Being Italian, it’s hard to imagine that I have penned over a hundred Wellness Wednesdays without ever writing about food. Having spent several visits over the last few months with Kelly Ferraro, my friend and nutritionist, it’s time to focus on food.

We are all advised to eat healthy, especially when we are stressed, tired or experiencing burn out, but what exactly does that mean? There is certainly no shortage of advice:

  • Eat your vegetables
  • Avoid carbs
  • Eat healthy fats

How do we know if we are eating healthy enough? Can we measure “healthy eating”? Several years ago, Kelly and her team began to notice that when their clients would eat a certain way, they had a much easier time maintaining their healthy weight and feeling better. When comparing their diets to clients who were struggling, they noticed a strong pattern. Those who were doing well were actually eating more foods that were nutrient dense. They were getting more vitamins, minerals and fiber per calorie than clients who were experiencing weight regain.

Why might this be important? In order to function efficiently and effectively, our bodies need certain nutrients. Although our bodies can produce some nutrients on their own, many need to come from the foods we eat. The problem? Not all foods are created equal.

Let’s look at an example. To get the same nutrient punch as 35 calories of broccoli, we would need to eat 200 calories worth of enriched bread or about three slices. Per calorie, broccoli is much more nutrient dense. So, do we give up bread and only eat broccoli? Realistically, no.

In order to help their clients put this into practice, Kelly’s colleague Danette created a food guide based on nutrient density and a simple way to measure the quality of their eating.

The purpose of the Nutrient Density Guide is to create a meal plan that is balanced, includes all foods, and maximizes our nutrient intake for the calories we consume. We can do this by choosing most of our foods from five categories: Non-starchy Vegetables, Lean Proteins, Dairy, Fruits, and drinking 64 ounces of Water per day.

Think about it this way: we wouldn’t put diesel fuel into our regular gas engine car. It just won’t run right and could cause damage. Our body will thank us with more energy and better performance when we give it the fuel for which it was designed. Focus on nutrients, not calories.

If you have questions, you can contact Kelly at

For more Top 20 ‘nutrients’ from our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody…go check out our online store or click HERE.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training