Avoid These New Year’s Diet Blunders

By avoiding these common diet blunders, the New Year will bring a new you!

By avoiding these common diet blunders, the New Year will bring a new you!

The New Year provides a chance to start fresh and dream big. Many people will be making resolutions for 2016, myself included.

If your resolution has anything to do with improving your health or fitness, you’re not alone. Over half of us will make some sort of health resolution. Unfortunately, 90 percent of us will fail to follow through with our goal by Valentine’s Day.

While we can blame lack of willpower, there are a few diet blunders that can easily be avoided to make sure you reach your goal. Don’t let these diet roadblocks ruin your New Year’s resolution:

1. Cut out entire food groups or nutrients.

Low-fat, no sugar, gluten-free—if you’re jumping on board with these elimination diets to drop a few pounds, you’re not going to get lasting results. After all, these diets do not build realistic lifestyle habits.

One of the most common diet trends is to cut out carbohydrates or sugar. First, let me just say that carbohydrates are not to blame. When you choose the wrong kind of carbohydrate (think cookies, candy, and soda) and eat excessive amounts then, yes, that will inevitably end a greater waistline. But it’s also important to remember that carbs are an important source of fuel for your body. If you regularly feel sluggish and fatigued, it may be a good idea to look at your carbohydrate intake and ensure you’re getting the right kind in the right amount throughout the day.

One serving of carbs is about 1 cup (or the size of your fist). Stick with carbohydrates that are a good source of fiber and provide protein as well. Here are a few suggestions: Ezekiel sprouted-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta and bread, and Qrunch Organics quinoa burger. Of course, fruits and vegetables are always good sources of carbohydrates.

2. Skip meals or snacks to cut back on calories.

While it may seem easy to just cut calories by skipping snacks and meals, it’s important to eat every 3 to 4 hours. Go much longer than that and you’ll become hungry and angry, or “hangry” as us Millennials call it. Once “hangry” sets in, a salad with grilled chicken just won’t do.

Keeping healthy snacks on hand is the best way to avoid becoming “hangry.” Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Trail mix with nuts, raisins, wasabi peas, and dried edamame
  • Hummus with bell pepper slices and snap peas
  • Cottage cheese with a bit of salsa and 3 tortilla chips crumbled on top

3. Keep tempting foods in the pantry or refrigerator.

If your kitchen is anything like mine after the holidays, it’s littered with canisters of caramel popcorn and tupperware of homemade cookies. At this point, come to the realization that you’ve had your change to enjoy these indulgences and it’s now time to say goodbye.
The first thing to do when embarking on a health goal is to clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Get rid of any tempting treats that you know will sabotage your diet and instead full your fridge and pantry with delicious, clean foods you’ll be excited to eat. Be sure to put my staple items on your grocery list:

  • Fruit: Berries, Apples, Bananas
  • Vegetables: Lettuce, Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Snap Peas
  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Almond butter (or other nut butter)
  • Protein bars and shakes
  • Turkey or Ham Lunchmeat
  • Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
  • Plain Greek Yogurt
  • String Cheese
  • 100% Whole-Wheat Bread
  • Nuts
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Sparking water

4. Forget about exercise.

What you eat is about 70 percent of the weight loss equation. Exercise is the other 30 percent. If you want to reach your goals quicker and plan for them to stick for years to come, you cannot neglect exercise.

A couple things to consider:

  • Do a combination of cardiovascular and resistance training. Cardiovascular training will get your heart rate up and resistance training will build muscle fast (and in turn, boost metabolism).
  • Go shopping for fashionable workout gear. Use those gift cards you got from Santa to treat yourself to stylish apparel. You’ll be more motivated to workout hard when you feel good about yourself.
  • Don’t have a gym membership? No problem! Run hills at a park near by, check out doyogawithme.com, or follow workout routines found in health magazines like Women’s Health.


ABC segment

I loved sharing these tips on ABC 15 Arizona!


Taking the Grill Test


The GrillGrate is a grilling must.


This kitchen tool review was published by the Food & Nutrition Magazine May-June issue and on their blog, Stone Soup.

Halftime at my parents’ annual Super Bowl party involves two things: critiques of the over-the-top musical performance and grilling. My dad, husband and uncles usually handle the latter while my mom and I stay glued to the TV for the former. But who says girls can’t grill? This year, using the GrillGrate, I gave it a go. (And you can just imagine how the guys felt about having a registered dietitian in charge of the grill!)

I’m now happy to report that whatever reservations my family had about my grilling abilities are now gone forever after tasting my healthy barbecued chicken. And I owe my rave reviews to the GrillGrate.

Grilling is one of my favorite ways to prepare foods. There’s something about cooking over an open flame that makes flavors come alive, and we all know that taste is the No. 1 reason people choose to eat the foods they do. As a result, grilling makes healthy foods like lean meats and vegetables appetizing without having to smother them in breading or fattening dressings.

The GrillGrate is made of interlocking metal panels with a “raised rail” design. The panels sit on top of any grilling surface and raise food above grill flames to protect from flare-ups and create even heat distribution. According to the manufacturer’s claims, the unique three-dimensional design results in juicier and more tender meats and perfect sear marks. The most innovative component of the GrillGrate is the fork-like spatula that slides smoothly into the ridges of the silver panels, allowing for effortless flipping of grilled food.

For our family party, I went set up a trial: I cooked half of our chicken on the GrillGrate, and the other half directly on the open-flame grill. The GrillGrate meat sliced with ease and exuded succulent juices. My taste buds confirmed what my eyes saw and I enjoyed each and every bite of the flavor-filled chicken. My family agreed that there was no comparison to the traditionally grilled chicken, which was drier, more difficult to chew, and less tasty.

I even made a Grill Grate believer out of my dad. After the Super Bowl ended, he was actually sad to see it packed up to go. But I now know what I’m getting for him for Father’s Day!

A Healthy Holiday Hors d’Oeuvre: Olive Tapenade

Source: Nutrition & Food

Source: Nutrition & Food

One of the best ways to make sure you do not overindulge at a holiday party is to bring a dish that you know is healthy and fits into your diet. You can never go wrong with a veggie tray or humus and crackers, but if you feel like trying something new, check out the recipe below. Very easy and nutritious!

Olive Tapenade

Recipe by Elena Paravantes, RD This recipe calls for using Greek olives called throubes. These meaty olives are unique because they are the only olives that are left to ripen and shrivel on the tree. If you can’t find them at a Greek market, use kalamon (kalamata) olives instead. Pair with crackers of your choice.

7 ounces throubes olives, rinsed and pit removed
1 garlic clove
Capers, to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary or oregano


  1. Grind the olives into a paste in a food processor.
  2. Add the crushed garlic clove and continue mixing.
  3. Add the herbs and spices and continue mixing until the paste is smooth.

Nutrition information
Serving size: 1 tablespoon
Calories: 40, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Protein: 0 g, Fat: 4 g

To-Die-For Vegetable Marinade

Vegetables get a bad rap. It seems that they have to be drenched in Ranch dressing or drowning in Valveeta cheese to even have a chance as a successful side dish. Unfortunately, these fat-laden toppings can take away from the many health benefits vegetables have to offer.

Veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals (plant-derived compounds that have been shown to positively influence health). Diets high in vegetables have been linked to reduced heart disease, obesity, and digestive issues. Five servings of vegetables is recommended per day (one serving = 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables; 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetbales; 6-8 carrot sticks).

A healthy alternative to adding fatty toppings to veggies is to use a marinade–add flavor by soaking veggies in a liquid mixture with various condiments, spices and herbs. Try out my favorite marinade below:

Step 1: Cut up your favorite veggies.


Step 2: In a plastic zip-lock bag, add in olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, dijon mustard, fresh chopped garlic, and a little bit of honey.


Step 3: Place veggies in bag with marinade and massage the bag so vegetables are covered. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then, grill, sautee or bake!


You can also use this marinade for chicken or pork. Enjoy!

5 Tips For Ordering a Healthy Pizza

Pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Nowadays, pizzerias are are offering more and more options for you to build a healthy meal. Follow these 5 steps to enjoy pizza without the guilt:

1. The Crust. If it is possible, go with a whole wheat crust. It is more “nutrient dense” than white flour crust, meaning that it has more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Also, opt for thin crust or lavosh (similar to a thin cracker) to cut out extra calories. Deep dish is a big no-no. And don’t even get me started on cheese-stuffed crust.

2. The Sauce. Stick with classic sauce. You may have the option to choose cream-based sauces (such as creamy garlic); however, they can be loaded with fat. Even better than classic sauce, some restaurants have a “naked” pizza that has a light glaze of olive oil and fresh tomato slices in place of the sauce.

3. The Cheese. Although it may be tempting to load on the cheese, it can really add to your waistline. Ask to have the cheese just cover the sauce to avoid extra calories and fat.

4. The Protein. Sausage and pepperoni are not exactly lean proteins. Instead, go with grilled chicken.

5. The Toppings. Veggies, veggies, veggies! You will be surprised by all the different varieties you can come up with. Pile on the veggies to create a hearty meal.

Before you dive in, limit yourself to no more than 2 slices of pizza (of course, you have to consider the size of slice), and pair your pizza with a mixed green salad instead of breadsticks. Enjoy without the guilt!

To be Vegetarian, or not to be?


Although I love a perfectly grilled filet minion, I am becoming more and more convinced that a vegetarian diet has astronomical health benefits. A plant-based diet is not only low in cholesterol and saturated fat, it is also high in fiber. Research shows these diet characteristics can greatly decrease the risk for heart disease. The benefits do not stop there; improvements in blood glucose control and weight management can prevent the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes, respiratory problems, hypertension, and some types of cancers.

The disadvantage of a plant-based diet is that vegetarians put themselves at risk of being deficient in the essential nutrients that come from meat sources including iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, protein, and vitamin B12. The good news is that these nutrients can be provided through foods other than meat. For example, iron, which is found in meat products, can be included in a vegetarian diet through spinach, legumes, broccoli, wheat germ, and dried fruit.

Fabulous Food Find: I discovered a fascinating product for vegetarians during part of my internship with Chef and Dietitian, Michelle Dudash, while I was assisting her with recipe development for her new cookbook, Clean Eating for Busy Families. Nutritional Yeast is a powdery substance that is rich in vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins, and low in fat & salt. At first glance, it has a strange resemblance to fish food; however, I was won over by the nutty cheesy taste. It can be sprinkled on hot popcorn, garlic bread, or added to a stir fry. The brand we used was “Bragg Nutritional Yeast Seasoning” and I found it at Fry’s Marketplace.

nutritional yeast

Other foods that I have greatly increased in my diet to “take the place” of meat include beans, lentils, chickpeas, lima beans, fish, cottage cheese, tofu, and eggs. These foods fill me up, which was my greatest concern when trying to cut out meat. Fiber from the fruits and vegetables also keep me satisfied.

If you are thinking that you want to try a vegetarian diet, I suggest starting off slow. Aim to have at least one meal a day that is meatless. Next, try “Meatless Monday” or “Tofu Tuesday.” Most importantly, choose a vegetarian diet as a means to improve your overall health, not just as a weight loss diet. I have seen too many people who use a vegetarian diet as an “elimination” diet, meaning calories consumed are decreased because they cannot eat meat. This can lead to weight loss, but it is not appropriate motivation. In this manner, a plant-based diet can become a fad diet that could be detrimental to your health. Do the research, know what nutrients you need to supplement in your diet, and think of it as a lifestyle change—not a temporary weight loss diet.

You may also like:

Power Packed Breakfast

How to Read a Food Label

Baked Apples