What's In My Kitchen Part 1: The Fridge

by Dr John M Berardi, CSCS

Long ago, when I first began to pay serious attention to my training and nutrition, I learned of a general principle that has served me well and has since become the cornerstone of my body composition success.

If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it.

Simply put, if you wish to be healthy and lean, you must remove all foods not conducive to those goals from said residence and replace them with a variety of better, healthier choices.

If you know someone whose house is stocked only with optimal food choices and yet who is not healthy and lean, look under his bed.

The bottom line is that you must stock your house with all the ammo you need to fight the battle of the bulge. My body fat ranges from about 5% to about 8% throughout the year (without the use of thermogenics/fat burners) and the only way I’m able to maintain that level of leanness is by removing all temptation from my home, where I spend most of my time.

For years I’ve advised my clients and athletes to do the same. Now I bring the message to you. Your willpower and discipline will be tested enough at social events, at lunch meetings, and as you pass the six Krispy Kreme locations on the commute home from work. If you’re to have any chance of success, you need a safe home base. With that in mind, I’m going to give you a peak into my armory . . . er, kitchen.

In this week’s installment, I’ll open my stainless steel fridge to show you what and what not to stock. In doing so I hope to demonstrate that there are plenty of options available to the trainee interested in optimal health and body composition. Of course, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list in any way; rather, it’s a snapshot of the actual contents of my favorite appliance, and as such should serve as a practical example of the nutrition theory I expound elsewhere on my site.

Meat, Poultry and Fish

Extra Lean Ground Sirloin
Quantity: 3 x 1lb packages

Boneless Chicken Breasts
Quantity: 2 x 1lb packages

Mild Turkey Sausage
Quantity: 2 x 500g packages

Quantity: 2 lbs

Bison (Buffalo)
Quantity: 2 lbs

Quantity: 2 lbs

Quantity: 2 large filets


Omega-3 Eggs
Quantity: 2 dozen

Egg Whites
Quantity: 12 x 250mL cartons


Aged White Cheddar
Quantity: 4-8 oz.

Baby Swiss
Quantity: 4-8 oz.

Quantity: 4-8 oz.

Parmiggiano-Reggiano (Parmesan)
Quantity: 4-8 oz.

Feta Cheese
Quantity: 4-8 oz.


Quantity: 12

Quantity: 6

Red Grapes
Quantity: Large bunch

Quantity: 2 cut and cored fresh pineapples

Quantity: 2 cartons


Quantity: 2 cartons


Quantity: 4 bags, 6oz. each

Red, Yellow, and Green Peppers
Quantity: 8

Quantity: 2

Quantity: 2

Baby Carrots
Quantity: 2 large bags, 2lbs each

Sauces and Condiments

Quantity: 3 jars, one of each flavor

Peanut Satay Sauce
Quantity: 1 bottle

Curry Sauce
Quantity: 1 bottle

Tomato Pasta Sauce
Quantity: 2 large jars

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Quantity: 1 bottle

Raspberry Vinegar
Quantity: 1 bottle

Red Wine Vinegar
Quantity: 1 bottle

Balsamic Vinegar
Quantity: 1 bottle

Flax Oil

Quantity: 1 bottle

Garlic-Chili Flax Oil
Quantity: 1 bottle


Quantity: 1 large Brita filtered jug

So, what isn’t in my fridge?

Soft drinks, fruit juices and milk
High fat and sugar salad dressings and other condiments
Processed breads
Highly processed, pre-packaged foods
Rotting leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner

Of course, there are other things that don't make it into my fridge. But rather than enumerate what not to eat, it's better to discuss what we should be eating.

In the end, this short article isn’t designed to share the whys – just the whats – as in what it takes to build a great body. I can say with confidence that if your fridge doesn’t contain many or most of the things I have in mine, or if it contains many things that mine doesn’t, you’ll have a difficult time maintaining a lean and healthy body. If it contains none of what I have in mine, tip your fridge over, dump the contents and begin anew.


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Tip #5 The 10% Factor

by Dr. John Berardi

If some people eat one food not on their plan, their failure to be perfect sets in motion a psychological chain of events that leads to frustration and the inability to get right back on the plan. The all-or-nothing mentality sets in and BAM, they're back to nothing. But it doesn't have to be this way. 100% nutritional discipline is never required for optimal progress. The difference, in results, between 90% adherence to your nutrition program and 100% adherence is negligible. So allow yourself the extra 10% wiggle room. This will allow you the freedom to eat a few extra things not on your menu without the guilt and subsequent crash.

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Stir Fry Veggie Extravaganza

By Dr. John M. Berardi, PhD and Dr. John K. Williams, PhD, authors of the bestselling optimal nutrition ebookGourmet Nutrition.

Most of us could benefit from increasing our intake of fresh, whole vegetables. If the cancer-fighting properties of vegetables aren’t enough incentive, then take into consideration that they contain a ton of micronutrients that fill nutritional voids, they have small quantities of healthy fats such as omega-3’s, they counteract high acidity produced by high protein diets, and they give us a big dose of fiber.

Getting ample vegetables sounds great in theory, but in practice many of us fail utterly in finding ways to consistently consume our photosynthesizing friends. Let’s face it, the world is full of veggie haters. As the famous and sometimes gruff 20th century archaeologist Francois Bordes used to say when asked if he would like a salad with his meal, “What do I look like to you, a rabbit?”

Sure, vegetables can be downright repulsive, but given the correct method of preparation, even the most finicky of eaters can reap the benefits of these wonder foods, sow good eating habits, alleviate any seeds of doubt, and harvest superior nutritional properties. Now that the puns are out of the way, let’s move on to the recipe.

Asian stir-fry is one of the best ways to eat vegetables in both quantity and variety. Cooking the vegetables quickly over high heat keeps them crisp (no more mushy cafeteria mystery vegetable), and slightly caramelizes their surface, dramatically enhancing flavor. Another bonus is that you can cook stir-fry in bulk, storing tasty vegetable-laden meals for days at a time.

After messing around with varieties of this recipe, we finally discovered a great combination of vegetable variety, healthfulness, texture, and taste. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to significantly increase your vegetable intake with just this one recipe.

This is a stand-alone dish that needs no rice. Just pile it high on a plate and enjoy. There is enough variety that it can even be cooked and eaten without meat, as a side dish for us omnivores, or as a main dish for a vegetarian.


1 lb chicken breast, sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 whole dried chili peppers, chopped
2 tbsp white cooking wine
2 cubic inches fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp corn starch, mixed together with 4 tbsp water
1 cup fresh shitake mushrooms
2 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
2 bundles scallions (green onions) (15 total), diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 handfuls snow peas (25-30 pods)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained
1 can slivered bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
1 head Napa cabbage, sliced
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable), mixed with 1 cup hot water
4 tbsp soy sauce
½ cup whole roasted and salted cashews


First slice the chicken breast and marinate it in a large bowl together with half of the chopped garlic, crushed chili peppers, white wine and a dash of salt.

Chop all of your vegetables and get them ready before the cooking process starts. Also, make your cornstarch solution in a small bowl or cup by stirring 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into 4-5 tablespoons of water. Stir until thoroughly mixed into a thick solution.

Heat a large nonstick wok over medium-high heat, and then add the sliced chicken together with the marinade. Stir-fry for a few minutes, until browned. Push the chicken up to the sides of the wok, lightly coat the surface with cooking spray, and then add the remaining garlic and chopped ginger. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, and then add vegetables, two at a time, stir-frying about 4 minutes each batch. When the wok gets too full, place the contents into a large bowl and continue stir-frying the remaining vegetables. If the wok gets dry, you can coat it again with cooking oil, or add some soy sauce.

After you’ve worked your way through the vegetables down to the cabbage and bean sprouts, push the vegetables to the side of the wok, add the broth, and bring to a boil. Thicken the broth by stirring-in the cornstarch solution (stir it again before slowly adding).

Return all of the vegetables and chicken to the wok, and toss together with the soy sauce and cashews. Don’t add the cashews until the very end to ensure a crunchy texture. Mix thoroughly and serve.

Makes 3 large servings (or several small ones).

Nutritional information

Per Serving
Total Calories621k/cal
Total Carbohydrates74g
Total Fat15g

Tip: Slicing vegetables, the safe way

This recipe requires a lot of chopping, so to ensure you don’t get bits of finger in your meal, let’s discuss how to chop vegetables quickly and safely. It’s very important to have a good knife. Sharp knives are actually safer because you don’t have to use so much force to cut the vegetables. The knife should also have a broad blade, such as a chef’s knife or a cleaver. The blade needs to be broad so that you can place the side of the knife on your knuckles as you chop. Holding the vegetable with your fingertips on the cutting board, fold your knuckles over and lightly move the knife across them while chopping, being careful not to raise the knife above the level of your knuckles (never let the side of the knife lose contact with your guiding hand). As long as you keep your fingers tucked away, then no worries.

Food Fact: Cabbage, the forgotten veggie

Cabbage is one of those veggies that is often overlooked in western diets. The good news is that it tastes great in this stir-fry, and the better news is that cabbage has great health properties. Cabbage contains a beneficial phytochemical called indole-3-carbinole (I3C), which has powerful cancer-fighting properties. I3C also helps to break down estrogen in the body, which further decreases cancer risk, particularly breast cancer in women.

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From North American to Nutritious

From North American to Nutritious
by Dr John M Berardi, CSCS

Good nutrition, nutrition for optimal body composition (fat loss, muscle gain), optimal health, and optimal performance (sports or everyday) usually requires a move away from the typical North American dietary habits and a move toward more nutritious, physiology-friendly habits.

To shed a little bit of light on what I mean by the typical North American Diet, let's consider for a moment how the average North American lives each nutritional day.

1. Our typical North American wakes up too close to when they've gotta go, leaving little time to prepare, eat, and digest a good meal before work (whether "work" is an office job or it's training for sport). Also, our typical North American complains that they're "not hungry" in the morning.

2. Our typical North American opts for scarfing down a quick, fast digesting breakfast that's low in calories, missing a significant protein portion, low in micronutrients and phytochemicals, low in good fats, and rich in processed, high glycemic index carbohydrates.

3. Our typical North American heads to work relatively poorly fed.

4. Our typical North American is fairly inconsistent with his/her mid-morning snacks. Also, "snack" usually means more processed carbs and sugar without much in the way of fruits and veggies, quality protein, or good fats.

5. Our typical North American, during his/her lunch break, opts for a small amount of protein (a couple of slices of lunch meat and cheese) between a few slices of processed bread. So again, we're stuck with low protein, low fruit and veggie intake, and very little good fats.

6. Our typical North American is fairly inconsistent with his/her mid-afternoon snacks. Also, "snack" usually means more processed carbs and sugar without much in the way of fruits and veggies, quality protein, or good fats.

7. Assuming dinner is eaten at home, after work, our typical North American has a decent, nutritionally balanced dinner with a good protein source, good carbohydrates, their first larger fruit and veggie portion of the day, and perhaps even some good fats if they've included olive oil or other sources of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

8. After their evening activities, our typical North American is inconsistent with their pre-bed snacks. These snacks, if they do eat them, usually are the worst of the day, consisting of larger servings of sweets or processed foods.

So, what’s wrong with this type of intake?

1. Breakfast has been shown to be a critical daily meal. After a catabolic overnight fast, a balanced breakfast helps to regulate blood sugar, helps to regulate energy balance, and helps to control late-day cravings that lead to overfeeding on processed, high fat, and high sugar foods. In both cases above, breakfast is either a very small feeding or is completely non-existent. This needs to change.

2. The bulk of total dietary energy is distributed later in the day. What this means is that hourly energy balance is hugely negative in the morning, and positive in the evening.

Studies at Georgia State University demonstrate that hourly energy balance is at least as important as total daily energy balance and should remain as close to neutral as possible throughout each of the 24 hours. This means a better distribution of calories throughout the entire day – not just loading up on a big dinner.

3. In the case of our example above, by lunch our individual is likely underfed in total and often underfed in protein. As discussed above, energy intake needs to be better distributed through the day.

4. Fruit and veggie intake, as well as protein intake, is very low until dinnertime. Just as total calorie distribution should be spread evenly throughout the day, so should macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) and micronutrient intake.

5. With blood amino acid concentrations low from the overnight fast and continually low throughout the early day (especially if the morning has two training sessions), catabolic conditions will predominate in the body, making recovery from and adaptation to exercise difficult without a higher morning and early afternoon protein intake.

6. Throughout the morning and afternoon, vitamin and mineral intake as well as dietary antioxidant intake is quite low, creating a deficit that'll be hard to make up later in the day.

A fair number of athletes and recreational exercisers have been shown to be deficient in a host of vitamins and minerals, leading to impairments in nervous system function, metabolic processing, and oxygen delivery/consumption. It's hard to get the requisite amount of vitamins and minerals in only one or two meals. Now, this doesn't mean that folks should start popping multi-vitamins. It means they need to get more fruits and vegetables as well as other micronutrient dense foods with every feeding, not just with one or two feedings per day.

7. Many individuals who don't actively pay attention to their protein intake tend to get too little protein for optimal recovery, preservation of lean body mass, and for the metabolic advantages associated with higher protein intake. Even many of the athletes I regularly work with would benefit from a higher protein intake.

Now, this doesn't mean at the expense of good carbs and good fats. It's in addition to those things. Most folks are getting a good, high protein dinner, but it's difficult to take in enough total protein in only one or two protein rich meals. (Nor is it advisable.)

8. For both the physically active and even the sedentary individuals discussed above, dietary fat intake is usually out of balance in favor of saturated fat. Without actively choosing foods and supplements that contain mono and polyunsaturated fatty acid, fat balance is unfavorable. In our example above, our typical North American isn’t getting enough good fats.

9. With most of the meals above being rich in simple, processed carbs, the hormone insulin isn't well-controlled. This means that individuals predisposed to fat gain will have a more difficult time controlling and/or losing body fat, even with higher training volumes.

10. With most of the meals above being rich in simple, low-fiber carbs, not enough dietary fiber is being ingested. This may mean constipation, poor blood sugar regulation, and poor GI health.

11. Our individual above isn't actively taking advantage of the post-exercise improvement in insulin sensitivity and boost in post-exercise protein synthesis by eating carb and amino acid-rich foods right after exercise (assuming they have exercised).

With all of these dietary limitations, it should be clear that although these individuals aren't dying of malnutrition, they're certainly not laying the groundwork for great body composition, health and performance. So let's talk about how to transition from the average diet to a nutritious one.

Step 1: Improve Workout and Post-Workout Nutrition
Step 2: Improving and Scheduling Breakfast Meals
Step 3: Adding good fats
Step 4: Improving lunch meals
Step 5: Improving dinner meals
Step 6: Increasing veggie (and fruit) intake
Step 7: Improve snacks.

Hopefully the message of this article has become clear. Whether you're a high level competitive athlete or just a recreational exerciser, eating like the typical North American is bad, bad news. And despite your exercise habits, eating this way might have you ending up looking more like the typical North American than you want.

To avoid making the same mistakes other North Americans make, it's important that you view each meal or snack as an opportunity to get a good balance of nutrition. This means making sure each meal has a good protein source, a good fat source, and a good amount of fruits and veggies.