Navigating the Holidays: Tips and Tricks for a Healthier, Happier Season – Week Two: Booze Bets and Surviving the Day-to-Day (i.e., Watch out Office Donuts!)

It’s here! Thanksgiving week. As you gather with friends and family don’t forget to remember the reason for the season and all you are thankful for. One activity I love is sharing what we’re thankful for around the dinner table – actually saying it out loud. It can mean so much to our loved ones – who we don’t tell nearly enough how important they are to us. I know that personally, I have so much to be thankful for — this year especially. In addition to my loving family, health and career, I am thankful for my partner in life. To my husband on our first thanksgiving as a married couple – you are what I’m most thankful for this holiday season. Your patience, smile and calming nature truly has swept me off my feet and I’m so in love with and thankful for you. So now it’s your turn: I want to know, what are you thankful for?

And now, on to this week’s tips and recipes. Enjoy!

Be Bashful Around BoozeCelebrating Christmas

Why? Alcohol has 7 calories per gram as opposed to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein. That means it’s calorie dense – and those calories can add up quick if you aren’t careful. Just because you are celebrating shouldn’t mean you should send your weight maintenance plan on holiday as well.

Alcohol interferes with blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose into the blood stream. Alcohol also breaks down your inhibitions and can impair your judgment, making you less likely to resist (and often times eat more of) the foods you might otherwise pass up.

Here’s how a typical drink adds up:

  • 90 calories/5 ounce glass of wine
  • 150-170 calories in a pint of beer
  • 75 calories in about 1.5 ounces of spirits

So what to do? For starters, try to keep visual evidence around of what you’ve consumed so you don’t forget. Leave an empty bottle of wine or beer in view and you’ll be less tempted to drink more. You can also follow each beverage with a glass of water to ensure you stay hydrated and potentially drink less. Last – watch the added mixers. Stick with clear spirits mixed with calorie-free beverages like sparkling water or club soda vs. juice or soft drinks.

Survive the Day-to-Dayoffice-snacks

Again — just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean you should forego your healthy habits. Continue to meal prep, bring your own lunches, and keep healthy snacks at the office so you’re not as tempted by the treats that will begin to pile up. It’s hard – I know! Just last week a coworker brought in a box of donuts and I felt peer pressured into eating one – even though I truly didn’t want it. Stand your ground. And if you want to indulge – do so mindfully. Not while typing away at your desk. Take a minute to truly enjoy the treat. You’ll be less apt to go back for a second or third.

Some other tricks to try: keep those communal office goodies out of view or in an area that is less trafficked like the kitchen or a break room. Why? Out of sight, out of mind.  Another idea: before you splurge, consider doing something healthy. We are on the 8th floor of our office building. So instead of just diving into that cupcake or cookie, I’ll sometimes walk up/down a few flights of stairs or go for a walk first. Often times, when I return, I’m no longer in the mood for that sweet treat. And if I am, I enjoy it – without multitasking.

Recipe Inspiration

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, here are a couple of my favorite side dishes you can swap out for more traditional sides. They are still healthy and delicious but without all the extra calories, sodium and healthier sources of fat. If you try one of these recipes out, I’d love to hear what you think!

Coming up next week, I’ll discuss why it’s so important to get, or continue to get, moving as well as why it’s so important to plan ahead before heading out to an office party, holiday shopping or cookie exchange. Cheers!

Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrettegreen beans

Serves 8

A tasty alternative to green bean casserole with less sodium and calories than the traditional dish. The walnuts add healthy crunch and the vinaigrette really makes this dish pop. This is one of my go-to recipes during the holiday season. Enjoy


  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup walnut oil or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped


  1. Remove peel from lemon with vegetable peeler and cut into very fine strips.
  2. Cut lemon in half. Squeeze enough juice to measure 2 tablespoons and transfer to a small bowl.
  3. Whisk in mustard, then oil and shallot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cook green beans in pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 5—6 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  5. Combine beans, walnuts, and lemon peel strands in a large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat and serve.

Smokey Apple Butternut Squash Soupapples

Serves 6-8 (Makes 7 Cups)

Adapted from the U.S. Apple Association

I love this simple soup as a holiday starter. As I mentioned in the tips, starting with a broth based soup can fill you up so you indulge less in the calorie dense foods served next. This soup has a nice added kick from the chipotle powder. If you find it too spicy you can back off or omit that ingredient entirely. Enjoy!


  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large onions, finely chopped (about 4−1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 cups)
  • 1 pound sweet apples (I like Galas), peeled and cut into chunks (about 3−1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup apple juice (more if necessary)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper


  1. Heat oil and butter in large saucepan; add onions and chili powder; cook and stir until onions are tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add squash, apples, apple juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil.
  3. Cover and cook on low heat until apples and squash are very so, about 30 minutes. Cool.
  4. Puree with an immersion blender or a food processor; return to saucepan.
  5. Add additional apple juice or broth, if needed.
  6. Garnish with toasted pecans, plain Greek yogurt swirls and thin apple slices, if desired.

Navigating the Holidays: Tips and Tricks for a Healthier, Happier Season

It’s hard to believe it – but the holiday season is just around the corner! I recently had the fortunate opportunity to give a nutrition seminar to Orange Theory Fitness members around the Chicago-land area on how to navigate the holiday season while keeping your health and fitness goals in check. Since the tips were pretty well received – I figured why not share them with you! But instead of all at once – I’ll share a couple every week so as not to overwhelm you!

Holiday-weight-gain.jpgBut before I dive in – why bother? “It’s the holidays – let me eat what I want,” right? I wholeheartedly agree that you should celebrate and enjoy yourself – but also feel that just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to derail your health and fitness goals. There’s a misperception that we gain a ‘ton’ of weight during the holiday season. And while some may gain more than others – the truth is the average person only gains about one pound during the holiday season. The issue though is we don’t lose that pound leading to an increase in weight over time.

Second – let’s face it – the holidays are stressful (amen!). Between work, holiday parties, family, friends, church, and other obligations you may have – there just isn’t enough time for everything and often our health takes a back seat. That shouldn’t be the case. If anything – now is when you should make it more of a priority to ensure you ward off illness and stay healthy during this festive time.

So on to my tips and tricks. I hope you enjoy this series of posts! Let me know – I always love feedback!!

Tip #1: Party Time Prep

Holiday season likely means a slew of get-togethers filled with hor ‘douerves galore. How do you navigate them when pigs in a blanket or creamy artichoke dip are calling your name? First – never – if at all possible – show up hungry (or in my case, hangry). Why? You are more apt to eat everything in sight and alcohol will hit you faster. Have a snack before you leave the office or house. One of my go-to snacks when I’m in a pinch are Health Warrior Chia Bars (full disclosure: I serve on the Health Warrior Dietitian Council). These little goodies pack a punch of fiber (5g per bar) and healthy fat with only 3g of sugar. And they are only 100 calories and the perfect size to through in your purse, work bag, car or back pack. They come in delicious flavors too – like chocolate chip cookie dough, banana nut or coconut. Have a little more time? Then follow my suggestions for a healthy snack: it should include a carbohydrate (e.g., bread, cereal, fruit, dairy, etc.), healthy fat (e.g., nut butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, etc.) and quality protein (e.g., dairy, soy, egg, meat products or some combination of nuts/seeds). Examples include a yogurt parfait made with greek yogurt of your choice (look for low or no added sugar), granola and some chopped apples or other fruit; a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana; or a handful of carrots with some hummus, whole grain crackers and 1 oz of cheese (about the size of your thumb).

7790ecd6-edf2-4a43-94f4-6343f41dec49Once you’ve arrived to the party, attack the snacks mindfully. Survey what is offered and take what it is you truly want to eat vs. a little bit of everything. Research has shown that when faced with a wide variety of foods, people tend to eat more—regardless of true hunger level. Really try to tune in to your hunger level and whether you really want the chips and dip or the veggies and hummus. Take a little and call it a day. Another tactic – fill your plate with better-for-you options first. I like to encourage clients to follow the 1/2 plate rule – at meals and with snacks. 1/2 of your plate (or bowl) should be fruits/veggies. One quarter grain and the other quarter a lean protein of your choice. This visual will help keep portions in check.

Last – once you’ve had your fill, stand away from the snack table so you aren’t prone to mindless nibbling. You can also hold on to something to lessen your likelihood to munch. Think about it – when our hands are full, it’s hard to stuff our face. Try to really be keyed in to what you are eating when you are eating – focus on enjoying each bite you take.

My next two tips will focus on alcohol and how to survive the day-to-day (hello office donuts). So stay tuned for more and feel free to comment with the tips that you take during the holidays to stay on track! I’ll end each post with one of my favorite holiday recipes – because food! All are holiday inspired but health-ified (still delicious). Cheers!

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

You’ll save over 250 calories, 20g of fat (while also switching to a healthier fat), and gain 3g of fiber per serving compared to traditional chocolate mousse. Have fun with your guests by asking them to guess the mystery ingredient. This recipe is also a great way to use up avocados that have started to turn brown. Enjoy!

New Picture (2)Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado (the riper, the better)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I prefer Fairlife to get an extra dose of protein)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth/creamy. Transfer to a bowl or custard cups and chill for 20 min before serving. Eat within 2-3 days. Makes about 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 166 calories, 6g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 52 mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 3g protein (if using Fairlife – regular milk has about 2g protein/1/4 cup)


Getting Back in the Kitchen in 2017 with Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash

After indulging a little too much this holiday season, I made a resolution to get back in the kitchen more in 2017. I have way too many cookbooks. So my plan is to try a couple new recipes each week. I use recipes as inspiration. I take from them new cooking techniques and ideas and then modify them to create my own delicious dishes. The following recipe was inspired by the acorn squash recipe in the Racing Weight Cookbook. It is a hearty, nutrient rich, high volume meal and a great way to enjoy acorn squash. It not only tastes great but is super easy and will impress your guests with its presentation. I like to pair it with a spinach salad and crusty whole grain bread. After I posted the pic of this dish to Instagram, the recipe was requested by a few people – so here you go. Enjoy!

Allison’s Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squashsquash


1 acorn squash

1 lb. ground turkey

1-2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 medium onion

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/3 cup shredded mozzarella


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the squash in half from stem to root and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle cut-side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  2. Place the squash halves cut-side-up in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to fill the pan by about 1/4 inch. Place in oven.
  3. Roast the squash until soft and tender when poked with a fork, 30 to 50 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size of your squash.
  4. While the squash roasts, sauté turkey, onion, mushrooms and seasonings until cooked.
  5. Once the squash is tender, remove from the oven and set oven to broil. Carefully poor liquid out of pan. Stuff squash halves with turkey mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
  6. Remove from oven and serve!

Nutrition Information (1 serving = 1/2 acorn squash; 1/2 turkey mixture): 420 calories, 16g fat, 28g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 40g protein



Practice Makes PRs: bRUNch Recap and Recipes

Post fun run — fueling up!

Yesterday I hosted a great group of runners for a fun run with DWRunning followed by brunch that included a bunch of my favorite pre-, post- and during workout fuel options. Since I didn’t have copies of every recipe for individuals to take home, I wanted to include them all here for easy access. I’ve also included a couple of anecdotes as well as to why they work for me and my rationale for why they make great runner fuel. The biggest take away from yesterday? Runners like to eat, are hungry for nutrition knowledge and this type of event is a ton of fun for me to offer because it combines 2 things I’m very passionate about – running and food – and especially feeding others! Hope all that attended enjoyed (and learned a little something too!) and be on the lookout for future events like this in the next few months!

Discussing the ins and outs of race day nutrition


Energy Bites: great for pre- or immediately post run. I’ve even known a few people to freeze and take along on longer workouts for mid-run fuel.

Raspberry Oat Scones: easy to make breakfast on the go or mid afternoon snack option. I used gluten free flour. From the Racing Weight cookbook.

Kodiak Cakes Pancakes (go for the protein cakes if planning to eat post workout): followed the instructions but used unsweetened almond milk instead of water to give added flavor, vitamins and minerals.

Overnight Oats: a favorite post run meal or pre-long run/workout fuel (just make sure you allow enough time to digest). Also great grab and go option.

Egg Frittata for a Crowd:

Veggie (serves 6-8)

1 zucchini, diced

1 summer squash, diced

1/2 a large sweet onion

1 medium red pepper, diced

1-2 cups mushrooms or other desired veggies

12 eggs

2 cups cheese (Italian mix or mozzarella/parmesan blend), finely shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat cook veggies in about 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender.
  3. Coat 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. Add cooked veggies to pan and let cool.
  4. Whisk eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add cheese and mix to combine.
  5. Pour over slightly cooled veggies and make sure evenly distributed. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are set and slightly brown on top.
  6. Remove from oven and let sit for 2-3 min to cool slightly then cut into squares and serve.

‘BLT’ (serves 6-8)

1-2 cups baby spinach

2 roma tomatoes, sliced

1 lb bacon, cooked and chopped

12 eggs

2 cups cheese (cheddar), finely shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cook bacon to likeness. Let cool and pat dry. Chop into bite size pieces.
  3. Coat 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. Add spinach. Top with sliced tomatoes and bacon.
  4. Whisk eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add cheese and mix to combine.
  5. Pour over slightly spinach/tomato/bacon mixture and make sure evenly distributed. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are set and slightly brown on top.
  6. Remove from oven and let sit for 2-3 min to cool slightly then cut into squares and serve.

Toast station:

Top a whole grain bread with a variety of toppings. My favorite go-to bread brands are Angelic and Ezekial (usually found in the freezer section – both brands can be found at Mariano’s). Toast is great for snacks or pre/post workout. Toppings included a variety of nut butters, avocado, chia and hemp seeds. My goal for every snack or meal: complex carb (bread), healthy fat (avocado, chia, hemp, nut butter) and protein source (nut butters).

Yogurt Parfait Bar:

Look for brands of yogurt with very little added sugar (or just get plain and sweeten yourself with honey or agave). My favorite is Siggi’s plain or vanilla. I use it in everything! Top with low sugar granolas (two brands I’m loving right now are Viki’s and Milk and Honey). Other mix ins: fresh fruit, flaked coconut (look for unsweetened), a small portion of chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and chia or hemp seeds.

Smoothie Station:

I love smoothies because often after hard workouts, I have very little appetite yet I know the importance of getting quality fuel asap in an effort to speed up recovery. So I have turned to smoothies. I add a scoop of protein powder (more on those in a future post) to a big handful of spinach, about 1/2 cup frozen fruit and coconut water or almond milk and blend. If it’s going to be a meal replacement, I’ll also add chia, nut butter and/or oats. It’s an easy way to get calories in when I don’t feel like eating and a refreshing post-run option to boot. Here’s a helpful handout I made for Mariano’s on smoothies to help guide you on how to make a better one.

Looking like I’m reading to the class with Coach Dan from DWRunning in the background

Are you interested in attending a future event like this or maybe even a more tailored, one on one session with me? Be sure to like my Facebook page to stay in the know of all my upcoming events and/or shoot me a line here to inquire about additional services that I offer.








Chicago Flower and Garden Show Recipes

fg 1
Post presentation selfie from the Garden Gourmet stage

Today I had the awesome opportunity to share two of my favorite recipes and my top tips to help you shop, live and eat well with Chicago Flower and Garden Show attendees. I was the featured ‘chef’ at 11:30am on the Garden Gourmet stage. All I can say is despite being super nervous before hand, I had a blast sharing my knowledge and food with this audience. Since I had a bunch of inquiries for the recipes – I wanted to re-share them here so you all could easily reference as well as a couple of my tips. Enjoy!

Carrot Pecan Energy Bites

These are actually my coworker’s recipe – that I’ve adopted and modified many times. They may a great snack pre- or post-workout and are easily stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I love making a big batch and sharing with friends after long runs. My other energy bite recipe is a bit more indulgent – but also delicious. Check it out here:

fg 2Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup ground pecans


  1. Blend together in a food processor: oats, pecans, cherries, grated carrots, and flax seed.
  2. Pulse in the almond butter, agave or honey, and cinnamon until combined.
  3. Spray hands with cooking spray and roll mixture into balls – about 1 Tbsp/bite.
  4. Role bites in ground pecans then place in air tight container. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Bites keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week. Makes about 20-30 bites.

Nutrition Info per Bite: 50 calories, 3g total fat, 0.3g saturated fat, 3 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein

Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

I love this salad. It contains all my favorite winter fruits and veggies and really adds a punch of citrus flavor to the plate. Serve along side salmon, chicken or other protein and you’ve got a complete meal. Or have alone as a main course (as I often do for lunch). As a side, this serves about 4-6 or on its own – about 3-4.

Ingredients:farro salad

  • 3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)


  1. To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
  2. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
  3. Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
  4. Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
  5. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.

Basic Citrus Vinaigrette

(makes just enough for salad)


  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.

Nutrition Info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium

My Latest Breakfast Obsession: Overnight Oats

One of the things I emphasize with clients and strive to do personally is get a good breakfast every day. My criteria? It must contain protein – at least 15g – as well as a source of complex carbohydrate (like oatmeal, whole wheat toast, or whole grain cereal), a decent amount of fiber (5 or more grams) and a source of healthy fat. Why? Besides starting your day off on the right foot, this combo is sure to help bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch without feeling the need to snack or visit the vending machine.

My current breakfast obsession is overnight oats. I’ll admit, I’m a little late to the overnight oat party. I’ve seen pics and recipes from friends and colleagues posted to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for years without actually trying it myself. But once I did, I was hooked. What could be better than waking up, opening your fridge and having a no fuss, already prepared breakfast ready to go? And it meets all my criteria for a good breakfast! Here are 2 variations that I’ve created and love. They are also the perfect post- AM workout or pre- long run fuel. Enjoy!

Almond Butter Banana Overnight Oats

Makes 1 serving


  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 cup of low or nonfat vanilla yogurt (I prefer Siggi’s because it has more protein/serving than sugar)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat/skim milk (suggest Fairlife for an extra dose of protein)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp almond (or other nut) butter
  • 1 medium banana, sliced
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds


  1. Mix together oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, and almond butter in a bowl then pour into glass or jar (suggested vessel: mason jar)
  2. Top with sliced banana
  3. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  4. In the morning, remove from fridge, mix and add additional milk, if desired
  5. Top with sliced almonds and serve

Nutrition Information*: 485 calories, 18g protein, 15g fat, 74g carbohydrate, 10g fiber

Lemon Berry Overnight Oats

Makes 1 servingovernight oats


  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 cup of low or nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat/skim milk
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Juice from about ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup frozen berries (like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.)
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds
  • Drizzle of honey, agave or sweetener of choice (to taste/as desired)


  1. Mix together oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, lemon juice and zest in a bowl then pour into glass or jar (suggested vessel: mason jar)
  2. Top with frozen berries
  3. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  4. In the morning, remove from fridge, mix and add additional milk, if desired
  5. Top with additional thawed berries, almonds, sweetener (if desired) and serve

Nutrition Information*: 353 calories, 17g protein, 6g fat, 61g carbohydrate, 10g fiber

*Nutrition information obtained using: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current:  September 2015.  Internet:


Hitting Reset in the New Year: Why I did a Juice Cleanse

I despise resolutions. And the first two weeks of the New Year. The gym becomes over-crowded and everyone is on a diet, detox or cleanse–trying to right the wrongs of the last month (or year). I don’t believe in diets (for more about my philosophy about food, nutrition, health and life, check out this interview I did for Lux and Concord: Dieting 101 – Game Changing Tips from a Dietitian) — so why then, would I choose to go on a 3-day juice cleanse? In the middle of a big training push to prepare me for an upcoming half marathon? Because if there’s any question I get more often than others it’s what are the benefits of juicing, smoothies and cleansing/detox diets. I wanted to be able to relate to what my clients and customers go through. I also wanted to dive a little deeper into the SCIENCE – to see if there’s any truth to the benefits often touted like improved mental clarity, increased energy, and better sleep. And let’s be honest — I spent most of December stuffing my face with Christmas cookies and holiday beers. I could use a reset button in the New Year as well. So here’s my overall take on how I felt before, during and after; a brief overview of what the science says; and my general take on the experience overall (you may be surprised). What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

Pre-Cleanse: What am I thinking??

I decided to go with a juice cleanse that took out all the guess work out of it by signing up for the Real Good Juice 3-day Juice Cleanse. Why? I never had to guess at the quantities, proportions, or ingredients. I knew my juices would taste great having had a few of their awesome blends prior to the cleanse and it just made life easier.

1 Day’s worth of Juice

Each day I picked up my juices for the next day. Six in total – including one smoothie for breakfast. This was another reason I was drawn to this cleanse over others. Smoothies include some fiber – which is usually lacking in most juice cleanses. Fiber is important for digestive health and helps keep us fuller longer.

A couple days before I cut back a bit on processed foods and focused on staying well hydrated to prepare myself for the next 3 days. To be honest, the only thing I really was concerned about was the lack of caffeine (a valid concern I would soon find out). I went to sleep the night before excited and nervous for the next 3 days.

Juice Cleanse Realization: I’m Addicted to Coffee

Day 1 started out great – I had a big cup of hot water and lemon, drank my smoothie and did my easy workout and actually felt great. I wasn’t even hungry. Every two hours you drink another juice. Each is about 16 ounces which really does fill you up if you are also drinking a decent amount of water as well. The only real side effect I experienced at this point was a lot of trips to the ladies room since I was taking in much more fluids than normal. As the 12pm slump rolled around, the lack of caffeine set in. I was dragging. I’m used to close to 4 cups of coffee/day (before you gasp in shock – this is 4, 6oz cups – that’s like two tall coffees from Starbucks). I could not stop yawning and thinking about a nap. Fortunately, I powered through. By the last juice of the day, I missed chewing. Having calculated out the caloric intake/day, I knew I would need to supplement the cleanse with some solid food to ensure I could also get my workouts in. I spoke with the helpful folks at Real Good and they suggested organic fruits, veggies and raw nuts. I grabbed a large handful of almonds and carrots and a cup of ginger tea. Day 1 was done – and I was beat. I was asleep by 10pm (much earlier than my usual 11:30pm bedtime).

Day 2: woke up at 8am. I slept 10 hours. I haven’t slept that good or soundly in years. I wanted a cup of coffee – but didn’t want to give up just yet. I grabbed my smoothie, a cup of hot water with lemon and did some work. Today was going to be tough. I had a hard 9 mile speed workout planned. After about an hour I tied on my sneakers and made my way to the treadmill for  my workout. About 1/2 way through I had to stop for a bathroom break. On my way back to the ‘mill I started seeing spots. I knew I needed to take a longer break. I was determined to get through the workout though. Fortunately I live in a building with a gym so I went back to my apartment, grabbed the next juice for the day and downed it along with an apple and almond butter. I immediately felt better and an hour later, completed the workout. I wouldn’t recommend this. If you are planning to do a cleanse – definitely cut back on your exercise plan. The rest of day 2 was easier than expected. I taught a cooking seminar where I had to make and sample food. I surprisingly wasn’t hungry and continued to drink the juice every two hours. I still felt exhausted though and it was another early to bed evening.

End of Day 2 and my Favorite Juice of the cleanse: Juicy Liu – a blend of almond and cashew milk

Day 3: OK. I miss food. But it’s day 3 – the last day. I can do this. Oddly enough – I found myself craving things like oatmeal and kale salads – and NOT burgers, pizza and French fries. It’s like my body was craving healthy food. I still struggled with caffeine withdrawal but this day was definitely easier than the previous two. I had a short, easy run that I finished with no problems. Another early to bed evening – and 3 of the best nights of sleep I’ve had since I was a probably a teenager. 

Post Cleanse: What I Learned

Following the cleanse I woke up and made my now go-to breakfast: oatmeal, sliced banana and a spoonful of almond butter. I also made my usual pot of coffee but found I could only stomach 1/2 of what I normally would consume – and even that caused the caffeine jitters. I laced up for an 8 mile progressive run that went better than expected. I ran faster than I have in months. I felt invincible. My energy level was through the roof. I also felt lean. I checked the scale – about 3 lbs down. I didn’t do this to lose weight – and know that much of the weight I likely lost was water weight – but still, important to note.

First meal post cleanse

The cleanse taught me to rely less on caffeine during the day and I’ll sleep better. It helped me feel a little better about the last month of over-indulging and it just felt good to fill up on super foods for 3 days. I felt inspired and since have eaten better, had much more control over my appetite and cut back my coffee consumption to just 2 cups/day (12 oz total). Would I do it again? Yes – it’s something my body needed and craved and following big training pushes and/or leading into a new training plan, I think it’s a good way to really reset and focus on getting my body ready for the work to come. 

What about the Science?

I know many of my dietitian friends will question my sanity in choosing to do something like this. Yes, we have livers – and their primary function is to detoxify our body on a daily basis. I know – I get this. But I also know what my friends, colleagues and family do and I want to make sure I’m as knowledgeable as possible about what real people are actually doing. And to be honest – I kind of think there is a place for cleansing if done right. The juice cleanse is a small, 3 day sacrifice that can lead to huge transformation if done right. Case in point: I no longer drink 4 cups of coffee, have cut my alcohol intake in half, and my appetite is much more tame now. It caused me to look at my habits – and make changes. Breaking the cycle of consistently eating a diet too high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrate, processed foods, excess caffeine and alcohol can and will cause you to look at what you are doing and make positive changes – even if small – that will have lasting impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

A brief pubmed search found virtually no scientific evidence or studies looking specifically at cleansing and long term outcomes. One study, published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, came close – found that individuals placed on a very low calorie, vegan diet  plus regimented supplementation for 21 days had improvements in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This wasn’t juicing, per se but the change of caloric intake and diet composition is as close as I could find to what I was getting when I did the Real Good Juice cleanse.

First workout post cleanse – feeling super energetic

So, while the jury may still be out in the scientific community on the benefits, in general, I think that there might be a place for a cleanse if done right and under supervision/with the guidance of a dietitian/nutritionist and/or doctor. I can only share how I felt after (great) and how it changed me personally. A special word of caution – a juice cleanse isn’t recommended for certain populations (e.g., Diabetics, those with eating disorders or immunocompromised) so if you are considering one – please consider talking to your doctor – or even reach out to me!

Recipe Inspiration: Stuffed Zucchini Parmesan

Yesterday I had a request for a recipe using zucchini that was a little more ‘unique.’ Something that wasn’t zucchini bread or simply roasted. I didn’t actually have a recipe written out – but an idea for a dish that I really enjoyed – combining lean protein and zucchini that makes great leftovers and weekday lunches. So I put my creative juices to the test – and developed the following. I tested it out last night and in my opinion, it was a delicious success! Make sure to use ground turkey breast – not just ground turkey – to ensure you have the leanest protein source. You could also use ground chicken breast. I used diced, no salt added tomatoes to keep the sodium in check. Enjoy with a big side salad and you’ve got a lean, low carb, high protein, high fiber meal that satisfies.

zucchiniYield: 4-6 servings

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes


  • 2-3 large or 4 small zucchinis
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper (or more as desired)
  • 1, 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained 3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt/pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Slice washed zucchini in half the long way and then slice off about 1/8″ of each bottom so it can lay flat on the baking sheet or pan.
  3. Scoop out the inside of the zucchini.
  4. Place those zucchini in a 13×9 pan that has been brushed with olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
  5. Roast at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.
  6. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté onion until tender, approximately 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
  8. Add red pepper, oregano, salt, pepper and ground turkey. Cook until browned.
  9. Stir in basil and canned, drained tomatoes and remove from heat.
  10. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella cheese at the bottom of each zucchini shell.
  11. Top with meat mixture.
  12. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and all of parmesan.
  13. Place pan back in the 350° oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes until thoroughly heated, and cheese is melted/starts to brown.
  14. Remove from oven, garnish with fresh, slivered basil and serve.



Satisfying my Sweet Tooth: Apple, Oat and Tart Cherry Cookies

IMG_4123Growing up, and even now, I have quite the sweet tooth (another reason why I run!). I’m a little better at controlling it now – but when I was younger it was a very common occurrence for me to get home from school, throw my bag on the floor, and head straight for the cookie jar. Over time, I’ve replaced that habit with fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks, but every now and then, I really want a cookie. And nothing really beats a homemade cookie fresh out of the oven.

This past weekend I was invited to a friend’s place for dinner. It was a rainy, cold, dreary fall day, so the last thing I wanted to do was trek to the store to get something to make and take. I dug through my cabinets and found a variety of ingredients that somehow came together in the recipe below. They were a hit!

A couple tips: I like my cookies on the softer side – so if you wanted a crisper texture, I’d recommend melted butter vs. the canola oil I used. Also – this is a basic recipe – if you don’t have dried cherries, substitute another dried fruit – like raisins, dates, or even mangos. Swap diced pear for the apple. Want to make it more of a tropical flavor? Add coconut and dried pineapple and omit the cinnamon. You could also toss in some chopped nuts, chocolate chips, whatever you like! Just go easy on the add-ins. Too much and they won’t stick together. Try to stick to no more than 1 cup of raw fruit and 1/2 cup dried and/or nuts. For a true taste of fall though, try these just as they are and let me know what you think!


  • 1 cup oats
  • ¾ cup flour (whole wheat if you have it)
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax meal
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil or unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup agave (you can also use honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 cup finely diced apple (about 1 medium)
  • ½ cup dried, tart cherries
  1. Whisk together the oats, flour, flax meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil or butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the agave. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the apple and tart cherries. Chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. Drop the cookie dough into about 12-15 rounded scoops (for larger cookies) or 20-24 smaller scoops (for more bite size cookies) onto the prepared sheet, and flatten slightly with the back of a fork.
  4. Bake at 325°F for 13-15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container. They should keep for about a week – if they last that long!

Buffalo Chicken Chili: Flavors that Remind me of Home

This past weekend I participated in a chili cook off. It was a lot of fun – we had entries in both the traditional and non traditional categories – and all were delicious. I decided to go non traditional with my take on a healthier version of a chicken wing in chili form. Not only is it a great way to enjoy this typically not-so-good for you sports-watching bar food – but it reminds me of home. Being from Rochester, NY–which is just under an hour west of Buffalo–and having lived in and traveled there most of my life to visit family–this chili brings back memories and flavors of home. Turns out others enjoy the flavor as well as it came pretty darn close to winning – just one point away from 2nd. 1st place was disqualified as the secret ingredient turned out to be a Rick Bayless chili starter kit (note to self – must try this for a quick weeknight meal)! Since I’ve had a couple of requests for the recipe – here it is. Enjoy!

Allison’s ‘Awesome’ Buffalo Chicken Chili

Every now and then, I get a serious chicken wing craving. This chili satisfies while saving you some calories, fat, and clean-up, too (no need for hand wipes). Top with crumbly blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Chicken wings in a bowl!

Makes about 4-6 servings.

Ingredients: buffalo chicken chili

  • About 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of celery, diced, leaves set aside
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • about 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1, 15-ounce can or about 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s RedHot)
  • Garnish: crumbled blue cheese and/or leaves from the celery


1. Poach the chicken. Place in a pan, cover with water or broth. Add a pinch or two of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a boil then let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, shred.

2. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot or dutch oven, add about a tbsp of oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.

3. Add the broth and stir. Add the shredded chicken and the cumin through the hot sauce and let simmer – about 15-20 minutes. You can also transfer the onions/celery/carrots/garlic to a crock pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn up to high and bring to a boil. Then turn down to low and simmer until ready to serve.

4. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and top with crumbled blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Get ready for some kick!