Back to Basics

Since things have gotten a little more personal and science-based around here recently I wanted to take a step back and share some basic tools that have been helpful for me and my clients. These infographs address two common hang-ups that I get questions about frequently: portion sizes and what to put on your plate. I hope you find these useful – feel free to print them out and hang them up on your fridge or put them in a drawer at work.

Building a Plate

  • Your plates should consist of 50% vegetables, 25% protein, and roughly 12.5% each of starches/fats.
  • Eat slowly and mindfully.
  • Minimally processed foods are your best choice.
  • Water and herbal tea are great drink options.

Portion Size

  • Your own hand is your personalized tool available to you at all times that can help you determine how much of each macronutrient you should be eating at every meal.
  • These portion sizes vary for men and women (as a general rule, each macronutrient quantity is doubled for men)

Why I Don’t Eat Gluten

I personally avoid eating gluten about 99% of the time and today I want to talk about why that is. To set the stage, I do not have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by eating gluten. However, I have experimented over the past several years and have noticed that I feel the best when I avoid eating it, which is always how I decide which foods to incorporate into my diet. As a quick refresher, gluten is the general name used for proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Beyond just feeling better, here are some other reasons why I choose to avoid it:

  1. You might be thinking ‘but aren’t whole grains supposed to be good for you?’. My answer to that is that the ‘wheat’ of today isn’t what it used to be.. it’s the product of 40 years of genetics research aimed at increasing yield-per-acre. The result is a product that hardly resembles what our ancestors ate. It’s highly processed with most nutritional value stripped away. This is why you hear some people say that they can go to a foreign country and eat wheat without any issues – it’s a totally different product.
  2. Wheat raises blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods, including table sugar and many candy bars and it’s never fun to go on a blood sugar ride! Related to that is the fact there is a protein unique to wheat that actually increases appetite and causes addiction-like behaviors.
  3. GUT issues such as inflammation which can lead to intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and damage to the gut biome (bacteria make-up of gut). While all of that may sound abstract it leads to symptoms such as diarrhea and/or constipation, heartburn, pain, bloating, etc.
  4. Brain symptoms. While most of the issues related to eating gluten can be tied back to the gut, the brain is another organ at risk. I’ve personally experienced brain fog and increased anxiety when I consume wheat.


What is Collagen?

As a follow-up to my all about protein post, today I’m going to be talking about a specific type of protein: collagen. I’ve mentioned this before a couple of times as it is a supplement that I swear by!

What is collagen?

In the human body, there are 20 amino acids – simple building blocks that can be used to construct various sized chains – which we call proteins. The number of different proteins our amino acids can make is EXTENSIVE, but today we’re talking about just one: collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, rolling in at around 30% of our total protein makeup. Collagen is found in our ligaments, bones, teeth, skin, hair, cartilage, muscle tissue, and it provides a great deal of structure for our tissues.

Where does dietary collagen come from?

Generally speaking, collagen is extracted from the hides and bones of animals. If you’ve ever whipped up a batch of homemade broth and then saw it turn to jelly in your refrigerator, the collagen proteins pulled from the tissues are to thank for the gel! Beyond homemade broth, there are two forms of collagen available to us today in a dehydrated supplement form: hydrolyzed collagen (collagen peptides) and collagen protein (gelatin).

Collagen Peptides vs. Gelatin

These two supplements are very similar but you can think of peptides as being more ‘broken-up’ than gelatin, therefore peptides may be a little easier for the body to leverage. Additionally, collagen peptides dissolve in both hot or cold liquids, while gelatin can only dissolve in hot and will cause cold liquids to gel. Collagen peptides are flavorless and have no aroma, while gelatin can tend to have a slight beef smell/flavor.

How is collagen different from protein powder?

Though collagen peptides/gelatin and a traditional (say, whey) powder can all be considered “protein powders,” their amino acid makeups are drastically different. While collagen IS found in muscle, its primary role is to help provide structure, but not necessarily mass. If you’re looking for a protein powder to help with muscle growth, collagen won’t help as much as a branch chain amino acid-filled whey-based protein powder.

What are the health benefits of collagen?

  1. Help heal your gut. Our gut health is tied intrinsically to our overall heath, and collagen is a way to support it through nutrition. Collagen can help strengthen/rebuild gut lining while also helping to restore a proper lining.
  2. Promote healthier, more vibrant skin. Our body goes through constant regeneration, and as we age that regeneration slows down and could use a little help. By consuming collagen regularly I have noticed that my skin is clearer and has a more elastic texture.
  3. Promote heathy hair and nail growth. This is the most noticeable change I’ve seen taking collagen for the past year and a half. My hair and nails grow like crazy and are much stronger!
  4. Support quality sleep. The Glycine in collagen is the amino acid responsible for its wonderful impact on quality sleep. Glycine has the ability to counteract a specific stress hormone, which in turn helps us to feel more calm and prepared for quality rest without the drowsy effects of other sleep aids.
  5. Promote joint health. This is especially important for anyone who works out consistently. Collagen can help reduce inflammation and help you rebuild stronger tissues over time, therefore reducing pain and potential for injury.

I take collagen daily – primarily in the form of Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides and occasionally via Grass-Fed Beef Gelatin. I mix these products into my coffee/tea/baked goods. Although not cheap, this is a brand that responsibly sources their ingredients and has quality products that I highly recommend!

Healthy Eats Milwaukee

Of course if you have the time to cook at home that is the healthier and less expensive option but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a meal out. Here are my go-to options for quick, healthy meals out in Milwaukee:

Bowls – Like the name suggests, this place has all different types of bowls: smoothies, grains, greens, and chia puddings. My favorites are the chopped raw salad with steak and the green goddess grain bowl. This place has clean ingredients and reasonable prices.

FreshFin Poke – With two locations – one on the Eastside and new opened Third Ward location, this is a convenient place to get a flavorful meal of fresh seafood. They also have a vegan option. I’ve only been here a couple of times and have enjoyed everything that I’ve tried. The curry coconut shrimp is probably my favorite!

WholeFoods – If I ever need a quick meal after the gym, this is where I head. They recently rolled out a partnership with nomnompaleo and they now rotate some of her recipes through the hot bar. They have all been delicious. If I don’t get that I make a big salad. They also have great pre-made options and the ‘paleo burrito’ from the taco bar is another hidden gem.

Urban Beets – This vegan/gluten-free friendly restaurant is a little bit off the beaten path, but totally worth the trip! It’s a great space and they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everything on their menu looks good but I’ve personally tried and enjoyed the pulled bbq carrot sandwich and one of their smoothie bowls.

Green Kitchen @ Milwaukee Public Market – This stand at the public market is my go-to for a reasonably priced salad with all sorts of topping options. They pack A TON of salad  into their containers and have plenty of homemade dressings to choose from. My other favorite order is the pesto chicken wrapped in collard greens. They have great sounding sandwiches and juices, too.

I hope this post inspires you to try out a new spot or dish! Enjoy!!


All About Protein

I talked a little bit about protein in my macronutrients post awhile back, but wanted to do a deep dive into it today. Our organs, tissues, muscles and hormones are all made from proteins. The protein found in foods are used by every part of the body to develop, grow and function properly. Eating an adequate amount of protein daily can prevent protein deficiency, which can wreak havoc on the body.

High-protein diets help you maintain and lose weight, stabilize your blood sugar levels, boost your energy levels, support your muscles and bones, and support the absorption of important nutrients. Proteins are the most satiating of the macronutrients and they keep your metabolism revving.

A question that I often get about protein is ‘How much should I eat?’. Unfortunately, the answer to that is it depends on who you are. Your goals, your age, your activity levels, your size, and your health status all impact how much protein you need.

As a general guideline, if you’re an active individual, I’d recommend .8g protein/lb bodyweight. So for example, a 150lb person would need to consume 120g protein/day. That’s about 40g/meal if you’re eating three meals a day. If that sounds like too much, start with 100g/day and see how you feel. Just to put that into context, a 4 oz. chicken breast has about 30g protein. Other high protein sources include: beef, dairy (I’d opt for full-fat), eggs, seafood, spinach, oats, beans, and nuts/seeds.

Some signs that you need to consume more protein include: you’re always hungry, you’re a vegetarian (animal proteins are more efficient than plant proteins), you’re craving meat, you’ve got achy joints, or you’re not recovering well from workouts.