Just what do you mean when you say you are “eating clean”?

Just what do you mean when you say you are “eating clean”?

“I’ve started eating clean,” my client reported with pride. While I understood what he meant, I decided to play devil’s advocate.

“What were you eating before… filthy food from the floor?”

“Do you actually think food in wrappers is dirty?”

“Are you concerned that processed food is filled with dirt?”

Clearly, the phrase “eating clean” is a bit too trendy for me. It implies that commercially prepared foods are unfit for human consumption. Not quite true. Some commercially prepared and  processed foods are indeed healthier than others; for example, munching on baked corn chips is preferable to  eating fried cheese puffs. But processed/canned kidney beans and tuna fish, Wheaties from a box, frozen broccoli, ZING Bars in wrappers, and numerous other foods that come pre-wrapped add to our ability to consume a wide variety of highly nourishing and wholesome foods. Continue Reading

Sports Nutrition Information: Websites You Can Trust

As the winter weather sets in, you might have a little extra time on your hands. What a good opportunity to use that time to educate yourself about fueling for performance, longevity, injury prevention, and stamina.

The goal for all athletes should be to eat pro-actively, to stay in peak health. This is the opposite of eating reactively. (You know, “I just got the flu … maybe I should I start eating more oranges?”) The following websites can help you fuel your body wisely and well. Continue Reading

Traveling Athletes & Gas Station Nutrition

Traveling Athletes & Gas Station Nutrition


Are you among the many coaches, athletic trainers, and support crews—including parents, partners and siblings—who spend too much time on the road, traveling with your athletes from one sporting event to the next? If so, your food budget is likely tight, your encounters with unhealthy foods are relentless, and your hankerings for comfort foods might often overpower your nutrition knowledge. While you likely know what you should eat, you may struggle to eat well. Regardless of the obstacles, athletes who travel by car and bus need to fuel optimally to be able to perform at their best. Continue Reading

Artificial Sweeteners, Diet Soda & You: Yes or No?

Artificial Sweeteners, Diet Soda & You: Yes or No?

Is diet soda really bad for me? … Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer? … Which is healthier: to put sugar or Sweet ‘n Low in my iced tea?

Many athletes ask me many questions about diet soda and artificial sweeteners. They feel guilty about eating sugar, but they love sweet foods. If that sounds familiar, you can stop the guilt! We are born with an innate preference for sweet foods (including all-natural breast milk). All living species —apart from cats— are attracted to sweets. (Yes, my dog loves blueberries!) Hungry athletes, in particular, tend to enjoy sweet stuff a lot! While little is wrong with 100 to 200 calories of sugar a day, some athletes enjoy way too many sugar-laden foods, including soda. Continue Reading

How to manage foods that have power over you…

I know, I know. You say you are addicted to chocolate because you have an addictive personality. Maybe yes, but maybe no. Maybe you are just doing “last chance eating”? You know, “Last chance to eat chocolate so I’d better eat all of the Hershey kisses today because I am back on my diet tomorrow.”

When a food like chocolate (or cookies or donuts) has power over you, that power stems from the fact that you like the food and want to eat it more often. You should indeed eat that food more often, so that you get bored with it and it loses its power over you. The solution to managing “binge foods” is to eat the food routinely, not try to stay away from it. (Think about it: Do apples have power over you? Why not?)

When you next go home for the holidays and get confronted by your favorite dessert (Granny’s chocolate cake?), plan it into your meals and eat it INSTEAD of your meal. That is, if you have 600 calories in each meal, you could enjoy two chunks of came for breakfast, lunch, dinner … and still not “get fat.”. You also will not die from malnutrition in three days.

You will not gain weight if the portion fits within your calorie budget. You might get sick of cake, and realize that when you eat smarter, you feel better … The benefits of feeling better might overpower the urge to splurge on yet another piece of cake the next meal.

Worth an experiment? 
Eating MORE of the food that has power over you is a tactic that works. You just have to trust this experiment. That is, when you have an “I need cookies” day, simply plan cookies into your meals and have cookies for lunch INSTEAD OF real food for lunch. You might end up feeling lousy and discover that when you eat better foods, you actually feel better. You will look forward to enjoying quality food at your next meal.

Learning how to control “trouble foods” is a management issue, not a food issue. There is a possibility you just need to learn how to manage your binge foods, not deny them and ban them from your menu. For help learning that skill, make an appointment with a local sports dietitian. To find one, use the referral network at

Best wishes for finding peace with food,



Resource: the chapters on Snack Attacks and Dieting Gone Awry in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Why do athletes procrastinate for 6 months before calling for a nutrition appointment?

Why do athletes procrastinate for 6 months before calling for a nutrition appointment?

I’ve been a sports nutritionist for 35 year now. During that time, both casual exercisers and competitive athletes have come to fully understand that nutrition offers the winning edge. But nutrition can also be the missing link. Any way you look at it, athletes need food to enhance performance, stay healthy, and healthfully endure this marathon called life.

So why do active people procrastinate for 6 months before making a nutrition appointment to get some food help? There are many reasons why, including—

Continue Reading

Are your kids participating in the Billion Mile Race?

Active kids simply do betterbetter in the classroom, better attendance, better health and fitness. Karen Finnegan, a fifth-grade teacher whose school in West Roxbury, MA, is participating in the Billion Mile Race, noted, “The children have more energy, and they’re more focused on their school work.”

Only one in three children is physically active each day. School-based walking and running programs are a winning approach to building more physical activity into kids’ daily lives and forming the essential healthy habits that will help to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. The Billion Mile Race challenges 5-12 year olds to collectively reach one billion miles by participating in school-based walking and running clubs. More than 1,200 schools have already signed on to the multi-year effort and students have already logged more than 5 million miles, the equivalent of 21 trips to the moon.

Every school in the country can sign up for the Race at no charge, accessing support materials and tracking their progress through the online portal. If you want more information on how to join the movement, visit the Billion Mile Race website The website provides all you need to start a walking and running club, set goals, log miles, track progress, and participate in this national movement. As a parent, you can support this movement and make a big difference in the wellbeing of the kids in your community. It’s the right thing to do!

Give yourself the gift of education: Upcoming Sports Nutrition Workshops

Want to boost your sports nutrition knowledge so you can confidently choose an effective sports diet?

Here’s your chance to update your sports nutrition and exercise physiology knowledge while enjoying an information-packed 1.5 days with two internationally respected professionals:

  • Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS, RD, CSSD
  • Exercise physiologist John Ivy PhD

Continue Reading

What should I eat before I exercise?

What should I eat before I exercise? is the most common question athletes ask me, a sports nutritionist. The answer varies, depending on:

–how hard you will be exercising. Before intense the exercise, you’ll want just a small lowfat snack that digests quickly, such as a half a bagel—as opposed to a whole bagel with peanut butter.

–how well your intestinal tract tolerates food. Some people have cast-iron stomachs and can eat anything pre-exercise, without fear of intestinal distress. Others need to wait a few hours.

–how long you will be exercising. If you plan to exercise for more than 60 to 90 minutes, eating a pre-exercise meal or snack will enhance your stamina and endurance. Pre-exercise food is less important before a 30-minute exercise session (assuming you are not hungry.)

Because each person has a unique response to pre-exercise food, you will want to experiment with a variety of options. Carbohydrate-based foods (such as bread, watermelon, boiled potato) digest easily and are generally the best options. Some popular choices include:

  • Toast (or a bagel) with jam or peanut butter
  • Banana
  • Cereal with lowfat milk
  • Oatmeal with raisins
  • Granola bar
  • Fruit smoothie (made with 1 large banana, ½ cup berries, ½ cup low-fat milk or yogurt) and ice cubes.
  • Pita with hummus

Most active people easily tolerate 200 to 300 pre-exercise calories before a 60-90 minute workout; the fuel helps keep blood sugar from dropping and abates the appetite. No need to exercise hungry! If you want to get mathematical, target about 2 calories of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (0.5 g carbs per lb). That means, if you weigh 150 pounds, you want approximately 300 calories (more or less) in carbohydrates.

Adding a little fat or protein to the snack can help with satiety and flavor, but the carbohydrates are the most important factor here. Also, too much protein or fat can sit in the stomach, and contribute to discomfort. While a few nuts in a handful of trail mix can be fine, the dried fruit is the better energizer.

Some people with digestive concerns allow three to four hours between fueling and exercising; others can eat and exercise five minutes later. You may want to allow 2 to 3 hours after a moderate-sized pre-exercise meal to allow enough time for digestion and absorption. You can likely tolerate a smaller (200 to 300 calorie) snack within an hour pre-exercise. If you don’t have any trouble exercising with food in your stomach, you can shorten this window to five minutes! And as long as you are exercising at a pace that you can maintain for more than half an hour, your body can digest the food and use it to fuel your workout.

If pre-exercise food “talks back to you,” start with small amounts of food (a cracker or a piece of banana), so you can train your GI tract to accept some fuel. Even a little food can improve energy and performance. Some people choose a sports drink because it feels less heavy in the stomach.  The overall goal, however, for exercise longer than 60 to 90 minutes, is to train your body to be able to tolerate a pre-exercise snack or meal. You cannot run a marathon on air!

For more information: Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook 

Sandcastle Contest Winner: Honoring USA Women’s Soccer

Sandcastle Contest Winner: Honoring USA Women’s Soccer

In honor of Team USA, my “team” of family and friends built this award winning sandcastle at the Sand Castle Contest last weekend.

Girls Rock! Congrats Team USA

Girls Rock!
Congrats Team USA

The soccer ball is made with two colors of sand … the black sand was pretty stinky, but a fun time was had by all.

Team USA worked hard and deserve all the congratulations they are getting. Inspirational!


If you want nutrition information that will help get your team into the winners’ circle, take a look at Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes from the Pros!

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