Can you include red meat in a healthy diet?

Photo of our MEATLESS nights: beet pizza crust [you can find this at whole foods] with cauliflower ricotta topping, mushrooms, arugula, onions + pine nuts

Can Red Meat be a Healthy Part of Your Diet?

The answer is yes; however, there’s much more to the story! I am a Registered Dietitian working alongside my husband who is a Senior Resident Physician at the [same] hospital. So, we get asked this question a lot.

A lot of the time our patients ask us, “what do you do?” [in regards to our diet and including/excluding red meat]. So before we get into the research of red meat and why you can have it in your diet in moderation, we will touch on this first. Patrick and I follow a plant based diet 80-90% of the time. On average, we have red meat probably 6-12 times a year [this is a complete estimate]. This is about once every month or every other month aka we do not have it often. Processed meat is even more limited in our diet, we probably have this 3-6 times a year. Some people call this a “Flexitarian Diet” which is very similar to Mediterranean. We follow this diet for organ, mental and physical well being and weight maintenance, not for weight loss.

So then the question is – why? Well thankfully there has been an abundance of research on this topic.

The World Health Organization, a specialized agency focused on public health of the United Nations and The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. And it has classified red meat as a probable carcinogen, something that probably causes cancer. Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat.

“Twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.” – The American Cancer Society. Having processed meat daily, increases your risk of colon cancer about 1%. This is why having processed meat occasionally, is absolutely ok. You don’t want to have it often, not only because it increases cancer risk but also for heart health. All meat, and most animal products, are high in saturated fat. This is the kind of fat that you do not want a lot of in your diet because it increases risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. 1 in every 4 deaths is caused from heart disease.

So how much saturated fat should you have? You should be aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. For example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fat. That’s about 13 grams of saturated fat per day. – American Heart Association

The purpose is not to fear food. You don’t need that kind of negative energy towards food in your life. When Patrick and I do have red meat or even processed meat to be honest we don’t think twice about it. We enjoy it while we are having it because we know this is not something we have often. So it is truly unnecessary to fear it. Never fear your food. Focus on portion sizes and moderation vs restriction.

The great part about including more plant based meals and swapping out meat a few nights a week is that this typically means you are including more vegetables, beans, fruits etc! This is fantastic. More fiber, more antioxidants and less inflammation- YES PLEASE! Patrick and I have a goal of consuming 10 cups of fruits and veggies a day! Why? Research shows the greatest benefit from including 8-10 cups per day to avoid cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases.



Spicy Cashew Cream Sauce

Vegan. Delicious. Easy. Going to be perfectly honest with you guys. This sauce was 100% accidental. It was a Tuesday after a long day of work and I was whipping up a sauce based off of what we had around. I was topping it off with some red pepper and the cap fell off! Making it SUPER spice and also our favorite sauce yet! If you don’t love spice, decrease the amount and if you do love spice, you’re in for a treat.


  • 1 1/4 cups raw ground cashew (I put them in a small blender without liquid and mixed until it turned into a fine powder)
  • optional: 1 Tbsp arrowroot starch
  • 3-4 Tbsp nutritional yeast or 1/4 C parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves fresh, minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 C combo of fresh basil + parsley (we always do more basil than parsley)
  • 3-4 Tbsp red repper
  • 1-2 cups (240-480 ml) your milk of choice (we used cashew)


  1. To food processor, add arrowroot starch (for thickening), ground cashews, nutritional yeast or parmesan, garlic, sea salt, red pepper, and 1 cup milk.
  2. Blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more garlic for kick/zing, nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese for cheesy flavor, salt for saltiness, or milk if too thick.
  3. Transfer to a skillet and cook over medium-low to medium heat for 5 minutes, whisking frequently. The sauce should thicken and bubble. Add more dairy-free milk as needed to thin. Then it’s ready to serve!
  4. Enjoy with zucchini noodles or your favorite pasta (we use Banza aka chickpea pasta for extra protein. Should you try Banza pasta DO NOT FOLLOW BOX FOR BOILING INSTRUCTIONS. You will have mush. Boil for 5 minutes only). It could even be enjoyed layered in lasagna! Top with additional nutritional yeast or Parmesan Cheese and/or Roasted Tomatoes/green veggies for more flavor.

Enjoy Guys!

-The Neilan Family-

Why Harvard is Calling Sitting the Smoking of Our Generation

Photo: Stanley Dutton

I’m not writing this post to drill you or hate on sitting or relaxing. I’m a believer that relaxing is important too BUT the focus of this post, is why we sit too much, research on how it effects us and simple ways to include more movement.

If this was back in the day- we wouldn’t have to go to the gym or take breaks to make sure we walk at work because we would be using up enough energy to catch and hunt our food. We would use enough energy to find water or to locate our families; however, these days, that is of course- not the case!

We have A TON to be thankful for- we have made a zillion advances in health care, in astronomy, in engineering- the list goes on. With all of our advances; however, we have made our lives very easy [lets be honest]. We walk two steps and there’s probably a vending machine around the corner. We drive a bit, and we have fast food everywhere. We can accomplish SO much work – just from merely turning on a computer. While it’s great for mankind, it also means we have to WORK to include movement in our day.

Some of us are lucky and movement is included in our jobs but a lot of us have 9 to 5 desk jobs and our bodies. are. not. designed. for. that. Our bodies are designed to move. The best kind of movement – is the kind you enjoy.

Lets go through some research on tips on how to easily include more movement.


  • We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of SLEEPING. Yes, we are sitting more than we’re sleeping.
  • After 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90%
  • Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like (good cholesterol) HDL levels in our bodies.
  • Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer.
  • You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? 3.5 million.
  • Moving the body throughout the day is crucial to the maintenance of metabolic and musculoskeletal health and mental well-being
  • Researchers feel that future generations will look back at our sedentary work place practices the same way we now view smoking
  • Women who were inactive for 11 or more hours a day fared the worst, facing a 12% increase in premature death
  • It is not enough to work out an hour a day- that DOES NOT make up for 6-8hrs of sitting daily per Harvard Health + Mayo Clinic. Continuous movement is key.

what you can do to increase movement

  • purposely park further from work, grocery store, etc (I do this!)
  • take more water breaks and instead of sitting while you drink- STAND and WALK (just for 2-3 minutes)
  • download the free app “Stand Up”. It reminds you to stand up every so often. You set how often you want it go off and the hours of the day you want it on. I do every 30min from 8am-5pm.
  • try a standing desk- we have one at home!
  • take the stairs
  • use the restroom above or below your floor at work
  • do jumping jacks on commercials while you watch TV or do chores around the house
  • walk while you talk on the phone
  • take the scenic/longer route when you can!

Get up and get movin!!!

-The Neilan Family-


Patrick’s ICU Smoothie

Photo by: mateuszsiuta

A lot of my favorite Instagram friends have asked about the smoothie that I make before Patrick heads into the ICU for a 12hr+ overnight shift. First off. Why do I make him a smoothie? His schedule for meals and what he craves is all off and whack when he works overnight. Also he is supppppperrrr busy in the ICU and I can’t tell you how many times he forgets to eat [he will oftentimes bring home whatever I give him to bring to work when he’s in the ICU, even finger foods]. So I try to give him something SUPER nutrient and calorie dense while he’s home- to be sure he’s still getting our goal of 10 cups fruits + veggies a day. Plus, goodness knows the man needs a well functioning bod + brain in the ICU.

Note: Even when he forgets to eat he still has the smoothie, plus a normal meal before he goes in and when he gets home in the morning [so no worries, I make sure he doesn’t starve- bahaha NOT IN THIS RD’s HOUSE].

If you take out the peanut butter, this will decrease the calories considerably. I know we don’t all need a super calorie dense smoothie daily, so that’s any easy way to lessen up the calories. When I make it for myself, I don’t add peanut butter unless I’m super hungry.

Ok for the recipe. This changes often [depending on what we have around, so feel free to play with it]. Also, the smoothie sometimes comes out an ugly dark brown or green color and I always tell people – BE PROUD OF YOUR BROWN SMOOTHIE! That means you did a fantastic job of mixing your fruit + veggies. Own that ugly lookin smoothie friends!


  • 1/2 C Broccoli [frozen, right from the bag- you don’t have to cook. If you have a blender that is a little finicky then I do recommend just boiling plain broccoli so you don’t kill your blender. Otherwise, frozen right from the bag is best].
  • 1 C Spinach or Kale [we keep our bag in the freezer and toss it in from there]
  • 2 scoops Patrick’s protein concoction aka a mix of both hemp + whey protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp of sunflower seed butter/or peanut butter/or PB powder [recommend omitting if you aren’t super hungry]
  • 1 Packet frozen Acai
  • 1 C berries [we have used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries – literally whatever fruit you have and love- throw it in!]
  • 1 whole banana
  • 1/2 Tbsp Flax
  • 1/2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 Tsp of Spirulina [to check out the benefits of spirulina, visit our post! The Magic of Spirulina]
  • 1 Tsp Matcha Powder
  • Ice per preference [we start with about 1/4 C]
  • 1/2 C liquid [our favorite is coconut aloe water as a base but we also have used nut milk and even tea as a smoothie base] Note: as we blend depending on how thick it is, we typically add more liquid
  • 1 Tsp of cinnamon [we are obssesseddddd with cinnamon]
  • 1/2 Tsp Golden Milk [this is a turmeric/date powder mix]
  • A few drops of vanilla and/or maple extract
  • ADAPTOGENS:  if you follow us on instagram, I post about these a lot and I typically rotate through adaptogens in our smoothie. What is an adaptogen? I will post about this soon but in the mean time, an adaptogen is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. — Common adaptogens we rotate through in our smoothie [1/2 Tsp of the following]: ashwagandha, maca, ginseng, mucuna pruriens etc.


  • Don’t feel like you have to buy all the above OR add all of the above. We mix it up often.
  • We have used cauliflower, mushrooms, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, beets…the things you can try are endless + all delish. The fruit truly masks a majority of veggies very well! One of my fav additions is CHICKPEAS- definitely give that a try!
  • When I  make smoothies for myself, I typically omit the protein powder and peanut butter and add hemp hearts + nuts and/or chickpeas to provide protein in smoothies.
  • If there’s a taste in there that you don’t love it’s likely the spirulina [very earthy! we love it but know it’s not for everyone]
  • This smoothie makes A LOT. Especially as you add more liquid SO we freeze what we can’t finish [if we are too full] and save it for the next day- SO YUM!


Blend everything in a blender!

blender tips:

  • If your blender is touchy, I recommend cooking veggies beforehand just so you don’t kill your blender! Otherwise frozen/raw is perfect!
  • We often stop the blender half way through, mix with a spoon and continue.
  • Frozen acai is hard as a rock, if your blender isn’t strong- I would maybe let this melt a little before you make the smoothie. Just leave it on the counter for a bit beforehand.
  • Matcha: the best way to have matcha is with water or with very little protein to absorb the goodness [EGCG]. We add the matcha to smoothies for caffeine and because we love the taste. Your body will still absorb a lot of the antioxidants even in the smoothie, so the matcha is by no means wasted BUT we know it’s expensive so if you’d rather have it in a latte or with less protein to absorb it to the utmost – we understand/wanted to make you all aware!


Hope you guys enjoy!

-The Neilan Family-


General Tso’s Cauliflower


We made this on a total whim. Patrick and I were both craving some Chinese food BUT wanted to keep it plant based and of course skip all the frying that typically goes down with a lot of your Asian meals. Cue General Tso’s Cauliflower.

Tip: This recipe contains Light Soy Sauce- which is still high in sodium. We like to factor that in and try and have low sodium foods the rest of the day (when we have meals like this).

for the general tso’s sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 knob of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar OR honey (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1-2 tablespoons of cold water

for the batter:

  • 3/4 cup flour (divided into 1/4ths) Feel free to use gluten free flour- we used 100% whole wheat
  • 1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 3 eggs

other ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • scallions and sesame seeds for topping
  • 1 small habanero, chili, and/or jalapeno pepper [optional for topping]


  1. Cauliflower Batter: Set up a dredging station using three bowls. Place the cauliflower in a large bowl and sprinkle ¼ cup of the flour over the top. Place the eggs in a second bowl and combine the panko breadcrumbs and remaining ½ cup flour in a third bowl. Toss the cauliflower in the flour to coat all the florets thoroughly. Dip the cauliflower florets in the eggs and finally toss them in breadcrumbs to coat on all sides. Place the coated cauliflower florets on a baking sheet and spray generously with olive oil spray (or oil of your choice)
  2. Cauliflower Air-Frying OR Baking: We used air fryer at 400 degrees. Air-fry the cauliflower at 400ºF for 15 minutes, flipping the florets over for the last 3 minutes of the cooking process and spraying again with oil – I have not tried baking with this recipe but you can definitely give it a go and I bet it will be delish! For baking, I would start with baking for 20-25min at 350 degrees and check on them periodically.
  3. While the cauliflower is air-frying or baking, work on the sauce!
  4. General Tso’s Sauce: Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for a minute or two. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Bring to a low boil; simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Add more sweetness, citrus, etc. to your taste.
  5. Serving: Toss the cauliflower with the sauce (enough just to cover) and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds for serving. Serve with brown rice, quinoa, veggies- etc. We also added chopped jalapeno, habanero + chili peppers for spice and color!

This recipe is a combination of: Meredith Laurence Recipes, pinch of yum + our own modifications. 



-The Neilan Family-

Matcha Honey Cream Cheese

Yep, I said it. Matcha cream cheese. It’s incredible + oh so easy to whip together. My matcha lovers, you definitely need to give this one a try this recipe!! It’s super simple too.


  • 1/2 Tsp Matcha [or to taste – depending on how much cream cheese you typically but on your bagel, english muffin, sliced bread etc
  • 1 Tsp Pure Honey
  • About 3 Tbsp of Cream Cheese [or however much you’d typically put on your bread of choice]
  • Chia + Pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top [optional]


  1. Mix matcha with cream cheese and honey. Do a little at a time and add more of each to taste
  2. Spread over your choice of bread [we used sprouted grain bagels]
  3. Sprinkle chia + pumpkin seeds on top


Mushroom, Kale + Lentil Meatballs

photo: cookie + kate

I am all about combining all kinds of veggies into a meatball and then crossing your fingers it tastes good! Well this recipe turned out even better than we could have imagined. Who knew kale, mushrooms + lentils could taste OH. SO. GOOD. together. 

Note: I actually made this with the lentils raw + didn’t cook them. I loved it but Patrick preferred the lentils cooked slightly cooked first. If you like a crunch [like me] skip cooking the lentils!

Vegan Friends: You can omit the eggs. But if does act as a binder, so once you use a fork – they may break apart BUT STILL DELICIOUS!


  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms (or white mushrooms), sliced
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried terragon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Kale
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine lentils, bay leaf, and vegetable broth/water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. (Don’t worry, you want the lentils to be a little undercooked.) Remove from heat, drain and let cool for a few minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
  2. In a food processor, combine the mushrooms, kale, oats, lentils, parsley and spices (oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme and tarragon). Pulse/blend until the mixture is pretty well pulverized but not mush (see photos).
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil, then add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent and turning golden at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Stir in lentil-mushroom mixture and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add red wine and soy sauce to skillet. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and, if you’re using a pan that retains heat like cast iron, transfer the mixture to a heat-safe bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to cool until it is comfortable to handle.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together two eggs, then thoroughly mix the eggs into the lentil and mushroom mixture. Use your hands to scoop up one small handful of the mixture at a time, shaping it into a golf-ball sized ball (about 1 ½-inch diameter). Place each “meatball” onto the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space around each one (you should end up with 15 or more meatballs). Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from: Cookie + Kate

photo: cookie + kate

We hope you love this delish meatless meatball meal as much as we do!

-The Neilan Family-