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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'”!

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.