5 Easy Principles to Turn You Into Your Own Nutritionist

Posted by Erin o’Maley, D.C.


You can already start to feel that spring is on its way and some of us are already becoming more mindful of what we eat as we prepare to shed our parkas. Here are my very favorite nutritional words of wisdom, that I cannot take credit for, but often refer to in sifting through the barrage of mixed messages we get about what constitutes healthy eating. These belong on a plaque in your kitchen, but a post-it note will do as well.

“Eat foods that are ingredients, not foods that have ingredients.” -Unknown

The healthiest foods have the fewest ingredients, like spinach, eggs, and salmon. These are the foods that come from nature and not a factory. Unhealthy foods have the most ingredients. For example, a Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chicken Ranchero Smart Mini Wrap’s ingredients list looks like this:

“Tortilla (Water, Enriched Flour [Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Whole Wheat Flour, Modified Wheat Starch, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Glycerine, Tomato with Pieces [Tomato Concentrate, Guar Gum], Baking Powder [Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Bicarbonate Soda, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate], Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Sugar, Salt, Granulated Garlic, Citric Acid), Cooked White Meat Chicken (White Meat Chicken, Water, Modified Potato Starch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate), Ranchero Sauce (Tomatoes [Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid], Water, Chicken Base [Chicken Meat with Natural Juices, Salt, Organic Cane Juice Solids, Corn Maltodextrin, Chicken Fat, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors, Dried Onion, Spice Extractives, Turmeric], Chili Paste [Chili Peppers, Dried Onion and Garlic, Yeast Extract, Salt, Spices, Beef Extract, Citric Acid], Roasted Tomatoes, Granulated Onion, Granulated Garlic, Jalapenos [Jalapenos, Water, Vinegar, Salt], Modified Cornstarch, Modified Cellulose, Spices, Chipotle Chili Powder], Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese (Part Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Monterey Jack Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Bell Peppers (Red, Green), Fire-Roasted Onions, Roasted Poblano Chiles, Modified Cornstarch.”

This isn’t food, it’s “foodlike”. I’m not down on the Weight Watchers diet (although I’ve found their recipes overall to be too based on starchy carbs to be ideal). They have nice guidelines for portion control for weight loss and their system works, but it should be used with a whole foods nutrition plan. You might lose weight eating tiny boxed meals, but you’ll never have proper nutrition.

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Michael Pollan

This follows well from the first rule. Do you recognize everything in that ingredient list? “Yeast extract” is a code word for MSG. Modern food products didn’t exist a few generations ago. This rule also extends to genetically-modified foods and conventional meat, eggs, and dairy. Buying local and shopping farmers’ markets makes it easier to find quality produce that is organic and free of hormones and antibiotics. It sounds like a challenge at first, but once you’ve found replacements for conventional foods, it’s not challenging, it’s just how your great-grandma ate. We are starting to get a scary idea of the long-term effects of antibiotic exposure, and we should also be extremely uncomfortable that, with about 85% of the corn grown in this country genetically-modified, no studies to assess the long-term effects of human consumption have been performed. The lifespan of the next generation is now predicted to be less than that of their parents. The more you avoid foods that were not available a hundred years ago, the closer you’ll get to having the natural diet of a human, and the healthier you’ll be.


(It’s not necessary to buy all produce organic, but the “dirty dozen” most contaminated fruits and vegetables should be.)

“Whenever you see the words ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat,’ think of the words ‘chemical sh*t storm’.” – Rory Freedman

It’s necessary to add on “sugar-free” as well when there’s Splenda or aspartame added. Drinking one to two sodas, regular or diet, per day has been found to increase an individual’s chances of being overweight by 33%. High-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are associated with a slew of health problems, including obesity, neurological conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, depression, and liver damage.

Low-fat and fat-free foods have as many calories as the full-fat versions, fewer nutrients, more chemical additives, and tons of salt, sugar or corn syrup added to try to give them back the flavor and texture that was lost with the fat. These low-performing carbohydrates digest quickly and cause a sugar rush followed by rebound hunger. The “fat-free” calories, because they are mainly from starches and sugar, end up stored as fat instead of used for energy. Fat is not your enemy. Healthy fats, like coconut oil, boost your metabolism. Using natural fat salad dressings instead of low-fat or fat-free help you to absorb more important nutrients from the vegetables.

“Eat the rainbow.”Mark Hyman, M.D.

Crackers are not colorful. They may give you some fiber. Kale is a lovely deep, verdant green. It gives you fiber and helps ward off cancer! Phytonutrients are plant chemicals that interact with your biology. They act like switches on your DNA in order to heal and improve the function of genes and metabolism. There are more than 25,000 of these chemicals in colorful vegetables that are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hormone-balancing, and detoxifying. Eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), however, switches on the genes for illness, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, depression, and cancer. Different phytonutrients boost the effectiveness of others, so by eating a wide variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, you can truly eat your medicine.

“Focus on adding.”Food Matters

I cannot stand and try to avoid at all costs the word “diet”. It’s supposed to mean “the stuff you usually eat”, but it’s come to be associated with restriction, calorie-cutting, extreme fads, guilt, and despair. I also do not care what you call your diet: paleo, primal, Mediterranean, pH balance or alkaline diet, the candida diet, even Weight Watchers, and there are many books are out there with great plans. If it gives you consistency and a plan for adding more healthy whole foods, keep it up.

I never recommend counting calories because I find it to be frustrating, not particularly effective, and unnecessary with a good nutrition plan. Eating fewer calories than you use each day over an extended period of time causes your metabolism to downshift and makes it harder to burn fat later on. Instead of thinking about the foods you’re cutting out and subtracting calories, focus on adding lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, more raw foods, more water and green tea, healthy fats, and locally farmed organic animal products. Keep on adding and eventually the suboptimal food choices will filter out.

These are rules for great nutrition, not weight loss, but an effective and healthy weight-loss plan should adhere to these guidelines, and many people will lose fat simply by following them. If there’s room for improvement in your food choices, write these on a post-it note where you will see them! If you’re looking to get lean, we would add a couple more rules and talk about exercise, but for maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing illness, improving energy, thriving and feeling fantastic, these are my absolute favorite principles that cut through the bull and make excellent nutrition very simple.

Additional resources:

Fooducate: Weight Watchers Smart One Meals – Not That Smart

Natural News: Diet Sweeteners Can Make You Sick and Fat

Mercola: Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat, But These 10 Things Will

Purdue University: Study: No-fat, low-fat dressings don’t get most nutrients out of salads


Getting Whey Smart



The scoop on whey protein shakes: Who should use them, why, when, how much, and what to look for in a powder.

Many already know that drinking protein shakes can benefit their health, but there is a lot of confusion over how to choose a proper protein shake. While adding a shake to your regimen can be an worthwhile investment in your fitness, if you choose the wrong one, you might be throwing your money away and actually doing your body a disservice. Picking out a protein powder does not have to be a daunting experience, but protein shakes are still a processed food, so we need to learn how to read the label.

Unless you avoid dairy, whey is the way to go. Whey has become so popular because it is the protein component of milk most efficiently absorbed and utilized by the muscles for protein synthesis — i.e. “to get swole”. For individuals with dairy allergies, whey is often still tolerated. It is best to have 20-30 grams within an hour of working out, before, or after, if you’ve done strength training, or both. There are benefits to either way you time it, so it comes down to personal preference and what makes you feel the best. Drinking whey protein before a workout provides a fat-burning boost that lasts long after the workout ends, and having it after a workout helps build muscle mass.

Protein shakes aren’t just for musclemen anymore! A whey protein shake is excellent to have on hand if you’re someone who is on the go a lot and tends to fail in your nutrition for convenience foods. Whey protein has all of the essential amino acids our body requires to thrive that we can only obtain from our diet. Leucine is one of the most notable branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) that whey is especially high in and is responsible for initiating mechanisms of protein synthesis and muscle building, with help from isoleucine and valine. Leucine also gives your thyroid a boost and prevents post-exercise decline in testosterone, but your body depends on amino acids to carry out every process efficiently. Eggs, the famous muscle-building food, have 1.4g of leucine per 100g, while whey protein has 8 grams. This doesn’t just provide benefits for bodybuilders, leucine can help to combat the natural muscle-loss associated with aging.

Whey protein increases a peptide, GCP-1, which promotes satiety and healthy insulin secretion and utilization. It helps keep insulin levels low to avoid becoming insulin resistant, which leads to many health issues including type II diabetes. Almost everyone could benefit from more stable blood sugar. Drinking whey protein with carbohydrate foods has been shown to lower the glycemic response to the carbohydrates proportionately to the amount of whey ingested. So, try having a shake first before the next time you plan to indulge. If you’re not munching on many colorful vegetables each day, it is essential that you add a greens blend powder to your shake.

For individuals very sensitive to dairy, or for vegans, pea protein and hemp protein shakes are good options. Always try to choose the most minimally processed product available, with the fewest additives. Soy is not a good option. It is usually genetically modified, and eating too much soy is known to result in some serious hormone imbalances.

Whey protein concentrate is preferable to whey protein isolate. Isolate is more expensive and is successfully marketed to bodybuilders because it is supposedly a more “pure” form of whey with higher protein content per gram. Whey protein isolate is also sometimes touted as a better choice for those with lactose intolerance or who experience bloating or other issues with concentrates because the processing removes any remaining traces of lactose. However, this also produces a more highly processed food product which causes it to become overly acidifying and to lose many nutritional co-factors, including alkalizing minerals, naturally-occurring vitamins, immune complexes, and healthy fats. Isolate still may be used for a quick source of protein, but if consumed a lot, as an athlete may, can lead to metabolic acidosis with serious consequences, including muscle wasting and increased vulnerability to degenerative disease.

It should be made from raw milk, cold-processed and water-soluble. It may say something like “non-denatured” or “minimally-processed”. High heat does irreversible damage to the majority of components of milk and may cause intolerance even in individuals with no history of milk allergy. Most protein shakes are processed from ultrapasteurized milk using acid, which damages the proteins and makes them insoluble in water. Substances are added to restore solubility, such as genetically modified soy letchin, chemical surfactants used in soap, and hydrolyzed proteins (AKA: MSG!). It’s going to be hard to find a product that doesn’t have a few additives to improve the solubility and mouthfeel of the powder, but as a general guideline, make sure you recognize 95% of the ingredients and don’t eat anything in a package that has more than ten ingredients.

High quality whey protein concentrates should retain the the immune-boosting and regenerative nutritional components of raw milk. They will provide important protein components, lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, serum albumin, active peptides and growth factors. They also contain the precursor to a powerful anti-aging nutrient, glutathione, as well as glycomacropeptides (GMP), immunological components that are beneficial for healthy gut flora.

Your shake should be naturally-sweetened and low in sugar. Context is helpful when thinking about grams of anything. If a cup of mixed berries has about 10 grams of sugar, your protein shake should have less. My shake has 3 grams of sugar, and I probably wouldn’t use anything with more than 6. Many products are sweetened with stevia now, which is a natural sweetener from a leaf and is almost calorie-free, with no effect on blood sugar or associated toxicity. Do I need to write “don’t buy a shake with aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin”? Don’t make me. Don’t go have a great workout and get your cells all prepared and excited to gobble up a bunch of nutrients and then shuttle poison to them. 3 grams of sugar is equivalent to roughly three slices of apple, it’s not worth replacing with an artificial sweetener.

It should absolutely be from grass-fed cattle, rBGH-free, GMO-free and organic. Even if you’re not the most mindful label-reader and don’t already shop this way, I think your protein shake is somewhere it is critical to make the investment. The greatest allure of drinking whey is that it is rapidly absorbed into the muscles within minutes. I certainly don’t want bovine growth hormone, antibiotics, pesticides, and genetically modified ingredients included in my nutritional supplement. Cows are not meant to eat corn and raw milk from grass-fed cows has much higher levels of CLA, healthy bacteria, enzymes, and the ideal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. CLA is an important nutrient for improving body composition, blood sugar regulation, bone health, vascular health, promoting healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels; it’s basically good for everything.

Adding a whey protein shake is a great way to get some essential nutrition, not only for fitness fanatics, but for anyone who wants to improve their health. If your shake doesn’t fit the above criteria, you’re not getting the full benefit of whey’s nutrients. Maybe that’s acceptable if you simply want a quick source of protein, but if you can’t invest in a higher quality product right now, my suggestion is to instead keep some hard-boiled eggs ready and have 3-4 of those with a handful of veggies before or after your workout. If you choose a lower quality shake, you may just be adding another processed-into-garbage food to your diet, and that’s never the way to achieve optimal wellness.


10 Holiday Gifts for the Fitness Enthusiast or Future Fitness Enthusiast



10 days until Christmas! Are you still trying to finish your shopping? Here are some ideas inspired by my home gym collection as well as my own holiday wish list that would be great gifts for those on your list of all levels of fitness. Of course, if your loved one is not already a fitness buff, you may be concerned that your gift will be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) as telling them that they really need to get in shape. Truly, the greatest gift you can have is your health, and if you match your loved one with the right piece of equipment that makes fitness fun and a real treat for them, they will appreciate it forever. This could probably just as easily been titled something along the lines of “10 Recommendations for the Minimalist Gym”, but ’tis the season.

10. A Solid Jump Rope

A good jump rope is hard to find! You want something with durability, swivelability, good handfeel, adjustability, and not too kinky. A quality jump rope is a great gift for anyone looking to get fit because they can start doing it at any level, it’s super effective, and they can take it anywhere. If you’re short on time, maybe traveling, and aren’t sure you can fit in a workout today–Man up! No excuses! You can get some serious sweat on jumping rope in less than ten minutes! See, this is an extremely thoughtful gift. It’s also the perfect gift for your friend whose New Year’s resolution is to start doing Crossfit.

9. Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence by Dr. Eric Goodman

I’ve recommended this book to multiple friends and family members and personally bought it as a gift for 3 people this year (Don’t tell them). It’s is a very effective core strengthening technique that anyone can use anywhere with minutes a few times a week. It balances musculature, stabilizes the spine, and teaches your body to move as nature intended. The photos and step-by-step instructions are superb. It’s an excellent gift for anybody who suffers from back pain and needs to increase their mobility or who wants to maintain healthy core strength and stability, so I think it’s a great gift for everybody!

8. Weighted Gloves for Turbo Kick

If someone on your list takes a Turbo Kick class with me, these gloves will take their jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts to the next level! Each glove is just under a pound. I’ve used mine for 8 years and they’ve held up great. They would be handy for a number of cardio routines, including P90X, ChaLean Extreme, and most of the other BeachBody programs. I imagine they would also be a cool gift for the Zumba enthusiast in your life, although I’ve never seen them used that way.

7. Indo Board Balance Trainer

The Indo Board is a handy little piece of equipment that can be used for fitness, functional rehabilitative exercise, or balance training and can be used to improve the fitness of children and senior citizens alike. Like a Bosu Ball, the Indo Board can be used to add a balance component to a multitude of your more traditional exercises to engage your core more fully and improve your balance–but it has a much higher cool factor. It’s compact, portable, and so fun. The website is full of resources for exercises to try with the board. You can *do tricks* on it! It would neat gift for your surfer or skater during the long winter months, and the longer Indo Yoga Board would be a stellar gift for a yogi, simulating the ultra core-engaging activity of moving your yoga practice to a stand up paddle board.

6. ChaLEAN Extreme by Beach Body

I pretty much love any of Chalene Johnson’s workouts and I always stay active, but this strength training program has definitely changed my body composition in 12 weeks as advertised. The premise is simple: Lift heavier, build bigger muscles, burn more calories, eat more food, and get lean. You can start lifting with 2 lbs or with 25 lbs as long as it’s enough to fatigue your muscles. It doesn’t matter if they’re 18 or 70 or if they’ve never lifted a dumbbell in their life. It’s a rotation of 3 strength circuits, interval training, cardio drills, abs and stretching. I love that the circuits change monthly, so you don’t have time to get bored with it and it keeps you from reaching a plateau. I’ve been able to stick with it while on vacations, staying in hotel rooms, and during my move from Florida to Massachusetts by using the resistance bands instead of dumbbells.

5.Bowflex Selecttech Dumbbells

This is a whole lot of gym in a little space for a pretty little price. Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 lbs. The .5 lb increments before 25 lbs is a great feature. Weight is adjusted quickly and smoothly during transition to the next exercise. It totally eliminates the clutter of an entire weight rack.

4. The Magic Bullet

No, it’s not a piece of equipment for your home gym, but I have found no way superior to assemble a post-workout shake or snack. My dad got me the Magic Bullet years ago and I thought it was the weirdest gift ever until I started making shakes and smoothies and nothing else compares. Cleaning a blender is such a hassle. With the Magic Bullet, you just unscrew the blade from your beverage cup, rinse it off, and screw on either the lip of the cup, or a cover to throw it in your lunchbox. Simple, and it takes up very little counter space. (Upcoming, I’ll share some of my recipes.)

3. Intelliskin

Intelliskin makes fantastic products some of which are at the top of my Christmas list this year. Intelliskin makes shirts and sports bras that improve posture and performance during sports, workouts, or just activities of daily life. They look pretty badass, too. Their website explains how they work, “Our garments are designed to stimulate and send specific cues to the brain that cause your tight muscles to relax and the opposing under-used muscles to simultaneously contract and tone. The flow of information back and forth from the nerve receptors in the skin to the brain provide subconscious “coaching,” instructing muscles to work together, function and protect joints from injury more efficiently.

 Muscle memory and improved postural awareness are created by maintaining improved alignment and balance during repetitive daily movements.”

2. Resistance Band Set

I got a great 4-piece set as a Christmas gift from my mom years ago. I no longer see the brand I have available anywhere, but there are plenty of options. My bands have held up and they’ve come on every vacation with me. They’re inexpensive and you can modify just about any upper or lower body exercise you would do with a set of weights for the bands. You can also make the resistance as light or heavy as you require. They sure aren’t as cute and sweet as they look! The only somewhat negative aspect is that you can’t track the exact weight you’re using as you can with dumbbells, but they’re still definitely one of the most useful gifts I’ve ever received.

1. Mini Trampoline

Trampolining is possibly one of the healthiest and easiest activities to incorporate into a routine, so I think a mini trampoline is a marvelous gift for just about anyone. It’s low-impact on the joints. Even the most exercise-resistant individual on your list probably wouldn’t be opposed to bouncing on a trampoline for a few minutes a day, and they’ll receive tremendous benefits for minimal effort. It is basically impossible to feel depressed and tired when bouncing on a trampoline. Trampolining can increase lymph flow, increase circulation of oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs, support healthy cardiovascular function, improve balance and coordination, and increase strength and bone density.