Tips with Toni: Roadmap to a Healthier Life

Miss Independent: How did you initially develop an interest in Nutrition?

Toni: I come from a Greek and Italian background so culturally food was always around me. Although I was very active, I was overweight as a child, in my teens, and even in my college years where I chose to study nutrition and dietetics at SUNY College Oneonta, upstate New York. When I first started changing my eating habits, it came from a negative place of self hate and disappointment in the way my body looked. This mindset caused me to make unsustainable choices like skipping meals and exercising excessively as a means to lose weight. Once I realized that wouldn’t work and didn’t make me feel any better about myself, I sought out other ways. Now I teach others how to do the same: get healthy, gain self confidence, and appreciate their body along the way.

Miss Independent: What interests you most about nutrition?

Toni: There are very few things we can control in life and I love how what we choose to eat is one of them. I love knowing I have the ability to make myself feel happy, healthy, and energized by selecting the right things to consume. I find the human body fascinating and the fact that we can fuel it to function to optimal levels is incredible. 

Miss Independent: What do you feel are the most common misconceptions surrounding nutrition?

Toni: Most people think eating healthy means giving up their favorite foods and having to stop eating entire food groups like, carbohydrates. To achieve optimal nutrition, a healthy body, and healthy mind, one must learn how to balance their intake with nutrient dense foods in combination with some of their favorite treats. 

Miss Independent: What is your “nutrition pickup line”?

Toni: My slogan is “helping you get healthy one bite at a time”. I find this lets people know that you’re not expected to change all of your habits overnight. So often people think they have to make drastic changes, but that only overwhelms them and prevents them from making even the smallest improvements to their diet. 

Toni: There’s no one size fits all approach. Instead of trying to follow a diet or meal plan, follow how food makes you feel. Pay attention to portion sizes, meal timing, combinations of foods, the way certain foods are prepared (I.e. fried versus grilled) and ask yourself these questions after every meal:

  1. Did I need that?
  2. Did I enjoy that?
  3. Am I full?
  4. Am I still hungry?
  5. How do I feel?
  6. Do I feel tired or energized?

Once you identify the answers to these questions, practice responding to them differently then you have before. If you notice over consuming fried foods makes you feel sluggish and tired, start preparing your foods grilled, baked, broiled, or steamed. If you notice your energy improves when you cut back on the rice and eat more non-starchy vegetables, make an effort to fill half your plate with veggies so there’s less room for the rice.

Miss Independent: What recommendations do you have to someone wishing to begin their weight-loss / health journey?

Toni: Drop the “all-or-nothing” mindset and commit to making small changes everyday. Although choosing to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables at dinner time seems like a little adjustment, trust it’s making a big difference. One change will motivate you to make another and eventually you’ll find yourself making more healthy choices than less healthy choices, habitually. 

Miss Independent: What are the biggest differences between men and women when it comes to nutrition?

Toni: Depending on the age of the man or woman, and exercise routine, the nutritional needs can be drastically different. In general, men have more muscle than woman so their caloric needs are higher. Men are at a greater risk for heart disease due to lower estrogen levels so their fiber needs are higher (38g versus 25g/day for females), however post menopausal women will need to increase this as result of having a drop in estrogen. 

Miss Independent: What is the easiest / cost-effective meal you’ve ever made?

Toni: Most of the meals I make are quick and cost effective! As a busy business owner and someone who rather spend their money on conferences and books, I’ve mastered the art of budget friendly cooking that’s quick and simple. Eggs are a go to favorite of mine. So many people fear eggs because they believe the cholesterol will raise cholesterol in the body, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the absence of fiber and excess of fried foods that attributes to high cholesterol. The egg yolk is an excellent source of vitamin b12, vitamin d, and omega-3’s. The egg itself is a perfectly portioned protein source of 6 grams per egg. A dozen eggs on average is about $2.00; that’s 16 cents per egg. Scramble 2 eggs with vegetables, sprinkle it with garlic powder for seasoning and pair it with oatmeal for a balanced breakfast or a baked sweet potato for a balanced dinner. 

Miss Independent: What does an ideal diet look like?

Toni: Contrary to popular belief, a majority of your calories should come from carbohydrates. The type of course matters most and the amount will vary based off a persons activity level, age, gender, and past medical history. For the general healthy population the recommendation is to have 50-55% of your total calorie needs coming from carbohydrates, 20-25% from fat, and 15-20% from protein. Cardiovascular athletes require a break down of 60% carbs, 20% fat, and 20% protein, weight training athletes require a break down for 45% carbs, 25% fat, and 30% protein, and cardio/weight training require a break down of 55% carbs, 20% fat, and 25% protein. For the general population who’s trying to achieve fat loss, I usually start them on a break down of 40-45% carbs, 25-30% fat, and 25-30% protein. As you can see the breakdown varies depending on many factors, especially the goal. If a person has a family history or personal history of high cholesterol or diabetes the breakdown will change as well. These nutrition prescriptions also needs to take lifestyle factors and practical application into consideration, which is why it’s best advised to follow a program under the supervision of a nutrition professional. 

Miss Independent: What is the best place you’ve traveled to?

Toni: Greece with my girlfriends when I was 18!  Toni:

Miss Independent: What do you do to relax?

Toni: I treat myself to spa pedicures 1x/month and a 10 minute chair massage 1x/week. You’ll also catch me vegging out on the couch with my cats, Joey and Chloe, watching shows like America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, or Veronica Mars on Hulu.

Miss Independent: Who is your inspiration?

Toni: My dad. He didn’t have it easy growing up. He was poor and couldn’t afford college so had to find a career to support himself that didn’t require an extensive education. He worked in construction from the age of 18 and eventually started his own business with the intention of financially supporting me through college so I could have more opportunities than he had. Not that he expects it, but I look forward to the day I can pay him back.

Miss Independent: How can those interested in learning more get in contact with you?






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