transformation.


This step is all about you! Make sure your goals are relevant to both your lifestyle and personal health. Make sure that the goals you set are ones you want to accomplish and will positively impact your life. Living with high blood pressure means I must take full control of my diet and exercise habits to live a long, healthy life. This goal is meaningful to me because of my family history.


This is the final planning stage of setting these goals. Connect your goals to a specific time frame or deadline, even if they are flexible, so that you have a clear sense of when you want to accomplish them. One thing I learned training for marathons is printing out a schedule and sticking to it as best I could. Living in New England sometimes meant altering a long run in the snow, sleet, and rain to a shorter run but still getting in the run! Choosing specific, measurable goals means you can track your improvement over time. Write your efforts down in a journal or track them on an app so you can see how far you’ve come.

Making small improvements daily can make a huge impact over time. One good outcome during the pandemic life was building on healthy habits I turned to like getting fresh air every day and cooking at home most days of the week. Don’t underestimate the power change, however slight they may be. Small habits can transform your health and your life.

Quote of the Week

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”

F.M. Alexander

Recipe of the Week

Baked Crunchy Hot Honey Chicken

I adapted this recipe from @halfbakedharvest, made it with panko breadcrumbs instead of cornflakes, and used only the parsley as the garnish. Either way, all will be gone as soon as you serve it – it’s that good!


• 6 cups cornflakes

• 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

• 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

• 2 large eggs, beaten

• 2 tablespoons hot sauce

• 2 pounds smaller boneless chicken breasts or thighs

• extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Hot Honey

• 1/2 cup honey

• 2-3 tablespoons of hot sauce

• 1-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

• 3/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

• sea salt

• fresh thyme, cilantro, or parsley, for serving


Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine the cornflakes, parmesan, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until you have fine crumbs. Alternatively, you can crush the crumbs in a plastic bag by stepping on them. Dump the crumbs into a shallow bowl.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, add the hot sauce and chicken, and toss well to coat. Dredge the chicken through the crumbs, covering fully. Place on the prepared baking sheet. For a thicker coating, dip the chicken back through the eggs, then through the crumbs a 2nd time. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp all around.

A few minutes before the chicken is done cooking, make the sauce. In a sauce pot, warm the honey, hot sauce, cayenne, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt.

Drizzle the warm sauce over the chicken. Top with herbs. If the sauce thickens, warm it for 5 seconds in the microwave. Enjoy!

Baked Crunchy Hot Honey Chicken

Healthy Heart, Healthy You! Simple Steps to a Healthier Heart

I read a saying once that health is like money; we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it. With a family history of heart disease, this resonated with me because good health is truly wealth. Genetics plays a big role in a healthy heart, but there are many ways to prevent heart disease, including basic self-care and inspiring others to do the same. Starting with one small change, like having a few meatless meals a week or swapping whole-grain bread for white bread, can make a difference. If you are new to exercise or have been on a hiatus, start with 10-15 minutes of brisk walking or simple calisthenics like jumping jacks or squats. Then gradually increase with the goal of 30 minutes a day.

Keeping track of my weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol is necessary. Still, individual targets are different for everyone and depend on your age, gender, and medical and family history. Some standard marks are:

  • blood pressure below 120/80 mm/HG
  • body mass index between 18.5 and 25 (see this BMI calculator)
  • total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/d

Exercise is essential, but a healthy heart starts in the kitchen. You don’t need to be on a restrictive or fad diet to improve heart health. Instead, if you focus on vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, whole grains, healthy fats like olive oil, and lean meats (or better yet, wild-caught fish), you can’t go wrong. And avoid added sugar, salt, and highly processed food.

Gradually adding more healthful foods and spending more time exercising can make a difference to your heart and overall health. But caring for your heart also means managing stress. This begins by identifying what causes stress in your life and the adverse outcomes like stress-eating junk food or drinking too much alcohol. Some of the ways I try to manage stress are exercising, meditating, and keeping a positive attitude.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience will never go back to its original dimensions.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Recipe of the week: Mediterranean White Bean Soup

This vegetarian, heart-healthy soup cooks up quickly and is delicious for leftovers.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion chopped

2 garlic cloves minced

2-3 large carrots chopped

2-3 celery rib chopped

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup water

½ cup quinoa

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 15-ounces canned white beans drained and rinsed

2 cups baby spinach

Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. 

Add vegetable broth, water, quinoa, and beans, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to combine the flavors together and cook the quinoa.

Stir in the spinach and continue to simmer until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.

Mediterranean White Bean Soup

Balanced Health in a Pandemic: A Year in Review

Happy New Year! The past year can be categorized into three things: resilience, patience, and grit. My last blog post in March 2020 was a week before I learned that I would be working remotely (after beginning a new job on January 27). My son was moving home from college to finish his semester. My daughter’s company required all employees to work at home. Since my husband runs his business from a home office, he was equally disrupted by all of us home 24/7. I can honestly say as a family, we were able to adapt well and bounce back quickly in times of stress and uncertainty. The term “patience is a virtue” served us well as we waited to see the year unfold. To tolerate something that takes a long time is a good quality, but can be trying at times.

Let’s face it, flattening the curve means different things to different people. For some, it means getting rid of the quarantine 15 and committing to a healthier lifestyle. Social distancing is easy for some but challenging for others who live alone and work remotely. Some days you feel like you accomplished so much by crossing things off your to-do list. Other days you feel good because you changed out of your pajamas or took a shower. Large or small accomplishments take perseverance and grit. Self-care is not only important, but it is also necessary for self-preservation.

Goal setting is part of my daily, monthly, and yearly ritual. 2020 was a challenging year to set and keep goals. Knowing the importance of reflecting back on the past year before setting new goals, I am starting this new year with “Simple Steps to an Incredible Year,” a free online course with @melrobbins ( In the first course, I realized there are habits to continue and alter. I am more of an introvert than I thought, humility has made me a better person, and my family is the most important unit in my life.

Let 2021 be a year of hope and good health for all. Be resilient, be patient, and show the strength of your character.

Quote of the Week:

“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.” 

― Linda Poindexter

Recipe of the Week: Apple Maple Butter Oatmeal Bake

This is a “sneak peek” recipe from @ShalaneFlanagan and @ElyseKopecky new book Rise & Run: Recipes, Rituals, and Runs to Jumpstart Your Day, which launches October 2021. Great way to include oatmeal into your daily diet and you can make ahead to enjoy all week.

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup ground flax

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (plus more for baking dish)

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk, nut milk, or water

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 cups chopped apple (about 2)

1/3 cup chopped nuts or raisins, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with butter.

In a large bowl combine the oats, flax, cinnamon, cardamom (if using), salt, and baking powder.

In a small microwave bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and crack the eggs into the well. Whisk the eggs and add the milk or water, syrup, and melted butter. Whisk thoroughly then stir to combine with the dry ingredients. Stir in the apple and nuts or raisins, if desired.

Pour into the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small cubes and sprinkle on top. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until set in the middle, and golden and crispy on top.

Allow to cool slightly, then slice into squares and serve warm topped with whole milk yogurt and an extra drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.

Ways to Build Your Immune System to Stay Healthy

In recent months, the news has focused on ways to stay healthy to prevent disease. Beyond proper hygiene and “social distancing,” building up your immune system is a protective measure to remain healthy.

According to the National Institute of Health, “the defense system of the human body is made up of entire organs and vessel systems like the lymph vessels, but also of individual cells and proteins. The inner and outer surfaces of the body are the first barriers against germs. These surfaces include the skin and all mucous membranes, which form a protective wall.

Several things support this protective wall:

  • The body’s antibacterial substances can disable different pathogens from the environment at an early stage. A specific enzyme found in saliva, the airways, and tear fluid destroys the cell walls of bacteria.
  • Many pathogens that are breathed in get stuck to mucus in the bronchi and are then moved out of the airways by hair-like structures called cilia.
  • Most pathogens that enter the body together with food are usually stopped by stomach acid.
  • Healthy flora, harmless bacteria that reside on the skin and many mucous membranes in the body, also help to protect the body.

The cough and sneeze reflex can also help to remove pathogens.”

Personally, my daily effort to stay healthy and boost my immune system is through food. If I have to distance myself socially for the next few months to avoid a pandemic, I will most likely spend it in my kitchen preparing healthy meals. Below are my pantry staples that help boost the immune system:

Broccoli and spinach: My fridge is rarely without broccoli or spinach. It is easy to cook in a variety of ways (but don’t overcook), rich in vitamin C, full of fiber, and antioxidants.

Citrus fruits: Your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, so you need a daily intake of fruits and vegetables (like red peppers) that contain this immune-boosting vitamin. Luckily, almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. 

Green Tea: Both black and green teas contain flavonoids, which is a type of antioxidant. But green tea has high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to enhance the immune system.

Kiwi: This fuzzy green fruit is naturally full of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. 

Yogurt: Greek yogurt contains “live and active cultures” printed on the label are the best. This type of yogurt is also higher in protein and low in natural sugar (if you purchase plain vs. flavored). The cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases. 

Almonds: An easy snack that contains vitamin E and healthy fat.

Garlic: I always have garlic on hand to create a savory, flavorful dish. Garlic may help fight infection, lower blood pressure, and slow down the hardening of the arteries.

Turmeric: This yellow spice, which is used in many curries, is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties (helps both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis). Turmeric can also help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.

Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods every day is important to increase our resistance to the germs that can cause illness and disease. Other health-promoting behaviors to boost your immune system is to get enough sleep, stay active with moderate, daily exercise, and manage stress.

Quote: A healthy outside starts from the inside.

~ Robert Urich

Recipe: Banana Bread Oats

Thank you GOLD SOUL HEALTH for this awesome recipe. Great way to start the day with so many healthy ingredients. #goldsoulhealth


Almond milk
Flax seed
Maple syrup

  1. Heat ½ cup of almond milk on medium stove top with ½ cup of oatmeal
  2. Once soft, add half a mashed banana, cinnamon, 2 TBS ground flax seed, dash of maple syrup, and some more milk
  3. Simmer for a few minutes
  4. Place in a bowl and top with more cinnamon and the other half of the banana
  5. Optional toppings: almond butter, walnuts, cacao nibs, or shredded coconut

A Guide to Develop Good Habits Instead of Resolutions

Happy New Year! One year ago, I began Balanced Health Blog as a way to share meaningful nutrition and health information. Learning how to interpret accurate nutrition and health information through earning my Certificate of Nutrition Science at Tufts has enlightened and inspired me to continue to make positive lifestyle choices. 

One of the larger questions my colleagues and I discussed at Tufts was: if the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are so clear, why aren’t healthy behaviors more common and why are behaviors so hard to change? 

This past year I started following James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. In an excerpt from his book, he writes about creating identity-based habits. “The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity.” 

In his article “Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year,” Clear describes three layers of behavior change: 

The first layer is changing your outcomes. This level is concerned with changing your results: losing weight, publishing a book, winning a championship. Most of the goals you set are associated with this level of change. 

The second layer is changing your process. This level is concerned with changing your habits and systems: implementing a new routine at the gym, decluttering your desk for better workflow, developing a meditation practice. Most of the habits you build are associated with this level. 

The third and deepest layer is changing your identity. This level is concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, your self-image, your judgments about yourself and others. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level.” 

For example, if you want to lose weight, become the type of person who exercises each day. This may mean setting your alarm earlier to get to the gym or for a morning walk. Enlist a workout buddy to keep you accountable and your identity is now the person who shows up three times a week (or more!) for a workout. If you need an accountability buddy, email me and I will be happy to hold us both accountable for our new habits. 

Setting goals is an important step to changing a habit, but designing a plan to execute your goals is what keeps you accountable. A few month ago, I set a goal to meditate at least five minutes a day. This goal may seem achievable because it is only 35 minutes a week, but I found it hard to commit to a quiet time each day. The solution was to download an app on my phone and set a reminder. I have now created the habit of daily meditation. 

This year, spend less time focusing on a possible result of a goal or action and more time focusing on the habits that prepare the way for the results. Happy 2020! 

Quote of the week: 

“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.” – Hermann Hesse 

Recipe of the week: Quinoa Stuffed Bell Pepper 

A delicious side dish or main course if you add the beans and cheese.  


3-4 bell peppers tops cut, stemmed and seeded  

1-2 cups cooked Quinoa 

1 can of Green Chilies 

½ cup Diced Tomatoes 

3 tbsp Cilantro 

1 teaspoon Cumin 

1 teaspoon Garlic powder 

½ teaspoon Onion powder or use 1-2 tbsp of fresh Red Onion 

½ teaspoon Chili powder 


Optional: black beans and/or feta cheese 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  1. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, green chilies, tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, garlic, onion, chili powder, salt, pepper, and phase appropriate amount of black beans/feta at the end after each portion is measured out if you’d like to add. 
  1. Spoon the filling into the bell pepper. Place in oven safe dish, cavity side up and bake until the peppers are tender and the filling is heated through. About 20-30 minutes. 

Health is Wealth: Tips to Achieve a Longer, Healthier Life

Many of us have heard the statement “Health is Wealth,” but what does it mean? It means that having good health is more valuable than having material wealth. If we are not healthy (physically, mentally, or socially), wealth means nothing to us.

With good health comes gratitude, and gratitude reduces materialism. With Thanksgiving approaching, we often acknowledge what we are grateful for in life. I am genuinely thankful for the gift of good health and realize it is what matters in life. But good health isn’t always granted to you. For some of us, we need to work on achieving  healthy lifestyle constantly. Below are a few guidelines to attain a healthier life:

Think positively! Developing an optimistic attitude can alter your life in surprising ways. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.” Avoiding unpleasant situations isn’t realistic, but approaching unpleasantness in a more positive, productive way can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Eat a balanced diet. Eating a healthy diet is an essential step in maintaining good health. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. Fruits, vegetables, lean meat, poultry, milk, and whole-grain foods create a balanced diet.

Exercise (almost) every day. Staying active and moving your body regularly will improve blood circulation and release muscle tension that results in a stronger body and mind. Strive for 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. If you have a desk job, make sure you get up and move around every couple of hours and stretch your muscles from time to time. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress.

Increase emotional health. When you improve your physical health, you will often experience greater mental and emotional well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals that boost our mood and provide energy. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people and create a work-life balance between your daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy.

Get quality sleep. The National Institute of Health recommends 7-8 hours of sleep per night for adults. NIH also points out the importance of staying on a consistent sleep schedule, having a quiet and comfortable environment, turning off all electronics, and avoiding eating large meals before bedtime. Sleep is as important as regular exercise and eating a balanced diet and will help you maintain optimal health and well-being.

Reduce stress. Focusing on the tips above can help minimize stress in our daily lives. Find a balance between your work and personal life, find a sense of purpose in life apart from work, get enough sleep, practice physical activity habitually, and adopt healthy habits.

Quote of the Week: “Simply enjoy life and the great pleasures that come with it.” ~ Karolína Kurková

Recipe of the Week: Vegetarian Chili

With the variety of spices, beans, and vegetables, you won’t miss the meat in this hearty chili. The key for texture and flavor is to blend a portion of the chili. Adapted from:


    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    1 medium red onion, chopped

    1 large red bell pepper, chopped

    2 medium carrots, chopped

    2 ribs celery, chopped

    ½ teaspoon salt, divided

    4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

    2 tablespoons chili powder

    2 teaspoons ground cumin

    1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika

    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 large can (28 ounces) or 2 small cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes, with their juices

    2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained

    1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained

    2 cups vegetable broth or water

    1 bay leaf

    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnishing

    1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar or lime juice, to taste

Garnishes: chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, tortilla chips, sour cream or grated cheddar cheese.


  1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, the drained black beans and pinto beans, vegetable broth and bay leaf. Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes. Remove the chili from the heat.
  4. For the best texture and flavor, transfer 1 ½ cups of the chili to a blender, making sure to get some of the liquid portion. Securely fasten the lid and blend until smooth (watch out for hot steam), then pour the blended mixture back into the pot. (Or, you can blend the chili briefly with an immersion blender, or mash the chili with a potato masher until it reaches a thicker, more chili-like consistency.)
  5. Add the chopped cilantro, stir to blend, and then mix in the vinegar, to taste. Add salt to taste, too—I added ¼ teaspoon more at this point. Divide the mixture into individual bowls and serve with garnishes of your choice.

How to Eat Like a Normal Person Without Dieting

One of my first blogs was titled ‘Are you following a diet or a lifestyle?’ The message was about making healthy choices over the long term versus sticking to “a diet” or weight loss plan.  It took me many years of trying various diets to understand that good health does not have to include a restrictive diet and long list of rules that limit foods or food groups. My goal was to not be on a diet, but to have a healthy lifestyle that would prevent disease and promote longevity.

There is so much information available online, in bookstores, and on magazine racks about diets and weight loss strategies. Information overload can be confusing and may also create a distorted sense of societal norms. Cultural bias around food choices and body type is prevalent everywhere. How you approach your daily food intake is different for everyone and you shouldn’t have to explain your food choices to anyone.

For about a decade, between my mid-30s to mid-40s, I incorporated running into my weekly workouts, which led to sprint triathlons, half marathons, and then marathons. During this time,  I abandoned “dieting” because I was always hungry and knew I was burning extra calories. Training for races, working, and raising small children was an exciting but challenging experience that required planning. Knowing I needed to fuel properly before, during, and after a workout was imperative to my performance and overall health. I simplified my approach to food by eating quality whole, unprocessed foods while not restricting food groups, other than meat (personal preference).

Just as you need a plan to train for a race, you also need a plan to live a healthy life. Below are a few approaches that may help encourage healthy choices:

  • Be mindful. Deliberately pay attention to your hunger cues and eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full. Creating awareness of how food choices affect your body, feelings, and mind will help you feel your best.
  • Eat regularly. If you start with a healthy breakfast, you are more likely to continue making good eating choices for the remainder of the day. Regularly fueling your body helps you stay full and avoid overeating.
  • Think simple. The goal is to make small changes, but not all at once. Meal planning, beginning a new exercise program, or cooking at home more often does not have to happen at the same time.
  • Enjoy more produce. There is an abundance of fruits and vegetables to choose from at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Add a serving to each meal to crowd out other foods that are higher in fat and calories.
  • Move your body. Regular exercise is good for your mind and your body. Incorporating some form of exercise every day can help clear your mind, improve your sleep, and build muscle. You don’t have to commit to hours at a gym. It could simply be a daily walk or a 30-minute body weight workout in your basement. The idea is to make it a habit like brushing your teeth.
  • Drink water. Sometimes when I feel hungry a few hours after breakfast, I chug 16 ounces of water and wait to see if I am still hungry. Often times hunger can be confused with thirst. I also drink a glass of water before each meal to curb overeating. Drinking an abundance of water also helps with digestion.

The bottom line is to choose health-promoting behaviors that you can sustain over time. The best self-care is when you commit to consistent, personalized, healthful actions for optimal health.

Quote of the Week: Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you’ll be criticized anyway. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 Recipe of the Week: General Tso’s Cauliflower

This tastes exactly like Chinese takeout but so much healthier! Tested on the family with two thumbs up. I reduced the amount of soy sauce in this recipe and only used 1/8 cup brown sugar. So yummy! Adapted from



1/2 head cauliflower

1/2 cup flour

2 large eggs whisked

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 cloves garlic minced

1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp cold water

Prep: Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange workspace, placing flour, egg, and panko in separate bowls. Mix salt and pepper into panko. Cut cauliflower into bite-sized florets.

Dredge: Working in batches, coat the florets in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crispy.

Sauce: Set a small saucepan over medium heat and add the sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant, then add remaining sauce ingredients except the cornstarch mixture. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer. While whisking, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. It should thicken quickly; if not, continue simmering until thick.

Assemble: Drizzle sauce over the baked cauliflower and gently toss to evenly coat. Serve cauliflower over warm rice or quinoa.

General Tso’s Cauliflower

Defining a Healthy Body Weight and Composition

How do you know if your weight is appropriate for your height or if the number on the scale is jeopardizing your overall health? My son recently had a physical exam to be cleared for college athletics. When I looked at his vitals listed on his form, his body mass index (BMI) read 25.3, which is considered “overweight” based on his height and weight. This reading surprised me because he is far from overweight and, on the contrary, quite physically fit. BMI is an estimate of how much body fat a person has and it is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in pounds by his or her height in inches. The calculation is:  [weight (lb) / height (in) / height (in)] x 703. You can also use a BMI calculator. The BMI score means the following:


Underweight                           Below 18.5

Normal                                    18.5–24.9

Overweight                             25.0–29.9

Obesity                                   30.0 and Above

More than two-thirds of adults in the United States have a BMI higher than 25, but this statistic may be misleading because this calculation does not consider body composition. The limitations to this calculation method may include an overestimate of body fat in athletes and people who have a muscular build. On the contrary, it may underestimate body fat in older persons and others who have lost muscle.

BMI combined with waist circumference is a better indicator of body fat on a person. According to the CDC, “measuring your waist circumference is another way to estimate your risk of developing weight-related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. To measure yours, place a measuring tape right above your hip bones. Keep it snug but not too tight, and take the measurement right after you exhale. A circumference larger than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men indicates you’re at an unhealthy level.” Basically, your waist circumference should be less than half your height.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania point out that “the body mass index (BMI), based on the weight and height, is not an accurate measure of body fat content and does not account for critical factors that contribute to health or mortality, such as fat distribution, proportion of muscle to fat, and the sex and racial differences in body composition.” For example, BMI does not take into consideration where the body holds fat. Visceral fat, which is body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity and surrounds several important internal organs, is more harmful than fat that sits under the skin.

Visceral fat is the fat that we cannot see, so it is not always easy to know whether a person has an excess of it. A surplus of visceral fat can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancer. Exercise, both cardiovascular and strength training, is a great way to reduce visceral fat. Aim for 30-60 minutes most days of the week, alternating between cardio and strength as well as the intensity of activity.

Having some body fat is healthy and normal. To improve your overall health and maintain a healthy weight, adopt a permanent lifestyle of wholesome eating and regular physical activity. Appreciate your body weight for its influence on health and not just physical appearance. The scale does not always reveal the complete picture of health. Focus on improving your whole self – social, emotional, intellectual, and professional – for balanced health.

Quote of the Week:
The best way to predict the future is to create it.  ~ Peter Drucker

Recipe of the Week: Grilled Swordfish

Swordfish is a perfect fish for the grill because of its firm, lean flesh. Pair with grilled veggies and salad for a complete meal.


1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 swordfish fillets

In a shallow dish whisk together lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Put the swordfish in the bowl to cover and let marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill to high heat (450-500 degrees) and scrape the grill clean (if not already). Spray grill with non-stick cooking spray. Grill the fish for 5-7 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Actual grilling time will depend on the thickness of your fillet.

The Role of Metabolism for Weight Management

According to the Mayo Clinic, your metabolism influences your body’s basic energy needs, but how much you eat and drink along with how much physical activity you get are the things that ultimately determine your weight.

The term metabolism refers to all the processes in the body that naturally use energy. However, the way you increase or decrease the rate you burn calories depends on your age, gender, daily habits, and any underlying health conditions. Your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, is the number of calories you burn while sedentary. Your RMR is approximately 60 to 75% of your total daily calorie needs. Everyone’s RMR is different. For example, someone who is very large and muscular needs more calories to maintain his body at rest than someone very small. As you get older, your muscle mass decreases and fat accounts for more of your weight, which slows down calorie burning.

We often blame metabolism for weight gain and are mystified by teenagers who can eat anything they want and not gain weight. Unfortunately, weight gain is a complicated process. It’s often a combination of genetics, hormonal controls, diet composition, and the impact of the environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity, and stress.

Below are a few ways to boost your metabolism at any age:

Eat more protein. Eating small amounts of lean proteins each day, like chicken and fish, may increase the number of calories you burn. Easy ways to incorporate more protein is to choose Greek yogurt which contains 17-20 grams of protein, pairing peanut butter with fruit, or snacking on cheddar cheese.

Strength training. When your body has more muscle mass, you burn more calories, even when resting. Aim for at least two weight sessions a week. Try the row + weights work out below! All you need is a rowing machine (at most gyms) and two dumbbells!

  • 6 x 500 m row
  • 6 x 10 bicep curls
  • 6 x 10 overhead press
  • 6 x 15 weighted squats
  • 6 x 10 weighted lunges (each leg)

Get more sleep. Regular sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your hunger and appetite hormones, which may cause you to overeat. Shoot for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Exercise. Physical activity that raises your heart rate such as running, swimming, aerobics, and walking, fuels your metabolism and helps burn calories. Rigorous exercise may also suppress your appetite post-workout. The workout above incorporates cardio, too – killing two birds with one stone!

Eat often. To keep your brain and body full of energy, eat regularly through the day. Eating four to five small meals throughout the day while being mindful of the amount you eat at each meal will help boost your metabolism.

In addition to the tips above, any extra movement helps burn calories, so seek ways to walk and move around a few minutes more each day. This may include gardening, doing laundry, or taking the dog for an extra walk. Even simple movements like sitting up straight or standing at your desk will boost your energy and improve your metabolism.

Quote of the Week: Positive thoughts generate positive feelings and attract positive life experiences.

Recipe of the Week:
No-Bake Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter Energy Bites

This is an excellent snack as a pre-workout, after-dinner treat, or healthy addition to your kid’s lunchbox.


· 1 ½ cups of old-fashioned rolled oats

· ½ cup of ground flax seed

· 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

· ⅓ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes

· ½ cup of raw honey

· ½ cup of almond butter

· 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

· ½ cup of dark chocolate chips


Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form energy bite mixture into 1″ balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Enjoy! 

No-Bake Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter Energy Bites

How to Eat Healthy When Eating Out

Planning a special occasion dinner on the town or just a break from the kitchen? Dining out can be social and relaxing, but it can also be healthy with some planning. We all know that life sometimes gets in the way of cooking a healthy meal at home, but if you think about ways in advance to eat healthy on the go, your heart and waistline will thank you.

Since I eat a primarily plant-based diet, I always look at the menu ahead of time. Some restaurants offer nutritional information on their websites which is a way to learn about items that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. If it is a special occasion dinner where the sides are a la carte and the portions are large, I will eat mostly sides and take the rest home for another meal. Or, I will swap out a carbohydrate-rich side for an extra helping of veggies. Another way to control portions is to order an appetizer (or two!) for your meal or share a meal to keep the calories (and cost) to a minimum.

When ordering a salad as a meal or appetizer, ask for the dressing on the side and instead of pouring the dressing over the salad, dip your fork into the dressing and then take a scoop of greens. A few other tricks to curb overeating (at home or out to dinner) is to drink water before and during a meal and put your fork down between bites. If you have a late reservation, eat a healthy snack before you go so you don’t dive into the bread basket the minute it hits the table.

The American Heart Association offers some easy swaps below to help you make the healthy choice when eating out:


  • bacon, sausage & fatty, salty meats
  • white bread, rice and pasta
  • cream-based or cheese soups
  • deep-fried, pan-fried, extra crispy, creamed, stuffed
  • French fries
  • refried beans
  • sour cream, queso
  • salty sauces like soy, teriyaki, cocktail, au jus
  • all-you-can-eat, supersize, buffet
  • traditional desserts, cookies, ice cream
  • soda, sweet tea, sugary cocktails


  • skinless chicken, fish, lean meat
  • whole-grain bread, rice and pasta
  • broth-based soup with lots of veggies
  • grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, baked, poached
  • baked potato or side salad
  • pintos or black beans
  • guacamole, pico de gallo
  • light sauces flavored with herbs, spices, vinegar, wine
  • a la carte, light menu, salad bar
  • fresh fruit and fruit-based desserts
  • water, 100% juice, diet soda, seltzer, spritzers

Quote of the Week:

“We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.”

~ Gloria Steinem

Recipe of the Week: Apple Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

If you are looking for ways to get your vegetable and fruit intake for the day, this recipe is for you! I adapted the recipe from The Real Food Dieticians. One note for the next time I make it (feedback from the family taste test) is I would blanch the cauliflower and broccoli so they are slightly tender and brighter.


    2–3 small heads of broccoli, chopped (3–4 cups)

    1 head cauliflower (3–4 cups)

    1 medium apple, diced

    2 celery ribs, diced (3/4 cup)

    1/2 medium red onion, diced (1 cup)

    1/2 cup dried cranberries

    3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (sub sunflower seeds for nut-free)

    2/3 cup Lemon Garlic Dressing (see recipe below)

    1/3 cup mayo

    1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (optional)

    Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients except for the dressing, mayo and thyme. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon dressing, mayo and fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the large bowl and toss until well combined. Let salad sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow veggies to marinate in the dressing. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

Prep tip: This salad can be made a day in advance. Add the walnuts just before serving so that they keep their crunch.

Homemade Lemon Garlic Dressing:

Whisk together –

    1/3 cup organic olive oil

    3 Tbsp. lemon juice

    2 garlic cloves, minced

    1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)

    1/2 tsp. sea salt

    1/4 tsp. black pepper

Apple Broccoli Cauliflower Salad