The Joy of Oatmeal


As those of you who follow me on social media know, some of my favorite childhood memories are those that include food. One of my first memories of my Dad is of him making oatmeal on a Saturday morning and watching cartoons with a bowl of hot oatmeal in my hands.

Now that I am older, I still find myself eating oatmeal for comfort, or as I am doing homework late at night and yes, while watching television. While CNN might have replaced my Saturday morning cartoons, my love of oatmeal has never changed.

Is there something magical about oatmeal or is it just the memory connection? I would say probably both but first let’s look at the importance of breakfast in recovery and then examine the nutritional benefits of oatmeal further.

The Importance of Breakfast in Recovery

We all have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but breakfast becomes an even more vitally important meal for people in recovery. It’s because breakfast can set the tone and temperament of your body and brain for the entire day. Too many people skip breakfast as they run out the door for work or think coffee alone is breakfast. Both are wrong, as when you wake in the morning your body is both dehydrated and your glucose reserves are low and by skipping breakfast you set your morning on a HANGRY rollercoaster that may last for the rest of the day.

Ok, now that I have hopefully convinced you to take the time to eat breakfast, what foods should you eat? Keep in mind that high-protein foods tend to wake us up and the complex carbohydrate of whole grains tends to help keep us calm and regular. A combination of the two makes for a good start to the day.

While the traditional hearty American breakfast of eggs with all the trimmings has come under attack from every corner in the last decade and with good reason (as it is high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar, thus remarkably low in nutrient value), too many of us still choose to pick up a fast food version of our American breakfast on our way to work. And if you look at the cold cereals that stock our grocery shelves as a fast alternative for breakfast, many are packed full of simple sugars and refined grains. So what should you eat?

In recovery, a breakfast of whole grains, hot or cold breakfast cereals, or whole-grain breads, muffins, waffles, or pancakes with a side of a healthy protein such as a greek yogurt, an organic hard boiled egg, or a scrambled egg is the best way to maintain energy through the day and build resilience to stress.

Many of us still have a lot of preconceived notions about what constitutes a breakfast food. Many cultures start the day with fish or beans and corn bread. A tuna salad on whole-grain toast would make an excellent breakfast, as would a whole grain english muffin with nut butter but most of us would classify this as lunch or dinner fare. So keep in mind that many recipes outside the breakfast section of your favorite cookbook would make for a super breakfast and as a result last night’s leftovers are often great morning foods options.

Oats: A Superfood for Recovery

Now let’s unravel the mysteries of oatmeal. The grain oats started from humble beginnings as a weed in the barley and wheat fields and later became the staple grain of Ireland, Scotland, and northern England.

Oat groats (the harvested “as-is” product) are cleaned, dried, and toasted to crack the inedible kernel (or hull) surrounding the oat. Hulled oat groats taste more like wheat than the oatmeal we know, and they can be used in soups or breads or cooked like buckwheat.

To make “old-fashioned” rolled oats, the hulled groat is heated and rolled. Steel-cut oats are sliced with thin blades. Quick-cooking rolled oats are heated and sliced an additional time and then prepared as rolled oats. Instant oatmeal comes from precooked oats that are dried and rolled thin.

Oat flour makes a coarse but firm crust with a slightly nutty flavor. It is a good extender for other foods, especially meats.

Oats are a whole-grain food, known scientifically as Avena sativa. Oats (also known as the common oat) are among the healthiest grains on earth and are considered by many to be a superfood. A superfood are foods that are nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. These foods provide a high nutritional return on their calorie investment and should become a mainstay of your recovery diet.

Oats are a wholegrain powerhouse and are rich in carbohydrates and fiber, but also higher in protein and fat than most other grains. Oats are very high in many vitamins (especially several different B vitamins) and minerals (especially manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and zinc).

Whole oats are also high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats. Avenanthramides may help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide. This gas molecule helps dilate blood vessels and leads to better blood flow. In addition, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects. Ferulic acid (another antioxidant) is also found in large amounts in oats.

Oats are also loaded with dietary fiber (containing more than many other grains) and the high soluble fiber beta-glucan found in oats has numerous benefits as it helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promotes healthy gut bacteria and increases feelings of fullness. Beta-glucan may also promote the release of peptide YY (PYY), a hormone produced in the gut in response to eating. This satiety hormone has been shown to lead to reduced calorie intake and may decrease your risk of obesity. All good things for those of us in recovery.

Other possible health benefits of oats include reducing the risk of coronary artery disease and reducing one’s risk of colorectal cancer.

How to Incorporate Oats in Your Recovery Diet

Now that I hopefully sold you on giving oats a try, I have suggestions on how you can you add them to recovery diet.

For Breakfast, there are several options for adding oats to your diet:

1. Oatmeal: You can cook oatmeal on your stove top, in your microwave, or in a slow cooker. Here are some types:                         

  • Instant oats: Oat groats that have been steamed and flaked.
  • Rolled oats (also called regular, quick or old-fashioned oats): Oat groats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): You get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
  • Scottish oats: These are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
  • Oat groats: This is the whole oat kernel — no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

Now, I am not suggesting you get up earlier to cook oatmeal before work. My morning breakfast routine takes two minutes from start to finish. I have shared my favorite recipe, “Mary’s Quick Superfood Recovery Breakfast” to help you add oats to breakfast in under two minutes at the end of this blog.

2. Granola (we have a great recipe for homemade granola in our “Food For Recovery” book and on our website,  But if you buy packaged granola in the supermarket, read the label to pick your healthiest option.

3. Museli is also a delicious way to add oatmeal to your diet. I love mine with greek yogurt.

4. Oatmeal Pancakes, Waffles, or Muffins.

*Be sure to add a source of protein of your choice so you have a good nutritional balance to your breakfast.

Oats aren’t just for breakfast: There are many other ways to add them to lunch, dinner, or snacks. Think baked goods, muffins, cookies, bars, or cakes, or breads. Oat groats are great in soup or breads, or cooked like buckwheat. And one of my favorite dinners is the Quaker Oatmeal Prize Winning Meatloaf recipe that uses oatmeal, it’s the recipe that many of our Mothers and Grandmothers made.

Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they are sometimes contaminated with gluten. That’s because they may be harvested and processed using the same equipment as other grains that contain gluten. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, read the label before you purchase and only choose oat products that are certified as gluten-free.

I hope you discover the joys of oatmeal as its a great superfood to add to a recovery diet and its tasty too!

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, HC


Mary’s Quick Superfood Recovery Breakfast

½ cup Organic Quick (not instant) Oats

1 cup Hot Water

1 cup Frozen Organic Blueberries

28 ounce Bowl


  1. Add ½ cup Organic Quick Oats to a deep cereal bowl. I use one that is 28 ounces to avoid a spill over of oatmeal in the microwave.
  2. Add 1 cup hot water to oatmeal and mix.
  3. If you are starting with hot water from a Keruig coffeemaker microwave on high for 1 minute. If you are using cold water, microwave on high for 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from microwave with caution as it will be hot.
  5. Stir in 1 cup frozen blueberries and mix, enjoy.


Note: If you don’t like blueberries you can add any other fruit (applesauce, bananas, peaches, or pears are great), cinnamon or any other spice, nuts, seeds, pumpkin puree, and or greek yogurt to make oatmeal tastier and even more nutritious.

Note: Remember to add a side of protein of your choice for nutritional balance.





From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, H.C., Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly



Your Health and The News: Words Matter


Unless you have been “living under a rock” as the kids would say, you are already aware that this last week has been unlike any other in our lifetime.

During a forty-eight hour period this week, assassination attempts were made on two Former United States Presidents, a Former United States Vice President, a Former Secretary of State, a Former Attorney General, a Former Director of National Intelligence, a Former CIA Director, two United States Senators, a Congresswomen, an actor, two billionaire fundraisers, and the CNN’s offices in New York City. In total to date fourteen potential explosive devices were sent through the mail. If these events were the plot for a television drama we would say that this show was way over the top but sadly this is our new reality, this is the world we live in.

Not only have these events been extremely stressful for those directly threatened by these bombing attempts but it also has been extremely stressful to the millions who have been watching these events playing out live on our televisions. And if you consider the twenty-four hour cable news cycle along with social media, it can be a 24/7 affair that we can consume on our phones, tablets, laptops, or satellite radio in our car and yes, on television anytime we wish.

Gone are the days of our childhood where the news was watched in the evening on our televisions or listened to on our radios and then discussed at the water coolers allowing us a respite from the news for the majority of our day. Don’t get me wrong I have no desire to go back to those days and in full disclosure, I am a news geek & history buff who thinks a romantic getaway is a trip to Historic Williamsburg or Washington D.C. to look at the monuments. So what do I suggest to survive the constant barrage of news which can be a stressor for many of us? Balance.

Five Tips For Reducing Stress During Stressful News Events

  1. Take A Break From The Media (yes, including social media): I am not saying to throw away your phone but to know your limits as there is a difference between being informed about the news and being stressed by it. Some suggestions are:
  • Limit your news, try reading the news instead of watching, don’t drive while listening to the news during your commute to/from work and turn off devices when you eat or at least put them in another room.


  • Schedule breaks from social media. For example, put down your twitter feed for a few minutes several times a day, take a mini vacation from Facebook several times a day, and turn off the notification on your phone so you don’t hear the alerts. You can also choose not to debate the news with others on Facebook or twitter, or as I like to say- Don’t Dance.


  • Try not to sleep with the television on as it will disrupt your melatonin and will disturb the quality of your sleep. If you can’t fall asleep without the television on use the sleep timer so it turns itself off after a few minutes.


2. Take a Walk: Or even better unplug and take a walk. Take your dog for a walk if you have one. Take a quick walk during lunch with a friend from work. Walk after dinner with your spouse, friend or neighbor. Enjoy the crisp autumn air and the beauty of the season. And don’t think or talk about the news.

3. Just Breathe: Breathing Exercises can be a simple and quick way to relieve stress. If you are unfamiliar with breathing exercises you can start with this one: Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly out through your mouth. Feel better? If you want to try more breathing exercises several of my favorites are some of the ones suggested by Dr. Weil: “The Stimulating Breath”, “The 4-7-8 Exercise”, and “Breath Counting” (my personal favorite). Instructions and videos for each of these can be found on his website

4. Are you drinking enough? Stop laughing, I am talking about water. Hydration is essential for good health. Stress can cause dehydration and dehydration can cause stress. It’s a vicious cycle so break this cycle by taking a water break. Carry water with you and keep it next to you as a visual reminder but make sure it’s filtered and the container is BPA free.

5. Eat Comfort Food: I mean real food or as I like to refer to it as “food that our great-grandmothers ate”. Choose real whole foods instead of junk food, fast foods or highly processed food. Looking for ideas? The following foods are said to reduce stress: oatmeal, blueberries, bananas, whole grains, greek yogurt, almonds, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cantaloupe, green tea, oranges, raw cashews, peppers, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and my personal favorite dark chocolate (in moderation). Remember as always to eat with your individual health in mind avoiding foods you can’t tolerate or are allergic to. Avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, excessive salt & sugar, and trans-fats as these items are not only detrimental to our health but are said to exacerbate stress symptoms.

Why did these assassination attempts happen? What were the suspect’s motives? I will leave that up to the experts as I am a health coach not a psychiatrist but I have my theories. As a health coach I know how much words matter. What we say to ourselves matters. What we say to others matters. Yes, words have power. Studies show that words can radicalize someone and those that are privileged to have a public platform need to be aware that their words may cause others to take actions. While as a society we need to hold the bomb suspect responsible for his actions, we also need to look at what we can do to prevent domestic terrorism in the future, that is our responsibility as a society.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC
Health Coach










The Power of Pumpkin


Pumpkin is a close cousin of the squash and can vary in size from a few ounces to a few hundred pounds. While we think of it as a vegetable, it is scientifically a fruit as it contains seeds. Some varieties are better for baking than others. If you’re buying directly from a farmer, which many do in the late fall, ask which type is better for carving jack-o’-lanterns and which is better for baking.

Once again, fresh is superior in flavor to anything canned. But if time is short, there are many good organic canned pumpkin purees today on the market. I love the Farmers Market, Pacific Foods, Trader Joe’s or 365 Everyday Value brands and now even Libby’s brand makes an organic variety.

Always check the labels if you decide to purchase canned as there are often great recipes on them and to confirm you are buying 100% pumpkin puree often found in the 15 ounce can not the pumpkin pie mix which is in the larger can. Pumpkin pie mix is not 100% pumpkin puree and contains added sugars, syrups and spices.

Whether you decide to buy fresh or canned, its always fun to try making pumpkin pies at least once from fresh pumpkin. Pumpkins will keep for several weeks in a cool, dark location.


Some fun pumpkin facts:

  • Pumpkin is a highly nutrient-dense food and is rich in both vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Pumpkin is 94% water.


  • Pumpkin is more than just pie filling and can be incorporated into deserts, soups, salads, and even makes a great butter.


  • Pumpkin seeds, leaves, and juices are also great nutritional pumpkin options.


  • Pumpkin puree can be used in baking recipes for a replacement for butter or oil.


  • You can store uncut pumpkin for up to 2 months in a cool dark place.


  • Pumpkin contains potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, iron, lutein, zeaxanthin and a wealth of other antioxidants, and is one of the best sources of beta-carotene.


  • Pumpkin is a great source of fiber.


  • Pumpkin retains many of its health benefits in the canning process.


  • Pumpkin is a great addition to a recovery diet.


  • Pumpkin spice lattes often do not contain any pumpkin and is full of sugar and calories (sorry as I know this is not a fun fact).



Fun ways to incorporate more pumpkin in your diet:

  • Mix pumpkin puree with plain or vanilla greek yogurt and add pumpkin pie spices, you will have a healthy pumpkin pie minus the crust!


  • Pumpkin pancakes. pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin cheesecake but please look for the healthier recipes or products.


  • Pumpkin sauce for pasta (see recipe below), pumpkin soup, and roasted pumpkin wedges.


  • Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great carry snack.


I hope I have motivated you to try to add more pumpkin into your recovery diet. If so, let me know on social media which ways you love to add pumpkin to your diet.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC



This is a great recipe to celebrate National Pumpkin Day or any other day of the week. Enjoy!:


Pumpkin Pasta Sauce


This pumpkin pasta sauce is a great way to celebrate pumpkin any day of the year but makes a great fall comfort food. Pumpkin is a nutrient-dense food full of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants. It can be served over any pasta of your choice.

Makes 4 cups sauce: Serves 4


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 can (15 ounces) diced or crushed tomatoes

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée

2 tablespoons butter (or substitute with olive oil)

1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Finely grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


  1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s shimmering, add the oregano and cinnamon. While stirring, cook until fragrant and then add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, while stirring. Add the pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Continue simmering on low for 15 minutes, stirring often and then remove it from the heat.
  2. Carefully transfer the mixture to your blender. Add the butter (or olive oil) and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Blend until very smooth and creamy.
  3. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. For an even smoother sauce, you can add an additional tablespoon of butter, or for a more tangy taste, add another teaspoon of vinegar. Blend to combine.
  4. Serve over warm pasta of your choice. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese (or vegan cheese substitute) and add chopped parsley for garnish if you wish.



Can be made Dairy Free/Vegan: Just omit butter and substitute olive oil. Instead of parmesan cheese, omit or substitute vegan parmesan cheese. (Go Veggie or Angel Food brands are great).

Gluten Free: The pumpkin pastas sauce is gluten free. Just serve over a gluten free pasta of your choice such as brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, corn pasta, or even spaghetti squash.

Variations: If you want to make a more classic italian version try adding 1 yellow onion, chopped and 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced to step one.


From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, CHC, Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly 



Memories of a Recovery Health Coach


“I Alone Cannot Change The World, But I Can Cast A Stone Across The Waters To Create Many Ripples”- Mother Teresa


After the sudden death of my grandfather due to years of alcoholism, I decided to return to school for a second degree so that I could help people in recovery. I was young and idealistic. I wanted to change the world.

During the second semester while enrolled in a class called “The Psychology of Addictions”, I was asked to pick a topic I would be interested in. After looking at the choices and at the time being a yoga practicing, meditating, organic food eating, holistic hippie; I picked the topic of “Nutrition and Recovery”. My professor then suggested that I interview Dr. Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. as he was doing research in the field.

During my first interview with Dr. Beasley, I was in awe, here was this doctor, who had taught at Harvard, wrote several books on recovery, and was the director of an inpatient hospital addiction program but was taking the time to speak to me at his clinic for my school project. Dr. Beasley’s passion for nutrition and recovery was so contagious that by the time I left, I had decided that nutrition and recovery was the career for me but I didn’t know how to pull that off as a Certified Alcoholism Counselor. Little did I know how this one meeting would change my life forever.

Several weeks later, Dr. Beasley called to let me know that he heard about a field called “health coaching” and thought it would be what I was looking for. While the local colleges did not have a major in that subject yet, he offered to mentor me at his clinic while I completed my studies in addictions. The plan was then to transfer to a nearby school for a bachelor of science in Community Health and Human Services. While under Dr. Beasley’s guidance, I took the courses that would help me become a health coach and at the same time worked at his clinic as an intern. True to form, Dr. Beasley was at my graduation to cheer me on holding flowers and balloons.

The years I spent at Dr. Beasley’s clinic as a health coach were life changing and was never boring. Being a health coach means you are at times- a teacher, guide, motivator, and cheer leader for people who are trying to make positive but often very difficult changes in their lives. At our clinic we saw that when health coaching was added to a recovery treatment program, it lead to positive results in thousands of people who suffered from alcohol and/or substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and addictions of all kinds.

Although the transition was sometimes difficult, everyone of these men and women found that once they had enjoyed the tremendous benefits and “natural high” of a good nutrition recovery program it was almost impossible to go back to their old eating habits. In the words of one client: “I had a Twinkie the other day, just for old’s time sake and couldn’t even finish the first bite. I can’t believe I ate that stuff. What was I thinking?”

In closing, I would like to say that I am still a yoga practicing, meditating, organic food eating, holistic hippie who is still idealistic. And while I may be twenty-five years older now, I still believe we can change the world one ripple at a time.

Health and Happiness,


Mary P. Cheney, CHC

Count Nutrients, Not Calories



“In recovery, we need to focus on the nutrients in our food and then the calories will take care of themselves.” – Mary P. Cheney

Before we discuss the nutrients in our food, it’s important to get a handle on one of the most misunderstood concepts in nutrition, calories.


What is a Calorie?

Strictly speaking, a calorie is not a specific thing at all but rather a measurement of how much energy a given food provides. When we talk about the number of calories in a food, we are really discussing how much energy the body gets from that food. Calories are not nutrients, and it is possible for a food to provide plenty of calories without many nutrients.

Ideally, we want to have an even balance between the numbers of calories we consume and the amount of energy we expend. But caloric need can vary a great deal among individuals. If you are a professional figure skater who practices six hours a day and competes ten months out of the year, you burn a lot of energy, and you need a fair number of calories to power all that activity and maintain normal bodily processes. If on the other hand, you are an accountant who does a lot of detail work behind a desk and exercises only intermittently, your energy needs are a lot less spectacular. If you eat foods that provide more calories (energy) than your body needs at the time, your body will store it away for later use – in fat cells.

Calories, then, are only the most basic and simplistic of nutritional measures. A food such as sugar or bourbon may provide energy in the form of calories, but it won’t provide any of the nutrients that the body needs to help run the “furnace” that burns all that energy.

The Importance of Nutrient Density

The balance of calories to nutrients in a given food is usually referred to as “nutrient density.” Nutrient dense foods provide lots of nutrients in relatively few calories, while low nutrient density foods have far more calories than nutrients.

Some examples of nutrient dense foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products, nuts, beans, seeds, eggs, turkey, chicken, fish and lean cuts of meats. These foods provide fewer calories while being excellent sources of nutrients such as the B-vitamins, vitamins A, C, D and E, protein, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids. Vegetables, fruits, grains and beans also contain phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, phytochemicals promote good health in recovery.

Some examples of low nutrient density foods include cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, puddings, doughnuts, jams, syrups, jelly, sweetened fruit drinks, “fast foods” such as fries, fried chicken, ice cream, chips, salted snacks, candy, soda, and energy/sports drinks. These foods are high in calories but low in nutrients and should only be eaten sparingly or better yet, avoided in recovery.

Unfortunately, most people with alcohol and/or substance abuse problems, as well as, those with eating disorders tend to consume these low nutrient density foods in the form of highly processed fast foods, junk foods, and so called “convenience” foods that contain huge amounts of refined carbohydrates, artificial additives, and unnatural fats. When this poor diet is compounded by alcohol intake, drug use, or the devastating effects of binging, purging, excessive exercising, and inappropriate dieting it provokes an even greater nutritional crisis wherein the already overburdened body must draw on stored nutrients in order to function. If we really intend to nourish the body, we must give it not only the nutrients it needs to function right now, but also the nutrients it requires to replenish those lost nutritional stores.

Focus on the Quality of The Calories Not Quantity

If we focus only on our caloric intake in recovery we will set ourselves up for nutritional disaster. For example, while almost anyone could survive and perhaps even loose weight eating 1200 calories a day of low nutrient density foods like soda, ice cream, and chips; you would not only be malnourished but you would feel really lousy doing it. This is because a malnourished brain is a malfunctioning one with the body exhibiting the symptoms of this dysfunction. And for those of us in recovery, a diet of low nutrient density but high in calories foods will not only perpetuate the cycle of nutritional deficiency but could also result in feelings of depression, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, concentration problems, and cravings which could interfere with the recovery process.

When eating for recovery, we need to start putting the focus on the nutrients in the foods we consume and less on the calories and then the calories will take care of themselves. In other words, we need to focus on the quality of the calories not the quantity. While knowing how many calories a day your body requires is helpful, it need not be a blue print for eating in recovery.

Practice Portion Size

While those of us in recovery may be free from calorie counting, we are not free from the practice of choosing healthy portion sizes when eating our meals and snacks. As I like to tell my husband, “You can have a grass-fed organic steak but you can’t have half the cow.” In recovery while many of us are learning what “normal” is for the first time; we also need to learn what healthy normal portion sizes are for our meals and snacks.

Choose High Nutrient Density Foods over Low Nutrient Density Foods

When choosing foods that will nourish your body, mind, and spirit in recovery, you need to choose high nutrient density foods over low nutrient density foods. And in order to do that, you need to know what they are, how to shop for them, prepare them, and cook them; so that you can make the changes that will help your brain (and the rest of your body) heal so that you can experience the joy of a healthy recovery. Our blog and our book, “Food For Recovery” is here to assist you in this journey to wellness. The choice, and the power, are yours.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC




Sweet Ending: Desserts in Recovery


Serving a dessert can be a tasty and nutritious way to make a meal last a little longer. Unlike most traditional desserts, which are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, the recovery recipes found in our book, “Food For Recovery” are made from hearty whole-grain flours, fresh fruits, nuts, and other whole foods ingredients. There are also wheat-free, egg-free, and even no-bake recipes.

The recovery desserts provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Unlike many desserts, these recipes do not rob the body of nutrients but rather enhance a recovery diet.

So yes, when eating for recovery you can make a dessert and eat it too.

Here is one to try that is perfect for the fall season and can be made with many variations of fruit.


Apple-Blueberry Crisp

This is a nutritious low-fat recipe. This crisp is high in fiber, biotin, and manganese. Any favorite fruit combinations will do.

Serves 10

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour or 3/4 cup barley flour and 3/4 cup soy flour

1/2 cup oats

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup iced apple juice

2 tablespoons apple juice

10 apples, preferably McIntosh, peeled, cored, and sliced

2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup crushed walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, and salt. Add the oil and with a fork stir the mixture until it resembles small peas. Add the iced apple juice a little at a time, adding just enough so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl into a rough ball. Press together with your hands, then return the dough to the bowl and set aside 10 minutes.

3. Break the dough into tiny pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, or until the dough is crunchy.

4. In a large pot, bring the apple juice to a boil over high heat. Add the apples and blueberries, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into an 8 x 8 X 2-inch baking dish.

5. Sprinkle the cooked dough and nuts over the fruit. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. You may want to put a piece of foil or a baking sheet under the pan, since the juices may bubble up and out of the pan onto the oven floor.

Variation: Peach-Strawberry Crisp: Substitute 12 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced, and 2 cups sliced strawberries for the apples and blueberries. Substitute 1/2 cup crushed pecans for the walnuts.

Variation: Pear Crisp: Substitute 10 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced, for the apples.

Note: You can substitute frozen blueberries if out of season and just bake a little longer as crisp may have more liquid. You can also cover with foil at the end if it browns too quickly on top.

Gluten Free: You can substitute a gluten free flour mix for the 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour. I love King Arthur’s Gluten Free “Measure For Measure Flour” as you can simply substitute equal parts (1-1) for an easy and convenient swap for conventional flours.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, H.C.


From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, H.C., Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Pasta in Recovery


Contrary to popular belief, pasta is low in calories and in fat, even though it is filling. Whole-grain pastas provide fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, niacin, and phosphorus. There are countless types of pastas and pasta dishes from virtually everywhere in the world. For example, pasta has been a staple of the Oriental diet for centuries, and the egg noodles we use in so many Eastern European dishes actually originated in the Orient.

  • In Japan, soba noodles and udon noodles are immensely popular while in China the universal favorites are mung bean noodles (often sold as bean thread or cellophane noodles).
  • And in the Middle East, couscous—a tiny grain-like pasta made from wheat—is served with many traditional meat or vegetable dishes.
  • But pasta found its niche and reached its peak in Italy, where it can be found in dozens of shapes and forms.

Although many of these popular pastas are made from highly processed flour (most notably durum semolina), there is an increasing variety of whole-grain pastas on the market.

The healthiest choices for those of us in recovery (and those who are not) are those made with whole-grain flours such as whole wheat, buckwheat, rice, soy, and quinoa, and also from vegetables such as spinach, beets, carrots, tomatoes, corn, Jerusalem artichokes, and potatoes. The recovery recipes found in our book “Food For Recovery 4th Edition” rely on such whole-grain pastas to make healthy low-fat dishes that will satisfy the most hearty appetite.


Here is one to celebrate National Pasta Day:


Linguine with Mushrooms and Peas 

Linguine with Mushrooms and Peas are a good source of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and chromium. Peas have almost no fat or sodium. One serving of fresh peas supplies the same amount of protein as an egg. They also provide vitamins C and B-complex, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.

Serves 4

12—16 ounces linguine or other noodles

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium shallots,

minced 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

2 cups fresh peas, cooked (see Note), or 2 cups fresh-frozen peas

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh dill or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well.
2. In the meantime, warm the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add up to 1/4 cup of stock or water. Add the peas and herbs, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.
3. Top the pasta with the vegetable mixture.

Note: To cook fresh peas, bring a pot of water to a boil, drop in the peas, and cook 5 minutes, or until softened but still a bit crunchy, or prepare by cooking in a vegetable steamer.

Note: Can be made gluten free by choosing a gluten free pasta such as brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, corn pasta, or even spaghetti squash.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, H.C.

From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, H.C., Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

The Blessing and The Curse

Blessing, Curse Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Blue Sky and Clouds.


“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” – Robert Benchley


As Dr. Beasley’s illness progressed and our conversations went from “if I die” to “when I die”, he presented me with a folder. As I opened the folder to find a stack of legal papers, he asked if I would promise to carry on his work and keep his legacy alive.

As I teared up he said in a southern drawl, “Darling this is not the time to cry, this is the time to listen” and he then gave me a list of things to do when he was gone. As I read the list and realized it would take me at least three lifetimes to accomplish it, I noticed that the last two things on the list were “Make it yours” and “Don’t change anything” which caused me to burst out laughing and crying at the same time. You see those two things summed up our relationship, I was always trying to “change things” and he was always trying to “keep things the same”.

For example, when twitter came along, I wanted to get him a twitter account which he promptly refused saying, “Darling, birds tweet, people don’t” and when I wanted to set up a blog for him, he said, “Why blog darling, when you can write the book?”.

It was during this dinner that he warned me for the first time that carrying on your mentor’s work and legacy can be both a blessing and a curse. While I understood the blessing part, I asked him about the “curse” which caused him to say with tears in his eyes, “you will see”.

A year after his death, with Peaches his beloved dog dying in my arms, I was finally able to see it clearly for the first time. While in my heart I knew he wanted Peaches cremated, my desire was to have her buried with her canine sister, Hope who passed a few months earlier. When I told Peaches it was ok to go to heaven and be with her daddy she opened her eyes and wagged her tail and that is when it became clear. I would have her cremated to honor Dr. Beasley’s wishes and then bury her later with Hope. While the blessings of carrying on your mentor’s legacy was easy to see, the “curse” was much harder, it was that persistent feeling of, “Am I carrying out his wishes?”.

Since Dr. Beasley’s passing, I have learnt to do both, “Make it mine” and “Don’t change anything”, as I discovered for me it was about merging Dr. Beasley’s dream and wishes with mine. For example, I have returned to school to finish the master’s degree which I put on hold when Dr. Beasley became ill but this time it was in health coaching not a MPH/MBA.

Now as I put the finishing touches on the fourth edition of “Food For Recovery”, I can see that I have truly “made it mine” while not “changing anything”. For example, while I have made the changes that I know in my heart needed to be made, I have not changed one of Chef Susan’s recipes but I did add a few of my own. So in the end I did actually ‘keep it the same” but “made it mine” and now I can say mission accomplished Dr. Beasley.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, H.C., B.Sc., P.T.A.