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Top Trends in Food

To say I am a bit anxious…..might be an understatement.

Summer is winding down. School is starting up (virtually). Wildfires are raging in my state of California and, and, and…..

What helps me calm down? 
Summiting peaks with friends and knowing I have the food to fuel the weekly adventures (big and small).

I am pleased to say a number of innovative food companies are working hard to make eating healthy simplier. They hire me to do the nutrition thinking for them and then pass it on to you! Without giving away any secrets I can tell you that the biggest trends in ‘eating’ are animal-free food options, meal delivery services, and nutrient dense foods.

Here is a word or two on each of these trends:

I am not a vegetarian. I am however,a lover of variety and often mix in animal-free with animal foods. For example, sometimes I go full-on beef burger and other times, I reach for a meat alternative just to mix it up. You don’t have to be one or the other. You can enjoy the nutrient variety from healthy options in both categories. You don’t even have to identify as a ‘flexitarian’ ! You can just be eating as you!

Meal Delivery Services
There are a number of meal delivery services these days. I subscribe to Daily Harvest and limit the delivery to about every ten weeks. This keeps my freezer stocked with options when I am short on preparation time. With kids back to school, having this simple shortcut to nutrient dense, organic food is worth it.

Nutrient Dense Food Pairing
Back in my early Clif Bar & Company days, LUNA BAR had been fortified with one-hundred percent of the the  Daily Value (DV)for twenty-three vitamins and minerals. This was what I called the “Total Cereal Syndrome” and it was too much. No one food is meant to provide you with all your nutrient requirements. After some research on average nutrient intakes and deficiencies, we were able to improve taste and bring the vitamins and minerals to a level that wouldn’t just be lost in the toilet. 

Different foods provide varied nutrients, portions, and absorption rates. Increase your daily nutrient density with a variety of fresh foods preparied in variety of different ways (raw, cooked, blanched, bake, sauteed) and you will likely meet your nutrient needs. 

Click on the buttone below to download my go-to food pairings listed as seven different meal options. I also included a grocery list and some of my favorite cooking resources! 

Learn to eat in a way that feeds your everyday adventures and also your epic adventures!

  • For simple questions with complex answers, I offer affordable email coaching CLICK HERE  

For a deep dive in developing a personalized approach to eating see what I offer HERE

I offer a simple genetic test that will help you eat in alignment with your genes

clear glass container with coconut oil

Coconut oil is healthier than what?

Coconut oil has been getting health benefit praise for a while and, often makes headlines as a “healthier” fat. The real question we should be asking is “healthier than what?”

From a nutritional standpoint, the best-added fat is from a monounsaturated source. Why? Because replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats serves the nutritional purpose of lowering blood cholesterol and improving heart health. Dietary recommendations from all leading health organizations emphasize a diet low in saturated fat. When it comes to impacting health, at best, coconut, palm, cocoa butter, and dairy fats may have a neutral impact on heart health and some anti-inflammatory properties. In cooking and food production however, a saturated fat is often needed for taste, texture, and melting point. Perhaps, in that case a saturated fat high in medium-chain triglycerides is the better option. Let’s look a little deeper.

Oils contain a mix of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. This mix impacts everything from melting point to healthfulness. This chart below provide a good visual of fatty acid content in various oils.

Monounsaturated fats are dubbed the “healthy fats” because they help to reduce inflammation and lower risk of heart disease.

Fats with high amounts of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Almond oil
  • High oleic sunflower oil
  • Avocado oil
  • High oleic safflower
  • Hazelnut oil
  • Canola oil

What about fat sources with high amounts of polyunsaturated fats? 

These fats contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids and are very prevalent in the American food supply. At one time it was suggested that people cut back on sources of omega-6 to improve heart-healthy ratios of omega-3:omega-6. An improved ratio is better achieved by increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish are the primary source of omega-3’s which is why I am a fan of adding sardines and anchovies to sandwiches, salads and topped on crackers with cheese.

Fats with higher amounts of polyunsaturated fat for consideration include:

  • Grapeseed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Hemp Seed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Wheat germ

Of course, soybean and corn oil is most often sourced from genetically engineered crops that require more pesticides to kill superweeds. If you are looking to avoid genetically engineered ingredients purchase, oils that are certified organic and read ingredient lists on labels.

Levels of Saturated Fat in a Healthy Diet

Saturated fat is in our food supply. It adds flavor and texture. I certainly add coconut oil for flavor and occasional substitute for butter or lard. It doesn’t need to be completely avoided, just limited.

Leading agencies continue to recommend a diet low in saturated fat. The guidelines are:

  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the World Health Organization, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics all recommend that saturated fats shouldn’t exceed 10% of total calories. On a 2000 calories eating plan that suits most people that is a limit  22 grams of saturated fat per day
  • Guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend limiting saturated fat intake even further, to less than 7% for the general population, and 5% to 6% for those with high LDL cholesterol. For a 2,000-kcal eating plan that is a 11-15 grams limit of saturated fat.

Isn’t coconut oil “healthy fat” because it contains MCTs?

Coconut oil is highly saturated, with higher saturation than butter or lard. All saturated fats are not created equal, however. Their fatty acid chains vary!

This is what makes coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, and dairy fat interesting. 

These fats are mostly saturated with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Research done on heart disease and saturated fat has not included sources high in MCT like coconut oil. Whether or not saturated fats containing mostly MCT’s are detrimental to health is controversial. There is not enough research to villainize these oils specifically or to make them a “health food” as coconut oil has been made out to be in health and nutrition media.

My Bottom Line

Saturated fats high in MCT’s are better for you than saturated fats with low MCT’s because they likely neither raise or lower cholesterol. They are also thought to be an alternative source of energy during exercise but have not shown any performance improvements when combined with carbohydrates. When consumed as the single source of fuel, performance declines.

Saturated fats with MCT’s are not healthier than poly or monounsaturated options. So don’t go replacing olive, almond, avocado, or high oleic sunflower seed oil for coconut oil. 

Confused about what fat ingredients to add to add to your food? Let me help!

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Email nutrition coaching is right for you if:

  • You have clear questions that need answers or a situation you’d like advice about.
  • You’re good at organizing your thoughts in writing.

Food Company Advisory

Making foods that serves the health, wellness, and performance nutrition market?

Need nutrition guidance?

Video/ Coaching

  • You have a more complex need that requires thorough and comprehensive approach
  • You want personalized recommendations and plans
  • You are interested in your genetic response to dietary componenets like fat and calories

Three Elements to Building Body and Planet Resilence with Food

My work as a nutrition advisor for active individuals and food companies centers around improving the health of people and the planet. I do this by helping food companies make foods that serve a sound nutrition purpose AND by coaching people to fuel wildly active lifestyles. 

Why wildly active? 
Wild is a reference to trying something beyond your normal comfort zone and outdoors. Active is in reference to moving your body, not because you have to but because it feels good. 

Why make foods with nutrition purpose?
There are already plenty of junk foods in every category on the shelves. Making foods that taste good and deliver a benefit to the body can help active people living with purpose apply the tactics below. The three tactics are common practice for the world’s most successful athletes. They are beneficial for those who may not consider themselves “athletes” too but, I contest that if you have a body, you are an athlete.

Let’s talk about the nutrition purpose your food company delivers on and how to share that purpose with your audience! Schedule a free exploratory session here  or email me directly at

Three Elements to Building Body and Planet Resilence with Food


#1 The amount of food you eat is basically about not eating too much or too little. Eating too much puts the body at risk of carrying more weight and straining its systems. This doesn’t mean you have to be skinny. You can be healthy and fit at any size you feel most comfortable. Eating too few calories also puts a strain on the body systems and puts it at greater risk for nutrient deficiencies. Eat in a way that fuels the activity you are doing. If you would like help figuring out how the amount of food your body requires, book a session with me or reference this tool I help to create!

#2 The quality of food is of critical importance. You may need 2400 calories per day but, what is the best way to spend those calories. First, spend them on the foods that nourish you body and all the things you demand of it. I call these impactful calories. More nutrients per calorie equal more impact! This doesn’t mean counting calories. It does mean eating a colorful variety of food with different tastes, textures, and temperatures. 

#3 TIming eating occasion throughout the day is tactic athletes apply to make the most out of their workouts. Whether or not you consider yourself an athlete, your daily performance can also be improved by spreading foods out throughout the day in ‘small more frequent eating occasions’. This tactic provides a steady stream of nutrients to your brain and muscles all day long. 

For more behaviors that can help support performance, resilience, and health read my short series on Three Performance Nutrition Behaviors:

Performance Nutrition Behavior Number One: Eat!

Performance Nutrition Behavior Number Two: Determine Your Higher Purpose

Performance Nutrition Behavior Number Three: Stop Comparing Your Food Choices with Others

Four Things to Consider When Making or Eating Food

I advise individuals and companies on the integration of nutrition purpose into both individual food planning and commercial product development. I have written extensively about nutrition purpose as it relates to our individual food choices. I have even taught classes on it! Now I would like to turn your attention to the grocery store shelves and the consumer packaged goods’ in the health, wellness, and performance nutrition category.

The shelves are lined with foods that are pure junk or what my kids and I call fake food. Don’t get me wrong, I am not righteous about this in any way. Junk food finds it’s way into our tummies on occasion. I let my kids experiment and spend their own money on such junk but, they eat it with full transparency to its junk-ness. We look at the ingredients to confirm that, yep, nothing in here that serves a health and wellness purpose inside my body.

What really gets me are the foods that nutri-wash. These are foods made to meet criteria for putting claims like high-protein, less- sugar, or plant-based on their package but a look at the ingredient list reveals junk like artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or sweeteners.

Assuming food companies really do want to deliver foods that make a meaningful dietary impact on their eaters, I have set out on a mission to help them deliver on that promise. I do this by applying my Four Point Method.

This method shifts development from claims-driven to purpose-driven. It is a subtle but important shift. For example, instead of focusing on making a food high in protein, shift to making foods that serve the nutrition purpose of muscle health.

Based on my years of experience as the leading nutrition strategist at the world’s most successful, privately owned energy bar company and working with a variety of other companies since, I have seen my Four Point Method result in nutritiously sound food with truthful marketing that stands the test of time and competition.

The method is simple and can be worked through when making a totally new product or in creating transformational marketing content:

Step One: Determine the nutrition purpose of your food, ingredients, or entire product line

Step Two: Determine the nutrition principles that support the purpose.

Step Three: Identify preferences of your audience and marketl place

Step Four: Plan what ingredients to use to meet the purpose, how you will explain the food’s value and key attributes that are worth amplifying to your audience.

The Four P’s also help align the team around nutrition from the beginning. The result is a nutritionally beneficial food based on a rock-solid nutrition platform. This opens the door for truthful nutrition that can be amplified with confidence and differentiated from the competition!

If you are working on a food, program, or technology in the health, wellness, and performance market download my Four Point Method framework below to get started in purpose-driven development

Non-Alcoholic Beer as a Hydrating Option for Adventure!

Let’s talk about beer. For outdoor athletes, beer is pretty much part of the culture. Most events have a local brew on hand to celebrate big finishes like trail races on bike or foot. When it comes to celebrating the completion of an epic effort or adventure Sufferfest has built its brand around this very idea!

Alcohol and athletic performance don’t always play well together. Alcohol can slow recovery post workout and may make you feel groggy and bloated. If you are partaking in a mid-day workout while also working from home, you want to come back focused and clear headed, something that alcohol can also distract from.

The solution? Literally. There is a new game in town with non-alcoholic beer that actually tastes so good you want to drink it. Before I get into the nuances, let me just say, I just recently began enjoying really hoppy flavors.

It took me until now, in my mid-forties to discover beer that I actually like drinking. The hoppier the better! The beer people drank in college tasted like pissed-in water, had loads of empty calories, and made me feel tired and bloated. This left me wondering, “Why do people drink this?” This understanding probably got me through college safely.

After a long run or ride on a hot summer day, I begin craving the bitter brew chillin’ in my fridge. We have all heard the folklore that beer is actually good for recovery and, while one beer won’t hurt your recovery, beyond one beer, and the alcohol can begin to interfere with the recovery process.

Beer is about as hydrating as water according to research that looked into the hydration capacity of different beverages (1) but, again, drink too many and the impact of the alcohol will diminish the hydrating impact.

Beer does contain some carbohydrates which will help with absorption and retention of fluid but, most of the calories in beer are from the alcohol itself (7 calories per gram). Alcohol metabolism will take priority over carbohydrate metabolism which can impair how quickly your body replenishes glycogen reserves (stored energy in muscles) and slow down muscle recovery.

All and all there really isn’t a case for alcohol in recovery.

I subscribe to my own philosophy of eating (and drinking) with purpose. While most often the purpose is performance and nourishment. Sometimes, however, the purpose is a celebration or relaxation. In those times I reach for an IPA much to my husband’s surprise and disgust. He does not like IPA.

Today I find myself craving the hoppy carbonation after a run our a workout but, I don’t want alcohol after every run! Until recently I tried to fill this hydration craving with kombucha or sparkling water which aren’t even close. Kombucha is too sweet and sparkling water can be guzzled but not as a hops replacement.

Then I discovered a non-alcoholic (NA) beer that seemed to be made just for me! The Athletic Brewing Company makes (NA) beer that actually tastes good! The IPA is actually called Run Wild. I mean come on?! As an endurance enabler and promoter of living wildly active lifestyles, was this beer not made for me?

It is a beer that tastes like beer without the alcohol so you can drink it and reap the benefits of recovery from the carbohydrate and phytonutrients! A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (2) demonstrated that NA beer had anti-inflammatory properties that reduce risk of respiratory illness that can occur after hard efforts.

I definitely avoid mid-day and usually mid-week alcohol because it can make me feel groggy and slow me down. Now I reach for Run Wild to quench my thirst and rehydrate me so I can stay focused and ready to get after my next adventure!

Full disclosure: I love this product and brand so much that I applied to be an ambassador for the company! I only work with and promote brands whose values and products I admire and use myself. So I am proud to say I am an Athletic Brewing Company ambassador and, as a registered dietitian nutritionist, give it my seal of approval for postive hydration!

If you are interested in giving it a try, use this code for twenty percent off your first purchase from The Athletic Brewing Company online store: Code TARA20

Now this isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy a good class of wine, mixed drink, or Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed from time to time. If you are wondering how to enjoy these libations check out my fellow dietitian’s Instragram Video for some really solid tips!

  1. Ronald J Maughan, Phillip Watson, Philip AA Cordery, Neil P Walsh, Samuel J Oliver, Alberto Dolci, Nidia Rodriguez-Sanchez, and Stuart DR Galloway Am J Clin Nutr 103: 717-723, 2016

2. Scherr, J., Nieman, D.C., Schuster, T., Habermann, J., Rank, M., Braun, S., . . . Halle, M. (2012). Nonalcoholic beer reduces inflammation and incidence of respiratory tract illness. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44(1), 18–26.

Three Things to Anwer Before Braving the Grocery Store

Reduce time, touch, and therefore exposure in the grocery store by asking (and answering) these three questions to plan for an efficient, low touch trip to purchase the nourishment you need.

What should I eat during a global crisis of isolation? 

What should I have stocked in my kitchen right now?

How should I approach grocery shopping during the Covid-19 crisis?

Look for the button below to download seven simple meals and a grocery list that I use in my own household!

What should I eat during a global crisis of isolation? 
My currency is nutrition. But as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I have never really enjoyed telling people what they “should eat.” What happens when I tell people exactly what to eat is that they may follow it for a while like a diet or a plan that they stop and start. Food is not something you stop and start. Food is necessary nourishment to enable our bodies to do all we demand of them. 

Isolating at home asks us to shift our mindset to purpose-driven food choices. We can design deliciously for a nourishing offensive that will also defend our bodies if we get sick. In isolation, this means going back to our kitchens and learning how to use available nourishment. Plan like you have never planned before. Planning will help you to make sure you have ingredients on hand to make nutritious meals. Plan to eat three small meals and three snacks each day. Keep meals simple with protein, grains, and plenty of vegetables. 

Snack on fresh fruit between meals first. Fruit is a super multi-tasking food that provides water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and good energy. If hunger between meals still hits, add a protein source like nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, or our house favorite, sardines on thin-stack rice cakes! Stocked in the pantry, sardines are a great source of protein and have immune-boosting omega-3 fatty acids that are in short supply in the American diet. Salty, crunchy, and sweet cravings will emerge. Don’t deny them. Simply limit your packaged foods snacks to once per day. If you want potato chips, my personal favorites are salt and pepper Kettle Chips. Take the bag out of the pantry, put some in a small bowl, tie up the top of the chip bag, and put it back in the pantry. This shifts from mindless snacking to the (gasp!) bottom of the bag while you are watching Netflix on the couch to purposeful snacking to meet a reasonable afternoon craving with intention. 

Cook simple meals. My favorites are bowls, potato bar, and stir fry. Each of these meals has ingredients you can interchange, vary throughout the week, and make ahead of time. Have a solid pantry stock of your favorite grains. For me, that is brown rice, chickpea pasta, and quinoa. Because potatoes are so starchy, I interchange those for grains and have a bulk bag of sweet potatoes and russet potatoes on hand. Chickpea pasta may be new to you, but I love it because it has similar taste and texture to wheat pasta but also has fiber and protein. I love foods that multitask with multiple nutrients for a more nourishing impact.

What should I have stocked in my kitchen right now?
Stock up. Don’t hoard, thank you very much. I like a pantry that goes three-to-four cans deep for my family of four. The idea is to have what you need on hand for as long as possible to limit trips to the store and time in the store. If you are currently “one deep” for items on your shelf, build it up over time. You don’t need to go to the store right now and buy it all at once. Think canned tuna, chicken, salmon, and anchovies.  

Keep frozen vegetables and fruits on hand for morning smoothie time. At my house, smoothies include spinach, mango, berries, a scoop of collagen, and a scoop of maca root. Finding a stocked frozen foods aisle may be hit and miss right now, so get what you can, when you can. You can also freeze fresh vegetables to use the next week.

Protein options to stock the pantry depend on whether or not you are vegetarian. Personally, I am “flexitarian,” eating plenty of protein variety from both plants and animals. Include a variety of beans (white, chickpea, kidney, pinto, black beans) and lentils. If you buy them dried, soak before cooking. You might have more time on your hands to do that nowadays. 

You can also stock protein in the freezer, purchased already frozen or fresh-to-frozen when you get it home. Baked tofu and tempeh, in fact, have a better texture after being frozen, thawed, drained, dried, and baked in the oven. Try Yottam Ottolenghi’s fan-fave tofu recipe, popular for even the non-tofu eater, on page 44 of Plenty. I actually have yet to make it with peppercorns and onions. Instead, I add whatever fresh veggie I have on hand and season with garlic. Of course, if you are a meat eater, buy in bulk and freeze.

Once you have the shelf-stable and freezer items sorted and stocked, you can make quick, efficient trips for fresh fruits and vegetables. You might also have a local delivery or pick-up option for these items, like a community veggie box or local food hub. Fresh produce is the best preventive medicine. In a bowl, you can add endless sides of roasted, steamed, and sauteed options. Dig out the cookbook, follow the instructions, and you will discover it is easier than you think. You have the time. Experiment, but don’t burn it and waste valuable nourishment! 

How should I approach grocery shopping during the Covid-19 crisis?
When I finally did have to brave the public and go to the grocery store, I had a panic attack in the parking lot.

It is hard to know what will be out. Stay flexible by knowing some alternatives ahead of time. I will also tell you that from now on, I am going with the Austrian recommendation that says anyone going into the grocery store must have a cover for nose and mouth. Here in the mountains, a simple buff does the job if there are no masks. 

Having a plan and a list saved me. I looked at my list and said to myself,  “What if I only have emotional wherewithal to get through part of the list? What is the most important?” 

Here are my must-haves:


  • Sweet potatoes, (Or if there are none, any potatoes.)
  • Rice
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Rice cakes


  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries


  • Greens for salads and sides


  • Eggs (And if there are none: bacon, tofu, pork, chicken–fresh is best but canned if all out)
  • No-eggs alternatives for baking: ground flaxseed, apple sauce, bananas
  • Milk or milk equivalent (Soy milk is the closest, nutritionally.)
  • Beans
  • Peanut butter (Or sunflower seed alternative for allergies

Freezer Items

  • Frozen fruits and veggies for smoothies

Fats for sauteing, baking, or roasting

  • Olive oil
  • Butter or coconut oil
  • Sunflower seed oil


7 Things to Reduce Mindlessly Munching Through SIP

My teenage son had finished breakfast and less than one hour later was neck-deep in the pantry that is carefully stocked to reduce grocery store trips. “Get out of the pantry” I screeched!

Was he hungry already? No! Like many of us, he was looking to step away from the work at his computer and snacking his way through the pantry seemed to be a good distraction.

Snacking is great! I am all for snacking. Eating every two to three hours throughout the day is a way to curb hunger before the “hangry”, make better food choices, and sustain energy even when on lockdown.

If you are a grazer, don’t feel bad about it. Just make sure you are well stocked with nutritious foods that boost your health and energy! Grazing is actually genetic.

Have you ever wondered why some people can go hours without eating and be just fun while others turn into Dr. Jeckyl? Their genes could have the answer. The gene (MC4R) is associated with appetite regulation and is one gene on the nutrition genetic profile I have completed with hundreds of athletic individuals. Certain variants associated with this gene could mean you are more likely to be hungry more often.

No matter what your genetic make-up, being prepared to snack with intention will help curb the urge to snack simply because you are looking for something else to do.

Here are eight behaviors to help shift mindless munching into intentional nourishment:

1. Eat in a way you feel proud of. 

No apologies or excuses. Including fruits and vegetables at each meal or noshing on carrots as an afternoon snack is something to be proud. Devouring a bag of chips while you make dinner for the family probably isn’t your proudest nutrition moment.

2. Pause Before Eating

Pause and take a moment to ask what intention this food is serving. Place no judgement on the intention. It could simply be that it is time for something crunchy. Maybe it is time for a apple to fill the energy gap between breakfast and lunch.

3.  Acknowledge that food can offer comfort and nutrition

Comfort food and nutritious food are not mutally exclusively. A warm soup on cold day is a gread example. Sprinkling that soup with cheese delivers flavor comforts as well as protein.

4. Think of your snacks as mini meals

Think of snacking as a good opportunity to sneak in more nutrients. Take advantage of your snacking time by applying a fruit first approach. I often speak to having a strong nutrition baselayer. Fruit is a nutrient-dense baselayer food to eat two to three times per day to help you meet nutrient needs like fiber and vitamin C, baselayer nutrients that make for a strong foundational diet.

 5. Follow this  simple equation for an energy-sustaining & hunger satiating snack:

Fiber + Protein and/or Healthy Fat = Nourishing Snack

6. Listen to your body for hunger cues

Are you reaching for a snack because you’re really hungry or because you’re sad, bored, frustrated, or tired? Check back on #2 above. Is it hunger you are feeding or a feeling? If it is a feeling, ask yourself if a walk outside or journaling might be more impactful than eating.

7. Use a “What to Eat When Framework”

Plan ahead what you will eat, when you will eat it, and how you will make sure you have it. Offer a simple nutrition guide and workbook to help you think this through. It is a simple yet powerful table that helps you make a routine of healthy snacking. Download it here

Ultimately, we know what to eat. Using your inner dietitian and common sense will help you answer the question of what to eat when. Also, be kind to yourself and do the best you can to stay healthy.

Eating with Purpose

The last few weeks have been wild and tremendously new to everyone! Some people are discovering for the first time that they have kitchens. Some people have started making sourdough bread starters because there is no yeast in stores, and some are now in competition for commercially supported agriculture farm boxes that no one new existed before!

Generally, Wednesday is my blog sharing day and Tuesday is my day to tell you about things I have discovered that are (subjectively) cool or interesting. BUT, as the world is scrambling, so am I. Maybe this is time for my inconsistent posting to thrive instead! Here’s to keeping on our toes!

There are so many “immunity boosting” diets and gimmicks emerging right now, I want to take this moment to remind everyone that none of that even matters ever you are not functioning off a solid nutrition foundation based on sound nutrition principles and a strong purpose. So instead of mindlessly munching. Lots set a foundation of eating with purpose and go from there.

The idea of eating with purpose didn’t hit me until well into adulthood. After abruptly and traumatically becoming a mother for the first time, purpose became clear. My son was born early at twenty-six weeks into my pregnancy (which is typically 40 weeks for those not in the know). So really, really early. Before this event, I stressed and fretted over what foods I could or could not eat, over gaining too much weight too soon in the pregnancy, and if my body would ever be the same. Until pregnancy eating was a function of ‘looking like a runner’ instead of being a runner. After the first year of motherhood, it was clear. No matter what I ate or how I looked I was both a runner and a mother. Only things of true importance stayed in my life. That did not include being stuck in my head about food.

Purpose permeates my personal approach to eating and my work. When advising a food company on the development of food or personalize a nutrition approach for an athlete, we start with purpose.

More energy for the things you love

Psychic energy is a real thing. Actual glucose is used in making decisions and problem-solving. Conserving psychic energy for the most important things is kinda like conserving glucose for energy in an ultra-race. Eating with purpose begins the development of an automatic roadmap on what to eat. It doesn’t make food good or bad and, once you are on a path, it requires less and less of your decision making energy so you can save up for the big stuff like running mountains or chasing your kids around the ski hill!

The same goes for developing food that supports active lifestyles. I advise food companies to determine what purpose the food they want to create will serve. That purpose could be anything from curbing mid-day munchies to fueling one-hundred-mile races. Once the brand and development team lands on a purpose, the path ahead for choosing ingredients, servings sizes, packaging and everything else involved come into view. Purpose makes the whole process more efficient.

What is eating with purpose? It is eating in a way that aligns with your intentions to be your best at something. The steps to eating with purpose look like this:

  • Set your intention
  • Make no food forbidden 
  • Take a mental note of the purpose of the food serves towards that intention 
  • Recognize what the food will do for the body such as build, protect, energize, satisfy a craving, celebrate, or something else. 

Food is so multifaceted. As much as I think its sole purpose is about nourishing activity, for most, it is much more than that.

In today’s society food is also about enjoyment, celebration, and community. Most of my eating occasions are centered around being healthy and fit to do the activities I love to the best of my abilities. The rest are about enjoying time with friends or family. Eating with purpose provides permission to be human and eat for pleasure, taste and not just in consideration of health and performance – there is room for both.

Eating with purpose is also about trusting our intution and common sense. We know what to eat, truly. When someone asks me, “what should I eat?” I repeat the line from investigative food journalist, Michael Pollan:

Eat food, mostly plants, not too much

It seems so simple yet confusion leaves us from trusting our intuition and searching for answers and plans to show us the way. What happens is we run into conflicting information, misinformation, and misunderstanding about what to eat. It becomes easy to overthink it, be overwhelmed and just give up.

In an attempt to find structure in overwhelm we jump on the latest diet or fad food that someone told us about. We find a generic plan that maybe our friend or neighbor followed and vow to stick to it. Excluding, forbidding, and restricting food, we muscle through for a few days, a week, a month, maybe more but eventually we “fall off” or “cheat”. Cheating or worse failing at the plan sets us up to shame ourselves for what is only natural human behavior. I heard a dietitian once say there is no cheating, only eating. When you choose to eat with purpose that is the way.

It is time to shift our mindset from this:

Find a nutrition plan > Try it > Fall off > Blame/Shame Ourselves

To this:

Set your purpose > determine principles of eating that support your purpose>determine food preferences that set your purpose > create a routine way of eating that supports your purpose

Why losing weight isn’t an intention?

An intention that involves appearance is not sustainable because it isn’t lifestyle changing. A number on the scale, pants size or body fat percentages are just numbers.  Getting to the number becomes a goal that once reached, leaves us lost in the woods wondering what to organize and focus our food choices around now. Choose purpose and intention first. If you are eating for an active lifestyle, the numbers will follow over time.

Eating in a way that supports a purpose makes healthy eating sustainable as part of a lifestyle. For example, today my boys are healthy, happy, and active. My purpose is to stay active with them and still have energy to grab a long run, ski or work on my business.

Every time you eat something ask yourself what purpose that food our meal is serving. Is it going to support well-being, health, or sport? Sometimes the purpose is to energize your body, help you recover, prevent hunger pains, or provide nutrients your body needs. If it does all those things it is what I like to call a multi-tasker food! My three top multi-tasking foods are blueberries, sweet potatoes, and milk!

Other times the purpose is about coming together with others, celebrating, or enjoying flavor. Candy corn serves the purpose of re-experiencing the nostalgia of my childhood. And donuts have a purpose on occasion too. Purpose of donuts = fun!

As long as you know what the purpose the food is serving, there is no good or bad. They are simply of variety of purposes. Fueling, building, repairing, and preventing are the purposes my food is serving most often because I am athletic and tad bit competitive with myself. There is however room to be human. Purpose is giving you permission to be human and eat for pleasure, taste and not just in consideration of health and performance – there is room for both.

So the next time someone says to me ” it must be a cheat day” when the seeing me eating something they restrict I will respond with the word of a mentor ” it aint’ cheatin’, it’s just eatin'”!

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If this seems too overwhelming alone right now, schedule a free 30-minute video chat and we can go through it! No commitment, other than to yourself. You got this!

Home School Nutrition Lesson of the Day

Mom, what is the difference between food allergies and intolerances?

Teachable moments happen most often when we take the time to let others talk and then listen. Personally I learn and teach best when on the move and outside! Before school closures, I had planned to teach nutrition classes to Noah’s fourth-grade classmate in some fun and active ways! Like everyone, I am now adapting to school at home where kids are now in front of screens like office workers for several hours a day trying to learn.

There is snow on the ground here and it has been snowing off and on for two weeks. As we adapt, we have been reveling in moments outside for reprieve, connection, and conversation. Outside is healing. Outside brings calm to our family.

As Noah and I stomped across the field of crusty snow behind our house to see what the school-sponsored grab-and-go lunch was offering that day, he began talking about a classmate who says he is allergic to wheat.

Our school district is offering breakfast and lunches to all kids eighteen and under, elderly, and those with disabilities during our local “shelter-in-place . It isn’t always the quality of food I chose for our family but, it provides moments, a reason to go somewhere within our confines, and extends time between trips to the grocery store and therefore, also exposures.

Noah starts, “Jessie (name changed for privacy) is allergic to wheat so he can’t have the school lunches.”

“Really? I thought there were no food allergies in your class this year.”

“He never eats bread at school.”

I say, “Is he allergic or does he have an intolerance?”

“Well,” Noah continues, ” He isn’t gluten-free but, he calls it an allergy. What is the difference?”

And there it is, my moment to shine and teach something I know!!

What is the difference, Mama, between a food allergy and food intolerance? Well, son, let me tell you…….

They can be similar in that they both make you feel unwell and have an upset stomach but, they are very different.

  • Food intolerances are centered around inflammation of the intestines, part of the digestive system. This can be very uncomfortable but are not immediately life-threatening.
  • Food allergies are an immediate immune response to a food and can be life-threatening even with the smallest amount.

A food intolerance is also sometimes referred to as a sensitivity. It is a digestive sensitivity to certain foods due to inability to break down components of that food. Milk, for example, contains a naturally occurring sugar known as lactose. Some people lack enough of the enzyme lactase to digest lactose and will get severe stomach cramping and diarrhea after drinking milk. This is not a milk allergy.

Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are also food intolerances to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is thought that there is a larger amount of gluten in commercially made bread found on store shelves because it goes through a shorter fermentation process than traditional baking processes. The food triggers inflammation of intestine the inhibits digestion and absorption of the food. Again, this is not a food allergy.

When Noah asked me if rye bread had gluten, I was curious. “Does Jessie (classmate) rye bread?” He didn’t know. If he would have said yes this could have been a clue as to whether Bob, in fact, has an allergy to wheat or a sensitivity to gluten. Wheat allergies exist but, are not super common. Rye bread often contains (but not always) wheat flour. So if it is a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance the classmate may avoid rye bread but, if it is he is eating rye bread absent of wheat flour, he may have a try food allergy. We may never know in this case but, as a dietitian, I am curious enough to try and solve this mystery by asking his parents.

My experience with food allergies includes both professional and personal. My older son, Eric has a severe peanut allergy. Food allergies are can cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset but, the also involve an immune response that leads to hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin, and anaphylaxis. which is difficulty breathing, light-headedness, and possible loss of consciousness. Even the smallest amount of allergic food can lead to anaphylaxis and be life-threatening. This is a key difference from an intolerance.

Because the classroom teacher has never informed us of any of the students having a food allergy, I suspect that Jessie is avoiding gluten, like many of his classmates, and has misinterpreted it has a wheat allergy. It is very common for kids to be on gluten-free these days. Noah can tell me exactly who in his class is gluten-free and he is only ten years old. Wheat allergies are less common but, more common in kids that outgrow them as adults.

There you have it. If you are isolating at home and pondering dietary questions. Consider signing up for my email list to receive more nutrition nuggets from our home base to yours.

Hey! Stuck at home and wondering what to eat to stay healthy? Creating a eating routine by planning what foods to eat when will help you stay on ahead of mindless snacking. It will also be helpful in making quick, efficient and low-touch trips to get groceries.

This is the same guidance tool I use to with all my clients! Get your free tool here:

If this seems too overwhelming alone right now, schedule a free 30-minute video chat and we can go through it! No commitment, other than to yourself. You got this!

Sanitizing Tips from the Days of Fearing RSV

Natural Products Expo West is one of the largest food, supplement, and personal care product shows in the world. This year’s hottest food trends would have been on display in the form of innovative start-ups and large companies trying to claim relevancy in the natural and organic food space.

Alas, because of the state of our global community many companies were opting for safety over business connections and canceling attendance. New Hope, the event organizers, made the call to postpone the event. Connecting with thousands of people and sampling food hardly seems prudent or precautionary with COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreading around the world at a rapid rate.

My work is focused on guiding companies at all stages of product development and branding who play in the health, nutrition, and performance space. With so many new novel products entering the market I am on a mission to make sure those products aren’t just chasing trends but are also delivering meaningful nourishment to our food supply and ultimately their audience. I was really looking forward to seeing what food innovators had to show-off.

Today, however, most people are focused on how to stay healthy and protect themselves from COVID-19 . As a mother to a former micro-preemie ( a baby born early and less than one pound), I have been down this “protection-from-germ” road before.

Not just preemies but all newborns are at risk of hospitalization, lung damage, and illness caused by RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). This virus is a very common cause of cold-like symptoms. If you have ever been in a daycare or pre-school, you have likely been exposed. When you leave the hospital with a newborn baby during winter months (RSV season) you are told to protect your baby by making sure they aren’t around people who are sick and frequent hand washing.

Eric and his friend Ryan on the day we took him home

When you are sent home with a baby born prematurely you are told their best chance at healthy lung development is by preventing RSV infection for two years! When we left the hospital the instruction was “do not let him catch a cold or be around anyone with a cough, cold sore, or runny nose for two years. If someone tells you it is just allergies, don’t believe them”. What? Is that even possible? Well – here are the measures I took to avoid exposure and reduce risk of contracting RSV in our household. These steps may come in handy now: (note some of these items are irrelevant with closures and shutdowns, thanks goodness)

  1. Wash your hands every time you return home before you eat and before you rub your eyes (if you are an eye rubber)
  2. Keep disinfectant wipes in your car & wipe down the steering wheel, handles, buttons, parking brake, stick shift
  3. Wash reusable cups and water bottles frequently
  4. Bring your own pen for signing things
  5. Avoid open buffets
  6. Have hand sanitizer everywhere, every pocket, backpack, purse, care.
  7. Use hand sanitizer or wash hands after interaction with the public or public service
  8. Dry hands with paper towels, not a community towel
  9. Remove shoes before entering the house and spray with bottoms with disinfectant
  10. Wash counters, doorknobs, remotes, and faucet handles in your home with detergent and warm water and then sanitize them with disinfectant wipes
  11. Wipe down your phone regularly with disinfectant wipes
  12. Wipe down your computer keyboard regularly with disinfectant wipes.
  13. Spray boxes delivered to your house with disinfectant spray before bringing them inside
  14. Avoid grocery store during most busy hours (which now seems to be first thing in the morning)
  15. Avoid talking on shared microphones (if you must talk into a mic)
  16. After returning home from a trip out in pubilc, strip down in front of the washer , wash clothes, and take a shower.

Now for some, this may seem extreme. Others may call it obsessive or crazy. Thirteen years ago when this was my baseline for functioning in the world, it worked. We didn’t catch a cold for two years. It may have been part luck part sanitizing but, I will say it again, it worked.

If it seems extreme, remember that cities are spraying the streets with disinfectant right now.