Correspondence With the Community

I have lately had some correspondence with other affiliates in the community about Nutrition.  One wanted to know what I do, the others were people I contacted about how they manage good nutrition with a family, running a business, and all the rest of the things that suck our time away each day.

I want to share these thoughts with everyone, as there may be something here that might help each of you...

Lisa, Here are a few questions to get things started, but definitely don't limit yourself if you've got something earth-shattering that doesn't "answer" anything below.  Also, don't feel obligated to answer EVERY question; I'll appreciate anything up for sharing :)  -Heather Keenan, CrossFit New England

1. Do you follow Paleo and/or The Zone?  If so, how strict are you/what modifications do you make?  If not, what's your approach to nutrition?

I follow CrossFit dietary prescription (Meats and Vegetables,Nuts and Seeds,Some Fruit,Little Starch,No refined Sugar) and then I Zone for about a week every 4-6 months or so, in order to dial in my "eyeball".  I always try to eat protein, carb and fat together, whether I weigh and measure or not.  If I can only eat one, I try to make it fat (nuts).  I have been Zoning more consistently this month, during the weekdays, as my eating habits have been so poor over the course of the past year or 18 months and I have put on about 10-12 extra pounds.  I do not say I eat Paleo as I do have dairy products and occasional small amounts of bread.  I also feel that by saying Paleo, a host of extreme opinions go along with that which I do not follow and could never keep up with.  During the weekends, I still follow the CF prescription, but do not weigh and measure, as I am traveling nearly every weekend.  I let it loose a bit on the weekends, with the other trainers, friends, family, etc.

When I visit other people, I do not force my food choices on the host, but eat whatever is served.  If it's too much carbs, I can go home and eat protein and fat later.

2. How do you stick to your nutrition when away from home for the day, traveling, and/or dining/eating out?

3. When preparing food at home, what tricks do you have to making "your" food taste good (spices, condiments, subbing in eggs for something non-Paleo, ways you balance out blocks in recipes)?

Answer for both 2 and 3 is combined:

As I mentioned above, I let the weekends and travel go, as far as the Zone.  Many people can be that disciplined, I just don't want to go that far.  There is enough other stuff for me to keep track of, that is just not making it on my list.  I still eat as clean as I can with a few cheats, especially one night a weekend.  I try to buy snacks that allow me to maintain decent quality and some semblance of quantity, during the certs.  Examples are the foil packets of tuna, salmon, or chicken, bags of nuts, avocados, apples, nut butters.  I have discovered the Justin's nut butter packets can be shipped via mail, so I order those online now.  When I am in places that have good quality jerkey, I buy it.  Rainier CrossFit has a meat market that cures and dries their own jerkey and it's delicious!

I tend to eat from grocery stores more than restaurants for lunch when traveling, but if we find an easy restaurant like Chipotle, I am happy to eat at a place like that.  I will order a fajita salad with guacamole there.

Quite honestly, I will make ANY place work.  You can.  If I am with people who want to eat at a certain place, or there isn't much available, such as on military bases, you can eat balanced ANYWHERE.  I have yet to be someplace that does not have some source of food from each of the macronutrients.  It may not be the highest quality out there, but who cares.  It's not going to kill me to eat poorly sometimes, and I can still keep my internal teeter totter balanced.  Food for fuel is how I eat nearly all the time.

I refuse to impose my eating on other people when I visit them, such as my family and friends who don't CrossFit, etc.  They know I need to have protein, carb, and fat, and most are really good about having that available.  If it's a carb heavy meal, I eat as sparingly as is polite, and then will later grab more protein and fat to balance my teeter totter, later.

I do not do a lot of cooking preparation.  I grill or broil or bake nearly everything and usually use the absolute best seasoning on the planet.  Spike.  I put it and basil flavored olive on on nearly everything.  I eat a lot of eggs and sausage or bacon at breakfast, because those are foods that are pre-measured in how they come to me and use sea salt on the eggs. If I have it available, I will throw olive tapenade into my scrambled eggs.  Almost always, I throw spinach into the Spike seasoned eggs.   For dinner I make a ton of salads so my meat and veggies are often all mixed together.  I add apples, goat or blue cheeses, nuts, avos, and keep a variety of clean salad dressings, flavored olive oils, mustards and hundreds of different spices to throw in, and always have lemons and limes on hand to add flavor too.  For lunch, I cook a huge bag of chicken up with various spices or marinades made from olive oils and vinegars and have it either in the fridge or freezer, or I eat from foil packets of fish or cans of chicken, often with lemon and herbs in them.  Sometimes when I bake chicken breasts, I will put a nut crust on them.  I mix finely chopped cashews and pistachios with some olive oil or melted butter and sea salt or Spike and bake it with that sprinkled on top.  It is a great variation on just spices!  Cottage cheese and unsweetened applesauce or apples with almond butter are a very common snack/lunch for me.  Nuts are always available.  I keep a small bag in my car, my luggage, at the gym, etc.  At the gym I have a bag of 1 oz. pieces of cheese and a log of salami in a small fridge, for times I can't get out to grab something at the grocery store.

I eat incredibly simply - my meat choice, my veggies/fruit choice, and my fat choice.  Rarely do I really prepare mixed up food that requires a lot of thought.  If I prepare recipes, I use the Zone Meals in Seconds cookbook or look for recipes on Epicurious that give me ideas of what to do with an unfamiliar vegetable or other food.  If the recipe calls for things I don't want to add to it, I shift the recipe toward the cleaner quality version I feel is better.  Example:  if it asks for a pasta as a base, I will either use spaghetti squash or a very small amount of polenta or wild grain rice.  If I use high glycemic index food choices, I ALWAYS measure those, even if I'm not Zoning at that time.

I also buy a lot of the pre-cooked chickens they have hot at the grocery store.  They are my SAVING GRACE, coming home from the gym at 8:00 at night!  Nuke up some broccoli and asparagus with some butter and sea salt, 1/2 an avocado, and I'm good to go.  That is super common.

In restaurants, I try to stick with meals that are easy to know that the quantity can be eyeballed and the quality is good.  Steak or chicken or fish, sub any potatoes for the vegetables they have available or a salad, or both.  Sometimes I will order the seafood appetizers as my meal, because the quantity is perfect for me and I won't be tempted to overeat.  Not the fried stuff.  Like scallops wrapped in bacon with a salad, or ceviche with a salad, etc.  Almost always, the entree salads are just the right amount of protein and carbs and I then ask for olive oil and balsamic as my dressing.

The one place I don't measure is my coffee.  I put heavy whipping cream in it as often as I can and 1/2 and 1/2 will do when I can't get heavy cream.  I keep it clean enough, that I'm willing to allow myself that extra luxury, and I don't go crazy on it in quantity anyway.

If I get a sweet tooth craving, I always have berries in the fridge that I will pour a bit of heavy whipping cream over, and I will also eat 85% dark chocolate, using it as my scoop for almond butter.  I am not opposed to a small glass of wine with my dinner, ever, especially if my carb source is spinach or broccoli.


4. Do you cook in bulk for the week or go day-to-day?  How do you make that work?
Usually I go day-to-day.  I will sometimes take a big day and do a big prep, but I am usually leaving on Friday morning and returning Monday afternoon from certs every weekend.  I then hit the ground running at the gym through the whole week.  It's difficult for me to find time to do bulk prep, but when I do, it makes life a lot easier for the rest of that week.  Day-to-day is how it has to be usually, and it's fine.  It's not hard to swing by the store 2x a week and grab up a bunch of steak and chicken and salmon and veggies and throw a simple meal together when I get home.

5. If you're on The Zone, how do you simplify the weighing/measuring process on a daily basis?

A scale sits right next to the stove.  I put my plate on top of it, zero it out, and throw my protein source on it if it needs to be measured.  Eggs don't need to be.  For veggies and fruits, if they need to be measured, I throw them into a large measuring cup that is in a cupboard right by the sink and stove, easy to pull out. 

If I eat by myself, I eat out of the measuring cup.  ;-)


6. Gimme' your favorites: fall-back Zone combo's, quick breakfasts, stuff your kids will actually eat, meals you use when hosting non-Paleo/Zoners, etc.

A quick breakfast is a pre-cooked sausage (such as from Trader Joes or the Aidells brand from Safeway) heated up in the microwave, an apple or a measuring cup full of berries, coffee with cream.   Or, a cup of cottage cheese with applesauce stirred in and coffee with cream.

My fall back Zone combo is a grocery store hot chicken, nuked veggies, and an avo or nuts. 

When we have people over for dinner I often make steaks on the grill and I grill a big basket of mixed veggies marinated in salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes I add a big salad with grapefruit, macadamia nuts, mint leaves mixed with the spinach and romaine, avos, and a poppyseed dressing, and wine.  For dessert, a mix of berries and plain heavy cream or a heavy cream based slightly sweetened sauce poured over or homemade vanilla icecream with a little sugar, and fresh grated lemon peel added.  Or, I will bake salmon with slices of lemon and fresh basil and olive oil on top.  The salads might change slightly, from grapefruit to red pears or apples or apricots, etc, but it's almost always the same and everyone ALWAYS loves it. (grilled steak salad with apricots and cashews and a ginger and olive oil based dressing is really good!) It's healthy for everyone and people always appreciate it! 

EMAIL RESPONSE FROM HEATHER KEENAN IN RESPONSE TO MY QUESTION:

Many of our clients have children and a really busy life and we have talked about how do other CF families manage that, attending CrossFit, good nutrition, prep/management, and all the other things that go on in your lives?  You 2 families were the first to come to mind because you have such a great handle on that, with your own kids and home management.

Would you share your thoughts and experience and any advice and tips you might have?

FEEDING KIDS

-find out what they like (that’s good), and ALWAYS have it prepped and ready to go

-have snacks ready and waiting for when they get home from school/camp (seconds of waiting are CRUCIAL!)

-just don’t have stuff in the house that will create on-going fights/bribes

-ie. going out/walking to ice cream vs. keeping it in the fridge

-make rules: drink 16 ounces of water before “snacking”

-daily progress charts: come up with a daily requirement (ie. veggies) and let them decide when to eat it, just has to happen before they go to bed

-create good habits at home, “cheats” when away from home (school, play dates, eating out at restaurants)

-kids should know:

-what paleo is

-the importance of eating proteins WITH carbs

-sugar’s the devil

-what it means to spike insulin and how to not let that happen

-what macronutrients are and where major foods fall in that

-what “our” food pyramid looks like; be ready for questions on “why their teachers are lying to them” :(

-food is fuel

-the bottom line: if it’s not good enough for YOU to eat, you shouldn’t be feeding it to your kids

PLANNING AHEAD

-find a day and prep in bulk

-round up a bunch of different sized tupperware/shaker containers with leak-proof lids

-make chilis, soups, etc. and freeze them for the future

-DO NOT EVER walk out of the house withOUT a bag of food in your hand

-ALWAYS have an emergency snack in a purse, gym bag, glove compartment, etc.

-keep a fridge at work and/or get a good cooler/insulated bag to keep in the car

-freeze water bottles and pack them into a cooler, freeze foods (smoothies, sliced grilled chicken); doubles as ice packs and stays cool until you’re ready to eat it (easier to warm something up than keep it cold)

-pre-cook scrambled eggs and just warm up in the morning; total loss of taste and some nutritional value, but better than nothing

-rule: plan for one big salad a day

PREPPING/COOKING

-get a good scale with ounces, measuring cups/bowls (different sizes)

MAKING STUFF TASTE GOOD (spices, condiments, subs for non-paleo ingredients)

-learn how to use spices and mustards (they’re freebies!)

-make your own salad dressing (sneak in fish oil, 

-rob orlando uses red pepper flakes on everything.  and, he’s a bad-ass.  so, you should, too.

-get a grill basket. EVERYthing tastes better when grilled :)

-CINNAMON

TRAVELING/ON THE ROAD/AT WORK
-grocery store: deli meat, buy containers and make salads in hotel rooms, microwave scrambled eggs, 
-dunkin’ donuts egg patties
-ask how much meats weigh/order steaks (usually say on the menu how much you get)

-don’t try to fool anyone in thinking that beef jerky IS paleo
-be careful dried fruits/trail mix
-pack canvas food bag AND plastic baggies to portion out 
-bring collapsible measuring cups

Heather Keenan Bergeron
www.CrossFitNewEngland.com


EMAIL RESPONSE FROM JIMI AND MADELINE LETCHFORD, CROSSFIT ETHOS

I get it -eating clean seems like a huge undertaking. It doesn't have to be. You can be smart, and make small steps in the direction of a balanced meal plan and lifestyle for your whole family. In my family, we keep it pretty simple. Our foods are clean (aka perishable) and my husband and I usually weigh and measure our food. In the beginning, we weighed and measured EVERYTHING. It's an important part of helping your body realize the amount of food you need to survive AND thrive. We can get by, better, on less than we're used to eating. In my experience, personally and with clients, it's the kids that are the linchpin of the family!!

I'm not sure how old your children are, but navigating the jungle of healthy nutrition can seem daunting. Quite honestly, with three kids under 5 years, a CrossFit affiliate, and working for CFHQ I've found that I need to make it simple and realistic for all of us. You can eat well, on a decent budget without a lot of micro-managing. I have a son and two daughters, and I want to impart as much of a healthy mentality about nutrition as I do on what they should/shouldn't eat. My parents never 'dieted' when I was growing up, and I never stressed about it either. We keep it simple and non-intimidating, for us and them. CrossFit Kids doesn't teach the air squat the way adults are taught; you have to approach nutrition in the same way!

My 5 and 4 year old know what foods are proteins, carbs, and fats, and that we eat a little of everything at every meal. We'll play a game "who knows what kind of food avocado is?" Then we tell them why each is important, and keep it simple.Protein makes your muscles grow and stay strong, while carbs give you the energy to ride your bike, wrestle, and CrossFit Kids. Fat makes everything inside your body work better. I NEVER sneak food in. If I'm sneaking it in, how will they know it's important when they're making their own choices? They won't. I will let them have a gluten free cereal for breakfast sometimes, with 2% milk, and I add in a little vanilla protein powder. They have to drink the milk. They see us prepare everything, and they're well aware that there are veggies, meats, fish, seasonings, etc. in our meals. They don't always like it, but it is what is is. We're old school, and you eat what your fed. If you don't, then you wait till the next meal. This includes the baby. We're shaping her taste-buds and expectations! I don't bargain with their well-being, and that absolutely includes what they eat. Snacks include lots of hormone free string cheese, milk, fruits and nuts. I keep mozzarella cheese and fresh fruits in the crisper drawers. I've taught them how to wash their fruits (in the powder room sink because they can reach it!) and they're able to help themselves. They know they need to eat protein first. Fruits are the primary source of sweetness in all of our lives. By throwing a few choices in the drawer, they feel empowered to make their own decisions, while staying within my boundaries.

I cook a few things ahead, and they all freeze -

Tomato sauce - it goes just as well over proteins as it did over pasta. And it's guaranteed sugar free if I'm prepping it.
Steel cut oatmeal - in a twist lock Tupperware it defrosts in 5 minutes in the microwave to defrost while eggs are in the pan. I make one big batch one morning and freeze more for the rest of the week. Adding the appropriate amount of protein powder to oatmeal and sliced almonds can make it a one-stop meal.
Homemade turkey or chicken soup - for a "I didn't take something out of dinner" pinch. My kids love it. I scoop the contents out of the broth and dice up for the baby.

A few things - we're not strict Paleo. We limit grains, and do eat dairy. Food is often a part of friendly culture, and doing business for my husband and I. You can eat a well, and not be the friends no one wants to invite because your nutrition is perceived as crazy! We don't weigh and measure for the kids. My children (5.5, 4, 1) are at a thriving body-weight and I won't weigh or measure for them - if it's clean, they may have more. I don't buy foods in boxes - the fridge is normally overfull and the cabinets are nearly empty. I always try to buy organic  - definitely the Dirty Dozen list at a minimum. I do buy lots of organic frozen veggies vs. fresh. Warming them with olive oil, balsamic, and garlic in a grill pan after your meat comes out makes them taste fresh again - plus it's a one pan meal! Kids drink water or plain milk. Juice is a very special treat. We bought a 1/4 grass-fed cow which is in a small deep freezer in the garage. It's saved us HUNDREDS of dollars in quality meat. I otherwise couldn't afford grass-fed beef regularly. If we're going to eat something sweet, we make it ourselves. It's guaranteed real ingredients that way, I control the portions, and it's a teaching opportunity for us and the kids. (They can SEE how much sugar goes into cookies, and why they can only eat one or two!) Scrutinize the hell out of labels, and know what your ingredients are. Don't let natural markets fool you - you still need to know your ingredients. Use olive oil exclusively. If/when you bake use it then too, or the the old suggestion of subbing apple sauce. The butter will add the necessary fat you need. Stay away from sugar substitutes, even the new 'natural' versions. If we drink alcohol, we always balance it out with protein (wine & cheese). My kids all take pharm-grade, high dose fish oil. We like the Zone brand because their liquid tastes the best! Keep it in the freezer for the best flavor!

Good luck, and don't hesitate to reach out if you have more specific questions about the family/CrossFit lifestyle balance. Lisa is an amazing resource - you're lucky to have her!

Best,

Madeline Letchford