Tag Archive for #reallifeeating

Gimme the SWEET stuff! The Fruit piece of the Carb puzzle.


I think I can say, hands down, that it is best to get your carbs primarily from vegetables and whole-grain sources–those are some of the Big Rocks of my Practical Nutrition practices.


Practical Nutrition is my name for eating in a balanced, sustainable, satiating way that focuses on counting portions of food throughout the day rather than calories or macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats).

The Basic Tenets of Practical Nutrition


To establish how many portions we need, however, it does often help to start by understanding your caloric needs and the proportions of macronutrients that would best meet your needs.

Everyone’s needs vary slightly in terms of what ratio of carbs:protein:fat supports their physiological needs effectively, and the needs of people with specific health issues (diabetes or a thyroid condition, for instance) will vary dramatically from the average person’s needs, which will also vary dramatically from an athlete’s needs.  It is always best to consult a physician, certified nutritionist or registered dietician to establish what percentages or ratios of your overall caloric intake should be coming from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  Another resource you can use to begin figuring out what macronutrient ratios work best for you is by using the body type eating approach.


I’m not a certified nutritionist or registered dietician; I am a Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor.  As such, it is my job to help educate people about how to make practical, healthy choices and changes in their daily and weekly nutrition practices (aka: diet).

The first step:  Learning what the macronutrients are, where to get them (which foods you find them in), how much of each macronutrient you need each day (roughly!), how to transform that number of grams into number of servings, and then translate the number of servings needed of those macronutrients into real food choices.


In the blog post Carbs: Not just Twinkies and Wonder Bread, we talked about simple and complex carbohydrates briefly, focusing primarily on whole-grain and vegetable sources of complex carbohydrates.  What we didn’t cover was the topic of fruits and other sweets and treats.  So here we go!

Gimme the Good Stuff:  Fruits


At the end of the day, if we don’t like what we eat, we won’t keep eating that way for long (hence the satisfying and satiating aspect of Practical Nutrition), so it’s important to structure your daily and weekly nutritional intake in a way that meets the needs of your physiology AND your tastebuds.  Fruit is a great tool for meeting both needs.


While the majority of your carb needs should ideally come from vegetables and whole grains and legumes, fruits have their place in the equation–just not as primary of a role.


Generally, the ratio of veggies:fruits recommended in the diet (because of calorie and sugar content considerations with fruit) is 3:1 for the average person, and 5:1 for someone who is more carbohydrate sensitive (Precision Nutrition).  If you’re eating the recommended amount of 5 servings of veggies a day, that’s either roughly two or only one serving of fruit.   BONUS:  If you’re getting in more than just the recommended number 5 servings of veggies, you’re able to get more fruits in, too!


The thing to be cognizant of is the sugar content of a serving of fruit–and how the size of that serving varies based upon the fruit.  The higher the sugar content, the higher the carbohydrate content (because carbs are all some form of sugar), and the smaller the recommended serving size.  For example, a half cup of fresh berries would have roughly 3.5 grams of sugar, but a half cup of raisins would have 61 grams.


Sugar in Fruits, Lowest to Highest


1. Berries – Berries are, in general, the fruits lowest in sugar — and also among the highest in antioxidants and other nutrients.

2. Summer Fruits – Melons, peaches, nectarines, and apricots are next in sugar-order.

3. Winter Fruits – Apples, pears, and citrus fruit are moderate in sugars.

4. Tropical Fruits – Pineapple, pomegranates, mangoes, bananas, and fresh figs are high in sugar (guava and papaya are lower than the others).

5. Dried Fruit – Dates, raisins, apricots, prunes, figs, and most other dried fruits are extremely high in sugar. Dried cranberries and blueberries would be lower, except that a lot of sugar is usually added to combat the tartness.

(source: About.com)


But what IS a real serving size of fruit??


>For solid fruits like apples, oranges and pears, it is one whole, medium sized piece (medium being the size of a baseball), the carb content ranging from 15-30 grams.

>For grapes, it’s 1/2 cup, and that half cup has roughly 14 grams of carbs.

>For berries, it’s one cup (sliced if they are large, like strawberries) with the carb content ranging from 12 to 20 grams.

>For dried fruits like dates, apple slices, apricots and prunes (everyone’s favorite, lol), you often count by piece.

>For other dried fruits like raisins, a serving is measured in tablespoons*


This is an example of where I start to move from counting the grams of carbohydrates towards servings of foods instead, because when we’re planning our daily nutrition practices, we don’t want to waste precious mental energy on counting and calculating carbs–we just need to know what one reasonable portion is.  This way we can easily keep our intake in balance without the stress of constant mental math.


Your takeaway:  Get familiar with how much of your favorite fruits equals one serving, and start working that 3:1 or 5:1 ratio of veggies:fruits to keep your diet (nutrient intake) varied and satisfying!



(*For more information on the carbohydrate content of various foods, including breads, pastas, fruits and treats you can find more information here.)





Why, yes, I will have some cake! The Case for Planned Indulgences


Break the Obesess/Binge Cycle for Good:  The Case for Planned Indulgences


I love cake.

No, I don’t just love cake–I FREAKING love cake.



AND I live in Germany, currently, where bakeries are as prevalent as churches in the ‘Bible Belt’ of the United States (I’ve lived there, too).  

Yes, THAT many bakeries.


If you’ve never had German cake, you are missing out, and, NO, “German Chocolate Cake” is not German.  Black Forest Cake…kind of.  Barely.  But I digress.


Cake is definitely my nutritional ‘achilles heel,’ and I used to struggle each time we went into the bakery (conveniently attached to the exit of both of our two supermarkets), which was at least three times a week–for fresh bread and Brezeln for the kids.


I’d stand there, in front of the bakery case, all but wringing my hands in a ‘do I or don’t I?’ and ‘how much have I eaten today–can I afford it?’ and ‘what are my goals–will it knock me off course?’ desperate inner struggle.


WAY too much mental anguish and mental energy was involved in a simple ‘get some bread’ scenario.


It was exhausting to always have this fight with myself, and I started to dread going to the store for anything.  When my kids began to add to the unpleasantness of the situation by begging for goodies every single visit, I knew something had to change.


“I’m a former elementary teacher, and I understand behavior modification,” I thought.  “I’ll find a way to construct boundaries, create realistic expectations and extinguish this unwanted behavior!”


Little did I know I was creating the same positive structure for myself, not just for my children. (It’s funny the things we will do so easily in order to help others that we won’t often readily do for ourselves!)


Out of this need to reduce my children’s begging and establish routine and reasonable expectations was born: TREAT FRIDAY.


Fridays became the hallowed day of the week.  The kids were allowed to choose ONE treat from the bakery case–ANY treat they wanted, but only on Fridays.  The rest of the week was for scoping out what was in the case, planning what one would have on Friday.


I decided I’d join them in their Friday indulgences; I’d worked hard all week, what was one piece of cake?  Same rules applied to me as did to them–ANYTHING I wanted in the bakery, I could have, but only on Friday afternoon.



A gorgeous thing happened as a result of adopting this approach.



Actually, a couple of gorgeous things happened.  One, the kids stopped harassing me in the bakery throughout the week on our normal grocery shopping visits.


Instead, they were happily doing ‘recon’ on the bakery cases in town, plotting their Friday conquest.  (Did I mention they were 6 and 3 when we started this?  You can imagine how much easier this made shopping in general.  WAY less stressful.)


But the even more gorgeous result was that my hand-wringing/’do I or don’t I’ mental struggles vanished.

knew when I could expect my treat, that it was allowed–even encouraged, that I could enjoy it with no remorse or guilt.  ENJOY it.  I gave myself permission to enjoy it because I would only choose what I really wanted and it would be enough, rather that taking whatever was available, shoveling it down in my car or kitchen, then feeling ashamed afterwards (leftover birthday cake or bake sale creations had been such terrible sources of temptation/binge/shame in the past).  I ate slowly, sitting at a table, using a fork, really tasting and enjoying each bite.  



No hiding, no sneaking, no rushing, no stress.  Just enjoyment.


The verdict on treat Friday:  Win-Win.



Treat Friday became such a successful strategy for my family, that it made me wonder why it was such a success for us.


I decided to examine the concept, the psychology of the situation more closely, because, heck, if it was working for me AND my kids, it might just help many of the clients I had who experience(d) issues with sugary treats and even binge eating.



The phenomena at work:  Forbidden Fruit and the Slot Machine 


Quick–don’t think of pink elephants.  Don’t!  Not at all, not even for a second–do not think of PINK ELEPHANTS.



I bet all you can see in your mind are pink elephants right now.

This is psychology of the forbidden fruit, in a very simplistic example, that by making something forbidden we make give it value and focus.  Our minds want to have freedom, we cringe at restrictions being put on us, and so even arbitrary ones, like the pink elephant, become a struggle and a drain on our mental energy.  This is also why ‘diets’, in the restrictive sense, are only temporary and don’t work for long.

“Ever notice that the more you say you can’t have it, the more you want it? That’s called deprivation focus, and we get intense cravings of it, not just because it’s tasty, but because we are creating desire for it in our mind by dwelling on it.”


And this is why the cake at the bakery was such an issue for me and my kids.

The ‘slot machine,’ intermittent rewards phenomenon was also at play–not knowing when the cake ‘pay out’ was going to happen, so we were struggling with the question of ‘will we get it this time’ every single time we went grocery shopping.  Will I hit ‘WILD’ on this pull?!?

Those two phenomena together can be a potent formula for some massive bingeing.

Why ‘Planned Indulgences’ Works:

1.  It takes the ‘forbidden fruit’ feeling out of the scenario.  You are much less likely to focus and fixate on something when it is no longer forbidden.  When you give yourself permission to have something, it removes a huge load of stress from the situation.

When it’s a reasonable amount–a piece of cake, not a whole cake–it removes a huge load of guilt or remorse from the situation.

2.  It creates a timeframe for when you get to have your treat.  When we go on a diet, or restrict our food intake in some manner, we often wonder when we’ll be able to have that coveted goodie again.  Weeks?  Months?  Will I cave/crack at that next birthday party?  Business lunch?  Social event?

Planning when you get to have it eliminates that shaky feeling of wondering when you’ll get it again, and stressing about certain social scenarios.

You know when to expect your treat, you’re in charge of designating the time/date/location, and that is comforting.  Known, self-determined events usually are 🙂

3.  YOU determine your treat.  YOU determine when you’ll have it.  YOU determine the location.  It’s chosen, intentional, and preplanned.  No one is imposing their will on you, your fate is self-determined.  That is a powerful thing.

I choose Fridays because it’s like a mini-celebration of another work and school week completed, and because my willpower is lower on Friday afternoon.  I choose cake because that’s my favorite goodie.  I set out to enjoy a reasonable portion of something I like, when I want it, and I do so with some of my favorite people.  We usually have some pretty decent conversations then, too 🙂

It’s pleasant, satisfying, relaxed and it’s ENOUGH.

4.  It’s a treat, not a cheat, and not a binge.  A Planned Indulgence is a predetermined, portion-specific treat.  It’s a piece of cake vs. a whole cake, for example.  It’s not a whole day of indulging, it’s one event.

I look at it as getting the ‘minimum effective dose’ of a treat source–enough to satisfy you, not so much that you feel guilty, sick or unwell after eating it.

5.  It’s flexible.  If I see a birthday party coming up that week, I’ll probably shift my planned indulgence to that day rather than the usual Friday.  Or for that week, I’ll simply have two planned indulgences.

The key is in the preplanning:  I set an intention, and I stick to that intention.  Some weeks I don’t even feel like having a treat on Friday, so I’ll push it to Saturday, or–gasp!–skip it altogether for the week.

The timing is flexible but intentional.



How can you make Planned Indulgences work for you?


1.  Identify your favorite treats.  We all have our favorites.

2.  Identify where this treat can or will be found.  Restaurant, store, bakery….

3.  Identify what a reasonable portion of this treat really is.  Remember, we want a normal-sized portion of the treat food–this is a treat, not a binge or a ‘cheat.’  Think: minimum effective dose.

4.  Determine when you want to enjoy this treat.  Determine who you’d like to enjoy this with.  We’re social creatures, and we enjoy shared experiences. My cake is a whole lot tastier when I’m sharing the occasion with my kids or friends.

5.  Be realistic about your schedule needs, and work with them.

When an office party or birthday party or some other social and food-oriented function comes up, adjust accordingly.  Try to set your intention before arriving at the event.

Most of us know what to expect from a certain event or venue, in terms of what foods will be available, and setting the intention beforehand takes the stress of on-the-spot decisions out of the equation.

For example, I know for darn sure I’m eating a slice of birthday cake at any grown-up birthday party I attend.  And my friends can BAKE!

The 'Three Day Cake' because it takes three days to make--and it's THAT good.

The ‘Three Day Cake’ because it takes three days to make–and it’s THAT good.


I also know if I’m going to an office party-type event, I’m likely to skip the store-bought stuff and will save my indulgence for something I will REALLY enjoy.

No random nibbling, because I’ve set my intention ahead of time.  Hence, the ‘planned’ in planned indulgences!

So like I’ve said, I love cake.  I’m a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and health coach who loves cake.


My current, Planned Indugence-practicing physique.

The way in which I’ve made keeping cake, something I enjoy, a harmonious part of my lifestyle is through implementing the Planned Indulgence approach.

It’s all about being intentional about your life, enjoying your life, and staying away from unhealthy thought patterns (deprive-binge) by creating positive mindsets and helpful practices.

If you’ve been struggling with obsessive thoughts regarding certain foods, you might want to give planned indulgences a try–it could take a load off your mind, and your waistline, for life.







Foodie! It’s not a four-letter word (aka: how loving food works in your favor).

I love food.  I really, really do.  I could never exist on one of those stereotypical ‘fitness’ diets that consist primarily of broccoli, brown rice, yams and chicken breasts–I might be able to handle that for a day, or maybe a week if the threat of wearing a bathing suit in public was looming near, but it wouldn’t last long.  And since I’m not in the business of being on a stage or in front of a camera on a regular basis, I don’t have to be too particular about my macros, etc.  My love of tasty food was once a bit of an issue for me though.  Back in my early to mid-twenties, I ate out at restaurants a lot.  It was a social thing, especially for those of us who were single; it was a time and preparedness thing, as in I didn’t take the time to compose a coherent grocery list and was therefore unprepared to cook or create meals; it was also a bit of a mindless thing in the sense that there was a total disconnect happening between what or how much I was putting in my mouth and how my body was feeling and looking.

This pattern continued into marriage, where neither one of us really knew how to cook, we lived in Germany, and we were still very social and hanging out with single people. And there was tons of good food to be had within a mile’s walk or bus ride.  So I fought up and down through the same 10 pounds for many, many years because I just had no clue how to self-regulate or that that self-regulation started in the kitchen.  That all changed at Fort Polk, LA.

If you’ve ever been to Leesville, LA, you’ll get what I’m saying.  If you haven’t, then let’s put it this way:  Papa John’s pizza was the only delivery service, there were only two actual restaurants in town (a ‘steak house’ and a japanese restaurant), and we were living on the income of a staff sergeant with an infant.  Eating out was just no longer feasible, nor desirable.  So I slowly learned how to cook.  I slowly learned how to make good-tasting food on a budget.  I slowly began to see the connection between what I ate, how much I ate, and how I looked and felt.  It was a good start.

Over the past many years, I’ve continued to educate myself about macronutrients and their roles in health/weight/body composition, what food combinations deliver more nutritional bang for your buck, and tweaked our household nutrition to meet our ever-changing needs. Living in Germany is a bonus, because of the variety of fresh foods at a reasonable price that are available within a very short walk or drive.  Living overseas can also broaden your menu horizons, inviting you to try new ingredients or recipes from other cultures you might otherwise have missed (case in point: the numerous uses for Kohlrabi).  In sum, the changes I’ve made in my own cooking, thinking and eating habits over the past few years have led me to this conclusion:

Being a foodie is a huge advantage in life.  

Whether your focus is on weight loss, fat loss, athletic performance, weight management, or just generally feeling good, if you’re a foodie, you have a natural advantage over those who aren’t.  Here are 5 reasons why I see being a foodie as such an advantage:

1.  When you are a foodie, you are more motivated to make it taste good.

You like food. You like food to taste good.  You aren’t likely to last long on bland or displeasing food sources.  You’ll do what it takes to make it better.

2.  When you are a foodie, you are often more familiar with flavors and better able to make working substitutions or better combinations.

You know how to manipulate spices and seasonings.  You’ll research ways to prep your favorite dishes so that they are both satisfying and good for you/in line with your goals and/or needs.

3.  When you are a foodie, you are more likely to make the time to read about nutrition and food, to research (more) healthful options, to cook different and (more) healthful foods.

Food matters to you.  It’s an important part of your life and happiness.  You’ll make the time to problem-solve, to try new things, to consult new resources (and how cool are channels like the Food Network, and many other online options these days??).

4. When you are a foodie, you are more likely to tailor your nutritional habits/diet to meet both your taste preferences and bodily needs.

Eliminating whole food groups is likely not for you, unless it’s medically necessary.  You know what you like, and you’ll find a way to incorporate it, creatively and healthfully, into your lifestyle.

5.  When you are a foodie, you are more likely to really stick with the dietary changes you make for the long haul, especially after taking ownership of your nutritional/dietary changes.

When you are the one steering the ship, making the informed choices, preparing your mini-meals and full-blown ‘feasts’ with your own two hands, using the ingredients of your choice, timing your meals to your own needs and wants, you are WAY more likely to stick with it because it works for YOU.  It’s not an arbitrary diet, created by an ‘expert,’ difficult to adhere to for longer than a few weeks–it’s your own creation, born of research, testing, experience, and your own approval and satisfaction.

From my personal experiences and observations of client successes,

I’ve derived the ‘Foodie Success Equation’:

Greater Ownership


Greater Enjoyment


Greater Long-Term Compliance and Success

So if you’re a foodie, it’s time to celebrate and embrace your love of good tasting food.  Your dedication and creativity will help you support your own fitness and health needs.  And if you’re not a foodie, you might consider befriending one, or following one on fb or online.  These are the people who will take your eating habits to a satisfying and sustainable next level.  I know I want to eat in a way that supports the way I live, and to enjoy what I eat.  Being a foodie makes it possible for me to do both well, happily, and consistently.