8 Components of a Healthy Lunch

What would I recommend for lunch to someone who’s looking to loose weight and boost his or her health? Pretty much the same thing that a healthy person at their ideal weight might eat. Clients often ask for specific recommendations. What follows isn’t a meal plan, but provides some guidelines for assembling a nutritious, fresh lunch that won’t show up on the scale.

You’re on the right track when your meals hit just about all of the following eight notes. As an example, I’ll use my own lunch to illustrate these points.

Today I enjoyed Suzie’s Whole Grain Thin Cakes (found them at Whole Foods and am trying them for the first time – good!), topped with roasted red pepper hummus, avocado, cherry tomatoes, and dill pickles.

Fat – Although the Thin Cakes are fat free, both the hummus and avocado contain a nice dose of healthy fats – about 5 grams from the hummus and 13 grams from the ½ avocado. That’s plenty to fuel the body for the rest of the afternoon and provide satiety now.

lunchFiber – Every ingredient — veggies, cracker and hummus — offers plant-based fiber which helps us feel full and our digestive system run smoothly. The avocado alone has 8 grams of fiber.

Protein – The Thin Cakes are made with corn, quinoa, and sesame, so five thin crackers have almost 3 grams of protein. The hummus added 2 and the avocado 3 grams. The veggies contribute some as well. NB: a plant-based meal can provide plenty of protein.

Carbohydrates – Key for energy, and in this meal, they are complex carbs; none are refined. The avocado has 8 grams, tomatoes 10, and the hummus 6.

Vitamins & Minerals
Iron – avocado
Potassium – avocado
Sodium – pickles and hummus
Vitamin A – hummus and tomatoes
Vitamin C – tomatoes, avocado
Vitamin B6 – avocado

Missing from the meal are, among other things, calcium and vitamin D – something to think about when choosing foods for the rest of the day.

Taste & Texture – This meal has crunch from the crackers and pickles, creamy richness from the hummus and avocado, a burst of juicy flavor from the tomatoes. It tasted wonderful and was completely satisfying.

Color – An easy rule of thumb I share with clients is to create meals with deep, rich colors. The more variety and intensity usually indicates the meal contains a bunch of vital nutrients. Compare the color of a fresh garden tomato to its pale winter cousin in the grocery store. Or notice the deep orange yolk of an organic, free range egg.

Quick & Easy – The ingredients were all fresh and available. When packing a similar concoction for school or work, use separate containers and prepare it when you’re ready to eat.

Are you and Aesthete?

It’s officially spring here in the U.S. After a particularly long winter, where plants, birds, wildlife, and even the sun seemed to go dormant, nature is reemerging. White crocuses and yellow daffodils poke out of the earth back east. Here in the West, Pal0 Verde trees have exploded in a riot of yellow blossoms.

I find tremendous beauty in nature and art, and it makes me feel good. 


I walked my dogs this morning, all the while thinking about how to convey the power of noticing beauty in our lives. Without my camera, I made mental notes of the sights that gave me particular pleasure:

– a tiny hummingbird perched on the uppermost twig of a blossoming tree.

– the perfect 67 degree temperature, sunny and dry, with the sun still low in the sky.

– the rusty red, and rounded rock formations of Camelback Mountain creating an intimate and awesome backdrop.

– my neighbor playing catch with her young son as they awaited the school bus. In this case it wasn’t about physical beauty, but an appreciation of her actions. I witnessed a moment of excellent parenting; a beautiful thing.

Science has shown that noticing beauty and excellence in our surroundings can have a profound effect on our mood. For example, a New York Times article, “Why We Love Beautiful Things,” reported:

– “glancing at shades of green can boost creativity and motivation”

– “window views of landscapes…can speed patient recovery in hospitals, aid learning in classrooms and spur productivity in the workplace”

sea-urchin-fractal– viewing certain patterns and shapes (specifically fractals) “can reduce stress levels by as much as 60 percent.” (cool examples – especially this sea urchin)

If you are particularly responsive to beauty, sensitive to how it enriches your life, bolsters your mood, and contributes to your happiness, congratulations, you’re an aesthete. It’s a good thing, I promise. Not something to be trivialized, but rather cultivated and celebrated.

Maximize this strength by using it regularly. Surround yourself with sights, sounds, and experiences that lift your spirits. After all, you have sure-fire mood booster at your disposal — finding beauty.

Feel free to share your observations below. I’d love to hear from you.

WANT MORE?  Join my FREE 10-day challenge – Boost Your Happiness by Finding Beauty. Each day becomes a treasure hunt!

What Gandhi Taught Me About Diet and Exercise

“Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment. ― Mahatma Gandhi

GandhiAs I read this quote this morning, it seemed to encapsulate the answer to something I’ve been puzzling over.

Why do some people who want to drop unhealthy habits lack the power to turn the desire into action?

If only I could find the answer to this question, surely my impact as a health coach would go through the roof! Yet I realized that I already know the answer. Gandhi just did a great job of expressing it – even if he wasn’t actually referring to diet and exercise.

The essential difference between those that talk about positive change and maybe take a stab at it now and then, and those that decide to do it, and succeed is the source of their motivation, or to use Gandhi’s term, the source of their “power.”

Many of my clients, and it’s safe to say a big percentage of Americans, so often try to eat less or start an exercise program because they know they should. “Yeah, yeah. I know that I should…” I hear that phrase ALL. THE. TIME.

What I’m also hearing is a lot of negative emotions, starting with fear of change. Change means going outside of our comfort zone, forming new routines, and abandoning time-worn patterns. Shame is often in the mix, maybe in the form of a perceived finger wag from our doctor or loved one –“Shame on you!” Similarly, we might feel ashamed of our less-than-perfect appearance. Then there’s waving goodbye to the way things used to be. We’ve lost our youth and vitality and mourn that we can no longer do things we once enjoyed like climbing a mountain, or riding bikes with our kids.

On the other hand, people who successfully improve their lifestyle do so out of positive emotions. We feel respect and gratitude for the one body we have – with all its imperfections — and realize the importance of self-care. Self-compassion instead of self-loathing arises in the face of challenges; the unwanted pounds, the busy schedule that precludes regular exercise, and the effort it takes to change eating habits. Pride in our appearance is a goal, and last but certainly not least, we are hopeful that change is possible.

So allow me to rephrase Gandhi’s insightful words to zero in on motivation:

Motivation to change based on self-love is a thousand times more effective, permanent, and joyful than motivation based on negativity and fear.

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

My Magic Bullet for Happiness

I have a secret to share with you. It’s been called a magic bullet. For someone who staunchly DOES NOT BELIEVE in the quick fix solution, for me it’s pretty darn close to one.

Wait for it…Gratitude.

gratitudeIf you’re interested in shifting your mindset from can’t to can, impossible to possible, or more simply negative to positive, establishing a daily ritual of counting your blessings works wonders.

It’s not just the occasional words of thanks, but a quick yet deep dive into your everyday world. It’s oh so easy to reel off the day’s mishaps and woes, and we all love to do it. But think, just for a minute, about what’s going right for you.

From my interest in positive psychology, I knew of the power of gratitude. I started a daily journal on my phone, but honestly that lasted less than a week. It wasn’t until last summer that I discovered The Five Minute Journal. Ever since then, I’ve somewhat religiously spent (more like) two minutes each morning on waking and each night as I get into bed, jotting down my little lists of threes. (By the way, I’m not getting any kickbacks for this blog post.)

In the morning I record three things I am grateful for, followed by three thoughts on what would make the day great. On the days I wake with an already open and positive mindset, I go broad with gratitude for my kids, my health, and my family. On days that begin less auspiciously, I stick to things like my cozy bed.

At night I record three amazing things that happened – from getting a break from driving carpool to witnessing an incredible sunset.

The point is, whether your record things large or small, having the intention to think positively about your life and taking the extra step of writing it down are incredibly powerful. As the creators, Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas, say, the journal “…instantly helps you shift your focus on the positive and short circuits negative thought loops.”

Why is expressing gratitude so powerful? By practicing gratitude daily, the reflex is strengthened and becomes more automatic in your daily thinking. There’s research to back this. For example, a 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that daily gratitude journals lead to a greater sense of well-being, better sleep, willingness to accept change, and lessen symptoms of physical pain. In a word, you feel happier.

It’s a minimal investment of your time for a pretty awesome reward. Did I mention there are pertinent quotes and even some personal challenges throughout?

I can’t recommend the daily practice of gratitude enough, and The Five Minute Journal ends up being the magic bullet for me. I’d love to hear what works for you in the gratitude department.

Roasted Veggie Paella

If the Farmers Market is in your plans for the weekend, pick up plenty of colorful veggies and try this new favorite recipe. Healthy comfort food.

serves 6-8


3-5 cups (or more) of fresh vegetables (eg. onion, red bell pepper, sweet potato, green beans, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz (1 package) seitan, tempe or other vegan protein
3 large green olives
1 cup brown rice (short grain works best)
1 32-oz box of vegetable broth
1 splash of white wine
Salt and pepper to taste


IMG_4121Chop raw vegetables and roast them. (This chart gives optimal roasting times and temperatures.)

Meanwhile, sauté garlic in the olive oil. As it begins to soften but before it browns, add setian or other protein and allow to brown. Stir in uncooked rice until the grains to become coated with oil. Cook for a few minutes. Add a splash of white wine and stir until mostly evaporated.

Pour in about half of the vegetable broth. Stir in salt and pepper. Allow to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed by the rice (15-30 minutes). Stir in the grilled vegetables, careful not to disturb the bottom layer of rice.

Add more liquid (broth or water) ½ cup at a time as needed until rice is soft, but still al dente. Continue simmering until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir to combine veggies and rice. Adjust seasoning to taste.


I used green olives stuffed with jalapeno that gave the dish a nice bit of extra flavor. Plain olives or those stuffed with pimento will add great flavor too.

The sky is the limit as far as vegetable combinations. The onion gives nice flavor and the red bell pepper gives great color. The sweet potato makes the paella a bit heartier.

Download a PDF of this recipe.

Recipe adapted from One Green Planet