St. Patrick’s day is Tuesday March 17th and that means two beverages will be on the top of Bostonian’s list:

1.  Guiness.

1.  McDonald’s shamrock shake.


Unfortunately for both, they contain at least one ingredient that is cause for health concern.  The list of harmful ingredients is much longer for the annual McDonald’s beverage.  The McDonald’s shamrock shake has fifty four ingredients in it.  This may not be too alarming on the surface, until the layers are peeled back and it is more visible what each main ingredient is composed of.  You can see the full list of ingredients on the McDonald’s website.

Main ingredients in Shamrock Shake:

*Reduced fat vanilla ice cream. ( contains carrageenan)

*Shamrock syrup. ( Contains two ingredients that are banned in Norway, Finland, Austria and Belgium, Yellow #5 and Blue #1)

* Whipped cream.

* Maraschino cherry.

One ingredient in particular found in the reduced fat vanilla ice cream, carrageenan, has been recognized as potentially hazardous to consumer’s health.  In an article review done by Joanne Tobacman in 2001 at the University of Iowa College of Medicine titled ” Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects From Carageenan in Experiments with Animals”, Tobacman found that in 1982 The International Agency for Research on Cancer cited enough evidence that consumption of foods containing carageenan posed a carcinogenic risk to humans potentially leading to gastric ulcerations and/or neoplasms. Are we still ” Lovin it ?” Even with the findings from IARC carrageenan is still widely used as a substitute in many foods in the United States.  Consumption of any of the other additives and preservatives in the recipe are still very much a concern.  Processed foods aren’t natural and are harder for the human body to process.  Extra work for the digestive system will take a toll over a life time.  Tobacman’s review of research found that exposure to carrageenan is a possible factor in contracting inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.  The review does cite that the higher the exposure the more likely the incidence of contracting a disease.  Clearly the occasional ice cream sundae or shamrock shake won’t instantly kill anybody.  It is wise to seek alternative foods whenever possible wth fewer harmful ingredients.

Least we overlook the quantity of calories that are in a large shake.  A 190 lb male would have to run at 6 MPH for over 60 minutes in order to burn off the 820 calories that would get consumed in under ten minutes.  Doesn’t sound like a smart or fair trade off.


Calorie breakdown in a large:  

820 calories

23 grams of fat

15 grams of saturated fat (73% of RDA)

1 gram on trans fat

115 grams of sugar ( Over 3x amount the AHA recommends consuming per day)

High fructose corn syrup, which may be the biggest nutrition villain of them all currently, is a main ingredient in the whipped cream that tops the shamrock shake.  HFCS’s rap sheet is long to say the least.  It’s biggest crime is being linked to the obesity epeidemic.  In an article from 2004 titled ” Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the obesity epidemic,”  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that the increase of HFCS consumption coincides with the outbreak of the obesity epidemic, and indicate a direct correlation with calorically sweetened beverages with HFCS.

The list of unhealthy ingredients goes on but rather than vilify McDonald’s turning attention to healthy alternatives is a much more ” fruitful” pursuit.  Consumers have the power to make choices every day what to put in their bodies and the mouths of their children.  It goes without saying making a home made and healthier version of this cult classic beverage can go along way towards preserving health.  Indulging in a beverage similar to the shamrock shake every once in a long while won’t bury anybody.  Regular consumption of the above mentioned ingredients and other preservatives in the shamrock shake will lead to inflammatory responses in the digestive system.  Inflammation is the cause of many health issues in the body including acne, ADHD, blood sugar imbalances and many more.  Now, let’s turn the focus from unhealthy to healthy with a homemade nutritious and delicious alternative to the McDonald’s shamrock shake.

Recipe courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie.

* 1 large, frozen banana

* 1 palm full of cacoa nibs or chocolate chips

* 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract

* 2/3 cup – 1 cup milk of choice.  If dairy free then full fat coconut will make a nice think smoothie consistency.  The fats from coconut are medium chained digested easier and more readily available to be used as an energy source for the body.  Almond milk is also an option. ( Homemade almond milk is very easy to make.)

* 1/4 cup frozen spinach

* Optional:  2-3 slices of an avocado go well with the  almond milk version

Blend until smooth and enjoy without having to run 6 MPH for over an hour.  Vanila whey protein can also be added and serve as a very good post workout drink.  Wellcoin users can earn Wellcoins two ways after reading this post.

1.  Using a healthy recipe.

2.  Choosing a healthy beverage.


1.  Huffington Post article.  ” The Shamrock Shake.  What’s Really In McDonald’s St. Paddy’s Day Drink?” Posted 3/15/2013 by Chris Spurlock.

2.  College of Medicine University of Iowa, Iowa City.  Review of Harmful Gastrointentinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animals by Joanne K Tobacman.  Volume 109, number 10 October 2001.

3.  American Heart Association,, Sugars 101.


5.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  ”  Consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Obesity Epidemic.  George A Bray, Samara J Nielsen, and Barry M. Popkin.  October 2003.







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Living in the northeastern part of the country has been no picnic this winter. Record amounts of snow fall have kept people inside and off of their regular health routine. It’s easy to waste a snow day on the couch munching on Doritio’s and processed snacks alike. Don’t let this happen. Soup is not just a warm, comfort food option; it’s got many health benefits as well. Here are 3 big reasons you should drop the Doritio’s and fire up the stove tops to heat up some soup.

1. Vegetables – Almost all soups have some vegetables in them. If it’s a canned soup that doesn’t, you can always add your own to boost it’s nutrient density. Soups can be made with as many vegetables as possible, almost any vegetable lends itself to use in soup.

2. Nutrients – to elaborate further on the above point about vegetables and nutrients, soups with lean proteins and beans are a great way to get all the macronutrients needed in one food option. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene ( an antioxidant that might help reduce the risk of cancer ). Vegetable based soups contain vitamins A and C, creamy based soups supply calcium and vitamin D.

3. Filling – because soup contains so much liquid it fills the stomach with fewer calories. A chicken and rice soup can provide a feeling if satuety equal to a meal containing chicken, potatoes and any other sides only with fewer calories.

1. American Heart Association: About Fruits and Vegetables.
2. Kansas State University: January is National Soup Month.

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A double thumbs up with this meal plan approach and here are the bullet points as to why:

*  Increased mental energy/clarity.

*  Increased physical energy.

*  Improved strength training performance.

*  Improved body composition.

*  Much more productive in the mornings after consumption

Testosterone levels are higher in the mornings, consuming a breakfast consisting of lean red meat and nuts can help support that and make it last longer throughout the day.  The benefit of this is what’s called an ” anabolic” environment in your body.  Serum testosterone levels being higher lead to the increased ability to build lean muscle, combine this with a strength training regimen designed to build lean mass and watch the body fat fall off of your body.  Consuming cheerios or oatmeal or a scone will not help maintain serum testosterone levels, therefore leading to a reduction in that hormone in one’s body and the consequential reduction in the ability to build lean muscle.

A big question from women, can it help us??  It can, not to as great a degree as men due to their naturally higher levels of testosterone, but benefits will be gained by females who participate is this type of a meal plan.

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It’s been 3 days short of a month being on the meat and nuts breakfast.  I do have to admit, I’ve fallen off of it from time to time mainly due to our kitchen being renovated and the house is in disarray.  Which is a nice way of putting it.  Any change from the norm can throw off an exercise or meal plan.  This is a fact.  Not having a stove and not always having time to light hardwood coals, let them warm up and then cook items has been a challenge.  I’ve used the last two Sundays to grill a bunch of grill items like salmon, chicken, ground bison, ground turkey to have readily available for breakfasts.  I’ve said this many times, and it is imperative to maintaining healthy meal planning.  I had ground turkey and walnuts today and I feel locked in mentally.  I am working on my second blog post of the morning and it isn’t even 8am yet.

Weight watcher’s, Dean Ornisch and other dietary fat restricting meal plans seem to forget that the brain needs calories, fat calories in order to function optimally.  If you don’t believe me, take a week and consume little to no dietary fat.  Healthy fats from grass fed meats, salmon or even fish oil supplements.  Then, the very next week consume a diet that has these fats in foods.  Document how you feel at the end of each week mentally, physically.

I’ll give my full review at the end of the month, but so far so (very) good with the meat and nuts breakfast.

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It’s been about a week now on the meat and nuts breakfast.  And It feels pretty good.  The best thing is feeling satisfied through the whole morning just about.  No hunger pains or cravings for anything.  Fully satisfied, I have breakfast around 5:15 am and don’t need anything other nutrition until about 10:30am – 11:00am.  This is good!  Usually I am hungry during work hours and it is annoying to know you have to wait an hour or two hours to get through work commitments and get some calories in your body.  Makes for unproductive work hours, not to mention unenjoyable.

Workout performance – This has been good so far.  I feel stronger on my lifts, not sure it is dietary related or the fact that I am doing less cardiovascular training due to an injury.  Or both.  Nonetheless my benc press weight has increased pretty quickly, which could also be due to the protocols I am using.  I’ve been cycling outdoors due to ankle injury keeping me from running or and impact, and the ride I did on Monday felt alot stronger than the previous rides.  I could’ve doubled what I had so much energy and felt so good.

Todays stats:

Mental clarity = 10.

Energy = 10.

Cravings for processed foods = 0.

If I do opt to have something I shouldn’t, I feel more under control.  Meaning I don’t feel I can’t live without the dark chocolate covered almonds, or the one chocolate chip cookie at night.  And the portions are much smaller when I do opt for it, much less ravenous feeling, not endlessly consuming multiple cookies or whatever.


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I came across a meal plan/article on Charles Poliquin’s website simply titled the meat and nuts breakfast.  And it is comprised of just that, meat and nuts.  Today was day one for me.  I am going to try it for one month and track the following markers on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the least amount, 10 being the highest level:

1.  Mental clairty.

2.  Energy.

3.  Cravings for bad foods/satiety.

I will also track body weight, how I perform in my workouts and if I can find someone to do my body composition, body comp as well.  The reasons I am trying this meal plan is to improve body composition, mental clarity and energy.  I currently consume non traditional breakfasts anyway.  I will prepare and consume chicken, quinoa, vegetables, lean meats. cold-water fish, eggs and berries as it is.  Pretty healthy, but there are times I don’t feel I have energy, I can’t focus on things etc.  I will check in on a daily basis, or a least multiple times per week with the aforementioned reports.  Happy meal planning folks.

Here is my report from today so far:

Mental clarity = 10.

Energy = 10.

Satiety = 10

Cravings for sweets, foods I shouldn’t consume = 0.


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The most recent article in the New York Times discuss eggs regaining their healthy reputation that was tarnished by another article not so long ago;  comparing the health risk off egg consumption to that of smoking cigarettes.  The average person not having as much knowledge about nutrition should be very confused at this point.  How many times have we seen an article coming out villifying something in the health and fitness world, only to have another article completely contradict it’s claims?  It happens all too often.  Here are things to consider with this particular case and others moving forward.

1.  Neither of these studies or articles mention how the eggs were prepared?  Fried?  Scarmbled with cheese or sour cream?  Poached with hollaindaise sauce?  Are we to assume they were just hard boiled eggs being consumed?  And what accompanied the eggs?  Toast with butter?  Bacon?  Are we to assume nothing else in the meal with eggs, or no other meal consumed by subjects that day had any effect on their risk for heart disease?

2.  How active are the subjects?  Are they very active?  Moderately active?  Sedentary?  Wouldn’t this have a big impact on what they consume and how it is metabolized and how much of it is stored?  How much gets plastered on the inside of arterial walls?  If the subject is active then these calories or being mobilized more freely and used as an energy source.

The list goes on, the point here is to stop and read the whole article or study and keep exterior factors that aren’t mentioned in mind.  Eggs are a great source of protein, and if they are enriched with omega 3′s then they are a great source of those as well.

In conclusion ask yourself just one more question;  how can something with so many good nutritional properties be compared to the risk of smoking cigarettes?

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Which can of tuna has the most omega 3′s?  Are they all the same?  You may be surprised to hear that white tuna packed in water has the highest omega 3 content by far over tuna packed in olive oil.  This is important for many reasons.  If you are under the impression the tuna in oil has a higher healthy fat count due to it being packed in oil this appears to be incorrect.  Unless of course, you are not draining the tuna packed in olive oil.  This makes a big difference.  Little things can make a big difference in exercise, in nutrition in everything really.  Wild Planet seems to have a very good system and quality tuna product.  Be proactive when it comes to researching products you and your family are consuming.  Form your own opinions on what is important to you.

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For good health and weight loss.  Some foods appear to be healthy, and to a certain extent they probably are, but usually there is a healthier option available.  For example:  a turkey wrap with lettuce, tomatoe, dressing or condiment of some sort, avocado vs a grilled chicken salad with avocado, olive oil, walnuts and multiple green leafy vegetables.  The salad is the way to go for sure.  Deli turkey is a modified food, so is the wrap and condiment that might come on it.  Asking for no condiments is a step in the right direction, but ultimately to make the very best chocie for your health the salad is the better option.

Let’s compare two very popularly acclaimed health foods on the market, olive oil and canola oil.  Both claim to be heart healthy and contain healthy omega 3 fatty acids.  But, canola oil comes from a plant called rape seed.  Canola oil is a marketing name derived from Canadian oil.  It comes from the rapeseed plant whose other famous plant family members are broccoli and turnips.  To our current day knowledge canola oil is a result of the hybridization and genetic modification of the rapeseed plant to breed out it’s undesirable taste and hazards to health.  Oil from the rapeseed plant has been used for thousands of years in China and India and is known as the poor man’s cooking oil.  The oil contained long chain fatty acids (which are to be avoided) called erucic acid which was irritating to mucous membranes.  Consumption of the original rapeseed oil was associated with fibrotic heart lesions, known as Keshan’s Disease, as well disorders of the central nervous system, lung and prostate cancer, anemia and constipation.  It is said during the oil engineering process that both hexane (gasoline constituent) and heat are used to get rape seed plants to what is known as canola oil.  Hexane in the past has been linked to causing adverse health effects.

Olive oil is pressed from, olives.  They first are squeezed into a paste where the droplets of oil will be collected and bottled for distribution.  Extra virgin olive oil follows this path of production.  Olive oil is pressed at low temperatures and they do go through multiple pressing phases.  The oils that go through the first pressing phase are considered to be the most nutrient dense.

At the end of the day, consuming foods in their most natural forms that contain the health components that these oils have is the best route to take.  It is up to us as consumers to make the best decision with the information we have at hand.  Conflicting reports will be found on this topic, do research and see where the information is coming from before you decide.  Happy eating folks.

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Here is a quick client encounter I had just yesterday.  Well, the first installment was about 6 months ago.  Here is how it went 6 months ago:

Client:  Hey Gregg, is there anything extra I could be doing outside of boot camp?  I’m just not seeing the results I want to see.

Me:  How is your meal plan?  Are you consuming the right hings at the rights times?

Client:  My diet is fine I think, I don’t need to make any real changes.

Me;  Are you sure?

Client:  Yes.

Me:  Are you positive?

Client:  Yes.

Me:  I would love to see a sample 3 or 5 day food log if you have the time to write it down and hand it in.  There could be just some minor tweaks that could make a big difference.

Client:  Other than not having breakfast or lunch really, and just having dinner and I think my dinners are reasonably healthy.

Me;  That isn’t good, at all.

So, the client didn’t ever give me the food log.  I believe a business trip had popped up shortly after this conversation and this client didn’t resurface for another week or so.  So I didn’t get the chance to corner her.  Fast forward to yesterday, this client has been looking slimmer as of late.  This client comes in and I ask:

Me;  Have you lost weight?

Client:  Yes, about 15lbs.

Me;  How?

Client:  I changed my diet a little.

Me:  Really?  What made you do that?  We had discussed this awhile back and you were reisistant to change at the time.

Client:  Diabetes runs in my family, and I tested postive for pre-diabetes recently.  I cut out white bread, sugar and all that stuff.

Me:  So, when I asked you 6 months ago about your diet, and you said you didn’t think you needed to make changes, you were consuming things like white breads and sugars and you didn’t think you needed to make changes? Also, only having one meal per day.

Client:  I guess so.

I learned two very valuable lessons with this client.  Other than this being one of the things that really frustrates me, a majority of the population has very little idea on what is a healthy meal plan.  The second, a majority of the people aren’t going to make a serious, dramatic lifestyle change until something bad happens.  Plain and simple.  I need to much more aggressive in making people do things that I need them to do in order to be successful.  If this client made the changes I suggested 6 months ago there is a chance they avoid testing positive for pre-diabetes.  Which isn’t a death sentence, but certainly not the road you want to be traveling on.

Moral of the story.  Don’t wait to make yourself healthier.  Take a step back and realize that the clock is always ticking.  Careers and family can consume one’s life, make sure you take time to take of yourself as much as you take care of others.

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