Shape-up your space: Five ways to ‘healthify’ your surroundings

the glu chicago, chicago dietitian, wellness writer, healthy spaces, healthy kitchen, pantry spaces, nutrition goals

At the end of a long day, it may be tempting to reach for our favorite foods without giving it a second thought. From chocolate-covered cookies to a chilled glass of wine, we all have our ‘go-to’ faves. For me, if I’m feeling extra wiped, I’ll dive into whatever frozen treat is waiting for me in the freezer. This state of ‘mindless munching’ is something that many of us may be familiar with. But sometimes turning to these treats leads us down a path that doesn’t serve us or our health goals. According to the American Psychological Association, studies suggest that willpower erodes across the day. So when we’re feeling depleted and running on empty, what can we do? Enter our environment.


After getting home from the grocery store, wash, cut and store produce in clear containers. Make them ‘snackable’ by placing them at eye level next to a dip of your choice. Cucumber rounds with hummus or apple slices with almond butter are simple, filling and nutrient-dense. Since it can be easy to polish off an entire bag/container/box of whatever we’re eating or drinking, consider buying single-serve, individually wrapped snacks to help keep intake in check.


If you’ve ever emptied your closets, reorganized your pantry or otherwise ‘tidied up’ as Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo would say, you may notice feeling less stressed. According to one recent study, “clutter had a negative impact on self-reported well-being” among the study’s participants. Keep your counters clean and clear of junk food. Store fresh fruit in attractive bowls and containers on top of your counter, making choosing filling and fiber-rich foods easy to get to.


Many of us struggle to drink enough water throughout the day. According to the Institute of Medicine, women need about 11 cups of fluid per day while men need closer to 13 cups. Stash several water bottles or glasses in ‘hot spots’ in your home as a visual reminder to fill up on fluid. Sparkling water and caffeine-free drinks will count toward this number so maybe store an herbal tea bag or two in your favorite space.


Like water, many of us don’t meet our recommended daily intake of dietary fiber each day. For women, we need 25 grams per day while men need 38 grams per day. Not only does fiber promote positive digestive health, it helps with satiety, that feeling of fullness we get after eating. Staying fuller for longer may help keep cravings in check, making reaching for a treat less likely after a fiber-rich meal. From roasted chickpeas to lentil pasta, store different bean-based foods in your home to up your fiber game.


When we’re feeling stretched thin, spending time around greenery may lift our spirits and our mood. A 2010 study found that those who spent time in a room with a plant reported feeling more confident and energized compared to those who were in a room sans plant. Create your own indoor garden by adding a low-maintenance plant or terrarium to spaces where you spend the most time. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have a green-thumb, treat yourself to a few fresh flowers now and again.


Bottom line: Starting something new and working toward a personal health goal can be challenging.

Building healthy habits takes time. Scan your current surroundings and focus on changing one thing at a time to help prevent that “I’m doing everything yet nothing is getting done” feeling.

Above all, be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time.

This blog post was written for and originally published by the glu

Sleep + Health: 5 Ways to Curb Cravings

sleep health, moonlit skincare, chicago health, nutritionist chicago, virtual nutrition counseling, healthy sleep habits, better sleep

“Talk to me about your sleep” is one of the questions I ask my nutrition clients. I help women who may be finding it difficult to eat well or who’re struggling with their weight as a result of a new job or life change. This question gives me insight into a key area to target.

While some say, “Great! I get 8 – 9 hours a night,” many will say, “Ok; not great.” What we eat, and drink, can impact the quality of our sleep. And visa-versa; how well we sleep can influence our food choices the next day.

Since leptin and ghrelin, hormones that regulate our appetite, shift during sleep, not getting enough zzzs can create an imbalance. Studies show that less sleep is associated with low levels of leptin, an appetite suppressor AND high levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulant, particularly driving our craving for calorie-dense, carbohydrate-rich foods. Let’s take a look at five different ways we can support our health by curbing cravings.


Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties. Berries, beans, nuts, seeds and oatmeal are all great sources. Opt for fruits and vegetables that have a skin (apple, berries) vs. a peel (banana, orange) for an extra fiber boost.


- Use fresh berries instead of jam
- Add toasted rolled oats into soups or salads 
- Ask for ‘double veggies’ when ordering a pizza. 


Protein takes more energy for us to breakdown than refined carbohydrates, helping us to feel full and keep our hunger at bay. Depending on activity level and body composition, we need ~0.8 grams/kg of protein/day, meaning a 150 lb person needs ~54 grams per day. Power up with plant-based proteins like edamame, hemp seeds, tofu and soy milk for a bonus boost of anti-inflammatory foods.


While giving food flavor, sodium stimulates our appetite and masks thirst, encouraging us to eat more and drink less water. Top sources include bread, packaged foods, fast food, cured meats and canned goods.

- Choose “low sodium” or “no salt added,” products
- Dilute salty dips by blending in white beans
Get dressings, cheese or sauce on the side



When we go for a period of time without eating, ghrelin, our hunger-stimulating hormone, starts to kick in. Secreted mainly from the stomach lining, it signals our brain that it's time to eat. Ghrelin works on a cycle; levels build before we eat and drop after a meal. Eating consistently throughout the day will help to stabilize hunger levels.


Bundle of celery or a bag of chips? One of the reasons why we give into cravings is that these foods are convenient, easy to grab and tasty. Start stocking your fridge with handy, healthy snacks like whole fruit, raw nuts, hummus and veggie sticks.

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- Precut produce and store in the center of the fridge to make them easy to grab & go.

- Place produce near a dip or nut butter to make snacking simple.

- Portion out nuts and other bulk items into single servings

This blog post was written for and originally published by Moonlit Skincare 🌟


'Quick Wins': Three ways to boost your next meal

simple smoothies, chicago dietitian, healthy treats, #mealprep, #chicagoeats, registered dietitian

If you’re like me, you don’t have / want to spend a ton of time finding new recipes, meal prepping, cooking etc. It can feel overwhelming. And I’d rather spend time with friends, my husband and running around with Dexter on the weekends.

To help prevent #mealmonotony and also keep meal prep to a minimum, I often make the same things week-to-week, experimenting with variations of each dish depending on what I have on hand.

Lately, I’ve been making lentil pasta, adding chopped spinach, tomatoes and basil before mixing in chili flakes with a dollop of dairy-free mayo. I’ll add some pan-fried tofu and call it a day. It’s satisfying, super simple to assemble and I can mix it up by adding in different spices, herbs or veggies. It also gives each dish a slightly different flavor and nutrition perks.

If you’re short on time but want to maximize your nutrition, here are a few ‘quick wins’ to add to your next meal.


For both sweet and savory dishes, consider adding in spices such as turmeric, cinnamon or ginger. Spices contain compounds that function as antioxidants, helping to protect our body by controlling levels of inflammation.*

  • Turmeric
    Containing the compound curcumin that helps to combat inflammation, sprinkle dried turmeric onto roasted veggies, guacamole or green smoothies. Boost absorption by including turmeric with fat-rich foods such as olive oil or avocado.

  • Cinnamon
    Packed with antioxidants, one active compound in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, may positively support blood sugar balance. Sprinkle into coffee, yogurt or oatmeal; add to warm cooked dishes like mashed sweet potato, or roasted squash.

  • Ginger
    Containing several compounds that may help with nausea and acid reflux add ground ginger to tea, toast, or fresh fruit; splash fresh ginger juice into sparkling water, yogurt or smoothies for a refreshing kick.


Rich in dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids as well as phytochemicals, flax is a fantastic way to make your next meal nutrient-dense. Mix ground seeds into oatmeal, stir into spreads or add whole seeds to stir-fries, smoothies or baked goods.


Foods rich in dietary fiber keep us fuller for longer, helping to keep appetite in check and cut back mindless munching. Since much of the fiber is found in the skin of our fruits and veggies avoid peeling them before cooking and choose those with a skin (berries) vs. a peel (banana).

*Note: further research is needed to make clinical recommendations.