Food and Nutrition

Brain Food

I read an interesting article in the Behavioral Health Nutrition Newsletter about how food affects your brain. Not about the types of foods that are good for your brain, but about how eating affects your brain.  What you eat and how much you eat involves a complex interaction between the body and the brain.  Different parts of the brain are responsible for different aspects of eating.  For example, the hypothalamus is responsible for hunger and satiety.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for sending signals to the body to eat more or to eat leas.  And then there are also mechanisms that provide rewards.  Certain hormones are released from the brain to communicate with the body that a food is good.

Recent research has found that also the amount of food you eat impacts this communication system.  In animal studies undereating increased the dopamine response where as overeating did the opposite.  Overeating made the dopamine receptors less sensitive.  Furthermore, which is really interesting, is that undereating or overeating changes the structure and the volume of your brain!

Eating too little but also eating to much is not only bad for your body, but it is also bad for your brain, and the complex communication system that exists between your brain and your body.  I often talk to clients about this concept, but now there is actual science behind it.

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The anti-diet

I often struggle with identifying myself as a dietitian because the of the word “diet.” The word “diet” in general just refers to the types of foods you eat. For example, my diet today consists of fruits, vegetables breads, nuts, grains, coffee and water. However, in our culture, that is not how the word is used.

The word diet in our culture refers to something that you do in order to lose weight. So, when I say I am a dietitian, I have a problem because I am against diets and I am against dieting. The word diet and “dieting” persist in our country like cockroaches – they never go away. As soon as one diet dies another appears in its place. And on and on. Meanwhile, the majority of experts in the field, (“dietitians”), including myself, are against dieting because dieting does not work.

But instead of saying what I am against, and why I am against it, I would like to focus on what I am for.  These are the principles of the anti-diet.

Enjoy what you eat. First and foremost, like (even love) what you are eating.

Honor your body. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full. Your body knows how much it needs to eat. Your job is to listen to your body.

Be mindful.  If you want something, eat it. Just be mindful while you are doing it. Be mindful of all the foods that you eat, of where your food comes from, of the impact that it has on your environment and the impact that it has on your body. When you become aware of these effects, without judgment, just mindfulness, you can truly look at your diet. You can see the foods that you are eating for what they are, you can stop eating the foods that don’t make you feel good, and eat more of the foods that do.

If you have confusion about any of this, send me a message. I am here to help. That’s my job as a dietitian and that is what I love about being a dietitian – helping people fall in love with what they are eating.

I've always loved eating @mitchinthekitchen you may see this at graduation

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Homemade Chicken Soup

I made this chicken soup the other day and it was really good.  Ray had made this recipe the week prior.  I had carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and chicken stock, so I decided to make my version of that soup.  I like cooking when it is easy, when there aren’t a lot of steps, and when you can put something on the table in about 30 minutes.  If you have the time, I recommend Ray’s version.  But if you’re lazy and want it done fast, then my version is just as good (if not better).

I love me some homemade chicken soup during the winter months.  It feels so comforting and healthy at the same time.  Adding the parmesan cheese at the end adds a little extra something if you’re in the mood for a little something extra.

Homemade Chicken Soup
Recipe type: Dinner, Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Delicious homemade chicken soup with sweet potatoes, kale and carrots
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons pepper
  • 2 small onions or 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup of carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups of sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 2 quarts (64 ounces) of chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium-high head and add the olive oil.
  2. Add the chicken and the onions and chicken. Cook until the chicken is browned and the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, bay leaf, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Serve with parmesean cheese (optional)





A lot of people ask me if they should eat organic. My answer is always that it is best to buy locally, and here is why. A lot of farmers do grow organically but cannot afford the process of becoming certified organic. When you buy locally you can ask the farmer how the food is grown.

However, if you are shopping and are faced with the option of buying organic (at a higher price) or not organic (at a lower price) what should you do?

The answer is it depends upon the fruit or vegetable. There are certain fruits and vegetables that you should buy organic (the “Dirty Dozen”) and others that you can get away with not buying organic (the “Clean Fifteen”).

This list came to be because the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested fruits and vegetables for pesticide residue. The “Dirty Dozen” are the fruits and vegetables that had the most residue and the “Clean Fifteen” had the least residue.

Here they are!

1. Strawberries
2. Apples
3. Nectarines
4. Peaches
5. Celery
6. Grapes
7. Cherries
8. Spinach
9. Tomatoes
10. Sweet bell peppers
11. Cherry tomatoes
12. Cucumbers
(they added in two more)
13. Hot peppers
14. Kale/ Collard greens

1. Avocados
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Sweet peas (frozen)
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Honeydew Melon
13. Grapefruit
14. Cantaloupe
15. Cauliflower



“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” said Benjamin Franklin. This really applies to your meals. We really underestimate how much work it is to feed ourselves. You should plan to have 3 meals per day and up to 3 snacks – weekly that is 21 meals and snacks planned. But how many of us are doing that?

What happens when you don’t have your meals planned is indecision (not knowing what to eat), boredom (eating the same things) or skipping the meal altogether (because you just can’t deal). None of this sounds like fun and eating above all else should be enjoyable.

Meal planning (or the concept of it) has always been a struggle for me because I think I should be free to eat whatever I want. And yes, that is true. But I’d rather have something planned and then change my mind than not having anything planned at all. Trust me, it works.

So, here is how to meal plan. Sit down and actually write down what you are going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week and what you will have for snacks. Of course, there might be nights when you get home later for dinner or will not be there for dinner at all. That’s fine. If you know you’re going to be working late one night, you can plan to have leftovers. If you know you’re out to dinner one night also plan that too. You’re more likely not to waste the food in your refrigerator when you have a plan for it all.

Here are some general guidelines for meal planning:
1. Three meals a day. At each meal, you should have a source of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
2. Plan to have a fruit or vegetable at every meal. That’s right. AT EVERY MEAL. Do not question this rule.
3. Remember to have variety. Variety is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. I know, you love your oatmeal for breakfast, or your banana. However, try experimenting with different fruits. Or try having quinoa instead of oatmeal one day. If you don’t like it, don’t make it again. However, switching things up in your meals will allow you to experiment with new tastes and you will not get bored. Part of planning out your meals for the week will allow you to see if you are eating the same things or not.
4. Plan out your meals before you do your weekly grocery shopping. That way you can take stock of what you have in the house and what you will need. Going to try making a new recipe this week? What do you need for that? Add it to your grocery list.
5. Be realistic. I certainly LOVE taking my time and cooking a gourmet meal. However, that doesn’t work for me during the week. It may for some of you, and may not for others. You need to be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to your meals each week. Are you a person who despises leftovers? In that case, you might be better off cooking each night simple fast meals that take 20-30 minutes to make. Are you a person who likes to have meals cooked for the week in advance so that way food is already prepared? You may be better off cooking a big batch of meals on the weekend and storing them to have for the week. You have to figure out what works best for you. The best way to keep track of that is monitoring your system in a journal. That way you will come up with a system that works for you and your lifestyle.

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I review food logs from clients all the time and they often tell me that the feedback I give them is not always what they expect. The number one feedback I give is to eat more fruits and vegetables. And here’s why. It’s often hard to remember that we really should be eating somewhere in the range of 8-10 servings of fruits & vegetables combined per day. I’ll say that again. 8-10 servings of fruits & vegetables per day.

Why have you never heard it to be so much? Well, the Department of Agriculture who sets the dietary guidelines for Americans ( know that Americans don’t come close to that. When they did their aim for 5 campaign they thought that 5 was a more realistic target. The current recommendation continues to be that amount.

The problem with that is it sets people up to eat even less than what is actually recommended. How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you get per day? I can guarantee you that everyone, myself included, could be eating more.

Here are 9 simple ways to get more servings of fruits and vegetables

1. Eat a fruit or vegetable (or both) at every meal. This is the easiest tip to remember and even easier to follow. Before you eat a meal – look at your plate. If you have a fruit or vegetable, you’re good.
2. Have fruit instead of fruit juice. Juicing a fruit (or vegetable for that matter) removes the fiber from that fruit or vegetable. The fiber is just one of the many reasons why fruits and vegetables are good for you. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. Mother nature intended you to eat the fruit and vegetable whole (not juiced).
3. At breakfast, have fruit with your cereal, yogurt, or along with whatever breakfast you’re eating. (You’ll feel a lot less guilty about that bacon, egg & cheese if you balance it out with some fresh fruit).
4. Have a fruit of vegetable as a part of a snack. For example, carrots and hummus, peanut butter and apples, a banana and some nuts, chocolate and raisins (you can include dried fruit as a part of your overall intake).
5. Have fruit as or a part of your dessert (I’m not saying to get rid of the brownie or ice cream – just have the brownie with a side of strawberries or peaches with your ice cream).
6. When ordering out, start with a salad or order a side of vegetables to go with your meal. There’s always a way if you look for it (most restaurants will have a side of spinach, broccoli, or some type of green, or even a side salad). Sometimes it is not on the menu & you have to ask. One time I found myself in what people would describe as a food desert & with only option for lunch. I asked them if they could make me a side of vegetables to go along with my rice and beans. When I came back to the office with my lunch everyone was ooh-ing and aww-ing and saying “I didn’t know they had vegetables there!” Well I didn’t know either – I just asked.
7. Stop at a farmers market. You eat things that taste good. Period. No vegetable or fruit tastes better than when its been grown locally and picked at its peak ripeness.
8. Keep frozen fruits & vegetables in freezer. One, frozen fruits and vegetables are also picked at their peak ripeness therefore they are just as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables. Two, unlike their fresh counterparts, they last longer.
9. Join a CSA. I talk a lot about this but when you have signed up for a share of vegetables from a farm and they are delivered weekly to you, in your refrigerator, without your having to pick them out yourself, you are much more likely to eat them.



There are a couple of writers out there that could be nutritionists because what they write about is exactly what I preach; and what they say (even though they don’t always know this) is supported by science.

Mark Bittman is one of those writers. Here (in order of appearance in the article) are the top 5 points that he makes that are in fact supported by research and science:…/getting-your-kids-to-eat-or-at-…

1. “She’s sitting in a high chair, waiving a stalk of broccoli in the air and grinning… I recognize how unusual it was then and remains now: a baby eating not only normal food but a food that kids normally despise… Because Karen and I were making dinner almost every night, it seemed only natural to feed Kate – and later Emma – the same foods we ourselves ate”

This is a great nutritional point: babies don’t need to have baby food. By that I mean food that is different from what adults eat. By the time that they are ready to try food, you don’t need to give them anything different (honey, before the age of 1, is the only exception). You only need to make sure that food is in the correct size and texture for their age so they can chew & swallow it without choking.

2. “Today my daughters – now 36 and 29 – are healthy women who, as far as I can tell, have healthy relationships with food. They both eat at home more often than not, both shop for real food and they both cook… Each will eat almost everything, including the occasional Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger”
Research shows that children who grow up in a houses where they were exposed to a variety of food, not pressured to eat, and have enjoyable family mealtimes have healthier relationships with food. Also, having a healthy relationship with food means having the occasional burger or fried chicken or pizza or (insert any food here that you think or consider as “bad”). Having a healthy relationship with food means you enjoy all the foods that you enjoy and don’t consider any food that you enjoy as “bad.”

3. “…with cooking, showing up is half the battle, and [my mother] always showed up”
When it comes to cooking, you don’t have to do anything more than just to try it. Don’t have time to cook that night? Then still show up for dinner time, be present and enjoy whatever meal you are eating.

4. “I’ve had struggles with diet and health, about which I’ve written plenty, and I’m sure they stem – as they do for many people – from my undisciplined, eat-everything childhood. Given the problems I had, I think it was easy for Karen and me to see that the key to getting our daughters to eat well was to offer a broad variety of foods, let them discover what they liked, put few restrictions on when and where they ate (although there was no eating while watching TV) and keep junk food out of the house. We didn’t base these rules on any science, or research, but everything I’ve read since then on the subject makes me think they’re worth following.”
Mark Bittman, what you were doing there without you knowing it is based on science known as the division of responsibility as described by Ellyn Satter, who is pretty much the godmother of childhood nutrition. Parents are responsible for the what, where, and when of eating. Children are responsible for the if and how much.

5. “…the battle over feeding children really pits Big Food against parents, and Big Food’s resources are vast: almost unlimited money, little regulation and tacit government support… What American parents need is support in the form of a food policy that encourages the production and sale of real food…”
I don’t have much else to add to that, except to say it’s what all Americans need, not just parents.

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We’ve all been there. You realize that you have been eating out or ordering out for almost every meal since god knows when … In fact, you can’t remember the last time you went grocery shopping or cooked a meal. And your refrigerator has food in it but absolutely nothing that goes together or nothing you could make a meal out of.

Here is what I do when I get off track with my eating and how you can get back on track:
1. Forgive yourself. You are a human being trying to juggle many different things. You were probably trying to get this or that done which is why you didn’t make time for your eating. That is okay – it happens to everyone.
2. Make a plan of attack. When is the next time that you can get yourself to the grocery store? When this happens to me I usually have to end up ordering out 1 or 2 more meals before I can actually get myself to the grocery store so that I can break this pattern. In the meantime, you can have a smile on your face because this pattern will end soon.
3. Put together your grocery list. Don’t go crazy. Just put together a list of foods that you always like to have around the house – for breakfast, snacking, and one meal that you can cook for yourself that is easy, fast and satisfying to you. My list is yogurt, nuts, fruit, avocado, lemon, bread, tea, coffee, peanut butter, chocolate, and tuna.
4. Go grocery store shopping and stick to your list! Do not get anything not on your list (this is important). I repeat. Do not get anything not on your list. But why? If you didn’t need it when you were at home, you do not need it now. You can make a mental note of it and include it on your list next time.
5. Set up a monitoring system. I keep a “fruit bowl” at home. I fill it up with fruit that I enjoy and then every time I see it running low, it is a visual reminder to stop at the store on the way home to get more fruit. Same goes for your refrigerator and freezer. Does it work for you to keep a shopping list on the refrigerator? Do you prefer having a stock list and then highlighting each week what items you need? Whatever system you use, keep one. Having a list prepared means that you never have to make time to make a grocery list.
6. Set a regular time to go grocery shopping and set one day of the week that you dedicate to cooking a meal for yourself. When we leave grocery shopping and cooking up to chance, or for whenever we have the time, something will come in the way.
7. Consider joining a CSA. Once I joined a CSA, my time spent grocery shopping and figuring out what to eat was almost cut in half. All I have to do is show up at my CSA distribution (which is set at the same time every week – removing Step #6 from your staying on track list). It is like someone has already done grocery shopping for me, and all I have to do is show up. Not to mention, it is seasonal and local, meaning that it is far superior to anything you would find at a grocery store. For help finding a CSA near you, go to or send me a message!



Two years ago was the first year I worked on Thanksgiving. And as I watched the rest of America prepare for Thanksgiving, it gave me a interesting outside perspective on the day. Everyone seemed somewhat burdened by Thanksgiving – the travel, the preparations, the cooking, the eating. All to show off in someway or say like, “look we’ve done Thanksgiving! We did it.” All to just need to recover from the whole mess and prepare for Christmas or Hanukkah or the next large to-do. I’ve had my fair share of fun Thanksgivings that didn’t feel like a chore, but those are few and far between in my memories. It just made me wonder what the whole point of Thanksgiving is and if we’ve lost it?

To me, Thanksgiving happens everyday because to me Thanksgiving is this: it is taking time to make food, or eat food, to honor all the work that goes into that food, and to appreciate the people around you that you eat the food with. I don’t think it has to be about turkey or mashed potatoes. In some ways i think people put so much pressure on themselves to prepare this insane meal its no wonder Americans are cooking less and less – if every time you cook it is a big shenanigan – why would you do it everyday?

#burrata #eggplant #chicken #tomatoes #leftovers #lunch

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The day after Thanksgiving, I saw lots of things posted on the internet about having no regret about over eating and stuffing yourself. As if this is what we all want to do all the time but don’t because if we did we would all be fat. Let me say this and say this loud: Eating and enjoying food means eating as much as you want. All the time. Even if its not Thanksgiving. There may be times where you eat beyond the point of fullness – but so what? Who cares? When we reserve a day such as Thanksgiving to do this or a “cheat day” as many people call such things, it makes me extremely nervous as a nutritionist. Because to me this is a sign of something gone really really wrong. You’ve probably seen all the reports on how Americans are the most obsessed with health yet the unhealthiest? It’s this that I am shedding a light on. Or at least trying to.

My Thanksgiving involved working. I went home and could have gone out with friends but I was so exhausted I just stayed home. I warmed up some golden beets I had roasted from a few days before, sliced a lemon and squeezed some of that on it with some olive oil, warmed up a baguette I got from a nearby bakery, had it with some butter and a glass of red wine. I then watched a movie with my boo, and had some cardamom ice cream with some chocolate chip cookies. It was delicious and exactly what I wanted and I enjoyed every minute of it. As I write this I am at a local spot drinking some beer and waiting for some pizza I just ordered from the food truck out back via 313. And I kind of just want to yell on the top of my lungs “I AM A NUTRITIONIST!” The reason is I think that everyone thinks healthy eating is one thing and how you want to eat is another. Naw my friends. They are one in the same. I have thanks that I know this. It feels really good. Try it with me?