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Healthy eating: Tips and tricks from local pros

We asked a handful of local food fanatics who are nuts about nutrition to share their views on healthy food choices, including go-to staples, misconceptions and tricks to make better eating easier than a walk in the park. Meet our fit five and see what they have to say.

Steven Procknal

Procknal is a Baptiste Certified yoga instructor and co-leader of the November Project. He has qualified for the Boston Marathon and World Triathlon Championships and competed in Worlds Toughest Mudder and Spartan Race World Championships. He serves on the boards of Yogis in Service and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Convergence Council.

What five healthy meal ingredients are always in your kitchen?
1. Arugula
2. Avocados
3. Organic nut butter
4. Fermented vegetables
5. Organic eggs

Ideal energy-boosting snack to get you through a workout or long day?
Avocado with sea salt

Food-prep hack to set yourself up for a busy week?
I have 90-second organic rice/quinoa packets to shorten prep, and pre-cut fruit from the co-op.

Biggest “ah-ha!” moment when it comes to healthy eating?
Once I simply started eating whole foods, mostly plants, it made everything easier to manage. I stopped worrying about the amount of fat, protein, carbs, and calories. Also eating fruit has helped me maintain an ideal weight and really helped my digestion.

Biggest misconception about dieting and what it means to eat healthy?
Worrying too much about protein intake, that fat is bad, carbs are the enemy, and calories are calories. All of these are not created equal and simply by eating whole natural foods it eliminates the stressors of over-analyzing food. Find balance: Eat to live and live to eat.


Dr. Jennifer Lesniak

Dr. Jennifer Lesniak | Healthy eating tips from local pros | Buffalo MagazineDr. Lesniak is the owner of Lesniak Chiropractic PLLC, a clinical nutritionist and co-owner of Lumber City CrossFit. She is a two-time CrossFit individual regional athlete who has completed seven full marathons and a 50-mile ultra marathon. For nine years, Dr. Lesniak has worked with patients and athletes pursuing overall health, longevity and athletic performance.

What five healthy meal ingredients are always in your kitchen?
1. Coconut oil
2. Fresh greens
3. Free-range chicken breast
4. Grass-fed ground beef
5. Whole oats

Ideal energy-boosting snack to get you through a workout or long day?
Siggis Icelandic vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup muesli
1/8 cup of dried unsweetened cherries
1 Tbsp. of almond butter

Food-prep hack to set yourself up for a busy week?
I typically cook up ground beef with salt and pepper and have it available in the fridge. I also bread three pounds of chicken tenders with almond flour and bake them, and use those throughout the week with veggies, sweet potatoes or rice.

Biggest “ah-ha!” moment when it comes to healthy eating?
Weighing and measuring, hands down. When you really take the time to portion your food out, it makes a difference. This is not just for weight loss, but for feeling my best during workouts and throughout my work day.

Biggest misconception about dieting and what it means to eat healthy?
That you have to sacrifice all the foods you like to eat, which just simply isn’t true. There are many healthy foods that are a great fuel and taste delicious. Remember it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle – you need to pick something and stick with it. Consistency will be your best bet; when trying to incorporate a healthy lifestyle, pick something that’s livable.


Mark McKelvie

McKelvie is regional manager and life coach at Project Lean Nation, a nutrition-based prepared meal service that caters to athletes and others trying to improve their eating habits. He lost 60 pounds himself through proper nutrition.

What five healthy meal ingredients are always in your kitchen?
1. Chicken breast
2. Brown rice
3. Nutrient-dense veggies
(kale, spinach, avocado)
4. Fruit
5. Eggs


Ideal energy-boosting snack to get you through a workout or long day?

Sweet potatoes or almonds.

Food-prep hack to set yourself up for a busy week?
Cook a variety of foods to reduce boredom, or buy from a meal service.

Biggest “ah-ha!” moment when it comes to healthy eating?
I was pre-diabetic, and it was healthy food choices that got me back on track.

Biggest misconception about dieting and what it means to eat healthy?
That low carbs, low fat and low calories are the way to go. A balanced approach to nutrition will lead to greater overall health and is ultimately more sustainable.


Niki Klem

Niki Klem | Healthy eating tips from local pros | Buffalo MagazineKlem is a registered dietician and director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at Trocaire College. She volunteers as the Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered Representative for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and dedicates her time to nutrition research, education and advocacy.

What five healthy meal ingredients are always in your kitchen?
1. Beans (dried and canned)
2. Frozen broccoli
3. Eggs
4. Sweet potatoes
5. Whole grain tortillas


Ideal energy-boosting snack to get you through a workout or long day?

Hardboiled egg and half an avocado mashed but still chunky, with a few whole wheat crackers.

Food-prep hack to set yourself up for a busy week?
Salads to-go! On Sunday I’ll prep the ingredients and load up four pint jars for the week. From the bottom of the jar, layer the dressing, a tablespoon of goat cheese crumbles, chopped pear, chopped nuts and then the arugula. Just shake up the jar when you’re ready to eat.

Biggest “ah-ha!” moment when it comes to healthy eating?
Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated; a small portion of a few food groups assembled together makes a meal. These meals are made even easier with some thinking ahead – bake three or four sweet and white potatoes, make a double batch of soup or whole grains and freeze in a quart bag, roast vegetables like mushrooms or cauliflower and have a few favorite condiments around to dress them up; hot sauce, pesto, sauerkraut, olive oil and vinegar.

Biggest misconception about dieting and what it means to eat healthy?
That a diet empowers you to make change by providing structure. Instead, diets farm out your eating decisions to someone else, and in doing so, completely disrupt your ability to listen to your body (turning healthy eating into a bigger struggle than it needs to be). Instead, enjoy trying new things and take pleasure in good food. And be mindful: Only eat when you’re eating, pay attention to the first bite and choose to continue or not, serve the amounts your body needs, and if your mouth is full, your fork is empty.


Morgan McNerney

Morgan McNearney | Healthy eating tips from local pros | Buffalo MagazineMcNerney is the owner of the new downtown studio Sweat 716. A 12-year veteran of the fitness industry, she’s a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. At 15-years-old, she weighed 220 pounds and wore a size 20; through exercise and diet she dropped down to and has maintained a size 6.

What five healthy meal ingredients are always in your kitchen?
1. Avocados
2. Cauliflower rice
3. Goat cheese
4. Hummus
5. Eggs


Ideal energy-boosting snack to get you through a workout or long day?

A handful of cashews and a shot of espresso.

Food-prep hack to set yourself up for a busy week?
I always keep nuts and protein bars in my purse!

Biggest “ah-ha!” moment when it comes to healthy eating?
Eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not, stop eating when you’re full! Such a common sense thing that we tend to forget.

Biggest misconception about dieting and what it means to eat healthy?
That you have to eliminate things from your diet. Instead, just enjoy everything in moderation. One bad meal won’t make you fat, just like one good meal won’t make you thin. Eat pizza on a Friday night – but if you eat pizza every day for a month straight, you probably won’t enjoy the results.

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