What it is: A nutrition consult. 

Why go: I am not an elite athlete, not even close. But I do work out four or five days a week, typically taking a noontime TRX, cardio, weightlifting or yoga class. While I’m in fairly good shape for my age (mid-50s), I wouldn’t mind dropping a few (OK, 10) pounds. In the past, I’d always used exercise to control my weight. That didn’t seem to be working for me anymore. 

The problem: I’d been trying to cut back on my calorie intake while ramping up my workout regime. When I tried to eat less, however, I ended up feeling hungry all the time. Even though I would stuff my lunch bag full of carrots and apples, I found myself roaming the office every afternoon looking for something to eat. And if I found something, it usually wasn’t a healthful snack. (Chocolate chip cookies? You bet!) 

The process: When I met with performance dietitian Jill Merkel, she asked me for details about my goals, daily diet and activity level. Then she launched into a simple but effective lesson in nutrition. She divided food into four groups based on what they do for the body — fuel (grains and starches), build (protein), prevent (fruits and vegetables) and protect (fats). We need to have foods from three of these four groups at every meal, she explained, outlining a typical serving of each. Snacks, which she is a proponent of, should have foods from two groups (a banana and nuts, carrots and hummus).

Stacking the recommendations against my diet showed where I was going astray. And, no, it wasn’t the occasional chocolate chip cookie. 

Discovery: I found out I was eating a fairly healthy but too-limited diet. I had become stuck in an oatmeal-for-breakfast/salad-for-lunch/apple-for-snack rut, relying on the same few foods day after day. By doing so, I was limiting the minerals and nutrients I was consuming.

Worse, my attempt to cut calories had backfired because I had cut back on protein and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils) — the very foods that would help keep me from feeling hungry.

Good to go: Merkel set three achievable goals for me.

1. Add protein (an egg, yogurt, kefir, etc.) to breakfast.

2. Add protein (chicken) or a healthy fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, salad dressing) to lunch.

3. Choose a wider variety of vegetables and fruits by making sure my meals had a rainbow of colors. 

Bottom line: It was well worth the $75 for the one-hour session. In fact, I plan to schedule a follow-up as soon as I lose 10 pounds (or in a few months, whichever is sooner). EXOS-Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, 612-313-0520, sportsmedicine.mayoclinic.org

@StribCNelson