RD Advice

Why I don’t shop at Whole Foods

Good afternoon folks! I have two things for you today. 1) My weekly meal planning tips. 2) A review of a body weight workout that I did last night.

Weekly Meal Planning Tips

As a person who works full time and also a Registered Dietitian, I rely on meal planning to help me out in many ways:

Reason #1: Meal planning and prepping is a HUGE time saver.

Reason #2: Meal planning is a money saver.

Reason #3: Meal planning gives me a space to make sure that I am incorporating healthy habits into my lifestyle.

Fun Fact: These are all tips that I use with my outpatient counseling patients.

Reason #1: Meal planning and prepping saves time. We have all had times when we have come home from a long day at work, opened up the fridge and didn’t have a clue as to what we should make for dinner. For me, this ends two ways, I either spend 10-15 minutes looking up a recipe to make with what I have on hand (and we end up eating an hour later) or I grab the eggs and say that we are having breakfast for dinner….again. On the bright side, this has taught me how to throw some things into a pan and make a great stir-fry dish and I also have perfected my scrambled eggs however, this is not ideal. It is much better to come home to the smell of a crockpot, have some components of my meal already chopped and ready to throw in the pan or oven, or have an exact idea of what I am making so that I don’t have to think, I can just do.

To help me plan I take time the week before I go shopping and decide on the recipes I will be using. I use Pinterest 100% of the time. I like that I can type in specific ingredients if I have extra this or that still at home. I save all the recipes to a page I have. Here is a link to my Pinterest page if you want to check out the types of recipes I typically use. I try to do some crock pot or one-pot recipes to cut down on dishes as well. I like to use vegetarian recipes when I can and I typically choose ground turkey or chicken meat dishes.

spaghetti squash.jpg
Spaghetti Squash, chicken breast, minced garlic, pasta sauce, Italian seasoning. Waiting for me at home tonight! I’ll let you know how it tastes.

I think write the recipes I will be making on chart that lists the days of the week. At the same time I write my grocery list to take with me to the store. Then when I get there I know exactly what I am buying.

Reason #2: Meal planning is a money saver. Personally, I try to spend $60 per week on groceries if I can. This helps my husband and I stick to a budget. I do very well with this budget when I shop at places like Aldi and Trader Joes. I do not do well with the budget when I go to larger supermarkets. I have a confession for you all – I have never bought anything from Whole Foods before. I don’t even think I have stepped a foot inside their doors. I have read articles though, talked with patients, friends, and colleagues and I have a pretty solid understanding that stores like Whole Foods would blow my weekly grocery budget out of the water. Also as a RD that works for a low-income population, I hear a lot of claims and statements like, “I can’t eat healthy, its too expensive.” My heart breaks when I hear that because I know which stores they are associating “healthy foods” with. I am always trying to promote the good food that can be found at Aldi and Trader Joes and try to work against the thought that Whole Foods and others like it are the only places you can shop if you are a Registered Dietitian or a person trying to be healthier.

Side note – walking into a grocery store with a list will usually result in less impulse buys which is good for health and your wallet!



Reason #3: Meal planning makes me healthier. As a RD I have to eat what I preach, right? So that means that I have to intentionally plan vegetables, lean meats and vegetarian protein options, low fat dairy, fresh fruit, and whole grains into my week. When I look for recipes on Pinterest, I try to make them fit into that category. I also try to eliminate using canned soups for recipes (lots of added sodium and calories), spice packets (high in sodium), high fat dairy products, items with too much added sugar, etc. Basically, the more basic and fresh the ingredients going into my meal, the better nutritional quality my meal is going to be.

Here are a couple of meal planning tools, offered by http://www.choosemyplate.gov that might help you get started with weekly meal planning:

Monday-Sunday Meal Plan Template: grocery_gameplan_interactive

Grocery List Template: grocery_list_interactive

Body Weight Workout Review

Yesterday I did the body weight workout that I was supposed to do on the weekend :/ It went great, but I made some adjustments to make it last longer and increase the difficulty. Here is the original: http://sweetandstrongblog.com/2016/12/12-days-of-christmas-bodyweight-workout/

What I did for a 25 minute-ish workout:

5 burpees

10 sumo squats

5 star jumps

10 single-leg tricep dips, each side

20 bicycle crunches

10 mountain climbers – count 1 for every other step

5 squat jumps

10 alternating lunges

5 jumping jacks

10 plank shoulder taps

*Repeat 4-5 times through, rest in after finishing the set and catch your breath for the next set

I did this 4 times through and then added a few 1-minute planks, push-ups, and some booty burner exercises such as these: http://fitnessista.com/barre-based-booty-burner/ I didn’t have a ball for these but I did mostly the hand and knee exercises.

It was quite a good experience! Today I feel a little sore but not too bad!


See you all tomorrow!


Question of the day: Do you have any great tips for planning and prepping that make meals during the week a quicker affair?






Wining & Dining in Niagara

Good morning folks! I hope your weekend was as fun-filled as mine was. A get-away with the hubby is always welcome & appreciated. Lets take a second and remember that weather last Friday, Pittsburgh had a high of 76 degrees. While that is unusually warm for this time of year, I wasn’t complaining, taking full advantage of it during a lunch-time walk and an after-work stroll with Zach.


Instead of taking the bus all the way home like I usually do, I met this guy in Southside (borough of Pittsburgh) to accompany him on his walk home. We may or may not have stopped at The Milkshake Factory to grab a chocolate malt milkshake to split, it was baby sized and a great treat for the nice weather. I had planned on getting in a workout after work on Friday (story of my life the entire weekend) but soaking in some time with Zach before he leaves felt like the better option. Also, with the lunch-time walking and the uphill walk home (Pittsburgh is quite hilly), my step counter told me I got 40 minutes of activity and walked 2 miles. Not too shabby:)

Later that eve I played around with Zach’s camera and experimented with taking pictures of my dinner. I also experimented with dinner – Tuna-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. I enjoyed the meal but thought that I could have made a sauce to pour over the mixture. I’ll keep playing around with that recipe before I post and recommend it to you. Pinterest-worthy recipes do not happen overnight folks. A good reminder for me as I try to become better at concocting my own recipes.

Later I threw together a batch of cookies for some guests that were stopping by later that night. Nothing beats traditional chocolate chip cookies!


Saturday morning we packed some clothing, our passports, and headed for Canada! We made a stop for pizza near the casino, easily finishing the pizza ourselves in 10 minutes. We then found our way to our hotel and as soon as we checked into our room we headed back out for wine tasting.

I have officially made the switch from white wine to a rose or red wine variety. It took me a few years, but white wine seems a little sweet for my taste these days – I like the richness of red, but I know that I still do not care for a really dry red.

Later that night we got dinner at the hotel, which was amazing! Sunday morning we ate again at the hotel for breakfast (buffet-style, Zach was in heaven). Both of us were then ready to head to the falls for pictures.

Zach has always been my photographer and I never mind getting in front of a camera.


Thanks to the Irish family for taking our picture!

It was absolutely beautiful! And cold! I am glad that we went. Its only a 3 1/2 hour drive from Pittsburgh to the Canada side of the falls – perfect for a weekend get away.

After about an hour at the falls I was chilled to the bone and ready for some warmth. We headed home a little early and spent the rest of the night packing and prepping for Zach’s departure. It was a fast weekend, but I really appreciated Zach taking the time to take me away before he leaves. I think this weekend also made me very excited for travelling to beautiful places in other countries. I can’t wait to share those future pictures with you all!

Have a happy Monday all!



Veggie Stir-Fry Scramble

Good afternoon folks and happy Friday! I am so happy that I was able to share our news about the move with you all! Now I can let you into just how excited and antsy we are to get to the point where both of us are settled into our flat in Lebanon. The next week is going to be quite crazy for us, especially because we decided to take a trip to Niagara Falls this weekend because we live so close and we wanted to get away from the busy-ness of our lives.

We have had a lot of chances to say goodbye to friends and family. This was part of the reason why we had Zach’s family over last weekend. For Christmas we flew to Montana to see my mom and stepdad and sister, brother-in-law and little niece. We have also met up with most of our close friends, Zach said goodbye to some of our Pittsburgh friends last night. I said see-ya later as I will be at their place weekly when Zach is gone 🙂 I don’t think either of us feels like it is real yet. When I start to think about the reality of the change I panic a little bit inside. But I know this was supposed to happen for us at this point in time and I truly believe in the organization’s cause. So I pray for flexibility, perseverance with the move, and faith that this will be a smooth transition.

I have done quite a bit of reading and researching about Lebanon. From what I have learned things are a bit more expensive over there than the US. Zach and I looked up memberships to gyms in the area and we didn’t find anything that we could manage on a volunteer stipend. Good thing we are runners! Zach found out that there is a Beirut Marathon…looks like we will be certainly be doing that while we are there. I am also planning on becoming much better at body weight workouts and workouts that utilize resistance bands.

To prepare for this, I’m hoping to put together a good collection of body weight workouts from the great personal trainers that have blogs. First one I would like to try is from Sweet & Strong. So this is what I will be doing while we are at the hotel – I’ll let you know how it goes!

Amidst the craziness here I am still try to make sure we have great meals and that we aren’t eating out too often or resorting to frozen pizza more than once every other week. I try do this by planning ahead and prepping when I have spare time. When I don’t do this I typically resort to a vegetable stir fry with quick-cooking brown rice or quinoa on the side, something like this:


Stir-Fry Veggie Scramble

Time from start to finish – 30 minutes

Makes 4 servings

2 cups cooked brown rice, I use quick-cooking for time purposes

3 gloves garlic, minced

2 large carrots, coined

1 bell pepper, diced

1 package baby bella mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced

2 cups kale, de-stemmed and torn into smaller pieces (I was running low on this ingredient)

1 can Northern White Beans or any other can of bean you have in stock

2 eggs

1 cup left-over caramelized onions, see note below

1-2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup broth, vegetable or chicken

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Goat cheese crumbles, optional


  1. Cook the brown rice according to package directions. While the rice is cooking, heat up olive oil in skillet and throw in your carrots and garlic, cook for 5-6 minutes on medium-high heat, you want to give the carrots a chance to soften a little. Season the pan with some sea salt and pepper at this time.
  2. Throw in your bell pepper and mushrooms, cook for another 5-6 minutes, then add caramelized onions, beans, kale, and broth, lightly season once more.
  3. Cook mixture on medium, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking to the pan, until liquid has simmered off. Add the cooked rice, stir to combine.
  4. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl, add these to the rice and vegetable mixture. Cook mixture on medium until eggs are cooked and everything looks a bit drier.
  5. Dish up and top with goat cheese – you can experiment with other cheeses if you like to see what suits you the best.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 365 – Fat: 12.8 grams – Carbohydrates: 45.7 grams – Protein: 15.2 grams

I am working on finding the correct way to format recipes, photos, workouts, etc. Please bear with me while I decide on the tools that I want to use and learn how to use them!

Question for you:

Do you have any small fitness tools that you can recommend for me to buy to take overseas? I have a few different resistance bands right now but I am thinking that there may be more that I am not thinking of, please, share with the blog!



We’re Moving to Lebanon!

Good morning everyone!

I have some very exciting news to share with you all! Zach and I have taken positions to work in Beirut, Lebanon for two years. We are going to be working with a development organization called Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Zach’s parents currently work with MCC in India (they are there another 2 years), Zach’s brother and sister-in-law did a 2-year term in Laos, and Zach’s sister did a 3-year term in Laos and also a 2-year term in Guatemala. All that to say, we are rather familiar with the organization and are very excited to begin our positions.

Because I am a Registered Dietitian, the organization kindly put together a position for me called Health and Refugee Program Assistant. For three days a week I will be working at a place called Our Lady Dispensary, which is a clinic and health education center in Beirut. This clinic serves refugees from Syria, vulnerable Lebanese, other at-risk families in the Beirut area. I will be using my skills to assist the Public Health Officer and Social Worker that are also at the clinic. While I do not know yet what my day-to-day activities will be, I believe I will be working with issues of food insecurity, nutrition education, and trauma support. To prepare me to work with these populations I will be starting my term with a 4-5 week language study course on Arabic. I have heard that this is a hard language to pick up but I hope that daily use will help me learn better.

The other two days a week I will be working with the Middle East Council of Churches and their efforts to bring assistance to Lebanon and Syria during the Syrian crisis. I will be assisting with grant and project proposal writing for current and new community health initiatives and Emergency Resource Shipments into Syria.

Zach will be in a role of his own, called a Projects Coordinator. Currently there are several (and the possibility of more) local projects aimed at helping Lebanon and Syria during the Syria crisis. Zach will be helping with the planning and evaluation of these projects. He will report on their progress and provide support for expansion and improvements as needed.

If you would like to read more about that crisis, there is more information at this link. There is a lot of work to be done in both countries currently with the crisis in Syria sending many refugees fleeing into Lebanon. Currently 1 in 4 persons in Lebanon is a refugee. As you can expect, Lebanon is struggling to provide enough resources for this influx and as a result also needs help. We are not currently allowed to travel into Syria but will be conducting work with local partners there via email. Our place in Beirut will be safe.

This is something that we have been talking about since we were dating – serving with MCC for a period of time. We believe this is really important work to do and we are so happy that we have this opportunity. Zach leaves in less than two weeks. I will be coming beginning of April. We have some of the details of our departure sorted out but please continue to think and pray for us – there is still much to be done on my end.

And to round out this long post I just wanted to let you know that I will continue to post on the blog. My posts will remain similar but be adapted to include information about our work in Lebanon so that friends and family can feel connected with us. There will be a good amount of travelling allowed for work and vacation as well, so stay tuned for some awesome pictures, Mediterranean food ideas, and workout suggestions!

Stay Healthy,



RD Advice

What’s Trending: Bone Broth

Happy that it is warm enough for casual walks!

Good morning everyone! I am in a great mood with the slightly warmer weather this week, feels like winter is slowly letting go of its grip on Pittsburgh, hopefully we won’t see anymore snow (knock on wood). Monday night Zach met me down by the river after work for a walk before it got dark. We then went to Costco (Zach’s favorite store) to pick up a couple of items on sale and then back home for a quiet evening.


Yesterday was a rather busy day for us. We worked, I went to the gym for spin and an arm and ab sesh, then got groceries, then went home and Zach made the decision to put a frozen pizza in the oven. Yes, even Registered Dietitians are real people sometimes. We discussed what to do (if anything) about a scrape that I put on the car 😦 I did some work for my other part-time job and we watched some Netflix.

Check out my ab workout that I made up last night. I have yet to name it so if you have any suggestions…:)

  1. 1 minute plank
  2. 50 crunches (pull tummy towards spine for full benefit or else these can be done rather easily)
  3. 40 v pulses
  4. 30 leg raises (these always get my neck so I can never do more than 30 at a time)
  5. 20 mountain climbers
  6. 10 side crunches, each side
  7. 1 minute plank

For arms I stuck with free weights and rotated three exercises:

  1. Bicep curl – With a weight that is 2-5 lbs more than you are used to using, 15-20
  2. Tricep extension – I used the same weight (12.5 lbs) and alternated my hands halfway through. 15-20 again
  3. Lateral raises – Same weight, I could only do 15 of these before it felt like my arms couldn’t go anymore
  4. Repeat 3x.

I started off my night going to a spin class but 15 minutes in I had the urge to sneak out 20 minutes early and do arms as it had been about a week since my last arm workout and I didn’t want to stop making progress. Plus, sometimes I wish the spin workouts were offered as 45 minutes so that I had time to do some strength. I typically only stay at the gym an hour. It was a great decision, even though I felt like a jerk when I got off my bike.

For today’s post I want to start a new tradition. In the “About Me” section of my blog I talk about wanting to be a place that promoted evidence-based nutrition guidance. In order to do this I wanted to create a new weekly post that will inform and bring you the evidence (or lack of) behind trending food and health topics. I am hoping that this will be helpful for you all and teach you the skills to conduct your own background research whenever a new trend presents itself.

Bone Broth

Description: Bone broth is made from boiling roasted poultry bones for long periods of time, until the bones can come apart with light pressure. Similar process to how stock is made, but longer period of cooking time.

Nutrition Information: Per 1 cup Organic Bone Broth

  • Calories: 35
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 95 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 0 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams

Nutrition Information: Per 1 cup Organic Chicken Broth, so you can compare

  • Calories: 10
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 70 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 1 gram
  • Protein 2 grams

*You will note that Bone Broth has about 7 grams more protein per cup, which is very significant, in my opinion. All other items are not that large of a difference.

Cost: Online I found Pacific Natural Foods has an Organic Bone Broth for $5.99, they have an Organic Chicken Broth for $4.01. I imagine that you could spend more money in Whole Foods on Bone Broth if you picked it up in an organic section.

History of: Bone broth has been around for ages as a remedy for several ailments, including the current uses listed below. Recently it has shown up as a new food fad.

Current uses: Currently bone broth is used for weight loss, wrinkle-reduction, as a protein supplement, digestive health enhancer and more. There is even a book out about the Bone Broth Diet, written by a MD, that makes these claims as well. All of these claims I found doing a quick Google search, reading other’s blogs, etc. Please note that any claims that are made without research or evidence behind them need to be taken with caution.

Evidence-based literature findings: It was VERY hard to find current research studies that have been performed about bone broth (trust me, I spent an hour on PubMed and other online article databases that University of Pittsburgh offers). The best resource that I found was an article published in Harvard Women’s Health Watch, a part of Harvard Health Publications. The article reviewed the current body of research and gave me a very good overview of where we stand. Here are the most important points you need to know:

  1. Bone broth was found to have a positive effect in helping people when they are congested. This was one study’s findings, so please take it with a grain of salt. The study was also performed in 1978, so a while ago, reported by Chest journal. In the research world, several studies are needed to create a base for recommendations.
  2. One other study, again only one, found that chicken soup (not specifically bone broth) seemed to reduce white bloods cells which are the first line of responders during inflammation. This has not been further confirmed. This study was performed in 2000 and reported by Chest.
  3. Bone broth has a higher amount of protein. This can be a good thing for individuals who nutritionally need more protein. Those who are elderly, have open wounds, head injuries are a part of this category. Also individuals who are (mostly) vegetarian and are looking for another source of protein.
  4. There is no evidence to suggest that bone broth makes wrinkles better, helps with digestion, relieves joint pain, or strengthens bone.

Summary: I would not recommend this as a food you need to run to the store to buy. I also do not think it is harmful, and I believe that extra protein without saturated fat is a good find. For me, I would not pay $5.99 for bone broth when I can get reduced sodium broth for much cheaper at Aldi.

If you have access to some databases through your work or a university, you can read the article: http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/whats-the-scoop-on-bone-soup I could not access this great article without logging in – the unfortunate thing about accessing some research articles.


The best burger ever and the weekend



Hey guys, I am excited to share my weekend with you all. Before I go any further…check out this burger!

See that white in the middle? That’s the goat cheese, currently my favorite food and a great addition to this turkey burger. I don’t really think of myself as a burger fanatic – but I do appreciate a good craft burger every once in a while. I can tell you that this burger here is the best burger I have ever had. And Zach, he was in heaven. He made me promise to not wait too long until I make them again. He also told me I should open my own burger joint. A girl loves to know that she can make her husband happy with her cooking, I was flattered.

Before the burgers I was able to swing by the gym for a 45 minute workout. I repeated my Wednesday workout (compliments of pbfingers.com) which included a good treadmill workout with some body weight exercises. The treadmill part was even enjoyable because it kept my attention. It went like this.

  1. 5 minute warm-up walk
  2. 0.25 mile run at fast pace (faster than your normal but sustainable)
  3. 0.05 mile walk for recovery
  4. Repeat 2 and 3 until 25 minutes is up (including 5 minute warm-up)

What I also liked about the treadmill is that for the fast run part, the faster that you ran the quicker that section was over. It was a good motivator to try harder for a quicker reward. I usually am just counting the seconds until I will allow myself to get off the treadmill but this was not bad at all.

All of the siblings and spouses together:)
Breakfast casserole, fresh fruit salad, cinnamon swirl French toast, and whipped cream


That was our Friday night. The rest of the weekend we spent with family. It was a great. All Zach’s siblings are wonderful and we all get along really well. Our time together was spent talking, playing games, eating, and touring Pittsburgh . All of the food turned out to be delicious, including the places we ate out. I also got a hair cut from my future sister-in-law who is a great young stylist in Lancaster, PA. Check out Hats Off Salon in East Petersburg if you are ever in the area.

The only bad part of the weekend was that I got a pretty bad cold with all of the worst symptoms on Saturday night. Chills, high fever, body aches, sore throat. It hit me in the middle of having cocktails with my family and hit again (although less severe) on Sunday night. I’m a little mad about it, I usually only get sick once every winter but somehow I have managed to get sick twice. I am blaming the public transportation that I take to work. I really love to take it but I know how many people (and sick people) that puts me in contact with every day.

I had planned on going to spin class this afternoon and getting in five great workouts this week but I think I will take it a little slower than planned, however frustrating that may be for me. Right now I need sleep, I am hoping that I will be able to resume all normal activities tomorrow. In preparation for my workout week I think I will plan ahead what I will be doing at the gym and for this weekend. Zach and I will be going away to Niagara Falls and I really want to try one of the vacation workouts that I found online.

What is your workout plan for this week? Where do you get your workouts from? Share your resources with the blog!



Strawberry Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Happy Friday!


Wow, the weekend is here! Zach, kitty, and I are looking forward to family time this weekend. Zach has three siblings, two brothers and a sister. They will all be coming along with my sister-in-law and almost sister-in-law. So we will have a full house:) We usually like to get together every couple of months and it usually isn’t a problem for all parties to drive an hour or so to the meeting place. Our family is all driving further this time, out to Pittsburgh, so this weekend feels extra special.


I have already planned the menu for the weekend and just finished up the grocery shopping last week. I am amazed every time that I go to Aldi how much I can get with the money that I spend. It occurred to me to take a picture of all the food that I purchased last night but then I got side-tracked and started making dinner. I will be sure to do this in the future. I have a not-so-secret goal to try to get everyone to convert from pricey stores like Whole Foods and even the local grocery store in our area, Giant Eagle, to Aldi and Trader Joes. Personally, I live five minutes away from an Aldi, so I get everything from there. I am not a big red meat eater so their selection of meat (and now fresh fish) is good enough for me. I also get my paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues there. I think that between Aldi and Costco, we end up saving hundreds of dollars each year on groceries. Zach and I have a goal of spending around $60 per week on groceries (not including eating out), I try to stick to this as much as possible and I am usually right on track.

Here’s my menu for this weekend, with links to the recipes that I will be using. All found on Pinterest!

How about a recipe review for you this Friday? Yesterday I was trying to figure out what to make with some extra cooked quinoa I had in my fridge (I do not like to ever throw out food). I found this recipe with a quick online search and had great success with it last night!


Strawberry Quinoa Breakfast Bars – compliments of My Fussy Eater

Time to prepare: 5-7 minutes. Time to cook: 25 minutes. Total: 30-ish minutes.

Servings: 9, I made 12 servings


  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup raisins (I used chocolate chips because I was out of raisins)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries


  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Spray a small pan with cooking oil. I used a small cake pan, you can use a 9×9 inch, just not a full-size cake pan, unless you double the recipe, which you may want to do because these are so delicious!
  2. Mash the bananas and add the eggs and vanilla to the bowl. Mix.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until mixed.
  4. Pour into prepared dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. I think that I took them out of the oven too early because they are pretty moist. Next time around I will bake for the full 25 minutes so as to have a drier bar.
  5. Cut into bars and enjoy for breakfast or a snack.

Nutrition Information:

144 calories per bar – 2.8 grams fat – 25 carbohydrates – 5.2 grams of protein

Look at all those fresh and fun ingredients!
The finished product – success!


Have a great weekend everyone! Come visit me on Monday for another new post!