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Loaded Nachos - healthified!

21 Day Fix Nachos, Autumn Calabrese, Healthy Nachos, Loaded Nachos, Tosca Reno, Clean Eating,,, vanessa mclaughlin
I made these nachos made with my own freshly-baked tortilla chips - which are SO EASEY to make!! They’re topped with lots of good stuff, like pinto beans, jalapeños, tomatoes, avocados, and—of course—cheese! Add any other fresh veggies you want, like shredded lettuce or cabbage, radishes, or green onions.

1 Green
1 Yellow
½ Blue
1 tsp.

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into wedges
  • 2 tsp . olive oil
  • ½ medium lime
  • 1 dash chili powder
  • Sea salt (to taste, optional)
  • ½ cup cooked pinto beans , warm
  • 4 oz cheddar (or jack) cheese, shredded
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • ½ medium onion , finely chopped
  • ½ medium green bell pepper , chopped
  • ½ medium jalapeno , seeds and veins discarded, finely chopped
  • ¼ medium avocado , chopped
  • 4 fresh cilantro sprigs , chopped
  • 2 Tbsp plain Greek Yogurt

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Brush both sides of tortillas with oil. 
  3. Take a pizza cutter and cut tortillas into 4 triangles each. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crisp.
  4. Squeeze lime over chips. Sprinkle with chili powder and salt (if desired).
  5. Arrange half of the tortilla chips in a medium baking dish. Layer with half the beans and cheese. Repeat.
  6. Bake chip mixture for 3 to 4 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  7. Top with tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, avocado, cilantro, and yogurt.
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Halloween Fit Tips, Tricks, and Treats!

Even if you hung up your trick-or-treating tote many full moons ago, Halloween is still a fun holiday for the conscious splurge (emphasis on conscious).

Healthy halloween, clean eating, tips for halloween, tosca reno, autumn calabrese, 21 Day Fix, clean halloween
The problem is that, for many of us, Halloween kicks off the first of three months of far too much sugar… Sugar that, in some cases, wasn’t even that good (stale tootsie rolls anyone?). I get it, because I have a huge sweet tooth!! Bowls full of candy are super tempting, especially at work. So I’m here to offer my suggestions for kicking this holiday season off right, starting with Halloween…

Go opaque.
If you have any control over how the Halloween treats are displayed at work, do yourself a favor and avoid clear containers. Studies suggest that environmental factors like visibility and convenience play a major role in how much we consume. In fact, researchers at Cornell University found that participants in a study ate twice as many Hershey Kisses when they were in clear containers than when they were in opaque ones. Makes sense, right?

Avoid the “fun-size” trap.
Let’s face it: Most of us aren’t being honest with ourselves when it comes to “fun-size” candy. Despite being adorable, bite-sized treats can make it all too easy to indulge mindlessly. A tiny Twix with your morning coffee, a couple Snickers at 4pm when emails start piling up, and sure, why not one for the road. The biggest issue is that when we convince ourselves that fun-sized candy is so small it barely counts, we lose track of the individual bites and can wind up eating a whole candy bar or more. Tip: Save your wrappers on Halloween to keep yourself accountable throughout the day!

I’m not the kind of person that’s going to recommend celery sticks in place of chocolate. I LOVE sweets and I LOVE chocolate! In fact, I encourage you to make a mental note of your all time favorite Halloween treat and to enjoy it during this holiday, consciously, sans guilt. Let it melt on your tongue and take in all the goodness. Eat it, enjoy it thoroughly, and then move on. Making this mental note also helps weed out the not-so-worth-it sweets—the sweets you eat because they’re there and you’re hungry, stressed or tired. In short, you’ll be better off saving up for the good stuff.

Self care.
Speaking of being hungry, stressed and tired, these states will most definitely make you more likely to seek out sugar. Be aware of how you’re feeling. Making sure you aren’t going too long without eating—particularly protein, healthy fats and fiber—is a really great way to thwart sugar cravings. And know your sugar triggers… If you didn’t sleep great the night before, or you’re having one of those weeks at work, cortisol (the stress hormone) will likely be contributing to intense sugar cravings (as if you needed more on your plate). Knowing this provides some perspective. It helps us take a step back and realize we’re not craving sugar because we need it to fuel us. So here’s to pacing ourselves this holiday season, starting with All Hallows’ Eve.

This is really part of "self-care." Exercise is a TREAT for your body. You don't have to workout for hours, but just add some intensity to your workouts. Do a minute of high intensity cardio between exercise moves, or add in some extra walks around the office throughout the day. Need suggestions? Contact me.

Better-for-you options.
Make your own candy. Here's my recipe for sugar free Freezer Fudge.
Of course if you are indulging, I’m always going to recommend going for the highest quality options. Shakeology has helped me control my sugar cravings, and is a sweet treat to my day! When I drink my shake, I don't need to eat candy. Especially when I can drink it as a chocolate almond fudge or pumpkin pie!

And there you have it! I hope these tips and tricks will help you this holiday season. Just remember that whenever you feel yourself starting to cave, you can always come back to this post for a refresher and a little dose of motivation to keep you on track.

What’s your favorite Halloween indulgence?

Let me know in the comments below.
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Sugar Free Freezer Fudge

Pop a cube when you have a sweet tooth and need a treat.

1 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
8-10 drops liquid stevia
1/4 -1/2 cup Almond Butter (Optional if you desire a thicker consistency)
Maldon or Pink salt (Optional)

Melt Coconut Oil in glass pyrex bowl.
Whisk in coco powder and stevia. (and almond butter if you don't love coconut oil consistency)
Pour into ice cube tray.
Sprinkle with Salt
Fudge is ready in 20 minutes
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How to get it together when you're in a funk...

It’s happened to all of us at one point or another. You get into a bad mood which doesn’t seem to lift or get better, and before you know it you’re in a funk and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. It may last a few hours or even a few days, so here are my top tips to help you move up the emotional scale.

But before I get into that, let’s deal with those feelings that come with the funk that are less than fun.

Most people who are in a funk will experience feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, hatred or something similar, and it’s okay to have those feelings. The trick with feelings is to feel them fully and not judge them. As humans, we tend to label things (including feelings) as good or bad, but actually a feeling is just a feeling.

With that in mind, here's how to handle your feelings:

1. Witness the feeling.
2. Accept the feeling.
3. Don’t judge the feeling.
4. Do something that brings joy.

Now try the following to help get you out of that funk.

1. Eat clean.

It’s easy when you’re not feeling like yourself to get stuck in the dangerous cycle of eating junk food, but remember that food plays a huge role with mood. Eating clean, green foods not only fills your body with enzyme-rich and vitamin-fueled nutrients, but it brings vibrant positive energy and helps to improve your mental clarity, creativity overall joy and happiness. Check out my healthy, clean eats, fit recipes!

2. Spend time in nature.

Getting outside and being reacquainted with every form of life will remind you of the beauty that exists around you always. Being aware of how beautiful and how sacred life is should help to boost your mood. 10 minutes does the trick!

3. Meditate.

Hanging out in stillness with no one but your inner self is a surefire way to reconnect with the part of you that's always there and never changes. I practice breathing. Just one minute, once or twice a day.

4. Be thankful.

Listing all the things you're grateful for in your life can help you appreciate what you have and attract more of the good stuff to you. Either write a list each day or make a mental list while brushing your teeth, washing in the shower or running errands. If you write it on a piece of paper or your phone, you can use them to refer to at another time.

5. Exercise.

Getting that body moving will help to release feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine to boost your mood. Spiritual and more gentle loving exercise like yoga or qigong will also help to get you back in flow. It just takes 30 minutes!

6. Spend time with people and things that you LOVE.

Carve out time with your favorite people or things and indulge in doing what you truly love and are passionate about.

What do you do to pull yourself out of a funk or get yourself back in the flow?

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

family recipe, mac and cheese, 21 Day Fix, Clean eating, tosca reno, autumn calabrese, double time recipe, dinner recipe,
I don't know about you, but I could live in a house made of cheese, oh, and pasta!!

Sticking to a healthy diet does not have to mean living a life without mac and cheese! I don't sacrifice my love of food. This family friendly recipe is from the Double Time recipe booklet, and the rich and creamy macaroni and cheese casserole tastes as good as the original, but wouldn’t wreck your healthy eating! It has less than 300 calories per serving and 15 grams of protein! The recipe makes 10 servings, so it can feed a hungry family or make several servings for healthy meal prep. It is also compatible with the 21 Day Fix, and the portion fix meal plan.

This recipe boasts two types of cheese – yes, real cheese! – sharp cheddar and Gruyere. The secret is using extra-flavorful cheeses, so a little bit goes a long way. They blend with a silky butternut squash puree to create an intensely flavorful sauce. Then, the added peppers, onions, and a sprinkling of parsley to make the dish even more tasty and nutritious.

Serves 10
Container Amounts
½ Green
2 Yellows
1 Blue

  • 1 lb. dry whole wheat macaroni
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers chopped
  • 3 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1¾ cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-fat (1%) milk
  • 2 Tbsp. low-fat (1%) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onion and bell peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Set aside.
  5. Combine squash, broth, and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; gently boil for 22 to 25 minutes, or until squash is tender.
  6. Place squash mixture in a blender or food processor; cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until smooth.
  7. Combine squash mixture, macaroni, onion mixture, yogurt, and cheeses. Season with salt and pepper if desired; mix well.
  8. Place macaroni mixture in a 13 x 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish that has been coated with spray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling.
  9. Garnish with parsley if desired.
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Loaded Sweet Potato Skins - Healthified!

Love loaded potato skins? This is usually a greasy bar snack, but the version below turned that grease-laden dish into a delicious appetizer that is healthy enough to eat for a meal! These baked sweet potato skins are topped with spinach, spiced chicken, turkey bacon, and parsley, with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

It was football game day, and I wanted a healthy appetizer for the game. I got this recipe from 21 Day Fix creator Autumn Calabrese and her brother chef Bobby Calabrese on FIXATE, the exclusive Beachbody On Demand cooking show.

Portion Fix Containers
1 Yellow
1 Red

Makes 4 Servings


4 baked medium sweet potatoes cut in half
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
4 oz shredded cooked chicken breast
4 slices cooked turkey bacon
2 tsp thyme or salt-free poultry seasoning
1 cup steamed spinach
½ cup reduced-fat (2%) plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. Scoop flesh out of the sweet potatoes and reserve for another use.
  3. Place skins on baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crisp.
  4. While skins are baking, combine chicken and poultry (or thyme) seasoning in a small bowl; mix well. Set aside.
  5. Top each sweet potato half evenly with spinach, turkey bacon, chicken, yogurt, and parsley.
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Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

pumpkin pie energy bites, autumn calabrese, clean eating, tosca reno, healthy pumpkin pie recipe
I don’t know about you, but when the days start getting darker and that crisp breeze picks up, my craving for pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin spice lattes, and all the pumpkin-y goodness of fall skyrockets.

Lucky for me (and hopefully for you) pumpkin treats don’t always have to be unhealthy. These Pumpkin Pie Energy bites pack all the autumnal flavor I want without the added sugar and calories I don’t. Perfect for the very real struggle of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle amid all the holiday temptation.

So why are these delicious little pumpkin balls called “energy” bites? Dates! The sweet and sticky fruit that holds all the good stuff in this recipe together is known to be a great source of energy and fiber. In addition, pumpkin’s high concentration of potassium helps replenish that important electrolyte after workouts. Sweetened with pure maple syrup and rolled in coconut flakes, these treats are a clean alternative to candy and cake cravings – and they won’t cause you to crash. Plus, the addition of raw pecans and hazelnut extract take the nutty and earthy flavors up a notch; because healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

But maybe the best thing about these Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites is that they don’t involve any baking. You can get that pumpkin pastry flavor without turning on an oven – just a few spins around a food processor and rolling into balls and you’ve got more than a dozen sweet morsels packed with clean and healthy fall flavor.

This Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites recipe is from Autumn Calabrese’s FIXATE cookbook. That might be helped by the fact that each serving includes not one, but two pieces of pumpkin goodness. And, this sweet treat doesn’t even use up those scarce and precious yellow containers, which is a major score. 21 Day Fix-ers, you know what I’m talking about! These energy bites count as one purple Portion Fix container and half of a blue container.

Watch 21 Day Fix creator Autumn Calabrese and her brother, chef Bobby Calabrese make a similar version of this recipe for Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites on their healthy cooking show, FIXATE!

Container Equivalents
1 Purple
½ Blue


1 cup pitted dates
Warm water
½ cup raw pecan halves (or pecan pieces)
⅓ cup canned pumpkin puree
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes , reserve small amount for garnish
1 tsp . pure hazelnut extract (or pure maple extract)
1 tsp . pure maple syrup
2 tsp . pumpkin pie spice
1 pinch sea salt (or Himalayan salt)


1. Place dates in a medium bowl; cover with water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
2. Place pecans in food processor; pulse until finely ground.
3. Add dates, pumpkin, coconut, extract, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and salt; pulse until well mixed. Place in a medium bowl. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes.
4. Using clean hands, roll into tablespoon-sized balls; roll in reserved coconut (if desired).
5. Store, refrigerated, in airtight container.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte, only 37 calories!!

More pumpkin… are you surprised?

pumpkin spice latte recipe, nutritious, clean eating, autumn calabrese, 21 day fix, tosca reno,, vanessadotfitness,
Probably not. It is that time of year, after all.

If you like the thought of a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks but would rather skip the extra calories and sugar, you are going to love this homemade version. 

Did you know that even the smallest size (a tall) non-fat, no whip PSL from Starbucks has 200 calories and 37 grams of sugar! The sugary syrup is the culprit. It contains sugar, condensed nonfat milk, sweet condensed nonfat milk and a few other ingredients including coloring and artificial flavors. It's also good to know this in case you are vegan; even if you order a soy latte without the whipped cream, it's not vegan since the syrup has dairy.

This homemade version is all natural and delicious!! You can have this homemade PSL any day of the week (and feel good about it) because it contains all-natural ingredients, no added sugar and a low amount of calories. The best part: it doesn't cost $4 a pop.

mini-milk frother
I used cold-brewed Pumpkin Spice coffee I found at Wegmans, which tasted divine, but you can certainly use any flavor coffee you love. And then the magic happens! I have a mini frother that does such a good job at making foamy milk without a milk steamer, which can be expensive. I highly recommend it.

You might find some pumpkin pulp at the bottom of your glass and that's totally normal. Starbucks would have it too — if they were using natural ingredients and not syrup.

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or unsweetened vanilla almond coconut
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 drops of liquid stevia (or sweetener of choice)
8 ounces brewed coffee (or 1-2 shots of espresso)
Sprinkle of cinnamon

1. In a cup or saucepan, mix together almond milk and pumpkin. Cook on medium heat on the stovetop or microwave for 30-45 seconds.
2. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, spices, and sweetener, place in a cup and use a frother to foam the milk. You can also use a blender — just process for 30 seconds or until foamy.
3. Pour coffee into a large mug; add the foamy milk mixture on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!

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Hearty Beef and Butternut Squash Stew

Perfect for fall with cooler temperatures approaching, this stew warms me up and tastes like comfort food, all while maintaining my 21 Day Fix Extreme nutrition plan!

Makes 6 servings, approximately 11⁄4 cups each


1 tsp. olive oil
11⁄2 lbs. raw, lean beef, boneless, stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 medium onion
1⁄2 green bell pepper, chopped
1⁄2 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped 
2 medium tomatoes
1 cup low sodium, organic, beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1⁄4 cup chopped flat leaf parsely

1. Heat olive oil in sauce-pan over mediu-hight heat.
2. Add beef; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until beef is brown.
3. Add onion and bell peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. 
4. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
5. Add tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, for 40 minutes.
7. Add squash; cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 12 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and beef is fork-tender.
8. Remove bay leaf; serve topped with parsley.

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