Quick and easy slow cooker meals

Dinner can be a challenge. After a long day at work, coming home to start chopping and cooking can seem less than appealing.  However, coming home to a hot, delicious meal sounds great!

A slow cooker can be a great tool to make healthy dinners easily. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Vegetarian Chili


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 cup diced walnuts
  • 28 oz can pinto beans
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1+ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • Avocado for garnish


  • Throw all the ingredients into a crockpot on a low setting for 8-10 hours
  • Garnish with avocado if desired
  • Serve as is or as “sloppy joes” or “tacos”

Source: www.oneingredientchef.com


Apple Cranberry Chicken


  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large apple, chopped (approx 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 pounds chicken, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup farro or quinoa or rice, uncooked
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth **only needed when cooking, not freezing**


  • Add all ingredients except broth to a large ziploc bag
  • Be sure to add the farro last so it stays at the top of the bag
  • Freeze if desired
  • When ready to cook, smack the bag against the counter a few times to loosen. Dump contents into slow cooker. Add 1.5 cups chicken broth. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours

Source: www.theleangreenbean.com


Buffalo Chicken and Quinoa Meatballs


  • 2 lbs. 95% lean ground chicken
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1.5 cups buffalo sauce


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Mix together all the ingredients except the buffalo sauce until just combined. Be careful not to overmix
  • Roll into meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. You should end up with around 36 meatballs. Place onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes until just browned on the outside, or do not bake and place in crockpot for 6 hours
  • Pour 1/2 cup buffalo sauce into the slow cooker. Add the meatballs. Pour into remaining buffalo sauce over the meatballs. Stir lightly to coat all the meatballs
  • Cover and cook on low for 4 hours

Source: www.theslenderkitchen.com


Butternut Squash, Bean and Barley Stew


  • 6 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dry kidney beans (or mixed beans)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 28 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder (or Italian seasoning for a non-spicy version)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin (leave out if using Italian seasoning)
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper


  • Soak the beans overnight in water. Alternatively, you can use boiling vegetable broth when you start the recipe if you forget to soak the beans
  • Add everything to the slow cooker and stir. Cook on low for 8 hours or until beans are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper

Source: www.theslenderkitchen.com


Split Pea Soup


  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic gloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cumin or coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup dried green peas
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • Serve with avocado and chopped red onion slices (optional)


  • Throw all the ingredients into a slow cooker on a high setting for 4 hours or on a low setting for 8 hours
  • Blend with a hand blender and serve

Nutritional strategies to boost your immune system

As winter moves in and temperatures drop, we are more prone to getting sick. We tend to have less exposure to fresh air; dry nasal passages are less effective at keeping out germs; constricted blood vessels make it more difficult for immune cells to travel; and we have less exposure to the sunshine vitamin: vitamin D. 

Besides regular hand washing, moderate exercise and getting adequate amounts of sleep and hydration, there are additional nutritional steps that we can take to keep our immune systems strong.

The pros of protein: make sure you eat adequate amounts

Eating an adequate amount of protein is not a concern for the average American. However, certain subgroups of people, like vegetarians, the elderly, body builders, and people with certain illnesses, may or may not be consuming enough protein to maintain a healthy immune system.  Protein serves as the building block of new white blood cells (a key type of immune cells). Without adequate protein intake, our ability to produce enough white blood cells will be strained. Use the following link as a guide as to how many grams of protein you should aim to consume in a day http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/How-Much-Protein-Should-I-Eat-165578 . Here are some good sources of protein:

Eat the rainbow

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and using a variety of herbs and spices will arm you with a wide variety of immune boosting, antimicrobial nutrients. Below are several common foods with immune boosting nutrients:

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The sunshine vitamin: Vitamin D

Most people recognize vitamin D for its bone health benefits. However, new research also shows that vitamin D also has immune benefits. Unfortunately, most people have low vitamin D levels during the winter months. While some foods such as fortified milk products and milk substitutes (almond milk, etc), mushrooms, sun dried vegetables (tomatoes), fish and egg yolks do carry vitamin D, the level of vitamin D in these foods is minimal and many people require supplementation.  Keep in mind, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so take it with your meals to promote maximum absorption. To make sure you are within range, ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level when they do blood work.

A gut feeling

About 70% of our immune system lives in our guts. Think about it, if your gastrointestinal system is not working properly, it will not kill off or keep out toxins adequately and will not absorb nutrients that are critical to keeping a healthy immune system. In addition, much of our lymphatic system, the circulatory system for our immune fighting white blood cells, lies within our guts. Keeping a healthy gut will help enhance your ability to stay healthy. Do so by eating foods rich in probiotics or taking a probiotic supplement, avoiding gut-inflaming additives like sugar alcohols and carrageenan, and eating nutrient dense foods that contain gut healing nutrients including glutamine.

Probiotic rich foods:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Apple cider vinegar

Other super immune boosting foods/herbs of interest : note-discuss any herbs with your medical team before starting:

  • Local honey
  • Bone broth
  • Elderberry
  • Astragalus
  • AHCC/mushroom extracts
  • Monolaurin
  • Colostrum
  • Colloidal silver
  • Oil of oregano


Immune boosting recipes:

Carrot ginger soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 6 (1kg) carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 5cm piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock


  • Sautee onion, celery, garlic and carrots in olive oil for 1 min, add 1 cup of stock and let simmer until soft
  • Add ginger and rest of stock
  • Blend up and serve!

Bone broth in a slow cooker


  • 2-3 roasted chicken carcasses (approx. 2 lbs. of bones); include any leftover skin or pan drippings
  • 1 or 2 medium onions, unpeeled & quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (1 tablespoon per pound of bones)
  • 2 to 2-1/2 quarts water (enough to immerse above ingredients)\


Add all of the ingredients to a 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker. * Cook on low for 12 hours (or more). While still hot, use tongs or slotted spoon to remove large pieces from broth. Then pour through a wire mesh strainer to remove the remaining solid bits. 
NOTE: This is a salt-free broth. Add salt to taste, as desired.
*If your slow cooker is smaller, you can halve the recipe using 1 chicken carcass and half of the remaining ingredients.



Super immune juice:


  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • ½ apple
  • 1 beet
  • Handful of spinach
  • 2 drops of mushroom extract if available
  • 1 tsp elderberry if available
  • Water to fill


  • Blend and enjoy!


Honey cinnamon mixture kefir

  • Mix 1 tbsp of local honey with 1 tsp cinnamon in to 8-10 oz kefir


Nutty coconut oranges


  • 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp of coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp local honey
  • 2 brazil nuts, crushed
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon


  • Sprinkle coconut, cinnamon, brazil nuts and cinnamon over them—enjoy!


Cayenne portabella burgers


  • 4 portabella mushroom caps
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Sprinkle of mozzarella cheese


  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Clean and layout mushrooms
  • In a separate bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper
  • Even spread into each mushroom cap
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until soft
  • Serve on sourdough bread and with steamed or sautéed kale for additional immune benefits





Healthy Holidays

The holidays are a great time to catch up with family and friends, reflect on the past year and look forward to a new one. These are some of my favorite dip recipes to help make these gatherings even more festive...and healthy!

Creamy Artichoke Dip

Author: Detoxinista.com

Serves: 2 cups


  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 14 oz. can artichokes hearts, rinsed and drained
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled and chopped
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 garlic clove, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)


  • Drain the artichokes and spinach well, then add them to the bowl of a large food processor fitted with an S-shaped blade. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and use the "pulse" button to combine into a chunky dip.
  • The texture of this dip is completely up to your personal preference. You can leave it chunky, for a slightly different taste in each bite, or process longer for a more uniform-looking dip! I added a bit of honey to mine, and processed again, for a slightly more balanced flavor and smoother texture.
  • For best flavor, allow to chill for at least 4 hours before serving, and store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Healthy 7 Layer Bean Dip          

Author: Pickyeaterblog.com


  • 1 15 oz can of low sodium refried black beans
  • 2 Mashed avocados
  • Lime Juice (a couple squeezes)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 oz of 0% Greek Yogurt
  • Prepared taco seasoning
  • 1 bunch of green onions chopped
  • 3-4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup low fat Mexican Cheese blend
  • Corn tortillas, olive oil cooking spray, dash of salt (for homemade tortilla chips)


  • Warm up refried beans in a small pot over medium heat. Add in taco seasoning to taste (about 1 tsp). Once all combined, set aside to cool.
  • Peel, pit, mash avocados in a small bowl – add lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper and stir to combine
  • Combine yogurt and 1 tsp taco seasoning mix in another bowl
  • Cut corn tortillas into eighths, spread on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Spray the tops of the tortillas with cooking spray, season with salt, and broil at 350 degrees on low until the tortillas are crispy & golden brown.
  • To assemble:
  • Spread refried beans on a large, shallow serving platter
  • Spread avocado mixture over bean dip
  • Spread yogurt mixture over bean dip
  • Sprinkle with green onions, bell peppers, tomatoes
  • Cover with grated low fat Mexican cheese
  • Serve with the homemade corn chips!


Baked Cracked-Pepper Potato Chips With Onion Dip

From: foodnetwork.com


For the chips:

  • 3 large russet potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste

For the dip:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced with greens and whites separated
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper



  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sliced potatoes in a large bowl with the olive oil and pepper until well-coated. Arrange potato slices in 1 layer on 2 cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until chips are crisp and lightly browned. Remove from oven, season with salt, and cool.
  • To make the dip, heat oil over medium heat and add onions and scallion whites. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Combine onions with Greek yogurt, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and scallion greens. Stir well to incorporate.
  • Chill for 1 hour to let flavors meld. Serve with chips.


Vegan Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

Author: Detoxinista.com


  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, tightly packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons water, or as needed to facilitate blending
  • 8 ounces whole crimini mushrooms


  • Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare the pesto. In a mini food processor, pulse the pecans into a fine meal. Add in the spinach, fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and water and process until a uniform texture is achieved. You might have to scrape down the sides and process a couple of times to get it all evenly combined. Set aside.
  • Gently remove the stems from the mushrooms and wipe off any dirt with a damp cloth. Fill the center of each mushroom with about a teaspoon of the pesto and arrange all of the stuffed mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake them at 350F for 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Serve warm.
  • If you have any leftover pesto, it makes a great dip for veggies or can be tossed with your favorite pasta.

Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for friends, family and good comfort foods. It is also the gateway to the holiday season of fun times and indulgences. While indulging in a holiday meal once per year is not the end to a healthy diet, it is a good idea to do it with sense so that you don’t eat yourself sick.

  • Use tips from the mindful eating blog to help guide your intake including chewing every bite slowly and eating off a smaller plate.
  • Use the healthy plate model when framing your plate: make the base of your plate a non-starchy vegetable.
  • Be sure not to skip breakfast that morning so your body does not go into primal hunger overdrive.
  • Go for an after-dinner walk rather than sitting on the couch and dozing off right away.


Try some of these delicious Thanksgiving family favorites:


Vegan Pumpkin Bread (Gluten-free)

Makes one standard loaf


  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (BPA free preferable)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 6 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


Preheat your oven to 350F and line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper. (Not to be confused with wax paper!) In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda, then stir in the pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and water. Finally, add in the apple cider vinegar, which will help the loaf rise when it reacts with the baking soda! Place in oven and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Source: http://detoxinista.com/2013/09/vegan-pumpkin-bread-gluten-free/


Quinoa stuffing with apple, sweet potato and hazelnuts


  • 1 cup (212 g) dry Quinoa, cook according to package directions
  • 2 (265 g) Sweet Potatoes, cut into small wedges
  • 2 large Apples, cut into 1/2" pieces (I like Granny Smith)
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 cup (100 ml) pure Maple Syrup, divided portion in 1/2
  • Pinch of Fine Sea Salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted Coconut Oil
  • a few pinches ground Cinnamon
  • a few pinches ground Ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves
  • 1 cup Hazelnuts, chopped (you can substitute pecans)
  • Fresh or Dried Cranberries for garnish


  • Rinse quinoa. Combine with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and remove from the heat.
  • Preheat oven to 400 F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Coat apples with lemon juice so they don't turn brown. Toss sweet potatoes & apples with 1/4 cup of the Maple Syrup, coconut oil and a few pinches cinnamon, ginger and salt. Roast for about 35-40 minutes until tender and fragrant.
  • Combine the quinoa with the roasted mixture and the remainder of the maple syrup (1/4 cup) in a large bowl. Fold in thyme and hazelnuts. Season to taste with more salt and spices.

Source: https://marlameridith.com/quinoa-stuffing-recipe/

Green beans almondine


  • 1 bag of frozen French cut string beans
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of slivered almonds


  • Chop up and sauté 2-3 cloves of garlic in a pan with olive oil on medium/high heat
  • Pour in half of the green beans and ½ cup of the almonds
  • Stir until string beans start to soften
  • Pour in last half of the almonds and continue to stir until cooked to your liking. Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition and Breast Cancer: Recipes for Prevention and Survivorship

Cauliflower mashed potatoes

  • Steam 2 cloves of garlic, 2 peeled parsnips, chopped and 1 head of cauliflower, until very soft
  • Mash up
  • Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste!


Bok choy stir fry with pomegranate seeds


  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 head of bok choy, washed and chopped
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger chopped or ¼ tsp dried
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (no MSG) or Bragg's amino acids 
  • ¼ cup cashews, raw
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds


  • Add sesame oil to pan
  • Put on medium high heat
  • When pan hot, add in chopped bok choy, ginger, soy sauce and cashews
  • When bok choy is wilted, remove from the heat
  • Place in serving bowl with pomegranate seeds
  • Enjoy


Pureed pumpkin, ceylon cinnamon, chia seeds, cacao nibs orange peel

  • Take ½ can of BPA free pureed pumpkin
  • Sprinkle with:
  • 1 tbsp of cacao
  • 1 tsp of orange peel
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp of chia
  • 1 sprinkle of Himalayan or sea salt
  • Mix well and enjoy!

Quinoa, toasted walnuts, cherries, asparagus, lemon


  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • ½ cup frozen cherries
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • Cinnamon and pure stevia extract to taste


  • Place quinoa in a large bowl
  • Add in juice of 1 lemon and 2 tsp olive oil and mix well
  • Place garlic into 1 tsp of olive oil in wok or frying pan on medium low heat
  • Throw in asparagus and cherries and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir a couple of times, then place lid on it for 2-3 minutes
  • Remove from heat
  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Line a baking sheet with foil
  • Place walnuts on baking sheet
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and a drop of stevia
  • Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven
  • Mix cherry/asparagus and walnuts into quinoa
  • Enjoy hot or cold



Nutrition and Breast Cancer: Tips for Prevention and Survivorship

With breast cancer awareness month coming to a close, it’s important to keep in mind the nutrition and lifestyle factors that we can modify throughout the year to decrease our disease risk. Each one of the tips below – in addition to having individual cancer preventative properties of their own – can also aid in maintaining a healthy weight as defined by body mass index (BMI), a factor that has been researched as critical to breast cancer risk and recurrence prevention.

1) Eat the rainbow

Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is a key to cancer prevention. Each color contains powerful nutrients that aid our immune system, help to detoxify unwanted toxins from the environment, and fight inflammation. The high fiber content also serves to prevent blood sugar spikes and falls, feed the healthy bacteria in our bodies (pre-biotics), and keep us feeling satisfied for longer periods of time. In particular, green vegetables contain calcium d-glucarate and indole-3-carbinols, which can detoxify excess estrogen. Pectin, found in apples, lemons, and oranges, may help to prevent tumor growth.

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2) Move!

The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Exercise promotes healthy hormone balance, including estrogen and cortisol levels. Including a mix of cardio and weight-bearing activities will help you build strong bones and boost metabolism. Exercise also assists in detoxification by causing us to sweat and promoting regular bowel elimination.

3) Spice it up

Herbs and spices have a variety of cancer fighting properties and are low calorie ways to max out on flavor.

4) Know your numbers

Ensuring that you have adequate levels of key nutrients is essential. If you haven’t done so recently, speak with your doctor to test whether your vitamin D, iodine, and red blood cell (RBC) zinc and magnesium levels are within normal range.

 5) Environment matters

Minimize use of plastics as much as possible. Avoid chemicals, colors and parabens in products and cleaners, and buy hormone and antibiotic free meat, poultry, and dairy as often as possible. Drink from a safe, filtered water source. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website for more information and find “make-it-yourself cleaner ‘recipes’”.  http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

6) Think about what you drink

Research suggests that regular and excess alcohol consumption may be linked to breast cancer risk. It is important to speak with your healthcare team about how you should appropriately limit your alcohol consumption. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting alcohol to one serving or less per day (1 serving equals 12 oz beer, 1-1.5 oz hard liquor, 5 oz wine) for cancer prevention.

7) Oh boy—what about soy?

Soy contains phytochemicals called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have a similar chemical structure as estrogen but are not estrogen. Fears about soy began when research conducted in rodents showed that soy consumption can increase circulating estrogen levels. However we now know that rodents metabolize soy and estrogen very differently from humans. 

In fact, more recent research suggests that whole soy food like tofu, edamame and miso, when eaten in moderation (1 to 2 standard servings per day), can be protective. At this time, it is  recommended to limit processed soy food intake including soy supplements, vegetarian soy-based meat alternatives, soy chips, and soy-fortified cereals but whole soy foods eaten in moderation (1-2 standard servings per day) are okay. 

Check out my next blog for breast cancer fighting recipes!

The best part of waking up…..breakfast!!

You hear it time and time again: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But the fact remains that breakfast remains one of the most frequently skipped meals. Understanding why breakfast is so important and developing strategies to break down barriers to eating it can help you to kick off your day with a healthy start.

Why breakfast is so important?

Why is it that people who eat breakfast score higher on academic tests and tend to have healthier body weights? It is because breakfast gets our metabolism and brain started! Breakfast also helps to curb appetite at subsequent meals and snacks. In addition, breakfast food, if selected wisely, provides essential vitamins and minerals, enabling us to reach our daily requirements.

Barrier 1: Not hungry

RD tip:  think about what you ate the night before

Typically people wake up full if they overate the previous day, especially the previous night. Try reducing portions at dinner or evening snack time. Here are a few tricks to reduce the caloric density of late night snacks: eat from a smaller bowl and avoid eating out of the bag; try melting 2 squares of the chocolate on ½ banana instead of having an entire chocolate bar; take 1 scoop of ice cream between 2 thin wafers instead of having a bowl of ice cream.

If you are not hungry regardless of what you ate the night before, try having something small in the morning like half an avocado with a squeeze of lemon or lime over it, half a sweet potato or a smoothie. See below for quick tips on how to select healthy smoothies and other prepackaged items.

Barrier 2: Not enough time

RD tip: be smart about your prep and what you grab on the go

There are so many ‘grab and go’ options these days, but you need to be smart about what you choose. Use the tips below to help you make a healthy decision:

Yogurt: Aim to minimize sugar and maximize protein. Look for plain Greek yogurts and add your own vanilla extract, cinnamon, cacao nibs, and fresh or frozen fruit for flavor!

Bars: Check out the fiber and sugar content before making a purchase. Aim for more than three or four grams of fiber and fewer than seven grams of sugar. Some of my favorite options include: Kind Bars, Raw Revolution Bars, Health Warrior Dark Chocolate Cherry and Coffee flavored bars, and Oatmega bars

Smoothies: Look for options high in fiber and low in sugar (even if the label says no added sugars or all natural sugars, check out the nutrition facts panel). Look for vegetables as the first ingredients and fruits as the last. Aim for no more than 12-13 grams of sugar per serving, and stick with the serving size. Suja Mighty Greens is one of my favorites, but it has minimal fiber or protein, so bring a bag of nuts with it to keep you satisfied. Dole Shakers is another option, but I would recommend mixing it with protein powder plus water or soy milk instead of juice since this product also has little protein or fiber.

Muffins: Muffins can be tricky. Always read the serving size. Sometimes one serving is just half a muffin. Avoid “low fat” claims. These will often be packed with sugar. Look for muffins with three to four grams of fiber per serving and eight grams of sugar or less like Trader Joe’s Apple Cranberry Bran Muffins. You may need a tablespoon of natural almond butter or a plain Greek yogurt to make the meal more satisfying. There are also tons of healthy muffin recipes such as the following for egg muffin cups and pumpkin spice muffins:

  • http://showmetheyummy.com/healthy-egg-muffin-cups/
  • http://www.eatingbirdfood.com/flourless-pumpkin-spice-chocolate-chip-mini-muffins/

If you’re in a major rush, a piece of fruit and quarter cup of nuts is always a quick and simple option!

Also, prepping the night before can help. Use these quick tips to shorten your cooking time in the morning:

  • Steel-cut oats: Bring the pot to a boil the night before, put the lid on it, turn off the heat, and simple re-heat in the morning.
  • Overnight oats: Mix half a cup old fashioned oats with one to two tbsp chia seeds. Add fresh or frozen berries, almond milk and cinnamon, and leave in the fridge overnight. This will be ready to eat in the morning.
  • Make a bunch of boiled eggs ahead of time and leave them in the fridge to go
  • Make an sandwich with almond butter and sliced banana or strawberry on Ezekiel bread, and keep in the fridge for the next day
  • Or one of my favorites, pumpkin bread in a bowl: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/09/29/pumpkin-bread-in-a-bowl/

Barrier 3: I just don’t like breakfast foods

RD tip: think outside the typical breakfast

  • Breakfast does not have to be pancakes and eggs. In fact, sometimes switching up what you have for breakfast can help you to feel more satisfied throughout the day and reduce consumption of empty calories. Try some these savory options:
  • Quinoa bowls (prep ahead of time 1-2 times per week)
  • Moroccan quinoa salad: http://www.thehealthymaven.com/2014/09/moroccan-quinoa-and-chickpea-salad.html
  • Quinoa chickpea salad: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Quinoa-Chickpea-Salad-Recipe-36784338
  • Roasted sweet potato, spinach and grain salad: http://naturallyella.com/roasted-sweet-potato-spinach-and-grain-salad/
  •  Or, simple defrost peeled edamame the night before and grab a cup to go

Barrier 4: I want to cut calories or I feel hungrier if I eat breakfast

RD tip: eat something small for breakfast and bring a little snack for mid-morning

Many of my clients mention that they feel hungrier when they eat breakfast versus when they skip it. This makes perfect sense. It is called breakfast for a reason…you are breaking the fast! When you do so, you get your metabolism started, making you feel hungrier. Before you break your fast, your metabolism is moving at a slow rate to conserve energy; your body does not know if your next meal will be in one hour or three days. Starting your day with breakfast will help get you going and start your day off right! Bring a small snack for mid-morning in case you start feeling hungry again!

Happy hydrating: hydration solutions

Using different herbs, spices and fruits in water is a great way to enhance the flavor (and get added nutritional benefits). Here are some of my favorite combinations to add some variety!  


  • Cilantro
  • Mint


  • Frozen berries or cherries
  • Watermelon or cantaloupe
  • Cucumbers (ok, this is a vegetable, not a fruit)
  • Lemons
  • Lime
  • Orange


  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cayenne pepper

Try these combinations:

Warming solutions (great in the winter)

  • Lemon, ginger cayenne water
  • Orange, turmeric, ginger water (cinnamon optional)

Cooling solutions (great in the summer)

  • Watermelon, cucumber water
  • Lime and mint water


Happy Hydrating!

For something so essential, our bodies are not always great at letting us know when it’s time to drink or when it’s time to stop drinking. Under- or over-hydrating can have a number of ramifications such as 1) increased hunger, 2) lethargy, 3) nausea, 4) bowel movement disruption, 5) muscle cramps, and even more seriously, 6) organ failure. Use these tips to find out your fluid and electrolyte needs and get in the right amount of fluids and electrolytes naturally. Beyond getting the appropriate volume of fluids per day, it is critical to focus on drinking the right types of beverages.

Calculating your fluid needs

There are a number of different ways to calculate your fluid needs. If you are not engaging in strenuous physical activity, one rule of thumb is to have 1 milliliter of water for every calorie you eat. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories, this means you would need to drink 2,000mL, or 2L, of fluids per day. Another rule of thumb is to multiply your weight in kilograms by 25 to figure out how many milliliters of fluids you need to drink daily. For those who prefer the English system of measurement, another option is to divide your weight in pounds by 2, which will reflect about how many ounces you need to drink in a day.  For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, you need about 50 oz of fluid (five to six 8oz servings), and if you weight 200 pounds, you need about 100 oz of fluid (10-12 8oz servings). This is assuming you are not sweating excessively or losing fluids in any other way.

You can also do a urine test: you want to aim for a pale yellow color of urine. A darker color reflects dehydration, and a more clear color reflects over hydration. Keep in mind that certain vitamins and medications can also alter the color of your urine.

For athletes and others engaging in strenuous activity

When you are exercising, you lose fluids not only through perspiration (sweating) but also through respiration (breathing). Needs will increase or decrease with length and intensity of activity, conditions in which you are exercising, and the amount you sweat. To be really precise, there are formulas to calculate exact water needs for athletes based on the weight changes before and after exercise.  In general, however, The American College of Sports Medicine has the following guidelines:

  • Drink 6-20 ounce fluids at least 4 hours before an activity and 8-12 ounce fluids 10-15 minutes before an activity.
  • Drink 3 to 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising more than 60 minutes without exceeding 1 quart (32 ounces) per hour.

Sports drinks and electrolytes

Sports beverages are helpful and necessary during intense and prolonged activity (greater than 60 minutes of intense activity) both to replenish necessary fluids but also to replenish electrolytes. People who just replenish fluids without electrolytes can end up with serious electrolyte disruption.

Sports drinks also typically contain some carbohydrate – in addition to sodium and potassium – to help shuttle fluids into our cells and speed up digestion. Most sports drinks have 14 grams of carbohydrates, 28mg of potassium and 100mg of sodium per eight ounces.

However, you do not have to drink a sports drink for these combinations of nutrients.

Try the following natural alternatives:

  • Juicing three stalks of celery, two carrots and one apple
  • Drinking one cup of V8 juice
  • Mixing half a cup of orange juice with half a cup of water and a quarter tsp salt

For people who need electrolyte replacement due to diarrhea or vomiting, you can also try the following combinations which contain fluids and electrolytes:

  • Chicken broth with potatoes
  • Cottage cheese with melon
  • Banana sprinkled with sea salt and a glass of water

What counts as fluids:

  • Herbal teas/decaffeinated beverages
  • Broths
  • Jello
  • Ice pops

Many fruits and vegetables like:

  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Iceberg lettuce

What does not count as fluids:

Typically, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages are not counted towards fluid needs since they are dehydrating (notice how you have to urinate more frequently after drinking a cup of coffee. This does not mean you need to forego caffeinated or alcoholic beverages completely. It just means you should not be using caffeinated beverages as your sole source of fluids.

Check out my next blog that includes my favorite ways to make water a better tasting and more enticing drink.


Inflammatory busters!

Ginger, lemon cayenne water

  • Fill a bottle with 16oz water
  • Mix in 1 tbsp fresh ginger or 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • Squeeze in ¼ lemon
  • Add in ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Shake and Enjoy!


Pomegranate sparkler

Mix 2 oz pomegranate juice with 4 oz sparkling water


Fish topped with superfood pesto


  • Fish of your choice
  • Lemon
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Pesto ingredients:

  • Handful of cilantro (you can substitute basil or parsley)
  • Handful of watercress (you can substitute spinach)
  • 2 tbsp roasted almonds
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Place fish on tray
  • Squeeze juice of 1 lime over fish with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Add 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Cover fish with foil
  • Bake for 10 minutes
  • While fish is in the oven, make pesto by blending ingredients together
  • Remove from oven and remove foil covering
  • Pour pesto over it
  • Broil for 3 minutes. Make sure fish is cooked through
  • Remove and enjoy


Spice rub for chicken


  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin

Coat on 1 lb of chicken and bake, grill or sauté


Quinoa Tabbouleh


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large English hothouse cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced


  • Bring quinoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  • Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Spread out quinoa on a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in 1/4 cup dressing.
  • Add cucumber, tomatoes, herbs, and scallions to bowl with quinoa. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle remaining dressing over.

Source: From epicurious.com


Eggplant marinara

For those with a sensitivity to nightshade vegetables, skip this one and try the cabbage salad below


  • 1 eggplant
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano
  • ½ jar of tomato sauce


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Cut eggplant into 1/3” slices
  • Lightly salt on both sides and let sit for at least 5 minutes
  • Take a paper towel and blot out as much water as possible
  • Lightly spray baking sheet
  • Lay eggplant flat
  • Toss with basil, oregano, garlic powder and cover with tomato sauce
  • Use foil sheet to cover
  • Bake for 40 minutes
  • Remove foil cover and cover with tomato sauce
  • Bake for an additional 10 minutes
  • Enjoy!


Red cabbage, orange radish carrot salad with sesame ginger dressing


  • 1 head of red cabbage, chopped or 1 package of shredded red cabbage, 18 oz
  • 4 carrots, peeled and shredded with a peeler
  • 1 bunch of radishes or 5 whole, washed and chopped (chop off bottom and top and discard or compost; chop remaining radish for salad)
  • 1 bunch of scallions or 4 whole (wash, chop off bottom “hairy” part and discard; chop white and green parts of scallion and separate)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped


  • Combine red cabbage, carrots, radishes and white part of scallions in a large bowl

In a separate bowl:

  • Zest and squeeze juice out of orange
  • Mix in sesame oil, and green part of scallions
  • Mix ingredients well and pour over cabbage mixture
  • Serve and enjoy!


Vegan Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


  • 2 cups cherries, fresh
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons dairy-free chocolate chips


  • Wash and dry the cherries, and remove all the pits. Place in a freezer bag or glass container, and freeze for at least three hours. If you don't have the time, you can use frozen cherries.
  • Peel a banana, and place half in the freezer.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of the almond milk into ice cube trays (save the other 1/4 cup), and freeze those as well, for at least three hours.
  • Place the frozen cherries, half a frozen banana, the almond-milk ice cubes, and 1/4 cup almond milk in a food processor, and process until completely smooth, several minutes.
  • Stir in chocolate chips, and enjoy immediately!

Source: From popsugar.com