Pre and post workout stretching

So as this is the new year, many of you are journeying into a new workout regime. Before you jump into your workouts, remember to implement a proper warm up and cool down. This pre and post work includes the workouts you are in control of yourself (i.e. at the gym, hiking, marathon running, etc.) and your group fitness classes. Without stretching, muscles and connectives become tighter, which in turn may train neurological responses to believe this state of “tightness” is where your body should remain.

The importance of flexibility can sometimes be overshadowed by our inability to be flexible. What does that mean? Our lack of flexibility stops us from stretching because we have convinced ourselves that we are not flexible. Stretching helps to improve flexibility and increase range of motion. Flexibility affects performance as it helps the body to move more efficiently. There is also some evidence that concludes flexibility also decreases muscle soreness after workouts and helps in preventing injury. Tight hamstrings can increase stress on your the muscles surrounding your spine and in your lower back. Lastly, stretching also aids in improving posture and can consequently ease back pain. 

Stretching is not only good for your muscles but it is also great at relieving tension and decreasing stress. It increases blood flow to your muscles, easing muscle tension and knots caused by stress.

So get your stretch on by adding in dynamic stretches before your workout and static stretches afterwords.

Dynamic stretching before your workouts helps to get your muscles warmed up, allowing for optimal activation. Pre-workout stretching tells your nervous system that it’s time to get moving and as a result, your core muscle groups (such as the glutes, back muscles and abs) will start working for you. Dynamic stretches should be performed using a full range of motion in an effort to increase the movement of the joints. These types of stretches increase your core temperature which can make it easier for your muscle to perform. Research has shown that dynamic stretches improve force production and explosive power. Performing these stretches can also help to increase body awareness, and help with stability and balance.

Static stretching mid and post workout will help lengthen and cool down the muscles. Performing static stretches does not raise your core temperature like dynamic stretching does. Instead, these types of stretches suppress the central nervous system, relaxing the muscle spindles by lengthening them. Static stretching allows you to focus on particular muscle groups, such as hip flexors and hamstrings, or other areas that may feel tight after working out.

Additionally, use of a foam roller also helps with increasing flexibility and provides light massage. Foam rolling can be performed before or after a workout.

I know making the time for stretching can be difficult, but neglecting this part of your workout can put you at risk for increased injury. Implementing a pre and post workout regime will help you to increase your performance in your workouts and shorten recovery time. In other words… IT’S A GAME CHANGER!

Hey, I know you can do it, you know you can do it, so get out there and like Nike says, JUST DO IT!

This weeks focus will be on post workout static stretching. Feel free to download the PDF of these stretches so you can have them with you for all post workout occasions.

Creamy Spicy + Sweet Pumpkin Soup

Fall for Pumpkin!

One of my favorite things about the autumn season is the reemergence of all things PUMPKIN! From pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin bread to pumpkin spiced cookies and pumpkin lattes, I’m a huge fan of it all! And since Fall is the perfect season to up your soup game, why not do with PUMPKIN! 

Did you know that this winter squash is highly nutritious, packed with a variety of nutrients including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants?

Pumpkin has a high antioxidant profile, including beta carotene, which may reduce your risk of chronic diseases and protect your cells against damage from free radicals. Excessive free radicals in the body may lead to oxidative stress. Inflammation caused by oxidative stress has been linked to many chronic diseases. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene (precursor for vitamin A) help neutralize free radicals in the body, preventing them damaging your cells. 

Studies have also shown that vitamin A and has been shown to strengthen your immune system and fight infections. Along with vitamin A, pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which also works to strengthen your immune system by increasing your white blood cell production, helping your immune cells to work more effectively.  

Impressively, not only is pumpkin high in vitamins but it is also low in calories. In fact, pumpkin has less than 50 calories per cup (245 grams) and consists of about 94% of water. Pumpkin is also a good source of fiber, which has been shown to improve heart health. Not only that, fiber helps you to stay satiated and feeling fuller longer, which may help in weight maintenance. 

There you have it. Pumpkin is more than just a vehicle for a spooky face on Halloween! I am absolutely obsessed with my Creamy Spicy + Sweet Pumpkin Soup and I hope you will too. Feel free to amp up the nutrient power by topping your soup with foods such as pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds, and  spicy pepitas.   

Creamy Spicy + Sweet Pumpkin Soup


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean + sliced
  • 3 15oz cans puree pumpkin
  • 4 cups (32 oz) low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Ground pepper
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk or heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp Grade A maple syrup

Optional Toppings:

  • Spicy pepitas
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Unsweetened plain coconut yogurt
  • Hemp seeds
  • Parsley

Spiced pepitas:

  • 1/2 c. pepitas
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt


  1. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add onion, garlic, mushrooms and salt to the skillet. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. 
  2. Add pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, chopped apple, broth and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, covered to give the flavors time to meld. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. While soup is simmering, roast the pepitas.  Preheat oven to 350’F. In a small bowl, toss pepitas in olive oil, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Spread pepitas on a sheet tray line with parchment paper. Roast pepitas for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  4. While pepitas are roasting, finish preparing the soup. Add coconut milk and maple syrup to the pumpkin mixture and stir. Blend the soup using an immersion blender, or stand blender, working in batches. Blend until smooth.  Transfer pureed soup to soup bowls.
  5. Top your spicy + sweet pumpkin soup with roasted pepitas and other toppings your choice. Try pomegranate seeds, hemp seeds and a soupful of plant based yogurt.
  6. Enjoy!

As always, I want to see pics of your finished recipe.  Make sure to follow and tag your photo with @steph_n_carter, @carterhall_lifestyle and #suiterecipe to win a 30 minute nutrition counseling session with me.  A winner will be chosen November 30th.

Progress from Habit to Health!

Okay, so as this is the first week in January, you probably are embarking on some changes in your life. Maybe you are vowing to work out more. Maybe you are promising to eat more nutritiously. Maybe you are going to allow yourself to take some ‘me’ time once in awhile. Whatever it is you decided to make a commitment to, honor that pledge and set some healthy habits toward keeps those goals.

Habits are formed through repetitious behavior within specific contexts. The challenge with habits is how to change ingrained, unhealthy behaviors. In order for you to be successful in your current endeavors, you’ll want to initiate new behaviors, support context driven repetition of this behavior, and facilitate automaticity. In other words, repetition reinforces and establishes the association in the memory to perform the new desired behavior. 

It’s important to build healthy habits because those actions will be triggered automatically, without awareness, conscious control, mental effort, or deliberation. Behavior performed in consistent settings, tends to persist even in the face of motivational shifts. Therefore, building a solid foundation of healthy habits will help in avoiding pitfalls and making you more resistant to unhealthy lapses.

Eating behaviors, physical activity, and active travel all have a habitual component. Employing a habit formation approach to health behavior change would be conducive to increasing success in making such lifestyle change permanent.

Habit formation progresses through three stages:

1. Decision must be made to take action. Decide on a goal that you’d like to achieve for your health.
2. The decision to act must be translated into action.  This action should be performed consistently on a daily basis.
3. Behavior must be repeated, which typically requires continued motivation. Such repetition should occur in a fashion conducive to the development of automaticity.

I know… I’ve used this word a few times now. Here’s the definition.

Automaticity [noun]: working by itself with little or no direct human control.

So how do we reach automaticity within our defined goals. Well, this is two- fold. First we want to break the cue- response that exists within bad habits. For example:

Cue—Out to dinner with friends and the bread basket comes to the table.
Response— You reach for a piece a bread and don’t stop at one.

The problem in this scenario is that you are not eating mindfully, meaning you automatically reach for the bread without consequence. So what happens instead of taking action that is motivated by different behavior, we slip in the habitual and behave as we have done previously.

An obvious way to break unwanted habitual behavior is to remove yourself from the environment where those cues exist. Maybe ask you friends to skip the bread basket or alternatively, choose a different restaurant that doesn’t serve bread before the meal. Here’s another example. On your way to work you pass by this deliciously sinful patisserie with the most yummy tasting pastries. Every morning you walk by and decide ‘Well, I’ll just have one with my coffee and work out later today.’ Before you know, you’ve built a cue- response around a unwanted behavior. One way to break this habit… take another route to school.

The second thing you’ll need to do is attach the negative unwanted cue- response to new behavior. Let’s go back to the example above. Instead of walking past that patisserie you walk past a cafe that serves fresh fruit/ vegetable juices instead. This new behavior replaces the cue- response to the unwanted behavior.

You’ll have to employ some self- regulation here. Start to build awareness around the cues which trigger unwanted responses. Begin to self- monitor behavior to reveal those situations were unwanted habitual behaviors exist. In other words, start to understand yourself and recognize your triggers.

Now that you’ve built in new behavior, you’ll have to make the behavior habitual. New habits need to be performed consistently and daily within the appropriate context. Context can be any cue such as an event, ‘When I get to work.’ or a time of day ‘After breakfast.’ Or in the case of our above example ‘When I walk to work.’

Lastly, aim for small behavior changes initially. Setting a goal to run a marathon when you’ve never run long distance before can be daunting. A more realistic goal to begin with is jog three times a week for 15 minutes to build endurance, strength and stamina. When achieve success within small behavior changes, you increase self- efficacy and increase confidence for working toward other health promoting habits.

Now go be a rockstar!


Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7(SUPPL1), S137-S158. DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2011.603640

Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of “habit-formation” and general practice. The British Journal of General Practice, 62(605), 664–666.

Pre and post meals and snacks

One of the most common questions I get is regarding post workout meals and snacks.  I know that it can be tricky when deciding what to eat after you just had an intense workout session.  My first instinct is always “Well, I just burned a ton of calories, so I can afford to have a slice of pizza or a basket of fries.”  That’s one way to think about it.  Or you can choose to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to return to back to a state of homeostasis or balance.

Carbohydrates that we consume and don’t use as fuel are stored in the body in the form of glycogen.  Glycogen is the storage form of glucose and is produced in the liver and stored primarily in the liver and muscle cells.  When your blood sugar is low, glycogen is broken down to release glucose, providing you with more energy.

Typically, the body can store approximately 200 calories of glucose as glycogen. When you work out, your muscles use stored glycogen to fuel physical activity.  In addition to glycogen, proteins in your muscles are broken down and damaged due to the microscopic tears which occurred during the stress of exercise.  Therefore, it is important to consume foods after your workout which can help in the rebuilding of glycogen stores and the repair AND regrowth of muscle proteins, essentially enhancing recovery.  I hate to tell you, but that bag of potato chips made with avocado oil, isn’t the best option post workout.

This brings us full circle back to the original question… “What are the appropriate meals and snacks I should be consuming post workout?”  It would follow since you depleted glycogen and protein stores, you’d want to eat foods that have both of those nutrients.  So let’s talk macronutrients— protein, carbs and fat!  If you remember, back in January I covered each of these nutrients.  If you need a refresher, head to the bottom of this page and search for the post.

Carbohydrate + Protein: Endurance Training

Post workout ingestion of complex carbohydrates is an efficient strategy to replenish lost muscle glycogen.  The International society of sports nutrition (ISSN) recommends that consumption of 0.6 to 1.0 g/kg body mass of carbohydrates within the first 30 minutes of completing a glycogen depleting endurance exercise, such as cycling, and then repeating again for the next 4 to 6 hours.  Or according to the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, early intake of carbohydrate in the recovery period (~1–1.2 g/kg/h during the first 4–6 hours) is useful in maximizing the effective refueling time.  This strategy has been proven to promote maximal glycogen replenishment.  Additionally, a combination of both carbohydrate and protein (or amino acids) post exercise has been shown to lead to greater glycogen recovery when carbohydrate consumption is <1.2 g/kg/h.  The addition of protein may help to minimize muscle damage, promote favorable hormone balance and accelerate recovery from intense exercise.

Timing and distribution of meals— time of day considerations

Recent studies have proven that the time of day the majority of energy is consumed may effect one’s health, weight (loss or gain) and body composition.  One specific study found that greater weight loss and changes in body composition  occurred when a majority of calories were consumed in the morning; however, hight amounts of fat- free mass were lost as well.  Therefore, it is important to evenly spread out calories across the day, avoiding extended periods where no food is consumed.  It is important for me to mention that current research hasn’t focused on how evenly distributed meal patters influence body composition or lean body mass.  Further research is needed.

In regards to timing, several recent studies have examined consuming isocaloric diets over the period of the day— six meals per day vs three meals & two snacks, for example.  What researchers have found is that there are no differences between groups in weight loss, body composition, serum hormones, and metabolic markers.  However, when caloric restriction is employed and total energy intake is controlled, meal frequency can indeed influence weight loss and improving of one’s body composition.  The ISSN’s portion is that greater meal frequency may favorably influence weight loss and body composition changes if used in combination with an exercise program for a short period of time.   However, it is important to note that more research is needed in this area.


Throughout the day its important to stay hydrated and this point is especially true during bouts of exercise.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lemonade-colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration, while dark colored urine, indicates dehydration.  Dehyrdation can cause low energy and muscle cramps or spasms during workouts.  To replace fluids (water + electrolytes) lost through sweat during exercise, its important to replenish fluids during & post workout.

Recommended fluid amounts:

17-20 ounces of water two hours prior to exercise

7-10 ounces of fluid every 10 -20 minutes during exercise

16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise

Examples of post workout meals/ snacks ideas:


Breakfast— Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds.

Lunch— Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread w/ grilled veggies.

Dinner— 4 ounces of protein* with a baked sweet potato and sautéed spinach.

*Can be fish, poultry, steak or veggie substitute


An apple or pear with 1 tablespoon of nut butter

2 tablespoons of dried fruit and 1 tablespoon of raw, unsalted nuts

¾ cup of Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon granola and ½ cup of berries

Now go and #livenourished!

Kerksick, C., Harvey, T., Stout, J., Campbell, B., Wilborn, C., Kreider, R., . . . Antonio, J. (2008). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 5(1), 17. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-17
Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2016). Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(3), 543-568. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000852


Vegetable Frittata for Lazy Weekends!


It’s the Weekend… Time to Enjoy a Leisurely Breakfast!

I’m absolutely loving these sunny, breezy and bright Californian weekend mornings.  For me, one of the best parts of my week happens to be weekend mornings.  If I happen to have the morning off, I luxuriate by spending an extra hour or two in bed, enjoying the crispness of the morning.  Once, I finally decide to peel myself up out of the bed to shower and begin the day, I head straight to my local farmers market to pick up fresh vegetables to throw into a frittata.  The best thing about frittatas is that there limitless types of vegetables that can be thrown into one.   

Frittatas are great when you’re looking for something a bit more substantial than scrambled eggs and less involved than making a cumbersome multi-ingredient meal.  Frittatas are differ from omelettes in that they are started on the stovetop and then finished in the oven with the fillings mixed in with the eggs.  With omelettes, the ingredients are folded into the center and are prepared solely on the stovetop.

I decided I wanted to feature a frittata on the site because preparation is fairly simple and cooking time is minimal.   Frittatas can be made ahead of time and can served hot or at room temperature.  The basic recipe calls for well beaten eggs to be whisked together with milk, seasonings, herbs, cheese and vegetables and cooked in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until the edges are set.  Once the edges are set, the frittata is placed in the oven to be cooked slowly over low heat until eggs taken on a springy texture.  

For my frittata, I used sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese and zucchini whisked into egg whites.  Although I used egg whites, you must certainly can use whole eggs if you prefer.  Additionally, feel free to use different vegetables such as spinach and mushrooms or a different cheese such a gruyère.  Get creative and use whatever you have leftover in your fridge!  Not only would you be saving money, but you would also be reducing potential food waste. 

Summer Vegetable Frittata

Egg whites, Zucchini, Sun dried tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Basil


9 eggs (whites only)

1/4 cup milk (or any dairy such as sour cream, yogurt, milk kefir, but not something non fat)

1/4 cup basil, chiffonade*

6 tbsp goat cheese

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste


Whisk together egg whites, dairy, 4 tbsp goat cheese and basil. Season to your liking. Sauté off zucchini (this helps release excess moisture and adds depth of flavor). Add 3/4 cooked zucchini and sun dried tomatoes to egg mixture.

Add 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to pan over medium-low to low heat. Add egg mixture and cook until edges are just set, about 3-5 minutes, depending on range. Top with remaining zucchini and goat cheese.

Place in oven until top is golden brown and center is set, about 10-15 minutes.  The frittata should have a springy nature (almost like set jello).  Garnish with chopped sun dried tomatoes and extra basil.  Enjoy!

Feeds 2.

*Chiffonade means “made of rags” in French.  This knife skill is used to prepare delicate ribbons of herbs.  To chiffonade the basil in this recipe:

  1. Begin by washing and drying the basil, then stacking the leaves on top of one another.
  2. Roll the leaves lengthwise into a tight roll.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the basil crosswise, thinly until its all sliced. 

Nourish + Balance Nutritional Info Extra: Eggs

Eggs supply protein, iron, choline, selenium, biotin and lutein.A yolk from from one large egg contains 185 milligrams of cholesterol and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.To control dietary cholesterol, consume whole eggs and egg yolks in moderation.Substitutions: Two egg whites for one whole egg; or Two egg whites and one whole egg for two whole eggs.Nutritional value: 1 large egg = 72 calories & 6 grams protein.

Ron Carter, Executive Chef 

Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (Post workout after burn)



Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion between clients as to whether they are achieving a state of exercise post oxygen consumption or EPOC after their workouts or not.  I decided that this well sought after state of EPOC needed some further explanation so you can understand how it is achieved after your workouts.  Promise me that after you read this article, you won’t set out to eat whatever you want after your workout.

Before we can get into what occurs after your workout, let’s discuss your workout itself, starting with the difference between steady state aerobic training and resistance or strength training.

Steady state aerobic training applies to training that focuses on a consistent, low to moderate rate of work for an extended period of time.  Steady state training is effective cardiorespiratory exercise but it can take awhile to achieve desired results.  Conversely, high intensity interval training includes repeated bouts of short to moderate duration exercise completed at an intensities which are performed at anaerobic levels greater than your threshold.  In other words, you ‘go hard’ for a specific duration of time and then have a short recovery.  Think of a sprint in cycling— for 30 seconds  you are going as fast as you can and then you recover, only to perform another shortly after.  With steady state, instead of taking a 45 minute spin class, you would be on a spin bike at the gym, pedaling at the same consistent moderate speed for 45 minutes.  Lastly, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines resistance training as any exercise that causes the muscles to contract as a response to external resistance with the goal of increasing strength, tone, mass and/or endurance.

Now that we’ve throughly covered the different types of exercise, we can get back to the concept of EPOC.  What is EPOC?

Exercise post oxygen consumption or EPOC refers to the calories expended above resting values after exercise.  Essentially, it represents the increased amount of oxygen above resting level that the body is utilizing to return itself back to its pre-exercise state.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find exact research which states how long EPOC will last post workout; however, it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours for the body to recover to its resting state.  This wide range of time brings us to how intensity and duration of exercise affects the state (duration) of EPOC.  In general, higher exercise intensities with longer durations produce higher degrees of EPOC; however, research has shown that intensity has a greater impact on EPOC than duration (1).

Essentially the greater your intensity during exercise, the greater degree of EPOC.


So we’ve nailed down that intensity accounts for a much larger percentage of the total variance in EPOC then does duration, but which out of the three types of exercise are most effective at achieving greater states of EPOC.

Current research hypothesized that out of the three types of exercise, steady state aerobic training, interval training and resistance training, it’d be resistance training that would have the greatest effect on EPOC.  Researchers found that when total caloric expenditure and rate of caloric expenditure were controlled for, a high volume resistance training session or a high intensity intermittent aerobic training session created greater post exercise energy expenditure.  In this study increases in EPOC were found for up to 21 hours post resistance training or interment interval aerobic training.



So now that we know how to achieve the greatest state of EPOC, let’s quickly zero in on high intensity interval training (HIIT).  So if you are going to take a HIIT class which type of class will have a greater response of EPOC.  Yet, another study conducted aimed to conclude whether circuit training or speed interval training had a greater impact on EPOC.   The results of this study indicated that speed interval training (i.e., running on a self propelled treadmill, alternating  30 of sprinting with 30 seconds of rest), is a more effective way of maximizing caloric expenditure than circuit based HIIT (2).  However, it should be noted that both speed interval and circuit based HIIT are more effective at increase caloric expenditure than steady state exercise.

There’s the story on EPOC and how to achieve your greatest caloric expenditure post exercise.   I know how much we love to watch television while walking on the treadmill; however, I implore you to switch it up and take a spin class or circuit training class to achieve more effective results.

Now get out there Rockstars and live your best life!

1. Greer, B. K., Sirithienthad, P., Moffatt, R. J., Marcello, R. T., & Panton, L. B. (2015). EPOC Comparison Between Isocaloric Bouts of Steady-State Aerobic, Intermittent Aerobic, and Resistance Training. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 86(2), 190-195. doi:10.1080/02701367.2014.999190
2. Janot, J. M., Schleppenbach, L., Ezer, A., Gronemus, S., Widenski, K., & Braun, S. (2017). Effects Of Speed- And Circuit-based High-intensity Interval Training Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49, 1063. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000519922.83058.a1

The Difference Between Vegan, Plant-Based and Vegetarian Diets

From the Beyonce to Pope Francis and now even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, so many are acknowledging the vegan diet as a beneficial way of eating.  Yes, even chef Ramsay who has been reported stating that he was “allergic” to vegans, has since embraced the lifestyle by offering vegan menu items at his restaurant Bread Street Kitchen. His current stance- “Veganism is on the rise, we’ve got to adapt and eat a slice of humble pie.” Well said Ramsay! While veganism isn’t something new, it is definitely trending more right now thanks in part to the mainstream adoption of the term “plant-based.”  It may seem like the two terms are interchangeable, but I promise you there is a difference between being vegan and eating a plant-based diet. Let’s check it out!

How ‘plant-based’ rebranded vegan eating for the mainstream.

Look around your local grocery store and you’ll see product after product with the term “plant-based” splashed on its labelling.  The explosion of plant based products on the market helps convey to customers exactly what the product is without labelling the product vegan. Think about it- by labeling the product “plant-based,” companies are hoping that omnivores or meat eaters will consider trying their product as well as the more intended audience of vegans.  The term plant-based allows companies to carve a niche out in the health food market while simultaneously catering to all audiences.

Okay, so what exactly is plant-based eating?

Typically plant-based diets emphasize consuming whole, plant-based foods such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits. These foods should make up a majority of what you eat, meaning you will limit or avoid consumption of processed and refined foods. And of course, it goes without saying but this diet means you will have to commit to the elimination of ALL animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, gelatin and other animal byproducts.  

Now, the interesting part is that some individuals eating plant-based diet will chose to limit animal products rather than eliminate them all together. This primarily plant-based diet will allow for one to two days of an omnivore eating pattern (seafood, poultry and grass-fed meats), while reserving the rest of their week for plant-based meals. This style of eating is more commonly known as a flexitarian diet, which allows flexibility in consuming animal products.

Vegan’s origin story

Before the vegan diet was rebooted as a plant-based diet, it embodied a defined philosophy that was deeply rooted in animal rights. Strict vegans eliminate not only animal foods from their lifestyle, but also animal-derived, non-food products such as fur, wool, and leather. Some vegans won’t even purchase personal or household products if they have been tested on animals. Additionally, many of the reasons surrounding becoming vegan are political in nature, specifically addressing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and water usage, deforestation and wild animal extinction. Think of being vegan as a commitment to a lifestyle rather than just limiting the term to what you eat.

Okay so what is the difference?

A strict vegan diet emphasizes whole foods with minimal processing, meaning that while french fries, potato chips and oreos are essentially vegan, they bare no resemblance to the original plant form, so they’re out. On the other hand, while a plant-based diet focuses primarily on whole foods, it doesn’t entirely exclude the consumption of minimally processed foods. Again, don’t forget being vegan is a lifestyle commitment to living completely animal free, whereas the plant-based diet is solely a commitment to eating a diet that focuses on whole foods.

Ready for the mind- blowing part?!  While plant-based meals can be categorized as vegan, not everyone who eats a plant-based diet will consider themselves vegan!  The word vegan can be used as an adjective, “This stir fry is vegan” or as a noun, “Vegans eat dessert too!” The distinction seems small, but it really highlights the difference between being vegan and eating a plant-based diet.  

So is the term vegetarian out and plant-based in?

Not exactly.  Again, think about the two.  Consuming a vegetarian diet will mean that you not only eat plant-based whole foods, similar to what we know is the plant-based diet. Vegetarians who allow for consumption of eggs and dairy are categorized as “lacto-ovo” vegetarian- ‘lacto’ relating to milk and ‘ovo’ meaning egg. Typically, vegetarians eat absolutely no meat or seafood at all, however some eat fish once in awhile- this would be your pescatarian (‘pesce’ meaning fish). While there are seems to be levels of flexibility within vegetarianism, it still is at the core a plant-based based diet. Think of the term vegetarian as being rebranded into the term plant-based diet.

So what’s the take away here?

Now, for you I would say that you should eat what fuels your body and essentially makes you happy, while including a variety of nutrient dense foods into your daily meals. People ask me all the time if they should give up meat- my response is always the same… If you enjoy eating meat, there is no reason to give it up.  Instead think of reducing the amount of days you eat meat, while increasing the amount of day you eat a primarily plant-based diet. That way you are increasing the amount of nutrient dense whole foods you are eating daily, while also keeping the thing you love the most- meat. You’ll see when you do this, you may naturally begin to eat meat a bit less throughout the week as you open your palate up to a variety of whole nutrient dense foods.  


Solving the “The Dinner Dance” Dilemma

The Spring season is off to a strong start with many of you working hard to achieve you fitness, nutrition and wellness goals.  As with most of my friends, life is getting more and more hectic and you are probably having a difficult time making your nutrition, health and wellness a priority.  That’s okay.  Here’s where I come in to help out.  Today I want to talk a little bit about meal delivery and why it can be beneficial to you to supplement your weekly meals with a subscription.  I do not have an affiliation with any of the services I’m going to promote, so there is no bias on my part.  Okay, let’s dive in shall we.

Meal delivery… what is it?

No I’m not talking about take out delivery using post mates or grub hub.  I’m also not talking about meal delivery kits in which you receive a box with all of the ingredients to make a recipe.  I’m specifically talking about meal delivery services where subscription includes a set of pre determined prepared breakfasts, lunches or dinners (sometimes snacks and juices as well) to be delivered to your home or apartment.

The Benefits

As a soon to be registered dietitian, the main complaint I hear from clients as to why they cannot stay on top of their nutrition goals is due to lack of time.  However, clients are quick to add they’d prefer not to sacrifice eating a healthy, nutritious meal just because they don’t have the time to prepare it.  I definitely understand how hard it is to be a busy, working professional, but also keep health and wellness a priority.  Pre made meal delivery service can be the saving grace we all need to take some of the stress away from the dinner dilemma we constantly put ourselves through.

Many of the meal delivery services cater to both food sensitivities, preferences and allergies.  From gluten free to vegetarian, from paleo to vegan and from detox offerings to organic eats, meal delivery services can compliment your way of life and even help you to move into better health and wellness.  Below are some of my picks for meal delivery services that provide excellent #dieticianapproved meals here in Southern California.  If you live outside of your area, do a quick search and try out some meal delivery options local to you.  And remember there is no need to succumb to fast food urges and impulse buys at the grocery store when you’re short on time.  Try meal delivery and save yourself the headache of marching out pots and pans, preparing ingredients, cooking, serving, then cleaning up.  I’m exhausted just writing that sentence.  Let me know how it goes rockstars!

  • Thistle— This service is plating 100% organic, plant forward meals that are both gluten and dairy free with no added sugars.  Thistle aims to connect people to real foods in a sustainable way that delivers the optimal amount of nutrition.  There are several meal delivery options for 3 to 6 days a week, which include breakfast, lunch dinner as well as  juices, snacks, soups, wellness shots, cold-brew coffees.
  • Crateful LA— Chef prepared gourmet meals with locally sourced and organic ingredients.  Chose from 4 meal options: Chef,  Fit, Vegetarian, and Paleo. Food is packed in compostable packaging, not your typical plastics.
  • Sakara Life— An organic meal delivery program is based on a whole-food, plant-rich diet free of calorie counting, GMOs, dairy or gluten.  Protein in these meals comes from whole foods that are plant based.  A unique feature of Sakura Life’s meal plans is the inclusion of flavored waters and tea, emphasizing the importance of hydration as part of a clean and balanced program.
  • Paleta— Paleta meals are made in LA’s first certified green commercial kitchen, complete with recycling/composting programs and an on-site greenhouse where they grow some of their own ingredients. Different portion options are available for Paleta’s seasonal meal plans, including fit (weight loss), lifestyle (health/energy maintenance), and performance (athletes).
  • Klean LA—  The Klean program is based on high quality foods, portion control and macronutrient needs.  A regular meal plan consists of 45% lean protein, 37% complex carbs and 18% healthy fat.  They additionally offer a vegan and vegetarian plan that provides optimal nutrition for those clients that prefer to omit animal protein from their diet.  The vegetarian program is still gluten, soy and preservative free (no fake meat).  Pescatarian plan is mostly vegan/vegetarian with the exception of fish which is served twice a week.
  • Fitness Kitchen LA— Nutritionist Designed Meal Delivery Service.  100% Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free 3 plans to choose from based on dietary goals, offering  4 meals daily.

Wholesome, nutritious food should feed people, not landfills.

Pondering Plastic

Sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint have been two topics that have been in the forefront of emerging research to protect our natural environment.  Your carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation.  I’m sure you are aware that we are not the only ones creating greenhouse gases.  According to the EPA 21% of greenhouse gas emissions involve industries which create certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials.  Plastics production is responsible for 1% and 3% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and primary energy use, respectively (1).  Take a moment right now, think about what’s in your fridge.  How much of what’s in there is packaged in plastic?

As I mentioned in my Instagram post this afternoon, the CDC reports that more than one- third of all Americans are obese.  In fact, a recent study reports that there has also been a significant rise in severe obesity in children among ages 2 to 5.  In just about every one of my nutrition classes this semester, we have examined the increased prevalence of obesity as it relates to children and adults. These statistics are startling and registered dietitians are constantly examining prevention and treatment strategies to decrease obesity’s prevalence in our communities and schools.

This brings us to zero waste and its importance.

So I’m going to be speaking about zero waste from a nutrition standpoint.  Let’s think back to all of the products in your refrigerator.  Just by a quick glance, I can tell you about 50% of what’s in my fridge is wrapped in plastic and I’m probably underestimating.  My hummus, grated parmesan, mediterranean style dressing, baby carrots, celery, mixed greens, spinach, butter, salsa… I could go on… is packaged in plastic.  And the rest of the items are in paper boxes, such as pasta, cereal, granola, etc.  Now I’m a single woman, so whoever I don’t use I wrap up in plastic or place in a plastic container.  Can anyone relate to this?

When we look at zero waste from a nutrition standpoint we are looking at sustainable management of food in two ways.

First, we are looking at reducing food waste.  I can’t say for sure, but I may be in the majority of people who only purchases what the need for a few days and then go grocery shopping again when those items run out.  However, I can also say that many times, my refrigerator is full of food and I still go shopping for more groceries.  Now, I’ve purchased new fresh produce and packaged foods, only to let what’s already in my fridge go bad.    I can honestly, abashedly say, that I waste a lot of food.  I do!

Now this is where the zero waste practice is really helpful.  Zero waste grocery shopping takes quite a bit of planning, but once you build the habits surrounding this behavior, it should become second nature.  When you go grocery shopping in efforts to reduce waste, you are purchasing fresh produce and placing said produce in bags that you bring yourself.  And as Lauren Singer (@trashfortossers) puts it, “You can let your vegetables touch!” Why do we feel the need to put each vegetable in its own bag.  Crazy right?!  You are also utilizing the bulk section of your grocery store, by bringing your own mason jars to fill.  If you’re only bringing a certain number of jars, you can only fill so much.  Impulse buying is less of a issue this way.  You are buying only what you need and no more than that.

The second way zero waste grocery shopping is effective in sustainable food management is that you are purchasing less processed, packaged foods and giving less support to the food processing industry, which as we discussed earlier is creating copious amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.  From a nutrition standpoint this is great because you are eating nutritiously dense whole foods— aka fruits and vegetables.

Overall, there is a larger impact of living a zero waste lifestyle. EPA estimates that we disposed of over 38 millions tons of food waste in 2014.  It is important to support those in communities that don’t have enough to eat, while conserving resources for future generations.

According to the EPA, in 2013, “14.3 percent of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during the year. That is 48 million Americans, of which 16 million are children, living in food insecure households.”

So what can you do to begin your zero waste grocery shopping?!

  1. First gather up some mason jars and natural cotton fiber produce and shopping bags.  Be sure to tare the jars before you fill them so the weight of the jar doesn’t affect the price of the bulk food you are purchasing.
  2. Look for local farmers markets in your areas where you can purchase fresh produce.  Don’t forget to bring your own bags.
  3. Check out local groceries stores that allow you to bring in your own containers and purchase in bulk.  Litterless has complied a really great list of stores in your area that support zero waste grocery shopping.  Not every grocery store with a bulk section allows you to bring your own containers.  Do you research first!
  4. Fill up your containers and write the the PLU (price look-up) number so the cashier knows how to ring up your purchase.
  5. Enjoy!

Remember, this is a journey that will not be completed over night.  Give yourself some credit for making this decision and allow yourself time to make it a reality.  Continue to research the topic and bring others into your zero waste community for support.  Remember it takes time to build habitual behavior.  Check out the post I wrote about creating habits in Form + Function (January).

I want to hear about all of your zero waste shopping experiences so email me or message me on IG to tell me all about it!

Always remember to live your best life!
  1. Daniel Posen et al 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 034024
  2. Skinner, A. C., Perrin, E. M., & Skelton, J. A. (2016). Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in US children, 1999-2014. Obesity, 24(5), 1116-1123. doi:10.1002/oby.21497

Today’s top hits I’m loving this month!

The Vernal Equinox is just 7 days away… Spring weather = roll the car windows down and turn up the volume! Of course, my top hits playlist has got to start off with the rapper from my hometown, Philadelphia- Meek Mill. This album so fire, it was hard to choose one track, but Meek Mill unleashes a lyrical assault in “Uptown Vibes”, so of course, it’s gotta lead off! The hits keep coming as Logic addresses his haters in “Keanu Reeves”, and Post Malone cements his status in the industry with “Wow.”  Rounding out the male rappers, is my man J.Cole who spits some fiery lyrics and ups his rap game dominance in “Middle Child”.

Katy Perry emerges with “365” a delightfully breezy pop track produced by Zedd. And c’mon, there isn’t one girl I know who isn’t singing along with Ariana Grande nowadays.  “7 Rings” is the anthem for girl bosses everywhere. The onslaught of girl power continues with Maren Morris, who after winning a grammy for her first solo album 3 years ago, continues to dominate as a vocal powerhouse in “GIRL.”  The emotionally charged “What a Time” with Julia Michaels and the brazen “Women Like Me” by Little Mix, round out our tracks of female empowerment.

Wrapping up this Top Hits Playlist is Sigala with “Just Got Paid”.  This track is exactly the turn up you need to head out for the evening.  But just as all good things must come to an end, “Wake Up in the Sky”, winds us down and sends us into our dreams.

Track List