Why Respect and Collaboration are Essential to Nutrition

Respect and collaboration are essential to Nutrition for Real Humans because solutions I create for clients (meal plans, recipe collections, etc.) need to be realistic for THEM.

I bring my knowledge and experience about nutrition and practical food selection and preparation, but my client knows best what is important to them, what their limitations are, what they care about, what they’re willing to do.

If I don’t respectfully listen to what my client needs and wants or take their ideas into consideration (the collaboration part), likely the solution won’t fit them. It won’t solve their problem, or it won’t be realistic for them, or they won’t like the food I chose because I didn’t listen to their preferences so they won’t eat it.

That’s what sets Nutrition for Real Humans apart from a meal kit service or other meal plan service – your meal plan or recipes are not just tailored to your needs, they are tailored for what you want them to do for you!

If you want to reduce your environmental impact and reduce packaging while increasing your protein intake – we can do that!

If you hate garlic, it will be hard for me because I use garlic in everything, but we can avoid it! If you want to reduce your prep time and effort because you are super busy and just need something that will feed your surprisingly picky family – we can do that too!

Watch below if you’d rather listen than read 🙂

Why Realism is Important in Nutrition

Because we live in the real world, not an ideal world.

Bad things happen. Unexpected things happen. We have limitations in our time, motivation, energy, physical strength, knowledge.

Any solutions/goals/steps we plan need to take those very real limitations and roadblocks into account.

If a goal is ideal and perfect but we can’t do it, it won’t help us.

If you want to watch me talk about it, you can watch it here:

I talk about why realism is important in nutrition and how I’m applying realism to running my business.

New year, new you? Try one small habit, not two

Click here if you want to watch/listen instead of reading

My New Year’s Resolution is to start writing titles that sound like Dr. Seuss books.

Haha not really.

I know there will be approximately 70,000 blog posts or articles about making New Year’s resolutions and why you should or shouldn’t, etc. I’m not here to convince you about whether you should make a resolution or not.

What I do know is that the beginning of a new year causes lots of people to think about goals and aspirations. And a lot of those goals will be related to nutrition, so I’m here to tell you what I know about nutrition goals.

Nutrition goals are hard.

Changing anything is hard. If you’re trying to start doing something that you’re not used to doing, it’s going to be hard. If you’re trying to stop doing something you’re used to doing, it’s going to be hard. It’s just the nature of making changes.

There are surely psychological and behavioral studies that will explain the how and why it’s hard, but look – you probably know that from experience. I know it from my own experience and from the experience of working with probably thousands of people trying to make nutrition changes.

So here’s two things I want you to remember:

Start small

Choose 1 or 2 small things that you are confident you can do. And by confident I mean, you are like 95% sure that you will do it. (I know I said not 2 in the title, but it just rhymed, just don’t choose too many) Something that even seems a little bit too easy is fine, especially if you are just starting this change.

If you have a big goal like “eat healthier” or “lower my cholesterol” or “cook at home more” or “run a 5k” – that’s good! You set those big goals as your end game and use them to decide what your small goals are.

Choose small goals that will move you toward your big goal.

For example:

  • Eat healthier -> eat a fruit with breakfast every day
  • Lower my cholesterol -> find a whole grain bread you like to eat instead of white bread
  • Cook at home more -> Find two recipes that you can make easily and wouldn’t mind eating once a week (or talk to someone about planning meals for you so you don’t even have to think about it)
  • Run a 5k -> Commit to walking 10 minutes 3 days per week

Making these small goals gives you a hit of accomplishment along the way, before you make it to that long term goal. Kind of like a save point in a video game. This gives you more confidence and motivation to make new goals (a cycle of accomplishment) instead of making large unrealistic goals and feeling bad when you don’t reach them (a cycle of defeat)

There are lots more people who have written more about starting small/achievable goals; I really like how the Lazy Genius explains it here

Give yourself credit

Remember what I said just a few paragraphs ago? Making changes is hard. So give yourself credit when you’ve made a change, even if it’s a small one!

Did you hear that?

Give yourself credit for making even a small change!

If you eat a fruit with breakfast most days when you didn’t before, or you now cook two meals at home per week instead of one – good for you! You made a change! You are progressing in the direction you want to go.

If you’ve made progress – you eat more veggies, you drink less soda, you walk more often than you used to – give yourself a sticker*, or a pat on the back, or a little dance in your kitchen, whatever helps you celebrate

*The stickers thing is working for me right now. It gives me a small bit of childlike delight when I can mark that I exercised or completed a blog post with a pretty sticker hehehe

Then take that celebration energy and decide the next change you want to make!


Sometimes knowing what small steps to start with can be difficult – this is where a professional can be helpful. A good dietitian (or other professional if your goal isn’t nutrition related), can help you figure out the first steps to take to reach your big goal.

If your goals are related to meal planning, prep, or cooking, I can help with that! I’d be happy to help you get those wins – click here if that sparks your interest

If you are looking for nutrition help and advice in general (not related to meal planning, etc.), you can find a dietitian near you here

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Festive and easy fruit for Christmas breakfast:

Chunky applesauce.

jump to recipe

My grandma always made this type of applesauce for Christmas breakfast. We’d have it alongside buttery biscuits, cranberry orange bread, eggs, and bacon for everyone else (not a fan, personally). It’s so chunky, cinnamonny, and sweet, it’s basically apple pie filling.

She would always make a big pot, so there would be leftovers for future breakfasts and lunches too.

Hey, if you like to do a ham or roast for Christmas dinner, this would be a great side for that too. I had it with some roast beef for lunch today!

This recipe is made even easier because you don’t even peel the apples. My grandpa maintains that this is the only real kind of applesauce, any other kind is “babyfood”.

Certainly if you want to peel your apples you can, but leaving them on is less work and nearly twice the fiber!


Here’s the rough recipe for chunky apple sauce:

(credit to this recipe for sugar ratio suggestions)

  • Wash the apples
  • Core and chop into bite-size-ish pieces and put them in a big pot
  • Add sugar, (1 – 1.5 Tbsp per apple) and cinnamon (1/2 tsp per apple) and stir until all the apples are cooked
  • Cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring every 10 minutes until the apples are the tenderness you like (about 30-40 minutes)
  • Serve warm or let cool and store in the fridge for later. It’s good reheated or cold!

Enjoy!

You can certainly modify this to use different sweeteners, spices or quantities. If you do, feel free to share how it turned out in the comments!

Good nutrition news: canned pumpkin (and pumpkin pie)

photo of pumpkins
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today we’re talking canned pumpkin puree (and then pumpkin pie).

The type of pumpkin that is usually used to make pumpkin pie and other pumpkin goodies. (Note that this is about plain canned pumpkin, not canned pie filling. There’s nothing wrong with canned pie filling, it’s just not the same nutritionally as it already has sugars and spices mixed in)

First of all, pumpkin is a vegetable.

No one would argue about butternut squash being a vegetable, right? Pumpkin is very close nutritionally to butternut squash. It goes in the red-orange vegetable group with carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. You can totally count pumpkin as part of your vegetable intake for the day. Now, the general amount of vegetables that the USDA recommends eating per day is 2 1/2 cups, so unless you’re sitting down to eat a big can of pumpkin, it won’t take care of all of your veggie intake, but it can certainly be part of it.

myplate diagram

Pumpkin provides some impressive nutrition

The way canned pumpkin is processed means that some of the water has been taken out (via cooking) so its nutrients are concentrated!

1/2 cup of cooked pumpkin has:

  • 3.5g of fiber (10% of the recommended daily amount for men and nearly 15% of the daily recommendation for women) – helps manage cholesterol and blood sugar, feeds good bacteria in our intestines, promotes regular bowel movements, helps us feel full
  • nearly 10% of the daily recommended amount of iron – vital for oxygenation of the blood
  • 25% of the recommended amount of vitamin K – important for blood clotting
  • over 350% recommended daily amount of vitamin A (no, that is not a typo, it is super high in vitamin A) – acts as an antioxidant, important for skin and immune health, important for healthy vision

Nutrition data from: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2918/2

Canned pumpkin in context: pumpkin pie

Most of us probably will not just sit down and eat 1/2 cup of plain canned pumpkin by itself. So how much of that good nutrition will you get in a slice of pumpkin pie? Well, of course it depends on the the recipe and the size of the slice.

Let’s take Libby’s recipe for example (that’s the recipe on the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can). And we’ll say that we cut the pie into 8 slices because that’s easy math. In each slice, there will be about 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin (half the amount we calculated before), so it will have:

  • 1.8g fiber (about 5% of the recommended daily amount for men and 7% for women)
  • Nearly 5% of the daily recommended amount of iron
  • Over 10% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K
  • and 190% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A

Some of those amounts might seem small, but realistically, this is the way most people get nutrients from food. Small amounts from different foods that add up during the day. For comparison’s sake, one serving of Benefiber Original has 3 g of fiber, which is about 8% of the recommended daily value for men and 12% of the recommended daily value for women.

And it certainly has more vitamin A, iron, and fiber than many other desserts, like angel food cake or brownies.

Now of course, we must acknowledge that eating a slice of pumpkin pie (with ice cream or whipped cream perhaps too) also comes with more sugar, salt, and fats than just plain pumpkin, so if these are nutrients that you need to limit for a health condition, take those into account.

(and regardless, probably don’t make pumpkin pie the only way you eat vegetables)

However, a pumpkin pie having fats, sugar, and salt, doesn’t mean that you won’t get benefit from the fiber, iron, vitamin K, or massive amounts of vitamin A. You may also get extra calcium if the pie is made with evaporated milk, and extra fiber and/or B-vitamins if the crust is made with whole wheat flour

The bottom line: If you like pumpkin pie, enjoy it! (And know you’re getting a decent amount of fiber, iron, vitamin K, and a super amount of vitamin A!)

Want to try some savory pumpkin recipes?

Here’s some suggestions:

Pumpkin Soup from two peas & their pod

Creamy Pumpkin Marinara from Cookie + Kate

Healthy Pumpkin Chili from All the healthy things

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Also links go to third-party sites, I’m not responsible for those sites or the ads they display, so go at your own risk.

10 healthy salads that require absolutely no cooking skills

These are meals that literally require throwing ingredients together. No quick sauteeing, no slicing, no chopping, no measuring. This is for you if you want to make a meal but don’t have access to a kitchen. This is for you if you don’t know how to cook but want to eat more at home. This is for you if you don’t want to cook because you’re too exhausted or busy or just have other things you’d rather do. This is for you if you’re struggling with your mental health and you just need some fuel for your body on days when you have no motivation to do anything.

lettuce, black beans, salsa, scoop of queso fresco in a white dish

Most of these salads are a balanced meal in themselves. They have veggies, protein, and some sort of carbohydrate. Most of them are lower on the carb side (especially carbs from grains), so if you like bread, a whole grain bread makes a good compliment to the meal. I personally feel like a salad meal isn’t complete without bread. 🙂

Anyway, on to the salads

Taco Salad

pre-washed lettuce/greens OR sliced cabbage/coleslaw mix + can of beans + (optional can of corn) + shredded cheese + salsa + (optional guacamole and/or sour cream) + chips

Cheese Apple Walnut Salad

pre-washed lettuce/greens + apple slices + walnuts + shredded or crumbled cheese+ vinaigrette dressing + optional pre-cooked chicken OR deli turkey OR deli ham

No-Chop Cobb Salad

pre-washed lettuce + pre-cooked chicken OR sliced deli chicken + bacon bits + blue cheese + cherry tomatoes + pre-cooked hardboiled eggs (crumbled by hand or squished with a fork) + scoop guacamole + vinaigrette + optional dried chives sprinkle

Easy Caprese

Cherry or grape tomatoes + sliced mozzarella or mozzarella balls + olive oil + fresh basil or dried basil + optional extra pre-washed greens

Salad Bread

Washed leaves of Romaine/Green leaf/Red leaf/Butter/Iceberg lettuce spread with hummus/tuna salad/chicken salad/egg salad/peanut butter (sounds weird but actually not bad) or use them to roll up deli meat and/or cheese with whatever condiments you like

Chicken Caesar Salad

pre-washed lettuce/greens + pre-cooked chicken OR sliced deli chicken + Caesar dressing + croutons + (optional cherry tomatoes)

Salmon Caesar Salad

pre-washed lettuce/greens + canned salmon + Caesar dressing + croutons + (optional cherry tomatoes)

“Chinese” chicken salad

sliced cabbage or coleslaw mix + pre-cooked chicken + sliced almonds + canned mandarin oranges + Asian dressing or soy sauce and honey + (optional crunchy chow mein noodles)

Pear Spinach Salad

Canned sliced or cubed pears (drained) + pre-washed spinach + pre-cooked chicken + pecans, walnuts, or sliced almonds + dressing of your choice (blue cheese and pears is a winning combination I think)

Bean Salad

You can actually buy cans of this already made, or make your own: canned kidney beans + canned garbanzo beans + canned green beans (or add whatever beans you like) + vinaigrette dressing. Eat with whole grain bread for the most complete protein

I have done my best to make sure that these recipes require as little preparation as possible. The most that will need to be done is opening a few cans, maybe tearing some lunch meat, spreading some stuff on other stuff, and mixing stuff together. The items mentioned as pre-cooked can be something you have pre-cooked yourself, but I have tried to choose things that you will be able to buy at a typical grocery store pre-cooked to truly minimize the work and need for a kitchen. I do realize not everyone has access to a grocery store or a grocery store with a wide selection of fresh ingredients. I’ve tried to include salads with a variety of ingredients, many of which are shelf-stable or last a long time.

Do you have any go-to recipes (salad or not) that don’t require any cooking? Feel free to share in the comments

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Good nutrition news: apple crisp

Who loves apple crisp? The cinnamony-syrup covered apples, topped with bites of buttery, crunchy oats. Mmmm. I have been known to eat apple crisp for breakfast or dinner as well as dessert. And after this post, you might consider an apple crisp breakfast too!

close up of apple crisp in a glass dish

Here’s some good nutrition news about apple crisp:

Apple crisp can totally count as a serving of fruit

Right off the bat, if you’re eating an apple crisp (or any type of fruit crisp) you’re eating some fruit! Recommendations for daily fruit intake vary from 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups. Even a small serving of crisp will probably have at least 1/2 cup of fruit, which will give you a good portion of your recommended fruit intake regardless of whether you’re aiming for 1 cup or 2 and a half!

Apple crisp can be a source of whole grains

Most apple crisp recipes I am familiar with include oats (quick or rolled) as part of the delicious crumbly topping. Both of those forms of oats are whole grains, which compared to refined grains, have higher fiber and more protein. The USDA recommends at least 1/2 of your daily grains be whole grains. So there you go, by eating apple crisp, you’re moving toward that goal!

Now that you’ve got fruit and whole grains, all you need to make a meal is some protein, maybe some vegetables or calcium

  • For breakfast, serve with some scrambled eggs or a scoop of yogurt for protein
  • Apple crisp + slice of sharp cheddar cheese is a classic combination that provides protein + calcium and you should try it if you haven’t
  • For a vegetarian/vegan breakfast option, serve alongside a handful of nuts and a calcium-fortified beverage
  • Serve the above options in the evening for a breakfast-for-dinner option
  • Pork + apples is a winning combination. Some pork chops + steamed or roasted vegetables + this crisp …*chef’s kiss*
  • Serve alongside your favorite sausage and a green salad

Ways to make your apple crisp even more nutritious:

  • Use whole wheat flour as the flour portion in the recipe for even more whole grains
  • Don’t peel your apples. A large part of the fiber in an apple is in the skin. (Plus, this way you don’t have to spend all that time peeling apples)
  • If you want to replace some of the saturated fat with unsaturated fats, replace the butter with a plant-based substitute like Smart Balance which has more unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids

Now, I just want to say that apple crisp is a magical food that will solve all of your problems or that you can eat as much as you want because it can do no wrong. Like any food, balance is key.

The main thing I want you to take away is that this cozy dessert has plenty to be happy about. So next time you’re enjoying some cinnamonny, crumbly, apple-y goodness, rejoice in the ways it is nourishing you!

If you are inspired and want to make your own, here’s the recipe I usually use. And if you need a gluten-free option, here is a gluten-free apple crisp recipe from Cookie and Kate.

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

What does a dietitian – nutritionist eat? The truth.

“so what do you eat?”

I get asked this question as a dietitian often enough that I figured I would write out the answer. But I want to start out by saying that as real humans, we have different bodies, needs, preferences, beliefs and values about food. So consider this more of a post to satisfy curiosity than any recommendation.

And not to sound like a broken record (but this is important) this is not a prescription or a recommendation. This is a description. This is just what I eat.

The good news of nutrition is there are lots of ways to eat healthy. So while this is how I eat, (and I consider it healthy) it will not be the right solution for everyone. You might have different dietary needs due to a medical condition, or a family member’s medical condition. You might have different dietary preferences – or a different lifestyle that make these choices impractical. That’s ok.

That’s the beauty of Nutrition for Real Humans, and that’s why I work with each client to design a plan that will make healthy eating work for them.

Now, onto what you clicked on this title for: What does a dietitian eat? (Or more accurately, what does this dietitian eat?)

I thought about it and wrote down some patterns that I tend to follow when I’m deciding what to eat. I don’t really have strict rules; in the words of Captain Barbosa:

A fruit or vegetable with each meal.

At least one, sometimes more. This could look like a banana with breakfast, eating a carrot alongside my sandwich, or adding a bunch of vegetables to the soup I’ve made for dinner.

Benefits of fruits and vegetables

  • High water content (good for hydration)
  • Generally high in fiber
  • Source of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C
  • Source of phytonutrients and antioxidants that we don’t even fully comprehend the benefits of yet
  • Often add beautiful color, flavor, and texture to the meal!

Most grains whole grains.

I try to make whole grains the default grain that I eat. If I make rice, it’s brown rice. When I make bread or muffins or waffles, I make sure at least half the flour I use (if not more) is whole wheat flour. When I buy grain products (tortillas, cereals, pasta), I usually choose products where the first ingredient listed is whole grain or whole wheat.

Benefits of whole grains

  • Higher fiber content (more filling, digest more slowly)
  • Slightly higher protein content
  • Naturally contain more vitamins and minerals than refined grains (although most products made with refined grains have vitamins and minerals added back to make up for this loss)

This doesn’t mean I don’t eat refined grains. When I bake, usually at least part of the recipe is made with white flour because the texture is better, and if I’m making a dessert, I just use white flour.

It’s hard to pass up a good sourdough if it’s white bread, and our favorite instant mac and cheese is made with white pasta.

Protein source with each meal.

Benefits of protein with each meal

  • Personally, I feel full longer and have better energy between meals if I eat some protein.
  • Helps ensure I get enough protein during the day.
  • Spreading protein through the day has been shown to be helpful in building and maintaining muscle mass
  • Many foods that are sources of protein are also important sources of other essential nutrients, like iron, calcium, or B-vitamins.

Vary sources of protein, and include plant-based proteins frequently.

Learn more about protein , and specifically plant-based protein

Benefits of varying protein

  • Gain the different benefits of different types of protein (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids in fish)
  • Spreads out the drawbacks of different types of protein (e.g. high sodium content of cheese)
  • Keep it interesting
  • Eating more plant proteins generally reduces cost of meals and environmental impact

Keep nutrient-dense snacks around.

So when I’m hungry between meals I have something available to eat that will help provide me with more nutrients and energy as well as satisfy my hunger.

Learn more about what I think about snacks.

Some snacks that I like to have around:

  • Roasted salted almonds
  • Roasted salted mixed nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Hummus
  • Carrots
  • Popcorn
  • Mandarin oranges/tangerines
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Dried fruit
  • Lara Bars (snack bar made with dried fruit and nuts)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Peanut butter
  • Seaweed snacks

I don’t always have all of these around, but these are examples of what might be laying around our house.

Use healthy fats when cooking

I embrace fats in general when cooking, especially olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, to help make a meal more satisfying and tasty. I also really like dairy fats: cheese, butter, full fat yogurt. There is evidence showing that intake of fats from dairy, especially from yogurt and cheese is not associated with increased heart disease or diabetes risk or death. We also personally don’t have any health conditions that would make it especially risky for us to eat saturated fat.

Benefits of fats

  • Take longer to digest, and help promote satiety (satisfaction)
  • Help your body absorb certain vitamins
  • Important carriers of flavor

Drink mostly water, milk, coffee and tea (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)

These are the drinks I have at home. It doesn’t mean we never have soda or juice or alcohol, but we mostly only buy these if we are hosting guests, or if we are out to dinner or as a special treat

(No pictures because I don’t often take pictures of just glasses of water or milk haha).

Mostly cook and eat at home

This is mainly because of how I grew up and how I ate when I was first on my own and didn’t have lots of money. But it also lets me be in charge of what’s in my food.

Probably more sweets than you expect

We both have sweet tooths (sweet teeth?). We probably have dessert at least half of the nights of the week (more if I’ve baked something). This could be ice cream, a handful of chocolate chips, kettlecorn, or a microwave brownie.

This is one thing that I am tempted to feel guilty about. But most of the time I don’t, and my husband really helps me be a balanced, reasonable human here. Dessert is something we both enjoy (and often a way to share celebration or just spend time with other people), and the way we eat it does not cause us health problems.

Benefits of sweets/desserts

  • Delicious
  • Often a way to spend time with people
  • I like baking
  • Sometimes an opportunity to get extra nutrients in: dark chocolate contains iron, kettlecorn is a whole grain, milk-based desserts contain calcium, fruit-based desserts provide extra fruit! Don’t think something is immediately of no value just because it has sugar!

Just in cased you missed that excellent GIF in the beginning, these are general descriptions of what I eat. I don’t follow them like strict rules. Sometimes I just don’t have a vegetable or fruit with a meal, or don’t have a protein with a meal. And again, this is not THE RIGHT way to eat. There is no one right way.

If you really want to know what I eat, just follow @nutritionforrealhumans on Instagram, or Facebook. That’s where all of these pictures are from 🙂

If you feel you must take a recommendation away from this post:

Make most of your guidelines and nutrition goals positive or additive

Notice, that most of these guidelines are things I DO, not things I don’t.

There is some evidence that adding foods, or having positive goals (vs. don’t eat that or eat less this) are easier to maintain. Positive goals are awesome. You get to feel accomplished when you do them!

What small thing can you start doing?