6 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Give Up Bread

Eating low-carb has been popular since the Atkins Diet blew up back in 1972—and the current buzz about the benefits of the super low-carb ketogenic diet proves the low-carb trend isn’t going anywhere.

The question on many people’s minds: Would we all be better off without any high-carb foods? There’s no black-and-white answer, really; different people thrive on different types of diets. But there are some surprising side effects most of us can expect to experience after a breakup with bread and pasta.

1. You Lose Weight Quickly

Oftentimes people go low-carb because they want to lose weight—and when you cut out high-carb foods like bread, that happens fast. That initial drop on the scale those first few days is just water weight, though. “Carbs hold onto water like a sponge,” says Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, R.D., dietitian and certified diabetes educator in New York City.

When you stop eating carbs, your body starts using the carbs it has stored up in your body to keep functioning, ‘wringing out the sponge’ and releasing water as it does so. Start noshing on carbs again, and you’ll put that water weight right back on.

2. You Feel Tired At First

Carbs, which you break down into a form of sugar called glucose, are your body’s preferred source of energy. While you get a slow and steady boost from complex carbs (like potatoes and oats), which take longer to break down into glucose, simple, quick-digesting carbs (like white bread and rice) hit your bloodstream in sugar form fast, spiking your energy only to send you crashing later.

Regardless of whether you usually eat a lot of simple carbs—and ride the blood sugar rollercoaster that comes with them—or coast along the complex-carb freeway, cutting down on your total intake will probably leave you feeling pretty drained at first, says Toni Marinucci, R.D., registered dietitian in New York City.

When your body doesn’t have enough glucose to run on, it eventually turns to its backup generator—a state called ketosis—and burns fat instead. Your blood sugar and levels of stored glucose in your liver and muscles (called ‘glycogen’) have to drop significantly to get you there, though, and you’ll likely feel pretty awful as they do. (If you can hold out until you get there, most people feel better a few days into ketosis.)

Related: Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like

3. And Crabby, Too…

You can expect not to feel your happiest when you’re depriving yourself of an entire food group—especially when you’re passing up on the bread basket during dinner out with friends. But the emotional impact of cutting carbs goes deeper than that: Eating carbs actually increases your brain’s production of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin (often called the ‘feel-good hormone’), says Malkoff-Cohen. The less serotonin you pump out, the more likely you are to feel bummed out.

4. You Might Even Feel Like You Have The Flu

Ever heard of something called the low-carb or ‘keto flu’? Yeah, it’s a real thing—and it’s not fun. When you cut down on carbs significantly, you might deal with flu-like symptoms like drowsiness, achiness, and nausea, says Malkoff-Cohen.

A lot of these issues have to do with your brain, which typically uses tons of glucose because it has so many nerve cells. When your brain doesn’t have enough glucose to run full-steam-ahead, but hasn’t transitioned to using fat, your neurons (nerve cells) don’t function properly and you feel terrible.

Plus, people on low-carb diets often lose out on electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which can lead to some of those flu-like symptoms, as well as issues like heart palpitations and muscle cramps, Malkoff-Cohen adds.

The low-carb flu should subside once you’re a few days into ketosis, but if you’re not quite low-carb enough to make the shift (like 20 to 30 grams of net carbs a day, ‘low’), symptoms might stick around.

5. You Have Trouble Going No. 2

Complex carbs, like whole-wheat bread and other whole grains, contain fiber, which keeps our digestive systems regular. If you cut out complex carbs and don’t make up for that lost fiber with other foods (like vegetables, legumes, and nuts), you might fall short of your needs and have a more difficult time going to the bathroom. (Men should aim for 38 grams of fiber per day; women should aim for 25.)

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6. Your Workouts Feel Pretty Meh

Just as putting the kibosh on carbs can tank your overall energy at first, it can also leave you feeling like garbage in the gym. Marinucci typically recommends snacking on something carb-y (like a granola bar or piece of toast) about 30 minutes before working out, to provide your body with quick fuel.

Lower-intensity exercise (like jogging) may not suffer much when you slash carbs, because your body can power it pretty easily with fat. However, you’ll likely have a harder time pushing through higher-intensity workouts (like strength training or sprint intervals), which rely heavily on carbs. Without those carbs, your body will have to use glycogen or even break down muscle tissue to scrounge up the energy you need.

Everything This Weight Loss Expert Eats In A Day

In my 16-year journey as a weight loss and fitness expert, I’ve tried just about every diet in the book, from bodybuilder-style macro-counting to high-fat keto. Though some experiments have proved more sustainable than others, each has helped me find the eating style that works best for me.

These days, my eating philosophy is to really listen to my body, eat whole foods in their whole forms (as little from packages as possible!), get enough satiating fat, and love what I eat. I keep a list of my five favorite healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, and a binder of all my favorite recipes—like slow cooker chicken chili—to make healthy eating easier when life gets busy. (And, trust me, it does when you have two kids, two dogs, a full-time job, and a hubby who works opposite hours than you do!)

Here’s what a full day of healthy—and delicious—eating usually looks like for me.

On a typical day, my alarm clock goes off at 5:20 in the morning and I enjoy the quiet with a cup of coffee—usually a cappuccino made with lots of whole milk and cinnamon—and my pup, Angus. I feel best following a modified intermittent fasting regimen and delaying my first full meal, so my frothy beverage usually counts as my breakfast.

Then I usually meet with a client in my gym, get my kids ready for school, and do a workout (often kickboxing or a run) of my own. From there, I’m off to work, running from private clients to speaking events to consulting meetings all over the place. I don’t eat my first real meal until around noon, but when I finally stop long enough to sit down and eat, I usually go for breakfast food, my favorite of which is an omelet (or some sort of egg dish).

I stuff two full eggs (the yolks contain all those vitamins, like choline) with vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, and onions—and, of course, cheese. I try to use seasonal veggies and different cheeses (like cheddar and goat cheese) and herbs to keep boredom at bay.

There are some days, however, that I’m crunched for time, so I go for a one-two punch of portable fruit and protein: yogurt parfait plus a banana and packet of nut butter (like Justin’s almond butter).

My yogurt bowls consist of two-percent plain Greek yogurt topped with raspberries, blueberries, two tablespoons of sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds. I always recommend going for fuller-fat dairy because it’s more satisfying and swapping sugar-laden granola for nuts and seeds, which provide healthy fats, protein, and crunch. The bowl is low in sugar, but high in fiber and protein, so it really holds me over.

With that first meal, I take my supplements: a multivitamin to keep my nutritional bases covered, a probiotic to support a healthy gut, turmeric for an antioxidant boost, and collagen to keep my skin glowing and hair and nails strong.

I’m usually satisfied until late afternoon, when I grab a snack.

My afternoon munch pretty much always includes some dark chocolate, but I do have a few other staples, like apple slices and raw mixed nuts, hummus and sugar snap peas, a clementine and a cheese stick, and apple slices and nut butter. My criteria for a great snack: It must contain a fruit or vegetable for vitamins and fiber, and it should also provide some fat and protein. To make travel and portion control easier, I buy pre-made serving-size packets for nuts, nut butters, and hummus whenever I can.

Once work and after-school activities finish up, my family sits down together for dinner. So much research shows how vital this time can be for families, so we fight for it! We keep the TV off and put our phones away so we can focus on each other and eating mindfully.

Often, we all eat a slight variation of the same theme. My kids might have Italian-seasoned ground turkey over pasta with red sauce, while my husband and I might eat it over spaghetti squash, zucchini, salad, or steamed broccoli.

My goal at dinner is to fill half my plate with produce. Then I add a solid four-ounce serving of a lean protein like chicken or shrimp and some healthy fat like avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, or even a little melted butter. I always use a small plate to keep my portions in check.

During my own weight loss journey (I shed 65 pounds before starting my career in the industry), I realized that I snacked at nighttime just out of habit, and consumed hundreds of extra calories just to keep my hands busy while watching TV. These days, I don’t usually eat after dinner, and make myself a mug of one of my favorite teas—like decaf chai or Earl Grey, or Trader Joe’s Candy Cane green tea—instead.

If I’m truly hungry, though, I’ll go for a snack made of whole, natural foods, which are hard to overeat! My favorites are a sliced apple with a tablespoon or two of almond butter and baby carrots with hummus.

My personal eating style has evolved so much over the years, and right now this way of eating really works for my lifestyle, but I always keep my eyes open for areas where it might need to be tweaked. I truly believe that being willing to try new things and staying inspired are the keys to eating healthy long-term!


Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry, as well as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

Can Your Diet Make You Depressed?

From the fast food whistle-blower Super-Size Me to Fed Up’s investigation of “Big Sugar” and politics, many a documentary has wagged its disapproving finger at the Standard American Diet. These types of documentaries have helped educate the masses about how what we put in our bodies affects everything from our weight to our heart health, but there’s another notable victim of the Western diet they tend to gloss over: our mental health.

A recent study out of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and funded by the National Institutes of Aging points to a very real connection between our diets and mental wellbeing, and shows it’s something we ought to be paying more attention to. For the study, the researchers collected data from 964 older adults (who are more likely to struggle with mental health, especially depression) and organized them in different groups based on the type of diet they followed: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the traditional Western diet.

The DASH diet emphasizes eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean animal proteins, some fat-free or low-fat dairy, and limiting foods high in saturated fats and sugar. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy unsaturated fats from foods like olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Like the DASH diet, it puts the kibosh on unhealthy fats and sugar. On the flipside, though, the Western diet is typically high in unhealthy fats (like the refined oils found in many packaged foods), red meat, and added sugar, but lacking in fruits and veggies.

Related: 5 Scary Ways Eating Too Much Sugar Can Mess With Your Health

The researchers monitored participants for symptoms of depression throughout a period of six-and-a-half years. They found that those who closely followed the DASH diet were 11 percent less likely to develop depression, while those who stuck to a Western diet were more likely to develop depression.

The study only observes a trend, but the link between our diets and wellbeing it highlights is hard to ignore. Plus, the Rush study isn’t the first of its kind; What’s Good recently covered another study that suggests a healthy diet can help treat depression.

Despite this emerging research, the consideration of diet in mental health treatment—known as ‘nutritional psychiatry’—is still considered a new field of study and remains unexplored by many in the medical community. “People often don’t understand the magnitude of the impact nutrition has on health,” says Dr. Michael Gruttadauria, D.C., D.A.C.A.N., a board-certified chiropractic neurologist with the CIIT Center in New York. “Most doctors don’t even appreciate the connection.”

As for what’s behind that connection, interested experts have a few theories. In a 2015 article published by Harvard Medical School, Eva Selhub, M.D., broke down the relationship between diet and mental health quite simply: It’s all about the gut.

About 95 percent of our serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, sleep, appetite, and pain) is produced in our gut, which suggests that our gut function directly influences our mental and emotional function. A diet high in foods that cause an inflammatory reaction in the gut—such as alcohol, processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods high in trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium—can diminish our gut function and interfere with our mental wellbeing, says Caitlin Hoff, health and safety investigator with ConsumerSafety.org. Dairy and wheat, which many people have intolerances or allergies to, may also have this effect.

To minimize inflammation and keep your gut—and mind—healthy, the Harvard School of Public Health recommends avoiding (or at least limiting) refined carbohydrates like white bread, fried foods, soda, processed meats like hot dogs, and margarine. A diet that nourishes our mind and body (much like the DASH and Mediterranean diets) emphasizes whole foods, healthy fats, and lots of plants, which provide inflammation-fighting fiber and nutrients to keep our gut healthy.

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“The connection between fiber, our gut microbiota, and the immune system is powerful, almost magical,” says gastroenterologist and gut health expert Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., M.S.C.I. “Although some may believe that fiber simply enters our mouths and comes out in our stool, recent studies show us that certain types of fiber act as fuel for our gut microbes. We call this type of fiber ‘prebiotic’ because it feeds and nourishes the gut bacteria.” This prebiotic fiber is also converted into short chain fatty acids, which directly help fight inflammation.

Quality, fiber-rich carbs, like lentils, apples, and quinoa also trigger our production of serotonin and tryptophan (which helps produce more serotonin), and can also support our mood and feeling of wellness, adds Becky Kerkenbush, M.S., R.D.-A.P., C.S.G., clinical dietitian with Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin. It’s no wonder the fruit- and veggie-rich DASH and Mediterranean dieters in the Rush study reported a greater sense of wellbeing.

How’d These Smoothie Bowls Get So Blue?

Now that matcha has invaded everything from Starbucks frappuccinos to protein shakes, and we’ve become accustomed to seeing its striking green color across the most influential Instagram pages, another superfood is taking over town: spirulina.

Spirulina—a type of blue-green algae—has been made famous by wellness brands like Moon Juice, Sakara, and The End Brooklyn (though its ‘superfood’ status actually dates back to the ancient Aztecs and Mayans). The spiral-shaped organism (it’s technically a bacteria) grows in warm alkaline waters in mild climates, and is found in the largest concentrations in Mexico and Africa’s Great Rift Valley. As it grows, it absorbs a myriad of nutrients from its environment.

“From what we know, spirulina is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K1, vitamin K2, and vitamin B12, as well as iron, manganese, chromium, and a host of phytonutrients,” says chiropractic physician and certified nutrition specialist Scott Schreiber, M.S., R.D. “Not only is it a powerful antioxidant, but spirulina has also shown promise in protecting the liver, kidney, nerves and brain, helping detox heavy metals, supporting health blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting energy.”

And did we mention just two tablespoons of spirulina also happens to pack six grams of protein?

Blue Smoothie Bowl goodness @healthsynergy 💦

A post shared by Smoothie Bowl Recipes (@smoothiebowls) on

It’s not just spirulina’s impressive nutrition stats that have made it so trendy, however, suggests Abbey Sharp, R.D., of Abbey’s Kitchen. The algae’s beautiful blue color is otherwise pretty impossible to find in nature, and, frankly, it just looks lovely in a latte. “Given today’s rainbow and unicorn food trends, spirulina has become a popular additive to smoothies and other Instagram-worthy dishes,” she says. (Seriously, check out this delightful birthday cake latte The End Brooklyn made The Vitamin Shoppe for its 40th birthday…)

Most nutrition experts have been long-time fans of spirulina, and research suggests its health benefits are legit. For example, one small study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology found that five grams of spirulina a day may support the immune response of people with compromised immune systems.

Kiwis and spirulina smoothie bowl via @monacoskitchen

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Just a couple things to keep in mind before turning all of your favorite recipes blue: First, make sure you buy your spirulina from a reputable manufacturer that tests for contaminants, since this water-dwelling organism can absorb potentially-harmful metals, like mercury, from its environment, and produce toxins, warns dietitian and chef Julie Andrews, M.S., R.D.N. This is especially important if a supplement lists ‘blue-green algae’ or ‘AFA’ (which are harvested from the wild, and not commercially, like spirulina) as ingredients.

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Once you’ve got the blue-green light, you can add spirulina—which you’ll typically find in powder form—to pretty much everything. If you want to keep things basic, just mix the powder straight into water or juice. If you’re feeling creative, stir your spirulina into salad dressings, mix it into homemade energy bites, or blend it into smoothies—like this colorful recipe from dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb, M.S., R.D.

Ingredients:
1 scoop of vanilla plant-based protein powder
1/2 avocado
1 cup of almond milk
1 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp cacao nibs
2 Tbsp spirulina powder
Ice, as desired

Don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of spirulina’s flavor (some find it a little too ‘earthy’) you can still reap its benefits by popping a tablet supplement, like The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s California-Grown Spirulina tablets.

Is Plant-Based Protein Just As Effective As Whey Protein?

When it comes to protein, we tend to think of animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs as the best of the best, but a recent study suggests that plant-based protein sources deserve more credit than they usually get.

Published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the study assigned 11 mixed martial artists (MMA) athletes to either a rice or whey protein supplement. They supplemented with three scoops (75 grams) of their designated protein throughout six weeks of high-volume and high-intensity training in preparation for an upcoming fight. They took one of their three scoops of protein before training and followed their usual diets otherwise.

After the six weeks, the study found the rice and whey proteins had ‘statistically similar’ abilities to help the athletes hang onto their muscle mass while undergoing the stress of intense training. That’s right, rice protein benefited their muscles just as much as good ol’ whey.  

The main takeaway: Upping our overall protein intake has a major impact on our ability to maintain fat-free mass and a healthy body composition, regardless of the source of that protein. “The whole point was increasing protein intake, period,” says one of the study’s authors, Alison Escalante, R.D, L.D.N., C.I.S.S.N., of ALLYFIT. “Though we were working with dieters that were cutting weight and in strict preparation for a fight, they were still able to both maintain their lean body mass and their performance by increasing overall protein intake.”

“We wanted to explore this because there’s a lot of hype about plant-based dieting and that’s something that we found intriguing,” she explains. So whether you have a dairy allergy, are vegan, or just need a change of pace, consider this study confirmation that plant-based proteins do in fact hold their weight, and that it is possible to nourish your muscles without relying on animal proteins.

Related: 5 Plant-Based Protein Bars That’ll Make You A Believer

We know many of you whey loyalists still aren’t sold—after all, whey protein has long been considered top dog when it comes to building muscle, as it  contains all nine of the essential amino acids, including high amounts of the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, valine, and isoleucine), which are key to muscle protein synthesis (the process through which our muscles recover and grow). It’s also digested more quickly than plant-based proteins. For those reasons, past research concluded that whey better stimulates muscle protein synthesis than other popular protein options, such as casein and soy.

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Ultimately, though, you can still maintain or build muscle using a plant-based protein supplement. “The body can combine an amino acid from one food source with the amino acids from another food source to make the proteins it needs, including what it needs to grow and maintain muscle,” says Isabel Maples, R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Plus, many plant-based proteins out there these days combine a number of protein sources—like rice, pea, and hemp—to pack more of amino acids into every scoop. So if you’re really concerned about coming as close to whey as possible, go for one of these combo plant proteins. Look for about 20 to 30 grams of protein—and two to five grams of the BCAA leucine, the most crucial for muscle protein synthesis—per serving.

Need An Energy Boost? Sip On One Of These Kombucha Mocktails

Few things are as satisfying as a fun, flavorful cocktail (or two). But the resulting hangover and/or sugar crash? Not so much.

So, in the name of health—and deliciousness—we created four mocktails that will not only look awesome and taste sinfully good, but also boost your energy instead of tanking it. Made with feel-good ingredients like kombucha and fruit, and our go-to energy drinks and mixes, these mocktails are totally happy hour-worthy. Seriously, go ahead and mix one up right at your desk. Trust us, you won’t miss the alcohol one bit.

Turmeric & Pineapple ‘Rise & Shine’

This sunrise-hued drink’s flavor is just as warm as its color. The rock-star here: BodyTech’s Pineapple Flash Point Preworkout Concentrate. Half a scoop gives the drink a kick of 125 milligrams of caffeine and tons of tropical flavor, without the sugar.

 

Ingredients:
½ cup Voss sparkling water
½ cup AquaVitea turmeric sunrise kombucha
½ scoop BodyTech Pineapple Flash Point (it’s BOGO 50% off in April!)
Orange slice for glass
Ice cubes

Combine sparkling water, kombucha, and Flash Point powder. Stir thoroughly, pour over ice, and garnish your glass with an orange slice.

Plum & Ginger ‘Sassy & Classy’

Craving something sweet? This fruity mocktail, complete with muddled plum and Isopure Alpine Punch Anytime Energy (which provides a mild 50 milligrams of caffeine, along with focus-boosting l-theanine and herbs), will do the trick.

Ingredients:
½ cup Voss sparkling water
½ cup AquaVitea Ginger Kombucha
½ scoop Isopure Alpine Punch Anytime Energy
1 plum
Ice cubes

Muddle a slice or two of plum in the bottom of a glass and add ice. Separately, mix sparkling water, kombucha, and Anytime Energy. Pour the mixture over the ice and muddled plum, and enjoy!

Black Cherry & Basil ‘Dark & Stormy’

When you’re feeling fancy, this twist on a classic is a total crowd-pleaser. It packs a superfood punch thanks to antioxidant-packed tart cherry juice, along with a smooth energy boost from Isopure’s Cherry Lime Anytime Energy.

Ingredients:
½ cup Voss sparkling water
½ cup AquaVitea kombucha
2 tsp Dynamic Health Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
2 basil leaves
½ scoop Isopure Cherry Lime Anytime Energy
2 black cherries
Ice cubes

Muddle the cherries in the bottom of a glass and add ice. Separately, mix the sparkling water, kombucha, tart cherry juice, and Anytime Energy. Pour the over mixture over the ice and muddled cherries, and garnish the glass with a basil leaf or two.

Blue Raspberry & Lime ‘Light Me Up’

This sweet and sour mix is powered by Betancourt Nutrition’s Blue Raspberry B-Nox To-Go Pre-Workout, which supports energy and endurance—so it’s the perfect day-drinking option when you need a boost. Just looking at this bright beverage will perk you right up.

Ingredients:
¾ cup Voss lime mint sparkling water
¼ cup Betancourt Nutrition Blue Raspberry B-Nox To-Go
5 raspberries
lime slice for glass
Ice cubes

Combine sparkling water and B-Nox. Pour over ice and stir in the raspberries. Garnish with a lime slice.

Related: 5 Signs You Need A Break From Caffeine

What Is The Keto Flu—And How Can You Avoid It?

Most of us are painfully familiar with the flu—the nausea, headaches, brain fog, and distinct urge to hide under the covers are not anyone’s idea of a good time. And while flu season is thankfully over, the threat of these symptoms still looms for people who are jumping on the keto bandwagon.

The ‘keto flu,’ which has nothing to do with actual influenza, has become a rite of passage for all who take part in the ketogenic diet, which involves slashing carbs and loading up on healthy fats in order to transition the body from burning sugar to burning fat.

Toying with the keto lifestyle? Do not fear the ‘keto flu’! It doesn’t have to be as awful as it sounds.

First, The Basics

To understand the keto flu, you first have to understand ketosis. Ketosis, the holy grail of a keto diet, is the state in which the body converts both dietary and stored fat into fatty acids and compounds called ketones, which the body can use to produce energy instead of relying on carbs and sugar. Simply put, this is the body’s ‘fat-burning state,’ and it’s obviously an attractive concept for anyone interested in dropping fat, says dietitian Jaime Mass, R.D.

Achieving the fat-burning glory of ketosis is no joke, though. To get there, you have to cut carbs significantly lower than the average low-carb diet (we’re talking just about 20 grams of net carbs per day) and drastically increase fats to upwards of 70 percent of your total calories. Think of it like your backup generator; it won’t switch on unless your primary power source shuts down.

Enter ‘Keto Flu’

It takes most people at least three weeks of eating a keto diet to actually shift into ketosis. In that time, your blood sugar (glucose), glycogen, and insulin, all plummet, explains Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., assistant professor of nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In order to begrudgingly shift over to burning fat, you have to completely empty your body of all its available sugar sources.

While that happens, most people feel pretty terrible. “In that shift of going from glucose to ketones, there is a period where the body is essentially adjusting to the fuel you are providing—and in a large way,” says Mass. Essentially, your cells are caught in limbo: They’re not getting carbs they’re used to having for optimal function, but they’re not yet efficient at running on fat. As a result, your energy plummets and you may experience fun symptoms like lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, and even headaches.

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Keto flu symptoms tend to spike once you’ve completely emptied your glucose tank, and subside as your body shifts into full-force ketosis. Even then, though, some may continue to feel lethargic and find they can’t push their bodies to the same intensities they could during their sugar-burning days, says Pritchett. That’s because the process of converting ketones into energy is pretty complicated, time-consuming, and inefficient compared to the process of using glucose—so while endurance athletes often thrive in ketosis, weightlifters and HIIT-lovers may struggle.

Surviving (And Minimizing) ‘Keto Flu’

Transitioning into ketosis will never be a 100 percent seamless process; you’re pretty much bound to run into some sort of keto flu-like issue along the way. However, there are a few tricks to save yourself some major suffering.

For starters, decrease your carb consumption down to keto-friendly levels gradually instead of going cold turkey. “If you ate a lot of carbohydrates—especially processed and sugar-dense foods—regularly for years, I would suggest first cutting out the highly-processed sweets for a week,” says Mass. “Then, the next week, cut all processed carbs.” By easing your way into the eating style, you limit the severity of any sugar withdrawals.

Related: Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like

From there, up your fluid intake to make sure that you’re properly hydrated as your body depletes itself of that blood glucose and stored glycogen. “For every gram of glycogen we store, we store three grams of water. So when you start keto and break down that glycogen for energy, you release that stored water,” explains Mass. Translation: The water weight you quickly lose on keto can leave you unknowingly dehydrated if you’re not careful. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows mild dehydration (losing more than one percent of your body weight in water) decreases cognitive function and memory—so that water loss can definitely contribute to the brain fog many experience during the keto flu.

Pritchett also recommends taking it easy on exercise as your body transitions into ketosis those first few weeks; using what little energy you do have on exercise can just exacerbate keto flu symptoms. As your body and energy levels adjust, you can slowly increase your exercise frequency and intensity back up to those of your normal routine.

Don’t Quit Your Coffee Habit—Science Says So

Coffee is probably one of the most reliable things in our lives—and despite the bad rap it gets for causing jitters and stealing sleep when taken in excess, it actually offers some pretty sweet health benefits.

We may think of our morning cup of Joe as just an energy-booster, but epidemiological studies (which identify trends in people’s behaviors and health over time) have identified links between drinking coffee and lower risk of everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to liver cancer, says Keith Kantor, Ph.D., CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking program. We’re not saying drinking coffee automatically turns you into a superhuman, but there’s definitely something there. So, just in case you needed further justification for your Starbucks habit, take a look at these science-backed health benefits of your favorite beverage.

Coffee And Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, plague the U.S.—and what we eat and drink play a major part in whether or not we’ll eventually develop these issues.

To investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes risk, one study published in Diabetologia analyzed the diets of over 90,000 women and 27,000 men every two to four years for more than 20 years. Throughout the study, participants self-reported their diets, lifestyle habits, and current medical conditions. What did the researchers find? Participants who upped their coffee intake by more than a cup a day had an 11 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while those who cut their coffee consumption by more than a cup a day had a 17 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, research presented by the American Heart Association’s 2017 Scientific Session also linked guzzling java to a lower risk of heart failure or stroke. This time, researchers assessed info from an ongoing heart disease risk study known as the Framingham Heart Study, which looked at people’s diets and their heart health status. The scientists identified a link between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of heart failure and stroke; each additional cup of Joe per day correlated to a seven percent lower risk of heart failure and an eight percent lower risk of stroke.

Coffee And Cancer

Studies on coffee and cancer show connections between the two. For example, one review published in BMJ Open analyzed 18 studies to determine whether coffee’s antioxidants could affect the formation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. The researchers found a correlation between higher coffee consumption and lower risk of liver cancer.

Coffee And Cognitive Function

Many of us already turn to java when we need to crank out a big work project, and research confirms that coffee really can boost cognitive function. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epiemiology, elderly adults who reported being lifelong coffee drinkers performed better on cognitive tests (like reciting the months of the year backwards, naming as many animals as possible in one minute, and repeating sequences of words from memory) than non-java-drinkers.

Where Does The Magic Come from?

You’d probably guess that caffeine is responsible for coffee’s special powers, but nope: Researchers believe the brew’s benefits come not from the caffeine, but from the antioxidants in it, says Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., associate professor of community health at Ball State University. In fact, coffee contains just slightly fewer antioxidants than blueberries, which are often touted as one of the most potent sources of antioxidants out there—so its antioxidant value is no joke.

Antioxidants ward off oxidative stress (and resulting cell damage and inflammation) caused by free radicals—and polyphenols, the type of antioxidant found in coffee, have specifically been shown to help ward off a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, adds Kantor.

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Whether thanks to our fruit- and veggie-devoid diets or our general caffeine obsession, coffee is actually the number-one source of antioxidants in the average American diet, so it offers much more value than just the buzz. Plus, if you’re drinking coffee (and not dumping sugar into it), chances are you’re not drinking something higher in calories and sugar (and lower in antioxidants) like soda or juice—and avoiding these less-healthy beverages can also benefit your health, says Kantor.

Just keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should throw back six espressos a day! The majority of these studies look at moderate caffeine intake, which tops out at three or four eight-ounce coffees per day. And that doesn’t change the fact that it causes digestive issues and nervousness in some people—so if you have anxiety, insomnia, acid reflux, high blood pressure, or intestinal issues, you’re still best off limiting your intake.

4 Keto-Approved Ways To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

The keto diet, which shuns carbs and ramps up healthy fats, may seem impossible to anyone with a sweet tooth. Sugar is an absolute no-go—even many fruits are difficult to squeeze into a day’s tiny carb allotment—which, sadly, leaves little room for typical carb-laden desserts. Plus, though Paleo and vegan treats line store shelves everywhere, pre-made keto goodies are pretty much nonexistent.

So if you really want to get your dessert fix on keto, you’re going to have to get creative. Luckily, these keto-savvy experts have a few easy tips and tweaks for having your cake and staying in ketosis, too.

1. Swap Your Sweetener

Though they may not look like table sugar, agave, honey, coconut sugar, and other natural sweeteners are still sugar, so they’re off-limits on keto. Your fix: Sub a sugar- and calorie-free sweetener into baked goods (and that morning cup of Joe).

There’s Stevia (the popular sugar substitute made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant), of course, but monk fruit (which is made from the Asian lo han guo plant) is also a popular sweetener for keto eaters, says Katherine Brooking, R.D., co-founder of nutrition consulting group Appetite for Health. Just be aware that these sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. (Monk fruit is reportedly 150 to 200 times as sweet as sugar…)

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Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans, also recommends Swerve Sweetener, which is made from fermented sugar alcohol and plant fiber. “It measures cup for cup like sugar, has zero glycemic impact, and zero net carb count.”

Though no scientific evidence suggests they cause cancer or other serious health problems, it’s worth noting that non-calorie sweeteners shouldn’t become a daily go-to if you’re focused on eating an overall healthy diet, says Brooking. These sweeteners don’t offer the nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber of whole-food sources of sweetness like fruit.

2. Fix Your Flour

If you just can’t avoid baked goods, trade in your usual wheat flour for almond flour or coconut flour. “Almond flour has 75 percent fewer carbs and 50 percent more protein than white or whole wheat flour, while coconut flour has 25 percent fewer carbs and more than three times as much fiber as whole-wheat,” says Kimball.

Each offers a unique texture and slight natural sweetness. Start experimenting by swapping out a quarter of a recipe’s flour for either almond or coconut flour to familiarize yourself with each flour. (Coconut flour is very dry and tends to require extra liquid.) Or, keep things simple by following a keto-friendly recipe—like this Keto Chocolate Cake In A Mug from Ruled.Me—that already incorporates them.

3. Go Crazy For Cocoa

Chocolate is one of the most crave-worthy treats out there, but considering a mere tablespoon of milk chocolate chips packs 43 grams of carbs and a whopping 26 grams of sugar, it’s tough to fit into a keto lifestyle.

But you don’t have to back away from the chocolate entirely: You can use cocoa powder or unsweetened dark baker’s chocolate in all sorts of keto-friendly recipes. “I love mixing cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, and Swerve sweetener, for a quick treat,” says Kimball. Pour the mixture into a baking pan, pop it in the fridge to set, and voila, you’ve got keto dark chocolate.

For more chocolately goodness, Kimball recommends these Keto Chocolate Salted Peanut Butter Fat Bombs from Swerve, which are basically vegan, keto peanut butter cups. (Or, whip up one of the decadent fat bomb recipes we rounded up.)

4. Befriend Berries

While super-sweet fruits—like bananas, pineapple, and anything dried—are off the table on keto because of their high sugar count, there is one exception: berries. Half a cup of raspberries and blackberries each pack just four grams of sugar, so they’re an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth (not to mention load up on antioxidants). You can snack on berries fresh or frozen—just watch your portions!

Rule For The Road: Check The Macros

Since carbs should account for less than 10 percent of your daily calories on a standard keto diet, someone who eats 2,000 calories a day has room for just about 25 grams of net carbs (carbs minus fiber) a day. To enjoy these sweet treats without putting ketosis in jeopardy, Kimball recommends sticking to servings that contain about two to three grams of net carbs, two to three grams of protein, and 15 or more grams of fat.

Related: 15 Keto Snacks For All You Fat-Fuelers Out There

Pin this infographic for keto-friendly desserts, anytime:

Vegans May Have the Right Idea, After All…

Vegans have endured the ridicule of their carnivorous (and even vegetarian) peers since long before Instagram memes and Reddit boards. But in recent years—whether thanks to Beyoncé or documentaries like Forks Over Knives—the idea of swapping animal foods for plants has finally gone mainstream.

If Beyoncé being on-board isn’t enough to win you over, get a load of this: A study recently published in Nutrients found that ditching animal products can slash type 2 diabetes risk and lead to a “significant reduction” in BMI (body mass index).

The study followed two groups of 75 overweight adults for 16 weeks. One group stuck with their normal diet while the other switched to a low-fat vegan diet focused on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.

After the four months, not only did the vegan dieters lose significantly more body fat—particularly belly fat—than the normal dieters, but their blood sugar levels dropped and their insulin function improved. According to the American Diabetes Association, shedding excess body fat can lower type 2 diabetes risk; plus, declines in insulin function and high blood sugar are both telltale signs of the development of this chronic disease. Given that, the researchers believe this study indicates that veganism (done right) can help prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes (which now affects more than 100 million Americans, by the way).

What makes a vegan diet so magical? In its proper form, veganism emphasizes not vegan donuts and packaged meatless meatballs, but whole, high-fiber foods, like vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The fiber in these foods slows digestion, regulates blood sugar, and supports weight loss and management, says Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T., of The Plant-Based Dietitian.

These plant-based foods also provide antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals—and research has linked the oxidative stress caused by free radicals to type 2 diabetes, adds plant-based diet specialist David Sonenberg, M.S., R.D.

The Benefits Beyond Diabetes

The perks of plant-based eating don’t stop there: Studies show vegans enjoy up to a 75 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure, a 42 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, and a drastically lower risk of developing a number of cancers.

Not to mention, plant-based foods are rich in compounds called phytonutrients, which boost your immune system, improve skin and bone health, and fight inflammation, according to advocacy group Produce for Better Health Foundation.

And, since oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration—in addition to type 2 diabetes—the antioxidants in a plant-focused diet have far-reaching effects on our health.

Not only does a whole food, plant-based diet help prevent some of these other chronic health issues, but it can also help resolve them after they crop up, says Hever. In fact, healthy vegan diets have been shown to improve blood pressure and reverse even advanced stage cardiovascular disease.

Make the Jump (The Right Way)

Reaping the benefits of a vegan lifestyle means eating the right vegan foods. “Anyone who focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices will reap the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet,” says Hever. You can’t load up on packaged foods loaded with added oils, sugars, and salt—like French fries and vegan cupcakes—and expect your blood sugar or heart health to improve.

Related: 7 Tips For Doing A Plant-Based Diet Right

Swapping out staples like eggs, chicken, and cheese for plants is no easy task, so experts recommend transitioning to a vegan way of eating slowly. Start by making just one meal per day with 100-percent whole plant foods, says Andy Bellatti, R.D., of Andy Bellatti Nutrition. Once that feels routine, switch another meal over. Then another.

Make the change easier by taking advantage of plant-based meals you might already eat—like oatmeal with fruit, bean and rice burritos, pasta with veggies and marinara sauce, bean chili, and tofu-vegetable stir-fries—and exploring Pinterest and Instagram for new recipes to try, says Hever. If you’re struggling to find meals you like or are skeptical about meeting your nutritional needs, enlist a pro, like a registered dietitian, to help you get started.

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And when it comes to those vegan cookies, just follow the 80:20 rule: Make sure 80 percent of your foods are minimally processed (think an apple versus apple pie or edamame versus a tofu ‘chicken nugget’). This way you have wiggle room for treats without sacrificing those vital health benefits.

I Cut Out Added Sugar For 2 Weeks—Here’s What Happened

Aside from the occasional happy hour or couch potato kind of night, I eat pretty healthy. I abide by Meatless Mondays, always go for whole wheat, and get inordinately excited about produce and farmer’s markets. And, because heart disease runs in my family, I try to stick to lean meats, avoid salt, and fill my plate with veggies. But despite trying to squeeze as much green into my diet as possible, I do have one major clean-eating Achilles’ heel: soda.

Pretty much nothing makes me happier than a fountain soda on a hot day or a cold Coke with my pizza. I’ve cut way, way back since my college days (I could down a two-liter bottle in one day), but more often than not I still have a can after lunch or with dinner.

The more I read up on nutrition, though, the more I worry about my soda habit. (For instance, the American Heart Association says overdoing it on added sugar contributes to weight gain and heart issues.) That’s why I recently decided to white-knuckle my way through two weeks without sugar in hopes of finally kicking my soda habit to the curb.

The Prep

Before I got started, I spoke with dietitian Alix Turoff, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., C.P.T, about what going sugar-free would actually entail—and I was shocked to learn how many foods contain sugar. “Many people don’t realize that all carbohydrates—even ones that don’t taste sweet, like rice—turn to sugar in our bodies through digestion,” she told me. The only exception? Fiber, which we don’t digest. If I wanted to completely cut out sugar, I’d have to nix all carbohydrates, except for those that are almost exclusively fiber, like veggies.

That seemed like a next-level task (plus, sweet potatoes are totally healthy!), so instead I chose to avoid all added sugar, which lurks in a ton of foods under aliases like agave, dextrin, fructose, mannose, syrup, and more.

On Sunday evening, I walked into the grocery store ready to start my vacation from added sugar—and quickly realized that everything I love contains it. Crackers, cheese, salad dressing, hummus—all of my favorite diet staples! Realizing just how tough this was going to be, I whipped out my phone and did some serious Googling. I looked up every single food ingredient and pored through the interwebs for sugar-free meal ideas.

Related: 10 Foods That Pack More Added Sugar Than You Should Have All Day

Though I was sad to pass up on some of my favorite foods, I left the store with bags full of turkey burgers, arugula, frozen veggies, pre-made guacamole, and edamame. (It’s worth mentioning that I searched three different grocery stores before I found sugar-free bacon.)

The First Few Days

With store-bought lunches and vending machine snacks off the table, I toted no fewer than seven plastic containers into work with me the next day, packing veggie egg cups for breakfast, a massive salad and salad dressing (just oil and vinegar) for lunch, and edamame, plantain chips, and guacamole for snacks. It was enough food for a weekend camping trip, but hey, I didn’t want to get stuck without food I could eat.

Those first few days I found myself lusting after things I normally wouldn’t think twice about: sad-looking breakfast pastries left over from morning meetings, chalky protein bars, you name it. On day three, I even briefly considered eating a candy bar I saw on the floor of the ladies’ bathroom.

My daily mid-afternoon slump—which I usually cured with a can of soda—hit me hard. A few days in, though, I realized I could replicate what I loved most about soda—the cold, the bubbles, the caffeine, and a quick break from work—with seltzers or iced coffees, and surviving ‘til quitting time became doable again.

Surviving Week One

By day six, I had my routine down pat, and I happily carted all of my food containers into the office. I kept it simple: something like a leftover turkey burger, homemade chimichurri sauce, veggies, and avocado, or a salad topped with sugar-free rotisserie chicken, quinoa, chopped red onion, and tomatoes for lunch, and sea-salted edamame, bell peppers, and guac for snacks.

I also noticed my energy levels becoming more stable. I no longer felt sluggish all afternoon after eating an oversized sandwich or pizza slice for lunch, or tossed and turned at night after a few glasses of vino or ice cream before bed.

I definitely found myself doing some odd things, however, like sneaking a plastic bag full of (sugar-free!) chips and a green apple into a college basketball game so I’d have something I could snack on, or stashing a bottle of salad dressing in my purse. I thoroughly scrutinized restaurant menus online before going out to eat, and asked servers dozens of questions about every ingredient on the menu. Sure, some of it was a little awkward, but it made me realize just how little I knew about the food I usually consumed! I couldn’t believe the number of calories in my usual takeout orders (like build-your-own burrito bowls) and unrecognizable ingredients in my go-to grab-and-go prepared foods (like pre-made enchiladas).

My solution: Cook more! My kitchen adventures included perfecting a homemade chimichurri sauce (something I would have bought pre-made before) and adding different veggies (and even fried eggs!) to whole-wheat pasta dishes. The more I experimented, the more fun I had.

Two Weeks—And Beyond!

By day 14, I was sleeping a full eight hours without tossing and turning in the wee hours, my pants felt a bit looser, and I’d saved a surprising amount of cash by bringing my own lunch to work. (I’ll be honest, though: It was hard to plan out every single thing I was going to eat ahead of time.)

Yes, I have had some soda since finishing my two-week experiment, but those 14 days helped me realize that it’s a habit, not a necessity. Now I’m more likely to go for seltzer, and I’ll only indulge in a can of the syrupy stuff every few days or so.

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Soda aside, my biggest takeaway is my new awareness of the ingredients in the foods I’ve eaten mindlessly for so long, and realizing that with a bit of preparation I can eat a far less-processed diet. In the end, that is pretty sweet.

These Are NOT Your Easter Bunny’s Peanut Butter Cups

Whether it’s Reese’s Egg season or not, chocolate and peanut butter always satisfy our most monstrous cravings. Unfortunately, the sweet and salty PB cups come at a high price: A two-pack costs you 220 calories and 22 grams of sugar from ingredients like milk fat, sugar, dextrose (which is also sugar), emulsifiers, and couple of preservatives. Not exactly squeaky clean.

But don’t worry, there is a better way! Leave those orange-packaged cups in the supermarket checkout shelf and whip up these guilt-free chocolate peanut butter cups, instead. Made with cacao powder, coconut oil, and high-protein peanut butter—and sweetened with maple syrup— these PB cups are as feel-good as they are delicious. And did we mention they’re surprisingly easy to make? Check ’em out.

 

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8 Nutrition Myths That Hurt Dietitians’ Feelings

With every Instagrammer in your feed dishing out nutrition advice these days, it’s never been trickier to decipher fact from fiction. Not only is this social media misinformation confusing, but it can keep you from being your healthiest self.

To set the record straight, I asked some of my expert pals to bust the most frustrating food-related falsities out there. Keep these myths in mind the next time you’re scrolling through the social media static.

Myth #1: You Should Only Shop The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store

Food shopping can be so tricky that I wrote an entire book on it! The perimeter of the grocery store may house many of the whole foods we’re told to fill our diets with—like produce (my favorite section), animal proteins (like poultry and meat), and refrigerated dairy—but that doesn’t mean the middle aisles don’t have healthy foods to offer! Soda, cookies, and chips aside, those center aisles contain plant foods like beans, whole grains, and nuts, which are nutritious, versatile, affordable, and easy to store. These ingredients can help you create an endless number of delicious, nutritious meals and snacks, like bean-filled soups and salads, homemade trail mix, and more.

Myth #2: Foods With More Than Five Ingredients Aren’t Healthy

While long ingredient lists that include sugar and its aliases, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors should be questioned and perhaps avoided, not all multi-ingredient foods are unhealthy.  It’s the quality of a food’s ingredients—not the quantity—that matters most. If a product’s ingredients are whole foods you’d already stock your kitchen with—like whole grains, fruits, veggies, and spices—then it’s probably an okay choice. (Consider this: My favorite bread, Dave’s Killer Bread, contains 32 organic ingredients, 21 of which are whole grains and seeds.)

Myth #3: Avoid Nuts; They’re High In Fat

It’s true, nuts are mostly fat and fat is more calorie-dense than carbs or protein—but the majority of the fat in nuts is healthy unsaturated fat, which keeps us feeling full, and supports healthy blood sugar and a healthy heart. Plus, nuts are naturally packed with protein, fiber, and many other nutrients (like minerals!), says Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D.N., author of Eat Right When Time is Tight. A serving of nuts (about a handful or two) is a great snack choice and can actually support weight loss by keeping you satisfied and making you less likely to munch on less valuable foods.

Myth #4: Gluten-Free Foods Are Better For You

Newsflash: Donuts are donuts! Plenty of the gluten-free foods out there are highly-processed and low in nutritional value. That ‘gluten-free’ label doesn’t say anything about how much protein, fat, fiber, sugar, or calories the product contains, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., author of The Superfood Swap. And unless you have a condition like celiac disease, your health doesn’t depend on avoiding gluten, anyway. So if you’re reaching for those gluten-free donuts because you think they’re somehow better, think again.

Related: What Going Gluten-Free Can And Can’t Do For Your Health

Myth #5: Carbs Make You Fat

Along with protein and fat, carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, which means they’re essential for our bodies’ proper function. In fact, they’re broken down into glucose, which is our primary source of fuel! Because our bodies prefer to use carbs for energy, we actually resist storing them as body fat, says Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. When we don’t eat enough carbs, our bodies become desperate for glucose, and may even start to break down the protein found in our muscles to turn into glucose, which is bad news for our muscles, metabolism, and fitness.

Sure, regularly chow down on big portions of refined carbs (think bagels, sub sandwiches, and pasta) and you’re likely going to pack on the pounds. However, stick to whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit—and eat your carbs alongside fat and protein—and you’ve got yourself a balanced, waistline-friendly diet.

Myth #6: Coffee Is A Bad Habit, Not A Health Food

We often assume that if something feels good, it must be bad for us—and while that may be true with highly-processed, addictive foods, it’s not the case with coffee. While some people who are caffeine-sensitive may experience shakiness, upset stomach, or sleeplessness after drinking coffee, studies have suggested that it can protect against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout, so go ahead and enjoy that morning (or early afternoon) brew.

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Myth #7: White Foods Aren’t Nutritious

When we talk about the importance of ‘eating the rainbow,’ white tends to get left out—even though there are plenty of white-colored foods out there that deserve a place on your plate. Cauliflower, potatoes, white beans, some mushrooms, and garlic are all white in color and packed with healthy nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, and fiber, says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. Meanwhile, dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese provide calcium and protein. Instead of judging a food by its color, check the Nutrition Facts to see whether it provides nutritional value, like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The white foods that won’t make the cut: processed foods like white bread, white rice, and pastries.

Myth #8: Organic Is The Only Way To Go

There are plenty of reasons people choose to switch to organic foods, like the fact that they don’t contain certain man-made pesticides or fertilizers and are non-GMO. But that doesn’t mean your conventionally-grown produce doesn’t offer nutritional value. In fact, research has found that, nutritionally speaking, organic foods have little extra to offer than conventionally-grown foods, says Alissa Rumsey M,S., R.D., founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. (The exceptions: Animal products like chicken, milk, beef, and eggs, whose organic versions have been shown to contain more omega-3 fats.) Since going green can cost more green, stick to produce that’s in-season, keep an eye on sales, and shop the store brand when you want to buy organic. Otherwise, just make sure to wash your conventional fruits and veggies before eating them; no excuse to pass on produce!

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

3 Ways To Satisfy Your Sugar Cravings On Keto

The keto diet grows more and more popular by the day—but practically eliminating carbs in favor of fat can seem like a daunting task. And, let’s be honest, the thought of always taking your coffee without your favorite sweet creamer or never eating another ice cream cone is outright depressing.

Unless, of course, you find a way to keto-ify your favorite treats. These recipes, using BPI SportsKeto Bomb powdered ketogenic creamer and Keto Aminos amino acid powder, contain exogenous ketones to support fat-burning while satisfying all your sugar cravings.

French Vanilla Keto Coffee

Here’s what you’ll need:

Add the brewed coffee, coconut oil, and Keto Bomb to a blender. Pulse for just five to 10 seconds and enjoy! (Makes one serving.)

Calories: 233  • Sodium: 100 mg  • Fat: 24 g  • Carbohydrate: 4 g • Protein: 0 g • Sugar: 0 g • Fiber: 0 g

Watermelon keto ice cream

Here’s what you’ll need:

Add the coconut milk to a food processor and blend. Once smooth, add the chopped watermelon and blend again until fully pureed. Then, add the Keto Aminos, coconut oil, stevia drops, and cream of tartar. Blend on a high speed until everything is smooth and creamy.

Pour into a bread pan lined with parchment paper (or two small Tupperware containers). Freeze for two and a half to three hours. Then, use a spoon to scrape down the sides and stir the mixture until even. Freeze another hour or two, then serve and enjoy!

Store any leftovers in the freezer. Re-blend the ice cream in the food processor until smooth and creamy before serving. (Makes four servings.)

Calories: 250  • Sodium: 20 mg  • Fat: 24 g  • Carbohydrate: 5 g • Protein: 3 g • Sugar: 6 g • Fiber: 0 g

Vanilla Cream Keto Dream smoothie

Here’s what you’ll need:

Add only the thick, top part of the chilled coconut milk (about one cup) to a blender. (Discard the bottom, watery layer.) Then, add the Keto Bomb, coconut oil, crushed ice, and vanilla extract. Blend on high until all of the ice is processed and the smoothie becomes thick, about one to two minutes. Enjoy! (Makes two servings.)

Calories: 340  • Sodium: 75 mg  • Fat: 33 g  • Carbohydrate: 5 g • Protein: 3 g • Sugar: 0 g • Fiber: 0 g

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I Thought I Was Healthy—And Then I Did Whole30

As a self-proclaimed health nut and the resident super-healthy black sheep of my family and friends, I’ve been known to squeeze in workouts on vacations and pass on pizza for salad. I love high-intensity workouts like CrossFit and if I’m going to do yoga, it’s going to be hot. I’ve been reading nutrition labels since high school, and though I’ve had plenty of slack moments (like all of college…), I’ve found a healthy balance by living without strict rules and eating a variety of carbs, fats, and proteins to feel good.

That’s why, when I first heard that my parents (ironically) were following Whole30—a 30-day eating plan that forces you to get back to healthy basics by eliminating sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes, preservatives, and processed foods and snacks—I didn’t think it was for me. I didn’t need a hard reset or rules. My diet was already healthy!

But when I visited home for the holidays, my attitude shifted. Having just completed their 30 days, my parents buzzed with enthusiasm and filled our meals with ‘compliant’ (a ubiquitous term for things you actually can eat on Whole30) foods. I was intrigued—and after my own 10-day stretch of indulging on holiday treats, I felt compelled to give it a shot.

Along with a small crew of friends and co-workers, I decided to go for it—and to say the next 30 days surprised me would be an understatement. Here are the five lessons I learned:

1. I hadn’t been eating as many whole foods as I thought I was…

As a self-proclaimed kale enthusiast (seriously, my boyfriend sometimes calls me ‘KALEsy’), I thought my vegetable and fruit consumption was in pretty good shape. When I started Whole30, though, I realized that I often sacrificed roughage in favor of protein. And I’m not just talking about swapping out greens for lean meat, but for a sugary protein bar or shake.

✌🏻❤️🌿

A post shared by Kelsey Cannon (@sheseesfit) on

Before Whole30, I’d typically start the day with a bowl of oatmeal with protein powder stirred in, eat last night’s dinner leftovers for lunch, snack on a protein bar, yogurt, or protein shake, and then have a serving of meat with a grain and a veggie for dinner. All-in-all not unhealthy, but without grains, dairy, and packaged protein products, I had a lot of gaps to fill once I started Whole30.

Throughout those 30 days, I’d have eggs scrambled with kale, peppers, and onions for breakfast, a large salad with a serving of meat for lunch, nuts, fruit, or a ‘compliant’ bar (like an RXBAR or an Epic Bar) for snacks, and a serving of meat with a double helping of veggies for dinner.

With fruits and veggies now front and center, I was forced to try a wider variety of produce and different ways of making them, just to keep things interesting. I found a lot of new go-to’s, including a sweet potato soup (I used butternut squash instead) from The Whole30 Cookbook, which has become one of my all-time favorite sides. It added a nice sweet element to my mostly-savory meals and kept well in the fridge, so I could spoon it out all week long.

2. Sugar is in EVERYTHING.

This is another lesson that falls into the ‘what I thought I knew’ category. I knew sugar was hidden in most foods—I’d even written articles about it myself! But Whole30 taught me that knowing added sugar exists and living added sugar-free are two totally different monsters.

Once I started really combing through the nutrition labels on everything I bought at the grocery store, I realized just how sneaky added sugar could be. After all, it goes by more than 50 names other than just ‘sugar’! At first, determining whether a food contained sugar and finding Whole30-compliant alternatives took a long time—but it fortunately grew much easier with practice. Thirty days later, I’m basically a sugar-molecule sharp shooter.

Related: 10 Foods That Pack More Added Sugar Than You Should Have All Day

Eliminating these secretly-sugary foods was a lot of work. At first I found myself reaching for RXBARs or Lara Bars to satisfy my sugar cravings, but the point of Whole30 is to break the habit itself, so I dug my heels in and tried to avoid using these ‘compliant’ foods as a crutch. Cutting out sugar was by far the hardest part of Whole30, but the farther in I got, the more I noticed and appreciated the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables. I couldn’t believe how sweet a cherry tomato tasted by the end of it!

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3. My social life revolves around food.

It’s reality: A lot of socializing happens over food and drink. But on Whole30, birthday parties, date night dinners, and even happy hours became impossible trap-filled nightmares. And while some people are able to make it work—passing up on cake and cocktails, ordering very, very carefully at restaurants, and bringing their own food to get-togethers—I found it much easier to just avoid going out.

#bulletproof and muscle books… #happytuesday

A post shared by Kelsey Cannon (@sheseesfit) on

If that sounds lame, well, that’s because it was! To avoid completely dropping off the face of the earth, I scheduled workout classes or coffee dates with friends who weren’t on the Whole30 train. But after spending a lot of time (and money) traveling to see friends and family in the months before my Whole30, I was more than happy to take a few weekends off and just rest.

4. It takes a village to be healthy.

It may have been for lack of better things to talk about (see above about my rather nonexistent social life), but I talked about Whole30 to anyone who would listen. I even dreamed about it sometimes.

My boyfriend and I got truly excited to plan which cool new recipe to make over the weekend, and our indulgence became finding more elaborate dishes, like Chicken Cacciatore or that homemade butternut squash soup I mentioned earlier.

My coworkers and I traded tips for fighting cravings, and I chatted with friends about new compliant packaged foods we found (I totally blew my boss’ mind when I told her about RXBARs). Our lives were consumed by making Whole30 work, and since we were all in it together, it was easier to face the occasional office birthday party. I even hosted a few ‘compliant’ get-togethers at home!

Looking back, I don’t know if I would have survived alone. Being able to talk to fellow Whole30-ers really helped me stay on track, and it was nice to share my success with others who know how hard I’d worked once I was done.

5. There’s ALWAYS room to grow.

Even though it took a lot of planning, work, and will power, I really felt the benefits of Whole30, and they kept me motivated whenever I started to wane. Around the end of week two, my clothes felt a little looser, I slept better, and I had more energy throughout the day. The strange thing: I didn’t even realize that I could feel better. Since I already ate healthy, drank lots of water, exercised, and got eight hours of sleep a night before Whole30, I didn’t expect that there would be room to improve until it happened.

Despite how difficult Whole30 was, I totally recommend it—even if you’re already a self-proclaimed health and fitness fanatic. The experience helped me redefine ‘healthy food’ (read: low- to no-sugar) and pull myself out of a major boredom rut with my meals. Not to mention, it taught me a lot about my own eating habits—especially my reliance on protein bars. Now if I itch for a protein-heavy snack, I’ll pick up an Epic Bar, which tastes more like food and less like candy.

I’m not going to continue eating in a totally-compliant manner all the time (even the founders recommend you only do it for 30 days), but everything I learned—especially about avoiding sneaky sugar and preservatives—definitely stuck.

I Put On 12 Pounds Just So I Could Try Keto

I was raised on low-fat diets, Weight Watchers, and the idea that eating fat makes you fat. Despite the decades of experience I have as a weight loss professional, some of these ideas from my own weight loss journey (I lost 65 pounds before making health and fitness my career) have been hard to kick.

So you can imagine my surprise (and slight anxiety) to see how popular the high-fat ketogenic diet has become throughout the past few years. Super low in carbs (we’re talking like 25 net grams a day), this trendy diet requires eating between 65 and 85 percent of your daily calories from fat in order to shift your body from burning glucose from carbs to producing and burning ketones from fats (a state called ‘ketosis’). That means saying goodbye to carbs like grains, starchy veggies, and most fruit—and loading up on fats like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and butter. The exact opposite of what the mainstream diet world has been telling us for the past three decades!

But with so many people boasting the energy and weight-loss benefits of the keto diet, I had to say: I was intrigued. I wanted to try it!

So, I did what any curious health and fitness expert would do: put my fears aside, purposely gained 12 pounds (yes, really!), and gave keto a shot.

Getting Started

I pored through the internet (relying heavily on Mark’s Daily Apple, Dr. Axe, and even keto Reddit boards) to gather information and plan out some easy meals for my first week.

My everyday diet embraced healthy carbs like yogurt, fruit, and potatoes, but shied away from too many fats, so I knew I’d have to do some meal prepping to make this massive change stick. I decided to make egg cups (eggs, cheese, bacon, and spinach baked in a muffin tin) for easy grab-and-go breakfasts, spinach salads topped with avocado, bacon bits, cheese, and ranch dressing for lunches, and cheese- and bacon-wrapped chicken for dinners. Lots. Of. Cheese. I snacked on macadamia nuts, enjoyed small pieces of dark chocolate, and even made ‘fat bombs’ (frozen balls of coconut oil, nut butter, and cocoa mixed together) to keep me satisfied and ward off cravings.

I loved the food (I mean, who doesn’t like smothering things in ranch and butter?), but I still worried I would gain a lot of weight.

To my surprise, though, my weight dropped those first few days. I learned that these quickly-lost pounds came from water (which is stored alongside carbs in our bodies), not body fat, but I wasn’t complaining. Plus, all the newfound fat in my diet was so satiating that I simply stopped feeling hungry. Within three days, my cravings disappeared and I felt balanced and energized.

Attack Of The Keto Flu

And then, around the end of week one…the ‘Keto Flu’ hit! A common experience for new keto eaters, the keto flu occurs your magnesium, sodium, and potassium stores become depleted as your body shifts from using carbs to fat as its main source of energy. (These vital electrolytes regulate your heart beat, balance fluid levels in your body, and perform many other important functions—and losing too much of them can be dangerous.) I couldn’t believe how quickly it came on. I felt extremely lethargic and thirsty, needed naps in the middle of the day, and couldn’t even get through a workout.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Following the guidance of my online gurus, I picked up a magnesium and potassium supplement (like Country Life’s Magnesium Potassium Aspartate), and started drinking chicken Boullion cubes (which contain more than a gram of sodium a pop) to replenish my electrolytes.

The struggle lasted on and off for about two weeks—and it seriously knocked me out.

Smooth Sailing

Once my body got used to being in ketosis and I nailed my electrolyte intake, the ‘keto flu’ passed and all of the perks I’d read about finally started raining down. I had incredible amounts of energy, zero cravings, and slept beautifully. My workouts got back to normal, too.

As the weeks passed, I experimented more and more with my meals. Eggs continued to be my go-to breakfast, but I tried out all sorts of recipes for lunches and dinners, including ‘meattza’ (pizza using a layer of ground beef as the crust) and Hasselback chicken (chicken breasts stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach). I enjoyed my broccoli with melted cheddar cheese on top, ate a lot of cauliflower (it’s relatively low in carbs), and loaded up on spinach (which provided much-needed potassium).

It's like Where's Waldo… can you find Gertie in the photo? 🐶🐾

A post shared by Liz Josefsberg (@lizjosefsberg) on

I lost weight steadily throughout those two months. By the end, I’d lost 15 pounds total, and my body fat percentage had dropped from 36 percent to 29 percent, meaning I shed fat but kept my precious muscle. (The only other time I’d seen such a significant body fat drop was during my high-protein bodybuilding days!) My results confirmed everything I’d read online: Once your body adapts to burning fat, it will turn to your fat stores for energy.

As impressed as I was with how keto changed my body, though, I don’t think it’s something I could maintain long-term. Since the diet is so restrictive and takes such an immense amount of work and attention to follow, I found it difficult to fully live life while on it. Knowing just one misstep could throw me out of ketosis and back into burning sugar, I stressed about social situations and eating out. Plus, I really missed fruit and wine.

I’m glad I did it, though! Keto taught me that fats are awesome—and I’m truly sorry I avoided them for so many years. Since my experiment, I’ve continued to eat a lot of healthy fats—and even though I’m not all-out keto anymore, my meals are more satisfying and my weight has been easier to maintain. It’s amazing how far a little whole milk goes in a cup of coffee!

 

Liz Josefsberg is a weight loss and wellness expert with over 15 years in the industry. A mom, author, fitness enthusiast, and weight loss success story herself (65 pounds lost!), Liz consults all over the world. She loves testing every diet, exercise regimen, device, and piece of gear she can get her hands on. 

Want To Try Keto? Here’s What A Healthy Day Of Eating Fat Looks Like

With research continuing to support keto’s potential health benefits—especially when it comes to metabolic and cognitive function—it’s no wonder the trendy diet seems here to stay.

But eating 70 percent of your calories from fat—and doing it in a healthy way—is no simple task. At its worst, a keto diet is loaded with bacon and all but devoid of veggies. “Many people following keto today consume meals high in processed meats that have been linked to disease and processed dairy that much of the population is intolerant to,” says Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe.

That’s why she put together a keto meal plan that’s chock-full of the good stuff, including low-carb vegetables, vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3s, and plenty of greens—in addition to all of the healthy fats you could ever want. Adjust the portion sizes to meet your needs, and you’re good to go!

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How Many Omega-3s Does Your Body Need Daily?

Healthy fats (you know, the kind found in avocados, olive oil, fish, coconut oil, and nuts) are essential to a balanced diet—and omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat we typically associate with salmon and fish oil supplements, are no exception.

There are three types of omega-3s we need: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha linolenic acid). You can find DHA and EPA in animal sources, like fatty fish and grass-fed beef, and ALA in plant sources, like walnuts and flax seeds.

All three offer unique benefits, but research suggests DHA and EPA hold the most weight, particularly when it comes to your heart. That’s because they support a healthy blood pressure and help promote overall cardiovascular health, explains Melissa Majumdar, M.S., R.D., senior bariatric dietitian at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Your ticker isn’t the only part of your body that benefits, though. Omega-3s are also essential to your brain and eye health, , since DHA is concentrated in the cells of your brain and retina, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. About 60 percent of our brain is actually made of fat! In fact, research from the American Academy of Neurology found that eating a diet high in omega-3s may be associated with lower levels of a blood protein related to age-related cognitive decline.

Related: You’ve Heard About Omega-3s—Here’s What You Should Know About Omega-6s

Sounds great, right? There’s just one problem: Our bodies can’t make nearly enough of the omega-3s we need, so we have to get them through our diet. (We can’t make ALA at all, and we’re not too great at making EPA and DHA.)

People can technically get their fill by eating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans‘ recommended eight ounces of fish (ideally omega-3 rich sources like salmon, tuna, herring, or sardines) per week—but data from the USDA shows that the average American falls short, eating just 2.7 ounces per week. Similarly, research published in Nutrients suggests that up to 96 percent of people don’t get enough DHA and EPA to protect their heart health.

While there’s no singular consensus on exactly how many omega-3s we need each day, most experts and organizations agree that between 250 and 500 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA a day is enough to boost our overall health. People with certain health conditions, though, may need more omega-3s than the average recommendations.

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Pregnant and breastfeeding women, for instance, should really be aware of their consumption, since omega-3s are critical for prenatal development, says Majumdar. Pregnant women should aim for up to 12 ounces of fatty fish per week—or about 700 milligrams of omega-3s a day. Just avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish, which have the highest risk of mercury contamination, and check in with your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine. (The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Super Omega-3 Fish Oil contains 995 milligrams of total omega-3s.)

Omega-3s are also of extra concern for vegetarians and vegans (and anyone who can’t stand the taste of the sea). You see, plant-based ALA—like walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed oil—likely won’t be enough to meet your intake, since only two to 10 percent is converted to DHA and EPA. In this case, Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, recommends a daily supplement that contains at least 250 milligrams of EPA and DHA. Algae-sourced omega-3 supplements—like Iwi’s Algae-Based Omega-3—are a great plant-based alternative to fish oil.

People with a family history of heart disease should also be aware of their intake, even at a younger age, since getting at least 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily helps promote overall heart health, says Gorin. And since those with diabetes are automatically at a higher risk of heart problems, they should also try to meet that minimum, says Majumdar.

If you turn to a fish oil supplement to help meet your needs, just check the Supplement Facts for specific EPA and DHA content. Some supplements may identify themselves as ‘500 milligrams,’ but contain less than half that amount of actual EPA and DHA, says Harris-Pincus. Double check the serving size, too, since some supplements require popping two pills instead of one.

3 Easy Ways To Add MCT Oil To Your Diet

Whether you’re already an avid Bulletproof coffee drinker or just follow a few health and wellness gurus on Instagram, you’ve definitely heard some buzz around MCT oil. Trendy as this type of fat may be, what it actually is—and how eat more of it—remains a mystery to the average person.

“MCT oil is known as the ‘fat that burns fat,’” says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The Metashred Diet. Oils are made up of chains of carbons of varying lengths. While olive oil, for example, is 18 carbons long, MCTs—which stands for ‘medium-chain triglycerides’—are only about 6 to 12 carbons long. Because these fats have shorter carbon chains, they’re more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream to be used for energy.

And while research is mixed on whether they can boost performance, these MCTs can actually support weight loss by helping to amplify the metabolic benefits of a high-fat, low-carb diet, such as increased insulin sensitivity and decreased appetite, explains Roussell.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

Thing is, MCTs are pretty rare in the average diet. “While they’re present in coconut oil, you should really be consuming pure MCTs to get their benefit,” says Roussell. The best way to do so: an MCT supplement, which you can find in powder form or as emulsified oil (either flavored or unflavored). These supplements are versatile and easy to incorporate into your daily routine—even if you don’t cook!

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The first, and simplest, way to up your MCT consumption is to just add it to a food you eat often. Mix MCT powder into anything soft, like yogurt or applesauce, or stir it into coffee as a creamer replacement (it has creamy quality to it).

You can also add MCT oil to any smoothie or protein shake recipe for extra satiety and fat fuel. Roussell likes the following MCT-powered blend in the morning or after a workout:

Get the coconut milk, emulsified MCT oil, and vanilla protein powder you need for this blend.

To really maximize your MCT intake, add them to cooked foods and baked treats, like sautéed veggies or banana bread. Just swap MCT oil in for a third of whatever oil the recipe calls for. And keep in mind: “It has a low smoke point, so always cook on low to medium heat,” Roussell says.

As tempting as it may be to go MCT-crazy, Roussell recommends starting off slow, with just a tablespoon in your daily coffee or smoothie. Too much too quickly can cause GI distress and send you running to the bathroom. (Your intestines absorb fats slowly, so if you eat too much too quickly it doesn’t get absorbed fast enough and literally goes right through you.) Plus, “at the end of the day, it’s still fat and it still has calories,” says Roussell. “Like anything else, you can’t eat as much as you want without any consequence.” If you’re not sure how MCTs should fit into your overall macronutrient and calories goals, a dietitian can help you identify what works best for you.

5 Healthy Eating Commandments Everyone Should Follow

Healthy eating looks a little different to all of us—and considering we all have different bodies and lifestyles, that’s totally okay. But regardless of your personal preferences, dietary restrictions, or health concerns, are there some across-the-board nutrition rules you should follow? Absolutely.

Trends and gimmicks aside, here are the five laws of healthy eating top dietitians agree will help you stay true to your health and wellness goals long-term.

1. Enjoy Food Without Guilt

Any long-term healthy lifestyle depends on your ability to enjoy the foods you love in a balanced way that never leaves you feeling deprived. “Food should be savored, not feared,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. “No one is saying you can’t eat fries, pizza, and burgers—but maybe sometimes you bake the fries, top the pizza with lots of veggies, or take your burger bun-less.”

Related: What A Day Of 80:20 Eating Actually Looks Like

To find this balance, most dietitians recommend following the 80:20 rule: 80 percent of the time, you go for the better-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time you choose whatever your heart desires most.

2. Keep Healthy Food Around At All Times

That said, sticking to healthy eating 80 percent of the time is a lot easier when you have the good stuff on-hand. Think about it: When is it that we find ourselves noshing on greasy drive-thru food or inhaling a Dunkin’ muffin? When we’re starving and desperate for grub, but don’t have any quality options handy.

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The solution: Always (always!) have healthy snacks on you. “I keep what I like to call ‘emergency snacks’ everywhere,” says Kelly Jones, M.S., RD., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. “Whole-food bars (like RXBARs) and roasted beans (like edamame or broad beans) are my go-to’s because they provide fiber and protein to hold me over; I have them in my purse, my car, my gym bag, and my work bag.”

3. Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

The more we learn about fiber, the more we realize how crucial it is to our health. A diet rich in fiber helps control blood sugar, decrease cholesterol levels, and improve digestion, says Gans—research has connected higher intake with weight loss and a lower risk of all-cause mortality. The National Institutes of Health recommends women eat 25 grams of fiber a day and men eat 38—but most Americans only reach a measly 15.

Every single snack and meal you eat should offer some fiber, says Gans. Some of the highest-fiber foods out there include lentils, avocados, chickpeas, chia seeds, nuts, and berries—but you’ll score some fiber from all sorts of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. 

4. Focus On Protein At Breakfast

Starting the morning with protein helps ensure you last until lunchtime without falling victim to the munchies and makes healthy eating easier throughout the rest of the day. In fact, high-protein breakfasts have been associated with slowed digestion and reduced levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

“Many people turn to oatmeal or cereal at breakfast, which can be carb-heavy and lacking in protein,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., who recommends incorporating at least 15 to 20 grams of protein into your morning meal.

Rizzo’s go-to’s include smoothies made with Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs with toast, veggie omelets, or even protein bars. “For a quick protein-rich breakfast option on-the-go, I love the new Chobani ‘hint of flavor’ yogurts, which provide 12 grams of protein for just nine grams of sugar,” she says.

5. Don’t Fear Fat

Fat gets a bad rap because it has more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein (nine calories for fat versus just four for carbs and protein), but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

As a matter of fact, research shows that eating healthy fats—think nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and chia seeds—decreases our production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and prevents blood sugar spikes, so we don’t overeat and feel satisfied for longer after snacks and meals, Rizzo explains. In addition to supporting a healthy weight, fats also help us absorb nutrients, build cell structures, and manage inflammation.

Rizzo loves snacking on guacamole or subbing smashed avocado in for mayo. According to a recent study, adding half an avocado to lunch can increase satiety by 40 percent in the following hours, without affecting blood sugar.

Pin this helpful infographic to keep healthy eating top-of-mind: