Stress Less on Family Dinner – A Playbook for Parents

Ahhhh… Dinner. It’s not just about eating.

A shared meal is a place to reconnect with each other after a busy day of buzzing around in opposite directions (a key ingredient for better health and happiness for everyone). 

Yet, even though we want to make the “ideal dinner” happen regularly and We know how many good things can come from enjoying a meal with our family. We cannot deny that dinner can quickly become a source of stress. Not always the good kind that energizes you, but the kind that leaves you saying “Screw it, I don’t care. Pass the cereal.” 

I’m recalling last night, for example, dining on leftover lukewarm calzone while my youngest frolicked in the tub, covered in what appeared to be a mixture of yogurt, tuna fish, and snot (she’s getting over a cold, it was a state of emergency to get her to the tub). And there I was, trying not to get my dinner wet.  

Nevertheless, there is help.

I was recently inspired by the art behind meal planning after reading DINNER – The Playbook by Jenny Rosenstrach. (Jenny, you don’t know me yet, but I heart you.)dinner_theplaybook

I discovered Jenny’s awesome books after her blog (and mine) were both recognized by Janet Helm of Nutrition Unplugged as part of the “good” (not bad or ugly) of bloggers.

Below are some of Jenny’s tips I found the most helpful and sensible for stressing less about dinner. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas below.  

Where do I Start?

Start with a calendar, a strategy and a well-considered batch of recipes, and most importantly a commitment to making dinner happen. Acknowledge that there is never going to be a perfect time when you have a week without work, recitals or melt-downs. Even if such a week did exist, what would you be learning after all? The idea is to get into a rhythm where dinner no longer becomes a source of stress or dread, rather a time to reconnect and unwind. 

Share the Load

Avoid making dinner just on you, that’s when it becomes a burden. Dinner is for the whole family, therefore everyone can pitch in. Anyone can learn how to cook–start with simple easy-to-follow recipes like Quesadillas or Omelets. Kids can browse through cook books and share their preferences or simply answer the question “what do you want for dinner?” Enlist helpers in the making dinner happen tasks such as setting/clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, placing the condiments on the table. 

Build Meals Around Familiar Ingredients

When you know everyone’s palates and taste preferences you are able to select recipes that will not be offensive. Build on foods everyone loves. An example is pasta, use it as the base and add to it with new ingredients like roasted tomatoes and mushrooms. If they don’t like the new add-ins at least they’ll have a positive outlook that it is ‘pasta’ when they sit down for dinner.  This can be a helpful strategy when introducing new recipes that involve new flavors.

Gather Your Recipes (the fun part!)

Dig out that pile of the “someday we’ll make this” recipes and add to it with new recipes. To start, you’ll probably want to pick 15 “go-to” recipes. From there, weave in recipes that involve new flavors, colors, and textures. Remember, the end goal is to put an edible dinner on the table not impress the Queen of England.

Make a Meal Plan

Find a time to round up the family before the week get started. (Ideally Saturday and on Sunday you will do your shopping). It’s helpful to have everyone bring their calendars if you are juggling multiple kids/schedules.

Suggested Formulas for Meal Planning

  • Use monikers like “Meatless Mondays” or “Taco Tuesdays”.
  • “Fish” or any seafood dish, make it happen on Sunday or Monday so it is still fresh from your weekly shop (done on Sunday).
  • “Halfway There” recipes that has a make-ahead component, ie, pasta sauce or or something that has been marinating all day. This can also be based on repurposing leftovers (steak into steak salad).
  • “Use It or Lose It” this is the last dinner of the week that takes advantage of the odds and ends in the crisper drawer, ie Baked Potato or Taco Bar and also helps you feel less guilty about going out to dinner on the weekend.
  • “Double Up” by making a double batch of spicy mayo to use on asparagus with a fish dish at the beginning of the week and then Chicken BLTs later in the week. Or make an extra batch of rice to use for a tofu bowl one night, then add to an omelet later in the week.

Shop on Sundays

To keep is reasonable on yourself do the bulk of your shopping at one store (ideally same place you can buy toilet paper and parmesan cheese). Make Sunday your day to do your big shop. Take your kids with you, have them help make the grocery list/clip coupons. This will also help them learn practical life skills, like sticking to a budget, selecting the best produce and bagging groceries.

Build up your pantry with flavorful staples like canned chipoltes in adobo sauce, anchovies, rice wine vinegar and dijon mustard. Overtime you’ll have a nice collection of these ingredients that add flavor to dishes and  you’ll be more willing to try new recipes.

Prep Ahead

Is there anything you can do before you leave the house for the day that you haven’t already done on the weekend? This can simply be setting a pot of water on the stove so it’s ready for boil when you walk in the door. Or washing and chopping the veggies for the recipe the night before. You will appreciate this small task at the end of the day. 

Keep Notes

After you’ve finished your meal take a few moments to reflect on it. What grade would you give it? What did they kids think about it? Did it require too much prep? Was the clean up brutal? Most important, is it a keeper? Taking these few extra minutes before you go to bed with will help make future meal planning a breeze. 

Let’s Hear it From You

What are your meal planning secrets to serving up nutritious meals and keeping everyone happy? I’d love to hear your tips! Feel free to share by leaving a comment below.

DIY Freezer Smoothie Bags + Recipe




DIY Smoothie Bag

I make smoothies almost every day, for breakfast, exercise pre- or post-fuel, or as an after-school snack for my kids. But when I’m trying to juggle work, being a mom, and all the craziness life throws my way, even the simple task of throwing together a quick smoothie can seem overwhelming. So, what’s a busy mom to do? Prep ahead of time, of course! Prepping and assembling smoothie ingredients in smoothie bags ahead of time can make all the difference in the world between getting a nourishing, frosty smoothie in your belly STAT versus ravenously grabbing whatever food you can get your hands on.

In just about ten minutes, you can get smoothies for an entire week prepped and ready to go! Assemble them ahead of time and then keep in the fridge or freezer to pull out whenever you want them. Prepare them just like you would if you were making the smoothie right then and there. Here’s how to make it happen:

Chop and Prep Fruits and Veggies

  • Use whatever you like/have on hand. I like bananas, kiwifruit, blueberries, tart cherries, cranberries, kale, spinach, avocado, etc. Seriously, pretty much anything goes. Chop into small pieces, if necessary, and place in small, sealable plastic bags.
  • If you have any fruits or veggies that are about to turn, these smoothie bags are a perfect way to reduce food waste! Just be sure you freeze these ones when they’re assembled!

Add Extras

  • Toss whatever add-ins you like into bag with your produce. Nut butter, Greek yogurt, and protein powder are all good options. I also like cinnamon, vanilla, and other spices to enhance the flavor.

Seal and store

  • Roll up the bag to squeeze all the air out, and then create a tight seal to keep ingredients fresh. If you’re freezing your bags, use a freezer bag for optimal freshness.
  • If you prefer reusable containers, fill these up as much as possible to reduce amount of air in the container
  • Store in fridge or freeze them. The freezer will definitely keep everything fresh for a longer time, but be sure to pull them out the night before you want to use them to keep your blender happy.

Blend and Enjoy

  • Pop the contents of the bag in your blender. Add liquid to make it smooth (your preferred milk, water, coconut water, etc.) and ice to get it nice and cold, and blend as usual

Like I said, these are no-brainers that you really cannot mess up. Just about anything can go in a smoothie. Below is one of my tried and true recipes, but feel free to play around with it and find your own personal faves!

Banana Split Smoothie
Prep time
Total time
It's dessert in a cup! This creamy blend of cool sweetness delivers a heap of nutrition and fiber, making it a perfect option to satisfy that sweet tooth or refuel after a workout.
Recipe type: Smoothie
Serves: 3
  • ½ cup pineapple (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • ½ cup of strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced
  • 1 cup plain or Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate sauce
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup ice
  • ½ cup your favorite milk
  • 1 T peanuts, crushed, for garnish (optional)
  1. Place all ingredients except ice, milk and peanuts, in bag and freeze or refrigerate until ready to use. Place bag contents in blender, add milk and ice, and blend until desired consistency is reached. Top each with crushed peanuts, if desired.
  2. *Add spinach, kale, or avocado to “green” up this recipe


Try This: “I had a long day” Recipe Stuffed Sweet Potato


This sweet potato recipe is easy to make after a long day where all you want to do is sit down and relax. This spin on a favorite comfort food could be the main course of your dinner or split between the family for a tasty side dish.

When I eat this as a meal, I add chopped chicken or beef for a boost of protein and satisfaction. Anything goes – Use what works for you.

Stuffed Sweet Potato
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves 1
Serves: 25 min
  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ¼ cup of dark greens (spinach, kale, chard etc. )
  • ⅛ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ chicken breast, cooked and chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup shredded cheese (I love cheddar!)
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Scrub sweet potato and cut a ½ inch deep line around the middle.
  3. Microwave for 7-10 minutes, or until cooked all the way through.
  4. Scoop out flesh, and leave the skins to the side (don’t throw them away!).
  5. Mash the sweet potato in a bowl with milk and butter.
  6. Stir in greens, carrots, chicken, and half of the shredded cheese.
  7. Put the filling back into the sweet potato skins, and put on a tray or in tinfoil (I find it is more stable if I make a boat out of tinfoil for the sweet potato!).
  8. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, and bake until the cheese on top is golden, which takes about 8-12 minutes!
  9. Enjoy!


What are your favorite foods to make after a long day? Share below in the comments.

Cool Foods for Warm Weather

Me mind on fire. Me soul on fire. Feelin’ Hot. Hot. Hot

You too? Last thing you want to do is turn on the oven. I feel ya. That’s why I I’m keeping mine off and making these easy foods and recipes instead. No oven necessary.

Go ahead and store your winter sweaters and other things you don’t need in there. Pour a nice cold glass of ice water and get inspired to keep it cool (and healthy) when it’s hot outside.

Disclosure: The brands and organizations included in the TV segments and blog are clients of mine.

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Give Your Breakfast Cereal an Upgrade

Get your “good energy” before heading out the door by upgrading your morning cereal!


Post’s Great Grains Protein Blend Honey, Oats & Seeds has whole grain flakes made from cracked wheat and whole kernel barley. It is sweetened with a kiss of honey and combined with nutritious pumpkin seeds, almonds and multigrain clusters studded with sunflower seeds.

I love this cereal because you get about 8 grams of protein in a one cup serving along with fiber, whole grains, vitamins, and minerals. Great Grains Protein Blend is also a non-GMO verified cereal, and the less processed whole grain nutrition can help support a healthy metabolism, providing a great start to your day.

Try it with fresh fruit in a yogurt parfait or get more creative recipe ideas at

Replace Your Oven With Your Blender

Swap your oven for your blender and stay cool this summer! I love smoothies in warmer weather. They can be a great way to boost fruit and even veggie intake AND you can get your kids to like them too.

Fuel Up Smoothie 2

TruMoo Chocolate milk has no high fructose corn syrup and no artificial growth hormones, so you can feel great about serving it to your family, whether it’s in your smoothies or served cold in a glass! It’s the perfect base for smoothies because it has protein calcium and Vitamin D, which are essential for bone health.

This is the “Fuel Up Smoothie” with just three ingredients – chocolate milk, almond butter and kale!

TruMoo Fuel Up Smoothie

1 1/2 cups TruMoo Chocolate milk

1/2 cup baby kale

1 cup ice cubes

1 tablespoon almond butter

In blender combine TruMoo Chocolate milk, baby kale, ice cubes and almond butter. Blend until smooth and frothy, and serve.

Serves 1.

Visit for this and other great recipes!

Boost Flavor with California Cling Peaches

I love to enjoy the flavor and nutrients of peaches year round thanks to my trusty can opener and stockpile of California Cling Peaches in my pantry (and refrigerator – Yes, it’s true!)


Here’s a surprisingly simple and exciting tip: Did you know you can store canned peaches in the refrigerator so they are nice and cold when you’re ready for a nutritious snack?

Thanks to recent studies, we know California canned peaches are nutritionally on par with fresh. Canned peaches packed in extra light syrup have the same grams of sugar as peaches packed in juice. So the choice is up to you, both are healthy choices.

Most canned, cupped or jarred peaches are grown in California by third and fourth generation family farmers. They are made in the USA. Check your food label for Domestic peaches. It will say product of USA or California or nothing at all.

Most importantly, they are delicious on their own AND they add flavor to any recipe! For example, I dressed up my chicken wraps by adding slices of peaches (get the recipe here!).

You can also try peachcicles made with peaches, greek yogurt, and nutmeg. They remind me of peach pie! They are also a fun treat to make with kids that will keep you cooled down in the afternoon.

Get a free downloadable cookbook at the website for California Cling Peach board at

Dip Into Cool, Zesty Snacks with Sabra

Sometimes when you’re on the run, it’s nice to have options that don’t require any work at all! I love the Sabra snack packs. You can get hummus with pretzels, salsa with tortilla chips, or the hummus on its own ready for your sliced veggies to dip.These are great to take to the zoo, on a hike or picnic, or a day at the water.

sabra eggs

If you’re entertaining, it couldn’t be easier to put out “party size” Sabra hummus and several varieties of salsa as dips for veggies, pita triangles, or tortilla chips. Hummus is made with fiber rich chickpeas and salsa is made with fresh vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic making them healthy AND delicious!

Celebrate National Hummus Day on May 21! Sabra would love to know how you are choosing to enjoy your hummus with #2SpoonsHummus!

Use both salsa and hummus to add zesty flavor to your favorite recipes, like these hummus deviled eggs – a summer classic. Get this recipe and more at

Spice Up the Party with Lean Lamb

Swap the burgers and dogs for lean and nutrient rich lamb from Superior Farms. (shop tip for D.C. area – I got mine at Shoppers in Takoma Park. Check the Shoppers website for a location near you.)


With a “flock comes first” motto, these ranchers take great care of their lamb. Lamb are raised outdoors on high quality natural grasses and grains, which contributes to the unique flavor of lamb.

Lamb is lean, with a 3 ounce serving on average 175 calories and 10 grams of fat. Plus lamb has protein, vitamins, and minerals to help nourish you.

Try these two great recipes that your family or dinner party guests will love!

First up, lamb sliders made with ground lamb and seasoned with Mediterranean herbs – a perfect “finger food” at parties. Even easier, any recipe that uses ground beef can be modified to use ground lamb.

Or try pulled lamb tacos with creamy cilantro slaw. (I’ll be honest, I took a super quick shortcut and did a quick dry rub on Pulled Lamb Tacos 1my lamb, then put it 8 hours in the slow cooker, overnight, filled 2/3 high with water. The lamb feel apart so easily the next morning and I stored it in the fridge until dinner.

If you don’t have time to make your own slaw from scratch, buy a small store container, then buy the package of slaw without dressing and combine them. If you need more dressing, add Greek yogurt and a bit of vinegar.)

For these recipes and more, visit

Halt the Salt with a KIND Snack

Between meals and snacks, especially on the go, it can be easy to overdo the salt. A Center for Disease Control report states that 70% of packaged foods contain excessive amounts of sodium – exceeding the FDA’s “healthy” labeling standards.

KIND snacks are low in sodium and they are so easy to take with you anywhere.

Kind bar

Almond Coconut Cashew Chai bars are “Very Low Sodium” and Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate Nut bars are “Low Sodium” even though it’s got that great hint of salt! Both of these bars have 5 grams of protein and you can get them at Starbucks with your coffee and you’ll have a snack you can feel good about for whatever adventure you have that day.



Through May KIND is honoring our nation’s military with #ThanksKindly on Twitter. All you do is send a tweet and then a very cool robot actually handwrites the “thank you note” and gives it to an active service member. For every tweet sent, $1, up to $10,000 KIND will donate to Cell phones to soldiers.

Check out the video at

These ideas are easy and fun. They work whether you are entertaining or “out and about” enjoying the weather and all the great activities summer has to offer. What plans do you have for “fun in the sun” this week?

Join the #Spring2Wellness Challenge Today (3 more weeks left)

Spring (1)Since the start of spring, over 1,000 people have been enjoying their time learning new tips for motivation, recipes and workouts absolutely FREE with my latest challenge, “Spring 2 Wellness.”

It’s not to late to join in. We have three more weeks left of weekly challenge emails. Sign up here.

After you complete it, I’ll be sharing my 7-day “feel good guide” (also free). Then you’ll get messages from me ongoing 1-2 times a month, with some of my favorite tools, tips and resources right to your inbox.

Read on if you would like to catch up and get some wellness in your life instantly! Next challenge goes out Friday April 25th,

Spring 2 Wellness Week 1

Week 1 was all about goal setting.

Your intention is your commitment to take action. Start by (1) get a clear on what you want and why you want it and (2) WRITE IT DOWN or it isn’t happening.

I will ______ on (or by) ________.

Check out this link for more goal setting tips 9 Habits For a Happier Healthier Life

Sign up for the challenge

Spring2Wellness Week 2

Week 2: plan, plan, plan.

You know the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Even if you can eek by without planning, imagine how much more could you get done with healthy living if you plan. You save time, you’re more clear on your goals, and you’re more likely to stick to them when you feel like bailing.

Learn how to meal plan like a boss.  Meal planning makes grocery shopping much more efficient (saving you time and money), and keeps your mind set on eating healthy.

Sign up for the challenge

Spring2Wellness Week 3

Week 3: Move to the rhythm of the work out

Turn something dreadful into something less dreadful.  Let’s face it, you may not feel like working out at all.  It’s tiring, takes up time or uncomfortable.  It’s OK.  Do it anyway.

Use music as a distraction and it can make your workouts more fun.  Think of some of your favorite songs, create a play list, and I dare you not to move to them!

Sign up for the challenge

Spring2Wellness Week 4

Week 4’s challenge was all about meditation.

While I love yoga, I could never seem to get into meditation. My brain is constantly thinking, moving from one idea to the next. Trying to control or stop my thoughts seems like the opposite of what I am supposed to do.

However, after trying to give my self 1 to 5 minutes every morning to just do nothing, I could see how it helped me feel more positive and energized for a great day. I got a real boost to my health and happiness.

I wrote an article published on US News: Health, check it out, it talks more about Mediation and how and why you should try it.

Sign up for the challenge

Spring2Wellness Week 5

Are you dying to know? Sign up for the challenge and you’ll see what’s up my sleeve next.