Archive for April 28, 2015

Gimme the SWEET stuff! The Fruit piece of the Carb puzzle.


I think I can say, hands down, that it is best to get your carbs primarily from vegetables and whole-grain sources–those are some of the Big Rocks of my Practical Nutrition practices.


Practical Nutrition is my name for eating in a balanced, sustainable, satiating way that focuses on counting portions of food throughout the day rather than calories or macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats).

The Basic Tenets of Practical Nutrition


To establish how many portions we need, however, it does often help to start by understanding your caloric needs and the proportions of macronutrients that would best meet your needs.

Everyone’s needs vary slightly in terms of what ratio of carbs:protein:fat supports their physiological needs effectively, and the needs of people with specific health issues (diabetes or a thyroid condition, for instance) will vary dramatically from the average person’s needs, which will also vary dramatically from an athlete’s needs.  It is always best to consult a physician, certified nutritionist or registered dietician to establish what percentages or ratios of your overall caloric intake should be coming from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  Another resource you can use to begin figuring out what macronutrient ratios work best for you is by using the body type eating approach.


I’m not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician; I am a Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor.  As such, it is my job to help educate people about how to make practical, healthy choices and changes in their daily and weekly nutrition practices (aka: diet).

The first step:  Learning what the macronutrients are, where to get them (which foods you find them in), how much of each macronutrient you need each day (roughly!), how to transform that number of grams into number of servings, and then translate the number of servings needed of those macronutrients into real food choices.


In the blog post Carbs: Not just Twinkies and Wonder Bread, we talked about simple and complex carbohydrates briefly, focusing primarily on whole-grain and vegetable sources of complex carbohydrates.  What we didn’t cover was the topic of fruits and other sweets and treats.  So here we go!

Gimme the Good Stuff:  Fruits


At the end of the day, if we don’t like what we eat, we won’t keep eating that way for long (hence the satisfying and satiating aspect of Practical Nutrition), so it’s important to structure your daily and weekly nutritional intake in a way that meets the needs of your physiology AND your tastebuds.  Fruit is a great tool for meeting both needs.


While the majority of your carb needs should ideally come from vegetables and whole grains and legumes, fruits have their place in the equation–just not as primary of a role.


Generally, the ratio of veggies:fruits recommended in the diet (because of calorie and sugar content considerations with fruit) is 3:1 for the average person, and 5:1 for someone who is more carbohydrate sensitive (Precision Nutrition).  If you’re eating the recommended amount of 5 servings of veggies a day, that’s either roughly two or only one serving of fruit.   BONUS:  If you’re getting in more than just the recommended number 5 servings of veggies, you’re able to get more fruits in, too!


The thing to be cognizant of is the sugar content of a serving of fruit–and how the size of that serving varies based upon the fruit.  The higher the sugar content, the higher the carbohydrate content (because carbs are all some form of sugar), and the smaller the recommended serving size.  For example, a half cup of fresh berries would have roughly 3.5 grams of sugar, but a half cup of raisins would have 61 grams.


Sugar in Fruits, Lowest to Highest


1. Berries – Berries are, in general, the fruits lowest in sugar — and also among the highest in antioxidants and other nutrients.

2. Summer Fruits – Melons, peaches, nectarines, and apricots are next in sugar-order.

3. Winter Fruits – Apples, pears, and citrus fruit are moderate in sugars.

4. Tropical Fruits – Pineapple, pomegranates, mangoes, bananas, and fresh figs are high in sugar (guava and papaya are lower than the others).

5. Dried Fruit – Dates, raisins, apricots, prunes, figs, and most other dried fruits are extremely high in sugar. Dried cranberries and blueberries would be lower, except that a lot of sugar is usually added to combat the tartness.



But what IS a real serving size of fruit??


>For solid fruits like apples, oranges and pears, it is one whole, medium sized piece (medium being the size of a baseball), the carb content ranging from 15-30 grams.

>For grapes, it’s 1/2 cup, and that half cup has roughly 14 grams of carbs.

>For berries, it’s one cup (sliced if they are large, like strawberries) with the carb content ranging from 12 to 20 grams.

>For dried fruits like dates, apple slices, apricots and prunes (everyone’s favorite, lol), you often count by piece.

>For other dried fruits like raisins, a serving is measured in tablespoons*


This is an example of where I start to move from counting the grams of carbohydrates towards servings of foods instead, because when we’re planning our daily nutrition practices, we don’t want to waste precious mental energy on counting and calculating carbs–we just need to know what one reasonable portion is.  This way we can easily keep our intake in balance without the stress of constant mental math.


Your takeaway:  Get familiar with how much of your favorite fruits equals one serving, and start working that 3:1 or 5:1 ratio of veggies:fruits to keep your diet (nutrient intake) varied and satisfying!



(*For more information on the carbohydrate content of various foods, including breads, pastas, fruits and treats you can find more information here.)





Carbs: Not just Twinkies and Wonder Bread

Much maligned and a little misunderstood, carbohydrates are much more than white bread, rice and pasta.  Truly, carbs come in many, many shapes and sizes, and not all are created equal–some of them are higher quality or have pretty specific uses in one’s diet.

In very general terms, carbohydrates are our best energy sources, providing our brains and central nervous systems with the fuel it needs to carry out its tasks effectively.  For basic practical purposes, carbs are often separated into a couple of categories:  simple and complex.

Simple carbs are carbs that are broken down quickly in the body, often raising blood sugar rapidly; these kinds of carbs include: sugar, candy, breakfast cereal, white bread, bagels, white rice, etc.

Complex carbs are carbs that typically have more fiber, digest more slowly, raise the blood sugar more slowly and not as high as simple carbs; these also tend to come from less processed food sources such as rolled oats, oat bran, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, carrots, and whole-grain products.

Basically, we need carbs to function and live, but there are better and worse ways to get them into one’s diet for sure!  While both contain approximately 4 calories/gram, there is a huge nutritive difference between Skittles and an apple.

Ideally, we want to get the majority of our carbohydrate needs from veggies and whole grains, and becoming more familiar with the the carbohydrate content of the foods we eat, or want to eat, makes it easier to know how much of which foods we should and can plan into our daily and weekly intakes!

Typically, most non-starchy vegetable contain about 5 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup cooked and one cup raw.  Which is pretty much next to nothing!  Guidance on consuming veggies is that for good health, it is advised to consume at least 5 servings a day.  Eating 5 servings of  non-starchy veggies will only yield about 25 grams of carbs consumed, so this is a particularly good way to get a lot of nutrients and volume of food with a pretty low caloric impact, too.

Common Non-starchy Vegetables

The following is a list of common non-starchy vegetables:

  • Amaranth or Chinese spinach
  • Artichoke
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chayote
  • Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
  • Hearts of palm
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Pea pods
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts
  • Yard-long beans

In addition to getting some carbs (and fullness!) from veggies, another solid nutritional source of carbs is from whole grain products and legumes (beans and lentils).  According to the American Diabetes Association, “For most grains and starches, ½ cup or 1 oz contains 15 g of carbohydrate. A few exceptions are 1 cup of winter squash and pumpkin and ⅓ cup of rice has about 15 grams.”

Best Choices for Whole Grain Foods

“Finding whole grain foods can be a challenge. Some foods only contain a small amount of whole grain but will say it contains whole grain on the front of the package. For all cereals and grains, read the ingredient list and look for the following sources of whole grains as the first ingredient:” ~ American Diabetes Association

  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole oats/oatmeal
  • Whole grain corn/corn meal
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice
  • Whole rye
  • Whole grain barley
  • Whole farro
  • Wild rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Triticale
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum


And the Beans and Lentils

Black beans, dried peas, lentils are all also great sources of slow-digesting, fiber-rich, complex carbohydrates, and are still roughly in the 15 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup serving category.


So basically, starchy whole grain and vegetable carbs weigh in at roughly 15g/serving (about a 1/2 cup), and non-starchy veggies at 5g/serving (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw).  If we want to do some math, we can then estimate that if we are choosing a serving of complex/starchy carbs and 3 servings of non-starchy veggies at our main meals, we have racked up a 30 grams of carbs in one meal–AND a lot of filling food!  If you repeated this approach to another two meals, you’ll have consumed 90 grams of carbs from some seriously nutrient-dense sources, and have well surpassed the basic recommendations


When consumed in a whole, less-processed, veggie-oriented manner,

carbs can be our friends and helpers.

And then there are the treats–the refined flour-based, largely processed foods.  There’s a reason we want to keep these items to a minimum.  High in calories, fats, sugars, salts and carbs, processed treat foods offer little to no nutrition for their caloric (and health) impact.  For example, an 8 oz. bag of salted potato chips can rack up 24g of carbs–and still leave you hungry!  These, for me, are the “planned indulgences,” and not really a part of my everyday practical nutrition planning.


Here’s where the rubber meets the road:  Now that we have a good sense of how many carbs are in the foods we want to eat, we need to transform our macronutrient carb needs into practical food sources.

What this will look like for each person is a little different, but should start with, and be built around, the less starchy veggies 🙂

A good place to begin is to start figuring out how many carbs you’re getting and from what sources.  Start tracking your veggie, whole grain and starchy carb intake.

Questions to ask after you’ve tracked your intake with a food journal or tracker of some sort for a few days:  Are you getting your 5 veggies a day (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw or 2 cups leafy greens)?  Are you getting your other carb needs from your whole grains/bean/lentil sources?

If yes, make sure your intake is meeting your overall needs.  If you’re not getting your recommended servings of greens or you’re consuming too many starchy carbs, then examine where in your day and meals you can trade out some less helpful (simple or processed) carbs and foods for some more nutrient-dense and filling veggies and whole grains!

Other questions to ask:  What do you like to eat?  How does that fit into your daily and weekly nutrition needs?

“Do the best you can until you know better.Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou


Keep improving your knowledge and awareness of what you’re eating, keep improving your nutrition, and keep improving your overall quality of life.


We’re in it together!  More Practical Nutrition information coming soon….

Counting Calories Sucks. Here’s how to never do it again!


Counting Calories Sucks…  The. Life. Right. Out. Of. Me.


If that wasn’t clear enough, I detest counting calories.  I hate the mental energy it takes, the extra time, the tediousness of it.  Counting calories sucks, and I don’t ever see myself going back to that mind-numbing task.  I don’t like counting ‘macros’ either (carbs, protein, fats).  Again, too tedious, too time- and energy-consuming.  I have things to do!  Can’t waste time on silly calorie- and macro-counting nonsense.

BUT…I needed to at first so I could get to the point where I didn’t need to anymore, where I could eat intuitively, moderately and sustainably.

I needed to learn to count calories and macronutrients so I could get to this point where I have implemented and practice what I call Practical Nutrition:  eating in a way that is satisfying that doesn’t require a huge amount of brain sweat or time to plan, a way that is natural for me and meets my health and activity needs without placing strain on my life.  I needed to know how much of what foods contain about how many calories and grams of macronutrients so I could start to make better food choices for myself and my family.

I live in the middle (at a sustainable size and body composition) because I LIVE in the middle.  No extremes, no dieting, no obsession or deprivation.  Just moderate, livable, daily and weekly food choices that work for my body and life.

I didn’t always live in the middle.  I came from a family where, on one side, being very heavy and inactive was the norm.  Where if a little was good, more was better.  Where a saying I grew up with was, “You can’t build a big house on a small foundation,” as if it was predetermined I would be a ‘big house.’  So getting thirds, eating whatever tasted good, stuffing to the point of Thanksgiving-like discomfort was pretty standard.  Those were the roots of my eating habits.

In high school, all those off-limits foods (soda, chips, candy) were suddenly accessible.  I remember loading up on Sour Patch Kids, Red Vines and Swedish Fish before going to movies–balanced with a diet Coke, of course.  I remember eating one or two packages of Top Ramen after school a few days a week–as my afternoon snack.  I remember my senior year of high school, where I rationalized eating a bag of Cheetos as being in balance, because I had eaten a bunch of celery–which takes more calories to digest than it contains! and washed it down with calorie-free diet Coke.

In college, there was beer!  And pizza–that was cheap and you could get delivered any time of day!  And lunches and dinners served in a buffet where you could pick anything you wanted and have as much as you liked!

And the results were as extreme as my nutritional ignorance.  

Freshman 20 in 12 weeks: done.

Oh goodness, I had not the first clue about what good nutrition was or what I needed or any idea about how food could influence how my body looked, felt and performed.  So, yeah, I haven’t always lived in the middle.


When I was ready to learn, and really ready to change, I started what I now call ‘The Road from Calorie Counting to Intuitive Eating.’  Admittedly, this journey took me a few years, because it was one I stumbled along on my own, my only help being the Eat-Clean resources published by Tosca Reno (of Oxygen magazine).

In order to spare YOU years of figuring it out, I’m going to lay out in this blog the first three steps to get from counting calories and macronutrients to a lifestyle of Practical Nutrition.


1.  Start Counting and Logging Calories.

Wait, I just said I hated counting calories, and now I’m telling YOU to do it???

Before you can know where you’re going, you have to know where you’re at.  This means you need to start writing down in a food journal or logging in an app of some kind (such as MyFitnessPal) what you eat all day, each day, for several days.

Be HONEST.  Completely honest.  You don’t have to show anyone else, but if you leave things out or make things seem better than they actually are, you can’t change effectively. LOG IT ALL.

Figure out how many calories you are consuming regularly each day.

Don’t scream.  Don’t cry.  It’s just math.  It’s just a starting place from which you can move closer to where you want to be.


2.  Figure out how many calories YOU need to be consuming, for both your goals and needs.

One fairly reliable equation (none of them are exact, but some are better than others) for figuring out your basic caloric needs is:

The Harris-Benedict equation for BMR
For men: (13.75 x w) + (5 x h) – (6.76 x a) + 66
For women: (9.56 x w) + (1.85 x h) – (4.68 x a) + 655

w = weight in kg (divide pounds by 2.2 to get weight in kg)
h = height in cm (multiply inches x 2.54 to get cm of height)
a = age

This will give you the basic number of calories your body needs to stay alive each day.

Then, to determine what YOUR total daily caloric needs are, multiply your BMR result by the multiple indicated by your level of activity.

Activity Factor Category Definition
1.2 Sedentary Little or no exercise and desk job
1.375 Lightly Active Light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week
1.55 Moderately Active Moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week
1.725 Very Active Hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week
1.9 Extremely Active Hard daily exercise or sports and physical job 

This will give you an (approximate) amount of calories you need each day to support your body’s survival and activity needs.

Another calculator can be found through the American Council on Exercise.

3.  Figure out your macro needs.

Quick disclaimer:  I’m not an IIFYM girl (If It Fits Your Macros), not because I think it’s wrong or bad, I just don’t want to live counting out how many grams of chicken I should eat each day!  That said, it is a good place to begin your self-education about how much of which foods would be best for YOU to eat each day.  

From the number you determined you need each day from the above calculations, divide the total number of calories by the percentages of carbs, fats and protein you deem you’ll need.

*This number varies between individuals, based on their body composition, weight and fat loss needs, and physiological differences–for example, some people are more sensitive to carbs than others and they might need fewer carbs and more protein and/or fats to meet their particular, individual needs.  This is also probably something best address with your physician or a certified nutritionist.*

To get you started here are the basics on macros for most people.

The DRIs (Daily Recommended Intake for healthy adults) for macronutrients: 

Of the total calories consumed, individuals should aim to get 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 10 to 35% from protein, and 20-35% from fats.


Remember: Carbohydrates and Proteins each have 4 calories per gram, alcohol has 7 calories per gram, and fats have 9 calories per gram.



To get your macros from calories into grams, you’ll multiply the percentage required for each macro times the total number of calories.  One approach that has shown good results for weight loss has been a 50% carbohydrate/25% protein/25% fat approach (American Council on Exercise). *I am not necessarily advising or recommending this proportion, it is just an example*


For our mathematical purposes here, we’ll use an 1800 calories as our example, and apply the 50/25/25 macro proportions.

First, the carbs!  Multiplying 1800 cals by .5, we get 900 calories.  To determine how many grams of carbohydrate that is, we then divide 900 by 4 (because each gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories), and we get 225 grams.

Next, the proteins:  Multiplying 1800 cals by .25, we get 450 calories.  To determine how many grams of protein that is, we then divide 450 by 4 (because each gram of protein is 4 calories), and we get 112.5 grams.

Finally, the fats.  Multiplying 1800 cals by .25, we get 450 calories again, but this time, we divide 450 by 9 (because each gram of fat has 9 calories), and we get 50 grams.


That means for a person who needs to consume 1800 calories a day, using the 50% Carbs/25% Proteins/25% Fats proportional approach (for maintenance of their current needs or in order to meet a particular athletic or body composition goal) would aim to consume 225 grams of carbohydrate, 113 grams of protein, and 50 grams of fat each day.


So. Much. Math!!!


How in the heck do we get from all this calculating to eating without any calculating, beyond maybe counting servings on our fingers, each day???


I promise, there is a way.

It makes sense, it’s not hard, and it can even be a fun little adventure.

Coming soon:  How to use your newly-crunched numbers to guide your daily food intake (and learn how to implement Practical Nutrition in your lifestyle!).

Omnivore’s Paradise: Strategies for Getting Sufficient and Tasty Protein


I am a full-fledged,

card-carrying omnivore.


We actually use that term in all seriousness around our house because the kids went through a heavy-duty, long-term dinosaur phase over the past few years.  They’re still pretty interested, but not nearly as enthralled as they were between the ages of 2 and 6.  But as children’s obsessions go, I’ll take dinosaurs over the other options any day!

Buddy the T-Rex, of “Dinosaur Train,” first brought the terms herbivore, carnivore and omnivore to life for the kids, and these words were integrated into their language and world view.  Recognizing that the food we eat at home is a mixture of both plant- and animal-based sources, we dubbed ourselves omnivores.  It’s a title that works, I think, because we all love both meat and plant-based foods, and consume them in proportionate quantities to satisfy our nutritional needs and our taste buds.

There are a ton of ways to get adequate sources of protein into the diet.  Some of them are just downright pragmatic and not terribly creative on the culinary scale–and that definitely has its place and serves its purpose at times.  These methods include: eating scrambled eggs or egg whites, hard-boiled eggs, baked chicken, basic canned tuna, a protein shake made with only water or milk, and protein bars.  They aren’t gourmet, but sometimes you just need to get in some foods with extra protein, and that’s okay!  But if that’s the only way you’re getting your protein, I’m betting you’re going to get BORED.

Enjoyment plays a factor in developing healthier, long-term eating strategies and habits.  Any of us can ‘white-knuckle it’ through a bland or restrictive diet for a while, but….eventually we ‘rebel’ and tend to throw the baby out with the bath water.

If we can find, develop and tweak methods of eating in a way we both find satisfying to the taste buds AND the waistline, then we have a recipe for success (pun intended).


To review how much protein a person needs each day, here are the basics:

“The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram (or around 0.36 g per pound) of body mass in untrained, generally healthy adults.


For instance, a 150 lb (68 kg) person would consume around 54 grams a day.
However, this amount is only to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not necessarily optimal, particularly for people such as athletes who train regularly and hard.
For people doing high intensity training, protein needs might go up to about 1.4-2.0 g/kg (or around 0.64-0.9 g/lb) of body mass.2 Our hypothetical 150 lb (68 kg) person would thus need about 95-135 g of protein per day.” (



As I’ve said before, I’m not an IIFYM girl (if it fits your macros), and I don’t like counting calories or grams of anything as a regular practice.  That said, I DO find it helpful to engage in food journaling/food logging/food tracking initially when starting a new approach to eating (changing your diet), and occasionally as a ‘check in’ to see if what we think we’re eating (in terms of calories and/or grams of macronutrients) is in line with what we’re actually eating.  Once you have an idea of how many grams you should be eating per day, roughly, it makes it easier to break down that total number of grams into servings of protein (from various sources), which can then begin to guide your meal planning/structuring.

For example, I weigh roughly 140 lbs right now, and I’m pretty active:  I strength train vigorously 3 times a week, and I run 3 times a week.  My strength training sessions might also include some HIIT work, such as sprints, too, so that’s going to influence how much protein I aim to eat.  Like I said, I’m pretty active, but not super active, so I’d start with a base goal of 0.64g/lb, which would give me a rough goal of 90 grams of protein as a daily goal to not just sustain muscle, but build it.

So from there, I just need to figure out how many grams of protein some food sources have, then start planning them into my meals throughout the day.  AND, more importantly, I can start ‘eyeballing’ what a serving of protein REALLY looks like in real life so that I can eventually move from measuring and counting grams to just counting the servings I consume throughout the day.  It’s shifting from counting to eating more intuitively, which is much more sustainable in the long-term than always counting and measuring and weighing, etc–unless you really like counting (and I’m guessing if you do, you probably like spreadsheets, too), in which case, count away if that’s what makes you happy!  I hate it, so I’ve learned to visually recognize what a serving of X grams of protein looks like and keep a running tally in my head over the course of the day–like I do with vegetables.  You just have to figure out what method is best for YOU.


Here’s one chart that gives you some estimates on how many grams of protein common foods have:

ACE Fit Facts Healthy Proteins Chart


And a nice article summarizing high protein foods:

And here’s another resource showing what a true recommended serving size of each looks like in real life (because most of us don’t eat our meat and fish in 1 oz. increments):

It’s pretty normal for me to eat two eggs in one day (12 grams), a serving beef, chicken, pork or fish for lunch and dinner (at 3 oz. per serving, this is roughly around 20g/serving x 2meals makes 40g), a serving of cottage cheese or yogurt (between 12 and 18 grams), a serving of  whey protein +milk (18 g/scoop + 8 g) OR a protein bar (20g), finishing up with a serving of almonds at the end of the day (roughly 8 g).  This pattern of eating, on average, gives me about 96-116 grams per day, based on the above estimates.

But rather than go through the pain of counting and planning meals based on grams/serving, I have simplified it down to getting in a protein source at each meal and most snacks.  Eggs or whey powder figure prominently at breakfast, yogurt with fruit as a snack, meat/poultry/fish at lunch and dinner, maybe a Quest bar, and some nuts later in the day.  **This is how MY consumption of protein looks on a typical day.  What you need may be altogether different for any variety of reasons, and I want to stress that in no way am I a nutritionist or a R.D., I am just giving general guidance for, and examples, of getting adequate protein in one’s diet each day, based on a healthy person’s needs**

At my house, we like to enjoy our food while still getting the nutrition we need to fuel our growing brains and muscles.  So finding recipes that met both needs has been important.  Over time, I’ve discovered or tweaked or developed several basic recipes that meet the majority of my nutritional needs, and agree with my palate and waistline.

Some of My Favorite Protein-Rich Recipes:


Power Oatmeal:  The base of this recipe is 1/3 to 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2/3 to 1 cup water, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, sprinkle of cinnamon, sprinkle of ground flax seed.  From here, anything else you add in depends on what flavor you want your oatmeal to have or if you need extra energy that day.  Microwave 3 1/2 minutes, approximately, and you have a slow-digesting, filling, protein-rich breakfast.


The ‘pumpkin pie’ variation


Scrambles:  2 eggs or 3 egg whites and one yolk or whatever amount/combo suits your needs, 1/4 to 1/3ish cup cooked quinoa, plus as much veggie as you want, plus salt and pepper to taste, cooked in coconut oil–chock full of nutrition and protein.


Breakfast Burritos:  scrambled eggs of your choice, salsa, thin slices of avocado, black beans (as desired) make a quick, hearty breakfast that can be easily taken ‘to-go.’


Cottage Cheese plus one serving berry or fruit of choice (I’m partial to raspberries, blueberries and mango chunks–but not all together, lol)

Yogurt with a sprinkle of homemade (read: reduced sugar) granola and berries

‘Protein-fortified’ Yogurt:  a serving of plain yogurt (not greek) mixed with a scoop of vanilla protein powder.  If you chill it in the freezer for a little while (15-30 minutes) it gets a bit more of a fro-yo or pudding texture.

Basic Whey Protein Shake:  1 scoop protein powder plus 8 oz. milk.  Adding in a dash of various spices can make these much more interesting.


Chicken Waldorf Salad

Chicken Wraps–whole wheat tortilla, plus shredded chicken or chicken breast strips, plus veggies of choice!  It just depends which ‘flavor’ you’re going for–we tend to be partial to the ‘Californian Chicken Wrap’ flavor with avocado, tomatoes, romaine lettuce (and occasionally bacon….don’t tell).

Slow-Cooker Chili–One pound (cooked) lean ground meat (red meat turns out better, I think), two cans of kidney beans, 1 can pinto beans, 1- 15oz. can tomato sauce, 1- 28oz. can diced tomatoes, chili powder (I usually make my own–less sodium that way), cook on low for 4-6 hours, or high for 2-4.

2 Chili Bowl

White chili on the left, slow cooker chili on the right. I couldn’t choose between them that day!


White Bean Chicken Chili

Black Bean Burritos:  When you combine the black beans with a whole wheat tortilla it makes a complete protein!  I like to cook the black beans with sautéed chopped red bell peppers and red onions.  I think it takes 15-20 minutes to get the beans where you want them to be, including the sautéing of the peppers and onions.  Add as many veggies and whatever condiments you like!  We tend to use fresh tomatoes, lettuce, a little shredded cheddar and avocado/homemade guacamole.  These are a favorite at our house, because they are tasty, have great texture and leave us feeling satisfyingly full for the night.


Finding these recipes, as well as many others, has been a huge help in getting the protein I need on a daily basis, and feeding my family in a healthful way that they (mostly) enjoy and doesn’t break the bank.


This is where the ‘practical’ in Practical Nutrition comes in–I choose to make meals that come from as much fresh food as possible, using available, affordable and non-fancy ingredients.  The easier it is to eat well, the more likely we are to stick with it–and sticking with it for the long-haul is the result I’m after, for both myself, my family and my clients.

I hope these recipes help make your planning and eating easier on you, too!  Let me know which one you like, and please share any go-to recipes you have in your nutrition arsenal 🙂


Protein: My Second Big Rock


In my daily ‘Practical Nutrition’ practices, protein is my second ‘Big Rock,’ right after veggies.


My personal reasons for prioritizing protein second only to veggies are:

1) I am very active. To support my activity and further muscle growth and strength development, I need to regularly ingest protein.


2) Protein is also very filling–and I like feeling satiated after I eat–really, how unpleasant and disheartening is it to eat your meal and still not be satisfied?? Many protein sources are both tasty and filling AND slower to digest, hence feeling fuller longer between meals and satisfied with what I ate. I generally count servings of protein, and try to space them throughout the day, including one source at each meal and sometimes with a snack.

A serving of protein generally equals a source the size of one palm for women and two palms for men. Many people often wonder how many grams of protein they should be eating, and it depends a little bit on your activity level.


“The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram (or around 0.36 g per pound) of body mass in untrained, generally healthy adults. For instance, a 150 lb (68 kg) person would consume around 54 grams a day.
However, this amount is only to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not necessarily optimal, particularly for people such as athletes who train regularly and hard.
For people doing high intensity training, protein needs might go up to about 1.4-2.0 g/kg (or around 0.64-0.9 g/lb) of body mass.2 Our hypothetical 150 lb (68 kg) person would thus need about 95-135 g of protein per day.” (


Some pretty normal ways I get adequate protein are:

Eggs–scrambled, hard-boiled, whatever. I eat eggs almost daily.

Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese–often with fruit or berries, or as an ingredient in another recipe
Lean meats and Fish/Shellfish–I incorporate it into lunch and dinner, varying the sources depending on what’s available, reasonable, and works for my meal planning.

Fish/Shellfish–fresh, frozen, or even canned!  Again, a lunch or dinner staple.

Whey Protein/Protein Supplements–I do use whey protein shakes as a snack, sometimes as a post-workout refuel, because it’s usually mid-morning/snack time about then.  I also carry Quest bars with me at all times so if I become ravenous while running errands, being the Taxi, etc. in the afternoons they satisfy both my hunger and cookie cravings (I’m a sucker for the Cookies&Cream and Cookie Dough bars).

IMG_4009 IMG_4010

I try to keep it all as uncomplicated as possible, because it’s only one aspect of my life. There’s only so much mental, emotional, and physical life energy we have each day. I have lots of different people, tasks, and challenges to attend to with my life energy–and I’m sure you do, too! Spending lots of my time and energy counting macros and calories isn’t where I want to spend my ‘life capital,’ and since I don’t have a figure contest or any other specific body composition goal to train for, I keep it simple. Counting servings of protein, making sure I have easy sources of protein ready to go for meals, and packing a protein-rich snack are my practical ways of getting the second Big Rock into my daily and weekly nutritional practices.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing examples of meals and snacks I eat on the regular that help me get full and enjoy what I eat! Because feeling satiated and enjoying the flavors and textures of what I eat better ensures I’m both getting the nutrition I need and that I’ll continue my healthy patterns for the long-term. And that’s what I’m always after, whether it’s in mindset practices, nutrition or exercise: reasonable and helpful practices that are sustainable for the long haul.

Practical Nutrition: My kind of diet.


Practical Nutrition, for me, begins with defining what’s most important in my ‘diet,’ which is what I call my daily and weekly eating patterns.

These things are the ‘Big Rocks,’ the things that are essential,

nonnegotiable and the foundation of my meal planning and diet.


For me, as an active mom, a runner, and someone who lifts challenging weights regularly throughout the week, my ‘Big Rocks’ are: consuming ample veggies, consuming adequate lean protein, including high quality carbohydrates, and drinking lots of water/fluids throughout the day. I aim to include a healthy fat along with my main meals, either as a side or condiment of sorts, or as a cooking oil, etc. 


My Basics:

  • I don’t do IIFYM (if it fits your macros), I don’t count calories, but I do count servings–of veggies, protein, and carbs–in my head. It’s not a scientifically-based choice, I just don’t like all the counting–too much mental energy spent!  Keeping a ‘tally’ count going is way easier on me.
  • Ideally, I try to get veggies and protein in throughout the day, with whatever carbs I might need at that time (the more active I am, the more carbs I tend to need).
  • I do my best to get my veggies in a variety of colors and textures throughout the week (better nutrient selection), and I try to also vary the sources of my protein.
  • Carbs depend on the day, my activity level, what the kids might want, and I try to vary those sources too–partly for nutritional purposes, partly to avoid boredom 😉 



I start my day with coffee (a nonnegotiable for me!), then drink lots of water, adding in green tea for variety midday or in the afternoons (green tea can make a great ‘iced tea’ to take along with you in your water bottle if plain water gets boring for you, and I’m sure lots of other herbal teas would work well, too).

When I take care of the Big Rocks, I am satiated, I feel good, I don’t have mood swings or huge energy shifts or overwhelming cravings. I feel strong, energetic, and capable of both taking care of the demands of my daily life and getting in great workouts.


What are your nutritional ‘Big Rocks’?
How do you structure your daily and weekly eating patterns?
What frustrations or concerns do you have regarding nutrition?
What are your successful habits/practices?

I’d love to hear from you!

Veggies! The first Big Rock of Practical Nutrition


The first Big Rock in my Practical Nutrition approach:




Nutritionally dense, calorically light (generally), veggies are a fundamental building block for any nutritional plan. How do I plan my veggies in? Creatively–as in however I can that works.

Sometimes this means eating a scramble with bell peppers and onions, or a scramble with leftover veggies–like broccoli. Sometimes this means having a “Big-A**Salad,” or BAS, as another fitness professional calls them 🙂 Sometimes this means cut veggies as an afternoon snack or appetizer while dinner is cooking. Sometimes this means grilled, steamed or sauteed veggie sides accompanying lunch and/or dinner. It depends on the week, it depends on what’s in season…it just depends! It’s cool where that flexibility comes in.

How many veggies do I aim to cram in?

As many as possible. Honestly. The current guidelines are as such, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

“The latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day (2½ to 6½ cups per day), depending on one’s caloric intake. (1) For a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight and health, this translates into nine servings, or 4½ cups per day (2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables).

For most fresh or cooked vegetables and fruits, 1 cup is just what you would put in a household measuring cup. There are two main exceptions to that rule: For lettuce and other raw leafy greens, you need to eat 2 cups to get the equivalent of 1 cup of vegetables. For dried fruit, you only need to eat ½ cup to get the equivalent of 1 cup of fruit.”

So the cool thing is that gauging your intake/portions is easy–base it on the size of your fist. One cup is one fist is one serving, except for leafy greens, where you get two! Yippee!

How do I choose which veggies to eat each day or week?

I try to take advantage of what’s in season (on sale), I try to vary textures/densities to keep it interesting, and I try to eat veggies of varying colors all week. ‘Eat the Rainbow,’ lol.

Things I love about including lots of vegetables in my diet:

  • Guilt-free munching. You can nibble for quite a while on cut veggies without amassing much of a caloric intake–as long as you don’t use too much of a ‘dip’ of some kind in the process (but a little bit of fat–hummus, avocado, peanut butter…will help your body absorb the nutrients better and keep you fuller for longer, just monitor portion sizes).
  • It keeps me better hydrated–hello, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes? I can satisfy the need to eat a larger volume of food with large salads or servings of veggies. Again, guilt-free, nutritionally dense, and satisfying.
  • Oh yeah, I get all the fiber I need–which means, ahem, staying regular. Which is way more comfortable than the alternative….
The bottom line is I keep count of how many veggies I have throughout the day, and, when needed, play catch-up at night with a salad. I stay flexible in my planning, but remain focused on the goal of consuming 5-7 servings of veggies a day. Once you get the hang of planning the veggies first, it gets much easier!

Stay focused, stay flexible, stay creative.

Get that Veggie Big Rock in first.


Share the joy, halve the sorrow.


I remember once reading,”Shared joy is joy doubled, and shared sorrow is sorrow halved.”


When I think of the running buddies and workout partners I have now, and have had the luck and joy of having in the past, that’s what comes to mind: the doubling of joys and halving of sorrows.
Science shows that people who have social support from those near them are far more likely to succeed with and adhere to healthy lifestyle changes. I’ve witnessed it among gym goers, particularly those who attend the same classes. I see spin buddies, zumba buddies, step class buddies, and KUT buddies (wow, do I miss teaching KUT–an amazing interval training workout, created by Coach Kitty). I see workout partners supporting, guiding and encouraging each other in the weight rooms. Being part of a community or involved in a partnership is powerful stuff. It keeps many of us going for a bit longer, trying harder, attempting new things we never thought possible on our own.

In my life, running buddies have not only made the miles easier and more enjoyable, they’ve become good friends, often confidantes.


There is something very honest that happens when you run, and when you run longer distances–pretences go by the wayside, because when you’re going your full human effort, you have no energy to lie or conceal. You get pretty raw at times, either from emotional or physical fatigue. My running buddies have been a happy place in my life, and have become some of my best friends. My running buddies also encourage me to reach beyond my known limits and comfort zones–to run farther or faster or more often than I’d previously thought I was able. They get me out of the house and back on the road. They are the ones that make me smile during the painful last 1/4 mile of a half marathon. They are the ones who know the best and worst of me, and keep running with me anyway. That’s powerful stuff. And while I am perfectly capable of running regularly on my own, I do better and do more when I have running buddies.

And workout partners–the ones you lift with?

They are a special bunch, too. Workout partners ensure that you keep your gym appointments. They support and challenge you just by being there with you. There’s a certain amount of soul-baring there, too, as you bump into your limits regularly–how much weight you can move and for how many reps, it’s finite thing. It’s either astounding or humbling on any given day, either lifting more than you thought yourself capable of, or finding your absolute limit in that moment. A great workout partner encourages you to do the things they know you to be capable of, and consoles you when you fall short of what you thought you should have been able to do. They are the one who say “Chah-Lange!” ala Cliff Huckstable in the tap dance-off (yes, I am dating myself there with that cultural reference!) and throw down the gauntlet in a pull-up showdown. I have never been so motivated to do so many pull ups in my life, Jami….

These people know you, too, they know your heart, hear your fears, witness your victories. Again, it’s powerful stuff.

I am so incredibly grateful to all of my past and present running buddies and workout partners. This is a giant shout out to you, Coach Kitty Fitness, who got it all started, to Trissa, Chris, Laura, Paula, Felicia, Mandy, Cynthia, and Jami, Sheila, Lindsay, Liz and Jennifer, and now Lisa and Howie, who tolerate my slowness and lure me out into the cold regularly.
You don’t need to go it alone, and, in fact, you’re better off if you don’t. Find a running buddy, or workout partner, or accountability partner, or someone who just loves that walk or class as much as you do.

Do it for you. Do it for them.

Because, in the end, everybody wins.