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DIET – The Four Letter Word!

The month of December was all about gatherings with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. With the holidays came food, lots of food, you may have eaten more (or drank more) than you intended, or ate out more than you would have liked. With December behind us it is time to jump into January with some positive mindsets and approaches. January is time to nourish and restore the body with important nutrients that may have been neglected during the holiday season.

In general, your body needs this time to nourish and restore. Healthy eating is not about getting rid of the foods you love and only eating fruits and vegetables. It is about getting variety in your diet and coming up with creative ways to include some of your favorite foods, with a healthier twist, and incorporating fruits and vegetables to these meals.

If you want to jump-start your weight loss and restore your system after the holidays do yourself a favor – do not diet! When did diet turn into something that you are on or off of versus consisting of the foods that you eat? Why does how you eat have to have a label? Sure, a guideline as a plan to follow can make it easier but do not live and die by someone else’s meal plan or what your neighbor, sister, best friend or co-worker did. There is no one right way to eat or a one size fits all approach. You are you! Find what works for you with the balance, variety, and moderation of all foods and nutrients.

So why cook at home?

This January challenge yourself to take back your kitchen and avoid the DIET. Latest research indicates that by just eating two home cooked meals per day you can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gaining weight (American Heart Association Scientific Session, 2015). Recent statistics from Harvard School of Public Health (2015) found poorer diet quality in children, young, adults, and older professionals for those that ate out regularly compared to those that cooked at home. The study also indicated that performance and recovery implications are related to eating at home versus eating on the go as well. In the last 50 years there has been a significant increase in commercially prepared food, take-out, and restaurant eating. With that being said, we have seen a national weight increase over the same period of time. When cooking from home, chances are that your meals are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution try cooking at home two nights per week or packing your lunch two times per week. Small steps make the biggest impacts (and it can generally be easier to maintain smaller, less stressful behavior changes), and the home is a great place to start! Not to mention, the increased performance benefits in your workouts from better nutrient balance (overall less sodium, saturated fat, and processed foods). Can you start having two cooked meals from home versus take-out, pre-prepared, or convenience? Think before you decide on where your next meal will be! Cooking at home does require some planning but it is possible and gets easier the more you do it.

Let’s start planning now!

  • Make a grocery list
    • Include a protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans), a starch (rice, potato, squash, oats), produce (fruits and vegetables), and a heart healthy fat (avocado, olive/canola oil, nuts/seeds) for each meal.
  • Pull out some of your favorite recipes and create a seven-day meal plan.
  • Make a list of your favorite foods and find recipes so you can make them yourself or with a partner!
  • Consult a Registered Dietitian to help you find your individual needs for intake and develop a plan.

Here’s a sample meal plan to help get you started.


Steal Cut Oats with Pears & Raisins

½ cup steal cut oats (cook steal cut oats on stove top, add milk)

¾ cup milk or milk alternative

1 cup diced pear

1 oz. raisins


1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup cashews, chopped

1– 6 oz container of Greek yogurt


Shrimp Wrap with Cucumber and Tomato Salad

1 tortilla

½ avocado, diced

3 oz. shrimp (peeled, cooked)

¼ cup, no salt added, black beans (rinsed & drained)

½ cup spinach

2 Tbsp. salsa

2 oz. feta cheese

½ cup cucumber, diced

½ cup tomatoes, diced

2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

Fill tortilla with 3 oz of cooked, peeled shrimp, 1/2 avocado, ¼ cup black beans, ½ cup spinach, 2 tbsp. salsa, 1 oz. feta cheese. For cucumber and tomato salad: Add cucumber, cherry tomatoes, balsamic and mix.


1/2 cup carrots

1/2 cup hummus (for dipping carrots)


6 oz. lean pork tenderloin (Preheat oven to 400. Marinade for 30 minutes in 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce and 1/2 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion flakes, basil and oregano.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or to internal temperature of 145-160. Depending on your preference of preparation.)

1/2 medium sweet potato baked

1 cup steamed broccoli with 1 tsp. butter and fresh squeezed lemon juice

What motivates you?

There are two factors that have an impact on our motivation levels and what motivates us as a person, extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Extrinsic factors have to do with things that are in our existing environment such as money, title, prizes, and discipline. Intrinsic factors are the things that motivate us internally, such as, drive, purpose, passion, and belonging. Speaking in terms of goal setting related to overall health, take the time to really dig deep and ask yourself what really motivates you and make that change! If weight loss is for extrinsic factors (look better, fit into a pair of jeans, an event, etc.) versus intrinsic (health, better quality of life), then the results typically are not long lasting.

Do yourself a favor and ditch the DIET as a four letter word, start cooking at home more, and take back your kitchen!



American Heart Association

Harvard School of Public Health

Pink, Daniel. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.


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The Author

Emily Bailey

Emily Bailey

Emily is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian since 2003, as well as a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics 2014, completing her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and Dietetic Internship at Saint Louis University. She is dually certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and has spent the past 12 years as Director of Nutrition at NutriFormance and Athletic Republic, LLC in St. Louis. Emily also holds memberships to the Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Practice Group, the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association, and National Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention MOEDA.

Outside of work Emily can be found practicing what she preaches, enjoying a run. She has completed the GO! St. Louis half marathon, Marine Corp Marathon, and MO’Cowbell half marathon. She grew up as a competitive dancer and wishes she had the knowledge of “train to eat, just as you train to compete” then. Emily believes that all foods fit in a healthy and active lifestyle. She strives to educate all athletes to fuel for their performance. She also works with eating disorders/disordered eating and weight management. It is her personal goal to eradicate negative body image one person at a time!

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