Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Filthy Clean Eating

In the last couple of weeks I have received some great questions, many around the topic of food. Proper nutrition is such an important part of every aspect of our lives: athletics, brain function, mood and even facilitating proper sleep patterns. While I do not claim to be any where near an expert on the topic, I'd love to dedicate this post to addressing some of the questions people have been asking about daily nutrition.

1) I understand what good foods and bad foods are, but I always backslide from my diet. How can I avoid this cheating pattern?

For me, this is pretty simple: I never diet. Dieting is temporary and when the diet is over old habits always return. Restricting calories or certain foods always seems to lead to injury from training without proper nutritional support. Bacon? Sure. Chocolate? Absolutely. What works for me is to eat foods in moderation- and this can be more sustainable over the long run. Total deprivation of anything is always temporary and good health should be long term. With that said, the less processed your food is, the better off you are. If it comes in a package, it probably isn't all that great for you and will do little to help you perform your best. If it doesn't look like it did when it grew in the garden, it has been processed. Choose whole raw foods including grains, fruits and veggies as well as local meats and dairy raised without hormones, steroids and antibiotics whenever possible.
Hand picking and freezing fruits and veggies is the way to go.

I also subscribe to the idea that even sweets can be part of a good diet- some are better for you than others. For me, no artificial sweeteners.  Ice cream with real sugar and cream, real butter, quality dark chocolate (sorry milk chocolate, no offense) and homemade desserts (made with a little less sugar than called for in the recipe) are all in the diet. Maybe I am just rationalizing my sweet tooth?
Homemade blueberry pie with hand picked berries. OK, so maybe not healthy, but it sure tastes good.


2) I also have young kids and can't get them to eat the healthy foods that I like. I just don't have time to make two meals so I end up eating kid food that I know is not great for me. How can I make time to eat healthy foods with kids and a job?

The kids love having choices when it comes to their salad
I used to try to make two meals- one for my husband and me and one for the kids. Inevitably, I would run out of time and just make mac-and-cheese for everyone or wind up "momposting" whatever scraps the kids didn't eat. A couple of years ago I decided that it was time that the kids started eating OUR food instead of us eating kid food. At first, the kids did protest but they are resilient creatures and they adjust.
The kids love beets, grapes, peppers and cukes, pomegranite, nuts, and carrots.
 One thing seems to work well is creating a salad plate that offers the kids a choice. Try assembling veggies, nuts, fruits, cheese, and whatever we have in the fridge into small piles and let everyone choose from each pile what to put in their "salad". The kids each have to choose a minimum of 3 options- although they usually choose more than 3 now. I get a little of everything for myself and everyone is happy! Sometimes kids just want to be empowered with choices.
Voila, yummy salad with all of my favorite things.
The same can be done with sauces and other toppings for other dishes. For example, marinate or  grill chicken plain for everyone and then make a sauce that can be added separately for adults or adventurous children.
Once in a while, there is always a place for a little Annie's mac-n-cheese... with a little sweet potato hidden in it of course.

3) What nutritional supplements should I use?
Ideally, it is best to try to get nutrients from real food rather than relying on vitamins or supplements. There are a few exceptions, however. The first is vitamin D. Several studies have indicated that in northern latitudes (ie. north of Atlanta) it is impossible for the body to make sufficient vitamin D from sunlight during the winter. If you have ever wondered about the importance of Vit D, check out this article- it is pretty compelling.


For most of us, 1,500 IU per day is appropriate but it is best to ask your doctor what amount is best for you.

Aside from that, I don't have a regular supplement regime. This summer, I began working with an amazing company that makes Simple Fuel and started using their products, which I have really enjoyed. If you are interested in an all natural real food-based supplement, I absolutely recommend trying this stuff. It has Omega's, fibers and antioxidants to help keep you naturally energized all day. On days when time is short and you are not able to eat all the healthy foods that you'd like, try the following shake using Simple Fuel:

 2 Tbsp Simple Fuel
1 small banana
1Tbsp natural peanut butter
a handful of frozen blueberries
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
handful ice cubes

Put everything in a blender and it is ready!

4) I am really good about making healthy choices for meals, but in the middle of the afternoon I get really hungry and I have trouble eating healthy. Life can be so busy, I get caught off guard and make last minute bad choices.

As someone who eats constantly, I can relate. Sometimes when the hunger button lights up and there is no decent food in sight, we resort to desperate measures. Whole, fresh food isn't always available. Let's face it, sometimes an apple doesn't do the trick anyway. I used to fill this void with bars. Clif Bars, Luna Bars, Powerbars, Builder Bars, etc. which are okay, but a little more processed than I'd like.

Here are a few quick pre-packaged options that are a little less processed and provide great mid-day energy. All are great alternatives to junky snacks.

1) Garuka bars (formerly Gorilla Bars). Garuka Bars are all natural and made with only 8 ingredients: Vermont raw honey, peanut butter, 7 whole-grain flakes, dried cranberries, brown rice puffs, light brown sugar, whole peanuts, and a teeny tiny bit of Vermont’s own Cabot butter.

2) Simple granola. I may be a little biased but this stuff is really great. Gluten free, all natural and raw granola. When you can't make you own, this is the next best stuff. I keep a bag of this in my backpack most days for emergency snacking. The snickerdoodle, original and crunchy are all great, I have yet to try the mocha chip and chocolate chip so those are next on my list.

3) Hammer Bars- In my opinion, Hammer nutrition makes the best of the prepackaged energy bars. Guten free, no refined sugars, and free of soy. The taste is good and it provides good clean energy.


  1. This is a great advice. I want to emphasize, there is no such thing as a "diet" that works. It's called a healthy lifestyle, a combination of exercise, good food, rest, and recreation, and like snowflakes, no two are the same.

    One point I would like to expand on is snacking, or sometimes called mini meals. Most people are great at meal planning, buying and preparing three good meals a day. What tends to be the challenge, for me and many others is planning the snacking, or what I call mini meals, which reminds me to have a balanced snack with protein, fat, and carbs. Planning and having healthy snacks with you at all times keeps us from making bad food choices most of the time. (I can't say I haven't ignored my healthy snack and indulged in something "bad"!!!!) Sometimes you just have to live.

    1. So true Aaron. Sometimes living comes before it all. Regret and worry = not worth it :)