Exercise – A Dirty Word

Bulldog relaxing

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays I can’t seem to get motivated at the gym! I drag myself there and aimlessly walk on the treadmill or attempt the stair climber, all while counting down the seconds in which I will be buckling that seatbelt and heading home. I have never been one of those people that can’t wait to get to the gym, or go on a run just to “let off some steam.” No thank you. Reading a good book in my PJ’s is plenty of stress relief for me. Let’s face it, for most of us there are much more exciting things to do than break a sweat. Unfortunately, the benefits of exercise are so immense, it is truly imperative that we do it.

Maybe you are in a slump like me, or maybe you have never actually set out to begin an exercise regimen. Regardless of the reason, the most important question to ask yourself is: “WHY?” Why do you want to begin a regimen or yank yourself out of that slump? WHY = MOTIVATION. Although it may be a short term goal such as a wedding, vacation, or reunion, I would like to you think more long-term. Regular exercise as a lifestyle has enormous benefits, and maybe one of them can be your “why.”

Exercise promotes: funny gym

  • Long-term weight management
  • An increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides
  • Improved overall mood
  • Boosted energy levels (Really, it’s true!)
  • Disease prevention, such as: heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and arthritis

My “why” is the naughty BIG 3-0 that I will be facing come November. I truly want to be in the best cardiovascular shape of my life for that milestone of a birthday. I have also always wanted to be a runner. It just sounds so cool, “Oh yeah, I’m a runner, no big deal.” My endurance has never improved enough to where I could actually say that. The truth is, I have never tried hard enough to make it happen. So starting Monday, January 20th, I will begin following an app for my iPhone that should have me running a 10K in 14 weeks. I am committed and determined, and I am saying it out loud so that I will be held accountable for this one.

I can rattle off a bunch of unoriginal tips to you like, get an exercise group together, or announce your plan out loud to friends and family so that you will be held accountable (like I just did)…but you don’t need that. You don’t need a 1, 2, 3 tip list. What you do need, is to find your WHY. Set a date to start, and make it happen!! We can do this in 2014!

Tell me your WHY below, and share it with the world.

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BYOL – Bring Your Own Lunch!


I don’t know if there is a single tip I can stress more than bringing your own lunch to work with you. So often, we are pressured by our work buds to make lunch choices that we normally wouldn’t if we were dining alone. Or maybe it is the urge to get out of the office just to revel in the fresh air. I notice that just the thought of lunchtime possibilities throughout the morning hustle can be more exciting than a trip to Disney. This is simply due to our desire to escape the workplace, and truly has little to do with the meal itself. Boy, is this going to come as a blow….pull it together….make your lunch in advance, and bring it with you!!! Eat it outside, at Starbucks with a hot tea, or in your car for all I care. Just don’t waste your day’s worth of calories and fat during a lunchtime bender.

Call me crazy but a loaded pizza on a Wednesday at noon would not be happening if I was thinking sanely and had a lunch calling my name in the fridge. Then, what happens when we get home? We rejoice in the fact that the workday is over and we eat something else decadent? So commonly, this is the truth. I understand that lunch for so many is a wonderful time in the day that we detach from our duties and enjoy some deliciousness. But the fact of the matter is, we are at work. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my calories and bad choices while I’m at work. I would rather go wild at home with loved ones. After a long day of work, I’m tired and I don’t necessarily want to make good decisions all the time. So I know that if I fueled up on nutritious food at breakfast and lunch, I have room to rejoice at the end of the day. I can indulge in my favorite dessert of the week, whatever that may be – all things in moderation. Evenings are usually filled with our families and maybe even a dinner out, so I want to relax and enjoy that time. Of course, I have to add a disclaimer: Weeknight dinners are not meant for rich, decadent, fatty overloads and binge eating….but there is a bit more leeway if we have calories to spare.

  very large salad bowl II with lemon 120 x 180 cm oil/c 2008

Lunchtime tips:

  1. Go meatless. By going meatless at lunchtime, we can significantly reduce our saturated fat intake, carbon footprint, total calories, all while filling up on fresh plant-based food. This is a great tip to keep lunch affordable as well….but where will I get my protein? Simple. Add beans, nuts, and seeds and you will have plenty of protein for that meal. The best part about this tip is that you can literally eat as much as you want without feeling guilty.
  2. Prepare your weekday lunches on Sunday. Large salads (and I mean large- no wimpy salads that will leave me ready to gnaw off my arm in an hour and a half) are great to get through lunchtime. Chop all of your veggies on Sunday and portion out at least 3 of your salads for the week. They will be ready to grab and go as you roll out of bed for the next three days. Wednesday night is a good time to reevaluate your veggies. Your lettuce may look like it has seen better days, so you might want to sub a different vegetable. Now, prep the next two days. Load your salad up with anything and everything you can imagine. You can choose celery, carrots, olives, hearts of palm, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, raw peppers, jalapenos, avocado, banana peppers, goat cheese, feta cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, beans, nuts, seeds, and so many more. I love to make my own dressings. I will post some of my faves in the near future.
  3. Soup it up! Pile as many veggies and beans as you can think of in a pot and simply add veggie broth or water and a few veggie bouillon cubes (Make sure they are MSG-or monosodium glutamate free) and bring to a boil. You will not believe how simple it is to make veggie soups- and they are pretty hard to mess up. It is one of my go-to’s. I will make a large batch of soup on Sunday and freeze half for later lunches weeks down the road. So after that busy weekend or a weekend getaway I simply defrost the soup overnight and have plenty of soup for the week. This is a really great tip to load up on veggie goodness while eating a filling dish and still enjoying some comfort food at work.
  4.  Change it up. My previous tips have focused on preparing one basic meal in the beginning of the week and then eating that same meal for five days. I don’t mind this, because I know that most are more likely to BYOL if it is waiting in the fridge the morning of. Many weeks I am able to eat the same thing five days in a row, but not every week. When you need to switch it up, use those ingredients that you prepared on Sunday and transform them into something a little bit different and more interesting. For example, throw those already chopped veggies in a tortilla to make a delicious veggie wrap Wednesday night. Sick of meatless meals? Make a soft taco with roasted chicken breast and use the salad as the topper. Add tuna or grilled chicken to your salad. Just make sure that at least 50% of your lunch comes from plant sources. Be Creative! If you’re sick of the soup, maybe purée it and add a dollop of Greek yogurt to change it up. Delish!

It’s about experimentation. Try new things. Never had watercress? Give it a shot! Enjoy the meals that you prepare so that you look forward to eating them. But always, always BYOL!



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Behold, the Power of the Grapefruit


Grapefruit 2

Don’t miss out on this luscious fruit that is freshly available now! This nutrient-packed treasure is in season from November through June, with the best tasting varieties available mid-December through April. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t start my morning with one of these babies.

During the winter, we tend to drink much less water. We also eat less fruit, presumably preserving our taste buds for summer. Wintertime allows us to load up on heavy foods (or as we like to say, “warming foods,” because that naturally sounds better). This leads to dehydrated, bloated bellies, and a lack of fundamental nutrients. Well, I am proud to proclaim that this special fruit can change all of our winter misconceptions.

Grown in Florida and Texas predominantly, the grapefruit is a perfect addition to any meal or snack. It is actually an excellent fruit for weight loss. It can accelerate your body’s ability to burn fat and assist in the breakdown of protein during digestion. Studies have linked this fruit with greater weight loss, lower waist circumference, and better insulin utilization. It is a metabolism-boosting splendor. Because of its rich fiber content, it allows us to feel fuller longer. Grapefruit also helps dispel excess water and waste in our system due to its low sodium and high potassium content, and even prevents kidney stones.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty – Citrus Limonoids – compounds found in grapefruit. These are phytonutrients that research has shown to prevent a multitude of cancers. They decrease the proliferation (multiplying and spreading) of already present cancer cells.  We also know that this phytonutrient is even more powerful when paired with green tea (that’s for another blog). Preliminary research is suggesting that limonoids help to decrease cholesterol by allowing the liver to produce less Apolipoprotein B, a componenet of LDL (lousy) cholesterol.

Pink and Red grapefruit have lycopene, a splendid phytonutrient that we usually associate with tomato sauce. It is a carotenoid that gives fruit and vegetables their red color. Watermelons are another example. Lycopene has been linked with the prevention of both cancer and heart disease. Unlike beta-carotene (think carrots), this carotenoid does not convert to Vitamin A in our bodies. It has a role of its own, for which researchers are feverishly attempting to pin down.  Unfortunately, this antioxidant is not found in the white variety of grapefruit. Eh, you win some, you lose some.

As with all citrus fruit, grapefruit is a phenomenal source of Vitamin C. One large grapefruit provides over 200% of our daily value. Vitamin C is an important component of iron absorption. Few know that its role in skin and tissue repair is vital…think sailors plagued with scurvy when Vitamin C was absent. Of course it is also a strong ally when embarking into the nasty flu season. It is a powerful immune boosting anti-oxidant, that helps destroy all of the vicious free radicals we pick up on a daily basis. An important thing to remember with this vitamin is that it is water soluble. This means that it is not stored in our fat cells, and is flushed out each day. Therefore we must regularly ingest it in order to keep our Vitamin C levels high.

Of course with all good things, there is always a caveat. I know this whole grapefruit thing sounds too good to be true, and unfortunately for some, it is. Grapefruits are metabolism manipulators and for this reason, it is advised that we do not eat them if we are taking certain drugs. Grapefruit and its juice contain a compound called furanocoumarin, which inhibits the liver from properly breaking down certain medications- thus leading to toxic blood levels. Some of these drugs include, cholesterol lowering medications, some blood pressure medications, some cancer drugs, some antibiotics, and others. Bottom line: if you are taking a prescription drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist before indulging in the grapefruit.

With that being said, this winter-busting fruit is incomparable because of its benefits. Enjoy alone, in a salad, or drizzled with a little honey all season long!

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“Oh, and Please Hold the Veggies”- (HTV)


My husband is an avid hold the veggies (HTV) enthusiast. He is a self proclaimed veggie hater that refuses to dabble in anything other than what he has already established as delicious. Now, as you can imagine, this presents a conflict of interest. I, a self proclaimed veggie enthusiast, cannot understand where this bright man’s thought process comes from. On many occasions he has eaten a select few vegetables that I have prepared, and liked them. However, he has yet to make peace with the spinach leaf. So after six years, I have decided to take my victories where I can get them. After all, he was playing the McDonald’s Monopoly game when we first met, and now has not visited a fast-food restaurant like that in years. Sigh, how far we’ve come….

I must admit that my husband, Adam, is absolutely brilliant. He’s a medical student that excels each day in all of his endeavors. He is a technical genius, and to him I credit for this website. He is a talented drummer that can jump into any song, even if he has never played it before. He is loving, kind, and usually puts up with my shenanigans with a smile. However, he is yet to excel in the cooking department while steering clear of all known kitchen appliances. That is where I come in. Although he sees the benefits in vegetables, he simply cannot bring himself to eat them. So now when I hear him say, “hold the vegetables,” I slyly think, “Alright, I’ll HIDE the vegetables (HTV)! That’s right, I sneakily add a dash of health to his seemingly vitamin-free meals – and I am proud of it. After all, I want him around for a long time.

I will let you in on my strategies, although they vary with each recipe. Take for instance, a classic New Orleans gumbo. To pay homage to our recent New Orleans trip, I wanted to bring that NOLA flavor back home – and what better way than with the iconic Gumbo. I have listed the recipe under the Recipes tab. You may also click here to view it. For those of you unfamiliar with gumbo, it is a spicy Cajun dish thinner than stew but thicker than a soup. It is traditionally made with andouille sausage and some form of protein, such as shrimp, chicken, and crawfish.

To transform this rich dish into a nutritious meal, I doubled the vegetables, cut in half the fatty meat, and then did a really sneaky thing by adding (well-disguised, of course) spinach- or as I like to call it, Adam’s nemesis. This is a simple way to double the disease-fighting phytochemicals, while maintaining flavor and deliciousness. I know, I know… It’s never a good thing to fool your loved one- but when you care about your loved one more than anything else in this world, I believe it’s a worthy cause. Besides, I’m onto his little ploy to sneak ice cream in the middle of the day!

Now if you’re questioning whether or not my transformed HTV Gumbo went over well, let me tell you – Adam loved it! He raved about it for days! Thus, once again proving I have struck a vegtastic gold mine here. I am looking forward to sharing this and many other HTV recipes and stories with you. I am happy to answer all of your questions (that is, if I live to tell now that my secret is out), so please feel free to email me or comment below.

Happy eating! (wink!)

Bryee Shepard, MS, RD

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HTV- “Hide the Veggie” Turkey Gumbo


This recipe was adapted from a traditional Louisiana Gumbo recipe. It has remained true to its soulful flavor and hearty nature. Always remember in cooking (not necessarily baking) there is room for variation. Feel free to add, subtract, or substitute ingredients here. This recipe serves as your blueprint- so if you are feeling wild, I encourage you to experiment. As long as you follow the basic guidelines, your gumbo will be fab!

Serves: 6

You will need:

• 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 olive oil
• 6 oz Andouille sausage, diced –to distribute flavor
• 4 cups skinless turkey breast, pulled or chopped (Chicken breast will work just fine)
• 4 cups chopped onions
• 2 cups chopped celery
• 3 cups chopped green bell pepper
• 2 tablespoons Sea salt
• 2 tablespoons homemade Cajun blend (see recipe-or a store bought blend of your choice)
• ½ cup whole wheat flour
• 1- 28oz can peeled plum tomatoes
• 2 bay leaves
• 1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and excesses liquid removed
• 10 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken stock, divided
• ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
• 3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice

Begin by sautéing the onions, celery, bell, salt, and Cajun blend in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot on medium heat. Let these babies enjoy their steam bath, so don’t rush this process. We want them golden and translucent. This usually takes 25-30 minutes. At first glance, it may appear to be a large amount of veggies (that’s the point!), but it will actually cook down a great deal. Don’t skimp in this department. You will be amazed with the depth of flavor that the onions, celery, and peppers impart.

After the veggies are cooked to perfection, add the diced sausage and allow to brown nicely (about 10 minutes). The reason we want the sausage diced into smaller pieces is so there is more surface area to for each little pearl to impart as much essence as possible. Traditional gumbo recipes call for at least a pound of sausage, but honestly 6 ounces is plenty to give a deep smoky, sausagey flavor. Add the tomatoes, let simmer for 5 more minutes, and then transfer to a heat-resistant bowl.



Now for the sneaky part…Place the entire package of spinach in a blender with two cups of the stock. Blend until very smooth. Hold aside until you complete the next step-The Roux. This is the only thorny area in this recipe. In the same pot that the vegetable mixture was prepared in, whisk together the remaining olive oil and the whole wheat flour on medium-low heat. The idea is to cook that raw flour taste out, while adding both a rich nutty flavor and creating a thickening agent for the gumbo. This step can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on the heat level, as temperatures vary greatly. You want the flour to darken significantly, but not burn. Do not walk away! This pot of gold can burn very easily, so sit tight and babysit. When the roux is as dark as it will get before burning, you have achieved perfection. Quickly whisk in the spinach puree, veggie-sausage mixture, and the turkey stock. Add turkey, bay leaves, and parsley, and allow pot to simmer on medium-low for 45 minutes to an hour.

Serve each bowl of gumbo with ½ cup of brown rice, and enjoy!


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