Author: Suzzanne Myer

Nutritionist, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

USDA MyPlate

The USDA MyPlate was based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate was designed to help American consumers eat healthfully and make better food choices. The image has been changed from a pyramid to a more familiar place setting visual to show the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy.

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, putting the emphasis on the vegetables. Always vary your choices so you get a good range of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other nutrients found in different produce. Choosing dark leafy greens and red, yellow, and orange produce gives you the variety of nutrients your body needs.
  • Choosing whole fruits and vegetables over juices increases your intake of fiber, decreases your calorie intake, and keeps you full longer!
  • Aim for 9 or more servings of vegetables and fruit per day. Keep in mind that about one cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables or fruit counts as a serving.
    Try something new: Try sautéing rainbow Swiss chard with oil, garlic, and lemon.
  • One quarter of your plate should include a whole grain. Options include whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, bulgur, barley, and many others.
  • Try to limit your intake of refined grains like white rice and white bread. Refining grains removes the endospore and bran of the grain; along with it goes the fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
  • Try something new: Quinoa is a delicious (gluten-free) whole grain that’s easy to make: just follow the simple instructions on the box then try adding some toasted pine nuts and feta cheese crumbles.


  • Fill a quarter of your plate with lean proteins like fish, poultry, legumes, beans, and nuts.
  • Choose red meat, cold cuts, and processed meats like sausage and bacon less often.
  • Animal protein contains more saturated fat than plant protein. By choosing plant protein options such as beans, legumes, nuts, and tofu, you are choosing less fat and more vitamins and minerals. You even get extra fiber when you choose plant sources of protein.
  • The USDA recommends 5-6 ounce equivalents of protein in a day.
  • Try something new: Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber. They taste great in soups, as a lentil salad, or mixed into pasta sauce.

Dairy/Calcium-Enriched Products

  • Include 2 or 3 servings of low fat dairy or calcium-enriched products per day.

    Try something new: Kefir is a probiotic-rich yogurt drink that is great by itself or mixed into a fruit smoothie.

Other things to remember

  • Try to limit your intake of added sugars. The USDA recommendation for individuals who need 2000 calories per day is 260 “discretionary calories” or “empty” calories. These include not only added sugar but solid fats as well. These empty calories provide no nutrients, only added calories. They can be avoided by choosing nonfat milk instead of whole milk, avoiding sugary cereal and soft drinks, as well as other sweets, fried foods, and high fat foods like cheese and red meat. Choose unsweetened beverages, baked fish or chicken instead of fried, and smaller portions of naturally high fat foods like cheese.
  • Include healthier oils such as olive oil and other plant oils with your meals and limit saturated and trans fat. In general, oils (liquid at room temperature) are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have more health benefits than the saturated and trans fats found in solid sources of fat like butter, margarine, lard, and partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Remember to always stay active! While no longer part of the official MyPlate, physical activity remains as important as ever. The USDA recommends 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week for adults. Physical activity should include both aerobic activity and strengthening exercises. For children, the recommendation is one hour of physical activity each day of the week.

Top 10 Strategies for Healthy Eating in 2012

1. Focus on a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
Studies consistently show that the healthiest diets are based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and small amounts of lean meat if desired.

Research tells us that eating 9-11 servings of fruits or vegetables a day plus 2 lowfat dairy foods can lower your blood pressure; eating the fruits or vegetables reduces your risk of stroke by 50%; and if you eat a lot of antioxidants (found in whole foods) you have an 80% lower risk of cataracts. Note: a serving of fruits and vegetables is 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked.

2. Eat Adequate Fiber
Fiber fills you up to help you lose weight and it also decreases the chance of many chronic diseases. Women need 25 grams per day and men need 30 grams. Children need 10 grams plus their age. Increase your fiber by adding high fiber cereals, eating the whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice, using whole grains and eating more beans and lentils.

3. Eat Organic Foods: Especially Certain Fruits and Vegetables
Organic fruit and vegetables are especially needed for children because for their weight they eat more than adults. The main concern with pesticides is long-term exposure. The highest amount of pesticides is found in apples, celery and strawberries. The website has more information on the produce with the greatest risk.

4. Eat Foods High in Vitamins, Minerals and Accessory Nutrients
Vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and other nutrients are important for their impact on chronic disease and health. A review of 206 studies found vegetables decrease cancer risk. If Americans ate 5 fruits and vegetables a day it would reduce cancer incidence by as much as 20%.

5. Eat Healthy Fats
Eat more healthy omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans and cold water fish. Extra virgin olive oil is great but not for sautéing. Heating will destroy the phytonutrients in the oil. Use high-oleic safflower oil or sunflower oil or refined coconut oil for high heat cooking.

6. Figure out your Food Allergies/Sensitivities
Food sensitivities and intolerances may be contributing to physical and or emotional problems. Common symptoms related to food sensitivities are acne, ADHD, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, bloating, brain fog, constipation, depression, dark circles under the eyes, dry skin, eczema, headaches, IBS, migraines, sinus problems, psoriasis, ringing in the ears and weight gain.

7. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions. If you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers. The leading cause of Type 2 Diabetes is excess weight. Maintaining a healthy weight also gives you more energy to enjoy life!

8. Consider Age, Stage and Gender
Factors such as a person’s age, current weight, current health status, and activity level affect the nutrients they need and how many calories they need.

9. Assess Need for Supplements
Eating a healthy diet is the foundation for any wellness program but a well chosen multiple vitamin and mineral can enhance a healthy diet. Other supplements may be needed for specific reasons. For example, 20-60% of people older than 60 have low levels of HCL, which leads to poor B-12 absorption so they may need extra B-12. Many Seattleites may need extra Vitamin D. Recently researchers at the University of Kansas found that 70 % of 10,000 patients were low in vitamin D and they were at significantly higher risk for a variety of heart diseases. Vitamin D-deficiency nearly doubled their likelihood of dying. Correcting the deficiency with supplements lowered their risk of death by 60 %.

10. Incorporate the “Pleasure Principle” into Eating
Our bodies are wired to move towards pleasure and avoid pain. We naturally gravitate towards things that taste, smell and feel yummy. We naturally avoid the opposite. To try to fight the pleasure principle is to fight one of our most basic instincts. But you can use the “Pleasure Principle” as a barometer for when you are starting to feel satisfied and have had enough. Try to eat when you are truly hungry; the food tastes that much better because you have an appetite for it. Once you start to fill up, the pleasure begins to diminish. This is your sign that you have probably had enough food.

Also remember to relax before you eat- ingestion is just one step; good digestion and assimilation require relaxation.

References and Resources
Environmental Working Group:
Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Institute of Medicine:
Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet:
National Academy Press:
Vitamin D Council:
The World’s Healthiest Foods:

Vitamin D. Do You Need to Supplement?

Time of day, season, and latitude all determine the amount of sunshine (UVB rays) that reaches your skin to make Vitamin D. When the Sun’s rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere at too much of an angle, the atmosphere blocks the UVB portion of the rays. This occurs during the early and later parts of the day, during the winter season and increases as you move further away from the equator. A good rule of thumb is: If your shadow is longer than you are tall you are not making much vitamin D.

Vitamin D Winter and latitude
Vitamin D Winter is when no vitamin D production is possible due to the atmosphere blocking all UVB. This lasts for several months, with the time increasing as you move further from the equator. Seattle is at 47 degrees, the Vitamin D Winter months for Seattle is around November through early March.

Other factors

  • Dark-skinned individuals need up to six times longer in the sun than those with light skin because their skin has more melanin content. Melanin is Nature’s built-in protection against skin damage from excess ultraviolet exposure and so it allows less UV to enter the skin.
  • Amount of skin exposed – at least 40% of the entire skin surface should be exposed for optimal vitamin D production. The torso produces the most, legs and arms some, hands and face very little or none at all.
  • Age – vitamin D synthesis can take up to 4 times as long for those over the age of 60 and under the age of 20.
  • Altitude – more UVB is filtered out of the atmosphere at the beach as opposed to a mountain top.
  • Cloud cover – water droplets in the air scatter some UVB back into space.
  • Air pollution — particles in the air (such as ozone, haze, and sulfur dioxide) can either absorb UVB or reflect it back into space.
  • Being behind glass – glass blocks all UVB.

How Much to Take
The amount needed of Vitamin D for one person may not be enough for another, due to age, weight, absorption, overall health, genetics and amount of sun exposure. The only way to know for sure if a certain dosage is working for you is to have your vitamin D level tested. It is a simple blood test.

Vitamin D Council recommends the following amounts of supplemental vitamin D3 per day in the absence of enough sun exposure.

  • Healthy children under the age of 1 years – 1,000 IU.
  • Healthy children over the age of 1 years – 1,000 IU per every 25 lbs of body weight.
  • Healthy adults and adolescents – at least 5,000 IU.
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers – at least 6,000 IU.

Additionally, children and adults with chronic health conditions such as autism, MS, cancer, heart disease, or obesity may need as much as double these amounts. Please consult with your physician

Oil vs. powder
Vitamin D3 supplements come in two forms:

  1. oil (cod liver oil-based) – fat-soluble vitamin D, includes liquid drops or gel caps.
  2. dry powder (lanolin-based, from lamb’s wool) – water-soluble vitamin D, includes capsules or tablets.

Both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamin D appear to be equally absorbed and metabolized by the body.

Is there a vitamin D for vegans?
Vitamin D3 is produced by animals in response to ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure. Vitamin D2 – what some call “vegetarian vitamin D” – should not be considered a satisfactory alternative. Those who opt to take this form should know that vitamin D2 is not real vitamin D. It is not the same substance as vitamin D3 produced in human skin and may have actions in the body different to those of vitamin D3.

People with some health conditions should only take vitamin D with the guidance of a physician, if you have a health condition please contact your physician before taking Vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D and Cancer
The link between vitamin D sufficiency and a decreased risk in cancer is promising. A randomized controlled trial found a 77% reduction in all-cancer incidence when the study group supplemented with 1100 IU/day of vitamin D plus 1450 mg/day calcium. Epidemiologist Dr. William Grant,the founder of the nonprofit organization Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center, states “based on various studies of UVB, vitamin D and cancer to date, it appears that the global cancer burden can be reduced by 15-25% if everyone had vitamin D blood levels above 40 ng/ml.”

How much protein do you need?

Protein requirements depend upon factors including body weight, body composition, rate of growth, physical activity level, type of physical activity, adequacy of energy and carbohydrate intake, and illness or injury.

Research indicates that protein needs for athletes are greater than 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight recommended for sedentary people.

Endurance exercise alters protein metabolism and increases amino acid oxidation leading to increased protein needs. The increase in need is dependent upon the intensity and duration of the exercise, with higher intensity and longer bouts of exercise associated with increased protein needs. Research supports a range in protein needs from 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram body weight for endurance athletes such as marathoners.

Individuals such as body builders, who are using resistance training to increase muscle mass, require 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This increased need for protein, however, is much less than what most of these athletes assume it to be. In addition, these increased needs are easily met through traditional food sources.

Adolescent athletes involved in high-intensity physical activity must meet the nutrition needs of growth combined with physical activity. Their protein needs vary from 1.8-2.0 grams per kilogram body weight.

Protein supplements consist of either whole protein, such as egg, milk or soy protein, or individual amino acids or combinations of individual amino acids. Whole protein supplements do not offer an advantage over food sources of protein, but may be more convenient. Powders tend to be more concentrated protein sources than pills. Energy bars are most convenient and can offer a significant amount of protein. Instant breakfast type powder mixes offer a cheaper alternative to specially marketed protein powders.

Most athletes are meeting or exceeding their protein requirements through diet. There are, however, some athletes at risk for inadequate protein. These individuals are typically restricting caloric intake in order to achieve a low body weight and generally include wrestlers, gymnasts, dancers, and runners. Inadequate protein intake increases an athlete’s risk for injury and chronic fatigue.

Many Americans — athletes and nonathletes — are meeting or exceeding their protein needs.
Research does not support protein intake greater than 2.0 grams per kilogram body weight. High levels of protein can lead to increased water loss because the body excretes water to dispose of urea, a substance formed in the breakdown of protein. Water loss coupled with the fact that most athletes loose a great amount of water through sweat, can lead to dehydration. An excess of protein can also take calcium away from bones, thus predisposing one for osteoporosis.

Example of Protein Needs
Person/Activity Protein Needed
120 pound sedentary female 44 grams protein per day
120 pound female marathoner 65-76 grams protein per day
120 pound female body builder 76-98 grams protein per day
180 pound sedentary male 65 grams protein per day
180 pound male marathoner 98-114 grams protein per day
180 pound male body builder 114-147 grams protein per day

Meat, Fish, Poultry
Lean beef, chicken, turkey breast: 1 oz, 8 Grams of Protein
Beef 3 oz. hamburger, roast beef, 21 Grams of Protein
Poultry:3 oz. grilled chicken sandwich, 21 Grams of Protein
Fish: 1 oz, 7 Grams of Protein
Fish: 3 oz. tuna sandwich, 21 Grams of Protein
Lunch meat:1 oz, 5 Grams of Protein
Eggs: 1, 6 Grams of Protein

Beans, nuts
Kidney beans: 1/2 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Navy beans: 1/2 cup, 7 Grams of Protein
Garbanzo beans (chick peas): 1/2 cup, 6 Grams of Protein
Tofu (soybeans): 2 oz, 5 Grams of Protein
Peanuts: 1/4 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Peanut Butter: 2 tbsp, 8 Grams of Protein
Nuts: 1 oz (handful), 5-7 Grams of Protein

Low-fat cottage cheese: 1/2 cup, 13 Grams of Protein
Milk (whole, skim): 1 cup (8 ounce glass), 8 Grams of Protein
Yogurt (whole, skim): 1 cup (1 8 ounce container), 8 Grams of Protein
Cheddar cheese: 1 oz, 7 Grams of Protein
Ice cream, frozen yogurt: 1/2 cup, 4 Grams of Protein
Processed cheese (American): 2 oz, 13 Grams of Protein

Breads, cereals, grains
Macaroni and cheese: 1/2 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Pasta : 1 cup cooked, 8 Grams of Protein
Bagel: 2 oz, 6 Grams of Protein
Raisin bran: 1 oz (2/3 cup), 3 Grams of Protein
Rice: 1 cup cooked, 3 Grams of Protein
Bread 1 slice: 2 Grams of Protein

Baked potato: 1 large, 4 Grams of Protein
Peas, green: 1/2 cup, 4 Grams of Protein
Corn: 1/2 cup, 2 Grams of Protein
Lettuce: 1/4 head, 1 Gram of Protein
Carrot: 1 large, 1 Gram of Protein

Banana, orange, apple: 1 medium, 1 Gram of Protein

Women’s Nutrition: Fuel for Recovery

Women have always had slightly different nutritional needs than men. Research is beginning to shed some light on how women fuel their recoveries differently.

High-protein diets have been popular in weight-loss circles for several years now, but very little research had been conducted on the effects of protein on performance, especially in women. Recently researchers at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand studied the effect of high-protein feeding on the performance of female cyclists to see if there was a difference between high- and low-protein recovery diets on the performance of well-trained female cyclists.

They studied 12 female cyclists. Each cyclist completed three high-intensity rides: two-and-a-half hours of interval work on the first day followed by sprint testing on days two and four. Day three was a rest day. In the first four hours of recovery on the first and second days, the cyclists ate either high protein or high carbohydrate meals. Researchers found that the protein had no effect on mean power in the repeated sprint testing on day two or day four. The women reported feeling both more fatigue and soreness in their legs in days two, three, and four, and leg strength was lower in those who ate the high-protein diet than in those who ate the high carbohydrate meals. In contrast to previous findings with male athletes, their conclusion was that there was “no clear influence of dietary protein quantity on subsequent performance in women”. The study suggests that female endurance athletes may not need protein as part of their recovery meal; a high carbohydrate meal may be the better recovery food for women. This was a very small study and obviously more studies need to be done on female athletes.

Fiber Helps Keep You Moving and Living Longer!

We all know that fiber is good for you but a recent study of 400,000 people age 50-71 has found that fiber can help you live longer! The men who ate 29 grams of fiber a day and the women who ate 26 grams of fiber a day were 22% less likely to die after 9 years than those who ate less fiber. More and more we are finding out that inflammation contributes to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The study found that fiber has anti-inflammatory properties.

So how can you eat a high fiber diet?
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber but to get above 25 grams a day you really need to add some beans/lentils.
You would have to eat 5 cups of broccoli or over 7 cups of brown rice to reach 25 grams but you only need ~1 ½ cups of beans or lentils to get to 25 grams of fiber.

  1. You can add beans and or lentils to a salad, soup or vegetable dish.
  2. You can have a bean and rice burrito for breakfast or lunch.
  3. You can have hummus and veggies for snack.
  4. The following recipe for Meatless Chili is not only high in fiber but also low in calories.

Enjoy and live long and prosper!

Meatless Chili
Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 can (16 ounces) chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cups cooked kidney beans, drained (reserve liquid)

Heat oil in a large saucepan; sauté garlic and onion until slightly brown. Sprinkle in chili powder and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes until a sauce is formed. Add reserve bean liquid if mixture becomes too dry.

Calories per serving: 160
Fiber per serving: 22 grams

Fiber in Foods
Fruits / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Pear, with skin / 1 medium / 5.1
Apple, with skin / 1 medium / 4.4

Grains, cereal & pasta / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Brown rice, cooked / 1 cup / 3.5

Legumes, nuts & seeds / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Split peas, cooked / 1 cup / 16.3
Lentils, cooked / 1 cup / 15.6
Black beans, cooked / 1 cup / 15.0
Kidney Beans / 1 cup / 18.0
Pinto Beans / 1 cup / 18.0
Sunflower seeds, hulled / 1/4 cup / 3.6
Pistachio nuts / 1 ounce / 2.9
Pecans / 1 ounce / 2.7

Vegetables / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Artichoke, cooked / 1 medium / 10.3
Broccoli, boiled / 1 cup / 5.1
Turnip greens, boiled / 1 cup / 5.0
Brussels sprouts, cooked / 1 cup / 4.1
Carrot, raw / 1 medium / 1.7

Kale & Apple Salad with Pancetta & Maple Roasted Pecans

Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12

  • 2 cups maple roasted pecans- recipe below
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons caper brine (from a jar of capers)
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large head radicchio, shredded
  • One 8-ounce bunch kale—stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
  • 3 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 2 ounces shaved pecorino cheese

In a skillet, heat the oil with the pancetta and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is browned, 6 minutes. Strain the pan drippings into a large bowl; whisk in the vinegar, caper brine and maple syrup and season the dressing with salt and black pepper. Add the apples, radicchio, kale, chives, tarragon and pecorino and toss. Mound the salad on plates, garnish with the pecans and pancetta and serve.


  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 pound pecans (3 ½ cups)
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 10” x 15” baking pan. Mix all ingredients and put onto pan in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes and stir. Bake 5 more minutes and stir again. Bake for about 5 more minutes or until all of the syrup has crystallized, being careful not to overcook as they will burn quickly after they are done.
Put roasted nuts on a clean lightly oiled pan to cool.

Adapted from