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red strawberry and raspberry on white ceramic bowl

Four Benefits to Pre-Workout Fueling

Long ago, despite knowing better, I would avoid eating anything before heading out for a morning run. You see, ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ are two different things. It was like I was afraid consume more calories during the day because consuming calories at the end of the day (or in the middle of the night) was more satisfying and comforting.

After registering for my first trail race this all changed. I wanted to feel as good as possible for every workout so I could get stronger and fitter to do what made me feel more connected to myself, the outdoors, and a community of outdoorists. Feeling good meant practicing what I preached and timing food to fuel the work I was doing.

Here is a short list of benefits pre-exercise fueling (especially in the morning)

  • Increases energy to your muscles
  • Avoids “grumbling stomach”
  • Improves energy level and mood
  • Helps avoid overeating after exercise or later in the day

The loss of fluid and a reduction in the body’s carbohydrate stores are the two major causes of fatigue in exercise lasting more than one hour.  To achieve your goals it is essential that you define your optimal nutrition and hydration strategies.

When you exercise your body needs energy. This energy comes from what you eat and what you drink. The body’s preferred source of energy is carbohydrates that are stored in your muscles and liver as a ‘fuel’ called glycogen.

The body’s glycogen stores are limited and fatigue occurs when glycogen stores are depleted resulting in significant reduction in performance. Crossing the start line with already low glycogen stores is like taking a car out with a half empty fuel tank – you will run out of fuel more quickly and may suffer premature fatigue.

Are you cheating yourself out of optimal training for better performance because you believe it will help you burn more fat? If you are skipping out on pre-exercise fueling opportunities in the form of breakfast, you are losing out on fat burning AND energy in your late afternoon workout according to a recent study discussed here

All that time and effort needs to be supported with fuel to do the job and get the results of increase strength, staminia, endurance, speed, and agility. Working out without having eating anything in the one to four hour “window of energy optimization” only leads to shorter workout times at lower intensity simply because you don’t have the energy on board to do what your training plan asked of you.  

MAKE IT HAPPEN

Remember, knowing and doing are different things.

This guide reminds you what to eat and when in the one to four hours before a working out. That is the ‘knowing’ part. The ‘doing’ part is writing down your go-to options for each time frame. By doing this your are accomplishing three things:

  1. Creating a pre-exercise fueling routine depending when you your workout. The idea is NOT to eat every hour in these four hours but to instead determine based on your schedule that day which hour you will be able to eat.
  2. Having foods you tolerate well planned ahead of time so you have the food you need when you need it. For example, I always have a energy bars and bananas on hand for my two hour time.
  3. You will create a positive routine with nutritious options that becomes a reflexive action and takes you less time to incoporate into your exercise routine.
1 hour or less2 hours3 hours4 hours
Water & easily digested carbsWater & carbohydratesMini meal with fluidsPre-Exercise meal
low to no protein, fat, fiberlow protein, fat, fiberInclude some protein, fat, fiberlean protein, starchy vegetables, fruit, (carbs + fiber), Fat (avocado, nut ro seed buterr
100- 200 calories200-300 calories300-400 calories 400- 500 calories
Examples:
Banana, 16 oz sports drink, or 1/2 sports bar + water
Examples: Pretzels with water + banana, bagel w/jelly + juiceExamples: Greek Yogurt, 1/2 strawberries, 1/2 granolaExamples: Bean, cheese, &rice burrito OR banana/honey/sunflowerseed butter sandwhich with a glass of milk

PERSONALLY Speaking

Some people can eat a burger and hop on their bike while others need food to be totally digested before the can even think about exercise. Just ask Scott Jurek, the ultra runner with an ultra digestive system. He has been known to eat pizza and burritos during his run.

Create a plan using the free downloadable at the buttom below (created by my friends at Oregon State Univerisity Health and Human Performane lab). Try out different foods at diffferent times to see what works best for you prior to different types of workouts. Be ready to scratch out foods that didn’t sit so will and write in new items to try.

Keep in mind that a dehydrated body can lead to an upset stomach during exercise no matter what you eat before the workout. For more on hydration read on here.

Bottom line is to eat and/or drink something before you workout to improve the quality of your exercise and ultimatley you performance in life and sport!

composition of fresh ingredients for healthy breakfast

Five Resources & Nutrients for Meeting the Meatless Challange

According to project DrawndownIf 50-75 percent of the world’s population restricts their diet to a healthy average 2,250 calories per day and reduces meat consumption overall, we estimate at least 43-68 gigatons of emissions could be avoided from dietary change alone. If avoided deforestation from land use change is included, an additional 21.8-23.5 gigatons of emissions could be avoided, making healthy, plant-rich diets one of the most impactful solutions ” to draw down carbon and slow the climate change.

The benefits of eating a diet of mostly plants are extensive for both the health of the body and the planet which is why many people are trying meatless on for size either in the short-term or long-term.

If you are moving meat away from the center of the plate and shifting to animail-free foods, make sure you are replacing it with nutrient dense veggies and plant-based protein options!

To help you get some staple recipes in the quiver, checkout these five resources below. They are not all 100% animal free but they definitley include some delicious, nutritient dense, animal free options.

  1. The College Vegetarian Cookbook is a collection of 150 budget-friendly vegetarian recipes for beginner cooks
  2. Here are some great recipes with vegetarian options. For the quesadilla recipe replace chicken with tempeh and dairy-based cheese with almond-based cheese like Daiya
  3. For vegan ideas, the book Eat & Run by Scott Jurek has recipes within the story. The story is about his transformation from meat to vegan and how it impacted his running and life. If you aren’t interested in reading the book you can spin through it for recipes. His blog also provides excellent recipes
  4. This is a classic cookbook for vegetarians and one I always recommend Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katizen
  5. My absolute favorite cookbooks for athletes (not just runners) are Run Fast East Slow & Run Fast Cook Fast Eat Slow they also created a companion meal planning guide that is very useful for athletes that I have used with a few clients.

Meeting nutrition needs on an a plant-based eating plan is totally possible and just takes some “nutrient awareness” and shift in where the nutrients come from. Here are foods to add to your diet if you are ditching animal foods:

  1. PROTEIN: Tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, non-dairy cheese, quinoa, chickpea pasta, pea protein powder, plant-based meat alternatives such as Beyound Meat, fungi protein sources like Fynd, crickets
  2. IRON: Broccoli, spinach, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, raisin, peas, kidney and white beans PRO TIP: Add vitamin C from a fruit for increase absorption
  3. B12: most abundant in cow-based dairy products but can be found in Tuna and fortified cereals, bars, and non-dairy milk options
  4. CALCIUM: Spinach, kale, tofu, nuts, seeds
  5. ZINC: Soy, nuts, seeds, whol grains

There has been a shift away from cow’s milk despite its efficient source of nutrients. Here is a look at how to replace nutrients found in cow’s milk with cow-free foods.

I grew up in Montana surrounded by cattle ranchers. While I find raw meat disturbing and cattle oh so cute, I can not deny that after a long run, I good (well-done thank you!) burger sounds delicious. When consciously consumed beef doesn’t have to be eliminated completely to do good for your body and the planet. If you like beef, think about how many times you eat it, where it comes from, and shift it from the main dish to the side dish.

woman in black tank top holding white smartphone while drinking

Three Simple Ways to Determine How Hydrated You Are

When you go to the bathroom do you ever look at the color of you pee and resonate with this thought:

As someone who has to work at drinking enough fluid each day, this completely resonates with me.

My super smart friends at Oregon State University put together and educational program for student athletes. It focuses on soccer players but can be adapted for other athletes. I have been using it as an educational tool with my student athletes at Sugar Bowl Academy!

The hydration lesson gives a simple acronym for self assessment of hydration status known is WUT?! Yes, WUT. Let’s talk a look:

WEIGHT

Everyone has unique sweat rates, so it is important you know how much fluids and electrolytes you need. On top of that, conditions such as heat, clothing, altitude, and humidity can alter how much a person sweats. If training in different conditions often you will want to determined your sweat rate in each of the variable climates to have an idea of how much fluid to drink during workouts. Here is how to determine your sweat rate:

Weigh yourself before & after exercise to determine how many pounds of fluid you lost. For every pound lost replace with 2 cups of fluid.

If you lose four pounds during your workout you will need to replace that with 8 cups of fluid. You want that fluid to contain sodium as well! Why because you may also loose about 800- 1000 mg of sodium and it is needed for reabsorption, retention, and transport of fluid!

URINE COLOR

Looking at the color of your urine is the easiest way to tell how hydrated you are during the day. Your urine will ususally be dark in the morning after waking up but after that, it should be light colored Dark yellow means your wastes are concentrated and you should be drinking more. Pale yellow is what you want to see.

THIRST

Thirst is an excellent indicator during the day when not exercising. When you experience thirst during the day drink water. Durin exercise thirt is an indicator that you are have probably already lost 2% or more of your total body weigh in fluid.

Two-percent loss of body weight from fluid is enough to see a ten-fifteen percent decline in performance! So drink ahead of your workout and then drink six to eight ounces every 15 minutes or so of a sports drink containing some sugar and sodium.

There you have it – WUT – in all its glory. How dam hydrated are you right at this momemt?

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:

Animal-free
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! 
DOWNLOAD MY GO-TO FOOD PAIRINGS

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!

Email Coaching

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 tara@taradelltells.com


Three Elements to Building Body and Planet Resilence with Food

#1 AMOUNT OF FOOD YOU EAT
#2 QUALITY OF FOOD YOU EAT
#3 TIMING OF THE FOOD YOU EAT

#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:

Grains

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

Fruit

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries

Vegetables

  • Greens for salads and sides

Protein

  • 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

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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.