Super Green Walnut Pesto

Happy Thursday everyone! For me, it’s my Friday, and I am so darn excited to paint a little in our house tomorrow. We decided on… do I dare say it… a shade of gray… that will hopefully warm up some of our rooms and highlight some of our furniture and accents. I swear I do like other colors besides white and gray! (sometimes)

Two nights ago I was driving home from work and couldn’t for the life of my think of what I wanted for dinner. My mom and I were talking about pizza, and somehow pizza turned into pasta, and pasta turned into thinking of a new sauce that I could make from scratch. I decided to make pesto, but a not so traditional pesto, that I could secretly hide some extra green in it. Have a mentioned before how hard it is to get Jeff to eat vegetables?

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This pesto was BOMB. Literally, I was eating it with a spoon. Jeff liked it also, and I know it was truly enjoyable for him because he ate the leftovers the next day. Can I tell you just how much it makes my heart swoon when I come home and find leftover containers EMPTY in the kitchen sink. That is how I truly know when one of my recipes is a success!

I called this a “super green” pesto because it truly is really, really green. I don’t mean clean, green… although that is pretty appropriate as well…. but it is literally really green and bright in color. This pesto is so unbelievably easy and delicious, you can bet I will make it again ASAP.

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I hope you give this yummy little recipe a try. Don’t be afraid to play around with it or substitute different greens. Let me know if you find a substitution that you love! I’m sure others would like to know as well 🙂

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Super Green Walnut Pesto

  • Servings: approx. 1 3/4 cup total volume
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ~3 cups raw greens (I used ~1 cup kale, 2 cups spinach)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • pinch of kosher seal salt
  • pinch of back pepper
  • 3 med size garlic cloves OR 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions

It a food processor, pulse greens with olive oil. Once there is a little more room in the food processor, add walnuts, salt, pepper, and garlic cloves. Pulse or grind on low until garlic is fully chopped and incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the container and add ~1/3 cup of water. Continue to pulse or blend until the pesto is the consistency you prefer. If you like it to me a little chunky, you can just stir in the water to help thin it our instead of pulsing.

Serve over grilled meats, warm pasta, or with warm bread. Enjoy!

 

 


Food judging and labeling… STOP!

Hi everyone. I really hope ya’ll had a great, relaxing weekend! Also, if you are a mother, I hope your mother’s day was filled with happiness and a little “you” time. I have one of the most amazing mothers and an equally wonderful mother-in-law, so I’m happy to say I have wonderful role-models that really do deserve a day to themselves!

Now, I’m writing this post for a few reasons. I have many times fallen into the habit of “labeling” foods as good or bad. I kick myself when I realize I have done it, but sometimes I think it comes with trying to simplify nutrition recommendations or put things in terms that a child AND an adult can understand. Sometimes I don’t even realize I have labeled a food until it’s done and over with. I am not proud when I do this and have worked hard to relay a different message to my patients or other people who question me. There are no “bad foods,” there are simply foods that give your body more benefits and help you grown in a healthy way vs others that maybe don’t quite live up to what we need in terms of nutrition. I am very passionate about this… so this is where this post is coming from.

I have gotten really sick and tired of scrolling through Pinterest, Facebook, or other social media outlets and seeing things such as “5 Foods I Will NEVER Eat” or “The Top 10 Foods Your Dietitian Would NEVER Recommend.” This infuriates me for many reasons. Sometimes the stigma that comes with being a dietitian is frustrating enough, but to see people actually using my profession to make others feel guilty about what they are eating is so disheartening.

In my undergraduate career and now graduate career, I have learned and been trained to recognize foods that are good for the human body. I know there are foods that can help moderate or control disease exacerbation, and there are nutrients and components of food that help repair muscles or tissue that has been harmed or weakened. I have learned that eating too many carbohydrates or not having balance at a meal can lead to high blood sugars and that increasing protein after a major surgery will help support tissue repair and regrowth.

There are so many positive things that food and balanced nutrition can do for the body, yet at no point during my educational career are we told that rice cakes are evil or drinking a soda with dinner will for sure cause diabetes. Ice cream does not haunt me in my dreams and candy does not cause my blood to turn to sludge. I am so, SO sick of people judging and labeling foods as bad, evil, and something that should be forbidden in a healthy diet. PLEASE just stop.

One thing that many people forget is what works for one person does not work for another. For me, rice cakes are not very filling and don’t have high nutritive value. For someone else who has a hard time controlling portions, they may find this an easy way to have a crunchy snack that doesn’t over-do it on calories if they have one too many. Do I think there are more satisfying and nutrient-dense snack options out there, of course! But, I’m not going to write someone a health hazard ticket for eating a rice cake!

Our society has become so obsessed with judging what others are eating and shaming people who don’t know what a “healthy” snack choice is that we have taken something very personal like food and made it into something that many people feel guilty about eating. Last night, I brought a key-lime mousse cake to my mother-in-law’s house for Mother’s Day and guess what… I had TWO pieces. I’m alive and well today, and you know what else? It was freaking delicious.


I’d like to change the concept of food shaming and really support my statement that there are no “bad foods”. With that said, I’m not going to talk about foods that you should NEVER eat or I would NEVER recommend. Here are a few foods that I ALWAYS will recommend. You might find this list shockingly simply… and you know why? Because basic nutrition can be that simple. Don’t fall into the food labeling habit. Almost all foods can fall into a healthy, balanced diet. Always remember that combination — healthy AND balanced.

  1. Fruits and vegetables —- SHOCKER. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. No, they don’t all come equal. A sweet potato is going to give you more fiber and Vitamin A than a regular white potato, but they can both have their place in a balanced, healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables with skins tend to be a little higher in fiber, so don’t peal those skins off! Berries are full of antioxidants that help prevent basic illness, and avocados are rich with Vitamin E and omega-3’s which help keep your hair, skin, and nails glowing and promote good heart heath. Aim for 5 or more servings per day of fruits and veggies — your body will thank you!
  2. Whole grains. Yes, some people cannot necessarily eat grains, but overall grains are not evil. Whole grains contain fiber, B-vitamins, and have just as much a place in a healthy diet as other foods. Because of the fiber content, you will naturally take a longer time digesting and utilizing the nutrients in whole grains which is a good thing! Slower digestion helps you feel full longer and prevent rapid increases in blood glucose (blood sugars!).
  3. Eggs. I LOVE eggs. When did eggs get such a bad wrap? For someone who needs a simple, easy source of protein that can also be versatile, eggs is a great option. Eggs are also inexpensive, so for those who are tight on a budget, this is a great protein to utilize. Stop getting rid of the yolks! Yes they contain cholesterol, but your body naturally produces cholesterol on its own. Those yolks are packed with vitamins and protein that you completely waste when you discard them. As with anything, please don’t eat 10 eggs/day. Yes, then we may run into an issue, but otherwise these are an amazing, nutrient dense protein source!
  4. Dark Chocolate. Yes, I said it… chocolate is in my list of foods that I recommend. You know why? Dark chocolate contains plant phenol’s and antioxidants that may actually have some benefits in lowering blood pressure. You know why else I picked this food… because sometimes you need to treat yourself! Deprivation or restriction can lead to poor relationships with food or frustration and relapse when trying to “eat healthy”. I know I have gone into this previously so I won’t re-state what I have said before, but just always remember there is always a little room for a little chocolate in a healthy, balanced diet.

Quinoa Chickpea Veggie Bowl

Happy Monday friends! Today I had the pleasure of having the day off and getting to spend it with hub! We had a wonderful day walking around outdoor shopping, having a tasty lunch, spending some time by the pool, and spending some time with Eddie (our pup!).IMG_6236

Since I had the day off, I postponed my usual Sunday meal prep to today. Ya’ll know I love a good quinoa bowl, so on the menu for lunch this week is my Quinoa Chickpea Veggie Bowl! I’m excited to share this recipe because it’s something I show a lot on IG, but just haven’t gotten around to writing down the recipe and posting about it!

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Jeff and I both love quinoa, and it has really become a weekly staple in our diets. We use it many different ways, and I have even found Jeff now cooking this on his own (proud moment!)! This bowl is super easy and fast to make, and you can change the veggies to whatever is in season or what you like best. For this bowl, I used carrots, zucchini, and kale as my main veggies. Typically my quinoa bowls all have kale because it holds up better than other greens such as spinach or arugula when cooked.

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I’ve mentioned before I usually leave a day to bring leftovers as my lunch, so when I prep on Sundays I prep for 4 days. If you wanted to prep for a full 5, I would increase the quinoa to 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup. Give this a try and let me know what you think! Have a great week everyone!

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Quinoa Chickpea Veggie Bowl

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, pealed and chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 full head of green kale
  • 1/2 cup quinoa (cooks to ~ 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sliced onion (I used vidalia)
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

On a greased baking sheet, roast chickpeas, carrot, and zucchini with either a little olive oil or olive oil spray, paprika, chili powder, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder (season to your liking). Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the carrots begin to caramelize and the chickpeas turn a light golden brown.

Bring 1/2 cup of quinoa with ~1.5 cups of water to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer. You may need to add another splash of water as it’s absorbed into the quinoa. Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking.

Roughly chop the kale. In a large sauté pan, sauté onion and kale with a little garlic powder, salt, and black pepper until kale is wilted. Add a splash of water to the pan to help kale wilt.

Once veggies and chickpeas are finished roasting and the quinoa is cooked through, add all ingredients to sauté pan and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. If using this recipe for meal prep, allow the dish to cool for 10-15 minutes before putting it into containers and placing in the refrigerator. Can add various toppings if desired such as sriracha, salsa, avocado, or shredded cheeses.


Learning from my mistakes…

Alrighty everyone… time for a little personal moment. I have been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks, but honestly was a little nervous about it. Sometimes it makes me squirm to acknowledge my imperfections or my past mistakes because well, who wants to really come face to face with those things?

Yesterday I read Alexis Joseph’s (Hummusapian) post, I Have Been Changed for Good, and so much of what she talked about resonated with me and gave me a little push to share my own story of how I have evolved over the years. If you haven’t read her article, I highly recommend you take a look and see if you feel some of the inspiration that I felt after finishing.Everyone has a “story” or has something about themselves that they dislike or work to change. I’m not going to sit here and talk about all my problems or struggles as someone who works in a profession where talking and thinking about food can consume a good chunk of my day. I more want to reflect back on where I was and who I hope I am becoming now in my career and in this hobby I have adopted, blogging.

No, I don’t have over a million followers. In one day, I really don’t know how many people I reach. My hope is that for those who read this, maybe they can reflect on themselves in a similar way. Maybe you will just get to know me a little better and either appreciate my honesty and flaws or think that my words have little value. I can only hope that what I say might just help one other person.

I have been blogging for about 5 years. I started blogging in college as an outlet and way to help others “eat healthy”. What a blanket statement right? It’s interesting as I look through my various phases of blogging the different names that I took on and how they related to that period of time in my life – Nutritious, Fit Me; Nibble on Nutrition; and now today, Her Healthy Kitchen. Boy, does this bring me full circle. It may not be apparent to you, but to me this timeline truly shows my growth as a person and as a health professional.

When I first started my blog and was in the height of taking nutrition classes and “training” myself to be the best nutrition professional possible, I was doing anything and everything possible to maintain that image. “The perfect dietitian.” What even is that? To me, as someone who wanted so badly to have that title this meant eating perfectly, being at an optimal fitness level, and being a “role model” for those trying to achieve the same.

If I could go back in time, I would change so many things about this point in my educational career.

My recipes and my advice were all about having “less”. Less sugar… less fat…less dairy; the more I took away, the smaller the chance was of me not looking the way I needed and achieving the image that I was going for. I was fueling my body with “diet” products that were filled with artificial sweeteners or weren’t filling or satisfying (rice cakes — AWFUL decision) all to keep my calories where I wanted them. I was extra careful with the foods that I chose and was very proud of my diligence and dedication to “healthy eating”.

At the time, I was training for half marathons and not fueling properly, and when the training was over would struggle with the thought of not continuing to “feel fit” or exercise in the way that I was. I was prideful when people told me I was thin because I was doing it the “right way” in my eyes. Of course I am thin. I mean, I was studying nutrition for goodness sake?

Now, I’m not saying I had a problem with eating. I ate a lot… I was just extra cautious and would avoid foods that I though may effect my body in a way that I did not want or like. I have had many close people in my life struggle with disordered eating, so I am well aware that this is a slippery path that many people can find themselves going down. I don’t think I was at that point, but I do think my perception of food and nutrition was very skewed.

A few things happened to me since that time period.

For one, I actually became a Registered Dietitian. As a Registered Dietitian, my looks and my appearance mean nothing to a 5 year old child who doesn’t know where he’ll receive his next meal if it is not at school. It doesn’t matter to a newly diagnosed diabetic teen who is angry and upset that they cannot eat what their friends eat. Being a dietitian is so much more than teaching people to “eat healthy”. My job helps me build connections with families, children, new mothers, and help them prevent future disease and disparity. I can play a role in breaking the cycle of diabetes for a family by educating a child on how to make themselves balanced meals on a budget. I can teach a mother how to properly feed her infant so that it can thrive and grow at an optimal rate. This is my job, and this is something that I live for.

The second thing that happened is I got married! I have one of the most supportive spouses ever. When I started really getting into Her Healthy Kitchen and revamping my approach to blogging, Jeff was and still is my number one supporter. Being married to someone that has complete opposite eating habits than myself has actually helped me become more balanced with my own eating. I want to fuel our little family with wholesome foods that are not only are satisfying, but nourish us and keep us healthy and fulfilled. While some days the challenge of hiding veggies in our food (sorry Jeff!) can be tiresome, cooking for two has opened my eyes to new recipes, new challenges, and has made me really appreciate sharing a meal with someone else — not analyzing every part of that meal.
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I think about my views on food and nutrition now, and I am so proud of where I am. Five year ago, I was eating PB2 to make sure I didn’t have too much fat from peanut butter. Today, I probably have at least 1-2 Tbsp of full fat peanut butter every day on top of eating handfuls of nuts such as almonds or cashews for snacks while I’m at work. Why did I make this change? Because why miss out on all the healthy fats that REAL peanut butter and real nuts have to offer? Fat is good baby!

A few years ago, I also fell into the thought that I shouldn’t eat whole eggs and would only eat egg whites; now I eat eggs almost daily for breakfast INCLUDING one big, tasty egg yolk. I now happily eat chicken, turkey, and pork (actually, I hate going a day without one of these proteins) whereas I previously avoided meat at all costs. I now look at whole foods as my fuel. I eat fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and some grains, and you will very rarely find me looking for a “low fat” product.

While I still support eating for good health and love posting all of my recipes, I think my life has become much more balanced and my approach to talking about food and nutrition has changed.

No, I still don’t support going to McDonald’s and ordering an extra large fry and thirst buster of soda, but I see the obsession that people can develop with eating “perfect” and never making a “bad decision”. Yes, there are circumstances where “low fat” or “diet products” have their place, and I recognize when those arise during a consult or counseling experience.

Today, my hobby for blogging incorporates my world of balance. Her Healthy Kitchen shows everything that I love about food, nutrition, and living my version of a healthy lifestyle. I love to eat! I want to be able to help others without creating obsessions or making people feel bad about themselves or who they are as a person. There is such a blurred line between being obsessive with healthy eating and eating for good health. I choose the latter and hope that I can help and inspire others to do the same!

 

 


Why diet and exercise work better together!

I commonly talk about food, eating healthy, and filling your body up with nutrient-dense foods while still taking time to indulge every once and a while. Occasionally, you will catch me talking about exercise or sharing some things that I like to do to keep myself physically active. One thing I want to emphasize a little today is why it is so important to have balance with these two concepts: healthy eating and regular physical activity.

Sometimes I see people fall into the fitness slump where all they are focused on is burning calories. While there are many people that do spend hours upon hours in the gym and have the body to show it, high fitness level doesn’t necessarily equal good health. Also, most people don’t have 2-3 hours to spend at the gym or exercising daily. Many of the people I see on a daily basis struggle with getting in 20 minutes of exercise 2 times per week. In terms of weight loss, physical activity actually doesn’t have as much of an impact on losing weight as does one’s diet. Don’t take this the wrong way… I’m not saying don’t exercise. Exercise is crucial to maintaining not only good health, but it can help regulate your mood, stress levels, and keep you at a weight that you feel comfortable. Exercise is definitely effective in weight maintenance. (If you don’t believe me… look it up! There is actually research done on this topic.)

Let’s switch gears. I am a Registered Dietitian. It is my job to help people connect what they are putting into their bodies with their overall health or health conditions. It is no secret that “eating healthy” is something that people want to do (for the most part). I don’t think anyone wakes up thinking “I really hope the 3 sodas I drink today lead me to have high blood sugars.”

While I try to help people learn to eat a balanced diet and focus on whole foods rather that processed and packaged foods, I don’t believe that eating healthy and spending the entire day being sedentary is good either. What good is eating salads and lean proteins if you spend the whole day sitting on the couch or at a work desk. I know sometimes it is hard to find balance between eating healthy and getting in the recommended 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week, but this is something I feel is so important to maintaining good health. Whether you are trying to lose a few pounds or just maintain a healthy body, physical activity and making healthy food decisions together can provide optimal success.

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Think about food as fuel to your day AND to your ability to have a good and successful workout. Without proper fuel, your body might not react to your workouts the way you hope. If you spend 30 minutes doing ab work 4 times per week but go home and eat 3 cups of ice cream each night, those abs might not pop the way you want then to! On the other side of the spectrum, think about exercise as a way to keep yourself motivated to make good food choices. I don’t know about you, but after I go on a 3 hour hike, the last thing I am thinking about is sitting down to a burger and french fries. Often times, the more consistently we exercise, the clearer we think and the easier it is to differentiate a healthy food choice from one that maybe isn’t as great!

I hope that this information sparked interest in thinking about the way you look at your own diet and physical activity regimen (or maybe I just babbled for nothing!). I have always been a believer in balance within my life, whether that be balancing diet and exercise or school work with my desire to have a little relaxation time on the weekends. As always, message me with questions if you have them! Happy Tuesday!