Emily Breeze Watson exposes her son to a variety of foods.

Decoding Nutrition

Experts address healthy eating

By Dawn Liles

Superfoods. Supplements. Whole30, ketogenic and other diets. The abundance of nutrition topics and trends can be overwhelming.

Ballantyne Magazine invited four local nutrition and fitness experts to share their thoughts and help bring this wide-ranging topic into focus.

Registered dietitians Sherri Clarke and Emily Hirsch and personal trainers Bre Leach and Emily Breeze Watson discuss everything from supplements and the latest diets to the best way to eat. Trainers Leach and Watson have big followings on social media, and Clarke, whose Lifexcel Carolina business is based in Ballantyne, is a personal trainer in addition to being a dietitian.

Here are highlights of the interviews.

Meet the Experts

Sherri Clarke. registered dietitian, personal trainer; owner, Lifexcel Carolina, Ballantyne. Photo by Ray Sepesy
Emily Hirsch, registered dietitian; owner, South Charlotte Nutrition. Photo by Ray Sepesy
Bre Leach, personal trainer, kinesiology degree, Instagram: @justbnfit Photo courtesy of Christopher Smalls and Corey Weaver
Emily Breeze Watson, personal trainer; owner, Emily Watson Fitness; formerly with Rising Crossfit Ballantyne; Instagram: @emilybreeze. Photo Courtesy of Emily Breeze Watson

What Do You Feel Is the Best Way to Eat?

Sherri Clarke (SC)

Lots of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and limited refined sugar and processed food. The problem is the majority of us cannot eat this way every day when there are so many tempting foods available to us. I am a dietitian who cares more about why you eat and how your food choices make you feel as opposed to saying eat this/don’t eat this.

At Lifexcel, we work with clients to eliminate emotional eating, all or nothing thinking and sabotaging thoughts like, “I’ll start my diet Monday.” These things lead to poor choices that make us feel lousy about ourselves.

Emily Hirsch (EH)

It’s best to eat whole foods, foods that don’t have an ingredients list. Or when you do eat packaged foods, look for five ingredients or less.

We all want our bodies to change overnight. But it doesn’t work that way. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to look at weight loss holistically. Don’t cut out all of your favorite foods, because then you will want them the most. Once you begin to heal your relationship with food, it’s much easier to make better, healthier choices.

Bre Leach (BL)

I’m a foodie, but moderation is key. The 80/20 rule applies to so many things in life. Eighty percent of the time I eat fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat meats, and 20 percent of the time I eat anything I want.

I enjoy occasional brownies and pizza but also make delicious spinach and cauliflower. Smoothies are a great way to add different foods to your diet. I like the food at (restaurant) b.good and Clean Juice, and I also make my own smoothies. I mix pineapple juice, spinach, kale and banana. I also add turmeric and ginger for their anti-inflammatory properties. Have fun with your palate.

Emily Breeze Watson (EBW)

I do not follow a strict diet and allow myself to eat a range of different foods. After a workout, I love smoothies and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I love cut-up fruits and veggies with dip, too.

One way to incorporate healthier foods into your diet is to find a new way to prepare them. Take a food like kale, which people may not like right out of the bag, and play around with roasting it or grilling it. And, expose your kids to all different kinds of food. We don’t make anything special for our 3-year-old son. He generally eats what we eat. We love to shop at farmers markets, and I also shop at Earth Fare and pick organic options when possible.

How About Supplements? Are They Necessary?


Only if a medical doctor prescribes them in response to a deficiency. We live with an abundance of food, so if we choose a varied diet of healthy foods, we should be able to obtain all the vitamins and minerals we need. The exception would be people who cut out entire groups of foods, people such as vegans or lactose-intolerant individuals. They may need supplements. The only common supplement I see is Vitamin D, often due to lack of exposure to the sun.


I think taking supplements is an individual thing, depending on a person’s health issues. I personally take only a probiotic. I don’t have GI (gastrointestinal) tract issues, but probiotics have been shown to support mental health as well. Probiotics also keep the gut healthy, ensuring the immune system functions well.


I don’t take any supplements or vitamins. I took prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, but that’s it. Not that I think they are terrible for you, but I just don’t feel like we need them. I would rather focus on a whole, well-rounded diet.

Any Other Advice?


If you have unsuccessfully tried every weight-loss diet out there, your answer lies much deeper than summoning more willpower. Get to the root of why you overeat and deal with that first. And remember, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet.


Tomorrow is always a new day. What a gift! Turn the page on any guilt you have regarding what you have eaten. Make the best of today.


Take ownership of your health, no matter what your age. It is never too late to change your diet and increase your exercise.

Several of my family members have diabetes and are on medication. I am determined not to make the disease part of my journey. You can break a generational curse by the food and exercise choices you make.

And, sleep has to be a priority. I can’t serve others if I’m not recharged.