Christmas

Joy To The World

Friends, today will be the last entry until after Christmas. And I'd like to simply take a second to wish you a wonderful week. Your health, family and entire lives are on my mind each and every day. Trust that. We have a lot in store next year, but we'll get to those 2014 dreams soon enough. For now, please know how much you mean to me. We'll have a gentle presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the coming days, but devotions will return December 30th. So, from all of us, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Celebrate Jesus, enjoy loved ones. Joy to the world.

Jimmy

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"For unto us, a child is born." --Isaiah 9:6

Read: Isaiah 9

Soon we'll lay down the dumbbells and set aside the running shoes, and replace them with egg nog and wrapping paper. Christmas marks the crescendo of a chorus that began the day after Thanksgiving and will fade before the dawn of the new year.

For many, Christmas is a holiday of toys, food, family and new sweaters that we won't wear 'til next year (if ever). But through all the great things that come along with this season, all of which we too love to enjoy, let's remember the cliche is true. There is a reason for the season: that God came down to our level, because we couldn't get up to His.

So let us be first to say...Merry Christmas!

And finally, we at PrayFit want to thank all of you for your prayers of support, your time spent with us daily and for your encouragement. We're so excited about what God has in store for us and for you this new year.

May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones today and everyday. May He guide and protect all of you and we pray for abundant health for everyone, so that we may continue to boldly serve Him all the days of our lives.

--Team PrayFit

NUTRITION TIP: SUPER SWAPS

As you look for ways to avoid the all-too-common holiday weight gain, or if you're planning on changing your dietary practices in 2013, your approach doesn't need to be as drastic as you think. Eating healthy does not have to mean a complete diet overhaul. A substitution-type approach can create big improvements in the way you eat, feel and look. To get started, try swapping the following:

• Processed grains for whole grains Research shows that eating whole grains reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. When shopping for breads and pastas, look for those with "whole wheat" listed as their first ingredient. And when dining out, don't be afraid to ask your server to switch your sandwich bread or hamburger bun to whole wheat. Many sushi restaurants will even make rolls using brown rice if you request it.

• Sugary beverages for water Drinks like fruit juices and sodas are high in refined sugar and calories. Their consumption can quickly lead to excess weight gain and eventually health problems. By switching to water, you can prevent this. You will also meet one of your body's essential needs, as water is required for carrying out most of its daily functions. If you'd prefer a bit of flavor, try adding some lemon. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.

• Empty calorie snacks for protein Foods high in processed carbs and fats yet low in nutrients are said to contain empty calories. They provide little to no benefit to our health and can easily lead to weight gain and the maladies that come along with it. Cookies, chips and candy are a few examples of snacks you'll want to swap out. By considering foods high in protein as an alternative -- like trail mix, yogurt, or natural beef jerky -- you will be giving your body a nutrient it needs to build and repair while satisfying your hunger in the meantime.

Amanda McDermott is an ISSA-certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and the owner of Feed My Body, a nutrition coaching program. Learn more at feedmybody.com and facebook.com/feedmybody.

>> The PrayFit Daily will continue on January 7, 2013. To sign-up, or to get friends on our subscriber list, click here. For now, you can stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, HeavenUp and YouTube. And for a final look at how your health can be used as a means of praise, click 'play' to hear from founder Jimmy Peña.

Are They Here Yet?

"They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was." — Matthew 2:9

Read: Matthew 9

This week, many of you will arrive at the home of family and friends to celebrate Christmas. Do you have "going home" traditions? We do too. One tradition my parents actually started during my college years was hanging a "Welcome Home, Jimmy!" sign at the house. When I got married, they added "& Loretta". But if you happened to read yesterday's post, you know by now that my parents are coming to our home for Christmas for the first time; our turn to hold up the sign.

Beyond a doubt right now, celebration plans are almost ready in homes such as yours and of those you love. All the decorations have been hung, everyone's favorite dishes are being prepared and front room curtains are being impatiently pulled back to see if "they're here yet."

You know, I've often wondered if the star in the east was as much God's way to honor His son, as it was our way to find Him. Even though Jesus' time on earth was short, God knew how He'd be rejected, and of the cross that awaited him. So perhaps it was God's way to say, "I love you, Son" and in doing so said to us, "Here He is."

He loves us that much. And if we look forward to seeing loved ones, how much more does He? Because you see, someday God will send for us. And I like to think that after spreading the table for the great celebration and hanging the welcome-home banner across the door, the angels will pull back the curtain, peeking to see...are they here yet?

--Jimmy Peña

PRAYFIT NUTRITION: PREP FOR THE FEAST Knowing what to do before the first course is served can keep you from overindulging

A few people on our boards have expressed concern at the nutritional temptation that comes along with holidays like Christmas. After all, no one wants to completely erase the hard work they've been putting in at the gym, or to slide deeper into a quagmire of bad health. Here are four simple steps you can take to ensure that your feast is truly "fit" for a King.

1 Exercise early Before people start dishing up the ham, eggs and roast beast (thank you, Dr. Seuss), you can minimize the damage of the caloric tsunami by grabbing a quick workout. One of the best ways to do that is to sneak in a power workout. This will create a caloric deficit and a great window for muscle repair. This way, most of the calories to come are used to your benefit. Since travel time is usually a concern today, we suggest a quick bodyweight workout and a high-intensity interval cardio session. Try doing one round of bodyweight squats, push-ups and sit-ups, doing each exercise to failure (the point at which you can no longer complete any more reps). Then, immediately head into your interval workout, sprinting 20 seconds and walking or jogging for a minute, for a total of 10-15 minutes -- after a 1-2 minute speed walk. (Or try our new DVD).

2 Fill up on fiber & protein There's a lot to be said for satiety during the holidays. It can literally make or break you before the big get-together. Before the family meal, try filling up on high-fiber, calorie-friendly fruits and veggies and take in 20-40 grams of protein from a high-quality source like turkey breast or a whey protein shake. This will keep you fuller longer, helping you to avoid a second -- or third or fourth -- trip back to the dessert table.

3 Hydrate Drinking water -- lots of it -- will help you get a head start on leveling out your sodium levels. Most holiday food -- from the glazed ham to the turkey gravy -- are loaded with sodium. This can force you to retain water and add pounds to the scale that will cause alarm with some people. Strangely, one of the best ways to avoid water retention from sodium is to drink water. Try to get about 1/3 to 1/2 of your bodyweight in ounces per day to keep your body in balance.

Be Born Again

"If you then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" --Matthew 7:11

Read: Matthew 7

Like many of you, my wife and I are getting ready for Christmas. The menu, the plans, the family, the joy. But at the Peña home, things are different. Why? Well, we're actually...home. See, for the first time in my life, I won't be traveling to Mom and Dad's. Guess what...they're coming here. It's Christmas in L.A. For 40 years, I opened presents under Mom's tree. But because of my health and the infirmity I endured over the last 12 months, Mom and Dad knew I couldn't get to them. So they did the unexpected. They're coming here.

Now, to the casual reader, that might not seem like much. But if you knew my Memphis-born, Southern hospitality-dipped, tradition-rich mother, you would know that her leaving home is an act of love -- pure, unabashed, selfless love. Her kids are stuck, and nothing is gonna stop her from seeing them.

Two thousand years ago, God made an unexpected trip. Because we were unable to get to Him, He came to us. God left Heaven's hall for Bethlehem's stall. He then climbed out of his crib and onto the cross for your sins and mine. Imagine, God with us. Say that out loud and emphasize with me. God with us. God with us. God with us. Amazing, isn't it? The distance He traveled for you and me. I love Christmas time. The traditions, old and new. But something about Christmas will never change, and that's the story of our Savior.

So Jesus, we know the story, but tell us again. Show us the pride in Joseph's eyes, the awe on a shepherd's face, and the courage of Mary. We know the story, but take us back. Remind us that your birth began a rescue mission. We know the story, but please Jesus, we love it. Be born again.

--Jimmy Peña

CALLING ALL PASTORS, CHURCH LEADERS, TEACHERS, AND INFLUENCERS >> Dozens of churches and small groups around the country are using our book, "PrayFit: Your Guide to a Healthy Body and a Stronger Faith in 28 Days," as bible study curriculum. From California to Texas to Florida, PrayFit groups are enjoying an enormous blessing, combining fitness and fellowship in His name.

If you're interested in more info on how these groups got started and how you might begin a small group in your city, reach out to us at info@prayfit.com. We'd love to share the stories of others with you. This is our life's work. Let us help you and those you love be healthier for all the right reasons. For a sample of the message, click play below.

Healthy Conscience

"But we must hold on to the progress we have already made." --Philippians 3:16

Read: Philippians 3

With Thanksgiving in the rearview -- deep breath -- it's time to gear up for Christmas. School activities, shopping lists, travel arrangements. Add to that a genuine desire to be healthy and as fit as possible, and the days get pretty packed, right? If it takes an hour in the gym or on the track to get my workout in, sparing even 10 minutes to read and pray is, well, tough to spare. A show of hands of those who can relate. Who has time to get quiet? Doesn't God know how busy I am?

But folks, if there's ever a time to create new habits or fortify old ones, it's now. At PrayFit, we believe it's more important to have a healthy conscience that it is to be health conscious. For the fitness-minded, shame on us if we train and eat "perfectly" this week but never crack open our bibles or hit our knees. Sure, it's great to plan your workout, but more important to work your heart out.

So let's enjoy the season; shop till we drop, pull out the Christmas sweaters and hang the lights. But as you set the week's schedule including your workouts and meal plans, bless the Lord and your life by adding in those precious few minutes of reading, praying and listening. Start with today's chapter. Find out the context of the verse. God knows time is precious, and He misses His with you.

--Jimmy Peña

Did You Know? >> The average person spends 18 hours a month on Facebook (checking the news feed just 7 times a day.) How many verses could you read in 18 hours a month? Will you lay down social media to get closer to the Lord?

WORKOUT OF THE MONTH: PrayFit 33

Don't wait until the turn of the calendar to renew your commitment to health and fitness. The PrayFit 33-Day Body-Toning System, the sequel to the team's first workout DVD, is a highly-effective blend of resistance training and cardio that can help you reshape your body for good.

For more information or to order, click here!

Me and My Drum

Turns out PrayFit has a theme song -- a song that sums up PrayFit perfectly. My wife and friends might guess it's a Rocky montage or the Gladiator theme song but alas, no. I have one better. The Little Drummer Boy. (Pa rum pum pum pum) That's right. Yesterday with my iTunes on shuffle, it played. Christmas in March? Why not? I hope you won't mind either.

"Come they told me, a newborn King to see.  Our finest gifts we bring, to set before the King. Little baby, I am a poor boy too. I have no gift to bring, that's fit to give a King. Shall I play for you on my drum? Then He nodded... I played my drum for Him. I played my best for Him.  Then He smiled at me. Me and my drum."

It might be odd talking Christmas gifts in March, but health isn't seasonal and neither is the news of His birth. What's more, You and I are poor. Like the little boy, we have nothing to bring that's fit to give the King. But He's delighted when we come to Him. And it's music to His ears when we play our life to its fullest. And that's the basis of PrayFit. Giving our best effort to let health be a means of praise. I want to bring a smile to His face, don't you? The very idea of doing so brings one to mine; to me and my drum. Pa rum pum pum...pum.

--Jimmy Peña

STAY LEAN WITH PROTEIN

Carbs taste good. No…they taste great. But it’s the main course on your plate –- that chicken breast, fish cutlet or steak –- that may be doing your body composition the most good. As you work out your family’s menu for the week, make sure that you choose a quality, lean protein as the foundation of each meal. Research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior showed that subjects who consumed a diet rich in protein burned significantly more fat than a control group. What’s more is that they did so without regard to total caloric intake.

Minimum recommended daily allowances for children range between 16-28 grams of protein per day. Healthy male adults should aim for 45-63 grams per day, while females should strive for 46-50 grams. Pregnant? You may need 60 grams per day for your growing baby. Protein requirements vary, of course –- if you workout regularly or at higher intensities, you may need more protein to help rebuild muscle and keep your lean body mass in healthy ranges.

(Sources: Physiology & Behavior, FamilyEducation.com)

26 Grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving of sirloin steak

7 Grams of protein in a 1-ounce serving of peanuts (Source: FamilyEducation.com)

"BUT MOM...IT'S JESUS"

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." — Matthew 1:23

NativityOut walking with their parents on a recent winter evening, Prayfit VP Eric Velazquez's little Mya and Ella came upon a scene that they could not resist. It’s not often that you run into a nearly-life-size donkey and cow begging for you to hop on their backs, right? Passing on propriety, they sped by their parents, the wise men, jumped right into the large nativity, and made themselves at home. Faces full of delight...click! A moment is captured forever and in the next, cautiously put on Facebook for friends near and far to enjoy.

Their parents questioned the appropriateness -- Mya and Ella questioned their caution.

“But Mom, it’s Jesus!”

Where are we in this picture? In Matthew 8, Jesus says that unless we become like children we will never enter the kingdom of Heaven; a child’s faith -- so pure and trusting -- is necessary for a relationship with Him.  As adults, bogged down with day-to-day issues, it’s easy to lose the child-like ease that intimacy with the Father brings. Knowing God's character, I believe it was not only okay for Mya and Ella to make themselves at home with Jesus, He’s waiting for us to join them.

--Catrina Vargas-Cormell

An entrepreneur, Catrina Vargas-Cormell was one of the first members of the PrayFit community. Catrina is now a PrayFit executive committee member and PrayFit Group leader in El Paso, Texas. For more from Catrina, join her group, “Hungry!,” on Facebook or visit her PrayFit workout journal.

SHOP & STAY LEAN Don’t let holiday shopping  derail your healthy-living goals

“It’s the heart of the holiday shopping season: Malls are flooded, parking lots are jam-packed, and your inbox is overflowing with e-coupons,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, PrayFit’s resident healthy-eating expert. “Whether you’re hitting up the food court or doing your shopping online, keep these tips in mind.”

Don’t…

…munch on free samples. The calories can add up fast.

…shop hungry. Eat a sensible meal before you head out to the store or sit at the computer.

…swig liquid calories. Large sodas and full-fat peppermint lattes can have as many calories as a meal.

…go overboard on holiday goodies. Just because you can buy a 10-pound bar of chocolate shaped like a Christmas tree doesn’t mean that you should.

Do…

…resist the wafting smells from the pretzel and cookie stands. Save those calories for holiday parties.

…pack power snacks. Granola bars, fresh fruit, peanut butter crackers, and trail mix are good options.

…keep your mouth occupied. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking, chew sugarless gum or sip on a  calorie-free drink.

…wash your hands before you eat, especially after a day of shopping.

>> For more healthy holiday tips, visit Dana’s Healthy Eats blog on the Food Network.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

 

ARE THEY HERE YET?

"They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was."— Matthew 2:9

This week, like many of you, we'll finally arrive at the home of family and friends to celebrate Christmas. Do you have "going home" traditions? We do too. One tradition my parents actually started during my college years was hanging a "Welcome Home, Jimmy!" sign at the house. When I got married, they added "& Loretta", and we've seen that banner for 16 years now. And no matter how quick our trip might be, that sign is waiting. It's seen its share of attics, but it brings Mom and Dad a lot of joy to pull that out of storage. That sign symbolizes Christmas, and that their children are almost home.

Beyond a doubt right now, celebration plans are almost ready in homes such as yours and of those you love. All the decorations have been hung, everyone's favorite dishes are being prepared and front room curtains are being impatiently pulled back to see if "they're here yet."

You know, I've often wondered if the star in the east was as much God's way to honor His son, as it was our way to find Him. Even though Jesus' time on earth was short, God knew how He'd be rejected, and of the cross that awaited him. So perhaps it was God's way to say, "I love you, Son" and in doing so said to us, "Here He is".

He loves us that much. And if we look forward to seeing loved ones, how much more does He? Because you see, someday God will send for us. And I like to think that after spreading the table for the great celebration and hanging the welcome-home banner across the door, the angels will pull back the curtain, peeking to see...are they here yet?

--J.P.

PRAYFIT RECIPE OF THE WEEK: ROAD TRIP SNACK: TURKEY & CHEDDAR PANINI

There's something about the crunch of a perfectly toasted panini that's hard to resist. But oftentimes, it ends up on the "do not eat" list for those of us trying to lean up or lose a few pounds. This recipe, however, is a healthier, protein-packed alternative that will serve you well, whether you're looking to build muscle, get lean or just recover from a tough workout.

Turkey & Cheddar Panini

2 slices Ezekiel Bread 2 tsp Dijon mustard 4 oz deli turkey 2 slices tomato ¼ cup baby spinach leaves 1 slice low fat cheddar cheese 1 tsp canola oil

>> Spread each slice of bread with mustard and assemble panini by layering turkey, tomato, spinach and cheese between slices of bread. Heat canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add panini and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, pressing down gently with a spatula. Cook until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Calories: 390 | Protein: 30 grams | Carbohydrates: 38 grams | Fat: 12 grams

 

CHRISTMAS PRESENCE

December 23, 2010Read: Luke 2

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger." --Luke 2:16

"What do you give to someone who has everything?" That's a common question asked year after year by a countless number of people.  But what do you give someone who is everything? Well, that original question was uttered only once by a small group of eyewitnesses. Maybe the Shepherds asked each other that very thing as "they hurried off "(v. 16).

Wait, did you notice that? Long before Jesus gave the lame the strength to walk, He had shepherds running. After the angel told them the news, I doubt they hung around the fields, or grabbed a bite to catch up on the latest herder's gossip. No, the news of Jesus had these shepherds high-stepping with hearts pumping. Were they unsure of what to give God? Perhaps. But they were ironclad-certain about doing their best just to get there. What they lacked in presents, they made up with their presence. Showing up out of love, out of excuses and out of breath; sounds like what you give someone who is everything.

--J.P.

From the Prayfit family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas. May God bless you and keep you safe. We'll be back online Tuesday, December 28th.

In Jesus' name, we pray and train. Amen.

A FLOOD OF HOPE

December 22, 2010Read: Genesis 8

"When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth." --Genesis 8:11

It might seem odd on Christmas week to read about the flood, but if you live in sunny southern California, it's pretty appropriate. It won't stop raining. At all. Ever. Where's the nearest gopher wood vendor when you need him?

When Noah built the ark, those around him probably laughed and scoffed. But we all know the story. The ark was completed, then two-by-two, and then the rain (a lot of it). A year later, the dove returned to Noah carrying hope; the olive branch meant land was near.

You and I just might be going through a flood this week. Sure, maybe not a literal downpour of rain, but caught in a torrent all the same -- up to our knees in doubt, our waists in worry, and our necks in fear. An olive branch to grab onto right now would be nice, amen?

Well, it is Christmas week; a reminder that the hope we need came in human form. And those ten infant fingers and toes would eventually heal the broken, raise the dead and yes, calm storms. You know, if I'm not mistaken, I think it just stopped raining.

--J.P.

RECIPE(S) OF THE WEEK: HOMEMADE CRACKERS

Boasting one of the most palate-pleasing crunches in the world of snack, crackers are a fantastic low-calorie food -- not to mention the perfect complement to your favorite calcium-loaded cube of cheese. Try one -- or both -- of these healthier home recipes to create a kindler, gentler cracker to tote along to your next social gathering.

Parmesan & Oregano Crackers

Makes 40 crackers

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/2 all-purpose flour 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Combine ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment – mix until dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 to 1/4 –inch thick and use a cookie cutter to cut into desired shapes. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Package or serve.

Nutrition Info Per Cracker Calories: 32
; Total Fat: 2 grams; 
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
; Total Carbohydrate: 1.5 grams
; Protein: 1 gram
; Sodium: 49 milligrams; 
Cholesterol: 6 milligrams; 
Fiber: 0 grams

Homemade Whole Grain Crackers

Makes 40 crackers

2 whole wheat flour tortillas 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Herbs and spices of choice (see ideas below) Cut tortilla into small squares. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings and bake at 350-degrees for  8 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Seasoning Ideas: Poppy seeds and sea salt (pictured above) Fresh rosemary and black pepper (pictured above) Garlic and chili powder Fresh thyme and sesame seeds

Nutrition Info Per Cracker Calories: 13
; Total Fat: 0.5 grams
; Saturated Fat: 0 gram
; Total Carbohydrate: 1 gram; 
Protein: 0 gram
; Sodium: 33 milligrams; 
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
; Fiber: 0 grams

>> GIFTING TIP: Serve up your homemade crackers with grapes, cheese and wine at your own house party or bring them along to the neighborhood potluck. Wrap them up in tins or decorative bags just like cookies, or give alongside homemade chutney.

PrayFit contributing nutritionist Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

TOTAL LOSS

December 14, 2010Read: Psalm 139 "For you formed my inward parts." --Psalm 139:13

"My frame was not hidden from you." --Psalm 139:15

As a little boy, I spent many a summer day sweeping floors and washing cars at my dad's body shop. I felt right at home amidst the bondo dust and paint fumes, even though I could often be found asleep in dad's office. But while I didn't pursue the family business, little did I know that the body shop was a great place to learn about grace.

Each day, customers would come in to either pick up their cars or schedule a drop off, but then there were those who came in just for an estimate. They'd wrecked their car or truck, and all they wanted to know was whether their vehicle still had value. Sometimes dad would have to tell them it was totaled; their car wasn't worth anything. A total loss meant the insurance company wouldn't touch it, and they'd have to pay for it all by themselves.

We've all wrecked our lives in one way or another, but even a total loss is no match for the cross. What the world gives no value, He gives grace.

--J.P.

MALL FAT? Don't let holiday shopping  derail your healthy-living goals

"It’s the heart of the holiday shopping season: Malls are flooded, parking lots are jam-packed, and your inbox is overflowing with e-coupons," says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, PrayFit's resident healthy-eating expert. "Whether you’re hitting up the food court or doing your shopping online, keep these tips in mind."

Don’t…

...munch on free samples. The calories can add up fast.

...shop hungry. Eat a sensible meal before you head out to the store or sit at the computer.

...swig liquid calories. Large sodas and full-fat peppermint lattes can have as many calories as a meal.

...go overboard on holiday goodies. Just because you can buy a 10-pound bar of chocolate shaped like a Christmas tree doesn’t mean that you should.

Do…

...resist the wafting smells from the pretzel and cookie stands. Save those calories for holiday parties.

...pack power snacks. Granola bars, fresh fruit, peanut butter crackers, and trail mix are good options.

...keep your mouth occupied. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking, chew sugarless gum or sip on a  calorie-free drink.

...wash your hands before you eat, especially after a day of shopping.

>> For more healthy holiday tips, visit Dana's Healthy Eats blog on the Food Network.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.