Real Talk: Holiday Weight Gain

In college I had a running teacher that told the class the average holiday weight gain was between 7- 10 pounds. After she said this, I looked around and saw horror on all of the freshmen girls’ faces. I was shocked Holiday weight gainwhen I heard that number, 7 pounds?!! That is like 2 pants sizes. Could it be true? No. The answer is no. I don’t know where that teacher got her statistics from but she is totally wrong. I hope she is reading this post right now and not spreading unwarranted fear to her current running class.
The truth is, people do tend to gain a bit of weight during the holiday season, but the real average is only between 1-2 pounds. Not a big deal. However, if you are gaining 2 pounds every holiday season it does add up. Keep in mind the holidays are about more than just food. Good food is an important part of celebrations, but it is not the only part! Here are my top five tips for avoiding holiday weight gain.

  • Just as you shouldn’t go grocery shopping while hungry, don’t go to the holiday party ravenous! Have a meal full of fiber and protein before you go. Such as roasted chicken and kale salad.

To read the rest of my tips for keeping your weight in check this holiday season head on over to

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Avocado Frosting

vegan chocolate cake

In honor of world vegan day, I decided to make a vegan chocolate cake! Let me tell you, this cake does NOT disappoint. It is super fudgey, moist, and amazing! This cake is not just good for a vegan dessert, it is good period. My taste testers had no idea it was lacking eggs and butter. Bonus, this cake is made with fruits (banana and avocado) and vegetables (beets)! A dietitian’s dream come true! Therefore, I feel perfectly content eating this cake for breakfast and dessert.

The whole cake is fabulous, but if there is one thing that is really impressive, it is the frosting! I plan to make it my go-to chocolate frosting from now on. Have you ever tried making frosting with avocados? Well I haven’t either until I made this cake! This frosting is great tasting, full of healthy fats (hello avocado) and it is a perfect texture for spreading and making beautiful cake designs. Win-win.

The original cake recipe called for whole wheat flower and coconut sugar.  I have cake baking anxiety so I did not want to use whole wheat flour in fear that it might produce a dry cake. Cake anxiety is real. If you’ve ever made a wedding cake I bet you know what I’m talking about! I didn’t use coconut sugar mainly just because I didn’t have it on hand and didn’t want to buy an obscure ingredient I will only use once. I know coconut is all the rage right now, but I would like to remind you it is still calorie laden sugar. Similar to honey, any nutritional benefit is extremely minimal.  I really like this quick article on coconut sugar from fooducate.

My lovely friend Ann-Marie helped me with some of the photos of this cake. Sheesh, this girl is talented. I don’t know how she does it, but my photos did not look this good when I took them! Heck, I was proud of myself the other day when I cropped a shadow out of a photo!

This recipe is adapted from Food and Nutrition Magazine and developed by Michaela Ballman MS, RD. Make this cake. Serve it to your vegan friends. Serve it to your non-vegan friends. Heck, serve it to the queen if she happens to be coming over.

cake batter

The batter is bright red from the beets!

vegan chocolate cake

No cake stand, I am a sad sad food blogger.

chocolate cake

chocolate cake

It’s too delicious not to dive in!


Vegan Chocolate Banana Beet Cake

Wet Ingredients

  • 3 roasted beets, pureed (~1 cup)
  • 1 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup coconut or white sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 very ripe banana

Dry  Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups AP flour (or whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • hazelnuts


Preheat oven to 400 F and roast beets for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool. Puree in a food processor. Reduce oven to 350 F. Grease two 8 inch cake pans. Add vinegar to milk and stir. Set aside to curdle. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl use a mixer to cream coconut oil and sugar. Add pureed beats, banana, milk, and extract. Mix until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined. The cake might seem a bit thicker than regular cakes, but that is ok. Resist the urge to thin out the batter.

Pour evenly into baking pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I cooked mine for 22 minutes and it was perfect. Allow to cool before frosting.

Frosting: Add all ingredients to a food processor or mixer. Process for several minutes. If using the powder sugar star slow or else it will fly all over the place. Mix very well until there are no more little flaky green avocado specks, unless you like that type of thing… Garnish with hazel nuts and coconut (or regular) whipped cream.

Bon Appetit!



Fruits and Veggies with a Bad Reputation

I am often asked, “which fruits are bad?” I hate that mainstream media has Americans so confused to think that there are actually bad fruits and vegetables. All fruits are good for you.  All fruits offer vitamins, minerals, and fiber. If I had to choose the very healthiest fruit, I would probably go with berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries). However, you do not need to eat berries every day. Eat berries when they are in season (the summer time in California) eat apples when they are in season (fall). Here is a list of a few fruits and veggies which have a bad reputation but are really quite healthy!P1160381 - Copy

1. Carrots. My clients like to tell me they avoid carrots because they are “high sugar.” This is 100% not true. One large carrot has 3 grams of sugar and only 30 calories. You would have to eat 10 large carrots to equal the amount of sugar that is in one glass of orange juice. So go ahead and put some carrots on your salad, eat them with hummus, or roast them with some other root veggies!P1160391

2.White Potatoes. Ok, so white potatoes are not kale. But they do offer some important nutrients. Did you know that one medium size potato has more potassium than a banana? Potassium is beneficial in helping lower blood pressure and of course, as we all know, it can help with exercise induced cramps. Potatoes are also a good source of fiber if you eat the skin. Eat the skin, it’s good! The problem with potatoes is mainly that they are the number one consumed vegetable in America because they are eaten in the form of french fries. Yes, this is a problem. Baked potato with veggies and a little cheese- good. French fry- bad.P1160437 - Copy

3. Bananas. What is not to love about a banana. It comes in its own natural wrapper! Making it portable and practical. Yes, bananas might be considered “high sugar.” But I can’t really think of a fruit that isn’t high in sugar, as all fruits are full of fructose. Fructose means fruit sugar. One medium banana has 100 calories and 15 grams of sugar. That still pales in comparison to our friend orange juice with 30 grams of sugar. I’m not hating on orange juice, I’m just saying eat your fruits first!P1160412 - Copy

4. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables. Fresh is best, but frozen is a very close second! Vegetables and fruits are typically frozen right after being harvested which means they retain their nutrients. Sometimes, it can even allow the fruit to vine ripen for longer because the producers won’t have to worry about the fruit rotting or becoming damaged during transportation to the market. Frozen is also economical and can help you cut back on food waste. If you only go the grocery store once a week, eat fresh at the beginning of the week and have some frozen green beans and fruit smoothie at the end of the week! With frozen just make sure to check for added sugar or sodium. Look at the ingredient list, ideally you want it to have just one ingredient- the fruit or veggie you are buying and that’s it.

Just one ingredient, corn!

Just one ingredient, corn!

In a nut shell, if you are eating a fruit or vegetable, you are doing a good job! Try to get at least 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables in your diet every day! If you exercise a lot or are very tall/big then you need even more!P1160365 - Copy

5 Tips for a Happy and Healthy Halloween

I love Halloween. Last night we had our annual Halloween party and it was a blast. The night was filled with costumes, catching up with old friends, and good food. You know what it was not filled with, candy. There was not one piece of candy present and I don’t think there was one guest that minded. Yes, you can have a fun Halloween party without candy! I’m not against candy. However, we all know that Halloween night will bring plenty of treats for the lil’ ones and there is no reason to pre-load the kids all week long before the main event. Here are some tips for how to enjoy a healthier Halloween!

1. Make vegetable art! Check out this awesome eggplant owl and bell pepper monster. Crudite is awesome, and it always gets gobbled up in our house. For a healthier dip try mixing half low-fat sour cream and half plain non-fat Greek yogurt with a ranch or onion seasoning packet. vegetable art2. Get Fruity. Sliced apples and caramel dip, always a hit around Halloween time! Or, try making these adorable ghost bananas! The kids will go bananas for them! (hehe).

banana ghost

Who doesn’t love chocolate and bananas? These ghosts do look like they have been through a bit of a war, but they look great from far away!

3. Pack in the Protein. Make spooky deviled eggs. Pop a sliced green olive in the middle and bam, you have eyes, or make spiders with black olives. Another delicious protein packed treat-pumpkin seeds! After all that hard work that goes into carving a pumpkin, you definitely don’t want to throw away those seeds. Season them with salt and pepper or go sweet with cinnamon and a pinch of sugar!

4. Get Moving! All I have to say about this is please do NOT be that mother driving her children from house to house on Halloween night to go trick or treating. So unnecessary, and so silly! Part of the fun of Halloween is roaming the streets at night with or without your parents, but NOT in the car. No no no!

5. Moderation is Key. Don’t restrict yourself or your children from candy. This can sometimes lead to an increased desire for the food that is off limits. If you know you have a hard time not overeating candy, try buying the candy last minute or purchase a type of candy that you don’t really like. Try playing the “switch witch” with your kids, after they have eaten their fair share of candy. If you are interested in more tips for a healthy Halloween check out this great article by fellow RD Sally.

Happy Halloween from the PSL and the Sushi Roll!

Pumpkin spice latte halloween costume

Soy and Breast Cancer: Is There a Link?

soy foods

October is breast cancer awareness month. It’s a great time to donate to a cancer charity and it is also a great time to think about lifestyle choices which may affect your risk of developing cancer. A healthy diet and regular exercise are two lifestyle factors which play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer in epidemiological studies (studies looking at large populations). On the other hand, we often hear that there are some foods which may increase our risk for cancer. One of those foods being soy. Many people have heard talk of soy being unhealthy, while some people think it’s healthy, what’s the deal? To find out, head on over to shopwell, to read the complete article.

Top 5 Restaurant Foods Wearing a Healthy Disguise

We all know eating out is  probably not the best choice when we are trying to follow a healthy diet, but sometimes you just don’t have the time/don’t want to cook. These days many restaurants do offer healthy choices. The trick is finding what is actually healthy and what is just disguised as healthy. The following are some choices which I do not recommend and a healthy alternative.

tuna sub

A poor choice from Subway

  1. Tuna Sub from Subway. Usually I give Subway 2 thumbs up for nutritional value. Just hold the mayo, add lots of veggies and you are good to go. But not with the tuna sub, the tuna has so much mayo in it this sub clocks in at 480 calories for a 6 inch. Compare that to a 6 inch turkey breast which has 280 calories. If you are trying to slim down do not order the tuna from Subway. While 480 calories is certainly not a calorie bomb keep in mind that does not include cheese or any condiments. Veggie, turkey, or ham are much better choices at Subway.
  2. Creamy Tomato Soup from Panera Bread. Tomato soup, normally a really good choice. Nope, not this one. I think they make it with heavy cream. This soup has more calories than the broccoli cheddar or the potato soup. Loco. The best soup choice would be garden veggie or chicken noodle, with less than 160 calories compared to 450 in the tomato for a cup and a half of soup (1 bowl).
  3. Roasted Mushroom Alfredo from Olive Garden. Alfredo is probably not fooling anyone, but the mushrooms seem nutritious, right? Wrong. Instead of eating a bowl of saturated fat and refined carbs try the Lasagna Primavera with grilled chicken. This is actually really good! My Dad ordered it the other night and he loved it. I tried it and I will say it did not scream “diet food” at all. It was flavorful and a decent portion size. Bravo Olive Garden!
  4. Hot Pastrami from Urbane Café. I’m going to start by saying Urbane is my favorite “fast” food restaurant ever. I literally had to scour the menu to find something unhealthy because all of their sandwiches and salads are pretty sound nutritionally. But of course, pastrami is a very high fat meat and I just can’t give it my approval. I do recommend the Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich with the delicious side salad for 590 calories. They also have a wonderful assortment of soups and salads; just steer clear of the ranch dressing!
  5. Pumpkin Spiced….Scone! from Starbucks. If you want to know what I think about the pumpkin spice latte from
    vanilla scone

    I love these little vanilla bean scones

    Starbucks click here. We can call it a PSS (Get it?). While this scone is delicious, it is definitely a calorie bomb at 480 calories. That should basically be your whole lunch, not just a little pastry on the side. I would recommend a petite vanilla scone instead. Perfectly delicious and a much better portion. No need to order 3, just ask for one scone.

I hope this little guide helps you make some healthy choices this weekend. What are your restaurant recommendations for healthy eats?

Glorious Gluten

bread caution Gluten has been on my mind lately, and I wasn’t too sure why until I remembered the TV show I watched last week. Parenthood. Do you watch it? Great show! But I digress…In the last episode of Parenthood there was a lot of talk about gluten free lunches for the kids. It was once believed that gluten may have played a role in hyperactivity/ADD/autism etc. in children. However, recent research suggests that this is not true (and may I say thank you to the writers of Parenthood for perpetuating that myth, not!)

So what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Yes, it is a protein; people have told me they avoid gluten because it is a “carb.” Nope, not a carb! Wheat products, which are mostly carbohydrates, do also contain small amounts of protein. Oatmeal does not contain gluten, neither does rice (white or brown), potatoes, or corn. It is still possible to consume plenty of carbs while following a gluten free diet. You may notice that oatmeal is sometimes labeled “gluten free” in the store. While oats are not made from wheat and do not naturally contain gluten they are usually processed in the same factory as wheat so they may be contaminated with gluten, unless specifically labeled “gluten free.”

On to the controversy. In America (especially Los Angeles), there has been an epidemic of gluten sensitivity or gluten allergies, as some people like to call it. The majority of these allergies are self-diagnosed. There is, however, a true autoimmune disease called celiac disease where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage of the small intestine. For someone with celiac disease, it is very important to eat gluten free for his or her short and long term health. The diagnosis for celiac disease is based on a simple blood test. If that is positive, it is confirmed with an intestinal biopsy (not as scary as it sounds).

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity. A scientist who did an experiment where he gave people meals with gluten and asked them to record their symptoms coined this term. The study subjects had a lot of symptoms after eating the meals with gluten. These symptoms ranged from diarrhea, constipation, headaches, fatigue, abdominal pain, malaise, and the list goes on and on. If you know anything about scientific methodology you know that this is not a good study design! Just recently this same researcher performed another study, where he gave people gluten free meals without them knowing. Guess what? The subjects reported the exact same symptoms as they had when they were given meals with gluten. If you are interested in learning more about this, click here.RiceChex

I believe you should eat whatever makes you feel best. However, if you are going gluten free just to be trendy or because you think it will help with your constipation, you should think again. Here are some reasons not to go gluten free:

1. Whole wheat products are healthy and are a good source of fiber
2. It can create a problem for people who actually do have celiac because people think that eating gluten free is a casual thing, not a serious health issue
3. When a product which is not naturally gluten free (chips, cereal, bread) is made to be gluten free it is usually striped of fiber and has a lot of additives added to it in order for it to be palatable
4. Last but not least, gluten tastes good. Bread, pizza, cereal, do you really want to avoid these foods? (sorry to my friends with celiac disease)

I know you have probably already seen this clip on Jimmy Kimmel. But this video demonstrates my point so nicely. Check it out!

Cooked or Raw: What is Best?

Do vegetables lose nutrients when they are cooked? This is a question I get all the time. My initial answer is no, but it really depends. It depends on several factors: including how they are cooked, how long they are cooked for, and what vegetable it is. For example, some vegetables which have water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and B-complex vitamins) can be destroyed or decreased during the cooking process. Other vegetables which contain fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) are retained during the cooking process. Some foods which contain carotenoids or lycopene (orange vegetables and tomatoes) actually become healthier during the cooking process because the heat breaks down the cell wall and allows the nutrients in the plant to become more bioavailable and easier to absorb by our bodies.veg

So which foods should you be cooking and which foods are best raw? Carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, and peppers supply more antioxidants to the body when they are cooked rather than raw. Cooking in the form of steaming, roasting or boiling is recommended. Frying is a source of free radicals which are not good for your health. Lycopene is another nutrient that is better absorbed from food after it is cooked. Lycopene is found in tomatoes and other rosy colored fruits and vegetables. High intake of lycopene has been linked to a lower risk of some cancers and heart disease.

Asparagus is most nutritious cooked!

Asparagus is most nutritious cooked!

As for foods which are best eaten raw, those would be the foods high in Vitamin C. Many of these foods are citrus fruits, so one would naturally consume fruit without cooking it. Certain veggies that are better raw include broccoli, beets (which are a great source of folate which is in the B-complex family), and onions (although they taste so much better grilled). Tomatoes do lose some of their vitamin C when cooked, so I recommend enjoying them both raw and cooked.

Vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, and broccoli is reduced during cooking

Vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, and broccoli is reduced during cooking

Fruits and vegetables should be enjoyed daily in both the raw and cooked forms. Now you have the knowledge to optimize your nutrient intake. The bottom line when it comes to eating vegetables is not exactly how they are prepared but that they are consumed on a regular basis. The recommendations for most adults are approximately 3 cups of vegetables per day and 2 cups of fruit per day. By choosing cooked asparagus and raw broccoli you can make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.

What fruits and veggies do you plan on eating this weekend? Do you prefer cooked or raw?