Live Blog: Realistic & Achievable Wellness by Florida Grapefruit

Session begins with audience members drinking Grapefruit G-jitos made with mint, lime, and touch of honey. Yum!

Florida Grapefruit FitBloggin'12

Good afternoon, my name is Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN. I blog with food and nutrition in mind for the Huffington Post, and I am the author of “The Flexitarian Diet.” I am here at this conference on behalf of Florida Grapefruit. So we’re going to talk about a topic that is so near and dear to my heart, I call it, R.A.W. Bloggin’. And what R.A.W. Bloggin’ stands for is Realistic and Achievable Wellness. Okay so I believe in this and I have been at this conference eating lunch, doing boot camps, and I’ve met a lot of you, so I believe that we are all here with a very similar passion of realistic and achievable wellness. So I’m excited to talk to people who are also enjoying this topic. I believe very strongly that as bloggers, we have readers who care about what you are knowing, what you are feeling, and they sure care about what you are doing. So I would love to get that (information) out into the twittersphere using the #FitBloggin hashtag and official Florida Grapefruit handle, @JuicyScoop

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN FitBloggin'12 Florida Grapefruit
So this is a visual (slide with island images projects onto screen) that is really going to stimulate the entire conversation we’re having. This visual is how we change behaviors. When you’re reading something or writing something, you could fall into a trap that so many people fall into – not giving the right amount of inspiration, and not giving the right amount of information. On one hand you could be reading or writing about whatever, maybe a nice little idea you could incorporate into your life, but on the other hand if you don’t get enough information, if you don’t get enough inspiration, you’re not going to see progress. You’re going to feel very low motivation. You all know when you see some changes in your body or your energy level – it motivates you. So if we’re not giving the right amount of inspiration, it’s going to make people feel funky.

Now on the other side, I have seen plenty of bloggers, I’ve seen plenty of gurus out there, giving information that is seriously so overwhelming, so over the top I just can’t even understand.. if someone were to do it, they would try, and they would get frustrated (by things like) if they can’t juice everyday, if they can’t be a full vegan, if they can’t do everything perfectly – frustration hits. So you can actually overdo it with inspiration and homework and ideas.

So where is the ‘sweet’ spot? Or rather, I should say for Florida’s Grapefruit, where is the ‘sweet and sassy’ spot? Here’s where it’s at, right in the middle, and you have to double check – Is the information you’re reading, the information you’re putting out into the blogsphere,  realistic and achievable wellness information? Enough to inspire change, but not so much that people will feel frustrated. This is exactly what we’re going to be talking about today and I’m going to show you how I’ve incorporated it into a lot of what I do in my magazine articles, in my Huffington Post blog, whatever I’m doing – really try to be R.A.W. Bloggin’.

FitBloggin'12 Florida Grapefruit Table G-jitos

Here is a visual that I think of instead of – you know everyone has their own learning style, some people like charts and graphs…Now I am a big picture person, a picture’s worth a thousand words, you know? So this is how I think of our talent today. I think my job is to paint the most amazing destination for people. This island of health and wellness and excitement, and feeling better and looking better in every half. I love the idea of painting such an awesome place to be. But, what if I people so excited about this place of health and wellness – what if I get you so excited to go for it, just jump in! Just jump into that water and try to swim to that island of fabulousness and guess what’s going to happen to you? You’ll drown. That’s not what we want! We want to get people excited, we want to get people wanting to get to that island, but our job out there is to do this – bouy. We need to set up small, realistic, achievable wellness goals for our readers. Or while we’re reading something that inspires us, we need to take a step back and think, “How realistic and achievable is this? And do I need to set up smaller buoys?” Because guess what? You jump in there, swim to the first buoy, hug it, come up for air, go back in, swim to it, come up for air, go back in, and boom you’ve hit Destination: Inspiration. So I would encourage you while you’re writing or while you’re reading information of others, to really double check – Are they exciting you to the island? And then how do you back up to give them the tools that they (your readers) need, or how do you give yourself the tools that you need, to make these smaller buoys for yourself, to actually achieve optimal wellness?

So here is where I LOVE to talk about realistic and achievable wellness. It’s with plant-based nutrition. I’m obsessed with plants – obsessed. And so do you know what this picture is up here? Any guesses? Yes, that’s the White House garden starting.. That’s the first flag and the first batch of plants in the White House garden. This is what got the conversation rolling and how plants started becoming really the center of conversation when it came to healthy eating. And vegetarianism, or plant-based eating, is so on trend – and not just for people like me who are Registered Dietitians, but also for chefs who want to prepare foods that are delicious. 8 out of 10 chefs say that vegetarian cuisine is “hot” – it’s on trend and it’s really becoming a favorite for their restaurants and their menus. There are 23% more meatless meals being ordered in restaurants, and in fact all those people ordering – 40% are non-vegetarian. So it doesn’t have to be people who are really SO vegan or vegetarian that are getting into this plant movement. It’s really everybody who is starting to feel the momentum. That’s pretty cool.

Now it’s no surprise to me that people are feeling this momentum, because the health benefits are astronomical when it comes to why people should embrace vegetarianism. You’ve got weight management – when 2 out of 3 people in America are overweight, having a plant-based diet helps you with weight management. It helps you with heart health, lower risk of heart disease, blood pressure, cholesterol. It helps you decrease your risk of Type II Diabetes, cancer, I mean these are all things that I know whether you have suffered with them yourself or you know other people who have suffered from them, this is what touches human bodies. And what if we could have an eating plan for people where they would have less risk of this stuff? Awesome! That would be awesome. Not only do I get why it’s popular to be a vegetarian for your own physical health, but also for the world around us, that when it comes to a meat-centric diet, that there are so many carbon emissions put out into the world, that it’s more than even all the transportation combined and that degrades our water and our land. In addition to our physical health in the world, people are suffering – economic downturn and financial crisis. And having a plant-based diet can save you 2 ½ times the money. There are a lot of benefits. So I get why people are really into vegetarianism, I get it. But here’s my issue with it.

How R.A.W., realistic and achievable wellness, is teaching the masses of the United States of America, how realistic and achievable  is it to make them all be vegetarian? I took a step back and I thought, “You know, I counsel clients with all ages and all health issues, and I’ll tell you what – by and large, I just can’t see it be realistic and achievable for me to rally behind making everyone be a vegetarian.” Even though, I know how many health benefits it has.

So, I put my flag in, standing behind a more realistic and achievable wellness approach that I call “Flexitarianism.” And that is what I do, I look at: What would I like for the people who read my stuff? What would I like for my life to be? How can I incorporate all of this exciting inspiration that’s out there, about the benefits of vegetarian eating, but do it in a more realistic and achievable way? So we’re going to talk a bit about the Flexitarian movement and how I like to try and inspire a step-by-step approach for plant-based eating. Not only in your own personal lives, but you guys are influencers. This is a room full of people who read your stuff, who care what you feel, who care what you do. So if you could take any of this information, in big or small chunks as you can, and pass it along, this is what it’s all about. Why are we all coming together? Because we all believe something, and together, we are a bigger voice than any one of us individually.

Flexitarianism is basically just the combination of two words, flexible and vegetarian. And this is a whole lifestyle that minimizes meat, but doesn’t exclude it. And in one of the first interviews I did for my book, somebody said, “Well isn’t this kind of like being an omnivore? Just someone who eats everything?” And it isn’t – this is a lifestyle that in the morning, you wake up with the intention of eating a little more vegetarian. So it’s about intention. And my personal favorite, my sort of tagline, is listen: I am not going to attack meat. This is not an anti-meat campaign, in any way, shape, or form. You know what kind of campaign this is? Pro-plants. That’s what this is. Eat more plants.

So when it comes to goal setting, I told you that I like to set up little buoys to get people to Inspiration Island, right? Well, the buoys that I have set up are basically based on 21 meals in your week. And if you start checking off, out of the 21 meals for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, if 6 of those meals are meatless, well guess what? You are in Flexitarian Beginner. [Advanced: 9-12 meatless meals/week; Expert: 15 meatless meals/week] I started out, my first inspiration of the Flexitarian diet. I started out without those in there. Then I took a step back and said, “You know what? This is all about trying to get people goal-oriented and not make them feel bad if they’re doing a little, and then make them feel excited if they’re doing a lot.” So this is an ‘insert buoy’ system. Another thing to consider when you’re trying to inspire people to change, or you’re reading stuff you would like to incorporate in your own life, is to break this up into these little buoy steps. So I have a three step process that I have created to help people be more Flexitarian, or be more plant-based.

So the first step is Re-Portioning Your Plate, the second is Reinventing Your Old Favorites, and the third is Refresh Your Recipe Repertoire. Do you know how long it took me to come up with all “R” words? A while. So I would love to go through all these three steps, and this is where I feel that the actual tips you can take home and the tips that you can share will really come out. So Re-Portioning Your Plate basically is about, the typical American is overeating protein foods. What if I say, “Listen. I read that I would the Flex lifestyle. How about all we do is have you keep eating what you’re eating, and make an ever-so-slight tweak to pulling back on how much chicken or meat, and really pumping up the produce?” Step One. That’s the first tweak. Many of you may be there, or way beyond there, but some of the people who read your information might not. So this is a good first step.

Step Two: Reinvent Old Favorites Florida Grapefruit Meal Plan

Step Two is Reinventing Your Favorite Foods. I think there is something incredibly sad, that when somebody follows a “diet,” they stop eating foods that they love. They start eating bran muffins, they stop eating foods that mean something to them. In my experience, in 15 years of doing this, there are two types of nourishment. There is the nourishment that the actual food gives you, vitamins, minerals, calories, protein.  But there is also the nourishment of what the food means to us, how social it is, how incredible it is when you’re at a baseball game to eat a hot dog with people, how incredible it is to eat turkey on Thanksgiving when you’re with your family, how absolutely awesome it is to be at a summer barbecue under the sun. So there are all these things that are meaningful, nourishing moments. That really have nothing to do with food, but they are nourishing in their own right. So the two types of nourishment have to be very respected, and many diets, diet plans, and diet books do not do that. So the second step in the Flexitarian approach is this idea of having your favorite foods, and just swapping in some plant proteins.

Florida Grapefruit Meal Plan Bean Math[Looking at the slide] So on the left hand side, on the top, that is a bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce. So for that, swapping the meat for something like white beans. When you take from the can, rinse and drain them, 30% of the sodium washes away when you rinse and drain. And white beans go with everything. And in the middle, instead of doing chicken, what about an edemame stir-fry? Or instead of shrimp stir-fry, it could be tofu. On the right hand side, is a nice bowl of chili – it’s gonna be chili season soon – so instead of your typical meat and poultry chili, it’s three-bean chili. Or it’s tempeh. How many people have tempeh? Isn’t it just the best? It’s like the soybean cousin of tofu with just the most delicious texture? And so tempeh chili. Or in the left hand bottom, you’ve a black bean or pinto bean taco salad instead of the typical poultry or meat taco salad. Instead of a turkey burger, it’s a veggie burger. And instead of a meatloaf – have you ever had a lentil loaf? Man is that stuff good. And it doesn’t have to be 100% swap, that’s the other exciting thing. This could be 50/50. It could be your favorite turkey burger, but you throw some lentils in it. So the math that you need to know – you need to know something called “Bean Math.” For every one ounce of meat that is in your favorite recipes, you swap that with a single cup of beans. So that’s the second step. I’ve re-portioned my plate, I’ve really kept some of my favorite foods with this swappability, and third – oh wait I forgot to mention this. Some people don’t think in pictures, some people like charts, so I made all the pictures we just saw in chart form. I’ve added a couple of (other examples), but one of the hardest things I’ve seen is lunch meat. Lots of people can’t think of anything other than lunch meat. So one of the things I really like are these whole wheat pitas that open up really big, and hold a bunch of beans and a bunch of veggies. Because beans tend to roll off two slices of bread, you know.. So lentil salad in a pita pocket might be a good swap for lunch meat.

Florida Grapefruit Meal Plan Swap Chart

And the third step – now this is where I think a lot of the fun happens, a lot of the creativity, is just Refreshing Your Recipe Repertoire with new recipes. And in 6-12 months,  every client that I’ve ever tried this three step process with, they automatically develop this amazing default to just being more vegetarian because the recipes that they’ve tried over 6-12 months have become their favorites. So you could go talk to friends, to see what recipes they’re doing. You could look and get inspired by restaurants. You could do cooking classes that are vegetarian. Vegetarian magazines, Meatless Mondays is good, and developed recently a new resource, and this is what we’ll talk about a little bit later in more detail but this is Grapefruit Active Lifestyle Meal Plan. I wrote a vegan version, a vegetarian version, and a standard version, so that people can ebb and flow between the three versions depending on how they feel. Very flexible.

 The next four slides I’m about to show you have to do with barriers to plant-based eating. Over the years I’ve heard people say, “Oh I can’t do plant-based eating because of x, y, z.” And a lot of it has to do with TASTE. What is the prime reason people eat? Because it tastes good. Or because it’s convenient. Or because it’s cost-effective. Or because it gives us health benefits, but the primary reason – the driver that makes people put something on their plate into their mouth is taste. So umami is Japanese for meaty or savory. And one of the big barriers that I’ve heard people say is, “You know what? I would eat more plant-based, but I just really crave meat.” Well, many many many times what they’re craving is a “meaty” flavor – they’re craving the flavor of “meatiness.” And you can actually get umami, or the meaty flavor, from plant-based foods. So going from the top left, tomatoes have umami, potatoes, carrots, soybeans, green tea, seaweed even has umami…. mushrooms, and that’s parmesan cheese. These are the top, plant-based umami providers, and I’ll give you an example as I drive this home. I live in the Midwest (Chicago), and my dad is a big New Yorker, and one of the things he likes that is vegetarian is that bowl of spaghetti with Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce…Marinara sauce. And one of the reasons why he likes it, is that Marinara is tomato, and Parmesan is on this list also. You’ve got two sources of meaty umami on his bowl of pasta, and there you go. That is why a meat-lover can do the whole thing, because he’s getting umami flavor there.

Another thing I think is a powerhouse – this is an idea that I think has transformed everything I’ve done with clients. I did some present research while researching about the Flexitarian diet, and I loved it. It’s called “Flavor-flavor training.” And this is where you pair something you don’t like with something you like, you, over time, authentically begin to like the flavor of your unliked foods. So it couldn’t go the other way. It could be like, a cousin doesn’t like avocado, so you put avocado on a burger and all of a sudden he hates both avocados and burgers – it’s just all bad. But that’s not what happens. What happens when you put something like avocado on a burger is that now he goes out and buys big tubs of guacamole – because he loves avocado. And this is something you can use for yourselves, with foods that you know have a lot of nutrition, you just can’t get yourself to eat it – you put something you don’t love, like tofu or beans, with something you do love and over time what happens is that you authentically start to like them. So this is something I did with beets. So I ending up paring them with walnuts, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar a few times, and now I dream of beets.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD, LDN FitBloggin'12 Florida Grapefruit

So the other thing I want to talk to you about is Cooking Techniques. I cannot believe how this has changed many of the clients I see, eating bitter foods. So do you realize that vegetables, because they are so bitter tasting, they don’t end up on people’s plates because they don’t like the taste of them – bitter. Well I tend to think, “Huh. How come every morning I wake up and see rolls, thousands of people drinking coffee? Coffee is one of the most bitter foods that exists! How can they drink this but not eat vegetables?” Well, people aren’t drinking black coffee. They’re putting cream, or fat, in it. And they’re putting sugar in it. And all of a sudden, that bitter bitter bitter coffee is palatable and delicious.  So “The Coffee Principle” is doing the same darn thing as vegetables. And so you can add sweetness and fat to make your vegetables more palatable. Let me give you some examples. Roasting or broiling – any time you cook foods, whether it be fruit and vegetables, they become sweeter, right? The stir-fry – how come so many people don’t like vegetables but at a Chinese takeout place they love the vegetables there? Sweet and sour sauce, the fat that they cook it in, that makes it more palatable. Those are greens with sweet potatoes. You can pair sweet foods like sweet potatoes with bitter greens, and they become more palatable.  On the bottom right is the quintessential, Cheddar cheese and Broccoli. Broccoli is bitter to some people, but they put cheese on it, and like that it really de-bitters it.

Florida Grapefruit Table FitBloggin'12

So the final cooking technique I want to talk to you about is what’s called the Brightening Technique. Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard but people oversalt everything. Right? People are salting salting salting, the whole world is saying “eat less salt,” but salt is a brightening agent. It makes sure food tastes better and brighter. And one of the things that’s very true for health food is that it tends to be very flat, and needs a brightening agent. So people end up putting some much salt on their food; they could be using other things to brighten it that would be even healthier. And the three things that work, that are very good to making your food shine are Vinegar, Citrus, and Greek Yogurt. They all work with that tangy tartness to brighten your food. So let me give you some examples, on the top left that’s just a big batch of white beans with some pasta/tomato sauce, that really needs brightening. So you put a lot of salt or some balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar on your next tomato soup, try it, (it’s) amazing. [Other example: Hummus – lemon] On the bottom that is a grapefruit and cabbage slaw that I put on black bean tacos. So the black bean tacos are just flour tortillas and black beans – all of a sudden you get that citrus pop… amazing. For black beans and rice, very classically would be a lime juice to brighten that. Or lentil soup – hey next time you have some lentil soup, if you put some plain greek yogurt on there, it will be the best lentil soup you’ve ever had. And it’s all because of the Brightening Technique. So really consider that the next time you work with vegetarian cuisine, or really anything healthy – it will really change everything once you incorporate that.

In addition to doing the Flexitarian diet recipes, Grapefruit has asked me to do a book of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for an entire 7 days. And make sure it could be balanced, and make sure that it could enrich and nourish active people. So this is not a plan of restriction. It’s called The Grapefruit Active Lifestyle Meal Plan. And one of the things I love about it, is that all of the recipes are really easy to do.

Florida Grapefruit J-jitosOne of recipes I love very much, it could be like a post-run recovery shake, is a berry and grapefruit smoothie. Or on the right hand side is some Broiled grapefruit for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt and some crushed nuts. What does broiling do? Brings out that sweetness. Because cooking brings out natural sugars. On the left hand side you saw the black bean tacos with the grapefruit and cabbage slaw, this is fish tacos, and I even have things like a Steak salad with grapefruit vinaigrette. So these recipes, I really really encourage you to use them as a resource for both yourselves and your readers. Because there are, like I said, the standard, vegetarian , and vegan versions. So no matter who you are, or no matter who your readers are, it is something they can enjoy. Why I was very excited to take on this project is because well, grapefruit is one of my favorite foods, but more importantly, it really does have an invigorating flavor. So right now it’s about 3:45(pm), 4 o’clock or something like that – this tends to be a time when people are feeling like, a little bit slouchy in their day. And you have the mocktail, and you can feel free to have more later, it really has a sort of ‘pick me up’ flavor. And I will tell clients, instead of relying on energy drinks and caffeine, could you just give it a try and see what that’s like? Because in addition to having an invigorating flavor – I like, as a dietitian, the fact that it has nutrients, it’s very nutrient-rich. Just half a grapefruit or even 8 ounces of 100% grapefruit juice is at least 100% of your Vitamin C. So especially if you’re at this conference shaking hands, talking to a lot of people, you want to boost your immune system. Instead of popping pills, the option of having that 100% of your Vitamin C from food is amazing, and that it really does have health and weight-management potential if paired with a healthy lifestyle.

So if you go to the plan, it’s on Facebook under “Juicy Scoop,” and there’s a tab called The (Active Lifestyle) Meal Plan. And you’ll see that there are three balanced meals that hit all of the high pyramid food groups, so you’re going to get total nutrition and also two snacks in a day. So one of the snacks would be like the mocktail you had, the G-jito. Or it could be something like crackers and yogurt-herb dip. So all the snacks, from sweet to drinks to savory – and the calories again encourage someone to drop so low that they can’t get back to baseline, but it’s not so much that it weighs them down. And I have found that with some meal plans, some of the calories can be so high that it weighs people down and really sabotages them. So I was really happy with the results of the plan. So just to reiterate some of the foods you would eat.. (see slide below).

Now my all-time favorite are those spicy black bean tacos which you’ve now seen like three times… I’ve been subliminally trying to get you to try the grapefruit and cabbage slaw – I love it. And I encourage you to visit JuicyScoop on Facebook or Twitter, or go to if you want more recipes or stuff like that. Now I do know, by talking to people at the conference and the expo, I do know there are some really interesting grapefruit juice and recipes out there that I’ve had people give to me. So whether you have an interesting thing you do with grapefruit or a recipe, we’d love to hear about it. So you’d just tweet us @JuicyScoop, and I definitely encourage you to do that. So that really sums up the idea of RAWBloggin’. So just to bring this back to the point of – whether you’re reading something or whether you’re writing something for others to read; to really think about realistic and achievable wellness. So you get people super pumped about Destination Island and excitement, but also do pull back and think about the steps that you can give and the steps that you can take to make it really doable so that you can actually achieve your goals.

Florida Grapefruit Eating Plan Highlights FitBloggin'12

Session Questions and Answer Summaries:

Q: How do you feel about soy consumption/moderation?

Soy has had some bad PR rap – try thinking about soy without the word “bean” attached. I encourage people to get a variety of beans in their diet, but also encourage whole foods (i.e. whole soybeans, discourage isolates) as well. But if you’re just eating whole soybeans, try also incorporating a variety of other beans (e.g. black, garbanzo, pinto) into your diet for more well-rounded nutrition.

Q: Does the timing of grapefruit consumption correlate with a person’s metabolism? Should I eat it in the morning for breakfast or in the afternoon as a snack? Does it make a difference?

The invigorating taste of grapefruit is the focus here. When do you need a boost of energy? Is it in the morning so you can jump right up and get started with your day? Or is it in the afternoon, when it’s late and you’re getting a little nibbly.. Grapefruit is particularly great as an afternoon snack because not only does it give you the sense of fullness for a small amount of calories, but it provides you with hydration as well.

Q: For those of us with busy lifestyles, do you have any recommendations for eating more plant-based on the go?

Try seeking out more ethnic food places. Examples include Mexican or Mediterranean restaurants. And don’t forget about grocery store salad bars! Also, you may not have the time to always spend eating plant-based at home, but when you do have the time, really make them count.

Q: How many calories are in an average diet for a woman?

The great thing about this plan is the flexibility you have with the meals and snacks. Each meal is about 400 calories, and each snack is about 200 calories. So if you’re on a plan that has you eating more than 1,600 calories, you can add additional meals or snacks based on the difference. However, I choose to focus on calorie consciousness, rather than numbers – calorie counting.

Florida Grapefruit Contact Info FitBloggin'12
This session was captured and transcribed by Michelle of Esculent Dreams.


  1. says

    Loved this! Packed with such good information! I like the R.A.W. approach philosophy in particular. Thank you so much for posting this!