Category Archives: Nutrition

Roasted Tomato & Quinoa Veggie Pot: Eat Food.

After posting my health library I realized that, while I love flipping through the pages, I’ve never fully read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. It actually sits on my desk at work, should I ever need some very simple inspiration for a post (work-blog, not here), seminar or handout. Now, it’s sitting on my kitchen table as I realize it could be the inspiration for some new recipes.

I like to think we make up our own rules here in the DOTR kitchen, and that Mr. Pollan would approve. Our “rules” would have to mash together to form something that includes dark chocolate and a hankering for chips & salsa; there are some compromises to be made! But nonetheless, I opened the book to page 5 and started with this:

1) Eat food.

We can do that!

Today’s recipe is a simple one-pot wonder that will put dinner in your bowl/plate/mouth within 30 minutes (or less). If you wanted to roast the tomatoes yourself – power to ya! – then use this on a cooler summer evening with fresh summer tomatoes and go for it (adding some cook-time)! When they’re out of season, I reach for the Muir Glen Organic Fire-roasted Tomatoes because I know them well. The flavor can’t be matched!

Roasted Tomato & Quinoa Veggie Pot

2 cans (15 oz) fire-roasted organic tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz) organic chickpeas, undrained
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup dry quinoa (rinsed)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or one glove garlic, minced)
Salt/pepper to taste

Le Creuset Cooking

Heat oil over medium in a large pot or Dutch oven; add onion and sauté until opaque/softened. Add tomatoes, water, chickpeas, broccoli, quinoa and seasonings. Stir until mixed well; bring to boil and then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for ~20-25 minutes (until quinoa is cooked through). Stir every couple of minutes to prevent any burning.

Let it cool, and then dish it out!

Roasted tomato & quinoa veggie pot 2

This was the perfect, easy and flavorful one-pot creation on a colder DC night. Next up I might finally use that slow-cooker that’s staring at me and waiting to show its power!


What was on your dinner menu this week?



Filed under dinners, food, Nutrition, recipes, vegetarian

WEGO Health Soapbox: Why I (Mostly) Avoid Dairy

I’ve signed up for the WeGo National Health post prompts (thanks to Sassy). I won’t touch on all 30 days, but I think it’s a great way to get some (hopefully) thought-provoking posts up here.

So, for now, we take a break from running…and I step on a soapbox.


The back-story: After a lot of back-and-forth deciding what may be causing D some chronic discomfort, he finally let me play dietitian and test out a few theories. Eventually, we cut dairy and gluten from his diet – ergo, mine at home, too – and voila! Problem (mostly) solved! Just in time for the summer and his cycling season, whew.

got milk you dont need it
(Photo source)

Further back: I stopped drinking cow’s milk right after college, finally realizing I very obviously didn’t tolerate it well*. I stuck with yogurt and hard cheeses because they have little-to-no lactose thanks to the fermentation process. For the lactose-intolerant, they’re generally safe. For the dairy/milk-intolerant (often associated with the protein, not the sugar), they’re not.

*Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants & children.

Approximately 33% of adults are lactose-intolerant, and 75% have a decrease in lactase activity (the enzyme that breaks down lactose). These numbers significantly higher in African-, Native-, Mexican- and Asian-American populations (75 & 90% respectively).

For long-time readers, you may recall a love-affair with vegetable pizzas – homemade or a la the pizzerias of the world. After cutting out meat and poultry, it was a fun dish to be creative with and never miss the meat! When eating out, it was an easy go-to for a “vegetarian” option.

Alas, you may have noticed less pizza appearing on these pages as of late…

I’ll be  the first to admit that melted cheese leaves little to be desired in any dish. But knowing what I do now, and with all stomach discomforts left in the dust, it’s easy to avoid. And we have.

cow milk production then and now
cows milk production 2
(Photo source)

Cows treated with hormones means you’re drinking those hormones. The solution? You can opt to buy organic milks and look for packaging that clarifies something along the lines of “not treated with rBST”.

If nothing else, do this!

{There are a handful of companies responsibly producing dairy products that I’ve supported – notably, Chobani & Stoneyfield – and continue to follow for their quality initiatives, health promotion and community outreach.}


So, let’s say you’re in the minority of adults that are fully able to digest lactose and you buy organic, hormone-free milks, cheeses and yogurts…

Then, what’s the problem?

milk studies
(Photo source)

Here are a few other reasons to think about decreasing your dairy intake:

  • “In multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.”
    China Study Cheat Sheet
  • “Some of the “experts” who helped create the pyramid actually work for the dairy industry, which makes the US Department of agriculture’s {dairy} recommendations reflect industry interests, not science or our best interests.”
    “Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.”
    Dr. Mark Hymann – Dairy: 6 Reasons you Should Avoid it
  • “Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, may worsen asthmatic symptoms…High-fat dairy products may worsen inflammation.”
    Foods to Avoid When Asthmatic
    Of note: there isn’t significant research (yet) to support this. The only testament is word-of-mouth & posts like this.
  • “…the truth is that {milk}  isn’t the only way to work toward your 1,000-a-day {recommended mg of calcium}. We gathered some of the most calcium-rich foods out there (including many vegan and vegetarian options) — just be sure to pair each of them with adequate vitamin D intake (the body needs this nutrient to absorb calcium, and milk is already fortified with it).”
    Surprisingly Calcium-rich Foods that Aren’t Milk


What are those other calcium-rich foods? Things that I would bet most of you already eat, anyway!

white bean salad bowl of kale almond trail mix

Things like: salmon, kale, almonds, white beans, oranges, dried figs, arugula, broccoli, sunflower seeds & soy products (milk, beans/edamame, tofu, etc.).

Milk-substitutes: I primarily drink Almond Milk because I prefer the taste and consume other soy products throughout the week (tofu, edamame, etc.).


I do believe in approaching all things with moderation. If you’re not up for cutting out dairy completely, just consider reducing your intake.

We’ve learned it can be frustratingly hard to completely avoid dairy – most restaurants use butter/creams in various cooking methods and sometimes  I’ll find “milk” on the allergen list of random foods like BBQ chips or dark chocolate (not okay – that’s what milk chocolate is for!). Sometimes it’s in dips, sauces, etc that I wouldn’t think of. And there are some random days when my 80/20 attitude kicks in, and that’s okay. For me.

Last week I bought organic peppermint patties at Whole Foods, and then saw “milk powder” low on the ingredient list. I didn’t care enough not to enjoy and indulge.

I’m not perfect and I would never expect anyone else to be. But, I care passionately about my health; the information here is too hard to ignore, and it’s worth mentioning that we are the only  species that drinks another animal’s milk. It’s not healthy nor environmentally responsible. Even reducing your intake – vs. eliminating it entirely – will make a difference.

“Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants.” – this will never steer you in the wrong direction. {Michael Pollan}


And with that, I step off my soap box!

There’s always a sensitive discussion to be had around food. I think it’s important to be open and honest, especially as a dietitian, and I hope you’re along for the ride.


Lactose Intolerance Statistics (source: National Digestive Disease Information)

China Study: 10 Things You Need to Know

Learn Stuff: Got Milk? Infographic

USDA ERS – Dairy: Background


Filed under about me, Dietitians, food, health, Nutrition

National Nut Day! Celebrate the Nutritional Craziness

In the health world, national nut day celebrates the plant-based source of our favorite fatty acids, nutrients and protein. These small, nutrient-dense powerhouses are not to be left alone! On a side note, I was infamously known around the college apartment for saying things were “nuts” (i.e. crazy).

Is that unique to the Southwest? Me? My personal jargon?

Not a clue. But, what’s totally nuts is that in a phase of life, my only dose of nut-nutrition was via the peanut butter jar (not even the “natural” kind – gasp). I did empty that jar pretty quickly, but even so, my matured and acquired taste-buds are sad for the time we missed!

Now, they are a go-to snack, oatmeal topper and trail-mix must have (what’s trail mix without the nuts?! We’re not going there.)

Here are my favorite ways to enjoy nuts:

Mixed with fresh fruit for a snack – yes, they go with anything. I’ve paired pecans + cantaloupe, walnuts + apples, pears and bananas, almonds + everything. It all works.

Topping a lunch salad or quinoa mix.

Creamed into a “butter” and, well, we know where that’s going… (fruit, oatmeal, dessert, snacking….).

Sprinkled on top of a smoothie for some extra texture and flavor.

Thrown into a pasta to make things interesting (see: Basil Cashew Pasta Salad).


Ready for something new? The Almond Board of California is riding high on a wave of new information that suggests almonds may be lower in calorie than originally thought.

I’m not suggesting we read too much into the numbers (see above: nutrient-dense powerhouse), but it’s an interesting update. Nuts get slammed by calorie counters because of their “high” value, but this food is bargain. Enjoy it, practice some portion control and you’re doing yourself a favor by choosing these over that “100 calorie snack pack”.

Here’s their idea for a creative homemade snack and/or dessert:

Almonds Mochaalmonds mocha

6 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbs. instant coffee granules
1 egg white
2 cups whole natural almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In container of electric blender, combine all ingredients except egg white and almonds. Blend 30 seconds, pulsing on and off; set aside. In large bowl, whisk egg white until opaque and frothy. Add almonds; toss to coat. Add sugar mixture; toss gently to coat evenly. Oil, or coat a baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray. Arrange almonds on baking sheet in single layer. Bake in center of oven 15 minutes. Gently toss almonds and arrange again in single layer. Continue to bake 15 minutes longer; toss gently. Turn off oven. Leave almonds in oven with door ajar 15 minutes. Remove from oven; cool completely. Store in airtight container up to two weeks.

Photo and Recipe courtesy of Almond Board of California.


Other ideas? Do tell…

Happy Nut Day!


Filed under Dietitians, food, Nutrition, what to eat

Days in the Life: Traveling & Biometric Screenings

In the next edition of the Corporate Wellness Life series, we travel!
(Part 1: Event Planning)

A few of us headed up to the West Chester, PA area earlier this week to be onsite for Biometric Screenings*. The coaches (Jared & I) act as Health Educators, while the Program Manager (PM) and PM Assistant make sure everything runs smoothly. We’ve been with this particular client for a few years now, and love being there in person to host and execute the screenings!

*We do a ton of these in the Fall! It’s our busiest season, without question.

standing hotel deskMonday morning was spent on the road, landing us at our destination in time for a late lunch (Chipotle, Round 1) and casual afternoon of catching up on some work. The TV-stand / dresser happened to be the perfect height for some standing action (see left).

We eventually headed out to dinner, checking out the local Bonefish Grill. I’ve heard a lot about these restaurants, but had yet to try one. Two thumbs up from this crew! We loved the variety of options, tasty dishes and kid-friendly atmosphere. Some Penn-State friends of mine were able to join us, with their adorable 6-month old in tow. Win!


Tuesday: Bring on Biometrics!

Jared and I both do Wellness Coaching for this client, so we took the opportunity to be onsite for the Screenings. We got to meet some of the people we work with, face-to-face, and also help them check in on some wellness goals. The signage and complimentary Screening Staff refreshments weren’t too bad, either…

Coach heather sign
screening refreshments screening snacks

We had a busy day! The 9-4 hours flew by, leaving us ready to explore the area and get some fresh air. Per a recommendation, we headed over to the downtown West Chester area (hello, old-town charm!) and right into the Iron Hill Brewery.

downtown West Chester

This place gets two thumbs-up from hungry WCS’ers for their free beer-sampling policy, sweet potato fries, fresh guacamole and healthy entrée options!

Beer sampler iron hill brewerySalmon Salad Iron Hill Brewery
Photo sources: left, right.


Wednesday: Forging on!

I had thoughts of going for a run, but there were no sidewalks near us and Jared’s description of the hotel gym (i.e. breaking my no-treadmill streak!) was far less than stellar.

Make-shift hotel workout? No problem. Grab a towel and get to it!

Hotel workout

Safe to say this was effective, as I’m still a little bit sore two days later. Mission accomplished! Next mission: more frequent make-shift at-home strength routines.


After our second session on Wednesday morning, we hit the road and checked another Chipotle stop off the list (options were a bit limited. See also: we heart Chipotle)!


Do you travel for work?
What’s your favorite way to stay fit & keep healthy habits in tow?

I’m lucky to travel with a crew that shares my priorities – tasty, healthy food and a sweat-session or two!


Filed under Dietitians, health, Nutrition, pictures, training

Whole Grain, Whole Heart: New Quaker Eats & Treats Giveaway!

I am a huge fan of oatmeal, and have yet to break the oatmeal-for-breakfast routine almost every day of the week. I find it comforting and satisfying, and while I usually stick with the same toppings (peanut butter, banana, honey/agave), I like that my cooked bowl of oats is open to variety!

The first oatmeal I knew and loved was Quaker, a childhood association equivalent to that of Cheerios and Eggo waffles (how else would you “make” oatmeal? eat cereal? have toaster waffles?!)I’ll stand by them now because their {huge} container of my favorite hot cereal still reads one ingredient: rolled oats. (This is obviously not true of the instant oatmeal packages; I stick with the simple, pure stuff.)

Because of this, I was open to the #QuakerInsiders invitation! This included an “insight into the latest and greatest tasty breakfasts and snacks”, and a chance to review seven new products.

The Quaker folks are branching out into new oatmeal flavors, new cereals and entirely new products!

Whole hearts cerealyogurt bars & cookies

That bowl on the left shows what I had for a “treat” most nights this week – handful of cereal + almond milk & dark chocolate chips! The Whole Hearts cereal has a hint of honey sweetness, with the usual whole-grain taste you expect. I’ll put dark chocolate chips in cereal, granola, or oatmeal – yes, I do think they complement everything.  Quaker had a similar idea…

chocolate chip oatmeal

Other items in the #QuakerInsiders delivery? Yogurt bars*, Stila strawberry bars, Soft-baked oatmeal raisin cookies, Soft-baked banana bread bars, Oatmeal squares (cereal), Whole Hearts (cereal, see above) and the above-mentioned chocolate chip oatmeal.

*Slightly disappointed to note that this item contains high-fructose corn-syrup. I wouldn’t recommend these as a first-choice healthy snack.

IMG_3353I can’t say that I’d reach for each one of these products and drop it into my grocery cart, but I did love the Whole Hearts cereal and D loved the banana-bread bars (so much so that I didn’t get a bite…!). I shared the cookies and yogurt bars with coworkers, and got a thumbs-up.

If you’re looking for whole grain products that are easy to bring on-the-go (individually wrapped), these are surely better than an candy bar or “power” bar. Each product boasts its own profile of nutrients from the whole grains, shown to be heart-healthy.

WANT TO TRY THEM OUT, TOO? Let me know! Enter to win your own package of Quaker goods by answering the following in your comment:

Are you a Quaker fan – oatmeal, classic granola bars, or otherwise? Which one of these products would you taste-test in your kitchen?

Winner will be announced Monday, 10/15!

Full Disclosure: The Quaker Insiders program provides the products free of charge to review. There is no monetary compensation for this post, and the opinions are my own.


Filed under food, Giveaway, new things!, Nutrition

Eggplant at Home: Roasting Ratatouille & Dipping Ghanoush

I’ve found two new spots in my heart-of-taste-buds for the purple vegetable, eggplant. It has been providing a bright pop of color in our CSA bags for weeks in a row now; I love the hue, but stare at the sort-of-not-really-egg-shaped tube and am at a loss. My first experience with this vegetable was in college, as part of our food lab, making eggplant parmesan. Nope, not a big fan.

Slice  it down the middle, then slice it into disks and then decide between a sauté or a roast – that’s all we’ve done, so far…

eggplant CSA

This week, with yet another haul and another excuse to experiment, I had to try something different. Without realizing it until I put this mix in the oven, I actually just “tried” something that could be considered ratatouille:

roasted ratatouille

There were two simple goals here: cook the eggplant, use the Dutch Oven! Both were accomplished quite easily. The vibrant colors in that mix are all thanks to Good Life Farm and our weekly bag full of eats.

Simple Roasted Ratatouille

1 eggplant, halved and sliced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 yellow zucchini (or yellow squash), halved and sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 red tomato, sliced

3-4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
Seasonings: salt, pepper, thyme

Heat oven to 400*. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil into the bottom of a Dutch Oven (or deep baking pan). Toss all vegetables and seasonings in the remaining oil, and add to the pan. Cover (with lid or foil) and roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally (every 15 min or so).

Yep – it’s as simple as that. Slice, drizzle, season, roast. Eat, and enjoy!

This can be a side dish or served over rice or quinoa as a meal. Like so:

ratatouille over wild rice

Hint: this also makes great leftovers for lunch the next day!


Alright, so, we’ve obviously mastered the cooking and adding-to-grain method here. Next up, a different challenge. Something entirely new not only to my kitchen, but also my taste buds – baba ghanoush.

baba-ghanoush-pbs food blog

{Image source: PBS Food Blog, Jenna Weber’s Baba Ghanoush with Sea Salt}

After searching a few recipes I had an idea of how this simple dip is to be made. Mixing techniques and seasonings, my simple edition looked like this:

Homemade Baba Ghanoush

1 eggplant, sliced & cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt (sea salt, preferably)

1.5 Tbsp Tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp garlic, minced
Seasonings: salt, pepper

Heat oven to 400*. Spray a baking sheet with oil. Toss eggplant cubes (bite-sized) in oil and season with salt. Spread evenly across the sheet; bake for 25 minutes, stirring once.

Put roasted eggplant into a food processor; pulse until slightly creamy. Add remaining ingredients (Tahini through seasonings) and pulse until smooth (4-5 minutes). Optional: garnish with a drizzle of oil and/or light seasonings.

I’ve been packing this as a dip for vegetable sticks (carrots & peppers), and have also seen it served as a side with roasted vegetables, or pita chips, or bread. Do what you will! It’s hard not to enjoy, and even harder to remember this started as a purple tube.


Why eat eggplant? High in fiber, water & antioxidants! Low in calories (one cup cooked = 35 calories), versatile in meals, a good source of manganese, and easy to season with any of your preferred tastes.


How do enjoy this summer plant? My list needs some new additions; these guys are at their peak from August – October so I know we’re just getting started!


Filed under dinners, food, Nutrition, recipes

Juicy FRUIT {For All} Giveaway

Today’s post is outside the box, but speaks to the first area of Nutrition that I felt strongly passionate about – childhood health and development through nourishing foods. Read on, for a giveaway of sorts at the end!


The sight of a juice box provokes nostalgia for the brown-bag lunching elementary school days. My mom packed ours almost every day, and the juice box was a staple next to the cut-in-half sandwich, chips, fruit and/or vegetables (carrots or green pepper slices) and the best homemade cookie treat.

These days, my lunches may never include a juice box and very rarely end with a homemade cookie. They do almost always include fresh fruit and veggies.

While I’ll always be in the fresh-first camp, it’s simply accepting a reality to know that this isn’t an option for every family, all the time. And while you’ll rarely, if ever, see me with a juice box in hand (though, that would be an interesting post-race freebie!), I still felt compelled to participate in the Juicy Juice Fruit for All (FFA) project when Nestle approached me*.

JJ FFA map

“What Juicy Juice is doing is just amazing…it will really help to fill the gap that we’re experiencing right now.”  

-Carole Tremblay, Los Angeles Regional Food bank

This project, partnering with Feeding America, is dedicated to providing 35 million pieces of fresh fruit to kids and families across the U.S. Most of us don’t think about living in hunger, or being “food insecure” often, because our realities are unique. But food deserts exist, where fresh produce is a luxury, not a norm.

Their documentary provides more information around the FFA project, the families who benefit from it and the adorable kiddos who taste the unbeatable natural sweetness of fresh, juicy fruit.


A nutritionally balanced and varied diet is key for growth and health at any age, but is especially important during childhood developmental years.

If kids aren’t exposed to fresh food, how will they ever know to seek it and choose it? How will they know that it tastes great, and the juice is deliciously sweet and sticky? If it’s not familiar, it’s foreign; they’ll mature to find comfort in what they do know (packages, convenience, “inexpensive”), vs. what’s better for them.

“America’s battle is not about having enough food; in fact, 20 billion pounds of food go to waste each year.”  -FFA project

Instead, it’s about getting that food into hands and mouths!



In participating and spreading the word about Juicy Juice’s FFA campaign, they will bring 400 pieces of fresh fruit to a food bank in DC, and provide the same for your community if you win**!

— TO ENTER: Leave a note sharing the first fruit you remember loving as a kid. Mine? Cold, juicy summer watermelon. The BEST. Hands down.

U.S. residents only, please. Entries will be closed as of 10 p.m. (EST), on Wednesday, August 8. watermelon FFA smile

I think she agrees with me. {Image source}

To learn more about what you’ll be supporting, check out the FFA site and/or Facebook page.

**Even if you don’t win here, there are plenty of other ways to be involved if you’re interested!


*Full Disclosure: this post is in partnership with Nestle and their Fruit For All project. I was not paid to promote this campaign, and did not receive any Nestle product as part of my involvement. All media in this post is from the Juicy Juice FFA website.


Filed under food, Giveaway, Nutrition