Making Calories Count: Healthy Eating Tips from Nutritionist Laura Bonhard - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Nutritionist Laura Bonhard at Whole Foods in Detroit, MI.

In 2013, Whole Foods opened in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit. Quicken Loans team members were recently offered an opportunity to take an educational tour of the store with Laura Bonhard, a nutritional consultant from Savorfull, a sister company to Quicken Loans. When it comes to healthy eating, Laura knows her stuff. She has a master’s in health education and promotion and a bachelor’s in nutrition, as well as experience in lifestyle coaching and weight management. Helping people get healthy is her thing; a self-described architect of creative health solutions, she digs helping people make realistic and sustainable lifestyle changes.

I learned so much on my tour with Laura, and she’s agreed to let me share her tips with you. Here are my favorite tips from the tour – and even a bonus recipe!

Maximize the Nutritional Value of Produce

Did you know that some vegetables are actually healthier cooked than they are raw?

Veggies should be a key part of everyone’s diet. According to Laura, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. And when you’re eating produce, aim to eat a variety of colors because different colors indicate different nutrients. (Note: This rule does not apply to M&Ms or Skittles.)

So how can you make sure that you’re maximizing your produce potential? In short, you need to do a little learning about the best ways to cook veggies. Here are some surprising facts about fruits and veggies you probably didn’t know.

  • Carrots are best served steamed. According to Laura, steaming carrots breaks down the cell walls and releases antioxidants, which means steamed carrots pack a slightly bigger nutritional punch than raw carrots do. If you’re no master chef, simply microwave your carrots in a bowl with a little bit of water to steam them to perfection.
  • Tomatoes are also healthier when cooked. The lycopene in tomatoes is more readily absorbed by your body when they’re cooked. Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to consume tomatoes and peppers.
  • Broccoli has great nutritional benefits whether cooked or raw. Each serving method has different nutritional benefits – so you should mix things up from time to time!
  • Try to buy unprocessed produce. According to Laura, buying produce that’s already been sliced means you sacrifice a little bit of nutrient quality. On the other hand, if you’re more likely to eat ready-sliced produce, or if you can’t eat a whole melon before it goes bad, then go ahead and buy sliced fruits and vegetables!

Your Body Needs Healthy Fats

Heart-protective, cholesterol-lowering mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are good for your body, so it’s OK to consume them in moderation.  On the other hand, saturated and trans fats should be limited since they raise LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

While we’re on the subject of fats, let’s talk about salad dressing. Salad dressing doesn’t just exist to add flair to our lettuce. The fat in salad dressing actually helps your body absorb the nutrients in your salad (who knew?!). Nutrients aside, fat provides a feeling a satisfaction – something I’m sure we’d all like to have when we’re done eating.

If you like the taste of low- or reduced-fat salad dressings, then go for it. But if that’s not your thing, Laura says it’s more than OK to use full-fat salad dressings in controlled amounts. Your best plan of action is to go for one that’s oil-based rather than cream-based; cream-based dressings tend to have higher overall fat and higher saturated fat. Looking for an even healthier option? Try making your own dressing with oil, vinegar and some herbs.

Choose the Right Oil

Raise your hand if you use olive oil for everything. (Don’t worry, I won’t judge.)

We’ve all heard about the health benefits of olive oil, but did you know that you shouldn’t be using it when you’re cooking with high heat?

Laura knocked my socks off when she told us that olive oil actually becomes slightly toxic to your body after it reaches its smoke point – the temperature at which it begins to break down. I dug a little deeper and found this great chart from which details the smoke points of various oils. Olive oil breaks down between 325 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s fine to use if you’re cooking something on low heat, but if you’re quickly sautéing some veggies with the burners on high, olive oil is something to avoid.

So what should you use instead? Laura recommends coconut oil. It has many health benefits, as well as a much higher smoke point than olive oil. Bonus: It also makes a kick-butt hair mask if your hair needs deep conditioning (believe me, I know). Other great oil options for high-heat cooking include palm oil, safflower oil and avocado oil.

Satisfy with Flavor, Not Quantity

Here at the Zing Blog, we don’t expect you to live on vegetables alone; you can indulge – we certainly do! The key to indulging healthfully is to satisfy yourself with better flavors, not a bigger quantity.

Let’s talk about cheese. Laura said that cheese is something most people over-consume. You should be having about three servings of dairy (or dairy alternatives, such as almond-based milk products) per day. A serving of cheese, which is generally between 1- and 1.5-oz., counts toward this daily recommendation. Therefore, you should only be having about one or two 1-oz. slices of cheese per day. If you’re like me, you probably eat way more than that, but here’s a solution: Pick a more flavorful cheese so you can use less of it. Go for parmesan, asiago, sharp cheddar, brie … you get the idea. The more flavor you have, the less cheese you need.

The same goes for other goodies and indulgences, like chocolate. Laura joked that you’ll eat a chocolate bar much more slowly if it costs you $6. Instead of plain old milk chocolate, try a high-quality dark chocolate with 70% cacao or higher – you’ll get more fiber, iron, magnesium and other minerals and antioxidants than regular chocolate or other candies.

Drink More Water – Bonus Recipe Included!

If you’re drinking eight 8-oz. glasses of water a day, you’re doing great. But that may not be all your body needs.

Laura says you should drink half your body weight in ounces every day. Your body needs water for all kinds of processes, and water helps you feel full. So if you weigh 200 lbs., for example, try to drink 100 ounces of water a day (that’s 12 and a half cups).

What’s that? You don’t want to drink plain water all day every day? We understand. But don’t head down the juice, pop or beer aisle just yet (no, not wine either), because Laura has a great recipe for flavored water!

  • Pick your flavor. You might get some inspiration from the flavored water section of your grocery store. Choose one fruit and one herb (like watermelon and mint, for example).
  • Mash ‘em up. Put your fruit and herbs in the bottom of a jar and mash them.
  • Fill the jar with ice. Then, fill the jar with water and refrigerate overnight.
  • Drink up! If your custom beverage needs sweetening, it’s OK to add a teaspoon or so of sugar.

Homemade flavored water is a cheap and wonderful low-cal alternative to plain water, so try out Laura’s recipe and let us know how it went!

Read that Nutrition Label

The nutrition label is what Laura calls the “real price tag” of food. You shouldn’t just be thinking about what your wallet can afford (although, frankly, we’re big fans of budgeting at the Zing Blog); you should be thinking about what your body can afford.

When it comes to sodium, you should aim for about 1,500 mg a day. Be careful when reading the percentages on nutrition labels: They’re based on a 2,000-calorie diet, so if you don’t have a 2,000-calorie diet, then the percentages don’t apply to you.

When you’re looking at large-package foods such as chips, you need to pay attention to the serving size. You could buy the healthiest chips on the shelf, but if you ignore the serving size, it doesn’t really matter. If you have as little self-restraint as I do when it comes to junk food, Laura recommends making your own snack-size bags when you get home from the store. Divide the bag into servings, and package each serving in its own sandwich bag so you don’t overindulge when snack time comes around.


The bottom line here is to make your calories count. The calories you consume should be the best calories you can put in your body. Thanks to Laura Bonhard of Savorfull for her amazing tour and for allowing me to share her tips with you. She’s a smart lady, am I right?

Questions? Concerns? Leave them in the comments section below!

Byline: Savorfull, part of the Quicken Loans Family of Companies, fills the role of “nutritional matchmaker” by connecting businesses and organizations with a network of healthy, appetizing food options that are sustainably processed, locally sourced, and hand selected to fit a myriad of dietary lifestyles. Visit and follow @Savorfull on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to keep up with their “free-from” food mission and innovative nutrition education programs.

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