Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011

Happy holidays! We often show love to each other and celebrate with food, and this year was all about the goodies! None of these are particularly "healthy" options - though the cookies are technically gluten-free - but this is where balance comes in. "Play" foods are important for us too!

I wanted to make a platter for my office and one for my husband's coworkers, since he just started at his new job (and let's face it: chocolate helps make friends). I also put a few of each treat in little grey felt "buckets" purchased from Target, each adorned with star-shaped cookie cutters. Check out the photos - and recipes - below!

For Greg's office:

For my office:

For my neighbors - aren't these little ($1) buckets cute?

To check out the gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie recipe, go here. Instead of stuffing them with regular or small Reese's peanut butter cups, I used the teeny Trader Joe's chocolate PB cups mixed into the batter, plus chunks of dark chocolate cut straight from the bar.

No-bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle


2 cups sugar

1 stick butter

1/2 cup milk

1 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups oatmeal

Melted dark chocolate, optional


In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil the sugar, butter and milk. Let boil for 1 minute then add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. Spread the mixture on a greased baking dish and let cool. Once cool, drizzle with melted dark chocolate. (Adapted from Food Network.)

I forgot a picture, so use your imagination!

Magic Bars

My husband is obsessed with Magic Bars. Of course, he calls them 7-layer bars; however, everywhere I go they're called Magic Bars, and technically they do not have 7 layers, so obviously I'm in the right.


1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
3 1/2 ounces coconut flakes
1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 F. (325 F. for glass dish.) In 13x9-inch baking pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Top evenly with remaining ingredients; press down firmly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly before cutting. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Makes 24 bars. (Adapted from

Happy holidays from our (crazy) little home to yours!

Photo - Jessica Flecky, Flecky Fotography
Card - Rachel Harding, Just Us Three


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Truth About Healthy Holiday Eating

I always expect my consulting business to die down around December. Who wants to talk about nutrition during this time of year? Surprisingly enough, every year I get a slew of new clients who really want the added support and encouragement that a dietitian can offer during the stressful, and usually food-focused holiday season. Inevitably, we talk about how to handle holiday parties, family gatherings, and mall food courts. As fun and festive as these eating experiences can be, they tend induce a great deal of anxiety about overindulgence and weight gain.

Instead of offering my own suggestions, I'm going to share some of my favorite tips from the mindful eating experts. They might not be quite what you follow along!

1. Michelle May, MD, "Am I Hungry?" - "
Rewrite Those Ridiculous 'How to Prevent Weight Gain Articles'"

I love Dr. May's approach to listening to your body and giving it what it really needs. Here's what she says about the typical holiday eating articles:
"The onslaught has begun... I'm not talking about the holiday shopping frenzy, the incessant Christmas music (Winter Wonderland is particularly annoying here in Phoenix), or even the delicious food everywhere (for that I'm grateful). I'm talking about the onslaught of "How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain" stories. Perhaps you recognize their formula:

Cheery opening + Fear mongering + Clever strategies =
"Newsworthy" story to attract fearful/hopeful eyeballs

I’ve already seen, read, and been interviewed for dozens of these stories this year. An online search for "prevent holiday weight gain" turned up 50 million entries. If you read one article every minute, it would take you 96 years to read them all - except that the number of articles would continue to explode while you were reading them!

These stories pop up on a rotating basis: New Year's, Super Bowl Parties, Getting Ready for Swim Suit Season, etc., and most follow a similar formula. (A notable exception during the Thanksgiving onslaught was this Huffington Post article quoting my friend Evelyn Tribole, co-author of Intuitive Eating.)

These stories must sell because they are often the teasers for the news (is this really NEWs?) and displayed prominently on the cover of magazines, ironically next to "Simple Sinfully Sumptuous Sugar Cookies." The stories go something like this (I couldn't resist reading between the lines):

  1. Eat before you go to a party so you won’t be tempted by all the goodies. (Really??? Do you also recommend maxing out your credit cards before you go Christmas shopping?)
  2. Wear tight clothing to the party to prevent yourself from overeating. (Feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious is a small price to pay to prevent yourself from enjoying your favorite food.)
  3. Drink seltzer water with a squeeze of lime in place of eggnog with rum. (I don’t know many people who love eggnog, but for those who do, this is like recommending crunching on carrots when you love potato chips.)
  4. Hold a glass and a plate so it’s impossible to eat. (You’ll look ridiculous trying to nibble off a rolling meatball or sneaking slurps from the side of your cheesecake.)
  5. Schedule a session with your personal trainer the next morning to burn off any extra calories that slipped by your radar. (The punishment must fit the crime.)"
Copyright © 2004-2011, Michelle May, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. May points out that so many of us punish ourselves for eating rich or less healthy foods, but this only causes us to restrict, feel deprived, and crave them even more. A more sane (and less punitive) approach would be to listen to our bodies, really enjoy those "special" foods at parties and family gatherings, and really take care of ourselves during this busy time. Here are Dr. May's tips for surviving the holidays:
  1. "Trust your body wisdom. Tune into your signals of hunger and satiety to guide your eating before, during, and after the party. Being either famished or already full when you arrive sets you up for being uncomfortably full when you leave.
  2. Treat yourself to pleasures besides food. Choose clothing that is beautiful, flattering, and comfortable so you feel and project your best.
  3. Eat (and drink) what you really love. And skip anything that isn’t fabulous! The first few bites are for flavor, the rest are for fuel. (After the first few delicious bites, the flavor begins to fade anyway so you're just eating a memory.)
  4. Love what you eat. Sensuously savor one small bite at a time, appreciating the appearance, aromas, flavors, and textures of your favorite foods as you eat them.
  5. Practice extreme self-care. Choose activities that are the most meaningful to you, stay active and schedule down-time to relax and enjoy the holidays! (For one of {Michelle's} favorite articles on this topic, check out {her} new blog,"
2. Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA and Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, Intuitive Eating - "Intuitive Eater's Holiday Bill of Rights"

I participated in supervision under Elyse during grad school to become an Intuitive Eating counselor. Elyse and Evelyn's gentle approach to listening to your body, eating foods you enjoy, and honoring hunger and fullness changed me from a chronic dieter to a mindful eater about 5 years ago, and I am so grateful for their insight and guidance. I really miss seeing Elyse on a regular basis, but thankfully I honor her and Evelyn's philosophy her every time I work with a client.

Below is the Intuitive Eater's Holiday Bill of Rights:

1. "You have the right to savor your meal, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.

2. You have the right to enjoy second servings without apology.

3. You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying "no thank you" to dessert or a second helping of food.

4. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a specialty holiday dish.

5. You have the right to say, "No thank you," without explanation, when offered more food.

6. You have the right to stick to your original answer of "no", even if you are asked multiple times. Just calmly and politely repeat "No, thank you, really."

7. You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Remember, no one, except for you, knows how you feel, both emotionally and physically. Only you can be the expert of your body, which requires inner attunement, rather than the external, well-meaning, suggestions from family."

Copyright © 2010 by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD Published at

3. Karin Kratina and Amy Tuttle, Nourishing Connections - "Holiday Season Self-care Strategies" (from their "Stay Attuned e-zine", December 2009)

Check out the Nourishing Connections website to sign up for their e-zine, which offers great mindful eating tips and insight.

"Through the holidays, we may find ourselves wanting to use food after spending time - good and bad - with family or friends. Pausing for a moment to tune into our feelings and the reasons for our emotional eating will help us figure out how to take care of ourselves differently at the next get-together. In spite of (or because of) being in the midst of family and friends, we may have felt alone, or invisible, or taken advantage of. Or perhaps we had a wonderful time, and afterwards, we were hungering for more. Just as we practice tuning into our basic needs related to hunger signals and food preferences before and after eating, we can practice tuning into our emotional needs and wants before and after holiday gatherings. Being attuned to our needs and wants helps us to make nourishing connections and avoid depleting experiences. With a little self-care strategizing, we will be able to lessen our emotional eating after holiday gatherings arriving home satisfied and content.

Stay Attuned Tip

Think back to the last time you needed to use food after a holiday get-together. What were you feeling that led up to eating? In what ways did the food help with your feelings? Without judgment, write down some of the reasons you used food. Before each gathering this season, ask yourself: What do I want to experience or not experience at this gathering, with this group of people? What am I hungry for? Is what I want available from this crowd? From one person or others among the crowd? Who? If what I want or need is available, what gets in the way of my going after it? Will there be someone there who could affect my experience and undermine my satisfaction? Who is it? What can I do about that? Who in this crowd are my safe, nourishing people? Ask yourself, how much do I need and want of: Connection? If I have a good time with friends or family, yet I'm hungering for more afterwards, what will I do to manage these left-over feelings? Being polite and "nice"? What do I do that is nice but turns into selflessness? Cleaning up? Allowing myself to get stuck talking to a draining person? Spending more on gifts than my budget allows. Why do I give too much to others and not give enough to myself? How much is enough? To clean up? To listen to someone? To spend? What about quiet time? Pie? Alcohol? How much is enough? How much is too much?"

© Copyright 2009. Dr. Karin Kratina and Amy Tuttle. All rights reserved.


We only have a few weeks left of the holiday season. May you share laughs, love, and wonderful food with your family and friends.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pasture-raised Turkey

I hope you had a delicious and family- or friend-filled Thanksgiving! This year, our turkey was the most delicious I had ever eaten, and I am confident it is because the turkey was raised exactly as it should be - free-range, on a pasture, and organically. It was delivered on our doorstep a few days before Thanksgiving from Rockhouse Cattle Company, and we all agreed that it was top notch.

See, when animals eat what they're meant to eat (as in only grass for cows), their muscle and fat makeup is much different. Grass-fed beef is much higher in conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, these ranching practices are much more humane, as the animals are not penned into small spaces.

We cooked this baby seasoned with sea salt, rubbed with organic butter, and stuffed with carrots and celery. Instead of cooking it in a plastic bag (ick!), we left it uncovered and basted regularly until it had an internal temperature of 185 and was golden brown on the outside - per instructions from my mother-in-law Chris.

Of course, I completely forgot to take photos of the turkey before we carved it, but here are a few shots post-knife.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful for What Keeps Me Healthy

"Make it a habit to tell people thank you.
To express your appreciation,
sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.
Truly appreciate those around you,
and you'll soon find many others around you.
Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it."
- Ralph Marston

In honor of Thanksgiving (4 days! 4 days!), I have decided to share what I am thankful for that helps keep me healthy. Hopefully this Thanksgiving week allows you time to reflect on all the blessings in your life.

1. Beautiful, organic, tasty food - and delicious "play" food as well. I am so lucky to have access to fresh, locally grown produce, organic and grass-fed meats, whole grains, and raw, organic dairy. I am also grateful for the beef and brie half sandwich I enjoyed at Bison Witches last night. Eating healthfully is a balance, and while it's so important to fill our plates with vibrant colors and real ingredients, it's also important to indulge in food that's just good for the soul.

As you approach the biggest eating holiday of the year, remember that Thanksgiving is an opportunity to be with family and friends and to share good food (and drink!), not a day to be anxious about calories or fat grams. That kind of extreme thinking will cause you to eat until you're stuffed and uncomfortable. Instead, how about this approach: fill your plate with your favorite foods, making sure to get plenty of variety, and eat until your body tells you it is time to stop. You can always enjoy more turkey, stuffing, or pie on Friday.

If you want to learn more about how to get off the crazy diet roller coaster, check out Intuitive Eating or Nourishing Connections - or contact me through my website.

I'm also so grateful to have a stocked pantry and food in my tummy every day. For so many people, getting enough food is a daily struggle. Whenever I feel discouraged or stressed, I remember that I always have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and good food on the table.

2. Local farmers and ranchers. I adore farmers' markets. I am so grateful that I live in a state where they are open year-round, and I love getting to know the growers of my food. This year is especially wonderful because Rockhouse Cattle Company, from whom I buy my organic grass-fed beef at the North Scottsdale Farmers Market, decided to raise free range, organically grown turkeys for Thanksgiving. These turkeys are not raised with any antibiotics or other drugs, and they're not given any commercial feed. The best part? Rockhouse is delivering the turkey to my door this week!

3. Karve. I have been doing seminars for Karve Studio in Scottsdale and k Pilates in Mesa for 2 1/2 years now, and I work out at the Scottsdale studio at least 4-5 times per week. It's one workout that never gets easy, and it's actually fun to do! I look forward to every class. The instructors are wonderful, the music is motivating, and I feel lucky to have become friends with so many of the wonderful women there. It's like no workout you have ever done, and I promise if you check it out you will love it too! It has definitely changed my body, but more importantly, I'm stronger and more athletic than ever. The owner, Kendra Jordan, has created something truly special. I'm extremely excited for the North Scottsdale location to open in 2012!

(Photo courtesy of Karve Studio's Facebook page)

4. Massage Envy. Anyone who knows me knows that I try to do a bit too much in not quite enough time. I have been like this my whole life, and while I have been blessed with a lot of wonderful experiences and successes, it has also made me pretty high strung and not very good at relaxing. That's why I get a massage every month at Massage Envy. Since I have been a member for so long I only pay 39 bucks - 39 bucks!! - for a great massage from my man Pedro. He's really good at pinpointing pressure points and sore muscles that need some help (see #3, above), and I always feel incredibly relaxed when I leave. It's hard for me to sit still for a whole hour, but this monthly practice is helping me get better at learning how to relax. Woosah.

5. Great kitchen gadgets. Cooking is much easier when you have the right tools. I tell all of my clients that if they buy anything for their kitchen, they might want to consider a few really good knives, a crockpot, stainless steel pots and pans, and a toaster oven. Today's toaster ovens allow for multiple functions (bake, toast, warm, "pizza," etc.), and I love how I can make a quick dinner for 2 without heating up my whole kitchen.

6. Whole Living Magazine. I love Whole Living, a Martha Stewart publication stuffed with great recipes, workout ideas, and tips for balancing work, family, friends, and the stresses that come with them. I look forward to leafing through each beautiful page every month, and I have learned some great ideas that work well for myself and my clients. Check it out - they usually have great subscription deals this time of year.

7. My "children" and our daily walks. Greg and I are 100% obsessed with our mutts, Wanda and Waldo. These "angels" fell into our lives in April of 2008 and have brought joy, laughter, and companionship for almost 4 years. They are half Golden Retriever, half Australian shepherd mixes from the same litter, and I take them on 50-60 minute walks. Every. Day. Well, technically we joke that they are "W-O-Ks" (Wanda and Waldo speak). I rarely get away with missing a walk, because Mr. Man and Wanda Cow are on top of me as early as 4:45 AM, reminding me of my responsibility.

Waldo on the left, Wanda on the right

This daily routine is great, however, because it forces me to get out into the fresh air and enjoy our (often dark) neighborhood we work so hard to live in. We have met many a pooch and owner on our route, and we're always rosy-cheeked (or panting) when we return.

8. Like-minded dietitians and my clients. Food and nutrition can be very polarizing, and those of us who are open-minded to a more holistic approach are often the minority within the traditional "registered dietitian" realm. That's why I'm so grateful for strong, creative, and passionate RDs like Maya Nahra, Alisha Chasey, and Kathleen Bundy. Thank you for encouraging me to think outside the box.

I am grateful for the men and women who trust me to help them with their nutrition needs. Eating isn't just about food; it can be very complicated can be influenced by feelings of self-worth, family dynamics, and life stress. My clients share some of their most raw emotions with me, and I am grateful that they allow me to help them grow and change before my eyes.

9. Acupuncture. I have a few very important men in my life, and one of them is named Joshuah. Dr. Joshuah Kim is my acupuncturist and one of the most talented, kind, and compassionate practitioners I have ever met. His practice, Holy Hill Acupuncture in South Scottsdale, treats patients with a variety of maladies, but a lot of people see him because he helps them maintain good health. Joshuah takes my health very seriously and feels responsible when I don't feel well (a traditional Korean medical mindset that is much different than ours). He was trained as a physician in Korea and has helped many of my family, friends, clients, and coworkers. With his help, I have gone from being in constant pain to feeling great, and I will probably see him until he decides to stop practicing...or until he gets sick of me!

This is Joshuah. Yup, he's amazing.

10. Friends and family, of course! I value health so much because it allows me to enjoy my time spent with family and friends and to be there for them when I am needed. Plus, we are healthier when we foster meaningful friendships. I have been blessed with some really special people in my life, and I try to tell them - and show them - how much I love them as often as I can. Thank you for making my life and work meaningful.

Our wedding - February 21, 2009

FBR Open Brunch - February 2011

28th Birthday Taco Night - May 2011

The McNamees - April 2011

The Hammers/Sims/McNamees at my sister's wedding - July 2011

My little family :)

May you give thanks for that which keeps you healthy and happy this week.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Beer-battered Fish Tacos

I'm always on the lookout for healthy taco recipes, and I have to say this one from really hits the spot. As always, I adapted it to suit my nutrition and ingredient preferences. The batter fell off the fish a little more than I would have liked, but I just scraped it up and piled it in the taco - same taste, right? I loved that I was able to use up some thawed tilapia that had been on sale at Whole Foods and was waiting in the freezer for a few weeks.

Note - I did not make the salsa; instead, I put together a simple taco sauce using organic sour cream and safflower mayo, adapted from this recipe on I used pre-made salsa to top the tacos as well.

This recipe was a big hit in our house. Serve these babies piled high with shredded cabbage and enjoy with a side of black "refried" beans for a simple, healthy comfort food!


1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/2 cup safflower mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. dill
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. ground garlic
Cholula, to taste
Sea salt, to taste

3 T. whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup beer (I only had Bud Light - surprise, surprise)
12 ounces tilapia fillet, cut crosswise into 1-inch wide strips
2 tsp. organic pasture butter
4 whole wheat tortillas, warmed
Jarred or fresh salsa
Shredded cabbage


Combine all ingredients for sauce and season with Cholula to taste. Cover and refrigerate. This sauce can be made 1-2 days in advance.

Combine flour, cumin, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl.

Whisk in beer to create a batter. (Can you tell I get really excited whenever I get to cook with beer - or wine, for that matter?)

Coat tilapia pieces in batter. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Letting excess batter drip back into the bowl, add the fish to the pan; cook until crispy and golden, 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve the fish in a tortilla topped with salsa, shredded cabbage, and the taco sauce.

(We also enjoyed it with Trader Joe's vegetable flaxseed chips and homemade guacamole!)



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spaghetti Squash, Ricotta and Meatball Bake

Fall is the season of squash, and I'm always looking for an excuse to cook with it. Spaghetti squash is especially fun because it has a pasta-like texture and offers a healthy - and gluten-free - substitution that's nutrient-packed and tasty. It is also great for kids because it has a fun yet mild consistency that will help boost their vegetable quota for the day.

This recipe was inspired by a post from Big Girl Small Kitchen sent to me by my best friend. I expanded upon it by adding homemade grass-fed beef meatballs and sauteed mushrooms, and I modified the process. You can also use turkey meatballs or add a vegetarian protein source using canellini beans. My husband really liked it and said that he didn't miss the pasta!

In honor of Halloween and this year's nutrition-inspired costume, here's a shot of me as "grass-fed beef":

By the way, to make the meatballs I use a recipe I made up myself:
3 lb grassfed beef (I get mine at the North Scottsdale Farmers Market)
Homemade breadcrumbs (sprinkle olive oil over Ezekiel or other whole grain or gluten-free bread and add garlic powder; toast in a toaster oven until dark and pulse in a food processor to make crumbs)
1 organic egg
1/2 cup raw parmesan shavings
Garlic powder
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and roll into 1-inch balls. Bake on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. This recipe made about 50 meatballs, and I froze most of them for a future recipe.

Spaghetti Squash, Ricotta and Meatball Bake

1 spaghetti squash (4-5 lb)
2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup organic marinara sauce, divided
3/4 cup ricotta cheese, divided
Grass-fed beef meatballs (12-15)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


Rinse the squash and cut in half length-wise.

Use an ice cream scooper to remove and discard the seeds.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet, flesh-side down.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the skins have darkened on the edges.

While the squash is baking, heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic. Sautee the mushrooms until cooked through.

When the squash has finished baking, remove from the oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes. (Seriously, how pretty and delicious does this look?! I wanted to eat it plain, right then and there.)

Use a fork to scrape the flesh into a bowl.

Set into a strainer to remove some of the liquid.

Using a clean paper towel, squeeze the squash to remove as much liquid as you can. Nobody wants a soggy meal.

Place the squash in a mixing bowl and add 1/2 cups marinara sauce and 1/2 cup ricotta. (This is where you can play with spices too, such as oregano, additional garlic, or even a little rosemary.)

Pour the mixture into a 9x9 baking dish. Layer with meatballs, and then top with mushrooms and the other half of the marinara sauce.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and small dabs of ricotta.

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375, or until the top is browned.

Enjoy with some roasted vegetables or a crisp green salad and a nice glass of cabernet! This recipe made about 6 servings.