Category: Healthy Lifestyles


This fruit-and-nut granola bar recipe is versatile, nutritious, and delicious. Make it with ingredients you already have – clean out that pantry and save money!



Eating Well on a Budget Recipes


We interrupt our regularly scheduled keto feature to bring you “Nutrition in Quarantine!” We are in strange times, folks. Many of us have been in Coronavirus quarantine for at least a few days now and some are struggling to access the foods they typically eat. Now is a great time to complete a pantry or freezer challenge (or both!). These challenges involve “shopping” and meal planning primarily from the foods available in your pantry or freezer. They are typically used to prevent food waste, clean out your cupboards, and save money on food. In this case, the challenge will accomplish these goals as well as help you navigate nutrition throughout your time at home. I’ll take you through the process of a pantry challenge step-by-step. I’ll also be holding a Facebook Live event this Friday, March 20th at 12:30 pm PST for Pantry Challenge Q&A. Mark your calendars to join me on my Dietitian on a Diet Facebook page!


advertising Facebook Live pantry challenge


So let’s start our pantry/freezer challenge!


Step 1: Take Inventory

This can be a tedious process, but it’s crucial that you at least have some written representation of what is available to do the challenge most effectively. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned out your freezer or pantry, this could take a while but the silver lining is, this challenge will be easier the more you have available! I recommend separating your list into things that need to be used up (usually perishable foods or those nearing expiration), and things that you have available but will keep for a while. To simplify the process, feel free to lump foods you know you have into categories. For example, instead of writing “flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, etc.” it’s fine to write “baking supplies.” Each week it will be easier since you’ll have the list from the week before.



Here’s my first week pantry challenge inventory for an example:

Need to use up:


Dairy cottage cheese x 2
cream cheese
frozen ricotta cheese
cheddar cheese
1/2 gallon chocolate milk
Veggies asparagus
water chestnuts
pickled beets
baby tomatoes
mixed veggies
frozen stir-fried veggies
frozen pumpkin puree
frozen diced onions/peppers
canned green beans
Protein hummus 2 links chicken sausage
1 frozen cooked pork chop
1 large frozen swai fillet
2 pcs cooked frozen carnitas
frozen cooked turkey
2 c. frozen ham
frozen ground beef
2 whole turkeys
frozen top round steak
dry beans/lentils
mixed nuts
Grains/Starches red potatoes
corn meal
3 whole wheat + 8 white hot dog buns
frozen tater tots
6 sesame seed hamburger buns
frozen cheddar jalapeno bagels
1/2 box Cheez-Its
pita bread
Ethiopian injera bread
baking supplies
Fruit dried fruits/raisins frozen berries
15 gallons apple cider
frozen plums
canned peaches/pears/applesauce
Miscellaneous beef broth
ground flaxseed
red curry paste
Schezuan seasoning

Step 2: Mix and Match to Make Meal Ideas

Sometimes groups of foods will stand out to you as things that go together well. For example, in my list, I see turkey, tomato, onion, pitas, and hummus that could go together to make gyros. Make a list of possible meal or recipe ideas that you see from the list you have available. For certain rarely-used ingredients, think of the recipe you bought them for in the first place. For me, I buy MaSeCa corn flour to make pupusas (Salvadoran savory corn “pancakes”). I have never actually used it for anything else. Fortunately for me, I see the rest of the ingredients for pupusas on my list, so that’s going to be an option.

A couple of tips for this step:

  • Catch-alls: Curries, stir-fries, soups, scrambles, smoothies, and compotes are all examples of dishes that can be made with a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables. For more info on catch-alls, check out this post.
  • Recipe by ingredient resources: Websites/apps like Supercook or the Diabetes Food Hub (even if you don’t have diabetes!) allow you to search their databases by the ingredients you have available.

You can see my list of possible meal ideas below.

  • turkey dinner w/mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans
  • Thai curry
  • lasagna casserole
  • gyros
  • macaroni and cheese
  • steak, potatoes, and veggies
  • breakfast cookies
  • baked beans w/ham and cornbread
  • masala lentils w/Ethiopian injera bread
  • pupusas
  • fruit & nut granola bars


Step 3: Select Your Meals

Decide if your goal is to get through the week without shopping at all, or if you plan to make a small grocery shopping trip. Skim your list to choose meals that use as many of your “need to use up” ingredients as possible, and don’t need ingredients you don’t have or can’t substitute (if you’re aiming not to shop – I’ll have a post coming up soon on making substitutions!). If there are things that you will need, make a shopping list. Here’s my first week’s meal plan:

Monday: steak, potatoes, veggies
Tuesday: leftovers
Wednesday: lasagna casserole
Thursday: Thai turkey red curry
Friday: macaroni and cheese with sausage
Saturday: potluck (bring 2 gallons cider)

Step 4: Shop if Needed

Head to the store and pick up the few things you might need if you’re planning to shop. With my first week, I was able to cut my grocery bill from my usual $100 per week to only $54!


Hopefully these tips will help you feel more confident in using the food that you already have in your pantry or freezer. Not stressing about food can be a huge comfort in the midst of all of the confusion. I would be remiss if I did not mention that my greatest source of peace and comfort in all of this is knowing that God is in control, that Jesus died for me, and that no matter what happens, I’m in good hands. I hope you know the same peace and comfort, so the stresses of the world shrink in comparison to His goodness and grace. Hang in there, folks – we will get through this!



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Today we’re continuing our series looking into what food and nutrition experts typically eat. If you haven’t read part 1 or my What I Eat in a Day as a Registered Dietitian post, be sure to check those out too! Altogether, you’ll see 10 days worth of dietitian food. Hopefully it helps you to see how varied and delicious a healthy life can be – everyone’s healthy life looks different! Enjoy!


Kayci Sterzer, MSN, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Kayci is from Washington State but currently lives and work in Chicago, IL. She works as a Registered Dietitian specializing in eating disorder treatment in both outpatient practice and higher levels of care. Outside of nutrition and cooking, her passions include cycling, rock climbing, tending to her 70+ plants and 2 cats, and making ceramics.

Best Nutrition Advice: Aim to find a pattern of eating that’s nourishing (for your body but also for your spirit) and feels good vs. trying to find the perfect diet. We are meant to enjoy food. Rules and restrictions are unsustainable and take away from the joy and connection that is an integral part of eating.

What she ate in a day:
Today is a little atypical for me as I’m ending my day getting on the Amtrak for a 2-week vacation. For budget reasons, I don’t often eat out multiple times in a day unless I haven’t pre-planned well or I’m on vacation, but this week groceries and meal prep were not my top priorities. I value being able to make the best of the situation you’re in, so even though this might not appear to be an “ideal” day when someone conceptualizes what a dietitian eats, I don’t feel stressed about it. There is space for flexibility in healthy eating.

Starting my day off I love to do a combo of sweet (butter + jam) and savory (avocado + hot sauce) toast, which I have with a latte for a combo of protein + caffeine and some fruit (ataulfo mango today). For lunch, I splurged and bought up some sushi with edamame, miso soup, and a salad. For snacks I had yogurt and kombucha in the morning and later some chocolate-covered cherries. This yogurt is a pretty generous portion, which I did finish today since I biked to work and was hungry for it. For dinner, I intended to buy something in the dining car of the train, but essentially all the “meals” were sold out. I ended up picking a cheese and cracker plate and added some hummus with pretzels. I ate most of that, plus I split a single-serve Chardonnay with a friend I’m traveling with. It’s not the most normal meal, but met my macronutrient needs for the start of my trip tomorrow.



Allison Davies, MS, RD

Allison lives in Vancouver, WA. She worked as a primary practice RD for about four years but has stayed home with her 14-month old son for the last year. She loves going for walks and reading historical fiction books. Her favorite foods are tacos and Thai red curry and her favorite candy is Skittles.


Best nutrition advice: Make a meal plan for the week before grocery shopping. It’s a good way to make sure you’re eating a variety of different foods and also cut down on food waste.


What she ate in a day:



My typical day usually revolves around my son’s nap schedule and some sort of outing in the afternoon. On this day, I packed a lunch to eat at my parents’ house. There are a few things I do every week that keeps the stress off of meal prep while trying to tend to my son. On Sundays I sit down and meal plan every meal. There are definitely meals that repeat, especially breakfast, but it takes the guesswork out of what to make and ensures that I buy enough ingredients at our weekly grocery store stop. I will also prep veggies and cut up meats in the evening after my son goes to bed to be ready for the next day. My son and I eat at the same times and primarily the same foods, except for choking hazards like nuts (and I do cut his foods differently). One part of this day that is not so typical is actually the cup of coffee! I only have coffee drinks once or twice a week and it’s usually a vanilla latte. 🙂

For breakfast at 7 am I ate scrambled eggs with 1 slice turkey bacon (the bacon was cooked the night before), an apricot, 1/2 bagel with cream cheese, and a cup of coffee with splash of whole milk. My lunch was around 11:30 am and included a turkey and Swiss sandwich on Dave’s Killer thin sliced wheat bread with 1/2 avocado and some sour cream and onion Pop Chips. Around 2:30 I ate a snack of homemade trail mix made of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds (all unsalted), and dark chocolate chips. I prepped the trail mix earlier in the week.

We ate dinner around 5-5:30 pm. The dinner included chicken sausage and zucchini I had prepped the night before, as well as red beans and rice. Around 7:30 I snacked on one or two clusters of these dark chocolate nuggets from Costco.



Diana Reid, MPH, RDN

Diana currently lives in Europe with her husband and three children, in the tiny country of Luxembourg. She provides nutritional counseling and coaching both in-person and online or via telephone to clients throughout the world through her practice The Global Dietitian. She also spends part of the summer (and often the December holidays) in the Seattle, WA area. Diana holds a Masters of Public Health degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. Additionally, she has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Washington University in the field of marketing and business administration.


Best nutrition advice: Focus on what you can add to your diet rather than always worrying about what to take out. Can you add more fruit and veg? Can you drink more water? These are underestimated, powerful tools.


What she ate in a day:



My day started with fruit, Greek yogurt, granola, and a bit of cottage cheese for breakfast. I was on the run during lunch and ended up eating lentil salad with some sriracha sauce for extra flavor. Later for an afternoon snack, I had cherries and a protein bar to get me through until dinner. Dinner was shrimp, rice and quinoa salad with tomatoes and avocado. Finally, to top it all off, ya gotta have dessert! Tonight’s was a fruit plate topped with some chocolate sauce for good measure. 🙂



Jessica Forsman, RD, CD

Jessica Forsman has her bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Human Nutrition and has been a Registered Dietitian for 11 years. She initially practiced as a clinical dietitian before transitioning into hospital dietary management and later into healthcare administration. She is currently an Executive Director over Physician Services at a hospital in western Washington. Outside of work, she loves having downtime at home with her husband and spending time with family.


Best nutrition advice: Keep it simple. Focus on fruits and vegetables. Don’t go to extremes or overly restrict. Enjoy what you eat!


What she ate in a day:



I chose a fairly typical Monday to highlight. I woke up late, but had prepped lunches the night before and had blueberries and almonds on hand for an easy breakfast. I’m not always motivated to prep our lunches a day ahead, but I’ve found that it makes all the difference when it comes to getting out the door on time and eating well throughout the day. Plus, it just feels good to be organized.

Breakfast included blueberries & roasted almonds and coffee with half & half. Later for lunch I ate ½ sandwich with 2 slices of smoked turkey, 1 slice cheddar & a thin layer of mayo on Dave’s Killer Bread. On the side were fresh veggies, kettle cooked chips, cherries and sparkling water. Nutrition tip: when buying deli meats, I usually look for natural brands without added nitrates/nitrites and where I can recognize all of the ingredients on the label. I especially like Applegate Naturals.

Later in the afternoon I ordered a double tall iced white chocolate mocha without the whipped cream. It’s important to choose foods that are satisfying – and for me, that usually means opting for the real thing. I rarely eat light or diet foods simply because I don’t enjoy them. By not restricting the foods that I enjoy, I find that I’m usually content with less. For an afternoon snack I ate string cheese & the rest of the cherries that I didn’t finish at lunch.

After work I snacked on seasoned tortilla chips. I do my best never to get too hungry and will frequently opt for snacks. In this case, dinner was only about 20 minutes away, but I still felt like I would be too hungry by the time dinner was ready if I didn’t eat something. Snacks are a tool that I use to avoid overeating.

We had company over the day prior and had two crab cakes, asparagus and roasted potatoes left over. Not enough on its own to feed two of us, so I added salad with Annie’s Papaya Poppy Seed Dressing, ½ piece of toast on Dave’s Killer Bread with a 50/50 butter/canola oil blend, and blueberries. I usually only have time to cook 2-3 nights in a given week, but I try to leverage (and even plan for) leftovers whenever I can. I also try to keep easy dinners on hand for those days when things don’t go as planned. Finally, I topped the night off with an evening snack of chocolate peanut butter granola with milk!



More to come?


I would like to sincerely thank each of these dietitians who were willing to take the time to help me with this project and allow us a peek into their day-to-day. This is a series I would love to continue to show the variety of options out there in regard to healthy eating. Within the community of Registered Dietitians, there are men, women, vegan/vegetarians, dietitians with food intolerances, dietitians from all different cultures, and more. If you or someone you know is a Registered Dietitian who would be willing to share their “what I eat in a day,” I would love to feature it! Let me know with this contact form.


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My last two posts covered the basics about what dietitians are (and do) and what I eat in a day as a Registered Dietitian. In the latter I talked about how everyone’s healthy life looks different. It’s important to find what works in your own life, not to follow a random diet plan or copy what someone else does. Along those lines, I thought it might be fun to explore what a normal day looks like for other dietitians. This two-part series will feature several different dietitians working in different areas and what they ate in a given day. You’ll read about three different dietitians below – stay tuned for more in an upcoming post!


Molly Koczarski, MS, RDN, LDN

Molly is a Registered Dietitian located in Whispering Pines, North Carolina. She has been a dietitian for 11 years and she recently graduated with her Master’s Degree from Central Michigan University. She is just about to start a new position as an outpatient dietitian for First Health of the Carolinas where she will be working with a wide variety of medical conditions including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, food allergies, etc. When Molly isn’t working she likes to spend her time with her husband, 4-year-old daughter, and dog. She enjoys fitness, cooking, and coming up with new recipes. She is an avid peanut butter lover and loves a good glass of wine.


Best nutrition advice: There is no “one size fits all” diet. Focus on moderation and mindful eating. Food should be enjoyed, not restricted. Building a healthy relationship with food is the key to success!


What she ate in a day:


The day started at 6:30 with a hearty breakfast of eggs (1 egg + 2 egg whites) mixed with some arugula, a side of fresh strawberries, and a Birch Benders protein waffle with slices of avocado on top.  After seeing a few patients at work I found myself pretty hungry and snacked on this delicious Greek Yogurt by Light and Fit with a serving of Trader Joes “Just a Handful” trail mix. Hit the spot!

After going on a 30-minute lunch walk I found myself ready to eat again. I prepped a macro bowl for lunch today and it consisted of spring mix and some raw vegetables, some instant pot shredded chicken, and a side of brown rice and quinoa mix. I added some oil and vinegar on my salad for some healthy fats, as well as sprinkled some hemp seeds on top. At 3:30 with an hour to spare at work, I found myself once again ready for a snack so I chomped on a yummy and delicious apple to hold me over until dinner.

After a good workout it was time to eat dinner. With the weather being so nice lately we decided to grill some turkey burgers. We had a salad on the side for our veggie. I added some avocado on my bun (but you can’t see it in the photo). Before getting settled for the night I wanted to have a little “dessert” so I had some chamomile tea (not pictured) with one of my delicious homemade protein muffins. My dog Izzy wanted some too, as you can see.

That’s a typical day for me. I usually eat 3 meals plus 2-3 snacks throughout the day. I always try to balance out my carbs, protein and fat and really focus on getting in my vegetables. I also opt for healthy fats and definitely don’t deprive myself of any particular food or food group.



Anne Corley, MSM, RDN, CD, LC

As a Life Coach and Registered Dietitian with over 26 years in clinical practice, Anne is passionate about promoting wellness (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) with her clients. She loves helping people have “A Ha!” moments in improving their life and their health, and moving their dreams into the realm of the possible. She has partnered with clients who have made significant, meaningful changes in their lives in many areas; health, career, relationships, etc. through her practice Nourish Your Wellness Now. In all areas she has truly enjoyed the opportunity to share her knowledge and experience through coaching, training and instruction in order to help improve the well-being of her clients/patients.

Best nutrition advice: Listen to your gut, literally and figuratively. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied.

What she ate in a day:



Today I woke up in Dingle, Ireland on a long-awaited trip with my 3 sisters. We’ve been staying at Bed & Breakfasts all along the way; today was no exception. Breakfast was a fairly typical offering of Continental and hot breakfast. Always there is the push for the traditional Irish breakfast which is bacon, eggs, sausage, black & white “pudding” (blood sausage), tomatoes, (optional sautéed mushrooms & baked beans), and brown bread & toast with butter & jam. Also fruit, yogurt, cereal, croissants, etc. along with tea and coffee. My normal breakfast is a Shakeology smoothie on my way to work, but I figured “when in Ireland…” Plus, have you ever tried to tell an Irish woman who is your host, “No, thank you”? Apparently you just don’t do that here. 😉

So up to this point I have been ordering the bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms (and once the beans…I’ve never been a fan of baked beans but I thought somehow these might be different. Nope. Not doing that again!) I have not tried the “pudding” at all; I just can’t bring myself to do it. Today I ordered bacon (Irish bacon is more like our ham or Canadian bacon), tomatoes and mushrooms, and I had Muesli and plain yogurt with berries. Also, lots and lots of tea using part sugar/part stevia and milk (not sure what type of milk, but it was at least 2% if not whole). I ended up eating two bowls of Muesli and only one of the pieces of bacon.

After breakfast we packed up and left for our Air B&B at the Cliffs of Moher (about a 3 hour drive) with a trip by ferry included. When we stopped at a “quickie mart,” as we frequently do, I got a sparkling water and I added True Lemon to it (I drink a lot of water but have never learned to like it plain, so I usually add True Lemon, True Orange, or fresh lemon or lime).

Because the breakfasts have been so big and usually later than I normally eat, we have had “linner” most days and then something light or fun later. Once we got into town, we stopped at a restaurant to have “linner” (lunch/dinner) before our hike on the cliffs at 4:00pm. I had the most delicious salad! Here’s the quote from the menu: “mixed leaves, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, caramelized onion, shredded carrot and honey roasted sunflower seeds with Spanish goats cheese, a hint of pesto and grilled chicken fillet.” I had soda water and lime to drink. Normally I would have also checked out the dessert menu, but we didn’t have time. We had to hurry through “linner” because we were running short on time. We started the hike a little after 4:00pm; it was 10k distance and about 850 feet of elevation gain and it took us about 3 hours. It was very windy, but we were blessed with some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen!



When we returned from the hike (around 7:00pm) our host had made fresh scones for us, with jam and butter and tea or coffee. I had one scone with jam and a nice sized cup of tea, with milk and sugar/stevia. And then chugged a big glass of water!



Danae Shelley, RD, CDE

Danae is a dietitian and nutrition supervisor at a nonprofit group of medical clinics based in South Seattle. In July of 2019, she will have been a dietitian for 6 years. For Danae, the years of being an RD have really flown by!

Danae got married in September 2018 and lives in Renton with her husband and their min-pin, Max. They love spending time together and going out and meeting new people. They also enjoy traveling (both around Washington and elsewhere), taking Max to the dog park, dancing (especially salsa and bachata), and trying out new ice cream places!  


Best nutrition advice: Just aim to make one small positive choice every day toward improving your health!


What she ate in a day:

During the work week, I tend to get up with just enough time to shower, get ready, and feed the dog, etc., so I don’t normally leave a whole lot of time to make breakfast. Breakfast is usually on the go and usually eaten on my way to work or when I get to work as I prepare for the day ahead. This morning I whipped together a strawberry protein shake made with 1% milk for some added protein that keeps me full all morning, along with my much needed cup of coffee with a few tablespoons of creamer.

Due to a meeting I had at my normal lunch hour, I had to have a little snack to tide me over until I was able to eat. I had forgotten I had an English cucumber in the fridge, so last night I sliced it up and portioned half of it into a Ziploc bag.

In my house, we are the king and queen of leftovers (when we have them)! My husband is tall and eats a lot, so sometimes he eats all of the meal and there isn’t any for leftovers. Today was left over vegetable burger soup (I know it’s too hot outside for soup, but it’s cold in my office with the a/c, so it’s not that bad). The soup has lean ground beef (93/7), stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, mixed vegetables and onion soup mix. I also had a small cup of strawberry yogurt. It’s hard to find yogurt that is low in sugar, but this one has 2 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. I originally had the fruit cup planned to go with my lunch, but I was feeling a little full after my soup and yogurt, so I decided to hold off and have it for a snack later. I normally don’t do a lot of canned fruit, but I had a coupon for this product and thought I would give it a try. It was a mixture of mango and chia seeds, which are a great source of omega-3. It was a burst of fruitiness to get me through the rest of the work day!

For dinner, Queen of the Leftovers strikes again! After a bit of a longer of a commute that normal, I got home later than I usually do, and therefore was hungry. The night before, I intended to make some enchiladas, however due to a tortilla malfunction, I had to turn it into enchilada lasagna, made up of ground turkey, chili beans, seasonings, layered with whole wheat tortillas and topped with Monterey jack cheese and enchilada sauce. I had a square of that with a little helping of sour cream on top.  I washed it down with a glass of water. After doing some stuff around the house and yardwork outside, I was feeling a bit hungry, so I reached for a small bag of popcorn with light sea salt and green tea. Its low calorie and high in fiber. You can see from the picture, it’s so yummy even Max wants a taste!


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Being married to a dietitian, my husband is often asked, “What does she eat? I bet she eats perfectly all the time!” He usually chuckles and tells them about my love for ice cream and all things salty, including tortilla chips with “plastic cheese” (you know, the liquid “cheese-like food product” you get from a high school football game concession stand? Mmmm…) Eating to feed both your body and your soul is important! If you what you eat most of the time is good for your body, then you can enjoy soul food sometimes without guilt or health consequences.


I thought I would take the opportunity to show you what one Registered Dietitian eats in a day…or rather, three days. I chose to include three days to give you a better average and to avoid the bias of a “perfect day” since I knew I would be recording it. As you read through this post, try not to compare my diet with yours. Everyone’s healthy looks different, and there is no one right way to eat! What matters is that what you eat works for your body, your life, your schedule, and your happiness. These days represent what works for me.


Day 1

7:00 am – The day started with a tropical smoothie that contained leftover banana and pineapple with some spinach, nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, orange juice, and chia seeds. As always and of course, I had a cup of tea!


healthy breakfast



10:30 am – Mid-morning after a few hours of work, hunger set in and I had a piece of whole wheat toast with some spreadable butter.


healthy bread



12:35 pm – After my workout I was very ready for lunch! Lunch was a leftover mish-mash. A large salad with a salmon burger patty, sunflower seeds, croutons, and bleu cheese dressing. Clementine kombucha to drink!


healthy lunch


1:30 pm – Not too long after lunch I realized that it hadn’t been quite enough and that I was needing a bit more in the way of carbohydrates for energy to get me through the afternoon. I had one of these marshmallow pies left over from our Memorial Day camping trip. It went peacefully.


tasty treat


6:30 pm – I gardened for a few hours and then I was ravenous! For dinner I made beef ravioli with marinara and sauteed mushrooms, onions, and spinach.


beef ravioli with spinach, onions, and mushrooms in marinara



8:30 pm – While watching Captain America: Winter Soldier with my kids in the evening, I had one of these raspberry fruit juice popsicles. So delicious!



Day 2

7:15 am – We still had leftover  pineapple, so I made another tropical smoothie with pineapple, leftover fruit salad, and spinach. I also made toast and a poached curried egg, so I didn’t add the Greek yogurt to the smoothie this time.



9:45 am – Snack time! In between appointments I nibbled on some roasted ranch flavored chickpeas for some carbohydrate and protein.



11:30 am – After seeing another client and doing a quick pilates workout, I ate the last of the leftover salad and the leftover ravioli from last night for lunch. I chased it with a square of Dove chocolate. Yum!





1:15 pm –  Throughout the afternoon, I focused on blogging and admin work. I snacked on raw veggies w/light ranch dip and clementine oranges.



4:25 pm – Hunger set in and I still had one more client until dinner. I had exhausted the food I brought for the day, so I walked around the corner to Arby’s for some of their snack-sized curly fries. I. Love. Curly Fries.



7:15 pm – This particular night at our house is a “use up” night, so I get the night off from cooking and everyone eats their own thing. Tonight, I finished off some leftover homemade baked beans and butternut squash.



Day 3

7:35 am – Today I ate a bit of an unconventional breakfast. Today’s tropical smoothie included pineapple, 1/2 canned peach, spinach, orange juice, and milk. Alongside that was the rest of a half-eaten sandwich prepared by one of our boys and then abandoned. Poor sandwich. So I played garbage disposal today. 🙂  #momlife




12:30 am – I was running late to work and was busy seeing clients once I arrived, so I didn’t get a chance for my mid-morning snack. I was HUNGRY by lunch time. So hungry that I skipped my workout and went straight for food. Today, I ate some pasta salad that I doctored up with chicken, corn, and sauteed peppers and spinach. Once I started eating it, I realized that it didn’t have very much chicken in it, so I tossed in a handful of my roasted ranch chickpeas for some added protein.



5:30 pm – I ate a lot of pasta salad for lunch, so I never got hungry for my afternoon snack. Plus, we were eating an early dinner so we could get to my son’s band concert on time. For dinner, I made pupusas (a Salvadoran savory corn “pancake” with chicken, cheese, and refried beans). I topped mine with salsa and ate a couple of leftover spiced pears. More kombucha to drink!



9:30 pm – After the concert, they had cookie trays and I love me a good white chocolate macadamia nut cookie! So delicious.



So there you have it! Three pretty typical, if not unvarying, examples of days in my food life. In hindsight, I perhaps shouldn’t have chosen 3 days in a row simply because I eat a lot of leftovers so several things showed up repeatedly. For example, I don’t usually have a smoothie every morning, but I did for these three days since we had leftover pineapple we needed to use up.

Other than that, these days show the typical pattern that works for me: balanced healthful meals with a treat or two just about every day. I love the food that I eat. Having plenty of tasty healthful foods I love and not denying myself “unhealthful” delicious treats in moderation makes for a great and delicious balance. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or ideas for other posts you would like to see!


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Should I buy organic


To wrap up our series on Eating Well on a Budget, we’ll address one of the more common questions I get as a dietitian: is it worth spending more money on organic foods?

The answer is complex and individual. There are so many factors to consider – research, finances, and health concerns to name a few. The answer is a personal choice based on your consideration of all of these factors and how they interact in your own life. In an effort to inform those decisions, we will discuss some of the research surrounding these topics.

What Makes Produce Organic?


The USDA allows the use of the term “organic” on produce and products that meet the following criteria:

  • produce or ingredients are “…certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”
  • Do not contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
  • Not grown or handled using genetically modified organisms”1


Is Organic Produce Healthier?


Food that meets organic criteria also often touts a higher price tag (49% higher, according to Consumer Reports2). So for the budget- and health-conscious consumer, the question is: does eating organic vs. non-organic foods have a significant impact on my health?

The trickiest part about answering that question is that humans are such complicated critters…it is difficult to tease out the health impacts of something like eating organic produce vs. non-organic produce because in most cases, the effects of that decision would be long-term – some even lifelong. That makes research difficult, because over the course of a lifetime there are so many confounding factors that it is darn near impossible to definitively pinpoint a specific cause or even correlational relationship. For example, since organic produce is more expensive, those who eat organically-grown produce regularly might be more likely to have higher incomes than those who don’t. If there is a difference in health outcomes, could it be due to living in less polluted areas or having better health care? I’m not sure that there will ever be a direct, consistent, and documented difference in many of cases, for that reason.

Instead, what often happens is that research tends to produce a lot of conflicting or confusing results. Here are the findings of a just a handful of different research studies:

  • A study of organic vs. non-organically-grown greens found that organically grown spinach had higher concentrations of iron, zinc, and calcium than non-organically grown spinach, but no difference between organically vs. non-organically grown romaine. Non-organic romaine contained higher concentrations of magnesium than organic romaine.3
  • In a review of the nutritional content of organic vs. non-organic produce, organic foods were “nutritionally superior” (based on an assessment of the content of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, nitrates and protein) in 61% of cases, while non-organic produce was “nutritionally superior” in 37% of cases.4
  • The USDA’s report on pesticide testing in 2016 found that more than 99.5% of foods tested “well below” benchmark safety levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.” 22% of the samples had no detectable pesticide residue.5
  • Meanwhile, other studies have linked intakes of foods with higher pesticide residues with fertility issues. Non-organic produce with lower pesticide levels had no negative effect on fertility.6, 7


Just a little research muddies the water a bit, doesn’t it?



Is Buying Organic Produce Worth It?

In these cases I keep a mental category of recommendations that I call “common sense” recommendations. These recommendations apply to these complicated situations where research makes things less, rather than more, clear. Common sense would tell us that it is probably best for us to eat in the form in which God provided it to us. Common sense tells us that it is probably best to eat foods that was not grown with chemicals designed to kill other life forms.

That being said, these “common sense” recommendations are not wholeheartedly supported by research, as you saw above. They are not, by any means, hard and fast rules and, as mentioned earlier, there are many factors to consider.

One thing we absolutely know for sure is that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day is significantly beneficial for cancer prevention, heart health, reducing inflammation, and so many other health conditions.2 Those benefits exist regardless of whether those fruits and vegetables are organic or not. I can say with certainty that eating several servings per day of non-organic produce is much more beneficial than no produce at all! So that’s where it ultimately comes down to personal choice. You need to balance your own personal health goals with your own personal budget. For those who feel that they would like to limit their exposure to pesticide residues but simply find it beyond what their grocery budget allows, there are a few options:

  • Prioritize your purchases: Each year, the Environmental Working Group produces a list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. These are the produce items with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue, respectively. If you can’t afford to buy all organically-grown produce, you can prioritize the dirty dozen items as organic to reduce your pesticide exposure.
  • Look for a cropshare or a wonky produce subscription: Small family farms and waste prevention programs have created subscription services to purchase local organic produce. Some of these programs feature fruits and vegetables of unusual size or shape that grocery stores don’t want to sell. These programs offer these items at reduced cost to consumers to prevent food waste. Check out Imperfect Produce to see if they provide these services in your area!
  • Grown your own: This can certainly be a commitment, but the benefits are so delicious! You’ll enjoy fresh, tasty food grown in your own yard, containers, or window boxes. You can even use SNAP/EBT benefits to purchase seeds for growing. If you’re a total newbie, ask Google or a local librarian to help you find info on growing your own crops of delicious (and very low cost) produce.



You might also like…

Money-Saving Tip: When Good Produce Goes Bad

How to Meal Plan on a Budget (step-by-step walkthrough)

What to do When Your Healthy Plan Falls Through


  1. McEvoy, M. “Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Really Means.” U. S. Department of Agriculture.
  2. “Eat the Peach, Not the Pesticide: Our new produce guidelines show you how to make the best choices for your health and for the environment.” Consumer Reports
  3. Rose, S. B. et al. “Mineral Content of Organic and Conventionally Grown Spinach and Lettuce.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. September 2011. 111:9S. p A45.
  4. Benbrook, C. et al. “New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods.” The Organic Center. March 2008.
  5. “USDA Releases 2016 Annual Pesticide Data Program Summary.” United States Department of Agriculture. February 2018.
  6. Chiu, Y. et al. “Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Fertility Treatment With Assisted Reproductive Technology.” Journal of the American Medical Association. January 2018. 178:1. p 17-26.
  7. Chiu, Y. et al. “Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic. Human Reproduction. June 2015. 30:6. p. 1342-1351.

Eating Well on a Budget

Saving money on food


So far in this Eating Well on a Budget series, we’ve already covered several ways you can save money on groceries right away – meal planning, buying in bulk, effective couponing, and preventing food wasteToday I’ll share about one of the things I do throughout the year to save money in the future: food preservation. 

This is one of the ways I am able to keep our grocery budget at $100 per week for a family of four. When you preserve delicious in-season produce purchased at rock-bottom prices, you aren’t going to be paying absurdly high prices for sub-par flavorless produce the rest of the year. Each year I spend about $250 on produce to preserve, which would add $4.80 to each week’s budget, though I hope to reduce that by growing a garden next summer. Even without the garden, it’s definitely cheaper than buying fresh (and not as tasty) produce throughout the year.

Start with this post to help you know when to buy the cheapest and most delicious produce en masse. Buy them in boxes from a local farm stand. Start small – you can always adjust the amount next year. Then, decide how you’d like to preserve all that tasty nutrition. We’re going to talk about three easy methods of food preservation: freezing, drying, and canning.





how to freeze foods to save money


Freezing is the simplest method of food preservation, as it does not require special equipment and takes the least amount of time and preparation. Often, all you need is a freezer bag and a permanent marker. Personally, I choose to freeze berries, jams, corn, and meat. I like the way these foods come out when frozen much better than when they are canned or dried. Applesauce and stock are great frozen as well. For most foods, you can simply place them in a zip-close freezer bag with the date and description written on it until you are ready to use them, though it is much easier if you take a little time to prep them first.


  • Berries: Wash berries and remove stem, if there is one. Spread berries one layer thick on baking sheets and freeze for two hours. Remove from sheets and place into labeled freezer bags. Freezing on sheets makes them much easier to separate and use throughout the year.
  • Jams: Prepare according to freezer jam pectin instructions (or try a chia jam recipe like this one – I haven’t done this myself yet, but I plan  to try it…let me know if you have experience with chia jam!) and pour into a labeled freezer-safe container (leave 1” of space for expansion).
  • Corn: Carefully remove corn kernels from cobs with a sharp knife (hold the cob vertically and shave down and away from you). Place kernels in labeled freezer bags.
  • Meat: Place meat in a labeled freezer bag. If you want, you can trim and cut it first, but you don’t need to.
  • Applesauce/stock: Follow the instructions on your favorite applesauce or stock recipe. Pour cooled applesauce/stock into labeled freezer-safe containers (leave 1” of space for expansion).


Keep tabs on what’s in your freezer – don’t let perfectly good food sink and sink and sink into the deep-freeze abyss, only to be tossed due to years-old freezerburn. This process is about saving money, not tossing it! Taking quick stock during your budget-driven meal planning is a great way to make sure you’re cycling through things and saving money!


Tip: You certainly don’t need one, but a vacuum sealer is a handy tool for freezing, as it removes all of the air from the bags your food is preserved in, saving space and preserving freshness even more!




Also very simple, drying/dehydrating foods can be a great way to preserve nutritious food for meals and snacks 

throughout the year. You can dehydrate some foods in your oven, or you can use a dehydrator. They are about $30-40 online or in most kitchen or home goods stores.

Instructions for dehydration times vary depending on the food and recipe you are using. In general, the steps involve preparing the food you’d like to dehydrate, popping it in your oven or dehydrator, and waiting. It’s pretty much that simple.

For some example recipes, check out how you can make your own banana chips, raisins, beef jerky, or dehydrated meals for backpacking or an emergency kit. The dried food possibilities are pretty endless.


Tip: If you’re drying onions or garlic in a dehydrator, place it outside while it’s working. Trust me. Your house will smell like a sulfurous vegetable for days.





how to can fruit to save money


Canning is the most seemingly intimidating method of food preservation, and while it is a little more labor-intensive, it’s typically much easier than most people think! The simplest method is water bath canning, which can be used for high-acid fruits. For water bath canning, all you’ll need are prepared fruit, water or extra-light simple syrup, canning jars with matching rings and lids, a jar lifter, a canning rack,  and a very large stock pot. No pressure gauges, no fancy equipment (though if you can spend a tiny bit on a canning kit like this one it will definitely make it more convenient).


Basic steps for water bath canning

These steps are an overview – please check out more detailed instructions before canning to ensure safe results. 🙂


  1. While completing remaining steps, heat enough water to boiling in your stock pot to cover all of your canning jars when full.
  2. Place prepared fruit (in most cases, this means removing pits, stems, and peels, but check out the recommendations here) in hot, clean jars, leaving 1/2”-1” space at the top.
  3. Ladle hot syrup over top of fruit, leaving 1/2”-1” space at the top.
  4. Wipe the top rim of the jar with a clean rag to remove any debris or syrup. Place a hot lid on the jar and tighten a ring on top of it.
  5. Place jar gently in stock pot. When all jars are placed in stock pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for the recommended processing time for your specific fruit and size of jar.
  6. When processing is complete, gently remove the jars from the pot with your jar lifter. Place on a cooling rack in a non-drafty area and avoiding touching them as they cool. Over the course of the next hour or two, you should hear the satisfying sounds of the jars popping sealed. Congratulations!


See? Not so bad! In fact, it’s pretty darn fun, especially if you can with a friend or family member. Many hands makes light work! You can enjoy your home-canned goodies all year round.

You can also can lower-acid foods through a method called pressure canning. This is slightly more involved, but not by a lot. Follow these instructions for safe and simple pressure canning.

Tip: Home-canned fruits and vegetables will ruin you for the store-bought versions. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.



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Eating Well on a Budget