A Few Of My Favorite Things: Holiday Shopping Edition

Hi friends!  I hope you are all well.  We are in the midst of the holiday shopping season and I wanted to get you this edition of favorite things as well as ask you for some of your favorites.  I'll incorporate them into the blog! 

For The Healthy Cook...

Zucchini noodles (aka Zoodles) are a favorite in my house and what's best is - for real - they can be made in less time than traditional pasta.  I have both the Veggeti Spiralizer and the Veggetti Pro, but there are a lot of options out there, including these recommendations.   (Note: I paid about $15.00 for my Pro version and I'm seeing it on Amazon for over $30 so do some recon.)

Ceramic Cookware 
As much as we all like the practicality of Teflon, the potential chemical firestorm that can be unleashed when cooked at too high a temperature has given me enough concern to rotate out these non-stick varieties for something far safer and cleaner.  Cast iron is a great option but very heavy, and stainless steel is a practical and widely available option, but my new favorite cookware is ceramic because
  • It doesn't leach trace metals or chemicals and cleans completely free from all bacterial and residue.  
  • It uses far-infrared cooking technology which means the food cooks from both the inside and outside. 
  • It can be used a very high temperatures both on the stove and inside the oven (and even a grill!).  
  • I find them easy to clean and really durable from scratching.  
I like the Xtrema brand and here are some other options.

A REAL Blender 
If you have been hanging on to your blender waiting for the right moment, the moment is NOW.  Go donate your blender to a local church or community center and kick it up to a new level.  The Clean Plate Club has a few favorites: 1) The Vitamix, which my friend Mary says "has an engine like a Porsche", 2) The NutriBullet, which is my personal favorite because the blender cup becomes  your smoothie cup, allowing me to make different smoothies for me and my hubby and the clean up is a snap, and 3) The Ninja, doesn't quite have the Porsche engine, but it doesn't come at the Porsche price either.  At the time of writing this blog, the links above are directly to Macy's, whee each of these are ON SALE!  SO GO!  CODE: FRIEND

Glass Storage 
As with cookware, plastic storage is made of toxic materials that can leach into your food, so I'm transitioning over to glass cookware.  I found a great set on Groupon so I recommend going there to look for some and of course you can find a wide variety on Amazon.  

The Clever Cutter
Clean Plate Club member Kelly shared this amazing find with us and we are all in.  Find this chopper/cutting board combination on Amazon or watch the commercial here.  

For The Health Curious...

Hair Mineral Analysis 
I did a hair mineral analysis with Wendy Myers and was blown away by the toxicity that is leaching out of my body.  I still need to get my mercury fillings taken out (2018 goal) and she gave me some ideas for daily detoxing, including simple Pectasol capsules to investment like the sauna below.  Sign up for the Myers Detoxhere.  

DNA Test 
On my wish list this year is a DNA test because knowledge is power.  Order at 23andme.com

For The Health Determined...

Near Infrared Sauna
I am in love with me infrared sauna.  It's an investment but the benefits of infrared, particularly near infrared, are numerous, including detoxification of the body through sweating, recharging mitochondria, promoting relaxation and more.  I received the Sauna Space pop up sauna last year for Christmas and I love it.  I usually throw on a meditation app (Calm or Headspace are my favorites) and take some time to get centered while I'm getting sweaty. 

Tower Garden 
I learned this week that the average head of lettuce travels 1800 miles, and that 70% of the earth's clean water is used on agriculture.  Take gardening into your own hands and get fresh vegetables, year round that are clean and nutritious.  The Tower Garden is an aeroponic growing system that uses 90% less water than traditional farming.  The future of gardening is vertical.  You can purchase it from me or on my site here.  

For The Inspired...

Motivational Cards
My colleagues are kind of amazing.  Yogi Taylor Wells created these amazing Best Life Ever cards and Coach Loren Slocum created I Am cards.  I use them both as well as these awesome Affirmators and any variety of these pop up cards fro Thoughfulls.  

Inspirational Books 
Narrowing down options for great books is always extremely difficult, so here are just a few that the Clean Plate Club community has loved this past year.  

For The Hungry...

No Dairy.  No gluten.  No GMOs.  No Refined sugar.  100% Yummy.  Buy a pack for your friends. My favorite is the puffed quinoa with almond butter.  I mean.  Yum.  Also for a great stocking stuffer healthy snack, I love Barnana snacks.  Buy them at most health food stores or here.   

Happy shopping!  

Much love,

Tracey Pontarelli 
Certified Personal Trainer, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach  

Grateful & Healthy Thanksgiving - Tips For Success

We are realists here at the Clean Plate Club. We want to maintain our health, both body and mind, and get through the holiday season in tact (both body and mind!).  We are looking forward to our favorite treats, so we've put some Holiday Essentials & Tips together that we can all do and still enjoy some mashed potatoes and apple pie.  

Find Gratitude.
As Oprah says in her new amazing book, The Wisdom of Sundays, "When you acknowledge and are grateful for whatever you have it allows more to be drawn to you and changes the way you experience life."  Start Thanksgiving with writing down three things you are grateful for.  End the day the same way.  There's even an app for that with a two week trial.  

Sit Still.  
My personal favorite apps for meditation are Calm and Headspace, but there are a lot of good ones out there, and here is a great video on how to start meditating from the guy from Headspace (I love his voice, which makes chilling out even easier).  Meditation, besides being good for your soul by getting you more present, has been shown to help reduce cortisol levels, improve hypertension, type 2 diabetes and reduce irritable bowl syndrome.  

Find time to move.  
Early morning or run and a post-dinner walk are good for body and soul.  Research has shown that taking even a 15 minute walk after a meal can help with digestion and improve blood sugar levels.  Click here for more.  

Our family likes to engage in some Just Dance battles on the Xbox.  I'm rarely defeated. Gauntlet.  Thrown.  

Drinking more water flushes out toxins, helps you feel fuller and does so many other great things for you.  Plus, it's really simple to do.  I start my day with warm water with lemon to greatly aid the digestive process, which will be working overtime during the holidays. 

Start Strong: Have a smart breakfast that stabilizes blood sugar.  
Think of a breakfast with fiber, fat and protein.  It's why I always start my day with a smoothie packed with plant-based protein, fiber and healthy add ins like flaxseeds, chia seeds and MCT oil.  

Mocktail Before Cocktail
I can't emphasize enough the impact of hidden calories from cocktails during the holiday season.  Consider delaying cocktail hour just a bit by starting with a mocktail and drinking a full glass of water in between each drink.  

Ever find yourself at a party and nibbling on appetizers that you don't really love?  Look down and wonder where the heck all of the cheese and crackers just went?  You are not alone.  Take your mindfulness and apply it to your eating during the holidays.  Try not to indulge in foods that don't bring you satisfaction or joy, which frees you up to 100% enjoy and embrace those foods ("healthy" or not) that you love.  

Clean Before Dirty
This is one of our favorite tricks.  Start one plate with healthy foods and when that plate is done, go back for the other stuff.  You'll still get the food you enjoy, but you'll have put some good nutrients into your body and, odds are, you'll be fuller so you won't over indulge on the other stuff.  

Sneak In
Last but not least, consider sneaking in some healthy additions to your dishes this year. Steamed cauliflower can be snuck into all sorts of things and I've even added it to my smoothie.  Add some complete protein and some pumpkin puree to your pancakes. More sneaky ideas can be found here.  And finally, an oldie but goodie recipe that we posted last year, here is a recipe for sneaky mashed potatoes.  

Sneaky Mashed Potatoes, adapted from thechiclife.com 
Hide a serving of cauliflower in your next batch of mashed potatoes with this easy recipe. This recipe uses a one-to-one amount of cauliflower to potatoes, but adjust based on preference.  

  • 3 cups of red potatoes, cleaned and cut into approximately 1 1/2" pieces
  • 3 cups cauliflower, rinsed, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
  • 1/3 cup of coconut or almond milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons ghee or grass fed butter
  • Pinch salt, plus more to taste
  • fresh-cracked pepper, to taste
  • fresh herbs, rinsed chopped, optional


  • Bring a large pot filled ¾ full of water to a boil. Add pinch of salt and potatoes and cook for 17-20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender.
  • When the potatoes have 7-8 minutes left of cook time, add the cauliflower. This will allow the potatoes and cauliflower to finish cooking at the same time.
  • Drain potatoes and cauliflower in a colander. Add the potatoes and cauliflower back to the empty pot and put the pot back on the burner you were just using, but make sure it's off. The residual heat will help the potatoes and cauliflower to dry out a bit. Let rest 2-3 minutes.
  • Add 2 tablespoons butter/ghee, ¼ cup almond/coconut milk, salt, and pepper to the pot and mash with a handheld potato mashed (or use a blender, immersion blender, or food processor for a smoother texture) until the vegetables are to your preferred texture. Add additional milk and/or butter until the mixture reaches your desired texture. Add additional salt/pepper as needed. 

Much love and gratitude to you all!  



Tracey Pontarelli 
Certified Personal Trainer, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach  

A few of My Favorite Things: Smoothie Edition

Ready for the crazy season of holiday parties, eating and drinking, leftovers, holiday shopping, wrapping, more eating and drinking?  As we head into the madness, I like to anchor myself with a few good habits that I can keep throughout the holidays.  Starting each morning with a cup of warm water with lemon, having a smoothie for breakfast and drinking water throughout the day are my top three.  

In December, the Clean Plate Club is doing 12 Days of Smoothies because it's an easy way to start your day of with healthy, nourishing food and a simple habit to keep into place.  So in preparation here's "a few of my favorite things" for smoothies!

I highly recommend plant-based protein mix and as many of you know, I love my JP Complete because it's clean, plant based protein that tastes delicious.  Find one that's clean and good tasting.  You shouldn't have to mask the taste of your protein. 

Also, I don't want to get into a fight with the dairy industry and I know there are people who are fans of whey, but it's not for me and the wikipedia definition pretty much sums it up: "Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a byproduct of the manufacture of cheese or casein and has several commercial uses."  So, yeah.  No.  


If I had to choose just one thing I'd suggest you add to your smoothie regimen, it would be flaxseeds.  They are a true superfood and give you fiber, omega 3s and lignans (which help with hormonal balance for both men and women).   Flaxseed fiber is prebiotic, which means it's food for your microbiome, helps with digestion, cholesterol, skin, nails, weight and inflammation.  So, seriously, go get some flaxseed. 

I don't suggest flaxseed oil because it can go rancid very quickly, could be processed in an unhealthy way and needs to be handled with care. I do buy my seeds ground but keep them in an airtight container and use them every day so they goes quickly.  You could also buy yours whole and then grind them in a coffee grinder before using.   

If you read this article like I did, you'll want to go buy hemp hearts immediately.  Hemp seeds are another superfood that also happen to be a complete plant-based protein, are extremely nutritious and have been proven to help with heart and skin health, reduce PMS and menopause, and digestion.  Hemp hearts are the same as shelled hemp seeds, though I like the sound of hearts better.  ❤

I first fell in love with Chia Seeds after reading Born to Run about a Mexican tribe that effortlessly and regularly ran somewhere between 50-100 miles for fun.  Sadly, that has not happened for me, but no matter, because chia seeds are high in calcium and magnesium, antioxidants, fiber and omega 3s. Click here for the full rundown on the benefits, which include aiding in digestion, skin and heart health, energy and metabolism, bone health and protective against breast cancer.  I like white chia seeds and there seems to be no nutritional difference.  

Seed Mixes 
I have found some seed mixes that I love from Gerb's, which also happens to be from my home state of Rhode Island.  I like the super seed mixes that include honorary mentions pumpkin seeds and sunflower kernels in addition to the three above.  

Nut Butters (Almond, Cashew & Peanut)
I won't go into this in too much details except to say make sure your nut butter of choice is, like everything else, organic and doesn't contain added sugar. Also, cashew butter is delicious and give almost a caramel flavor to smoothies.  Oh!  And I haven't tried it but this non-nut butter by The Sneaky Chef is made from pea and gets great reviews.  

Alligator Pears, aka Avocados 
Avocados add a creamy texture to smoothies and, since they are so mild, do not alter the taste of the smoothie in any significant way.  They do add healthy fats (brain food people!) and are high in fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, as well as other minerals and vitamins including C, B6 & 12, A, D, K and E. They are amazing.  

If you know me at all, you know I'm cuckoo for coconuts.  Coconut oil is helpful for brain health, heart and blood pressure health, inflammation and arthritis, could help with UTIs, improving  energy,   Click here for more.  

MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides and they are part of the beauty of coconut oil, mentioned above.  It's a more concentrated form that has been shown to aid in weight loss, athletic performance and mental alertness.  It has no taste and you can't use it to cook with, so putting a bit in a smoothie is perfect, or coffee which can be seen by this hilarious video.  Start small and work your way up.   

Healthy Liquids 
This section doesn't need much explaining, except to say you do not need dairy for smoothies!  I've listed tons of things above that are great sources of calcium as are almond, coconut and cashew milk.  For non milk smoothies, I recommend coconut water or gold old fashioned water.  I don't recommend fruit juice.  Use water and add actual fruit in.  Speaking of fruit...

Any kind of fruit is good in a smoothie, but I highly recommend berries as your primary fruit source because they are higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar.  I particularly live wild blueberries and cherries.  Buy frozen mixed berries and keep them in your freezer.

Spinach does not change the taste of your smoothie, so it's a perfect way to sneak another serving in!  Baby Kale has a milder taste than the fully grown variety and Cauliflower, which might be my favorite vegetable, virtually disappears.  Finally, try cooked Sweet Potato.  Try Fresh Mint with a chocolate smoothie to make it taste like a thin mint!   Finally, I like this version of Turmeric and Fresh Ginger is a smoothie is quite yummy.   Finally, everyone's smoothie favorite: Bananas.  Afraid of bananas?  Don't be.  Read here

Happy holiday season everyone!  Go make a smoothie! 



Tracey Pontarelli 
Personal Trainer, Wellcoaches Wellness Coach  

Cutting out the middle fish with algae oil

Hi friends!

A few months ago I wrote a piece on the ugly truth about some olive oil brands that are on the market.  Unless I'm getting spoiled with actual Greek olive oil from my friend Sophia, I've started to use O-Live brand from California just to be on the safe side.  While these conversations were going on, one of our Facebook Clean Plate Club members stumbled upon Algae Cooking Oil at a local TJ Maxx.  I found it on Amazon and quickly fell in love with the concept and added to my pantry.  
What is Algae Oil? 
Also called Algal oil, is the oil from the algae plant or from chestnut trees and contains (like other plants like flax) high amounts of omega 3 oils.  Cold water fish eat these algae plants, which is how they get their omega 3s.  

Let's take a side tour and discuss how Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for the body.  According to this great article on Healthline, Omega 3s help with (and this is a partial list): 
  • Fighting depression, anxiety and other mental health issues  
  • Eye health 
  • Supporting a healthy pregnancy 
  • Reducing heart disease risk
  • Reducing ADHD symptoms 
  • Fighting autoimmune disease
  • Fighting alzheimers and age related mental decline 
  • Fighting cancer 
  • Improving joint and bone health 
  • Improving skin 
  • Improving sleep 
Because some people do not eat fish for a variety of reasons and fish oils are often hard to tolerate (hello fish burps), researchers began looking at the source of fish Omega 3s and found that algal oil DHA capsules and cooked salmon appear to be bioequivalent.  Dr. Axe's review of Algal oil here and on Dr. Weill's site here.

I've found two algal oil options that I use.  Though there are probably more, these are the two that I feel comfortable with the quality and sourcing of the ingredients. 

Thrive Algae Cooking Oil.  The taste profile of Thrive's oil is light and neutral and it is extremely stable with high amounts of healthy monounsaturated fats which is critical for high heat cooking.  Thrive uses algae oil found in a chestnut tree and prides itself on being great for the environment.  Click here for their FAQs.  I buy mine on Amazon.  

Juice Plus Omega Blend 
One of the biggest complaints I hear from friends and clients is that many fish oil supplements are hard to tolerate.  I'd add into the mix that knowing the source and purity of the fish in the supplement can be highly concerning.  

In addition to algal oil, the blend includes cold-pressed oils from other plant sources - tomato seed oil, raspberry seed oil, safflower seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, and my newest fascination (besides the algal oil) sea buckthorn berry oil. And they have a natural citrus scent, which is so much better than the fish burps. 
The most important thing for you, my friends, to know is this product just became available for purchase only from a selected group of Juice Plus business owners, including yours truly.  So if you are interested or know anyone who is, please let me know.  Here's a quick video if you want to see more.   



Tracey Pontarelli 
Certified Personal Trainer, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach  
Web  -  Blog  - Juice Plus 

Trying to wean off of caffeine? Try these decaffeinating tricks.

Hi friends! 

Our Facebook group is getting ready to embark on a Shred10 and many are prepping for the difficult task of eliminating caffeine for 10 days.  I posted these suggestions to the group and thought they'd be useful to the larger group.  What have you done to wean off of caffeine?  We'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. 

If you are drinking soda (of any kind), try to pour yourself 1/2 of the normal amount and consider drinking some seltzer or club soda with lemon as a way to get your bubbles. You will need to get off all soda because in addition some varieties having caffeine, all of it is super processed so it's a double no no. 

For tea drinkers, consider a combination brew of your regular caffeinated tea with a decaf variety. Do a "quick dip" of your regular tea and then steep the decaf to get some flavor with a smaller dose. Experiment with healthy decaf teas, including Rooibos tea  and this Tazo brand orange variety which is my personal favorite.

For coffee drinkers, start going halfcaf and then try switching completely to Teeccino which is a coffee flavored tea that uses dandelion which is also really good for your digestion and detoxifying the liver.

Finally, remember to give yourself some Grace and time for your body to adapt. Drink lots of water, get some rest and get your body moving.  Exercise is always a good idea!  



Caffeine or No Caffeine...That Is The Question (And non-dairy spinach artichoke dip)

Hi Friends!

The Clean Plate Club Facebook group is about to embark on a 10 Day Reset and one of our goals is to eliminate caffeine for 10 days.  Responses range from panic to outrage, so it feels like a good time to take a look at the pros and cons of caffeine.  (We are not talking about caffeinated or decaffeinated colas, which are a no no.)  As always, more info can be found in the hyperlinks.

Caffeine is a stimulant drug (the most popular in the world) that activates the central nervous system.

Research on caffeine (and coffee) shows many potential benefits beyond it's use to fight tiredness and increase alertness and focus:
  • It can have a positive impact on memory.
  • It can help with sports performance, though results are mixed.  Also, as a runner, conventional wisdom is that caffeine supplementation works best when you are not a habitual user.   
  • It has been shown in some studies to reduce appetite but these studies, especially when related to coffee, are mixed. 
  • Coffee, in particular, has been shown in studies to protect against
  • cirrhosis of the liver, to reduce incidence of Parkinson's, help reduce inflammation, help reduce heart disease, and help with depression.  
  • Green Tea has been shown to have enormous benefits, including cancer fighting properties, amino acids that work positively with caffeine to improve brain function, reduce risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and naturally kills bacteria.  


Besides causing jitters and stomach upset for some people: 
  • It's a diuretic and may increase dehydration.  
  • It may cause adrenal exhaustion. In this great article, Dr. Jesse says, "Coffee stimulates the adrenal glands, which means that every time you drink coffee, you're activating the body's fight-or-flight response. But, instead of releasing adrenaline so the body can react to a true stressor, the adrenals are releasing this hormone in response to your coffee consumption."  Adrenal fatigue is a huge problem for many Americans and our need to reduce stressors should be an immediate concern.  
  • It can have a negative impact on digestion.  Caffeine has been shown to block the absorption of magnesium.  Magnesium is essential in the body for many reasons, but when it comes to digestion, magnesium is used in the body to activate digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes, as we've discussed, are crucial for absorption of nutrients.  
  • It can negatively impact calcium absorption in the body (as well as iron, vitamin D and B vitamins).
  • A percentage of the population is hyper sensitive to caffeine. For these people, even a small amount of caffeine is not tolerated by the body.  
  • It interferes with certain drugs.   
  • It's addictive, which hinders you and may lead to overuse and an inability to "quit" despite negative impacts on health.  

So...where does this leave us?  With all of the benefits of caffeine, it may make sense for you to continue to have it in your diet but the goal of the Reset is to clear your body and then add foods back to see how they impact you.  I personally gave up caffeine simply because I don't like feeling like I need it.

Final thoughts: 
If you can't live without something for 10 days, you need to reevaluate your relationship with that thing.

If you need your caffeine, remember that (as with everything we put into our bodies), quality is everything!  Use high quality coffee and tea.  We could do a whole piece on bad coffee and tea.

Avoid processed sweeteners or weird artificial sweeteners.

Try not to overdo it.
And now, because we always end on a high note, here's a recipe for a dairy-free spinach artichoke dip.  Can I get a wahoo?!?

Dairy-Free Spinach Artichoke Dip from Downshiftology.com (Lisa Bryan)


  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1 recipe mayonnaise (or 1¼ cups)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can artichoke hearts, chopped and drained
  • ⅓ cup onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
Optional: 4 ounces goat cheese (or 2 ounces for half-batch)

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Add cashews, mayonnaise and water to a food processor. Blend for 1-2 minutes, until creamy.
  • Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix.
  • Transfer to an oven-proof dish and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with herbed cassava tortilla chips, cucumber slices or other vegetables.

Tracey Pontarelli
Certified Personal Trainer, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach  
Web  -  Blog  - Juice Plus