Three Reasons For A Plant Centered Lifestyle of Eating

1.  Plants are good for you! The main reason to consume a plant centered diet is disease prevention. The risk for cancer, heart related diseases, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases are all reduced by a plant centered diet. The China Study, one of the largest nutrition studies ever conducted in conjunction with Cornell University, found that each time an animal product was removed from the diet disease rates went down.  One of the greatest discoveries of a plant based diet is that it can reverse heart related diseases, diabetes and in some cases autoimmune disease symptoms. You don't need to eat meat. Plants are more nutrient dense than animal products. There is enough protein in plants - vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.  A plant based diet improves one's immune system, energy levels, and longevity!

2.  A plant based diet is good for the environment! The carbon footprint of a meat eaters is 3.3 tons per year.  Over half of that footprint is caused by eating meat. Plant based farming is better for our soil, water purity/conservation, and air quality.  Plant based farming reduces the deforestation of plant and animal habitats. If you choose to eat animal products choose to eat from local sustainable pasture raised animals when possible.  

3.  A plant based diet is easier on the wallet! Simply put the most expensive food products we purchase at the grocery store are animal products - beef, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy.  A dinner of brown rice and beans, a side of broccoli, a salad and fruit for desert is much less expensive than a meal centered around meat. It simply costs more money to raise a cow than to raise a broccoli!  

Carlo Petrini founder of Slow Food - Buono, Giusto, Pulito - states the greatest political act we make each day is what we choose to eat! 

Omnivore? Carnivore? Herbivore?

What kind of eaters are humans??? I believe a simple understanding of the design and evolution of our digestive system provides some very logical clues.  

First some definitions:

Omnivore – eats plants and animals 

Carnivore – eats animals

Herbivore – eats plants 

Let’s start with our teeth. We have the teeth primarily of a herbivore. Our teeth are designed / evolved to consume plants. Someone may say but what about our canine teeth? Aren’t they designed to rip and tear meat. Not really, our canines are nothing compared to a dog or even a cat. Human canine teeth are more suited to carrots, apples and other tubers.  

Now we head down the digestive tract. If you have a dog you have most surely experienced feeding your dog, taking the dog for a walk and within five to ten minutes the dog is going to the bathroom. Not so with us humans. We eat and the digestive process is much longer. Why? A dog is a carnivore. A carnivore’s digestive tract is a short straight tube. Food is in and out. Humans are primarily herbivores like a rabbit. Our digestive system is a long and winding tube.  

Humans are primarily herbivores. We have one enzyme, pepsin, which allows us to break down animal products during digestion; otherwise, we would be entirely herbivores. Without cooking, grinding, and curing meat humans would have struggled to eat meat at all. 

What conclusions should we draw from this? The greatest volume of the food we eat should be plants. The idea that we were hunter gatherers is a bit misconstrued.  It is more accurate to say we were gatherer hunters. Hunting is very difficult and our ancestors did not have the luxury of modern weaponry. Hunting would also have been calorically too great an expenditure. It was much more efficient to gather plants.  

When you look outside you will notice quickly most plants are green. In general, green plants are more nutrient dense. Therefore, make the greatest volume of your food consumption green plants, then all the other colored plants, then fruits, nuts, beans, seeds, whole grains, potatoes and lastly a little bit of animal products.

How my great, great Grandfather lived to 105

My great, great grandfather lived to 105. He died in mass in the small Italian village of Frassinoro located high in the Appenine Mountains outside of Modena, Italy. A staple of the diet in this area of Italy is "Ribollita”.  

My daughter Julia and I love to make Ribollita together in the fall and winter months. Ribollita basically means re-boiled. It is great the next day when the water is fully absorbed.  

Begin by chopping up several vegetables - lacinato kale, swiss chard, parsley, one leek, zucchini, one peeled chopped potato, smash a garlic clove, and rinse a can of cannellini beans. Next finely chop a carrot, celery, and onion in equal proportions.  This makes the "sofritto" or the base of the Ribollita.  Put the carrots, celery, and onions in a hot pan with olive oil. Get the olive oil hot first. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Stir on low heat until the sofritto is translucent. Next add enough water to cover the sofritto and add the potatoes, bay leaf, a parmigiano reggiano rind, the smashed garlic clove, and leek let cook for 12 minutes. Then add water as needed to cover the Ribollita. Taste the broth and add salt as needed. Then add the the leafy greens and cannelini beans. It is then ready in 3-5 minutes.


Traditionally, a hearty crusty bread is put on the bottom of one's soup bowl. Cover the bread with the Ribollita. Season with grated parmigiano reggiano and big drizzle of olive oil. If you choose to add bread, Neidlov's wholey whole wheat is a great choice! 

Buon appetito! Cent' Anni!


Paleo Meal with Summer Fruit

Grass Fed Lamb Chop - season with sea salt and cracked pepper cook in skillet on high heat for 4-5 minutes per side 

One Egg Over Easy - Olive oil in pan on low heat - cook egg slowly until white hardens and flip the egg - wait 5 seconds flip agin - done - season with sea salt and black pepper

Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms - slice mushrooms and break off the bottoms of the asparagus where they naturally break - cook in pan with eggs or separate - then season with sea salt and black pepper 

Avocado - cut into quarters and season with sea salt and splash of lemon

Cherries & Pear - wash some cherries and a pear - slice the pear 

Buon Appetito! 

8 Lessons From The Octagon

Martin Rooney is a long-time friend, co- Exercise Science major, and fellow athlete at Furman University. He was on the track team as a Javelin thrower and I played football.  Neither of us have been able to get competing athletically out of our life.  When Martin realized he wasn’t going to make it to the Olympics in the Javelin, he switched gears and nearly made the US bob-sled team.  I am still waiting to be drafted by an NFL franchise and but until that happens I have been competing in Master’s Weightlifting.  

Martin began his career as one of the founders of the Parisi Speed School. He trained many athletes including several for the NFL combine. He now owns a fitness business called Training for Warriors and continues to train several elite athletes, including Jim Miller a veteran UFC fighter.  

A few years ago, I went to visit my old friend to learn from him, trade ideas in training athletes, and I happened to arrive just in time to train with Jim Miller. Don’t be scared for my life. I wasn’t training with him in the octagon but in a fitness training session. It was intense! 

Recently, Jim became the first fighter with 30 wins in his UFC weight class. My friend Martin Rooney interviewed Jim to glean from him 8 Lessons from the Octagon.  

1.  Always Be Training 

One of Jim’s secrets was never having an “off-season.” As a result of the commitment to train, he stayed healthy and injury-free. This preparation developed the best ability you can have:  Availability.

Action Item:  If you are not competing in what it is you do, then you should be training. Tell yourself there is no “off-season.” This week make a commitment to consistent training so you are available when your time comes. 

2.  Say “Yes” To Opportunity 

Jim got his first fight in the UFC because another fighter got hurt and dropped out. Other fighters were given the chance to step in before him but weren’t ready. Jim said “yes” and won!  After that fight he still didn’t get a contract and had to have the same thing happen again to finally get signed.

Action Item:  You will experience a constant supply of good opportunities. It is not if you can recognize them, but if you can say “yes” when most other people say “no.” This week challenge yourself to say “yes” to an opportunity that has been waiting for you.

3. Develop Your Process

Jim had to both develop and then believe in the system of training, nutrition and skill work he would need to succeed in the UFC. This took not only years of homework, but also years of hard work too.

Action Item:  There is a system of strategies for anything you want to achieve. Do your research, develop your system, and the confidence to carry it out. This week identify someone who has done what you want to do and learn how they did it.

4.  Win Your Inner Battle  

Jim, like any other fighter, has experienced anxiety, stress, and self doubt.  Before he could ever defeat anyone inside the Octagon, he first had to defeat himself.  The real battle was outside of the cage.

Action Item:  Before you step into the arena, you too have to do battle with your doubts, fears and limitations. Make a list of your current doubts and then your plan to eliminate them.  Overcome those obstacles and the other battles will take care of themselves.

5.  Focus On The Task At Hand

Jim said that his was one of the most important secrets of both competing and preparation. The key was to be present in the moment and live not just fight to fight, but also moment to moment.

Action Item:  Although that may sound easy for a 15 minute fight, being present takes practice.  Remind yourself each day this week of your priorities and make sure you are taking care of what is most important right now.

6.  Learn From Loss

After 30 fights, Jim feels the biggest lessons came from the defeats, not the victories. Although you can learn from both, it is important to learn what the defeat was trying to instruct.  

Action Item:  Like a fighter, things are not always going to go your way. There will be ups and downs. The key is to to be ready to learn from both. Write down some of your biggest lessons from your latest challenges.

7.  Give Your Best Effort

Having won many UFC “Fight of the Night” and also a “Fight of the Year” honors, Jim is known as a fighter that gave his all in every fight. This skill was definitely one of the reasons he has been given more fights than any other fighter in UFC history.

Action Item:  Win or lose, you will never regret giving your best effort. If you go all out in what you do, I promise you and everyone else will be ok with the result. Make your best effort today in something.

8. Commit To Evolve

If Jim hadn’t continued to improve and update his training, nutrition and skills, he would not have been able to stay competitive over the last decade. His feels his open mind might be a bigger weapon than his hands or feet.

Action Item:  You must continue to evolve or go extinct. You have to adapt or run the risk of getting weeded out. Do an inventory of the skills you need to succeed in your career and make sure you are staying up to date.

Live life like a UFC fighter!!! 

Pick One And You Will Have a Healthy Breakfast

I know people think I am crazy when I eat a breakfast like this just about every day, however it does not take long to prepare once you get used to doing it. I have a big appetite and exercise quite a bit, so I need lots of energy. With just one of these three recipes below, you can create a simple, complete breakfast. Break the fast with a healthy start to your day! 




Vegetable Omelet

2 Eggs Fried in Olive Oil in Pan

Mix Together the Fried Eggs with the Following 

  • Sliced Bell Pepper
  • Chopped Scallion
  • Handful of Arugula 


Yogurt / Fruit / Nuts

  • 2 Spoonfuls of Fage Full Fat Yogurt
  • Handful of Blueberries
  • Handful of Strawberries
  • Sprinkle of Walnuts & Almonds
  • Drizzle of Honey, if you wish 


Spinach Smoothie

  • 1 Cup Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 Cubes of Ice 
  • 1 Cup Frozen Pineapple
  • 1/2 Cup Fage Full Fat Yogurt 
  • Huge Handful of Spinach


Break the Fast

We use the word breakfast everyday. I wonder if we ever even think about what it means.  Breakfast means breaking the fast.  Think about it.  Eat dinner at 7pm.  Finish dinner at 8pm.  Go to bed at 10:30 or 11pm.  Sleep until 6 or 7am.  Skip breakfast.  Eat lunch at 12 to 12:30.  Sixteen hours more or less could pass without eating.  

We have all heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal and it is true.  We need to break the fast for several reasons:

  • Kick starts our metabolism, which assists in burning calories all day 
  • Raises blood sugar levels providing an energy source after multiple hours without eating
  • Improves ability to focus
  • Linked to better focus and concentration
  • Lower rates of LDL Cholesterol/bad cholesterol 
  • Lower rates of diabetes
  • Lower rates of heart disease 
  • Healthier body composition

People who make eating a healthy breakfast a habit for their lives tend to have healthier habits in most other areas of life related to nutrition. So, get the day started with the life giving habit of breaking the fast! 


Recipe on Plate: Eggs with Veggies

  • Mix two eggs in a bowl
  • Dice a green scallion
  • Cut several cherry tomatoes in half
  • Small handful of spinach leaves
  • Fry all ingredients in pan 
  • Season with sea salt and black pepper
  • Cut Avocado in half 

Recipe in Glass: Blueberry Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
  • Tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger
  • 2-3 cubes of ice
  • Blend


A Fresh and Nutritional Bowl!

I have found that bowls are a relatively quick, beautiful, and nutritionally dense way to eat.  I eat them often for breakfast and for lunch.  The picture is one of my recent bowls.  It is very simple!

Boil two eggs for 8 minutes and then place in a bowl of ice water.  Meanwhile, rinse a can of navy beans, slice baby sweet bell peppers, chop one green scallion, shave some red cabbage, slice a radish, slice an avocado. Drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and give it a splash of lime.  Put it all in a bowl and enjoy! 

The Statue of David Returns to Italy After 3 Years in the USA


The Standard American Diet is delivering chronic diseases in the form of diabetes, heart related diseases, cancers, and autoimmune diseases.  Children today are the first in American history predicted to live shorter lives than their parents.  

According to the National Cancer Institute, three out of four Americans don't eat a single piece of fruit a day, and close to nine out of ten don't reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables.  Ninety-six percent of Americans don't reach the minimum for greens and beans, 98% don't reach the minimum for orange vegetables, 99% don't reach the minimum for whole grains. 

On the dietary quality index measuring nutrient density per calorie on a scale of 0-100, Americans scored an 11.  Fifty-seven percent of the American diet is made up of highly processed flours and sugars, 32% from animal products, and only 11% from vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seeds and whole grains.  

Many of you have heard of the Mediterranean Diet.  I am first generation from Italy.  I began eating the Mediterranean Diet in the womb, and I proudly state I was made in Italy and un-packaged in the US.  It goes without saying I am very ethnocentric: pro all things Italy.  Just look at our business name, Forte, and our colors matching the Italian flag. However, I will admit that the Mediterranean diet is not ideal on all levels.  Breakfast cappuccino and a pastry isn't the picture of perfection for breakfast.  The amount of cheese, bread, pasta and cured meats is not the best for one's health either.  I have heard it said that the Mediterranean Diet is healthy in spite of how unhealthy aspects of the diet are.  

But, the facts don't lie.  

Five of the seven highest rates of centenarians are Mediterranean countries. In one small town, Acciaroli, Italy, there are over 300 centenarians (live over 100 years) and more super centenarians (110+) than anywhere else in the world.  Right now in 2018 there are four people over 115, and two are Italian. 

So, what makes the Mediterranean diet work?  

Italians eat in courses.  Antipasti, which means before the pasta, typically includes cured meats and cheeses, but also roasted vegetables, nuts, and fruit.  Next is the primo piatto, or first plate, which includes either pasta, rice or soup.  It is not a large portion as many Americans may assume, and is typically full of plants in the form of either tomato sauce, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, basil, parsley, mushrooms, asparagus, peas, garlic, nuts, or beans - and that is just getting started.  Secondo piatto is the second plate with meat and more vegetables.  Insalata is salad, which may include romaine, radicchio, arugula, carrots and tomatoes.  And finally fruit as a dessert. 

Although a typical lunch or dinner may include meat, cheese, bread, pasta and or rice, the meal has plants at every course.  The meats and cheeses are often from pasture raised animals that provide disease protecting omega 3 fatty acids.  The Sardinian diet that is almost 50% fat because of cheese and olive oil boasts the highest rate of centenarian men in the world.  

The Mediterranean diet works because of the quantity and diversity of plants consumed at both lunch and dinner.  The Mediterranean lifestyle is another factor.  Community and rest is built into the day.  It is culturally acceptable and expected to stop and eat lunch with family and friends followed by a short nap.  In the afternoon Italians take a stroll through the piazza and have an Aperol spritz or gelato.  Although these are far from healthy choices, the stress reduction is a hidden benefit to longevity.  

In summary, there are three lessons to learn from Mediterranean people: you don't necessarily need to take away the treats you enjoy, but add in lots of veggies, fruits, nuts, beans and seeds at every meal; take time to be together, sharing a meal, and taking a walk together; add rest into your day - a short nap of 20-30 minutes will serve to make you more productive, not less. 

Buonagiornata e buon appetito!!! 

Cool Spring Evening Vegan Supper

Vegan Supper

for cool spring evenings

Recently we had a beautiful but cool spring evening.  My family needed to warm up a bit - lentil soup, whole wheat bread, cabbage salad, and fruit salad for desert.  


Lentil Soup:

1 Garlic Clove Finely Chopped

1 Carrot Finely Chopped 

1 Celery Stalk Chopped

1 Onion Finely Chopped

1 Handful of Italian Flat Leaf Parsley Finely Chopped 

1 Cup Black Lentils

6 Cups of Water

Bring water to a boil.  Add lentils.  Cook according to directions.  Usually about 20-25 minutes.  Add the carrots, onions, and celery.  Add the parsley at when the lentils are finished cooking.  

Season with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.



Red Cabbage Salad:

Chop as many handfuls of red cabbage as people you are serving.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Drizzle with oil and mix until all the cabbage has olive oil on the surface area.  Then drizzle lightly white balsamic vinegar.  



Whole wheat bread and add a drizzle of olive oil.  



Fruit Salad:

1 Clementine Peeled and Separated

1 Banana Sliced

Several Strawberries Sliced

Toast almond slivers lightly




Buon Appetito!