After four years of graduate school for nutrition and a year long nutrition internship at the Cleveland Clinic my niece – Abigail – you may know her as Spoonful of Abby – is seconds away from being a registered dietitian. We are so proud of her. It is all kinds of gratifying when someone you love lands on a career path that so in tune with her persona and her passions.
Abigail has been a semi-regular fixture in our Montauk abode for a solid 10 years now. Her time with us began as a full-time summer resident when she was in college. We called her dungeon girl as she took over the basement with her best pal Chloe. They would often sleep until noon and then drift out to the pool to assume another supine position that included an overdose of vitamin D.
Dungeon girl gradually transitioned into triathlon girl where our summers were punctuated with all things triathlon training. For our first triathlon, we must have purchased enough nutritional supplements to fuel an ironman race (possibly two). We were gonna shock block our way through that course.
That morphed into summer share Abigail when she would alternate time with us and time with her friends in crowded Montauk summer shares. Through all of these stages we would laugh our heads off, exercise like crazy people, celebrate the twins’ birthday, cook, dine, explore, have long heart to hearts, and just have fun.
I hope there is never a summer that does not include time with Abigail. Last year I wrote about how things were shifting between us – my role as teacher evolving into me learning more from her. This trend is continuing. I love it and am a grateful beneficiary of all the things I can learn from her.
In advance of Abigail’s annual Montauk summer appearance, I decided I would use her three-day visit to “eat like Abby.” Whatever she ordered I would order, whatever she ate I would eat. After about three hours of this I felt like a stalker so I backed off of that plan, but continued to scrutinize her every decision to crack the code on her food consumption philosophy.
Abigail is big into habits – embracing good, healthy habits while gradually chipping away at the bad habits with patience. She is anti-diet, but pro making savvy choices that involve real food, a lot of greens, and balance with the ultimate goal of optimizing one’s health and wellness. She knows that if this falls into place, other good stuff will too (she calls this the waterfall effect). Philosophically @spoonfulofabby wants to simplify healthy eating and does not want you to have to make huge sacrifices to do it. She will happily talk about this for hours over healthy pours of Chardonnay (I admire that). She will also eat (some) of that muffin and enjoy that cookie, but on her terms. I admire this too.
So group here’s what I learned during my 3 days with Abigail, my resident nutritionist. I hope you enjoy these sensible – smart – and useful @spoonfulofabby inspired eating lifestyle tips so you can eat and live like @spoonfulofabby too.
The first thing you put in your body in the morning matters…
Abigail launches her days with warm lemon juice. Key benefits: injection of vitamin C, a clean way to wake up your digestive system and rehydrate from your long summer’s nap. First thing in the morning is best as the empty stomach will absorb that much more of the aforementioned benefits. She will then have coffee with oat milk – later followed by a green juice chaser. The lemon juice habit is an easy and addictive habit to embrace (and one that she had already converted us to last summer). We live in fear of waking up without lemons in this house.
Solving that Alternative Milk Agita…
As the shelving for milk at the grocery store gets more and more eclipsed by dairy-free offerings, I for one can get a little overwhelmed on what to choose. So this was my first question to my in house expert… how do I decide which dairy alternative to purchase? Super simple answer: the one with 0% added sugar. Easy enough. Agita calmed. Grocery shopping now easier! We did ask why all the push back on dairy? Her answer: Dairy can cause internal inflammation and bloating. It can be hard for some people to digest and can cause breakouts (horrifying news for the teenagers in the house). This inspired the husband to try Oat Milk (which we always have an abundance of in our fridge) for the very first time. Remind me to ask him what he thought of it.
On Afternoon Snacking and quick fix morning nutrition…
Does anyone else get ravenous around 4pm? I asked Abigail what I should do to quell these premature hunger pangs. Her thoughts were to throw almond butter and a banana at the situation. I was disappointed she did not suggest chips and guacamole. Apples and nuts would work too or an almond milk, banana, spinach smoothie. She was right! Did the trick. I was more dubious when the next morning I suggested I needed a little nutrition in advance of our double work out. Her answer: one spoonful of almond butter. Really? I tried it and she was right. The humble spoonful of almond butter got me through a row class with an SLT chaser leaving plenty of room for me to enjoy our decadent lunch at Wölffer Kitchen in Amagansett (which you should check out).
On navigating menus when eating out…
After successfully nabbing two seats at one of our more favorite Montauk restaurants – The Crow’s Nest (Abigail, like her Aunt, appreciates her dining experiences) she did a scan of the menu and called out “Abby approved” items. Again not in a militant fashion just in a “this looks good” fashion, but was also in the “good for you” category. I asked her later what she was looking for when she did her menu perusal. Balance was her first answer: a good balance of protein and a heavy tipping towards choices with greens in them. She will always start with a simple salad and she will usually forgo the bread plate.
I love bread plates. This will be a tough habit for me to embrace. Her thoughts on the bread plate? Usually not worth it. I think that’s debatable depending on the quality of the bread and the butter, but am willing to give this habit a go.
On Sweets and Treats…
Newsflash: My sweet niece has a sweet tooth. She thought it was BAD news that a Levain Bakery was moving into our Upper East Side neighborhood as in whoa that’s way too hard of a temptation to pass up. 🙂 She loves baked goods and could not pass up the divine vegan “bikini” muffins that she discovered at the newly opened Round Swamp Farm Montauk outpost.
Kids also grabbed the irresistible salty caramel oversized chocolate chip cookies. Two strategies were employed by Abigail on the sweet treat front: 1. She only ate the muffin a quarter at a time and 2. She hid the cookies and said she would save her one cookie for later after dinner which is exactly what she did (a miracle that there were any cookies leftover given that my children share Abigail’s sweet tooth proclivity, but she got lucky).
Her go-to Smoothie Recipe…
If you spend some time on Abigail’s insta site you will see that smoothies figure prominently into her daily consumption plan. We asked for her “go to” smoothie recipe her “best of” if you will. Her answer: frozen banana, blueberry, spinach, almond milk, nut butter and frozen cauliflower. No ice! Excuse me while I take a smoothie break. Back now. Yum.
Smoothie pro tip: peel and cut the banana before popping into the freezer and portion accordingly. Perfect way to salvage and still use bananas that are beginning to edge toward brown and inedible. For more smoothie recipes click here.
The admirable and signature @spoonfulofabby Breakfast Bowl…
We skipped breakfast most days (see intermittent fasting below) so I did not get a chance to ask her about these. I have been her admiring concoctions in a bowl on her insta site for years now, but have not yet embraced them as a habit. For breakfast bowl inspo hit her insta.
Also meant to dig more into intermittent fasting…
She will have to come back for a master class on this often discussed and employed consumption strategy or maybe I should have her do a guest post on the topic? Her goal is to let 14 hours go in between eating her final meal of the day and her first meal of the next day. This 14 hours includes that last glass of wine that was enjoyed on the deck while discussing nutrition. Hmm…
What’s crazy about all of this? As I put these strategies in writing I realized that what Abigail does is what my size 4 mother has done her entire adult life (with the exception of the smoothies and intermittent fasting – those were not in her repertoire). My mom was eating like Abby well before Abby was eating like Abby, well before Abby was even born. Should have listened to my mama! 🙂
For more on all things Abigail… you can follow her on insta @spoonfulofabby and facebook (same handle) and/or visit her website. She is taking on private clients too! I don’t think she’ll come live with you, but she will happily be but a phone call and email away to get you on the right trajectory towards better choices and subsequently health… one healthy habit at a time.
Excellent! I love Abigail and follow her posts. I am trying to eat better and she is definitely an inspiration. XXOO
You have excellent taste in people and dogs! We have that and being inspired by Abigail in common! And probably a whole lot more. Thanks for reading and cheers! Linda