Healthy Foods to Make, Eat, or Bring to a Summer Barbecue

Summer barbecues are a great way to gather friends and family, but eating healthy can sometimes be a challenge. Often, BBQ fare is laden with fat, salt, sugar, and calories. You do not have to deprive yourself of foods you love, but you have to learn how to make healthy choices or control the portions of the not-so-healthy options. As a non-meat eater, I always make a healthy side dish or two to bring to a barbecue or summer party. Dishes may include a tossed garden salad with homemade dressing on the side or a grain bowl. One of my favorite recipes that I make all year long is Jennifer Aniston’s simple quinoa salad (see recipe below).

If you are hosting a party, making healthy dishes ahead of time allows you to be a guest at your party while offering healthy options. Follow this link for inspiration on side dishes that are under 250 calories. Below are some tricks to eating healthy at your next BBQ:

  1. Fill half your plate with raw vegetables and fresh fruit. If you do this first, there is less room on the plate for less healthy options.
  2. If you eat meat, choose a lean protein such as turkey or chicken. If you enjoy fatty meats such as ribs or pulled pork, keep your portion to the size of the palm of your hand (or about one-half cup) and ditch the bun.
  3. Another protein source that is full of fiber is beans. Just 1/2 cup (130 grams) of baked beans supplies 18% of the recommended daily intake for fiber. A healthy option is a hearty bean salad, but baked beans can be nutritious if you make them yourself. Follow this link for a slow-cooker baked bean recipe.
  4. Corn on the cob tastes like summer to me and is perfect when boiled or barbecued. To keep the vegetable healthy, avoid topping with butter and salt.
  5. Choosing coleslaw and potato salad that is vinegar-based instead of mayonnaise-based is a healthier option and cheaper to make at home. If you enjoy the creamier versions, try to stick to a small serving and make it yourself so you can adjust the ingredients. Store-bought versions of these types of salads can have an abundance of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

Quote of the week:

It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.

~ Paulo Coelho

Recipe of the Week: Jennifer Aniston’s Favorite Quinoa Salad

Made with only six ingredients, this salad can be served as side dish or enjoyed as a main meal.


½ cup quinoa

1 cup water

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley washed and chopped (thick stems removed)

4 Persian cucumbers, peeled in strips, seeded and diced

2 medium tomatoes diced

1 ripe, but slightly firm avocado diced

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a small saucepan bring water and salt to a boil.
  2. Stir in quinoa, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Put quinoa into a medium size mixing bowl and cool.
  4. Add parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado and oil to quinoa.
  5. Mix and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

Jennifer Aniston’s Favorite Quinoa Salad

The Importance of Hydration For Your Body and Overall Health

Water is one of the most vital components of the human body and composes 60% of your body. Water regulates body temperature, surrounds and protects vital organs, and aids in the digestive process. Water also acts within each cell to transport nutrients and eliminate waste.

Water must be consumed to replace the amount lost each day during basic daily activities. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that women consume 2.7 liters (91 oz) daily and men consume 3.7 liters (125 oz) through various beverages (80%) or in food (20%). Active individuals need more water, particularly if they’re exercising in hot weather. Drinking water is especially important during the 24 hours before vigorous exercise. You can meet your body’s daily need of water through a variety of fluids and foods, including juices, smoothies, tea, soups, fruits, and vegetables.

In one hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. If there is not enough water for the body to cool itself through perspiration, your body may become dehydrated. Fluid intake is especially important for athletes because dehydration could lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

When I was training for the Boston marathon in cold New England weather, I had to practice drinking enough fluids because I did not know what the temperature was going to be on race-day (it was in the 80s!). Figuring out how to stay hydrated, but not overhydrated was important for my run and post-run success. For most individuals, water is the best way to replenish fluids during exercise. Sports drinks help replace lost electrolytes during high-intensity exercise exceeding 45 to 60 minutes. Individuals who sweat profusely during exercise and whose sweat contains a high amount of sodium should choose sports drinks and ensure that their diet contains adequate sodium to prevent hyponatremia (water intoxication).

Other signs of dehydration include lack of energy and muscle cramps. It is essential to consume water before the symptoms of thirst appear. One way to check your hydration level is to monitor your urine. It should be ample and pale yellow unless you are taking supplements, which will darken the color for several hours after consumption.

Hydration Hints (from the American Heart Association):

•    Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise.

•    Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.

•    Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

Hint: Rehydration occurs faster in the presence of sodium, regardless of whether it is provided in a sports drink.

Happy Fourth of July!

Quote of the week:

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”  

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recipe of the Week: Buffalo Cauliflower

I enjoyed this dish as an appetizer at a restaurant and searched for the recipe because it was so delicious. Great substitution for buffalo wings. Recipe adapted from


olive oil cooking spray

3/4 cup flour

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste

salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup hot pepper sauce (I use Frank’s RedHot)

1 teaspoon honey

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
  2. Mix flour, water, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a bowl using a whisk until batter is smooth and somewhat runny. Add cauliflower to batter and mix until cauliflower is coated; spread onto the baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove saucepan from heat and stir hot pepper sauce and honey into butter until smooth. Brush hot sauce mixture over each cauliflower piece, repeating brushing until all the hot sauce mixture is used.
  5. Bake in the oven until cauliflower is browned, about 10 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and allow the cauliflower to cool 10 to 15 minutes.
Buffalo Cauliflower

Is Alcohol Sabotaging Your Diet and Your Health?

All year long, there are reasons to celebrate. Holidays, birthdays, summer vacations, graduations, weddings, it’s Wednesday. But studies consistently show that alcohol impedes the best-intended diets and overall health. One night of partying could set you back 1,000 calories. If this sounds like a buzz kill, consider the following:

Excess (Empty) Calories: If you enjoy mixed drinks and cocktails, the alcohol is not the problem, but the sugary mixes like juice and soda. For example, one jigger (1.5 fluid ounce) of vodka is only 97 calories. Combined with juice or soda and your drink now contains 250 calories. For one drink! Wine, light beer, and pure forms of alcohol — such as vodka, whiskey, rum and gin — offer few or zero carbs per serving and are easily paired with low calorie mixers like seltzer, diet soda, or sugar-free tonic water.

Slower Metabolism: Drinking alcohol decreases your ability to burn fat and slows your metabolism by approximately 70-percent. For example, when you drink, your body converts its energy on eliminating the toxins in alcohol instead of the bag of chips you ate before you went to bed.

Increased Appetite: Drinking alcohol harms brain chemicals and may cause you to lose your inhibitions, especially when it comes to eating and snacking. For example, you are more likely to reach for a carbohydrate-rich, sugar, and/or fat-laden snack or meal when you drink alcohol.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Examples of one drink include:

•    Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)

•    Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)

•    Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters)

There are pros and cons to moderate alcohol use. Moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits, such as:

•    Reducing your risk of developing and dying from heart disease

•    Possibly reducing your risk of ischemic stroke (when the arteries to your brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow)

•    Possibly reducing your risk of diabetes

Excessive drinking can increase your risk of severe health problems, including:

•    Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver

•    Pancreatitis

•    Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure

•    Stroke

•    High blood pressure

•    Liver disease

Your diet is only one part of the equation. For optimal health, it is best to keep alcohol consumption in check to avoid adverse health effects and an expanded waistline.

Quote of the week:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

Recipe of the Week: Summer Vegetable Ribbon Salad

All you need is a vegetable peeler and fresh vegetables for this colorful summer side dish.


1 zucchini, ends cut off

1 yellow squash, ends cut off

1 small bunch asparagus, tough ends removed

2 large carrots, peeled and ends cut off

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini, squash, and carrots into long thin strips (“ribbons”). Thinly slice the asparagus on a diagonal.

Fill a small saucepan with water, and bring a boil over high heat. Carefully add in the sliced asparagus, and boil for 1-2 minutes, until the asparagus turns bright green. Using a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Let sit for a minute, then drain the water, and toss the asparagus with the zucchini, squash, and carrots in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and drizzle over the vegetables. Toss to coat. Garnish with the pecorino or parmesan shavings. Serve.

The Health Benefits of Eating in Season

Our local farmer’s market opens today and will be open every Wednesday through October. I enjoy browsing the market when I can to purchase fresh produce as well as cheese, fish, eggs, and wine! What I like most about shopping at a farmer’s market is seasonal fruits and vegetables that are produced on local farms. They often are fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than food consumed out of season or at a commercial grocery store. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally on their parent plant. Nutrient content changes in foods depending on which seasons they were produced in. Local food also benefits the environment and supports the local economy.

Other benefits of eating what’s in season is it supports your body’s natural nutritional needs. In winter, nature provides an abundance of  citrus fruits, which are high in Vitamin C and important for preventing infections such as colds and the flu. Winter vegetables offer comfort and are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups, casseroles, and other warm meals. Summer foods such as stone fruits, provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage. They also have natural sugar that provide extra energy for increased outdoor activities. And seasonal summer vegetables are perfect for cool salads when it is too hot to cook.

How do you choose seasonal produce? It depends on where you live. MyPlate, MyState is a great resource to learn the foods grown in your region. For instance, in Massachusetts, the following fruits and vegetables are locally grown and produced:

Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries (tame and wild), Cantaloupes and Muskmelons, Cherries (sweet and tart), Cranberries, Currants, Grapes, Honeydew Melons, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Persimmons, Plums and Prunes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Watermelon

Vegetables: Asparagus, Beans (green lima and snap), Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage (Chinese and head), Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Collards, Cucumbers and Pickles, Eggplant, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce (head, leaf, and Romaine), Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions (dry and green), Parsley, Peas (Chinese and green), Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Spinach, Squash (summer and winter), Sweet Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes,  Turnip Greens, Turnips

Choosing seasonal foods, even if you did not grow them yourself, helps you reconnect with nature’s natural cadences. So, enjoy your summer peaches and corn while you can before it’s time for fall soup weather.

Quote of the week:

Shop where you live to support your local businesses.

Recipe of the Week: One Pot Farmer’s Market Pasta

This is an easy, quick meal that will feed the whole family. You can add a variety of different veggies for this dish, whatever you have on hand and/or in season. You can also add carrots, zucchini, and cauliflower to super-size the vegetables. 


12 oz spaghetti (I use Barilla Protein Pasta or Whole Wheat Pasta)

1 medium red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced

1 small Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and sliced

5-6 stalks asparagus, cut in 2-inch pieces

a handful of broccoli florets, cut in half

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (some for the pot, then the rest for after the dish is cooked).

1 colorful bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

2 handfuls baby greens (I used baby kale or fresh spinach)

1 tsp salt and fresh cracked pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup dry white wine (or vegetable/chicken stock)

3 1/2 cups water

1 Tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar

1 cup shredded hard Italian cheese

Shredded fresh basil (for garnish)

Put everything in a large pot except the cheese and fresh basil. Add the wine and water (measure exactly since you will not drain the pasta) to the pot and bring to a boil. If your pasta doesn’t fit completely into the pot, nudge it down into the water as it softens. Cover the pot while it comes to a boil then uncover and boil for about 7-9 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente. Watch the pan to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick. Do not over cook the pasta. There will still be some water left in the pan.

Toss the pasta with the cheese, and serve with the extra tomatoes and fresh basil.

Do Dietary Supplements Offer Health Benefits?

People take supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that the “use of dietary supplements is not associated with mortality benefits among U.S. adults.“ What does this mean for people who purchase and consume daily vitamins? The results of the data in this study suggest getting the nutrients you need from food is better than taking supplements.

The data, however, did not include people with nutritional needs different from those of the general population or those who were deficient in specific vitamins. For example, I eat a primarily plant-based diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and occasional fish. Although this sounds like a balanced diet, I was tested a few years ago for vitamin D deficiency and found that I was six percent of the daily recommended intake. Vitamin D is not naturally present in many foods, yet it is produced internally when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Knowing that insufficient vitamin D may make bones thin, brittle, or misshapen, my doctor suggested a supplement. I purchased a good quality supplement from Nordic Naturals.

 I also take vitamin B12 since it is naturally found in animal products, and I do not eat meat and limit my intake of animal products. It is also added to certain foods such as fortified cereals and nondairy milk. Vitamin B12 has many roles in your body. It supports the normal function of your nerve cells and needed for red blood cell formation, anemia prevention, and DNA synthesis. An early sign of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue or lack of energy, but testing through your doctor is the best way to find out if you are deficient.

Many people take supplements to improve their health, but there is limited evidence that they offer any significant health benefits. A study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the four most commonly used supplements — multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C — did not protect against cardiovascular disease.

Most supplements are safe to take, although not regulated by the FDA. Of course, there are possible health risks, for example (from Harvard Health Publishing):

•    High doses of beta carotene have been linked to a greater risk of lung cancer in smokers.

•    Extra calcium and vitamin D may increase the risk of kidney stones.

•    High doses of vitamin E may lead to a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.

•    Vitamin K can interfere with the anti-clotting effects of blood thinners.

•    Taking high amounts of vitamin B6 for a year or longer has been associated with nerve damage that can impair body movements (the symptoms often go away after the supplements are stopped).

The bottom line is that taking dietary supplements is not a substitute for a healthy balanced diet unless you test for a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Eating a variety of healthy foods every day is the best way to get enough essential nutrients.

Quote of the week: Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Recipe of the Week: Quinoa & Chickpea Salad (recipe adapted by Helene Spoto)

Summer is right around the corner and this salad is easy to make without heating up your house. Quinoa is a powerful source of plant-based protein. When you add chickpeas, crunchy vegetables, parsley and lemon, whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or meat-eater, you’ll enjoy a light and satisfying salad.


1 cup quinoa, uncooked (rinsed and drained)

2 cups water

1-15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups English cucumber, diced

3/4 cup red pepper, diced

1/2 cup red onion, finely minced

1 cup parsley, chopped

3 Tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Salt and pepper to taste

Quinoa preparation: In a saucepan, mix the rinsed quinoa with the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat until it starts to boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook the quinoa, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and allow it to steam for 5 minutes. Then, fluff with a fork and let it cool.

In a large bowl, mix the chickpeas, vegetables and parsley with a large spoon and set aside.

In a small bowl or shaker bottle, add the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk or shake until thoroughly blended.

Add the cooled quinoa to the large bowl and toss with the dressing until combined.

Cover for 10 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavors to intensify.

Tips for Healthy Snacking on the Go

Often, people avoid eating between meals when they are trying to lose weight. But when your stomach begins to rumble before your next meal, a healthy snack can help stabilize your blood sugar and provide fuel and energy to power through the day and avoid overeating at mealtime. The key is planning snacks that you can take anywhere and are nutritious. Foods that contain protein or fat may help you lose weight and keep cravings to a minimum. Below are healthy snack options that are under 200 calories:

Medium apple with one tablespoon natural peanut or almond butter: Apples are high in fiber and polyphenol antioxidants that may improve your digestive system and reduce the risk of heart disease. Nut butters have some heart-healthy benefits and have been shown to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. Be careful to stick to the serving size as it is high in calories. If you haven’t tried almond butter, a good quality brand is Justin’s.

Greek or Icelandic Yogurt: This type of yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein, and probiotics and half the sugar compared to traditional yogurts. I am a fan of Siggi’s nonfat vanilla yogurt which contains 15 grams of protein, nine grams of sugar, and 110 calories for a 5.3-ounce cup.

Hummus: Made from pureed chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil, hummus has five grams of protein and four grams of fiber. Serve with cut up veggies such as baby carrots, red bell pepper slices, grape tomatoes, or cucumber slices or spread on whole-grain bread for extra fiber and nutrients. I often make it from scratch (my Mom’s recipe!), but several brands offer single serving cups such as Joseph’s Mediterranean Cuisine.

Nuts: Eating nuts provide the perfect balance of healthy fat, protein, and fiber and are a very portable snack. They contain, on average, 180 calories in a 1-ounce serving and are very filling. Studies have shown that eating nuts in moderation (keep to the serving size!) can help you lose weight.

Hard-boiled eggs: This is filling snack that you can make ahead and eat on the go. Two large, hard-boiled eggs contain about 140 calories and 13 grams of protein and are a good source of vitamins K2 and B12.

Cheese: A two-ounce serving of cheese provides about 14 grams of protein and 200 calories, and hard cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. Try a grass-fed brand such as Kerrygold Dubliner.

Olives: The plant compounds in olives may reduce inflammation as they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Olives also provide potent antioxidants. Depending on their size, 25 green or black olives have about 100–175 calories.

Guacamole and raw veggies: Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats that have been shown to support healthy blood cholesterol levels and heart health. For an “on-the-go” variety, try Wholly Guacamole Minis which have 120 calories and 12 grams of healthy fat.

Cottage Cheese: Similar to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is a high-protein, filling snack and contains 20 grams of protein and 125 milligrams of calcium per 5-ounce serving. Keep in mind that most brands contain high amounts of sodium, with 20-30% of the recommended daily allowance. I enjoy Good Culture organic cottage cheese because it has no artificial ingredients.

Quote of the week:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recipe of the Week: Zucchini Cakes


2 ½ cups zucchini, grated

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup bread crumbs

¼ cup onion, minced

1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well. Shape mixture into patties and dredge in flour. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

Zucchini Cakes

The Importance of Sleep for Health and Wellness

Many people know that good nutritional habits and consistent exercise are important determinants for overall health and wellness. Equally important for your health and healing is consistent, quality sleep. Sufficient sleep is necessary to fight off infection, support the metabolism of sugar to prevent diabetes, and for better performance in school or in the workplace.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “poor sleep health is a common problem with 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days.” People who sleep less than six hours a night due to lifestyle choices experience temporary fatigue, disorientation, and decreased alertness.

Poor quality or quantity of sleep can have adverse effects on your health, such as an increased risk for high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, weight gain, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. Inadequate sleep interrupts the balance of vital hormones that are involved in regulating your appetite. When there is a disruption of these hormones due to lack of sleep, it may lead to overeating. Also, research shows that “inadequate or low-quality sleep, increases inflammation in the body, which is a risk factor for several diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer,” according to the American Journal of Physiology.

Making sleep a priority in your life is achievable. Strive for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room. For an athlete in training, an extra hour may be needed for athletic performance and to reduce the risk of injury and illness.  Your body repairs itself when sleeping so athletes should strive for 8-10 hours per night. How can you get a better sleep? Below are a few tips:

  • Try to go to sleep and get up the same time every day, even on the weekends.
  • If you nap, limit sleep to 15-20 minutes or you may have trouble falling asleep at bedtime.
  • During the day, spend more time outside during daylight or expose yourself to light through a sunny window.
  • At night, avoid computers, cell phones, and television a few hours before bedtime.
  • Regular physical activity improves sleep quality. Timing is important because if you exercise too close to bed, it can interfere with sleep, so a morning or afternoon workout is best.
  • Eating a healthy diet plays a role in how well you sleep. Limit caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol close to bedtime. Drinking too many liquids in the evening may result in frequent trips to the bathroom.
  • Managing stress and clearing your head before bed will help you fall asleep faster. You could try a few minutes of meditation through an app called InsightTimer or take a warm bath. Prepare for the next day by writing down a few “to dos” and setting out your workout gear, so there is less to think about at bedtime.
  • Use “Bedtime” on your iPhone to set the amount of time that you want to sleep each night, and the “Clock” app can remind you to go to bed and sound an alarm to wake you up.

Quote of the week:

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”  ~Vince Lombardi

Recipe of the Week: Homemade Granola


4 cups rolled oats

1 cup raw nuts

½ cup pumpkin seeds

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup melted coconut oil or olive oil

½ cup maple syrup or honey

Homemade Vegan Granola

Optional mix-ins: ½ cup chocolate chips or coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts and/or seeds, salt and cinnamon. Pour in the oil and maple syrup and mix well until mixture is lightly coated. Pour the granola onto prepared baking sheet and use a large spoon to spread it in an even layer. Bake until lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. If adding coconut flakes, add halfway through baking. The granola will further crisp up as it cools. You can add chocolate chips once completely cooled.

Ways to Master Discipline for Health and Happiness

The definition of discipline according to is to “train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” In a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hofmann and his colleagues at the University of Chicago, people who have the ability to resist impulses and deal with goal conflicts report being more satisfied and happier with their lives. Good health is more than the absence of disease. Mastering discipline may improve many areas of a person’s life such as nutrition, physical activity, relationships, spirituality, academics, and profession.

If you wonder whether you could have more self-discipline or how it can be achieved, it may be easier than you think. Setting and meeting goals on a regular basis helps to get in the practice of living a healthier life. This is an individual choice and based on your values and rules you set for yourself. It is about changing your routine, which may be hard at first because you are training your mind to do something uncomfortable and not letting impulses or feelings dictate a choice. When a new behavior becomes a habit, you no longer have to make decisions because the new habit happens automatically.

Below are a few ways to achieve self-discipline:

  • Start small. Break goals into simple steps and focus on doing one thing consistently before you tackle another goal. If you want to eat healthier, incorporate one more fruit and vegetable into each meal. If you want to step up your level of physical activity, add an extra 10-15 minutes to your workout. If you want more sleep, go to bed a few minutes earlier each night.
  • Recognize your weaknesses. If you have chips or cookies in the house, you most likely will eat them. Keep healthy snacks on hand to resist temptation. If you tend to scroll before bed, shut your phone off at night so you can get quality sleep. Lay your workout clothes out the night before so you are less likely to blow off a workout. Meal prep so you will have healthy meals throughout the day and less decisions to make when eating.
  • Prioritize. Write down your tasks so you know what is most important in your day, week, month, or year. Add it to your calendar or stick it on your fridge. If you want to run your first road race, you need to write down a training schedule and stick with it. If you want to eat healthier, you need to make a list of healthy foods to buy so you can cook at home.
  • Forgive yourself. Don’t let a negative experience impede your goals and aspirations. You will have ups and downs with goals you set for yourself, but if you visualize a healthier future, it is easier to follow through with your plans. Celebrate the small accomplishments!

If you believe you can accomplish something, you will. Changing your perception about a resolution will help you succeed in your goals. When you achieve one goal, set a new goal to keep the momentum going and to foster self-care.

If you are struggling with goal-setting for your health and wellness, send me an email! I would be happy to help.

Quote of the week:

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” ~ Jim Rohn

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken


6 frozen, skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 cup of barbecue sauce

½ cup Italian salad dressing

¼ cup brown sugar (optional)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Place chicken in a slow cooker. In a bowl, mix the barbecue sauce, Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the chicken. Cover, and cook 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Chicken is done when cooked through and easy to shred. Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Place shredded chicken back in the crock pot and stir to coat with the sauce.

The Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in many body functions, including the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, the immune system, wound healing, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth. Vitamin C is easily absorbed both in food and in pill form, and it can enhance the absorption of iron when both vitamins are consumed together.

Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so excess amounts that you  may consume are excreted. Although overdose is not a concern, it is recommended to consume no more than the safe upper limit of 2,000 milligrams a day to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea. The recommended daily intake for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.

Vitamin C has been linked to several health benefits. This water-soluble vitamin is a potent antioxidant that can strengthen your body’s immune system. Studies have shown that vitamin C may help lower blood pressure in people with and without high blood pressure, which may reduce the risks of heart disease. Vitamin C may help reduce the risk of anemia for people with iron deficiency because it can help improve the absorption of iron from the diet.

Getting your daily dose of vitamin C is easy when you follow a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables. Below are top food sources of vitamin C*:

Food                                                    (mg) per serving         (%) DV**

Red pepper, sweet, raw, ½ cup          95                                158     

Orange juice, ¾ cup                            93                                155     

Orange, 1 medium                              70                                117     

Grapefruit juice, ¾ cup                       70                                117     

Kiwifruit, 1 medium                            64                                107     

Green pepper, sweet, raw, ½ cup      60                                100     

Broccoli, cooked, ½ cup                      51                                85       

Strawberries, fresh, sliced, ½ cup      49                                82       

Brussels sprouts, cooked, ½ cup         80                                48       

Grapefruit, ½ medium                        65                                39       

Broccoli, raw, ½ cup                            65                                39       

Tomato juice, ¾ cup                            55                                33       

Cantaloupe, ½ cup                              48                                29       

Cabbage, cooked, ½ cup                     47                                28       

Cauliflower, raw, ½ cup                      43                                26       

*( U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nutrient Data Laboratory)

**DV = Daily Value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed DVs to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet.

Quote of the week:

Practice self-care and bring more joy into everything you do.

Recipe of the Week: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Paprika


1-½ pounds Brussels sprouts, ends tripped and outer leaves removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1-teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place trimmed Brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and smoked paprika in a large stainless steel bowl and toss well. Pour onto a baking sheet and place on center oven rack. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, shaking pan every 5 to 7 minutes for even browning. Reduce heat when necessary to prevent burning. Brussels sprouts should be darkest brown, almost black, when done.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Paprika

The Skinny on Carbohydrates: Simple vs. Complex

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients in our diet and contain the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and dairy products. As one of the primary food groups, carbohydrates are essential to a healthy life as they provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. For many, the word “carbohydrate” is often associated with weight gain. But not all carbs are created equal.

Carbohydrates are divided into two categories: simple or complex. Scientifically, the difference between the two forms is the chemical structure and how quickly the sugar is absorbed and digested through the body. Simple carbs, which contain one or two sugars, are digested and absorbed more rapidly than complex carbohydrates, which include three or more sugars. Simple, or “bad” carbs, are high in calories, contain refined sugars such as corn syrup, white sugar, white flour, honey, and fruit juices, and are low in fiber and many nutrients. Examples include soda, baked goods, and some cereals.

Complex or “good” carbs are lower in calories, high in nutrients, and do not contain refined sugars or refined grains. They are also a good source of fiber, low in sodium, and low in saturated fat. Examples include fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains.

Both forms of carbohydrates function as comparatively quick energy sources, but simple carbs trigger bursts of energy faster than complex carbs because of the rapid rate they are digested and absorbed. Simple carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and sugar highs, while complex carbs provide prolonged energy. Simple carbs may be beneficial for endurance athletes who need a boost for performance.

Including complex carbohydrates as part of your diet will promote weight loss because the fiber remains in the stomach longer and keeps your digestive system in good working order. Studies have shown that consuming complex carbs such as oats, beans, quinoa, and other whole grains help reduce your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and improves the “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

Below are examples of complex carbohydrates that promote weight loss:

  • Oatmeal, bananas, and potatoes contain resistant starch, which is a type of dietary fiber that helps you feel full. It also enables you to eat less while providing energy and a boost to your metabolism.
  • Quinoa is a good source of protein and fiber and can be mixed with chopped vegetables for a complete meal.
  • Barley and brown rice are high-fiber foods that are also a good source of potassium.
  • Many fruits contain fiber, but pears contain more fiber than an apple.
  • Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils, are high in fiber and protein, and low in fat. They also are a natural appetite suppressant as they promote a feeling of fullness after a meal.
  • Whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread (in moderation) contain many health benefits. According to Harvard researchers, eating 100%, whole grain foods help shield you from heart disease.

Quote of the week:

If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way think about it. ~ Mary Engelbreit

Recipe of the Week: Cauliflower Parmesan


1 large head cauliflower, stem trimmed and cut vertically into 1” planks

3 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and Pepper

1 ½ cups marinara sauce

¼ cup grated Parmesan, divided

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh basil or dried Italian seasoning

Crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425°. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush both sides with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping once, until cauliflower is tender and golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and top each piece of cauliflower with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Switch oven to broil and broil cauliflower until cheese is bubbly and golden in spots, about 3 minutes. Serve with remaining Parmesan, basil leaves (or Italian seasoning), and red pepper flakes. Serves 4.

Cauliflower Parmesan