Dark Chocolate, Red Wine, & Coffee…. All Part Of A Healthy Diet? It’s True! Find Out How And Much More.

If you love dark chocolate as I do, enjoy having red wine with dinner (or anytime for that matter), and look forward to your morning cup of coffee, you’re going to love what you’re about to read. I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of San Diego’s best, Brooke Joanna Benlifer, a registered dietitian and dear friend of mine. Considering how much Brooke has going on right now including recently giving birth to an adorable set of twins, I’m fortunate and grateful to Brooke for taking the time to do this interview and sharing her wealth of knowledge with us.

I first met Brooke about 10 years ago when I had just started my own health & fitness business in San Diego. I had this vision of offering affordable health services including personal training and nutritional consulting to the greater San Diego community. I had both the vision and passion to do it, I just needed to find the right person, the right dietitian to work with, someone with the same passion as mine to help others and make a positive difference in their lives. After many call, many interviews, and searching for a while, I finally struck gold when I met Brooke. For the past 10 years, we’ve collaborated on many projects and with many clients. And so now as I launch The Wellness Bucket as part of my continued efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of others, I’m once again turning to Brooke for her knowledge and expertise and picking her brain to share with you some of her healthy tips and suggestions. Her down to earth approach is not just refreshing, but real and applicable in all of our day to day lives.

Alright, let’s get to it! I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.


Mike: One of my favorite parts of waking up and getting the day started is having my cup of coffee. Is that alright? Can I have my daily cup of coffee in the morning? Two cups OK or too much?

Brooke: Definitely alright! One to two cups of coffee daily actually seems to have health benefits (protection against Type 2 Diabetes and liver cancer) and coffee is high in antioxidants. More than 2 cups of coffee a day, however, can lead to anxiety, jitters and insomnia, among other negatives.

Mike: Being in the fitness industry I’m sure you hear all sorts of myths. My biggest pet peeve myth is that lifting weights (ladies), will make you bulk up. What’s your biggest pet peeve myth?

Brooke: Hmmmm…my biggest pet peeve is that “health food tastes like cardboard”. There is still a persistent belief among some people that food that is good for you CAN’T taste good. Because of this, I actually spend a lot of my time working with people to create food that is both tasty and healthy.

Mike: I think I eat fairly healthy on a daily basis with the occasional slip-ups. What would you consider to be a healthy day of eating? What would that include?

Brooke: A healthy day of eating, to me, would include high quality meals and snacks, even if you are on the go and don’t have time for 3 “formal/traditional” meals. Here’s some examples:

morning: Greek yogurt, berries, nuts
snack: apple, string cheese, nut butter
lunch: whole wheat wrap with greens, hummus, lentils
snack: tuna and crackers
dinner: sweet potato, roasted Brussels Sprouts with cranberries and pumpkin seeds
snack: air popped popcorn w/coconut oil or dark chocolate covered fruit

Mike: I’ve always been a big believer in working hard but also playing hard. So come Friday or Saturday, I enjoy having a few cocktails or a glass of wine with my girlfriend. How does drinking socially mix with being healthy and can it?

Brooke: Drinking socially can definitely be part of a healthy lifestyle. In terms of health benefits, red wine is the winner. But one or two beers or a couple of mixed drinks are fine, too. The key is to enjoy the company as well as the alcohol. One drink a day for women and 2 drinks per day for men is considered an acceptable maximum.

Mike: When I think of absolutely bad foods to eat, I always think of donuts or fried foods. What would you say are some of the worst foods for our health?

Brooke: Anything with the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient label. Also, MSG, food dyes like Red #40, etc. and some artificial sweeteners.

Mike: OK, now that we know what some of the worst foods are for our health, what are some of the best foods we can and should be eating for our health?

Brooke: Some examples of best foods are: apples, pears, berries, grapefruit, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, sweet potato, wild salmon, sardines, Greek yogurt, nuts, dark chocolate, spices, and green tea.

Mike: Eating healthy certainly is not cheap. For those who are on a budget (as I am), but still committed to eating healthy, how does that work? What type of foods can or should I be buying that will provide me with a good balance of eating healthy while being budget conscious?

Brooke: Dried beans, sweet potatoes, frozen mixed vegetables, apples, grapes, bananas, onions, tuna, peanut butter, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, onions, tomato sauce, dried pasta, and brown rice.

Mike: In your opinion, what is the single most important factor to losing weight?

Brooke: Eating till you are satisfied, but not stuffed.

Mike: Along the same lines, what’s the most important factor for toning or leaning up?

Brooke: Avoiding excess sugar, building activity into your day, in addition to your exercise “session”.

Mike: If you were stuck on an island and could only have three healthy foods to eat for a year, what would they be?

Brooke: Edamame, tofu, and garbanzo beans.

Mike: Alright, let’s have a little fun now. I’m going to say a word and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind…. Ready? Here we go!

Mike: Multivitamins
Brooke: Insurance

Mike: Water
Brooke: Drink more

Mike: Body Pump
Brooke: 24 Hour Fitness

Mike: Spin Class
Brooke: Awesome

Mike: Cross Fit
Brooke: Great workout

Mike: Weight Watchers
Brooke: Best conventional diet plan

Mike: Cheat Meal
Brooke: Pancakes and waffles

Mike: The Wellness Bucket
Brooke: Great website!


BrookeBenlifer1Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD is a Cornell University graduate and Registered Dietitian with expertise in a variety of medical issues, from diabetes and cardiac care, to renal health and GI issues.

After completing her internship on the east coast, she began a career as a dietitian in San Diego. “My passion is preventative health through optimal nutrition. I want to lead people toward healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

For more information about Brooke and her services, please visit her at: www.brookejoannanutrition.com

All comments and feedback are certainly welcomed so please take a second and leave a comment below about what you liked, didn’t like, can relate to, have additional questions about, etc. in the comments below….. Thanks!

  • Mike this was a great article. I really enjoyed what Brooke had to say and made some notes for myself. Where does one find air popped popcorn with coconut oil since I crave a snack at night? Also what kind of nuts should one eat? I’ve read to stay away from almonds, salty peanuts (which this I know) and some other like dried cranberries. Please clarify thank you!

    • Thanks for the comments Maria. You can actually make air popped popcorn at home yourself. All you need to is an inexpensive popcorn popper you can purchase in the kitchen section of any department store such as Walmart or Target for $20 or less and popcorn kernels which you can buy at any grocery store, usually in the same aisle as microwave popcorn. The coconut oil is optional and added separately to the popcorn if you prefer. As far as what nuts are the best for you, almonds, cashews, and pistachios are best due to their low calorie/high protein content. Great questions by the way!

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