Essential Sports Nutrition


Zucchini Carrot Muffins

I didn't want you all to have to wait for my Oh-so-delicious muffins to fuel your lifestyle and workout routine. Just enough sweetness from the veggies without sacrificing any flavor by using very little sugar. I went into this recipe semi-blind as to what I would add as I was "creating" this recipe in my mixing bowl...but when analyzing the nutrition facts with my diet analysis software program (as a request by my neighbor who wanted to know what he was eating when I told him I made him "healthy" muffins - Yes, I am known as the "healthy" one by my non-tri friends around where I live and all our neighbors think we are crazy, getting up early, running with campy and riding in cold weather - but it's all in good fun!) when looking at the nutrition facts, I was pleased to see how balanced these muffins turned out!
I am so excited to share this recipe and enjoy these muffins on the way down South to Delray Beach. Often, Karel's riding buddies want to know how Karel continues to ride strong with a plant-strong diet. Simple. Real food is emphasized most of the time, we allow food to fuel our workouts and lifestyle and when training stops, we are both mindful as to the other areas in his life that make for a balanced life.

Pizza, Salad and Muffins. My kind of balance :)

Kashi mediterranean pizza (first time I tried it) - topped with extra tomatoes and onion
Side - oven-baked cauliflower (cooked cauliflower in microwave on vegetable setting. Cut into pieces and tossed with olive oil. Seasoned with a pinch of sea salt and chili spices)

Beautiful salad - strawberries, dark greens, peanuts, carrots, onions, tomatoes, celery

Zucchini Carrot Muffins
1/3 cup soy flour
1/3 cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 cup chopped walnuts
Dash of cinnamon
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp chocolate chips

1/3 cup unsweet applesauce
1 cup shredded carrots (or 1 large carrot)
1 cup zucchini (shredded) (or 1 large zucchini)
2 eggs
2 tbsp oil

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray non stick muffin tin with non stick spray.
2. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Evenly combine.
3. Combine wet ingredients in medium bowl. Mix together.
4. Add wet to dry and stir until flours are well combined.
5. Scoop a little less than 1/3 cup in each muffin tin.
6. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until top of muffin is peaked and firm.

Nutrition facts:
Serving Size 1
Serves: 12

Calories: 105
Carbs: 15g
Fat: 3.75g
Cholesterol: 35 mg
Sugar: 4g
Fiber: 2g
Protein: 4g
Sodium: 193mg

Edamame and tofu salad for a speedy cyclist

I'm sad to miss the Gate River Run this year but super excited to watch Karel compete in the Delray Beach Twilight Festival this weekend! More info can be found on the
Delray Festival Website . If you are in town or in the area, I highly recommend watching the Pro race, which will feature some of the top pro teams and riders in the country. The race starts at 8:15pm and will last until 9:45pm. That's right....Karel and a hundred or so other cyclists will be suffering and trying to buffer lactic acid while riding at their max capacity for 90 minutes...all while trying to avoid crashes due to four corners on each loop and every rider fighting for his own position.

Karel will be racing for 80K...on a 1K course. I'll do some of the math for you....that's around 50 miles in 90 minutes, give or take a mile or two.

Here's a video of the Athens Twilight Pro Criterium that Karel finished last was one of the most memorable days for me as Karel had started the race three times and never finished. With every lap, I was pulling for him to just hang on. It got so close at the end but I guess he wanted it more than ever and he refused to let the pain in his entire body win that evening. Last year= SUCCESS!
(Just to survive a few laps is worth bragging rights....the Athens Twilight Crit is the fastest criterium in the US)

Now you can see why I LOVE watching Karel race....what an endorphin rush without any work as a spectator! :)

In order to make sure Karel is properly fueled, I've been making sure he has had some amazing meals this week. Of course, dinner is not the only important meal of the day so starting from his pre-training snack of oatmeal, flax and strawberries, followed by a whey protein smoothie creation, Karel is constantly fueling his body when he works as the GM of the Jacksonville Trek Bicycle Store.

Although Karel has different needs than myself, the foundation is the same.
We don't do salads like this....

This is how we fuel in the Trimarni household.....
Edamame and tofu salad
Edamame (frozen and cooked in microwave, in pods, beans removed)
Tofu (cubed - cooked in olive oil on skillet on medium heat)
Lettuce (arugula and romaine)
Barley (cooked according to package on stove, under the pile of toppings)
Strawberries (sliced)
Tomatoes (sliced)
Carrots (chopped)
Onions (chopped)
Cashews (lightly salted)
Egg (hardboiled)
Dressing: Raspberry balsamic


Control weight, improve nutrition by listening to your body’s signals

Great article on
Mindful Eating

I find this topic very appropriate for athletes, who often struggle with their relationship with food.....hunger, reward food, body image, training, energy, performance. There's a lot that an athlete thinks about on a day to day basis. Let your nutrition habits work for you, not control you.

Mango broccoli slaw

After one-year of working as a YMCA wellness coordinator, teaching spin classes and doing personal training..and training for my first Ironman, I was desiring more education in the field of nutrition. Particularly, I felt very strong in my sport nutrition knowledge due to my Master of Science education but I felt very limited in my knowledge of vitamins and minerls. I always wanted to know more about what is really in food, particularly, the science of food and how it affects the body.

I find this info on Powerbar website, very informative. Specifically the
Table on Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are found in food (as we know) and the more you eat, the more you provide your body. Thanks to their beautiful colors, fruits and veggies offer a wide selection of powerful nutrients but in a varied diet, you can obtain a wide host of nutrients to support your fitness needs.

If you are an athlete (or fitness enthusiast) seeking performance gains, I recommend to always prioritize your pre and during training nutrition in order to maximize your energy and to postpone fatigue throughout the course of your workout. For many of you all, you only have so much time in the day to squeeze in a workout and your recovery from workouts may not be as ideal as you would like. Therefore, do not compromise a workout by "trying" to get through a workout. You'd be suprised how far 100 calories of Hammer Heed in 24-28 ounces of water will take you (and make you feel) during a workout or a small banana with a little peanut butter before a workout, in terms of getting the engine going. Of course, sport nutrition is typically very personalized and individualized. If you need help, you can contact me but for most people, experimentation is key as you know what it feels like to be limited by your current sport nutrition fueling strategy...just keep working at it.
Next, prioritize your recovery nutrition. You are recovering all day long when you eat throughout the day and keeping your body loose or moving, however, you can jump start the recovery process by prioritizing a mix of protein and carbs post workout, either as a recovery drink or meal. The info has been consistent on a 4:1 ratio of grams of carbohydrates to protein (ex. 40g of carbs, 10g of protein) but for me, I believe that if one can focus on 7-25g of protein (depending on the intensity and volume of the workout) within the 40-75 min post workout, along with a carbohydrate source AND THEN have a real meal, this will not only help recovery but will help with cravings, overeating and overindulging in "reward" food later in the day....all of this WILL also enhance your recovery.

So, then what.
In terms of food throughout the day to take your training to the next level, try to see food for vitamins and minerals. I find this much healthier in terms of your relationship with food, than seeing food for carbohydrates, fat or sugar. Prioritizing whole food is an easy way to accomplish this but depending on where you are in your fitness or nutrition journey, simply controlling portions and bulking up on more fruits and veggies will not only help with body composition changes but more importantly, will provide your body with more nutrient dense in vitamins and minerals.

This is how I eat. I don't expect everyone to do as I do, but it seems to work for Karel and myself. We don't count calories but we enjoy a lot of real food. We emphasize a lot of food that is minimally processed but no food is off limits. We eat a lot throughout the day, but research shows that it really doesn't matter how you eat or when you eat, just what you eat. But of course, after spending over 6 years in my nutrition journey as an Ironman athlete, I know what works best for us in terms of keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day to prevent drops in energy and to encourage efficient uses of fuel as well as being able to feel satisfied and be mindful of what I put into my body. It isn't a diet, just a personalized approach as to what works for us.

My goal for you....find what works for you as you prioritize food for its nutritional value and how it enhances your exercise routine.

Here's a fantastic recipe to get you started....

Mango broccoli slaw
1 Mango (chopped)
1 bag Broccoli Slaw (can be found by packaged veggies/bagged lettuce in grocery store)
2 spoonfuls salsa (your favorite salsa, add more/less to taste)
1-2 tbsp tahini paste (more/less to taste)
1/8 cup chopped white or purple onions (omit onions if you don't like them. They aren't needed in the recipe unless you love onions like I do)
Pepper, pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp chopped nuts or seeds (I used sunflower seeds but walnuts would be great in this)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large container, cover with lid and shake.
2. Refrigerate for wonderful flavors.

For a more satisfying meal:
Top a bed of your favorite greens (I used arugula) with slaw and serve with your choice of protein (I used 1 hardboiled egg).


Adult-friendly "diets" - portion distortion

Yesterday I had the honor of being invited by my friend Alexia, to listen to Dr Judith Rodriguez speak at the Us group's 9th annual luncheon and lecture. The topic was "weigh your choices". Eat right for lifelong health and weight management.

Dr. Rodriguez discussed popular diets, the red flags for what may appear to be "healthy" but is simple another "fad" diet and tips as to how to control and manage eating and weight. Although the info was not all new to me, there were a few key statements that I took away, as well as a different point of view and way to view food.

One of the most popular discussed topics was the issue of portion distortion. "It's not about where you eat, but how you eat" says Dr. Rodriquez.
Adults seeking body composition changes, performance gains or improvements in overall health often blame the issue of being "unhealthy" on bad food.

Courtesy of and I think this picture speaks for itself.

However, what we know beyond just controlling portions for weight loss/management is that increasing the amount of fruits and veggies in the diet is beneficial not only for promoting satisfaction/filling but fruits and veggies contain a host of nutrients, valuable for metabolic processes, overall health and longevity.

When I was at the Lunch n' Learn, we were served a beautiful salad at the UNF University Center ....

Thankfully, this salad was followed by a vegetarian-friendly meal of pasta w/ ricotta cheese and marinara sauce, green beans and almonds.

You see, only I knew that I needed more for a meal than a salad and even the portion of pasta (which was appropriately portioned controlled) did not fill me up. I was satisfied but I didn't feel re-fueled.

You see, only I knew that I had done an intense workout that morning (followed by a recovery smoothie) and that I know my body better than anyone else.

To think that I can, need or should eat the same amount, types and style of food as 100+ other people is kinda silly, wouldn't you think? Same quality of food...yes, but different compositions.

Yesterday morning, my workout consisted of:
2:15 hr bike
4 x 6 min Z4 w/ 2.5 min recovery
5 min EZ spin
2 x 25 min Z3 (build to upper Z3 in last 3 minutes) w/ 3 min EZ
5 min EZ spin
5 x 2.5 min Z5+ w/ 1 min recovery
Cool down

Followed by 25 min Campy interval run:
6 x 3 min 6:20 min/mile average w/ 1 min walk

Sorry - the salad and pasta didn't work for me, but I know my body well enough (and what works for me) so I appropriately planned a snack for after the meal (nuts and fruit in my car), had a filling smoothie to recover from my workout and then had a snack when I got home and finished my day with a filling dinner. No binging, no cravings, no feelings of "out of control" or mindless eating but rather just a little empty feeling in my stomach. Life goes on....

When discussing portions with the employees at Baptist Beaches Medical Center and asking individuals if they read food labels to portion control, most people said "yes."
When asked to play my game of guessing the fat, sugar, calories and/or sodium in the following foods, most people said "um...I guess I really don't remember those things when I read the food label."
1 ounce peanuts
1 cup popcorn
1 serving triscuits
1 cup smart start cereal

I had a can of coke with 14 packets of sugar just to catch the attention of those who do choose coke as a "pick me up" when working in the hospital, just to open the eyes as to what they are really drinking.

No surprise to me, most people said that they wouldn't be able to stick to the portions that I used as my examples. I agreed.....
But the key is that portion control compliments a plant strong diet. Research is strong when it comes to the power of fruits and veggies adding "volume" to the diet, thus promoting satiety and to bump up the nutrient value of a meal. Thus no food needs to be off-limit, one just needs to understand where he/she is in his/her life journey (in regards to food for fuel and for health) and to then find a way to allow food to enhance life and encourage a step closer to a more balanced lifestyle.

I feel the strongest statement I made when talking about portions is demonstrating a meal (on the board) and then showing that the meal I made of :
1 slice bread, 2 servings veggies, 2 servings fruit, 1 serving non fat dairy and 2-3 ounces lean meat was 380 calories.
The can of soup that I had infront of my "plastic" meal was 400 calories.

Certainly, there are ways for every person to find what works for him or her.
Here are a few tips and suggestions to make your diet a bit more personalized:

1) Focus on health outcomes, not a number on a scale - sure, every diet can be evaluated for healthy and unhealthy components. Discover your own definition of "health"

2) Have a personalized approach to improving your body composition, performance/fitness and health. Avoid mass marketed diets - you are an individual, enjoy your one and only body.

3) Be sure your style of eating is family friendly. It should have flexibility and should be practical for the long-term (even after you "lose" weight or "get healthier".

4) Focus on behaviors - grocery shopping, cooking/meal prep, social eating, traveling and mindful eating.

5) Avoid fad diets - what should raise a red flag? According to Dr. Rodriguez: fad diets will show quick weight loss, expensive purchases, encourage a limited selection of foods (avoiding other foods), encourage skipping meals (or eating minimal times throughout the day), taking diet pills or diet products (or supplements in excess due to avoiding certain food groups) and/or encouraging weight loss without a physical activity component. Additional signs of a fad diet - it's magic, unlike anything ever tried before, it's a miracle, rigid menus.

How can you get started?
1) Journal your food - find your strengths and weaknesses. I can't tell you how many times people tell me they are eating "good" by eating a salad for lunch..but if only they could stop "binging" on sweets in the evening. When I counsel these patients, we address breakfast, snacking, meal composition and/or having a plan for alternatives. There's no right answer as to how one can approach dietary habits, it involves constant work and communication between dietitian and client. It may be hard at first, but it's worth it for the client.

2) Focus on small steps - imagine if you ate the same, moved your body 30 more minutes a day (ex. walking) and reduced your portion of 1 food item by 300 calories a day. Talk about an easy "diet". Spend a few days working on one or two small changes. Aim for progress, not perfection.

3) Plan for stress and feeling "off" in life, don't put blame on your body - don't wait until everything is perfect, because life will never be perfect. Address food patterns and behaviors associated with stressful, mindless eating can be powerful in terms of making changes. Your focus should be on taking life day by day and focusing on what you can control today, to make for a better tomorrow. Address the many areas in your life that can help you feel a bit more balanced.


Kid-friendly nutrition

What a busy Monday morning. Two presentations. Two totally different audiences.

My first talk was at Oceans Palms Elementary. One hundred and sixty kiddos were selected to participate in a health and wellness talk by an "Ironman athlete". The kids were hand selected based on demonstrating two of the schools' pillars: Caring and Trustworthiness.

When I was asked to speak to the school, I hoped for a March opening.....what better than to speak to the kids during National Nutrition Month!

With many of the kids training for their first kids triathlon, I knew they would be excited to see some of my toys, so I couldn't resist bringing in my bike, aero helmet, Ironman medals and sunglasses. I am not a professional athlete but the kids sure did make me feel like one!

I decided to show a Youtube video of the Ironman "You will do this" that always sends chills down my body when I watch it on the 2 nights before an Ironman. The kids likewise thought it was SO COOL.....I could hear them whisper..."Wow, 26.2 miles of running!!" I guess it is kinda crazy if you think about it.

I absolutely love speaking to kids as I feel the message that I send to kids is not far off from how I "counsel" adults. Love your body, fuel your body, have a healthy relationship with food, eat more wholesome food, move your body daily and don't be afraid to try new things.

Sadly, when working with adults, body image is often a priority and unrealistic habits and often the diet and exercise routine is taken to an extreme. For with kids, it's easy to see when a child is "healthy". They sleep better, act better, think better and of course, feel better. For adults, they want to feel better and be more healthy but diet and exercise are only two "controllable" parts of the picture. For many adults are too stressed, overwhelmed and often filled with anxious or obsessive thoughts and many times, health is compromised not at the cost of "not being good" with nutrition and/or exercise but due to daily lifestyle choices. Sure, some are not within your control but others are modifiable..that is, if you are willing to change certain areas of your life.

Kids are amazing. They are open to new things and like to do what their friends are doing. They also think everything is cool and different and despite their words, they really do listen. They are also really good at learning from others by their actions, for often you don't have to say anything but kids can pick up on what you are trying to do or achieve.

To start my talk, I wanted to discuss one of the pillars: Caring.
I asked the kids if they care about their body and I responded by telling them how I care about my body...

1) I care about my body because I do not like getting sick. Therefore, I make sure I get lots of vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies on a daily basis.
2) As a triathlete, I care about what I put into my body, so I spend 1 hour a day making yummy creations in my kitchen so that I can fuel my body for my workouts.
3) I also care about my body SO much that I want to try to reduce my risk of getting diseases, like cancer, diabetes or have a heart attack. Therefore, I make sure that I am always having fun when I exercise, like running with dog. I also make sure that I get a good sleep most days of the week and always keep a positive attitude.


After picking 10 volunteers to be my tasters, I found it important to talk about good and bad food. Two words that are common in the adult vocabularly.
I asked the kids if there are bad foods in this world. They screamed YES. I asked them what are bad foods? The kids responded...
Ice cream

To the adults reading my blog...sound familiar?

I expected those responses and mindful of eating disorders starting at a young age, as well as relationships and habits with food, I followed up their comments by telling the kids that there are no bad foods. I kept it simple and straightforward "There are lots and lots of foods out there that we should eat every day because we know that they improve our health, make us think better, help us feel more energized, give us stronger muscles and help us from getting sick. It's nice to save those other foods, like desserts, ice cream and sugary cereals for special occasions and to really enjoy them when you eat them."

To all those parents out there, you wouldn't tell your kids they are fat and need to lose weight on a strict diet or give them a list of "off limit" foods that they can never eat because they are bad. So, why do you do it to yourself?

Certainly, many people are dying from weight related problems. Take a minute and look at yourself in the mirror. Is obsessing about losing five pounds really worth it if you are living a healthful lifestyle and feel your life is filled with quality? If you do need to lose weight, will long-term success come from drastic short term actions? Often, diet and exercise are two parts of a big puzzle. Putting all the pieces requires work and time and not just trying to be perfect at two things.

If you were able to manage your weight all your life, have ample energy to partake in daily activities or competitive sports and you felt like other areas in your life were in balance, would you feel the need to have good or bad food, off limit food lists or engage in extreme exercise just to be able to eat whatever you want while trying to maintain a lean physique? Hopefully, you are saying no. For with kids, they are often aware of their body but they also don't truely appreciate how nutrition and exercise impact their overall health..both short and long term. So would extreme dieting or "bad" food lists be practical for a child like it is, in the eyes of many, for adults?


I told the kids that I have five powerful foods that I want them to try. And in order to shape up your plate, it’s very important to choose a variety of foods that don’t have a long ingredient list. In other words, you want to eat a lot of foods that are grown straight from the ground/earth and they aren’t made in a factory.

My five powerful foods are filled with lots of vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, fiber and protein. These foods are just a few of many foods that will help you remember information, get stronger muscles, have more energy and of course, help improve your health for the rest of your life.

I told the kids that I know that sometimes foods can be kinda "plain" or boring, especially the first time you try them....So, I came up with a FUN way to make these five foods even more powerful by combining them with other foods and calling them my creations.
(Sound familiar??)

Here's my top five POWERFUL foods for the kids to try. I provided some basic info for you to tell your kids (or to inform yourself) as to why they are so powerful in the body.
1) Barley - this is a whole grain, filled with fiber so it is really good for the inside of your body and makes your digestive system very happy. Barley can be eaten any time of the day but it is really good for breakfast with some strawberries and cinnamon.
2)Oranges - How can you not love a food that is filled with natural sugars? They are filled with vitamin C to keep you from getting sick and they are good for your skin, your eyes and your heart. Another food that I like is chocolate but I like dark chocolate because it is a bit more powerful than milk chocolate. Rather than having dessert or candy after dinner, how about having some fruit every time you want something sweet or try a little dark chocolate with an orange for a sweet dessert after dinner.
3) Plain yogurt- Yogurt can be kinda sour when it is plain but I made it extra powerful by adding some granola and banana slices for a nutrient-packed creation. Yogurt is awesome for your bones and your muscles to keep you strong and growing thanks to vitamin D, Calcium and protein.
4) Kale- Kale is from the cabbage family and it is filled with antioxidants, vitamin K and vitamin A and it helps reduce your risk from cancer and other diseases. I came up with a neat creation by cooking the kale in the oven with a little olive oil and sea sat and I made kale chips. This is a yummy way to snack on veggies during the day, especially for an afternoon snack.
5) Avocado- Sometimes people eat it as a dip, like guacamole and other people like to slice it and put it on salads and sandwiches. I made a creation with an avocado by mashing it up so it is a perfect dip to go with whole grain crackers for a side dish for a school lunch. I added a little parmesean cheese for a little extra taste. Avocados kinda look like a pear and they are a fruit (due to the seed inside) but they are a great source of heart healthy fat for the entire body, especially for the heart and the brain.

I asked the kids:
1) Do you think you can eat my favorite top five foods on a daily basis?
2) Are you going to go home and tell your parents you want to grocery shop with them and pick out your favorite foods that are grown from the earth?
3) Are you going to spend more time in the kitchen, making your own yummy creations?

Here's a helpful handout that I gave to the can find it on my website at (Click on RECENT NEWS - OCEANS PALM ELEMENTARY)


“Dream Big. Inspire Others.”

Every person has the power to inspire others. The question is, are you inspired by yourself? Never stop dreaming, believing and doing.
“Dream Big. Inspire Others.”


Wholesome navigating while food shopping

Not everyone has access to a weekly farmers market or can buy all foods from a farmer.
For many people, the grocery store can be overwhelming, time consuming and costly.
If you are local in the Jacksonville area, I'd love for you to join me for a group or private grocery store tour at Winn Dixie (off 210). With a variety of wholesome selections, the following topics will be discussed during the tour (in addition to your questions as the tour continues):
1) How to understand a food label
2) What ingredients should you de-emphasize in the diet (research supported)
3) Ideas for satisfying, healthy and wholesome snacks for kids (and parents)
4) Education as to how to build a healthy plate - to eat more nutrient dense foods without weight gain
5) How to choose the good, better, best options

*Free samples will be included in the tour
*Next tour: WED MARCH 7th, 2012 @ 9:30 AM
For more info on Spa me nutrition counseling and grocery store tours or to reserve a spot in the tour, please call 904-824-9804.

If you are interested in online counseling, which includes skype, phone calls and/or email communication, check out my website and send me an email. NEW SERVICES are coming soon!

Here's my latest article from - be sure to subscribe to the FREE Newsletter...see you at Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon!
Wholesome navigating while food shopping
You always have the best intentions and a plan of action. Enter the cereal, bread and granola bar sections and you become overwhelmed with options. It’s natural to crave variety but when it comes to navigating through the grocery store aisles, more isn’t always better. Often, when you are given an abundance of selections, it is easy to feel dissatisfied with your choices. As a creature of habit, companies understand that it is natural to seek “healthy” replacements that provide you with the same taste, texture and satisfaction as your old favorites. But knowing that if you don’t like that cereal or granola bar you have over 100 alternatives, you may find yourself running in circles when it comes to finding the most nutritious (and tasteful) food items for your diet.

Enter any grocery aisle and whole grain, low-fat, high-fiber and low-sodium are screaming at you in bright, bold print. As you make eye contact with the front of a box, you may quickly remember clever marketing from a magazine or a well-versed spokesperson on TV, explaining to you why you should try that product and why you will like it more than others. Whereas cost, quality, taste and availability may affect your ultimate choice, it’s easy to be tempted by the overwhelming number of “healthy” food options.

Or, are they as healthful as you think?

In 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was signed by George H.W. Bush and under the NLEA act, nutrition labels were no longer voluntary. Unless a food item has a nutrition label, it would be considered “misbranded” (2). Today, when it comes to food labeling, food companies often use crafty techniques to confuse and mislead the consumer to buy their product.

For example, you enter a section of “healthy” fruit drinks claiming “real fruit” and “all natural” ingredients and you are captivated by the bursting colors inside a clear bottle of juice, claiming to provide “antioxidants with a blend of pineapple, cranberry and cherry juice.” You compare the price to other juices and you instantly think you are getting a great deal. As a health conscious consumer, you read the ingredient list and notice that water is the first ingredient, followed by apple juice concentrate, sugar and artificial and natural flavors. You then see a few artificial dyes and towards the end of the ingredient list you read “pineapple, cranberry and cherry juice.” Despite being a typical consumer, it becomes apparent that whole food (fresh or frozen) is a winner over the processed, man-made alternative. Lucky for you, as you put down the “real” fruit juice, the “real” fruit section is only a few aisles away.

The ultimate goal of any individual seeking a more wholesome diet is to prioritize foods with real ingredients and to emphasize foods with little or no ingredients. It may seem out of the question at this point in your nutritional journey, but never overlook the importance of striving to build a plant-strong diet, complimented with some of your “old” favorites. As you navigate around the aisles of the grocery store, you will still need to keep a watchful eye on as many of those recommended “perimeter” food items (ex. yogurt, milk, meat, cheese) have been highly processed in order to better appeal to the average consumer. As you build a foundation of vibrant produce, it’s important to extend from your plant-based meals and snacks and consume wholesome whole grains, non-fat dairy, quality protein, beans, nuts, seeds and heart-healthy oils.

Understanding that nutrition is a journey, create a “good, better, best” system to keep you enjoying new or improved whole-food changes. If you can’t seem to give up your favorite artificially flavored yogurt for your afternoon snack, how about taking this “good” item and committing to a change of taking half of your normal portion of your favorite yogurt and replacing the other half with non-fat plain yogurt. Once you feel more comfortable with this “better” option, perhaps you will feel more comfortable with the “best” option of non-fat plain yogurt topped with fresh fruit. Who knows, maybe down the road you will find yourself craving fruit more often throughout the day. This type of strategy works really well in learning how to create a healthy relationship with food as you will never find yourself “giving up” your favorite foods but rather, learning to appreciate a more whole-food diet.

As you continue to read food labels in order to work your way from good, better to best, be sure to pay attention to a few key words that may stick-out when you are evaluating your boxed, bagged, canned, jarred, bottled or frozen food choices.

1) Sugar – It comes in many forms! Check for agave syrup or nectar, apple juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, fructose, glucose or dextrose, grape juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS – corn syrup with some of its glucose converted into fructose), honey, maple syrup, molasses, orange juice concentrate, raw sugar, table sugar, confectioner’s sugar, baker’s sugar and powdered sugar.

Helpful Tip: 1 tsp sugar = 4g sugar on a food label. Control your intake to 25g/day and 35g/day of added sugar for women and men, respectively. If sugar is listed on the ingredient list, sugar is added to the product (man-made). If sugar is not listed in ingredient list but grams of sugar are on the food label, sugar is naturally occurring (nature-made) (3).

2) BPA – bisphenol A is a building block of plastic that’s in the epoxy resin used to line most cans and is common in plastic bottles that have a #7 or #3 recycling code. Some animal studies suggest that exposure to BPA early in life may alter behavior and may increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. As of now, if you are otherwise healthy, choose canned products occasionally and increase nutrient density by adding fresh veggies to a pot containing canned soup.
Helpful Tip: Eden organics uses BPA-free cans or you can choose cartons, pouches, raw or frozen items which are free of BPA (4).

3) rBST - Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) is a genetically engineered drug injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. It was approved by the FDA in 1993. rBST has been shown to elevate levels of IGF-1 (a powerful growth hormone) which may increase risk of many types of cancers.

Helpful Tip: Look for the rBST –free seal/stamp. Most milks are free of rBST and there is little current credible evidence that consuming milk from a cow free of rBST will increase your risk of cancer. As the research continues, be mindful that if you choose alternative “dairy” substitutes (instead of cow’s milk) to meet calcium and protein needs, be sure that you read the nutrition label for added ingredients such as artificial flavorings and sugar. When finding your “good, better, best” option, always compare nutrients such as calcium, fat, sugar, protein and sodium to meet your fitness and health needs. (5).

1) U.S. Food and Drug administration (2009). Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) requirements (8/94-2/95). Retrieved Feb 13, 2012 from

2) Nutrition Action Healthletter, Jan/Feb 2010, pg. 4.

3) Nutrition Action Healthletter, Jan/Feb 2012, pg. 8.

4) International Diary Foods Association (2012). IDFA position on bovine somatotropin (bST or bGH). Retrieved Feb 13, 2012 from

-Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N

Marni works as a PRN Clinical Dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC and provides one-on-one consulting at Spa Me in Jacksonville, FL. Marni is a Registered Dietitian, holding a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. As an elite endurance athlete, she is also a Level-1 USAT Coach and a 5x Ironman finisher. Marn is a 110% play harder and Oakley Women ambassador. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Fitness Magazine, The Florida Times-Union Shorelines, Lava Magazine, Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to, USAT multisport zone and Lava online.

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