Cravings. What causes them and how to handle them. Part II

This is the second part in a multiple part series on managing cravings. In the first article we talked about the two main types of cravings and how they differ. I also went over when it is best to include these cravings in your diet and when it is best to abstain from them. (You can find the article here) In this article we will go more into the causes of cravings, what is food addictions and how it differs from cravings.  Also, we will go over an exercise to replace your cravings with a new healthy habit.

Cravings are an intense desire for a particular food or taste.  Commonly when I discuss food cravings people bring up food addiction.  Food addiction is when you have an overpowering urge to repeatedly eat something that provides a temporary relief while also having terrible consequences.  For it to be classified as true addiction there also needs to be 3 of the 7 following symptoms: withdrawal, tolerance of the substance over time, eating more than you intend, trying to cut back but can’t, your time is spent pursuing, using and recovering, you miss out on activities or you keep eating these foods despite knowing the consequences.   If this sounds more like what you are dealing with, I urge you to get help from mental health professional. No it doesn’t mean you are weak or don’t have will power.


Buttery salty popcorn is food many people crave and struggle not to overeat. 

Occasional overeating is not food addiction. You hear people claim to be addicted to everything.  A lot of the time, that is just an uncreative way of saying they enjoy something.  Just because you enjoy something does not mean you are addicted to it. Food addiction is the regular compulsion to eat something knowing that it can harm us.

There are different levels to our food cravings.  From “That sounds tasty” to “OMG I must eat that food” all the way to food addiction. If you would describe your cravings on a scale of 1 to 10 as 7 or higher, then you aren’t just talking about your average cravings and it is important that you get to the bottom of what is causing them.  We all have food we would like to eat. Sometimes that desire is strong, but other times that desire is out of control.

Cravings can be caused by many different things. Here are few things that need to be looked at if you feel you are having unbearable cravings:

Food Variety. Does your diet include enough variety? When people diet, they commonly deprive themselves of foods they enjoy.  They also deprive themselves of variety.  Both of these can led to more cravings.

Are you being too restrictive? Being over restrictive in our diet can cause cravings.  The reward we feel after indulging in our craving is stronger after going through a period of restricting. This is why binges are more common in overly restrictive diets.  One way to handle this is to include small amounts of foods throughout your week to help you feel satisfied.  (Read the 1st article on the series for more on this)

Too low of an overall food intake.  Those cravings can be your body’s way to telling it needs more food.  It can be important to listen to what our body is trying to tell us.  Not only are diets that are too low in calories unhealthy, but also they are hard to stick to for long periods of time. This make them unsustainable.

Your macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) intake.  We all have different needs for different percentage of fat, protein and carbohydrates.  While your friend may do great with no cravings on a low carb diet, your cravings may go through the roof on it.  Again these cravings are our body’s way of signaling us we need to change the way we eat.  First, make sure you are getting enough protein.  Then, alternate increasing carbs and fat until you find the point where your cravings diminish to a tolerable level. Once you have found your personal macro level, you can slowly decrease one macronutrient at a time, if fat loss is your goal.

Eating too much/too little carbs. As mentioned above, intake is a big reason for cravings.  It not just too little carbs, that can cause this.  Too much carbs can cause an increase in cravings.  Particularly if you are consuming hyper palatable foods.  Hyper palatable foods are foods high in carbs and fat or carbs and salt.  When we eat these foods, instead of feeling satisfied they make us want to eat more.  One reason for this when we consume these foods they stimulate the feel good chemicals in our brain, causing us to want to eat more of those foods while making us feel good.


Donuts would be considered hyper palatable foods due to their high sugar and fat content.


Not enough protein.  Most people think they are consuming a lot more protein then they really are.  A base amount 1.2 -1.6 g/kg body weight are ideal for optimal health for healthy adults.  (That comes out to 81-109 grams for 150 Lb. person). Athletes and people undergoing intense training and exercise will need more, up to 2-2.2g/kg (For more on protein see this article here)

Enough water and fiber. Both of these can help us feel full and keep hunger and craving down between meals.


Water can help with cravings, and not enough water in a day can lead to increase in cravings.

Stress levels. High levels of stress are associated with more intense cravings.  While we can’t always control what is going on in our lives we can control how we recover from it.  Leisurely walks, meditation, yoga, ta chi, reading a book, warm baths, time with friends, playing with a pet and some quality time with your significant other are ways to combat stress.

Lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase appetite and particular cravings for those hyper palatable foods (foods high in carbs and fat or high in carbs and salt) Try turning off the screens and going to bed earlier. If you have a hard time sleeping, you may need to look at your food intake (particularly over all calories and carbohydrates) and your stress levels.  Too low a calorie intake and too low a carbohydrate intake both can affect sleep.

Too much exercise. Over exercising increases cravings.  You do not need to be killing it in the gym for hours 5 days a week. Try replacing some of those sessions with low intensity activities like leisurely walks or restorative yoga (not power or hot!) or short (20 mins or less!) burst of high intensity training and see if that helps the cravings. I generally recommend 3-4 strength based workouts a week plus 1-2 10-20 min high intensity workouts and as much leisurely low intensity activity that you can fit in your day.

Weak satiety response. Satiety is the sensation of feeling full. For some there is a weak response to satiety, meaning they don’t feel full.  This could be caused by leptin resistance or genetics.

Another reason we experience cravings is because we are trying to use foods to replace what is missing in our lives.  We attempt to use food to replace fun, love and control.  Or we use food to try to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, like sadness, loneliness and worry. Most of us have inadvertently been taught to reach for food as a way to deal with emotions from a young age. Maybe we were handed a bag of salty snack after a tough day at school, or given a bowl of ice cream after a fight with friends. (Reminder for parents out there, food is not love) After repeatedly reaching for food  as a way to deal with emotions, a habit is created.


Why don’t we crave broccoli?

If your cravings are habit based (and you know your nutritional intake is on point) then you can deal with from a mental perspective. Below I outlined a little exercise to help you replace those cravings with a healthier habit. (Again, this is for habit based cravings and not cravings stemming from nutritional inadequacy)

Four steps to mentally handling our cravings.

1)Realizing what your cravings are. Sounds simple right?  You may know what your big cravings are, but there may be smaller ones you are not aware of.  I would give it at least a week. Do nothing but just pay attention to what your cravings are. Ladies, better yet would be to look at your cravings over your entire menstrual cycle. The normal fluctuations in your hormones do effect what you crave and intensity of them.

What do you crave? Is it chocolate?  Salty crunchy tortilla chips? Nut butters? Wine or alcohol? This is the 1st step, just knowing WHAT you routinely crave. You don’t need to do anything else right now.  Just notice and be aware. If you have a journal, write them down. Do not judge your cravings, just accept them. Pay special attention to the type of food you routinely crave; is it salty starchy foods (i.e. chips, pretzels) or high starch high fat foods (like desserts, candy, ice cream) or alcohol?

2.) Now that you know what your cravings are, when do you experience them?  Pay attention to not only what time of day, but what is going on in your life at that moment. Are you sitting in front of the TV at night? Coming home after a LONG day at the office? Maybe you are emotionally upset? Are you tired or stressed? Is it when you are celebrating? Or when you are out with friends?

3.) Identify what it is you really want when you reach for these foods.  What rewards are you really looking for when these cravings hit?  Maybe it has been “one of those days” and what you are really looking for is just to relax.  Or you want to numb out from that emotional or taxing day.  Or you are looking to have fun.  Becoming aware of what the real reward here is key! Do not rush through this step.

Now notice, after you had that pint of ice cream or bag of chips, did you get the reward you were searching for?  Do you actually feel more relaxed? Did you really forget about the bad news?  Or do you feel uncomfortable or angry at yourself? Most of the time, we do not end up getting the original reward we were searching for.

4.) After spending some time doing all this noticing and paying attention, it’s time to do the work. We now want to replace that food craving with a new craving.  I won’t lie, this is the hardest step. Pick your new “craving”.  Some ideas are a bath, a walk, meditation, light exercise, reading, cuddle time with a loved one or playing with your pet. Rest and relaxation type exercises are really good here, since majority of craving are tied to high stress levels.   This will be the hard part.  For 2 weeks, every time the craving hits, notice it. Be mindful of it, but instead of eating or drinking, do your new craving. Eventually that will become your new routine. The time it takes to install this new craving will be different for everyone.  It will partly depend on how long you have been using these foods to try and meet your needs.  We have inadvertently trained ourselves to believe we need the food or drink we crave in order to reach our goal (of numbing out, relaxing, etc.). We don’t, however, it’s just a habit we created.  And we can create a new one.

There is a direct correlation between our moods and our cravings.  Commonly we try to manage our moods with foods.  If we can change the habit of eating the food with something else, we create a new healthy habit.

Cravings run the gamut from “Man, that is something that sounds delicious” to true food addiction. It is important you differentiate between the two before trying to manage them. Cravings can be caused by a handful of things.   Before you try to change them or white knuckle your way through them, you need to address a few things like your food intake, stress levels, recovery and exercise amounts.  With some work and mindset, you can deal with habit based cravings.  Our cravings do not need to run our lives.



Dalton, M. H. (2015, Sept). Weak Satiety Responsiveness Is a Reliable Trait Associated with Hedonic Risk Factors for Overeating among Women. Nutrients, 7(9), 7421-7436.

Hill, A. (2007, May). The psychology of food craving. Proc Nutr Soc, 66(2), 277-85.

Kenny, P. (2011, Feb). Reward Mechanisms in Obesity: the new insights and future direction. Neuron, 69(4), 664-79.



How to Manage Cravings

This is part one of a two part article on cravings and how to handle them.

Its important you know that you are not powerless to your cravings, but they can be major deterrents to reaching your goals. You need to learn how to manage your craving, from both a mental and physical standpoint. Keep in mind what works of one person may not work for you.  Also, what works for one craving may not work for all of them.

Before we start talking about controlling your cravings, first we need to talk about why you might be having these craving.  If you would describe your cravings as “out of control” or “very intense”, then it is possible your cravings are not just run of the mill cravings that can be handled with some lifestyle changes.  If your cravings are off the charts they might  being caused by your food intake being too restrictive, one of your macronutrients (carbs, fat, or protein) being too low or your stress levels being too high.   You can try the tips below but if your cravings are beyond the “I would really like to eat this” feeling, then they may not work for you and your will need to balance whatever the issue causing the intense cravings first.  You can do all the hacks and tips in the world, but until you get those things in balance, you will not be able to manage your cravings for the long term. (If you would like help in seeing if your diet is causing your cravings, contact me here, and we can go over your diet together.)

When handling our cravings, we need to handle them from a physical perspective and a mental perspective. In this article we will go over to types of food we commonly crave and how to handle them from a physical perspective.  In the second part of the article we will discuss how to mentally manage your cravings.


A square of dark chocolate can help to buffer cravings.

There are two categories for foods people commonly crave.  The first one, commonly referred to as buffer or barrier foods are ones that we can eat in moderation and they help us from over indulging. The other category, commonly called trigger foods, are the foods  we cannot control ourselves around and lead to over eating.

Buffer foods are foods that we can have a small amount and we feel satisfied after eating them. It can help to eat these in moderation throughout the week.  Maybe that means having a tiny square of dark chocolate after dinner every night.  (Notice I said tiny square and not the whole bar.) Or maybe it is half a glass of wine a couple times a week.  The problem with these foods is when we label them as bad or unclean and ban them completely from our diet. This is a major reason why super strict diets tend to fail. Buffer food help take the intensity out of our cravings, allowing us to feel content eating a healthier diet and helping us stay motivated for making changes.

It can help to pre measure these foods into single size portions (when you can).  When you get home from the grocery store, grab your measuring cups or scale and some small Ziplocs.  Open that bag of chips/popcorn/crackers and measure out individual portion sizes.  Now, when you do indulge in the craving, you are not sitting down with the entire bag, but just one portion.


Homemade tortilla chips. Less fat and carbs then store bought chips.

The other type of food we crave is referred as a “trigger” food. Trigger foods are foods we struggle to eat mindfully. For me, nuts and tortilla chips are the top of the list. When I start to eat them I struggle to realize when I have had enough. With trigger foods you may find that you are not overly hungry, but after a few bites, you feel hungry and want more.  Commonly, these foods will either be combinations of starch and salt or starch and fat.  (Chips? Desserts?).  You may notice after certain meals that are high in starch and salt or fat, you never find yourself feeling full or satisfied or are hungry again with in an hour.

If you are dealing with trigger foods, then having these foods in the house may not be a good idea for you. For example, tortilla chips are a trigger for me.  If the bag is here I will eat it, all of it.   So, instead of buying a bag of chips, I keep fresh corn tortillas in my fridge. When I need tortilla chips for a recipe or to have some guacamole with, I can make up just  one size serving.  Now that big bag of chips isn’t hanging in my pantry tempting me every time I walk by.

Another way to physically deal with these cravings is to try and find the healthiest options.  Maybe chocolate cookies are your thing.  You can try replacing them with a dark chocolate square, cocoa drink or try something like my chocolate brownie bites.  If you love chips, you can try swapping them for air popped popcorn.  Or switch from ice cream to a higher protein frozen yogurt (love the Stonyfield one, btw!).  Don’t ban the less healthy food, however, just don’t eat it every night.  That is where your healthier alternative comes in.


Occasional “half pours” (2.5 oz) of wine sometimes is all you need.

Remember, your cravings are neither good nor bad they are just there. A mistake many make is labeling their craving food as bad and banning it. Some attempt to ban it forever, while other might ban it for every day except one predetermined cheat day.  The problem with this, is when we label food we give it power.  There is no good or bad food, some food is just more nutritionally dense then others. The problem occurs when we deny ourselves, all week long. Telling ourselves we have these items on a predetermined day.  Then that day comes, and we have the scarcity mindset, (scarcity mindset is the fear that there will never be enough).  And so we binge, we over indulge. The cheat meal turns into a cheat day, which turns into a cheat weekend.

Cravings can be a sign of stress.  Maybe your life is crazy right now.  They can also be a sign your diet is too restrictive.  Reevaluate you diet. Are you eating enough? Are you getting enough protein/fat/carbs? Are you doing too much hard core exercise?  Once you have a dressed those things, then you can address handling the cravings.

If you fear your cravings might be due to your diet being too restrictive or one of  your macronutrients being too low, drop me a line and let’s chat.  I would love to help you manage your cravings by first addressing your diet.





Chocolate Cravings

Did you know there is a physiological reason you may crave chocolate?  And that chocolate is not bad for you.  Actually, dark chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder is not only healthy but can also help to deal with food cravings.


My personal favorite dark chocolate, Divine Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt

If chocolate is one of the foods you crave, find out why you crave it and how to include in your diet without blowing your calories/macros.

First off, not all chocolate is created equal. It runs the gamut from the chocolate in a snickers bar to the bitter baking chocolate. So, let’s break it down:

Milk chocolate:  The chocolate found in most candy bars.   Has the most sugar and milk fat and the least amount of actual cocoa. The least nutritious.

Bittersweet, semi or dark: Has no milk powder and dark must have at least 35% cocoa solids.

Unsweetened (Bakers) Chocolate: made from 100% cocoa liquor and very bitter.  (As every kid who has ever stolen a bite from a bar they found in mom’s pantry knows.)

Cocoa powder: the ground crushed solid left after the coco butter is removed from the chocolate liqueur. Most is unsweetened.


Cocoa Powder

Cacao powder: it is much like its cousin; cacao is just processed at a much lower temperature. Its low temperature processing allows it to still maintain all its enzymes, vitamins and nutrients.  Also it is more bitter then cocoa, so keep that in mind when substituting in a recipe.

(By the way, white chocolate: not really chocolate, at all. Sorry, white chocolate lovers.)

The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the more benefits it has.  So dark chocolate, cocoa powder and cacao are your healthiest choices. This also correlates to the bitterness.  Usually the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant amount.

Chocolate with a high % of cocoa has a higher antioxidant content.  Raw cocoa has the highest amount of antioxidants of any food! One tablespoon of cocoa powder gives you half the total antioxidants you need in one day.  Antioxidants in food are measured using an ORAC value.  The higher the ORAC, the higher the antioxidants.  100 grams of cocoa powder has an ORAC value of 28,000.  For comparison blueberries is 2,400 and kale is 1770.

The antioxidants in chocolate are known as flavonoids.  Flavonoids are very bitter (anyone who’s ever tasted plain cacao nibs knows what I am taking about). This is also why people will add fat and sugar to chocolate, to help reduce the bitterness.


Cacao Nibs

The flavonoids in cocoa have been shown to reduce blood pressure, raise HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduce platelet stickiness.

Chocolate also has been known to have positive effects on mood. A chemical in chocolate called phenyethlamine help to release endorphins (feel good chemical) and can increase our dopamine.  Hence, why we crave during times of emotional upset, and when women are experiencing PMS.

Now, this is not permission to go overboard on chocolate. Too much is not good and will negate any health benefits.

If chocolate is your craving food, you may benefit from regularly including some in your diet. By have a little bit of your craving food, periodically BEFORE a big craving hits, you are less likely to binge later on. If you are trying to come up with some healthier ways to include chocolate here are some ideas for you:

  • Have a square or two of dark chocolate.  Remember the darker the chocolate the more health benefits it has.  (look for ones that contains at least 85% cocoa)

Since cocoa (and cacao) have no fat or sugar added to them (as long as you buy unsweetened cocoa, and not that drink mix with the bunny on the front) they are excellent ways to incorporate chocolate into your diet.

  •  Drink it. Add 2 tablespoons to hot water with a sprinkle of cinnamon and cayenne and an either a tsp of sweetener or drop of stevia.  Or tablespoon thrown in your favorite smoothie.
  • Mix it in your oats.  (I like it in my overnight oats with some raspberries. Recipe here.)
  • Mix it in chia seed pudding.  (I have a chocolate overnight chia seed pudding recipe coming soon).

Wheat free, Vegan Brownie Bites


Nehlig, A. (2013, march). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol., 716-727.


Calorie Counting. Is it the answer?

The pros and cons, how to do it and how to figure out how many calories you need.

In this article I am discussing calorie counting, however, when are talking calorie counting, what I really mean is tracking and logging your food intake.  I believe your macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) are very important too.  I will discuss counting those at a later point. For now, let’s just start with tracking, logging and counting calories. What you learn here will carry over to counting macros. But before we get started I have just one important statement to make: calorie counting is not the end all be all.  There are other things we can do that do will have an impact. Also, less is not always more. DO NOT keep taking away calories if you are not seeing results.  There are other things that may need to be adjusted first)

Am I for or against calorie counting? Well, I don’t have a clear cut answer for you.  There are times when counting calories is beneficial, and then there are times when it is not. Nice huh? Calorie counting does have its purpose, but it can easily be misused. It can also be very inaccurate.

So when can it useful?

When you do not know how much you are consuming.  Some people do not have a reliable internal fullness meter.  They can eat and eat and don’t know when to stop until they start to feel physically uncomfortable, and by then is too late.  You need to stop eating right before you feel completely fully. Some have a hard time with this, maybe that is due to ignoring your body’s natural hunger and fullness signs, maybe you were taught to “clean your plate” as a child, or maybe you have a hormone issue like leptin resistance.  Calorie counting can help by giving you a clear amount that you should be eating.  Calorie counting, however, is not the only way to deal with these issues. It is just one. Other ways would be learning healthy habits, learning serving sizes and for those with leptin resistance balancing blood sugar and lowering triglycerides.

When you have no idea what a serving size is.

It can be hard to eat proper amounts when you don’t know what a serving size it.  You know the back of the cereal box says a serving size is 30 grams, but what does 30 grams look like? (Spoiler, probably a whole lot smaller then you thought, and definitely not the size of an average cereal bowl!) I find it very helpful, not just for my clients but also for myself, to occasionally count calories as a way to check my portions.  My recommendations vary by client, but generally an occasionally 2-4 week count can be very helpful. Some, however, will benefit from a longer stint of tracking.   When you start tacking your intake you may realize you are eating more (or less) then you thought you were.


Bowl on the left is one serving of cereal, at 30 grams. It has 100 calories. While the bowl on the right, is a a typical bowl of cereal. It has almost twice the amount calories.

Those Last 5 Pounds

Calorie counting can help with those “stubborn last 5 lbs.”.  When it comes to that stubborn fat or last few pounds, calorie counting can help (note, I said Help and not fix. Calorie counting is just one piece of the puzzle). Those last few pounds can be tricky, and it helps to have an idea of what you are eating, so we know where to make adjustments.  Maybe it is the calorie amount, maybe its macros or maybe is nutrient timing.  If you’ve been tracking it can give a nice picture to see where we can adjust next. (Remember less calories is not always the answer.   There are other things to look at to like macros, exercise, stress, sleep quality and even micronutrients.  Calories are just ONE piece of the puzzle)

Very Particular Goals

If you have a very intense physique or athletic goal. I’m talking someone who has to get to a certain body weight by set time, or someone who main focus is athletic performance.  If you have a very intense end goal, we need a good clear picture of your intake.   In these situations, the macronutrients (and micros for those whose goals require a very low calorie diet) are also important.

Under and Over Eating

Food tracking can also help with chronic under and over eaters.  A lot of under and over eaters do not even realize they are doing it.  By paying attention to the exact amounts they are (or are not) eating it can help them realize they need to eat more or less.  This also come back to knowing your serving sizes.   When many fist start logging their foods, they are surprised my what they actually are eating.

So what is wrong with calorie counting then?

It is not sustainable. I hate to say you can’t count calories forever (because you could) but do you WANT to be counting calories forever? Along with counting, I advocate learning healthy habits.  (In my coaching, I teach those healthy eating habits so you don’t have to count calories forever.) With healthy eating habits you are not stuck constantly measuring and logging your food. You also have a healthy eating system that is a little more portable then lugging a food scale around with you.

Calorie counting and food logging can be used as a crutch.

Sometimes, counting calories and logging our food can turn into a crutch.  The problem with this, is it tends to not contribute to long term success.  If you are JUST logging your food and not learning healthy habits at the same time, you are not likely to maintain your desired weight long term. You may be able to achieve it, but the tricky part will be then maintaining it. Instead of letting calorie counting (or macro counting) turn into a crutch for you, use it to learn from.  Learn your serving sizes, learn the breakdown in your favorite meals, and learn healthy eating habits that will teach you how to stop eating at 80% full.

It can be inaccurate.

Did you know what is on the label might not actually be what you are consuming? The FDA allows for a 20% range of error on food labels.  20%! So, that 200 calorie snack you just had could actually be 160-240 calories. There was a study[1] done where the researches went out and tested 10 low calorie frozen meals and 29 restaurants low calorie entrees to see what they really contained.  They found the frozen meals off by 10% and restaurants UNDER estimated their calories they listed on menu or website by 18%.  For example, Denny’s had their dry toast listed as 97 calories but after being tested it was really 283 calories!  Calorie counting can give an idea and be used as an estimate, but it shouldn’t be thought of as written in stone.

How to count and track calories.

You are going to need an accurate way to measure your food.  You can use standard measuring spoons and cups or a food scale.  Note of caution, it is very easy to mismeasure using a measuring spoons/cups.  Take a tablespoon of peanut butter for example:


A tablespoon of peanut butter has 105 calories and 8 grams of fat. I used my standard tablespoon and scooped out a delicious heaping tablespoon of peanut butter.  When I measured this same hunk of peanut butter with the food scale, it came out to 29 grams. Which is closer to 2 tablespoons. So while I might have though I was consuming 105 calories (and 8 grams of fat) I was really getting 190 calories and 14 grams of fat!


That heaping tablespoon of peanut butter was actually almost 2 tablespoons.

After measuring your food, you need to record it and analyze it. You can do it old school by hand or there are hundreds of apps and websites out there. MyFitnessPal, is one of the most popular.  It has thousands of foods, and it even has a barcode scanner.  The biggest downfall of MFP is it allows any person to input a food, there are a lot of erroneous entries in there (and hilarious ones too. Tears of my enemy anyone? Cat food?!) There are a lot of entries that people who just make up the nutritional info for food so it fits their personal needs (you’ll see this a lot with restaurant entries when people guestimate their entrees) is the most accurate nutrition data bank.  I personally use MyFitnessPal to log and track, but then I double check my entries against (A little trick, look for entries in MFP that say they are based on nutritiondata. They tend to be the more accurate ones.)

So now that you know why you should and shouldn’t count calories and you know how to track and log, but how much calories do you need?

Well… that can vary.  There are a handful of fancy equations out there, where you can input your height, weight, age into different equations and it spits out your BMR (or RMR).  There is Harris-Benedict, Mifflin-St Jeor, Schofield equations. These will tell you just your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), which is JUST the number of calories you would need at complete rest, like a coma.  In order to calculate what you really need in a day you also have to take into account your TEA (the calories you burn exercising) TEF (the number of calories burned by eating food), and NEAT (the calories you burned in all activities other than planned exercise).  Then, once you have taken all that in to account you’ll get your TDEE, total daily energy expenditure, this is the most important number when trying to lose, gain or maintain your weight. If you wanted to maintain, you would attempt to consume your TDEE, to lose weight you’ll need to consume less than your TDEE and to gain consume more than your TDEE.  Kind of complicated huh?

Good news there is an easier way. The easiest way, is to use a bodyweight multiplier.  For weight loss multiple your body weight (in pounds) by 12, for gain 18 or maintenance 14, and those would be your caloric need. Very, important: these are just starting off points.  There are many things the can influence this, including how active you are, how much you exercise, your lean body mass, your stress levels and sleep. As an example, I calculated out my TDEE using the above formulas, it came to 1708.  If I was to use the body weight multiplier, and multiplied my body weight by 14 (116 X 14) I get 1740. So, dang pretty close.   Of course there is huge variance for people, and this is only to be used as a starting point.

To recap

There are both pros and cons to counting calories, but in the short term, it can be very helpful in helping you learn how much you need to eat. However, calorie counting is not the only way. There are other things that need to be taken into account. It is imperative to learn healthy habits for long term sucess. Try and learn serving sizes as you go and don’t rely on it as a crutch. Using it as a crutch can lead to failure long term.  In order to count and log, you need to be able to measure and log your food. And there are tons of fancy equations you can use to figure out how much you need to eat, but the easiest way to multiple your weight (in lbs) by 14 for maintenance, by 12 for loss and 18 for gains.  Hit those numbers for 2 weeks, then adjust as needed.

If you would like more personalized help with this, just fill out the form HERE and we can get started working together. Also, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.  If you have been counting calories and feel stuck, I can help you with that.  Also, if you despise counting calories, but want help reaching your goals I can help you with that also.  I believe calorie counting is not the only way to reach your goals. It is just one tool out of many, and learning healthy habits is necessary for long term success.



Flack KD, S. W. (2016, Sep). Cross-Validation of Resting Metabolic Rate Prediction. J Acad Nutr Diet, 116(9), 1413-22.

Urban LE, D. G. (2010). The accuracy of Stated energy Contents of Reduced-energy. Commercially Prepared Foods. J Am Diet Assoc, 116-123.

Raising Healthy Eaters

Lately, I have been having a lot of people tell me that their children are the reason that they cannot eat healthy.  “I can’t eat that because my child won’t eat it” or “My children have to have the goldfish. And I just can’t control myself when those snacks are in the house”.  Part of our jobs as parents is to help our children become healthy eaters. Having two picky eaters myself, I know how unbelievably frustrating it can be to get them to eat healthy.  Now, while we cannot make our children be healthy eaters, but we can help them learn to make healthy decisions. Instead of letting our children keep the whole family from eating healthy, let’s make this a family affair and work on eating healthy together. Below are some tips for encouraging your kids to make better food choices and in turn eat better yourself.


No Clean Plate Club

First off, absolutely DO NOT make your children finish their plate. I know how tempting it is to tell them they need to eat all their food, especially when you just spent the last hour making it.    When we force a child to finish their plate, however, they do not learn proper self-restraint around food. Researchers found preschoolers, whose parents forced them to clean their plates, did not learn self-control of food amounts.  One study showed that children who had been made to clean their plate at home, would request twice the amount of food when away from home.[1]  Trying to use force to get kids to do things sets us up for a power struggle. The last thing you want is to be part of a bartering match at the dinner table.  Anyone who has attempted to barter with a child knows it’s hard to win.  Instead, ask them to check in with themselves while reminding them once this meal is over, there will not be food again till the next snack or meal time.  For a younger child you might ask “Check in with your tummy.  Is it full? Remember once breakfast is over, we won’t have food again till we get home from the library.” They may get it wrong sometimes and not eat enough, but that is ok. That is how they will learn their own internal fullness cues.

No Bribes.

Do not use food bribes to get your child to eat other food.  None of the “I’ll give you dessert/ fruit if you eat all your whatever it is that you clearly don’t want to eat.” Instead just encourage them to taste the offending food.  Explain they do not have to eat it; they just have to taste it.  For young children you can ask them to lick or kiss the broccoli (or whatever the offending object might be).  Generally, the sillier you make it, they more likely they will give it a go. The more exposure they get to different foods (even ones they do not like now) the more likely they are to eat them later on.

Things do taste different to them.

Ever wondered why things you hated as a kid you like now?  Things really do taste different to children.  Children can have up to two times more taste buds then adults. This makes food taste stronger to them. Keep this in mind when you are flabbergasted that they don’t like your delicious dinner.  So be respectful, encourage them to taste it and leave it at that. Just because they do not like something now, doesn’t mean they will always dislike it. Keep offering the offending foods and one day you may be surprised.

Offer something they do like.

When you plan dinner, make sure it has at least 1 thing that everyone likes.  Include one food option that you know each child will eat. That might mean there is chicken for Betty, sweet potatoes for Sam, and peas for George, or whatever the dynamic in your house is. In our house this means there is always sweet potato or white potato, plain meat, a bland veggie and plenty of ketchup. Worst case scenario, there is at least one thing for each of them and everyone will eat something even if it isn’t the balanced perfect meal you envisioned. Remember though, keep offering different foods.  If they hate broccoli now, do not quit offering broccoli.  A lot of children do not like to try new or unfamiliar foods.  (Which is good thing, anthropomorphically it kept us surviving as a species. Imagine if our early ancestors’ children ate anything and everything they came across? Poisonous berries or mushrooms? Uncooked meat?) Kid’s preferences can change.  Just because they don’t like something today doesn’t mean they will continue to dislike it down the road. My kids commonly go through an “only meat phase”, or the ever painful “it has to be orange phase”, but these phases pass and they move on (sometimes to an even more annoying phase).  Just no fuss when they do turn up their nose at something, which is difficult when you just spent all afternoon making what was once their favorite food.

The Snack time hold out.

Some kids will learn that they are given more exciting foods at snack time and will hold out for them.  Ever notice your kid is never hungry at mealtimes but when snack time come around they can pack it away? The easiest fix for this? Get rid of the snacks. This is especially key if your child’s snacks are a trigger food for you.  (A trigger food is a food that you have a hard time controlling yourself around.) For the snack time, you can try offering what was left over from the prior meal. When they don’t finish a meal wrap it up and put it aside.  When “snack time” rolls around, offer them the previous meal.  Only do this, however, if you know the meal offered was something they like. You don’t want to try and trick your kids into eating foods they don’t like.

Kids will not starve themselves.

Studies show anywhere for 10 to 50% of parents believe their child is a picky eater, however majority of those children continue to grow and mature at a normal rate.[2] If, however you are worried there are red flags, go meet with your pediatrician express your concerns and have them show you your child’s growth curve.  Most likely your Dr. will reassure you that your child is still growing ok.

Keep them involved


A brave shopping trip with my youngest and the “cart of doom”.

Let the kids help pick out the meals.  Ask them if they have any requests for meals. Then let them help make the meal.  They can assist you in finding the ingredients at the grocery store. I know, shopping with kids is a nightmare, so you might as well give them a job to do and keep them occupied. If you are feeling really patient, let they use those miniature kid carts (or as I call them the “the miniature carts of doom”) Also, let them assist in preparing the meal.  Depending on the age they can help up put together a salad, stir, add ingredients to a pan or bowl, or even start chopping food. Not only will they enjoy spending time with you, but they also are more likely to try the foods if they had a hand at helping to make them. Just stock up on a lot of paper towels and have the broom nearby.


My kids helping make a salad for dinner.  They didn’t eat it much of it, but they tasted it.

Don’t let them see you sweat.

While they can’t really smell fear (or can they? Mine seem like they pick up on my apprehension quickly) they are watching us like a hawk. Children learn from observing us. They learn how much to eat, what to eat, if they should try new foods, and how fast they should eat.  Make sure you are setting the best example you can.

Food is not love.

Feeding our children is nurturing act, and the line between food and love can get blurred.  Sometimes, parents give children extra food and treats in order to obtain affection.  You may also see this when extended relatives, like Grandparents, visit. This can lead to a very unhealthy relationship with food. Both the child and the parent can become dependent on this relationship of giving extra food and treats to get more affection. Love is love. Food is not. Use empathy and affection to show love, not food and treats.

Healthy eating is a lifestyle not a diet. By involving the whole family everyone is more likely to succeed in the long run. Not only will you raise healthy eaters but you will maintain your goal of living a healthier lifestyle.  Plus, you are setting up your child with important food skills that will last them a lifetime. By involving everyone in the planning and prep, by not pushing or bribing, by respecting taste differences and offering different foods you are setting your children up with a lifetime of healthy habits.  When the whole family is on a mission together everyone is more likely to succeed.  It won’t always be easy, but really what about parenting is easy?


[1] Brian Wansink, P., Collin Payne, P., & Carolina Werle, P. (2008). Consequences of Belonging to the “Clean Plate Club”. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med., 162(10):, 994-995.

Brown CL, P. M. (2016, Nov – Dec;). Maternal Concern for Child Undereating. Acad Pediatr., 777-782.

Christina Ong, K. Y. (2014, April). Managing the ‘picky eater’ dilemma. Singapore Med J.(55(4)), 184–190.

Robert A. Pretlow, R. J. (Br J Nutr., September). Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model. Br J Nutr., 116(5): , 944–949.

[2] Wright CM, P. K. (2007, october). How do toddler eating problems relate to their eating behavior, food preferences, and growth? 120(4, 1069-75.

Meal Planning 101

What if I told you there is one very simple thing you can do that can help you stick to a healthier lifestyle? And it also saves money and time? There is, and it’s the act of planning out your meals for the week or any given period of time. I personally meal plan for Monday through Thursday and then again later in the week for Friday through Sunday.


When you take the time to sit down and plan out your menu for the week, you are less likely to make last minute unhealthy choices.  It can also help with those impulse buys.  The sweets or salty treats are less likely to find their way into your cart when they are not on the list.  Also, by having your dinners planned out for the week, you are less likely to find yourself ordering pizza at the last minute because “OMG its 6 and what are we going to have for dinner?!” (Yes we have ALL been there! But the end goal is to limit the amount of times that has to happen).  Incorporating variety is easier when you’ve planned the meals out in advance. There is nothing worse than eating chicken breast for 5 days straight.  Blah!


Where to begin:

  • First, pour yourself your favorite hot beverage (ok not a necessity but helpful and delicious).  Also if meal planning is something you dread, it can help to pair it with something you enjoy (for me that is a perfect cup of hot coffee, or maybe a matcha latte.)
  • Grab your favorite pen, notebook and planner (if you are old school like me and still use a paper planner).
  • Next, you need to take stock of your kitchen.  I like to sit at my kitchen table when I plan. It helps to be close to the fridge and pantry for easy double checking on ingredients.
  • Find your inspiration. Grab your favorite cookbooks and open your browser to some cooking websites.  Great ones are Skinnytaste (her new cookbook, Fast and Slow, is pretty great), Clean Eating Magazine (and their website, however their website tends to be glitchy for me) and Cooking Light (both magazine and website).
  • Eating healthy can get expensive. Pull up your grocery stores sales flier online and check if there are any great sales (For example my store happened to have some good bargains on meat this week, so I planned my meals around them).
  • Pick your proteins.  It is helpful to first pick out your proteins and then plan your meals around them.  I usually like to try have 2-3 poultry based meals, 1 red meat, 1 pork, 1 fish/shellfish and 1 meatless.  That way we get a variety, no one gets bored and everyone’s favorite gets served.
  • If you load your carbohydrates around your workouts, it’s a good idea to figure out in advance what days you plan to work out so you can plan your carb heavy meals accordingly.
  • After you’ve picked out your recipes and meals, make a list of what you need and head off to the store.  I find it helpful when I write my list to keep everything in categories.  Since the produce section is the first section I hit, all the fruits and veggies are first.  Then it’s the meat counter, dairy section and anything I might need in the aisles.  That way I am not roaming up and down every aisle being tempted by the all the goodies.

Do you meal plan in advance? Any favorite tips of tricks?  If you are still confused, and don’t know what type of recipes to be looking for what you should be putting in your cart fill out a contact form and we can start working together.








Fat is good


It is not secret around here that I am a huge nut butter fan.  Addict even.  Weekly my kids and I make homemade nut butters.  Peanut butter, almond butter (a chocolate coconut by my gal, Emma, over at Better With Cake is my all-time favorite!).  I am big fan of other fats too.  Avocados. Eggs. Coconut. Lard (Yes lard! Have you ever had potatoes roasted in duck fat? No? you haven’t lived till you have roasted potatoes in lard!)

Fats are good for you. Great even. Fats have gotten bit a bad rap.  Yes, there can be too much of a good thing (that applies to most things in life!) and some fats are better than others. Fats support your metabolism, hormone production, immunity and the absorption of other nutrients. Our brains, nervous system and cell membranes are all made up of fat.  In fact, our brain is actually 60% fat!

More important than your total intake of fats is the balance between the different types of fats, like polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats.  In today’s average diet, it is easy for our fats to be out of balance. Typical diets tend to be very high in saturated and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and low in monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.

The Different Types of Fats


Monounsaturated fats are found in macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds olives, olive oil, pumpkin seeds and avocados.


Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish oil, hemp seeds, algae oils, safflower oil, peanuts, canola, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds.  There are 2 main types of polyunsaturated, omega-3 and omega-6.  Both are essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies cannot produce them. Generally, we get plenty of omega-6 in our diets but are lacking in Omega-3.  Omega-3s can be found in fish and algae oils and plant based sources like flax, hemp and chia. We typically cannot get all the benefits from the plant sources, so it is best to get it from marine sources. Typical diets tend to be very low in omega-3s, hence why hear a lot about supplementing with fish oil.  I am not a huge advocate for supplements, EXCEPT when it comes to fish oil.


Even Saturated fats are not completely bad.  However, in the typical American diet (a diet high in processed foods and animal fat) we tend to get too much saturated fat in relation to the other fats. Saturated fat is found in animal fats (butter, meat) and tropical oils (coconut). We can make these fats healthier by choosing pasture raised meats, dairy and eggs. Newer research shows that saturated fat alone is not bad for our health, but it is when diets high in fat are combined with diets high in refined carbohydrates that there are problems.  [1] [2]

The only truly ugly fat, trans-fat

Trans-fat is found in margarine, fast foods, coffee creamers, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza and commercially baked goods.  Trans fat is made when a liquid fat is turned into a solid.  Like with margarine. These fats can raise our LDL (bad cholesterol) while lowering the HDL (good cholesterol), increase inflammation, contribute to insulin resistance. Research for the Harvard School of Health found that for “every 2% of calories from trans fats, their risk of heart disease rises by 23%” [3]

The great news is, we are aware of how bad trans fats are and they are being phased out of most of our foods.  However, until they are gone, we still need to keep an eye out for them.  The nutrition label may not state if a product contains trans-fat if it has less then 0.5 grams per serving, so look for the phrase “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredient list.

So what a guy or gal to do?

Don’t over think it. Remember keep it simple. Work on getting a balance of each type of fat.  Include nuts, seeds, fatty fish and pasture raised meats and eggs in your diet.  Avoid the processed fats typically found in fried foods, snack foods, chips etc.   Take a fish or algae oil supplement. Optimally you would want 1/3 of fat intake to come from each category saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (with most of that coming from omega 3s).  Right now there is a study for and against every type of fat.  Until more research is done, there is no need to avoid any one type (except for trans-fat) and just work on getting a balance of the different types.


[1]Volek J., Forsythe C. The case for not restricting saturated fat on a low carbohydrate diet. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005; 2: 21. Published online 2005 Aug 31.

[2]Siri-Torino P, Sun Q,  Hu F, and Krauss R. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar; 91(3): 502–509.

[3]Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. 2006 Apr 13;354(15):1601-13.


My Why.

keep-itI have been sitting here with writer’s block for days.  How do I put “why I started this business” into words?  Then I remembered my motto, “Keep it simple, don’t over complicate.” It applies to nutrition, to writing, to parenting, to everything really.

So, here is my why, and it is simple. . . I like it. I like helping people (INFJ here!) I thrive on it.  I want to help others not only reach their physical goals, but also learn to love themselves in the process.  There is no hating yourself lean here (spoiler alert, that doesn’t work anyways). Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the geeky science stuff too.  More than that, however, I enjoy applying the geeky science stuff to the everyday and then teaching that to others.

There is so much information out there, and now with the world at our finger tips, it is easier than ever to get overwhelmed and confused.  Most of the time what works for one person (your BFF, blogger on your newsfeed, or guru on the morning talk show) may not work for you.  We are all different with different needs and different genetics. I want to help people navigate through the over supply of information and work with them to find out what work for them.

Most diets and lose weight quick schemes fail.  They fail because not only are they unsustainable for a long period of time, but also because they are addressing only one piece of the puzzle.  By learning new healthy eating habits, one at a time. You will learn how to choose the healthiest option and not hate it.  This is a lifestyle, not a diet.

I have taken my knowledge and applied it to how you can eat to reach your goals. This can be done without removing entire food groups from your diet. You still get to eat the foods you love (just in moderation).   Your goals are achievable without crash diets, tons of supplements, or working out till you puke. And, for the record, I do not believe in bad foods.

By learning some healthy habits and the proper mindset you can not only achieve your goals but maintain them. And I want to help you do that!

So, that is my why.  What is yours?