Enjoy Holiday Feasting with “Crowding Out”

How do we enjoy the holidays without overeating and gaining weight?​

If you’ve worked in healthcare as long as I have, you come to see first-hand the dangers of consuming sugary food products for too long.​  Diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, the list goes on…


Sugar is not a friend of our bodies.  So what does it have to do with gaining weight around the holidays?​

Insulin is in charge of feeding or building fat cells (Kahn & Flier, 2000).  Sugar triggers insulin production and insulin stimulates fat cells to take in energy and grow (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).  This means all the cakes, pies, cookies, sweet alcoholic mixed beverages-even mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are all causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, leading to weight gain.​  Yikes!

The good news: you can partake in cheer and eat as much as you want!​

The caveat: you’re going to want to “crowd out” the unhealthy foods with the healthier ones (Rosenthal, 2018).​

Crowding out means the more healthy food you eat, the less unhealthy food you will consume-I can attest this really works! Crowding out is a way to enjoy an ongoing non-diet lifestyle by increasing the intake of healthy foods and decreasing non-healthy foods (Rosenthal, 2018).​

Where to start? Look for low-sugar or sugar-free recipes for holiday dishes online.   There is a plethora of them out there.  Substitute delicious fruits in place of sweet snacks.  Have something healthy, like a handful of almonds or a fresh green smoothie made with coconut milk, spinach and banana before going to a holiday party so you won’t feel as hungry. Hunger will tempt you to eat the unhealthy stuff.​

Remember to drink plenty of water, it guides us to know if we are truly hungry or just thirsty.  And get in as much physical activity as you can.  I find a simple routine like a 20-minute cardio session every morning has an incredible effect on my energy, mood and productivity.  Getting enough sleep, relaxation, and self-care time aids in keeping stress levels down, which can keep cortisol levels from increasing- causing us to crave sugar.​

 20 minutes a day for increased energy, improved mood, and better overall health-works for me!

By being mindful of what goes into our bodies and crowding out the unhealthy foods, we can enjoy a healthy weight, not only during the holidays but the whole year round!​  Happy holidays and healthy feasting!


Kahn, B.B. & Flier, J.S. (2000).  Obesity and insulin resistance. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 106(4), 473-481.​​

Rosenthal, J. (2018).  Integrative nutrition: A whole-life approach.  New York, NY: Integrative Nutrition, Inc.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010).  NIH study shows how insulin stimulates fat cells to take in glucose.  Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose

Avocado Toast

A recent Saturday found me at one of my favorite La Jolla haunts-Pannikin! Truly one of SoCal’s coffee shop gems, it is a cozy spot to hang out, study, have some excellent coffee and food, or simply bask in the glory of San Diego’s weather.

On this gorgeous day, I accompanied my boyfriend to Pannikin for the purpose of enjoying some of their delicious coffee while doing some homework.  Although, I must say that calling what I do “work” is a bit of stretch. I am stoked to be in an awesome holistic health coaching program through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) learning about things that I love, like whole foods, self-care and being an all-around healthier, happier person-yay!

The sun was beaming from the clear blue sky above as we took our places at the porch bar facing the sunny patio and the sidewalks.  I placed my unopened book in front of me and had a seat on the bar stool. Sipping my steaming mug of coffee, I happily watched as friends, lovers and family members engaged in fun activities in the space below.  Of particular note, a young father was having breakfast at a small table with his two young daughters and a baby in a buggy. The two girls were munching their food as they watched with rapt attention the production that their father was giving.  Clearly an avid story-teller, the man had leaned down to be closer to their eye level and spoke animatedly to each girl in turn, making demonstrative hand gestures and facial expressions. The girls watched him intently and the looks on their faces oscillated between wonderment and joyful surprise.  The baby seemed content to repose in the buggy and watch passersby or up into the sky, oblivious to the tale that was unfolding mere feet away.

I observed with delight the healthy passionfruit vine that was growing up the side column of the patio and above the bar, noting the solitary small green fruit that was hanging from the vine directly in front of my right foot.  Looking up, I witnessed the impressively constant influx of customers from the bustling sidewalk. Though the small gate, in-between the rows of patio tables and up the stairs into the tiny building they went, placidly taking their place at the end of the line, which stretched from the counter to the cozily lit fireplace, patiently waiting their turn.


One of the best things about people watching at a cafe is seeing what kind of goodies people choose.  Here a cinnamon bun, there a very seedy-grainy looking muffin, now a bowl of fruit, then a massive breakfast burrito.  Delicious and inspiring!


On this occasion, the most inspiring culinary moment for me was when a couple of girls sat down at a picnic table near the far left corner of the patio.  Set down on the table between them was a lovely plate of avocado toast.


The seed was planted…


When I got home later that day, the first thing I did when I walked in the front door was to head to the kitchen and forage for the ingredients to make the perfect avocado toast!



1-2 slices of bread

1 small-medium avocado

1 organic tomato

1 red onion

½ tsp live oil

¼ pink Himalayan sea salt

Juice of ¼ an organic lime (optional)


  1. Place bread in toaster oven
  2. Rinse and dry produce
  3. Slice avocado in half and slice avocado into chunks (still in skin)
  4. Thinly slice a few slices of tomato and onion
  5. Place toast on a plate and, using a blunt knife, spread avocado on toast
  6. Sprinkle sea salt, lime juice and drizzle olive oil on avocado
  7. Place onion and tomato slices on top




Super Simple Raw Pitaya “Bowls”

Today I stumbled across  a comment by someone who found it challenging to find a place that makes a really good pitaya bowl.  This inspired me to run home on my lunch break and make use of some special fruits that have been camping out in my fridge.

For those who are new to the term pitaya (like I was when I moved to California) it is one of the more common names for dragon fruit.  Dragon fruit is an amazing specimen.  First of all, it grows from a cactus of all things! Second, it is one of the coolest-looking fruits out there-it really resembles what I imagine a dragon’s egg might look like.  Third, it comes in different, beautiful colors and is packed with vitamin-rich, hydrating nourishment.  It’s even said to be potentially preventative of cancer.  (You can check out a scholarly article written by Brazilian researchers on the subject here!)

One interesting thing about dragon fruit is that you never know what color you’re going to get until you open it up-at least I don’t know if there is a trick, I just enjoy the surprise every time.  🙂 Typically they come in white, red, magenta or yellow.  Last month I opened my first magenta-I mean, magenTA! Unfortunately I did not take a picture of it-next time!

This time I opened one that I got at an Asian market (hands down best place to find dragon fruit + best price) and the most common color greeted me.

My idea to make the bowl started with 3 simple ingredients: the dragon fruit, a kiwi and some shredded coconut.  It might be fun to add another color like red with some nice strawberries or raspberries, or some banana slices to make it more tropical.  Today, however, I am hoarding my bananas to make some of the best banana bread I’ve ever made so I’m sticking with these 3 selections.  🙂 I also made the decision to not process the pitaya at all, which is what I mean by “raw.” This is the healthy option that I prefer, as most commercially-made pitaya bowls are mixed with sweeteners like orange juice or apple juice during the blending process.  Personally, I don’t think those bowls do the fruit justice as the delicate dragon fruit flavor is easily overpowered by added fruit juices.

Here’s what I did and how it turned out so that you can enjoy some amazing refreshing deliciousness in a great pitaya bowl anytime in the comfort of your own home (and for about 1/4 of the price!)

Raw Unprocessed Pitaya “Bowl” (Serves 2 with leftovers!)


  • Medium-sized dragon fruit
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/2-1 tsp of coconut flakes (toasted, if desired)


  1. Rinse produce and place on cutting board
  2. Cut each fruit in half
  3. Scoop out the fruit by running a spoon between where the skin and the fruit meet
  4. Cut off bottoms of the dragon fruit shell so that each half can sit upright like a bowl (this may be easier to do before cutting the fruit/scooping it out)
  5. Place second half of dragon fruit in an airtight container to enjoy later
  6. Dice the kiwi and dragon fruit and arrange in “bowls”
  7. Sprinkle with coconut and enjoy!

Vegan Spice Broth/Stock

This is a tasty cheat that I discovered a few nights ago when I was preparing a recipe that called for chicken broth.

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp salt

Fresh cracked pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

I love this mix of spices for warm flavored dishes (like vegan taco filling/vegetarian enchiladas) and the best part is that it’s very inexpensive and you can make it on the fly without having to run to the store for broth/worry about using a whole container of stock before the expiration date.  Yay!

Indian Sprouted Lentil Wraps with Raw Lemon Ginger Garlic Sauce

I wanted to create a dish that would be delightful to eat with the wraps I had made the night before…

This turned out to be a fantastic, refreshing dish with a punch of flavor thanks to the fresh garlic, ginger and lemon in the raw sauce which added some delightful brightness and complemented the Indian flavors of the spices in the lentils.  I was a *tiny* bit concerned once the lentils were done cooking because the flavor was less intense than I prefer in my Indian dishes, but when topped with the sauce, all my flavor-related doubts vanished.  This is a meal that is scrumptious whether it’s freshly prepared or eaten cold as leftovers-I enjoyed every last bite and I hope you will, too!

(For Lentils)

  • Approximately 7-8 cups of sprouted lentils
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1/2 inch ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp garam masala
  • Salt to tast (I used approx. 1/4-1/2 tsp)

(For the sauce)

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and with approximately 1/4 of the stems removed
  • 1/2 inch ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove or 2 small garlic cloves
  • Salt to taste

(For the wrap)

  • Gluten free spinach tortillas (recipe here)
  • Orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 a fresh onion, diced


  1. In large pan, heat 2 tbsp of Avocado oil over medium-high heat
  2. Once hot, add cumin seeds (tip: sprinkle a little water with clean fingers, if it pops, it’s ready for the seeds 😉 )
  3. Stir seeds for about 30 seconds or until fragrant
  4. Add ginger and garlic and stir for 30 seconds
  5. Add the rest of the spices and stir for 30-60 seconds
  6. Add lentils and approximately 10 tbsp of water (little over half a cup)
  7. Stir well until spices are well mixed in with the lentils
  8. Add diced jalapeño, stir well for 1 minute
  9. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until lentils are cooked to your desired texture, stirring occasionally
  10. While lentils are simmering, add the lemon juice, cilantro and remaining ginger to Blendtec (or other food processor) and replace lid
  11. Set to juice setting, once complete then remove lid and scrape any remaining components from the side of the blender
  12. Add 2-3 tbsp of olive oil to the sauce and replace lid
  13. Pulse sauce 5-10 times until it reaches desired consistency (the sauce is delicious a little chunky, it is your preference of smoothness)
  14. Remove lentils from heat and prepare veggies for wraps
  15. Spoon lentils onto spinach tortillas and top with sauce and fresh veggies




Gluten Free Spinach Tortillas

Can I just say how much I am loving all of this free non-devoted-to-school-time that I can spend experimenting with fantastic recipes!? Thankful to be done with my degree!!

I have been having a blast planning, shopping and preparing lots of delicious, healthy meals this week and I am especially excited about how these homemade spinach tortillas turned out!

I had 2 bags of organic baby spinach from Trader Joe’s and was looking for something creative to do with them that didn’t involve me eating 12 oz of raw spinach in one day, as they were on their “best by” date already.  This is the sweet result!


  • Blendtec (or food processor/blender)
  • Cast iron pan (medium to large)
  • Medium bowl
  • Small whisk


  • 12 oz fresh spinach
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (I used the following recipe and substituted an extra 1/3 cup of rice flour in exchange for the coconut flour).
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4-5 tbsp Avocado oil


Rinse and drain spinach (don’t worry about drying it off).  Heat about 1 tbsp Avocado oil in cast iron pan on medium heat until it sizzles when you sprinkle water on it.  Add spinach to pan and season with sea salt.  Allow to wilt, frequently turning/stirring with tongs for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour cooked spinach into a glass/ceramic bowl, keeping the juice.  Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, wipe out cast iron pan with a paper towel and re-season with Avocado oil.

While the spinach cools, mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk.  With the tongs, add spinach to the Blendtec, being careful to leave most of the juice in the bowl.  Cover Blendtec with lid and pulse 10-15 times or until the spinach reaches the desired consistency (I blended mine until it was quite smooth).  Add the mixed dry ingredients to the spinach in the Blendtec, replace lid and pulse for 10 seconds.  Add as much of the spinach juice as you want a little at a time and pulse until you have achieved an evenly mixed, moist batter.

Heat another tbsp of oil on the pan over medium-high heat.  Once heated, pour/spoon batter into the pan and spread around with a spoon to form a tortilla.  Experiment with thickness and size of the tortilla to your liking-some will turn out better than others and that’s ok! 🙂

Heat on one side for 30 seconds to a minute or until you are able to flip it over with a spatula.  Heat for another minute, pressing down on tortilla with the spatula and flipping it over again to get more sear on the other side, if desired.  Once done, use the spatula to transfer to a plate.  If you want to keep them hot you can cover with foil or place the plate in a warmed oven.  Make the rest of the tortillas and serve immediately or save them for later.  I would recommend storing in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.


Yummy Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Sooo I made these quite a while back and this draft has been waiting for me to get over my aversion to using WordPress.  Well, I’m happy to say that I finally got over myself and can now share this delicious recipe!

(Note: I’m definitely inspired to make this recipe again soon so that I can take some pictures to add to this post! 🙂



2 cups of my go-to gluten free flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 1sp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips

3 eggs (omit one egg if using a gluten free flour mix that does not contain coconut)

1 overflowing tsp of real vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted in microwave for 20 seconds and cooled for several minutes

2 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Mix all dry ingredients except for chocolate chips in a large bowl with a whisk

Beat eggs with a fork in a medium bowl until fluffy

Add rest of wet ingredients and mix well with fork

Add chocolate chips to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon until entire mixture is uniform and moist

Use a spoon or an ice cream scoop to drop cookie dough onto baking sheet covered with parchment paper (there should be approximately 6 cookies on the sheet at a time)

BEST Ever Banana Bread (Gluten Free!)

This is…just delicious!! I couldn’t get over how deliciously moist and flavorful this turned out.  The first time I made it my boyfriend and I shared a small bowl of it with spoons and it was reminiscent of a banana bread pudding! The next time I baked it for longer and it had a much more solid bread texture.

**I updated this recipe on 11/17/18 to remove brown sugar and add Blackstrap Molasses, which has nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, vitamin B6, calcium and iron-yay!

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten free flour recipe
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips (mix into batter after all other ingredients have been combined into a homogeneous mixture)
  • Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup walnuts (sprinkle on top right before putting it in the oven)

Moist Ingredients:

  • 4 SUPER-ripe bananas (small-medium)
  • 2-3 eggs (if you use my flour recipe you want to use 3-1 extra for the coconut flour portion)
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 Blackstrap Molasses
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a bread pan with coconut oil
  3. Add all dry ingredients into medium bowl and whisk together and set aside
  4. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat with a fork until well-mixed and fluffy
  5. Peel ripened bananas onto the eggs and carefully smash with the fork until the desired texture, I like mine on the chunky side
  6. Add the rest of the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the beaten eggs and smashed bananas and mix with the fork
  7. Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix carefully with a large wooden spoon
  8. Pour mixture into greased bread pan and bake for 55-60 minutes
  9. Remove from oven and allow the banana bread to cool for about 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan


My Pocketbook-Friendly Go-to Gluten Free Flour Mix

Last night I discovered my new go-to gluten free flour mix with 3 simple ingredients:

  • Rice flour
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour

I was making a recipe that called for 2 cups of flour and I used the following measurements:

  • 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 1/3 almond flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour

Let me tell you this is a winning combination that helped me make, quite possibly, THE BEST banana bread I have ever made! It truly rose up like a bread and was better held together while still being deliciously moist.

I find that mixing my own gluten free flour is much more economically sustainable than purchasing the already-made stuff from the grocery store.  For example, even one of the cheapest gluten-free flour mixes I’ve seen advertised is around $4.00 for 22 oz (2.75 cups).  I would have used almost $3.00 worth for this recipe alone.

Instead, I spent less than $1.50 on the flour:

  • 32 oz (2 lb) bag of almond flour $11.32=$0.94 for this recipe
  • 8 oz bag of coconut flour $0.99 =$0.33
  • 16 oz bag of rice flour $0.60 =$0.10

Total spent on this recipe: $1.37

I spent half as much on the flour called for this recipe as I would have with some of the cheapest prepared store-bought mixes! That means I got to combine two of my favorite hobbies: baking and saving money: win-win! 🙂

Turkey Sloppy Joe with Crisp Fresh Green Cucumber Salad

Lately I’ve been enjoying experimenting with SATH (stuff around the house) recipes.  I got really wild with it this past Saturday when I made homemade Black Bean Burgers in honor of the first Gator game of the season (go Gators!!!).  In addition to the burgers I made gluten free, vegan pumpkin brownies (yum!).  Then yesterday I made Asian fusion fish tacos with orange cauliflower rice.  

Needless to say, I’ve been having fun cooking up a storm, so I figured, why not start sharing these SATH ideas with people that I love? Now we’re cooking with gas!

**Note: I didn’t measure a single thing, so the amounts are estimates 😉

Sloppy Joe Ingredients:

One package raw ground turkey, hormone & additive free (“the good sh*t” as Trent says)

3 tbsp Avocado Oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, sliced

3 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp Habañero hot sauce

3 tbsp Corn Syrup Free BBQ Sauce

2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (aka liquid magic)


Cucumber Salad Ingredients:

1/2 Large Cucumber, thin sliced into rounds

1/2 Green Pepper, diced

1/2″ Slice from a large Red Onion, diced

1/2 tsp Ground Pepper

1/4 tsp Sea Salt

1/2 tsp Dried Basil

1 tsp Dried Oregano

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar



Heat avocado oil in large pan on the stove set to medium-high.  Sauté shallot & garlic in the oil until fragrant and golden.  Add in cumin and stir until dissolved and bubbling.  Add in turkey and use wooden spoon to break up pieces and stir to evenly coat with yummy goodness.  Stir frequently for about 2 minutes, then add habañero sauce, BBQ sauce and apple cider vinegar.  Stir all together and allow to simmer for approximately 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat.

While turkey is simmering and developing its flavor, slice and dice fresh salad ingredients.  Place in a medium-sized bowl and douse with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and dried spices.  Stir together and allow flavors to marry for about 5 minutes.  (If you have leftover salad like I did-iceberg lettuce, tomato, cilantro-you can add this to the plate and then top it with the fresh cucumber salad!)

Stir turkey and taste, adding whatever you wish to complete the flavor profile before turning off the heat. Plate and serve-enjoy!