Superstar Sundays: Nutritionist Sarah Maughan

I'm starting a series called Superstar Sundays to feature some of the incredible people I've met in the food and health world over the years.

Maybe it will inspire you to connect with one of them, learn a thing or two, or find inspiration for your next meal.  Either way, I hope you enjoy meeting them all as much as I have.

First off, I want to introduce you to a wonderful woman I met this year,  Sarah Maughan.  I mentioned Sarah in my last post as she was a huge help to guiding me through restoring my digestive tract when I went gluten-free.  Since then she has been a major support system through my post run 5k aches and pains, adrenal fatigue, and any health inquiries that come up.

Sarah glows from the inside out, is incredibly knowledgeable, easy to trust and fun to talk to.  Whenever I have any questions that come up I turn to Sarah because I know she'll have a thoughtful and extremely well researched answer.  Her understanding of how the human body works is outstanding.  She also shares my sense of humour and makes me laugh.

I have no hesitation is saying that Sarah Maughan is a superstar nutritionist.  I'd recommend her to anyone in a heartbeat.

A little more about Sarah professionally?  She's  a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Toronto, ON and is one of few Nutritionists in Canada who is also Board Certified in Practical Holistic Nutrition™. After completing her B.A in Psychology, she went on to the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to receive her diploma in Natural Nutrition. After graduation she then enrolled in CAHN-Pro’s Apprenticeship program to become  Board Certified in Practical Holistic Nutrition™, which is primarily research focused.

Sarah is associated with Totum Life ScienceKing West Village Chiropractic Clinic, Ignition Fitness and is a Nutrition Educator for Learn Eat Grow

Gluten free and Dairy free herself since 2005 – She certainly knows the ropes around this lifestyle and you will too! Check out her constantly updated Gluten Free Living Page.

Join Sarah on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates, nutrition tips and recipe links!

Now, to get to know her a little more personally, I've asked Sarah to share some of her wisdom with a little Q&A. ..

What inspired you to study nutrition in the first place?

When I was going through my degree in Psychology, I was battling extreme exhaustion. diarrhea, and panic attacks. My body sort of broke down. In short, 14 months later the subject of gluten was brought up after my anti-transglutaminase blood test came back elevated. After I went gluten free (I had generally been dairy free since I was a teen) my fatigue, digestion and ironically anxiety, improved quite a bit. Not only that but I was no longer iron deficient, I saw more muscle definition, less joint pain, and suddenly it became very easy for me to absorb information at school when it had been previously quite challenging. It was from this exact moment I dedicated all of my free time to learning about this gluten free lifestyle and how and why this can happen to people. If gluten affected me so terribly but not my roommates in university, our bodies must somehow be different, and foods clearly interact with us differently. My brain was fascinated and the passion and curiosity never stopped. I constantly avoided studying for my exams by reading about nutrition and the digestive system so when I graduated, I knew exactly what career I was heading for - nutrition, and not just any nutrition, holistic nutrition.

Did you learn anything during your studies or your practice that surprised you?

Even though I had already been gluten free for 3 years before I studied nutrition, I learned that being gluten free isn't synonymous with healthy unless you eat REAL food. I was eating a lot of boxed items, even animal crackers, things I wouldn't have even eaten while I was eating gluten but for some reason I thought I needed the gluten-free version. I learned about blood sugar balancing and to me that was the key between my panic attacks (along with years of strategies to cope). I didn't realized how non-nourishing potato/rice/tapioca gluten free flour combinations were (even though they didn't cause me to have diarrhea compared to gluten flours) and how they made me jittery until I went through nutrition school. As a result I experienced a complete 180 in my healthy because hey, I was consuming nutrients!

Does eating healthy have to be expensive?

No absolutely not! I know this because my food CAN'T be expensive - I can't afford that. I'm not afraid to say that I definitely generate a lower income than the majority of my clients, thus my recommendations are always based on practicality. Food first, accessible food before hard to find food, supplements and extras are the very last of my recommendations unless absolutely necessary or financially feasible for someone.

However, it can be expensive if you're into buying prepared foods or fancy products and a lot of packaged items because you're paying for someone elses labour. Every week I go to a farmers market and I load up on fresh fruits, vegetables, etc and I buy a lot of my pantry items in bulk from health food stores - grains, dried beans, herbs, spices, nut butters, etc. I eat simply and flavourfully. I plan my meals so that I'm utilizing the same vegetables that I've purchased in all my meals for the week and I don't buy 500 different types each week because I live alone and that's not realistic - I'll switch it up each week. Variety is important, but it can be weekly versus daily. I've met people who won't consume the same vegetable two days in a row and I think that's ridiculous. It's doable if you have a large family and there's a big turnover of food, but not if you live alone. I do the best i can every single day and I can only expect the same from my clients.

If you could make one big change to help the state of health in North America, what would it be?

I woud love for people and institutions that need healthy food (more than the general public) to actually receive it - hospitals, retirement facilities, homeless shelters, addiction centres, kids camps/organizations, etc. My biggest pet peeve is that those who have access to healthy food won't make the effort to consume it and those that desperately need it don't receive it because meals are prepared for them and they have no choice. There is something severely wrong with that.

You know a lot about sports nutrition.  What are ideal pre and post workout snacks?

Sports nutrition is about 80% of my practice - whether it's high end athletes or people just trying to lose fat and gain muscle with their every day activities. Something I say at least a hundred times a day is "food is fuel". That's it, nothing else provides your body with real fuel, all you have is food and it can make or break your energy. I love when people have energy to work out because it makes it that much more enjoyable, especially when you blast through plateaus and reach goals - it's freeing!

Pre and Post workout snacks can be highly individual depending on that type of exercise, duration and goal but in general my top favourites to recommend based on on-the-go lifestyes, ease and taste are

Preworkout - Apple with 1 tbsp nut butter (or 10 - 15 nuts)

Postworkout - smoothie consisting of mango, spinach, almond milk and a protein powder - after years of consulting I have seen some of the best results and recoveries through liquid meals post workout especially combined with spinach because it's alkalizing, high in minerals, iron and has some protein to contribute to muscle repair.

What foods would you love to see people eat more of?

In general? Vegetables. Shocking for a nutritionist to say that right? But every single "diet" in the world requires vegetables so restaurants, hosts, families and people in general should always provide a heaping amount. Oh, it's because they are full of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) we need to do um, everything ;)

You have experience working with clients with eating disorders. Any advice for young men or women who are looking to get help?

This is true, I do work with a lot of clients who have eating disorders. It's not something I've advertised per say but the best advice I can give those who are contemplating seeking help whether it's from a psychologist or nutritionist - you CAN have a positive relationship with food again. It can be so daunting to sit and talk to someone about food in a positive way when it's been the source of anxiety, pain and possible hospital visits for a long time. My advice is to find someone who you fee comfortable with. I take a no judgement approach with my clients and I ask them to tell me their unique story. Do they have foods they fight with? Do any foods make them feel sick (diarrhea)? What are their triggers (both lifestyle and foods)? Do they have foods they can eat without guilt/anxiety and symptoms of restriction, binging or purging? What I've learned is that the answers to all these questions are unique, and highly individual. We work together to find a balance. I don't push desserts, unlike traditional treatment centres, and that's simply because they don't provide anything beneficial to the body and quite frankly, people without eating disorders don't always eat dessert every day - they are more than welcome to, but it isn't a requirement. I'm more concerned about all fat being avoided, for example, because this is vitally important to your brain health, mental health, hormones, hair, skin and satiation from meals.

Dear readers - If you, or someone you know, is struggling from an eating disorder - you deserve to feel strong, energetic, and healthy. It won't be an easy start, it never is, but the earlier you speak to someone you trust, the faster you can be you again. It doesn't need to involve stuffing your face with desserts, weighing your food, eating high calorie nutrient depleted foods, foods that make you gassy and uncomfortable. It's time to feel healthy and be healthy because you deserve that. You deserve to be released from the internal battle, smile, enjoy food, and allow your true self to have energy to shine :)

Favourite gluten free brands?

I do have some favourite gluten free brands because I have to try and taste a lot of them to guide my clients. I still try and make a lot of my own versions but that's purely a cost thing - there are so many brands of foods out there that are dedicated to your health and aren't the potato/rice/tapioca/sugar crap but actually contain proteins, fibers and nutrients! My favs for taste and nutrition are:

- Mary's gone crackers - Silver Hills bakery gluten free bread - Vega - their sports line - Organic food bar (I also just love the name! it's genius) - Sweets from the Earth Gluten free cashew cookies - Live Food Bar vegetable wraps

Your ultimate smoothie recipe?

My smoothies are never anything crazy and I hate to say but I rarely have smoothie recipes it's kind of like lets just mix this together. But my favourite concoction is roughly: a cup of blueberries a handful of frozen mango chunks 2 giant handfuls of spinach 1/2 zucchini a spoonful of sunflower seed butter (or any butter) a scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use vega sport performance because I can't have dairy) Unsweetened almond milk's something you probably don't expect. I make this thick, more like a pudding. Sometimes I add some kasha (toasted buckwheat) for a little crunch on top and eat it with a spoon. Weird right? I love puddings!

What's in your fridge right now?

Right Now? I will actually tell you absolutely everything. I have a container of spinach, carrots, a sad looking wilted kale bunch, avocado that I should probably eat right now, a ginormous bar of 85% dark chocolate, a bottle of white wine half left, some lentil coconut carrot ginger soup I made, eggs, a bowl of chopped peppers, green onion and kale for my omelettes, sunflower seed butter, apple cider vinegar, Raw Foodz Inc Sea-zar dressing, my own mixture of mango vinaigrette, a baked sweet potato, cooked spaghetti squash, 2 organic pork sausages,maple syrup, apples, dates, unsweetened almond milk, vegetable broth, almond flour, and a container defrosting of quinoa, carrots, zucchini, cranberries and chicken. It's actually gross how healthy my fridge is but it works for me and keeps me organized. I wish I had something incriminating to tell you, maybe next week. I pretty much always have some food defrosting, leftovers, some random cooked foods that can be combined together to create a meal, some sauce/vinaigrette and fresh fruit and vegetables. When you have food allergies, you can't be lazy about having food available :)

Don't you love her already?

Check in every Sunday to meet a new superstar in the food world!