‘Hi, my name is Anna, and I’m an emotional eater.’

I haven’t written in a journal since Princess Jasmine from Aladdin was on the cover and it had a lock and key.

This is my first day of journaling as part of a 21-day program for recovery from emotional eating. The program is in the form of a book called Stop Eating Your Heart Out: The 21-Day Program to Free Yourself from Emotional Eating by Meryl Hershey Beck.

As many of you know, I love self-help books. I’m constantly reading one, and I always have about 10 others queued up on my iPad to read next. Well, I just put one down that’s helping me to harness my skills as an empath so I could pick up another that addresses what I feel is an urgent issue of mine. 

I know – a health blogger who has experienced profound success with weight loss and maintenance through healthy eating but who realizes that she isn’t totally “cured” of her issues with food.

*strokes imaginary beard*

It’s that irony and my fear of irrelevance and judgment that has kept me from sharing about this for a while.

In keeping with my theme word for 2017, ACCEPTANCE – just like I’ve had to ACCEPT my tibial stress injury and need to press “pause” on my current half marathon training schedule for the past three weeks – I’m choosing to ACCEPT where I am with my relationship with food so I can make it better. And, with age 30 on the horizon, I’m finding myself growing more and more sick and tired of being wrapped up in what others think about me.

Back to acceptance… Here’s where I am: I’ve continued to maintain my 50-pound weight loss from 2012. I realize that, while I developed a lot of healthy attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about food and tools to navigate it, some counterproductive ones remain that are only making the day-to-day harder than it needs to be. And I’m ready to rid my life of them.

These counterproductive attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, the primary one being that I’m scared to death of getting heavy again, are all based in fear – a common thread in the areas of my life that I’m working to improve or change. Fear only holds us back, so I’m working on silencing it by realizing what it is I want and just going for it. So I impulse purchased a book, and here I am.

Why I’m an emotional eater

I believe that my issues with food stem from three eating practices/food situations that were present during my childhood.

  1. When I was a kid, we ate three square meals and two small snacks, and there was no eating in between allowed – the kitchen was closed. My biological parents were simply instilling structure and ensuring that we didn’t overeat; I’d never blame them for that. Intuitive eating – being aware of one’s hunger signals and eating based on them in order to maintain a healthy weight – just wasn’t a thing when I was a kid. I believe that this nutrition philosophy fosters a healthy relationship with food, so I’m trying to train this 29-year-old mind and body to do what it should’ve been doing all along.
  2. Meal times felt very uncomfortable, likely due to my biological parents’ strained marriage, which ultimately (and thankfully) ended. In my household, they weren’t a time for pleasant conversation. Instead, we were told, “Less talk, more eat.” That eating pattern has certainly stuck with me, as I don’t really savor my food. I eat it, put my fork down and that’s it.
  3. During my biological parents’ separation (I lived with my mother), food was a little scarce, so I learned to eat when there was some. “Like a kid in a candy store,” I binged.

In sum…

Food was restricted…

Food was unhappy…

Food was security…

A trifecta for an unhealthy relationship with food.

Addressing my feelings

This week, I started keeping a food mood journal, where, each time I put something in my mouth, I log the time, what I ate, how I felt and the precipitating event (what elicited those feelings). It reminded me of the early stages of therapy in my adult life.

I started seeing a therapist routinely in March 2010. My husband didn’t know it at the time, but he was the main motivator for me to face the childhood trauma I had experienced so I could bring the healthiest me to our relationship. Just a few months before, we met and started dating, and I knew relatively quickly that he and our relationship were special.

During an appointment, my therapist asked me how something I told her made me feel, and I responded with something to the effect of, “It makes me feel like it’s just not right.” She gently informed me that’s not a feeling and presented me with a feelings chart. Since then, I’ve become very astute with recognizing and acknowledging my feelings.

This has come in handy as I’ve set out to make a truce with food, as identifying the feelings I’m experiencing that trigger emotional eating is critical to recovery.

The power of a support system

One can seek support in a number of ways. For me, in addition to the therapy I mentioned, I’ve also worked to build a life that supports what I want it to be like – from the people I hang out with, to activities in which I engage, all the way to my line of work.

When I think about why I started this blog, in addition to helping others, it comes down to accountability. It actually starts there, because, when I’m accountable to all of you wonderful readers who support me, then I’m probably living out the “helping others” part of my mission.

Last night’s reading included information about various support systems, one of which was 12-step meetings that incorporate the original 12 steps set by Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

These words hit me hard.

I immediately thought of an estranged family member of mine who has struggled with alcoholism for more than 10 years. I remember when he was working on this step and watching him go through the incredibly painful process of seeing himself for who he was and acknowledging the pain his behavior caused our family, all in hope of healing. But I never saw him make a full recovery.

Is this what he was trying to do when he sent an apology letter to me more than a year ago? By choosing not to respond to protect myself, did I impede his recovery?

The answer is “no,” and that’s where step 9 comes in:

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so could injure them or others.”

You see, responding to this letter would’ve opened the door to unwanted communication and compromised what I’m always working toward – a happy, healthy life. That’s called “boundaries,” and they’re healthy.

While facing the words on the page and applying them to myself this time, I couldn’t help but wonder how my emotional eating has harmed others.

“Harmed.”

Isn’t that word a little strong?

Even though I can’t say that emotional eating has caused turmoil in my relationships or other issues in my life, I realize that it ultimately hurts me – plus, addiction is addiction. Food addiction is tricky to me, because we need food to survive. Not to reduce an alcoholic’s or nicotine or drug addict’s struggle, but we don’t need those things the way we need food. In fact, they kill us.

As I go through this program, I’m hoping to find answers to two questions that have been on my mind for a long time:

  1. What’s the difference between finding enjoyment in food as we do in our culture and being addicted? Is food meant to be enjoyed, or is it solely fuel?
  2. Am I being too hard on myself, and am just a runner who has to eat accordingly?

But I know the struggle…the internal dialogue playing in my head…the constant nagging – when I’m at my desk at work, at a restaurant or just sitting on my couch at home.

It’s everywhere.

All the time.

And I’m sick, tired and over it.

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3 comfort foods – and 3 healthier swaps that actually help your mental health

Click here to watch our January 13 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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DISCLAIMER: This is a real holiday prep list and internal dialogue from this past holiday season that may or may not come from yours truly…

  • Shop for Christmas gifts
  • Buy a Christmas tree and pray that my husband and I don’t kill it or die from allergies
  • Decorate said tree
  • Pick the most perfect poinsettias
  • Start a Christmas grocery shopping list
  • Bake cookies

Holy crap, there are so many cookies – how am I going to deal?

  • Decorate interior of house
  • Hang stockings – but don’t fill them, because the weight of the goodies might stretch the knit stockings … plus, Santa doesn’t come until Christmas morning!
  • Wrap Christmas gifts – but don’t place them under the tree yet, because the tree will drop needles and I don’t want to vacuum around them

Why did I get glittery wrapping paper?

  • Decorate exterior of house

Wait, before we hang the lights, let’s power wash the exterior of the house.

Wait, before we power wash the exterior of the house, let’s blow the remaining leaves that have fallen off the trees since my husband blew them a few weeks ago.

  • Mow the lawn
  • Trim the bushes
  • Clean the house

Isn’t this supposed to be a list of things to do for Christmas?

Why am I still finding glitter everywhere?!


I’ve struggled with high-functioning anxiety all my life. I’ve always opted to manage my anxiety with a combination of exercise and therapy – but what about food? I’m not talking about eating our feelings; I’m talking about using food as medicine.

I hadn’t put much thought to this until recently, when I asked one of my health care providers how else I can manage my anxiety – aside from medications – and she recommended vitamins B complex and C.

In addition to taking a supplement, eating foods that are rich in B vitamins can be beneficial. B vitamins are necessary for healthy nerves and brain cells. For some, not having enough B vitamins can lead to anxiety and depression.

As for vitamin C, its role as it relates to mental health is two-fold. It reduces anxiety but also boosts our immune system, which is compromised when we’re under stress. Healthy eating becomes even more important when our bodies are under stress, making it even more critical to eat foods that contribute to our mental health.

Yet, somehow our bodies confuse what we need for what would taste and feel good in that moment. When we’re feeling anxious, especially those who struggle with emotional eating, we reach for certain comfort foods. A few common ones are ice cream, cereal and salty snack foods. So I’m sharing some healthy swaps that actually help your mental health and correspond to those common comfort foods.

Sweet swaps

Swap ice cream for Greek yogurt blueberry parfait

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, in addition to the usual suspects like meat and fish. Others are beans, cheese, eggs, lentils, nuts and soy. Protein helps to increase the production of brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which regulate mood.

Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C.

Healthier swap: Greek yogurt blueberry parfait

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 graham cracker, crushed

Instructions:

  1. Place yogurt into a small bowl.
  2. Top with blueberries and graham cracker.

Swap cereal for overnight oats

Oats are a carbohydrate, which increase production of serotonin, which regulates appetite, sleep and aggression and enhances memory and learning abilities. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source. I opt for old fashioned-oats instead of instant oatmeal, because old-fashioned oats are higher in fiber. I add blueberries for vitamin C.

Healthier swap: Blueberry overnight oats

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • Splash of vanilla or original unsweetened almond milk or nonfat milk, enough to cover the oats
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 packet stevia

Instructions:

  1. Place oats into a two-cup container or slightly larger. (I use a round two-cup Pyrex container. Others use mason jars.)
  2. Cover oats with milk.
  3. Place blueberries on top.
  4. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. The next morning, take them out of the fridge and microwaved slightly covered for 1½ minutes.
  6. Mix up milk-soaked oats and blueberries.
  7. Mix in stevia.

Savory swaps

Swap potato chips for kale chips

Leafy greens are rich in magnesium, the mineral that helps to regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of wellbeing.

Healthier swap: Oven-baked kale chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Seasoning optional and to taste:
    • Sea salt
    • Black ground pepper, to taste
    • Chili powder
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder
    • Paprika
  • Cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly coat two large baking sheets with cooking spray.
  2. Wash and thoroughly dry kale. Remove stems with knife or kitchen scissors, and cut into 1½-inch or so pieces.
  3. Mix olive oil and seasonings in large bowl. Add kale pieces, and combine so each kale piece is coated with olive oil and seasoning mixture.
  4. Arrange kale pieces on baking sheets, and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check on the kale chips. Edges should be brown but not charred. If the edges aren’t brown yet, bake for 5 more minutes.

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Guest blog post: 4 areas in your home that could be making you sick

We think of our homes as comforting environments that shelter us from the cold and keep us safe. But do they? Charlotte Meier of Home Safety Hub, which connects people to resources and educational materials in order to prevent injuries and loss of property and save lives, is here to share about four areas in our home that we might not consider as being harmful to our health – and what you can do to reduce the negative impact.

When most people think of allergies, they think of pollen and animal dander. Assuming you don’t have pets or pollen-rich houseplants, your home seems like it should be a safe, allergen-free place – in theory. However, there are a number of areas and seemingly harmless objects in your home that could be causing you symptoms of allergies or something worse.

If you are experiencing headaches, coughing, sneezing, or other seemingly unexplained symptoms, or you’ve developed a chronic health condition, here are a few areas in your home that could be harboring some hidden dangers.

Bathmat

Interestingly enough, your bathmat may be one of the worst places in your home for bacteria growth and allergens. They exist in a moist environment, are often wet, and rarely experience air flow. When combined, these conditions are ideal for bacteria and mold growth which can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms.

The best way to prevent your bathmat from impacting your health is to wash it regularly, dry it after use, and dry yourself in the shower before stepping onto the mat.

Air ducts

Few people realize how problematic a dirty air duct can be. The process of keeping a home cool leaves residual moisture in your ducts, creating the perfect home for mold. As the air continues to flow through these ducts, mold spores are pushed into your home for you and your family to breathe. Since your air ducts aren’t exactly visible to you as you walk around your home, it can be easy to forget that they’re even there.

To keep your home mold-free, you should be hiring a professional to come in and clean your air ducts annually. Additionally, some companies can perform energy audits throughout your entire home to identify problematic concerns such as moisture (contributing to mold and mildew), air leaks (which could be driving up your heating and cooling costs), and contamination or leaks in your air duct system, among others. The cost of an energy audit is often less than you’ll save by rectifying any troublesome findings.

Bed

Dust mites are likely the most common indoor allergy. It may be impossible to rid your home of dust mites entirely, but an excess of these little freeloaders can wreak havoc on your respiratory tract. Dust mites prefer to live in warm, humid environments, meaning your bed and pillow are perfect places for mites to take up residence. Of course, they can also be found in upholstery, carpet, towels, blankets, and other such places.

To keep the dust mite levels in your home low, you should be vacuuming regularly, keeping your towels and blankets clean, and properly covering your pillow and mattress. If you have a particularly old mattress or pillow, now may be the time to invest in new bedding.

Leaky pipes

If you haven’t inspected the plumbing in your home recently, it might be a good time to do so. A leaky pipe can easily cause mold to grow within your home. Some varieties of mold can be a serious health concern. Black mold is one of the most common toxic molds found in homes and can cause sneezing, coughing, persistent headaches, and chronic fatigue.

Hiring a professional plumber can be the best way to guarantee your home is mold-free. Always consult a professional to inspect your home if you suspect mold could be causing health concerns for your family.

Keeping your home allergen-free is not hard when you know what to do. Be sure to focus on your problem areas including the bathroom, plumbing, bed, and air ducts. If necessary, do not be afraid to hire a professional. Your family’s health and well-being are far more important than a little extra money spent hiring an expert.

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3 Thanksgiving pies your family will thank you for making

Click here to watch our November 13 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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First things first:

I LOVE THANKSGIVING FOOD, AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT!

Incorporating my own recipes for healthier Thanksgiving sides into my menu last year was a huge step for this stuffing-obsessed, mashed potato-mad, green bean casserole-gaga and creamed corn-crazed girl.

(To be clear, that’s me.)

And we haven’t even discussed dessert! The classics have always made my short list of favorites: pumpkin, pecan and apple pies. However, all of these are packed with sugar, among other unhealthy ingredients. In my versions of these recipes, I swap out the sugar for stevia, a calorie- and carbohydrate-free sweetener that has no artificial ingredients. Another calorie saver is that the recipes are also crustless, which cuts more than 100 calories from each slice. These recipes include additional healthy swaps, as well, which are listed within each recipe below.

No-Bake Pumpkin Pieimg_0571

I use this name versus “pumpkin pie yogurt,” because it actually tastes like pumpkin pie – while not having to consume the flour, salt, granulated sugar, butter, cream and eggs found in the traditional recipes.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2-15 oz. cans pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ cup stevia
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 6 graham crackers, crumbled

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine 12 oz. of the yogurt and all remaining ingredients, except for graham crackers. Whip with a spoon.
  2. Divide graham crackers into small dessert bowls, and cover with pumpkin pie mixture. Finish with a dollop of nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt.

Pecan Pieimg_0576

This recipe swaps the following:

  • Granulated sugar for stevia
  • Eggs for egg whites
  • Regular flour for whole wheat flour
  • Butter for coconut oil

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • ¼ cup stevia
  • 1 cup natural honey
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. almondmilk
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. bag or cups chopped pecans

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and coat pie dish with cooking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and transfer to greased pie plate.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Apple Cobblerimg_0575

This recipe swaps the following:

  • Regular flour for whole wheat flour
  • Granulated sugar for stevia
  • Eggs for egg whites
  • Coconut oil for butter

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 large apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 12 slices per apple)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup stevia
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp. egg whites
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and coat 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place apples in dish.
  3. Combine flour, stevia, cinnamon and egg whites, mix until it becomes a crumble and pour over the apples.
  4. Pour coconut oil over the apples and flour mixture.
  5. Bake for 30-45 minutes.

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New moms: Free up some time with these freezer meals

Click here to watch our October 14 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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I’ve been trying to find and embrace balance in a few of areas of my life lately. As you know, I’m all about reducing the barriers to healthy eating by making it quick, cheap and easy – as well as tasty and satisfying, of course. That can be a tall order. On top of that, I’ve added yet another dimension: fresh. This is what has me thinking about balance.

I was a loyal “meal prepper” for a few years, until recently, when I noticed that I just couldn’t get myself pumped up to do it. I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending my entire Sunday – my day of rest – bulk cooking these meals that seemed to lack the love that a fresh meal offers. I missed cooking for my husband – and enjoying the same meal together.

When I stepped away from meal prepping, I started to miss the convenience it offered me during the action-packed week. So I knew that I needed to find a place in the middle, between fresh and convenient, and try something new: freezer meals. The only prep work includes chopping certain ingredients and throwing them into a freezer bag and into the freezer.

Striking a good balance with healthy eating is even more critical to moms who have just welcomed a new addition to the family, because they need the energy necessary to not only care for someone who completely depends on them but also to keep themselves healthy. So I developed a couple freezer meals that moms – or family and friends! – can prep before the baby’s arrival or while he or she is sleeping.

Blueberry Kale Smoothieimg_0182

Benefits:

  • Kale and bananas last up to three months in the freezer; refer to package instructions on how long frozen blueberries last
  • Breakdown of ingredients that are good for Mom:
    • Kale – good source of:
      • Antioxidants (help with preventing various diseases)
      • Calcium (contributes to bone health)
      • Iron (provides energy by helping with holding onto and transporting oxygen to various parts of the body)
      • Vitamin A (contributes to skin health and vision)
      • Vitamin C (contributes to healthy immune system)
    • Blueberries – good source of:
      • Antioxidants (help with preventing various diseases)
      • Carbohydrates (help to boost energy)
      • Minerals
      • Vitamins
    • Almondmilk and nonfat plain Greek yogurt – low-fat dairy products are a good source of:
      • Calcium (contributes to bone health)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)
      • Vitamin B (helps your body to convert the food you eat into fuel)
      • Vitamin D (strengthens bones)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, frozen (from freezer section of grocery store)
  • ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 oz. unsweetened vanilla almondmilk

Instructions:

  1. Place kale and banana in sandwich-size plastic bag with a zipper flatten bag to remove air and for easy stacking and place into freezer.
  2. When ready to enjoy, place frozen kale and bananas and remaining ingredients into a blender, and blend thoroughly.

Note: You may also use the frozen kale and bananas for my green smoothie recipe.

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Benefits:

  • Lasts up to three months in the freezer
  • Breakdown of ingredients that are good for Mom:
    • Lean beef – good source of:
      • Iron (provides energy by helping with holding onto and transporting oxygen to various parts of the body)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)
      • Vitamin B-12 (helps your body with forming new red blood cells, brain function, metabolism and hormone production)
    • Beans (legumes) – good source of:
      • Carbohydrates (help to boost energy)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)
      • Iron (mainly in the dark beans; provides energy by helping with holding onto and transporting oxygen to various parts of the body)
    • Quinoa – good source of:
      • Carbohydrates (help to boost energy)
      • Protein (helps to repair bones, muscle and tissue)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes no salt added
  • 1-15.5 oz. can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.25 oz. can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste

Options:

  • For a savory chili: Add a can of no-salt-added corn, one diced onion and/or scallions, one diced bell pepper, minced fresh garlic or garlic powder to taste and garnish with a dollop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese.
  • For a sweet chili: Add cinnamon to taste.

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a gallon freezer bag, flatten bag to remove air and for easy stacking and place into freezer.
  2. Allow to thaw in refrigerator for a day. Once thawed, dump contents of freezer bag into crock pot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8.

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Preventing breast cancer with color (hint: it’s not pink)

Click here to watch our October 2 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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Most of the recipes I develop are targeted toward people living their daily lives, from packing school lunches to hosting football parties. As we know, healthy eating doesn’t only have its place in a child’s lunchbox or on a coffee table. And it isn’t just about giving our kids brain food or our friends an alternative for hot wings.

Our lives – our whole lives – depend on it.

A healthy diet is undoubtedly beneficial and important for everyone. It helps us to feel our best while preventing and recovering from disease – all in an effort to live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. Eating a healthy diet can even help to prevent diseases like breast cancer.

Here are some healthy eating tips from Susan G. Komen for the Cure for overall health and possible protection against different types of cancer and other diseases:

Maintain a healthy weight by limiting high-calorie foods and beverages and living a physically active lifestyle.

Eat the following:

  • At least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
    • 100 percent whole grain foods (ex. 100 percent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millet and quinoa).
    • Eat “healthy” fats – aka polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (ex. olive and canola oil, nuts and natural nut butters, avocado and olives).
  • Limit the following:
    • Red meat and processed meat. Instead, eat chicken, fish or beans.
    • “Bad” fats – aka saturated and trans fats (ex. red meat, fatty deli meats, poultry skin, full fat dairy, fried foods, margarine, donuts and microwave popcorn).

The recipes below incorporate the guidance above, with a focus on a specific naturally occurring plant chemical that can help to prevent breast cancer, among other forms and diseases: carotenoids. These are the plant pigments that create the color in apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, leafy greens, oranges, sweet potatoes, cooked tomatoes, watermelon and winter squash. I love the color that carotenoids bring into food and that, given their wide range of flavors and textures, they’re easy to incorporate into your diet.

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chicken and Quinoa Chili

It’s finally cooling down in Augusta, and temps have dropped below the 90s! This calls for chili.img_0127

This recipe includes three vegetables that are high in carotenoids – carrots, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. It also incorporates Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s guidance above with the use of whole grains (quinoa), chicken (instead of red meat) and no “bad” fats.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 sweet potatoes, baked, cut down the middle
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, uncooked
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes no salt added
  • 1-15.25 oz. can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.5 oz. can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-15.25 oz. can no-salt-added corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded with box grater
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional:
    • 1 cup goat cheese crumbles
    • 2 cups or 12 oz. Greek or soy yogurt
    • Cilantro, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients, except for the optional ones, to the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or until the chicken is completely cooked through and chicken can be shredded easily. Mix all ingredients.
  3. Divide chili among open-faced potatoes, and top with desired toppings.

If you’re looking for something with which you can pair this, I recommend a spinach or kale salad. Try some carrots, tomatoes and feta or goat cheese on top with your choice of healthy fat (avocado, nuts, olives, olive oil). Spinach, kale, carrots and tomatoes are all carotenoids.

Green Smoothieimg_0123

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 banana
  • 3 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered peanut butter or reduced-fat natural peanut butter
  • 8 oz. almondmilk (just enough to drench most of the kale)
  • About 10 ice cubes (to fill line)

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a blender or single-serve blender cup, and blend.

Butternut Squash Soupimg_0131

Check out this recipe, which I shared in March for a segment of healthier lunch foods as part of a “Clean 2016” series.

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Winner, winner, healthier versions of your favorite chicken dinners!

Click here to watch our August 28 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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September is National Chicken Month, and I can’t imagine another protein more worthy of an entire month than this oldie but goodie. (Sorry, vegetarians – but you know I love quinoa, too!)

Chicken is one of my favorite lean proteins not only for how it tastes but mainly for how versatile it is. It can be prepared and paired with almost anything.

Here are three recipes for healthier versions of three of your favorite chicken dinners. These are all cheap, quick and easy, as all of my recipes are, so there’s no need to chicken out of making these!

Baked Chicken ParmesanIMG_9576

Who doesn’t love Italian food? One of the things I like best is that Italian leftovers still taste great if not better, which is what makes this a terrific main dish to cook in bulk for dinners throughout the week. Serve over spaghetti squash or whole grain pasta and with some asparagus, broccoli, green beans or mixed veggies, and you have yourself a not only well-balanced but also tasty and satisfying meal!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Sauce:IMG_9584
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 white onion, diced
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 oz. tomato paste
    • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, no salt added
  • Chicken:
    • Cooking spray
    • 6 thin-sliced chicken breasts or cutlets
    • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
    • 5 Tbsp. egg whites
    • 1 cup whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
    • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Topping:
    • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • Basil, shredded, to taste

Instructions:

  • Sauce:
  1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Reduce to medium heat, add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring.
  2. Add tomato paste and combine. Stir frequently to keep from burning. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer on low while you make the chicken.
  • Chicken:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with foil, coat with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Pour the egg whites in another shallow bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in yet another shallow bowl. Dredge each breast in the flour, egg whites and breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture in that order. Place on baking sheet.
  3. Place in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, bake another 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, cover each breast with sauce, divide mozzarella cheese among breasts and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.
  5. Top with basil.

Crustless Chicken Pot PieIMG_9587

I haven’t eaten chicken pot pie since I was a kid and ate frozen meals. (Woo, I survived!) While you won’t find me chillin’ with Marie Callender, I’m all about taking something that people eat out of taste and convenience and bringing those same two benefits to a healthier recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, boneless, skinless cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Black ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium potato, cooked, peeled, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 12 oz. frozen mixed vegetables of your choice, cooked (I recommend carrots, peas, corn and green beans.)
  • 3 Tbsp. flour, whole-wheat
  • 2 cups chicken broth, less sodium
  • Thyme, fresh chopped, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, season with pepper and cook thoroughly, until pieces are golden-brown. Separate with wooden spoon or spatula as chicken gets close to being done. Transfer to a plate. Rinse or wipe skillet.
  2. In the same skillet that you used to cook the chicken, add the remaining oil, and cook the celery and onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and celery is softened.
  3. Add mixed vegetables and potato to pan with celery/onion mixture, and combine.
  4. Gradually stir in 1 Tbsp. flour, and cook for a minute. Gradually whisk in 1 cup broth, and cook another minute. Repeat once more, and finish with a final Tbsp. flour. Bring mixture to a quick boil.
  5. Add cooked chicken, and combine until warm.
  6. Remove from heat, and season with pepper and thyme.

Not-Fried Chicken and WafflesIMG_9591

We’re saving the best for last. This is one of my favorite foods of all time. It is literally something fried on top of something carby drizzled with sugar. With that being said, as you can imagine, I’m geeking out over the prospect of making this healthier.

Here we go!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Chicken:
    • Cooking spray
    • 6 thin-sliced chicken breasts or cutlets
    • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
    • 5 Tbsp. egg whites
    • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • Waffles:
    • 4 cups old-fashioned or quick oats
    • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium baking powder
    • 2 tsp. stevia
    • 12 Tbsp. egg whites or 4 eggs
    • 16 oz. almond or fat-free milk
    • ¼ cup applesauce
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
    • Cooking spray
  • Topping:
    • Honey, to taste

Instructions:

  • Chicken:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with foil, coat with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Pour the egg whites in another shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in yet another shallow bowl. Dredge each breast in the flour, egg whites and breadcrumbs in that order. Place on baking sheet.
  3. Place in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Turn chicken over, bake another 10 minutes.
  • Waffles:
  1. Grind oats in a food processor or blender.
  2. Mix the dry waffle ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the remaining waffle ingredients in a medium bowl, and add the mixture to the dry mixture to create waffle batter.
  4. Turn on the waffle iron, set it on medium and spray with cooking spray.
  5. Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes to thicken, spoon about ½ cup batter onto pan and allow to cook until golden.

IMG_9586

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