Fall foods and veggies dominate this week’s recipes. The pumpkin recipes are unavoidable at this point too. I did a lot of cooking last week (peanut butter cream pie, homemade cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookie cake…..). It was so refreshing to be back in the kitchen & I hope to keep it going! Hope you’re able to do the same with some of these recipes. Enjoy!

trick those taste buds during the upcoming eating holiday season with this cobbler turned juice or maybe these pumpkin cheesecake bites

how to make oatmeal ahead of time. there are really no excuses for skipping the most important meal of the day!

everyone will find something to love in this white bean tortellini soup

this tuscan vegetable stew looks a.m.a.z.i.n.g

don’t let the title of this creamy vegan herb salad dressing scare you. homemade dressing is way healthier than store-bought. and I think I could totally get on the tofu train if it were blended up into a salad dressing.

I have a feeling even veggie haters will be able to get on board with these roasted vegetable stuffed shells

make your halloween dinner fun with these halloween stuffed peppers

italian provolone pull-apart bread would make a perfect snack for watching football (or baseball! GO ROYALS!)

make your lunch time carrot sticks festive with spicy pumpkin chipotle hummus

pecan spiced buttermilk pancakes make for a perfect fall morning

instead of butter, you can spray this pumpkin spice popcorn with a little cooking spray to help the spices stick and you’ve got a healthy, whole grain fall snack!


eating out


Eating out at restaurants often gets a bad reputation. Although most restaurants have some not-so-healthy items on the menu, they also have better choices that allow you to enjoy the restaurant experience without totally breaking the calorie bank for the next week.

Going to a restaurant is a social and often rare experience and you should enjoy it rather than stressing about how many calories are in your meal. However, it’s good to be generally aware of what you’re getting because many meals can set you back 2,000+ calories and, over time, that just isn’t great for your health or your waistline.

For example, some places have great bread before the meal but at other places I could take it or leave it. Why waste 200+ calories (more if you’re dipping each bit in olive oil) on so-so bread before your meal even arrives? If you think you’ll be ravenous by the time you get to the restaurant, eat some fruit before leaving the house. It’ll take the edge off your hunger and then you can taste the bread while saving plenty of room for the main course.

apples[used with permission from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

Portions at restaurants are also much larger than what you would serve at home. It can be hard to remember this when your plate arrives since you’re probably used to just eating whatever is on your plate. Some self-control is required here, but try to envision how much you would serve yourself if you prepared a similar meal at home. Pasta is a perfect example. At home, I prepare one serving (~1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked) and it’s plenty. Restaurants serve 3-4 times this amount and there is no reason I need to eat it all. It’s hard when it’s right in front of you, but try to pay attention to how you feel as you eat and stop when you’re comfortably full. Many places serve a lunch portion that is much more reasonable in size (and cheaper!) if you ask.

Look out for items that add a ton of unneccesary calories to a meal and either avoid them or cut back. Did you know that a 6 inch turkey sandwich from Subway has 280 calories and approximately 210-230 of those are from the bread? I also love cheese but don’t bother with it at Subway because I can’t even taste it so it’s not worth adding an additional 100+ calories. A similar example is the burrito at Chipotle. The tortilla alone is 300 calories before you even add rice, meat, cheese, sour cream, or guacamole. By getting the rice bowl, you get all the goodness from the inside without that additional 300 calories added on. These same concepts go for any restaurant.

balanced meals[source]

Other tips to make your meal a little healthier include:

  • order sauces or dressings on the side…you often need MUCH less than you think
  • avoid/limit items with fried, breaded, battered, crispy, or cream in the title
  • aim for items that are baked, grilled, steamed, or roasted
  • fill up on as many veggies as you want – just watch the added dressings or other toppings; order a salad or ask for a side of veggies with your meal (many places will do this for only a couple dollars)
  • cut back on pre-meal bread and if you’re getting pizza, aim for a thinner crust. you get the same basic thing for way fewer calories.
  • drink plenty of water!
  • don’t “save up” calories all day when you know you’re going to eat out…this ALWAYS backfires. eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day and you’re less likely to go overboard and end up miserable when you go out

At the end of the day, eating out isn’t bad but it should be a special treat. When cooking at home, you have much more control over what goes into your food, you can control the portion size, and you save money! If you don’t eat out often, choose a great restaurant and just enjoy it. But, if you eat out more frequently (> once per week), try to incorporate some of these tips so you don’t sabotage your efforts to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight.


I’ve found a pretty wide variety of recipes in the past week! I tried not to go heavy on the pumpkin recipes since they’re everywhere – hope you find something to try! Also, I’ll be putting together some posts for the coming weeks soon, so don’t forget to let me know if there is a topic you’re interested in learning more about [realfoodfirstRD at OR there's a comment form on my about page]!

roasted cauliflower + chickpea salad

slow-cooked tomato + herb white beans

steel cut oats + cinnamon stewed fruit

easy chicken pad thai

spinach artichoke pesto tortellini soup

roasted red pepper tortilla soup

raspberry bread

loaded power salad

slow cooker sweet potato, chicken, + quinoa soup


Sorry I disappeared for a few days! Work has been pretty busy, but I’m back!

to start off, if you don’t have yummly, go sign up right now. it’s a recipe search engine that has TONS of awesome recipes in a very easy to read format:

ScreenHunter_75 Oct. 14 20.52

If you don’t get pulled in to the million recipes on yummly (there are SO many!!), here are a few more I came across this week that I can’t wait to try! Enjoy!

this pumpkin greek yogurt banana bread looks like a fun (healthy!) twist on a fall favorite

easy southwest mac + cheese…much better for you than the boxed variety

red beans and rice is another easy, delicious weeknight meal

for some reason, I always forget about popcorn as a snack but it is so filling…and a whole grain! can’t wait to try this curried popcorn

greek salad bites!

if you ever have trouble eating/liking vegetables, roasted veggies are the way to go




Fall foods are taking over my kitchen in full force lately! There are some on today’s list that you don’t want to miss – like homemade applesauce! It’s so easy! Enjoy!

if you’re not sure how to use all the spices in your spice cabinet or just want to be more creative in the kitchen, this infographic is perfect for you. so much great info!!

if you don’t mind a little spice, you’ll probably love this sriracha roasted chicken

do you make homemade pizza? I used to make it at least once a week but I’ve gotten out of the habit. this thai chicken pizza would be a nice change of pace

I think I have my favorite pizza crust recipe on this blog somewhere from back in the day, but this whole wheat pizza dough is even faster. now you have no excuse NOT to make pizza this week! :)

did you jump on the kale chip bandwagon a couple years back? I know…it sounds like major hippie food but they’re pretty darn good and these masala kale chips look incredibly addicting.

I’m not a fan of tomato soup, but this one actually looks pretty incredible

a souffle pancake with cinnamon apples sounds like the perfect fall Saturday morning treat

fried chicken is high in unhealthy saturated fats but if it’s a routine part of your dinner menu, you can make a lighter version like this oven fried chicken

nachos are one of my favorite foods and they don’t have to be unhealthy. load them up with fiber-filled black beans, healthy fats from avocado, and veggies like bell peppers and corn for a filling meal you can enjoy and feel good about.

fall is full of all kinds of squash. if you haven’t tried it, what better way to start than squash covered in sweet and sour sauce?

everyone in the family will like easy cheese baked tortellini. bonus – it can easily be frozen so make a couple batches at once!

if you have a slow cooker and you haven’t made homemade applesauce yet, you are missing out. it is so incredibly delicious and EASY….and makes your house smell amazing.

dietary fat: part 3

Just to recap, in part 1 we discussed how to spot nutrition misinformation since that seems to be common when it comes to dietary fat. In part 2, we discussed the different types of fats and which are best to avoid.

Now for the fun part: how to actually add more good fats into your diet and make sure you’re keeping the bad ones to a minimum!

avocado[used with permission by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

In part 2, I mentioned that you should keep saturated fats should be less than about 20 grams per day (depending on your calorie needs) and trans fats should be eliminated from the diet. The following are some foods high in saturated fat:

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 23 18.59Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and any foods containing these as an ingredients will also be higher in saturated fats. Processed foods like boxed meals and snack foods often contain palm kernel and/or hydrogenated oils. Desserts and processed meats like sausages also tend to be higher in saturated fats.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats like those found in olive or canola oil, nuts, flax, nuts, and avocado has been shown to decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Olive oil starts to break down at high heats, so canola oil is better to use when cooking at high temperatures. Here are some ways you can increase the amount of unsaturated fats in your diet (I hope you’re prepared for some recipes!):



dietary fat: part 2

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about how to determine if the latest piece of nutrition advice is worth following, let’s talk specifics about dietary fats!

First, fat is a necessary part of everyone’s diet. The brain is largely made up of fats, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) require fat to be absorbed properly, your body uses some fat for energy, and fat is used to make up cell membranes and hormones in your body, just to name a few things.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of fats:

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 23 15.51Saturated and trans fats are in red because they should be minimized, as they increase blood cholesterol levels and can be harmful to your health. Saturated fats should be kept to less than 10% of your total calories (less than 20 grams per day on a “typical” 2,000 calorie diet) or less than 7% of your total calories if you are at risk for heart disease. Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible.

Unsaturated fats should make up the majority of the fats in your diet and can be found in both poly- and monounsaturated forms. The often talked about omega-3s and omega-6s are long chain polyunsaturated fats and are considered essential because the human body can’t make these fats on their own – only plants can. Humans can, however, use some other shorter chain fatty acids from the diet to make the longer omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6s are in yellow because we already get plenty in our diets and having far more omega-6s than omega-3s in the diet can interfere with the process I mentioned above of converting shorter fatty acids into the longer omega-3s (like EPA and DHA) that are particularly beneficial to our health. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids is encouraged to help balance out the ratio between omega-6s and omega-3s.

So, which fats are provide more healthy unsaturated fats and which provide more unhealthy saturated fats? Let’s take a look at a comparison between different types of fats/oils and the amounts of each kind of fat they contain. The information in the graph is for 1 tablespoon of each kind of fat/oil.

ScreenHunter_74 Sep. 23 16.13

We can learn a lot from that graph up there! First, let’s consider the butter vs margarine debate. As you might be able to tell, only two items in that graph have a noticable amount of trans fat: butter and margarine. Many people think margarine is healthier because it doesn’t have as much saturated fat but, if we think back to the recommendations above, trans fat is considered far worse (elimintate) for heart health than saturated fat (<20 grams per day) and margarine has much more trans fat than butter. Either should be used in moderation, but I always use butter over margarine.

Palm kernel oil and other tropical oils (such as coconut oil) are notorious for their high saturated fat content, as you can see above. You may have never purchased palm kernel oil or seen it next to the olive oil at the grocery store but it is in I would say a majority of processed foods. You’re probably more familiar with coconut oil.

coconut oil[source]

While some research suggests that coconut oil may have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels due to the different way it is absorbed in the body, the results overall appear to be mixed. Without evidence of definite health benefits, I don’t recommend using coconut oil in place of other heart healthy oils. Regardless of its benefits, I wouldn’t use it more frequently than I would any other oil or fat. We know that olive oil is a heart healthy choice because of it’s high percentage of unsaturated fats, specifically monounsaturated fats. However, no one recommends going around and pouring olive oil onto everything you eat. When you need to use oil, olive oil is a good choice but it is still a concentrated source of calories (~120 calories per tablespoon) and should be used in moderation to leave room for other important nutrients in the diet. The same idea applies to coconut oil.

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about dietary fats! Monday will be part 3 – ways to actually add more good fats in and cut some of the bad fats out of your diet.