All Posts tagged whole foods

How to upgrade your brown bag lunch with healthier foods

How to upgrade your brown bag lunch with healthier foods

If you’re packing your lunch, chances are you’re striving to make healthy choices. Good for you! But keep this in mind – not all brown bag lunches are equal. Just because you packed it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Here I offer some tips for creating a healthy lunch rich in WHOLE, FRESH and REAL foods, and free of unwanted ingredients like artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, additives and sugar – all which I categorize as NON-food ingredients. (Check out my blog post “Packing your lunch? Find out what’s really in your brown bag” to learn what foods to avoid).

Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Color: Where there is color, there is nutrition! Lunches full of color are lunches rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, which we could all use more of!
  • Package-free: More times than not, a food in a package has been processed and contains added ingredients. Therefore it’s a modified version of the original food. So…focus on foods that aren’t packaged – i.e., whole, fresh foods – and your diet will automatically be higher in nutrients your body needs. 
  • Minimal Ingredients: When picking out foods that are packaged, aim for options that contain only a few ingredients. The fewer the better because it will help ensure that there’s less stuff – i.e., preservatives, additives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, added sugar.  Also – make sure you can recognize the names of the ingredients. If you can’t pronounce something, it’s likely unnecessary for your diet.

Here are some of my favorite go-to lunch foods:

Fresh fruit: a great source of natural fiber, fresh fruit also contains natural sugars (instead of added sugar!) to   fuel our bodies with energy. Better to get your sugar here because it’s paired with the fiber which will ensure a slower absorption by your body, keeping you from experiencing quick spikes in blood sugar.


hardboiled egg

Slices of Pepper / Original horizontal border with water's drop and real reflection

Fresh vegetables: Fresh vegetables are loaded with nutrients and there are endless options out there to create variety and flavor for your lunch. Try carrots one day and greens the next. Dip grape tomatoes or sliced peppers into homemade hummus or guacamole.





Hardboiled egg: Skip the processed lunch meat and go for this delicious and easy-to-prepare source of protein. Make a batch of eggs at the beginning of the week so they’re on hand to grab and go.



chia seedsChia Pod: Cha-cha-cha-chia!! The Chia Pod is one of my favorite snacks! If you like pudding, you’re going to love this sweet treat! What’s even better – this version of pudding is free of added sugar and is gluten and dairy free! If you’re not familiar with the health benefits of chia seeds, check out this informative article by Dr. Oz – these little seeds are full of Omega 3’s, fiber, protein and more. Want to make chia seed pudding at home? It’s easy! Check out my homemade recipe. 

hardboiled egg

Plantain Chips: Need a little crunch but want to avoid the fried potato chips? Good idea! Look no further, plantain chips are the answer! Trader Joe’s plantain chips are roasted and contain just three ingredients – plantains, oil and sea salt. chips


Looking to incorporate healthy habits like these into your routine? Not sure how to get started? Contact me to schedule an introductory health coaching session and we’ll create your next steps!


Coconut Lentil Curry by Chef Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen

Coconut Lentil Curry by Chef Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen

This month I welcome Chef Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen who shares her recipe for Coconut Lentil Curry. Trust me when I say this recipe is AMAZING (and EASY to make!)

Serves 6


1 cup masoor dhal (red lentils)
½ cup diced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups water
1¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cumin
10 to 15 fresh curry leaves (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups coconut milk
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/8 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
1 dried red chili, torn in half


Place the dhal in a medium size saucepan. Rinse it several times and drain.

Add ¼ cup onions, garlic, water, salt, cayenne, cumin, curry leaves, and turmeric to the saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the dhal softens and expands, about 15 minutes. If foam forms on the surface, skim it off with a spoon.

Reduce heat to low and stir in coconut milk. Cook for 2 minutes.

Place the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, immediately add the remaining ¼ cup onions and dried red chili and stir. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the onions begin to brown.

Swirl the seasoned onions into the dhal.

 Want to learn more from Susan about Indian cuisine? Sign up for her Culinary Tour of Devon Avenue! 

About Chef Susan:

Through cooking classes and culinary tours of Devon Avenue, Chef Susan offers home cooks and food lovers a portal to the authentic flavors of India. Her classes feature hands-on instruction for individuals or groups who want to bring the flavors of India home. Come discover the wonders of cardamom and curry leaves. Leave your passport behind. See for a sample of Susan’s favorite family recipes.  To schedule a cooking class or culinary tour, contact Chef Susan at


Let’s all agree that French fries aren’t vegetables

Let’s all agree that French fries aren’t vegetables

Google Facts _Fast FoodGoogle tweeted the “Google Fact” below this past weekend and it certainly grabbed my attention. As delicious as French fries can taste, never have I associated them  with the category  “vegetable”. This fact left me sad and confused!

Google Fast Food - French Fries

When I think of vegetables, I think of foods that nourish our bodies and exhibit the beautiful colors of nature. You can just tell by looking at them that they are GOOD for you! They also require little to no preparation before eating.

French fries, on the other hand, are a significantly modified version of potatoes that require added oil, a fryer and other unnecessary ingredients, so to classify them as a “vegetable” is BEYOND a stretch. And let’s face it, there is nothing beautiful or colorful about French fries, which is a not-so-subtle hint to us all that there’s nothing healthy about them either!

And yet, according to the USDA, french fries are indeed classified as such in this country, including in our nation’s public schools where they are deemed equivalent to 1/4 cup of vegetable.  You can see for yourself on this USDA Foods Fact Sheet for Schools & Nutrition Institutions.

This all reminded me of a great video featuring Michael Pollan. He talks about the difference between “real food” and what he calls “edible food like substances.”  I highly recommend you check it out for a little healthy-eating inspiration. His message is simple and is a nice reminder that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Enjoy!

Michael Pollan