5 Ways to Tackle Stress in the New Year

tackle stress in the new year

Let’s face it. The new year ahead can be intimidating… especially if the year before it was down right lousy. But the unknown doesn’t have to stress you out. And less stress means you can approach life and food with a little more confidence and a lot less fear.

tackle stress in the new year

I want 2017 to be your best year yet, so I asked my friend and colleague Lisa Carpenter, M.A., L.P.C., founder of Center of Hope Counseling, to share her top tips for reducing stress. Here’s her go-to’s for stress relief:

Yoga. Psychology Today suggests that, “yoga, meditation, and other mind-body practices train your body and mind to be able to cope with stress better and improve overall health and well-being.”

Laugh it off. Laughter releases endorphins which make your body go into “happy” mode, it also decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Listen to music. Listening to calm or upbeat music can quickly change your mood. Calm music can reduce cortisol and upbeat music will tempt you to dance, also a way to reduce stress.

Go outside. The University of Minnesota suggests that being in nature or even viewing scenes of nature can help reduce stress and contribute to overall health and well-being. It also claims that, “Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort.”

Connect with a friend. Going out for a quick coffee or tea or even just having a conversation on the phone with a friend can help reduce stress and distract you from the triggering stressful event.

If you are feeling stressed out now or at any point in the future, consider giving one of these stress reducing techniques a try.

I work with Lisa out of her office space in downtown Mt. Pleasant and I would love it if you visited her Facebook page and gave it a like. Thanks guys – you’re the best! 


My Top 10 Recipes of 2016

Top Recipes of 2016

Can you believe the end of 2016 is upon us? I can hardly believe it, but it’s true! Another great year of encouraging  people to approach food with confidence has passed and I’ve loved every moment of it. As I reflect on the year, I can’t help but think about all the fun new recipes I’ve added to my collection. Curious which ones were the most popular? Here are my top 10 recipes of 2016!

Top Recipes of 2016

Blackberry and Cantaloupe Parfait

Cantaloupe and Blackberry Parfait

Who knew blackberries and cantaloupe paired so well together? This parfait makes for a super easy early morning breakfast or, if you pare down the serving size, an excellent afternoon snack.

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

Chili is a favorite cold-weather meal at my house. This white chicken chili is a little milder than a more traditional bowl, but still loaded with protein and flavor.

Pumpkin Spice Yogurt Dip

Pumpkin Spice Dip

Pumpkin spice always seems to be a hit during the fall season and this dip makes it easy to enjoy all year round. I used the Prepara apple splitter to evenly slice up apple wedges for easy dipping. My kids loved it!

Roasted Carrots with Lentils

Roasted Carrots with Lentils

If you love roasted vegetables, this recipe is sure to be a new favorite. The carrots are sweet and tender, the lentils are savory and crunchy, and the ricotta cheese brings it all together.

Turkey Quinoa Soup

Turkey and Quinoa Soup

I hosted two holidays this year – both Thanksgiving and Christmas! In both instances, I had meat for days. Having helpful soup recipes like this one on hand can help ensure that none of that great food goes to waste.

Pesto Parmesan Flatbread

Pesto Parmesan and Tomato Flatbread

If you’re looking for a quick and easy lunch, this pesto Parmesan flatbread is sure to fit the bill. It only takes a few minutes to prep and cook.

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Bowls

Roasted Veggie Bowls

Another quick and easy dinner option, this recipe for roasted veggie quinoa bowls is another great way to use up leftover holiday vegetables. It’s also super satisfying and works great on a meatless Monday sort of day.

Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts, Feta and Honey

Brussels Sprouts

Take your Brussels sprouts from ‘blah’ to ‘ah’ with this easy twist. The feta and honey add great flavor and the walnuts add a great crunch. Your guests will love this side dish at any meal you serve.

Black Bean Quesadillas with a Peach, Plum, and Avocado Salsa

Black Bean and Feta Cheese Quesadillas with a Peach Plum and Avocado Salsa

Another crowd favorite, this black bean quesadilla recipe is adult and kid-friendly alike. Serve with the salsa for a unique flavor combination or serve it as-is for a more simple meal time option.

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Pears, Blue Cheese and Brussels Sprouts

Pear and Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken

My husband and I often eat lunch together and use that opportunity to try dishes that we know our kids may not be super excited to try. Although this recipe isn’t necessarily kid-approved, I love that it made it on to our top ten list. It’s a fun twist on traditional chicken breast and provides yet another way to boost its flavor.

I hope you’ve enjoyed all of these recipes as much as I have! I look forward to sharing new recipes with you throughout 2017.

What Does Eating in Moderation Mean Anyway?


Moderation is an important concept to grasp when it comes to eating well, but understanding what it means can prove to be a challenge. It’s one of those words, one of those concepts, that just doesn’t have a clear definition making it easy for us as individuals to fill in the blanks as we see fit.


Since this is a word I use frequently in conversation and part of that whole “all foods can fit” mentality that I enjoy, it’s important we are all on the same page and you understand what I mean. Since definitions can vary widely, it is possible that certain interpretations of “eating in moderation” could make it more difficult to eat well or to achieve and maintain an appropriate weight.

So before we start identifying what moderate eating looks like in everyday life, let’s define it. According to most nutrition textbooks and as highlighted by fellow registered dietitian Toby Amidor, RDN, in a US News and World Report post,  a moderate meal plan is typically one that “avoids excessive amounts of calories or any particular food or nutrient.”  In other words, moderate eating is about avoiding the extremes.

Let’s take our definition one step further. Green Mountain at Fox Run, a weight loss retreat center for women, defines moderate eating as “embracing an all-foods-fit mindset and not depriving yourself of any food that provides you true pleasure.”  By the way, I LOVE that definition. It still takes into account the balance moderate eating should provide while also strongly emphasizing the importance of food enjoyment.

So how do you determine how foods fit into you meal plan in a way that will promote wellness?

Were you asking this question after reading through the definitions? It’s a good question to ask because on their own, these definitions are still pretty subjective. Even though I really like Green Mountain at Fox Run’s take on this term, it may not seem easily applicable or like it will move your eating habits in the right direction.

For me, the all-foods-fit mindset only works when you keep the following factors in mind:

Recognize that you do need a certain amount of energy and nutrients to function each day. Take a look at those definitions again – both only work if you have something to measure your extremes against. For each of us, that may differ because we all have unique requirements we need to meet each day for our body to work as it should. If you don’t know what that amount is, it is impossible to know whether you are eating too little or too much of something. The USDA has a great calculator to help you determine daily needs. This is a great benchmark to build your meals and snacks around.

Make sure your basic food groups are the base of each meal and snack. Moderation isn’t about incorporating all foods evenly. Foods rich in nutrients should always be front and center of your meal plan, getting more face time with you then other foods might. An easy way to keep these foods in focus is to plan out meals with basic food groups in mind.

Determine what each food you want eat will add to your overall wellness plan AND how much of each food you need to actually feel satisfied. Enjoying your food is important – especially when it comes to eating in a way that nourishes you for a lifetime. If you don’t like what you eat, chances are high that you won’t eat it for very long. Instead, think about the foods you want to eat and consider what value they add to your plan. You may want to think about short term benefits, like feeling full or satisfied after eating and how the food tastes, but don’t forget about the long-term benefits too. Food enjoyment isn’t just about how you feel now, but also how you will feel in the future.

Many nutrient-rich foods may not necessarily provide the same immediate pleasure as sweets or salty snacks do, BUT they can support a more enjoyed life. By eating well, you can feel your best each and every day.

And for those foods that do provide more immediate pleasure – take time to think about how much of these foods you actually need to fully enjoy them. In most instances, you may find that you don’t need to eat as much as you think you do – especially if you are eating well throughout the day consistently.

Become more aware of what your body is trying to tell you. We often fail to listen to what our body is telling us, but becoming mindful of what our body is communicating can help us naturally eat in more moderate ways. The more in tune we become, the more likely we are to naturally eat in proper proportions and amounts that work for us. To put this into practice, consider using this awareness checklist from Dr. Susan Albers, founder of EatMindfully.com, at meal times.

Remember, “eating in moderation” isn’t the same as “eating everything in equal proportions.” This is worth repeating because I think this is where the confusion often lies. Eating in moderation doesn’t mean all foods have equal value. They just don’t. All foods can fit and no food is bad, BUT foods are not all the same. Choose foods that are worthy of you and enjoy them. That’s the type of moderate eating I’m equipping people for.


5 Foods to Add to Your Holiday Food List

Foods to Add to Your Plate this Holiday Season

Just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat without nutrition in mind. Actually, eating nutrient-rich foods may need to become an even bigger priority this time of year, especially if you plan on attending holiday parties, potlucks, or networking events.

This year, keep nourishing foods on your plate by seeking out a few of my favorites at your next holiday get together. These foods not only taste great, but will help ensure you get some much needed nutrients too.

Foods to Add to Your Plate this Holiday Season

Cheese. Cheese boards and platters are one of my absolute favorite finds at a holiday event. By adding it to your plate, you’ll be adding calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12 too. Cheese is often loaded with flavor too, so you don’t need too much to feel completely satisfied.

Pears. Another season favorite of mine are pears and this food typically isn’t served as often as other fruits like apple wedges, grapes, or orange slices. If you see these at a party, plate up! Pears are rich in fiber and vitamin C, making them another satisfying option. Not sure if pears will be at your party? Bring them yourself! Slice them up and dip in melted dark chocolate for a decadent yet delicious treat.

Pear and Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken
Related: Pear and Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast with Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are becoming the ever-popular vegetable with more and more people incorporating them into their meals. Whether served roasted or shredded, Brussels sprouts are another great in-season food to keep an eye out for this time of year. Within each sprout you’ll find a wallop of nutrition. Fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese are just a few of the nutrients you’ll find there.

Brussels Sprouts
Related: Brussels Sprouts with Feta, Walnuts and Honey

Water. It can be easy to forget about water despite it’s essential nature to our well-being. At holiday events, stick with water to stay hydrated and rely on food to provide you with the energy your body needs.

Fish. When it comes to main course items at holiday get-togethers, fish happens to be one of my favorites. Fish is protein-rich, and unlike other meat options, can provide a hefty dose of omega-3 fatty acids if its a fatty-fish. Currently, the American Heart Association recommends individuals get two servings of fatty-fish per week; however, if you are like my family, you may find it difficult to reach the recommendation consistently. That’s why you should take advantage of its offering at any holiday gathering that you can.

This holiday, keep an eye out for foods that will enhance your plate. Often there are many nutrient-rich foods present, you just have to know where to look or plan to incorporate them in yourself.


5 Reasons to Love the Grains You Eat

5 Reasons to Love the Grains You Eat

Despite the recent popularity of several ancient grains (hello, quinoa!), the grain group often gets a bum rap. The primary target of many weight loss diets, grains are often mentioned with disdain. Unfortunately, when we approach these foods with this mindset, we forget all the great benefits they provide and what grains can offer our bodies.

5 Reasons to Love the Grains You Eat

What foods are considered grains? 

According to the USDA, any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is considered a grain product. This means foods like popcorn, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, pasta, and bread are proud members of this group.

The importance of adding grains to your plate

Grains play an important role in most healthy meal plans. When you are building your mealtime plate, they should  be a food group you consider incorporating each time. Why? Here are five great reasons to keep grains consistent in your meals:

They provide essential nutrients. You may know that grains are a source of carbohydrates, but did you also know that they are a source of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and selenium too? Although the amount of nutrients present can vary depending on the type of grain you serve, all these nutrients are important for your body to work the way it should.

They can create a more satisfying meal experience.  Incorporating grains into your meal may help make what you eat more satisfying, especially if the grains you eat are providing a healthy dose of fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that contributes to feelings of appropriate fullness after a meal. By eating meals that satisfy, you should be more comfortable between meals as well.

They add variety to your plate. The more nutrient foods you can work into your meal plan, the better! Having a variety of food options to choose from at meal time ensures you get both a wide variety of nutrients and enjoy your meals more because they aren’t always the same.

They help ensure your body and mind have the fuel it needs to function daily. Although grain foods aren’t the only ones providing carbohydrates, they do provide a substantial amount to your meal plan. Carbohydrates are important and are one of the three energy providing nutrients you’ll find in foods.

If you do not eat enough carbohydrates each day, it’s difficult to meet the energy needs of your body and brain. This causes your body to use “reserved” protein from your muscles, followed by fat from your body’s stores. Since neither of these energy sources are our bodies preferred method of energy, prolonged reliance on these back-up systems can cause problems. In fact, not getting enough carbohydrates consistently can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, muscle loss, poor mental function, depression, anxiety, and/or constipation.

They provide body protection. In addition to the essential nutrients found in grains, substances called phytonutrients are also found in each bite. These substances aren’t necessarily needed to keep you alive, but have been shown to possibly prevent disease and help your body work as it should.

For most individuals, adding two 1 ounce servings of grains at each meal is a good goal to shoot for. Or in other words, look to add approximately 2 slices of bread, 2 cups of ready-to-eat cereal, or a cup of cooked rice or pasta to your plate as each of those would equal two 1 ounce servings.

Although I typically recommend choosing whole grain options as much as possible, keep in mind that even refined grains are not devoid of all nutrition. They can fit into your meal plan too, just be realistic with what your body needs.