Good Foods, Bad Foods, & The Dorito Effect

Let me start out with a confession: Sometimes I think about foods as “good foods” and “bad foods“. I know, I know, foods aren’t supposed to fall into those categories and it’s much more popular to say “all food is good, in moderation” but here’s the thing: I think there are some bad foods. I’m not saying you should ban them from your existence but let’s call a spade a spade. Here’s how my perspective has changed: A “bad food” isn’t bad because it has a lot of fat and calories and a “good food” isn’t a good food because it has a label telling you it’s healthy. I totally fell for the 100-calorie-pack-fake-food craze in college. I ate this weird plastic tasting peanut butter. I liked packaged food because I could flip over the nutritional information and count those darn little calories. (Some college students save up for beer money, I saved up for Crystal Light money.) Since those times, things have changed a lot. I’ve learned a lot about food and nutrition. (I even got my health coaching certification!) I recently read a book that made me ponder a new aspect of food: flavors.

the dorito effect book review

The Dorito Effect looks at how science has bred vegetables for things like size, speed of growth, shelf life, etc. but hasn’t looked at the effect it has on flavor. Apparently, things like tomatoes, broccoli, and even chicken have actually be diluted in flavor. Things literally don’t “taste as good as they used to” because we’ve made them that way. It’s kind of crazy to think about! It also looked at how, because of this, the food we do eat is so full of added flavors. If you’ve ever flipped over the box on basically anything processed then you might see an ingredient that’s listed as “natural flavor” or “artificial flavor”. Now, I’m well aware that artificial flavors probably aren’t something I really want to be eating, but the optimist in me thought that maybe natural flavors were some proprietary blend of things truly “natural” things. A little lemon? Some cilantro maybe? Nope. Turns out, natural flavors and artificial flavors are the same thing. They’re chemicals. The difference is how they’re extracted. That means the “natural flavor” in your cherry popsicle is actually just a chemical that makes you taste cherry, even when there is no cherry in it. Here’s how the FDA defines natural flavor:

“The essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

Not to go all crazy “Food Babe” conspiracy theory on you, but doesn’t it make you stop and think why do we have all these flavors added to our food? Obviously we know that a banana Laffy Taffy isn’t made with real bananas, but if I’m eating pumpkin almonds, I want it to taste like pumpkin because there is actually pumpkin in it… not because there is an extract of a chemical compound that simulates the flavor of pumpkin.

pumpkin almonds Sure, there might be some studies out there that say these flavors aren’t going to harm us… ad maybe that’s true, but they’re certainly not doing us any good. And I can’t help but think about how a handful of grapes doesn’t taste quite as sweet and delicious after you’ve just had a grape flavored popsicle. Weird, right?

So what does all this mean?

I’m not saying I’ll never eat a package of Ritz crackers again just because it comes in a plastic sleeve and has that fake buttery flavor. (I literally just had some on an airplane this week) but I’m rethinking what “good food” is. While I know I can’t stuff my face with pizza every night, I feel good knowing the pizza from Stuzzi is handmade and the ingredients are real food. I know that real food can satisfy me in a way those chemically enhanced foods can’t. So while I might put foods on a good list or a bad list, I’m trying to be more aware of the types of ingredients I’m eating, not just the calorie counts on the label. Michael Pollan summed it up well with this popular quote:

Michael Pollan quote

What do you think? Do you have a mental list of good vs. bad food? How to do you define it?

What I Ate Yesterday

This is going to be an iphone-style recap of my eats yesterday because life is a little crazy at the moment. So let’s just dive right into some What I Ate Wednesday meal recaps!

yogurt with berries and granola

I started off with a bowl of 0% Greek Yogurt from Trader Joe’s with some of their frozen Very Cherry Berry mix. I love this combo of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries. (Kroger makes a similar one but theirs has strawberries and frozen strawberries are a little tough to eat straight from the freezer!)

Around 10:30, I snacked on an apple which held me over until lunch. Sometimes I need a snack in the morning or I feel like I’m going to starve. Does anyone else feel like this?

kale salad and soup

For lunch, I packed a kale salad with the garlic tahini dressing from Whole Foods. That stuff if my JAM. It is some seriously delicious dressing and I doesn’t have any yucky ingredients. I rounded out my lunch with a cup of lentil soup form the cafeteria. Sorry for the lame picture with the styrofoam cup. The setting doesn’t do it justice because it was actually delicious.

I managed to pass on candy from the candy cart (YES we have a cart that brings candy to you. Talk about temptation.) Instead I had a protein/granola bar. I didn’t remember to take a picture but I also wouldn’t  recommend the brand. It tasted fine but the ingredients were a little sketchy. Anyway, it kept me full until dinner!


I wanted to use up the ricotta cheese I had left from this spaghetti squash lasagna so I made something similar with zucchini. Honestly, I should have taken real pictures of this because I loved it.

zucchini baked

Basically it was one huge zucchini, spiralized, mixed with spaghetti sauce which I cooked down a bit (so the dish wouldn’t be so watery in the end) and then stirred in ricotta, put it in a pan and topped it with a little mozzarella. It only needed to bake for about 10 minutes. I guess it was like baked ziti but with zucchini instead of ziti. I’ll be making this again.

Halo Top Low Calorie Ice Cream

After dinner, I helped Alex with a woodworking project, and by that I mean I just used the power sander and vacuumed up sawdust. Then I relaxed a bit and had some Halo Top for dessert. Kroger had been out of it for awhile so I was excited to snag a pint this week! It seriously tastes like ice cream and it only has 60 calories per serving. While I love regular ice cream, this stuff is awesome when I’m looking for a low cal treat.

What are you eating today?

Weekend Adventures: Baltimore & Brownie Mix

Alex and I decided to take a quick trip to Baltimore over the weekend, since the Twins were playing the Orioles and I’d never been to Baltimore! We lucked out and the weather was perfect.

me and alex in baltimore
Obviously some road trip snacks were involved during the drive.

halfpops snack
Halfpops sent me some products to try so Alex and I split a bag of the butter & sea salt flavor. At first I was skeptical (half popped popcorn? Don’t you want it fully popped?) but it was actually really good. It’s super crunchy and it’s really flavorful. The ingredients themselves are great (no artificial junk, no GMOs, & they’re gluten free) so this made a nice snack! I’m excited to try the chipotle flavor next!

fells point in Baltimore

We walked around Fells Point when we first arrived and grabbed lunch at Kooper’s Tavern. It was too dark to take photos but I had a margarita pizza and it was pretty good! We walked around for awhile, dropped our stuff off at the AirB&B, and headed to the game!

Twins game in Baltimore

We definitely couldn’t have gotten better weather! Go Twins!

Twins game I’m not much of a baseball fan but it turned out to be a close game so I ended up getting pretty into it! (Except I kept clapping for the wrong team. It’s confusing being the away team.) After the game we stopped for a drink at Camden Pub and actually ran into someone Alex knew, which was crazy. Isn’t it a small world?! We left pretty early in the morning (honestly, our AirB&B was kind of a let down so we decided to head home as soon as we woke up) and we grabbed bagels at Botta Bing on our way home. The upside of leaving at 6:30 in the morning was that we didn’t hit any traffic!

Once we got home, I needed to whip up a dessert for a church potluck and I was short on time so I grabbed the brownie mix that Enjoy Life Foods sent me a few weeks ago.

Enjoy life Brownie Mix Review I was honestly so impressed with how this turned out. All you need is a little oil and water (I used coconut oil) and this mix is vegan & gluten free! It also has chocolate chips in it, which is necessary in my book ;) I was afraid the brownies would be really crumbly, which is a common problem with gluten free baked goods, but these held together really well! I’m excited to try some of their other baking mixes, soon!

What did you do this weekend? Have you tried any new foods lately?


Spaghetti Squash Lasagna [Vegetarian & Gluten Free]

On Tuesday night, when Alex gave this meal two thumbs up, I explained that it was actually pretty healthy and he responded: “If this is healthy, we should eat it every night.” So there you go folks, this one was a winner.

The reason it doesn’t taste healthy is because cheese is sort of the star of the show here. But the squash helps bulk up the serving size so you feel like you’re eating a big bowl of cheesy goodness, when it’s really full of vegetables. See what I did there?

healthy spaghetti squash lasagna

So I’ll first warn you that this lasagna won’t come out in beautiful stacked layers, which is why I didn’t try to show you a gorgeous slice. It’s definitely a little messier, since you’re using small strands of squash and not big noodles. Trade offs, people. So I’d recommend serving this in a bowl and not on a plate. There, we got that out of the way. Now let’s talk about the recipe.

5.0 from 3 reviews

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 2 cups of marinara sauce
  • ½ cup park skim ricotta cheese
  • 1½ cups part skim shredded mozzarella
  • Handful of fresh basil
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Carefully slice your spaghetti squash in half. (Be careful!)
  3. Scoop out the seeds and flip them cut side down on a large microwave safe plate.
  4. Add a little water to the bottom of the plate (to create steam) and microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  5. In a small casserole dish (mine was 6 X 8) add a thin layer of tomato sauce to the bottom.
  6. Combine the rest of the tomato sauce with the ricotta cheese.
  7. Once the spaghetti squash is done in the microwave, scoop out the insides with a folk. (It’ll make little “strands”) but be careful, it’ll be hot!
  8. Then layer in spaghetti squash over the sauce.
  9. Top with sauce and repeat with spaghetti squash.
  10. Cover the whole pan with mozzarella cheese and cover with aluminum foil.
  11. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.
  12. Turn to broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the top becomes brown and bubbly.
  13. Roughly chop the fresh basil and sprinkle over top!

vegetarian spaghetti squash lasagna

Here are a few tips/notes:

  •    Microwave the squash ahead of time significantly reduces the time to make this, but if you want to roast the squash in the oven, that’s fine. You’ll probably need to roast it for 20-30 minutes, and then continue on with the rest of the steps.
  •    The nutritional information (below) is for part skim cheeses. Do NOT use fat free or it won’t taste nearly as good. You can use full fat cheese if you like, but the nutritional stats will be a bit higher.
  •    To reduce the watery-ness of the squash, you can press it in a mesh strainer after removing from the squash shell. It won’t get rid of all the moisture, but it can help.
  •    If you let the dish sit for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven, it’ll be slightly easier to dish up.

Believe it or not, 1/4 of this whole pan is less than 300 calories and 18g of protein! I KNOW.

calories in spaghetti squash lasagna

Just out of curiosity, do you find it useful to have the nutritional facts posted for recipes?

Now go pin this so you don’t forget to make it later! ;)

healthy vegetarian spaghetti squash lasagna

Looking for more spaghetti squash ideas? Try this spaghetti squash bake!

spaghetti squash bake

Or if you’re more of a macaroni and cheese fan, this spaghetti squash “mac” and cheese is just what you need.

spaghetti squash mac n cheese.jpg

Have you tried spaghetti squash?

A Vegetable Filled Day

After many birthday indulgences and frequent dinners out, I decided to try to reign things back in on Sunday. Luckily, our kitchen was well stocked with groceries from Relay Foods so I was ready to get some fruit & veggies back into my life.

We were actually out pretty late on Saturday (late for us is like… midnight) so we slept in until almost 8 on Sunday morning. I got up and immediately made some coffee and grabbed some yogurt. I’m still on a Greek yogurt kick.

greek yogurt just blueberries

After breakfast and a relaxing morning of reading the New York Times, I munched on an apple before heading out the door to gymnastics. I knew lunch would be late so I wanted something to power me through!

chopped apple

Gym Quest has an adult tumbling class on Sundays and it’s always a fun time. It’s half workout/half girl time.

Back handsprings for days. Or seconds. @gymquestgymnastics #fitfluential #workout

A video posted by Liz Thomson (@iheartveggies) on

I had a fun time bouncing around on the trampoline but I wasn’t super hungry right when I got home. I drank a bunch of water and took a shower before eating lunch. I had leftovers from making Aloo Gobi on Saturday. I liked it, but I didn’t love the recipe so I need to do some more tweaking before I share it!

aloo gobi

I walked on the treadmill for a bit (I’m still loving my treadmill desk!) and then Alex and I went to church. When we got back, I made this roasted vegetable & chickpea dish that I posted about on Monday!

roasted chickpeas and potatoes

After dinner, Alex and I took a long walk and ended up at one of my favorite places for dessert…

frozen yogurt

I can’t resist Sweet Frog! It was a nice way to end the weekend. I’m still trying to focus on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables this week and I’m loving all of the in season produce right now! I’m excited for fall weather, but you can’t beat the farmer’s market selection right now!

What’s your favorite kind of dessert?

I’m linking up with What I Ate Wednesday!

Roasted Chickpeas, Red Potatoes, and Asparagus

I did the thing I’ve been trying NOT to do this summer.

I heated up the oven.

I’ve avoided it pretty well lately but I just couldn’t resist cranking it up to 400 for the bundle of asparagus in my fridge. We don’t have a grill and I didn’t feel like digging around the basement for my George Foreman so I turned to the oven. And I figured, if I’m going to heat up the oven then I should make it worth my while. I should roast up as much as I can. And that’s what I did.

roasted chickpeas with red potatoes and asparagus

5.0 from 4 reviews

Roasted Chickpeas, Red Potatoes, and Asparagus
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 3
  • 1 15oz can of chickpeas
  • 3 medium sized red potatoes
  • 1 pound of asparagus
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt & pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
  3. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet.
  4. Wash and chop the red potatoes into 1″ quarter slices. (So I cut mine into quarters and then chopped into 1 inch pieces.)
  5. Toss those in 1 tbsp of olive oil and spread onto a baking sheet. Make sure they’re in a single layer.
  6. Put the chickpeas and potatoes in the oven once it’s preheated. (They need more time to cook than the asparagus.)
  7. Wash the asparagus and snap off the ends.
  8. Then you can toss them in the last tablespoon of olive oil OR you can use a spray olive oil if you have one. It’s a little easier to coat it that way.
  9. Again, spread into a single layer on a baking sheet.
  10. Once the chickpeas and potatoes have been cooking for about 15 minutes, put the asparagus in the oven as well.
  11. At that point, everything will need about 20 minutes. You’ll want to turn things over every 5-10 minutes. (You’ll need to turn it every 5 minutes if your oven is too small for both trays to go side by side.)
  12. Once the veggies are crisp and brown, take them out of the oven.
  13. Sprinkle fresh dill over all the veggies (and chickpeas) and then squeeze a lemon over everything.
  14. Salt & pepper to taste! (It’ll probably need about 1 tsp of salt!)


roasted chickpeas with asparagus

I was so happy with how this came out! It was so simple and I loved the flavor of the fresh dill. Alex requested that we have this again soon, so I’m sure I’ll be making this again! It was worth turning the oven on.

roasted chickpeas and potatoes The nice thing about this dish is, it’s vegan and gluten free so it’s pretty allergen friendly! Plus, you could easily swap in a few other veggies that you have laying around. Next time I might try it with green beans! We enjoyed this out on our deck and it was the perfect dish for a summer night.

This dish also makes me really want to grow and herb garden. Fresh herbs just taste so much better! Any herb garden tips for me?

Do you use your oven in the summertime?

Linking up with Healthy Diva Eats & Flour Me With Love.

Tiny Tweaks: How to Eat Less Meat

I’ve been a vegetarian for about 9 years now, but I don’t really try to convert people to vegetarianism. I do believe that a little bit of ethically raised, organic meat can be good for you. (Honestly, I just don’t have any desire to eat it.) I’m lucky that Alex feels the same way, so most of our meals are vegetarian but he will occasionally eat meat if he knows it comes from a good source. That said, most meat isn’t that kind of meat. Plus, quality meat is expensive and it’s one of the reason that people think eating healthy has to be expensive. (FYI- it doesn’t.) Really, it comes back to balance and moderation!

tiny tweaks

So if you’re working on just eating a little less meat, here are a few ways you can do that!

tips for eating less meat

Add in other “umami” foods. Umami is the savory flavor typically found in meat dishes. It’s one of the five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami! While it might be traditionally found in meat, ingredients like mushrooms, tomatoes, and soy sauces are high in glutamates, which is where that flavor comes from. Try adding in some mushrooms to your pasta sauce or use tomato paste in your vegetable soup to get more flavor umami flavor.

Try different cuisines. I’m from a traditional Midwestern family. We didn’t eat things like Indian food, Thai food, or sushi. Think outside the “meat and potatoes” dishes because many other cuisines have a heavier focus on vegetarian foods. I’m a huge fan of Indian food and I’m working on expanding my arsenal of recipes.

Use meat as a flavor rather than as the main dish. A little bacon could add a lot of flavor to a dish, and it can also help the carnivores in your life get over the idea of a meal with less meat. Cutting back gradually can help meat eaters feel like they’re not missing out on anything, but if you take meat out of the spotlight, you’ll eat a little less meat.

Those are just a few ways to cut back on meat. Of course, if you need some meatless recipes, I’ve got plenty of those!

For more “Tiny Tweaks”, check out:

Do you ever have “meatless” meals?

San Francisco Eats

I’m in San Francisco this week for a conference so I thought I’d recap a few of my meals while traveling! To be honest, yesterday was a really weird day. My flights to San Francisco were super delayed on Monday so rather than getting in at 9pm (eastern time) I got in at 3am EST. It definitely made me feel a little out of whack so here’s what the day looked like:

  breakfast san francisc
I was starving when I woke up, since thanks to the time change, I hadn’t eaten in about 15 hours! I walked around the corner to a little cafe and had some yogurt with an everything bagel. Since I’m used to Greek yogurt, this stuff tasted really sweet (sort of like those parfait a at McDonald’s… you know what I’m talking about!) but it was good!

This kept me so full that I managed to pass on some of the snacks at the conference. Lunch ended up not being until 1:00 though so I was hungry by that time!

  lunch san francisco
Ok, I know the falafel looks… Kind of gross but it was actually pretty tasty! I was pleasantly surprised that almost everything they served for lunch was vegetarian! The little cup of Greek salad was awesome and I went back for a second one! The hummus and chips were alright but nothing special.

Once the sessions were over, I took a long walk around the city. I think my body was craving some sunshine!

I stopped by a pressed juicery stand and couldn’t wait to try one of their juices! I’m hoping these come to Virginia soon :) I hadn’t been feeling very good but this definitely gave me an energy boost!

  indian food
Once I got back to the hotel, I ordered some Indian food. Truthfully, I didn’t have much of an appetite and it was the only thing that really sounded good. I got Aloo Ghobi with some and naan. It was actually pretty delicious! I ate this while answering some emails and soon afterwards, I went to bed! This whole time zone thing is definitely messing with me!

San Francisco is a pretty great city for vegetarians, that’s for sure. I’m headed home tomorrow but I’m hoping to find a few more yummy bites while I’m here! Also, the conference has been awesome. My day job is all about social media/content strategy so some of this stuff could even apply to blogging! Let me know if you’d like a more “technical” recap of the conference info.

Are you traveling anywhere? Here are a 5 tips for healthy traveling!

What’s the best thing you ate yesterday?

I’m linking up for What I Ate Wednesday!

Bagels, Mead, and Birthday Surprises

We spent most of the weekend celebrating by birthday, which made me feel like a lucky girl! On Friday night, a few friends came over for cake, ice cream, and champagne!

pearls cake

The cake was from Pearl’s, a local bakery that makes some seriously delicious desserts! We also grabbed a couple of pints from Gelati Celesti which is a fantastic local gelato place. (If you’re in Richmond, you need to try both of those things!) A friend got me Reverse Charades and it was hilarious. If you’re looking for a good group game, this one is perfect!


The clue was life jacket. ;)

Alex also surprised with this amazing birthday present:


This beautiful ipad air couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve got some long flights this week so I’m glad I’ll be able to take this with me.

On Saturday, Alex planned a perfect day filled with so many of my favorite things! We started off with breakfast at Lamplighter where I had my favorite bagel sandwich.

lamplighter bagel sandwich

If you go there, get the Katie, an everything bagel with hummus, avocado, tomato, red onion, and mixed greens. It’s so good.

gideon august

When we got back to our place, the doorbell rang and it was the best surprise! My brother, sister in law, and nephews came over!

jack august

I had no idea they were coming so I was thrilled to see them! We basically sat in the living room making toys out of our old wine corks ;)

black heath meadery

After they headed home, Alex and I went to Black Heath Meadery, a local Meadery that I hadn’t been to yet! I’d actually never tried lead before so I was excited to taste them all! My favorite was the Passiflora! It was a passion fruit honey wine and it was sweet and delicious.


Once dinner rolled around, Alex took me to Can Can, another favorite local spot. We split the mushroom ravioli, falafel, and frites. Everything was SO good!
When we got home, we watched Gone Girl which turned out to be really good. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it, but it was definitely a thriller!

Today I’m headed to San Francisco for a conference so I’ll be traveling most of the week. (Thank goodness for that ipad!) I’ll be checking in on Wednesday with some San Francisco eats!

Do you have a favorite bagel or coffee shop in your neighborhood?

I’m linking up with Katie!

Things Making Me Happy!

I’m another year older today! Rather than doing a whole long look back at this year, I’ll just skim through the highlights so I can share some other things I’m loving lately! I’d say getting a second nephew, buying a house, and celebrating our first wedding anniversary are some of the highlights of being 26. I can’t wait to see what 27 has in store for me!

So here are some of the things that I’m currently loving:

America's test kitchen

Although I technically had listened to a couple of podcasts before Serial came along, I’ll totally admit that I’ve jumped on the whole podcast bandwagon since then. But now I’m hooked on cooking podcasts. Anytime I’m doing a house project, I flip on America’s Test Kitchen and suddenly I’m so sucked into their chatter about cookie sheets that I totally forget I’m stripping wallpaper. (Hah, just kidding. Stripping wallpaper still sucked, but the podcast made it less awful.) I seriously can’t get enough of their podcast.

  me alexa and kelly

Did I mention that my very, very, good friend moved to Virginia Beach? Yes that’s a couple hours away from Richmond but it’s a whooooole lot closer than Ohio so I’ll take it. I got to meet up with Alexa, Aaron, & Kelly for dinner last night and it was awesome. It’s just like high school except that we’re old now. (What? Just kidding.)

social 52

Speaking of friends, I got to catch up with Lindsay before she moves back to Asheville for nursing school! I met Lindsay years ago on Twitter… and then we became friends… and then roommates. Isn’t it funny how the internet brings people together? I was glad to get drinks with her and Kate before she leaves Richmond! And since I’m keeping it real around here, I’ll show you the “mac n cheetos” I ate for dinner. YES. I ate cheetos. It’s not all kale salad and green smoothies over here. P.S. Richmonders, Social 52 has a pretty sweet happy hour. $3 glasses of wine! I’ll be heading back here again soon, I’m sure.

me and alex

Tonight, I’m asking Alex to take me to Kuba Kuba and then I’ll be enjoying a glass of wine with a few friends tonight. Life certainly doesn’t get better than that!

Do you have big plans this weekend?