As a child, 1982 was the year I yearned for a Chia Pet. I wanted the ram. I didn’t even know what a ram was, but I wanted it. It was the commercial that won my heart, with it’s catchy tune and fancy time-lapsed photography. Who knew that 30 years later, Dr. Oz’s team and even (one of my favorites) would be all over their nutritional benefits.

Chia seeds (‘chia’ is actually Mayan for “strength”)–which were used widely by the Mayans and Aztecs as early as 3500 BC to increase stamina and energy–are a SUPER superfood because they have a crazy high amount of nutrients for a crazy low amount of calories. And unlike chia’s friend the flax seed (also a Super), they don’t have to be ground to reap the benefits.

Chia seeds are high in:

  • Soluble fiber: the one responsible for lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, filling you up, and keeping you full for a scarily long amount of time. It absorbs 12 times its own weight in 5 minutes. Take THAT, “Grow Your Own Boyfriend“!
  • Calcium: 16% of your daily requirement per ounce (2 tablespoons), which is 3 times the amount you’ll get from dairy foods
  • Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s: Chia is a more concentrated source of skin- and heart-healthy essential fatty acids than salmon
  • Protein: 6 grams per ounce (2 tablespoons)–that’s similar to meat, but it’s a seed!

So how do you eat them? How DON’T you eat them is more the question! You can literally toss a tablespoon or two into anything. They’re tasteless and simply contribute a fun, crunchy texture to your food. Here, I added them to a dessert and a pina-colada-type smoothie with only positive feedback. Here are 40 more ideas. Chia Cheers!

Chia Blondie Ingredients

Chia Blondies
Makes 16 small squares or 9 large squares

1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 flaxseed meal
1/2 cup filtered water
1 15.5-ounce Trader Joe’s Blondie Bar Baking Mix (or other blondie or brownie mix that bakes in a 9″ X 9″ pan)
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance margarine
1 medium zucchini squash (green or yellow), shredded
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Soak chia seeds and flaxseed meal in water in a medium bowl for 5 minutes, until a thick gel forms.

Stir remaining ingredients into chia flax mixture until well mixed.

Spread mixture into a lightly greased 8- or 9-inch square or round baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Feel your cholesterol dissolving, one bite at a time.

Chia Blondies, made with green zucchini

Nutrition Info Per Small Square (1/16th of recipe): 178 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 1.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 232 mg sodium, 39 mg potassium, 22.5 g carbohydrate, 3.2 g fiber, 13.3 g sugar, 2 g protein, 5% vitamin A, 1% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 6% iron.

Nutrition Info Per Large Square (1/9th of recipe): 317 calories, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 412 mg sodium, 68 mg potassium, 40 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 23.5 g sugar, 4 g protein, 10% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 4% calcium, 10% iron.

What the critics said:
Bitchin’ Husband: “If I have a second, will my hair grow green?” (Ha ha, Funnyman)
6-Year-Old Daughter: “Two more please!”
4-Year-Old Son: “Mom! You never gave me dessert!” (Trying to get another)
2-Year-Old Son: “I not like this.” Two minutes later: “Why you eat my dessert?!?!”

Chia Colada

Chia Colada
Makes 3 1-cup servings

Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, & help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, & promote heart health. Salud!

¼ cup chia seeds soaked in ½ cup filtered water for 5 minutes
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 banana
2 cups refrigerated coconut milk
(or 1 cup canned coconut milk plus 1 cup water)

Blend and do the hat dance.

Nutrition Info Per 1-cup Serving: 202 calories, 10 g total fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 8 g protein, 11% vitamin A, 52% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 34% iron.

Detox Day 7: Superfoods for Superyou!

Can you believe it’s the last day? What a super journey this has been! Now that you’re accustomed to inhaling so many of nature’s powerfoods (berries, quinoa, broccoli, kale, spinach, beans, lentils…), I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce a few of the not-so-common ones so you can consider taking your newly found health one step further. What you’re already eating/not eating is HUGE, and these extras might just help you be even MORE superpowered!

Blue Green Algae: Superstar immune-booster. Basically flavorless and comes in powders, flakes, or frozen. Can be tossed into smoothies without changing the flavor. The TJ’s Very Green Dietary Supplement contains spirulina, a popular blue green algae. But, lots of folks swear by E3 Live.

Chia Seeds: Loaded with antioxidants, essential fatty acids (more than salmon), protein, and fiber, these little guys help keep you energized and help reduce unhealthy cravings. They are easy to digest and don’t need to be ground like flax seeds. Add them to breakfast cereals, muffins, cookies, smoothies, pancakes, anything really!

Maca Root Powder: Helps to balance hormones and battle stress by strengthening the adrenal gland. Has proven helpful in treating fertility, poor libido, and menopause. Can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, or rice dishes.

Raw Cacao: Helps elevate mind and mood, and is skyhigh in antioxidants. It contains theobromine which promotes alertness without the side-effects of caffeine. Add it to smoothies, or use it in baking or for puddings. Find it at your local health food store or check it out online as seen here.

Congrats on all you’ve learned, changed, and become this week. Cheers to energizing food and living life to its fullest! I’d love to hear how you benefited from these 7 days–please share! XOXO

Detox Day 5: Alkaline and Feelin’ Fine

Tahini Dressing for Veggies, in SKINNY DISH!

Woohoo to Day 5! You are just a few days away from multigrain tortillas! That is going to be one fantastic burrito 🙂

You may or may not have caught the acid/alkaline breeze in the Detox wind convo. Well, here’s the deal: Our blood and tissues love to be at a pH (measure of acidity/alkalinity) of about 7.35-7.45, which is slightly basic/alkaline. This is where your immune system is an immediate bad-guy destroyer and your overall health is sky high. As you loved learning in high school chemistry, the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with 0 to 6.9 being acidic, 7 being neutral, and 7.1 to 14 being basic (alkaline).

Contrary to what you may think, foods that are more acidic do not make your blood and tissues more acidic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Oranges, tomatoes = acidic. But shocker, they make your blood and tissues more alkaline. As you could have guessed, pretty much all veggies, fruits, dark leafies, unprocessed grains, and other healthy foods help to make your blood and tissues more alkaline, while meats, dairy, eggs, sugary goods, highly processed foods, coffee and alcohol make your blood and tissues more acidic. One reason loading up on healthy fluids, fruits, and veggies, and avoiding all the other foods is so good at helping you detox, is because you’re working the alkalinity. For more on pH, check here and here and here.

Now for some extra credit: Want to check your very own pH? Using your SECOND urine of the day, pee on one of these test strips (or ones similar). Is the Detox working? Hurrrahh!

You never thought this would be so much fun! Keep truckin’ and Happy Weekend! XOXO

Detox Day 4: Calories

Broccoli Leek Soup, SKINNY DISH!

No doubt you’re feeling pretty jazzed that it’s Day 4. Afterall, you’re a Detoxing star! You’ve got your little ziplocks, you’re all smiles, and hopefully the days have gotten easier, the cravings for unhealthy foods are dissolving, and you’re feeling lighter and freer (but restraining from bra-burning…). Someone said the other day that this Detox is downright easy. Not just “not bad,” but simple! Well that’s exactly what I was hoping for. While challenging at times, it is completely doable and perhaps even enjoyable.

Alright, so what’s the deal with calories on this plan? Are you feeling lighter and freer because of the magic plant foods that raise your metabolism, the lower calories, or just because I keep saying that you’re feeling lighter and freer…. yoooou’rrree getttting skiiinnnnyyyy…? A little bit of all that!

Each Detox day has about 1500 calories at a minimum, 60-80 grams of protein, and around 50 grams of fiber. Adding extra servings of nuts, seeds, avocado, fruit, etc. increases all those numbers. This is not a starvation diet, juice fast, or air diet. It’s plentiful, nourishing, and reboots your body. It can be short-term or long-term. Either way, it should include supplemental vitamin B12 and vitamin D (the amounts in a common multivitamin are perfect). Both vitamins are needed because you’re not eating many–if any–foods that are fortified with these little dudes. Vitamin B12 is actually a bacteria found in animal-derived foods and dirt. I imagine you’re washing the dirt (and B12) off your produce (a wise move). Vitamin D is made in the body after sun exposure, and many latitudes aren’t getting adequate sun this time of the year. Foods that ARE typically fortified with B12 & D are non-dairy milks, cereals, and fake meats. So, not a bad idea to supplement when you’re relying heavily on raw foods.

As an example, Today’s Plan including a 2-cup serving of Purple Nurple, a 2-cup serving of Curried Lentil Stew, and all the other recommended serving sizes has 1459 calories, 61 grams of protein, and 49 grams of fiber. The average American gets about 12 grams of fiber a day. You may or may not have been the average American prior to this Detox. Regardless, you are moving some serious crud out of your system. Cheers to crud movement!!

So, March On!, and clean, cleanse, and recharge your core some more. Just a few days left!

Thanksgiving Countdown: Sesame Greens

Sesame Greens from Skinny Dish!

Looking for a fatback-free (and back-fat free) greens dish to go with your big meal next Thursday? Here’s my FAVORITE, straight out of Skinny Dish! Stay tuned this weekend for more stellar Thanksgiving recipes your body will thank you for. (And don’t forget the incredible pumpkin pie from last month…)

Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Dark leafy greens such as mustard greens, turnip greens, and collards are incredible sources of calcium with double the absorption of dairy calcium. And with the Popeye powers associated with eating dark greens, this recipe couldn’t be an easier or tastier way to energize you. Need an extra kick? Enjoy a double serving for just 175 calories!

½ cup filtered water
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
½ bag (5 oz) Prewashed and Rinsed Shredded Carrots, or 2 medium carrots, shredded or cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (preferably organic)
1 (16-oz) bag Trader Joe’s Southern Greens Blend, or 1 bunch kale, collards, or other dark leafy green, ripped into pieces
1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

1 In a large pot, steam carrots and red bell pepper in water and sesame oil over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add greens, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds and cover, continuing to steam for another 5 minutes until greens are tender. Remove from heat.

2 Mix through using a pasta grabber or tongs. Just prior to serving, add soy sauce—it will turn the greens from bright to blah if it sits on them too long.

3 Store Leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Per Serving: 88 calories, 3 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 403.5 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 4.5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g protein, 113% vitamin A, 99% vitamin C, 18% calcium, 13% iron

*Alternate option: Reserve the sesame seeds and top each serving with ½ tsp.

Gluten-Free: Use tamari instead of soy sauce

Top 3 Meatless Meats for Meat-Lovers

Are you digging plant grub but can’t get full on tofu? Or maybe you just don’t want to get full on tofu. YET. So until you’re there, here are 3 of the BEST plant-powered meatalicious products around. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with good ole beans and rice or pasta fagioli, but these dudes are perfect for vegetarian flirts and XL appetites.

Photo by:

1. Soy Chorizo. The package and casing scared me at first. But, once I stabbed through it, I realized the possibilities were endless. It’s spicy, has a great chewy and meaty texture, and is super filling. There are lots of brands, but the Trader Joe’s 2.5-ounce serving has 140 calories, 9 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams carbohydrate, and just 1.5 grams saturated fat. Add it to soups, chili, nachos, potatoes, tacos, or potatoes for a hearty Mexican hash dish. Normally, I panic with processed foods and their list of 900 chemical ingredients, but the one at TJ’s tastes incredible and has just 8 completely identifiable ingredients (1 being water): textured soy protein, water, soy oil, distilled vinegar, salt, spices, red pepper, garlic. Whats Good at Trader Joe’s?–unrelated to Trader Joe’s or Bitchin’ Dietitian–has a cool review of it.

Photo by:

2. Field Roast’s Frankfurters. These grain-based (compared to soy-based) veggie hot dogs are THE BOMB. I knew it last night when my soy dog UNenthusiastic husband had a second one. They have a mildly spicy taste, but still made it past my anti-spicy child’s taste buds. The ingredient list is longer than the chorizo’s, but contains all recognizable items: filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, naturally flavored yeast extract, organic expeller pressed palm fruit oil, barley malt, natural liquid smoke, garlic, onion granules, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, spices, paprika, sea salt. Each frank has 190 filling calories and 21 grams of protein. The rest of the nutrition info is here.

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3. Trader Joe’s Beef-Less Ground Beef. Another wheat gluten concoction, this stuff is incredible mixed with brown rice, black beans, and salsa and then stuffed into cooked peppers. Or, add it to marinara sauce with frozen chopped spinach atop elbow macaroni for a healthy spin on Hamburger Helper. It’s basically fat-free with a 1/3-cup serving containing 60 calories, 10 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, and 0.5 grams fat. Check out another review and more ideas here.

Serve these up with gobs of veggies for maximum nutrition. Recipes here or in Skinny Dish.

Ten Lessons Learned in Cookbook-Writing

Skinny Dish! Launch Party, Washington DC

Now that Skinny Dish is out, here are some valuable lessons I learned along the way.

1. Do not refer to the cruciferous family of vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) as “stinky.” No cookbook publisher, reader, eater, kid, or other human finds this funny.

2. Plan to ONLY eat cookbook experiment food until the book is written, or plan to name your next book Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Fat and Famous!

3. Do not leave your camera on tripod unattended, even to just run to the kitchen to grab another garnish. Wind, dogs, cats, and little boys will quickly have you scrambling to replace lenses on eBay.

4. Never use a hand blender. They are dangerously cute and unnecessary. But if you do, be sure to deliver a copy of your book to the hand surgeon and guy who stitched you back together in the ER. This will give you closure and a smile.

5. Do not think that when your child drinks the OJ prop in your food photo that you can just refill it with water like you did your parent’s vodka bottle in high school (see Confetti Pancakes photo, page 64).

6. Fiber only has one ‘R’, no matter how much there is.

7. Pasta actually takes 8 minutes to cook, eventhough 6 minutes sounds way faster and better (6-Minute Meals became 8-Minute Meals in the final version).

8. If the book is focused on weight control, be sure to have more veggie dishes than desserts.

9. Do not use dried rosemary in any recipe. It’s chewy, bitter, and will ruin perfectly delicious stuffed mushrooms. (There’s none in Skinny Dish, but it was tried in 2 different recipes that were tossed out.)

10. If you want soup splatter on your kitchen ceiling, fill your blender to the top with hot soup, cover it, and turn it on high. If you like your ceiling as is, check out the Safety Tip on page 95.

Skinny Dish! is HERE!

Dear Health Champions,

Today I’m proud to announce the official launch of my Trader Joe’s-inspired cookbook and nutrition guide, Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Skinny Dish! This book will eternally set you free from lengthy meal prep and calorie-counting as you back-flip through quick, mouth-watering veggie dishes, learn “The Five Rules of Skinny,” and wow your family and friends with your new profesh chef skills… laughing all the way.

So, if you haven’t done so already, cartwheel yourself over to Amazon this week and snag a copy.  Together we can hit the bestseller lists! Here’s how else you can help:

Get it while it’s hot. Save on shipping and grab a copy for aunt Shirley, uncle Fred, and even total strangers. When to buy? This week! Oct 17-22. I’m confident that the metabolic-boosting tips, detoxing plan, and 90+ easy breezy recipes will be one of the best holiday presents you can give yourself and your posse. And, don’t feel left out if you’re not a Trader Joe’s shopper or don’t have a TJ’s nearby—the recipe ingredients can all be found at your local grocer. Extreme couponers too!

Spread the word. Share news about Skinny Dish!’s arrival on Facebook, Twitter (use #SkinnyDish and see sample tweets and status updates below), or write a review on your own site. Copy and paste this link as you share:

DC-Area folks. Join me at Barnes & Noble in Georgetown this Friday at 7:00 PM for a recipe-tasting and book-signing extravaganza. Or, bring your copy to Capital City Cheesecakes in Takoma Park, MD on Sunday, November 6th at 1:00 PM (during the Farmers Market) for another scrumptious tasting and signing. More options? Check ‘m out here.

Thank you in advance! I hope you enjoy the full-page photos, fun side of healthy eating, and scrumptious grub as much as I do!


Sample Tweets:

Ta da! #Skinny Dish! is finally here! Grab a copy & enjoy the road 2 simple slimdom thx 2 @DCdietitian :

Tired of dieting & rebounding like a killer whale? Snag #Skinny Dish! by @DCdietitian & never rebound again!:

Need simple & delish ways 2 dive into beans & veggies? Snag newly released #SkinnyDish by @DCdietitian 2day!

Sample Status Updates:

Dietitian Jen Reilly’s “Skinny Dish” is finally out! Order your copy today and start craving veggies like a wild tiger!

Just ordered “Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Skinny Dish!” by nutritionist Jen Reilly. Can’t wait to try the simple, healthy masterpieces!

10 Essential Ingredients for Quick and Healthy Meals

Photo credit: happyworker

No more excuses! Healthy eating and ditching all the crud that’s gumming up your energy and soul are totally painless activities once you make them a priority. Here are 10 essential ingredients that will maximize your chances of success. Stop loading your body with processed garbage, take a fast field-trip to your local grocer, and start cloud surfing your way to health euphoria. Always have on hand:

1. Bagged Salad Greens. Salad doesn’t have to take hours of prep or your life savings to enjoy. Get a bunch of tasty, dark, salad greens, and enjoy them daily with low-fat dressing. (Have you had Trader Joe’s Wasabi Arugula? OH MY!!!)

2. Low-Fat Salad Dressing, or Olive Oil + Brown Rice Vinegar in a 2:1 ratio. Even the cutest of tushes need salad dressing on their greens. If I wasn’t already married, I’d consider a union with Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette. But when it’s out of stock in my fridge, a dash of olive oil, brown rice vinegar, and sea salt are perfect for dolling up the lettuce mountain.

3. Canned Beans: Garbanzo beans are especially great because they don’t usually require rinsing. Just drain and toss them on a salad, into a stir-fry, burrito, or stirred into soup. Or blend any can of drained beans with 1 cup salsa for a fast bean dip or sandwich spread.

4. Quinoa: (“keen-wah”). When you’re rushed for dinner, brown rice–or even white rice for that matter–takes way too long to cook. Quinoa is not only a great rice substitute rich in fiber and protein (and a gluten-free food), but it only takes 15 minutes to cook. Get pre-rinsed quinoa if you can, or rinse the seeds vigorously in water before cooking to remove the saponins. Quinoa is a seed that’s eaten like a whole grain, and can even be mixed with fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and non-dairy milk for a fast breakfast the next morning.

5. Berries: Fresh or frozen. Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are so full of life-extending compounds while also being rich in fiber and low in calories, that you’re better off opting FOR these sweet little miracle makers at meal or snack time. Toss them into breakfast cereals or smoothies, atop salads, or eat them by the handful. Sure feels better than the sugar crash of a Snicker’s!

6. Non-Dairy Milk: Fortified almond, coconut, hemp, oat, or soy milk have all the calcium & vitamin D of dairy milk, less sugar, better taste, fewer calories, and don’t cause mucous production, inflammation, and weight gain the way dairy milk does. Enjoy unsweetened almond milk with 45 calories & 0 grams of sugar per cup or original coconut milk beverage–include it in smoothies, pour into onto a bowl of high-fiber breakfast cereal, or add it to coffee or tea. Mmm!

7. Broccoli: The florets are so full of antioxidants, cancer-fighters, and hormone regulators, and they’re not a particular threat to pests. So, conventionally grown broccoli isn’t riddled with pesticides (Read: you don’t have to buy organic broccoli). Steam, roast, stir-fry, curry them (cook with curry powder and light coconut milk, see below), or dip them in bean dip for a satisfying snack.

8. Canned Light Coconut Milk: Light coconut milk (1/2 cup or more) and curry powder (2 tsp) can turn any veggie or veggie combo into a gourmet curry dish. Add beans for protein and serve over quinoa.

9. Kale: Rich in blood pressure busting chlorophyll, immune-boosting antioxidants, and calcium that’s absorbed twice as well as dairy calcium, kale is a true powerhouse. Toss it into smoothies, stir-fries, or bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes with a touch of olive oil and salt (stir after 15 minutes and return to the oven) for a crunchy veggie side dish even kids will crave.

10: Dark Chocolate: A few squares powerfully satisfy your sweet tooth and are loaded with antioxidants. Work from a large bar each week so you aren’t resorting to the Oreos in the cupboard to satisfy your post-meal sweet craving.

For more ways to incorporate these butt-busting powerfoods, snag a copy of my TJ’s Skinny Dish! book this fall! Other grocery essentials that make healthy eating easy breezy?