Healthy Goal Setting

We all know making healthy food choices has a tremendous affect on our overall health. Eating healthy helps us manage our weight as well as reduces our risk for disease. Due to the increase in food related illness, educating the public with comprehensive nutritional information is now more vital than ever before. However, it’s not just what we eat that matters.

Food and fitness work synergistically. So often we separate food and fitness into their own categories. To maintain our health, we eat everyday, so why aren’t we exercising on most or all days of the week. Think about how good we would all feel if we were taking care of our bodies through proper nutrition and exercise. When we eat a balanced diet full of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and engage in regular physical activity, we boost our mood and build self-confidence.

Therefore, I challenge you to set two healthy goals to finish out these last few months of the year healthy, strong, and confident!

Need some new ideas?

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. You should aim for 3-4 cups every day.

Water? Hydration is so incredibly important. You should aim for 6-8 glasses each day (more if you exercise). Try adding a slice of lemon or your favorite fruit like raspberries or grapes to add a little flavor.

Eat Breakfast!

Get moving! You should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. Remember, it doesn’t all have to be at once. Take the stairs at the train station or park your car out a little further at the grocery store. Take a walk with your family after dinner.

Remember, small changes add up over time!!

What do you do to encourage others around you to make healthy choices?

Two Awesomely Good Events!

This weekend is sure shaping up to be a good one! Check out these two unique events happening this weekend in the SF Bay Area. I’ll be there, will you?!

Saturday, September 24th

Check out Slow Food’s first annual “Childhood Obesity Bay Area Conference: Boots on the Ground.”

As a dietetics student, I’m thrilled to be able to attend COBA. For me, this is a fantastic opportunity to gain a better understanding of the issue as well as meet key professionals in the health and wellness fields. I’m especially excited that Slow Food has rounded up a well-diversified group of speakers including representatives from Shape up SF and the Contra Costa County Wellness City Challenge.

Members of the general public are encouraged to attend. Tickets are available for purchase through Eventbrite.

For more information, check out Slow Food’s website.

Sunday, September 25th

It’s no secret I love yoga! I have a unique group of outstanding yoga instructors that continually challenge me as well as provide an encouraging and positive atmosphere in which I’m quite blessed to practice. With all that said, my yoga studio also has an amazing teacher training program set in place. This Sunday, recent graduates will lead a special 75 minute class fusing together two amazing yoga styles, Hot Power Fusion and Power Yoga. Both inspiring classes aim to work the entire body through a series of poses set to music that will leave you feeling detoxified and energized!

This group of dynamic instructors has put together this class with the intention of raising awareness and donations for the Art of Yoga Project, a unique organization that brings yoga to at-risk young women in the juvenile justice system. Early intervention really is the key and through yoga, these young women will gain confidence and self-respect that ultimately will lead to healthy lifestyle choices. The class is free, yes FREE, but donations will be accepted! Please come out on Sunday to support a great cause and practice with CorePower’s newest grads!

For more information on CorePower Yoga, click here.

For more information on the Art of Yoga Project, click here.

Karma Yoga Class for the Art of Yoga Project
Sunday at 2:00pm
Corepower Yoga Berkeley

Quinoa – Gold of the Incas

This past summer I was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. While I was disappointed, this explained a lot — especially the nap I so badly wanted to take everyday after my turkey on wheat! Essentially, I have trouble digesting the elastic protein composites known as prolamines which includes glutenin and gliadin (wheat), secalin (rye), and hordein (barley). While gluten sensitivity isn’t as severe as celiac disease, being diagnosed meant many common staples in my diet such as whole-wheat pasta and bread had to be eliminated if I wanted to feel better.

Enter quinoa. Although not a common pantry staple in the United States, quinoa is a remarkable food. Rich in amino-acids, the ancient grain is often referred to as “the gold of the Incas,” as well as is a complete protein which includes all nine essential amino acids and is especially high in lysine, an essential amino acid that aids in tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus.

Quick to prepare, quinoa has a slightly nutty taste and can be used in a variety of dishes. I often use quinoa in place of rice and meat in quick, healthy veggie stir fries and use the leftovers the following day to make stuffed peppers. I love two-for-one dishes.

Do you have any food sensitivities? If so, what do you use to substitute for those foods?

Seasonal stuffed peppers

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 375 F

1 cup quinoa
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion
4 bell peppers
2 ears yellow corn
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 lemon
2T parmesean cheese (optional)


Place one cup quinoa into a sauce pan along with one cup of water and one cup of vegetable stock. The vegetable stock is completely optional, but helps to really bring out the richness in the quinoa. Bring to a boil then drop to a simmer with the lid on for 25 minutes. As cook times vary, please note that the quinoa is done when all the liquid is absorbed and the spiral-like germ has separated from the grain. When cooked, set aside. You will later add the vegetable mixture to the quinoa to stuff the peppers with.

When I’m in the kitchen, I like to work as I go, hence the following instructions below. However, if you are new to cooking or just prefer a more mellow approach, prepping all the ingredients beforehand works fine too!

Heat 1T extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. While the pan is heating, dice the red onion, split & seed the bell peppers lengthwise and dice the removed tops. Saute the onion and peppers over medium heat along with the oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for about 5 minutes. Now, slice the corn off the cob and add to the saute pan. This is easily done by removing a small portion of the end, essentially making a top to balance on while you slice. Continue cooking over medium heat for a few minutes while you slice the tomatoes and chop the parsley. Add the tomatoes along with remaining 1/2 cup of stock to the pan and simmer until the liquid is half absorbed.

You will want a small amount of liquid to keep the stuffing mixture moist. Turn off the heat, add the parsley and juice from half a lemon. Mix the vegetables into the quinoa and gently stuff each pepper, mounding the mixture on top. If you like, top the peppers with parmesean cheese. The cheese will add a lovely texture and an added layer of flavor to your peppers.

Bake in an oven safe dish at 375 F for 30 minutes.


Photo credit: Erik & Maryann Smitt

Recipe note: you most likely will have some of the mixture left over. This makes a healthy light lunch or side dish for dinner another evening.

Lentil Soup with Kale

With school back in session and cool, foggy nights becoming the norm around my neighborhood, quick, satisfying recipes are now in order. My delicious lentil soup with kale features easily accessible ingredients (all from my local Trader Joe’s), hits the dinner table in around 30 minutes (yep, that fast!), and, if you’re not opposed to leftovers, makes a satisfying school lunch for the next day. While the soup is simmering away, a quick green salad can easily be tossed together or toast a hearty slice of whole wheat bread to round out the meal.

Tip! Lentils, part of the legume family, pack a mighty nutritional punch! Lentils are high in fiber which help to sustain blood sugar levels as well as do an excellent job of filling you up. Lentils may also lower cholesterol, provide an excellent source of protein, and are low in fat and calories. If you haven’t already, give these yummy legumes a shot, you know you want to!

What are some of your favorite quick and healthy recipes?

Lentil Soup with Kale

Serves 4

2T extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (no salt added)
2 cups pre-cooked lentils
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)
a few generous handfuls of kale
1T red wine vinegar (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. While the oil is heating, dice the yellow onion, carrots, and celery, taking care to dice the vegetables about the same size to ensure even cooking. Add the diced vegetables along with 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of hot red pepper flakes (these are optional) to the pre-heated soup pot. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, add the canned tomatoes, along with the juice, and simmer over medium heat for another 5 minutes, allowing the vegetables to further soften and the flavors to develop. Next, stir in 2 cups of lentils and 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock. Now, bring the soup up to a boil and drop to a simmer. After the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, stir in 3 good sized handfuls of kale.

Allow the soup to simmer for another 5 minutes or until ready to serve. Before serving, adjust the seasoning. I like to add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the soup here to brighten up the flavors a bit as well as a tiny sprinkle of parmesean cheese on top. Enjoy!

Photo credit: Erik & Maryann Smitt

Team Spirit

As a dietetics student at SFSU, acquiring volunteer hours through working with the community is an important component of the major. Our opportunities come in a variety of settings and we are only limited by our own imagination. Nutrition, I have discovered, is a wide and varying field. This year, I would like to explore teaching nutrition to local kids in a school setting or possibly hosting cooking demos at a local farmers markets, featuring tasty, in-season produce. Opportunities to support the community really are endless.

I feel very lucky to have excellent professors in the Dietetics and Food Management program at SFSU. These professors work hard to support the local community and pass that excitement onto the students. This semester, rather than work in the Vista Room, SFSU’s fine dining establishment, a hands-on environment that allows students to explore the demands of the food service industry, I’ll be volunteering with Glide’s free daily meals program.

Glide, one of the largest social service agencies in San Francisco, provides an incredibly accepting community that aims to provide services to the underrepresented in San Francisco. In addition to nutritious meals, which include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 364 days a year, Glide offers numerous complimentary health care services ranging from medical care to yoga. Glide not only relies on the public for support through generous donations, but, daily community participation is vital. For the meal program alone, Glide counts on about 60 volunteers every day. Organizations such as Glide could not function without this daily influx of enthusiastic volunteers. For many in our community, this may be their only filling, nutritious meal of the day.

Getting involved in your community is one of the best ways to establish a meaningful connection to the community in which you live. One of the best ways to learn is through experience, gaining valuable knowledge and passing it on to those around you. Volunteering allows you the extraordinary opportunity of meeting diverse groups of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds and organizations that you may have otherwise overlooked. Just giving one hour of your time each week will not only positively change your life, but will truly impact the lives of those you support. I assure you the experience will be overwhelmingly positive!

What are you doing to get involved in your local community?

For more information on Glide, click here:

To learn more about SFSU’s Vista Room, click here:

Goddess Pose

I was very fortunate this past summer to have an incredibly free schedule which meant lots of yoga and freedom to move my body. Now that school is back in session, sitting for many hours a day has begun to take a toll on my body. Even though my school schedule affords me a good deal of flexibility, I still need a little extra stretch here and there to keep my muscles and joints feeling great!

Tip! Sitting for any length of time, creates undo stress on the body. Do your body a favor and set a reminder on your cell phone or work computer to get up and take a stretch every now and then. You’ll not only feel better, but, your body will thank you!

Lately, I’ve been exploring hip opening poses in my yoga practice. As individuals, we tend to hold our stresses within our hips, causing them to feel tight and uncomfortable. The goddess pose (or Utkata Konasana) gently helps to open our hips and chest, releasing muscle tension, and, as an added bonus, strengthens and tones the lower body. While hip openers can feel extremely challenging while holding them, they also provide us with a great sense of satisfaction upon completion.

Here’s how to do the goddess pose, which in English translates to fierce angle pose.

Stand with your feet roughly 3 feet apart and turned out toward the corners of your mat. Bend your elbows to shoulder height, palms facing forward. Gently exhale, look straight ahead and begin to squat, bending the knees over the toes. Begin to press your hips forward and the knees back. Drop your shoulders, sliding the shoulder blades down your back and together, keeping your arms active and engaged. Hold this pose for 3 to 5 good honest breaths. To move out of goddess, upon inhalation, straighten the legs, reach fingertips to the ceiling, and exhale arms to the side. Fierce, right!

What are some of your favorite hip opening exercises?

Photo Credit

Labor Day Weekend easy & delicious grill recipes!

I’m a big fan of chicken and often joke with my husband I should write a cookbook with the myriad of recipes I have come up with over the years. This bird is my go-to protein much of the week for its ease of preparation and seemingly endless recipe possibilities. In my grilled chicken recipe, meyer lemons and a variety of fresh herbs mingle together creating a light, fresh marinade, resulting in a juicy bird with a crisp, succulent skin (if you so choose to indulge). I’ve also included a bonus recipe for my grilled peach and avocado salad. This lovely salad makes a great first course or easily works as a light lunch or dinner. Fresh peaches (at least in northern California) should be available at farmers markets through late September.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Maryann’s Grilled Chicken

Serves 4


1 whole bone-in organic cut-up chicken
1 small bunch each rosemary, sage, & thyme, plus additional for garnish
3 meyer lemons, plus additional for garnish
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1T kosher salt
1T fresh ground pepper


Place chicken into a large ziplock bag. Mince rosemary, sage and thyme as well as zest and juice 3 meyer lemons. Place the herbs, lemon zest and juice into the ziplock bag along with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tablespoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Allow to the chicken to marinade for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours, in the meat drawer or coolest, lowest shelf of the refrigerator.

Heat a gas grill to high heat. After the grill is heated to temperature, place the chicken on the grill, cover and turn down heat to low. Grill the chicken on each side for 10 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F for 15 seconds (off the heat). Allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Please note: I do allow chicken to come up to room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before grilling as I believe doing so results in a juicier bird. However, please use your best judgment here. If you are serving any person who may be immunocompromised, children, or the elderly, use caution.

Grilled Peach and Avocado Salad

Serves 4


2 fresh peaches
2 ripe Haas avocados
5 ounce baby spring mix
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper


Wash lettuce, set aside and allow to dry (I like to use a salad spinner which makes quick work of this step). Heat a gas grill or grill pan to medium heat. Wash fresh peaches and halve, removing pits. Rub the entire peach with extra virgin olive oil and place flesh side down onto the grill. Cook with grill open for 2 minutes each side, finishing with an additional minute, flesh side down. While peaches are cooling, slice avocados, carefully remove flesh, dice and place on top of salad greens. Dice peaches when cool and place on top of salad greens and avocados. Sprinkle the salad with extra virgin olive oil (about 2 – 3 swirls of the salad bowl), balsamic vinegar (about 1 – 2 tablespoons). Add kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Toss together and serve.

Please note: The extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper can all be adjusted to suit your taste.  Flavored balsamic vinegar also works well with this salad. I like to use a blackberry balsamic I discovered recently with my mother-in-law, Mia, at a local wine festival.


Photo credit: Erik & Maryann Smitt

Please feel free to use photos and recipes from my site, but, please be kind enough to link back to ground happiness as your source.