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Dieting Fears…How to Keep Satisfied

I know that when some people think of eating healthy or going on a diet, the first thing that comes up is the fear that they will be hungry. I know, that is what I use to think.  It is not true at all.  You can eat as much as you want.  You just have to eat the right things.starve, hungry, diet mind tricks, tips for dieting

Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet

One tip to get started on the journey is to add more vegetables and healthy fats to your plate in addition to what you are used to eating…but eat the vegetables and the healthy fats first. Add double portions of your favorite vegetables drizzled with coconut or olive oil and a side of avocado, or before you get ready to eat, have a handful of raw almonds.  If you eat broiled or grilled lean meats and fish, loads of veggies and good fats, you will not be hungry. Once you have followed this for a few weeks, you can increase the vegetables even more and decrease the fats and proteins.  You will get enough protein from vegetables…trust me. Some of the healthiest athletes are vegetarians. I am not trying to turn you into a vegetarian, but in my opinion, they are the best food on the planet, next to fruits.  Remember, you do need to eat fruit. The sugars in fruits are good for your brain!

Additional Tips for Not Going Hungry

Start slow and add additional vegetables to your plate and eat that first.  One key is to make sure that when you start to feel full, just stop eating and save the rest for the next meal or the next day. It is always nice to have a little extra left over in the refrigerator for those times you don’t want to start from scratch.
Planning ahead is always helpful. Make a schedule for your week ahead and make sure to add the extra healthy fats and proteins to your meals. This helps you to add variety to your diet and to prepare some of the foods in advance.  You can soak beans over night in the refrigerator and put them in smaller containers the next day for two to three meals that week.  Beans come in many varieties and are an excellent source of protein and very filling.  You don’t need to eat a lot of beans to feel full.  Another trick is drinking warm water with cinnamon and honey…it keeps the hunger pangs away.

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Awesome Summer Salad

When it’s hot out there, you want to eat food that is refreshing. Well, try this one out.  It is tasty and refreshing and easy to make.

Watermelon Cucumber Salad


One 7-8lb. seedless watermelon, chilled

1 large cucumber

1/2 cup olive oil

3 limes or lemons or a combination of limes and lemons juiced

1 cup of fresh chopped mint leaves

11/2 cups crumbled or cubed feta cheese (do not use goat cheese in this recipe, it just waters down to nothing)

11/2 tsp. salt


Cube the watermelon and place in a large bowl.  Drain as much of the liquid from the watermelon as you can.  Slice the cucumber in half long ways and then slice it to your preferred thickness. Add feta, olive oil, lemons/limes, mint leaves and salt.  Mix well and keep in refrigerator until it is ready to serve. If you have left overs, you might want to drain it the next day and maybe add a bit more lemon/lime, olive oil and salt before eating it.  I thought it was great the next day as well, but it did get watered down some.

This makes a great before or after a meal salad or even on its own.  It is the perfect combination of sweet, savory and sour.

Happy Eating…Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Maybe Tomorrow?

delay, diet, healthy eating, start today, procrastinate

I know I have done this before, have you?  I am going to start eating healthy tomorrow and so today I am going to eat whatever I like.  Then tomorrow comes.  Oops, what happened to starting to eat healthy?  I know, I know…something came up. You did not have enough time to get something prepared so you ended up with a big ole burger and fries.  Maybe you can blame it on your kids because you forgot they had so many activities that you had to buy dinner out at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Whatever the reason, something stops you from starting that healthy eating thing everyone is talking about.

I know that there are fears around changing the way you eat. One of them is that you won’t be able to eat what you want so it is going to be torture. I can’t deprive my kids of their favorite foods and how will I not eat the same thing they are eating? I want to go eat out with my friends and family, but how will I eat healthy in a restaurant? I have a few parties and events to go to in the next couple of weeks, it does not make sense to start now so I might as well wait.  All of these roadblocks are going to be the reasons that you never start eating healthy because there will always be something going on and you will probably always be busy.

What Benefits Will You Get if You Healthy Anyway?

  • The Ongoing Benefits: The list of benefits is long.  Basically, if you eat healthy, you are providing better fuel for your body, thus allowing you to think clearer, move more, have more energy, get rid of aches and pains and feel better all over.  You will lose weight, get into those skinny jeans and your triple chin may reduce to a double chin or even just a single chin which I am sure most people prefer. People have seen improvements or even elimination of diabetes. How about lowering your cholesterol or even blood pressure?  Eating healthy can even help people with depression. The sum of this is that healthier foods contain the nutrients your body needs to function well. The benefits really warrant a whole article in itself because there are so many things you can improve by eating healthy.
  • Endless List of New Recipes:  You get to try new foods and recipes and think of unique ways to make your favorite dishes. You will also find new foods that you have never tried before and since your taste buds will change there will be foods that you did not like before that will now taste great.  Vegetables will even taste better after you stop eating a lot of processed foods.
  • The Gift of Sharing:  As you become more educated on healthy eating, you can share this new found knowledge with your friends and family. Invite your friends over for a healthy meal. Talk about what you did to change the recipes to make them healthy. Get your friends involved by creating a “healthy get-together” and rotate where the get together is hosted. Getting together will have new meaning when you are supporting each other to eat healthy.

Tips on Starting Today

  • Tell a Friend: Tell a friend that you are starting to eat healthy and you could really use their support.  Tell people at your work place so they know that when they want to go out for lunch, they keep in mind that pizza might not be the best choice.
  • Go Shopping: Before you go shopping, pick out some healthy recipes and put the ingredients on your shopping list.  Shopping is an educational field trip. Read the labels of everything you buy.  If the ingredient list is really long, then it probably has many chemicals, preservatives and ingredients you really don’t need.  Simple is better.  Buying basic proteins, vegetables, fruits and legumes is best and you can spice them up on your own.  When you purchase packaged foods, you are sure to get some stuff that you really don’t want.
  • Gradual Change: Start out with two to three meals the first week.  You don’t have to go full out the first day.  Start integrating a healthy side dish and increase the swaps of unhealthy sides for a healthy side at each meal.
  • Clean it Out: The best way to start a new way of eating is by cleaning out the old way of eating. Go through all of your cabinets and your pantry and get rid of the products that support unhealthy eating. If you live with others and don’t have control over all the kitchen space, then set aside a space for just you and make sure that area only contains healthy foods.
  • Get More Support: There are groups all over the place that you could join to get support for a healthy eating lifestyle.  Search on for healthy lifestyle, weight loss or healthy cooking groups.

When it comes down to changing the way you eat, you need to just start. Not tomorrow…now! Start in any way you can and be consistent and evolve each week in making better choices. There are so many fast, easy and healthy recipes out there that taste great too.  Trust me, you will notice the difference.

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

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Salad…The Perfect Meal

Oh how I love salads.  I recently taught a cooking class where we focused on salads one day.  When preparing for the class, I was reminded of how perfect salads are.  There are thousands of variations of salads; so many that I could not possibly fit them all into a two-hour class.  I just love how you can virtually use whatever you have in your refrigerator; throw it into a bowl, toss it up with a yummy dressing and your taste buds are smiling for the rest of the day.

Because of the variety, you can put a different salad on your weekly menu several times without getting bored.  One of the best things about salads is the opportunity to create a balanced meal, in nutrients and flavor.  You can get fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein all in one bowl and it is not a lot of work and it’s fast, easy and healthy.  You can’t beat that!

Take a look on the internet and look up some salad recipes.  You will find salads for every occasion, every dietary restriction, taste preference or any other requirement that you may have.  And don’t forget the dressing.  There are amazing recipes for dressings that will totally change the taste of a bowl of the same ingredients. You can have cold or warm dressing, spicy, savory, light and refreshing or heavy chunky dressing.  That is what is so great about dressing. I think recipes for salads and dressings are like a wardrobe. You dress according to your mood, an occasion, culturally or just because it is the only thing left in your closet.  Recipes offer the same freedom to choose how you want to dress your salad and what is being dressed.  Sometimes you just have to open your refrigerator, pull out a bunch of stuff and see what you can create.

So I guess the best way to leave this is to provide one of my favorite salads.

Sonoma Chicken Salad. YUM!




  • 1 cup Vegenaise (I usually use the soy free)
  • 4 tsps. apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tsps. honey
  • 2 tsps. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (optional)

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to combine it with the salad.

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces (I use raw pecans, but you can also use toasted)
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
  • 3 to 5 stalks celery, thinly sliced (depending on the size of the stalks of celery)

Cut the chicken into bit size pieces.  I make it easy on myself and buy a pre-cooked organic chicken.  Combine all the other salad ingredients and mix it up.

Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.  Keep refrigerated until you are ready to eat it.

This salad is very filling, so this recipe can feed six people easily.

Thanks for reading and I hope you try this recipe.  My husband said to me, ‘You can make that anytime.’

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady

Green Foods

There are dozens of diets that promise better nutrition and rapid weight loss. But the simplest way to improve your health is to make like Kermit & go green.

By: Jenna Blumenfeld, New Hope Network


They take a little effort to crack open, but pistachios are worth it, as they contain the important brain nutrient vitamin B6 and 18 percent of your daily requirement of thiamine (vitamin B1). Try adding chopped pistachios to chocolate desserts—brownies, ice cream or tarts for color, crunch, flavor and nutrients.

Use in a recipe: Warm Pistachio, Chicken, and Hearts of Palm Salad

Pumpkin seeds

Full of zinc, antioxidant phytonutrients and protein, pumpkin seeds (sometimes called pepitas when they are out of their shells) have a nice crunch and a soft, chewy inside. Try roasting raw pepitas with olive oil, salt, ground coriander and pepper for an easy snack.

 Use in a recipe: Pumpkin Spice Trail Bars

Collard greens

These large, leafy greens are loaded with important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, folate and vitamin K—a nutrient important for blood and bone health. Try sautéing chopped collards with diced onion, garlic and bacon for a simple side.

 Use in a recipe: Quick Collards Sauté


Add a handful of raw spinach to salads, soups and smoothies, and you’ll earn an extra dose of vitamins A, C, K and E, as well as minerals vital to muscle function, such as potassium and magnesium.

 Use in a recipe: Spinach-Goji Berry Waldorf Salad


Seaweed contains lots of protein and is one of the few non-animal sources of B12, making it an excellent food for vegetarians. Theory has it that it’s great for weight loss, too. Wakame is a type of brown seaweed of ten used as a flavoring in soups and salads. A brownish pigment in wakame, fucoxanthin, promotes weight loss. That’s what scientists concluded when obese rats lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight when fucoxanthin was added to their diet.

 Use in a recipe: Seaweed Salad with Bean Sprouts and Tofu


Asparagus is a source of the soluble fiber inulin, which can suppress your appetite. There’s also an array of B vitamins in this popular vegetable, including B1, B2, B3 and B6. It also encourages digestive health and contains vitamin K, which acts as a natural diuretic.

 Use in a recipe: Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Dill-Chervil Sauce


Creamy, packed with potassium and folate, and delicious on toast, this tropical fruit is a great way to add more healthy monounsaturated fats to your diet, which may lower harmful levels of cholesterol. For a simple riff on guacamole, try mashing  an avocado with salt, pepper, hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.

 Use in a recipe: Wild Salmon with Wasabi-Avocado Sauce

Green bell pepper

If you’re tired of eating oranges for a heavy dose of vitamin C, look to green bell peppers, which provide almost 120 milligrams of vitamin C in one cup (chopped). That’s well above the recommended 75 to 90 milligrams. Plus, you’ll be getting 2.5 grams of fiber.

 Use in a recipe: Sweet Pepper and Black Bean Salad


A half cup of edamame provides almost 8 grams of protein, which helps to stave off hunger. It’s a great staple of a low-calorie diet with only 95 calories per half cup.

 Use in a recipe: Watercress, Edamame, and Fennel Salad

Blue Corn Benefits

New research suggests that anthocyanins, the nutrients that give the corn its lovely blue color, may also help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

By: Shara Rutberg, New Hope Network 

Blue corn has been popping up as an ingredient everywhere from tortilla chips to breakfast cereal. Intriguing new research suggests that anthocyanins, the nutrients that give the corn its lovely blue color, may also help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. The study raises interest in using blue maize as a component of functional foods and nutraceuticals, foods that contain a medicinal benefit.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food. Researchers from Universidad Veracruzana, Instituto Tecnologico de Veracruz and Unidad Oaxaca/Calle Hornos in Mexico, fed rats a high-sugar, high-cholesterol diet. The group of rats that also ate blue maize extract had a significantly smaller increase in abdominal fat compared to rats that didn’t get the blue maize extract. The rodents that were given the blue maize also showed significant improvement in systolic blood pressure, high density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels, compared to the rats that didn’t get the extract.

“Anti-obesity food materials are always in demand, and this study brings out not only the importance of blue maize in controlling adipocity, but also the potential role of cholesterol in the development of obesity,” Journal of Medicinal Food Editor-in-Chief Sampath Parthasarathy, MBA, PhD, Florida Hospital chair in cardiovascular sciences and interim associate dean, College of Medicine, University of Central Florida, said in the publisher’s release about the study.

Apparently, the Hopi people were way ahead of the scientific curve. In their tradition, blue corn represents a long life. Hopi men ate blue corn before leaving on long journeys, believing it gave them great strength.





Less is More

Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients.  Paying attention to ingredients is increasingly important.  We get food and supplement products from all over the world nowadays, but do we really know where the ingredients come from and what lies under the “hard to understand” ingredient names?  

We can all make it easy on ourselves when buying food.  Single ingredient food is the the way to go.  Fruits, vegetables, grains and lean proteins.  There are even challenges with single ingredient food especially if they are not organic.  Where did they come from? How were they processed?  How were they grown or fed? How much more complicated does it get when you purchase a packaged item with numerous ingredients, some of which you cannot even pronounce?  Well…let’s say, “supercalifragilisticexpialidociously” more complicated.  

With the mass production of food, manufacturers are trying to decrease production costs and one of the easiest ways is to decrease the cost of packaged foods is through cheaper ingredients.  How is that done? Unfortunately, most often in a laboratory where they mix plant, chemical, organic and inorganic ingredients together to get that special taste that we all seem to be craving or purchase because it is less expensive.  The list of ingredients on some packaged foods require a masters degree in science to understand. Should we be buying food that we don’t understand? Thrown on the shelf not to nourish our family and friends but to make a profit.  I say a big resounding NO!

We have gotten used to the ease of buying ready made products because we say we are busy. I know the drill…work all day, come home late and have to feed the family. Don’t have time to make a meal from scratch so that packaged pasta dish or pre-made burgers sure sound good at that point. What is the result of this habitual ritual? Are we really doing right by our families? What are the consequences?

I am not here to make any decisions for you, but I can tell you in my experience, “less is more”. The least amount of ingredients is the way to go. And if you can stick to purchasing mostly one ingredient foods and start making your own combinations, your body will thank you by running well fueled. I hear often, “Well, we are all gonna die someday.” I understand that…but do you want to experience old age being able to do whatever you want because your body is able or do you want to live to whatever age suffering from ailments that make living a challenge? My goal is to live to 140 years old. Yes, a lofty goal but hoping my body appreciates all the label reading, the organic single ingredient foods and the healthy lifestyle I strive for. I guess we will all see how it ends up at some point. Hope you are all around to dance with me at my 140th birthday party.  

Really, my hope is just that you become more aware of your choices, make better choices and live healthy.  Good habits are not created in one day.  You can start today by eating one meal made with single ingredient foods.  Progress a little at a time if that is what is needed.  I know you can do it!

Thank you for reading,

Pia Civiletti, The Sassy Italian Lady




Digestive Problems? You Are Not Alone!

There are too many people living with digestive problems today.  I have seen so many different types of medication commercials playing over and over to encourage us, the consumers, to buy one product over another, for one type of digestive symptom or another.  Digestive relief is not something I have personally had the opportunity to experience, compliments of the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders (FGIMDs) I live with, but I continue to search for answers and help.  On my quest to find natural ways to feel better, I began to meet a growing number of people who also have digestive issues with no or few answers.  FGIMDs include, but are absolutely not limited to, IBS, Gastroparesis, Colonic Inertia, Esophageal Dysphagia, Intestinal Dysmotility, and Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction Disorder.

Gastroparesis (stomach), Esophageal Dysphagia (esophagus), Colonic Inertia (colon), Small Intestinal Dysmotility (small intestine).  Within the name of each of these particular diagnoses, is the location of the problem within the gastrointestinal tract.  Chances are, if one part of the digestive tract is not working from one of these problems, other parts may not be working properly either.  If you are diagnosed with one of these illnesses, please spend some time reading and familiarizing yourself with the other illnesses mentioned in the first sentence of this particular paragraph.  Too many times I have met people who have multiple GI problems noted above.  Living with any one of these digestive problems can lead to a very difficult life.  At the very least, you will need a gastroenterologist who is educated about this particular group of GI and motility disorders.

There are multiple reasons someone may have one or more of these digestive diseases/disorders/illnesses.  These three terms are often used interchangeably.  An illness can cause one of these GI problems to begin, a surgery, an autoimmune problem, a connective tissue disorder, diabetes, and even idiopathic (of unknown origin).  Our digestive tract, when messed up, can completely mess up plans we have for life.  If we cannot eat, we cannot function.  If we cannot go to the bathroom, we cannot function.  Our digestive system gives us the nutrients and hydration, while clearing out the toxic waste that can poison us, allowing our bodies to function.  In essence, our digestive systems control our lives.

Think about it.  You are feeling great, having fun with friends, eating, drinking, laughing, and then out of nowhere, your stomach starts to hurt and feel queezy.  You start to break out in a sweat from the pain that begins to consume your entire stomach and abdomen.  And even though you haven’t been drinking alcohol, you begin to feel dizzy, as if you are going to pass out, in front of all of your friends, family, and strangers.  Your ears start to ring and you cannot hear anything clearly.  The only thing you can think of at this point is getting to your bed, and something to throw up in.  Now, imagine this is your daily life, minus the ability to go out, minus the ability to eat and drink, and add in a tube that may be shoved through your abdominal wall into your intestine, or an iv placed in a main vessel to the heart that does not get removed, in order to allow nutrition from a different source to enter your body so that you do not die.  Many more people than you might think are living this way.  I am one of those people.

From the time I was a child, I cried about the terrible pain in my stomach. During one point in my teenage years, I had to eat baby food to try to reduce some of the pain in my stomach.  So often my stomach felt like it was going to rupture.  During my twenties and thirties I tried to find doctors who would listen to me.  Everyone said I looked great and that I was depressed or anxious.  I was not depressed, I was furious that no one would listen.  My colon perforated in 2008, poisoned my body, and was completely removed.  It wasn’t until 2013, when I met Dr. Clair Francomano, that I found out what was going on with my body.  It was amazing to have someone acknowledge everything I was feeling, and then tell me what was actually happening.  I was born with Ehlers-Danlos, which created the majority of the other health problems.

One day we will have a cure for these illnesses.  Until then, we need to turn to one another, be understanding, and help one another through.  God Bless!!



Energize Your Travel Plans

I do a lot of traveling.  Planes, trains and automobiles isn’t just a film I’ve watched, it’s my way of life.  As the host of Wellness 101, and the director of my newly released film “WALKING WHILE BLACK: L.O.V.E. Is The Answer,” I’m on the road constantly, either filming, promoting or scouting stories (along with the constant need to raise funds to pay for all this work!).  It’s a high-stress lifestyle, so I have to make sure I’m on top of my game to turn that stress into useable energy and not let it zap my energy and negatively affect my immune system.

For most of the past two years, I’ve been recovering from a blown achilles tendon and related back and other issues that came from that imbalance.  I’m now back to walking pain-free so my mobility is freeing up a whole new world of possibilities that were on hold for awhile.  The stress, while I tried to manage it properly, did take its toll at times.  I’m working off some pounds that I put on during this period of painful time — about 20 of them, to be exact.  Yes, something had to give.  It happens to the best of us.

One of the things I am very careful about when traveling to to be aware of the added stress on my immune system and my energy levels.  I limit my alcohol intake, I nap on flights and even sometimes in a car (when I’m not the driver, of course), and I make sure to watch what I eat even more than normal.  I make sure to stick to a high energy, high vitamin C, high 0mega-3 menu that keeps me going strong and fights off illness.  In addition to foods that are going to support my efforts, I’ll also carry chewable Airborne tablets and pop a couple of those every few hours.  Staying hydrated is especially important, and super-important when flying.  I’m the guy that asks the flight attendant for an unopened can of water every hour of a flight.

I’ll be at the Expo West in a few weeks and I plan on sharing with you some of the great things I find there that can help you stay energized in ways that do not result in jittery highs and crashing lows.  Stay tuned and STAY ENERGIZED!