Getting Pumped for Protein!

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Protein is an essential nutrient and plays many important roles in the body. Proteins are part of skin, hair, muscle, blood, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and hemoglobin too.

Protein is made of smaller building blocks called amino acids. Some amino acids are essential, which means the body cannot make adequate amounts to carry-out necessary functions.

·      Complete proteins:  Foods from animal sources (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs) have all the essential amino acids and are called complete proteins.

·      Incomplete proteins:  Plant foods generally lack one or more essential amino acids and are considered incomplete proteins; soy and quinoa are exceptions.

o   “Assemble” complete proteins from plants by eating a variety of foods with varying amino acids. For instance, corn tortillas and black beans complement each other’s amino acid profiles. Other examples include beans and rice, peanut butter and whole wheat bread, and tofu and rice.

o   Get beneficial fiber and phytochemicals from eating a variety of plant foods.

Protein:  How do common foods measure up?

35 grams – 4 ounces cooked chicken breast

30 grams – 4 ounces cooked salmon

16-18 grams – 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt

12 grams – 2 eggs

9 grams – ½ cup cooked lentils

8 grams – 1 cup cooked quinoa or 1 cup 2% organic milk

6-7 grams – ½ cup cooked black beans or 1 ounce cheddar cheese (the size of a domino) 5-6 grams – a handful almonds

3-4 grams – 1 slice of whole wheat bread

2-3 grams – 1 cup chopped broccoli

Protein for Weight Loss

If your goal is to lose weight, specifically fat, it is important to consume adequate amounts of protein. Exercise and protein consumption have been shown to preserve lean muscle mass during a calorie deficit.[1] In addition, including lean protein at each meal helps improve meal satisfaction so you are less likely to be hungry (or hangry!) between meals. Check out the  myfitnesspal Blog for six high protein breakfast ideas.


The Institute of Medicine recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight which translates to about 0.36 grams per pound. This is the minimum amount to maintain essential functions in the body. For people attempting to lose weight or build muscle, the amount needed is higher. For instance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest that athletes who participate in light to moderate endurance training get 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram, or about 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.[2]

A closer look at protein needs…

Let’s estimate the daily needs for a healthy, active person weighing 150 pounds using these different recommendations.

150 pounds x 0.36 grams protein/pound = 55 grams protein

150 pounds x 0.45 grams protein/pound = 67 grams protein

150 pounds x 0.55 grams protein/pound = 82.5 grams protein

150 pounds x 0.8 grams protein/pound = 120 grams protein

As a percentage of a 2,000 calorie diet, these estimates represent 11-24% calories from protein.

How much is too much?

High protein diets cause the kidneys to work harder as they have to flush nitrogen out of the body in the form of urea. Increased consumption of water and electrolytes while on a high protein diet are recommended for this reason. While 1.6 grams protein per pound body weight is considered the “Tolerable Upper Limit”, chronic high protein intake (>0.9 grams per pound body weight per day for adults) may result in digestive, renal (kidney), and blood vessel abnormalities and should be avoided.[3]

[1] National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine.

[2] Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Eat Right for Endurance Sports.

[3] Wu, G. Food Funct. 2016 Mar;7(3):1251-65.

Catching Up with Carbohydrates

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Carbohydrates are the latest target of the food police. Is this view warranted? Yes and no. Added sugars and refined carbohydrates don’t contribute many nutrients to the body and often lead to overeating/weight gain. On the contrary, real food sources of carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and energy!

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the body and brain. Carbohydrate is an umbrella term that includes simple sugars (mono- & di-saccharides), complex carbohydrates (starches), and fiber (undigested plant material). Most carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and absorbed into the blood; fiber slows this process. Blood sugar refers to the amount of “fuel” circulating in the blood that can:

-       provide energy to cells now,

-       be stored for short-term in the muscle or liver as glycogen, or

-       become long-term energy storage in the form of fat.

The body will attempt to use glucose in that order. Carbohydrates turn into fat when calorie and carb needs are exceeded.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45-65% of daily calories come from carbohydrates. That translates to 225-325 grams of carbohydrates a day on a 2,000 calorie diet. Recommendations for other calorie levels can be found at the SFGate blog. Also, check out Shape Magazine’s blog which lists a day of foods that make up 200 grams of carbohydrates.

Surprisingly, carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient. Some people safely enjoy “low carb” (50 to 150 grams) diets. Eating a low carbohydrate diet may help weight loss and improve conditions such as diabetes and insulin resistance. While the body and brain prefer carbohydrates, they can run on ketones too, which are produced when fat is broken down for fuel.

Key Points for Carbs:

·      Carbohydrate needs are personal. Some people do well on moderate carbohydrates and some better on low carb. Evaluate your diet and decide what’s right for you. For instance, do you get “hangry” (hungry + angry) between meals? This is likely the result of a blood sugar crash and can be prevented by applying the next bullet point.

·      Quality is more important than quantity. Choose higher quality carbohydrates such as veggies, beans, whole grains and fruit; combine them with protein and fat for a satisfying meal. Ditch refined carbs and added sugars:  most bread, crackers, flour tortillas, snacks, cakes, cookies, sugar sweetened beverages, etc. Learn more about quality carbs here.

Carbohydrates offer more than just vitamins, minerals, and energy! Carbs also can include fiber and resistant starch which have significant health benefits. 

Fiber refers to carbohydrates that are not broken down by the body. Fiber slows the digestion and absorption of sugars and starches which leads to a more gradual energy release. There are two types of fiber:

·      Soluble fiber forms a gel when combined with water. Soluble fiber can help keep cholesterol levels in check because the “gel” sticks to bile acids, which contain cholesterol, and drag them out of the body when waste is eliminated. A few sources of soluble fiber include:  nuts, beans, oats, vegetables, apples, pears, dates, and lentils.

·      Insoluble fiber is bulky roughage that acts like nature’s broom and keeps your insides clean as waste moves out of the body. Insoluble fiber promotes a feeling of fullness and helps with regular bowel movements, which is important to rid the digestive system of waste and toxins.

How much fiber should I eat? The recommended daily amount of fiber for adults is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. After age 50, daily fiber needs drop slightly. Make half your plate vegetables and include a quarter plate of whole grains or beans at meals. Add fruit and nuts/seeds for breakfast or snack. Done!

Resistant starch is a newly discovered type of carbohydrate. Resistant starch is found in beans, oats, and under-ripe bananas/plantains and is created when certain foods, such as potatoes, pasta and rice are cooked and cooled. Resistant starch feeds the healthy bacteria in our small intestines that help modulate immunity and mental health. In addition, when the bacteria munch on resistant starch, they produce butyrate which contributes to colon health.


Eat Better in Three Steps

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Today’s food landscape is tough to navigate. Large grocery stores have nearly 40,000 products[1]; the food industry spends $191 billion to tell us what to eat[2]. Websites and bloggers have conflicting views about food and nutrition. What’s a health-seeking Boot Camper to do?

Understand the Basics:  The body needs macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). We also benefit from special compounds in foods called phytochemicals (plant nutrients). The way we solve these needs varies from person to person and culture to culture; healthy diets come in a variety of forms! Eating a wide variety of real food will help you get the nutrients you need.

In the coming weeks, you will get more bite sized nuggets of nutrition information plus action items. In the meantime, here are three key ways to improve your diet today. Let’s do this!

Eat more produce

One of the best things you can do for your health is eat more vegetables and fruit. Dig into these colorful, nutrient and fiber-filled, (mostly) low calorie, versatile and virtuous, almost endless choices! This week consider at each meal:  how can I fill half my plate with vegetables? Add veggies to eggs, opt for a side salad with lunch, roast vegetables for dinner. Then grab a piece of fruit with breakfast and snack. Done! Check out A Veggie Venture for ideas and recipes or stroll a local Farmers Market to see what’s in season.

Check Your Oil  

What kind of oils are you using at home? Shelf stable oils with a good fatty acid profile are your best bet. Try extra virgin olive oil for vinaigrettes, sauces and low heat cooking. Look for varieties from California, Greece or Spain. For high heat cooking, use avocado oil, coconut oil or ghee (butter with the milk solids removed). If you are using canola oil, choose organic and expeller-pressed and avoid using at high heat. Also, choose foods with healthy oils such as avocados, nuts/nut butters, olives, salmon, cod, and mackerel.

Ditch Fake Food

While we were looking the other way, many food manufactures replaced real food with food-like substances. Consuming these foods can lead to overeating because they are designed to be irresistible. They also lack the nutrition you need, so your body tells you “I need more food!”. If you want more info on processed food and beverages, read Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat or Mark Schatzker’s The Dorito Effect. In the meantime, read labels. Know what you are putting in your body. Eat real food.

Ok, take a deep breath. You can do it. You have control over what you put in your mouth (at least most of the time!). Picture a horse with blinders on…instead of being overwhelmed by food clutter, focus on the foods that are right for you.

[1] Food Marketing Institute.

[2] Statista:  The Statistics Portal.

Four Pillars of Health

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Four Pillars of Health

All four pillars of health affect your energy levels, weight, metabolism, immunity, and quality of life. If you are not getting enough sleep, your exercise and nutrition suffer. If you are stressed out, your sleep and nutrition suffer. You get the idea, right?! Let’s learn how to strengthen these pillars in favor of good health.


Your food and hydration choices have a big impact on health. What’s the healthiest eating pattern? One that features real food and unsweetened beverages and is appealing so that you can stick to over time! You can eat Mediterranean, vegetarian, paleo, or your own custom eating style. It’s less about the label, and more about eating whole foods that nourish and agree with your body. Need inspiration? Check out the overview of Traditional Diets at Oldways to see a multitude of ways to eat healthfully.

Stress Reduction

When you are stressed, the “fight or flight” response is activated and leads to changes in the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, formation of artery-clogging deposits, obesity, and brain changes that may promote anxiety, depression, and addiction.[1] Find ways to help keep stress in check such as working out, quiet moments to set your intentions, laughing with friends and family, meditation, and breathing exercises.


A silent slumber allows the body and mind to rest and repair. Getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night over time can contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a case of the grouchies! Bedtime routines, a quiet dark room, consistent sleep schedules, as well as limiting screen time, caffeine and alcohol before bed may help you get better and longer sleep. has resources for improving length and quality of sleep.

Ready to make lifestyle change? A big determinant is making healthy habits. Habits don’t require a lot of thought; they are part of daily life. Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before is a fascinating way to examine how we make and break habits. Guess what? It differs between personality types. We encourage you to make new healthy habits during your 100 Days of Fitness and maybe even break a few that are not supporting better health.

Cheers to good health!

[1] Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.

Book Release: Unconventional Medicine

"The wise physician treats disease before it occurs" according to an ancient medical text Huangdi Neijing (and an excerpt from Unconventional Medicine)

Today is the release of Functional Medicine provider Chris Kresser's book:  Unconventional Medicine. Chris, an acupuncturist who is also trained in integrative medicine, has learned from his own health scare and many of his patients about how the modern healthcare system is failing those with chronic disease.

Our current healthcare system is not designed to help prevent and treat chronic disease, which is the biggest health challenge we face. It doesn't often support interventions that can have a huge impact on health; it doesn't examine the root cause of many medical problems. Instead, most doctors spend 10-12 minutes per patient and treat with pharmaceuticals to reduce symptoms but do very little to heal. Instead, we need more providers identifying the source of health problems, recommending lifestyle change, and perhaps most importantly providing support for behavior change. We need integrative and functional healthcare teams to care for individuals and help people heal.

This book is for people interested in healthcare and advocacy as well as for patients and practitioners who are frustrated about our current system and want to see a more hopeful, functional and integrative model of healthcare laid out.  

Healthy Fats May Curb Carb Cravings

Research out of the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that healthy fats help curb cravings for unhealthy carbs.  Nutrition professor and researcher David Lugwig told CNN in an interview:  "Eating more healthy fats like nuts and full-fat dairy can help reduce cravings for unhealthy carbohydrates like white bread and sugary cereal." He goes on to say “Many high-fat foods are luscious and do not cause an insulin release, so they keep your blood sugar much more stable”. 

The next time you reach for a meal or snack, consider adding nuts, nut butters, avocado, olive oil, dark chocolate, or full-fat dairy. If you need some ideas, try one of these:

  • a handful of almonds, cashews or macadamia nuts
  • trail mix
  • almond or peanut butter with an apple or celery
  • guacamole & veggie sticks
  • turkey, cheese & avocado roll-ups
  • Greek yogurt with nutty grain-free granola
  • green salad with cucumber, tomato, and avocado with a "clean" vinaigrette
  • Kefir (or yogurt) smoothie with fruit & vegetables

Gotta Get Your K!

Vitamin K was long thought of as the "blood clotting vitamin". It is an essential part of the matrix that stops blood flow at a wound (unless it's bad enough to need stitches!). These days we are learning more about this under appreciated nutrient. A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition concludes that vitamin K is necessary in the proper development of the heart's chambers. The data collected on adolescents suggest that "cardiac structure and function variables are most favorable" with higher vitamin K intakes.

Vitamin K comes in different forms:  K1 is primarily found in plant foods, most abundantly in leafy greens and K2 (which includes MK-4, MK-7, MK-10) is found in animal foods and fermented plant foods. Learn more from the following infographic and don't forget to get some K!  Chris Masterjohn's Ultimate Vitamin K Resource


Eat Colorful Veggies & Fruit

Colorful vegetables and fruits can have a powerful impact on health when eaten regularly. In recognition of this fact, The Institute of Functional Medicine recently published two helpful produce guides, one for adults and a fun checklist for kids. Check out these resources to help remind yourself about recommendations for vegetable and fruit intake as well as getting great ideas on how to increase your colorful and varied repertoire!

Phytonutrient Spectrum for Adults

Phytonutrient Checklist for Kids


October Unprocessed

There's something about the start of school that gives me "the new year mentality". It feels like a fresh start...a good time to go through and get rid of things, organize better, and whip life back into shape. Plus, being able to simplify in September can get you on the right track to unprocess your October.

October Unprocessed is a food challenge that involves getting back to the basics, cooking and eating like your grandparents did instead of reaching into a package each time you eat. Now in it's seventh year, the guidelines are fleshed out and there are a ton of resources to make your experience better. There's a pledge you can take to let people know you are committed and share with others.

Check it out. Talk about it with your family. See if this is a pledge you can take together!

Happy, Safe Summer!

It's official! Summer is here!

Summer is my favorite season. I love the cool mornings and warm evenings, long days, bbq'ing, beach and pool time, seasonal fruit, vacations and stay-cations, and the sun.

Ah the sun. I feel like "my battery" recharges when I spend time in the sun. My mood lifts. I smile more. I just plain feel good. However, I recognize that too much sun is not a good thing. As someone who has had several brushes with skin cancer, I know how important it is to play it safe.

Hydrating, lounging in the shade, avoiding sun's peak rays (10am-2pm), plus wearing hats and sunscreen are good ways to avoid the effects of too much sun. When it comes to sunscreens, you've got to do your homework.

The Environmental Working Group just released a Guide to Sunscreens. Check it out to help with choosing the best protection for your family's skin.

Boost Energy by Walking Stairs

A recent study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior reported that easy stair walking reduced fatigue better than caffeine. Study coauthor Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. stated that participants in the stair group felt "more energetic and vigorous" compared to the other study groups who received caffeine or a placebo.

Walking stairs for only ten minutes helped boost energy levels. Even "a short walk up and down stairs seems to make workers feel more motivated and refreshed", says O'Connor.

So if you get the "afternoon sleepies" from inadequate sleep or a big lunch, try the stairs instead of a cup of Joe. Good for your heart. Good for your head!

Cook at Home for Better Health (body & wallet!)

An article in the American Journal of Prevention reminds us that cooking at home is "associated with better diet quality". By eating at home, people are more likely to meet dietary recommendations while staying within their budget. Eating out, however, is associated with higher food expenditures and lower dietary compliance.

The authors conclude:  "Home cooking may be a component of nutrition resilience." This is an interesting concept...if you are feeling like your eating is off target, try planning and cooking a few meals at home to get back on track.

Need more inspiration? Check out this site:  The Real Food Dietitians

Low Sodium Diets - Myth or Healthful Recommendation?

A new study finds that low sodium diets may not have the beneficial effect on health that previously thought. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends restricting sodium to 2,300mg for healthy Americans. However, an article in Science Daily reveals that higher levels of sodium intake, similar to the range consumed by most Americans, may be more beneficial to health. 

The researchers followed more than 2,500 men and women ages 30 to 64 years old for 16 years. These participants had normal blood pressure at the beginning of the study. The "researchers found that the study participants who consumed less than 2500 milligrams of sodium a day had higher blood pressure than participants who consumed higher amounts of sodium" states Science Daily. In addition, the people who had higher intakes of potassium, calcium and magnesium had lower blood pressure over the long term.

The good news is there is a lot of overlap in the food sources of these nutrients. Potassium is found in raw, roasted and lightly steamed fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and beans. Dairy, green leafy vegetables, almonds, some fortified foods (orange juice, cereal), and some fish (salmon, sardines, trout) contain Calcium. Magnesium is in nuts and seeds, oatmeal, broccoli, leafy greens, and beans. Another reason we should eat more plant foods...they are good for blood pressure regulation!

Citation:  Experimental Biology 2017. "Low-sodium diet might not lower blood pressure: Findings from large, 16-year study contradict sodium limits in Dietary Guidelines for Americans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2017. 

Verdict Still Out on Artificial Sweeteners...Best to Avoid

Fox News Lifestyle page interviewed two Dietitians about artificial sweeteners in "Are artificial sweeteners unhealthy? 5 things dietitians want you to know". While the facts are fuzzy on artificial sweeteners, they don't contribute to better health. As dietitian Ashlea Braun of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center points out "newer research may suggest artificial sweeteners could still affect our appetite, weight, or microbiome (the gut in our bacteria, which studies have linked to the state of our overall health)".

The article goes on to suggest how to use artificial sweeteners as a part of a healthy diet. I'm sorry ladies, I'm going to have to disagree with a few of your suggestions here. Here's my point/counterpoint (bold is from the article above and my responses are in italics):

1. Use artificial sweeteners to help you eat healthy food. Healthy food doesn't contain artificial sweeteners. Eat real food.

2. Swap sugar-rich foods for artificially sweetened versions.
While Braun thinks "it’s fine to swap out sugar-rich foods and drinks — such as sodas — with diet versions that are artificially help cut down on overall sugar consumption", I recommend people train their taste buds to enjoy iced tea or flavored water instead. Soda is a can of sugar (or artificial sugar) water with chemical flavors and that really a part of a healthy diet?

3. But make sure you’re not replacing healthy drinks with ones with artificial sugar.
Yes, I agree! Avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar by choosing water, milk/alternative, juice sparingly, and alcoholic beverages (for adults) in moderation.

4. Don’t exceed the acceptable daily intake.
Who knows the daily limit? Just avoid them...that's how you know you are not getting too much.

5. Avoid them if you are pregnant or have certain pre-existing conditions.
Yes, I agree. 

In summary, I do not see a role for artificial sweeteners in a healthy diet. Eat good food.

Dinner in a Box

Ever struggle getting dinner on the table? For many, the thought of dinner can bring on panic. What should I make? Where are those recipes? Do I have the ingredients? 

A variety of meal prep services have cropped up to solve this daily dilemma. Check out this article by The Washington Post that reviews meal prep services:  Home-delivery meal kits are easy — and, it turns out, pretty healthy. Scroll down to the second half to find a comparison of the top five picks. They get good reviews! 

The prices definitely beat dinner out, but cost can be a concern. I often see Hello Fresh coupons with Eating Well magazine or a Blue Apron gift card in the mail. You may also get a price break by being referred by a friend. 

Bon Appetit!

Fruits & Vegetables Top Organic Sales

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that "Fruits and Vegetables Top Organic Food Sales". Fresh fruits and vegetables accounted for 40% of total organic food sales in 2015, followed by dairy.

Confused about whether to buy organic? The Environmental Work Group (EWG) has helpful resources to answer this question when it comes to fruits and vegetables. In a nutshell, it depends. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have low levels of pesticide residue. These are deemed by EWG as the Clean Fifteen. No need to buy organic versions of these. Others are more likely to contain hefty doses of pesticides. Buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen to avoid pesticide exposure. And wash produce before enjoying it.


Food Affects Your Mood

Registered Dietitian Chrisanne Urban talks about how what you eat affects your mood and energy levels in this USA Today blog post.

When blood sugars run low, it can lead to an energy crash and a dip in the mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter serotonin. This combo can bring on the "hangry" feeling, which the Urban Dictionary defines as "a state of anger and irritability resulting from being hungry."

To help stabilize your food and mood, it is essential to plan ahead...

  - spend a few minutes each week meal planning. Figure out what snacks and meals fit your lifestyle and plan to have those items on hand.

 - know where your next meal/snack is coming from. Instead of scrambling when your stomach growls, have a healthful snack in your drawer or purse.

 - eat balanced meals/snacks for consistent energy. Include protein, carbs and fats for staying power. Examples:  veggie sticks with hummus or tahini, toast with almond butter & bananas, a handful of trail mix, or Greek yogurt with granola.


Obey Your Circadian Clock

A recent article in JAMA highlights the importance of sticking to our natural circadian rhythm. The article, "Resetting the Circadian Clock Might Boost Metabolic Health", explains how ignoring out internal clocks can contribute to metabolic problems like obesity and diabetes. Researchers are exploring how improved sleep and time restricted eating can help reset the clock and restore normal metabolism.

"Decades of epidemiologic studies show workers with overnight shifts or other schedules out of sync with the light-dark cycle have an increased risk of weight gain and diabetes," says Eve Van Cauter, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. She goes on to explain that sleep restriction increases hunger, but getting back to a normal sleep schedule can help reverse the effects. “The work so far suggests that being sleep deprived and losing weight are contradictory,” she said. “To optimize weight loss, you need to sleep.”

Get on the Same Page When Feeding Your Child

An interesting article in the Washington Post highlights parental challenges when it comes to feeding kids. While the article "Parents, are you on the same page about what your kids eat?" mostly asks questions for parents to discuss, it also reminds us that "A calm, happy dinner table is an important nutrient in a child’s diet, equal to the ever- present vitamins and protein." Family meals are one of the most important parts of building healthy eating habits in kids.

If you want more answers and fewer questions about feeding your child, turn to Ellyn Satter's resources for Division of Responsibility in Feeding. She's been doing this for decades and breaks in down into bite sized pieces (get it?!).