A Salad for the Holidays

A Salad For The Holidays

And just like that we’re into the chaos of the holiday season!  Our calendar gets booked up with open houses and parties every weekend.  It’s a wonderful time of year – but the festivities and frenzied pace can quickly take their toll on your body and soul if you aren’t careful.  One strategy I’ve put into play for a long time is to bring something plant-based to every gathering.  For my own Thanksgiving last week where we hosted family, I added this Make Ahead Salad from Real Simple Magazine.  I wanted to try it out ahead, so I first made it for a Friendsgiving that we held at my office earlier in the week.  To be honest, the first time I made it I was cursing the editorial staff at Real Simple.  While the ingredient list is rather short (kale, Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds) – each ingredient needs quite a bit of attention.  The hazelnuts need to be roasted and then you need to rub the skin off.  The Brussels sprouts need to be chopped up very finely in a food processor (and I only own a very small food processor). 


My daughter was helping me de-seed a pomegranate on a Sunday night, way past her bed-time, when she said to me, “You know – you can buy pomegranate seeds already out of the pomegranate.  They come in a plastic container.”

My second making of the salad went so much more smoothly.  What did I do differently?  Well I bought the POM Pomegranate Fresh Arils.  I also bought hazelnuts that were already de-skinned.  They toasted up just as nicely in the oven. 


This salad is a little bit of effort, but it’s worth it!  At the Friendsgiving, I had several people tell me it was their favorite dish of the event.  One of my colleagues told me that he is an avid meat-eater, but the salad was what he liked the most.  The salad was also a bit hit at Thanksgiving – and it was just in time for the news of the E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce

A few more benefits of this salad:

·         You can make it ahead – even put some of the dressing on it – because the kale and Brussels sprouts hold up so well.  I made it the night before each event.  Make Ahead Salad is a good name!

·         It holds up for days.  This salad has some serious staying power!  We were able to eat leftovers for a couple of days after. 

·         It adds something green to the table.  So often the holiday spreads are all carbs and butter. 


·         You can keep it healthy – or add some “celebration.”  The recipe calls for homemade bread crumbs (which I made) – and they smelled amazing.  I’m gluten-free, so I kept them separate from the salad. 

·         It’s not Romaine.  I just had to say it again.  I’m so glad that I didn’t serve my entire office a Romaine salad the week before Thanksgiving. 

We loved this so much, we’ll be making it even after we ring in 2019!

Make Ahead Salad recipe is here.

For more holiday tips, check out my 2017 post, the Twelve Days of Stress-Less Christmas.  There are some good nuggets in there.  I’m pretty sure that if you’ve gotten to the bottom of this post, you are the Knower of All Things in your household and you are already feeling a little bit stressed about the upcoming holiday.

Here’s to a healthy holiday season!


Rethinking Eating

Rethinking Eating

It’s officially sweater weather.  My weather app says it is 33 degrees, (brrrr) and we are moving briskly towards Thanksgiving and yet another holiday season.  How did that happen?  At this time, we find ourselves in a lot of situations where we may make less nutritious food choices out of a sense of nostalgia, or even just seasonal routine.  “It’s not a football party unless I have that chili and beer.”  “It’s not Thanksgiving unless I have the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pie.”  “I’m at the movies so I just have to get the movie popcorn.  With butter.  I know it’s not really even butter, but I have to have it!”   “It’s cold, I’m tired of salads. I’m just going to get hot soup every day for lunch.”

Let’s take these one at a time.

Football Food

Living where we do, just a stone’s throw from Gillette Stadium, there’s no escaping weekend football gatherings.  Whether you are a season ticket-holder, tailgating every weekend, or just a casual Patriots fan, you are finding yourself at a football party of some sort.  For me, it was our neighborhood block party.  This year’s theme was football.  There was even a chicken wing contest! But instead of bringing another wing recipe, or another cheesy dip, I decided to make something for a small subset of my neighbors.  There are a few of us who follow a gluten-free diet, (and some other food restrictions) – and I wanted to bring something that we could really dig into (other than the obligatory veggie tray.  So, I came up with this Shrimp Quinoa Salad.  I started with a bag of Trader Joe’s large de-veined, raw shrimp  that I sautéed in coconut oil.  I tossed the shrimp with 3 cups of cooked quinoa, a diced red pepper, a cup of cherry tomatoes (halved), chopped cilantro, lime juice, sea salt, and olive oil.  It was delicious!  And at the party – my Shrimp Quinoa Salad was gone in a flash!  You can eat something more nutritious than traditional football food – and still have a great time.  



I used to buy into the “It’s not <insert special event name>, unless I eat <insert unhealthy food name>”.  On Thanksgiving, I would eat dinner and then have dessert. Then later, I would have a turkey sandwich (on a roll, with cranberry sauce and gulp, mayo) and then, even more dessert.  All in one day!  Did you know that the average American consumes 4500 calories on Thanksgiving?  It’s crazy!  And maybe that would be OK.  Except for some, Thanksgiving is not just a day.  It is the first day of an entire four-day weekend of eating like the day I just described. 

So, as we sprint towards the holiday, let’s remember that Thanksgiving is a meal and not a 4-day eating bender.  Those are LeAnna Sheehan’s words of wisdom and I blogged on them last year at this time.  If you are looking for a way to reframe your thinking on Thanksgiving, check out that post.  And here are a couple of additional tips:

·         Instead of the food, what is it about the holiday that gives you the most pleasure?  How can you emphasize that?  For me, it has been making sure that all my guests have a few moments to privately reflect on gratitude.  I have a “What Are You Thankful For” Jar in a quiet place so that everyone can write words of appreciation.  We share them later – usually after our meal.


·         Consider adding a salad bar to your holiday menu.  I know, I know – anyone who is hosting the holidays is going to say “WHAT? You want me to make dinner – AND then a salad bar too?”  Let me explain.  My sister first implemented this idea last Easter – and it was fantastic!  We both deal with some food allergies/sensitivities – and so the holidays can be difficult.  If we end up eating something we shouldn’t (lactose, garlic, onion) – we will be miserable for days.  So, when she hosted Easter last year, she made up a salad bar along with her traditional Easter spread.  It really helped those with food allergies and sensitivities to enjoy the holiday right along with everyone else.  And as a regularly very healthy eater, my sister is in the habit of preparing her salad greens, veggies, and protein anyway – so it really wasn’t extra work.  It was so successful, that I did the same when I hosted Mothers’ Day.  If you don’t want to do an entire salad bar, be sure to add a great salad to the Thanksgiving menu, like this one from the Oh She Glows blog.

·         Add activity every day to that 4-day weekend this year.  I remember the first time that I went to an aerobics class on Thanksgiving morning.  It was probably 1995 and I went with my mother and my sister.  It seemed like the most insane thing in the world – to be working out ON Thanksgiving Day.  But now – I couldn’t even imagine not beginning my Thanksgiving Day without a powerful workout in the morning.  Even if you are hosting, it can be scheduled in.  Plan ahead and you can absolutely do it!  Then, skip that Black Friday shopping and plan an outdoor hike on Friday instead.  Plan for one of LeAnna’s BarreMax or Pound classes on Saturday.  On Sunday, try Athletic Stretch if you haven’t yet.  It’s the perfect way to wind down before launching into the next busy season.


All the best Oscar-contending movies come out at this time of year, and with the early sunsets and colder nights, it’s time to head to the cinema. I’ve been at the movies lately (so many amazing ones out right now!) and it is hard to resist that movie popcorn, isn’t it?  Here’s a fact:  A large AMC popcorn (with butter) has 1030 calories and 41 grams of fat.  Yup.  AMC. That’s exactly where we went to the movies recently.  Loved those seats you can reserve!  I also love the popcorn that I make at home – with a tiny bit of oil, popped on the stovetop.  Then topped with melted ghee and just a pinch of salt.  It’s a little bit of an indulgence, but not even close to those 1030 calories and 41 grams of fat.  And no one has stopped me from sneaking in my homemade popcorn!

Hot Lunch

It’s cold.  You’re cold.  I’m cold.  We might be warm again, in, I don’t know – June!  So, I totally get the natural inclination towards comfort food.  You want something that will stick to your ribs, create a warm glow inside, and give you a feeling of fullness.  A cold salad sitting in the office fridge is not going to do the trick.  Soup becomes a popular choice at this time of year, but you should definitely check the sodium content if you can. 

Instead of soup or a salad, I layer together a bowl (or really a rectangular microwavable dish) that has just as many vegetables, some protein and some grain.  Once heated, my layered dish is a warm medley of fresh flavors – a little different each day, depending on what I add.  Here are some things I typically add:

Grain Base Layer: Quinoa, Polenta, Brown Rice

Protein:  Chick Peas, Goat Cheese, Pumpkin Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds, Chopped Cashews, Shrimp, Scallops

Vegetables:  Kale, Grilled Eggplant, Bok Choy, Grilled Summer Squash, Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Butternut Squash, Halved Grape Tomatoes


The tomatoes, cheese, and some kind of nut or seed are the key to making this dish feel hearty and homey.  I’m not typically a huge fan of the microwave as a kitchen appliance (uneven heating!) but in this case, it really does the trick of turning your basic ingredients into a warm and satisfying dish.  Experiment with some layered dishes and I promise you, you’ll find some favorites that will get you through some cold, dark days.


Before Microwaving After Microwaving


At this time of year, nostalgia plays a big role.  Do we cling to old behaviors when faced with cold weather and a harsher climate? It’s wonderful to practice time-honored traditions and customs.  But it’s by opening ourselves up to new practices and new ways of thinking that we move on and grow. 

Quinoa For Breakfast?

The feel of fall is definitely in the air.  And while I am always so sad to see the summer go, there is so much that is beautiful about the fall too.  Those first few crisp autumn mornings make me crave a warm breakfast.  Oats are something I can no longer have, due to food sensitivities, so I’ve been exploring some alternate grains for breakfast.  I was so excited to find I Heart Keenwah toasted quinoa flakes.  I originally found these at Roche Bros, but have since spied them at other markets as well.  I Heart Keenwah has some other quinoa snack products too.  What do I love about I Heart Keenwah Organic Hot Cereal the most?  They have only one ingredient!  That’s right.  Just one.  Toasted quinoa flakes.  I have used them as a substitute in recipes too, in place of bread crumbs. 


To prepare this delicious bowl of yummy warm goodness, I heated hazelnut milk to a simmer.  You could also use water, regular milk or any other plant-based milk.  I stirred in a half cup of toasted quinoa flakes and cooked them for two minutes, stirring occasionally.  That’s it!

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Chances are good that your Saturdays are like mine – busier than the weekdays!  I like to get a workout in early (barre with LeAnna is the best!) and then fuel up with a power-packed breakfast.  To this hot cereal, I stirred in cashew butter (yum!), and then topped it with fresh blueberries and chia seeds.  My other favorite stir-in is pumpkin seed butter.  And I’ve also topped with fresh raspberries, chopped pecans and hemp seeds.

The most amazing thing about this cereal is how sweet it tastes – even if you stir in nothing at all!  Toasting the quinoa somehow brings out the best in this grain. 


When you shop at a grocery store, you have to sift through a lot of products to find a gem like this one.  The typical grocery store houses somewhere between 35,000 and 47,000 products on their shelves.  And every year lists are published, such as Best New Products of the Year.  But how cool would it be to have a list of the Best Products with 3 Ingredients or Less? Products that are not just nutrition juggernauts, but that taste great too.  Like Erehorn Corn Flakes.  Just two ingredients in that cereal.  Two!  Organically grown corn and sea salt.  Compare that to the ingredients on a well-known other brand of corn flakes:  milled corn, sugar, malt flavor, contains 2% or less of salt. bht added to packaging for freshness. vitamins and minerals: iron, vitamin c (sodium ascorbate, ascorbic acid), niacinamide, vitamin b6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin b2 (riboflavin), vitamin b (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin a palmitate, folic acid, vitamin d, vitamin b12.  The well-known brand has added sugar and the controversial additive bht. 


The Power of Planning

As summer has shifted into fall and we’ve all returned to a more brisk pace with busy schedules and routines, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in my hometown.  As I drive my daughter home from swim team practice, often at dinner time or much later than that, the line of cars at Wendy’s seems to be growing longer and longer.  I get it.  Parents are out of time.  They have dealt with long commutes and then evenings spent driving kids to sports, lessons, tutoring, volunteering, CCD, you name it.  Wendy’s is an easy and quick solution to dinner when time is of the essence. 


At the risk of sounding a wee bit smug, I have been inside of Wendy’s in Mansfield only once in the eighteen years that I’ve lived in this town.  It was when my children were pre-school age and one of them needed to use the restroom and could not wait the six more minutes for us to get to our house.  I did have a year when I succumbed to the McDonald’s happy meal fix (with apples, not fries) for my children, once a week when they were about five and three years old.  I remember that on Thursdays we went from day care to swim lessons to another sports class.  What’s a mom to do?

Fast forward ten years and you would never see that happen in our house now. What changed?  Gosh – so much!  I invested a lot in my own (and my family’s) nutritional well-being by educating myself, by dedicating time to planning and shopping and by spending more time in the kitchen.  I also involved my kids in planning, cooking and in trying new foods.  I had the great fortune (just at that time when I was swinging through the Mickey D’s drive through once a week) of working for NuVal, a fantastic start-up which created a scientifically-based nutritional scoring system that we implemented in supermarkets, hospitals and schools. 

One night as I drove by the long Wendy’s line, snaking out of the parking lot and spilling onto the main road, I asked myself, if there was one thing that changed to keep you from being in that line tonight, what was it?  After all, I’ve had a day.  I’ve done two soul-crushing commutes, raced into the house with just enough time to change into comfy clothes, and have now driven my daughter to a late team practice and back.  We’re now getting home for dinner after 8 pm.  Why are we not in the Wendy’s line?  Planning.  You’ve got to plan.  There’s no getting around it.  And you need to devote some time to the process.  But in the end, it will save you time and you will eat more nutritiously.


Here’s our method that we’ve developed over time:

·        Plan your meals for the week:  Set aside a time every week that works for you.  I promise – you will come to enjoy it.  My husband and I do this Saturday morning over coffee.  We look at the week ahead – and all the activities that are going on during the upcoming week.  Extra busy nights call for a slow cooker meal.  You also might take other factors into consideration when menu planning (what’s on sale, what’s in season, what makes great leftovers).

·        Create tools that work for you – or find tools that do!  We have created a shopping list (old school style – in Excel) that we can print out and use for weekly shopping.  However, we also use Cozi.  I LOVE Cozi’s shopping list feature as I can create lists for different stores I go to (I even have one for Sephora) and when I’m shopping I can check things off as I buy them.  You can download recipes and all the ingredients will appear in the shopping list.  It also has other great features, such as shared calendars, to do lists, and reminders.   Our family would be lost without it.

·        Power cook.  Every person I know who is successful at the healthy eating thing does this.  We spend a few hours each week cooking ahead.  Typically for us, this in on Sunday.  We steam, roast or grill some vegetables.  I make salad.  We make one or two meals ahead so that they can me re-heated or slow-cooked during the week.  Not only does this keep us out of the Wendy’s line, it keeps our lunch bags full of healthy and delicious eats during the week which is much cheaper and more nutritious than eating out all the time.

·        Recycle your menus, but try new stuff too.  Through this menu planning process, we’ve developed a great repertoire of tried and true favorites.  For those, we now have a binder where we keep those recipes (again, old school, but it works).  However, it’s important not to get stuck in a rut, so we do try new stuff.

·        Change it up.  We’ve had weeks when we let the kids plan the menu.  That was interesting!  And when I travel for business out of town, the rest of the family will enjoy a Mom-free night where they don’t have some of my food restrictions.  Let’s just say there is a lot of gluten!

·        Be flexible.  Life happens.  We’ve been known to switch nights, to scratch plans, to just make omelets instead. 

Menu planning, shopping, cooking – it all times time and commitment.  But it is key to healthy living. With a little time and planning, you can eat well all week long. 

What I Eat In a Day – The Weekend Edition

One of my favorite features in People magazine is “What I Eat In a Day.”  You know the one – where celebrities open their kimonos and show you just what they ingest on any given day.  Usually a Registered Dietitian weighs in (pun intended) to tell you how nutritious this famous person’s diet is – and how (if at all) they can improve.  There is usually a total calorie count too.

So, I thought I would take the plunge.

Of course, the day I chose was not exactly a typical day in that it was a very stormy Saturday in August.  I say this because we made a pretty elaborate dinner, we ate in, we had family movie night – it was more like a winter weekend night than summer.  

Breakfast – Veggie Egg Scramble


This is my After-Saturday-Morning-Barre-Class-With-LeAnna-Breakfast.  To make my veggie egg scramble, I start with 1 Tbsp coconut oil heated in a frying pan and add 2 cups of baby spinach and chopped grape tomatoes.  After these soften, I whisk in 2 beaten eggs and 1 oz. shredded cheddar cheese. Then I just scramble it all together. It’s not as pretty as an omelet.  But I’m all about getting as much spinach in there as I can – so who cares about aesthetics. I enjoy this with a side of fresh blueberries, coffee with almond milk and a big glass of water.  

Lunch – Spinach Strawberry Almond Turmeric Smoothie


After a late breakfast, I’m not typically hungry until early afternoon.  Also, I’m usually on the go with errands, kids’ sports or activities - or on sunny summer days, beach or pool.  So, I literally eat lunch while driving. This is the opposite of during the week when I eat breakfast while driving.  So, it makes sense that I swap my weekday breakfast for weekend lunch. I have been experimenting with my smoothies to find the right mix for my taste and my stomach.  I love this version that I learned from Kate Scarlata’s new cookbook, The Low FODMAP Diet.  I start with one cup frozen strawberries, ½ cup fresh baby spinach and 1 cup almond milk.  After blending that together, I add in 4 ice cubes and crush those. After that, I blend in 1 Tbsp of almond butter.  I finish by blending in 1 Tbsp of turmeric powder.

Snack – Blue Corn Chips and Wine


When we get home from errands, I am ready for happy hour.  I am loving these No Salt Added Blue Corn Chips from Garden of Eatin’

Dinner – Pan Seared Salmon with Kale


Dinner – We typically set aside part of one weekend day to do some “Cooking Ahead” for the upcoming week.  Weekday nights are easy when you open up your fridge and find vegetables already grilled or roasted, chicken already marinating, salad greens already washed.  With the stormy weather, we did these sorts of things on this particular day – and we tried a new recipe. So, on this night, we had Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale (again from Kate Scarlatta’s new cookbook).  For veggie sides, I made a few roasted potatoes (oven roasted with coconut oil and fresh rosemary – my own recipe), grilled eggplant, grilled summer squash and grilled zucchini.

After Dinner Snack – Popcorn!


Movie Night Snack – With rainy weather still, we settled in for a family movie night which meant popcorn for everyone.  We make ours the old-fashioned way – on the stove with a small amount of oil. It’s crunchy and the perfect complement to the 80s retro movies that we’ve been viewing with the kids.  This night’s was My Cousin Vinny (technically early ‘90s, but felt like the ‘80s).  

Water:  I drink regular water throughout the day.

Dietitian’s Verdict:  I haven’t asked a dietitian to weigh in on this specific day but I have been working with two dietitians over the past few months and both have given me an A+ for my daily eating habits.  They feel like I’m getting enough (more than enough) fruits and vegetables and plenty of protein. I’ve been cautioned to keep an eye on sugar (the wine, the chocolate – which I have cut back on).  

Calorie Count:  I use the Lose It app (which I LOVE!)  It helps me to keep track of what and how much I’m eating, and finds patterns in my eating that are useful to me.  According to Lose It, my day was a little over 1500 calories.

Please weigh in!  What do you eat in a day?  Share your comments and let me know.  I’d love to hear!


Spiralize This!

Just in time for the summer harvest of so many fantastic vegetables, I became the very excited owner of a spiralizer.  This was thanks to my sister Julie, who knows me so well. I’ve been a huge fan of zoodles (spiralized zucchini) and all other spiralized veggies (carrots, butternut squash, potatoes, beets), typically buying them at Wegman’s.  Now – when I buy them already in their spiralized state they are expensive. As in $7 for a little tiny package of zoodles. The other problem with buying your veggies already spiralized is they have a shelf life of zero. They get scary-mushy well before their sell-buy date.  

My sister Julie is an avid gardener.  She harvests loads of fresh vegetables all summer long, so it was only natural that she would become a spiralizer-owner early on.  She strongly recommends investing in a quality spiralizer. She gave me the OXO Good Grips Table Top Spiralizer. I was in love at my first spiral!  Like so many OXO products, it did not disappoint. It’s solid. It has great suction and really fastens itself to my counter-top. It’s super-fast. Julie works from home as a Pilates instructor and she spiralizes vegetables in-between clients.  


Knowing I had my spiralizer, I bought some extra zucchini at Ward’s Berry Farm and put my new gadget to the test.  It was so easy to use, right out of the box. I was able to whip up a fun side dish by sautéing the spiralized zucchini in a teaspoon of olive oil, adding some grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives and a little parmesan cheese.  Delicious!

The OXO Spiralizer goes for about $40 at Bed Bath & Beyond.  I figure it’s worth it considering all I was spending buying pre-packaged spiralized veggies.  I can’t wait to try it out with all the amazing vegetables that we’ll be receiving in our CSA box this summer.  Spiralizers are so popular, there are whole blogs dedicated to spiralizing. Check out the Inspiralized blog for inspiration.


I highly recommend investing in a quality spiralizer.  It will encourage you to eat more vegetables (always a good thing).  I’m so glad I have one and I’m looking forward for a summer of new recipes!

Lessons Learned From Whole 30

Meet Rachel – my co-worker who began a journey with the ever-popular Whole 30 Diet.  If you are not familiar with Whole 30, it’s an elimination diet that promises life-changing results in as little as 30 days time.  The Whole 30 Diet calls for no dairy, no grains, no added sugar, no alcohol, and no legumes.  None.  At all.  For 30 days.  The idea is to then re-introduce potential problem-causing foods so that what you can eat is affecting you.  For more on Whole 30, check out their website at whole30.com.

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First a little about Rachel.  She’s an amazing single mother of three children who inspires me all the time with her talent, wit and positive attitude toward life.  Rachel and I both share a passion for food – especially farm-fresh food, farm-to-table cooking and restaurants and goal achievement through fitness and nutrition.  

Rachel and her boyfriend recently decided to try Whole 30 – beginning March 1st – and so I had the opportunity to interview her after 30 days on the program and 30 days following.  

Melissa:  What inspired you to try Whole 30?

Rachel:  My boyfriend was having frequent, almost debilitating heart burn and chest pain after eating certain foods. We weren’t sure of the cause, or if it was even food related. Maybe stress? We decided to try the Whole30 diet as a way to test if certain foods were the culprit.

Melissa:  What were the biggest changes you made going into Whole 30?

Rachel:  Knowing Whole30 was going to be a drastic shift in both how and what we ate, we started to eliminate, or at least cut down, on the toughest ones. I started drinking my coffee black, (no more cream and sugar!) and he cut back on sugar and bread products. When we implemented the Whole30 plan, we followed it as close to the letter as we could…with no cheats; even making all our own condiments and dressings. I’d love to say that starting early made the full month of Whole30 easier, but it was still an enormous adjustment.  The other huge adjustment was getting used to—and making time for—eating three meals a day. Both of us were used to eating maybe twice a day and skipping meals if our schedules were too busy.

Melissa:  What did you miss the most during the first 30 days?

Rachel:  Personally, I really missed sugar and chocolate. Like, REALLY missed them. In everything I read about the Whole30, people would say that those sugar cravings go away about the second week and then you never really think about sugar. That was a total lie. I thought about sugar every minute! My boyfriend missed bread the most; crunchy toast, bagels, and rolls. The other thing I missed was the convenience of the way I used to eat. On Whole30, there is no such thing as “convenient” food. You have to think about, shop for, prepare your meals and snacks, and bring them with you—at least if you want to follow the plan as it’s laid out.  Which was particularly challenging when I traveled for work. In my laptop carryon was an enormous bag of Whole30 approved protein bars, carrot sticks, pea pods, and cut fruit. It looked like I was traveling with a toddler again. 

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Melissa:  What were the biggest lessons you learned from Whole 30?


  • That the foods that made us the sickest, were the ones we craved and missed the most. We discovered that gluten and oats really make my boyfriend sick, and that most of my previous diet consisted of sugar.
  • In the beginning, you can’t trust your body to tell you what it needs. You have to eat when you don’t feel hungry, or stop eating before you feel full, until your body adjusts to running on clean, healthy food. Both of us were not very hungry at the beginning of the program, but it’s imperative to not skip meals because your body needs the fuel, even if your stomach “feels” full.
  • There is sugar in everything. Absolutely everything. And it’s very often added into products, not because it’s needed, but because it makes people want to eat more. I am diligent about reading labels now and buying products that don’t contain added sugar. Except BBQ sauce. BBQ sauce definitely needs some sugar. 
  • That our food choices were really responsible for how poorly we had been feeling, when we were previously quick to chock it up to stress, lack of sleep, or a busy schedule. When we started eating three meals a day, primarily healthy meats, veggies, and fruits, we both felt better, had more energy as a whole, and our stomachs rarely hurt. 

Melissa:  Did you lose weight during Whole 30?

Rachel:  Yes. I think weight loss is an inevitable part of following the Whole30 plan, and was an ancillary benefit to why we began this journey. We each lost eight pounds, my boyfriend is now at his high school graduation weight! What I found interesting is that I still lost weight while eating the most food I’ve ever consumed in a month. When you eat food that your body can actually use, instead of the many empty carbs people typically put into it, you can eat a lot and still lose weight. 

Melissa:  What were the lasting changes you made since completing the Whole30?

Rachel:  I still drink my coffee black, preferring to use my sugar intake for a dessert once or twice a week. We also both eat three meals a day because that’s when we feel the best and it gives us the energy we need for the full day (not just until 3 pm, when we used to crash). My boyfriend has realized he needs to live a gluten-free life, which has been more of a mental challenge than anything. He admitted to me that didn’t believe that food (let alone gluten) would ever make him that sick, but after eating a few meals with gluten since our Whole30 ended, and enduring the ensuing sickness it provoked, he’s sold. (Plus we discovered his favorite pizza place has gluten free crust! SCORE!) We are almost two months post Whole30 and we’ve both kept the weight off, simply by continuing to eat healthy meals. It’s really changed our lives. 

Melissa:  What advice would you give someone contemplating this diet?


  • Don’t do it for the sole purpose of losing weight. This is definitely not a weight loss plan. It’s all about understanding your body, what foods make it feel great, and what foods don’t. Then adjusting your diet to achieve optimal health for yourself. It’s different for everyone.
  • Make sure you have enough time to do the meal prep and research. If you want to be successful, do not underestimate the time required to plan, shop, cook, prep your meals and snacks. It’s a lot, but it’s completely worth it for the answers.
  • Go big, or go home. If you are going to go through Whole30, then do it all the way, just as they prescribe in the book. Don’t cheat. Don’t miss a day. Then you really will know a lot about yourself and how your body (and mind!) react to food choices and where your pitfalls are. Then you can make lasting changes. 

Melissa: Are you glad you did Whole 30?

Rachel:  Absolutely. The information you learn about yourself, your cravings, and what foods your body needs to work best is invaluable.  

*Note: It is recommended that you consult your physician before starting any diet, especially an elimination diet like Whole 30.  

Other Great Blogs

Speaking of my co-workers, let me introduce you to Tina Haupert, who writes the famous Carrots N Cake blog.  Tina and I worked together a few years ago, and I still love checking in with her daily.  One of my favorite posts lately?  Shorts That Don’t Suck!  Yes, Tina always knows the perfect topic for minds, bodies, and strong thighs like mine!  Here comes summer (finally) and if you are in the market for new shorts, be sure to read Tina’s recommendations.


Perfectly Hard-Boiled Eggs

 Cluck and Trowel eggs, Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market

Cluck and Trowel eggs, Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market

With Easter upon us, today seemed like the perfect day to share our family recipe for perfectly hard-boiled eggs.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to peel an egg when the shell is all stubbornly stuck. Or how about when the yolks turn green.  Ewww! That is all a distant memory to me because my husband has mastered the trick to perfectly hard-boiled eggs. I haven’t had a stuck-on shell or green yolk in years.   

Step 1: Fill any large pot with water only and bring it to a boil.  Be sure to use enough water to cover your eggs.

Step 2: While the water in the pan is heating, place eggs in a bowl.  Fill the bowl with hot tap water. Let the eggs sit in this hot tap water until your pan is ready with boiling water.  Empty the bowl of water.

Step 3: Using a slotted spoon, carefully place the eggs, one-by-one, into the pot of boiling water.

Step 4: Set the timer for 10 minutes.

Step 5:  After 10 minutes, remove the pan from heat and let the eggs sit in the pan for 1-2 minutes.

Step 6:  Using the slotted spoon, remove eggs, one-by-one from the pan and place them back in your now-empty bowl.

Step 7:  Place the bowl in the sink.  Run cold water over the eggs for 1 minute.  Let the eggs sit in the water for 5 minutes to cool down.  (Note: This step is critical for shells that will peel easily).

Step 8:  Remove eggs from water.  Store in refrigerator.

This method is fail proof.  This has been a science experiment of sorts for my husband, who was very determined to figuring out the best way to ensure the very best egg results.  He insists that the combination of soaking the eggs first in hot tap water before boiling them – and then soaking them again in cold tap water after boiling the eggs – causes the membrane to adhere to the shell and not to the egg white.  I just know that it I get the satisfaction of perfect eggs every time.

Whether it’s for Easter – or for every day – you have to try this!

Living the Low-FODMAP Life

About a year ago, I began following the Low-FODMAP Diet.  While most people have heard of other named diets – Paleo, Mediterranean, Ketogenic, Whole30 – I find that there are few people who are familiar with the Low-FODMAP diet.  That’s always surprising to me because it was developed in 1999 at Monash University in Australia and it is a diet that is recommended for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.  In fact it has been shown to help at least three out of four people with IBS (and IBS is a condition that affects 15% of the population).  By the way – may I just mention - that as a sufferer of IBS, I would really love it if we could just re-name this disease.  For example, we could name it after one of the celebrities who has it, such as Tyra Banks, Jenny McCarthy, John F. Kennedy or Cybil Shephard.  Yes, we could call it the Tyra Banks disease.  Isn’t that much prettier than “Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”  

FODMAPS are a group of naturally occurring sugars that are not absorbed in the small intestine.  They travel down to the large intestine and ferment there, resulting in gas, bloating, pain and a lot of other unpleasant side effects. So what does the acronym FODMAP stand for exactly?

F - Fermentable

O – Oligosaccharides

D – Disaccharides

M – Monosaccharides

A and P – And Polyols

You can see why an acronym was a necessity here.  The key to the diet is to avoid foods which are high in FODMAPS.  In fact, it is recommended that you eliminate them from your diet altogether for about six weeks and then work with a dietitian to re-introduce them.  

So, what are some of these High FODMAP foods to avoid?   Here are just a few: 

  • Foods high in lactose (cow’s milk, many cheeses, ice cream)
  • Foods with excess fructose (asparagus, apples, pears, watermelon, high fructose corn syrup, honey, run, agave nectar)
  • Foods with high fructans (garlic, onion, leeks, scallions, onion powder, garlic powder, kidney beans, ripe bananas, wheat, soy milk, black beans, chamomile tea)
  • Foods with high polyols (cauliflower, mushrooms, blackberries, sorbitol, xylitol, prunes)

Are you asking yourself what you can eat yet?  The list is actually long and plentiful.  There are many wonderful fruits, veggies, gluten-free grains, nuts, proteins, herbs, legumes, coffee, tea, dark chocolate and wine (thank goodness!)  You can find many lists on low-FODMAP websites.  I highly recommend the Kate Scarlatta blog.  She is a Boston-based Registered Dietitian and New York Times best-selling author.  I love her low-FODMAP Grocery Shopping List and her recipes too.  


When I tell people that I am on the Low-FODMAP diet, these are the questions they ask me.

Q: Who recommended the Low-FODMAP diet to you?

A: First, my primary care physician.  Then, my GI specialist, who diagnosed me with IBS, I mean, the Tyra Banks disease.  I was familiar with it because I have a close friend who has Crohn’s disease and we had explored components of the diet together.  I have been on the diet for approximately one year.

Q. Has the Low-FODMAP diet helped your IBS symptoms?

A: YES! It has helped tremendously.  I used to have eight bad stomach days out of every ten days.  Now that number is about one out of ten.  

Q. Is it hard to follow?

A. Yes and No.  I was already gluten-free and almost completely dairy-free when I started the diet.  My diet was also primarily comprised of unprocessed foods.  All of that helped.  It also helped that I had a background in nutrition.  Like many diets, it is easy to follow when you are eating on your own and eating in your own home.  It gets much harder when you are traveling, eating in restaurants, or at a dinner party. 

Q. Where do you go for recipes?

A. I have a couple of cookbooks written by the diet’s founder, Sue Shepherd, Ph D.  And I have found some great recipes just from searching through Instagram, Pinterest and other Internet resources.  There are a lot of FODMAP foodies out there!  I’ve also developed some of my own recipes.  I now make some of our family favorites without garlic and onion, for example.  My husband and kids have been amazingly accommodating.  That’s not to say they don’t love a good meal full of gluten, dairy, garlic, onions and all the rest when I’m not around!

Q. How do you handle eating out?

A. I’ve found that garlic and onion are big triggers for my stomach and gluten is also, so I tell my server that I’m allergic to garlic, onion, scallion, and gluten.  And then we take it from there.  Sometimes I’m always having the salad with grilled salmon.  But I’ve also had chefs make me some exceptionally creative dishes too.   I find that these days servers are incredibly well-educated about allergies and intolerances.  Also, we have found the restaurants that handle it best – and that’s where we tend to go.  

Q. Is it hard to follow when you are traveling?

A. Yes! The problem is that the staples you need are more likely to be found in a grocery store, not in an airport or other convenience location.  For example, when I want yogurt, I want non-fat, plain Greek yogurt.  But it’s hard to find that in a single-serve size in an airport or in your hotel’s little snack market.  You are more likely to find yogurt that already has fruit in it – and, unless it’s labeled, you don’t know what kind of sweeteners might be in there.  So, I pack a lot of almonds!  

Q. What do you do when you are going to someone else’s house to eat?

A. I try to bring one dish that is low-FODMAP.  During the busy holiday season, when we had a lot of Christmas parties on weekend nights, I knew that I would be heading into houses where I would be out of luck at the buffet tables.  So, I would make an omelet (like the one pictured) and eat ahead.  At least I knew that I wouldn’t be hungry.  

Q. Have you lost weight?

A. No – I remained about the same.  It’s not necessarily a weight-loss plan.  You will eat very cleanly though.   

Q. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned?

A. There is high fructose corn syrup in everything.  Everything!  It’s even in Nyquil!  It is in so many processed foods in the United States.  Oh – there is also garlic and onion in everything.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about the low-FODMAP diet?

A. Yes! If your stomach hurts- if you experience bloating and discomfort, gassiness, or anything else that makes you miserable, don’t try to fix it on your own.  See your doctor and ask to see a GI specialist.  There are things you can do to feel better and it is so worth it!

For More Information on IBS or the Low-FODMAP diet:

Shape Magazine:  Ask the Doctor – The Low-FODMAP Diet

Brigham and Women’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center

She Can’t Eat What?!

Self Magazine: This Model’s Instagram Photos Get Super Real About Life With IBS

A New Year’s DeTox


Happy New Year! No matter how healthfully you may have lived over the last six weeks, it is nearly impossible to emerge on January 1st without feeling a little bit puffy.  Let’s face it.  The calendar has evolved around cookie swaps, endless parties and feasts.  And so with every New Year, there is always a renewed emphasis on health and well-being.  

For some, before they can begin eating nutritiously again, they feel the need to detox or cleanse.  The topic of cleansing has been debated by medical professionals.  Most agree that detox diets or cleanses that require fasting can cause fatigue and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  Instead, you might try one of these ideas to kick off your New Year feeling lighter and more energized:

  • Try Cooking Light’s Three Day Detox.  Rather than cutting out all food and calories, the incredible authors at Cooking Light have put together a plan for you that will get you back on track and make you feel renewed.  There are recipes and shopping lists included.  I’ve never met a Cooking Light recipe that wasn’t amazing.  I have so many that have become family favorites.  The Pan-Seared Shrimp with Rosemary Spaghetti Squash looks incredible!
  • Make a vegetable-based soup.  This is what I do when I’m feeling sluggish – especially in winter.  Lunches can become soup plus a hard-boiled egg or two for protein.  In year’s past, I’ve made Karina’s Detox Green Soup with Ginger from the Gluten Free Goddess blog.  This New Year’s Day, I made Carrot and Ginger Soup (see recipe below).  It’s delicious and it will be a warm and nutritious lunch for the cold days ahead.
  • Embark upon a cleanse – with supervision.  Juice On Main offers a Juice Cleanse in 1, 3 or 5 day programs.  I have spoken to several customers who have been very pleased with the results.  Email Lori for more information: lori@juiceonmain.com.  Or learn more at http://www.juiceonmain.com/juice-cleanses/
  • Consider making it a Dry January.  I’ve had several friends and colleagues take this January plunge over the past few years.  This year, I jumped in with some friends and made the commitment as well.  I’m curious to see if I can improve my health even more by cutting out sugary wine.  Detox tea anyone?  If you haven’t heard of Dry January, check it out on Facebook.  There is even a Dry January app.  

Here’s to a more energized and focused version of you in 2018!


Carrot and Ginger Soup Recipe (from The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook, Sue Shephherd, PhD, 2014)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small celery root (about 14 ounces) – Note:  I just used celery.  It was fine

4 pounds carrots, cut into ¾ inch chunks

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

6 ½ cups gluten-free chicken stock (onion free, if following Low FODMAP diet)

1 heaping tablespoon ground ginger

1 cup low-fat milk (or lactose free milk or other plant based milk)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the celery root, and cook until golden.  Add the carrots, potatoes, and stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender) until smooth.
  2. Stir in the ginger and milk until well combined.   You can adjust the quantity of milk depending on how thick you like your soup.  (I added more milk and more ginger).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat gently without boiling and serve.

Serves 6.

Per serving: 225 calories; 7 g protein. 4 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 44 g carbohydrates; 12 g fiber; 713 mg sodium