Easy Bean Sliders on Sweet Potato Buns

Who plans on grilling this weekend for Labor Day festivities? Herbivores and carnivores alike will be delighted if you serve them these black and garbanzo bean burgers. While I love my original black bean sweet potato burgers (they were my first post ever after all) and my lentil leek burgers, this recipe can be whipped up much more quickly! Plus, portion control is helpful with soooo many options at a cook out or party. If you’re like me, you’d rather have a bite of everything than choose one item for a meal.

Added bonus? Not having to worry about your friends with celiac disease or a wheat allergy going hungry. Tim and I have been using grilled sweet potatoes or golden potatoes as buns for years but just recently the sweet potato toast craze sweeping the social media world has motivated me to share this idea, too!

When preparing this all you need other than some pantry staples is a food processor or high quality blender and your grill! It is also helpful to have a perfectly shaped 1/3 Cup measuring cup like the one below to portion out your burgers, but you can also scoop and mold if you have the time.

If you don’t have a cook out going on this weekend, Pin the recipe for football season. Whether you’re tailgating or watching at home, this is a great game day bite. Plus, you can make extra for an easy week night meal!

Bean Burger Sliders (GF, V, DF)

1 can low sodium black beans, drained
1 can low sodium garbanzo beans, drained
1 2 oz can green hatch chiles
1 tsp each: garlic powder, cumin, chili powder
1/2 tsp each: paprika, black pepper
1 cup oat bran
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 2.5 tbsp water)
2 large sweet potatoes, 2-3 inches in diameter
1/2 tbsp avocado oil

  • Make flax egg in small ramekin or dish. Let sit.
  • Add garbanzo beans and oat bran to food processor or high quality blender.
  • Pulse about 30 seconds or until texture is like a gritty flour.
  • Next add the flax egg, spices and green chiles and pulse until well incorporated.
  • Finally add the black beans and pulse until desired texture is reached. I prefer to have some of the black beans stand out but you can pulse them completely if you’d like.
  • Pour ingredients into a bowl and fold in the garbanzo flour to bind until well in incorporated.
  • Slice sweet potatoes and/or potatoes into 1/3-1/2 inch slices and toss in oil.
  • Heat grill to 450.
  • Scoop 1/3 cup of burger mixture onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Be sure this is a sheet you don’t mind putting over flames on the grill!
  • Place baking sheet directly on grill grates and the sweet potato rounds directly on grill grates.
  • Cook burgers for about 6 minutes then flip and cook an additional 5 with the grill covered. *
  • Cook sweet potato rounds 4-5 minutes then flip and cook an additional 3-4 with grill covered.*
  • Build your burger with desired condiments

*Depending on your grill size and other factors, it make take more or less time so keep an eye on the sweet potatoes especially!

To my burger, I added grilled red onion, grilled sweet red peppers, a drizzle of tahini and drizzle of sriracha sauce. Tim enjoyed his with some homemade salsa!

Have a happy Labor Day and rejoice in the fact that summer isn’t officially over until September 22🙂


Nutrition Information (per 1 burger patty only):

Servings: 14
Calories: 90
Total Fat: 1.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 15 g
Fiber:  5 g
Sugar: less than 1 g
Protein: 5 g
Sodium: 125 mg 16 %
Potassium: 105 mg 9%

Calcium: 3%              Iron: 8%

**vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

How a Dietitian Eats Pasta

I am half Italian and have always loved a good pasta whether it be with marinara, alfredo sauce {as a child}, butter and black pepper, or a good cavatelli with broccoli and garlic. Once I got past that whole low-carb deprivation thing 11 years ago, I accepted that pasta will always be a part of my life. More than accepted, I am SO happy I allow myself to enjoy this food but, 95% of the time in very nutritionally sound, high quality ways. That’s why this blog on pasta is my first of several posts on how I choose to eat, and thoroughly enjoy, those carbohydrate rich foods.

Yes, enjoy. Without ever feeling guilty. You should never feel guilty about eating a food, even if it isn’t what you find when you search #RDapproved on instagram. Honestly, I use that hashtag even when I am treating myself cause as I mentioned in the carb post, flexibility is part of a healthful diet. One way to help yourself with this is to stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. There are healthy foods that we want to make up the majority of our diet and there are other foods that we can enjoy in moderation. By labeling them as bad, you’re setting yourself up for guilt. How many times have you said or heard someone else say “I was bad this weekend” or “I was bad last night”. Was eating a food or food product that didn’t grow straight out of the ground really a reason to call yourself bad? You may not realize it, but those words and that mentality stress you out. Guess what? Stress hurts your metabolism and leads to more stress-eating so none of that is worth it.

Now back to pasta. I can’t say that I am going to tell you in this post to bring home a bulk-sized package of white spaghetti and have it every week with sugar and sodium infused sauce for dinner. Quite honestly, that doesn’t sound very tasty to me but it also isn’t providing you with much nutritional value and, it can easily lead to over-eating. The issue with refined carbohydrates is that in the process of turning a wheat berry (see below) into that powdery white stuff, the grain is stripped of its healthy fiber and protein. Those two nutrients are important for your feeling of fullness. Raise your hand if you have ever felt like a bottomless pit eating white pasta or white bread. My hand is raised. Been there, done that. And it never made me feel good – not from a guilt perspective but more from a digestive and energy perspective. Blood sugar high and then crash. No physical or mental energy. The next day, bloating and digestive troubles (no further detail required).

So, how can you still have a quick, easy, delicious dinner with pasta that makes you feel good? Here are my favorite pasta alternatives at home {even if you’re gluten free}, and how I eat pasta if I am dining out.

For an easy post-workout meal filled with protein

Bean pasta! If you’re looking for a texture most similar to white pasta, I recommend starting with Banza or Explore Cuisine’s soybean spaghetti. If you want to jump outside the box, Explore’s adzuki bean spaghetti and edamame and mung bean fettucine are personal favorites and Tolerant’s red lentil pasta is a variety that one of my clients raves about. I shared how to enjoy black bean pasta in the past but with any of the above, you can cook the pasta in the same amount of time as “regular” pasta, add a bag of frozen veggies like spinach or broccoli and then a no sugar added tomato sauce such as Newman’s Own or Wegman’s Organic varieties. Meal complete!
Note: Explore Cuisine’s have the highest protein content per serving with 23-25 grams! That is what you’ll get in a serving of chicken breast or white fish too. The difference? You are also getting lots of fiber and minerals like calcium and iron.

Above is Explore’s fettucini with roasted asparagus and maitake mushrooms
with a home made red sauce.
Here is Explore’s soybean spaghetti shape with wilted kale and tahini mixed with lemon juice, garlic powder and black pepper.

Here is Banza with sauteed tomatoes, eggplant and padron peppers.

For real, fresh pasta at home

If you have the time, make it! I discussed hard work it takes when I used my grandmas old pasta maker this past Christmas. If you do make some, make double and freeze the dough! I defrosted and then rolled some out a few months after Christmas and made these ravioli (topped w/ homemade sauce that had Sweet Earth “grounds” for protein).

If you don’t pick some up at a local Whole Foods or Italian Market and, if you’re lucky enough, Eataly. I mentioned that we picked up some yummy pastas here during our NYC summer weekend and we made some delicious, balanced and filling dishes with both varieties. The first we tried was a farro linguine. Yes, farro ground into flour, people! One of the great things about any fresh pasta is that it cooks SO quickly {and tastes better, duh). Once it rises to the top you’re done. I had sautéed some garlic with Tuscan herb olive oil in a pan and added broccoli as our veggies and white beans for extra protein. Some homemade tomato sauce was all I needed to complete the meal. While that would have been sufficient, we had some leftover tofu ricotta in the fridge as well as arugula that needed to be eaten so I served over the greens and threw a dollop of ricotta on top. So filling, nutritious and delicious.


Our second Eataly pasta was the spinach spaghetti we always get. The texture of this one is so creamy. This time we just did white beans with extra tomato sauce, served over a new batch of arugula and added in our new favorite pepper to roast, padron, on the side. Molto bene!


Closer to your home, most Whole Foods have a fresh pasta counter. In Bucks County, PA and Hunterdon County, NJ  I recommend stopping by Casa di Trevi at the Stockton Market to pick up fresh pasta or veggie stuffed ravioli (even dairy free!) at the pasta stand.

To lighten up after travel or holidays

You knew zoodles, or any veggie noodle for that matter, would come into the picture. The problem with spiralized veggies and spaghetti squash is that many people rely on only them as their carbs for the meal, pair them with protein only, and then wind up overeating later because the meal was more like a snack. You can mix zucchini noodles with some whole wheat pasta to bulk it up and if you do want to use them alone, only do so if you really aren’t that hungry after a heavy food week. Or, make sure you have enough toppings to make it a sufficient meal. Don’t forget that you need protein and healthy fat to feel full. Again, tofu ricotta is one of my easy ways to do this but if you eat poultry a turkey meat sauce can do the trick and, my lentil bolognese is delicious too🙂 You can top spaghetti squash with either of those too but remember no matter how you serve either, get enough calories, protein and a touch of healthy fat to make the meal complete.

img_2814Plum Tomato Lentil Bolognese - Eat Real Live Well

For lazy spiralized veggies (or if you’re in a pinch), try ordering Hungry Root. They do the work for you and you just need to mix it all in a pan:

At a restaurant

Not sure why I don’t have a picture here. Typically I would only get the pasta as a side with fish and a veggie so, that may be why! Just imagine the most fresh noodles you’ve ever seen…

My guiding principle here: realize when it is worth it. I personally find it insane to pay $20+ for a pasta dish at an Italian restaurant where they boiled pasta out of a box. I could do that at home for $2 for a whole family if I wanted to. So, for both that reason and for nutrition reasons, I only order pasta out if it has been freshly made. This usually means they go the extra mile for a high quality flour, often imported from Italy and less likely to be stripped of everything or grown with tons of toxic chemicals. Locally for us, Vecchia Osteria makes that happen. They have freshly made pappardale and gnocchi all of the time and on occasion other shapes too. You know I am not sitting there with a huge bowl of pappardelle and sauce though! Add a protein source and fit in a veggie. Also decide if you’d rather have the bread or the pasta rather than having both. At vecchia their bread is so not worth it but their pasta so is. Another great option down in Philly is Amis and in Doylestown is Paganini.

What is your favorite way to eat pasta? Share your at home recipes or post your favorite Italian restaurant – you know I am always looking for good food in any city!

Chocolate PB Energy Bowl

Happy Wellness Wednesday! To celebrate I am sharing a decadent but healthy smoothie bowl and announcing the winner of the Sweet Earth Contest! I was late to the smoothie bowl game but have to pat myself on the back for nailing it right away. I woke up one morning feeling somewhere between chocolate protein oats and a smoothie and decided spooning my smoothie would be a good compromise. Plus, Garden of Life was nice enough to send me a big tub of their chocolate raw protein powder after I created the chocolate protein pancakes so, why not dig in?

The blend of banana with the cacao and maca makes it taste like a sweet treat without added sugar. The protein, chia and hemp seeds bulk it up to make you satisfied and full. The blend of nutrients also kick starts my day with lots of energy which, with today being the first day back in the classroom teaching college minds, I need a lot of!
Side note in case you’re interested, the Beloit college mindset list for the class of 2020 is interesting, funny and scary – pretend you’re a professor and see #15, 26, 32.

Back to this delicious chocolate peanut butter dream…

What makes the smoothie bowl different than a smoothie is the texture and for me, temperature. My digestive tract and body don’t love cold food in the morning. I even drink piping hot coffee over iced coffee all summer long. So, by using just a tad bit of frozen banana, this keeps my taste buds and belly happy. The texture is a little thicker and more creamy due to the lack of ice and lower amount of liquid. In this recipe I am recommending ¼ cup to a ½ cup of milk as some blenders will pulse all this no problem with the former and others may need the latter to get the blender going. I am loving Silk’s unsweetened cashew milk right now cause it is super creamy. I haven’t had a glass of cow’s milk since I was 12 or 13, and have never had the desire to drink soy or almond milk from a glass but, something about this one’s texture has got me!

So why am I calling this an “energy” bowl? Other than the macronutrients balance, the cacao and maca are contributing. What is I t about this maca powder that I use in my smoothies and oatmeal? Maca root has “superfood” status right now (“” because that word has no legal definition) due to some research showing it supports hormonal health in both males and females. It also is found to be anti-inflammatory, similar to ginger and turmeric root. There are some claims that it boosts energy too but, I just like it because it adds a sweet flavor without providing sugar! The cacao contains potent antioxidants that can slightly dilate blood vessels to increase blood flow. This is also great for your heart!

If you’re ready for dessert for breakfast that is actually super healthy and satisfying, and won’t make your blood sugar crazy all day, whip this up in under 5 minutes.


1/2 small frozen banana
½ small fresh banana
1 scoop garden of life raw chocolate protein powder
1 teaspoon maca root powder
1 tablespoon cacao powder
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
¼-1/2 C unsweetened milk (depending on your blender)
1 teaspoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon cacao nibs
1/2 tablespoon shredded or shaved unsweetened coconut


Blend all ingredients other than the seeds and cacao nibs together until you get a nice smooth consistency. Start with only a ¼ C of the milk.
It should be thick and creamy – if your blender has a hard time getting going, add 2 tbsp milk at a time until you get the consistency you need.

Pour into a bowl and sprinkle the chia, hemp and cacao on top.


*You don’t need to make it look pretty, especially since I just end up stirring it all together anyway to eat, but, we eat with our eyes first so I highly recommend taking a few seconds to make some food art🙂

Now for our Sweet Earth Winner:

Congrats to Jordan Dunne! You’ve won 3 free Sweet Earth Foods meals and a swag bag. Email me at kelly.jonesrd@gmail.com to claim your prize🙂

What’s your favorite smoothie bowl recipe or ingredients? I can’t wait to try more before summer is officially over and I am back to my oatmeal game!


Sweet Earth Bowls Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: This post and giveaway are sponsored by Sweet Earth. I received Sweet Earth meals and product coupons. All opinions stated are my own.

As I mentioned in my last Sweet Earth review post, I am so happy I stumbled upon this company at Expo East – and hope to see them there again next month! I am also lucky to have been able to try so many of their products. I think the veggie burgers are still my favorite, and I do recommend a few of their wraps, too. Tim still likes to get a dose of protein from the grounds to mix with a veggie and grain for a meal, especially the chipotle flavor. We were both thrilled with the new Artisan Bowls though, too! We got to try the Kyoto Stir Fry, Borderless Enchilada, and Enchilada Suiza but, my favorite (out of the two dairy free ones) was the Lentils Provencal. Tim really enjoyed the mushroom ravioli and he doesn’t even like mushrooms!




I had never advocated for frozen, quick fix meals, mostly because of the nutritional content. It may look like veggies and chicken, or even grab your attention since its a “vegetarian burrito” but what else is lurking in that container? In addition to more sodium than you need in a whole day, check out the other garbage in your ingredient list. Sweet Earth has proved me wrong though with real ingredients, a sustainable perspective, enough protein, and lower sodium. If their motto being “Honor and Sustain the Land” isn’t enough for you to see how they align with my values, look at their mission and “eco-clock”!


First let’s look at Tim’s review. God bless my food blogger/instagram husband for helping out with these reviews and taking pictures at his desk at work for me! We do, however, need to work on lighting. Tim, I expect you to walk over to Washington Square Park at lunch with Independence Hall in the background for your next product review. Thanks.

As I mentioned above, Tim doesn’t like mushrooms. He thinks they are slimy and even if he doesn’t notice the texture, usually complains about the flavor (unless we are at Sprig and Vine). Here is a direct quote that he sent me after eating it:

“This was really good. Super creamy but the mushrooms didn’t seem as slimy for some reason. The veggie grounds in the ravioli were very flavorful–tasted a lot like meat! I guarantee that people would eat it and think it was a standard meat ravioli.”

sweet earth mushroom ravioli

Sign him up to be a Chopped judge!

Okay, now for my lentil review. Since this meal is lower in calories and protein than most other sweet earth meals, I cooked an egg up quickly (pasture raised and Certified Humane, of course) to pair with and balance out the meal. To make this an easier at work meal, add a hard boiled egg or some pre-cooked tofu and you’ll be good to go.


I was pleasantly surprised by how fresh and flavorful this was. The herbs still really stood out after being frozen, the lentils were great and most importantly, the texture and color of the green beans were maintained even after microwaving!

And with this one I snapped a pic so you can more easily check the ingredients, which are all available on their site too. At 22% of your minimum need for the day, 340 mg of sodium fits perfectly into a healthy lifestyle! Athletes, you can feel free to salt the egg (or two) that you pair with the meal.

Here is a store locator for where you can find Sweet Earth. I am having a tough time finding the veggie burgers at our local Whole Foods (even though the locator lists them) but, you bet I have bugged the stores and requested they get the product in. Some Sweet Earth Foods products are also at Organnons for any Bucks County folk. The best selection I have seen in a store yet is from Target though! I know, right? You’d never expect that. I didn’t at least. But one day I was curious and strolled down the frozen aisle while there to get laundry detergent or something and there was a massive section with every Sweet Earth product – except the veggie burgers of course.

So, who wants to win some free Sweet Earth food and swag?!

By meeting the entry requirements below, you’re in the running to win:

  • 3 Free product coupons
  • A Sweet Earth t-shirt and swag bag

To enter you must do both of the following:

  1. Follow Sweet Earth and EatRealLiveWell on Twitter
  2. Comment below or on my Facebook page letting us know why you want to try Sweet Earth Foods plant-based meals!

A winner will be chosen at random on Wellness Wednesday, August 23 (my first day back teaching at Bucks for the school year  )– Good luck!

Low Carb or Healthy Carb? A Dietitian’s Experiences and Insights

In recent months, I have realized despite my social media posts and how I educate in seminars and nutrition classes, some of my friends, family, and co-workers still assume dietitians “don’t eat carbs” or that we stick to the gluten free fad. First, if I were to put a label on my diet, it would be “plant-based”. You know where carbohydrates come from? Plants (and the lactose in dairy). Your veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and whole grains are all primarily carbs. My diet, therefore, has a lot of carbs, especially since grains paired with legumes are often my protein source in a meal.

Okay, so now let’s talk about what you think of when you hear “carbs”. You’re thinking bread, pasta, pizza, right? Well, I eat those things too. When you hear “gluten” you probably think of bread and pasta or the perception that a gluten-free version of them is healthier. Or, you may think a gluten-free cookie is healthy but a regular cookie isn’t. Not so much. A cookie is a cookie people. And unless you have celiac disease, don’t buy the gluten-free processed foods. They have additives to gel the flour together without the gluten to try and mimic the texture of the original product. They also use flours lower in fiber and protein so you won’t be as satisfied from eating them and may be more likely to overeat. If you actually need to be gluten free, eat potatoes, corn, quinoa, millet, amaranth and oats instead of those products.

I’ll be sharing posts on pasta, pizza and bread in the next few weeks but, here I am going to start with my {terrible} experience on a low-carb diet. I am half Italian with a good amount of Irish descent and know that pasta will always be able to fit into my diet and enjoy potatoes on the regular. As a nutrition student though, after gaining a few too many pounds my freshman year and before I was actually educated in nutrition, I tried the low-carb thing. I came home in May and for at 2+ months was doing two a day workouts to try to lose that weight and because I was unhappy with my swimming performance that year. In that time, I was keeping carbs as low as possible (think Atkins 20-40 gram per day intro phase). Did I lose weight? Yes. Was I happy? No. Knowing what I know now, it was probably the following that caused my weight loss, not necessarily all of the carb restriction because in most cases, calorie restriction and exercise equal weight loss:

  1. I wasn’t drinking any alcohol for 6-8 weeks, which is something that led me to overeat later. This happened a few too many times after Big East championships spring semester of that year. #FreshmanProbs. Subtract alcohol calories and late night bite calories and you at least brought me to weight maintenance.
  2. I was eating way too little calories each day. At the time I still ate poultry and cheese but, was choosing the leanest of poultry, egg whites without the yolk, and low fat cheese with my vegetables. And low-carb balance bars. YUCK. Give me a little while longer than I stayed on this diet and I would have really hurt my metabolism.
  3. The amount of calories I was taking in were too low to support the level of exercise I was engaging in and on top of that, I was on my feet all day at work close to 30 hours per week (at Nature’s Way). For 1-2 weeks I had a decent amount of energy and remember telling myself “fat is fuel” for motivation during workouts since I thought I had plenty of it.

Despite what you and I have read of other’s testimonials on these diets, I was miserable. I never hit that point of waking up with a huge burst of energy after 5 or 7 days like people try to claim. That’s probably because I knew what real energy felt like while eating healthy so even when my body “adapted” it knew I could feel better. I was more hitting points of wanting to binge on every carbohydrate I encountered. I also was riding on the “willpower” train for a while and so, never “let” that binge happen. I did let my dissatisfaction with my performance and my body takeover my life but did a great job hiding it from everyone else. I was consumed with counting every gram, having artificial sweeteners to keep carbs down even though deep down I knew they weren’t good for my health, and fit in some form of exercise (even just crunches) every time I ate a meal. I also required 10 hours of sleep a night because my energy levels were so low, did not spend much time with my friends to avoid “bad” food experiences, and therefore was much less social {hello early path to anorexia diagnostic criteria}. I hate the word “willpower” now. I have extreme empathy for those that trade a meal with friends for egg whites and veggies at home followed by a long nap. I cringe at the thought of so many people weighing every bit of food to count every gram of every macronutrient and thinking that they are being “flexible” with their diet. I stand for positive self-talk, building up those around you – who are likely thinking a lot of the same negative things about themselves as you are about yourself – and monitoring portions without being obsessive.

So, how did I get out of this toxic physical and mental state? It wasn’t overnight. But, it occurred when my food guilt hit an all-time high. After 2+ months I was having such bad heartburn and stomach pain from the lack of carbohydrate that I would have a piece of whole grain bread or half of a flatbread lavash here or there to soak up some stomach acid and get some relief. I would feel guilty about eating the carbs and after my body had a little bit it was thinking “That is what I prefer to fuel off of! Give me more of those!”. I honestly thought I was bingeing after having a few bites of leftover pizza in my parents fridge with a piece of fruit and felt so bad about myself after. I remember coming really close to making myself throw up but then decided I would just go to bed with the guilt and exercise more the next day to “make up for it”. I would wake up the morning after these experiences (maybe 8-10 times total) and realize how unhealthy I was being but my mental battle kept me striving for the lifestyle I’d been leading for the majority of the summer. Each time though, I would allow myself a little more carbohydrate that day because 1) I had lost the weight I wanted to 2) felt more energetic with them and 3) had better digestion with them. Once I realized I wasn’t gaining weight by adding them back, I let my diet slowly get back to “normal”. I still didn’t nail hitting the quantity of carbohydrate I needed in the diet of a collegiate swimmer until my senior year after a good amount of sports nutrition and exercise physiology education but, wow did I feel a lot better and enjoy life a lot more by not being so restrictive! {Especially with breakfast being my favorite meal – see below!}

Now, I know I could have lost the fat I gained over the duration of the summer by training the same amount I had and gradually altering my diet. Cutting out the alcohol was a healthy decision but my motives for it weren’t so much. I could have done that and then chosen to include more home cooked meals and less cooking fats. I would have had much more energy to support my training and likely would have come back to college in the fall even stronger and more energetic than I had. My fall training likely would have been of higher quality too, leading me to improve even more that year than I had. I also would have enjoyed my summer a lot more with my friends and my family and, would have had a much less stressful and healthier relationship with food.

Here is a little more science on carbs so you stop believing that “they make you fat” (side note, no one IS fat, we all just have fat). Out of the 3 essential energy nutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and evergy rich alcohol, carbs are the only thing you can store as themselves rather than immediately converting them to fat! This storage form of carbs is something called glycogen. We put the carbs in our liver as glycogen as a reserve to keep blood sugar levels normal when we sleeping at night, go too long without a meal, or are sick. We put other carb reserves as glycogen in our muscles as the quickest source of energy for movement. The more active you are, the more you’ll store this way. It’s only once those stores are full, or if you eat too much of the refined carbs in one instance sans fiber and protein, that you’ll start to store carbs as fat. Eat too many calories from protein at dinner? You’re storing that extra protein as fat right away (no you don’t just pee it all out). I feel so fortunate that with all the media and social media pressure and miscommunication, I had chosen a career where after his experience I had 3 more years of undergrad and 2 more of graduate education to transform my ideas of this nutrient.

I used to be embarrassed and keep quiet about these experiences – to say I had binges and thoughts of purging due to extreme food guilt seemed like something a dietitian shouldn’t go through. But, now that I see so many eating disorders and counsel many females and female athletes on body image, I realize it how important it is to be transparent. It helps other athletes {and non-athletes} realize they aren’t alone when they consider or succumb to the media and society’s ideas of what their body and diet should be. I hope it also helps any readers out there realize that you can overcome these mental battles as well as eat and enjoy what is best for you as an individual.

I really am proud that my education and experiences have allowed me to better respect my body, grow to enjoy a wide variety of foods, and positively influence others. Don’t love to include tons of healthy carbs in your diet and would rather have foods higher in fat? Go for it so long as you maintain a healthy weight and include plenty of veggies, fruits, and adequate sources of fiber such as beans, seeds and nuts. Also, get your bloodwork done each year to test your lipid panel. I’ve seen quite a few clients come to me because despite not missing sweets, grains and potatoes, they’d have their weight go down and their cholesterol and triglycerides go up. No good! The Science of Nutrition by Thompson Manore and Vaughn defines a “healthful body weight” as one that is:

  • Maintained without constant dieting (aka no yo-yoing and deprivation)
  • Appropriate for your age and physical development (ex: don’t try to weigh what you did in high school)
  • Corresponding with normal blood values (ex: your triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose etc. are in healthy ranges without meds)
  • Allowing for regular physical activity (aka you aren’t too tired to exercise most days)

If you eat a real food diet, that is adequate in micro- and macro-nutrients, moderate with all foods, balanced in food groups, varied and flexible, and can say the above for your weight, keep doing you. Don’t worry about what the Today Show or Dr. Oz said or what your friend is trying to sell you on Facebook. Eat {mostly} Real. Enjoy Food. Live Well. If you’re struggling, don’t do it on your own. Find a local psychologist or registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition or eating disorders and be proud that you’re strong enough to get some help!

As mentioned above, stayed tuned for the next 4 Thursdays for posts on the following:

  1. Healthy pasta options and how to talk about food in a healthier way

  2. Pizza: when its worth it and how to order

  3. Bread: my favorite brands to bring in your home

  4. Other RD’s favorite healthy carb recipes

Let’s promote some body positivity – share what carbohydrate you enjoy the most or how you’re able to ignore the media’s pressure!

Check back tomorrow for a FriYay giveaway – here’s a hint!

Stress Management Monday – 6th Edition – Emotional Eating Part 2

Hopefully last week’s post was able to shed some light on under- and over-eating issues that many of you have on a daily basis. My goal was for you to see how your daily dietary decisions impact your daily emotions. This week though, I am going to touch on the emotional eating that is more obvious to you.


As discussed last week, an increase in blood sugar also results in an increase of the feel-good hormone dopamine. Many other things release dopamine too, though. Exercise is one, for example. That’s why exercise can be so great for stress management (my number one reason to move)! Holidays, personal achievements, time spent with family and friends, and positive experiences all release feel-good hormones, too. This is where we really confuse our bodies and minds though. If you think back to childhood (or maybe even this past weekend), positive experiences often involve food and usually not the most healthful of foods. Holidays are known as times to indulge, as are birthdays. I am sure many of you also celebrate achievements, whether work or life related, with food and drinks too. Again, during those celebrations, it is not the healthiest of foods that we have around. Worst of all, many of you may have grown up with food as a reward for your accomplishments! It could be a reward for a good report card, for success in a sport, for helping with chores and – how crazy is this – a reward for eating healthy. What? Now in the social world we live in, we celebrate everything! Two weekends ago we paid off my husbands grad-school loans and my first thought was “champagne!” – I am not telling you never to celebrate with food or drinks but, do start to pay attention to the frequency and your actual enjoyment of those things in the moment…

Now, as adults, we see these life experiences not only as excuses to eat less healthy but, even worse, are often ignorant to the fact that we are eating foods we may not even enjoy that much. How many of you have eaten a piece of cake or had a drink just because it was there at a party? It may have never occurred to you that you didn’t need to have it. Maybe you weren’t paying attention when you were eating it but, because you were laughing with your cousin or catching up with an old friend, you were releasing feel-good hormones when eating that piece of cake so now your body is associating it with happiness rather than just your experience. The same thing can happen with savory foods too, not just sweets. Think back to your childhood. Is there a meal that you love now, such as mac and cheese, a stew, or family recipe? Is it possible that you only love it as much as you do because your grandmother would always make it for you or that you usually enjoyed it at big family dinners? Thinking about those times makes you happy and that food just happened to be there when you were having fun or feeling loved.

If you aren’t yet seeing how this connects to emotional eating, think about the foods you might reach for when you are stressed, depressed, anxious, sad, or any other unhappy emotion. There is a good chance that food is connected to a positive experience you’ve have and in your time of stress or sadness, your mind is taken back to that experience. It can’t recreate the experience for you but, what it can do is bring back a smell or a taste. And now when you’re sad, fettuccine alfredo is your go-to. It may not taste as good as when Grandma made it but in the moment, the processed carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar paired with the thoughts of your childhood release a surge of dopamine that makes you feel, for a few minutes a little bit of comfort. The problem is, as I mentioned last week, that comfort is short-lived and soon your blood sugar is on the floor asking for more food as you feel even more stressed, depressed or anxious.

How can we deal with all of this? Well I have a few tips:

  1. Try to connect the foods you eat emotionally to other experiences they were present during. Next time you are feeling unhappy or stressed, look at a picture from that happy experience or to make you feel good instead of going out for ice cream. If you’re stressed a lot, keep those pictures where you’ll see them often!
  2. Eat more mindfully. If you pay attention to the true enjoyment a food gives you, you’ll realize what is worth eating and what isn’t. I am a huge foodie. I don’t waste my bites on foods that aren’t absolutely delicious and, if I am upset or stressed, food never tastes all that good anyway. I already have a blog post on eating more mindfully with a great psychologist as a resource.
  3. Find healthy alternatives for your comfort foods! Luckily there are plenty of dietitians doing what I do and creating these recipes for you. Head over to my Pinterest Page or the Nutrition Blog Network.
  4. Don’t reward your kids with food. Will this help you? Not directly (unless you tend to get some of that reward when they do). It will help you have piece of mind that you aided in your child having a better relationship with food than you do. I was told growing up by my grandmother to be a member of the clean-the-plate-club. God bless her, I loved her to death but it still haunts me as I must carefully select smaller plates to eat from in every situation I am in!

I hope everyone has a little bit of a better understanding of why they may crave certain foods and a couple of tips on how to manage those cravings too! If you need more personalized help (and most people do) search here to meet with an RD near you!


4 Modes in 4 Weeks – Don’t Judge Zumba

#4Modesin4Weeks? What am I talking about, you wonder? I may not be on the personal training staff at the Newtown Athletic Club but I do attend some of their monthly meetings and get all of the emails from their director. Their goal in August is to attend four new group exercise classes at the club. Why is this important? The more the trainers (and myself, and other employees) experience, the better they can make recommendations to their clients to keep them on track and loving exercise. I love to exercise and I love a good challenge so why not participate with them? 

I was getting ready to post my accountability picture on Instagram, since everyone needs to post there four modes on social media with #4modesin4weeks. But before pressing send I thought, “you used to think Zumba was stupid so why not blog about this?”.

I have to say Zumba isn’t brand new to me. I’ve been going since the end of May. But, I was anti-Zumba for years. Part of me thought when clients went weekly, they were afraid of intensity and didn’t really understand how to push themselves. Part of me, despite going to dance classes several times each week until I was 13 and watching my younger sister dance competitively through high school, was thinking “um, I’m an athlete, and a little dance session doesn’t count in my training”. 

Well obviously I’m writing this blog post cause I was wrong! After hearing people say it was the best workout they get all week, and hearing from some sales staff say people came to join the NAC (that has everything you can imagine) just for Zumba, I didn’t hesitate when our commit to get fit pilot group wanted to do a Zumba class for the “club choice” week. I knew I had to give it a try, but I still didn’t expect much. I left a glass having had a lot of fun realizing that I missed dancing and recognizing that it could actually be a good workout! I also noticed though, that you get what you give. I always push myself during exercise so I left having sweat a decent amount. If I hadn’t put any effort though I could’ve strawberry glass and left as if I’d been walking for an hour. 

Time went by and I didn’t attend another class. But at personal training/group ex happy hour one night, I ended up in a conversation with Rosalyn. If you don’t know the NAC, Rosalyn is the reason people come and get a membership for the Zumba. Her classes are intense, sexy and fun but she’s got soemthing that keeps high school age through, no kidding, 65+ coming back for more. She’s the reason I actually kept going too. That night at happy hour I learned that her super fit mom bod stays that way from only dance and eating well (and probably good genes too!), and that despite doing these classes for many years, she still find them super hard on the body and gives herself dayS off each week to recover. Even more important, I saw she’s just as passionate about teaching these classes as I am about nutrition! Her face beamed with excitement talking about how much she loves seeing so many women have fun working hard and that many have drastic improvements in their confidence. I left that night having decided I needed to go. 

I quickly learned that with the right instructor and right music you “can’t stop the feeling” and with the right amount of effort, Zumba can be harder than a 10K race. At the same time it goes by way faster cause you’re having way more fun. The data on my my zone report and the smile in my rare accountability selfie today are proof. 

In closing, whether it’s a new food new exercise or alternative health treatment, don’t knock it till you try it. And listen to Justin and just dance dance dance!!!
PS I also tried this delicious plant based Amrita protein bar after to refuel on the run – highly recommend!