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Goodbye Pyramid, Hello Plate

7 Jun

I’m sure you’ve all heard the big nutrition news that broke last week- MyPyramid is out, and MyPlate is in.



Honestly, anything is an improvement from the difficult-to-interpret, pretty-much-useless pyramid. The plate presents a balanced diet in a useful, accessible format. It is divided into four sections, the largest being vegetables and grains, and the rest occupied by fruit and protein. A circle off to the side represents the dairy group- perhaps hinting that dairy is optional to a balanced diet. The guidelines that accompany the plate are as follows:

Balancing Calories

● Enjoy your food, but eat less.

● Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase

● Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

● Make at least half your grains whole grains.

● Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce

● Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with lower numbers.

● Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
My Thoughts:

  • Half the plate is fruits and veggies! This is a huge step in the right direction. The majority of the plate is made up of plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, grains)! This is also a huge positive.
  • As Marion Nestle pointed out, “protein” is a macronutrient, NOT a food group. Maybe they were looking for a neutral word to represent all protein sources because further description of the group includes both plant and animal protein sources. However, the meat industry has worked very hard to get consumers to associate the word “protein” with meat.
  • If you choose a plant protein source, you have an entirely plant-based plate! I interpret the dairy off to the side as indication that dairy is not a nessecity. Further description of this group includes alternatives such as soymilk, meaning in a not-so-obvious way MyPlate supports a vegan/vegetarian diet.
  • It’s not exactly ground-breaking, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Now, the next step is to get the government on board with their own recommendations. Until they stop subsidizing the wrong industries and start subsidizing the right industries, it is going to be pretty difficult for the public to follow the guidelines.

Check out this pie chart from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine that shows the current breakdown of the U.S. agriculture subsidies.

This is almost the exact opposite of what MyPlate recommends.

Talk about food for thought.

On that note…
Thanks for reading 🙂


Date Night + Forks Over Knives

5 Jun

Hey friends! I hope you had a great weekend.

I wrote a post about the movie Forks Over Knives that I intended to publish on Friday, but my weekend made me rethink and revise what I wrote.

I spend the majority of my time either alone, with JWD, or with my fellow nutrition enthusiasts. We all have the healthy eating thing down pretty well and none of us are following extreme fad diets. We have many well-stocked grocery stores at our fingertips and the amazing local restaurant culture in St. Louis keeps us from darkening the doorways of American chains (i.e. Applebee’s and McDonald’s). So, it is a little too easy for me to forget about the everyday food lives of the typical American.

The typical American is bombarded with the latest diet books, fast food chains, food advertisements with too-good-to-be-true health claims, and nutrition tips and advice everyday. This toxic environment has bred a society that is completely obsessed with health, yet so very unhealthy. Simply put, it has lead to mass confusion.

My weekend away from my nutrition-savvy circle brought me back to the reality of this very problem.

Here are a few questions I got this weekend: Is bread bad or good? How many eggs in a week is too many? How do vegetarians get their protein? Do they need to combine foods? How do I eat healthy at a buffet? What if my grocery store doesn’t carry all of the specialty health products I read about? Is the calorie restriction diet unhealthy?

All of these are very valid questions with complicated answers. I have a bachelor’s in nutrition and these questions even make my head spin! So, today I’m going to attempt to give you my very basic philosophy on nutrition- the guidelines I live by to maintain my health. But first let’s start with a little recap of last week’s date night…

Thursday night was date night for me and JWD. The plan was dinner and a movie.

We started off with a Whole Foods dinner.

This jumble of heaven includes steamed kale, mixed greens, carrots, tofu, roasted sweet potatoes, tabbouleh, Detox Salad, balsamic vinaigrette, and a sprinkle of goat cheese.

Then we headed to the movie theater.

Agreeing on a movie can often be a grueling task in our house, but not tonight. We were both more than excited to see Forks Over Knives.

Please click to watch the Forks Over Knives trailer. It gives me chills!

From the movie’s website:

“FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.”

The “diseases of affluence” they are referring to include obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These diseases are more common among the affluent because people tend to adopt the “Western lifestyle” as their economic status improves (i.e. less physical activity, more animal products, more indulgences, etc.)

As it says, the film documents the work of two men, one a nutritional scientist and the other a medical doctor, who each discovered through separate research that people with higher intake of animal products are more likely to develop cancer and other diseases than people who eat a plant-based diet. The film also chronicles the stories of patients who have reversed their diseases by switching to a plant-based diet.

I LOVED this film!!

My Thoughts:

{Dr. Campbell, Ph.D. and Dr. Esselstyn, M.D.}

These two men  grew up on farms- their families’ livelihoods depended upon people eating animal products. They aren’t hippies. They aren’t tree-huggers. They aren’t extremists. They didn’t begin their careers with a predisposed belief that animal products are unhealthy. They simply made this discovery through critical scientific research. Their discoveries challenged their own core beliefs, but they couldn’t deny the evidence.

I must admit that dietitians and “nutritionists” are as much to blame for the confusion as other healthcare professionals. The only dietitian in the film was on the opposing side. *sigh* I sunk down in my seat a little when she was giving her opinion that we need animal protein to be healthy and eliminating it puts us at risk for deficiencies. This is not the opinion of all dietitians, but I’ve heard it echoed by many. This is not an opinion I share.

Forks Over Knives gives a fascinating look inside an area of research that gets little media attention. Through the personal stories in the film, it shows that a plant-based diet really does work and anyone from an Ultimate Fighter to a 50-year-old woman with breast cancer can benefit from it.

Now it’s time for me to share my nutrition philosophy. Because the realm of health and nutrition has falsely been made to seem mystical and confusing, you may be astounded at how simple my philosophy is. I live by the words of Micheal Pollan, author of In Defense of Food “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Eat Real Food.

Real food is simple. Real food is whole and unprocessed. It is not fancy. It is not “manufactured” in a lab. It does not have magical health claims plastered all over its packaging. In fact, it probably doesn’t even have packaging. Real food is apples, spinach, carrots, brown rice, beans, peas, lentils, and avocados. If your diet is made up of a variety of real food, you don’t need to worry about the extensive nutrition vocabulary- words like antioxidant, amino acid, trans fat, etc.

Not Too Much.

This one is a toughy in our current food climate. As a society we have completely lost sight of appropriate portion sizes. We are so used to being served a platter of pasta at restaurants, that the 1-cup appropriate pasta serving seems tiny. This is one of the ideas behind the new plate that has replaced the Food Guide Pyramid. It gives people a visual of appropriate food portions in relation to other food groups. It is similar to the strategy I use. I always fill at least half my plate with fruits and vegetables. I’ll talk more in depth about the new plate in an upcoming post. For a rundown on portion sizes, check out this post.

Mostly Plants.

This final guideline brings us full circle back to the film. Forks Over Knives suggests that by eating mostly plants, we can prevent and cure diseases of affluence. It is a myth that humans need animal products to be healthy. More and more research is showing that we are healthier without animal products. These diseases of affluence are basically nonexistent in parts of the world where animal products are minimally consumed.

So why isn’t this common knowledge? The meat and dairy industry (along with all processed food companies) are extremely large and powerful, and they aren’t afraid to exercise their power on our government. I’ll save the political discussion for another day. In the conditions of our current society, healthy plant-eating people aren’t worth much money to the food industry/pharmaceutical industry.

Eating a diet of real food, mostly plants, and exercising portion control is so incredibly simple. However, it is perceived as extreme because it is so drastically different from the typical American diet. I know that following these three guidelines leads to health and vitality. I know this from my personal experience, my studies in nutrition, and the research of others.

Because our current food society makes this simple idea so complicated, I am on a mission to simplify it. I want to show you that eating healthy is not complicated, technical, or extreme.

Paraphrasing Dr. Esselstyn from the film- “most people scoff at a plant-based diet because it is “too extreme”, but isn’t having your chest split open for heart surgery pretty extreme?”

GO SEE FORKS OVER KNIVES {check here to find a theater near you}

and thanks for reading 🙂



24 May

Hello out there! Anyone there? Remember me?

I have been absent from Running on Sunshine for far too long. I felt like a piece of my soul was missing! The truth is, I’ve been stressed to the max. Nothing sucks away your creative motivation and energy quite like stress.

My own family as well as a very dear friend’s family have been going through some very difficult situations. The worry and stress that I feel from this compounded with wrapping up my undergraduate career really did a number on me. Maybe this is all TMI, but I felt it would be unauthentic to come onto Running on Sunshine and pretend that life is perfect. If there is one thing I strive to be for all of you, it is authentic. No, I am not running on sunshine 100% of the time and that is perfectly okay.

Stress impacts my eating habits, sleeping habits, exercise habits, and motivation levels. Sometimes I get so worked up that it makes me feel physically sick, making my appetite disappear. Sometimes I seek comfort in unhealthy foods. Sometimes I lose all desire to go for a run even though I know it will make me feel better. Sometimes I lie awake all night long, only to struggle to keep my eyes open all day long. These are all normal reactions to stress! When these things happen, we tend to beat ourselves up. “What is wrong with me? I haven’t exercised in a week!” “Ugh, why can’t I get motivated!” “I’ve already eaten terrible all week, so what’s the point of starting fresh tomorrow?” Sound familiar?

Instead of beating ourselves up, we should be taking extra care of ourselves. If I don’t have the energy for an intense workout, I take a relaxing walk with JWD or stretch/practice yoga instead. If I don’t have an appetite, I nourish myself with a smoothie. If I find myself turning to food for comfort, I recognize why I’m doing it and try to talk it out instead. If I don’t have the motivation to write a blog post, I give myself a little break. Stress wreaks emotional, mental, and physical havoc on your body. Be kind to yourself.

One thing that signals my stress level is my skin. My skin is very acne-prone. When my body is stressed, my skin doesn’t hide it! I graduated from college this past weekend (woohoo!!), and after the whirlwind settled I treated my skin to a little DIY facial. It worked wonders!

Stress-Less DIY Face Mask

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Mix together all three ingredients until a chocolatey-colored paste forms. Spread onto skin and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, scrubbing in small circles. The nutmeg crumbs act as a gentle exfoliant! Instead of drying with a towel, let your face air-dry.

Now that I’ve wrapped up a very busy chapter of my life, I have a couple months to take a breath before the next crazy chapter begins. I plan to use this breathing period to dive head first into Running on Sunshine. I love hearing all of your positive feedback and it motivates me to continue growing the blog into something even better! So please throw your suggestions my way! What do you want to read about? What do you want my next videos to be about? I’m all ears!

If you haven’t “Liked” the Running on Sunshine Facebook page, do it now! I am starting to post quick and easy health tidbits.

It feels so good to be back.

Thanks for reading 🙂




Hunger Challenge Wrap-Up

16 Sep

Hey Everyone! I finished my Hunger Challenge on Sunday. It was a tough week!! I feel incredibly lucky that it was only an “experiment” for me because food stamps are a dismal reality for so many people. It’s not an experiment, it’s their life. It took an incredible amount of planning, budgeting, creativity, and willpower to stay on track. Unfortunately, I don’t have any amazing dirt cheap recipes to share with you from the week. I did use a lentil soup recipe that I make quite often, but I can’t even think about lentils right now so we’ll save that one for a cold winter day. Check out my final posts on the Food Outreach blog here and here.

Even though it’s still quite toasty outside, fall is so close I can taste it! I am craving all things fall right now– apples (especially caramel apples!), cold weather runs, soup, hot cocoa, jeans and sweaters, pumpkins, and bonfires. Anyone else craving fall? As the weather gets colder, my yearning for comfort food sets in. Comfort foods are often heavy and caloric, so I’m working on a post about how to makeover some favorite comfort foods. Any favorite comfort foods you’d like me to include? Another future topic will be weight management. The holiday season is quickly approaching and embarking on a weight loss plan this time of year usually means setting yourself up for failure. I like to take the “maintain, not gain” approach. We’ll talk about some strategies for that. Also, I’m on a yoga kick right now. I think yoga is beneficial to all ages, sizes, genders, and fitness levels, but it does have an intimidation factor associated with it. I’ll give you a little intro to yoga and ideas on how to incorporate it into your life.

See you all very soon with some comfort food recipes!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Something to check out: my friend Laura started an awesome blog about fun things to do in St. Louis including lots of restaurant reviews. She’s a Registered Dietitian with a “work hard, play hard” mentality. Check it out!

Hunger Challenge Update

8 Sep

Check out my update on the Food Outreach blog!

No Frills

Hunger Challenge: Day 1

6 Sep

The first day of my hunger challenge is winding down and let me tell you, it was a challenge! I don’t know if it was because I was at home most of the day, or because the smell of neighborhood holiday barbecue’s were wafting through the open windows, or because I watched JWD chow down at every meal, but I was in the mood for food! Breakfast was easy- oatmeal. It’s cheap and filling. Then I snacked on an apple. I found a 3 lb bag of apples at Schnucks for a great price. The pluses: they are cheap and local! The minus: they are so teeny! I was starving this afternoon, so I decided to move my dinner plans to lunch. I made whole wheat pasta with red sauce (a can of crushed tomatoes, italian seasoning, crumbled tempeh, and spinach). I must say, it was very tasty and filling and I have plenty leftover for later this week. Dinner was a pb&j quesadilla. I didn’t have the money to spring on jelly, so I microwaved and mashed some frozen blueberries as a jelly substitute. I’m full for now, but I see air-popped popcorn in my near future 🙂

I had a few strategies in mind before going in to this challenge and they seem to be working so far. My meals are focused on things that will keep me full. I plan to rely on oatmeal for breakfast, pasta, lentil soup, and a mexican beans and rice dish for my main meals, and apples, yogurt, peanut butter, tortillas, and air-popped popcorn for snacks. Many of the items I bought are multi-purpose like the frozen blueberries that will go in my oatmeal, yogurt, and in my peanut butter tortillas as “jelly”. Of course I couldn’t go a week without veggies, so I budgeted for broccoli, carrots, celery, and spinach.

I planned on preparing all my meals for the week today, but I’m afraid I’ll get the cooking itch later this week. I’m sure tomorrow will be much easier because I’ll be busy all day with classes. I bet I’ll miss my morning coffee brewing routine though. Happy Labor Day!

Thanks for reading 🙂 That popcorn is calling my name…

Hunger Challenge 2010

5 Sep

September is Hunger Action Month. About 36 million Americans go hungry everyday- 12 million are children. Food Outreach is a wonderful organization in St. Louis that provides nutrition services to low-income people with HIV, AIDS, and cancer. They provide nutrition counseling, groceries, homemade meals, and home delivery to their clients. Every September Food Outreach holds the Hunger Challenge. Participants choose seven days in September to grocery shop and eat as if they were in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the government food stamp program. Food Outreach clients who receive food stamps have about $28 to spend per week. This year I am participating in the challenge and my seven days starts tomorrow. I must grocery shop and feed myself on $28 for the week. I volunteered  for the Hunger Challenge because someday I may be providing nutritional advice to clients that use food stamps and I need to understand the reality of their economic situation. I also hope to bring awareness to the very real issue of hunger in America. I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that eating on the cheap is a priority for me, but $4 per day is pretty extreme.

I unintentionally had a day full of “last suppers” today- really great food. Although my challenge doesn’t start until tomorrow, I couldn’t help but think about whether or not what I ate today would fly on food stamps. The answer was almost always no. No Kaldi’s coffee. No Local Harvest brunch. No Chill frozen yogurt. No after-dinner Coronas. I haven’t even started the challenge and I am already very thankful for my delicious food life.

I also did my grocery shopping for the week today. I decided on two stops- Trader Joe’s and Schnucks. I did some heavy meal planning prior to leaving the house. I realize that I already have an incredible advantage because I have the time, desire, and nutrition knowledge to sit down and plan my meals for the week- fully utilizing every item. I also have a car and I’m not sick. While dealing with cancer or HIV/AIDS, many clients have to take several buses to get to a grocery store.

My grand total for the week is $27.48. I did pretty darn good. I’ll be back tomorrow night with a recap of day one. I was asked to write about my experience on the Food Outreach blog too. You can find that blog here.

Take action this month to bring awareness to domestic hunger. Volunteer, donate food, or take the Hunger Challenge with me!

Thanks for reading 🙂


1 Sep

Industrial farming is out of control.

Buy local.

Buy organic.

Buy from small-scale community operations.

The V Word

16 Aug

Hey everyone! How do you like the blog’s new look? She’s a little more professional now 🙂 I also updated my About Me tab, so check it out!

Mama Pea recently wrote about a topic I’ve been wanting to address on my blog. I hate labels- especially labels that confine people into dietary categories. I am very familiar with being labelled because I consumed an almost entirely plant-based diet for about three years (otherwise labelled as vegan). I hated uttering those words “I’m vegan”, but it seemed like the shortest, easiest way to explain why I wasn’t digging in to the chicken wings and cheesy casserole. I hated saying those words because it usually provoked the other person to begin listing, in question form, all of the things I can’t eat. “So you can’t have cheese pizza? So you can’t have chicken? So you can’t eat cookies made with butter and eggs?” I can eat whatever I want, I just choose not to eat certain things. This choice is based on many things- health, disease prevention, the horrific practices of conventional factory farming, etc. I thoroughly educated myself on the topic, and through that process I lost the desire to consume animal products. I have continued to educate myself on all things food and I constantly reassess my diet and how the food I eat makes me feel. Recently, I’ve added a few animal products back into my diet- namely fish, goat cheese, and yogurt. I’ve found a style of eating that works for me.

Nutrition is a very individual thing and it makes me cringe when I talk to people that are “enduring” a certain way of eating because of a friend’s diet, a diet book they read, or a celebrity they want to be like. When I would have the “vegan talk” with people, many of them would praise me for my perseverance- like I was stronger than they were because I was sticking to a diet. You should not force yourself to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet (or any diet, for that matter) if it doesn’t fit with your lifestyle or doesn’t work with your body. I was not “enduring” anything, I was simply eating in a way that made me feel healthy and energetic and even though I’ve made a few dietary changes, I am still eating in a way that makes me feel healthy and energetic! THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL DIET! Healthy eating can mean many different things for many different people.

I hate labels because they force unnecessary “rules” upon us. Once I was labelled, the freshly caught fish was off-limits to me on vacation, Grandma’s egg noodles were prohibited, and homemade chocolate chip cookies made with butter and eggs were banned. I looove food and I looove unique food experiences, so eventually I stopped using the “v” word. I was FREEEEE! I still eat a plant-based diet, BUT if I am presented with a wonderful food opportunity that happens to contain animal products, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it and enjoy it and no “label” is going to hold me back.

Life is too precious and too short to pass up enjoyable opportunities because we are trying to fit into a labelled box full of rules and restrictions. The food we eat does not define us. Food is just food. Be proud of who you are, enjoy your life, and eat in a way that makes you feel healthy and happy!

That is all. I’ll be back tomorrow with a fun food post. Thanks for reading 🙂

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