Peak Performance: A realistic approach to nutrition.

Kathy LaBella RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT      860-339-5493

Winter Grilled Swordfish and Fresh Veggies

 Winter Grilled Swordfish and Fresh Veggies with Squash and Carrots

Photo by Kathy LaBella


Whether you are grilling indoors or outdoors, enjoying swordfish and fresh cut veggies are quick, easy, and nutritious!


Recipe for Two


Swordfish 10 ounces

Zucchini – 1 medium – slice, julienne or cut into chunks

Yellow Squash – 1 medium – slice julienne or cut into chunks

Carrots – 2 – julienne

Olive Oil – 1.5 Tablespoons or place into a spray bottle and spray to flavor

Fresh Lemon to flavor

Photo by Kathy LaBella


Pepper and Fresh herbs to flavor – marjoram, basil, or rosemary can be used


Heat grill

Cut all vegetables, and season with pepper and herbs

Season swordfish with pepper, lemon, and herbs to flavor

Use olive oil on grill and lightly spray on vegetables for non-stick and flavor

Grill swordfish and vegetables for around 10 minutes, every grill is different, therefore watch the food carefully.


The recipe makes 2 servings. Nutrition Data Per Serving.

Calories: 410, Carbohydrate: 17g, Protein: 36g, Fat 23g, Sodium 340mg, Potassium 1105mg

Recipe by Kathy LaBella

Winter Vegetable Soup

4 Servings

Print with Nutrition Facts

2  –  Garlic Cloves, chopped

1  –  Onion, white, chopped

6 Cups  –  Water

2 tsp  –  Olive Oil

½ tsp  –  Pepper, fresh, ground

2  –  Carrots, sliced

1  –  Zucchini, medium, diced medium

1.5 Cups  –  Broccoli florets, fresh, chopped

1  –  Tomato, large, chopped

1.75 Cup  –  Kidney beans, dark red, canned (or 1 can, rinsed and drained)

1 Cup  –  Spinach, baby, loosely chopped

1 Tbls  –  Parsley, fresh, chopped


Chop garlic and onion. Chop and cut all vegetables.

Place garlic and onion into a large pot with olive oil to sauté for around 3-5 minutes.             Add water (5-6 cups, more after if needed) and all vegetables except for beans, spinach and parsley. Add pepper and bring to a broil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes.
Drain and rinse canned beans.
Add parsley, beans, and spinach, cook for another 5 minutes.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories 190, Carbohydrate 30g, Fiber 10g, Protein 10g, Fat 3.5g,

Excellent source of vitamins A and C. Good source of Calcium and Iron


Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD,


Healthy Winter Habits To Transform Your Life

 Jennifer Scott, guest blogger


Many people make New Year’s resolutions, aiming to make their lives better and improve their well-being over the next year. Sadly, most people give up on those goals within the first few weeks of the year. There’s no reason to wait until January 1st to start working towards your goals. In fact, winter provides ample opportunities to stick to your typical healthy routines while also developing new, healthy habits that will have you entering the New Year a healthier you.


Meditation is a growing trend among people from all walks of life, from busy professionals to self-development gurus, and everyday people like us. When you examine the benefits of a few minutes of meditation each day, it’s easy to see why. Just 15 to 30 minutes of meditation each day can change the way you approach life, give you more balance, and actually cultivate the development of new, positive connections and neural pathways in the brain while breaking down existing and less-beneficial connections.

Commit to a daily meditation practice, and you’ll develop greater empathy, be better able to manage your emotional response to situations outside your control, have less anxiety, and overall become more centered and less easily influenced by other people and events.

Personal Development

Meditation is sometimes viewed as a subset of personal development. While meditation alone can be helpful, there are other aspects of personal development that are equally beneficial for furthering your goals. If winter for you means more downtime, more time spent curled up in a blanket to stay warm, more time spent in idle traffic during snowstorms, or less opportunity to enjoy your favorite outdoor summer pastimes, then there’s no better time to kick your personal development efforts up a notch.

Listen to a podcast in the car or on the train on your way to and from work each day. Choose a few personal development books to enjoy in front of the fireplace in addition to your favorite fiction novels this winter. Sign up to take an online course to further your career or explore something new.

Healthy Eating

Those comfy, bulky sweaters many people wear in the cooler months certainly help to keep you warm, but they also help to hide an extra inch or two around the waistline. If you’re normally a healthy eater, don’t sacrifice your usual habits just because it’s winter.

Think ahead to the goals you’ve set for the spring or summer. Planning on taking a cruise this spring? Heading to Jamaica in early summer? Keep these goals in mind through the winter, but don’t deny yourself the occasional indulgence.

If your diet hasn’t been quite up to par, use your downtime this winter to make some positive changes, develop some clean eating habits, and experiment with cooking some healthy alternatives to your usual not-so-healthy fare.


There’s truly no better time than to spend some time or resources giving back to your community or to a worthy cause than over the holiday season. When you’re taking time to think about the many things you’re thankful for, think about ways to help out those less fortunate.

From donating and wrapping gifts for children in need to raising funds, assembling care packages for military personnel serving overseas over the holidays, helping to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, donating ready-to-cook meals to families in need, and much more, there’s no shortage of possible ways you can contribute to the greater good this winter. Plus, you’ll get to experience the good vibes and positive energy that come from performing selfless acts.


Winter makes it easy to skimp on your workouts. Shorter days mean less sunlight, thus less Vitamin D, and subsequently less energy (for many people). Plus, snow storms can put a bit of a damper on your plans to hit the gym.

You only need a few items to equip a home gym of your own and eliminate excuses that get in the way of reaching your goals. Buy a few dumbbells or kettlebells, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and perhaps a balance trainer and pull-up bar, and you have everything you need for a total body workout in the comfort of your home. There are even workouts that rely entirely on body-weight resistance, no equipment needed.

If you’ve been thinking of making some changes in your life, your season of renewal can begin today. There’s no need to wait for the New Year or for spring to start making a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. Start developing healthy habits that you’ll stick with all year long.

Image via Pixabay by langll

Jennifer Scott is an advocate of mental and overall health who has used her experience to inspire others that they too can maintain a healthy body and mind. More about Jennifer and her blog can be seen at Spirit Finder 

Summertime Tomato Bruschetta

As we near the end of summer, I’m still serving up my favorite summertime tomato bruschetta known to many of my friends for over twenty years. Simple, delicious, nutritious, and attractive with plenty of tomatoes, garlic, red onion, and fresh basil.

Tomato Bruschetta with fresh Russian pumpernickel bread.
Tomato Bruschetta with fresh Russian pumpernickel bread.

While many love the flavor and color, I like the fact one serving adds up to more than 10 percent of vitamin A, and 25 percent of vitamin C for the day. Vitamin A is essential for our vision, skin, bone formation, and immune function. Vitamin C is an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage, it is also involved with our collagen formation, nervous system, and it helps to enhance iron absorption into our bloodstream. In addition, this recipe contains eight percent of our iron needs, and the allyl sulfur compounds from the garlic and onion may help to protect against stomach and colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, and lycopene. Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction, and helps to reduce blood pressure. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is a phytochemical (natural plant chemical) that is known to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is better absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, and this recipe can either be made with raw or cooked tomatoes depending on how you like your bruschetta to be served up. Either way, it’s always a perfect dish to have at your summer gathering, or to bring to your next party.

Tomato Bruschetta Recipe     Number of Servings: 10

6 Plum tomatoes, cut small

4 Medium vine ripe tomatoes or garden fresh, cut small

½ Cup red onion, chopped

2 Garlic cloves

½ Cup fresh basil, chopped

2 Ounces balsamic vinegar

1-1/2 Tsp olive oil

¼ Tsp fresh ground black garlic pepper (or regular pepper)

15 Slices of 100% whole grain bread or homemade grain bread

Chop tomatoes. Finely chop onion, garlic, and basil. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper – add more for flavor.

Toast bread on one side under broiler, then cut the bread in half. Serve cold bruschetta on top. Serve on a platter or individual plates.


  1. Spray bread with a light coating of olive oil, rub with garlic, and broil tomato mixture with mozzarella cheese on top. Note this adds calories to the stated amount below.
  2. Use tortilla chips in place of bread, and use bruschetta topping as a dip in place of salsa.

Calories: 150-170 depending on the size of bread. Average Carbs: 28g, Protein 7g, Fat 4g, Fiber 7g

Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 25%, Iron 8% based on percent of daily values for a 2,000 calorie diet.



Improving Your Performance With Beetroot Juice

2016-07-10 17.02.10
Photo by Kathy LaBella

Beetroot juice is no fad, and I’ve been drinking it myself for couple of years on and off while reading the research studies that prompted me to start recommending it to many of my clients. Why beetroot juice? In addition to being a good source of vitamin A, C, iron, fiber and carotenoids; carotenoids
can be converted into vitamin A, they are an antioxidant with many health benefits, and carotenoids provide the pigment of the plant, but the main reason why I recommend beetroot juice is for the nitrates. Nitrates naturally occur in vegetables, and are abundant in beets, spinach and other leafy greens. There are two reasons why I recommend nitrates, and especially those found in beetroot juice; one is the increased amount of nitrates found in beetroot juice lowers blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and two it increases athletic performance and energy because it helps with the blood flow by opening up the arteries, and it may improve the blood flow to working muscles. Beetroot juice is also really easy to consume without any preparation.

The scientific name for beets is Beta vulgaris, and to date there are several studies on the benefits of beets, beetroot juice, and nitrates.

Considering beetroot juice is positively documented to help with athletic performance, and I too have noticed the benefits in my beach runs, I do recommend it to active performers, and it may be most beneficial to musicians and vocalists who are frequently on stage or touring. This is because nitrates are converted to nitrites and later nitric oxide in our body that helps to regulate blood flow, and in turn help maximum oxygen uptake or consumption known as VO2 max for short; V meaning volume, O2 for oxygen and max for maximum. So what is this and why is it important? VO2 max is how much oxygen can be consumed when we are running at our maximum rate or speed usually measured as aerobic capacity on a treadmill. We can increase our VO2 max with aerobic training, and with nitrates such as those abundant in beetroot juice. As for the importance while performing, active musicians can often use a bit more oxygen intake, a little more stamina. I often think of a drummer who gets fatigued, hitting the wall like a runner (for more information on drummer’s fatigue please read my blog or vocalists and opera singers who have to put out a lot of energy in every performance, often several times per week. A higher VO2 max improving your respiratory system increases your vocal or playing abilities on stage means less fatigue and higher output in your performance. This also comes in handy when you have to perform at higher altitudes over 1,500 meters that is just under a mile above sea level or equivalent to a mountain around 5,000 feet high.

As for studies with musicians, I don’t know of any to date, all of the information here is based on my findings and expertise as a sports dietitian who works with musicians to improve health and performance through diet, fitness, and nutrition. And if by chance you don’t find much of a physical difference with beetroot juice, know that your arteritis and heart will know a difference, not only from the nitrates, but from the many other heart healthy antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol.

As for taste, well, you may not exactly like it unless you really like beets, and I do like beets, but not necessarily straight beetroot juice. I recommend chilling it, and you may want to try diluting it, or camouflaging it by mixing it into a smoothie. As for the amount, some studies used high volumes up to 500mL equivalent to 16.7 ounces, that’s a lot of beetroot juice! I usually recommend 4 ounces prior to performance, and if you really want to increase your VO2 max aim for at least 4 ounces per day. An actual serving size is 8 ounces (240mL) for 110 calories, 3g protein, and 24g carbohydrate. Along with the beetroot juice, consider regular aerobic activity such as running or cycling, and push yourself to the limit by singing while exercising, all will continue to improve your VO2 max and performance!

Stay tuned to Kathy LaBella for news and programs about nutrition and health for musicians. And as always, individual counseling sessions are available and covered by many insurance plans, please visit where you can also connect onto social media.

Appetizer Night – Fun With Food For Wellbeing!

IMG_5522Clients’ who work with me know there is not one food or one day of eating that can make it or break it. That is, if you are eating well most days of the week, and you are consistent with a healthy lifestyle five to six days a week, then there is no reason why you can’t have fun with food and enjoy a little extra pleasure; it’s the same as you do with taking a break from your exercise routine. Breaks are important from the mundane, especially if you are focusing on losing weight because you also have to realistic. Allowing yourself a bit of pleasure food is important to prevent you from “dieting” or becoming too strict where you eventually crash, give up, and then overindulge. Eating well and living life is not about becoming a fanatic who is too focused on trying to be perfect with everything you put into your mouth, or exercise to a point where you forget how to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life that is essential for overall wellbeing.

One of my favorite things to do almost weekly is to have an appetizer night, wIMG_5501whether I’m out with friends in a restaurant, or dining at home alone. Appetizer night is way of having some of your favorite foods along with incorporating higher nutrient rich foods that include fruits,vegetables, and protein for the benefits of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Small plates or tapas are often less time consuming to make, yet more enjoyable to eat. If you work weekdays, opt for a Friday or Saturday evening for an appetizer night to help you wind down from the week while granting yourself the time to taste your food.

Some simple quick fixes can include a salad with shrimp cocktail, oysters, fruit, cheese and crackers, or a slice of bakery multi-grain bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Purchasing some pre roasted meats or fish can help as well with less cooking, or explore by making homemade mini pizza’s with fresh grated cheese and sliced veggies. Whatever it is you choose for appetizers, have fun with food for wellbeing by making the moment memorable and relaxing to rejuvenate.

Musician Dangers And Prevention Of Gastroesophageal Reflux

Photo by Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease known as GERD is both uncomfortable and dangerous for anyone,
and especially for those who use their voice as a profession, or for musicians who play wind instruments. This is because with GERD the gastric contents of the stomach reflux back into the esophagus by way of the lower esophageal sphincter known as the LES. Under normal circumstances the LES has high pressure that prevents the backflow of stomach acid, mainly hydrochloric acid back into the esophagus, but with GERD the LES has low pressure, it’s weak and remains open allowing backflow of stomach acid that can lead to inflammation of the esophagus known as esophagitis. Erosion and ulcerations can occur, and at times strictures of the esophagus narrow the opening, and there is a higher risk for esophageal cancer. When people have GERD they often complain of heartburn after eating or after laying down too soon. For musicians, it is not only the discomfort, but the physical attributes leading to decreased vocals and performances because this can also damage the larynx. In addition to GERD there is laryngopharyngeal reflux, this is acid reflux into the larynx that can cause laryngitis, or a sore throat, or mucous, and in some cases reflux in general can make swallowing difficult.

There are several causes of GERD, one being a hiatal hernia; other common causes are excessive alcohol and smoking that irritate or exacerbate the condition of GERD by lowering the pressure of the LES. Additional irritants include increased amounts of coffee and tea due to the acidity, high fat foods, calcium, chocolate, spearmint, peppermint, citrus foods, and nicotine in general. Years ago I would often have people avoid many spices including pepper, cloves, and chili, today I often recommend spices as tolerated, but depending on the individual, the major offenders through my years of experience is excessive alcohol, coffee, smoking, and chocolate, and to a lesser degree spearmint and peppermint.

Nutrition prevention for GERD include foods that increase the pressure to keep the sphincter closed and the esophagus comfortable include higher protein content from lean sources other then fatty meats, or dairy due to the calcium content. Lean protein can include fish, skinless turkey or chicken, a lean roast beef, or vegetable protein. Consuming smaller frequent meals, decreasing weight as necessary if overweight, and waiting a couple of hours after eating before laying down, or propping yourself up with a pillow to prevent contents coming back up from the stomach. Consume plenty of fluids, preferably water, and avoid tight clothing. There are antacids, however I am not a personal fan of antacids because they decrease necessary hydrochloric acid needed to absorb B12, therefore I prefer to correct the problem rather than cover it up. In some instances, your physician may prescribe a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec or Nexium that unfortunately may have some long term side effects, therefore it is up to each individual to discuss this with his or her physician, and weigh out the options, or start with medication to ease the pain to stop the reflux pre-performances, and then work on diet to omit or decrease the medication as able.

For more information on healthy ways to include calcium, preserve bone health, or consume your favorite foods with GERD – stay tuned to Peak Performance RD as new programs about nutrition and health for musicians will be available soon! And as always, individual counseling sessions are available and covered by many insurance plans, please visit Nutrition for Musicians.

March Is National Nutrition Month® Savor The Flavor Of Eating Right

“Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” is this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month® that is focusing on cooking at home, following your traditions, and expanding your tastes by trying new adventures with food.

 Eating Right with grilled scallops
Broiled scallops over grilled vegetable salad

Eating right and eating healthy can be made simple with a little planning, especially now that spring is here and local fruit and vegetables stands are opening up all over. Eating right can actually save time and money with simple quick meals made at home or packed daily for your lunch and snacks.


Fruits and Vegetables – I encourage many fruits and vegetables for their abundance of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, as well as the ability to be a quick fix we can grab on the run from bananas and apples, to berries and grapes, to carrots, celery and peppers to take on your way out the door. Whether you opt for weekly shopping or daily stops along small markets, adventure out to try something new by adding a variety to prevent boredom. While at home, bring on the flavor and add a little cinnamon or nutmeg to your cut up fruit. And be sure to enhance your vegetable dishes with sautéed or grilled garlic, onion and herbs!

Nuts and Grains – Incorporating nuts and seeds are easy to pack along in a small container, or spreading peanut butter on whole grain bread for the road is simple while providing protein, and fueling your body with carbohydrates and healthy fats for the energy to get you through a few hours. In the evening making long grain rice only takes 30 minutes while you prep the rest of your meal or cut vegetables. If you have no time for rice, try thinly slicing a sweet potato for indoor grilling combined with your other vegetables and sprinkled with pine nuts; it only takes about 10 minutes to grill up a healthy meal. Another simple quick fix is adding nuts and seeds to a salad mixed with fresh herbs for dinner, combining taste, color and nutrients.

Protein – There are many choices today for protein that you can add into your day from Greek yogurt or soy yogurt to protein packed smoothies for a quick nutritious breakfast or a snack while at work that will keep you full without all the calories. Pack lunch the night before by adding lean fish, poultry, or beans in with a salad for lunch consisting of dark greens such as spinach with cut up broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a few olives topped off with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or pack leftovers from your dinner to take to work or school the next day to ensure you’re eating well. Top off your meats and seafood with rosemary, oregano, pepper, fresh squeezed lemon or orange for flavor.

 Eating Right
Spinach, broccoli, tomato salad w/olives

Savoring the Flavor – Take the time to enjoy your meal! It does not take any more time to put your food onto a nice plate, add a little flavor with your favorite spices and herbs, and pour yourself a cold water in a nice glass with a lemon wedge, or add fresh chocolate mint leaves to green tea. Use a cloth napkin, light a candle, relax and enjoy your meal. It doesn’t have to take long, only long enough to enjoy and savor the flavor.

Nutrition For Musicians: Protein

Today I’m discussing one very important nutrient for musicians: protein. Join me as I share some helpful tips on how to include protein in your diet. For more information about nutrition for musicians, be sure to check out the other videos in this four-part series and visit my website at! Videographer Kate Eberle

Building Confidence 101: Successful People Are Built From Within

successful peopleI recently read a headline ad about building confidence. At first I thought, oh how nice, a therapist must be giving a talk to people on how to build their confidence. Then I read on, no it wasn’t this at all. It was an ad for face lifts and cosmetic surgery for the body. I sighed, and thought to myself if you want to build confidence it has to start with inner peace.

Wrinkles or a few extra pounds are not necessarily high on the priority list of genuinely confident or successful people. If confident people were that fixated on changing their outer appearance they wouldn’t be as successful, focused, or as happy as they are today. Cosmetic surgery is not a solution to true inner confidence because the outer results often do not last.

My advice has always been if you want to change your looks start with treating your body well. As I’m known for saying if you want a bigger chest do some bench presses or push ups. Want a firmer butt? Try some squats or go for a walk. As for the face; hydration and a good moisturizer, sun screen, or an anti-wrinkle cream work well along with a healthy diet.

In a recent conversation with a male friend he said to me “I’m glad I’m not a woman so I don’t have to wear make-up”. My response back was “I don’t need make-up, I just like it”. He laughed, but he also knew where I was coming from having seen me comfortably walking around without make-up. There’s a difference, there’s nothing wrong in dressing up and having fun, but to permanently change your body or face thinking it would build confidence is not the real solution.

Real confidence is within, and if you want to build your confidence while reducing your waist size, and enhancing your appearance, start with proper nourishment for your brain and body. For a long term sustainable solution, begin with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) versus cosmetic surgery. Not only is it more cost affective and non-invasive, it’s feeding your body, and building your mind that boosts your inner feeling of well being, and confidence.

A registered dietitian nutritionist can’t take the place of a therapist; we do however council and often work in conjunction with a therapist for a client to receive better treatment for the mind, body, and self love. RDN counseling helps to change how you feel inside and out because improved nourishment fuels the mind, increases your energy that leads to a greater fitness level, decreases stress and disease risk and in turn leaves you truly feeling more confident on the outside, and most importantly peaceful and strong from within, and that’s a genuine and sustainable change that will last forever.