Luke studied Nutrition in Nova Scotia and initially planned on staying at ‘home’ after his internship, so he started a private nutrition practice in Halifax. However, a bigger opportunity presented itself in the United States and he is now a Performance Dietitian with EXOS in Minnesota, where he works with athletes from the major sports teams in the area (Twins, Vikings, Wild, and Timberwolves) and from around the country. EXOS is world-leader in performance training and nutrition for elite athletes and has developed a partnership with Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. Luke is an expat Canadian that was driven south of the border in search of opportunities within sports nutrition.
Luke and I did some presentations together a few years ago when I was new in the field and contemplating owning my own private practice. I thought I’d reach out to him to get his newly Americanized perspective on nutrition and food for this series.
Luke is a Registered Dietitian who wants his athletes to look at food the way food should be looked at, not as a prescription but as enjoyable nourishment. Although he does enjoy living in Minnesota he is still a proud Canadian who appreciates sitting on chesterfields, eating poutine and wearing toques.
What’s your favorite food that others might think is unhealthy?
Frozen yogurt …With chocolate sprinkles on it! I love going to get frozen yogurt, it gives me that pleasure and satisfaction that few foods can provide.
What do you think the barriers to healthy eating are?
Education … especially with school-aged children. If you want to change the health and wellbeing of an entire population you need to provide effective information that youth and high school students can easily implement. Unfortunately, when it is provided in schools it isn’t always provided by someone who knows enough about nutrition to get the right messaging through to the kids. We need to be proactive about our health and nutrition, and we can’t do that without empowering young people with the necessary education and skills.
With that in mind, what do you think the government should be focusing on within the realm of public policy?
I think education would be the most cost-effective approach to change, however, the biggest complaint I get about healthy eating is often that it’s too expensive. I think we could do a lot of good if we could promote a message that shows people can eat healthy on a budget. There is an assumption that it’s way more expensive to eat healthfully, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you could get a message out to the general public about food, what would it be?
That healthy food tastes awesome! I think that when people think of healthy food they think of bland vegetables, such as celery and lettuce. Healthy food can be the best meal you’ve ever tasted, and it only takes a few cooking skills to turn what we would normally consider to be bland to be something wonderful.
I’m enjoying these interviews so much. Luke, you’ve given me another new answer.
Well, if we all take the same approach we won’t be able to make any real progress in this area, so unique ideas are for the better.
If you were going to be stuck on an island for months and you could bring an unlimited supply of 4 food staples, what would they be?
Brown rice, bell peppers, spinach, and chicken. I could make various different dishes with those and they’re some of my favorite foods. If I was there for more than four months maybe I’d make some different choices, but I could get by on those four for a short period of time.
What is your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
After a long day of work, I love to come home and throw a bunch of different vegetables in a pan, cook some rice, and create a delicious stir-fry dinner. I like to use different combinations of vegetables and proteins, and without fail the product is always different, giving me a new experience each time. I make a stir-fry dinner two or three times a week.
Have you ever tried peanut butter in a stir-fry?
No, I’ve put peanuts in but not peanut butter. I’ll have to try that. Is that a tip from your Asian adventure?
One of them … What if you could sit down to a meal with anyone, who would it be?
I would have to get along with the person and I’d want them to have similar ideas and ambitions as I do, so given that it’s political season down here in the US I would probably choose Bernie Sanders. I think he really respects the need to have a healthy population and that would include the need for good nutrition for all citizens. If I was in Canada then I’d pick Justin Trudeau. Politicians can make things happen, so why not to try to influence them over a great meal.
He knows my next question has to do with an online personality who gives out nutrition advice…
I pay very little attention to these so-called celebrity “health experts” who tout non-evidence based nutrition advice. They don’t deserve to be mentioned by name in any of our conversations. On that note, I thought Scibabe’s gawker article was fantastic.
What diets drive you crazy?
Anything with the word ‘detox’ in it. I love having conversations with people who advocate detox diets, as most of them have absolutely no idea how the physiology of body actually works. Simply ask a detox advocate what specific toxins are being removed, and I bet none of them can give you a decent response.
Do you try to eat meat free?
About once a week to a few times a month I’ll throw tempeh or tofu in my stir-fry instead of meat.
Luke, tell me your funny cooking story, please.
I loved to bake when I was younger. So one day I was making brownies, and as I was setting up all of the ingredients I realized that I couldn’t find any chocolate. I was looking for chocolate I found chocolate flavored ultra slimfast (my dad was trying to lose weight back then) and I remember thinking “Oh it’s chocolate. It’ll be fine”. I think they just burned to the pan and I threw them out. I didn’t even try to eat them. In my ten-year-old mind, I thought this will definitely work but it definitely didn’t.
Your favorite breakfast?
When prepared properly, french toast. You need to add a little Grand Marnier to the egg mix to enhance the experience. I was in France last summer and they knew how to make the perfect french toast (or pain perdu, as it’s known there).
What is your go to breakfast?
Elevated breakfast cereal. I love cereal, so I use it as a base and I add fruit and nuts to it.
Does your job get in the way of what you eat?
Often I have to work at 5:30 in the morning or I get home around 9:00 in the evening and I’m exhausted, so I rely on simple meals like breakfast for supper or slow cooker meals when I’m tired or working late. Otherwise, I do some meal planning and prepping and I can control the barriers.