Everything in Moderation

Sometimes I feel like I can’t seem to get ahead of the news – new findings on how certain allergenic foods can effect infants differently than we thought, the new argument for fat, the latest in heart disease research. No wonder my clients are overwhelmed. It can be hard to differentiate the questionable evidence-based research from the opinion-based news, the dogmatic views from the moderate views, the straight facts from the fiction. I consistently try to practice all in moderation (and with chocolate, that is super hard for me).

WHAT DO YOU DO? Whenever I am in an environment where food is being served, and a someone asks me (either at a social gathering or networking event) what I do for a living, this question is always accompanied by a motion to hide the chicken fingers or plate of pasta the person is holding and say, “Oh no! I bet the nutritionist wouldn’t approve of this!” As much as this can seem like an awkward moment, and as much as you might think that this is a logical response, I like to flip this assumption on its head. I come back with a true fact: “Oh no! That must mean the chocolate bar I consumed the other day when I was stressed out is bad, too? Everything in moderation: 90-10%.”  Laughs ensue. I would like to get to the bottom of what many of my clients, and what I, in the past, have really struggled with: moderation, and how to moderate moderation.

Whenever clients ask how much of (said food) is too much, I like to respond with a question and an example: could you eat three avocados in one sitting? Probably not. How about 1/2 of an avocado? Sure! There is your answer. Then I can rattle off some facts about healthy fats, found in avocados, olive or coconut oil and other coconut products, full or part fat yogurt, nuts, seeds, butter, oily fish; they keep you satiated for a longer period of time, can help you cut back on cravings and can even nourish your body on a cellular level. How’s that for an argument for fat?

Another physical example includes the apple. I went to Berkeley Bowl when my friend Stephanie Atwood and I were leading her Go Wow Team women’s running team members on a nutrition education and training program last month. I purchased a bag of organic fuji apples, which were all different shapes, not too shiny and were all about the size of a baseball (NOT a softball). Then I headed over to the non-organic section of the store, where I found a fuji apple that was way too shiny for it’s own good, a perfect shape and was (seriously) the size of a small child’s head. What’s wrong with an apple of any size, you might say? Nothing – apples are great! They are a higher glycemic fruit (meaning the rate in which the sugar content spikes your blood sugar is faster than, say a grapefruit) but the fiber content of an apple helps to slow down that sugar, and add some bulk to your bite. However, the head-sized portion of that apple just isn’t what nature intended, and it isn’t what you need. Hungry for more than just an apple, but eating the smaller one? Opt to balance out the sugar content anyway with a handful of nuts or some yummy nut butter for added protein and fat (I bought some almond hazelnut butter the other day that was divine. With no sugar added, even I was surprised at how incredibly sweet the stuff was).

Some of us need more fat, more protein or more carbs than others. When I read about how a Paleo approach has changed someone’s life, or that cutting back on gluten made everything flow a lot smoother for another, I get excited. We all deserve to find something that works well for our bioindividual body. Perhaps we should remember that one size never fits all, that not dieting but making incremental lifestyle shifts that incorporate a little of this raw-nes, a little of that vegan-ness, maybe a little of that Paleo-ness, with a dash of junk and a pinch of chocolate (or a large chunk of it) is how finding a balance within moderation can be achieved. When we can start to achieve this equilibrium within our minds and our bodies, so that we view our weight, our happiness and our health as works in progress; this is when a sense of calm can start to sink in. The goal is to settle down that sense of urgency to “just lose those last 10 pounds” or “stop eating chocolate forever” and lead your life in moderation, knowing that an ever-evolving but high quality of life is always within your grasp, and that you might even lose a few pounds or get better sleep in the process. Embrace moderation!

Now for the recipe. My friend Karen is the master at trying out recipes that use whole foods ingredients and attempt to achieve the decadence of a chocolate cake or the gooey-ness of a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. Well Karen, here is your one cup chocolate chop cookie recipe modified. And I swear folks – this one’s a keeper (gluten-free, low on carbs or sugar and packed with protein). And it tastes good. I know…right!?

A CUPPA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE (try out different amounts of these ingredients – the recipe changes every time I make them)

  • 1 cup of almond butter
  • 1-2 tbsp honey, turbinado or coconut sugar  (the kind that isn’t as refine as the white stuff, but sugar is sugar – original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar – no need! Let the chocolate chips be your sweet!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup of any kind of milk
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 bag Easy Life chocolate chips (gluten, dairy, soy free)

Mix together, drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and preference for gooey-ness. I recommend you play with the coconut flour and milk amounts.

The cookie

The cookie

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine