12 Foods That May Seem Healthy but Aren’t

Last week I was at a breakfast meeting and the person sitting across from questioned if my omelet was indeed healthy. I am asked to defend or explain my food choices fairly often and this was an easy one. Eggs are healthy, doctors no longer think that they raise your cholesterol and it’s safe to eat an egg per day.

I had a new client tell me when he wants to eat light he’ll order tuna salad or a grilled cheese. I had to explain that the mayonnaise in traditional tuna salad made the sandwich pretty high in calories and fat. I’m not sure why he thought grilled cheese was healthy but fried cheesy things may be tasty but they aren’t healthy.

Flavored instant oatmeal

The fruit names sound good and oatmeal is healthy. Unfortunately flavored instant oatmeal packets have less fiber than rolled or steel cut oats. They also have much more added sugar and artificial ingredients. Stick with whole oats and add your own fruit and toppings.

Flavored yogurt

Similar to instant oatmeal flavored yogurts have either a lot of added sugar or a lot of artificial sweeteners. Plain, regular or Greek, has much less sugar, a good amount of protein, and probiotics.


Granola can have a lot of oil and sugar added to it. Choose a granola that is low in sugar and calories to ensure that your snack stays healthy.

Wheat or whole grain bread

Whole grains are good for you but unless the bread says 100% whole grain or whole wheat you aren’t getting only whole grains. Many commercial breads are mainly regular white flour with some whole grain flour added. Read your labels here.


Wraps sound like a light choice compared to a regular sandwich but most wraps are high in calories, sodium, and fat and low in fiber. If you want a sandwich stick with 100% whole grain bread.

Yogurt muffins

Many of these claim to be low-fat and while some are most are high in sugar. They are also way larger than a homemade muffin and pack a lot of calories as well. Since there isn’t much nutritional value you’ll end up hungry in a few hours.

Fruit juice

Many juices aren’t whole juices and they are high in sugar but low in nutrients. If you need to drink juice stick with one that is 100% real fruit juice and stick with a 6oz serving. The best choice is just to eat a piece of fruit, since it also includes fiber.


Smoothies can be a very healthy choice but pre-made smoothies are often very large servings, have added unhealthy ingredients, and are high in sugar. Your best bet is to make your own smoothie at home.

Granola bars

Many granola bars are comparable with candy bars. They are often made with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) without much nutritional value. Choose bars with limited ingredients that are low in sugar and are made with 100% whole grains.

Gluten-free snacks and breads

Gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy. Many of these foods are made with less nutrient dense flours and oils. If you need to avoid gluten for health reasons choose foods that are naturally gluten-free such as lean proteins, whole fruits, vegetables and grains such as buckwheat and quinoa.

Fat-free snacks

Fat-free is another term that seems to have a healthy halo. Fa-free snacks and foods have extra sugar, salt, and additives to make them taste better. They can also be surprisingly high in calories while lower in vitamins and minerals. Naturally fat-free foods such as whole fruits and vegetables are the wise choice.

Frozen diet meals

While many of these meals practice portion control, they don’t pack a nutritional punch. They have too many preservatives and sodium and too few vegetables. A better quick meal is precooked frozen brown rice, frozen veggies of your choice, and beans or shrimp which cook up fast.

Need more ideas on what to cook and what to skip? Follow The Empowered Plate on Facebook where I share healthy meals, health, and fitness tips.

Fit Not Thin and What Are We Telling Our Kids?

The other day in the gym one girl told another she used to hate her thighs. Now I hear this self loathing talk fairly often but this young woman was maybe a freshman in college, but more likely in high school. Both women wore shorts and sleeveless shirts so it was easy to see they were both athletic and fit looking. The positive note was that she used to hate her thighs because they were muscular.

Recently a woman asked me if my thighs got bigger from running and spin class. She wouldn’t attend spin since someone told her it would make her thighs bigger. Another well-meaning relative told me not to do a workout by a popular fitness instructor because she had big thighs and I was sure to get them as well.

My thighs did not get big from doing the workout video nor did they get big from spin class or running. They did tone up quite a bit and I have more muscle definition. I don’t consider that a bad thing, it’s nice to see the results of hard work.

That  young woman and I both have the same thought: our bodies can do amazing things. These legs have run over a dozen half-marathons, hours of running practice, 5Ks, 10Ks, and cycled hundreds of miles. I can squat, lunge, and dead lift weights.It makes every day life, such as picking up a child, dog, or groceries, a heck of a lot easier. It’s also empowering.

Which is the gist of what I told my niece when she was 8 and said to me, “look how big my legs get when I sit down.” At 8 years old! After showing her that everyone’s legs did that we talked about what she liked to do and how being strong helped her accomplish that.

Which leads me to wonder what messages we’re sending to those around us, including children and teens. Would you rather they viewed themselves as strong, fit, healthy, and capable or as slaves to the scale and worried about looking too big? Do you express verbally or non-verbally unhappiness with your weight or your body? Kids notice this and mimic that behavior.

It helps to talk positively about what you like about yourself. Praise your kids for what they accomplish and the effort they put in, rather than focusing on how they look.

What makes you feel fit and healthy? What do you like about yourself?

Need help with eating in a way that supports you and your lifestyle? One where you can feel fit and healthy? Email me at janinemchale@gmail.com to see how I can help you.

Quinoa, Apple, and Onion Stuffed Squash (gluten free)

photo: A Couple Cooks

photo: A Couple Cooks

I love this stuffed acorn squash as a main course for a weeknight meal. In less than 30 minutes, including any chopping time, you have a delicious, filling, and healthy dinner. Top it with nuts or crumbled Gorgonzola for a non-vegan dish. I like to serve this with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

This recipe is both gluten-free and vegan, however it makes a great side dish to serve along with chicken or pork.


  • 1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or pistachios or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush squash with 1/2 tablespoon oil. Roast cut side down on a baking sheet until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Shut heat off, leave cover on and let steam for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  3. While quinoa cooks saute garlic in 1 TBS olive oil over medium-low heat. Then add in diced onion and apple, saute until softened. Keep warm.
  4. When quinoa is cooked add onion and apple mixture. Stir in parsley, maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide mixture equally between two squash halves. Top with pistachios or walnuts if desired.

My Favorite Sneaky Dessert

chocomoleI am obsessed with fat this week, it was the topic of my April newsletter as well. I think too many of us are brainwashed by the low-fat diet crazed and we’ve become afraid of fat. Our bodies need healthy fats, it’s one of the macro-nutrients that we require to function.

The other thing I’m obsessed with is how much processed and junk foods we eat. I like snacks and sweets too but I want to be able to enjoy the foods without worrying about the ingredients and what they could be doing to my body.

So I’m going to share a recipe for Chocomole with you. It’s a raw chocolate pudding that doesn’t have dairy, refined sugar or unrecognizable ingredients. It does have healthy fat. It does taste just like chocolate pudding and has that creamy mouth-feel. I use it in place of pudding regularly and no one ever realizes what they’re eating. I’m sneaky like that.

This is a good blend of healthy fat and carbohydrate, making it a perfect snack for runners.


Adapted from Jason Mraz’s recipe

2 ripe avocados, pitted and skin removed

10 – 12 medjool dates, you may need a few more if you prefer it sweeter. (You can use stevia if you are on a low sugar diet).

1/2c raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder will work)

1Tbs coconut oil, warmed so it’s liquid

1 cup of room temperature water

1 tsp vanilla

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. The food processor gives it the best consistency.  Add additional dates if needed and blend again.

Do you want to start eating better but just don’t know where to start? Tired of trying to figure out what food plan is the “right one?” I can take the leg work out for you. Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to schedule a complimentary 40 minute strategy session. Together we can come up with a plant that works just for you.

Feeling Great While Cleansing

Artichoke, Tomato, and Lentil StewIt’s day 5 of my cleanse and I feel really good except for a sore throat.  The throat has nothing to do with the cleanse and everything to do with sucking in cold air while running outside.  My energy is high, I’ve had delicious meals, and dropped a couple of pounds.  The picture is the Lentil Artichoke Stew that I made.  Yum!

My goals for this cleanse were to be more mindful of my lunches and to do more self-care.  I had been rushing through lunch lately and not paying as much attention to myself as I should.  I was feeling depleted and anxious as a result and wanted to reset those habits.Happily, my lunches were back on track this week and I made more time for meditation, baths, and quiet time.  I slept better and my mindset was happier.  This weekend I’m going for a massage as well.  While I don’t love getting mani/pedis I’m a sucker for a good massage.

An interesting thing for me is usually when I cleanse I crave sugar the first day or two.  This time I didn’t, nor was I looking for my other vice – cheese.  Surprisingly what I missed was black tea.  For the cleanse I stick to green since it’s full of antioxidants and has less caffeine.

I have been exercising but I believe in taking an easier approach while cleansing.  With less food our bodies don’t have the energy to sustain a long run or heavy gym session. While it’s great to move your body and sweat a bit, the way to take care of yourself is to do less mileage or a gentler session.

I fully recommend resetting your eating habits before the craziness of the season sets in.  You can visit my webpage, http://empoweredplate.com/press-the-reset-button-cleanse  to participate in one of my cleanses.  It’s full of delicious recipes that are easy to prepare.