Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Food Diaries: Gavin McKay of Unite Fitness

As the owner of Unite Fitness, Gavin McKay looks at nutrition in three ways: How food affects your body chemistry, how it helps rebuild your muscles, and how it makes you feel. Here, he shares his own unique nutrition plan, which he calls "The Sacred 6."

Food Diaries: Gavin McKay of Unite Fitness

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In 2006, Gavin McKay left the corporate consulting world to create Unite Fitness, one of Philly’s premiere training facilities. The certified personal trainer set out to revolutionize how we train with Unite’s “Heart.Muscle.Mind” philosophy to create a highly effective and truly healthy lifestyle for its clients.

Under the “Heart.Muscle.Mind” philosophy, McKay looks at nutrition in three ways: How food affects your body chemistry, how it helps rebuild your muscles, and how it makes you feel.

With nutrition being one of the core elements of Unite, the studio often offers seasonal nutrition challenges to its clients. Led by Nutrition Director Juliet Burgh, the challenges encourage experimentation with your diet in order to see what works for best for your body. (Interested? They have a 7-Day Raw Food Challenge starting next Monday.)

It was through these challenges that McKay started to experiment more with his diet, recently creating his own unique nutrition plan, which he calls “The Sacred 6.”

About five months ago, McKay was doing research and came across a graphic that illustrated the amount of energy that is required to make one calorie of a particular food.

“It showed that the environmental impacts were astronomically higher for animals and it made me realize that I didn’t even think about that as a factor when I was eating,” said McKay. “I thought, if meat is such a luxury item in terms of energy, I really need to limit my consumption.”

McKay set out to restructure his diet so that he would consume an animal only once per day. This also meant getting protein from more responsible sources, like eggs, dairy and grains. As McKay laid out his new diet, he saw a pattern emerge.

“I had six different sources of food that I needed to consume and each course had a specific amount of servings I was striving for each day,” said McKay. “All of the sudden this pyramid kind of fell into place.”

"The Sacred 6" Diet:

  1. Animal (meat or fish)
  2. Animal Products (dairy/eggs)
  3. Fruits (3 different organic fruits, if possible)
  4. Plant Fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, oils, etc.)
  5. Whole Grains (rice, quinoa, beans, oats, lentils, etc.)
  6. Vegetables (6 different organic veggies, if possible)

“It really shifted my view even stronger towards eating organic, treating food and my body as sacred, and making sure to consume the healthiest most responsible proportions daily,” said McKay.  

How does he do it?

As a self-professed Trader Joe’s junky, McKay has embraced the prep work that goes into healthy eating.

“I am pressed for time like others but I have learned to enjoy grocery shopping, because I LOVE food and I want to be able to control what I am eating, both for health and preferences,” said McKay.

McKay is lucky enough to have a flexible schedule and live close to where he works so he prepares most of his meals right before he eats them — but he still has some time-saving tricks up his sleeve.

“When I’m doing meal prep, I try to optimize the amount of time that I’m cooking,” said McKay. “If anything takes more than 10-15 minutes to make (i.e. roasted veggies, whole grains, grilled chicken), I’ll make one big batch of it so I can free up that time later in the week.”

Below, in his own words, McKay shares his typical day of healthy eating:

8 a.m.: Veggie scramble with peanut butter banana.

"I love to add veggies into my eggs. I’ll also cook with coconut oil and sometimes add avocado and hot sauce to make it delicious. I know nothing more satisfying than banana and peanut butter — it’s like dessert at breakfast.  I also have a handful of berries or grapefruit, so I can get 1-2 servings of fruits down early in the morning."

1 p.m.: A huge loaded salad with avocado and beans.


"I don't skimp at all on my salads. I dump as much variety as I can to make them super nutrient and filling. My salads usually include mushrooms for nutrients, beans for protein, avocado for fat, tomato/carrot/cucumbers and onions. This way, I get a most of my six veggie servings at lunch. I also will add a dairy-based smoothie or yogurt and fruit to get some more protein during the day. Lunch is often finished off with a piece of dark chocolate."

4 p.m.: Veggies and hummus.


"I am addicted to two things: Hummus and nuts/nut butter! They both are good snacks because they are so easy and fill you up with healthy fats and fiber. I buy bags of washed cut mixed veggies to make it convenient to eat at work."

8 p.m.: Grilled chicken and mushroom with sautéed greens and mashed sweet potatoes.

"Dinner is so full of options that you can have fun and really go with the seasons — so I’ll roast things in the winter or grill in the summer. Most of the time, I eat fish for dinner, some chicken and very occasionally pork and beef. And, yes I eat late. Sometimes I won’t eat until 9 p.m., but as long as my total intake for the day remains the same, it won’t cause me any problems."

9 p.m.: Ice cream!
"I’ve got a sweet habit after meals and ice cream is by far my favorite, It fits in the dairy category but is loaded with sugar so I use it as my treat and allow for it with a very low sugar intake during the day. I love Edy's Slow Churn because they found a way to reduce the fat and calories without losing taste or bumping up the sugar."

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Read more Goal Getter for healthy eating, weight loss and more.

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Kelly O'Shea Senior Health Producer, Philly.com
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For the healthy food lover looking to freshen up their meals or anyone who wants to improve their nutrition, Goal Getter is for you.

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Kelly O'Shea Senior Health Producer, Philly.com
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