Whole30: A Wholly Misguided Approach to Healthy Eating

Spaghetti Squash with Marinara and Veggies

As enlightened eaters begin to question the healthfulness of highly processed and fast food, many are turning to the Whole30 Diet as a way to cleanse themselves of the junk. Whole30 is being embraced with a frenzy of fad-like enthusiasm (warning bell!), so several close friends have asked for my opinion.

At first glance, this approach seems to be an exciting way to cut the junk and focus on whole foods. After all, the first rule of the Whole30 Diet is the Pollan-esque mantra “Eat real food.” However, if you dig a little deeper into the rules of Whole30, and you’ll find that much of the “real food” as we know it is expressly forbidden on this diet. Don’t believe me? Here is why the Whole30 Diet is a misguided approach to healthy eating.

Whole30 eliminates all grains: Building on the gluten-free fear mongering of other pop-science books (I’m pointing at you, Wheat Belly), Whole30 eliminates all grains, including healthy whole grains, because of their “problematic proteins,” like gluten.Parboiled brown rice for Brown Rice Pumpkin Risotto with Mushrooms, Zucchini and Spinach

This in itself is a misguided interpretation of science. Indeed, in people with Celiac Disease and some gluten sensitivities, the body perceives gluten as an enemy, and produces an inflammatory immune response. But for the vast majority of the population without gluten disorders, that’s not what happens. In fact, eating whole grains, is associated with decreased inflammation. In a recent clinical trial, researchers found that eating a cup of whole grain barley or brown rice (or a combination of the two) for as little as four weeks can increase the “good” bacteria in your gut that fight inflammation.

A diet without grains but with unlimited red meat is basically just an Atkins diet. There is no reason for this to be disguised as a “whole foods” eating pattern, when entire groups of whole foods are eliminated. Any diet that bans nutritious whole grains like quinoa and millet, but allows you to survive exclusively off of bacon and Larabars, should make you question the legitimacy of its health claims.

Whole30 eliminates all legumes: Another healthy food group, axed from the menu! The creators of Whole30 warn that legumes (like chickpeas, black beans, or lentils) have high levels of phytates, which can block the uptake of certain nutrients by our bodies. While this might sound alarming, what Whole30 enthusiasts fail to understand is that SO many factors affect our uptake of nutrients (how a food is stored, processed, and cooked, what else is eaten with it, etc) and that the reductionist approach of analyzing foods by the milligrams of nutrients that you may or may not be fully absorbing is an entirely fruitless pursuit.

Pike PlaceAdditionally, these “nutrition experts” (those are sarcastic quotes) fail to understand that ALL plant foods contain varying level of phytates, and that many of the foods promoted by Whole30 (such as kale) have even more phytates than legumes. Phytates are also found in pasture raised and wild meat, based on which plants animals ate during their lifetime. And on top of everything, phytates (natural plant defenses) are not necessarily a bad thing! These bioactive compounds act as antioxidants in the body, and have been linked to anticancer activity, as well as cholesterol lowering effects. (This should not be surprising – we all know that beans are healthy.) The only way to avoid all phytates is to eat highly processed and synthetic foods – which basically defeats the entire philosophy of Whole30.

Whole30 eliminates all dairy. Plant-based diets that eliminate animal products, including dairy, can certainly be extremely healthy. Indeed, T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and the Harvard School of Public Health bring up excellent points that are leading nutrition researchers to revisit the connection between dairy and bone health (it’s not as straightforward as we once thought).

That being said, fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, and some raw milk cheeses, are great ways to stimulate beneficial gut bacteria. Everyday new research is uncovering the importance of the microbiome. Already, we are finding that a wide variety of healthy gut bacteria are thought to be linked with everything from infections, to obesity, to allergies. Additionally, if dairy is banned in addition to grains and legumes, there really isn’t much left to eat! What kind of healthy diet eliminates half of the food pyramid?

Whole30 eliminates “psychologically unhealthy foods”: The creators of Whole30 claim that smoothies, healthy baked goods, and basically any recipe resembling something that you might actually want to eat is “psychologically unhealthy,” because it is too similar to the standard American diet. Because, you know, Americans became obese from drinking too many kale smoothies and making too many loaves of naturally sweetened, whole grain banana bread (ahem, not!).Healthy Whole Grain Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Broccoli, Chickpeas, Feta, and Olive Oil

Judging by the no-apologies way that the rules are written up (and by the rules themselves), Whole30 seems to be designed to take the pleasure out of eating. This is a terrible idea. The last thing people need is another fad diet that they stick to for 30 days and then drop. I truly believe that healthy eating is not a punishment – if done right, it can be joyful, delicious, and a lifelong habit. But Whole30 is not healthy eating done right. It is restrictive, antagonistic, and completely misguided.

Additionally, while Whole30 gurus may be opposed to “psychologically unhealthy” foods, they seem to have no problem with physiologically unhealthy foods – in other words, an eating pattern guaranteed to make you feel like crap. While adjusting to a higher fiber diet can take some time (the key to avoid intestinal discomfort is to add fiber slowly over time, and drink LOTS of water!), no “healthy” diet should EVER make you feel “hungover” or like you want to “kill all the things,” which the creators of Whole30 brush off as perfectly normal (it’s not!).

Despite these shortcomings, there are some important lessons to be learned from the program:
At the heart of it, the elimination of highly processed foods is what makes the Whole 30 diet seem so appealing. Americans (and increasingly, folks in other nations as well) are hooked on snack foods—packaged ‘Frankenfoods’ formulated from the same handful of highly processed ingredients. In contrast, healthy diets should be based on a wide variety of minimally processed plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and fish. While Whole30 creators seem to be confused about what a whole foods diet is, their heart seems to be in the right place (maybe).

Nutrient Synergy: Why Whole Foods and Traditional Cuisines MatterThe Whole30 regimen also asks participants to abstain from added sugars for 30 days. While a few teaspoons a day isn’t going to kill you, most people could definitely use a break from this over consumed food. After all, the World Health Organization recommends that adults cut back to only 6 teaspoons a day. Additionally, Whole30 urges participants to abstain from alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption–especially red wine–is shown to have numerous health benefits. But judging from the number of drunken people I’ve seen on the T around Saint Patrick’s Day (or on 6th Street, in college), I’m sure there are plenty of folks that could benefit from a month without alcohol. Bottom Line: If you want to purge your diet of everything remotely impure for 30 days, do just that! But don’t exclude wholesome plant foods, like whole grains or beans.

You wouldn’t get open-heart surgery from an auto mechanic, so why would you follow nutrition advice from someone with zero education or training? While one of the Whole30 cofounders might be a “sports nutritionist,” all that’s required for that designation is to pass one test. No nutrition degree (or even nutrition classes), no supervised practice, and no accredited internship required. The startling nutrition deficiencies in this program are all the more reason to seek nutrition advice from a trained nutrition professional, like a registered dietitian.

– Kelly

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Recipes on My Radar: Healthier Desserts

I may be a dietitian, but I, too, have an active sweet tooth that needs to be tamed on a regular (if not daily) basis. Rather than deprive myself of treats entirely, or settle onto the couch with a nightly pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I try to make dessert recipes that feature healthy ingredients, like whole grains, fruit, and nuts, and are naturally sweetened as much as possible. That way, sweets aren’t a total nutritional loss.

These first two cookie recipes I’m sharing have tahini, which is a creamy paste of ground up sesame seeds (you might know it as the other ingredient in hummus, besides chickpeas). Nut butters and seeds are used in desserts all the time (peanut butter and chocolate, anyone?) so I thought I would get a little more creative with my tahini and give some whole grain cookies a nutrition boost. That being said, I don’t bake often. So the last recipe I’m leaving you with is the dessert I end up making at least once per week (#guilty). Curious? Read on!

Almond Butter Tahini Blueberry cookies

Almond Butter Blueberry Cookies from Green Kitchen Stories // These cookies certainly aren’t “light” or “low cal,” but they are filled with wholesome ingredients like nut butter, whole grains, and fruit. I subbed whole wheat flour for the buckwheat flour in this recipe, but kept everything else the same. The combination of blueberries and maple is reminiscent of a blueberry pancake, making these vegan cookies the perfect morning snack. It is a rare treat to feel nourished, rather than lousy, after eating a cookie (or two…) but these definitely do the trick!

Whole Grain Tahini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Whole Wheat Tahini Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Food Fanatic // These delightful chocolate chunk cookies aren’t quite as superfood-packed as the recipe above, but I highly recommend this creative, healthier take on my all-time favorite dessert. I subbed canola oil for vegetable oil, but followed the rest of this recipe to a T. If you’re looking for a way to sneak some whole grains into the cookie jar, then look no further!

Dark Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal (inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie) // There is no chocolate craving that this decadent porridge recipe can’t take care of. I know that not everyone is as oatmeal obsessed as I am, but this dish is a great gateway into the wonderful world of oats. When heated, the banana beautifully melts into the oatmeal, so all it takes is a good stir to get the sweetness to distribute evenly throughout (no other sweeteners are necessary). This recipe calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, but I use a HEAPING 2 tablespoons, in addition to some ground flaxseed and a generous splash of milk.

– Kelly

 

How to Determine Which Healthy Tools are Worth the Investment

If you want to train for a 5K, there’s an app for that. There’s also an app that shows you how many calories are in your favorite breakfast cereal, and one that can wake you up at the ideal point in your sleep cycle.

From apps, to personal trainers, to activity trackers, to nutrition counselors, there is no shortage of tools to help you live healthier. But among all of these choices, which ones are worth the money? And just as important, how do you determine which one is right for you?

Fitbit Fun

^^Counting steps with my FitBit

EXERCISE:

Follow along with me: On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your exercise regimen.

If you didn’t give yourself a 10 (I sure didn’t!), where do you have room to improve? What is stopping you from rating your exercise regimen as a 9 or 10? Finding where you have room to improve or where you need the most help will help you determine where your investment is best spent. Below are a few common barriers to exercise, as well as some tips and tools to help you overcome these barriers.

1. I don’t have time to exercise.

  • Build more activity into your daily routine. If you can’t bear to wake up any earlier for a pre-work run, or can’t seem to make room for a post-work gym session, then start making tweaks in your daily activities. Walk or bike whenever possible. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Make a habit of walking after meals. Also, look for pockets of time during your day to be active. When you step away from the desk for a lunchtime stroll (or even a lunchtime workout), you return with a renewed sense of energy and concentration.
  • Consider an activity tracker. Once you’ve started making small changes, such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or going on a walk around the block during the lunch hour, an activity tracker (such as a FitBit) can help you quantify these changes. Some companies are even seeing the value in these devices. When I worked at Boston College, employees formed walking teams and received Fitbits to compete for a number of prizes. Similarly, at Oscar, a tech-based NY and NJ health insurance company, employees are given a Misfit Flash activity tracker and can earn cash rewards when they meet their own personalized goals within the Oscar app.

2. I can’t motivate myself to exercise.

  • Sign up for a race. Rather than just exercising for the sake of exercising, signing up for a race (such as a 10K, a sprint triathlon, or an open water swim) will give you a specific goal to work towards. There are also apps and meetup groups that can help motivate you along the way.
  • Find a gym buddy. If you have trouble motivating yourself to go for a jog, convincing yourself to hit the gym is also going to be a struggle. But if you find a gym buddy that you can be accountable to, then a gym membership might actually pay off. If any of your friends or coworkers frequent a gym, consider joining them for classes or weight lifting sessions. Another tactic is to schedule regular activity dates with friends (such as yoga class, walking around the city, or going on a scenic jog), instead of (or perhaps in addition to) post work cocktails or weekend brunch. Additionally, some activity trackers (like the Fitbit) have challenges that allow you to compete against your friends to see who took the most steps or was the most active. Nothing like a little friendly competition to light the fire under you!
  • Join a team. Does your office have a basketball league? Do any of your college friends play softball or soccer? Joining a team is a great way to build accountability, since your teammates are counting on you to pull through. Teams also often meet for regular practices and games, meaning that you’ll have a workout automatically built in to your schedule.

3. I want to get more in shape, but I don’t know where to begin.

  • Start a race-training program. Having something specific to train for (such as a 5K) can help focus your efforts and make your desire to get in shape more quantifiable. It will also help get you in the habit of regular physical activity. From in-person meetup groups, to apps and online training regimens, there are a number of “couch to 5k” training programs to choose from.
  • Consider joining a gym with classes. Whether you opt for a yoga studio, a spinning studio, or a large gym with multiple options, classes are a great way to focus your exercise regimen. The instructors will lead you in the workout, which means that the hardest part is just showing up!
  • Enlist the help of a friend. We all have that friend that is incredibly in shape and enjoys touting the benefits of regular exercise. This is the person you need to share your desire to start working out with. They will likely have some great pointers and ideas for you, and may even invite you along to join them for a workout or two!

4. I’m fairly active, but I want to kick it up a notch.

  • Try a new activity. If you’re a regular runner, give swimming a try. If you’re a pro at spin class, mix it up with yoga. Finding a new activity to use different movements and muscle groups is a great way to challenge your body and get out of a workout rut.
  • Consider a personal trainer. If you find yourself going through the same motions at the gym each week, you might consider working with a trainer. A trainer will push you outside of your comfort zone, and challenge you to try new workouts that you might not have tried before.
  • Step it up with a race. Mastered the 5K? Give a 10K a shot. Enjoy running and biking casually? Challenge yourself to a sprint triathlon. Training for a race (especially a distance that is further than your normal route) is a great motivation to kick your training up a notch.

Lunch at Sweetgreen

^^ Quick healthy lunch at Sweetgreen

FOOD:

Follow along with me: On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how you feel about the healthfulness of your diet.

If you didn’t give yourself a 10, where do you have room to improve? What is stopping you from rating your diet as a 9 or 10? Again, finding where you have room to improve will help you determine where your investment is best spent. Below are a few common barriers to healthy eating, as well as some tips and tools to help you overcome these barriers.

1. Making healthy choices is too complicated.

  • Don’t get bogged down in the details. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (like fish and chicken), beans, and healthy fats (like olive oil, avocado, and nuts) are what you should be piling on your plate. Refined sweets (like candies, cupcakes, and ice cream), deep fried foods, soda, red meats, and ultra-processed junk food are what you should be cutting back on. The nutritional difference between kale and broccoli is nothing to lose sleep over. However, the difference between an apple and apple flavored fruit gummies is pretty significant. If you’re looking for guidance, David Katz’s book is a great place to start. Also, the Fooducate app is a wonderful tool to help you compare foods.

2. I don’t enjoy cooking or meal planning. I just want to grab something quick and easy.

  • Look for healthy shortcuts at the grocery store. Canned beans, dried fruit, frozen vegetables, and precut fruits and vegetables are all healthy shortcuts that make cooking (or meal prep) way easier. There are also a number of healthy meal delivery services that can make cooking easier.
  • Consider time saving appliances. Are smoothies your preferred way to get your greens in? Consider a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix (or the more budget-friendly, entry level Nutribullet). Blenders can be a great motivator to help you get more produce into your diet in one easy, drinkable snack. A slow cooker is another great investment if you prefer to spend your time away from the stove. Just fill it with veggies, beans, and spices in the morning, and come home to a healthy, simmering chili. You can find an abundance of slow cooker recipes in cookbooks or on the web (but you might have to comb through to find healthier, veggie-driven recipes).
  • When eating out, choose wisely. If you rely on take out for most of your meals, it helps to have a few go-to healthy menu items in mind–dishes that are loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Use the hot bar at your local Whole Foods to build a healthy meal with fish, veggies, and whole grains. Brave the line at Sweetgreen, (or a similar salad place like Chop’t). Burrito shops nearby (like Chipotle or Boloco)? Go for a whole grain bowl with beans, chicken, and a ton of veggies, but opt for guac instead of cheese and sour cream, and forgo the unnecessary tortilla.

3. I find myself snacking, even when I’m not hungry.

  • Try a diet tracking app. Logging a few meals with MyFitnessPal, Fooducate, or even the FitBit app is a great way to find patterns in your eating habits. Once patterns start to emerge, look for triggers, and ways to redirect those feelings. Do you always plop on the couch with a box of cereal when you get home? Get a glass of water instead, and try sitting somewhere else. These apps can also encourage positive eating habits, because you may be less likely to have that 10PM donut knowing that you have to record it.
  • Talk with a dietitian. A registered dietitian is a trained nutrition professional that will work with you to learn more about the root causes behind your eating choices, and create an individualized eating plan for you.
  • Read up on healthy eating. There are a number of books that offer practical tips for healthy eating. Some of my favorites include Disease Proof, by David Katz, Slim by Design, by Brian Wansink, French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon, and Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Which tools do you use to stay healthy?

-Kelly

Decorate Like a Dietitian: Healthy, Inspirational Pieces for the Home

The home should be a sanctuary that inspires healthy living, not a cave for Netflix binges and mindless snacking. In Slim by Design, Brian Wansink offers several hacks to make your kitchen slimmer, such as not storing cereal boxes on the counter, keeping fruits and veggies on the top refrigerator shelf, rather than the crisper, and avoiding buying junky snack food in bulk. These small tweaks are research-tested ways to curb mindless eating, which Wansink also implements in the homes of his celebrity clients.

Tips and tricks aside, the design aesthetic of your house can also encourage healthy choices, and that’s what I’m posting about today! When I see enticing pictures of food (be it a donut or a carrot), I crave it. That’s why I like to fill my home with inviting images of delicious fruits and veggies. (This is also the inspiration behind the #foodpornindex campaign from Bolthouse Farms.)

If you’re looking to make your home a catalyst for healthy choices, then see below for my pick of pieces to decorate like a dietitian!

Bouffants and Broken Hearts

^^In my dream home, I would have one of these delightful illustrations by Bouffants and Broken Hearts turned into wallpaper for a powder room (or other small room). Some of her illustrations are available as prints, or on a few other trinkets (such as coffee mugs) on Society6. But wallpaper is totally my end game with these. Just imagine how dramatic it would look with crisp, white trim!

Artichoke print - Etsy

^^For a similar look on a smaller scale, this artichoke print from The Joy of Color is available on Etsy for $21 (along with many other fruit and vegetable watercolors).

Coconut Milk - image via Dark Rye

^^For those that favor pop art, I love this riff on Andy Warhol’s iconic pieces using organic coconut milk from Whole Foods Market. (Note that this isn’t a print for sale, just an image that I stumbled upon on the Whole Foods Pinterest page.)

The Wheatfield - by Katie Daisy

^^Katie Daisy is hands-down one of my favorite artists! (Check out her Etsy shop, The Wheatfield.) I have the ‘farmers market’ print framed in my bedroom, and I gave the ‘Go play outside’ print to my mom for her birthday last year.

Peeled Orange - Elizabeth Mayville

^^Another recent Etsy favorite is Elizabeth Mayville. (You may recognize some of her prints from Design Darling). I recently bought this peeled orange print and am currently on the hunt for a frame and the perfect place to hang it.

Orange Trees - image via Coco + Kelley

^^Plants are another great way to bring you back to nature and inspire healthy choices! Citrus trees, in particular, are especially beautiful (as evidenced by this Domino Magazine photo from Coco + Kelley), but unfortunately, I doubt they’d survive in the Boston tundra.

Herb Garden

^^Lastly, I’m finishing up with a photo of my (short-lived) herb garden. I posted this picture to Instagram about a year and a half ago, and the plants died less than a week later. Not even kidding. Nonetheless, for those with green thumbs, herb gardens are a great way to reconnect with the food system, even if on a tiny scale.

– Kelly

P.S. There’s a lot more where this came from! Check out my Pieces for the Home Pinterest page.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

How To Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Once Valentine’s Day rolls around, my sweet tooth starts kicking hard. But I’m sure not gonna blow it on a tasteless box of candy hearts, or stale chocolate with mystery fillings. Chocolate dipped fruit, on the other hand, is something I can rarely pass up.

Fresh berries are an obvious health pick, but even with a coating of dark chocolate, these babies aren’t as sinful as they look. After all, with less sugar and more polyphenols than milky or white varieties, dark chocolate (in moderation – such as in this recipe) can even be good for the heart.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step).png

For this reason, chocolate covered strawberries are my go-to Valentine’s treat. (They are even the perfect ruby red color!) But at outrageous prices ($45 for one dozen?! No thank you!), I much prefer to make my own.

A pint of 24 organic strawberries (out of season) set me back $6.99 at Whole Foods, and then I spent an additional $4.29 on 67% dark chocolate baking chunks, and $3.99 on the white chocolate chips. So the grand total came to $15.27 for TWO DOZEN chocolate covered organic strawberries, with plenty of chocolate left over to make a second batch. Not only are homemade chocolate covered strawberries a bargain, they are actually quite simple to make! Here’s how it works…

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

  • Required ingredients: strawberries (I used one pint, or 24 strawberries), dark chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1.5 cups dark chocolate chunks)
  • Required equipment: paper towels, wax paper, baking sheet, small pot of water, small/medium glass bowl
  • Optional ingredients: sprinkles, crushed nuts, or white chocolate for drizzling (I used 0.5 cups white chocolate chips, a few sprinkles, and less than 0.25 cups hazelnuts, crushed)

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Wash all strawberries, then dry well with paper towels. If they’re the least bit wet, the chocolate won’t stick as easily.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then set a glass bowl on top (NOT touching the water) and fill with your dark chocolate chips. This will serve as a make-shift double boiler.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Stir your chocolate in the glass bowl over the stove until it melts, but doesn’t burn. Once your chocolate starts melting, feel free to remove the bowl from the heat (as pictured above) or turn the stove down to keep it from burning.

How to Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Step-by-Step)

Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. One by one, dip the strawberries in the melted chocolate, then lay on wax paper to dry. If you wish to roll your strawberries in sprinkles, crushed nuts, or other toppings, do this immediately after dipping, before the chocolate hardens. You may also wish to drizzle white chocolate on top. Simply use the same system that you used to melt the dark chocolate, then dip a spoon in the white chocolate and drizzle back and forth across the strawberries.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Topping Ideas

Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator to harden the chocolate. Once the chocolate hardens (less than an hour), you may store the strawberries in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

How To Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

– Kelly

 

 

Sofritas Monday – Give Tofu a Try Today!

For those of you that are hesitant to embrace Meatless Mondays, maybe Chipotle can help convince you. After all, they’ve got free burritos.

Sofritas Monday

Don’t let the word tofu scare you off. These are not the squishy, lifeless soy cubes from your aunt’s yoga café. The sofritas are made from shredded, organic tofu mixed with chipotle chilis, poblano peppers, and lots of fragrant spices. In fact, the final result is actually comparable to the taste and texture of ground beef.

Chipotle Sofritas

Sofritas Bowl (see the end of this post for my go-to Chipotle order)

The first time I tried the sofritas was actually prompted by a Chipotle coupon as well, because to be honest, tofu and I didn’t get off to a great start. My first attempt at cooking those jiggly soy bricks ended in a miserable failure. I was in college at the time, and a friend recommended that I cook the tofu like meat. So after letting it bathe in a delicious teriyaki marinade overnight, I pulled out the George Foreman Grill. To my dismay, the slippery tofu slid right off of the grill and splattered onto the floor. So much for that approach!

Fast forward a few years later… Slowly but surely, I am warming up to soy proteins. (I have also ditched the Foreman grill). For example, soy chorizo (okay, definitely not a health food) is absolutely delicious in this recipe. And soy crumbles are actually quite pleasant when used in vegetarian Sloppy Joes or Bolognese sauce.

Do you think you’re ready to give soy foods a try? Ease your way in with the carnivore-friendly sofritas! Also, if you’re curious about the safety of soyfoods, be sure to check out this handout from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!

– Kelly

P.S. Are you curious about what this RD gets in her Chipotle order? I go for the Sofritas Bowl (or sometimes a Vegetarian Bowl or Pork Carnitas bowl), Brown Rice, Black Beans, Bell Peppers & Onions, Pico de Gallo, Corn Salsa, Lettuce, and sometimes Guacamole. No cheese, no sour cream, no tortilla – no problem!

10 Healthy Breakfasts in Under 10 Minutes

People often ask me for healthy breakfast ideas. Even though I eat the same thing nearly every day (see Kelly’s daily oatmeal), the good news is that there are plenty of nutritious options for the morning meal.

1.     Classic oatmeal

Daily Oatmeal

Nine times out of ten, I start my day with old fashioned oatmeal topped with raisins and almonds (see this post for details). Porridge is an ideal breakfast because it’s filling, quick to prepare, and helps keep your cholesterol levels in check and your microbiome happy. (And whether you go for steel-cut or instant, all oats are whole grains.) Plus, oatmeal can be customized to fit just about any flavor profile. If you’re ready to branch out the classic combo pictured above, try adding bananas, blueberries, honey, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, cocoa powder, or chia seeds. The sky is the limit! See one of my favorite blogs, The Oatmeal Artist, for more ideas.

2.     Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal

Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal

One of the easiest breakfasts just got easier. Instead of preparing your oatmeal morning of, you just throw the ingredients in a jar and let the oats soften overnight. See my Banana Berry Overnight Oatmeal blog post for a step-by-step tutorial. Once you get the ratio down, feel free to experiment. Some of my favorite overnight oatmeal recipes are Skinny Pumpkin Overnight Oats,  Tiramisu Overnight Oatmeal, Applesauce Overnight Oatmeal, and Overnight Grapefruit Coconut Oatmeal.

3.     Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Shake

Healthy Chocolate Milkshakes -  No sugar

Because some mornings call for chocolate. Right? Right. Just blend 1 frozen banana with 1 Tbsp PB, 3/4 cup of milk, and 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. With protein, healthy carbs, and healthy fats, this shake has all major nutrients needed to start your day off right. For more details, and to see an equally healthy Dark Chocolate Mocha Milkshake recipe, check out this post.

4.     Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

While the obnoxious whir of a blender is not what I want to hear first thing every morning, green smoothies are a great choice for many reasons. They’re portable, nutritious, quick, and easily customizable. Note that I said smoothies, NOT juices. My favorite green smoothie recipe is a fresh banana, 1 cup frozen strawberries, a large handful of fresh spinach leaves, and 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt. (I don’t use ice because of the frozen berries). I also highly recommend this “Stripped Green Smoothie,” which I make when I have the ingredients on hand.

5.     Whole Wheat Bagel Half with Avocado & Tomatoes, plus Fruit

Half Whole Wheat Bagel with Avocado and Tomatoes, Pear on the Side

Toast half of a whole wheat bagel, then spread with avocado, and top with tomato slices and cracked black pepper. Serve with a pear (or any fruit) on the side. The healthy way to enjoy a bagel is to pick a whole wheat bagel, only eat half, and top it with something nutritious. Yes, avocado has fat, but not the artery-clogging saturated fat that cream cheese is made of. And by only having half of the bagel, the portion size is much more appropriate.

6.     Leftover Veggies & an Egg with Toast

Leftover Veggies + Egg + Toast

Got leftover roasted vegetables? Nuke ’em in the microwave, then top with 1 egg, any way (or scramble them with the egg). Serve with a slice of 100% whole grain toast.

7.     Granola with fruit and yogurt

Healthy Granola

Granola parfaits can be a total calorie bomb, but not if you do it right. The key to keeping this healthy is to use an unsweetened yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farms Organic Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt) and using a lightly sweetened granola (the wheat-free classic granola from Whole Foods Market is totally #dietitianapproved!). Bananas and figs go great with yogurt and granola, but any fruit will do!

8.     English Muffin with Peanut Butter and Bananas

Whole Wheat English Muffin with PB and Bananas

English Muffins are perfectly portioned, which is why I prefer them to regular bread slices or bagels. Just make sure to get a whole grain variety. And when shopping for peanut butter (or almond butter), make sure that the only ingredients are nuts and salt, with no added sugars or oils.

9.     Fruit with Ricotta

Baked Fruit with Ricotta

Top chopped fruit with a generous dollop of part-skim ricotta and cinnamon. This tastes best with leftover baked fruit (I used a mixture of apples, pears, peaches, and pineapples), but fresh fruit will work as well. I have also microwaved a soft pear and achieved similar results. Don’t have ricotta? Cottage cheese is another great substitution. This dish (which was inspired by a Giada recipe) also makes a delicious dessert!

10. Make-ahead Breakfast Bake

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Want a sure-fire way to guarantee a nutritious breakfast? Make it the night before! This Baked Blueberry Oatmeal is my very favorite breakfast bake (and bedtime snack!), but healthy muffins or quick breads are also great make-ahead meals to tackle on weeknights, rather than weekday mornings.

What is your go-to healthy breakfast?

– Kelly

Eat Healthy Designs

If I didn’t have a career in nutrition (which I love, by the way), I would definitely want to be working in the design world. That’s why I was so excited to discover the new stationary company, Eat Healthy Designs.

This charming Southern California based company was started by nutrition and dietetics student (and aspiring dietitian) Elise Lindsey, and her business partner, Travis Lowe. Lindsey’s passion for nutrition shines through, not only in the delightfully nerdy food puns splashed across her products, but also in the beautiful, original watercolors of fruits and vegetables. However, I’m equally excited by the back of the cards and prints, which feature nutrition information about the artwork.

The product line-up is still pretty small right now, but you can bet that I’ll be frequently stalking the website for new designs. Check out some of my favorite products below:

EAT Healthy Designs Food Pun Pencils

Food Pun Pencils, $5 for set of 5

EAT Healthy Designs Birthday Card

EAT Healthy Designs Birthday Card

Birthday Card, $4

EAT Healthy Designs Thank You Note Set

EAT Healthy Designs Thank You Note Set

Thank You Note Set, $14 for 6 cards + envelopes

I’m filing this under “Businesses that I didn’t start, but wish I had.” Do you have a favorite stationary company?

– Kelly

Healthy Eating on a Budget

The fact that I live exactly 0.3 miles away from a Whole Foods Market is both a blessing and a curse. With a paradise of healthy ingredients right around the corner from my apartment, I’m often tempted to stop by the store multiple times a week so that I can try a new recipe. But it’s adding up.

Pantry Cleanout: Chili roasted sweet potatoes and onions with corn, black beans, and spinach

Rather than face the prospect of a rapidly dwindling bank account, I have been trying to cook more from what’s in my pantry, rather than constantly getting lured into the grocery store. Above is one such dish I made this week. I had a small Tupperware of chopped bell peppers and onions in the fridge (the remaining bits that didn’t make it into my weekend omelet), so I roasted them up with a forgotten sweet potato, along with ample chili powder, paprika, and cumin. For protein, I tossed in a can of black beans (a pantry staple!), and I finished the dish off with corn from the farmers market (thank you, prepaid gift card) and baby spinach (another omelet remnant).

Getting creative in the kitchen is probably the best way to stretch your grocery dollar. But if you’re not quite comfortable enough to start experimenting, sometimes it helps to have a guide. Enter the Good and Cheap cookbook. This cookbook is a FREE downloadable PDF with recipes for people on a food-stamp budget (roughly $4/day).

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a day

Unlike most resources for people on nutrition assistance programs, this cookbook is filled with beautiful, color photographs, and is actually a treat to flip through. The book itself isn’t a “healthy” cookbook—in fact, butter makes appearances much more frequently than this dietitian is comfortable with. However, the recipes are largely plant based, often giving fruits, vegetables, and whole grains the starring roles. Additionally, the cost per serving is given for each recipe.

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

The cookbook was created by Leanne Brown, in fulfillment of a Masters project for the NYU food studies program. As someone that graduated with a similarly obscure foodie graduate degree (whoop, BU Gastronomy!), I have so much respect for Leanne and the amazing project that she undertook. Like Leanne, I believe that cooking is one of the most effective (and more importantly, fun!) ways to take control of your health. And if you can do it on $4 a day? Even better!

What’s your favorite budget-friendly recipe?

– Kelly

Upcoming Appearance at Let’s Talk About Food Festival, 9/27

Let's Talk About Food Festival

If you’re interested in cooking, nutrition, food justice, the environment, and making our food system healthier and more sustainable, you should definitely check out the upcoming Let’s Talk About Food Festival in Copley Square on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Speakers include former White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook, Chef and Sustainable Seafood Advocate Barton Seaver, America’s Test Kitchen’s Dan Souza, and more. Events run from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM on Saturday (click here to see the full schedule). There will be cooking demonstrations, expert panels, and film screenings of acclaimed documentaries Cafeteria Man and Fed Up.

I will serve as an ‘expert conversant’ on childhood obesity from 10:00 – 11:00 AM at the Endless Table, then I will be manning the Ask-a-Nutritionist booth from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM. Stop by and say hello!

Let's Talk About Food Festival

Images: 1 // 2

– Kelly