The Truth About Gluten

If you keep up with the changing trends of nutrition, you’ve heard “gluten” mentioned a few times lately. People love to be part of the next new trend whether it’s really beneficial to the body or not… you’ve seen it with low-carb, low-fat, high-fat, grapefruits only, and the list goes on.


The whole reason for starting this blog was so that you could find trustworthy information, backed up by science and tested by a real human being. Let’s break down the latest headlines on gluten… has it truly given you a “wheat belly”? How about a “grain brain”?

First things first… what IS gluten?


If you haven’t seen the Jimmy Kimmel video on this… check it out now. So stinkin’ hilarious.


Gluten is simply the protein found in wheat. It is comprised of gliadin and glutenin, giving elasticity to dough & helping it rise.

Those that have a true allergy to gluten suffer from celiac disease.

You can easily have a blood test done to see if your symptoms are a result of celiac disease. However, if the test comes back negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not affected by gluten.

If you have been suffering symptoms that seem related to gluten, it may be possible that you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’).

Research estimates that 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity. That’s 6 times the amount of Americans who have celiac disease.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease but yet who lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. Early research suggests that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an innate immune response, as opposed to an adaptive immune response (such as autoimmune) or allergic reaction.

I’ll be honest and tell you when all of this gluten stuff started popping up, I thought it was ridiculous. As registered dietitians, we are taught to include everything in moderation, choose whole grains and include them often… especially in an athlete’s diet. Gluten sensitivity? Really? Either you have celiac disease or you don’t. Here we go having to deal with the newest way to cut out a food group or reason to make lots of “gluten-free” processed foods to sell at the grocery store.

If you watched the video above, yes, lots of people are taking it on as a trend. However, the research is showing us that it IS a real problem. Many people suffer from headaches, bloating, digestion problems and more due to gluten sensitivity.

Improvements are being found in those with the symptoms above as well as those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, migraines and fatigue.

Research presented by Columbia University clinicians at the 2012 American Academy of Neurology meeting found that 56% of people with gluten sensitivity, and 30% of those with celiac disease, suffered from chronic headaches compared to 14% of people in the control group. About 23% of those with inflammatory bowel disease also reported chronic headaches.

If you’ve been wondering about gluten or whether you may have a sensitivity, here are the symptoms to consider:

Skin rash
Mouth sores
Joint pain
Discolored teeth
Foggy brain

Personally, I’ve had really bad headaches for the past 6-7 years. A couple of years ago, I started to seek medical help… I had MRIs done, saw plenty of MDs (neurologist, internal medicine, sleep doctors), and came up with no result. I was left with a bottle of pills for my “migraines” that really doesn’t work or help anyway.

Like I said, I was against this gluten-free movement at first… wanting to avoid the next “trendy” nutrition claim.

After a lot of reading and the newer research coming out, I decided why not try cutting out gluten? Why not just give it a shot? And I don’t mean buying lots of packaged “gluten-free” foods to carry around with me. I mean… limiting grains and when I do eat them, double-checking they are gluten free (oats, quinoa), while including a lot more produce and lean meat. It’s definitely not easy. I’ve had more than a couple slip-ups but it’s a work in progress.

I’m happy to say in the past 6 weeks, I’ve had one really bad headache instead of the 1+ per week. I’ve lost 8 pounds without really altering my exercise habits and the daily morning “foggy” brain has become SO much better.

While research absolutely has an important place in science, there’s also something to knowing your body and feeling the change that happens when you’re aware of what’s going into your mouth.

This starts the first of a few posts on non celiac gluten sensitivity on the blog! I want to show you how easy it can be to try out a gluten-free lifestyle if you’re interested.

If you have a similar story or a favorite gluten free recipe, please email me or comment below! I would love to hear your stories. Have a great weekend!


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Sweet & Salty Snacks: Featuring Sahale!

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Many of us tend to get in a rut with our snacks. We find something easy, convenient to pack up for the work (or school) day, and hopefully *healthy* too.

Some of my go-to snacks are fruit, hardboiled eggs, almonds & Kind bars. A new snack food I’ve come across is definitely sprucing up the snack time!

Sahale Snacks has a few different nut & fruit mixes: Glazed nuts, Sahale crunchers, Premium blends, Nut & fruit mixes and Grab & go snacks. I’ve come across some of their Grab & go snacks before while traveling, but recently I tried a few of the Premium blends… and I have to say: YUM!

Out of the flavors I tried, I found Pomegranate Pistachio & the Crunchers {Cherries, Apple and Maple} to go really well on a cheese plate when entertaining friends. They have a slightly sweet but also salty flavor that goes along with cheese just right.

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The Maple Pecan Premium blend was just right served over some Greek vanilla yogurt.

The absolute BEST part of this company… their products are made with real, whole foods. No preservatives. No artificial sugars.

From the Sahale Website:

We use whole ingredients in their natural form — such as cashews, almonds, pecans, and pistachios — and combine them with naturally dried and preservative-free (unsulphured) fruits, then add fabulous ingredients like organic honey, lemongrass, balsamic vinegar, or pure ground Madagascar vanilla beans. They are delicious snacks that go beyond ordinary.

Since they do use ALL real ingredients and no artificial sweetener, it’s important to remember portion size! These blends make the perfect topping or little snack, but avoid consuming the whole bag in one sitting. Many athletes struggle with under-eating throughout the day, especially those trying to put on muscle mass. For these athletes, this is a great dense snack for getting in quality nutrition & gaining or maintaining weight. For the weight-loss athletes, watch the portion size & even try separating portions into small size Ziploc baggies for easy snacking access throughout the week.

One portion comes out to 1/4 cup of the blend with ~120-160 calories, ~9g fat, ~12-15g carbs and ~5g protein. The carbohydrate and protein ratio is actually great for someone needing a small snack. For a more substantial pick-me-up or a small meal, pair it with a Greek yogurt or a cup of fresh fruit. For those trying to gain weight, use 2% Greek yogurt & use 1/2 cup of the blend with 1-2 cups fresh fruit.

Since Sahale snacks is known for their innovative creations, I plan to find even more ways to use these yummy concoctions… I’m already thinking energy bites, blended granola bars & possibly smoothies?!


Have you tried the Sahale snacks before? What’s your favorite way to snack with them?



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Spotlight on: Lemon

Summer is really here! I don’t know about you, but summer makes me think of snow cones, BBQs and lemonade.

The classic lemonade is always tasty in the summer heat or while lounging by the pool, but what about something with more health benefits and less sugar??

I come across lots of lemon “detox” drinks that have way too many funky ingredients in them… so I decided to try a simple mix of some fruit & mint for a refreshing Citrus Mint Lemonade.

Some benefits of consuming lemon/lemon juice on a regular basis include…

Vitamin C: antioxidant that works against free radicals

Beneficial for the liver: dissolvent of uric acid & other poisons

Powerful antibacterial properties

Lemon juice helps to cure problems related to indigestion and constipation

For those of you wanting to try it – here’s the recipe!


1 cup cubed pineapple
1/2 orange, peeled
3/4-1 lemon, peeled
16 oz brewed green tea
8-10 mint leaves


Bring 16oz water to a boil. Add in 2-3 green tea bags of your choice and let steep for 3-4 minutes (do this while you peel the fruit & get it ready).

Peel orange & lemon. Cut pineapple if needed. Add the fruit & mint leaves to the blender.

Summer Lemonade-2
When tea is ready, add 16oz green tea to the blender.

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Blend it up!

It tastes best when chilled, so leave it in the fridge for a while before serving or pour over ice.

Summer Lemonade-4

Nutrition Facts {8oz lemonade}: 63 calories, 0g fat, 16g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 1g protein



Spotlight on: Lemon
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Perfect summer drink!
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 2
  • 1 cup cubed pineapple
  • ½ orange, peeled
  • ¾-1 lemon, peeled
  • 16 oz brewed green tea
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  1. Bring 16oz water to a boil. Add in 2-3 green tea bags of your choice and let steep for 3-4 minutes (do this while you peel the fruit & get it ready).
  2. Peel orange & lemon. Cut pineapple if needed. Add the fruit & mint leaves to the blender.
  3. When tea is ready, add 16oz green tea to the blender.
  4. Blend it up!
  5. It tastes best when chilled, so leave it in the fridge for a while before serving or pour over ice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 8 oz Calories: 63 Fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 16g Fiber: 2.5g Protein: 1g

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Spotlight on: Seaweed

A couple of years ago I was having sushi with a friend. Normally, edamame was a no-brainer appetizer but we decided to try something a little different.

I ordered the seaweed salad and was surprised by how delicious it was! I started thinking… what exactly is in this stuff? Is it healthy or some weird concoction of artificial “seaweed”?

seaweed salad

After a little research, here’s the scoop on seaweed…

What is seaweed salad?

Goma Wakame is the bright green seaweed that most restaurants serve as the seaweed salad. In Korea, the wakame soup is popularly consumed by women after giving birth as it contains a high content of calcium and iodine, nutrients that are important for nursing new mothers. Many women consume it during the pregnancy phase as well.

Calcium and iodine isn’t just for new moms, though. Calcium is important for the athlete – bones and muscle both use calcium. Most people think of bones right away since calcium does support strong bones and bone health. It’s important to remember that when your muscle contracts whether you’re running, jumping, lifting, or diving, there must be enough calcium for the muscle to use.

Iodine is used by the thyroid to regulate metabolism and the development of your skeleton and brain.

Iodine deficiency in any one of these areas causes harm to the body:

  • Salivary glands = inability to produce saliva, producing dry mouth
  • Skin = dry skin, and lack of sweating. Three to four weeks of increased iodine will typically reverse this symptom, allowing your body to sweat normally again
  • Brain = reduced alertness, and lowered IQ
  • Muscles =  nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis

How is seaweed salad prepared?

Seaweed salad is most commonly sesame flavored and the wakame seaweed is seasoned with sesame oil as well as sesame seeds. Other seasoning components are red pepper flakes, vinegar, salt and cloud ear (kikurage) mushrooms. Agar agar, a type of seaweed-based gelatin, is also added for texture. Some restaurants may add dye to the salad to make it appear more green – if you’re curious about your favorite sushi stop, just ask next time you’re there.

Is it a healthy choice?

We know seaweed salad contains iodine and calcium, but what else?

Almost all types contain vitamins A, B, C, E and K. You will also find sodium, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc in seaweed.

Basically, it can count as a “hydrating” food, supporting the athlete with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium), many vitamins and minerals.

…And many studies have shown seaweed is an extraordinarily potent source of antioxidants and also helps prevent inflammation, which can contribute to a host of ailments that include arthritis, celiac disease, asthma, depression and obesity.

Where can I buy seaweed?

If you’re thinking of making your own seaweed salad or seaweed snacks, look for a local Asian market.

Seaweed can be cooked raw, with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but snack brands have pushed out some interesting dried seaweed choices too. If it’s difficult to find raw seaweed in the local grocery store or you can’t find an Asian market, try some of the dried snacks while traveling. They are nutrient dense and easy to carry with you.

Are there seaweed recipes?

I found quite a few! Here are some of my finds:

Raw Food Recipes

Fox News

Cooking Light


seaweed salad - myphoto

Have you prepared your own seaweed salad or snack before? Please share!


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Boost Testosterone Naturally

Testosterone is the single most important androgen (steroid) in the human body. Not only does low testosterone affect muscle mass development, but it can also cause low energy, decreased immune function & bone health, and put an athlete at increased risk for diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease.

On average, in adult human males, the plasma concentration of testosterone is about 7–8 times as great as the concentration in adult human females’ plasma. While women do have testosterone in the body, it’s at much lower levels so there is no need to worry about becoming “manly” from lifting weights. In fact, the actual daily production is about 20 times greater in men than women.

There are definitely foods shown to help with increasing testosterone (“t”), so this post is focused on the pairing of foods to increase t, rather than one specific recipe.


What will boost testosterone naturally?

Omega-9 & Omega-6 fatty acids

Cholesterol: Precursor for testosterone

Cruciferous Vegetables: indole-3-carbinol: Phytochemical that reduces estrogen

Vitamin D


Adequate carbohydrates/whole grains – protein sparing


Healthy fats & cholesterol function as building blocks for t. Without adequate levels of these nutrients, t cannot be synthesized in the body. Indole-3-carbinol is a phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables that helps to reduce excess estrogen in males.

For those that may be deficient in vitamin D, t can increase by 90% when the deficiency is corrected. It’s extremely important to know your vitamin D level, not just for this reason but also for many other side effects of low D.

Consuming adequate carbohydrates, whether it’s from fruit/starchy veggies/whole grains, allows the body to use that carbohydrate for energy to burn and spare protein which can be used for building muscle in the body instead. Athletes with low carbohydrate intake will eventually dip into protein stores for energy.

An easy way to start increasing t is by eating breakfast after a morning workout! Foods that contain the nutrients listed above include:

Healthy Fats (Omega -9 & 6)
Olive/Canola oil
Almonds, pistachios, cashews

Whole Grains (least processed)
Brown rice

Egg yolk

Vegetables (cruciferous)
Brussel Sprouts
Bok Choi
Collard greens

Decrease Cortisol
Citrus Fruit

Dried apricots
Peanut Butter
Red Wine

Vitamin D
Fortified cereals
Low-fat dairy

Look at the highlighted foods that can be combined for a t-boosting breakfast… an omelet with veggies, oatmeal topped with walnuts or peanut butter, fresh fruit (citrus if possible) & a glass of low-fat milk.


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Healthy Weight Gain for the Athlete

In a previous job, I had the pleasure of working with elite athletes preparing for the NFL Combine.

The first time I realized I would be coaching these guys on their sports nutrition, I thought “what EXACTLY is this Combine business?” I thought you mind be wondering too.

The NFL Scouting Combine is a week-long showcase occurring every February at Lucas Oil Stadium (and formerly at the RCA Dome until 2008) in Indianapolis, where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of National Football League coaches, general managers, and scouts.

In other words, it could possibly be the most important day of an athlete’s life that desires to play professional football. No room for mistakes.

While their training involved 2-a-days, skill work, IQ work & studying, social media coaching and many more things you wouldn’t think football players go through, my sole job was to fix their nutrition problems… quickly. We had 8 weeks. 8 weeks?! 

My responsibilities included body fat testing, group nutrition lectures, tons of one-on-one counseling and planning every single meal and/or snack. They ate their meals and snacks in-house, with me browsing through checking on each of them daily.

One of the HARDEST changes for an athlete is to gain healthy muscle mass WHILE also losing body fat. It is much easier to do one or the other.

I thought I would share with you some of the real life lessons learned about this when I worked with these guys. They were dedicated, focused and basically did anything I said.

So… How does an athlete put on mass while losing body fat? Eating clean & often is the first step for them.

Fat has 9 calories per gram while protein & carbohydrate only have 4 calories per gram. Adding healthy fats is one of the easiest ways to increase calories while also adding quality calories.

How does an athlete on a budget {that doesn’t want to constantly be stuffing their face} eat enough to fuel their 2-a-days PLUS enough to gain muscle too?

trail mix-the-fueled-athlete

Tip: One 6 oz. dixie cup holds 3 servings of trail mix. A 6 oz. cup is also a manageable sized snack that won’t be too heavy on the stomach. 480 calories. 30 grams fat. 36 grams carb. 15 grams protein. Eating this snack twice a day easily packs on 1000 extra calories for the gainers. Easy enough! This is one snack option that worked wonders. Adding fruit or dried fruit along with it provides more carbs helping to restore glycogen following a workout or training session.

Another daily snack was a shake/smoothie immediately following a training session. This is another good and easy idea that really works wonders for the athlete that doesn’t like eating right after training.

Healthy fats contain omega-3, which can help with reducing inflammation, improving circulation in the body, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins with the newest find being improving brain function and/or helping the brain recover from concussions. According to the American Heart Association, healthy adults may take 1-3g of omega-3 per day. AHA recommends eating fish twice a week to obtain omega-3 but other foods containing omega-3 include: flaxseed, olive oil, avocado, nuts (especially walnuts), caulifower, hummus & leafy greens.

More Tips for healthy weight gain:

Top yogurt or cereal with granola

Add avocado to salads, sandwiches, tacos, etc

Use trail mix as a snack

Drink 100% fruit juice with meals

Add nuts to salads

Eat PB&J or Banana & PB sandwiches before bed

While weight gain takes increased overall calories, there are two very important times to make sure the body is getting quality calories. Dr. John Ivy, chairperson of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin, has spent the past thirty years looking at simple, healthy options for building strength, endurance and muscle mass. What he has discovered is that timing is everything. One of the best times to fuel is post-workout, especially for athletes in two-a-days.

In the 30 minutes following a workout, a muscle’s potential to rebuild peaks, and it is extremely sensitive to insulin. To take full advantage of the muscle rebuilding benefits that can occur in this golden window of opportunity, the right combination of nutrients, such as carbohydrate and high quality protein, should be consumed within 15 to 45 minutes after exercise.


“When you exercise,” says Ivy, “the muscles become very sensitive to certain hormones and nutrients, and you can initiate many highly desirable training adaptations if you make sure the correct nutrients are present. This increased sensitivity of the muscles only lasts for a limited length of time, so the element of time becomes absolutely crucial. If you miss this window of opportunity, there’s no way you can stimulate the muscle adaptations to that extent until after the next bout of exercise.”


Another easy way to get in calories is the before bed snack. Because the body is going to sleep soon, it is preparing for the repair stage for the muscles. A high-protein and high-calorie whey snack augments muscle weight gain by ensuring you have plenty of amino acids in your muscles while you sleep, the peak time for muscle repair and growth.

The bottom line is:
the athlete must eat more to gain muscle mass
the athlete must eat quality nutrients to also lower body fat % at the same time
the athlete must stay consistent with timing
the athlete needs an easy strategy so they can stick to it (eating higher calorie dense foods so they don’t have to eat TONS to get in adequate calories)


Have you had a good or bad experience with healthy weight gain/muscle mass gain? Please share below or email me!


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Smarter Sushi Choices

Choosing sushi for a meal is considered a healthy choice by most athletes I’ve met through the past few years.


It actually IS healthy when you order most sushi or sashimi (sushi means a piece of fish sitting on a rice pillow; sashimi is just the fish, totally naked) or even a sushi roll.
{Beware of lots of sauces}


As a general rule, the combination of rice (carbohydrate), seaweed (veggie), seafood (protein), and avocado (healthy fat) makes for a low-calorie, high-protein meal that will fill you up and hopefully provide a healthy dose of heart-helpful omega-3 fatty acids.

However, sushi can be nutritionally tricky with all of the choices on the menu. Many sushi rolls labeled with the words “spicy”, “crunchy”, or “special” tend to be covered in sauces, mayo or contain cream cheese.While fish is a healthy lean protein, not all the meat in sushi is actually “real” food. Imitation crab comes with only 40% of the protein of the real deal and offers almost no omega-3s (healthy fats).

For anyone who is looking to lean out or is having a low-intensity training day, naruto rolls are an excellent choice.  Ordering a sushi roll “naruto style” means the roll is wrapped in thin slices of cucumber instead of rice.

A typical sushi roll is prepared with one cup of rice, which means three servings of carbohydrates (~45g carbohydrates) and 240 calories.  Just FYI – this amount of carbohydrates  in a meal (or more!) is completely normal and recommended for active athletes. While naruto rolls are not always listed on the menu, most restaurants will accommodate the request.

Below are some of the most popular sushi rolls & how they can fit into your daily meals depending on training & body composition goals:

Cucumber Roll
136 calories
0 g fat
6 g protein
3.5 g fiber
30 g carbohydrates
It’s hard to go wrong with cucumbers and seaweed. Though not a nutritional powerhouse, cucumbers are a low-calorie delivery system for vitamins A and C, fiber, and silica, a compound that has been shown to foster healthy skin.

Good Snack for Easy Training: (1) Cucumber roll + 10-15 almonds
Good Snack for Moderate/Hard Training: (2) Cucumber rolls + ¼ avocado

Tuna Roll
184 calories
2 g fat
24 g protein
3.5 g fiber
27 g carbohydrates
More than half of the calories in this simple, classic roll come from protein, making it a great light meal, small post-workout meal or a snack with substance.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Tuna Rolls + (1) Cucumber Roll
Meal for Moderate Training: (1) Tuna Rolls + (1) Cucumber Roll + Fruit or extra rice

California Roll
255 calories
7 g fat
9 g protein (low if imitation crab)
6 g fiber
38 g carbohydrates
There is no raw fish in this roll which makes it good for first-time sushi eaters. There are also no real healthy fats either (aside from the avocado), since the fake crab (made from a variety of processed and compressed fish) has 1/15 the amount of omega-3s as the real stuff. Many places now serve real crab in their rolls so watch for this!

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) California Roll + Edamame OR Miso Soup
Post Workout Meal for Moderate/Hard Training: (2) California Rolls

Spicy Tuna
290 calories
11 g fat
24 g protein
3.5 g fiber
26 g carbohydrates
In the world of sushi, “spicy” means a spoonful of mayo spiked with an Asian chili sauce. The calorie counts can climb higher than this, depending on how heavy a hand the sushi chef has with the spicy stuff. For a healthier dose of spice, add extra wasabi to your soy sauce or on top of the roll.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Spicy Tuna Roll + Edamame OR Miso Soup
Meal for Hard Training: (2) Spicy Tuna Rolls + Fruit or extra rice

Salmon & Avocado Roll
304 calories
8.5 g fat
13 g protein
6 g fiber
42 g carbohydrates
High in calories, but nearly all of those calories come from the combo of healthy fats & protein found in the salmon and the avocado. This is a great balance for nutrients for a post-workout lunch.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Salmon/Avocado Roll + Avocado Salad Roll (appetizer)
Meal for Moderate/Hard Training: (2) Salmon/Avocado Rolls

Shrimp Tempura Roll
508 calories
21 g fat
20 g protein
4.5 g fiber
64 g carbohydrates
The crunch is usually blocked by the moist rice, so this one doesn’t make much sense from either a flavor or a nutritional perspective… although I know it’s a favorite for many.

Rainbow Roll (Personal favorite!)
476 calories
16 g fat
33 g protein
6 g fiber
50 g carbohydrates
This roll contains substantial portions of numerous raw fish, avocado & rice so most of the calories are the good kind. The balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein grams are portioned well for an active person.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Rainbow Roll
Meal for Moderate/Hard Training: (1) Rainbow Roll + (1) California Roll (or other small roll or appetizer)

Try sushi for a quick lunch or light dinner this week! If you eat it regularly, do you ever have it post-workout? What’s your favorite combo?


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Spotlight on: QUINOA

ken-wah? kwuh-NO-uh? KWIN-wah?

It’s actually KEEN-wah. This is why you should consider making this grain your new best friend.

Read More

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