This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Lisa Cain. In her own words:
“Lisa Cain, Ph.D., is a mother of 2 and loves food! An evolutionary biologist by training, she has become obsessed with how food contributes to our overall health.
For example, she is fascinated with the fact that Americans in the 1950’s weighed on average MUCH less than they do now. Obviously the root cause of the epidemic is what we eat, and she wants to help people make better decisions about what they eat.
She is a big proponent of food that doesn’t have any packaging and wants to help Americans eat more fruits and vegetables.”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim Podcast. I am very excited about today’s show. I just had a wonderful pre-show dialogue with our guest. She is awesome and she is smart, and she is funny and she is super-practical, a combination not often found. She is a PhD. She has studied Evolutionary Biology extensively. She is also dominating in the family arena. She is a wife, she is a mother of two, and she is figuring out how to make healthy again for the entire family and inline with proven science, so you know I am a fan of today’s guest, Lisa Cain, PhD, the founder, owner, and proprietor of snack-girl.com. Lisa welcome to the show.
Lisa: Thank you for having me.
Jonathan: Lisa, you have a big brain, a big heart, how did you get on this pretty remarkable path?
Lisa: I started back in 2008 after having two kids. I went to my doctor and he said “You need to lose weight” and I was shocked. I was really shocked because I thought I was carrying around the baby weight, it is going to fall off, but it kind of hit me between the eyes that it was creeping up and I was not paying attention, I was just trying to make a day by day and I started to really look hard at what I was eating and what my family was eating and I got inspired to not only change what I was doing but also to help others by starting this website snack-girl.com.
Jonathan: Lisa, you hit on a key point there and that is helping others and I hear so often that it can be enough of a challenge for individuals to shift over to eating things you find in nature-based lifestyle, but then when you add in “I am the CEO of my household” which then has three or four other people which may not share my goals and determination, it gets even harder. How are you navigating that landscape?
Lisa: They were both babies when this first happened and my husband actually is an amazingly healthy eater all on his own. I guess I got lucky there because I had a lot of support. I know plenty of my readers, they have partners and other family members who eat a lot of processed food and lot of really heavy food and it makes a little harder. My husband is actually really into vegetables and fruits and whole grains and it was me, I was often in the donut land, multiple burrito land, and cookies. I was looking to these foods for comfort and I loved them actually. So, it was easy to make a shift primarily because he was so supportive and the kids were babies, they are going to eat what I am going to feed them.
Jonathan: Lisa, what is your dietary lifestyle because you mentioned your husband for example, lots of fruits, vegetables and then whole grain and we know that you have a lot of former education in Evolutionary Biology which then stirs up images of Paleo, primal to hunter-gatherer type diet, but then again you mentioned whole grains, so what are you actually eating in your household?
Lisa: You mean on a daily basis?
Jonathan: Are you part of the Paleo community, are you the Lisa Cain community, what are you following?
Lisa: I got to say I listen to lots of registered dietitians when I started this and we just got to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, just what they have been saying over and over to us as this obesity epidemic has continued. It is getting back to basics to the food. I did think a lot of about what our ancestors would eat and we were confronted with Twinkies, well there are not any Twinkies anymore, but we were confronted with a lot of these different processed foods and so I did think the more we get away from them, the more our bodies will function better, the healthier we will be, but I do not necessarily ascribe to any of those. I look at it from a very practical standpoint.
You get up in the morning, you have breakfast, a lot of people eat breakfast cereal, so on my site I might go what is the healthiest breakfast cereal, trying to take people from one small step. If they eating frosted flakes, may be they should be eating cheerios or at least that is less sugar and it is whole grain. Do you see what I am saying?
Jonathan: Absolutely, you are going for progress rather than perfection.
Lisa: Yes, because I find that perfection overwhelms people and overwhelms me because as you pointed out CEO in my family, at that point I was a stay-at-home mom, I was in charge of all of the shopping and most of the cooking. That and two little kids, the baby and the two-year-old, that is an enormous amount of work. Lot of times I am just trying to get through the day.
Jonathan: Absolutely and it sounds like the overarching premise, correct me if I am wrong here is that, the closer it is to the thing found in nature, the fewer steps it is from something you could go out and just eat barring chopping, cooking, or heating or something like that, that is your rule, just keep it as close to things in nature as possible, is that right?
Lisa: Yes, whenever it is possible.
Jonathan: Then when not possible, it is just about if your have processed nonsense A and processed nonsense B and processed nonsense B only has 5 ingredients and half as much sugar whereas the other one has twice as much sugar and 25 ingredients, go with the shorter ingredients, less and less sugar.
Lisa: Yes, and I am finding, years I have done this, I have started in 2009, it is 2013, that more and more product companies are coming up with stuffs that is usable. Even something as basic as flour, now there is this white whole-wheat flour, this King Arthur flour, which is really lighter and fluffier but still whole grain. Even though you might think that is not processed, it is a processed ingredient, right? It is milled wheat. Even in that case, there is a better one than there was before. That is a kind of thing that I look at a lot. I try to find the things that are as close to whole as possible.
Jonathan: Lisa, do you think that in the future we will continue to see that because we are seeing more of a mainstream push towards things found in nature, are you a believer in may be processed foods 2.0?
Lisa: I kind of am and I kind of am not. I do not know how you think. It is shocking to me sometimes when I see especially restaurants put out, fast food restaurants and I think “My God, when are we going to get something closer to nature?” I know you are cooking for huge amounts of people, but there is got to be a better way and then every once in a while I see something that gives me hope especially with the popularity of both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I know Whole Foods is very expensive, a lot of people cannot shop there, but there is a lot of good stuffs there and Trader Joe’s is affordable and there is also a lot of good stuff in there. I think they are listening to us somewhat. I do not know, what do you think?
Jonathan: I am fascinated by you and I am fascinated by your approach Lisa because I think you represent a wonderful sweet spot in the industry which is there is a lot of people may be like me who like to geek out on nutrition and it is more of a hobby, like there are some people that exercise as a hobby, they enjoy it and those people are like everyone else should love exercising six days a week like me when the reality is just like not everyone likes crocheting, not everyone likes exercising. So they are not going to do it as much as someone who digs it and then with nutrition it is the same thing.
I think there is a lot of nutrition enthusiasts and then there is the other 99% of the population who is just like “I do not want to die and I would rather not be sick and I would rather not be overweight, however I need to live my life and basically everything else is a priority to me, like I want to be healthy, but I want to be healthy as a means to an end not an end ending up itself” and it seems like that is what you are targeting, it is just saying “We are not trying to be a fitness model here, we are not trying to be an Olympic athlete, but we are trying to not be diabetic at 31.”
Lisa: Yes exactly, that is right.
Jonathan: So Lisa, what have you found to be some of the most effective, at snack-girl.com you have got hundred healthy snack ideas, you are all about the quick and dirty and healthy, what are some of the most effective snack ideas you have seen or your audience has most appreciated?
Lisa: Well, they love this popcorn that you can microwave in a bag, just like a paper bag, you throw it in, you do not actually need to buy those prepackaged popcorns. It turns out you can just put in the bag and it will pop and be great. That was really a big hit early on. It is funny because a lot of those snacks that I would eat like they are just boring, but they like to be reminded, like apples and peanut butter. It is something you might eat as a kid, but you might not remember as an adult. Greek yogurt and walnuts, people just love that because they love Greek yogurt because it is high in protein and then you add little crunch to it. Your celery and whipped cream cheese, all of these kinds of things when you are mixing food or vegetables for most of it and adding a little protein to kind of get the satiety to fill you up.
Those are the kinds of things. The thing is that because I am snack-girl, I get more involved. So, I made once in snacks and most people, for example I made this brownie ball with dates and cocoa powder and some almonds and I kind of blended it and that was huge, people just thought that was great because it actually tastes like a brownie, but it is kind of big intake on a brownie, did not use any butter and sugar, I just used really three ingredients. There were just some examples I am trying to think. There are so many because I do two recipes a week, so there is all sorts of things that I have come up with that have helped people, but actually one of the top recipes was this roasted broccoli where I used just a teaspoon of sugar and it took that bitter taste that people do not like in broccoli come out and made it kind of caramelized. For a pound of broccoli to use a teaspoon of sugar, it is nothing, but it just did that and made it more palatable for a lot of people. I have gotten a lot of great feedback on that one.
Jonathan: That is brilliant, I really like that. There is a lot of substances that are traditionally frowned upon like a sugar or even may be like cheeses or even oils where I am always shocked at how if you just use just a little bit of them, once you get off the addiction to processed garbage which desensitizes your brain and taste buds, once you are actually able to taste food, it is amazing how much taste mileage you can get out of so little of these substances.
Lisa: It is true, one tablespoon of olive oil, I found for like a pound and half of asparagus is enough and when you roast it, I did not believe that either. I thought I will see and then it tasted really good.
Jonathan: Lisa, the other thing that I really am encouraged by your message and I am curious to see what your experience has been with your readers is again you illustrate how if one’s goal is to have six-pack abs and be in an elite CrossFit athlete, that is not your audience and that is not what you are going after and that is going to require a bit more effort than if your goal is to achieve, let us call it nutritional serenity, we are not really thinking about it, you are thinking about your family, you are thinking about your job, you are thinking about other stuffs and your body just takes care of itself, like if we just eat food like that is what you are taking about, there is a diversity of food, you are using things that some of these other groups may not leverage, but they are still as pretty dag on close to something you would find in nature. You can still transform your health because the average American is so far away from just eating food, what do you think?
Lisa: That is exactly what I am trying to say. What do you call that, nutritional serenity? I speak a lot in example that is what works for my group and it probably works for me. I had this thing too very literally, like you walk into a convenience store, which I did this morning and there is a sign for personal pan pizza, I am thinking I am going to buy a pizza from a convenience store? No I am not going to, this is ridiculous. You have these things in your mind that “Oh I am hungry, I am in a convenience store I’m going to grab the banana.” Now guess what, there are bananas in convenience stores, I found this to be very exciting. It has been a shift in the last 10 years, there were not any, now there are.
I am not even going to look at the pizza. That is the kind of serenity that my readers need. They need to know the banana is there, they need to know that other people are choosing the banana because they feel supported in choosing the banana and then you need to feel good about choosing the banana when they walk out and they avoided the pizza. It is really simple in that way. It is about just getting relaxed and to know what you are going to do before you walk into a place like a convenient store which could be a trigger for you because of all the candy and the potato chips and all the coke and everything that’s there and just be able to say, “You know what, I am going to have my banana” and actually today I had a coffee and a banana, that means five calories of coffee and 100 calories of banana and I was happy and look at all that I avoided.
Jonathan: Lisa, you mentioned the word be “relaxed.” The irony is that so much of what we are told to do to be “healthy” stresses us out and if you want to be really unhealthy really quickly, dial up your stress levels like that is literally the cause of chronic inflammation is stress caused by the wrong types of foods, wrong types of inputs, so this idea of certainly if we want to geek out on nutrition that is awesome and I love it and I support it and it is wonderful, but also we can just look around the world for example, some European countries where they just eat whatever but they are eating food and they have a fifth of the obesity rate as America and it is just because they are not stressed about it.
Lisa: Yes, I completely agree. I would love if my readers would stop being stressed about food. I would love if they were able to just kickback, enjoy it because it is like one of the best things ever in my opinion. I love food and just find ways to make choices that are both healthy and make them feel good and make them calm because you are right, we have enough stress, a lot of people that I talked to, they are trying so hard just to make money, pay for their house, all the things that they are doing and you add this and it is like one more thing and that is why they give up and pick up frozen meals or take-out, etc. What is sad is that having great food can support you and to relax, but so much of the time people feel like it is just one more thing.
Jonathan: Absolutely and that holistic sense of being able to really enjoy; my mother was a very wise woman and she would always say “Make sure it is worth it.” How often do we see individuals making some of the least supportive choices for their health in times when they are not even able to enjoy what they are eating anyway, so they’re in a rush and they grab some garbage processed thing which they are driving and they are on their cell phones, they are not even able to enjoy it while they are eating it. It is almost like in the situations in which we are unable to enjoy whatever we are eating, those are the situations in which we are eating things which break our biology the most; we are not even getting the supposed benefit of the junk food because we are not even enjoying it.
Lisa: Yes, that is a good point because junk food, I consider it a treat, I do. When I am grabbing a donut, that is a treat and I would like to savor and smell it and go “Oh, this is amazing” if it is a great donut of course, but you’re right, a lot of times we are just running from things to things and it is packed with 20 grams of saturated fat we do not even notice what we are eating. You are right, I agree with that.
Jonathan: Lisa, I think that is so empowering and encouraging for people because literally the average American, when most people drink soda, it has been my experience that they are not like “Oh my God, I want another drink, oh it is so good.” It is not as if it is worth what it is doing to their body to them, they just drink it almost out of habit and if we can break that habit and then given them something else like I am sure you have other alternatives too if you want a sweet beverage that is nowhere near as toxic as let us say a Coca-Cola and then actually consciously engaging it, they will get more pleasure than if they just unconsciously drink Coke.
Lisa: Yes, that is true. I have actually talked a lot about that on the site. I had a guy that said that he drinks 10 Dr. Peppers a day, I do not know who this person was, but I interviewed him for this, I said I never heard of anything as crazy and he kicked the habit of doing this and I was really proud of him and I couldn’t imagine doing that because of your teeth really anything else, but I made suggestions like weaning yourself off soda just trying to pour half the can and then half the can of soda water and mixing it together and believe it or not it tastes the same, it is really shocking how strong Coke is. It is like really a strong taste and when you mix it even dilute in half it tastes the same and then of course going to just soda water with lemon or any other like half juice and there are a lot of things to do, but you are right, they are just not conscious of what they are drinking.
Jonathan: I love it Lisa, while you are out there, you’re putting out two recipes a week, you’ve have a got a wonderful 100 healthy snack idea free offering on your website which is snack-girl.com, what is next for you?
Lisa: Well, I have a book coming out in April 15; it is called “Snack-Girl to The Rescue.” It is a common sense guide to enjoying food, slimming down and healthy eating and I am really excited about it.
Jonathan: April 15, so we can use that right after our tax deadline to enjoy some healthy snacks it sounds like.
Lisa: Yes, at this time what I have done is I wrote half of the book is kind of my philosophies and what we say this snack-girl.com is about five-minute conversation with me a day and this whole thing is like an hour and half or two hours of me talking about my philosophies around eating and helping people to get more exercise, etc. and then the second half of the book is recipes and almost all of them are not from the site, they are more mealtime recipes. So, that should be a nice addition to what I have already got.
Jonathan: Delightful, well Lisa Cain, thank you so much for helping everyone to make strides in the right direction and to live healthier, happier, and fuller lives. Much appreciated.
Lisa: You are welcome.
Jonathan: We have been talking with the wonderful Lisa Cain of snack-girl.com. Please remember, this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.
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