Nine Famous Nutrition Findings That May Be Myths

Nine Famous Nutrition Findings That May Be Myths

I really like science and research.  Without it, my industry would not be where it is today.  However, the science field is not perfect and has it’s flaws.

It was recently reported that a famed Cornell researcher Brian Wansink and his Food and Brand Lab published hundreds of studies that have not been able to stand up to scientific scrutiny.  In other words, the data was flawed.  Based on this discovery, two decades worth of study findings on the psychology and marketing of food and eating may be invalid.

Because his work was so famous, I felt it was important to share this information with you. There’s a very good chance one or many of his findings have ben passed on to you by a trustworthy source.

Here are nine of the  famous – and now suspect- findings:

  • Keeping junk foods out of sight causes us to eat less of them.
  • Using smaller plates leads people to eat less.
  • People will eat almost all of the food that they serve themselves.
  • The nutritional gatekeeper at home influences nearly 75% of the food eaten by the rest of the family.
  • Half of the snack foods bought in bulk are eaten within a week of purchase.
  • Men eat more in the company of women.
  • Trayless cafeterias lead diners to choose less salad and more dessert.
  • Hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food.
  • Nutrition report cards may improve school lunch selection.

While some of the findings above may prove to be true for some or even many people, the scientific data that was used is now considered unreliable.  For the most up-to-date list of questioned studies you can check out the Retraction Database at

I believe it’s a good idea to pay attention to current research when it comes to health and fitness. I also believe it’s important to discover what works for you personally.  In the end it’s all about being healthy and whole.  Just because something is “science” based doesn’t mean it’s right for you or you need to jump on board.

I encourage you to be open to new research. I also recommend that you seek wise counsel, listen to good doctors, listen to your body, and pay close attention to your gut instincts.  🙂

Here’s to a happy and healthy week!

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Ten Great Reasons To Cook At Home

Ten great reasons to cook at home by Jennifer Ledford

Up until my thirties my cooking skills were pretty limited and my meal planning consisted of heading to the grocery store to scan the aisles for what I considered to be “healthy” food at the time.  Our meals were not very exciting (let’s just say I wore out the cord on our rice steamer) and we ate out a lot.

Fast forward to 2017 and we cook almost every meal at home now.  My husband goes out a bit more than I do for business reasons but, as a couple, we eat out about once a week on average.

Eating out is fun and I believe we should all take a break from our kitchens to socialize and enjoy good food while letting someone else do the clean up.  I also believe takeout has its place in our lives.  There are days and even seasons in your life when it makes a lot of sense mentally and physically to let someone else do the cooking.

However, is it possible that Americans may be eating out too much these days?  Statistics reveal that the average American eats out 4-5 times per week.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, the average American household spent $2,787 on restaurant meals and takeout, compared to $3,971 on groceries. But in 2015, the average amount spent on restaurants and takeout jumped $221 to $3,008. Grocery spending, by contrast, increased just $44 per household to $4,015.  This shows us that dining at restaurants and ordering takeout aren’t just luxuries anymore. They’re becoming the norm.  People simply are not cooking as much.

I have to admit, when I first started meal planning it had EVERYTHING to do with saving money. Since I’m in the fitness industry I already had an idea about how to choose healthy foods.   I just wanted to spend less in restaurants.  However, over time, the more I cooked and learned about food, the more my husband and I began to prefer my cooking to most restaurants.

Last week, my husband was out of town and since I was cooking for one I decided to take a break from the kitchen and pick up a burrito from one of the local taquerias.  The moment I took my first bite of the burrito I was reminded why I like to cook at home most of the time.   It turned out to be mediocre and I realized that the ingredients were probably not the same quality I would have purchased.  I ate the remaining half for lunch the next day and decided to cook for one for the rest of the week.  It turns out I prefer my own cooking unless the chef is WAY better at it than I am.

Taste and cost are two really big drivers that motivate me to meal plan and cook at home even on the days I don’t feel like it.  However there are other good reasons why I believe it pays off big to cook more at home.


  • You know what goes into the food. When I make our food, I get to choose how much butter, oil, salt, and sugar I add.  Sometimes I add more than the recipe calls for and sometimes I cut it back.  I can also make substitutions that I think are healthier for us like swapping out more refined grains for whole grains, adding more veggies, and choosing oils that I believe are better than others.
  • You know where it came from.   While some restaurants are now offering organic and all natural foods on their menus, not every restaurant does.   It’s important to me to serve my family, guests, and even our pets food that I believe is as close to its natural state as possible. That doesn’t mean we buy all organic or avoid all processed food.  It means that when I shop and choose which foods we will eat I pay close attention to where the food was sourced from and what ingredients or additives went into it.
  • It can make a difference environmentally.  As an animal lover and conservationist, I prefer to buy humanely raised meat and dairy as well as wild-caught sustainable seafood.  Eating at home can limit the amount of packaging that needs to be recycled.  We live on the San Francisco bay and it’s heartbreaking to see plastic and packaging wash up on the beach so I like to do my part to limit how much of it gets tossed into the bins at our house.
  • You’ll have money to spend on other things. Eating out can be pricey.  It’s amazing how much you save – and how many more high quality ingredients you can afford – when you eat at home.
  • Quality time with your family.  Studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder.   When a child is feeling down or depressed, family dinner can act as an intervention. This is especially true of eating disorders, says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, who has studied the impact of family meal patterns on adolescents. “If a child eats with his or her parents on a regular basis, problems will be identified earlier on,” she says. Sitting down to a meal is just as important for adults.  It can help relieve stress and allow you to take a break from the busyness of life.  For couples, it’s a great opportunity  to catch up on each other’s day and build a stronger relationship.
  • You can learn new skills. The more I cook, the more confident I feel in the kitchen.  Some of the recipes I choose to experiment with now I would have totally avoided five years ago.  Meal planning and cooking has helped me with my organizational skills and ability to stick to tasks long term.
  • Eating leftovers saves you time.  One of the bonuses of cooking at home is being able to freeze the leftovers or have them for lunch the next day.  Freezing them allows you to have healthy meals ready to go on the days you’d rather not or don’t have time to cook and packing your lunch with healthy leftovers saves you the time of scouting out healthy food during your precious lunch break.  Packing your lunch may even allow you time to take a midday walk or do a mini-workout.
  • Weight Control.  It may surprise you that as a personal trainer I listed weight management last.  I did that on purpose.  I personally believe that unless your body has an underlying medical issue if you focus on eating foods that fuel your body well most of the time and consuming portion sizes that are suitable for your lifestyle then your body will eventually settle into its natural weight.  Food has been used way too often to manipulate bodies to be something they were not naturally designed to be so I encourage you to focus on eating a healthy variety of foods rather than just weight loss.

It’s true that cooking takes time which is precious to all of us.  However, preparing tasty and healthy meals doesn’t have to be a long or complicated process.  Start with simple recipes and give yourself permission to assemble pre-cooked food like a roasted chicken from your deli combined with a salad and some mashed sweet potatoes.  Invest in tools like rice steamers and slow cookers so you can cook while you are doing other things.  Experiment to discover what works for you and then roll with it.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and full life!

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Boost Your Metabolism Eating Whole Foods

Eating Whole Foods - Blueberries - Jennifer Ledford - Certified Personal Trainer

When I first entered the fitness industry over twenty eight years ago, we used to believe that a “calorie was a calorie” and that as long as you were burning more than you consumed, you would lose weight.  You should have seen some of my lunches back then.  After eating a box of Cheez Its and some salami I’d hit the gym and teach two back-to-back aerobics classes.  At least I was getting my carbs and protein.  🙂

I still eat salami (quite often actually) and I will occasionally eat Cheez Its. However, over the years, I’ve learned that not all calories are created equal.  Based on solid science, I now focus on a health-driven approach that includes eating whole foods as much as possible and recommend that my clients take this approach to meal planning as well.

Current research continues to prove that a whole food driven diet (eating food in as close to its natural state as possible) is one of the best ways to fuel your body mentally and physically.  In fact, recent studies have shown that a whole food driven diet can actually boost your metabolism compared to a diet made up of processed foods which can cause your metabolism to slow down dramatically.  Just one more reason to avoid heavily processed low calorie diet food.  Thank goodness!

Please understand, I’m not suggesting that you should never eat anything processed.  One of the biggest flaws in the diet industry today is that they usually have too many rules and restrictions.  I want you to always feel free to live your life the way that you want to live it.

However, eating “whole foods” as much as possible can help you feel better and look better without ever having to diet in the first place.

Here are five simple tips to help you add more whole foods to your daily meals

Cook as much as you can.  One of the top reasons I encourage meal planning and cooking your own food is that you have more control over the ingredients.  You can modify recipes to suit dietary needs and have 100% control over what goes into your body.  Magazines like Cooking Light are a great place to find healthy recipes that  won’t skimp on taste or ingredients.

Buy fresh.  Shop around the perimeter of the store for as much of your food as possible.  The perimeter is where most of the fresh food is stored.

Not all processed food is unhealthy.  Food that is deliberately changed before it is made available for us to eat is considered processed.  It’s usually packaged in boxes or bags and contains more than one item on the ingredient list.

Some processed foods are actually healthy for you and can be great time savers.  Foods like precooked whole grains, greek yogurt, nut butters, frozen fruits and veggies, organic soups, and canned beans are all great examples of healthy processed foods.

Take a quick look at the ingredient list before purchasing processed food.  Ask yourself if it’s something you could make at home or if it can only be made in a lab.  If you see things like high-fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated fats (transfats), the food has undergone a chemical process.  I recommend avoiding these chemicals in your food as much as possible.

Load up on fruits and vegetables.  Choose recipes like stir fry’s that include a lot of vegetables.  Try adding a side salad with your dinner or lunch or including a piece of fruit with your snack.  If you like to keep it simple, fill up half of your plate with fruits and veggies and then add your protein and carbohydrate.

Know where your food comes from.  Ask your market where the food you are buying came from.  Look for meat that is grass-fed and raised without antibiotics or hormones.  Produce that travels a few hours to get to your plate is less likely to have artificial preservatives than the fruits and veggies traveling 1500 miles or more from other countries.  Buy produce that’s in season and shop weekly.  If spoilage is a concern, buy frozen organic fruits and vegetables.  They will last  longer and can be more budget friendly.  I like to buy a combination of fresh and frozen every week and then focus on using the foods that have a shorter shelf life first.  Freeze meat and defrost it as needed.

Eating whole foods is really nothing new.  It’s simply the way of life my great-grandmother would have understood living on their farm.  Food that comes directly from the farm to the table is usually about as whole as you can get.

I think my grandmother would have approved  🙂

Here’s to your health!

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