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The Peak Performance Diet: Interview with America’s Leading Nutritionist

Next to meditation, improved nutrition has been the most important boon to my productivity. Here I interview Kerry Bajaj, who along with Dr. Frank Lipman, forms among the most formidable wellness teams in the U.S. In full disclosure, Kerry is my wife, so I’ve seen most of these nutrition tips below work magic in my own life. I hope you find them equally useful:

KB: Kerry, I’ve been incredibly surprised by how some simple nutrition changes you recommended eg, eliminating my morning bagel and coffee, have had such a tremendously positive effect on my energy levels and productivity. Do you think most people can see such noticeable improvements with small dietary changes?

Kerry: Yes, absolutely. Every meal we consume is a choice to eat energizing foods that are easy to digest and will raise your vibration – or not. What I saw when you were having the coffee + bagel for breakfast is that you were always hungry an hour or two later, well before lunchtime. It was a tasty breakfast but after the initial bump of energy from caffeine and quick-burning carbs, the meal had no staying power. It didn’t give you a strong foundation for the day. Anytime you’re eating foods that make you sluggish, are hard to digest, spike your blood sugar, or trigger cravings or overeating – you’re going to feel so much better by cleaning up your diet.

KB: Most of my blog readers have busy lives juggling family, career and artistic pursuits. What are some simple changes they can make to improve their diet?

Kerry: Here’s a really easy one: start by increasing your water intake. I recommend to patients to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. So if you weigh 140 pounds, then you should aim to drink 70 ounces of water. Staying hydrated makes a huge difference in your health and energy levels.
Another fun challenge I like to give people: aim to eat greens at every meal. That might look like a veggie omelet for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and a side of sautéed spinach or roasted Brussels sprouts with dinner.
Finally, cut down on sugar. Focus on eating protein, veggies and healthy fats (like avocado, nuts, coconut oil, almond butter, olives) instead. Sugar cravings go away pretty quickly – in about 3 to 5 days – when you eliminate sugar.

One more thing to note: after having a baby, I have figured out a super quick and effective exercise routine. 30 minutes a day, and I workout at home. I lead accountability groups – if anyone wants to join, contact me through http://www.kerrybajaj.com/contact/ and I’ll share the details.

KB: I’ve often observed that breakfast is the most challenging meal of the day given the paucity of time to get it right. What’s your recommendation for an ideal breakfast?

Kerry: I personally love having a protein shake for breakfast, blended with a small banana or avocado and a bit of almond butter and ice. It’s easy to digest, a good source of protein, and I often add some greens like spinach or kale for an energizing boost.

You do really well with green juice and/ or an apple or two, which is a light, healthy breakfast.

A lot of my patients eat eggs for breakfast. If you have an omelet with veggies and some avocado you’re getting protein + veggies + healthy fat, which is a great combo that will keep your blood sugar steady through the morning.

The key is to ditch the old standbys of muffins, bagels, toast – all of the processed carbs that are nutritionally empty.

KB: The age-old question. Vegetarian or non-vegetarian? Who’s healthier?

Kerry: Personally and philosophically, I prefer vegetarian. However, I have seen clinically that a lot of my patients at the wellness center have issues on a vegetarian diet. It’s a strange irony that even though I’ve followed a (mostly) vegetarian diet for nearly 20 years, I have personally persuaded several vegetarians to start eating small amounts of good quality animal protein.

The paleo diet, which focuses on protein, veggies and fats – and eliminates all grains and beans – has been instrumental in healing for many of my patients.

I’m a big believer that our dietary needs can change throughout life, especially for women through pregnancy and nursing. It’s important to listen to your body and respect when your needs change, rather than adhering to strict dogma.

KB: Many of my readers are fascinated by nutrition/health coaching as a career option. How does one go about becoming one?

Kerry: It’s the best job in the world! I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition back in 2008 and am certified as a health coach. I’ve been working in a doctor’s office for the past 5 years and love my job. Integrative Nutrition has switched their program over so that it’s available in a distance learning format, so even for those of you who live in India, you could attend the school. I’m happy to answer questions if anyone wants to reach out to me directly.

KB: Finally, 3 superfoods that everyone needs to include in their diet TODAY?

Kerry: Green veggies, water, coconut oil!

I hope these tips galvanize your productivity as they did mine! For more expert interviews on lifestyle, writing and your spiritual practice don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here.