Nutritional Quality and a Changing Culture

What follows is an excerpt from a new client’s “questions” about a wellness plan. This question thread points to a number of questions we often hear in our office. Bottom line- food quality matters, but we are never going to make a “perfect” choice 100% of the time. Learning how to navigate excellent, good, and poor choices is an essential skill.

What are you going to eat at the airport? Is the yogurt parfait really a better choice than a bag of chips? These are questions that we love to examine in our coaching sessions.

Nutrition is not “one size fits all”.


1) If I am working out in the morning, should I have a protein bar before I do?

There is evidence that fasted workouts can be beneficial, but if you want (feel you need) a pre-workout bar with simple (quick energy) carbohydrates, I recommend an Rx bar.

2) I’ve been eating "One" protein bars. Are those ok? 

One Bar

One bars are not ideal- they contain sucralose. Sucralose is an artificial sweetener. Although some experts claim it has no ill health effects, I prefer to steer clear of artificial sweeteners (and colors) when possible. Here is some research on sucralose:

How Safe is Sucralose

Here are better choices in this article- you can choose any of the bars in the "better choice" list as a snack.

Best Protein Bars

3) Can I do the breakfast shake before a workout then a protein shake after? If I do all that, should I be skipping having a breakfast with eggs etc?

Some days, you may have two shakes if you need quick and easy but ideally- we want you eating real food. Limiting protein shakes to one/day is recommended.

Here is an idea:

Pre-workout: Bar from list above

Post-workout: Protein shake as breakfast (this is the recipe w/ protein, berries, nut butter, greens, etc.)

If you are hungry, you can have a second breakfast later: egg scramble, Starbucks bacon egg bites, etc.

5) Should I not try and do mashed potatoes anymore?

Mashed potatoes (made from scratch or from frozen potatoes) are great. Just avoid instant. You can add any vegetable carbohydrate to your meals: white potato, sweet potato, squash, etc. You can also add a Safe Carb grain. Again- here is the list:

Safe Carbs

Because reducing body fat is not a goal, it is important that you eat when you are hungry. We will work on this together. Our goal is UPGRADING YOUR NUTRITIONAL QUALITY. This will be a process. 

Reducing sugar, switching out your protein bars for better choices, adding higher quality protein and more veggies will make a health difference. Think of it this way- vegetable carbohydrates are BEST because they have fiber and nutrients. Good choices are legumes and the safe carbs above. Poor choices are processed grains like wheat.

6) When I am out to dinner and get a protein and veggie- should i get anything else? Or should I just do a protein and double veggies?

Good question. Ideally, you will get a protein, veggies, and extra fat. For example, if you got a salad at Chipotle, you would get it with optional beans (good carbs choice), peppers and onions, salsa, choice of meat or tufu, lettuce, and lots of guacamole! If you need a "grain"- the choices above in the safe carb list are BEST but brown rice is a good second choice. The grains are best if you workout hard and don't have access to a starchy vegetable.

Please watch the move The Magic Pill on Netflix ASAP- then you will understand the approach. We are changing your food culture. 

7) Is caesar dressing something I should no longer be having?

Ceasar dressing is a good choice because it is low in sugar. That said- be mindful of the dressing you buy- canola oil is NOT IDEAL. Olive oil or avocado oil are better choices.

8) Are sweet potato fries bad?

Sweet potato fries are not "bad"- no food is bad;) That said- the oil they are fried in matters. Most restaurants use a low grade oil. If you cook sweet potato fries at home, you can fry them in coconut oil or bake them.

Deep Frying Oils- Best and Worse Choices

9) Is there a "best" meal delivery brand I should look into. I of course want to cook as much as possible but I will not always have time. Or should I just get something pre made from TJs thats on the list?

As I wrote in your wellness plan, learning basic food assembly and meal prep skills is a goal. That said- you can supplement with meal delivery as you ease into learning these skills. Maybe start with one dish or recipe/week prepped on Sunday that will feed you for 2-3 meals that week. 

Muscle Up Meals - you would work best with the paleo option.

10) I usually have scrambled eggs with some type of bread, should i cut out the bread? if so what can i sub for it if anything?

We are trying to reduce low quality carbohydrates like bread (made with wheat flour). A sweet potato or hashbrown cooked in coconut oil would be a better choice. Note: not all your choices are going to be "perfect". I want you to learn the ideal, good, and poor choices. This is about upgrading your nutritional quality not eliminating foods. Have bread once/week with your eggs if you love it; but try including other higher quality carbohydrates like potatoes on other days.  We also like almond flour English muffins at Whole foods:

Mikeys' Muffins

11) Are Lenny and Larry cookies bad?

High in Sugar

12) Are there any good smoothies at Jamba or places like Sunlife?

Sunlife has a low sugar/low glycemic load smoothie option by request- ask them what smoothies are lowest in sugar. You want a smoothie with berries, protein, and plenty of greens and fat!

13) Is a turkey burger preferable to red meat? And are they fine whenever as long as lettuce wrapped?

Lettuce wrapped is  great. Ideally- your meat will be grassfed and organic. Turkey burgers were "leaner" and gained popularity because of that; but now we know fat is our friend... so as long as both meat sources are the same in "quality", turkey burgers are no better for you than red meat unless you are sensitive to saturated fat (which you are not).