Ask local professionals FOCUSED ON NUTRITION how we can be thinking about food choices in 2023, and you’re bound to hear one refrain: keep it simple. Whole foods, a mix of quality meats and vegetables prepared simply and deliciously — all while being kind to your gut — will help you build healthy, sustainable habits. In 2022, Statista’s Global Consumer Survey showed that 44 percent of Americans said they wanted to eat healthier and 41 percent raised their hand to say they wanted to lose weight. If the good news is that we want to improve our daily diets, the bad news is that some studies show only nine percent of resolutioners do consistently well in keeping them.  Clearly, eating healthy takes more than a New Year’s pledge, so SRQ Magazine reached out to a few local experts to get their take on how to think about your eating habits heading into this new year. 

Mikka Knapp


If you’re looking to inject healthier habits into your diet, Sarasota-based registered dietitian-nutritionist and food expert Mikka Knapp has some advice: stay home. Knapp encourages her clients to avoid fad diets in lieu of making consistent, healthful choices—and that starts with preparing your own food. When that happens, you control the portion sizes, you control the ingredients, and you control the flavor. 

“Since the pandemic, more people have been cooking at home, which is wonderful,” Knapp says. “We want to just keep encouraging that, especially in the new year because a lot of people have health goals. And cooking at home is going to make your life easier, and it’s going to make it easier to hit your goals.”

And those fad diets Knapp wants you to avoid? Kick ‘em to the curb in favor of moderation and consistency. Knapp admits it’s not the most marketable approach — especially when you visit the bookstore’s Diet, Health & Fitness section and see titles promoting keto, paleo, fasting, vegetarian, vegan and … well, you get the point. 

“If we think of it as a diet, a diet has an end date,” Knapp says. “If we think of it as a lifestyle, that is something that doesn’t have an end date. We bake it into our routine just like brushing our teeth.” 

“Habits,” she says, “have to be easily achievable and not take too much thought.” Knapp helps her clients find strategies that are easily repeatable — ones that help to make good choices the norm. That takes forethought in the form of meal planning and/or prepping. She helps her clients find meals they can easily prepare in less than 30 minutes, to find grab-and-go snacks that help you resist the urge to hit the drive-thru window when you’re running errands. 

Knapp also says you should avoid cutting off foods. It goes back to moderation and the 80/20 rule. “Eighty percent of the time, we should try to eat healthy; we’re in control of what we eat,” Knapp says. “And then 20 percent of the time we can have a little bit of fun.” 

Cutting loose (with reason) one out of every five meals makes the 80 percent of the time when you’re focused on making healthy choices more manageable, Knapp says. “That way, you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself and you’re not craving the things that you’re denying yourself. The minute we say, ‘I’m not going to have something,’ we put it on a pedestal and that’s all we can think about.” 

Bonni London


London Wellness owner Bonni London, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, is a self-described omnivore who declares, “Protein is king.” Like Knapp, London supports a balanced approach, and encourages her clients to avoid extremes. Populate your plate with whole foods, a “phytonutrient-dense diet with tons of vegetables, which have fiber and healthy fats.” 

Start with your goals. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, train for a marathon or simply have more energy throughout the day, there are foods that will support you. It starts with reframing the way you think about what you eat. “Instead of making rules of, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be eating this or I shouldn’t have that,’ a much, much better way to approach eating is to focus on the food that you need to support your goals.” 

London assures her clients that meat is not the enemy. “I don’t think it honestly makes sense for the human population to be eating strictly vegetables,” she says. “I definitely think we’re meant to eat both.” She notes, however, that not all protein sources are the same. “What we are looking for is that it contains the nine essential amino acids, but they also have to be in the right ratio.” You can get those amino acids from a plant-based diet, but you’ll be consuming more food,” London says. 

Speaking of plant-based foods, London is not a fan of the meat alternatives whose popularity continues to grow. She reiterates that it’s whole foods we should be eating. “All these fake meats,” London says, “we know they’re terrible, toxic, (made with) soybean and all this other stuff that’s just so over processed.” 

London also encourages her clients to stop counting calories. Eating 1,000 calories of chips, for example, is going to leave a person hungry still because they aren’t nutrient-rich. “Our taste buds and our brains are not that clever,” she says, “but our bodies are very intuitive and they are gonna let you know, ‘I did not get enough amino acids.’ If you don’t get the amino acids that you need, you are going to continue to be hungry.” And that, she notes, is why protein is king.

London says her list of foods to avoid could “drive a person crazy.” Bottled salad dressings (because of the canola oil). Egg white omelets (because of the processed oil they’re cooked in). Alcohol should be limited, especially sugary drinks. Even chicken, which is a staple in several fad diets, should be curtailed, according to London, because of what they eat. “A simple way that I like to explain it to my clients is that if you want to be lean and healthy, then you want to eat animals that are also lean and healthy,” she says. The closest fad diet that matches London’s recommendations, she says, is the Mediterranean diet. “Focusing on high quality protein, a variety of vegetables, and then healthy fats like olives, avocados,” London says. Add in some nuts and seeds, and your body will thank you.

Sharon Juraszek


One area that experts  say is especially important to consider in your eating habits is gut health. Conveniently, another staple on the bookstore health & fitness shelves are titles calling out the benefits of gut hygiene, like The Good Gut, and The Mind-Gut Connection. For Sharon Juraszek, a Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and the owner of Sarasota’s Fermentilicious, it’s more than a trend. She understands exactly how important the gut is to overall health. She’s made a career of it. (“I send people to her all the time,” London says.)

For seven years, fermented foods have been Juraszek’s business, and you can find her most weekends at the Sarasota Farmers Market selling jars of fermented foods with names like, “The Healer,” “Golden Goddess,” “Ginger Bliss,” and “Mystic Mustard.” Each jar contains a mix of organic ingredients designed to deliver beneficial probiotics to every point in the digestive tract. And sure, you could run to CVS and buy a probiotic pill, but Juraszek says it’s not the same. 

“The difference between eating versus taking a probiotic, when you eat the actual sauerkraut, you have the fiber of the food, which makes its way all the way into the large intestines, into the colon,” she says, noting that when it comes to fermented foods, a little goes a long way. “It’s not like you need to eat a ton of it, maybe just one or two servings per day, and that’s about two forkfuls with a meal.” Juraszek calls the process she uses to ferment her foods “sacred.” 

“We have a high vibrational kitchen,” she says. “The two of us that work in the kitchen meditate to clear our minds, and then we set a healing intention: May all the food that we touch be filled with love, be filled with light. May those who consume this food feel this loving light energy in their bellies and their hearts and their minds in their homes and in their community.” 

From there, she uses a traditional fermenting process with organic ingredients and pink Himalayan salt. She ferments in small batches, five-gallon clay vats. 

“It’s truly done the traditional way where I don’t add water, I don’t add a starter,” she says. “A lot of modern fermentors are doing it that way, but I’m going back to our ancient ways of fermenting. I also have a little secret technique that I use where I’m capable of using less sodium. So my product has only 55 milligrams per serving, which is extremely low for sauerkraut. The next lowest brand on the market is at about 300 milligrams per serving.” She suggests pairing her fermented creations with salads, avocado toast, red and white meats, fish and eggs. Of course, you can also eat it straight, as many of Juraszek’s many repeat customers prefer. 

“It’s helped so many people, and I had no idea what it had the power to do,” she says. “I am so grateful that I’m able to provide this to my community because people are feeling better, people are pooping, people are digesting their foods, their skin is clearing up. It’s pretty profound.”

Most Valuable Foods  FIVE FOR FITNESS

At this point, most people understand which foods we should limit in our diets. Phrases like “dipped in butter,” “smothered in gravy,” and “deep fried”? They’re generally out, but it’s not always as easy to understand which foods deserve more focus. Naturally, we asked the experts: 

Beans and Lentils

Knapp recommends some pre-made dinners that include beans and lentils. She specifically recommends Fillos to her clients, which are Latin-inspired, vegan-friendly, ready-to-eat meals that are easy to prepare and pack a healthy serving of protein.

Wild Fish

Wild fish can be an excellent source for essential nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, London says, and it’s a good protein source. “Higher amounts of these nutrients have been associated with lower risk of heart disease, brain health and even improved mood to name a few of the benefits,” she says. Farm-raised fish, London notes, can be toxic, and their diets mean they don’t provide as much Omega-3 as wild caught fish. “Focus on smaller varieties such as sardines, mackerel or herring,” London says. “Wild sockeye salmon is also considered a good choice with lower mercury levels and of course high levels of Omega-3.” She says the best way to cook fish is to bake it. “I would suggest avoiding frying fish at high temperatures; it can damage the quality.”

Monk Fruit

“Monk fruit has really gained a lot of popularity in the past couple of years, which I’m so happy to see,” Knapp says. “It’s a natural, no calorie, no glycemic index sweetener, but I find that people like it a lot better than stevia.” Knapp says getting off the “sugar rollercoaster” is the No. 1 thing people can do for their health, and seeking out products sweetened with monk fruit is a great place to kick off that effort. 


Wait, beef? Really? Isn’t beef the enemy? No! Knapp says when choosing meats, “the closest to nature is always going to be the best.” When you’re in the grocery store, look for grass-fed, pasture-raised beef over processed deli meat. “The more that’s been done to it, the less healthy it is for us,” Knapp says. London agrees. To those who gave up red meat, she suggests adding them back to your plate “once or twice a week,” and ensuring it only comprises a quarter of your meal. 

Pasta Alternatives

Lentil pasta, chickpea pasta, and gluten-free pastas are nothing new, but Knapp suggests looking at pastas made from vegetables like hearts of palm or legumes like edamame and mung beans. “That gets us moving away from the processed, refined wheat,” she says. “That white flour, it just turns the sugar so quickly in our bloodstream that it keeps us on the blood sugar rollercoaster, and we’re fuller, longer.”