On today’s solo episode, I’m talking about how to prioritize your proteins in a way that makes sense for YOU.  We will chat through common meat classifications, what certain terms mean, and some good, better, best options for you and your family!

prioritizing your protein


We’re back with our 192nd episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 192 Links:


Episode 192 Sponsors and Featured Partners

  • Nutritional Therapy Association – The NTA trains and certifies Nutritional Therapy Practitioners and Consultants with a nutritional foundation that emphasizes the body’s innate intelligence and bio-individuality, because they know that a “one size fits all” approach to nutrition does not exist.  Head HERE to learn more about becoming a NTP/NTC through this incredible program!
  • Pride of Bristol Bay – Sustainable, hiqh-quality, nutritious, and wild-caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon delivered right to your door!  Use the code “fedandfit” to get $40 off your first order!

Episode 192 transcription

Cassy Joy: Today’s show is brought to you by the Nutritional Therapy Association! The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants with a nutritional foundation that emphasizes the body’s innate intelligence and bioindividuality. Because they know that a one-size fits all approach to nutrition does not exist.

The NTA curriculum focuses on the importance of properly prepared, nutrient-dense whole foods, paired with a well balanced lifestyle. Sound familiar? I love this program so much. Throughout their program, students learn a wide range of educational tools and techniques to identify and correct nutritional imbalances and deficiencies. And students graduate with the education and skills needed to launch a successful career in holistic nutrition.

May enrollment for the NTA’s nutritional therapy practitioner program, or their fully online nutritional therapy consultant program, is currently open through April 26. You can head to www.NutritionalTherapy.com to get more info. The NTA’s annual conference, Roots, is also happening March 1st through the 3rd in Portland, Oregon. I’ve attended in the past, and can honestly say it was one of the most educational and inspirational nutrition conferences I have ever been to. No joke. You can go to the NutritionalTherapyConference.com to register. You do not have to be an NTP to go; all are welcome.

Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And today we’re back with a little geeky skincare. No, sorry! {laughing} Not skincare science. Although, I guess what we’re talking about today could actually yield some skin results. Some healthy skin.

We’re talking today about healthy protein. Geeky protein nutrition facts. That’s what I wanted to say. This is a question I get a lot. And the base of the question is; I hear you. I want to switch my family. Our groceries over to healthier options. I really understand why. But it’s so intimidating because of the price tag. If I go to the store and I buy nothing but organic, and grass-fed, and wild, then I feel like I can feed my family for two nights before I’ve blown our grocery budget.

And I hear you. I really, really do. So what we’re going to talk today about is really how to prioritize your protein budget. And then we’re going to give a good amount of background information on what you might want to know leading up to that decision. And at the end of the day; you do you. You do what makes the most sense for you and your family. I can tell you at the end of the episode what I do with my family. Let me make a note of that so I don’t forget. {laughs} So I can make sure to recap on that, so you have a good idea of how we make real life decisions.

So, why are we talking about animal-based proteins only? That’s all I’m focusing on in this one. I’m not going to talk about vegetable-based protein sources. And that is because; this is my nutrition expertise/bias. Because everyone has their own. At the end of the day, I really do believe that animal protein is the best form of protein for the human body. It is the most, according to the literature that I have studied, the most bioavailable source of protein. I’m talking about eggs; some dairy, we could really debate that. We could really split hairs. But definitely meat, fish, and poultry.

Meat-based protein also have no limiting amino acids, unlike their cousins on the plant-based side. For example, soy does not have a complete amino acid profile. And that’s really why we need protein, right? That’s why need some kind of protein on our plate. Because it has amino acids that make up that larger, pretty protein. And those amino acids; all of them. The full spectrum of them, is what our body really needs to regenerate cells and all kinds of good things.

This is based on the consideration of the protein digestibility with the corrected amino acid score, combined with antinutrient considerations. And incomplete protein status. So for example, when we’re talking about plant-based proteins, there are a lot of antinutrients that are incorporated in the plants. It’s a totally normal line of defense.

So when you think about nature, let’s zero in on a cow. A cow, one of its forms of avoiding predator or avoiding being eaten is that it can walk away from you. A cow can walk away from you, it can run away from you. It can hide. It can move itself, so it has that advantage. But a plant growing out of the ground cannot walk away from you. It can’t hide. It can’t move itself. So the way these little guys evolved over time, or were designed, is they have their own antinutrients built into them. So if you eat too much of it, maybe you get a stomachache. Something like that that would deter that vegetarian, omnivore, whatever it is, herbivore, from eating more of it.

So that’s what we would call an antinutrient found in a plant. So that’s kind of what’s going into this background. Plus, if we’re looking at protein density, we need a much smaller amount of animal protein to get the amount of grams of protein we’re looking for versus plant based.

Ok, so what are some main sources of animal-based protein? First up we have eggs. The incredible edible. We have milk or dairy; other dairy products. We have red meat. Talking bison, we’re talking bovine, we’re talking; what else is red? There are all kinds of options out there. But I’ve just got you the two. {laughs} We’re talking fish, and of course pork. All of those things. Poultry. Which would include pastured chicken, which non-pastured chicken actually can be one of the potentially most unadvantaged; how do I put this. Essentially, non-pastured chicken, as in conventional chicken, could be of all of the proteins we’ve looked at so far, that could be the one that could be the most damaging to your health.

Now, at the end of the day, I don’t think we need to worry about it when we’re dining out. Because you’re going to get what you’re going to get; and I will talk more about that when I talk about how I actually live my life and make my decisions. But if you’re stocking up groceries for your house, and it comes to chicken, I highly recommend you look at pastured chicken. That is antibiotic free.

Ok, so let’s talk about some terms. One of the first terms we’re going to cover; grass fed. I have a pretty extensive podcast all about grass-fed. Actually, I think we’ve done a couple of episodes on it. All about grass-fed and what that actually means and how to navigate beef and healthy beef and why it matters and then we also talked about budgetary considerations. Good, better, best options.

Something worth noting is that grass-fed does not necessarily mean organic. That can be a little bit of a misconception. Another misconception is that grass-fed, that term, is regulated. Because it’s actually really unregulated. Because you, the consumer, you’re probably thinking you’re getting something else than something that’s just labeled grass-fed. Because if something is labeled just grass-fed, it could mean that those cows were allowed to eat grass at one point in their lives, but not all points in their lives. Sometimes grass-fed on a label could just be marketing.

Grass-finished is a little; that’s probably more what you need to look for. Grass-fed, grass-finished. And that means that the cows ate nothing but grass their entire lives, and this is really the ultimate in managed beef options that are out there.

Conventional typically means that they CAFO; concentrated animal feeding operations. It means that they’re fed corn, soy, and other grain-based diets that yield rapid fattening, and can also yield a lot of illness. And because of the illness in these kinds of feeding operations, antibiotics are often very necessary. A lot of these cows, again to increase yield. And I can’t blame the business people for doing business. But they just really want to make sure that their yield is high as possible. So they also inject hormones, like estrogen and testosterone to help increase growth, also. So what it yields is a fattier cow that gets there faster. That is pretty pumped up on antibiotics to help prevent it from getting ill and then potentially not being profitable. And because they grew so quickly on such nutrient-depleted foods, the actual end product, the actual meat, tends to have less nutrients.

Another term, the last one we’re going to cover, is organic. Organic; if that’s on a label, it means that whatever it was fed organic feed. But that could include grain. And in addition, organic cows are actually; this is one worth noting regulation. Organic cows must not be given antibiotics or growth enhancing hormones. So, in order to be certified organic, farmers must supply outside access for their cows, and document that no pesticides or fertilizers were used on their farm or land for the past 3 years.

So let’s make this applicable. What does this mean? You’re at the store, and you’re looking at grass-fed, grass-fed grass-finished, conventional. It won’t be labeled conventional; it just won’t have any of these labels. And you’ll see organic. If the grass-fed grass-finished option; that’s the one we want the most. If the grass-fed grass-finished option just blows your entire budget, take a peek at the organic option. I would actually probably go there first. And take a look at the organic beef, red meat, pork options that are out there.

And if that is within your budget, go that way. If that one doesn’t, look to just the plain grass-fed one. Chances are it’s probably going to be more expensive than the organic, because again, marketing. They think people will pay more for that grass-fed logo on it. Even though, like we said, it could just mean that it was fed grass at one point in its life. And then last would be conventional.

If you’re going to grab conventional beef, we’ll talk about prioritizing other kinds of proteins. But if you’re going to grab conventional beef, I encourage you grab a leaner cut of meat. Because the fattier tissues in red meat are really what hold onto and store a lot of those things that we want to avoid in conventional animal proteins. So those hormones. The antibiotic residue. Any of the other inflammatory properties that might have found their way into the meat are more prevalent in the fattier tissues. So gravitate towards leaner cuts if you’re buying conventional beef.

So what are some other proteins, and how do we navigate them? When it comes to seafood, I really encourage you go to; seafood, canned seafood, is much less expensive than fresh. And you could find some really stellar canned seafood. So it will be certified by the marine stewardship council; the MSC. It has a little blue MSC logo with a blue checkmark. You can look for those on cans. Look for wild. When it comes to tuna, we want line caught tuna, not net caught. So look for line caught tuna that’s MSC certified. That means that it is a sustainable choice.

There are sometimes that sustainability for, sometimes you can find farmed seafood that actually a really good, healthy choice. A more sustainable choice, than necessarily wild. Wild does not always mean across the board that that’s the way to go, because you don’t know what the conditions are where those wild fishies are found. And so a resource there would be the Seafood Watch, is a really great resource to pull up. And you can download that app on your phone; Seafood Watch. It’s run by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. It’s one of my favorite places, and I will go there one day. I’m determined. The next time I’m in California.

Download that app, and you can see what are the best seafood choices based on where you are in the country at that point in time. I think that’s a really good one to go by. Because you might find that farmed salmon from X-coastline is actually a really good choice, and that might be the more affordable choice at that point in time.

Other than that, in general, if you don’t want to download the app and you don’t want to look for logos, you can always just gravitate more towards wild options. As fresh as possible. Flash frozen. All of those are great.

OK. When it comes to; we want to look for, ideally, grass-fed grass-finished herbivores and dairy. So pasture-raised poultry, pork, and eggs. And then grass-fed, organic, and grain-finished beef would be next. And then we’re looking for organic soy-free would be the next one down. We’re looking for poultry, pork, eggs, dairy and seafood. That would be one to look for. And then after that, of course, follows conventional beef as priority. And last would be conventional poultry, pork, seafood, and eggs.

I really want to highlight; we’ll get to cost effectiveness in a second. But I would say, if you’re looking to source your proteins, prioritize number one look for wild. Again, jump down this list as your budget allows. Wild would be number one; grass-fed, grass-finished would be two. Grass-fed organic, or grain finished would be three. Organic and soy free would be soy. Conventional beef, specifically, would be five. And then very last would be conventional poultry, pork, seafood, and eggs.

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Cassy Joy: Ok. So what are some factors to weigh in when you’re deciding about what proteins to source, and where. This is where you really get to choose your own adventure, and decide what’s really best for your family. Of course, budget is going to be of consideration. The amount of protein and meat that your family actually consumes. The availability. So if you happen to live next to a grass-fed, grass-finished, pastured cattle rancher, then obviously. And he does cow shares. Then that’s pretty low-hanging fruit. You have really high-quality protein with a very low carbon footprint as far as transportation goes right there next door to you. So your availability is very high.

If you live in a food desert in certain parts of the country; these are in big cities. These are food deserts that don’t have grocery stores. I forget the radius, but I want to say it was something like 10 to 20 miles, there is no grocery store available. And that’s so interesting. These are usually in very, very urban areas. Then obviously it’s not going to be quite as available. So you’ll take that into account.

And then I would also look at the nutritional needs of your family. So for example, Graysen, we knew that we wanted to make sure that she was getting enough dietary red meat to up her hemoglobin levels, which are stellar now. So red meat; really healthy, good sources of red meat was a priority for us.

And then cost-effective options. So here, let’s get down to it. What are some options to look at if budget is of concern? Which it is for, I would assume, everybody. Number one; start looking for cow shares. And I think it’s eatwild.com or .org. We’ll link up to it in the show notes. But this is a website you can go to and you can find cow shares in your area.

Now remember, not all cow shares are made the same. Not all of them are going to have grass-fed, grass-finished beef. So do some digging, and do some research. Get to know the rancher. Get to know what exactly they’re feeding their cows. And then you can decide from there. But that would be the best way to go if you’re looking for really high-quality protein.

And when it comes to getting really high-quality nutrients on your plate, the nutritionist side of my brain really wants you to have, at least once a week, if not the very least twice a month. I would love for you to have some grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Red meat. On your table. And as part of your food rotation, at least twice a month, if not once a week. And the reason for that is the array of nutrients found in really high quality grass-fed, grass-finished, pastured beef is just phenomenal. And it’s going to wonderful things for you. And I think it’s one worth prioritizing. I’m not saying that you need to have it every single day, because I understand that can be very expensive. But I would prioritize that at least twice a month.

And then after cow shares, which would be the most budget-friendly option, there are other options out there. Butcher Box, for example, is actually where I get my own grass-fed beef. I trust the source. I love the cuts. I love that they are sometimes varied, so I get to experiment in the kitchen. And it’s a little bit more of a nose-to-tail kind of operation, and that makes me feel really good about it.

You can check out stores like Costco, which are now sourcing higher quality proteins. Still read labels, but those are also some options if you’re looking to save on proteins. You can focus on seafood, for example. And again, buy in bulk. Pride of Bristol Bay; yes, they’re a partner of ours, and we’ve worked with a couple of times now. But I’m a fan. I’m genuinely a fan of Pride of Bristol Bay, salmon. I think the operation, they run it with a lot of integrity. They bring you the best quality product.

Have you ever seen salmon, in the store if you’re walking around at the grocery store? And you look in the seafood container, and you see that some of the wild salmon is; the color of it is just kind of washed out and it looks a little watered down and not as vibrant, pink and red, as you would hope? It just doesn’t look quite as good and quite as nutrient dense. And at the end of the day, it probably isn’t.

Whereas Pride of Bristol Bay salmon; this is not meant to be a commercial. I’m just telling you; it’s such a good deal. You can order a big box of frozen salmon at a time. And of course, we’ll link to them in the profile, as well. The show notes. But you can order a whole box of salmon at a time, which is a much more economical way of doing it. Similar concept of a cow share; buy in bulk and save. Y’all; this salmon is harvested at the optimal time of the year in pristine conditions for these fish. It’s just incredible. And even just the color of it is obvious that these are really nutrient dense cuts. And this is a relatively affordable way to get some seafood on your table.

It’s much more expensive to go to the grocery store and grab fresh wild salmon than it is to get something like this directly from the fisherman. Directly from the guys who are out there on the boats and bringing you this really high-quality stuff. Anyway. I would say buy in bulk when it comes to seafood, as well.

And the last one I want to talk about are eggs. Believe it or not; pastured eggs. It’s a very cost-effective way of getting high quality protein on your plate. Because if you look at cost per pound. Let’s say you’re comparing grass-fed beef or pastured chicken. Or even wild seafood to pastured eggs. It is still eggs. Pastured eggs; the fanciest. Not even fancy. But the healthiest kind of eggs that you could put on your table are going to cost you less than any of the other options.

So I know that when you’re standing in the egg aisle, and you’re looking at the cartons and you’re thinking; gosh. It feels three times more expensive to buy the pastured eggs than it does to buy the conventional eggs. What’s the big deal? What’s the difference? It’s a huge difference in eggs. It’s a huge difference. And at the end of the day, it’s costing you $3 more; $3-4 more. That $3-4 more is worth it. So if you have to pick one protein to upgrade at this point in time for your family, my stance is I would upgrade the eggs first.

And if that’s too expensive; or if you really just want to double down and make sure you’re getting the good stuff, go to your local farmer’s market. I guarantee you you’re going to find someone out there that has chickens. And if anybody has had chickens, we know those things; they just keep laying and you have a lot of eggs at the end of the day. So I bet you can find some really high-quality beautiful eggs at your farmer’s market that are also not going to cost you an arm and a leg.

So that is what I would do. Don’t be shy about the eggs. It’s the cheapest, healthy form of protein you can put on your plate.

Ok, and then I’m going to close by just sharing a little bit about what we do. Because a lot of this can seem really overwhelming. You might listen to somebody like me; this nutrition person who is out there trying to help educate on all the different options out there and talk about micronutrient density, yadda-yadda-yadda. You might be wondering; yeah, but does she actually eat organic all the time? Or grass-fed all the time.

Here is what we do. Number one; we actually have; I live in Texas. San Antonio, Texas. We’re in suburbia, so we have a good amount of room. And I have a giant deep freeze that we invested in, and it’s probably one of my best investments ever. It’s this big old deep freeze, it sits in our garage. And in it, I have filled with about, once a year, my husband and I go in on a cow share. And we want a quarter cow; so just a quarter of a cow. And that’s usually where we get the majority of our giant roasts. It’s a grass-fed, grass-finished cow.

And then also, I am a longtime Butcher Box client and partner. I love my monthly Butcher Box. They send us the steaks, and the ground beef, which we also get ground beef from our cow share. And all the other fun cuts that I don’t go to the grocery store for. Or I wouldn’t go to the grocery store for. They also send us the most incredible pork chops. We get about 5 pounds of chicken from them a month. Which, we eat more chicken than that, but it’s a good start. Things like that.

And I keep those all in my freezer until we need them. What else do I have? Seafood wise, Pride of Bristol Bay. We eat a lot of salmon. I love those salmon. I actually; you can either get single servings or you can get full blown filets, and I actually prefer the filet box, because I like to just stick a whole one in the oven. It defrosts really quickly when I need it to. I’ll stick a whole one in the oven, and bake it up, and we’ve got it for dinner and lunch the next day. It’s also that kind of salmon Graysen really likes it. And I just love knowing that I’m giving her such great nutrient dense food. So salmon, that’s where we get that.

Specialty items like lamb, for example, I like to source from Five Mary’s Farms. It’s one of my favorites. If you haven’t; I have an episode on here where I interviewed Mary of Five Mary’s Farms, and she’s just lovely. They take a lot of care and a lot of thought goes into how they’re ranching. So specialty items I will get from them.

I think that’s about it. As far as chicken goes, Primal Pastures does a fabulous job raising really healthy pastured chicken. And pastured chicken can be heard to find. So Primal Pastures is a really great resource for that.

And the specialty meats; liverwurst for example, grass-fed liverwurst. Which is what we give Graysen for breakfast most mornings. And what else? Chicken wings, pastured chicken wings. Soup bones, sometimes, I will get from US Wellness Meats as they have it available. I’ll also get pastured chicken livers from US Wellness Meats.

Which brings up an important footnote. If you’re going to buy and consume organ meats, or offal, I think is how it’s pronounced. It’s spelled offal, but I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced “awful”. Or maybe that’s how I remember it! {laughing}

But if you’re going to buy organ meats; liver, what are the other normal organ meats some people like to heat? Heart, things like that. If you’re going to do that, I really recommend making sure it’s high quality. I would not go to the store and buy conventional chicken livers. Because what you’re getting out of the liver is essentially a filter for the body and trying to scum out all the junk. And if you are consuming a liver from an animal that was given and fed a lot of junk; administered a lot of junk, there’s a probability that there’s a high concentration of it in that liver. So, I would avoid those. Even though liver is incredibly good for you and incredibly healthy. Make sure you’re buying truly pastured organic chicken livers. And US Wellness Meats is where I find those.

And then when it comes to things like breakfast meats; sausages, and bacon, I will go with a brand that I feel good about. Sometimes I can make my own sausages out of just ground pork and spices. I have a recipe for that in my first book. But I also really like, sometimes it’s nice to have it done. Jones Dairy Farm, for example, which is another partner of ours. But I’m also genuinely a fan. The ingredients are pretty clean. No antibiotics. Things like that. It really hits on the more important items. It’s a convenience item. They’re precooked. So it just makes breakfast really fast in the morning. I think you can also find those at Costco right now. So that’s kind of what we do.

And then of course, there are times where I just need dinner on the dang table. And I’ll go pick up a rotisserie chicken. And I’ll get the natural version from the grocery store. Because I don’t want whatever they’ve basted the other ones in. Sometimes I just need chicken, and I’ll go and I’ll buy the organic chicken fresh chicken breast or strips or something like that. But always; remember, like we said. Always try to buy organic or pastured poultry whenever possible.

And then of course eggs. We used to have an egg source that was a neighbor, and she got rid of her chickens so we’re back to buying pastured eggs from Vital Farms at the grocery store. And those are really great for the time being, until I find another chicken person that’s very local to me.

And then what else we do; of course there are times that I’m eating conventional beef. When we’re at a restaurant. Unless they have it on the menu, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to be served up conventional beef, conventional chicken, and I just try not to worry about it. We probably eat out three-ish times a week; maybe more depending on the season. Or if I’m traveling. And I just try not to stress about it. We do as well as we can, and when we’re home we can obviously control more. And when I am home, I try to cook as much as possible. Because I want to make sure we’re getting a good foundation of a healthy diet. But I don’t stress about it when we’re out and about.

And how do I prioritize; just because it might be relevant to this conversation, the rest of this grocery budget. When I go to the grocery store, what do I actually buy? Because a lot of this stuff I have at my house already frozen. I’m getting it all delivered from all these different sources, right? Butcher Box, Pride of Bristol Bay, Five Mary’s Farms when I want a specialty item. Primal Pastures for chicken. US Wellness Meats for all the other weird cuts. A lot of that stuff comes to my house because I bought it in bulk directly from the source. I’m saving money that way.

So when I go to the grocery store, what I’m actually buying when I go to the store is just a bunch of fruits and vegetables. And then of course breakfast meats. Things like if I’m grabbing some Jones Dairy Farm stuff to just stock up on. And it’s funny; the grocery store folks always ask me if I’m vegan or vegetarian, because my cart is always full of fruits and vegetables. And when it comes to choosing organic or conventional fruits and veggies; if it’s something that has a skin.

If possible, try to buy organic across the board. But if that’s not possible, then prioritize things that you eat the skin of, or things that you eat the leaves of. For example the lettuce that could be sprayed directly with a pesticide. You really want to buy organic lettuces. Because you’re going to be eating that leaf directly. Especially herbs, like cilantro.

It’s incredibly important that everybody buy organic cilantro, because cilantro is a detoxifying herb, and will actually hold onto those contaminates more so than just about any other herb out there. So when you buy conventional cilantro, it’s probably more dangerous to you, even though it seems like a health food, I would definitely avoid it as much as possible.

Unless you’re at a restaurant; don’t stress. Live your life. But when you’re buying for home, buy organic cilantro. So I’ll buy organic leafy greens. I’ll buy organic berries, because you’re eating the skin of that berry. Things you could probably get away with not eating would be things like bananas. You’re going to peel the banana. Citrus; as long as you peel the citrus. Things like that. Things you’re going to peel are good ones that you could, if you need to, buy conventional.

And then I’ll also buy things like fats, butters, Kerrygold butter is a really good one. I’ll buy grass-fed ghee. Because we talked about the importance of really good, healthy sources of fat. So grass-fed ghee, which is clarified butter, is a great one. Fourth and Heart is my favorite brand for that.

I think that just about covers it all. I hope you guys found that helpful. This was a really fun episode. We’ll have the show notes, the full transcript loaded to the website as soon as it’s up. And I think that’s about it. Thanks for joining me. We’ll be back again next week.


About the Author

Cassy Joy Garcia, NC

Cassy Joy Garcia, a New York Times best-selling author, of Cook Once Dinner Fix, Cook Once Eat All Week, and Fed and Fit as well as the creative force behind the popular food blog Fed & Fit.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Cassy! I absolutely LOVE your podcast and your blog and your pictures and videos of Gray 🙂 but I’m mostly here to comment that I really appreciate your solo episodes! Don’t get me wrong, I learn a lot from the interviews you do as well and the reverse interviews (which are such a cool idea by the way!), but your solo episodes are my favorite. Prioritizing your protein was a super helpful episode in particular and I learned soooo much – especially about how important it is to get pasture raised eggs even though I often find that there’re harder to find!

    I also absolutely loved your solo episode on “pain points of 2018” and “you have permission to holiday differently”.

    Thanks for putting out such amazing content regularly and inspiring and coaching all of us!