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.


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

Beyond Vegetables – Edible Gardens Bring Beauty & Build Confidence

My neighborhood is full of experienced and  dedicated vegetable gardeners. Barbara is a Master Gardener who spends her days with school children cultivating edible gardens — an incomparable teaching tool. Nicolle started somewhat small but now has one of the most impressive and prolific garden I know. Both are generous with their knowledge and extra produce.


More than a year ago and despite the searing summer heat here in Arizona, I decided to give my own garden a try. The first attempt was a total failure — too much shade. The puppy trounced the plot (twice), then birds found the few pathetic tomatoes I managed to grow. Maybe this gardening thing wasn’t my gig after all.

DSC_0399 2

Nicolle told me about a local company that helps wannabe gardeners like me. They’ll plan, install, maintain, and advise on backyard gardens large or small. They’ll do as little or as much as you want. Not willing to try again without a little more know how on my side, I worked with Farmyard to plan and build garden number two.

Persistence is not my strong suit. I tend to be easily discouraged, and throw up my hands rather than risk failing royally. Thinking as a coach (retrospectively), I know when I’m weak in one area,  finding a way to bring in something I’m good at can turn things around. In this case, it seems one of my signature strengths, “appreciation of beauty and excellence”, saved the day. I really wanted to watch those lush green vegetables grow. I knew that even just the sight of my garden flourishing would bring me exquisite pleasure.


I was right. Many of the greens were planted from seed. I watched impatiently for several weeks (probably because I shoved those tiny seeds too deep into the soil.) Finally sprouts emerged, and then, watch out, everything began growing like gangbusters.


Green onions, butter lettuce, arugula, broccoli, kale, mesclun, spinach

Then there’s the many nuanced tones of green…
against the rich brown soil…
encased in the smokey blue of the smooth wooden box…
set against the warm, textured, stucco wall.

It’s lovely.


Soon, I’m told, it will be time to retire some of the greens and make room for tomatoes and other spring crops.

This time, I’ll be ready for the birds.

19 Smart and Healthy Snacks

Making smart choices when it comes to snacking is a common problem area for most of us. Whether we’re satisfying our own hunger pangs or feeding kids, unhealthy snacks have become far too plentiful and convenient. Clients often ask for suggestions so I thought I’d share some here.

Interested in more input on snacking, easy plant-based meals, eating light when eating out, or a well stocked pantry? Try a Kitchen Consultation which is customized for your lifestyle and your family. Available in person in the Phoenix area or via Skype elsewhere.


Frozen fruit – my favorites are pitted cherries, mango, pineapples and berry mixtures. Buy organic when possible (especially the berries). Frozen fruit is a great substitute for dessert, too.

Homemade protein bars or healthy muffins – Make a batch and you’ll have on-the-go snacks for days. You can always freeze what doesn’t get eaten the first week.

pineapple-73765_640Hard-boiled eggs – with salt and cracked pepper, of course. Not plant-based but a great choice for those who eat eggs.

Hummus and vegetables – When time is an issue, buy baby carrots, pre-sliced celery, peppers, and jicama. Go ahead and keep these on hand at all times.

Dried fruit – apricots, cherries, apples, blueberries. A little goes a long way, so it’s smart to combine them with some plain yogurt or maybe a small serving of low/no sugar cereal like Shredded Wheat.

Healthy trail mix – The bulk section is a good source (or homemade). Avoid mixes loaded with salt, yogurt covered anything, or chocolate. When you find a good one, dole out two handfuls into small bags so it’s easier to keep portions under control.

Nuts! Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds – roasted or raw, salted or not (take your own health into account). Fat and calories are high, so remember to keep portions reasonable.

Fruit – There is simply no better snack than a fresh, crisp apple. Bananas also rock, and they are cheap. Pears, oranges, grapes, papaya, cherries, berries, kiwi…

Whole wheat tortilla wrapped around just about anything – hummus, sliced tomato and/or avocado, a little peanut butter, leftover chili, last night’s veggies…

Plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of natural jam and/or low sugar cereal. (soy, coconut or almond yogurts are good options for plant-based eaters)blueberries-531209_640

Leftover salad — Not everyone is a fan, but personally, I am sure to make extra every night so that I can enjoy some mid-morning. Almost every day…

Granola bars – Remember not all are created equal.  Here are some good choices.

Popcorn – Whether you buy it packaged or make it yourself, go easy on the oil and skip the butter.

Melba toast  – whole grain types with hummus and sliced pickles or cucumber

Rice Cake (no sugar variety) with nut butter – very satisfying. Soy crisps are another great option.

Cherry tomatoes – Alone or with a small dollop of pesto sauce.

Oatmeal – I’m no proponent of the fast microwavable brands, but when I make stovetop oatmeal, I make more than I need and heat up the extra with just a little rice milk. Add dried fruit and a little balsamic vinegar for a taste bud explosion.

Edamame – It’s now so easy to find this versatile bean in convenient packaging.

Dark chocolate – with a few nuts – heaven!

Healthy Holiday Rice Crispy Treats

Brown Rice Crispy Treat

In case you’ve given up traditional Rice Crispy treats because their loaded with sugar and butter, here’s a great alternative that you can feel okay about serving to your kids and enjoying a few yourself.


1/2 cup creamy no-salt-added almond butter or peanut better

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp sea salt (You may want to leave this out if using salted nut butter.)

4 1/2 cups brown rice crisps cereal (I found these in the bulk section of Sprouts. Any well-stocked health food store should have them. If not, regular rice crispies will have to do!)


Line an 8″ x 8″ dish with parchment paper or lightly coat it with coconut oil.

In a large pot, combine agave nectar, coconut oil, almond or peanut butter and salt. Stir over low heat until well combined.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Add brown rice crisps and stir until well combined.

Fill the prepared pan with the mixture. Use a spatula or your hands to press down until you have a flat and even layer.

Place in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the treats have set. Then cut into 12 even squares, or use holiday cookie cutters to create fun shapes.

Download a PDF of the recipe here.