The article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper
Renee McCormack is a local East Hampton resident who, like myself, prides her lifestyle on the ability to balance fitness and food, inspiring her company, FOODfitness. Upon meeting at a local Starbucks, we instantly connected. Trying samples of peanut butter, Nutella, protein balls was otherworldly. Who knew healthy could taste so good? I recommend them for a post workout dessert. Her granola clusters proved just as delicious when I needed a snack on a recent road trip—savory but sweet, and definitely unlike what I’ve tried thus far.
Where did the brand FOODFitness originate?
The FOODfitness brand was a revelation I had on a “LifeFitness” bike at Railroad Fitness. I felt that name really incorporated the combination of three elements of what it means to be truly fit: awareness of diet, exercise, and spiritual connection. I had the granola recipes set at the time and was awaiting the business name to present itself. It felt like a sign. FOODfitness seemed to be the perfect name for a high energy, health-oriented snack food. I really want to send a message that food is just as important if not more than anything else when it comes to fitness.
How did your having a brain hemorrhage influence your life?
I had a massive brain hemorrhage in 2013. It was a sudden experience that showed me that you can’t control everything in life. It also taught me that the mind is a powerful tool that sets the tone for every experience. I had to separate myself from the physical part of the incident. It was a time of deep meditative practice for me. Aside from childbirth, that experience continues to empower me to be patient, trust the process, and always believe in myself.
When I was cleared to begin rehab, I was under 100 pounds and had to learn to walk and do everyday tasks again. I did everything in my power to rebound and get back to my life as it was before. I could go on and on about that experience; it could be an article in and of itself! Essentially, I learned to recognize that life presents many hurdles and I am strong enough to persevere, overcome, and even conquer my biggest challenges.
Do you follow any dietary restrictions?
When I was younger, I experimented with every health-oriented lifestyle: fruitarian, vegan, vegetarian, etc.
I now have one guiding rule, balance. Life is too short to deprive myself of the adventures of food. I find restrictions often lead to negative consequences or extreme behaviors.
The founder of my cooking school, Annemarie Colbin, stressed the importance of listening to your cravings, which usually indicate a need within the body. Intuitively, your body has the power to heal itself and will give you signs of how to find the balance it needs. I crave dark chocolate, so apparently, I must need it! So, I listen to that and I’ve made chocolate a daily habit, lucky me! No matter what, every day ends with a cup of herbal tea. It’s my way of winding down and helping my body let go of what it doesn’t need from the day, while preparing it for the new day that awaits.
What’s your relationship with food?
Food has always been a central part of my life. My grandparents were from Sicily and most childhood memories revolved around food. My mother lived in the kitchen and [she] is my greatest inspiration to feed my family well and share my food with others. Food is healing to eat as well as to make. I love to eat, but I love to feed others even more. So as a chef, it’s a win-win for me!
I never feel bad about what I eat . . . and I don’t always eat a perfect diet. If I’ve eaten too much, I make a mental note to eat less the next day or make an extra lap the next time I go for a run. It’s all about finding balance. I have a sweet tooth and look forward to a treat at the end of the day with my tea . . . it’s a positive motivator for me and a reward I give to myself for the day’s efforts. I think I deserve it!
How’d you come up with the flavor combo in your granola clusters?
Making healthy dishes tasteful is the exciting challenge of a life in the kitchen. I wanted my granola line to represent a healthy motto and be a snack my kids love to eat, as well as what healthy mainstream eaters enjoy. My kids, family, and friends were the deciding forces that led to the current three flavors offered.
Combining superfoods like bee pollen, cocoa nibs, flax seeds, seaweed, etc. was essential to make it a superior snack and appeal to health-conscious eaters. I’ve added fennel seed to the Cranberry Coconut Cocoa Nib flavor as my own Italian influenced creative twist. The Maple Vanilla Peanut Butter contains the best tasting crunchy peanut butter I’ve ever tasted, finished with a sprinkle of local sea salt. It is truly a small batch, locally made product and virtually all ingredients are sourced from within the U.S.
I only buy from certified organic and gluten free farms.
What’s your favorite way to eat your clusters?
I top my smoothie bowl with fresh fruit and the Granola “Sprinkles” (the tasty crumbs at the bottom of the bag) for added flavor and crunch. I also eat the Maple Vanilla Peanut Butter Clusters right out of the bag, which I keep on hand in my Jeep. I am never on the road without snacks.
What ages are your kids? How do you incorporate the FOODfitness philosophy at home?
My daughter Stella is 14 and my son, Xavier is 18. They’ve become avid foodies, which I’m proud of. Currently, they are both on school trips outside the country and they each packed protein powders, trail mixes, and of course FOODfitness. I was delighted to see they have their food priorities set.
At home, they make suggestions about different dishes FOODfitness can be added to and they often give me feedback about my social media posts. They tease me about being too organic, which affirms that I’m doing the right thing as their mom. They are my best critics—honest, yet supportive.
What’s next on YOUR fitness journey?
My original business, Bee Organic, was a juice and smoothie company. It was successful, but too demanding for me as a mother of a newborn. I hesitantly let it go. Now, I am developing a smoothie mix that is a work in progress and has always been a “someday goal” for me. It will be an all organic, high protein, superfood blend in three flavors to start—vanilla, chocolate and berry—with no added sweeteners like Stevia, which seems to be added to most health-oriented products on the market.
It’s going to take time and money. There’s no deadline, so I’m enjoying the creative part of the process, taste testing and packaging design.
What’s your fitness routine like?
I don’t have a regimented routine. Some days I run, other days I just need mental clarity, so I walk my dog or go hiking with my husband and kids. It’s not unusual to catch me lifting 50-lb. bags of oats or boxes of almonds, walnuts, and other supplies. I operate every facet of the business, so I am active every day. My greatest challenge is to slow down and be present, which is a major aspect of overall fitness. Incorporating little bouts of yoga and meditation are disciplines I make time for daily.
Find FOODfitness online. Upcoming will be local sea salt in her granola clusters and expansion to the North Fork.