Mini Pumpkin Nut Butter Chocolate Cups

This is quite possibly the easiest but most perfect Halloween Treat I’ve ever made!

Everyone loves Reese’s PB cups, right? Well, did you ever realize how easy {not to mention healthier} it is to make your own?



You can use dark chocolate for extra antioxidants + less sugar along with your favorite brand of nut butter to create a quick and child-like indulgent treat!

I added a touch of pumpkin puree to mine to really amp up the fall flavor.



This recipe is so simple you could even involve the kids to help!

Homemade treats are obviously not appropriate to pass out to trick or treaters, but these are to bring to school for your kids’ classmates and teachers! It’s also great as a treat for any parties you may be throwing for Halloween at home.


Of course, it’s one more thing you can feel better about offering to your little hands and loved ones.


Mini Pumpkin Nut Butter Chocolate Cups

Makes: 24 cups


4 ounces 70-85% dark chocolate

1/2 cup nut butter

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

toasted pumpkin seeds or pistachios, for garnish


In a glass microwave safe dish  melt the chocolate for for 30 seconds. Stir with a spatula and repeat warming for 30 seconds and stirring until all the chocolate is melted (about 2 minutes).

Line a mini muffin pan with silicone cups and spray with non stick spray.

Portion a teaspoon of melted dark chocolate into the bottom of each up. Dollop a teaspoon of nut butter on top of the chocolate and a teaspoon of pumpkin puree. Top with another half teaspoon or so of melted chocolate. smooth out the surface a bit.

Repeat for the reaming cups.

Place the pan in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to harden.

When fully set, remove the silicone cups, and enjoy!




See? So simple!

Happy pumpkin eating y’all!





Tumeric & Greens Chicken Pot Pie Muffins

We’ve finally seen a few glimpses of fall down her in the big easy. It still creeps up to about 90 degrees, but regardless, I’m in the mood to switch out some of my dinner go-tos and start reincorporating some fall food classics.


Chicken pot pies are a comfort food classic and therefore perfect when the weather starts to change. But my version doesn’t have to mean decadent, delicious, and guilty.  Nope, it’s lighter, nutritious, and still delicious. And to think I didn’t even like chicken pot pies growing up!


You might noticed the golden yellow color that is unique to my twisted recipe. Tumeric is the magic ingredient here providing warmth in color and taste as well as the nutritional benefits of anti-inflammatory properties!

I’ve also added greens to the dish. Why you ask? Well, why not? It’s already loaded with carrots, celery, and onions, so why not boost the nutrition value even more by adding dark leafy greens rather than starchy and less nutritious veggies like corn and peas.

And, when your hubby is from the south and loves his greens and picky about almost anything else,  you add them whenever & where ever you can.  I actually asked him first if he would fuss if I added them, and he looked at me like I was strange for even asking. Next time I don’t ask and just sneak them in, I’m sure I’ll hear it.


The final key ingredient swap here (and is also a huge time saver) is using 100% whole grain sandwich thins or rounds instead of biscuits or homemade pastry dough.

To prevent it from drying out, I made sure to add extra filling in each cup, which then ran over the top and burned in the oven. But the good thing is I used non-stick spray and have some pretty good elbow grease to save my vintage pan.


If you plan on eating off of this throughout the week, just save yourself some extra chicken stock to splash into each muffin and prevent it from drying out.

And while I would say this recipe is great for the whole family, if you have a picky and stubborn southerner like I do who doesn’t need to watch his calories, then you can make two bathes pretty easily. One like mine here and in a separate dish pour in the filling and top with frozen biscuit dough. One dish, two happy people.


Chicken Pot Pie Muffins


3 tablespoons butter

1 medium red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 carrots, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

4 cups unsalted chicken stock

1/4 cup half and half

1 cup frozen greens, chopped

1 cup frozen lima beans

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper


In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Saute and allow the veggies to soften and become golden. Sprinkle the whole wheat flour over the veggies and toss to coat well and allow to toast the flour. Pour in the chicken stock.

Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the half and half, greens, and beans and seasoning. Allow to continue to cook for another 20-30 minutes until everything is warmed through.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray. In each muffin cup, work in half of a sandwich round. Tast for about 5-10 minutes.

Fill each muffin cup with the filling.  Finish everything by baking it all together for about 20 minutes.


Enjoy the fall y’all!


healthier travel food for the whole family

With the start of October that only means the holidays will be here before you know it! And with that often comes delicious food & traveling. So to balance things out I’m sharing some top picks for healthier-travel food.


Let’s start with the babies, tots, and kid-friendly options:

Pressed by KIND bar. They are made with only fruits and veggies. I also like Larabars that are just fruits and nuts. Some of them do contain added sugars though.

Happy Baby or other baby food pouches. Obviously these are better suited for the younger kids. I like to always get varieties that include not only fruits, but also vegetables, especially greens, if possible. This one has kale & spinach with apples, but we also get sweet potato, beet, or squash varieties as well.

Kashi Bars. These are whole grain granola bars with a relatively smaller amounts of added sugars. They are a healthier alternative to what Lillian is served at daycare, so we’ve incorporated it into travel options since we know she likes them. Their soft enough for tots and fairly nutritious.

Sunflower seeds. Lillian likes to snack on these, of course, being watched carefully for choking. These are great to mix in with a homemade trail mix with Cheerios and raisins.

Applesauce. We go back and forth between the unsweetened cups and the Go Go Squeeze pouches. Lillian will pick these out in the store herself, so we try to incorporate foods she likes when she wants them (as well as continue to offer new foods and ones she “doesn’t like anymore”). The key here is the unsweetened varieties!

Barbara’s Snackimals. My Eat Fit team found these at Whole Foods while surveying their shelves for Eat Fit-approved items. I’m so happy they pointed them out to me, because I never would have found them on the back of the bottom shelf if I wasn’t specifically looking for them. They are 100% whole grain graham-like crackers, and they are individually portioned! Great for that sense of control for little hands and portability!


For the adults we have a mix of protein bars, nuts, and jerky, keeping with a theme of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

Jerky. Krave & Tom-Toms Turkey Snack sticks are both brands of no nitrate|nitrite added jerky that taste great! Great source of lean protein here, and perfect for the guys in the house!

Nuts. We pick out flavors that we like from pumpkin spice to cocoa dusted to smokehouse, etc. Some pre-portioned packs some larger containers the just need mindfulness if you’re watching calories.

Both the beef jerky & nuts pair well with any fresh fruit that we may bring with us or pick up along our travel routes. The fruit adds a touch of natural sweetness with nutrients and fiber to go along with the lean protein.

Kashi. Obviously a family favorite for whole grain | fiber sources with great flavors. We do a variety of their different types of bars, the granola graham bars just happen to be in the pantry now.

Nature Valley Protein bars. Our family’s go-to protein bar as we can find them anywhere and they have great flavor varieties we both like. I’m also a fan of the taste of Think Thin, Power Crunch, and lower sugar KIND bars, but I don’t always have these on hand.


So there you have it. A handful of healthy options for everyone in the family that’s tasty & easy to grab-n-go!

Have you tried any of these? What are your favorite travel-friendly snacks?




Tips to Growing a Healthy Baby Bump

img_20141225_12340132Realizing you are pregnant is an incredibly exciting and scary time. You’re overwhelmed with feelings of joy and fear, simultaneously. You already only want what’s best for your growing baby and that may start with improving your nutrition and eating.

To be honest, if you’re trying to get pregnant, we should be maximizing our meal plans now rather than waiting to we actually see the double line on the pregnancy test. You don’t have to be perfect, but it is important to be mindful and intentional with your food choices.

Everyone always talks about “eating for two” and how you can eat “anything you want” but in reality your weight gain during pregnancy has incredibly strong ties to the health of you and your baby.

The Institute of Medicine offers appropriate weight gain recommendations based on your pre-pregnancy BMI.

BMI class = weight gain recommendations during pregnancy:

Underweight (less than 18.5)  =  28-40 lbs

Healthy Weight (18.5-24.9 ) =  25-35 lbs

Overweight (25-29.9) = 15- 25 lbs

Obese (greater than 30 BMI) = 15 lbs

If you break this down by trimester, it’s roughly a weight increase of just 3-5 pounds during the first trimester and about 1 pound per week for the second and third trimesters.

Your healthcare provider will check your weight status at each check up and can advise if you are gaining too much or too little weight.

The old saying “eating for two” does not literally apply during pregnancy. You do not need to double your calorie intake. In actuality, to meet the weight gain recommendations that only equates to an additional:

150 calories in the 1st trimester

350 calories in the 2nd trimester

450 calories in the 3rd trimester

But real life isn’t as easy as just reading these recommendations. You may deal with “morning sickness” during your pregnancy which makes it hard to eat anything, let along healthy options. You may deal with increased appetite or food carvings which also may make meeting these weight goals challenging.

Ideally, your calorie intake should come from a variety of nutrient-dense foods: whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.

Choosing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help to ensure not only are you getting enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it will also help to provide necessary fiber to keep your bowels working well and prevent constipation.

Hydration is also key to helping flush out the good fiber. Half your boy weight of fluid should be consumed daily. While water is best,  it doesn’t have to be the only source. Unsweetened beverages like coffee and tea can count as well as low sugar yogurt smoothies and can be incorporated as healthy meals or snacks. Your sense of thirst will increase naturally during pregnancy as your fluid needs increase, but I like to recommend to try having a beverage with each meal and also drinking a larger water bottle in between each meal to ensure your fully hydrated well.

If you are concerned about the caffeine in coffee or tea, you can consume ~200 milligrams per day safely. That means you can safely fit in a cup of coffee per day with even 2 cups of tea. Energy drinks should never be consumed during pregnancy and while we’re on the topic of beverages, let’s chat about alcohol. Sources will differ and while each individual is different, the recommendation is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy due to potential negative behavioral and neurological consequences on the baby. Your practitioner may allow may say it’s safe to consume a glass of wine here or there on occasion, but it’s always best to check with him or her first and when in doubt, avoid it.

There are other foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy, too, and this is where food safety comes into play.

Unpasteurized milks, cheeses, and juices along with uncooked + undercooked foods should be avoided. This includes various raw types of sushi, deli meats or cold cuts, and soft cheeses like brie, feta, blue, and queso fresco. While it is very likely that in the U.S. all these cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, and are considered safe to eat, even these soft cheeses. But some stores, restaurants, and farmers markets may have some unpasteurized versions that can contain a very harmful and even deadly bacteria called listeria. So your best bet is to always check the label, ask someone, or avoid it just to be safe.

And on the note of seafood, you should consume 12 ounces of heart-healthy omega-3 {DHA + EPA} rich sources of fish or seafood per week. That equates to three 4-ounces portions or two 6- ounce portions. Due to the potential risk of contaminants or mercury from large, bottom feeding fish shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish should be avoided and albacore tuna should be limited to just 6 ounces per week.

Adequate amounts of EPA & DHA consumed during pregnancy {and even lactation} can lead to better brain, eye and even nervous system health for the baby. The recommendation is 300 milligrams per day which can be consumed with salmon, shrimp, tuna, etc or a supplement of just omega 3’s may be helpful to ensure adequate intakes.

It’s important to note that most multivitamins do not contain enough omega 3’s from EPA + DHA, so that’s why an additional one may be needed. And speaking of vitamins, you should choose a prenatal multivitamin that:

  1. Is checked by a 3-rd party organization like USP or NSF.
  2. contains mostly 100% DV for the vitamins and minerals, especially for folic acid, choline, iodine all for good neural tube & brain development.

Make sure to check the expiration date and store the bottle in a cool, dry environment aka not next to your steamy shower or hot oven.

These supplements are considered an insurance policy for pregnancy. Hopefully you won’t need them because your diet is in tip top shape, but they are there just in case.

Due to food preferences, intolerances, & restrictions some minerals like iron and calcium may be lacking in a pregnant women’s nutrition plan.

100% DV of iron and calcium are often not found in supplements as they compete for absorption and will likely need to be taken separately if your blood levels test low for iron and you do not have enough calcium rich sources in your daily meal plan.

To enhance iron absorption for vegans and vegetarians, you should pair your dark leafy greens with vitamin c sources; think spinach salad + strawberries, roasted kale + oranges, steamed broccoli + lemon juice.

To help keep your weight gain in check, maintain healthy muscle mass, keep up your energy, prepare you for the demands of labor, etc…. you should make it a point to exercise at least 30 minutes {if not an hour} every day. There’s a benefit to cardio as well as strength training so just incorporate a variety of activities of things you like. Talk with your doctor if you do any high intense workouts as you don’t want to get your heart rate too elevated.

The take away here is to plan healthful, balanced, and varied meals and snacks to meet your weight gain & nutritional needs. Incorporate daily exercise to help keep your mentally and physical ready for your body’s changes. If you are ever concerned with anything always talk to your doctor health care provider. And if you need guidance to make sure your nutrition plan is adequate always consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

All the best in your magical moments of growing your beautiful baby!




Pumpkin, Butternut Squash & Chocolate Turkey Chili

This month for my blogging community with The Recipe Redux we were asked to share our first recipe we ever made.

To be honest, I could not remember the first recipe I made.

I guess I’ve been cooking and baking for so long now that it’s hard to think back to the beginning. Especially when, for the longest time, I was not inclined to cook at all! I would even convince my brother to make me a PB&J sandwich simply because I thought his tasted better.

Was it something I made with my Mom? Maybe. Or with my Nana? Probably not, I was still in the no-cook phase of my life. Or maybe it wasn’t until I met Andrew?


Then it hit me! I was in college! Junior year, in my “Woods” apartment, where we had a kitchen and I was not relying so much on my meal plan dollars.  And it was chili! Of course, I love chili. All the warm fall flavors that’s easy enough for a novice college cook to whip up something cheap and use it for multiple meals.

My starting chili recipe came from my parents, one that they had always made at home which -I think- was, in part, influenced by our church’s annual Chili Soup Supper.


It starts with ground beef, lots of beans, tomatoes, vegetable juice and spices, probably from the ready-made packet. All the canned beans and seasoning packet can really spike up the sodium content. Even if you do not have high blood pressure, kidney disease, fluid retention, there is still no need to have too much sodium.  Only high endurance, young athletes, or professional athletes who sweat profusely especially in the summer months really need that much sodium.

So to twist it I immediately chose no salt added beans (which can be hard to find so you have to look) and extra lean ground beef or ground turkey breast. If you’re vegan or vegetarian you can omit the meat all together and just stick with the beans and veggies.

But as the years have progressed my love of chili has evolved. Last year on my blog I started adding cocoa powder to give it a deeper richness and warmth. I’m telling you, it takes it to a whole new level without compromising the original love of the dish!


And this year, I’ve gone even further, if you can imagine…. I started adding another love of mine- pumpkin! And, not just that, but another fall vegetable- butternut squash!

Oh my gosh, y’all! You’ve gotta try this, it’s an all encompassing fall meal! Veggies, beans {proteins + fiber} with spice, warmth, and the flavors of fall all stewed into one delicious pot.

Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Chocolate Chili

Serves: 8-10


1 tablespoon oil (olive oil or coconut oil)

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground turkey breast {or extra lean ground beef (93-7%)}

1 can no salt added black beans, drained & rinsed

32 ounces (4 cups) tomato juice

2-4 cups water, depending on thickness desired

1 can no salt added chili beans,

1 can no salt added kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 cup butternut squash, diced

1 10 ounce can tomatoes with lime juice & cilantro

1/4 cup pumpkin puree {or more depending on preference}

1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder


In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium- low heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute quickly until they soften and golden. Add the ground meat {if not choosing to make this vegetarian or vegan} and saute until fully cooked {about 5-10 minutes}.

Add the tomato juice, water, beans, butternut squash, tomatoes, and pumpkin puree. Stir well to combine. Cover and allow to simmer for about 25 minutes.

Add the cocoa powder and spices. Cover and allow to continue to lightly simmer for another 25 minutes until everything has had a chance to merry and warm through.


*Note: you can add more pumpkin depending on how pronounced you like the flavor. I used 1/4 cup because I had some remaining from a different usage, but a whole can would really boost the flavor!

Let’s not forget the best part- the fixin’s!

avocado or guacamole –  plain Greek yogurt – fresh lime juice – cilantro – green onions – reduced fat cheese – Beanitos – baked corn tortillas

This recipe is great because it’s traditional with a twist and so flavorful! It can be made vegan – vegetarian – gluten free  – but it’s always nutritious and delicious!


Happy Fall y’all!



For other recipe redux recipes from this month’s challenge click the link below to get more ideas!





Smoothie Basics

One of the most frequent questions I get as a dietitian who provides constant meal planning recommendations is: are smoothies good for you and what do you put in you smoothie?

To answer the first question, yes! Smoothies can be good for you and make a great meal or snack. However, there are ones that are loaded with sugars which will leave  you left looking for something else in no time.

My go-to base recipe is  a simple and flexible combination of protein, fiber, and fat all rolled into one. It’s contains only naturally occurring sugars and is packed with protein and fiber to keep you full, energized, and ready to take on the day (or rest of the day, depending on when you choose to make it).


Basic Smoothie 

Serves: 1

6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (optional)
3/4 – 1 cup unsweetened fruit
1/4 to 1/2  cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon nut butter
2 tablespoons flax seed
1 cup fresh spinach
3 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth & combined.

I like to use plain Greek yogurt because it is a staple in my house. It’s loaded with protein and probiotics plus calcium. To keep the sugar down and limit it to just naturally occurring sugars, I opt for the plain varieties. To add more flavor without sugars, I add a splash of good quality vanilla. It’s truly my secret weapon for added flavor without adding any extra sweetness {except from naturally occurring sugars like in the yogurt and fruit}.

For the fruit, you can use any fruit you’d like. Frozen or fresh! I prefer frozen just because then I can omit the ice cubes and it’s one tiny step less.

I tend to go with a mixture of fruits from 1/4 banana {the remaining banana gets chopped and frozen for later} + a few berries + few peaches or cherries.

For the milk, you could use any sort: low fat or skim milk, plain soy, flax, unsweetened nut or coconut milk. I like to keep the calories and carbs a bit lower by using an unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

To really make this into a nutritious and substantial meal, I like to add peanut butter. It provides a nice rich creaminess, but it could be omitted, if you like.  You could also replace it with any nut butter, of course, or swapped with PB2 powder for a slightly lower calorie version.  Another healthy fat source is coming from the flax seeds which are also helping to boost the fiber content.

The spinach is a neutral flavor additive, but really punches in the nutrients, especially for breakfast.

SO there you have it. My everyday perfectly nutritious and absolutely delicious smoothie recipe. The only variety I really ever add to change out the fruits.

Do you have a favorite smoothie base?



Watermelon Arugula & Pistachio Petite Salads

Labor Day may have passed, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of summer weather for all of us. We are still living in 90+ degree temperatures with no end in sight for at least another 6 weeks.


And while I’m all about fall weather and all the pumpkin & apple glory, I’m also all about preserving as much time as I can with my little one.

My petite watermelon salads are a great reminder of a light, refreshing summer dish that can be used as part of any meal or as an appetizer to bring or serve at a party.


The sweet hydrating watermelon pairs well with the peppery arugula, the crunch and slightly salty pistachios, and the creamy feta cheese.

It can be made into a bigger salad or served into mini versions like these- great for easy grabbing for party guests.


I drizzled mine with a homemade lemony vinaigrette which brought out the sweetness and freshness of the simple ingredients.


So don’t pass up that end of season watermelon at the grocery, you can make these in a pinch and bring them to your next tailgating party!



Watermelon Arugula Pistachio Petite Salads with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Makes: 10-12


1 mini seedless watermelon

1 cup arugula

2 tablespoons pistachios, toasted and chopped

2 tablespoons feta, crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, grated

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

pinch of kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper


Slice the watermelon and use a round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out individual circles of watermelon.

Top each watermelon slice with a little arugula and sprinkle on the pistachios and feta.

Meanwhile, in a mason jar combine all the vinaigrette ingredients. Twist on the lid and shake to combine all the ingredients.

Using a tablespoon measure, lightly drizzle on the vinaigrette just before serving.


Hold onto the last few days of summer, as much as we all love fall, we’ll be hoping for the warm weather again after the cold weather lingers on for months and months.