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Diet-Free Healthy Eating, with Zonya Foco

As an author, TV host, and national speaker, Zonya Foco is leading America in the fight against obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease through smart nutrition and fitness. Her diet-free methodology and focus on cultivating healthy habits have been featured on her national public television series, Zonya’s Healthy Bites, and “Oprah and Bob’s Best Life Challenge.” Her healthy and easy recipes and habit-forming guidelines have been published in her books Lickety-Split Meals for Health Conscious People on the Go, The Power of One Good Habit, and Water With Lemon.

When I bring individuals, associations and companies from “thinking about” health to confidently taking action, that’s energizing!

SPEAKING.COM: Your energy and passion about nutrition is readily evident in your talks, TV appearances and books. How do you maintain your enthusiasm for the subject?

FOCO: Hands down, I stay motivated thanks to event attendees with personal stories of struggle and success, plus wellness providers and event planners who are on a mission to support those they serve. When I bring individuals, associations and companies from “thinking about” health to confidently taking action, that’s energizing!

SPEAKING.COM: At what age should people start being educated about nutrition and why?

FOCO: Since nothing is more educational about what to eat than the act of eating itself, I say age two. For a number of understandable yet unfortunate reasons, Moms and Dads often offer the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) of processed foods – like bite-sized hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, refined pastas, breads, and crackers – rather than vegetables out of the garden for snacking and fresh seasonal meals that the family prepares and celebrates together.

I love empowering parents to create wholesome meals with real food ingredients that are also simple to prepare! When kids start early with a good nutritional foundation and family dinnertime is nurtured and preserved, kids are more willing to apply healthy eating habits as independent eaters and contributors to the family grocery list.

SPEAKING.COM: What changes would you make to fast-food restaurant menus?

FOCO: Oh, how I dream of a “Farm to Fork/Whole Foods-like” drive-thru, with offerings like Vegetarian Butternut Minestrone Soup, Red Lentil Soup, and Black Bean Chili. Also, power salads and slaws using kale or bok choy topped with grilled salmon, and maybe a fresh whole food smoothie for the occasional dessert.

Actually, the Detroit Metro airport just got a Plum Market with all these wonderful things and more so I no longer have to pack a travel meal from home; I can grab it from the terminal before jumping on a flight. It’s incredible!

Fruit provides hydration and “nature’s candy” – sweetness that satisfies our hunger for sweets.

SPEAKING.COM: If you could only add three foods to help maintain a healthier diet, what would they be and why?

FOCO:Daily “cruciferous” or cabbage family vegetables, which include any choice of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, radishes, or arugula. These contain proven cancer fighters, so why only eat them occasionally? In fact, my forth-coming book is a 21-day EAT REAL Kickstart with daily menus and recipes that include a deliciously prepared cruciferous vegetable each evening meal, believe it or not!

Daily citrus (like oranges or grapefruit), since Vitamin C is a powerful immune system booster that we really don’t want to go a single day without! Besides, fruit provides hydration and “nature’s candy” – sweetness that satisfies our hunger for sweets.

Daily handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, Brazil nuts). The trace minerals, fiber, and monounsaturated fats appear to be the reason regular consumers of nuts are less likely to die of all health related causes than non-nut eaters. These people also tend to be leaner, as nuts are satiating and therefore help curb the appetite. People who eat them daily often easily stop at an ounce a day. In fact, you’ll see a particular health boon when you substitute nuts for foods like chips! Try it!

SPEAKING.COM: What are the most important things someone wishing to be healthier should focus on?

FOCO: Rather than a “diet and deprivation” approach that depends primarily on willpower, I promote making one small but significant positive change at a time. Mastering one healthy step before moving onto another allows that step to become habitual, automatic, and more easily sustainable over time. I have developed eight key nutrition and exercise habits that lead to a healthy lifestyle, and my speeches reference easy ways to apply those habits in everyday life. (You can view my one page chart of the Eight Habits and learn more about my DIET FREE video seminar program shot in partnership with Public Television at www.dietfree.com.)

In a nutshell, fake, adulterated foods have hijacked our taste buds.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the top nutrition problems facing Americans today?

FOCO: In a nutshell, fake, adulterated foods have hijacked our taste buds. Thanks to competitive food manufacturers and restaurants fighting for our loyal consumption, foods and beverages are now designed to be “hyperpalatable,” and they grace our lips morning, noon, and night, making real foods like fruits seem not “sweet” at all, vegetables bitter, and whole-grains sometimes detestable.

Winning the war against processed food giants is difficult…but not impossible! I like to creatively show my audiences what’s in many of their favorite packaged meals; I get them to laugh, be amazed, and even a little outraged. It’s a good outcome when participants say “I’ll never look at a donut, chips, fries, or processed foods the same way again!” With that initial revelation, people decide to make better choices, and in no time their taste buds change, and they become intrinsically guided to healthier foods by their natural preference. Now that’s a win!

SPEAKING.COM: How can health professionals make nutrition more exciting, fun and inspiring?

FOCO: By using jaw-dropping visuals tied with heart tugging stories plus just the right content that they will never forget! The magic formula is 33.3% humor (when we laugh at our faux pas, we’re much more apt to start changing them), 33.3% educational content (teaching them something they didn’t already know), and 33.3% motivational content (inspiring stories that move them to “take action”). This balance of content makes health challenges relatable, builds hope, and provides a foundation for learning and growth.

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To bring Zonya Foco to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com

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  • Zonya Foco America’s Nutrition Leader As America’s Nutrition Leader, Zonya is a master of inspiration, motivation and visual humor, providing hard-facts information and simple solutions that help everyday people improve health, create balance and maximize energy. She is the only Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Health and Fitness Instructor (CHFI) in the country to have earned the ... more


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