How to Eat for High Energy

February 20, 2010

Caffeine, colas, energy drinks—they’re everywhere. Signs of our eternal quest for more energy.  

But what if you could get more energy with just a couple of tweaks to your diet?

You can. The way you eat can make the difference between being on a roller coaster ride of high and low energy and maintaining consistently high energy levels, day in, day out.

Use these five tips and tricks to get started:

1. Eat more often. This is probably one of the best ways to increase your energy over time. When you eat four-to-five times a day, and in smaller portions (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), you give yourself a full tank of gas to run on all day long. Eating throughout the day prevents mid-afternoon energy dips and post-lunch food comas. Plus, when you stretch your eating over the course of the day, you have a chance to take in more important nutrients. Nutrients = fuel to keep your motor running! And no, you won’t gain weight.

Try one of these energizing changes: If you eat two meals a day, shoot for three. Eat something first thing in the morning, with protein (eggs; yogurt with mueslix; peanut butter on an apple; a smoothie). Eat a snack in the afternoon (nuts and fruit; celery with almond butter; yogurt topped with berries).

2. Eat real food. Fill your glorious human engine with whole, real foods—meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Look for whole foods that are unprocessed. You can find them in the perimeters of your grocery store (no additional ingredients = unprocessed). Think of yourself as an amazing car that only runs on the best-quality gas.  

Try one of these: Instead of a frozen dinner, bake a piece of fish and serve it on a bed of spinach; instead of white pasta or pizza, whip up some couscous and top it with chicken and sautéed veggies. Eat your favorite fruit for dessert. For more ideas, check out these Chef by Request menus.

3. Eat the right amount of calories. Sometimes we realize we’ve eaten too much when it’s too late. And then the food coma settles in. Zzzzz. Knowing the right amount of food for your body type and exercise volume helps keep your energy and blood-sugar levels balanced. If you’re a Chef by Request customer, all the calories are figured out for you ahead of time. Otherwise, you can search for a calorie calculator online or see a nutritionist for a professional evaluation.
Try one of these: If you’re a member of the clean-plate club, start serving yourself smaller portions. If you eat over the sink or on the run, STOP. Put the food on a plate and sit down with it, so you can see how much you’re taking in. If you’re dining out, ask for half the serving size.

4. Eat a protein with every meal.  Infusing meals with protein is the “open sesame” to energy sources. Protein also has the essential fats that stick with you and keep the motor humming for a good long time (but it’s still better not to go too long between meals). Put walnuts on your oatmeal. Eat a stir-fry with meats and vegetables. Instead of pasta-only meals, make a smaller portion of whole-grain pasta, pile on your favorite sautéed veggies, and add shrimp.

Try one of these: Put walnuts on your oatmeal. Eat a stir-fry with meats and vegetables. Instead of pasta-only meals, make a smaller portion of whole-grain pasta, pile on your favorite sautéed veggies, and add shrimp.

5. Cut back on processed sugar and white flour. Reducing or even eliminating foods like white pastas, rice, baked goods, and sugary fruit juices will do wonders for your energy. Sugar and white flour have a tendency to spike your blood sugar, hold it there and then . . . craaaaaaaaaaash—all your mojo comes tumbling down.

Try one of these: For a sweet tooth, eat sweet potatoes, yams, or yogurt and raw honey (a superfood). Instead of white pasta, try quinoa (also high in protein). Eat your fruit instead of drinking it—all that extra roughage is good for you, and the feeling of chewing can be more satisfying too.

Remember, changing eating habits takes time. You don’t have to do it perfectly or all at once. Making one small change after another will begin to make a difference. And once you start to experience a steady stream of energy running through you day after day—it’s going to be hard to want to eat any other way.


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Do Supplements Matter?

January 25, 2010

Th answer is yes. Here’s a quick story about why.

Once upon a time, humans ate plants from rich soil that provided a full range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. And the people who lived on the land knew what kinds of food to eat to keep their bodies healthy for their environment and climate.

But today’s food supply isn’t what it used to be. The nutrients in our soil have been depleted from years of pesticides and pollution. Plus, we are presented with an incredible amount of processed, packaged food that is void of essential nutrients and even robs our bodies of nutrients.  

The outcome of the story: We just can’t get everything we need from our diet. And in order to stay healthy right now and to keep our bodies in fighting shape for when illness or disease does come visiting, we need to sustain optimal levels of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in our bodies.

So: yes, supplements do matter.

How do we know what supplements to take? To find our way through the tidal wave of supplements out there, we turned to Seattle nutritionist Julie Starkel of Green Lake Nutrition for a short list of must-haves.  

Here’s the run-down on each one, the good brands, and where to get them.

A multivitamin and mineral supplement

A vitamin and mineral supplement is a great first step to even out the peaks and valleys in modern diets. Search for high-quality brands that offer well over 100 percent of the recommended daily value. Look for values in the ingredients list.  Starkel recommends buying all your supplements from a specialty store like Pharmaca, PCC Natural Markets, or Whole Foods. Better yet, consult with supplement professionals—like a nutritionist, a naturopath, or, in some cases, dietitians and chiropractors.

Top vitamin and supplement brands include: Thorne Research, Pharmax, Metagenics, Innate Response, and Douglas Laboratories.  You can also find vitamins targeted to gender and stage of life.

Vitamin D3

If you live in the sun-challenged region of the Northwest, you can count on being low on D. Vitamin D3 (the form that converts to D without sunlight) helps prevent everything from autoimmune and heart disease to cancer, inflammation, and winter flu.

Starkel recommends going to your health-care provider and getting tested. From there, a nutritionist or naturopath can help you get on a vitamin D3 regime that will elevate your D levels right away and then sustain them throughout the seasons. (Optimal D levels should be in the range of 50 – 80 ng/mL.)

If you don’t go the testing route, try these general guidelines: 1,000 to 2,000 IU/day for children and around 5,000 IU/day for adults.

As with looking for a multivitamin, go to a high-end pharmacy, supplements store, nutritionist, or naturopath for top-quality products. Try brands like Metagenics and Thorne.


Probiotics are good for the gut. They help our small intestines digest insoluble food fibers and support colon health by maintaining healthy flora in our system. In short, probiotics keep our system from running amok with bad bacteria.

If your digestive system feels good, Starkel recommends taking a maintenance level of two billion organisms per serving per day, in a pill form or a powder. If you have issues with diarrhea or constipation, start with 12 billion organisms. Also, keep your probiotics refrigerated. Try brands like Pharmax and Thorne.

Omega 3 and fish oils

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil screamed onto the scene as the super supplement of the twenty-first century. Research shows it can prevent everything from heart disease to cancer and strengthen the immune system and joint health.

Quality really matters with omega-3 products, since oil-soluble nutrients can contain toxins and high levels of mercury. So shop from professionals and high-end stores like PCC, Pharmaca, and Whole Foods. Starkel likes brands from: Nordic Naturals, Douglas Laboratories, and Pharmax.

Age-old favorites: vitamin B, vitamin C and zinc

A robust vitamin and mineral supplement should cover vitamin B, vitamin C, and zinc needs. However, Starkel says there are times when it’s worth upping the ante:

  •  If you’re an athlete or under extra stress, add a good-quality vitamin B-complex to your daily regimen.
  •  If you feel a cold coming on or it’s flu season, pop an extra 15-25 mg per day of zinc.
  • Vitamin C lovers can take this vitamin to tolerance. If you get diarrhea, that’s your sign to back off.

Adding these basic supplements to your diet will make a difference to your health. Of course, including supplements in your diet involves money, time, and effort. But, as Starkel puts it: “Look at it like a really good insurance policy.” If, down the road, you need your body to go to work for you, it’s better equipped to fight off disease and illness. And isn’t that worth the investment?

More links:  

The FDA on supplements
A supplements overview from WebMd

Some high-quality supplement brands:
Innate Response
Nordic Naturals
Douglas Laboratories
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Learn more about onvo.
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More on Julie Starkel and Green Lake Nutrition.

Are you entering January with that (ahem) full-figured feeling? You’re not alone, of course. Year after year, losing weight remains one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.

Read these 10 smart tips to get yourself back to fighting weight and shape—and keep it off. Next year, it won’t even make your resolutions list.

1. Eat real food. Start to add more whole, real foods into your daily meals while cutting back on the processed foods. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store for fresh fruits and vegetables. When you fill your body with the right kinds of food, you’ll feel full and have more energy.

2. Eat meals throughout the day—like, five. Eating multiple meals during the day—especially with a 40/30/30 zone-style eating plan—helps you lose weight while getting all your nutrients and having lots of energy. The important part: Don’t starve yourself! When you go too long without eating, your body is going to crave sugar and carbs ASAP. That’s why you reach for cookies or potato chips instead of fruits and vegetables.

3. Say no to after-dinner snacking. A lot of mindless eating happens in the evening hours after dinner. Cutting out this alone can be the first step to losing weight. If you need to wean yourself, go for apple sauce instead of ice cream. Save a piece of fruit for that evening craving or have a cup of tea with raw honey, which is a superfood. Try setting a “last call” for your day’s eating.

4. Drink plenty of water. When you don’t give your body enough water, your metabolism drags, according to a WebMD slideshow on Diet Mistakes. Drink a glass of water upon rising and with each meal; sip water throughout the day, and if you feel unexpectedly hungry, try drinking some water. Sometimes those hunger sensations are really signs of dehydration. Don’t fill up on sweet drinks and sodas—even drinking too many diet sodas (like more than one a day) can contribute to weight gain.

5. Get plenty of sleep. Have you ever noticed that when you’re run down, you crave junk food? That’s because your body responds to lack of sleep in the same way as it does when in starvation mode: It craves sugars and carbs now. Maybe this is the year you take a 20-minute nap, learn to take some downtime, or get to bed a half hour earlier at night.

6. Move! Exercise burns fat and contributes to weight loss—and has been known to boost mood and suppress appetite. Find something you love to do: Walk, run, swim, bike; do yoga, gymnastics, weights, aerobics classes; join a rock-climbing gym; or take belly-dancing classes. Find a community you can tap into—classes, a team, a buddy system—with people you like, who inspire you to show up and make it fun.

7. Get to the bottom of emotional eating. If you’re a stress eater, give yourself a new buffet table of options to turn to when you get twitchy. Write down a list of alternative activities: walking, reading, exercising, socializing, listening to music, meditating, journal writing. This is about changing habits, which takes dedication and time—but if you stick with it, you’ll reach for a pen, some music, or your running shoes instead of the bag of chips. Which brings us to…

8. Don’t keep it in the house. If you don’t want to eat it, don’t buy it. You don’t want it whispering to you from the cupboards. Which brings us to…

9. You don’t have to be perfect. We’re not asetics here. Eating is part of our lives and often the center of social gatherings. So, instead of stocking the freezer with ice cream and eating a pint before bed, make ice cream an outing—take a walk with a friend and go grab a cone. Or, meet some pals at a favorite bakery for your pie fix and a have great catch-up session.

10. Make changes you can live with. Find what works for you and your lifestyle—and make inspired decisions that fit your personality. Bring in an experimental, playful attitude as you make discoveries about foods you like, create fun exercise plans, and enjoy improved energy levels and a better mood. As you start to add the good stuff, the empty bad-habit calories just might fall away naturally—poof!

When you’re losing weight for life, don’t focus on what you’re giving up—look at what you get to add to your life.

And don’t forget—food isn’t the enemy! We wouldn’t be here without it.

Read up on how SuperFoods can help you sustain weight loss.
Read up on how to burn fat faster when you exercise.
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Learn more about Chef by Request.
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Fueling for High Performance

December 15, 2009

When you start fueling for high athletic performance, you are entering a new state of mind. You begin to view your body as something to be fed, nurtured, and tended to. You start to really know that if you are good to your body, your body will be good to you.

When we talk about high-performance sports, we’re including anything from a CrossFit-style strength workout, training for a marathon, or a dedicated fitness plan that focuses on weight loss or competition.

Check out the following for some of the best overall tips on how to eat for a sports-oriented life—focusing on the Chef by Request zone-style or Performance Paleo diets.  

Increase the quality of your food. Replace processed food with fruits, vegetables, animal proteins, and good fats and oils. Eat animal protein (protein is the body’s basic building block) to help the body repair itself. Carbo-load with fruits and vegetables instead of pasta (carbs are your body’s basic energy source). Eat the right kind of fats (oils high in omega-3, fish, avocados) for long-lasting energy, especially for endurance sports. “When you’re eating clean, the body processes all these foods efficiently and takes the nutrition it needs to feed muscles,” says Rob Martin, owner of CrossFit West Seattle.

Eat the right amount of calories. Controlling portion size and knowing how much to eat for your body type and workout volume is essential. The right amount of calories keeps your energy and blood sugar levels balanced, which lets you bring your best self to your workouts and training. So how do you figure out the right amount of calories? If you’re a Chef by Request customer, all meals are custom-proportioned to fit your height, weight, activity level and weight-loss goals. Otherwise, you can do a Web search for a calorie calculator (and then apply the 40-30-30 rule to your calories). Or, you can do as Martin suggests: contact a nutritionist who has experience working with high-performance athletes. You can play around with your diet to see what works. “If you pay attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re eating, you’ll become more in tune with your performance,” says Scott Schactler, a coach at Northwest Crossfit. One way to stay consistent and see what works is to try Chef by Request meals: they are all pre-portioned.

Prepare pre-workout meals. Don’t go to the gym or hit the running trails on empty. A pre-workout meal gives your body essential resources to work from. Schactler suggests eating 20 to 30 minutes before a workout—try something like an apple, two slices of turkey, and six almonds. Or have a shake that you like (a pre-made or homemade one). For some of you, creating a pre-workout meal will take practice. Start small and build up. Experiment a bit to see what works.

Remember post-workout meals. Eating after a workout is one of the most important rules for sports performance. Recovery is a crucial part of training (including rest days and sleep), and fueling your body after it’s been depleted and maxed-out lets it repair and get stronger, faster, and build endurance. Martin suggests eating a 40-30-30 meal of carbs, animal protein, and fat within the first couple of hours after a strength training workout (he often has whole milk or chocolate milk immediately afterward). If you’ve gone on a long run or bike ride, you’ll want to get unprocessed sugar to your muscles in the first half hour after exercise. Schactler suggests a couple palmfuls of good starchy food like sweet potatoes, yams, or raisins. Follow that up with a balanced meal an hour or two later.

Eat multiple times during the day. Five healthful meals a day helps you get in all of your daily nutrients from a variety of food sources. “Eating a zone diet gives you an idea of how your body runs,” says Schactler. “You become more in tune with your performance if you pay attention to what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.”

You don’t have to do it perfectly. Martin, a Chef by Request customer, has been eating the zone-style diet now for five months. He gives himself one day each week when he can eat and drink whatever he wants. And he kept the coffee part of his diet. The benefits of combining this new eating lifestyle with his CrossFit workouts have been huge.

“My energy level is higher and stays straight all day long,” he says. “I have not been able to find anything to lean me out like these two programs have. I’m 42 and in the best shape of my adult life.”


Want to read more?
Nutrition information at the main CrossFit Web site
The Paleo Diet for Athletes” by Loren Cordain and joe Friel
The Zone” by Barry Sears


More links:
Get Chef by Request’s Performance Paleo meals.
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Are SuperFoods for Real?

December 4, 2009

SuperFoods: another diet trend—or is this for real?

What has become known as “SuperFoods” is very real—as real as blueberries, salmon, garlic, and raw honey. But it’s the term “SuperFoods” that’s become a bit of a trend, after the publication of the blockbuster 2003 book, SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, by Steven Pratt, M.D., and Kathy Matthews.

The book introduced us to 14 “SuperFoods”— whole foods that are so densely packed with vital nutrients and antioxidants that they help improve our overall health, fight disease, and slow aging. A couple of years later, Pratt and Matthews wrote a second book, SuperFoods Healthstyle, and nine new foods were added.

These 23 SuperFoods include walnuts, oranges, spinach, broccoli, green and black teas, blueberries, pumpkin, oats, turkey, tomatoes, soy, yogurt, wild salmon, beans, avocados, cinnamon, garlic, onions, kiwi, dates, honey, pomegranates, and dark chocolate.

According to an AOL Health & Fitness interview with co-author Dr. Steven Pratt, all SuperFoods had to stand up to the following three requirements before being included in the list:

  • Easily available in American supermarkets.
  • Part of healthful diets in cuisines around the world.
  • Sufficient scientific research to prove they could contribute to preventing diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.

These days, you can browse the Web and find articles by nutritionists (like this WebMD article) that expand on the original 23 SuperFoods to include eggs, red meat, dark leafy greens like kale, buckwheat pasta, and goji berries. But there is a common thread: These are foods that have been around for thousands and thousands of years. 

A trio of benefits

SuperFoods offer three nutritional benefits: nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. Here’s a rundown on each one, and which SuperFoods deliver the most (note that most SuperFoods deliver well across all three).

Nutrients: We’re talking vitamins and minerals. Vitamins help our bodies function; minerals are the body’s building blocks. We don’t work without them. Nutrient-rich SuperFoods include kiwis, yogurt, salmon, broccoli, onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes.  

Fiber: It’s not just your grandmother’s prunes. Fiber helps the digestive system, improves the absorption of nutrients, gives that long-lasting full feeling after eating, increases insulin effectiveness, and decreases the overall risk of disease. Your grandmother might have called her SuperFoods “roughage.” Fiber-rich SuperFoods include: vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains.

Antioxidants: These nifty molecules repair the body’s wear-and-tear, which comes from eating processed food, getting too much sun exposure, excessive exercising, and taking in environmental chemicals. All produce free radicals in your body. These free radicals are believed to be connected to cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants can reduce free radicals or eliminate them. For that reason, antioxidants have become a vital part of staying healthy in a modern world. SuperFoods rich in antioxidants include: berries, kiwis, apples, cranberries, chocolate, and beans.

Chef by Request SuperFood meals

If you’re a Chef by Request customer, you might notice by now that your meals are filled with these SuperFoods. If you’re not, here’s a peek at how our chefs, Katia Sabbah (San Francisco) and Patrick Fagan (Seattle and Portland) pack healthful, energy-boosting foods into their creative, delicious meals. Some of these are great examples of how to stack a meal with SuperFoods.

Seattle and Portland Supermeals:

  • Meatloaf or turkeyloaf rolled in whole oats
  • Pumpkin and brown rice salad
  • Energy bars with pomegranate extract, oats, honey, and very dark chocolate
  • Blueberry pancakes
  • Cranberry chicken salad with toasted walnuts drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and walnut oil
  • Lentil and vegetable salad

San Francisco Supermeals:  

  • Blueberry sour cream muffins
  • Pomegranate-glazed salmon
  • Spiced chickpeas with yogurt and pine nuts
  • Tomato tartlets with ricotta
  • Pumpkin muffins with cinnamon
  • Sweet potato and pumpkin biscuits
  • Spinach salad with cranberry and turkey breast  

How much SuperFood?

Let’s face it; most of us don’t measure our servings, so start by recognizing what these foods are and why they’re important. You’re probably eating some of them already. Next, strive to eat more whole real foods and a greater variety of them over the course of the next few days, weeks, and months.

Who knows, you may not only love the foods you discover, you may fall in love with how you feel. 


More links:

Learn more about how Chef by Request supports your great health.
Learn more about Chef by Request.
Stay healthy! Sign up for Chef by Request service.
SuperFoods RX

Have a Happy Healthy Holiday

November 25, 2009

Imagine this: A holiday season where you gain no weight and you’re not stressed out.

Impossible? Not at all.

We’re not recommending a complete personal overhaul. Save that for the New Year. Instead, consider the following tips and strategies as a starting point—a way to create a happy, healthy December and begin habits you can build on in 2010.

Stress and the holidays

Sometimes there’s so much to do during the holidays that before we know it, the stress begins to build. What’s the easiest way to alleviate a moment of stress?


“So many of our physiological responses to stress can be noticed in, and then changed by, our breath,” says Tracy Weber, yoga instructor and owner of Whole Life Yoga in Seattle. Weber offers Yoga Therapy classes that relieve stress and anxiety. Signs of stress include holding your breath, shallow breathing, and fast breathing.

Why does breathing work? It slows down the chemical processes in the body and lets the parasympathetic nervous system kick in, which is your calming system.

Here is a simple, everyday breathing practice that Weber recommends:

  • Take time during the day to stop and notice your breathing. Notice the quality and where you feel the breath in your body.
  • Start to breathe more slowly. Feel your belly expand on the inhales.
  • Count up to six seconds, breathing in and out. Do this for five minutes.

“If you lengthen the breath for five minutes a day, things begin to shift for the better in a way that you can’t possibly imagine,” Weber says.

The truth about holiday weight gain

Here, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

According to a Wall Street Journal blog, the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day among men and women is just over one pound. One tiny little pound.

But here’s the problem: people don’t usually lose that one pound—ever.

We’re not encouraging anyone to start a weight loss program now, but we have some healthful eating strategies that can keep you from eating out of control this month—and every month to follow.

Don’t save up calories

We all do it. We eat like birdies during the day so we can indulge during the evening party hours. But if you arrive at the party starving, you’re setting yourself up for all the wrong choices.

“When you’re hungry or tired, your body needs carbs and sugars now and it craves a quick fix,” says nutritionist Julie Starkel, a registered dietitian and a nutritional counselor at Green Lake Nutrition in Seattle. “This is why we go for pretzels and cookies rather than fish and vegetables.” So this means that when you take good care of your body, you’ll find it easy to eat healthy food; if you’re tired or don’t eat enough, you naturally will feel like eating unhealthy food.

Try these simple eating strategies for the holidays—and life:

  • Keep yourself well fed throughout the day. Eat five times a day. Make breakfast the biggest meal and eat a protein with every meal. “When the right animal proteins and fats [polyunsaturated and monounsaturated] go into your system, it fills you up,” says Starkel. If you’re a regular Chef by Request customer, you’re already experiencing this.
  • Get enough rest. Diet aside, how much more pleasant is that holiday party at your in-laws when you’re well rested?

Emotional eating

Many of us turn to food when our emotions are charged. The first step to creating new eating habits is to pay attention.

“Take some time to think about why and when you eat mindlessly. Changing that behavior takes time and commitment. The holidays probably aren’t the time to dig into changing yourself,” Starkel says, “but it can be a good time to start. See it, catch it, and get to know it.”

Make your holidays meaningful

Sometimes we forget about what matters to us during the holidays. We get caught up in all the social duties: shopping, parties, decorations, family, friends, relatives, trying to do everything—all of this can add up to overwhelm!

Weber encourages people to reconnect with a symbol or a ritual that brings meaning to the holidays. So, if it’s about peace or connections for you, focus on peaceful activities and personal connections. Let the shopping and party hopping fall to the wayside. Make your family and friends aware of your decision. When you set priorities and intentions that matter to you, you’re setting yourself up for a happier holiday.
And this could be the best holiday gift you give yourself all year.

Get the Mayo Clinic’s 10 tips for coping during the holiday season.
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Check out our sample menus.
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Immune Boost Your Life

November 18, 2009

How do we keep ourselves healthy during flu season—and for life?

The answer starts with taking a big-picture view of your life and then developing lifestyle habits that support and maintain good health.

“If we put our body in the right position and do what it’s meant to do, good things happen—like positive immune systems,” says Dr. Mark Adams, a naturopathic physician and founder of onvo, a whole body health practice based in Bellevue, WA. 

“Good real food, supplements, sleep, hydration, and physical activity add up over time,” says Dr. Mark. “We don’t have to be perfect,” he adds. “Our bodies are made tough. We’re not delicate flowers.”

To find out what we need to know to be healthy, we asked Dr. Mark for some tips and guidance.

Eat real food

Good quality food equals good health. Dr. Mark defines “real food” as the food that’s been around forever: fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy, poultry, seafood, and meat. “Food without labels is generally better than food with labels,” he says. Real food also hasn’t been processed or refined.

Don’t be fooled by items that claim to be “health food”—a lot of it has been processed. Remember: “processed” means something has been added to or taken away from the original food. You want to stay as close to the original state of the food as possible.

If you’re on a zone-style plan, you’re eating from what Dr. Mark calls the “real-food category.” This is especially important for diabetics and those with celiac disease—people who need to be diligent about eating real food.

It’s a simple formula: The more real food we take in, the more we improve the quality of our nutrition and build up our immune system.

Add probiotics to your diet

“Helping the digestive system is important to building the immune system,” says Dr. Mark.

Incorporating probiotics into our diet keeps us healthy by balancing the microflora in our bacterial ecosystem and regulating our immune system. Probiotics come in a variety of fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, and in supplement form. Dr. Mark recommends consulting a doctor if you’re going to take a probiotic supplement.

Watch the body fat

When you maintain a healthy body fat level—a benefit of the zone-inspired Chef by Request meals–you boost your immune system. Why? Because body fat stores toxins and puts pressure on internal organs.

Take Vitamin D

Think about it. When do we get sick? When we start to get less sun. As it turns out, people who have sufficient levels of vitamin D are healthier and rarely get the flu.

Dr. Mark recommends taking the vitamin in the form of vitamin D3 (there’s D, D2 and D3), which he describes as “closest to the end product.” Doses vary for individuals. As a general guideline, try something like: 1,000 to 2,000 IU/day for children and around 5,000 IU/day for adults. If you want the most accurate dosage, get your Vitamin D levels checked by your doctor.

Stay hydrated

“Water is a medium for our body,” Dr. Mark tells us. “It’s one of our primary sources of fuel.” On a desert island, we’d die of dehydration before we’d die of starvation. Also, the body needs about two quarts of water a day, some of which it gets from food—it gets it best from real food.

Signs of dehydration include dark or concentrated urine, a chronically dry mouth, and fatigue.

To stay hydrated: Drink 8 to 12 ounces of water upon waking. The conventional wisdom of taking in two quarts (8 glasses) of water a day still holds, although some of that will come from the food you eat, depending on your diet. Also, as you drink water throughout the day, sip your water. If you guzzle it, it goes right through your cells and out of your body.

Sleep and exercise

An active lifestyle—some kind of movement—is essential to the health of human beings. And yet, so is sleep. Sometimes, in our busy ambitious lives, they work at cross-purposes: Should I get some extra sleep or should I work out?

“Sleep should be sacred,” says Dr. Mark, who adds that fatigue is one of the most common complaints heard at doctors’ offices.

So, if you feel run down, and you’re choosing between sleep and a workout, choose more sleep. Or, go on an easier run or a walk. Not every workout has to be intense.

Remember the bottom line: Your body has a greater chance of functioning and being healthy when you’re well rested.

Once you pull all these parts together to keep yourself healthy, you can make the strongest positive impact on your immune system.

“And yes, it takes time, energy, and money to be healthy, but it also takes time, energy, and money to not be healthy,” Dr. Mark says. “After all, health is just another word for life.”

More links:
Learn more about how Chef by Request supports your great health.
Learn more about onvo.
Learn more about Chef by Request.
Stay healthy! Sign up for Chef by Request service.

How to Burn Fat Faster

October 30, 2009

What’s the best way to burn fat?

Contrary to popular opinion, doing a long, slow workout is not the Holy Grail. Anaerobic and interval training are effective, but for different fitness levels. And then there’s the benefit of building lean body mass with weights.

For starters, it helps to understand how a combination of exercise, fitness levels, oxygen intake, and diet all affect our capacity to burn fat.

How fat gets burned

Fat is fueled by oxygen, which means that the more oxygen you take in, the more fat you burn. And the more conditioned your body is, the more oxygen it uses. (Think of how much easier you catch your breath when you’re in shape.) So, the more fit you are, the more fat you’ll burn when you exercise.

We asked Sue Matyas, M.S., the Fitness & Group Exercise Director at the Bellevue Club in Bellevue, Washington, to shed some light on how to burn fat most efficiently at different fitness levels.

If you’re someone who’s deconditioned, or getting back in shape—for example, you are doing 30 minutes of walking at 3.8 miles per hour—you have to start out on the long-slow side because it’s probably all you can tolerate.

“You need to take six weeks to get in shape before you can really work out hard,” Matyas says. She suggests a fitness plan of three days a week, doing 20 to 30 minutes of exercise that includes walking, doing the elliptical, or pedaling on a recumbent bike. “You want to get the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles in shape so they can eventually work harder.” And then you build up by 10 percent a week in intensity or time.

If you’re in good shape, for example, running 30 minutes at around seven miles per hour, you’re going to be able to sustain activity at an anaerobic level and do some interval training.

A conditioned person can lose more body fat by doing the same 10 percent increase a week and throwing in some interval work, like a 1:1 ratio of a 30-second hard run and a 30-second recovery. “Start to challenge your cardiovascular system so you can use oxygen at higher heart rates,” Matyas says. At this point you’re a bit like a car: the faster you go, the more fuel (fat) you’ll burn.

 Strength training—the money bite

Weight training builds lean body mass. And lean body mass is one of the key components to burning fat. “Women especially need to do strength training to build lean mass because it’s more fat-burning,” Matyas says.

 If you’re new to the weight room, meet with a trainer to learn how to use the machines. Matyas starts her clients on the machines, then moves them to free weights, and eventually mixes in apparatuses like balance boards and balls.

And don’t forget to mix things up. “Every three to six months, you need to change your program because your body becomes complacent,” she explains.

Diet and fat burning

If you’re eating our Chef by Request meals, you’ll be glad to know the 40-30-30 composition of the meals burns excess fat. Also, it’s good news that the CrossFit community has adopted the zone method as its diet of choice. The other fat-burning advantage with the zone program is the number of meals you get throughout the day. “If you’re not eating every couple of hours, your blood sugar drops and your body thinks it’s in a famine state,” Matyas says. “Once blood sugar drops too low, the body will store anything you eat thereafter as fat.” With the zone program, you eat three meals and two snacks a day.

Which means: The more often you eat, the more fat you burn.

Fat versus calories

Just for the record: You’re always burning a ratio of calories to fat. When you’re burning calories, you’re burning through carbohydrates, not fat. When you’re burning fat, you’re using oxygen. When you come to the end of your carb stores, that’s when you bonk, or hit the wall; burning fat stores is what helps you exercise longer.

Still, the more fit you are and the more lean body mass you have, the more of everything you’ll burn, both calories and fat—and the more efficiently you’re pull from your fat stores when exercising.

Don’t forget to have fun

An endless variety of activities will help you burn fat: swimming, biking, basketball, hiking, cross-country skiing, anything cardiovascular—and of course, strength training. Just moving is a start. Take the time to get in shape and see what you like to do.

“Do whatever your passion is,” Matyas stresses. “This is a journey, after all.”


Learn more about how the Chef by Request zone-inspired meals help burn fat.
Learn more about Chef by Request’s affiliation with the local CrossFit community.
Learn more about our Performance Paleo meals for athletes.

Good food that’s good for you just doesn’t get any better than this.

For starters, there’s the squash family—from pumpkins to golden nuggets to sweet pepper squash. Then there are mushrooms foraged fresh from the forest floor and apples crisp from the tree. Throw in hearty greens and lettuces, a sprinkling of nuts, and the succulence of the fattened Northwest salmon—and autumn eating is in full swing. 

All of this bounty goes into seasonal dishes tailored to zone diet requirements—foods that support insulin-regulated and gluten-free eating habits, cooked fresh and delivered to you. Because we know that the fresher the food, the more vitamins and minerals you get, too.  

 What’s Cooking in Seattle and Portland

The Northwest’s record-hot summer yielded an amazing bounty of fruit and vegetables. We have even been blessed with a couple of surprises: a late crop of golden raspberries and an early arrival of blood oranges that are perfect for muffins, pancakes, and salads or cutting into wedges for breakfast. Seattle-based Chef by Request chef Patrick Fagan gets his food and produce from local farmers’ markets and area suppliers—the kind of folks who might show up at his kitchen with freshly-picked trumpet mushrooms in hand. Fagan says, “Grocery shopping? It’s all play to me.”

For many of us, October is the Season of the Squash. This veggie brings a lot of added natural sweetness without being high in sugars. Fagan likes to pair a sweet pepper squash with citrus—perhaps adding some orange zest or a hint of lime. Expect to see plenty of leafy green side dishes, like red kale, Swiss chard, and spinach. “I like roasting veggies this time of year, too,” he adds.

Then there’s the salmon. It’s the end of their run and they’re at their best. “The flesh has silkiness,” Fagan says, “a melt-in-the mouth quality that’s creamy and rich.” Plus, salmon is filled with those great Omega-3 oils.

Is your mouth watering yet? Check out this rundown of some of the seasonal dishes that Seattle and Portland Chef by Request customers are enjoying in October:

  • Roasted golden nugget squash with apples
  • Slow-roasted leg of lamb, with a hearty, rich gravy of wine, fresh thyme, and caramelized onions
  • Roasted chicken breast with toasted pecans, cranberries, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese, dressed with a sherry vinaigrette
  • Steak Marsala with black trumpet and chanterelle mushrooms
  • Cedar plank–roasted salmon with a dill sour cream sauce and served with crisp vegetables such as garlic-steamed broccoli or wax beans

What’s Cooking in San Francisco

Katia Sabbah grew up in Morocco, where French and African influences blended together in the kitchen. She brings an international flair to her Chef by Request meals, with Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, French, and Thai dishes. Sabbah offers culinary variety and diversity. “Because it’s a zone program, I try my best to come up with more exotic recipes,” she explains.  

Sabbah gets up at 5 a.m. and hits the local San Francisco area market, Berkeley Bowl. She does the shopping for all the meals, every single day. Her menus, though, read generically—like this: “Baked chicken with seasonal vegetables.” That’s because she never knows until that day which fruits and veggies she’ll use. “I pick vegetable by vegetable myself, gather salad by salad myself. I want to make sure it’s fresh and it’s in season.”

This fall, Sabbah will showcase seasonal squash, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, sweet potatoes, and her favorite—shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms. She also works with the mood of the season—comfort food. Here are some of her meals, side dishes, and pairings for October:

  • Tuscan stew with sirloin, barley, lemon zest, and fresh vegetables
  • Tomato-based Moroccan stew, cooked with fresh vegetables, cumin, and spices, served with chicken, sirloin, or fish
  • Coq au vin with a good Burgundy wine and a dash of cinnamon
  • Coconut shrimp wrap with cabbage
  • Red squash with cinnamon
  • Salads with sprinkles of pomegranates, dates, and walnuts
  • Brussels sprouts sautéed with garlic and olive oil
  • Pumpkin mashed with cinnamon and almonds
  • Yams with caramelized onions and orange juice

And Now for Dessert

Dessert is very popular among San Francisco Chef by Request customers. To stay zone-compliant, Sabbah uses whole-wheat flour, Splenda, soy-based cream, and small portions. This season’s desserts include two tempting specialties: pumpkin pie and pralines and sweet potato pie.

Sabbah, who is eating the zone program these days, says she loves it because it’s balanced and gives her a ton of energy.  If it hadn’t been for her current job, she’d never be on it.

And what about now?  “I can’t stop saying how good it is,” she says.

Check out more sample menus.
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