energy nutrition, optimal energy nutrition, FINE, Foundational intensive nutrition energy, energy

The Liftoff Foundational Intensive Nutrition Food Plan

The Liftoff Foundational Intensive Nutrition Food Plan is Simple:

  1. Eat Real Food Only and Always
  2. Avoid All Processed and Refined Foods
  3. Avoid All Sugars
  4. Eat healthy fat
  5. Eat enough healthy protein to meet your needs
  6. Eat mostly plants
  7. Feed your microbiome
  8. Eat fresh food, farm-to-table, seasonably
  9. Eat mindfully, joyfully and socially
  10. Don’t eat too much of anything

In addition to these basic tenets of healthy eating it is important to avoid all harmful food—those foods and food contaminants that can promote injury or inflammation, such as food allergens, irritants, pesticides and plastics.

Your food plan needs to be individualized so that your eating strategy best addresses your special needs such as gut repair, detoxificaiton, methylation, reversal of inflammation or autoimmune disorders.

Americans Are Malnourished

As Americans, we have become disconnected from our food. It has become industrialized, processed, fast and no longer the realm of our gardens and kitchens. We know less and less about nutrition, food preparation and eat increasingly poor diets.

Most Americans are malnourished. I don’t mean in terms of calories or quantity of food. Rarely do we not have enough to eat. Food is so abundant in our country that most eat in excess of their caloric or energy needs. What I am talking about is the quality and nutritional value of the food we eat. Both problems (excess calories, poor quality) can have disastrous health consequences.

Since we are a unified body, mind and spirit, all of the aspects of who we are become impacted by what we eat. When we eat poorly or in a way that is not in alignment with what we need, our bodies can become sick, our minds dysfunctional and our spirits unable to reach their full potential.

Many of the people with whom I work are malnourished and present to me with a variety of physical illnesses and disorders of the mind and mood—such as depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, irritability. They are sick, tired, feel stuck in their lives, and unable to come up with creative solutions to fix their problems. They often struggle with loss of meaning and purpose to their lives.

Eating good food nourishes us and literally transforms who we are. Eating well is an essential part of healing our bodies, enjoying optimal vitality and having a healthy mind, good mood and strong sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Food is information

Every molecule that we ingest has something very specific to communicate to our bodies. Our organs, tissues, cells and DNA (our book of life) are all in constant conversation with every bite of food that we eat. The messages are sure and precise. To adapt to changing environments, our DNA changes the way it is expressed, leading to alterations to our physiology. Even at this microscopic level we are malleable and profoundly influenced by what we eat.

If we eat healthy food, the messages delivered to our bodies are positive and support health, balance and reserve. If we are not eating healthfully or if we are eating in a way that is incompatible with our needs, then the messages delivered can trigger problems such as inflammation, high blood sugar, hormone imbalance, poor energy production as well as an endless list of potential dysfunctions.

Food is Love

There is no doubt that we express love with one another through the preparation and sharing of food. When food is experienced in this way it elevates its value to us. It becomes one of the ways we transfer to one another the vibration of this central emotion.

I am not talking about using food as a substitute for love. When this happens, food is used as a drug to numb the sense of isolation and self-loathing that comes from having too little love in one’s life.

When we care for one another and share the experience of providing what we need to thrive, we share and expand love and it permeates our physiology.

Food is Spirit

Ours is the only culture in the world that does not include the importance of the spirit and nutrition in its core conventional worldview on health. If you look at the other large and influential health traditions around the world, they all include a way to think about the matters of the spirit. And they all look at the ways in which food feeds the spirit.

In both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, two traditions looked to by billions of people throughout the world, using food to modulate and elevate the spirit is central. I think there is much to learn from these traditions in that respect. When the influence of food on our more expanded selves is honored in this way, there are health benefits. We know that reverence and gratitude expressed at mealtime improved digestion and absorption of our food.

I believe that people have known since the beginning that food is holy. Food and wine have been used worldwide through the millennia to represent holy embodiment of the Divine. Food is who we are. Food elevates us to our highest potential as human beings. It connects us to our spirit and to the larger Universe. It allows us to become who we truly are.


In some ways this is about going back to our roots. To eating real food, grown in favorable conditions, prepared simply and deliciously, shared with those we love, eaten slowly and just enough to meet our needs.

But its also about moving forward into our age of high technology and convenience and using those as an asset, to improve our nutrition and our ability to use food for healing. It is not about trying to mimic what we think our ancestors were doing. In fact, we don’t want their lives!

We are not our ancestors

As my son said to me, “none of the Paleolithic people made it, mom!” Of course he was trying to be funny, but his point is well taken. Our Paleolithic ancestors were not always so well off and today’s indigenous cultures face tremendous stresses. Attempting to model our behavior after what we think our ancestors did makes no sense when their experiences were so diverse and health outcomes not always so good.

The Liftoff food plan is not a Paleo diet! Paleo is a cultural movement that seeks to fundamentally change how people eat that has great intentions–to improve the quality of what people eat by borrowing from the heritage of our ancestors. There are elements that are of great value and have provided tremendous inspiration for how I think about food and what I recommend to my clients. There are also elements within the Paleo movement that are misguided.

The emphasis on eating real food and more plants by some versions of the modern Paleo diet is good. Encouraging persistent over consumption of animal products and repetitive food groups without regard to nutritional diversity, seasonal changes and personal preferences is not good.

Being dogmatic about protocols and strategies fit for everyone does not take into consideration our individual differences and needs.

Considering the food of our ancestors out of context of their lifestyles—particularly movement and relationships—is perhaps missing even more important aspects of getting back to our roots to improve our health.

Our Paleolithic ancestors roamed the earth before the time of agriculture and foraged, hunted and to a limited extent grew their food. Tribes all over the world adapted to their unique habitats and had greatly different diets as a result. Their lifestyles were completely different than our own not only in terms of types of foods consumed, but movement, relationships and stressors.

Many authors speak of the way our ancestors ate as the reason they enjoyed better health than modern people. While there may be some truth to that depending on the ancestral culture one is referring to, it’s important to remember that they had their own sets of problems and stresses. Many of their habitats were unforgiving and famine and health problems were common.

What they did do was eat real food, they seldom consumed in excess of their needs, they moved their bodies a lot and they lived in closely-knit communities.

It would serve us well to take the positive attributes of Paleolithic cultures and capitalize on them. But let’s not pretend that we know how our ancestors truly lived or romanticize about how they thrived so well that we want to be just like them.

We obviously can’t replicate the way our pre-agriculture and pre-industrial-age ancestors lived and ate, nor do we completely know the vast ways in which their lives and their environments were different from our own. The world is a completely different place and the availability of untainted nutrient-rich foods is not as readily available. Our food sensibilities are different—eating crickets and worms would not be acceptable to many of us!

Let’s talk about what we need today, in our modern world, with all of it’s advantages and disadvantages and let’s make it work for us.

It’s all really quite simple.

“Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Michael Pollan, Food Rules)

The Liftoff Foundational Intensive Nutrition Food Plan (Liftoff Food Plan) is an excellent real food template that provides intensive nutrition to support all of our body’s needs while eliminating foods that cause inflammation, toxicity, elevated blood sugar levels and damage to our metabolism.

Those who eat this way get to enjoy robust energy, reversal of inflammatory conditions, clearer thinking, attainment of ideal body weight and more balanced, grounded, joyful lives.

We are increasingly challenged by environmental stresses and toxicities that increase our nutrient requirements. In addition, we have a level of abundance of food that was not present for our ancestors and which, in itself, leads to health challenges. But we can choose to eat more wisely, reduce our calorie consumption and greatly improve our health. We can also enjoy the benefits of modern-day technological bounty and knowledge that have provided us with food supplements and conveniences that we can use to our great advantage.

Build A Foundation of Good Food and Healthy Lifestyle

In time, you will learn to incorporate this eating plan into your life, making any modifications that you might need to address your unique health needs. Look to the abundance of resources to help with meal plans and recipes. For optimal health, build a lifestyle that includes this excellent nutrition plan in addition to other important aspects of self-care, including regular exercise, good sleep habits, stress management and relaxation as well as joyful, healthy and supportive relationships.

You Are Unique

Always remember that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for eating or anything else. By understanding your own unique needs as well as preferences with regards to nutrition and what you learn about yourself using a trial-and-error process over time, you will discover what version of this food plan works best for you. This does not mean that the process of change toward healthier eating will not present challenges to you. Adopting a healthier eating strategy absolutely will challenge you. For some of you there may be a period of intense deprivation and perhaps withdrawal-like symptoms and experiences as you move from your current way of eating to the Liftoff Food Plan. Embrace the challenges. Understand where you are headed. Carefully observe the changes that occur as your health improves. Seek out wise counsel for getting through the rough patches.

Embrace Liftoff Eating

Change is always a challenge. If you embrace the larger goal of improving your health and enjoying better mood, clarity of thinking, energy and general wellbeing, the challenge will take on enough personal meaning to fuel your efforts. Review the fundamentals and consider what you need to get started. Look at the resources listed below. Consider recipes you’d like to make and purchase ingredients you will need. Then, just start! Take this challenge one day at a time. There is a lot to learn and it will all become second nature in time.

Important note for those with food sensitivities:

For many people, particularly those who are suffering from the effects of food sensitivities and toxicities, it will be important to follow this food plan with 100% strictness in order to achieve the goal of decreasing symptoms. For many with food sensitivities, the inflammatory response of the body occurs with the same vigorousness to a very small amount of the culprit food as it does to a large quantity. Simply reducing the quantity of a culprit food will therefore not help.

If you have true immunological sensitivities to food, you may feel worse before you feel better once you’ve implemented the Liftoff Food Plan. Your immune system will be hyper-vigilant as your body becomes accustomed to the absence of the culprit foods. This lasts just a few days to a week or so. Expect it so you will not be surprised. Treat yourself symptomatically, just as you would if you had the flu. And remember, this too shall pass.

Many people have food sensitivities as just part of a constellation of symptoms and problems that involve inflammation and autoimmunity. This food plan may be a good starting place, however, it is possible that you will need a more aggressive strategy as outlined in the section, Liftoff Gut-Immune Restoration Intensive Nutrition Food Plan (GRIN).

Important note for those with metabolic syndrome and other inflammatory conditions: 

For those with high blood pressure, high blood sugar and/0r excess belly fat (we call this “metabolic syndrome”), or other inflammatory conditions, it is also ideal to follow this eating strategy strictly. Many of the restricted foods, such as grains (even “health whole grains”) release large amounts of sugar when digested. This leads to excess insulin release in the body, which leads to inflammation, belly fat and a whole host of “downstream” problems that are part of the metabolic syndrome physiology. There are excellent resources listed below that discuss this in much greater depth.

For those with autoimmune or severe inflammatory conditions:

You may need to follow a stricter food plan than that presented here, at least in the early months of your changes. Take a look at the Liftoff Gut-Immune Restoration Intensive Nutrition Food Plan. This plan restricts all food groups known to injure the gut and trigger immune responses by the body.

I challenge you:

If you can, commit to 6 weeks of complete strictness to the food plan. Carefully document your food and liquid intake as well as your symptoms. If you have pain or fatigue, rate them daily on a scale of 0-10. Observe the change. When this process is complete, then consider whether it is worth eating foods that are not included in the plan (I am hoping you will say that it is not!). If you decide to stray, do it mindfully. Choose your “off-plan” food carefully, eat it joyfully, document what you did and observe the consequences.

If you are not up to a 6-week trial at this time, you may benefit from shorter periods. In general, it takes 6-12 weeks to modulate immune and hormonal responses sufficiently to make substantial changes in your physiology. However, in just a week or 2 you might get to experience a change in how you feel when eating more nutritious and less toxic food. That is very valuable. Please do what you can!

Remember, many people feel worse before they feel better, especially those who are making a dramatic overhaul of their usual eating plan. This will last a few days up to a few weeks. Track your symptoms carefully and hang in there! If you are concerned, talk to your health care provider before giving up.

Common Pitfalls for Beginners:

  1. Not eating enough: Many people starting out on this plan do not eat enough in the early stages as they learn new ways to eat and get organized about having the right kinds of food readily available to them at all times. They lose weight and feel hungry, tired and weak. This is easily remedied by careful planning so that ample food is available for all meals and snacks. Use the abundance of available resources for ideas.
  2. Eating out: Many people are used to eating at restaurants on a regular basis. It is very hard to stick to this plan at the majority of restaurants, especially chains and fast food restaurants. In the beginning it is best to work on learning the fundamentals of the food plan and food preparation by eating at home. Once you are good at this, you will know how to select restaurants and know what questions to ask your server regarding ingredients you are trying to avoid.
  3. Travel: You will need to get savvy about how to have your needs met while away from home. This may include planning restaurants that will accommodate your food plan, packing and transporting food, taking healthy meal replacement products and protein supplements or planning for accommodations where you can have a kitchen and do your own cooking. This gets tricky but is something you will become good at over time.
  4. Getting frustrated and giving up: This may be due to the challenges of making change or getting organized around new skills and habits. It may also be related to feeling poorly in the early stages. It is good to know what to expect and to prepare yourself for what is to come. Read this section thoroughly and create a careful plan for yourself. Remember that failure is your best teacher. If you fall, get back up!
  5. Not having enough support from family and friends: They may even try to sabotage your efforts at self-improvement. Or perhaps they just don’t understand and feel just as overwhelmed as you do! Share your educational materials with them and don’t forget to ask for help! In the end, this is something that you must decide for yourself if it’s what you want and what is good for you and commit to it wholeheartedly no matter what.

Simple Steps to Learning and Embracing the Liftoff Foundational Food Plan:

  1. Read this chapter carefully to thoroughly review what is to come.
  2. Assess your readiness for making this change at this time. Would another time be better? Would taking it on in a step-wise fashion be best?
  3. Mobilize your support network of family, friends and advisors to help you.
  4. Clean out your kitchen, refrigerator and pantry of all foods that are excluded from this food plan. If they are not included that means they are not good for you. Best to get rid of them.
  5. Plan meals and make your grocery list. Fill your kitchen with an ample supply of food so that you always have what you need and don’t go hungry. You will get better at this with practice.
  6. Be bold: Commit. Be All In.
  7. Consider kitchen tools that will make food preparation easier for you (see below).
  8. Keep a careful food and symptom diary, especially at first, as you are learning this new way of eating and transforming your health.
  9. Look at additional resources for more in-depth reading, recipes and encouragement.
  10. Work with a trusted healthcare provider.

No calorie counting

Follow the simple rules for Liftoff eating and there will be no need to count calories or fat grams. Eat your fill and enjoy what you eat. You will find that you will be less hungry during the day and eat less overall. In addition, once you have completely eliminated grains (particularly wheat) and sugar, there will no longer be the addictive relationship to food that leads to compulsive eating and unstable mood and energy throughout the day. What liberation!

No Weighing In

Please stay off the scale during your first six weeks while you are incorporating this food plan into your life. I want your focus and emphasis to be on the quality of food you are eating and the lifestyle change involved in making this happen. Your weight is not the central issue. It is a side effect of how you are eating and the condition of your health. Weight loss is inevitable on the Liftoff Food Plan. Please focus on learning and get away from obsessing about your weight.

For vegans:

This food plan will be a challenge for you in the protein department. Without animal flesh, fish, eggs, beans and legumes as protein sources you will have to be much more mindful of the protein content of the foods that you eat. You will likely need to incorporate healthy protein supplements into your diet, particularly if you are active (see appendix for some of my favorite protein supplements). Consider working with a trusted health practitioner or dietician well versed in this Liftoff style of eating.


  1. Healthy, lean meat choices, eggs and fish: Use only grass-fed beef options, free-range poultry and eggs, wild game and wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, herring and sardines. Use organ meat from healthy animals. Include protein in every meal and refer to the protein counter below to determine your total daily protein need and plan your meals and snacks accordingly.
  2. Non-starchy vegetables: Eat mostly greens and include the multitude of other colors. Emphasize the crucifer family: cabbage, kale, broccoli, broccoli sprouts and Brussels sprouts. Include garlic and onions liberally. Minimize starchy vegetables such as carrots, yams and potatoes but do include them in small quantities, as they are rich in nutrition. A simple guideline for quantity is that veggies should take up 2/3 of your plate at each meal. There is no need to over-eat. Those with metabolic syndrome: avoid starchy veggies altogether!
  3. Low sugar-content fruit: eat mostly berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc) and may include apples and pears. Pomegranate and cranberries are good options. Save sweeter fruits (peaches, bananas, pineapple) for special treats and desserts. Those with metabolic syndrome: avoid all fruit other than berries, tart apples, cranberries and pomegranate.
  4. Nuts and seeds: stick to raw, fresh options and avoid peanuts (these are actually legumes and can promote inflammation). Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, which are vital to our good health, however beware of their high calorie content. Ground flax and hemp seeds and whole Chia seeds provide a lot of fiber, protein and healthy fats—include these daily. They mix well in smoothies.
  5. Bone Broth: Make bone broth from free-range chickens or grass fed cows. Include it in soups and stews, sauté vegetables with it or drink it by itself. You may add beef-derived collagen hydrosylate (see below) to increase protein content and make a substantial meal or snack out of it.
  6. Water: make sure it is clean and filtered and you may include mineral or sparkling versions. Most people need a minimum of 2 quarts per day, more for highly active individuals. Include herbal tea in your tally. Caffeinated beverages promote fluid loss, so should not be counted.
  7. Spices, condiments, food supplements: Some of my favorite highly nutritive varieties are cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, Sencha ground green tea, vegetable proteins (such as hemp and pea proteins), gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen derived from grass-fed cows (to use as a protein supplement).
  8. Health-promoting fats:
    1. Coconut oil and coconut milk: (use the full fatted culinary version sold in cans or make your own—avoid the diluted version sold in cartons): These are rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which are important fats for structure and energy production. They are also rich in fats (lauric acid, caprylic acid, capric acid) that may have important antimicrobial effects. Use only organic, unrefined varieties.
    2. Avocados, avocado oil: These contain potent antioxidants known as carotenoids, phytosteroids and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols—all of which help modulate inflammation in the body. The oleic acid in avocados, is a monounsaturated fat that reduces the risk of vascular disease.
    3. Olives, olive oil: Olive oil is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Not only is it rich in heart and vasculature-protective monounsaturated fats, but contains a diverse array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients that have been shown to reduce inflammation, cancer risk, allergies, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis and more. Buy only organic, unrefined varieties and store in dark containers in cool areas to prevent spoilage.
    4. Omega-3-fats: (fish oil, algae-derived DHA). These have many health benefits as necessary structural fats for cell membranes and anti-inflammatory molecules. If you don’t eat fatty fish like wild-caught salmon regularly, you would benefit from supplementing with a good quality EPA-DHA extract.
  9. Beans and Legumes:
    1. Omit these if you suspect you have food sensitivities.
    2. Limit the amount you consume to keep the sugar content of your diet low.
    3. Use the full spectrum of beans, legumes, lentils and dals.


  1. All grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, etc.)
    1. All grains can be irritants to the immune system as well as the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
    2. All of today’s genetically engineered grain varieties are high in sugar content and release high levels of sugar through the digestive process.
  2. All animal milk products (this includes cow, goat and sheep’s milk)
    1. Animal milk is pro-inflammatory by virtue of its major protein, casein, and one of its predominant fats, arachadonic acid.
    2. Caseomorphones are produced in the digestive process and behave like opiates that can cause mood and cognitive dysfunction in susceptible individuals.
  3. All processed, synthetic foods, preservatives and additives
    1. These are not real food, are void of nutrition, high in calories and man-made molecules that can be harmful.
  4. Unhealthy meats such as commercial corn-fed, feedlot beef, commercial poultry and eggs, farm-raised fish or any large predator fish (such as tuna and swordfish).
    1. Feedlot beef are treated with the utmost cruelty.
    2. Feedlot beef are fat, unhealthy cows and their meat contains an abundance of unhealthy fats.
    3. Any fish not wild-caught and larger predator fish are suspect for pesticides or heavy metal contamination. Refer to the National Resources Defense Council’s detailed guide about choosing fish with the lowest mercury content:
  5. Excesses of sugar: including the sugar naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables (sweet fruit and starchy veggies).
    1. The literature is now huge on negative health impact of dietary sugars. We were not designed to process excesses of sugar.
  6. Unhealthy fats: including all trans or hydrogenated fats, excesses of saturated fat that occur in high levels in commercial meats, damaged fats that can be found in rancid oils or fatty foods exposed to excess heat. Best to stick with raw, fresh nuts. Protect your oils from excess exposure to heat or ambient air. Store nuts and oils in the refrigerator if you don’t plan to use them within a few days.
    1. Processed and rancid fats promote inflammation and lead to tissue damage and disease.
  7. All beans and legumes (this includes peanuts and soy)
    1. If you have food sensitivities, gut permeability issues or are suffering from inflammatory or autoimmune disorders.
    2. Beans and legumes contain lectins on their surfaces, which promote inflammation along the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and irritate the immune system.


Protein is essential for running the important business of the body. Protein is necessary for structure as well as function. It provides the necessary amino acids for muscle development and tissue repair, detoxification, neurotransmitter synthesis (these profoundly influence brain function and mood), energy production and many other essential processes. If you do not provide adequate amounts of good quality protein in your diet, these processes will simply slow down and lead to many health problems.

Protein Requirements

This depends entirely on each of our unique bodies, stage of life, level of activity, state of health and energy requirements, but we can make some generalizations based upon the scientific data. Interestingly, according to the PROT-AGE Study Group, older adults need even more dietary protein than younger adults to support optimal health, recovery from acute and chronic illness and to maintain good function. The same is true for adults of any age who are highly active or are challenged with acute or chronic illness.

Minimum daily protein requirement for adults: 1.0-1.2 grams protein per kilogram of body weight. For those of us who think in terms of pounds, there are 2.2 pounds per kilogram, so this converts to 0.5 grams protein per pound body weight. This is the minimum requirement for a generally well person who is sedentary. If you are this person and weigh 150 pounds, you need 75 grams of protein each day as a minimum standard.

For those who are ill or highly active, the protein requirements increase to 1.2-1.5 grams per kilogram body weight or 0.7 grams protein per pound of body weight. Elite athletes and body builders need even more–up to 2.0 grams per kilogram body weight, or 0.9 grams per pound body weight. So that 150 pound person in these categories will need close to their body weight in daily protein grams.

The other interesting scientific evidence that needs to be factored into how we think about the protein content of any given meal, is that a minimum of 30 grams of high quality protein is required at a single meal to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS.) This is because it takes at least 30 grams of protein to reach the 2.5-2.8 gram threshold for the amount of the amino acid, leucine, that we need. Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that is necessary for the genetic signaling that initiates muscle protein synthesis.

In general: 1 ounce of beef, chicken, turkey or bison will yield 7 grams of protein. One ounce of fish will yield 5 grams of protein. Therefore, in order to get at least 30 grams of protein at a meal it is necessary to eat about 5 ounces of meat (to yield 35 grams).

By comparison, eggs contain approximately 6 grams of protein, therefore one needs to consume 5-6 eggs at a meal to get the minimum of 30 grams needed to promote muscle growth. Plant foods, by comparison to animal proteins, contain much smaller amounts of protein.

Keep in mind that all proteins are not the same. Their relative amino acid contents will vary. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins. During digestion, proteins are broken down into smaller proteins, called peptides, as well as their very smallest units, amino acids. These are ultimately what the body utilizes to build and repair the structure and function of the body.

It is generally not necessary to be concerned about the amino acid profile of your diet as long as you are eating a wide variety of foods. When this is the case, you ultimately will be making dietary contributions to your body’s amino acid pool and your needs will be met. In some circumstances it is important to consider individual amino acids. Those whose food choices are very limited for any reason, vegans, those whose protein requirements are unusually high (elite athletes, those with severe illness) and those with genetic issues that effect the synthesis of certain proteins will need to be more careful about the types of proteins they consume. This is best done with the assistance of a knowledgeable functional medicine practitioner or nutritionist.

It is always important that the protein you consume is of the healthiest quality. See What to Include in Your Liftoff Food Plan.

Why is it important to be concerned about stimulating muscle growth and repair with dietary protein? It is always good to have a strong body. In addition, muscle contains the bulk of the body’s mitochondria, the cellular organelles that produce our biological energy. Muscle is also the largest consumer of sugar, therefore robust muscle mass keeps our blood sugar at a low, optimally healthy range. Healthy muscle mass is important for healthy hormone balance, detoxification, strength, stability and balance–all critical for excellent health.

Excess Protein

It is possible to consume too much protein, though I mostly encounter the opposite problem, of not eating enough protein, in the people I work with. It is typically those who are supplementing with protein excessively, are protein enthusiasts or those with metabolic disorders who run into this potential problem. For most people consuming protein in excess of needs only becomes a problem when it is a persistent habit. Protein has calories (4 calories per gram). Eating too much protein means excessive calories. It also poses a detoxification challenge. The body needs to clear the toxic ammonia compounds that are created in protein metabolism. Eating in excess adds to the total toxic load delivered to the liver and kidneys. The problems may be subtle or more impactful for those with impairments in detoxification capacity. In general, when people have normally functioning kidneys, it is very difficult to get into problems with excessive protein intake.

Protein Gram Chart

The following chart provides a sampling of the protein contents of common foods. Protein grams are rounded to the nearest whole number. Note that exact protein content will vary slightly from one serving to the next.

A rule of thumb is that 5 ounces of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards and is about 35 calories.



Quantity Protein Grams 
Almonds, raw ¼ cup 8
Almond meal/flour ¼ cup 6
Almond milk, unsweetened 1 cup 1
Apple 1 small .25
Avocado, edible portion 1 cup 3
Beef, lean 3 ounces 22
Blueberries 1 cup 1
Black beans 1 cup 2
Blackberries 1 cup 1
Broccoli, raw 1 cup 3
Brussels sprouts, cooked 1 cup 4
Cabbage, red, raw 1 cup 1
Calves liver 4 ounces 25
Carrots, raw 1 cup 1
Cashews, raw ¼ cup 6
Cauliflower, raw 1 cup 2
Celery, raw 1 cup 1
Cheese, mozzarella 1 ounce 7
Chia seed 1 Tablespoon 3
Chicken breast, roasted ½ breast 26
Chicken liver 1 liver 5
Chicken thigh, roasted 1 thigh 14
Cod, cooked 3 ounces 20
Collard greens, cooked 1 cup 4
Coconut flour 2 Tablespoons 2
Coconut oil 1 Tablespoon 0
Cod 4 ounces 26
Cucumber 1 cup 1
Dates 1 cup 4
Egg, pouched 1 medium 6
Flax seed, ground 2 Tablespoons 3
Garbonzo beans, cooked 1 cup 15
Hemp seed, whole 3 Tablespoons 11
Hemp milk 1 cup 2
Herring, pickled 3 ounces 12
Kale, raw 1 cup 2
Lamb loin, broiled 3 ounces 25
Macadamia nuts, raw ¼ cup 3
Onion, raw 1 cup 2
Opticleanse GHI, Xymogen 2 scoops 26
Pear 1 small 1
Pecans, raw, halves ¼ cup 2
Pinto beans 1 cup 14
Potato, boiled 1 cup 3
Pumpkin seeds, raw 1 ounce 9
PurePea, Designs for Health 2 heaping scoops 24
Raspberries 1 cup 2
Salmon 4 ounces 29
Scallops 4 ounces 23
Shrimp, boiled 4 ounces 24
Soybeans 1 cup 27
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 5
Strawberries 1 cup 1
Sunflower seeds, raw ¼ cup 6
Sweet potato 1 small 2
Tahini 1 Tablespoon 3
Tuna 4 ounces 34
Ultraclear Plus pH, Metagenics 2 scoops 15
Ultraclear Macro, Metagenics 2 scoops 15
Walnuts, raw ¼ cup 4


Calculate Your Daily Protein Needs:

Low to Moderate Activity Level and Good General Health: 

Consume a minimum of 1.0 grams protein per pound ideal body weight.

Moderate to High Activity Level and Good General Health:

Consume a minimum of  1.2-1.5 grams protein per pound ideal body weight.

Elite Athlete or Severely Ill:

Amounts may vary by circumstance and most would benefit from a consultation with a trained nutrition counselor. Most will need in excess of 1.5 grams protein per pound ideal body weight.

Example Protein Calculations

So, if you are 130 pounds, exercise intensely most days and are in excellent health, shoot for 200 grams of protein per day. Try to achieve this by having protein at every meal and with each snack. A rather small portion of meat, nuts, large quantities of veggies and perhaps a protein supplement added to a morning smoothie will accomplish this easily.

If you are 150 pounds, in good health, exercise moderately 3 days per week, sit at a desk all day for work and are 20 pounds overweight, set your “ideal” body weight at 130. Shoot for at least 1.0 grams protein per pound “ideal” body weight, or 130 grams per day. It would probably be beneficial to increase your activity level, and as you do, increase your daily protein intake as well.

For those with acute or chronic illness, you would likely benefit from higher daily protein intake than your same-weight, similar-activity counterparts. Work with your trusted health-care provider to determine what this might be.

Basic Kitchen Equipment for Executing the Liftoff Food Plan:

These are the basics, beyond what I expect are in most peoples’ kitchens already. They’ll make your food prep so much smoother and easier.

  1. A good all-purpose food processor, like Cuisinart
  2. A Vitamix blender
  3. Excellent set of chef knives (I prefer Wusthof): you’ll need a chef’s knife and paring knife minimally as well as a knife sharpener (I prefer an electric one—fast sharpening!)
  4. Garlic press
  5. Cutting boards of various sizes
  6. A slow cooker that holds 4-6 quarts


Smoothies made with fruits and veggies are a core part of many people’s food plan. They are a time saving, convenient and delicious way to provide a huge hit of nutrition each day. They make a good breakfast or snack. You can use them to target particular nutrients you are trying to emphasize or add additional protein to your diet. Here are some basic smoothie recipes. Change them up. Make them your own. The recipes may make more than you need for one meal. Store extra in the fridge and consume within 24 hours for maximum nutrition. It is best to use a Vitamix or similar high-speed blender for silky-smooth results.

If you have digestive issues it might be best to use smaller smoothies and consume them along with part of a meal that is chewed. The reason for this is that chewing and appreciating food stimulates the whole digestive process. Some people benefit from using digestive aides. It is also important to avoid cold smoothies because they will impair digestion. Drink them at room temperature or warm.

If you are just starting this food plan and have recently ramped up your veggie, fruit or fiber intake, take caution. Too much too quickly can make the gut unhappy as the flora changes and your belly gets used to things being different! Start small and work your way up as tolerated.

Remember, if you are dealing with metabolic syndrome issues (elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar or belly fat), avoid the high sugar content fruits and starchy vegetables.

Simple Berry Avocado Smoothie

(Makes enough for 2 servings)

1 avocado, peeled and seed removed

1 green apple

1 cup blueberries

2-4 scoops protein supplement (see options below)

Enough water to achieve desired texture

Blend and enjoy

Simple Veggie Smoothie

Makes enough for 2 servings

1 green apple

3-4 stalks kale

2 T fresh lemon juice

1 avocado

2-4 scoops protein supplement (see options below)

Enough water to achieve desired texture

Blend and enjoy

Basic Berry Smoothie

Makes enough for 2 substantial meals

1-2 cups frozen organic berries (I mix blue, rasp and black)

1 green apple (cut into 8ths)

½ cucumber (cut into large chunks)

1 avocado (remove skin and pit)

½ tsp Sencha ground green tea

¼ cup ground flax or Chia seed OR

4 scoops protein supplement (see options below)

Place each item into Vitamix in the order listed, with chunkier items on the bottom.

Use “variable” speed, start low and gradually turn to highest setting.

Add enough water to achieve desired consistency.

Blend 2-3 minutes, to desired smoothness.

I don’t recommend adding ice as cold smoothies can impair digestion. In fact, if I use frozen berries, I use hot water so the end result is a room temperature smoothie. You can add a tablespoon of coconut oil to this if you are trying to get your daily dose in and it is delicious!

Basic Green Smoothie

Makes enough for 2 substantial meals

1 green apple (cut into 8ths)

1/2 medium cucumber (cut into large chunks)

1 avocado (peeled and pit removed)

4-5 large kale leaves (tear into 1 inch bits)

1 tsp fresh ginger (throw an inch of fresh in whole)

1 pear (cut pear meat off off core or throw whole pear in!)

1 celery stick (cut into large chunks)

½ tsp Sencha ground green tea

4 scoops protein supplement (see options below)

¼ cup ground flax or Chia seed OR

Place each item into Vitamix in the order listed, with chunkier items on the bottom.

Use “variable” speed, start low and gradually turn to highest setting.

Add enough water to achieve desired consistency.

Blend 2-3 minutes, to desired smoothness.

You can also leave the protein and added fiber out of this smoothie and have a delicious, nutrient-dense drink to enjoy all day long.

 Spice Smoothie

This is delicious and stimulating. Great for an occasional breakfast or snack.

You can leave out the protein and fiber if this is being used as a simple snack.

For a meal, add them. Do not use this recipe if you have metabolic syndrome!

1 banana

12-16 oz hemp, almond or coconut milk

1 tsp unsweetened cocoa (non-Dutch processed)

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp cardamom

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼-1/3 cup protein supplement (see options below)

½ tsp Sencha ground green tea (regular or decaf)

1 heaping T whole Chia seeds

Blend 1 minute. Yum….

Special Dessert Smoothie

1 cup mixed berries

½ banana

½ cup almonds

2-3 pitted dates

12-16 oz unsweetened hemp milk

Blend well on high speed for at least 2 minutes to make nuts very smooth. This is a delicious and decadent treat. Leave out the dates if you want to avoid the sugar! You can even leave out the banana and it will still be yummy! People with metabolic syndrome, sorry, this one is not for you.

 Bone Broth

Place one chicken carcass or large beef shank (or 2-3 smaller cut beef shank pieces) into 5 quart slow cooker along with a chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrot, salt and pepper. Completely cover with water. Set to “low” and simmer continuously for at least 24 hours. Strain the broth while hot. Can drink immediately, refrigerate or freeze. Can use as a soup stock. This will be rich in connective tissue from the bone marrow and sinews, broken down sufficiently for easy digestibility and utilization by the gut lining. Use routinely, as it is delicious, and make a special effort to consume regularly if you have digestive or inflammatory issues as it aides in gut healing.

Bone Broth Smoothie

2 cups bone broth

1/3-1/2 cup hydrolyzed collagen

Seasoning as desired

Heat to desired temperature, stir and drink.

Green Tea Coconut Smoothie

½-1 tsp Sencha ground green tea

½ cup coconut milk (full fatted)

2 heaping tablespoons hydrolyzed collagen

Hot water to desired consistency

Stir and enjoy.

Protein Supplement Options for the Radical Vitality Foundational Food Plan:

Great Lakes Hydrolyzed Collagen:

This is protein derived from the bones and connective tissue of grass fed cows. It is tasteless, odorless and dissolves well into liquid of any temperature. It is high in glycine, an amino acid important for gut and joint health. One tablespoon contains 6 grams of protein.

Pea Protein:

Derived from split peas.

My favorite is PurePea from Designs for Health.

It has a high protein content, 24 grams in 2 scoops.

It has a complete amino acid profile.

OptiCleanse GHI:

This is a medical food with high protein content made by Xymogen. It contains 26 grams per 2 scoops of pea protein, taurine, glycine, rice protein and l-glutamine. This product is designed to nutritionally support detoxification, gut healing and reducing inflammation.

UltraClear Plus pH:

This is a classic medical food made by Metagenics, designed to support detoxification. It is made with hydrolyzed rice protein. The process of hydrolysis pre-digests the protein into its basic amino acids. This makes it easy to digest and hypoallergenic. It contains15 grams of protein per 2 scoops.

Ground Hemp Seed:

Hemp seeds are rich in health omega-3 fats and particularly high in protein for a seed. Three tablespoons contains 11 grams of protein.

Karyn’s Favorite Savory Veggie Madness Soup

This is one of my favorite staple veggie soups. It tastes fantastic, I can change it at whim and it is a phenomenal health tonic.

I like to make a huge batch of this so there is enough for my family to eat for several days and I can freeze a bunch of single serving containers to pull out for lunch later.

You will need:

3 large, whole, free-range organic chicken breasts

½ pound pork chorizo or Italian sausage (sautéed and drained of excess fat)

8-12 cups (or more) water and/or chicken broth to desired consistency

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions, chopped

3 large leeks, white part, chopped

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups celery, chopped

8-10 large carrots, peeled and sliced

3 Tbsp ginger root, peeled and chopped

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 large bunch kale, chopped

1 cup Italian parsley, chopped

1 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (include seeds)

10 tomatillos (lose outer peel removed, blended)

2 tsp sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Poach chicken breasts whole in enough water to cover them. Save the water to be used as part of the broth in the soup. Cook the sausage and drain off all fat.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté onions, leeks, garlic, celery, carrots and ginger for about 10 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms, basil, kale, parsley and jalapeno pepper and 8-12 cups of fluid. Add tomatillo mixture. Cut up chicken and add along with sausage. Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Cook covered on low heat for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Delicious All-Purpose Vinaigrette

I use this as a base for salad dressing, to mix with steamed veggies or as a dressing for chicken or shrimp salad. It is very adaptable to a variety of flavors, so use your favorite ingredients to make it just right.

This recipe will make enough dressing for a couple of family salads. You can make extra and store in the fridge in a covered container.

¼ cup organic extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp prepared horseradish

1-2 Tbspn culinary coconut milk

1-2 tsp white wine or water

1 crushed garlic clove

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

dash of cayenne pepper

Mix well with a whisk and serve.

 Crucifer Salad

This crucifer blend is delicious and is a great way to support detoxification daily with food.

Makes enough for several days.

1 small head of red cabbage grated

1 head broccoli cut up into small pieces

1 head cauliflower cut up into small pieces

4 large kale leaves, stem removed, cut into small pieces

Juice of 1 lemon

Dried cranberries ½ cup

Toasted pumpkin seeds 1 cup (toast until light brown in heated cast iron skillet—stir frequently, don’t burn)

Organic extra virgin olive oil 1 cup

Sea salt 1 tsp

Fresh ground pepper ½ tsp

Garlic 1 fresh clove, pressed

Combine using your hands to thoroughly coat all of the contents with olive oil. Feel free to add additional oil if needed.

This salad is a great base for the addition of other flavors.

Cabbage Slaw with Coconut Milk

1 head cabbage, green or red, grated

Olive oil ½-1 cup

Coconut milk (full-fatted culinary version in a can) ½=1 cup

Garlic 1-2 cloves, pressed

Sea salt ½ tsp

Pepper ½ tsp

Wisk the olive oil, coconut milk, pressed garlic, salt and pepper together well in a small bowel. When well blended, add to shredded cabbage and blend well.

Simple Guacamole

1 Hass avocado, medium ripeness

Fresh lime juice 2 Tablespoons

Sea salt 1 tsp

Red onion ¼ chopped small

Jalepeno pepper ¼ chopped small (wash your hands after you do this!)

Cilantro few sprigs chopped small

Slice avocado horizontally around its circumference and open. Remove pit. Scoop out the inside with a spoon and place in bowel. Add lime juice and salt. Smash well with fork. Add remainder of ingredients and mix well with fork. I enjoy this as a condiment over a variety of meats.

 Liftoff Brownie Recipe

This is a delicious dessert option for the WHN food plan and contains lots of healthful cocoa and coconut. Those with metabolic syndrome, leave out the honey!

16 oz walnuts (or nut of your choice)

1 can coconut milk (full fat)

1 egg (or 1 T ground flaxseed soaked in 2 T warm water)

1/4 cup honey (you can skip this if you want NO sugar)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

2 oz (or more:) unsweetened dark chocolate chopped

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, pulse walnuts until smooth and creamy. Add enough coconut milk to help make that happen. I typically use 1/2-2/3 can.
  3. Add egg and honey. Pulse.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and blend well in food processor.

If you prefer, you can transfer to mixer and process that way, but

I like the convenience of doing it all in the food processor.

  1. Add the rest of the coconut milk if mixture seems too thick.
  2. Pour out into an 8×8 baking dish greased with coconut oil.
  3. Bake for 30-35 minutes. May need more time. Check for doneness with toothpick.
  4. These should be well set but fudgy and moist. You might be tempted to eat them all in one sitting!:)

Liftoff Multi-Seed Bread

Wisk dry ingredients:

1 cup chia seeds

1 cup ground flax seeds

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

Wisk until frothy:

5 eggs

Add to eggs and wisk:

1/3 cup virgin (preferably fresh pressed) olive oil

½ cup water

Mix dry and wet ingredients together and allow them to sit for about 5 minutes to let the seeds expand. Then pour into 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Test with knife or tooth pick for doneness. Let cool. Store by wrapping in paper towels and placing in air-tight storage bag.

Thank you to Alana’s Pantry for the inspiration!



 Some of my other favorite Liftoff food plan enhancements:

Sencha Ground Green Tea by Sei Mee Tea company (

Green tea has huge health benefits. This ground version of the green tea plant has much higher quantities of beneficial ingredients compared with tea bags. This can be used as tea, either hot or cold, put in your water bottle, mixed into smoothies or sprinkled on veggies. It comes in a decaf version for those who are caffeine-sensitive.

Dynamic Greens by Nutrition Dynamics (

A simple powdered fruit and vegetable supplement that can be added to smoothies and put into your water bottle, sports recovery drink or made into a hot tonic. It is a great plant-derived antioxidant supplement for those who need a little “boost” in this area.

C3Curcumin Complex by Xymogen (

This is a turmeric extract of high potency and quality. Turmeric has incredible health benefits and it is hard to get enough of it from the quantities we might typically use in cooking. This can be used by everyone as a sensible health tonic and higher doses can be used for those with inflammatory conditions.



The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD

The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, PhD

The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain, PhD

The Paleo Diet Cookbook by Loren Cordain, PhD

The Paleo Solution: the Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf

Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield

The Worlds Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan

Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD

The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman, MD

Power Up Your Brain by David Perlmutter, MD

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD

Nom Nom Paleo by: Food For Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong

Bauer, J. et al. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from PROT-AGE Study Group. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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