A simple one pan dish is a dream for any busy parent! If you haven’t tried making a sheet pan dinner, just be warned that there’s no going back once you do. Imagine cooking a delicious meal, seemingly gourmet, all on a half-sheet baking pan in the oven with little fuss. However, there are a few simple rules – right type of pan, lining the pan, sequencing cook time, and seasonings – that will ensure a home run! I am sharing a seasonal recipe from my Healthydigs Meal Plan Program that is nutritious and gluten-free. Enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Bone broth is all the rage for a good reason! It is a great source of collagen and contains many other nutrients your body needs to make collagen.
But what exactly is collagen? Collagen is the primary structural protein in the body, essentially acting like the “glue” that holds us together. You can say it has form and function in our body such as providing elasticity and strength to our skin, repairing and replacing skin cells, and maintaining the health of joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, hair, skin, and nails.
With all these essential functions in the body, no wonder bone broth is popular with health enthusiasts as the new health food. But the fact is that bone broth has been around for thousands of years in Asia. For those who grew up with grandparents or just older parents from the old world, bone broth was likely a part of your diet, like it was for me. As a child, my mother made bone broth frequently and touted its goodness to entice me. I didn’t really understand all the benefits then but her bone broth did taste pretty good!
There is nothing complicated about making bone broth. Just simmer your bones of choice (chicken, beef, turkey, or fish) covered, over low heat for 48 hours. This will extract the most collagen and nutrients from the bones. A slow cooker works well if you don’t want to leave the stove on overnight. Once the broth has finished cooking, transfer to glass jars, let cool, and refrigerate or freeze. As the broth cools, you will notice a layer of gelatin forming. This is a good sign as the gelatin layer is the main source of collagen in bone broth, so be sure to keep it!
Here are some helpful tips to make your bone broth extra healthy and delicious:
● Although not necessary, roasting your bones before simmering can improve the flavor of the broth.
● Since toxins are stored in fat and bone broth contains a lot of it, quality is key when purchasing bones. Look for bones from “organic”, “sustainable”, “grass-fed”, “pasture-raised”, and/or “free-range” sources.
● Add various organic vegetables, herbs, and spices to your broth for more flavor and nutrients. This is a great way to use up vegetable scraps like onion peels and carrot tops that you might normally throw away. Be creative and experiment with different seasonings to make your own signature bone broth!
● Add 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to your pot to give it a slightly acidic taste and assist with breaking down the bones.
If you are not a fan of bone broth or prefer not to eat meat, there are other ways to increase your collagen in the body by eating foods with collagen-boosting nutrients. Below are the top nutrients for supporting collagen formation:
|Proline||Egg whites, meat, cheese, and soy|
|Glycine||Fish, meat, dairy, spinach, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, banana, and kiwi|
|Hydroxyproline||Meat, fish, eggs, carob seeds, alfalfa sprouts|
|Vitamin C||Citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and kale|
|Anthocyanins and antioxidants||Berries, herbs and spices such as oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, and turmeric|
|Copper||Beef liver, sunflower seeds, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, dark chocolate, hazelnuts|
|Sulfur||Garlic, onions, egg yolk, cruciferous vegetables|
|Vitamin B6||Chickpeas, meat, fish, potatoes, bananas, bulgur|
Are pill-based probiotics really effective for digestive health? Maybe for some people, but not everyone. For example, one clinical study showed that up to 40% of patients taking probiotic supplements did not have any signs of colonization—and subsequently, any related digestive benefits. These results reflect what many health practitioners observe regularly: A significant number of patients don’t achieve relevant results using standard probiotic supplements.
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I always recommend food first when possible, for achieving optimal health. For those who are allergic to or don’t like food sources of probiotics – yogurt and fermented foods, such as kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and fermented vegetables – you may need to consider taking a supplement to ensure you are on track for a healthy microbiome.
Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal! Since the FDA does nothing to ensure safety and efficacy of dietary supplements and leaves the responsibility with the individual product manufacturers, it makes it challenging for consumers to find products that are safe, effective and worth the cost. Here are some general guidelines to help you navigate the dietary supplement marketplace:
- Don’t decide on nutritional supplements based on cost alone. You truly get what you pay for in this case.
- Avoid ordering your supplements from Amazon. Many counterfeit goods are sold by third parties on Amazon. It’s not worth saving a few dollars if you can’t be sure of the contents in the container.
- Buy products from high quality companies. High-quality companies will pay for third-party testing to confirm the presence of ingredients, the potency of ingredients, and the absence of contaminants. Quality companies go above and beyond the requirements of cGMPs (current good manufacturing practices) and get third-party certifications related to their manufacturing practices.
- Consult a qualified and trusted health practitioner, meaning someone who has formal academic training in Nutrition with credentials and knowledgeable of your health condition and needs.
When it comes to Probiotics, I have a few specific recommendations:
- Choose a supplement with a high number of different strains. Your gut contains over 500 species.
- Consume adequate doses to achieve desired results. Effectiveness varies but 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day is a good target.
- Ensure your supplement contains live strains of bacteria. Probiotic bacteria need to be alive to be effective.
- Take your probiotics with a source of prebiotic fiber (see food sources in my recent Microbiome blog post) can help to “feed” the good organisms in the gut.
With hundred of probiotics out there, it can be overwhelming to choose one even with the above guidelines. I highlighted a new product, SynerGI, from my Wellevate Supplement Dispensary that’s worth trying.
Botanically-Enhanced Probiotics with POS (pectic-oligosaccharides) by Clinical Synergy Professional Formulas. This live-fermented, synbiotic beverage delivers advanced, fast-acting support for digestive health and microbiome vitality.
SynerGI features a powerful liquid delivery system that provides live clinically-tested lactobacillus strains, fermented with 19 organic digestive-supporting herbs, organic berry juice, and pectic oligosaccharide (POS) prebiotic nutrient to support a healthy terrain. SynerGI is non-GMO and contains no artificial preservatives, sugar, gluten, dairy, or lactose.
SynerGI contains 8 strains of live beneficial bacteria that deliver a broad-spectrum of digestive, immune and overall health benefits. For example:
- Bifidobacterium lactis supports nutrient absorption and healthy bacterial populations. B. lactis converts carbohydrates into lactic acid, vitamin B, and other key nutrients, and encourages an optimal low pH environment for healthy microbiome populations to thrive.
- Bifidobacterium longum promotes a healthy gut environment and supports GI lining integrity; converts carbohydrates into lactic acid and prebiotic oligosaccharides into energy.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus produces vitamin K and other nutrients that support a healthy microbiome. L. acidophilus also promotes metabolic balance, immune function, and other areas.
As a live-fermented, synergistic formula, SynerGI provides multi-targeted support for key areas of digestive health:
- Supports a healthy microbiome
- Relieves occasional diarrhea and constipation
- Supports long-term digestive function and motility
- Promotes nutrient absorption
- Supports GI lining integrity
- Supports Immunity
Clinical Synergy Formulator Dr. Isaac Eliaz has been using this unique synbiotic to provide advanced digestive and immune support for his patients. This revolutionary formula is now available through the Clinical Synergy Professional Formulas line. You can save 10% by ordering SynerGI through my online store.
Don’t sweat over the menu and the logistics of a virtual dinner party! Remember the goal is to have some fun with your friends. My husband and I had a great time last night with 2 of our dearest foodie friends in Canada. That’s the beauty of a virtual dinner – sharing a meal in California and British Columbia at the same time! The border between US and Canada has been closed since March and it’s not likely to open anytime soon, so we were thrilled to find a way to cook and drink “together” again. Virtual dinner parties, like many behaviors (online shopping is a good example) that started out of necessity during the pandemic will likely continue.
The key is to keep it simple! We just used FaceTime so we didn’t get frustrated setting up new technology unfamiliar to us. My husband put a standing pork roast on the grill rotisserie so it didn’t need much attention while cooking – leaving more time to socialize. I wanted to share a seasonal dish that is interesting and vegetarian but also easy to cook at the same time. I found the perfect recipe – Grilled peach Salad with Halloumi – in my Healthydigs Refresh Meal Plan Program. Click the link to find many more delicious recipes like this. If you haven’t grilled peaches and Halloumi cheese before, this is a must! This dish satisfies all five tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami – of the tongue. I prepared all the ingredients ahead of time and then just grilled the peaches and Halloumi cheese for 5 minutes before plating. This was our first virtual dinner party and there will be many more to come, pandemic or not!
What is Microbiome and why is it important to our health? I put these questions to my esteemed colleague, Lori Shore-Mouratoff, MD, at Cornerstone Integrative Medicine Clinic in Oakland, CA. This is what she shared with me:
Our body is host to trillions of bacteria, yeast and viruses that make up our microbiome. These organisms are responsible for helping us utilize and make vitamins, detoxify our bodies and maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining to prevent food sensitivities. Poor food choices, medications, stress, and lack of sleep can create an imbalance in the composition of these organisms causing gastrointestinal symptoms, joint pain, eczema, hormonal imbalance, obesity and brain fog.
Clearly, improving the health of your microbiome is vital to your well-being! Below are 5 lifestyle hacks Dr. Lori Shore-Mouratoff recommended :
1. Eat prebiotics that support favorable organisms
Inulin-type fructans modulate appetite, improve inflammatory bowel diseases, decrease colon cancer risk, increase absorption of minerals and vitamins and affect lipid metabolism by supporting the population and function of bifidobacteria and butyrate .
Foods containing inulin-type fructans for gut health:
Butyrate is an essential metabolite in the human colon, responsible for maintenance of the gut barrier, with immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties.
Foods that support butyrate forming bacteria in your colon:
|Whole Grains: Brown rice, whole gluten free oats, barley, rye, quinoa, buckwheat|
|Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, mung beans, adzuki beans|
|Fruits and Vegetables: Leafy greens, apples, kiwi, berries, bananas, citrus|
2. Increase polyphenols in your food plan
Polyphenols increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and also inhibit growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria.
Polyphenol Rich Foods:
|Black elderberry||Ground flax seeds (Fresh)||Pecans|
|Black currant||Dark Chocolate||Prunes|
|Globe artichoke heads||Black Tea||Peach|
|Coffee||Green Tea||Green Olives|
|Plum||Black Olives||Red Chicory|
3. Eat fermented food everyday
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics and good bacteria . Try to include them in your meals daily!
4. Avoid the items that are harmful to beneficial bacteria
- Trans fat, a.k.a partially hydrogenated oil
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food additives
- Processed food
- Pesticides and chemicals
5. Reduce Stress
- Try Restorative Exercises like Yoga, QiGong and TaiChi.
- Start a meditation practice
- Deep breathing: rub a drop of cedarwood, lavender or chamomile essential oils on your hands then inhale
- Get enough sleep
- Take a walk outside in nature
- Increase your social connections
- Engage in your community
Have you been baking more during the pandemic? Me too! No doubt we are all deriving comfort from our food during this turbulent time. The strong emotional connection to food is well established by researchers so why fight it. Instead of worrying about the excessive consumption of sweet treats, why not take this opportunity to improve your baking skills and the nutritional quality of your baked goods for a lasting impact on your diet.
Using healthy ingredients that naturally enhance the flavor and texture of the baked product is key to a good recipe. I have been baking with low-fat buttermilk for years because it only has 2 grams of fat in a cup. The “butter” in the name buttermilk may lead you to think otherwise. It consists mostly of water, the milk sugar lactose, and the milk protein casein. The creamy consistency of buttermilk gives baked goods the richness without the fat so less butter or oil is required in the recipe. Applesauce is another secret weapon for adding moistness to your bake products to off set the hardiness of the fiber-rich wholewheat flour. I also like to use olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, in my recipe when it doesn’t alter the flavor of the product. These apple muffins are moist and packed with the natural sweetness of apples and cinnamon so enjoy them guilt-free!
High Impact Egg-free Apple Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup applesauce
2 medium Granny Smith apples, finely chopped
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 large muffin-pan cups.
In large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
In small bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, and applesauce together until blended.
Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture just until flour r is moistened.
Fold in chopped apples.
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small dish.
Spoon batter into muffin cups; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake muffins 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean.
Immediately remove from pan; serve warm.
With no end in sight to this pandemic, many of us are looking for staycation ideas. Summer vacation doesn’t have to be far away from home nor does it have to be for long. However, it does have to refresh my mind with a sense of escape from my daily routine and recharge my body with some delicious healthy food. Why not consider a vacation day close to home? If that speaks to you, read on!
Last Sunday, my family and I went out to Bolinas beach, Marin County, for a little surf and sun. It was only a little more than an hour from home but it felt like miles away from the urban center of the San Francisco Bay. The beach was relatively uncrowded so families were able to play together but still keep sufficient distance from others. As I soaked up the sun on the beach, it felt as if the ocean breeze was gently sweeping away my anxiety from being sheltered at home. At the same time, the sound of the crashing waves carried my mind far away to the Hawaiian shores for a little mental escape. It only took a couple hours to forget how the Coronavirus has constricted our daily lives for the last 5 months.
On our way home, we surprisingly discovered a farm stand that had a pre-COVID personality of a farmers market. The quintessential experience of the farmers market – leisurely roaming through the farmer stands, chatting to the vendors, touching and smelling the freshness of the fruits and vegetables, and food sampling – were mostly intact here! From the street, it appeared to be just another roadside produce stand. The sign advertising fresh wild king salmon was the initial hook that pulled us off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Unknowingly, it turned out to be the farmers market outing that I was starving for. Abiding social distancing and face mask rules, we chatted with The Farm Stand owner, Jim, about the source of his local products – an array of organic produce from CSAs in Marin county and Salinas area, fresh seafood from the bay, and grass-fed meat from local farms. As we were talking, crates of fresh local strawberries arrived so Jim threw one to us from a distance for sampling. We were sold!!! The woman who delivered the strawberries stepped up to a table in front of us with a picnic basket to assemble a couple of strawberry shortcakes, made with freshly baked biscuits and crème fraîche. I thought they were for sale but no such luck. They were for Jim and his co-worker as an expression of gratitude for selling her strawberries at the farm stand. With all this wonderful distraction, we had to redirect ourselves back to the the question about their King salmon. Jim excitedly told us that it was line-caught, wild and sushi-grade. We were sold again as soon as he pulled out a piece of fresh King salmon with glistening red flesh – not a sight you see in the supermarket. He then up sold us once again with Hog Island oysters from Tomales Bay by shucking one for me to taste on the spot. By this point, I felt like an endless summer had just descended upon us with bountiful of fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood.
Armed with all these fresh ingredients, it was easy and fun to create a farm-to-table meal in our own home! The highlight was the make-you-own sushi and bowl with salmon sashimi. An interactive meal with conversation about the beach action, the farm stand activities, the fresh local organic food and the art of making sushi rounded out this enjoyable vacation day for us!
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of quarantining alone, having some healthy and delicious food on hand can bump up the reading on your happiness meter. With the recent explosion of grocery delivery services, you shouldn’t have to rely on canned and dried goods. Choosing a good delivery service and having a comprehensive shopping list are key to well-balanced and creative meals.
Today is the last day of my 14-day quarantine imposed on travelers entering Canada. The experience of managing my food during this time brings a great appreciation for the value of a reliable food delivery service that provides high quality food. Up until the start of my quarantine, I have not ordered groceries online because I wasn’t confident that they can deliver freshness, quality, and suitable substitutions if my items were out of stock.
A Canadian friend had referred me to SPUD, a local delivery company in Vancouver. Their service has impressed me in more ways than one. They offer a wild selection of food including plant-based and gluten-free, high quality products such as local, organic and sustainable, and a reliable delivery schedule. This post is not about promoting food delivery services but SPUD may have converted me into a believer of online grocery shopping. I can shop anytime of the day and night – something to do when stuck at home, read food labels for ingredients and nutrition information – can enlarge font size on the screen for readability, see my total cost before the checkout, and discover new products. I may never go back to in-person shopping in the grocery store!
If you are an online shopper for apparel, you know it is really easy to spend too much money and still result in mismatched outfits. Online grocery shopping is the same. You can click away with adding food to your shopping cart and still end up missing ingredients to assemble some well-balanced meals. You can avoid wasting money and food with a planned menu and a well curated shopping list.
I am sharing my 7-day menu and grocery list for the first week of my quarantine. This can serves as a template for weekly menu planning. Plan well, eat well, and stay well!
Organic Love Crunch Granola
Organic Ready-to-Bake whole wheat croissants, 6 heat-and-serve
Organic Corn Tortilla – 6” – 1 doz.
Roasted garlic & asiago sacchettini
Organic black soybean spaghetti (200 g)
Organic Gala apples – 3 lb. bag
Organic Mango – 2
Organic Black berries – 2 x 6 oz. box
mushrooms – 1 lb.
Organic Avocado – 2
Organic Broccoli crown – 1 lb.
Organic Red Local peppers – 1
organic tomatoes – 1 lb.
Unsweetened Almond milk – 1.89L
Organic coconut milk – 1 cam
Pacific cod portion – 2 (4 oz. pieces)
Ocean Wise wild sockeye salmon portion – 1 (4 oz. piece)
Organic medium firm tofu – 350 g
Organic eggs – 1 doz.
Roasted garlic & asiago sacchettini -350 g
Smoked Salmon & Dill quiche – 2
Baba Ganoush eggplant dip
Thai Kitchen Green curry paste
Organic Pasta Pomodoro
Granola with mango slices and almond milk
Oatmeal with chopped apple
Scrambled egg tortilla wraps drizzled with pomodoro sauce
Whole wheat croissant stuffed with scrambled eggs and avocado slices.
Granola with black berries and almond milk
Tofu scrumbled with apple wedges
Oatmeal with black berries
Smoke salmon & dill quiche with apple slices
Homemade tortilla chips with Baba Ganoush. Fruit salad
Whole wheat croissant sandwich filled with sliced hard-boiled eggs, tomato and avocado slices.
Mediterranean Fish taco – panfried sliced cod, topped with chopped tomatoes and Baba Ganoush
Sacchettini and red pepper salad (tossed with your favorite dressing)
Smoke salmon & dill quiche with tomato salad
Black soybean pasta salad with chopped mushrooms, tomatoes and red pepper, tossed in soy and sesame dressing.
Green curry pan-fried cod with mushroom and black soybean spaghetti
Stir-fry tofu and broccoli with steamed brown rice
Roasted garlic & asiago sacchettini with mushroom pomodoro sauce
Thai vegetable curry (curry paste and coconut milk) with brown rice
Mushroom and red bell pepper pomodoro with pasta
Grilled salmon with sauté broccoli and brown rice
Tofu and vegetable fried rice
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today, I am cooking a plant-based meal for dinner. With shelter-in-place, we have more meals together as a family so our food is central to our conversation at mealtime. This presents a great opportunity to talk to our kids about how our food choices impact the environment.
Working with the ingredients I have in my pantry during this COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities to be creative! I know most people are stocked up with dried goods such as pasta, rice and canned beans because these items are as depleted in the grocery stores as toilet paper. Just because we are using these staples day after day, it doesn’t mean our diet has to be boring. Whether you are new to eating meatless or just looking for a fresh vegan recipe, I hope you will enjoy this tasty and nutritious bean dish made with one of my favorite spices from a well-loved spice shop in Oakland, California.
Braised White Beans and Greens with Harissa
1 white or yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon flake salt
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Harissa Paste or 1 tablespoon Harissa Powder
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups cooked white beans (such as cannellini), or 2 cans of white beans
2 cups vegetable stock
4 cups chopped greens, such as mustard greens, baby kale or spinach
Juice of half a lemon
Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion. Sauté until golden brown, about 7 or 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid burning. Add Harissa, salt and garlic; cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant.
Add wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add beans, stock and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook on low, covered, until the beans are becoming soft and creamy, about 20-30 minutes. If you like more of a stew consistency, smash some of the beans with the back of your spoon. Add greens and simmer until tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on the heartiness of the greens you use.
Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread.
I get excited about delicious vegan baked goods for many of the same reasons you do – healthy, environmentally friendly, and ethical. But the biggest personal reason is that my kids are seriously allergic to eggs. Yes, both my kids have the same allergies. The biggest challenge with an egg-free diet is avoiding hidden egg sources. Whether it’s buying a muffin or a bagel at a bakery, I always have to ask if it contains egg. Sometimes the bakery person will answer back “no, there’s no dairy”. Okay, there’s no milk products, but is there egg? It is very disappointing after much questioning about the ingredients and then have to walk away empty-handed. But with the tsunami of vegan bakeries appearing in recent years, it has changed this shopping scenario and boosted my grownup children’s happy meter.
Thinking back about 20 years ago with my first born, finding anything vegan was almost impossible except in a “natural food” store, if you were lucky enough to have one in your neighborhood. Over the years, I had to be quite creative in baking without eggs and finding various egg replacements. The recipe I am sharing with you is vegan, high in fiber and rich in monounsaturated fat. As you know, when you buy vegan baked goods, it doesn’t always mean they are healthy so I still like to do much of my own baking. Hope you enjoy these super moist and nutritious muffins!
Vegan Blueberry Lemon Muffins
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 cup plant-based milk
1 Tbsp vinegar + 1 tsp baking soda (egg replacement)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup natural bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
In bowl, stir lemon juice into plant-based milk; let stand for 1 minute to sour. Stir together 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to make the egg replacement and add to bowl. Stir in oil and molasses.
In a larger bowl, combine bran, whole wheat and unbleached flours, sugar, lemon rind, baking powder and baking soda. Add milk mixture and blueberries; mix just until combined.
Spoon into nonstick or paper-lined muffin tins. Bake in 375F oven for 20-25 minutes or until firm to touch.
Makes 12 muffins.