When it comes to food, she calls the shots
She's just barely moved into her new house, but Nikki Shaw has made sure that her fridge is stocked with healthy snacks and the kitchen has plenty of space for meals with her family — husband Brian Shaw, the new head coach of the Denver Nuggets, and their children, Bianca, 12, and B.J., 14.
While her husband played, and later, coached professional basketball, Nikki pursued her own passion — cooking — at home for the family and professionally.
Brian, B.J., Bianca and Nikki Shaw helped at the 2012 Indiana Pacers Thanksgiving dinner. (Provided by Nikki Shaw)
She attended culinary school near Orlando when Brian played for the Magic in 1994. By 2007, he was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Nikki was a finalist on "Next Food Network Star." She went on to guest appearances on the MTV reality show, "From G's to Gents" and VH1's "Basketball Wives."
Nikki, 45, says she started cooking at age 4, "as soon as I could reach the counter, and soon, I was using the oven, the stove, knives."
Mentored by her Aunt Brenda, ("when she baked, she gave me my own dough to work with"), little Nikki, like many of us, became enchanted with a certain kind of biscuit.
"What blew my mind was the Pillsbury Poppin' Fresh dough. I followed the instructions and put the oven on the number just like it said. Those biscuits were the first thing I cooked."
She has moved on from biscuits, promoting healthy eating, both within her own family, and publicly via the Champions for Change and Network For A Healthy California campaigns.
While she preaches the virtues of healthy eating within the African-American community and beyond, one of her most skeptical subjects was sitting at her own dining room table.
"Brian was my biggest challenge. Years ago, I said 'Let's substitute ground turkey for beef and pork.' He said 'No way, that doesn't even sound right.' Little did he know I had been using ground turkey for years. I said, 'Hey, I'm adding years on your life, guy.'"
Like any smart husband, Brian knows when to admit that his wife is right. (That would be always, gentlemen.)
"She's had a major effect on how I eat, now that I'm retired from playing," said the 47-year-old coach after a long day at the Pepsi Center. "I could pretty much eat anything that I wanted and burn it right off. Now, I don't get to exercise as much as I would like to."
He laughs about the turkey story. "We didn't go cold turkey — no pun intended. We acquired a taste for it, although we didn't know it at the time. She can spice it up and make it tasty where you don't miss the pork at all."
She tells her husband the same thing she says in speeches and public service announcements:
"We are in the midst of a crisis and we have to make healthier choices. Diabetes and heart disease — that hits home. If you eat right and drink right, you can prevent these conditions. I truly believe that instead of the drive-through, let your fast food be the rotisserie chicken in the deli, and grab a salad. You can get in and out as fast and it adds years to your life."
The Shaw family is still getting adjusted to life in Denver after two years in Indianapolis, where Brian was an assistant coach with the Pacers until June, when he was named head coach of the Nuggets.
They moved into their south Denver house right before school started. Bianca plays volleyball and softball, B.J. runs track and plays soccer. Both, naturally, play basketball.
"The kids will come in and grab some fruit and yogurt, some granola and nuts and eat them together. They need their bodies to perform every day," says Nikki, who has taught them both to cook.
Brian is grateful, no matter who does the cooking.
"You know the term 'feng shui?' I don't know if that really applies to cooking, but that's what she does — the way she presents the food," says Brian, as dinner is served. "Tonight I'm eating crab legs with lemon-butter sauce with broccoli and brown rice. The colors pop."
Kristen Browning-Blas: 303-954-1440, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/krisbb
Nikki shaw's healthy eating tips
1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you eat a high-fat breakfast, you will feel sluggish, so make an egg-white omelet or choose fruit, yogurt and granola.
2. Eat what's in season. Right now, look for squash, apples and pears. Produce is more abundant and more affordable when it's in season.
3. Eat lean meat: chicken, fish, turkey.
4. Portion control is key. Each serving should be about the size of a tennis ball or a deck of cards.
5. Drink plenty of water.
6. At least half your plate should be fruits or vegetables. Let the meat be a side dish.
7. Slow down, give food time to digest. If you eat until you feel full, you will feel sluggish.
8. Supersizing is not a triple-double. Understand that a supersized meal is two to three portions. Share it or put half aside for another meal.
9. Invest in yourself. When people say they can't afford to eat better, Nikki Shaw says, "here's the thing: you're going to pay now or you're going to pay later. Invest in yourself now."