Health and Wellness Blog

Exercise Reimagined: HIIT for Middle-Agers

by Priscilla McElveen, Healthful Life MD Personal Trainer

There is something about reaching “middle-age” that is rather shocking. You know it is coming, of course, but the first time a nice, young barista at the coffee shop calls you “Ma’am” or “Sir”, it is a little alarming. Your mind still identifies with a hip, twenty-year-old version of yourself, but somewhere along the way your life drifted. Now you have a job, responsibilities, a family, and exactly zero time to invest in things that were once a priority in your life—health and exercise many times topping that list.

You did not intentionally stop working out, but there simply is not enough time in the day to do everything. When time starts to gets squeezed, exercise seems like an easy thing to let go. It is for this exact reason that HIIT has become extremely popular.

At this point, many of you are asking the question, “What is HIIT?” The term has become a buzz word in the fitness community in the last few years, but many do not know exactly what is means.

High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT for short, is a system of organizing cardiorespiratory training which calls for repeated bouts of short duration, high-intensity exercise intervals intermingled with periods of lower intensity intervals or active recovery. Or in layman’s terms a series of brief all out work periods separated by active rest.

Long story short, this form of exercising is extremely effective because it gets your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time. For people who struggle to fit exercise into daily life, HIIT is an excellent solution. You do not need lots of equipment, specialized space or a lot of time. These workouts can be scaled and adjusted based on fitness level, time constraint and desired outcomes.

What does HIIT mean for you?

  • Traveling for work? No problem! HIIT workouts require very little, if any, equipment and can be done in a small space, so hotel rooms or pocket resort gyms are more than adequate.
  • Have a day filled with non-stop meetings and activities? No problem! A quick 10-20 minute HIIT workout can produce excellent results and get you on track to a healthier, happier you.
  • Feel like your body isn’t capable of moving faster than a walk? No problem! HIIT can be scaled to any ability level and can be adjusted up or down in intensity to address a wide variety of different fitness goals.
  • Get bored with the same old workout routine? No problem! You can change up HIIT in lots of different ways so your workouts stay exciting and keep you on your toes.

WORD OF CAUTION. HIIT is a great approach to exercise and is a wonderful fitness tool. It produces results and can help even the most unmotivated and busy people get going with a regular exercise routine. Something to keep in mind however is that, like many other things in life, HIIT will be most effective when combined with other kinds of fitness—cardio, weightlifting, stretching, etc. You will still see results regardless, but only when your workout routine is well rounded and incorporates HIIT along with other important styles of exercise will you truly be able to maximize your fitness results.

Just like in nutrition, eating Kale is a really good for you and provides many great nutrients to your body. However, eating only kale, does not give your body everything it needs. In the same way, HIIT is a great solution for people with a busy life, but without incorporating other elements of fitness into your routine, your body will lack in important areas.

With HIIT as an option, there really is no excuse not to be exercising! HIIT workouts are quick and effective and will leave you feeling great. Take it easy at first and ease yourself into the routine. As you get stronger you can start adding in more complex movements, increase the intensity and start adding on other kinds of fitness. You will be surprised how just a few minutes a week will start to transform your life and your body. You may still be middle-aged, but you certainly will not feel like it!

Interested in getting started with Hight-Intensity Interval Training? Visit my website Warrior Within Fitness, click on “At Home Warriors” and subscribe to get access to all my home workouts. Getting started with High-Intensity Interval Training has never been so easy!

Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.


Pea Hummus

Peas are a great spring vegetable, and this Pea Hummus recipe from Epicurious is an amazing and creative way to incorporate them into your menu. Add the hummus as a dinner side, or grab some for a quick snack. It is a bit sweeter than your traditional hummus, but is really delicious and the bright green color just makes you feel like spring!


  • 1 10 oz package frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Thaw frozen peas and drain if there is liquid left. Add cumin, cilantro and garlic (to taste) to a food processor and finely chop. Add peas, tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper and purée. You can use fresh mint instead of cilantro if you prefer—we would suggest using 1/4 cup mint rather than 1/2 cup as with the cilantro.

Serve and enjoy!


Weight Loss Food Rules Debunked

By Liz Daeninck, MS, RD – Registered Dietitian, Healthful Life MD

The internet is teeming with information about diet. Search engine results produce hundreds of articles suggesting rules for everything food related—foods you should never eat, foods you should eat, the best power foods, top 10 food rules, and on and on. While these articles are sometimes interesting, it is important to know what they suggest can be less than helpful.

Establishing rules for food consumption can be good, and is especially helpful when working to lose weight, but anytime you assign blanket rules (such as NEVER eat this food, etc.) to food and weight loss you risk your efforts backfiring. Just like when you were a kid and your mom told you to not do something, a lot of times you ended up doing the exact opposite.

Strict food rules leave you obsessing about things you otherwise would not think twice about, and ultimately, can cause you to reject guidelines about foods entirely, even the good ones. They also set the precedent for labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This is risky because it can drive you to evaluate self-worth based on what you eat. The food choices you make are irrelevant to the kind of person you are. What is important about food choices however, is understanding how certain foods impact you and make you feel.

Food is food. It is an object and as such, it does not warrant being identified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you label food as good or bad, you may start to judge yourself when you eat foods carrying such labels.

So what are my food rules for weight loss? In all honesty, I do not ascribe to specific food rules, but rather a set of guidelines for creating the awareness essential to making smart food choices and achieving health and weight goals. These guidelines are intended to add structure to what can otherwise seem overwhelming in your weight loss journey.

  1. Avoid certain foods and drinks: While working on weight loss, avoiding calorie dense, nutritionally poor foods and beverages will produce the best weight loss outcome while maintaining optimal health.
  2. Limit the variety of food options: Limiting the variety of food options available simplifies eating patterns and reduces the number of food decisions being made. This can be a very effective tool for weight loss.
  3. Reintroduce foods gradually: At the right time—which is different for everyone—slowly reintroducing foods in limited quantities helps in negotiating desired foods back into the regular diet in a strategic manner.
  4. Pay attention to how you feel: Food plays a powerful role in how we feel. As we eat different foods, it is important to understand how our body responds to them—positively and negatively.
  5. Note what impacts your intake: There are many reasons we consume food beyond the simple provision of nutrients and energy. Food can impact us on a variety of levels—emotionally, mentally and physically—and it is extremely important to be aware of those effects.

My approach as a dietitian is to help you live a richer, fuller and more active life by building awareness around how your environment, friends, family and circumstances impact your food choices and how foods make you feel. Understanding your body and how it responds to certain foods empowers you to make choices more suitable for overall health goals.

Once you experience the energizing feeling of altering your diet, chances are you will be eager to give up the foods that do not make you feel that way, even when they are foods that are loved.

In the end, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all food rules for weight loss. Following well-documented and effective guidelines, like the ones above, is an effective approach to working towards weight goals. With that being said, remember the number one, most powerful thing you can do in your weight loss journey is to develop an awareness of how food intake impacts you and makes you feel. This awareness will become your internal compass and has the ability to positively impact food choices and govern eating patterns.


Liz’s tips for achieving weight loss and maintenance goals:

  • Remember there are seasons in your weight loss journey. Rather than get frustrated because you have eliminated a food you love from your diet, consider that food temporarily on hold until you transition into your next season and can reevaluate if it fits your plan. You may be surprised by how your view, and even your taste buds change over time.
  • Pick and choose the foods that bring you joy. If you love chocolate, allow yourself one piece of chocolate each day, but limit the amount you eat.
  • Adjust your focus towards the foods you enjoy that make you feel awesome, rather than pouring energy into thinking about all the things you cannot or should not eat.
  • Refocus your energy into something other than your diet. By distracting yourself with your favorite hobbies or moving your body, you can distance yourself from an overwhelming focus on food and diet.
  • Be patient with yourself… changing what is your ‘normal’ takes a significant amount of energy and effort. Over time you will see change, but only with continued, consistent efforts.

Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.


Spring Fennel Salad


  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
  • 6 stalks of celery, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1 cara cara orange, segmented


  • 3 Tablespoons Champagne or White balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pistachios 5 minutes until oil and fragrance just begins to release. Mix dressing ingredients. Toss salad ingredients, cooled toasted pistachios and dressing.

Serve and enjoy!

What you need to know about your gut health

What is The Microbiome?


I recently read a study in the medical journal Gastroenerology, that has inspired me to geek-out a little on you to discuss the microbiome.  The microbiome is the collection of foreign cells, predominantly bacteria, that reside on and within us.  In fact, there are 100 trillion of these inhabitants in our bodies—about 3 pounds of them!  The microbiome can be beneficial to us, when we carry the right bacteria, or in some cases detrimental, when we carry the wrong bacteria.  New research has implicated these bacteria in disease processes as diverse as asthma, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.  The bacteria contribute to our immune system, gut health, and energy balance.


In terms of energy balance, studies on the microbiome suggest that obesity is impacted by the types of bacteria in the microbiome.  Specific types of bacteria are associated with harvesting excess energy—weight gain—and others are associated with reduced weight.  One study, using a mouse model, examined the idea of transplanting the microbiome of genetically obese mice into lean mice that were raised in such a way that they had no bacterial exposure, and therefore, no microbiome of their own.  The transplantation of the “obese” microbiome induced obesity in the lean mice, with no change in diet.


Certain bacterial species are also involved in up-regulating cells of the immune system, protecting us from harmful bacteria.  Other species produce butyrate which keeps the cells of the colon healthy and has an anti-inflammatory effect.  In examining the types of bacteria present in the microbiome of lean, healthy subjects, compared to obese subjects, the healthy subjects have a more diverse population of bacteria.  Lean, healthy subjects have increased populations of beneficial types of bacteria, while obese subjects have decreased populations of beneficial bacteria. In fact, obese subjects have more of the energy harvesting bacteria leading to a propensity to continue to gain weight.  They also carry more bacteria that have endotoxins, toxins that enter the body and lead to inflammation that may contribute to coronary disease and insulin resistance.


Nutrition has a significant impact on the types of bacteria that colonize our guts.  Diets high in sugar and fat decrease the diversity of the microbiome and also lead to predominance of species that harvest excess energy and species that produce endotoxins.  The bacteria that predominate with these diets also lack the anti-inflammatory effect of the beneficial bacteria and they do not up-regulate the protective immune functions either.


We also know from studies, that the microbiome is changeable.  In fact, changes in diet can lead to a change in the microbiome within 48 hours.  


The study I referred to initially, explored what we know about beneficial bacteria in the microbiome and the impact of nutrition on the system.  The study was small, only 22 cases and 20 control subjects, but the results are interesting and suggest the need for further research.  Researchers added inulin, a favorite “food” source of healthy bacteria, to the diet of 22 children ages 7 to 12 years old who are affected by obesity, and gave a placebo to 20 similar children as a control group.  After 16 weeks, with no changes to their diet, the children who received the inulin showed decreased weight, body fat percentage, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers compared to those who received the placebo.  Examination of the microbiome of the subjects demonstrated a significant increase in the beneficial species of bacteria in the inulin-receiving subjects compared to those who received placebo.  The researchers concluded that the prebiotic, the inulin,  selectively altered the microbiome leading to the improved health outcome measures.

This study, and others, suggest that we can improve our health by promoting the diversity of our microbiome and encouraging the growth of the more beneficial species of bacteria in our guts.  Here are some things you can do to welcome these healthy bacteria into your life:


  • Eat less fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates
  • Add prebiotics to your diet: fiber from whole grains, fruit, and vegetables
  • Avoid chemically processed foods
  • Eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Eat probiotic foods such as yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut, and pickles
  • Decrease stress—the unhealthy bacteria tend to increase in the presence of chronic stress
  • Get adequate sleep, at least 8 hours nightly—decreased sleep leads to overproduction of the energy harvesting bacteria in the microbiome
  • Exercise regularly—studies indicate that exercise increased the diversity of the microbiome and may increase the colonies of bacteria that produce butyrate


Dr. Abby

Lentil and Egg Stew


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, 5 finely chopped, 1 whole
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for frying
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups French or black beluga lentils
  • 1 (3×2-inch) piece Parmesan rind
  • 1 bunch large spinach, tough stems trimmed
  • 4 large eggs
  • Red wine vinegar and grated Pecorino (for serving)


Pulse onion, fennel, carrots, and chopped garlic in a food processor until soffritto is finely chopped. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pot over medium. Add soffritto, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 10–12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water if mixture is browning too quickly, until golden brown and very soft (it will look almost like a purée), 10–12 minutes. Add lentils and 6 cups water. Lay Parmesan rind on top (it may stick if it falls to the bottom). Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils are tender, 35–45 minutes, depending on type. Taste and season with more salt.

Meanwhile, place spinach in a glass bowl and add a splash of water and a pinch of salt. Microwave on high until bright green and slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Squeeze firmly to expel excess water, then cut in half. (If you don’t have a microwave, add the spinach directly to the pot and let it wilt slightly before making divots for eggs.) Thin stew with water by 1/4-cupfuls if needed to loosen. Scatter wilted spinach across the top.

Using the back of a spoon, create 4 divots in surface of stew and drop an egg into each. Cover pot and simmer stew very gently just until eggs are set, 8–12 minutes.

Carefully divide stew and eggs among bowls, add a splash of vinegar to each, and top with Pecorino.

Do Ahead: Stew (without eggs and spinach) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

YIELD: 4 servings

Recipe courtesy Epicurious

Veggie Packed Apres-Ski Chili

This is a veggie packed, healthy recipe that will fill your tummy with warmth and something your whole family will love!


  • 2 TBSP Avocado Oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken, ground buffalo (or add addition 15 oz can of beans for vegetarian chili)
  • 1 (15-ounce can) whole kernel corn (no salt or sugar added)
  • 1 (15-ounce can) no salt diced tomatoes
  • 2 (15-ounce can) your favorite beans (I used adzuki and pinto)
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 orange pepper chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper chopped
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large zucchini chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery chopped
  • 11 oz pureed tomato or 11 oz tomato juice
  • 1 cup bone broth (or vegetable broth if vegetarian)
  • 2 garlic cloves


  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped avocado

Spice Mix

  • 2 TBSP Chili powder
  • 1 TBSP sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


Heat 1 TBSP avocado oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Cook the ground chicken in hot oil stirring until crumbly. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Add 1 TBSP oil to the hot Dutch oven. Cook onion and celery until onions are clarified then add peppers and zucchini. Stir until slightly softened and colors are still bright. Add spice mixture and garlic and stir to lightly cook until all the vegetables are coated. Add tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, beans, and 1/2 cup-1 cup of broth for desired texture (the chili will thicken a little as it cooks). Simmer, covered for 40-45 minutes, stirring frequently. Ladle chili into bowls and top with yogurt, cilantro, avocado or other desired toppings.

Spicing Up Your Recipes

Making your own spice blends at home can save time when you are trying to prepare more fresh meals at home. I like to prepare my own spice blends because I can control the salt content and I can avoid added ingredients that I don’t want, such as MSG. Did you know MSG can be added to spice mixes under many different names? MSG does not have to be listed on products, but can be present when hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, and yeast extract are listed. Other ingredients that may contain free glutamic acid include sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, soy protein isolate, malt extract, and others. If you make your own mixes, you can avoid some of these added ingredients.

I like to make quadruple recipes of my favorites and keep them in airtight labeled jars in my pantry for quick and easy midweek meals. I small amount of rubs on chicken, fish, or pork, really enhances the flavor of proteins. They can also be tossed with vegetables and olive oil to change the flavor of your roasted or sautéed vegetables.

You can capture the flavors of a specific country utilizing the spices of that region.

For example:
Europe: chervil, chives, tarragon, and parlsey.
India: turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper.
Latin America: ancho chile, paprika, cumin, and Mexican oregano.
Middle East: dried rose petals and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cumin
China: star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, cassia, and clove (Chinese Five Spice)

My family’s favorite spice blend is a cocoa rub that I most often use on pork. The caramelization of the pork sweetens the blend just enough, and the fragrance is wonderful!

Cocoa Spice Rub
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon coriander
4 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoons sea salt

I usually double or triple the recipe when I make it and keep it in a bag (or you could use one of your jars!) to use whenever I want it. I will usually grill when I use it, but baking works as well. It is a wonderfully rich flavored rub and does better with hearty food like pork or beef or fatty or meaty fish like salmon, halibut, swordfish.

Let Food Be Your Medicine

I love this article that shows a shift in healthcare from treatment of disease to prevention.   I practiced primary care for many years, caring for both adults and kids.  When I saw kids for well-visits, I started asking them to name 5 vegetables that they like to eat.    Not surprisingly, they often could not.    I encouraged them to pick a new vegetable to try at each grocery shopping trip until they could come up with five.   Out of curiosity, I started asking my adult patients if they could name five vegetable that they liked to eat.  Remarkably, many of my adult patients could not name five either!   I shifted my questioning in practice from “Are you eating a healthy diet?” to the more specific “Do you eat 3 servings of vegetables daily.”   Many patients who said they eat a healthy diet, when asked specifically, report that they do not eat a minimum of three servings of vegetables daily, which would constitute a healthy portion of vegetables.


As I pressed further, it became clear that one of the major limiting factors for a healthy diet was that people did not cook real food at home.  In our very busy lives, many people feel that cooking at home is too time consuming, and choose a box, a frozen or processed meal, or eating out for convenience. These processed foods often contain sugar, excessive salt, and unhealthy forms of fat that make us unhealthy and contribute to other health issues.  I discovered that if I problem-solve with patients by discussing meal planning, recipes, food preparation tips, they were grateful and then felt confident to start to change their eating patterns.


In my current practice, reviewing recipes and cooking tips and techniques inspires my patients and gives them confidence in the kitchen.  I have loved the opportunity to teach cooking classes and nutrition as part of my medical weight loss program, and I am thrilled to have Chef Dee Iraca as part of my Team to create fast and flavorful recipes that are also healthy.  We love to hear when patients and participants in the class tell us with pride how they made the recipes from the class to the delight of their family and friends.   As a physician, the other great reward of helping people learn to cook fresh whole foods to improve their nutrition is that they become healthier and live better.  After changing their diet, my patients quickly report decreased pain and increased energy, their blood pressure and blood sugars go down, and I can decrease or take them off medications!   Food is medicine, offering prevention and treatment both!

Link to article:

Dr. Abby

Dr. Abby Bleistein Medical Weight Loss Denver Healthful Life MD






Paleo Spiral Vegetable Tart

A crumbly gluten-free low carb spiral vegetable pie with a dairy-free cashew cream.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: Two 9” pies, 16 slices
Calories: 282 kcal



  • 2-4 eggplants about 550g
  • 4 zucchini/summer squash about 600g
  • 2 carrots about 400g
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Cashew Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for 6 hours and drained
  • 1 tbsp organic lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

Gluten-free Pie Crust

  • 4 cups blanched almond flour
  • 4 tbsp beef tallow or vegetable shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


Cashew Cream
Combine all of the cashew cream ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a smooth paste forms.

Gluten-free Pie Crust
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, pepper, beef tallow and eggs. Mix together either with your hands or a silicone spatula until the mixture forms into a ball. Separate into 2 since we’re making two pies.

Place the dough over a sheet of parchment paper and cover with another sheet of parchment paper. With a rolling pin, slowly start rolling it into a circle shape, about 10-11 inch wide, large enough to fill a 9’’ glass pie plate. Peel the top parchment paper and carefully flip the dough over the pie plate. With the paper still on, press the paper right against the pie plate so that the dough sticks to the plate. Carefully peel the paper off and fix any issues you may have. Repeat with the second pie.
Spread 1/2 the cashew cream onto the bottom of each pie.

Vegetable Roulade
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

Peel the carrots and cut the stems off all the veggies. With a mandolin slicer, thinly slice all of the vegetables lengthwise. Blanch the vegetables briefly in boiling water to soften them, and shock them in an ice bath. Tightly roll one slice of zucchini into a tight circle and wrap a couple more slices around. Place it in the middle and start wrapping and rolling random slices of vegetables around the pie until you reach the crust. The carrots will be the hardest to wrap as they’re less flexible than the rest of the veggies. Drizzle a tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with half the salt and pepper over the entire pie. Repeat this process for the 2nd pie.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until the crust starts to brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Recipe Note: Alternate between different coloured vegetables to get a different coloured pie.

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