Ladies and gents, here is a collaboration that is simply meant to be. Serena is not only my cousin, but a kick-butt Registered Dietitian, and marathon runner. Our goal in collaborating is to offer all of you a holistic, well-rounded approach to good old diet and exercise. In this, her first post, she introduces herself. Serena, take it away!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey hey! I’m Serena Marie, RD. RD stands for registered dietitian-nutritionist, a nationally regulated license. I studied nutritional sciences at Cornell & Yale Universities and have been practicing nutrition for about seven years specializing in athletic performance and weight loss.
But forget about that, you just need to know that I love food! Not only do I love the science behind diet and nutrition, but I also appreciate the memories and the joy food brings to our lives. As a runner, I rely on the benefits of delicious, clean meals to fuel workouts and enhance recovery. Having run four Boston Qualifying marathons and as the RD for the awesome running podcast, The Running Lifestyle Show, running is a huge part of my life.
2. What’s a day in the life like? Walk us through it.
Usually I will wake up early and do a fasted lifting session with a thermos of cold, black coffee or go for a run. Coffee is the best reason to get out of bed, after all! I then head to work. Depending on my goals, I will either eat a high protein breakfast, usually cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, or I will fast until lunch time! I’m a fan of practicing intermittent fasting when it works with my goals! Lunch is generally a salad of impressive proportions. The ladies who work at my cafeteria are always amazed that all 5’2” of me eats 1.5 pounds of salad for lunch on the daily.
After getting home from work, I meal prep and do recipe development. I love walking to my local veggie store, stocking up on what’s in season, and experimenting in the kitchen! At night, I’ll spend an hour or so counseling a client or writing a blog post to share with my fabulous online followers!
Basically, I’m a lucky gal because I have set up my whole routine around fitness and food!
3. How did you get into nutrition/ why did you become a nutritionist?
My fascination with nutrition started in high school after joining the Cross Country team! I realized that what I ate before practice, before races or in general affected my athletic performance and energy level. I happened to be taking chemistry the same year I joined Cross Country and realized that I am not only a lover of food but a lover of nerdy science classes! I was sold after that since nutrition married science and food into one discipline!
4. What’s your personal nutritional philosophy?
I believe in eating real, nutrient rich food. To make it simple, I believe in eating food that your great grandparents would recognize food. This rule of thumb generally guarantees a food is higher in vitamins and minerals than the modern, processed “food items” of 2018!
I also strive to teach my followers how to identify a food’s macronutrients so they can learn how to best balance their plate for their own unique goals. I tend to digress from the “Standard American Diet” philosophy of eating 50-60% of calories from carbohydrate and instead encourage higher protein diets with varying recommendations for carb or fat based on a person’s goals and activity level.
5. What are some of your favorite foods?
I love to eat so this list is a long one! Let’s break it down into sweet and salty for brevity’s sake! To sate a sweet tooth I love dark chocolate, plain Greek yogurt sweetened with stevia drops & berries or raisins (I know, who says raisins are their favorite food?). My favorite salty picks are scrambled eggs with kelp flakes; salmon poke bowls or anything covered in a really delicious tomato sauce!
6. Name one underrated food. Why?
Nutritional yeast!! When is ever-so-tantalizingly named food going to have a turn in the spotlight?! It actually tastes like CHEESE but its high in B12 (one of the few vegan sources), iron, protein and super low in fat! This is a great way to increase a meal’s protein content and vitamin content without adding tons of extra calories.
7. Name one overrated food. Why?
Wait. Please don’t hate me. I love coconut oil and cook with it frequently, but its definitely overhyped! Its not a cure-all and there are many foods with a way denser nutrient profile. I think coconut oil should be used for baking and cooking, but give other nutrient-rich-fat-sources a try as well!
8. Name one thing you cannot bring yourself to eat no matter how healthy.
Okay. So here’s the thing. I am a firm believer in trying foods repeatedly. I used to hate beets, but I kept trying them, and now I enjoy them. So this is my current situation with my dearest frenemy, turmeric.
I dislike the taste of turmeric with a passion. But I still cook with it because its so incredibly good for you and I am determined to like it one day! Turmeric has an abundance of scientific literature suggesting it decreases inflammation, something that as an athlete I am always worried about, and prevents cancer.
9. What’s your guilty food pleasure?
So remember how I said I loveee me some tomato sauce? Doesn’t it make sense that I love pizza? I live in Brooklyn so it would be kind of sacrilegious for me to feel any other type of way!
10. What is your fitness mode of choice?
I love squatting and kettlebells SO much, but my truest love is definitely running! The 15k and half marathon are my favorite distances to race.
11. How do your nutritional choices compliment your fitness routine?
My fitness goals always have a huge impact on my nutrition.
When I’m racing competitively and therefore doing long runs or sprinting workouts on-the-reg, I eat a higher carbohydrate diet and tend to eat small, frequent meals since I find that the combination of running and a higher carb diet leave me hungrier!
When my goals are more aesthetic than competitive, I tend to do intermittent fasting and a lower carb lifestyle since I’m less concerned about optimizing athletic performance and prioritizing fat loss instead!
No matter my goals, I always eat a diet rich in vegetables and protein. Huge salads, spinach smoothies, wild caught tuna and lots of Greek yogurt are my staples!
12. Finally tell us a bit about what we can expect from your column here?
There are three things you need to know about me: I am a nutritionist, nerd & runner. The nerdiness stems from my obsession with reading the latest and greatest in nutritional science. I really love debunking myths or explaining the “why” behind diet and food trends. No one should just blindly believe something because someone says its true, we all deserve the opportunity to really understand the science behind nutrition practices, so you can choose if its a viable option for you.
That said, you can also count on me to obsess over a delicious food trend and talk about how food can influence athletic performance!
You can learn more about me by checking out SerenaMarieRD.com, perusing my facebook page Facebook.com/serenamarierd or friending me on instagram @serenamarieRD!