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This is the one of the best soups I’ve ever made! Plus– it’s good for you. It is high in nutrients and packs major flavor. With a trio of mushrooms, the savory flavor is similar to miso soup (the popular starter at Japanese steakhouses) and I added a little kick with the jalapeno. The orrechietti pasta along with the spaghetti squash gave it a fun look and texture. I’m so glad I made enough for leftovers!

If spaghetti squash is a new ingredient to your kitchen, it is basically a vegetable substitute for noodles, with half the calories and carbs as pasta. Bonus if you have kids and can get them to help– they’ll love peeling back the layers of “spaghetti!” Try my Spaghetti Squash Marinara recipe for a more traditional way to use this versatile vegetable.

Spaghetti Squash Orecchietti Mushroom Soup
Makes 6- 8 servings

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced, seeds discarded
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable bouillon
  • 1 and 1/2 cup orecchietti pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Fresh parsley (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Discard the seeds and rub the insides of the squash with one tablespoon of the olive oil and season with ground pepper. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet or pizza stone and roast for 30 minutes or until squash strands scrape easily with a fork.

2. While the squash is baking, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Toss in the jalapeno, stir, then add the chopped mushrooms.

3. Add the water and vegetable base and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

4. Add the spaghetti squash strands. Ladle the soup over the squash and serve with grated cheese and fresh parsley.

The post Spaghetti Squash Orecchietti Mushroom Soup appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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The holidays are here and that means cold and flu season is here as well. Many of us will have at least one flight or long road trip over the next month or so. Travel combined with high stress, skipping workouts, and being out of a healthy eating routine means you are all the more likely to catch something and end up feeling under the weather. But who has time for a cold this time of year?

Here are a few tips that I use to stay well when I’m traveling:

Alllll the probiotics! I don’t mean just popping a pill either. Try to get those healthy, immune-boosting bugs from real foods. Fermented veggies, sauerkraut (not cooked), anything by Farmhouse CultureWildbrine probiotic shots, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, Kashaya coconut yogurt, and Kite Hill almond milk yogurt are great options. I’ll eat a couple forkfuls of sauerkraut every day when I get home from work and have yogurt or kefir in the mornings for about a week leading up to a trip out of town. If I’m starting to feel at all sick, bring on the Wildbrine shots!

2. Dr. Schnuffie’s Cold & Flu. I’m not one for taking a bunch of vitamins, but I make sure to take one of these for every day that I’m on the road. They haven’t let me down yet! It’s a powerful combo of vitamins + herbs developed by a physician to help boost the immune system.

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! The low humidity environment on a plane can really dry you out and increase your risk of catching a respiratory infection. If you already carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, don’t leave it at home while you’re traveling. Fill up right before your flight– that little 6 ounce cup of water the airline gives you isn’t nearly enough. Too much alcohol can also dehydrate you. If you need a little extra motivation, try downloading the Plant Nanny app. It gives you a goal of how many ounces a day you need then it’s up to you to drink what you need or watch your cute little animated plant wither and die.

4. Don’t sacrifice sleep! This is probably the most important, yet most overlooked aspect of staying healthy. Forgoing sleep suppresses your immune system and lessens your bodies ability to fight off infection. Lack of sleep also increases the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate fullness and satiety. When you get less sleep, your body pushes you to eat more high calorie foods in order to get more energy.

5. Practice self-care to decrease stress. Make sure you are taking care of yourself over the next few months and take a minute to think about what your best stress relieving techniques are. Can’t think of any? That’s your first clue that there is a problem. If your usual stress relief is hitting the gym or a yoga class and you’ve fallen behind on time, try a simple 10 minute meditation (I use the Headspace app), a 5-minute stretch, or 10 deep breaths. It sounds almost trivial, like what can 5-10 minutes a day do? A lot, actually! Don’t knock it until you’ve actually given it a shot. If you think you don’t have time for 5-10 minutes to focus on stress relief, then you probably need 20!

The post 5 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Recipe post by Megan Metropulos, MS, RD

As the weather cools off, there’s nothing better than a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I don’t always have time to make stove-top oats in the morning, so baked oatmeal bars have become my new go-to. If you don’t like the texture of typical oatmeal, baked oatmeal may be the way to go. It’s more like eating a cross between a cereal bar and a muffin.

This recipe is a fall spin on these go-to Berry Simple Breakfast Bars. It’s also the perfect way to use up the canned pumpkin left over from holiday baking. I mixed in raisins this time, but dried cranberries, walnuts, or chocolate chips (or all three!) would also be tasty additions.

After the baked oatmeal cooled, I cut it into squares, wrapped them individually, and stuck them in the freezer. I’m looking forward to having them on hand for easy heat-and-eat breakfasts. This baked oatmeal would also be perfect for Thanksgiving morning breakfast.

Just like when I eat stove-top oats, I still love adding toppings to my baked oatmeal. I add a few extra splashes of milk to the bowl before reheating the oatmeal, and then top it with banana slices, peanut butter, and a drizzle of maple syrup. I hope you love this baked oatmeal as much as I do!

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup maple syrup
1 ¾ cup milk of choice (I used soy milk)
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 small to medium banana, mashed
1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, stir together oats, baking powder, spices, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the pumpkin, syrup, milk, egg, oil, vanilla, and banana. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in raisins then pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the middle is set and the oats are golden brown.

The post Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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If there was ever a time in the year where your health and fitness goals take a backseat, the holidays would be it. Parties, family, shopping, travel, post office runs, planning events, wrapping gifts… all of these extras tend to take precedence over packing your lunch or heading out for a run. It’s easy to say “I just don’t have time” and put your goals on the back burner until January.

In 2017, I’ve had more clients than ever wanting to transition to a more plant-based diet or just eat less meat in general. Some people do it for their health and others for environmental or moral reasons. Whatever your reason, don’t let your goals slip in November and December!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t indulge in some roast turkey on Thanksgiving if that’s what you are looking forward to. This post is not about restriction, it’s about sticking to the goals you’ve committed to. Here are a few simple ways that I stay plant-based when time just isn’t on my side:

Meal Delivery Boxes

Are you sick of the same rice and beans or pasta dishes you’ve been making all year? Bust out of your rut with a meal delivery box. The ingredients show up at your door and all you have to do is follow the instructions to assemble. Both Hellofresh and Green Chef have great plant-based options. You can look ahead at what recipes are available that week and decide if you want to get a box or skip that week. These meal boxes can be a life saver if you have a lot of travel coming up. If you usually do your grocery shopping on Sunday but you were out of town all weekend, there’s nothing better than coming home from work on Monday with a box of healthy food on your front porch ready to be cooked.

The best part is that the boxes say you get 2 servings per recipe (3 recipes per box), but most of the time I get 3-4 servings out of each meal and have plenty for lunch the next day. If you want simple, straightforward recipes with minimal cleanup, go with Hellofresh. If you want to try some fancier recipes with all organic options and are willing to pay a little more, go with Green Chef. I have subscriptions to both and order based on which recipes sound the best that week.

If you are really strapped for time or cooking just isn’t an option, Veestro delivers boxes of plant-based, organic, non-GMO, chef-prepared meals. All you have to do is follow the reheating instructions!

Grocery Delivery

Just realized you’re out of olive oil and you need it for the dish you’re bringing to your work pot luck tomorrow but there’s no way you have time to run to the grocery store? Um, hellloooo grocery delivery! Pick your store, your items, and what time you want them dropped off and voila! Shipt and Instacart are the 2 most popular grocery delivery companies in my area but Amazon recently threw its hat in the ring with PrimeNow 2-hour delivery.

Quick Grab and Go Options

Protein is one of the hardest nutrient goals for me to meet when I’m eating plant-based, especially when it comes to snacks. When my snacks are just carb-based (like fruit by itself or veggies and hummus), I’m hungry again an hour later. If I make sure to have something with protein, I am more likely to feel fueled until my next meal.

Blue Diamond Almonds: Flavors like Salt & Vinegar and Habanero Barbecue cure my savory cravings, while Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate satisfy my sweet tooth. You get healthy fat paired with a little protein and a little carb all in one.

Plant-based protein bars: With a million and a half protein bars on the grocery store shelves, how do you know which ones are good and which are no better than a Snickers? Check out my list of the Best Vegan Protein Bars. My current favorite is the Square Organics bar. They’re so chocolatey it feels like I’m eating dessert.

Overnight Oats: I mix old fashioned oats (uncooked) with yogurt and milk (Elmhurst Walnut Milk is my fave), then add whatever I’m in the mood for: cinnamon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, protein powder, and fresh or frozen fruit in a big casserole dish and leave it in the fridge overnight to soak. Sometimes I’ll  pour more milk over them in the morning. You can also make them in single servings mason jars if you want to pack your breakfast or snack to go.

If you want to follow a recipe, try Cherry Vanilla Overnight Oats or Chocolate-Strawberry Overnight Oats.

If you want to make it even more simple, try Oats Overnight. Just shake and go and they’ve got 32g of protein per serving.

Shake It Up

Don’t even have time to sit down for a meal? Make a shake and sip it as you’re running out the door.

My easy shake formula:

  • 1 cup of your choice of milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh fruit
  • 1 scoop protein powder (Aloha is my favorite plant-based powder)
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • Optional add-ins for bonus nutrition: handful of chia seeds, raw oats, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/8 cup Greek yogurt, cinnamon, handful of spinach or kale.

For an even easier option, Daily Harvest delivers ready to blend smoothies packed with superfoods. They offer overnight oats and soups too.

Pumpkin Pie Power Smoothie

Make a Plan

Every 3-4 days, take a look at your calendar and see what’s on the horizon. Plan in your workouts right then and there. Schedule in time for grocery shopping and packing lunches. In order to be successful, you have to have a short term and a long term plan. This year, don’t just “get through” the holidays and put your goals on the back burner. Stay committed to your goals and go into the new year feeling happy, healthy, and satisfied.

The post 5 Easy Ways to Stick to Your Plant-Based Goals During the Holidays appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Recipe post by Megan Metropulos, MS, RD, LDN

Has fall been officially renamed to pumpkin spice season yet? 

One of the things I miss most about living up north is the cooler temperatures and changing leaves that Fall brings. We only get an occasional taste of fall weather in Florida, but I don’t let that stop me from enjoying allll the pumpkin things!

Granola is one of my breakfast staples. Lately, I’ve been loving Purely Elizabeth granola, but I decided it was time to make my own. My mom and I have made this Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola Recipe that we found in The Oprah Magazine for years. Our family and friends go crazy for it!

I decided to tweak my favorite recipe and love how it turned out! This granola has warm flavors from the pumpkin pie spice blend (I used Penzeys). It’s slightly sweet from the maple syrup and raisins, while toasty walnuts add crunch.  

This granola also has real pumpkin! Make sure you use pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling. Aside from tasting great, pumpkin also provides beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium. Read more about the health benefits of pumpkin here.

I can’t wait to enjoy this granola on top of yogurt, smoothie bowls, oatmeal, ice cream, and just as-is. I’ve also decided that everything tastes better when eaten out of a pumpkin-shaped bowl.

Bring on the beta-carotene glow!

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Adapted from Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola Recipe

½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, stir together pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Add in spices, salt, and oats. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Spread the oat mixture onto a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and then continue baking for another 15 minutes. Add the raisins and walnuts to the oat mixture and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until the walnuts are toasted.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely. Once cool, store the granola in an airtight container.

Looking for more healthy ways to use the extra pumpkin? Try out these recipes:

Pumpkin Spiced Steel Cut Oats
Pumpkin Pie Power Smoothie
Blueberry Pumpkin Oat Muffins

The post Pumpkin Spice Granola appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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The claim

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is marketed as a diet supplement that helps with weight loss, decreasing body fat, and increasing lean body mass (muscle).

What is CLA?

CLA is a type of fat found naturally in milk, meat, eggs, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and mushrooms. Grass-fed animal products have higher CLA content. Non-fat and low fat dairy contain minimal amounts of CLA because it gets removed along with the fat during processing.

The facts

In the 1990s, researchers found that supplementing CLA reduced body fat and increased lean body mass in pigs, mice, rats, and chickens. In the 2000s, researchers aimed to find out whether humans would see the same effect.

In a 2005 study published in Journal of Nutrition, overweight subjects taking 3.4g of CLA per day for 2 years saw a sustained reduction in body fat mass, however the greatest fat loss occured during the first 6 months of supplementation. Subjects starting with higher body fat were more likely to lose fat with CLA supplementation than those starting with lower body fat. The study was funded by a company that sells CLA supplements (as most are, since they would benefit monetarily from studies proving benefits of taking CLA).

While several additional studies have showed similar results, other studies have shown no change in body composition or weight when comparing CLA supplementation to placebo.

There has been conflicting evidence on CLAs effects on cardiovascular risk factors like HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and apo-B. Studies have seen slight increases, decreases, or no changes at all in the various markers. After reviewing the available evidence, it doesn’t seem that CLA moves the needle much either way when it comes to blood lipids, inflammation markers, or fasting blood glucose.

My experience

Honestly, the science just isn’t there to confirm that CLA will help your reduce body fat, increase lean mass, or lose weight. That being said, I tried it, and it did seem to decrease body fat for me. I took one 750mg Optimum Nutrition gel capsule 2-4 times per day (up to 3g/day) with meals. My goal was to take one with each meal but I often forgot at least one per day. I saw a reduction in belly fat over a 4 month period. When I stopped taking CLA, what I had lost seemed to come back fairly quickly (within a month). I did not change my exercise or nutrition routine throughout this period (eating fairly healthy with some treats thrown in, crossfit 3-4 times per week + the occasional run or yoga session).

My fiancé saw my results and wanted to try it, and I wanted another test case. He took it even less religiously but saw similar results.

The Downside

Fat accumulation in the liver was observed in mice and hamsters fed CLA-enriched diets. The response could be species specific, however, in one human study, 2 of 134 subjects increased ALT and AST (markers of liver damage) at the end of the study. The levels returned to normal  4 weeks after CLA supplementation.

In contrast, CLA supplementation actually improved liver function in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, these patients were also on a weight loss diet and a vitamin E supplement.

One of livers main functions is to help metabolize fat. Too much fat can overwhelm the liver, leading me to believe that too much CLA is not a good thing and what “too much” is completely depends on the individual.

So should you take it?

The most important thing to know before you take any supplement is why you are taking it. If you are clear about what your goals are, it will be easier to determine if a supplement will help you get there or if it’s a waste of time and money.

If you start with poor diet and don’t exercise, taking CLA is NOT going to get you the results you want. The difference will be minuscule and not worth the money.

If you’re already eating healthy and have an exercise routine you enjoy that you’ve been doing for a few months, CLA can be an “extra” that may help you get slightly better results. You’re not going to see a huge change and you may not see any change at all.

If you see a change within the first 6 months of supplementing with CLA, you may not see any additional change afterward. The body is an adaption machine. In the 2 year study described above, subjects did maintain their initial loss throughout the 2 years, but didn’t see much more than that. The study did not indicate whether subjects were able to maintain the fat loss after supplementation ended. On one hand, you may get a small edge on decreasing body fat. On the other hand, there may be risks. We simply aren’t sure about the right dosage, how much and how often you should take CLA. It isn’t something you need to take to optimize health (from what we know so far). A healthy, varied diet and a good exercise routine will get you much better results than just popping a pill any day.

Keep in mind, you can also get conjugated linoleic acid from real food!

Want to know more about popular supplements? Check out my previous posts on creatine, protein powder, and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).


Supplementation with Conjugated Linoleic Acid for 24 Months Is Well Tolerated by and Reduces Body Fat Mass in Healthy, Overweight Humans

Conjugated Linoleic Acid Reduces Body Fat Mass in Overweight and Obese Humans

Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y reduces body fat mass in healthy overweight humans

Conjugated linoleic acid improves glycemic response, lipid profile, and oxidative stress in obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomized controlled clinical trial.

Conjugated linoleic acid improves glycemic response, lipid profile, and oxidative stress in obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomized controlled clinical trial

A review on effects of conjugated linoleic fatty acid (CLA) upon body composition and energetic metabolism

The post Does CLA Reduce Body Fat? appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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The most important thing to know before you take a supplement is why you are taking it. If you are clear about what your goals are, it is easier to determine if a supplement will help you get there or if it’s a complete waste of money (spoiler alert: most are).

There are no short cuts in life. You can’t gain muscle by drinking a ton of protein shakes and you can’t lose weight and keep it off by popping a “fat burner” every day. That being said, there are some “extras” you can start to incorporate once you are eating well and in a good exercise regimen that you enjoy. That has to come first. Just throwing supplements at the problem without first addressing the behaviors that need to change won’t get you anywhere.

There are a million supplements out there that are complete junk. Unlike a food or food additive, there is no requirement to prove the safety or effectiveness of a supplement before it is sold. The FDA must prove beyond a doubt that a supplement is dangerous before removing it from market. Essentially, supplements are “innocent before proven guilty.” What this means: I can dig up dirt from my yard and sell it as Moon Rock Metabolism Enhancing Powder. If I get a few people to take before and after photos and Dr. Oz picks it up on his show, I’m a millionaire.

There are a few things out there, however, that are backed by research and actually do what they claim. In a previous post, we discussed BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) and protein powder. Today we’re going to talk about another popular supplement, creatine, what it does and doesn’t do, and which brand(s) to look for if the purpose fits your goals.

What does it do?

A popular myth in athletics is that creatine builds muscle. What creatine actually does is give you that little extra push during a workout by helping you do those last 2 reps that you couldn’t get before, which in turn increases strength and helps to build muscle.

Creatine is naturally produced in the body and stored in your muscles to help produce ATP, your bodies source of fuel. Behind caffeine and protein, it is one of the most popular, effective, and researched sports supplements.

Who should take it?

Creatine is most beneficial for high intensity workouts that include quick bursts of massive output followed by short rests. If you do a few 30 minute walks a week (and you’re not a vegan or vegetarian) you probably don’t need creatine.

Vegans and vegetarians have been shown in multiple studies to have low or depleted creatine stores compared to carnivores. That is likely because meat and fish contain creatine, so carnivores are getting more creatine from their food on a daily basis. Vegetarians supplementing with creatine were able to replete their stores, increase lean muscle tissue, and improve performance.

Creatine is also beneficial for people in a strength training program focused on building muscle mass.

One study showed that creatine decreased various markers of cell damage and inflammation after athletes completed a 30 kilometer run, which may mean that creatine not only helps with increasing strength but recovery as well. Supporting evidence on creatines ability to decrease muscle soreness is limited.

If you are an active vegan or vegetarian, a crossfitter, regularly do HIIT (high intensity interval training) or strength training with the goal to increase muscle, keep reading on how to start incorporating creatine to get the most out of the supplement.

How much should you take?

You have two options. You could take 20 grams per day (broken up into 4 doses of 5 grams evenly spaced) for one week to re-establish your creatine stores if you think you might be depleted, then continue taking 3-5 grams daily thereafter. Loading with 20 grams per day in the first week saturates your body with the max amount of creatine stores but can also cause temporary water retention. If that messes with your head, you can take 5 grams daily for 28 days. Without a loading phase, it will take longer to maximize your stores but you will eventually get there with 5 grams per day. You can then maintain those stores by continuing to take creatine daily at 2-5 grams per day.

Larger athletes may need up to 10 grams per day to maintain optimal capacity.

The Downside

Some people are creatine non-responders, meaning you may not see a difference. Many people experience temporary water retention during loading phase. Skipping the loading phase can lower the water retention. Larger doses can also cause stomach cramps.

Studies on long-term safety show report no adverse effects when taken in recommended doses.

What should you look for in a creatine supplement?

There are several different types of creatine and more on the market every year. Creatine monohydrate is the most studied form of creatine and backed by years of evidence of safety and efficacy. Some people recommend newer forms of creatine like creatine esters, but the studies are mixed. I’m sticking with monohydrate for now.

Look for a creatine without any weird additives. You don’t need artificial sweeteners like sucralose or artificial colors in your creatine. It should be a white powder that comes in 5 grams per dose serving sizes. Stir the 5 grams with water and drink immediately.

My picks:

Muscle Tech– Super cheap (runs about $11 for 80 servings). After your loading phase, take 5 grams with water before a workout.

Prime Build Best BCAA– Combines 3g of creatine with BCAAs. If you want to take both before a workout, this is an easy way to combine them.


Creatine helps to increase your exercise output by providing your muscles with energy. Increased output = increased strength = muscle growth.

Creatine does not help with weight loss. Increasing muscle mass will change the shape and tone of your body, but can also increase your weight. Don’t expect the scale to go down from taking creatine.

Taking creatine without training hard will not do anything. You have to put in the work to get the results.


Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Sports Dietitians Australia
Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update
Today’s Dietitian: Ergogenic Aids


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Recipe post by Megan Metropulos, MS, RD, LDN

Ever feel like you’re stuck in a brown rice rut? Yep, my hand is raised. You want to make sure you’re getting a slow digesting, complex carb at lunch to hold you over throughout the day but what else is out there? Face it– you’re probably getting sick of quinoa too. How about barley, whole grain couscous, farro, or teff? Have you tried black rice or red rice? Boring brown rice isn’t your only option.

These Greek Barley Bowls combine some of my favorite Mediterranean flavors with chewy, nutty barley. Don’t let the ingredients list scare you, because many of them are pantry staples. In fact, the only ‘new-to-my-pantry’ ingredients were barley and tahini. Not familiar with either? Let me give you a quick rundown:


Barley is the king of fiber among whole-grains. Unlike most other grains, barley has fiber in all of its layers, not just the outermost bran.  It’s beneficial for blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Bonus: it also helps promote satiety!

Pearled barley is common, but most of its beneficial bran layer has been removed. Look for hulled or hull-less barley to make sure you’re getting the whole grain. Many regular grocery stores carry this variety, but it may be in the health food aisle instead of next to other grains.

Hull-less barley takes longer to cook, but the rest of the components come together quickly. They can be prepped while the barley simmers away. If you want to make a big batch of barley, the leftovers can be added to soups or swapped out for your morning oatmeal (try reheating the barley with a splash of milk and topping with fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of honey!).

You can read more about the health benefits of barley here and here.

As a side-note: If you’re working on increasing the amount of fiber you eat, do so gradually and make sure you’re also drinking enough fluid.


Every time I eat tahini sauce, I wonder why I don’t have it more often. What’s not to love about a creamy sauce packed with healthy fat?! Tahini also provides thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and calcium.

Tahini is simply ground sesame seeds. You’ve had it before even if you don’t know it… it’s one of the main ingredients in hummus! Here, we mix it with olive oil, lemon juice, spices, and water to make a magical sauce that you’ll want to drizzle on everything. It also makes a great veggie dip. You easily can find it at Trader Joes or in the “international” aisle in most grocery stores.

You can read more about the health benefits of tahini here.

Now that we’ve gone over the base (barley) and finishing touch (tahini sauce) of these bowls, let’s talk about what else they’ve got!

Roasting chickpeas makes them deliciously crunchy, and a sprinkle of spices while they’re hot makes it hard to resist eating them all straight off the pan.

When my last name changed to Metropulos, I quickly learned there’s no such thing as too much feta. Or Kalamata olives, for that matter. These bowls are topped with both, along with cool and refreshing chopped veggies. However, if you’re vegan or dairy-free, the feta can be left off and the bowls will still be delicious (thank you very much, tahini sauce).

You’ll be glad you gave this ancient grain a try! Want more ideas for bowls you can prep ahead of time and pack for lunch?

Bow Thai Pasta Salad
Spinach-Pesto Salad with Farro
Quinoa Buddha Bowl
Two Grain Southwest Salad
Mason Jar Lentil Salad

Greek Barley Bowls
Makes 3 bowls

1 ½ cups cooked barley (I used Bob’s Red Mill Hull-less Barley)
Spiced chickpeas (recipe below)
¾ cup diced tomato
¾ cup diced cucumber
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons diced red onion
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
Lemon tahini sauce (recipe below)

Spiced chickpeas
1 (16 ounce) can reduced sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Greek spice (recipe below)

Lemon tahini sauce
1/3 cup tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon Greek spice (recipe below)
3 tablespoons warm water

Greek spice
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried dill

To make the barley:
Prepare barley according to package instructions. If using Bob’s Red Mill Hull-less Barley, combine ½ cup uncooked barley and 1 ¾ cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To make the Greek spice:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

To make the spiced chickpeas:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry the chickpeas very well after they have been drained and rinsed. Spread chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Toss warm chickpeas with ½ tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon Greek spice.

To make the lemon tahini sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Add additional warm water as needed to thin sauce to desired consistency.

To assemble the bowls:
Place ½ cup cooked barley in the bottom of each bowl. Evenly distribute chickpeas among bowls, about 1/3 cup each. Top each bowl with ¼ cup tomato, ¼ cup cucumber, 2 tablespoons red onion, 2 tablespoons feta cheese, and 1 tablespoon olives. Drizzle each bowl with 1-2 tablespoons tahini sauce.


The post Greek Barley Bowl appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Registered dietitian Megan Metropulos breaks down what intuitive eating is and how she uses it with her clients to help them break free from yo-yo dieting.

Have you heard about Intuitive Eating? If you’re tired of feeling stuck in an endless cycle of dieting and bingeing, intuitive eating might be for you. I utilize the principles of intuitive eating when working with many of my clients, and I’m working towards becoming a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.

The Intuitive Eating approach was developed by a pair of dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s supported by research and based on the following ten principles:

1. Reject the diet mentality
2. Honor hunger
3. Make peace with food
4. Challenge the food police
5. Feel your fullness
6. Discover the satisfaction factor
7. Cope with emotions without using food
8. Respect your body
9. Feel the difference with intuitive exercise
10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

In a series of blog posts, I’ll go through and expand a little more on the principles. For today, I’ll give you a brief overview of intuitive eating, and then we’ll focus on rejecting the diet mentality and honoring your hunger.

A little overview…

We’re all born intuitive eaters. Think about babies and toddlers. They cry when they’re hungry, and stop eating once they’re satisfied. Some days they might be hungrier than others, and they don’t always get hungry at the same times every day.

As we get older, many of us move away from eating intuitively. Emotions, outside influences (friends, family, the media, etc.), and busy lifestyles start to affect our eating habits. That’s not to say there’s anything inherently bad about eating for emotional reasons. In fact, food is highly tied to many emotional experiences (think holidays, celebrating milestones, etc.). It becomes problematic when we use food to cope with (or avoid) uncomfortable emotions. We all do it at times, and coming to terms with that (i.e. losing the guilt associated with it) is actually part of intuitive eating. Becoming an intuitive eater will help you identify what is triggering the desire to eat when you’re not hungry (or keep eating once you’re full), and determine what it is you really need.

For me, a big take away from intuitive eating is that we need to be kind to our bodies, and learn what it means to nourish our whole selves. There are no good vs bad foods. We shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for what or how much we eat. We should be curious about what influences our food choices, and what we are truly hungry for.

It can be tough not to turn intuitive eating into another diet. One of the hardest parts is that you have to put weight loss goals on the back burner. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes weight loss happens as a result of intuitive eating, but it may not. What you will work towards is a healthier relationship with your body, which often turns into taking better care of yourself (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Think about all the times dieting has interfered with your life. Has it really gotten you to where you want to be?

Some studies have shown that in the long run, many people who diet end up gaining more weight than they lost. Other studies have taught us that yo-yo dieting can be particularly harmful to physical and emotional health.

Another difficult concept is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. That can be very scary for many people, especially those who have a history of restricted eating or binge eating.

Intuitive eating also takes patience. Becoming an intuitive eater won’t happen overnight, and you will constantly be learning from experiences along the way. If you have an occasion where you eat to the point of feeling stuffed, intuitive eating teaches you to be curious about why. Instead of feeling guilty, you learn from the experience and move on.

Rejecting the diet mentality and honoring your hunger:

What is diet mentality? It’s that little voice inside your head that says “you don’t deserve this cupcake because you didn’t work out today” or “choose the salad because your sister’s wedding is in two weeks.”

Honoring your hunger means trusting your body to let you know when it needs fuel. Hunger is not the enemy. It’s actually awesome, because it means your metabolism is working the way it should!

Have you ever had a day where you ate a balanced breakfast at 8AM, but by 10AM found yourself STARVING! Your first thought may have been “there’s no way I can be hungry, I just ate two hours ago.” That’s the diet mentality creeping in, telling you that you can only eat “X” amount of “X” foods at “X” time of day.

You may think it’s a matter of willpower, so you don’t let yourself have a snack. Maybe you grab a diet soda or chew some gum. Then you find yourself preoccupied with food for the next two hours, until it’s an appropriate time for lunch. By the time you eat lunch, you’re starving. You may feel cranky or even a little lightheaded. You scarf down your lunch in record time and still feel hungry, so you grab a stale donut from the break room.

Now let’s reframe those thoughts from an intuitive eating perspective: “I ate two hours ago, but my body is letting me know it needs more food. I’m going to honor my hunger with a satisfying snack.” Instead of judging yourself for being hungry, you have the snack and then notice what happens. Maybe you can focus better and are more productive for the next few hours at work. Maybe you’re less hungry at your next meal and leave a few bites. Maybe your next meal is later than usual, or you don’t get hungry for an afternoon snack. Or maybe you’re just as hungry, and that’s okay too!

I don’t know about you, but the second scenario sounds much more pleasant to me. I’ve gone the route of the first scenario plenty of times, and it’s not fun. It can be scary to trust your body, but it is so freeing to do so.

It might be hard to hear your body’s hunger signals during times when you’re super-stressed or life is extra chaotic. It also might be difficult if you’ve been dieting or restricting your intake for some time.

Those are instances where self-care comes into play, specifically nourishment as a form of self-care. Our bodies need food every few hours, and a general recommendation is not to go more than five hours without eating. Nourishing your body on a regular basis is the first step towards rebuilding trust with your hunger cues. Remember that just as it will take time for you to trust your body, it will also take time for your body to trust you.

Also, not everyone feels hunger in their stomach. You might notice that your mood changes, or you start having trouble focusing. It’s important to learn YOUR body’s subtle hunger signals, and respond in a timely manner.

That’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll be back with more posts about the other principles of intuitive eating. Interested in learning more? I highly recommend this book!

The post What is Intuitive Eating? appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Post by Megan Metropulos, MS, RD, LDN

Have you noticed the growing number of whole milk yogurts on grocery store shelves? For many years, the only thing available was fat-free or low fat yogurts. Now we’re adding fat back in? Doesn’t that just mean you’re eating more calories? If you’re wondering whether or not you should make the switch, keep reading. I’ll go over the newest nutrition research and give you my take on the whole milk dairy debate.

Like many of my fellow nutrition nerds, I love browsing the grocery store for new products. A while ago, I started seeing quite a few new whole milk yogurts. Some were new-to-me brands like Noosa, and others were whole milk varieties from some of my go-to favorite brands like Siggi’s and Stonyfield.

Last year I was still the girl with a cart full of fat-free yogurts. I’d glance at the whole milk yogurts, then shudder when I saw how much saturated fat was in them. Back then, I might throw a two-percent fat yogurt in the cart if I was feeling a little adventurous. It was pretty sad.

Once I read some of the newer nutrition research, I decided to give whole milk yogurt a try. I couldn’t believe the differences in flavor and texture! These days, my cart is filled with whole milk yogurt (and cottage cheese!). Let me explain why I made the switch to team “full-fat,” and why I won’t be going back to my old ways anytime soon.

When I studied nutrition in school, we were taught to encourage most of our patients to choose fat-free dairy products. Those products are lower in calories and saturated fat, which we believed would help them lose weight and lower their cholesterol levels.   

Well, we’ve learned that not all calories are created equal. Nutritional science is awesome because it’s always evolving, but this can be so frustrating for many people. One-day in the news, a certain food will kill you and the next year it’s a cure-all! Just always keep in mind that there’s NO one food that’s a cure-all and that what works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone.

For many years, we’ve heard that saturated fat raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and that high LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Interestingly, one study in older adults found that those with higher LDL cholesterol actually had a lower risk of death.

We’ve now learned there are different types of LDL cholesterol. The small, hard particles (think beads) are the harmful ones, while the bigger, fluffier ones (think cotton balls) may be neutral or even beneficial. As far as LDL cholesterol is concerned, milk fat might only increase the number of bigger LDL particles. Additionally, milk fat also raises HDL or “good” cholesterol.

Studies on saturated fat intake and heart disease have had mixed results. Multiple reviews (here, here, and here) haven’t found an association between saturated fat intake and heart disease.

We know that trans fats are BAD, but many people may not realize that there are different types of trans fats. Some are products of food processing (think partially hydrogenated oils), but others occur naturally in certain foods (like dairy). This review found that processed trans fats were associated with heart disease and death from heart disease, but naturally occurring trans fats were not.  

Now that we’ve gotten most of the science-y stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the TASTE.

Sometimes I think I ate my plain, fat-free Greek yogurts just because of their health halo. The truth is, I sometimes struggled through them because they tasted so sour! I hated this, because I wanted the protein, calcium, and probiotics they provide.  

As for the flavored fat-free varieties, many have extra sugar or artificial sweeteners added to try to compensate for the lost fat. Research has shown us that replacing saturated fat with refined carbs (like sugar and white bread) is not beneficial for health

To me, whole milk yogurts taste richer and make breakfast feel more special.

I like to use the principles of Intuitive Eating with my clients. One of the principles is to discover the satisfaction factor. What nutrient is the most satisfying? Fat! Fat gives your brain the signal that you’re full and keeps you feeling full longer.

Now, if you’re still concerned about the extra calories, one review of observational studies found that eating high-fat dairy foods doesn’t increase risk for obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. In fact, in more than half of the studies researchers looked at, people who consumed high-fat dairy products actually had a lower risk of obesity.

On the flipside, there’s still plenty of research (here and  here) that supports decreasing the amount of saturated fat we eat in order to lower heart disease risk. This study showed that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) lowers heart disease risk.

So, how am I applying this newer knowledge in my own life and in my work with clients? I usually eat yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast a few mornings per week. These days, I reach for the whole milk variety. I enjoy a splash of real half-and-half in my coffee. If we go out for ice cream, I don’t feel guilty ordering the real stuff instead of fro-yo.

I encourage my clients to choose foods that are satisfying. Many times, people are surprised that they feel more satisfied with a smaller portion of the “real” thing than any amount of a “diet” or “fat-free” version.

Do I think saturated fat is a nutrition all-star? No, but I’m also not sure it’s the villain we’ve made it out to be. For many people, feeling guilty or unsatisfied when they eat are bigger issues than what they’re actually eating.

For now, I’ll continue to enjoy whole milk dairy products in moderation. But like Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”


Briggs, M. A., Petersen, K. S., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2017, june 21). Saturated fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: Replacements for saturated fat to reduce cardiovascular risk. Healthcare, 5(2). Retrieved from http://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/5/2/29/htm

Chowdhury, R., Warnakula, S., Kunutsor, S., Crowe, F., Ward, H. A., Johnson, L., . . . Di Angelantonio, E. (2014). Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis [Abstract]. Annals of Internal Medicine, 160(6), 398-406. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0063835/

De Souza, R. J., Mente, A., Maroleanu, A., Cozma, A. I., Ha, V., Kishibe, T., . . . Anand, S. S. (2015, August 12). Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: Systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h3978.long

German, J. B., Gibson, R. A., Krauss, R. M., Nestel, P., Lamarche, B., van Staveren, W. A., … Destaillats, F. (2009). A reappraisal of the impact of dairy foods and milk fat on cardiovascular disease risk. European Journal of Nutrition, 48(4), 191–203. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695872/#CR93

Giles-Smith, K. (n.d.). Milk fat does a body good. Retrieved from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/news/exclusive0912.shtml

Hooper, L., Martin, N., Abdelhamid, A., & Smith, G. D. (2015). Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (6). Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD011737/full

Jakobsen, M. U., Dethlefsen, C., Joensen, A. M., Stegger, J., Tjonneland, A., Schmidt, E. B., & Overvad, K. (2010, April 7). Intake of carbohydrates compared with intake of saturated fatty acids and risk of myocardial infarction: importance of the glycemic index. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(6), 1764-1768. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/6/1764.full

Jakobsen, M. U., Oreilly, E. J., Heitmann, B. L., Pereira, M. A., Balter, K., Fraser, G. E., . . . Ascherio, A. (2009, February 11). Major types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: A pooled analysis of 11 cohort studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5), 1425-1432. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1425.full#aff-1

Kratz, M., Baars, T., & Guyenet, S. (2012, July 19). The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease [Abstract]. European Journal of Nutrition, 52(1), 1-24. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-012-0418-1

Ravnskov, U., Diamond, D. M., Hama, R., Hamazaki, T., Hammarskjöld, B., Hynes, N., . . . Sundberg, R. (2016, June 12). Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: A systematic review. BMJ Open, 6(6). Retrieved from http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401

Siri-Tarino, P. W., Sun, Q., Hu, F. B., & Krauss, R. M. (2010, March). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(3), 535-546. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/535.long

The post Is Whole Milk Healthier than Fat Free? appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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