My bachelor father taught me many life skills but cooking and nutrition were not among them. He did his best to raise us by himself, relying on Cookie Crisp cereal and the first 1970’s spongy chicken nuggets as our main food groups. But he had the foresight to involve us in an intensive tennis program to “keep us out of trouble." That began my love for the sport, culminating in a single’s spot on Colgate University’s Division 1 tennis team.
It was back then during matches that I started to feel how food impacted my body– whether I had the energy to make it through a competitive match, or whether what I had eaten would make me spike and crash in the middle of the second set. I started experimenting on my own with various combinations of foods, seeking out the best options that the university dining hall offered. On days when I fueled up with simple carbs like candy and white bread, my energy wasn’t sustainable and I had brain fog – literally couldn’t “get my head in the game;” but when I ate real food– whole grains, veggies, lean protein – I could soar through a match.
None of the fad diets at the time – or the conflicting nutrition information – would ever teach me more than simply focusing on what felt best to me and listening to my body. That instinctive approach to my own personal nutrition was the beginning of my passion for practical, effective wellness. This began my lifelong love for the food/health connection, but once the demands of the college tennis tour ended, I became more of a foodie landing a job at Gourmet Magazine, where taste ruled far more than the “medicinal” approach to food that I had utilized in college.
If Gourmet reinforced the idea that food is pleasure, my achieving the position as Publisher of Eating Well Magazine inspired the notion that it could also be healthful. And more than that — that healthy food could actually taste good. Everything these people said made sense to me and brought me back to the time when I had been an athlete and understood the impact food had on my body.
Then came my wonderful babies – 2 years apart - and as any mom knows, there’s nothing more humbling or challenging than having the privilege of nurturing little bodies. They motivated me to put into practice all the good nutrition I had learned and experienced myself….until their picky eating and food allergies thwarted my best laid plans, and I was desperate to find a way to nourish the kids.
I knew from my own childhood that I wanted to be there for them when they came home from school. I was determined to have the warm smell of brownies coming out of the oven when they walked in the door. Little did they know those brownies were made with hidden vegetables!
Enter Sneaky Chef– my third baby – my brainchild. I created a simple strategy for hiding healthy foods in kids’ favorite meals.This worked not only for my children but solved an age-old problem for millions of other moms who made Sneaky Chef a New York Times Bestseller!
Seven cookbooks later and a Sneaky Chef packaged foods (No-Nut Butter, peanut butter alternative made from peas that I made for my Sam with nut allergies), the kids are off to college, mostly loving their veggies and incorporating what I’ve taught them as they start their own lives.
As an empty nester, I’ve rekindled my love for tennis and play on several competitive teams. While I still work with moms of picky eaters and food allergies, my passion drove me to head back to school to study hundreds of dietary theories at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Today, as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I've expanded my expertise to working with adults on their health journey. My focus is on preventing inflammation, injuries and illness, and using everything I’ve learned to support others along their wellness path. I would love to work with you too!
From my kitchen to yours, in good health!