Interviews / April 29, 2013

Julie Upton, MS, RD: Nutritionist and Health Writer

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective: Can you tell us why and how you became a foodie and or health advocate?

Julie: I was an overweight child and constantly picked on and bullied. I had a knack for sports and started to focus more on competing in swimming in high school so I realized that when I focused on what and how much I ate, I could perform better.  That piqued my interest in sports nutrition so I went to college to focus on nutrition and exercise physiology.

Diet Detective: What is your “eating” philosophy and why?

Julie: This has changed through stages of my life.  When I was training for half-Ironmans and Ironman-distance races, I could eat almost whatever I wanted because I was doing so much aerobic exercise I just needed a lot of calories.  That was more about 5-10 years ago and my diet was more of a typical American diet that was very high in carbohydrates, sugars and lower in fat and protein.  I didn’t always eat the healthiest diet but even when I ate this way, one thing I rarely do is eat out.  Even when I lived in NYC for 18 years, I rarely ate out because I believe that you always eat healthier when you’re in control of your meals and snacks.

But since I know focus primarily on CrossFit and short-duration exercise, I eat a diet that is what I call a Paleo Mediterranean diet.  It’s Paleo-ish in that I eat more protein and lots of veggies but Mediterranean in that most of my recipes are Mediterranean-inspired and I eat a lot of nuts, seafood and traditional Mediterranean dishes—minus all the pasta, bread and grains. I do make pasta dishes but I’ll usually up the protein in them and downsize the pasta so that the ratios are a bit more skewed to protein over grains. I have also found that for me, eating a protein-rich breakfast is key to keep me on track for the day.  I almost always start my day with eggs or Greek yogurt with some fruit and a little bit of oats.

Diet Detective: What’s the best way for a person to stick with a healthy eating program?

Julie: The best approach is to look at your current diet and make some minor adjustments to your lifestyle so that better choices become your go-to or your habit. We see that most people have ok diets, they just have some daily behaviors that undermine their efforts, like the afternoon candy breaks or their daily smoothie or high-cal coffee drink.

Diet Detective: What’s the scariest thing about the foods we eat – something we should be considering an emergency?

Julie:  To me, the worst part of our food supply is the amount of sweeteners and added sugars that we are consuming. I believe there are about 15 different commonly used terms on ingredient lists that essentially mean sugar.  Sugar makes us crave more sweets, stimulates our appetite and makes foods that are naturally sweet, like fruit, taste less sweet.  Sodas and other sources of liquid sugar is the worst form to consume it in as it’s like infusing sugar into your bloodstream. At least with sugary foods, it takes a bit of time to digest it to get into the bloodstream.

Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite healthy recipe? Can you share it with us please?

Julie:  Yes, protein pancakes or my baked eggs in Canadian bacon. These are two of my favorite protein-packed am meals.

Diet Detective: What is your all-time favorite healthy snack?

Julie:  A plain nonfat or lowfat Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries and some raisins.

Diet Detective: What’s always in your fridge?

Julie: Greek yogurt, lettuces, eggs, 1% milk, fortified soymilk, pitcher of water, leftovers,

Diet Detective: Your typical breakfast?

Julie:  See above

Diet Detective: Your favorite junk food?

Julie: I have sooo many, but would have to say Swedish fish or Australian/New Zealand black licorice

Diet Detective: What was your health “aha moment?”


Diet Detective: What would you choose for your last meal?

Julie:  Grilled or broiled scallops with some type of citrus salsa with a great salad

Diet Detective: Who and what influenced the way you think about food?

Julie:  Being overweight as a child, being athletic and always competing in sports has shaped the way I eat and how much I eat.  My father also passed away from a sudden heart attack when he was 62, and every since then, I have been more concerned about my diet and lifestyle, given my increased risk for heart disease. 

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient? What’s the one thing you’d suggest people keep in their kitchen if they want to cook healthy meals?

Julie: Extra virgin olive oil and nonfat or lowfat Greek yogurt.  I use olive oil for just about every type of cooking (minus baking) and Greek yogurt can be used in so many different ways when cooking food, from making marinades, to sour cream replacer to an ingredient in frosting.

Diet Detective: What’s the one kitchen utensil or tool that you can’t live without?

Julie:  This is hard too.  I live my olive oil mister, but find that my graters are essential too because I live cheese but when you grate it, you can use a lot less and still get the full flavor.  I love my OXO salad spinner but maybe my all time favorite is my Chef’n Emulstir salad dressing mixer


Diet Detective: Organic foods?

Julie: Often overrated

Diet Detective: Antioxidants?

Julie: Often overrated

Diet Detective: Artificial sweeteners?

Julie:  Too widely used

Diet Detective: Cooking sprays (e.g. Pam)?

Julie: Get an oil mister

Diet Detective: Food Additives and Preservatives?

Julie:  Eat fewer processed foods

Diet Detective: Nutritional Supplements?

Julie:  Focus on a healthy diet

Fact Sheet

Your Website:

Location? San Francisco

Your current location.…right now: Tiburon, CA

What is your current job title? Co-founder of Appetite for Health

Education: MS degree f rom Boston University, BS from Michigan State University

Hometown: Ludington, MI

Favorite Healthy Food Websites: (Not your own)


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