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meal planning

Surprise Youself With A New Food Every Week

We came home from vacation and my friend who had been dog sitting had left two persimmons on the counter. I looked at the beautiful orange fruit as a gift and a sign to prepare my next meal with a new food. I’m sure I’ve eaten this fruit before, but my memory could not bring up the flavors so I pulled up some info on the characteristics and then looked into my favorite recipes to find a place for it. persimmon

Get out of the rut of eating the same foods over and over again. When you are at the grocery store make it a habit to try a new fruit, vegetable or grain every week. Maybe try something you recall disliking as a kid and see what you make of it now. Not feeling very experimental, start with a different brand of apple, or type of potato. Get to know your spice rack to change the flavors in a dish you make frequently.

Having just come back from vacation I wanted to incorporate the persimmon into a dish I was already familiar with. Try this experiment next time you pick up a new food at the grocery store. Substitute it for something common in one of your favorite dishes. Keep it simple.

persimmon salad

I had been eating fish all week in Hawaii and still wanted to keep on that path so I took my recipe for pecan crusted chicken and substituted tilapia. I served this over a salad of baby spinach, pre-cooked red beets, avocado, and substituted persimmon for orange sections. To add some depth to the flavor and texture I added homemade purple cabbage sauerkraut (so easy to make and it can be kept in the refrigerator for 6 months) and homemade sprouts. Before trying this dish I had no idea what to do with persimmon and now I have a new seasonal fruit to look forward to eating in the fall.

Some tips if you want to try persimmon. The fruit is native to China and was later introduced to California. Check where your grocery store fruit came from and try for as local as possible as opposed to Asian imports. It’s harvested in the fall in California and typically available through December. One fruit is about 70 calories and is a good source of fiber. It has anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic properties. The orange color it a tip that it is high in carotenoids, helping to prevent age related macular disease. One fruit provides 80% of daily requirement for vitamin C. It’s a good post workout food as it is fairly high in minerals like potassium, manganese, copper and phosphorus. There are two common varieties, the hachiya (more astringent) and the fuyu (more sweet) shown in my recipe. The hachiya variety has a shape similar to a plum tomato and requires more ripening if you want to experience a sweet taste.

Now that I know I like the fruit and understand it's texture and taste I'm going to try it in a Caprese Salad. Give this a try and tell me what you think.

Balancing a meal with 5 essential flavors

Next time you have a great meal notice whether the 5 essential flavors are present. I find my meals more satisfying and I don’t crave more food, or sweet treats after if there is a balance of these five flavors plus fat. Sweet does a great job of giving a savory dish more depth, just like salt. Both salty and sweet tastes signal an intake of calories to our brain. If a dish seems too sweet, sour ingredients like lemon and vinegar will neutralize the sweetness. Fruits and root vegetables are good naturally sweet whole foods to include in your meals.

Bitter is a flavor many are not too fond of, but bitter foods are really good for us. It’s the compounds within the bitter foods that make them healthy like carotenoids in sweet potatoes and spinach, flavonoids in cranberries, and polyphenols in wine. Other bitter foods to incorporate are broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts.

Salty brings out subtle flavors you’d like to highlight and also diminishes flavors that are too bitter. Salty foods you may consider are soy sauce, miso paste, cured meats, olives, or cheese.

Sour is another flavor that tends to be hard to swallow, but just a small amount of lime or vinegar can brighten up a dish. Don’t confuse sour with bitter; the main difference is that sour is acidic. It generally doesn’t take much of a sour food to take a dish that is fairly bland and produce great flavor. Consider cultured dairy products, kimchi, sauerkraut, lemon, lime and vinegar.

Unami is the hardest flavor to describe. The word translates to mean “savoriness” and is often associated with meaty flavors and foods that are aged or cured. A seared red meat dish already has a unami quality, but if you are looking to make a vegetarian dish, or less flavorful chicken or fish dish more savory try soy sauce, fish sauce, miso paste, dried seaweed, beef or bone broth, parmesan, anchovies, tomatoes or mushrooms.

And what about fat? Although not on the list I feel fat should be another flavor or taste we should think about for food combining.


Take a look at the salad in my picture. I’ll put this together and have if for at least 3 meals, adding different ingredients each day. It’s so easy to pull out of the refrigerator and eat right away after a workout and I can eat a tone of it. So satisfying! I also really enjoy the textures of the shredded vegetables, crunch of the seeds and bursts of flavor from the pomegranate. If pomegranate is not in season I like to substitute grapefruit.

3 heads broccoli = bitter

1 small head cauliflower

2 large carrots = sweet

½ cup sunflower seeds (unsalted)

½ cup pomegranate seed= sour and sweet

½ cup mint

Salt and pepper to taste

With the shred blade and a food processor shred the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Place in large bowl and stir in sunflower seeds, pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Do not over salt as the dressing adds salty flavor as well.

Dressing: combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth

¼ cup tahini = Unami (you can sub any natural nut butter)

2 T rice vinegar = sour apple cider vinegar works ok but I like a more subtle vinegar

2 tsp miso= unami and salty

1 T maple syrup or honey= sweet

¼ cup + 1T hot water

Toss dressing into salad.

Other things I may add for additional pleasure on other days: grape tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, shredded chicken, hardboiled egg, or canned tuna.

Cooking and Multitasking

A topic that comes up from time to time with my clients is how to find time to cook a whole foods meal post workout.  I had this situation arise myself recently and thought I would share how I managed to cook, stretch post workout, take a shower and fold laundry all within 50 min! I had started preparation for a meal on a Sunday afternoon but by time dinner came around our plan had changed and the meal was not going to get cooked.  On Monday afternoon, I was on my bike in Central Park and negotiating how I was going to manage getting this meal cooked.  I’m strict about refueling within an hour of a workout (in this case a 2 hour bike ride) and sometimes turn to shakes and snacks, although they are great supplementation, sometimes these post workout mini meals turn into extra calories that I would prefer not to consume.

So here is the Spicy Coconut Chicken Casserole that I cooked, and the steps I took to get it all done in 50 min.

Spicy Coconut Chicken Casserole

This was originally a Martha Stewart recipe.  This serves 8 small dishes (1thigh each) or 4 large dishes. Nutrition data is for 8.

Ingredients:spicyCoconutChicien 1 Tbsp coconut oil 3 lbs chicken thighs 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/4 tsp black pepper 13 1/2 fl oz coconut milk 2 tsp curry paste 1 cup Arborio rice 2  bell pepper (red) 8 oz green beans 6 oz red onion 1 1/2 cups chicken broth


You can use chicken thighs or drumsticks. Arborio or jasmine rice are good choices. I used light coconut milk and went with red curry paste, 2-3 teaspoons is just a guide.

1.  Start with prep work and cut all veggies into 1-inch chunks or pieces. Skin chicken and trim the fat.

I completed these steps the day before.

2.  In Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, cook chicken until browned 3-4 min per side. Transfer to a plate.

While browning the chicken I brought my mat into the kitchen and stretched for a good 15 min, longer than I would usually stretch.

3.  Scrape chicken bits from bottom and add coconut milk, broth, 1/2 cup water, and curry paste. Taste and adjust spice while bringing to a boil. Stir in rice. Add chicken and any remaining juices arranging pieces in a single layer.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, without stirring until rice is done, about 15 min.

I made sure heat was adjusted and would not boil over.  Took my shower and dried my hair for 15 min while this simmered.

4. Scatter bell pepper, onion, and green beans on top, cover, and cook until vegetables are crisp tender, 8-10 min. 

I folded laundry and cleaned up around the kitchen for the last few minutes of cooking time.

Calories 385; fat 17g; saturated 7g; carb; 28g; protein 23g

Done!  Within 50 min post workout, got a great stretch in, got cleaned up and was refueled in less than an hour.  Plus this simple one dish meal gave me plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain! Come to my event to find out how.

Are you getting fat just thinking about the holidays?

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years are getting closer and closer!

What do they all have in common?  FOOD!

Heavy meals, drinks, sweets, candy, cookies, pastry....all creeping closer, all ready to leap on your hips, thighs and butt.  Stop the assault on your waistline and on your body.  Help is available!  Free yoursdlf from the millions of celebrating calories that want YOU for their dinner!

Join us for an afternoon of education and tasting.  Stop those sneaky calories before they end up in your body, and you end up on another endless cycle of dieting and deprivation.  Learn to control your appetite easily and effortlessly.  Allow yourself to choose to eat healthier and enjoy it.  Give yourself an amazing new gift for the holidays, a new healthier you with the body your want.

Sign up today, and fit right in!

Email or call 917-292-2069 to register.

Sunday November 14, 3:00 pm at my fabulous new home located at  #1 Northside Piers, PH10, Brooklyn NY 11211.  Easily accessible by the Bedford stop on the L train

IN SEASON: Watermelon

No other fruit says summer quite like thirst-quenching watermelon.  I had my first triathlon in Connecticut two weeks ago and at the end of the race there was plenty of food for the competitors to enjoy.  Unfortunately at this race there was nothing on the menu I wanted.  Then I saw a guy munching on a watermelon.  “Where did you get that”?  Man did those few wedges of sweet, juicy watermelon hit the spot. Much of the watermelon’s health-giving powers, as well as its blush color, are due to an abundance of the phytochemical lycopene.  By helping counter oxidative stress, lycopene may play a role in taming, inflammation, certain cancers and maintaining healthy eyesight.  Watermelon is also rich in citrulline, an amino acid used to make arginine, which relaxes blood vessels to help maintain a healthy heart.  And the seeds that we tend to discard?  They are packed with magnesium, a mineral vital for nerve function, blood pressure regulation, immunity, and bone health.  No wonder I was craving watermelon after swimming a mile, biking 25 and running 6.2 miles.

Want to know the best ways to eat this health giving summer delight?  

  • Juicy watermelon wedges are perfect fare for a picnic, beach day snack, or post exercise on a hot day.
  • Lay ½ inch thick watermelon slices on the grill and heat both sides
  • Puree extra watermelon and add to ice cube trays, freeze and add to your favorite beverage.
  • Chop or puree and add to salsas, chutneys, compotes, and vinaigrettes.
  • Add to a summer spinach salad.  A favorite of mine is spinach, watermelon, feta cheese, and mint leaves tossed with lime juice and olive oil.
  • For backyard parties carve out the watermelon and fill with other seasonal fruits.


When I speak to people about dietary habits I find for the most part there are about 20 foods that consistently make up 80 percent of a persons diet throughout the year.  It’s summer now, time to switch things up again.   Look for these foods on your next shopping adventure. Buffalo is grass-fed, which means you are getting a better balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Most often you will find it as ground meat or in patties but you may find steaks at quality butchers and farmers' markets.  The meat is much leaner than beef but has many of the same characteristics.

100% pomegranate juice with its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavonoids may slow aging and lower heart disease risk.  Adding small amounts to water is a refreshing way to enjoy the juice and may help you increase your water intake.

Bulgur Wheat is the spine of tabouli salad.  Follow package directions, and then toss with a little olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, and parsley.  It’s a great base for many fresh summer salads.  Add a variety of fresh chopped vegetables for a cooling side salad or snack.

Asian noodles like soba or buckwheat are high in fiber, and their rich stores of flavonoids may lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  I love them in the summer because they make for great cold salads.

Fennel bulb is an aromatic vegetable high in vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  Slice it very thin and add to salads.

To Eat or Not to Eat, That is the ???

Should you eat before your work out? Is it better to exercise on an empty stomach so that you tap into your fat stores and burn them away?  What if you have a sensitive stomach?  Should it be carbohydrates or protein or both?  The bottom line is that when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods before exercise, you will perform better, both mentally and physically, during the workout.  The question then becomes, what works best for your body Got a Sensitive Stomach?

If so, choose low-fiber and low-fat foods before exercise as they are easier to digest.  Also, try to eat at least one hour before beginning your workout.  Avoid foods like peanut butter and high-fiber cereals before your workout.  Fat and fiber hold food in the stomach longer, and with your sensitive stomach, you want the food that you eat to be digested and out of your gut when you start exercise.  Some good low-fat, low-fiber options are:  Banana, low-fat yogurt, and whole wheat English muffin.

Trying to Burn Fat?

While it’s true that exercise on an empty stomach allows you to burn fat during exercise, this does not translate to a reduction in body fat.  When the body is burning fat for fuel during exercise, it inevitably means that you are working out at a lower intensity.  What does that mean?  It means that you are burning fewer calories per minute of exercise.

To really blast through fat stores, you need to be in the carbohydrate-burning zone.  When your body is using carbohydrate to fuel exercise, it means that you are burning more calories per minute.  If  carbohydrate is not available, your intensity drops, both physically and mentally.  Therefore exercise on an empty stomach generally feels much harder.  Choose a satisfying meal or snack, but keep the high calorie additions to a minimum if you are trying to loose body fat. Give yourself 30-60 minutes to digest and then hit a high intensity workout.  Best lower calorie carbohydrate-rich foods to blast fat:  cooked oatmeal with some berries or banana;  whole grain (look for sprouted bread) toast with a light spread of almond butter (less than 1 tablespoon) and natural preserves; or low-fat yogurt and fruit such as fresh berries.

What about Protein to build Muscle?

Eating protein-rich foods before exercise won’t necessarily lead to muscle gain.  Focus your attention on complete protein from animals such as chicken, salmon, and turkey post workout when your muscles are more receptive to the muscle-building affects of protein.

Before any workout you need carbohydrates.  Carbs power exercise, especially high intensity workouts like weight lifting, cycling and running.  You can blow through your glycogen stores (carbohydrate stores) during a heavy lifting or cardio workout.  And when glycogen levels get low your mental and physical energy will drop.  When trying to build muscle choose pre-workout meals that provide carbohydrate and a bit of protein for extra calories.  Best muscle-building options are: Hummus and raw vegetables; Oatmeal with fruit and some low-fat chicken sausage; baked sweet potato topped with cottage cheese; or snack on edemame (soy beans).

Prime your body for exercise by choosing carbohydrate-rich foods for your pre-workout meal.  When possible, give yourself at least 30 minutes to digest the food and absorb the nutrients.  Experiment with which foods which work best for your body.

NATURALLY DETOXIFYING FOODS: Foods to eat and Foods to avoid

Whether you are transitioning to a cleansing lifestyle or simply want to be more knowledgeable of which foods to consume to improve digestion and overall health these are good guidelines to follow. Maintenance Nontoxic Diet Guidelines

  • Eat organically grown wherever possible.
  • Drink filtered (or properly purified water).
  • Eat a natural, seasonal cuisine, focusing on fresh foods as much as possible.
  • Focus foods on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • If dairy and meat are part of your diet focus on low-or non-fat dairy products (particularly organic yogurt), fresh fish (not shell fish), organic poultry, and wild game such as buffalo.
  • Rotate foods, especially common allergens such as milk products, eggs, wheat, and yeast foods.
  • Cook in iron, stainless steel, glass, or porcelain cookware.  Avoid Tefflon and other fabricated non stick finishes
  • Avoid or minimize cured meats, organ meats, refined foods, canned foods, sugar, salt, saturated fats, coffee, alcohol, and nicotine.

Foods to Include during a Cleanse

  • Dairy substitutes: Rice and nut milks such as almond milk and coconut milk.
  • Non-gluten grains: brown rice, millet, amaranth, teff, tapioca, buckwheat, potato flour, quinoa, gluten-free oats.
  • Fruits and vegetables: unsweetened fresh or frozen whole fruits, water-packed canned fruits, diluted fruit juices, and raw, steamed, sautéed, juiced or roasted vegetables.
  • Animal proteins: fresh or water-packed fish, wild game, lamb, duck, organic chicken, and organic turkey.
  • Vegetable protein; split peas, lentils, and legumes.
  • Nuts and seeds: walnuts; sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; hazelnuts; pecans; almonds; cashews; nut butters such as almond or tahini.
  • Oils; cold-pressed olive, flax, safflower, sesame, almond, sunflower, walnut, canola, and pumpkin.
  • Drinks: filtered or distilled water, decaffeinated herbal teas, seltzer or mineral water.
  • Sweeteners: brown rice syrup, agave nectar, stevia, fruit sweetener, and blackstrap molasses.
  • Condiments; vinegar; all spices including sea salt in moderation, pepper, basil, carob, cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and tumeric.

Foods to Exclude or Minimize during a Cleanse

  • Dairy and Eggs, even organic.
  • Butter and mayonnaise.
  • All processed foods: boxed cereals, frozen meals with additives, bread, canned goods.
  • Gluten including sources from bread and grains including wheat, corn, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, and oats.
  • Certain fruits and vegetables: oranges, orange juice, corn, creamed vegetables,
  • Animal protein in the form of pork, beef, veal, sausage, cold cuts, canned meats, frankfurters, and shellfish.
  • Soybean products such as soy sauce, soybean oil in processed foods, tempeh, tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, and textured vegetable protein.
  • Peanuts and peanut butter.
  • Specific oils: shortening, processed oils, commercial salad dressings, and spreads.
  • Drinks: alcohol, all coffee, caffeinated beverages, and soft drinks.
  • Sweeteners: white and brown refined sugars, honey, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and evaporated cane juice.
  • Condiments: ketchup, relish, chutney, barbecue sauce, and teriyaki sauce.

Spicy Asian Stir-Fry with Whole-Wheat Linguine

This recipe is a good way to make the switch from white pasta to whole-grain varieties that offer more fiber and protein.  If your diet requires additional protein you can add chicken or salmon.  The dish also tastes great as a cold noodle salad which you can easily transport to work.  If you do not have hoisin or garlic-chile sauce just substitute another sweet and spicy combo. Serves 4 (2 cups/serving) Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients: 8 oz whole-wheat linguine noodles 1 Tbs. peanut oil 1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup) 2 garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp) 1 small head bok choy, chopped into 2-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups) 1 1/2 cups broccoli floret 1/2 cup frozen or fresh snow peas (thawed) 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 2 Tbs hoisin sauce 1 Tbs garlic-chili sauce 1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water, and set pasta aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet or wok over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute 5 to 7 minutes, or until onion is golden.

Add bok choy, broccoli, snow peas, and bell pepper.  Stir continuously for 5 minutes.  Add a 1/2 cup of water, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in hoisin and garlic-chili sauces.  Stir in noodles, adding 1/2 cup reserved cooking water.  Add more water if mixture seems too dry.  Garnish each serving with 1 Tbs. chopped peanuts.

Per 2-cup serving: 330 calories; 19g protein; 9g fat (1g saturated); 55g carb; 10g fiber; 205mg sodium; 7g sugars

compliments of vegetarian times magazine

Loose Weight by Writing

Now that the New Year is here, how about jump-starting those stalled weight-loss plans?  To help make extra pounds of fat history, try this proven strategy: track you food intake in a diary.  Applying this strategy can double your weight loss success. I've begun a food log for myself.  Yes, I did succumb to too many sweets and excess food between vacation and the holidays.  I'm using a on-line program that allows me to log my daily food intake and in return I receive a interactive report card indicating whether I am taking in the correct amount of carbs, fats and proteins, as well as essential vitamins and minerals based upon the goal of loosing 1-2 pounds per week.  It even offers suggestions of foods that I should consume in order to bring my daily nutrient intake to FDA guidelines.

The "My Body" meal planner is so comprehensive that I'm using it with all my clients to assist them with making healthier meal and snack choices.  If you are interested in learning more about it click here and go to the tab "meal planner".  If you would like me to provide you with a sample report card for a typical daily meal plan for yourself make an appointment by clicking here. Now, keeping a diary does not have to be a formal thing to be beneficial.  Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a post-it-note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will help you be more aware of your consumption patterns.