When you start to eat healthily, dining out, which was once a bliss-filled, belt-notch-loosening pleasure, becomes a culinary terror.
Servings are Matterhorn-esque in size. Supertankers of soda abound. Fries come with your order whether you want them or not. Nary a veggie can be seen for miles.
We’re here to help.
But please remember that even with our tips, restaurant dining is almost always going to be less healthy than what you can make at home. That said, here are a few pointers:
1. Make smart choices
Almost every menu contains chicken or fish cooked in a healthy way. Look for words like “grilled,” “broiled,” or “steamed,” and avoid “sautéed” and “fried.”
2. Skip the appetizer
By definition, an appetizer is intended to get your appetite going. But when some appetizers contain more than 1,000 calories, that’s not an appetizer—that’s a full meal and more! If you do want an appetizer, ask your table if they’d be willing to split one of the healthier options like a salad, bruschetta, ceviche, or anything that’s light on sauce and heavy on fruits, veggies, or lean protein.
3. Eat a salad
Greens are also a great option, but not all salads are created equal. Stick with salads that don’t contain mayo (in other words, avoid the tuna and chicken salad), and ask for the dressing on the side. This way you can add your tablespoon or two, instead of having your salad drenched in it.
4. Side dishes in your mouth mean sidecars on your thighs
At many restaurants, the “side” is a baked potato, fries, or coleslaw. What does that equal? Unnecessary calories. If you’d like a side, request the salad (dressing on the side), fruit, or steamed veggies, even if you don’t see them as an option.
5. No bread
Don’t eat the bread. Does it taste good? Sure! But instead of eating something because it’s in front of you, swap those empty calories for something you’d actually enjoy.
6. Eat half
Over time, American portion sizes have enlarged to gargantuan sizes. Restaurants often provide you not with one serving of pasta, but with as many as 4 or more. But if you have a hard time not cleaning your plate—after all, the food does taste good—request that the waiter split your order in half before they bring it to the table. That way you can enjoy your dinner as lunch later in the week.
7. No soda
If bread is bad, soda might be worse. That’s because it’s easy to consume massive amounts of calories fast. And don’t even think about going the “diet” route. Those artificial sweeteners aren’t healthy, and they can lead you to crave more sugary substances. Talk about a lose-lose! If you want something other than water, ask for unsweetened iced tea. It’s calorie free, so you can drink as much as you want!
Really? Really? Granted, some restaurants use restraint, and focus more on unique flavors than on quantity, but if you’re out with friends at the type of place where the dessert has more calories than your meal, and they insist upon ordering it, suggest the table split it. Then take a single bite and put your spoon down. It’s not about denying yourself, but about making smart choices. If you’re still craving something sweet when you get home, enjoy some yogurt and berries or a piece of fruit.
Rice cakes. Cottage cheese. Melba toast. Diet staples bland enough to send you down to Staples to buy some Styrofoam peanuts to add a little flavor to your eating plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, if you really want to move the needle on the scale, you’re going to have to cut out a lot of fat, sugar, and sodium, but that doesn’t mean your new regimen of steaming, blanching, and boiling has to condemn you to a life of bland eating. Many condiments can spice up your cuisine without adding any calories, and in some cases, they can even accelerate your weight loss! Here are eight of our favorites.
Until recently, ketchup had been the king of the condiments. Americans have found very few meals that couldn’t be improved by being drenched in tomato-ey goodness. And ketchup has quite a number of healthy properties. Remember when the Reagan administration famously classified it as a vegetable in school lunches? OK, maybe that went too far . . . but it is chock-full of lycopene, one of the most potent antioxidants around. The only problem is that most brands are also chock-full of sodium, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and sugar, which substantially defrays the health benefits of the tomatoes. But more and more ketchup manufacturers are offering low-salt, low-HFCS brands; and if you can get your hands on them, you can drench your favorite meals with nutritional impunity. Or for the culinarily inclined, you can make your own ketchup and add the amount of sugar and salt that is right for you.
This sharp paste made from the crushed seeds of the mustard plant comes in colors ranging from yellow to brown and in sharpness ranging from tangy to eye-watering. Mustard has practically no calories or fat to speak of, and even if it did, a little goes a long way. After all, it is one of the only condiments to be weaponized. It is worth checking the labels as some are high in sodium and others can add sugar or oil for flavor and texture, but generally, mustard can be consumed guilt free—as much as your palate can handle. There are lots of gourmet varieties with ingredients like horseradish, white wine, or jalapeños added for extra zest.
In the last decade or so, salsa has overtaken ketchup as the number-one condiment in America. There are literally thousands of different kinds of salsas, though most contain tomatoes, onions, and peppers as their base. Very low in calories and high in flavor, salsas are a great accent to any dish, but as with all commercially prepared items, attention should be paid to the levels of sodium and high-fructose corn syrup. It’s a pretty easy thing to make yourself. A simple pico de gallo can be made by combining diced tomatoes and onions with minced cilantro and jalapeño and marinating those ingredients in lime juice. Make a big bowl on Sunday and have a healthy snack or sauce all week long!
4. Hot sauce I can go through two or three bottles of hot sauce a week. My refrigerator door rattles with tall skinny bottles of the stuff and I have been known to excuse myself from the dinner table in order to towel off my face. While many have said that the high levels of capsaicin (the “burning” component in chili peppers) I consume have deadened my taste buds to subtle flavors, I would argue that the hot sauce has opened my palate wide. I pity those who don’t have the iron stomach to withstand the delights offered by habanero, chipotle, and cayenne peppers. A little bit of hot sauce gives a ton of flavor with practically no calories, and the capsaicin is even believed to boost your metabolism. As always, keeping an eye on the sodium content is advisable.
5. Soy sauce
Needless to say, this isn’t a very good part of a low-sodium diet, but there are low-sodium versions available (although low-sodium soy sauce has through-the-roof levels of sodium compared to most other foods). Some studies have shown that soy sauce contains even more antioxidants than red wine and, as a result of the fermentation process used to make it, high levels of probiotics. It doesn’t have all the health benefits found in other soy products like edamame or tofu, but as a substitute for salt as a seasoning, you get a lot more nutritional bang for your buck.
Vinegar comes in many different varieties—malt, wine, rice, cider, sherry, balsamic, and on and on. The word itself comes from the French vin aigre, or “sour wine.” But unlike wine, vinegar has no alcohol and, depending on the variety, very few or zero calories. But it does have plenty of zip and tang. I find that a dash to my favorite soup or a sprinkle on my sandwich or salad adds lots of flavor without adding salt, fat, or sugar. In fact, studies have shown that vinegar helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and in one study, a test group of people who drank two tablespoons of vinegar before meals showed more weight loss than the group who didn’t.
Yogurt has the most calories and potentially the most fat of any of the condiments on this list. Full-fat yogurt, in fact, can have milkfat levels as high as ice cream. But low-fat and nonfat varieties serve as great substitutes for mayonnaise or a creamy dressing without adding too many calories to your dish. And with high levels of L. acidophilus and other probiotics, yogurt can also be very beneficial to your digestive system. Try mixing some plain nonfat yogurt with your favorite herbs or a little mustard or curry as a salad dressing or dipping sauce. Or try goat’s-milk yogurt for some flavor variety.
In different parts of the world curry can mean almost any number of combinations of savory spices. Besides the powder derived from the curry plant, curry powders and paste can contain many spices, including turmeric, coriander, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and fenugreek. There are commercially prepared curries from all over the world, from India to Thailand to the Caribbean. Keep an eye out for salt and fat content, and you’ll be on your way to giving your sauces, meats, fish, and vegetables a hit of amazing flavor without adding calories.
For a number of years now, I’ve been telling our members that the simplest way to improve their diets is to take fish oil for its omega-3 content. I’m happy to announce that we’ve developed a fish oil supplement that’s up to Beachbody’s strict standards. Let’s take a brief look at what fish oil is and how it will improve your diet and your health, and why you will benefit from Beachbody’s all-new fish oil supplement, Core Omega-3™.
Fish oil is made up of two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. These are hard to find in the modern American diet and, thus, our bodies tend to lack necessary omega-3 levels, leading to myriad poor health conditions. Though our diets may not satisfy our omega-3 needs, fish oil supplementation can prove helpful and has been linked to multiple benefits, including:
• Heart health and normal cholesterol levels
• Immune system health, improved mood and memory, joint health, blood sugar health, and stress relief
• Increased energy levels and greater cognitive function
• Nutritional support for pregnant women
• Regular cell growth and division
• Skeletal system strength
• Healthy inflammatory response
Why fish oil?
To reiterate, fish contains two omega-3 fatty acids. They are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are hard to find elsewhere and support healthy cardiovascular and immune health. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, can be found more readily, but ALA is not easily converted into EPA and DHA. Flaxseed is an example of a good omega-3 source that is all ALA. While flaxseed is healthy, fish oil is a far more efficient way to get your omega-3.
While you could just eat fish for your omega-3 needs, there is a downside—mercury contamination. Doctors now recommend limiting the number of servings of fish you have in a week. A good fish oil supplement puts you at no risk for mercury poisoning. For this reason, care should be taken when choosing a good fish oil supplement.
Health benefits of fish oil
The benefits of the omega-3 oils found in fish oil are still being studied. These benefits seem to begin at conception and increase throughout one’s life—including contributing to a reduction in Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have hinted at advantages like increased intelligence levels, fewer headaches, reduced incidences of and pain from arthritis, heart disease protection, fewer occurrences of depression and bipolar disorder, and even protection from breast cancer and prostate cancer.
In Europe, patients who survive heart attacks are typically given a prescription for purified fish oil, which has significantly improved the survival rate. One study of 11,000 patients showed a 20 percent reduction in deaths and a 40 percent reduction in sudden deaths for those who took fish oil. Studies done in 2003 at Harvard Medical showed that taking fish oil on a daily basis can help protect the heart from damage and disease. Recent human trials have proven that when using fish oil that includes EPA and DHA, you can expect a decrease in the incidence of and the pain associated with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, colitis, and cystitis.
Further studies suggest that fish oil intake during pregnancy can contribute to healthy pregnancies, and omega-3 supplementation, along with the restriction of omega-6, helps support brain function and mood both during pregnancy and post-partum. Infant formulas are beginning to include DHA as studies suggest improved cognitive function in adults who were breast-fed up to nine months while the mother was supplementing with fish oils. After conception, the new baby’s brain calls on the mother’s store of omega-3 fatty acids to develop a healthy brain. Fish has always been rumored as a “brain food.” What’s interesting is that recent research has shown that nearly 70 percent of a baby’s brain and more than 60 percent of an adult brain are made up of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA, that come from fish.
Fat as a supplement
Fat as a supplement is a tough pill for many to swallow (pun intended) because our most basic sense of aesthetics tends to confuse dietary fat with body fat percentage. As we’ve stated many times, these two things are not the same. Your calories come from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. And these are needed in the proper ratio to maximize your body’s functional capabilities. But all carbs, proteins, and fats are not created equal; and it’s probably more variable in the fat category than the others. The types of fats we tend to consume on a daily basis don’t give us the nutrients we need to fulfill our bodies’ potentials. Therefore, like with any nutrient we’re lacking, supplementing is a good option.
The skinny on fat
We need dietary fat to be healthy. But our diets don’t often provide us with good dietary fat and, thus, our diets lack balance. We should maintain close to a 1:1 ratio between our omega-3 and our omega-6 consumption; however, it’s estimated that the typical American diet is somewhere between 1:20 and 1:50! When you look at the list of benefits above and the things preventing this harmonious ratio (and leading to out-of-balance diets), it’s no wonder we have so many health problems related to improper fat consumption.
How much do I need?
It’s estimated that nearly 20 percent of Americans have such low levels of DHA and EPA that test methods are unable to detect any in their blood. Recommended intakes of DHA and EPA have not been established by the FDA. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week to support cardiovascular health. The American College of Cardiology recommends that heart patients increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids to 1 gram a day. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adults consume at least 1,000 mg (1 gram) a day of pure omega-3 fish oil and 1,200 mg for pregnant and nursing mothers.
How do I make sure it’s safe?
International fish oil standards are increasingly being regulated, but it’s important, at this stage, to ensure that you chose a brand committed to the highest quality and the strictest purity guidelines. The two most important criteria are that your brand is free of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants and that the fish are exposed to low oxidation levels during processing. Since there is no regulatory agency doing this on a broad scale, it’s important to spend a little time researching your brand of choice.
As far as our supplements go, quality is our most important criteria, and this is true of Core Omega-3. According to Beachbody Nutritionals Director of Product Development, Aaron Lowe, “It’s safe to say that the oil is protected from oxygen during processing and tested for impurities during the entire process. There is a certain baseline it has to meet before it even undergoes processing, and if it does not meet this spec, it’s not accepted for production.” To further drive this point home, Lowe adds, “Who are you going to trust with your health? Beachbody has built a reputation of providing excellent products and our nutritional supplements are no exception. Our customers can trust our products for their friends and families because we trust our products for our friends and families too.”
Goal: Mass gain
When To Eat It: Breakfast
How To Make It: Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together oil, egg and soymilk and add to dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Spoon batter onto skillet and cook 2–3 minutes per side until golden brown. Serve immedi-ately, garnished with blueberries and sugar-free maple syrup.
Makes Two Servings
›› 1⁄2 cup buckwheat flour
›› 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
›› 2 tsp. baking powder
›› 2 Tbsp. Splenda
›› 1⁄2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
›› 3 Tbsp. macadamia nut oil
›› 1 egg
›› 11⁄2 cups vanilla soymilk
›› Fresh blueberries
›› Sugar-free maple syrup
›› Nonstick cooking spray
Nutrition Facts: (per serving, without berries or syrup): 551 calories, 15 g protein, 64 g carbohydrate, 26 g fat, 4 g fiber
Bourguignonne means “in the style of Burgundy,” one of France’s most famous food and wine regions. Most Bourguignonne dishes are beef braised in red wine, which intensifies other flavors in the dish, but we’ve substituted beans for the beef in this easy-to-assemble crock pot meal.
Crock Pot Bean Bourguignonne serves up to 6 people
2 cans (15 oz. each) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
1 large or 2 medium potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 celery ribs, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
11/2 cups dry vegan red wine (such as Frey Cabernet Sauvignon)
6 oz. canned tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1. Place beans, mushrooms, onion, potatoes, carrots and celery in a 4-quart crock pot. Sprinkle with garlic, thyme, salt and pepper; add bay leaf. Stir to coat vegetables.
2. Pour wine over mixture in crock pot. In a small bowl, mix tomato paste and water; pour into crock pot and stir.
3. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf and serve.
12 g protein
44 g carbs
0 g fat
11 g fiber
10 g sugar
992 mg sodium
Since all great things come in threes (or is it celebrity deaths?), we’re going to complete our sugar trilogy with a look at the worst food in the world: soda pop. Forget about brands; whether it’s Coke, Dr. Pepper, or even Hansen’s Natural, it’s all junk. There are different degrees of “junkiness,” but this is Nutrition 911, so we’re sticking with the bird’s-eye perspective. The taste might make you happy, but from a nutritional point of view, soda’s only place in the world is to make people fat, sick, and unhappy.
In America, we drink a lot of cola (or “un-cola”). A lot. On average, we each drank 52.4 gallons in 2005, and this figure includes infants, healthy folks, prisoners, etc., meaning that the average soda drinker actually gulps (their word) more than this. Carbonated soft drinks are the biggest single caloric source in the American diet. Teenagers in particular are hooked on the stuff and get an average of 13 percent of their daily calories from “pop.” If this doesn’t scare you, it should. In terms of sheer amount, these statistics could be alarming if it were any one food. A proper diet should have some balance and diversity. And soda pop is the antithesis of “any food.” It’s bad food.
We use the term “empty calories” for foods like soda that have no place in a nutritious diet. This term is ridiculously misleading. The calories in soda are far from empty. Most of them come from sugar. In the U.S., it’s nearly always high fructose corn syrup, the cheapest, most processed sugar on the market. Other ingredients include caffeine, various phosphates and acids, and artificial colorings. We’ll get to their effects on the human body in a minute, but first, let’s stick to the simple stuff. Per day, the average teenager consumes between 10 and 15 teaspoons of refined sugar via soda—which, according to government standards, is about their daily requirement for all foods. This means that for the average teenager, his or her soda consumption virtually eliminates his or her chances of eating a balanced diet. There’s nothing empty about that.
The soda companies are a marketing juggernaut. They spend roughly $700 million a year on media advertising alone—not to mention hundreds of millions more sponsoring events, athletes, musicians, and such. This volume of cash makes it difficult for consumers to avoid them, by design. To avoid the temptation to drink Coke, you’ve got to be highly principled or living in the middle of the jungle. And even then, well, I once happened upon a soda vending machine halfway up Mount Yarigatake in the Japanese Alps, and a friend traveling in Guatemala found Coke in a rural area that didn’t have running water. Let’s just say that soda companies are going to continue making it easy for you to find the stuff. This type of marketing machine won’t go away quietly. With the stats listed above, you could certainly put two and two together and link soda companies to the childhood (and adult) obesity epidemic that is arguably the world’s most serious health crisis. Yet, while researching this article, I came across a widely published “study” stating that “soft drink consumption has no effect on childhood obesity.” Suspicious from the get-go (the word “no” being a huge red flag), it didn’t take me long to find this statement: “The research paper was supported by an unrestricted gift from the American Beverage Association.” Bingo. Remember those Philip Morris tobacco “studies” that promised a long and healthy life from chain smoking?
What makes it so bad?
Besides the simple caloric trade-off, sodas are formulated to give you a rush. The sugar is mixed with phosphates designed to speed it into your system. It’s so good, in fact, that many cyclists prefer Coca-Cola to specific sports food when they need a sugar rush near the end of races. And while a sugar rush is a good thing when you’re trying to exceed your anaerobic threshold and you’re out of blood glycogen (never mind if you don’t know what this is), it’s a bad thing whenever you’re not, which even for a competitive cyclist is 99.9 percent of the time.
Beyond the simple sugar rush, these acids and phosphates alter your body’s pH levels and inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. Then there are the effects of certain artificial coloring agents. For example, yellow #5, commonly used in soft drinks, has been linked to attention deficit disorder, hives, asthma, and other allergic reactions in some children.
Then there is the nutrient trade-off to consider. A person who drinks one Big Gulp per day must go to great lengths to maintain a balanced diet. Otherwise, he or she will almost certainly be deficient in numerous vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and essential fatty or amino acids—none of which is found in soda. For this reason, soda is often linked to type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, dental erosion, and a higher risk of kidney stones and heart disease. And that’s just a start. There’s plenty of less scientific data linking soda to poor scholastic habits, which we’ll get to in a later class.
Diet sodas and juices
In an attempt to become thought of as healthier, soda companies have diversified into non-carbonated beverages and diet sodas. While these are an improvement in some ways, they are hardly a solution to the problem. First off, most juices and other caloric non-soda alternatives are mainly just sugar and water without the carbonation. A quick label comparison between a commercial orange juice and a Mountain Dew would show a similar “bottom line” with regards to calories and sugar. The only improvement would be the lack of the non-caloric offenders. But that’s no small matter, as the true effects of these ingredients have not been thoroughly studied. Despite their no-calorie status, diet sodas have been linked to assorted illnesses. Recent studies have backed up my more anecdotal evidence that I’ve yet to have a client not lose weight by kicking diet soda. Granted, all of my clients drank an excessive amount, but regardless, there is little doubt that the pH balance of diet sodas hinders the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and that just may be the tip of the non-caloric iceberg.
A large-scale study in 2007 showed that men and women who had more than one diet soda a day were 31 percent more likely to be obese and 25 percent more likely to have both high triglycerides and blood sugar, and they had a 50 percent greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Never mind if you don’t know what metabolic syndrome is. Just trust me when I tell you that you don’t want it.
How can you help?
In my world, soft drinks would come with the same type of regulatory language as cigarettes and booze, at least. Actually, in my world, we’d all be educated and wouldn’t require this language at all, but that’s Politics 911, not Nutrition 911. Anyway, here are five ways you can help educate the public about the dangers of soda, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Contact your local government officials and/or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and suggest that:
1. National and local governments should require chain restaurants to declare the calorie content of soft drinks and all other items on menus and menu boards.
2. The FDA should require labels on non-diet soft drinks to state that frequent consumption of those drinks promotes obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, osteoporosis, and other health problems.
3. Local, state, and federal governments should provide water fountains in schools, government buildings, parks, and other public spaces.
4. School systems and other organizations catering to children should stop selling soft drinks (as well as candy and other junk foods) in hallways, shops, and cafeterias.
5. State and local governments should consider levying small taxes on soft drinks, with the revenues earmarked for promoting health and fitness. A national 2-cent tax on a can of soda pop would raise $3 billion annually.
Are you scared yet? You should be. Or you could just stop drinking soda. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Darin Olien founded Darin’s Naturals in 2005 as a means to integrate the numerous concepts related to health, nutrition, and exercise gained while acquiring a BA in Exercise Physiology/Nutrition, an MA in Psychology, and over a decade of experience working in several health-based industries.
Since 2005, Darin has traveled the planet on behalf of Darin’s Naturals, discovering new and underutilized herbs, superfood, and medicinal plants. Darin’s complete immersion in the indigenous cultures found across the globe have helped to expand his knowledge as a formulator and environmental initiator.
Christine Christensen had the awesome opportunity to sit down with Darin recently to discuss the fabulous wonders of superfoods and intuition, both of which Darin is a very well versed.
Christine: I was first introduced to your work from the recent O Magazine. I was so excited when I opened it. I just saw these really amazing pictures of you with amazing super foods & herbs. Something inside of me just said, “ I need to interview this amazing person.”
Darin: It’s all about following the knowing, isn’t it?
Christine: Yeah, it seems like you kind of just of follow what you’re lead to do. So let’s talk about your journey. It seems that you have had quite the beautiful adventure. Can you tell us how it all began and how you’ve come to be a world traveler?
Darin: Sure. Well you know, being a Mid-Western, Minnesota-born kid, I grew up in a small town and played conventional sports and loved it for what it was. I went on to play college football, and my sophomore year, I was starting lineup. I was so excited, but during the second game I went down with a back injury. In that moment it was this boyhood dream that came crashing to an end. That spun me into what I would call a depression. It just threw everything off. You know, you have a certain plan, a certain idea, you’re young, and you’re doing what you want to do, or so you think. When that happened, I had to stop playing and I went to the conventional methods of physical therapy and doctors and all of that stuff. It wasn’t actually getting me on the field. Again, I was going back to what I wanted, what I thought I wanted to do. So I decided to basically come to the understanding that it wasn’t happening and when that wasn’t happening and I had to sit with that. It brought me one of the greatest epiphanies. I was always very physical and I was always fascinated with the body. Recognizing this, I made the decision in my mind that other people couldn’t fix the injury for me. So I thought, I’m going to take this on. I transferred schools, I transferred majors. I studied exercise physiology and nutrition. It opened me up to that fascinating world and I basically healed myself. From that moment, it’s been a forever growing curiosity – every day. It hasn’t stopped. I did physical therapies professionally for years. I worked individually with hundreds of people—athletes and celebrities.
Christine: So you have worked from the other side of physical therapy?
Darin: Yeah, because that personal experience is so powerful. You learn about yourself and you learn about nutrition and physiology and power of choice and all of that stuff. In working with all these hundreds of people, I then became completely fascinated with, as I called it then, the psychology of it all. I could go through the methodologies of things, but yet, the outcomes weren’t the same. It became increasingly obvious to me that there were a ton of X factors happening.
Christine: Yes, we are all very intricately unique to our own personal journey and challenges.
Darin: I then started asking questions and started getting more curious about the inner working of mind, body, and spirit.
Christine: Are those the X factors that you feel contribute to someone’s recuperation time after an injury?
Darin: Yeah. I think it’s what you call the deep voice within all of us that knows what to do on our next action. It’s our intuition. It’s such a feather touch and it’s so easy to blow off. The courage of saying yes to it, I think it’s a growing muscle and every time you say yes to it, it grows.
Darin: Almost like the universe is smiling to you and saying ‘oh you got that? Here’s a little more.’
Christine: (laughs) Yeah. And if you pay attention, you can actually hear them kind of applauding on the other side, like: ‘Hey, you actually picked up on it or you actually listened to it.’
Darin: Yeah. I mean, you know, then it comes down to receiving. You just said yes to that so then you’re in a position to receive more of what the energies of the universe have to give. I think that is maybe one of the greatest muscles I am willing to work. I never at three years old said I’m going to go around the world and hang with indigenous people and find superfood, and I now do that.
Christine: Yes, it is such a blessing to follow that guidance.
Darin: I think the greatest blessing for me in my life has always been the willingness to take what I thought of in the moment as the spark of my heart and do it full on, and then I opened that door. I only could open that door with saying yes to whatever was in front of me and over time just led me to the expansion of what I could never put as a goal.
Christine: Absolutely, every little step adds up to something greater.
Darin: That always blows my mind in terms of “how did I end up here?” It’s a series of choices rather than the singularity of a goal or a singularity of one choice. It’s in the act of showing up every day. When you show up every day… all of those choices lead up to either living a fulfilling life or a very unfulfilling life.
Christine: Yes, and being in the spirit of giving, the goal of being to continuously give so that you then can be led to the next step. It seems like that’s part of your mantra.
Darin: Yeah, I never set out to give. I only set out to answer the call deep, deep, deep within and it just so happens that that call always has had a giving to it.
Christine: It does seem to have that essence to it. With all of the projects that you’re involved in it’s really amazing how you are bringing so many different communities and ingredients and experiences together for film, for consumption and then also for publication. You are just on every level reaching out and creating this community.
Darin: When something hits me and I’m inspired by it and impregnated with the passion of it, there’s no choice at that point. Because I’ve said yes to that so often, it makes itself known so often.
Christine: Yes, it definitely begins to grow, once we begin to follow our guidance, it grows.
Darin: So you know, it’s like okay, let’s do it. Who would have thought I’d be doing a film on the country of Bhutan? Middle of the Himalayas. I never set out to be a documentary film person. Who would have thought I’d be running to Africa and helping the kids at school and hospitals get clean water? How did that happen? How did I end up finding certain foods and indigenous plants that have been forgotten for centuries? I’ve been in the position to get those to people here in the West for the first time. I mean, it’s just when I have someone in the middle of nowhere saying you’re the first person to ever ask these questions here in this position, to me it’s as baffling as someone else hearing it. I think that most people have an idea in their head that everything should have already been discovered by now.
Christine: How did that experience influence what you have created?
Darin: I think that got me basically to the first formulation I started doing. It was like, well, I don’t know why people are taking this left turn on these formulas and why wouldn’t they use this? And I just came to realize that, hey, they don’t know, maybe they’re not exposed to it, or see it. They just don’t have the awareness of it.
Christine: It’s like the grand illusion that everything has already been explored or already experienced or shared. Often people comment that your lifestyle seems like such an unreachable goal, for them. ‘Look at what he does for a living. Look at what an amazing life he’s created.’ And somewhere within there, there is the essence of ‘that’s something he’s done but I can’t do that for myself’ – which as you know, really, isn’t the truth. What would you say to that? What’s the first step in creating that kind of life that you’ve created?
Darin: Yeah. It is a great one and I love to try to dispel that because you know, as radical, deep, and as weird as it may sound, it’s those little things that ignite you. You don’t know where that’s going to go. That thing could be to read that book that you’ve been pushing off or call that person that you’ve been wanting to call, or call that university and find out about that class that you’ve been wanting to take for 10 years. I didn’t just show up and all of a sudden I get to travel around the world to all these places. It doesn’t show up like that.
Darin: It’s an illusion, like you said. When you have the willingness to say, “Yes” to every little thing you desire, because as you are involved in a holistic view of the world in what you do, you have to honor that. Any one blow- off, at any level is a blow-off to the entire level. It’s the entire being. I mean mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, you name it. There is no separation. If we don’t honor all of that and everything that is who we are, what we want, you know, maybe in their heart, someone does want to be a movie star. It could be. Don’t blow that off. With that said, also don’t get fixed on what that is or how it looks.
Christine: Yes, don’t become fixed on the outcome.
Darin: Understand the essence of it. Because the essence could be clouded. It could be clouded into the conclusion of what you think it is, but maybe the spirit of that person has something to express, has something to ignite in the world and a voice and share. If you get caught into concluding that ‘I’m supposed to be a movie star’, then you’re going to fall into the category of what it takes to create a movie star and it has nothing to do with the spirit trying to get out and come through you and ignite your life.
Christine: Yeah, the experience that is wanting to be born of you.
Darin: I think one of the greatest things that I practice is completely letting go of those outcomes and going back into question, using question as the source of creation. It can be as simple as, “Hey what would it take to find the greatest cacao source in the world?” I’m not in conclusion, I’m in question, and that moves energy. Right? Now, I’m completely open to whatever answers come in instantaneously and what’s coming in a year from now.
Christine: Right. It’s the curiosity that sparks.
Darin: That curiosity and consciousness. They are not separate.
Christine: Yeah. Absolutely. And when you become curious about something and actually one of the major things that I teach my students is that when you become curious, you don’t have to be right or wrong, you don’t have to be attached to the outcome. You can just be curious about what this is or how I could do this or what that would feel like.
Darin: Yeah, and that’s a constant question. Hey, what about this? Hey, let’s check this out. Hey, is that the case?
Christine: Yeah. Exactly. It makes it playful and not so serious or scary.
Christine: You follow what’s in front of you as the next step. In fact, I believe you’ve created a production company. Was that also born of this moment to moment inspiration?
Darin: Yeah. I mean I’ve created it based on putting some things together and doing some documentaries for sure.
Christine: Right and so I’m sure, the idea of starting your production company was not in order to become the creator of that organization. It was more because it served the purpose of whatever it was that you were working on at the moment.
Darin: Bingo. And that’s a huge point. It’s like okay, cool. I didn’t see the calling of a documentary but what is it going to take for this to get out? So we’ll create a film and get the people that can help out.
Christine: It really speaks to that seeking and collaborative nature. It seems that you have a way of creating community wherever you are with the people around you and beginning something that can really open people’s minds and their eyes to some really, really interesting things. Can we discuss some of the projects you have done? For example your documentary on the Wild Horses, entitled, “The American Wild Horse.”
Darin: A buddy of mine, James Kleinert who created the film, has been working with the natives throughout the Dakotas and natives throughout the US for over a decade and has done many documentaries. He fell upon and became aware of the wild horse Bureau of Land Management Turmoil in the southwestern United States. Over the last seven or eight years in filming this, he quickly learned that there was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes, including the reason behind the slaughter and the elimination of one of the greatest symbols of the US, the wild horses. James is such a dear man and he’s like a walking heart of a guy, he’s the lifeblood of that project and doing everything he can to save these horses. There’s a lot of mining that he’s now been exposing as the true genesis for why the Bureau of Land Management is eradicating these horses. He’s really done some gnarly stuff. He’s followed semi’s that were supposed to go somewhere and he saw them slaughter beautiful, beautiful horses, incredible animals. He’s lived on nothing in order to help save these beautiful animals.
So you know, my family is from the Dakotas. My family has been connected to horses. Being a kid I loved wild creatures. I just had to try to do anything I could to raise the awareness. I mean when I first saw the film, it was crushing to see what was actually going on, but it’s virtually the United States version of The Cove. It’s just like The Cove is to Japan. It’s that kind of gnarly stuff going on that is just not okay.
Christine: Wow, it really shows how when you follow the next thing in front of you, you’re not really sure how it’s going to affect someone, how involved you have to be and how that affects others. It’s like you do your little part and then it allows that to open for everyone’s eyes, it opens us up to something that most of us don’t know about.
Darin: Exactly. You know, and it’s that resonance that James is acting from—his truth. So when you feel that vibe, you know that someone is wholeheartedly doing that. The cool thing about James is that he’s actually not making anyone wrong.
Darin: Because a lot of times these activists are missing the whole boat because they are in judgment. It actually throws the whole message completely off and then it only attracts the very activist that for the most part just want to talk about it and don’t get anything done.
Christine: Right. But when you go into that judgment space, you close off the ability to see the whole picture.
Christine: When you’re in ego, which judgment is, it’s not intuitive whatsoever so you miss out on some really important aspects of it. That’s really amazing that he’s able to stay in that truth.
Darin: It’s hard. So you know, it’s a warrior’s path.
Christine: Yeah, it’s a lot to hold for one person. Yeah, it’s the driving force. It seems that you have that within you as well. I know I have it.
Darin: Yeah, it’s a charge for sure, you know. It really comes down to, the more I get clear about who I am and what I care about, I just charge. It’s like this is it, it’s my life. At the end of the day, I can theorize and philosophize about what happens after this life, but you know what, I’m here. I’m going to give it a go and go as consciously and aware and as powerfully and as potent as I can.
Christine: So what’s your next step now? I know that you just returned from Southeast Asia.
Darin: Yes. Southeast Asia, Philippines and Indonesia. I made some amazing connections to some groups and new alliances down there. It has sparked an organization that we’re going to create, an international organization of quality assurance and guidelines for agricultural, superfoods, all of these things.
I’m back now, and I’m working on about 15 different superfood formulas right now.
Christine: How exciting to have the backing to continue to create more and more sustainable blends.
Darin: I never thought I’d be working for a half-billion dollar company because I worked for many of the guys in the superfood world. But when I got connected with Beachbody, it didn’t take much time for them to understand what I was doing on a whole other level with the farmers and the social aspect of it. When you have the bandwidth, you can actually prove to them that everything from their bottom line to their customers’ mouths is going to be beneficial if you do it correctly from the beginning.
Darin: You know, we’re really, really aggressive in terms of helping the farmer. Instead of going wide trying to squeeze prices, we find a good relationship and we go deep into the relationship. Everyone knows what’s going on, everyone is transparent, the trust is built, everyone knows what everyone’s margins are because we’re not out to squeeze anybody, we actually have them tell us what’s fair margin.
Christine: Building trust, creating a foundation.
Darin: So that is a continuous project because there are a lot of foods that I am working on. There are about 300 super foods that I have a pulse on and I’m in touch with every aspect of it, from the packaging, to the manufacturing, formulating, to the farming, the soil.
Christine: Have you ever looked into branching out beyond? I know that you have really focused on exercise nutrition, but have you ever felt a pull towards creating something more toward the therapy side, addressing conditions such as autism or ADD?
Darin: The interesting thing is, if you knew what I know about what I am working on, you would be nodding to all of this stuff.
Christine: I am nodding. You forgot what I do for a living.
Darin: You’re already tuned in. I’m actually working on a kid’s formula right now. If you want to know where a society is, just look at the kids. There’s a lot of confusion out there.
Christine: So tell me, what are some ingredients you are looking at for children?
Darin: A crowd favorite of mine is Yacon. It is a tuber out of Peru and it has the highest FOS content of any known food. FOS is fructo-oligo-saccharides. They’ve known about FOS for a long time and FOS has even been put as an isolate in baby formula. The research even on the isolate is very positive for the stabilization of ADD and ADHD. I think that we know so little about the disaccharide sugars.
Darin: We only talk of the macro and then maybe, we’re getting into sucrose and fructose and dextrose and all of these things. There’s actually a whole world, a microscopic world of sugars that are complete alchemist in a lot of functioning of the body. FOS and Yucon are hinting at some of that. So I want to put formulas together basically in whole food and then measure the effect that that can have. If the isolates have an affect then what kind of affect will the whole food have? It’s this philosophy that I take. I look at science of course, but then I back into it or go into it based on the synergistic effect of what nature has already created. I am very excited in the next coming year to be working with some individuals who are doing one-of-a kind research into synergies and whole foods, looking at disease markers. It will be scientifically based in whole foods that are all peer-reviewed and all of these researchers will not be able to dispute it. So we’re being very systematic about that because if you want credibility, then you have to be aware of how people are hearing messages.
Christine: Yes. Absolutely.
Darin: You know, so those are exciting things and I just take basic principles in mind. I go back into question. I start with, ‘What are kids lacking?’ So then I back into that question, I start with basics. It’s got cumulative amino acids, helping out with every neurotransmitter that the kids need. You’ve got fiber and fibers, you know, a fourth or a fifth of what it needs to be. So then I look in the minerals. What is the mineral uptake ability of certain foods? And I go into that because it’s the root of all disease, like Dr. Linus Pauling says, it’s the lack of minerals. So that’s my approach really, to come and do the formulas like this. I expose myself to what the concerns, the macro skills, the kids, and then I go into it based on research and also just field knowledge of the foods.
Christine: Wow. I’m really excited to hear about it. I personally have just really strong passion for all things, nutrition and things that can enhance your life and especially with our children, because when our children struggle with their health, it’s really difficult to live a vibrant life if your child is not living vibrantly as well.
Darin: Exactly. I mean, it’s already a challenge. When you’re getting pulled from every direction not to do the right thing.
Christine: How can we stay updated with your work, Darin?
Darin: I have a newsletter that you can sign up for on my site and I send that out monthly.
Christine: Awesome. Well thank you so much. Thank you for your time and for all your work and everything that you’re doing, and I’m really excited to hear more about everything that you’re creating.
Darin: Well, thank you. Thank you for your time Christine.
Spices are a great way to add flavor to recipes and meals without added calories or salt. Some spices have a thermogenic effect, which means eating them boosts metabolism so you actually burn some extra calories eating certain spicy dishes. Try experimenting with these:
Cinnamon is a delicious way to add sweetness to a dish without having to use sugar. It is also a great spice to cook with and can add a lightly spicy taste to savory dishes. Several studies, including one published in the Diabetes Care Journal, have shown that cinnamon can boost weight loss. The weight loss properties of cinnamon stem from the ability to help keep blood sugar levels under control, therefore decreasing the amount of insulin produced after a meal. Higher levels of unnecessary insulin result in the production of excess fat. Cinnamon has also been found to slow down gastric emptying, making you feel full longer.
This piquant spice contains capsaicin, which has long been regarded for its fat burning ability. Cayenne has thermogenic properties that increase calorie burning. It also helps with weight loss simply because the spicier a food is, the less you eat and slower you eat – so you feel full on less food. If you don’t care for spicy pepper, evidence has shown that even sweet peppers have a thermogenic effect, boosting calorie burning in the body. Cayenne also increases fat oxidation, helping you shed unwanted body fat.
A staple in any cooks’ kitchen, not only jazzes up a recipe, but it helps boost metabolism by as much as 8 percent because of the compound, piperine, found in black pepper. This spice has been shown to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. To maximize the results, use fresh black pepper instead of ground pepper.
Just like the hot spice cayenne – mustard seed also has a thermogenic effect on the body. According to a Canadian study, eating spicy foods such as mustard seed can burn an extra 1,000 calories a day, with one tea spoon potentially boosting your metabolism by 25 percent.
Not only is ginger delicious with just about everything, it also has been found to help with weight loss and satiety. According to a study at Columbia University and the New York Obesity Research Center, adding one teaspoon of dried ground ginger to a meal or having a cup of ginger tea with breakfast resulted in 43 more calories burned after eating.
2 tsp. olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 cups broccoli florets (1⁄2-inch pieces)
1⁄2 cup water
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes
1. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic for one minute, stirring constantly. Add broccoli and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
2. Pour water over broccoli, cover and steam for two more minutes. Stir and serve.
NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):
2 g protein
5 g carbs
2.5 g fat
1 g fiber
0 mg cholesterol
20 mg sodium
0 g sugar
Cook it in five minutes or less by:
>> Steaming – place in a steamer over boiling water
>> Sautéing – sizzle in a skillet with a dash of oil
>> Flash dunking – drop florets into 1 inch of boiling water, scoop out when bright green