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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'”!

Click the button below get your downloadable guide to creating your own purpose-driven eating plan!

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.

How Do You Interpret Allergen Claims on a Label?

Eric, my son, was two years old when he had his first reaction to peanuts. I fed him Peanut Butter Gorilla Munch cereal and his face puffed up like a balloon. In an instant his eyes turned to slits, his skin was splotchy red and he was crying. I gave him Benedryl, called the pediatrician and made our first appointment with an allergist. He is allergic to peanuts and has become an avid label and ingredient reader.

It seems fitting that he was born to me, a Mom and dietitian in the food industry. Allergen label statements require a certain amount of interpretation of risk. They are also quite inconsistent and not required to be present on packaged food.

The director of marketing at Guittard Chocolate Company reached out and asked me the following labeling:

“As a mom of a kid who can’t eat peanuts, a dietitian, and long-time consultant to the food industry what allergen “claims” speak to you on a package?

 The First thing I look for is the voluntary allergen statement stating contains….” Or may contain traces. This statement is usually found immediately following the ingredient list. If peanut is listed, we skip it. If it is not listed we move to the next step.

A facility statement is not always list but, it is helpful information when weighing risks against steps taken during manufacturing to limit sources of cross-contamination. I look for a “facility statement” such as a ” nut-free facility”. A circled peanut with a slash through it on the front of the package is a good eye-catch but, is simply a signal for further investigation and validation by reading the allergen and facility statements on the back of the package.

Ultimately, anyone who has a food allergy assumes a risk when eating packaged food or food prepared outside of their own kitchen. It is important to know what level of risk you are comfortable with. Additionally, always have an allergen action plan in place and medications at the ready to treat a reaction. In my opinion, it is undeclared allergens and unknown cross-contamination that pose the greatest risk because no one is on the look out for it.

Just because a food product does not have an allergen statement separate from the ingredient list doesn’t mean it is risk-free. It might me they are just comfortable with their manufacturing practices and knowing there is risk, choose to leave the statement off.

In our house we talk about the risk of cross-contamination, labeling statement meanings, and then decide how to proceed which is either avoidance of the food or eating it after we have decided what level of risk is worthing taking on.

May contain traces statements, for example, will lead my son to avoid the food while others with food allergies may make another choice.

The more information a food manufactured can provide on package about allergen ingredients and chance of cross-contamination the easier the choice is to make.

Outwild is My Kind of Wild

Change is wild. It can happen to us or by us. The beautiful part of being human is we have choice at our fingertips. We have our own wild hearts and minds that can intentionally choose one path over another. In 2017 it was time for my family and I to act intentionally. It was time to move towards change that made us better as individuals and as a family.

We knew that meant moving closer to the outdoors and affording ourselves the advantage of outdoors being part of our daily lifestyle and not just something we traveled to for the weekends.

Signs it was time to act had been snowballing for a while. I was dissatisfied in my career, my kid’s school was closing, my husband lost his job and it was a house-sellers market.

Let’s do this! The plan was for Aaron to find a job (fingers crossed) that let him work remotely while I started my own consulting business. We moved to the mountain town of Truckee in our dream neighborhood of like-minded mountain town dwellers and did just that. No, it wasn’t easy and each day isn’t dreamy time on trails and playing in the snow but it is more often than not. Some days are scary, however. Those are the days when the doubts set it in. What had we done?! Am I smart enough for this? Taking action and making intentional “moves” for a better lifestyle instead of that “better job” is scary. Self-doubt was inevitable.

Having a “growth mindset” I began listening to podcasts that would allow me to learn from others who had or were currently also traveling this road.

Some of the podcasts I listened to then and still today are:

  • Scaling Deep with Lisa Princic
  • Pivot with Kelly Blake
  • Marie Forleo
  • She Explores
  • The Adventureprenurs Playbook

The last two podcasts on the list were full of stories of people who wanted to live and work in a different way. Story after inspiring story of people who were scared and moved forward anyway. They are interviews with people guided by passion, nature, activism, and entrepreneurship who desire to put their best work into the world while being their best self, and not going broke while they are at it.

It was Jeremy’s Jensen’s Adventureprenur Playbook show where I first heard about the inaugural Outwild retreats. This podcasts and this event couldn’t have come into view at a better time. I needed some self-acceptance and agency.

The minute I heard about it, I was in. Time with real people who longed to be outside adventuring more and chained to a desk less – that was 100% for me.

I called a soon-to-be van-living-business owner- entrepreneur (The Backcountry Foodie) and asked if she could drive down from Seattle to Truckee, pick me up, and we then attend Outwild in Malibu. Hardly knowing each other at all but fully knowing that if she was game, road tripping together was gonna be good. Totally check out her amazing services! She is kicking butt!

Long story short, we attended the first Outwild evet and, I knew right away I wanted to do more for this movement and the growing community within it.

In 2019 I lead workshops on two incredible (Nutrition and Parenting) topics in my dream classroom setting, outside on some benches next to the river. (Although the classroom on the beach in Puerto Rico with team North Face athletes was pretty darn ideal too) Outside is my natural state. Yes, it rained and I lamented afterward that I wanted more time with people to make a bigger impact but, the fact that I was there with this community making an impact at all is something inspired by and for this community.

The next event is:

Outwild Flagship Event

JUNE 18TH – 21ST, 2020 | LOTUS, CA

Outwild is a 3-day retreat for individuals looking to create more outdoor and value-driven lifestyles. We are all about fostering change by building community, getting coached, and taking time to reboot. The theme for the weekend is intentional life design – thoughtfully approaching the way you spend your time, pursue opportunities, and set goals. But don’t worry, we’ll spend just as much time practicing yoga and getting outside as we will doing workshops and hearing speakers!
*Tickets on sale mid-March

Get there!

What kind of people will you meet at Outwild? See below:

“Adventurepreneurs are thrill seekers, explorers, fun hogs, thought leaders, influencers, and lifestyle designers. They are the people brave enough to not let traditional definitions of success confine them. They are often irreverent misfits and risk takers, living life on their own terms.”

Jeremy Jensen

Video by @tedhesser

Holiday Eating Survival, Oh My!

An advertisement for a holiday eating nutrition seminar recently came across my desk.  It read, Holiday Eating Survival: Worried about holiday overeating? Dreading the physical exhaustion and food remorse that seems to flow from party to party? 

A few key words jumped off the page and punched me right in the gut.

“survival”, “worry”, “dread”,” exhaustion”, and finally “remorse”

As an advocate for food as the wingman in living a wildly active lifestyle, I wondered how prevalent it was to see the word “survival” associated with holiday eating; and so I asked the Google machine. It spat out 19,600,000 hits containing the language “Holiday Eating Survival”. Where is the Holiday Eating Enjoyment Guide? Not a one.

When did holiday eating become something you must “survive”?  You survive a desert for days with no food or water, being lost at sea, or living on the streets. Survival seems like an awfully strong word for something that brings you together with family, friends, or a cozy experience.

For me, the purpose of holiday gatherings, meals and treats are to bring people together and connect over our need to eat. The food is hardly the main event. Yet, we let the food become the focal point so much so that it becomes a point of stress for both the eaters and the cooks. It becomes a point of contentious angst instead of connection. I have seen it happen many times.

It is intensely personal when someone invites you into their home and cooks for you. Heading into it as if you are preparing for battle.  Your hosts are sharing a piece of themselves. Ok, so maybe Grandma thinks you are too skinny and wants to fatten you up, or maybe your Aunt Lucy refuses to acknowledge your vegetarianism. Of course, proceed with caution into these environments and bring something to contribute to the meal that you know you can eat.  Just as I tell my kids:

  • Be kind
  • Be gracious
  • Say “no thank you” with a smile

Don’t forget how to eat with purpose!

Give yourself room to be human by continuing to eat with purpose and set an intention with each eating occasion. Recognize why you are eating this food and determine how much of it you need to meet that intention. That level of awareness is a gamechanger to eating. It takes away the angst and the need to “survive” the occasion by putting you in services of whatever intention you decide it. Maybe it is to satisfy hunger or nutrient needs. It very well could be “just for the of the taste of it” and that is a-ok so long as you are aware of it.

Here are a few more tips for embracing a healthy holiday season!

  • Move it – Like the postal person – rain, shine, sleet, or snow – get out for some type-two fun the elements can offer. 
  • Be selective – Not all holiday treats are that good, really, so skip some.
  • Take in the scene! Pause before you devour every bite on your plate and enjoy the conversation, the table setting, or just good people watching.
  • Don’t go hungry! Eat your regular healthy meals and snacks so the hunger monster doesn’t take over at the buffet.
  • Eat breakfast! This relates to “not going hungry”. Skipping meals saves neither time nor calories at the end of the day.

If you are ready to eat more purposefully in 2020 and want a guide to get you started, download my free guide here. If you are interested in personalizing the guide to meet your unique needs, check out the different ways I can help you do that here.

Some Day IS Now

Being a present and available parent for my kids drives my ambitions and choice to live and work on my own terms. December tenth is a special day, a milestone day in my journey with my husband as a parent. It is a day that I hold close. Some day is today.

Thirteen years ago my Mom sat by my side in the hospital. We were sitting next to the incubator. Actually it is called an isolate. Incubators are for chickens, not people. This very special bed held my very special son, Eric, at a weight of one pound fourteen ounces. ( He now weighs ninety pounds and would be so embarrassed that I wrote this.) Those who knew us then, know this story well. I went into labor on Labor Day and two days later, after loads of magnesium and other drugs, the doctors couldn’t stop the contractions, I was nine centimeters dilated, and Eric was born at twenty–six weeks and two days gestation instead of the full-term forty weeks. I was teeth-chatteringly frightened. I mean, I was just starting to get comfortable with pregnancy and now he was here! Up to this point, I thought the scariest thing would be having the baby be born while still being undecided on his name. Little did we know. So little and, we still didn’t have a name.

A wonderful teenager now, I asked him if he knew what today was. “No, what is it?” he asked. “It is the day you came home from the hospital after you were born,” I said. “Wait. What? How is that even possible? My birthday is in September!” He knows he was born early however, many parts of his story are incomprehensible. In fact, they are incomprehensible to most anyone who hasn’t been pregnant and imagined what giving birth three months early means.

I remember staring through the glass of his isolate that first week in the Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) to see his eyes open for the very first time ever. Most babies are in utero when their eyes open for the first time. Despite my fear and anxiety, I was still able to recognize I was witnessing a miracle.

As my mom and I sat next to Eric in the hospital she said that someday I would tell Eric the story of how he was born. I couldn’t hear it. Just as I couldn’t look at happy families with full-term babies or even former preemies grown up. I was so overwhelmed with the present that any visions of the future were incomprehensible to me. Thinking of someday was more vulnerability and uncertainty than I could take. I remember a dream I had during that time. Dreams are sometimes so vivid it is like watching a TV show in your sleep. The show was going on and then suddenly everything went dark. I woke-up startled and anxious. Too much unknown. The present was all I could do.

The present consisted of pumping breast milk six to seven times a day and scheduling pumping around my arrival and often forced departure from the hospital. My world was small and I liked it that way. It was all I could handle. Exposure to the outside world had too many germs and too many people taking me out of the present. I let the hospital serve as the boundary between where I needed to be and everything else.

Now thirteen-years-old, he has no understanding of the impact of his birth on me, his Dad, and all those who surrounded us with support back then. This is how it should be. The experience set us on a course of growth through the struggles that was difficult but not without gratitude for where it has brought us as people in our family of four today.

Watching Eric play basketball and hang out doing wonderfully normal teenager things makes those early traumatic months feel like another lifetime. As anxious as my Mom made me by saying someday I would tell him the story of his birth, she was right. Here we are. I am now telling him the story of how he was born. We look at pictures and he asks where his baby book is with photos of him out of the hosptial. I show him the binder where I tracked his weight in grams every day for three months, it was something I could do and grams felt bigger. I review with him the names of the nurses, doctors, pulmonologists, and all the angles that cared for him and me to an extent. His brother is curious and asks questions too. I show them the teeny-tiny clothes that were too big for Eric and the little diaper too. Eric someday is today and this is the story of how you were born. You are more strong, capable, resilient, and eager than you even know.

I have adapted this blog from the one we began when Eric was born. I include those stories here because this is also part of my story and why I am moved to write, run, and own a business on my terms.

Tara Dell Tells Vol. 8

Are Juice Plus products worth the cash?

In a word, no. This product claims to pack the nutrition of fruits and vegetables into a powder. That comparison will never add up. I have done the math trying to equalize CPG innovations to the benefits of whole foods. Fresh and whole-foods like actual apples, berries, and spinach win every time. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a dependable spend. I often hear people complain about the cost of fruits and vegetables. They, however, are a far more dependable investment over Juice Plus. Instead of buying Juice Plus invest in whatever it takes for you to eat three fruits and four or more vegetables each day. Maybe it means buying a blender and a stock of frozen spinach, mango, and pineapple to make really nutrient-dense smoothies! I have been on a roll with smoothies lately which can be a delivery system for all sorts of nutritious ingredients like flaxseed meal, maca root, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.

Trying to limit exposure to pesticide residue as much as possible? Juice Plus fruit and veggie ingredients are not organic. How much pesticide residue is on the finished product? This is a call for someone to test it!

Plenty of other smart people have looked with a critical eye Juice Plus, and I agree with their points especially the one about it hurting your bank account. You can read some of those reviews:

Science-based Medicine Abby Langer, RDN Review SCIMoms

Must Watch

To lighten the mood away from pseudoscience-backed health claims. Let me introduce to the production company who nails athletic adventure stereotypes. Their videos are my go-to for comic relief! While food nourishes the body, laughter feeds the soul! Do you know how to be a skier? Watch this “How to be….” video to make sure you get it right.

Recovery Smoothie Combos

I made these with the Sugar Bowl Ski Academy Nordic ski team after conditioning class

Article: In case you missed it: Is flaxseed a good source of omega-3 fatty acids?

Travel Nutrition for Athletes

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I am in yet another humbling new world as both a parent and dietitian. My son is on a basketball team that travels a lot. He came home the other night telling me he ate the “worst meal he has ever had.” It was chicken nuggets and French fries from a fast-food restaurant that shall unnamed. I was relieved this was his reaction.

There are some “fast-food places” that we will eat in a pinch. They offer fresh ingredients, vegetables, and sometimes organic and sustainable ingredients. Then there are the fast-food places we don’t ever eat it because they are not actually serving real food. That was where he ended up eating.

He then began to complain of his stomach not feeling good and then a few hours later he threw up. “It must have been that food,” he said.

Despite the fact that both his brother and I had JUST gotten over the stomach flu, I agreed with him. “Must have been that food or, eat least it contributed a little”, I nodded.

We have since talked about how to make the best possible choices in places where food options are limited and, we pack a large cooler-style lunch box full of options.

I have also been working closely with Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy to help them navigate food challenges while traveling. Here are some of the things to consider as a traveling athlete. If you have any suggestions please add them in the comment section below!

Eating with Purpose “on the Road “

Eating with purpose is about remembering to pause before you eat, decide what the intention of this eating occasion is, and make a choice. Having a nutrition routine at home that supports your healthy, active lifestyle with a solid foundation you can lean on when your routine becomes variable and more unpredictable with travel.

Aiming to eat healthily and in line with your purpose eighty percent of the is a good rule of thumb. The other twenty percent is for being human about food. Being intentional with your food choices means leaving room to eat food just for the taste or celebration of it and, leaves room for exploration when traveling!

Nutrition Tips for General Travel

  • Don’t skip meals: Eat something about every three hours.
  • Bring Back-up Food:  Be prepared with portable healthy snacks for each day of travel in case a meal becomes further out than expected.
  • Strive to Include Fruits & Vegetables: These can be the most difficult healthy foods to come by when traveling. Bring fruit and veggies with you that travel well (apples, oranges, grapes)
  • Pack Portable Protein: Cooked chick breast doesn’t travel well. Think jerky, nuts, seeds, protein bar, Tetrapak milk/soy protein shakes
  • Stay Hydrated: Bring your refillable water bottle with you everywhere (pro tip: make sure it is empty before airline security!!

Road Trip Specific Nutrition Tips: Travel with fixings for rest stop meals

  • Bring a Cooler: Load it with yogurts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, tempeh, lunch meats, berries, carrots, cucumbers, leafy greens, hummus
  • Pack a Pantry: Whole grain bread, rice cakes, peanut/almond/sunflower seed butters/, oatmeal packets, dehydrated soup mixes, canned tuna or salmon, sardines, bananas, whole grain crackers, sweet potatoes
  • Bring a JetBoil: This is a cooking system design for camping but can be useful for boil water, making soups, cooking noodles, or steaming vegetables on the road

*Motion sickness? Try sea bands, peppermint, ginger !

Airline Travel

  • Look for a sandwich, sushi, burrito, veggie salad or bowl options for purchase to bring on the plane
  • Check coffee shops for bento boxes (of veggies, protein, fruit, grain options), Greek yogurt, fruit parfaits, or oatmeal
  • Refill water bottle at water fountain/filling station once past security
  • Keep snacks and water accessible under the seat in front of you
  • Eat high protein snacks such as almonds
  • Eat small and often over the course of the flight 

When You Arrive at Your Destination

  • Scout out a grocery store or market to stock up on healthy snacks and simple things to have in your hotel room or rental house
  • Explore local favorites
  • Try something new after your race day
  • Eat according to the time of day where you are not according to your body clock
  • Hydrate, limit caffeine and sugary drinks

Please contribute things that have worked for you! Personally I never travel with anything less than three organic apples, a bag of almonds, an energy bar, and my refillable water bottle!

Tara Dell Tells Vol. 7

As a junior in high school, I won every single cross-country race I competed in followed by an epic track season that got me sports scholarship offers to places like Brown University and the Naval Academy. Being a Montana girl, I accepted a scholarship to Montana State University and signed on as a Bobcat.

Little did I know, the path I was on as a competitive athlete was not sustainable. I was winning races based on the idea that I had to be thin to compete. During my freshman year of high school, I was a promising runner who gained the freshman fifteen, lost it, and got faster, fast enough to win. I also lost my period and my boobs. I believed this to be a good thing. I ran low on energy, didn’t eat enough protein to repair, and depleted nutrients in the bloodstream like iron, calcium, and B12. This was common among competitive runners and remains so today.

If you are a man or woman and a coach don’t be afraid to give words to this function of the female body necessary to produce life and health! Learn to talk out loud with your athletes and kids openly about the impact the menstrual cycle has training and racing and, the health implications associated with not having periods (known as Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (REDS) syndrome).

I trained with the guys and I perceived these two milestones of female development (periods and boobs) as slowing me down. After all, the guys I ran with didn’t have to deal with this inconvenience.

After the weight loss, I learned how to keep proper growth and development at bay so I could be a “runner.” Another little known fact was that I also wrapped my chest in ace bandage wrap to keep the boobs from slowing me down. At such a young age, it is impossible to see that what you are doing to your body to run is actually bad for the “long game.”

When I went to college, the idea of being thin to be fast was perpetuated by our male coach doing body fat measurements. I had nine percent body fat and was told: “this is a little high for a female athlete”. My poor eating behaviors centered around eating too few calories to train and compete and eventually I ran myself into the ground.

This is the story of so many female runners who don’t realize they are playing the “short game” that will keep them from both good health and from running just for the love of it. My story is far from unique in the female running world. Yet, it is not talked about. Our college coach did send the entire team to a dietitian after one of our teammates ended up in eating disorder treatment for severe anorexia. The belief that thin equals fit is so pervasive, it wasn’t until adulthood that I was actually able to retrain myself to do what I coached so many athletes to do – eat in a way that makes you feel your best doing what you love. For me, that has always been running.

Today in my work with young athletes the goal is a mindset to feeding and nourishing their superpowers versus leaning up and deprivation.

Today’s share is of strong and talented women speaking up and out about theses issues common to so many female athletes. If you are a man with a daughter, sister, mother, girlfriend or wife, read and watch! There is more to the women in your life than meets the eye.


I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike

Mary Cain’s male coaches were convinced she had to get “thinner, and thinner, and thinner.” Then her body started breaking down.